Song of the Fifth River

(notes by John Radcliffe)


Published in Puck of Pook’s Hill (1906) with the last story, “The Treasure and the Law”.

The poem


The poem takes as its starting point this passage from Genesis Chapter 2, verses 10-15, in the Old Testament. :

10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.

11 The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;

12 And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.

13 And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.

14 And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.

15 And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

The Fifth River is the secret river of gold, which all men seek. In the story Kadmiel, the Jewish financier, throws a great treasure into the sea, lest it fall into the hands of King John. In consequence the King is forced to yield to the demand of the Barons for arbitrary royal powers to be curbed. See also
“The Runes on Weland’s Sword”.


©John Radcliffe 2020 All rights reserved