the river god n.
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The River God. LO: To analyse how language is used to create a character. . Monologue – river god speaks the whole time. . Sounds god-like at first . Using ‘I’ sounds personal and direct. Suggests he fancies women. The River God I may be smelly and I may be old,

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the river god

The River God

LO: To analyse how language is used to create a character.


Monologue – river god speaks the whole time.

Sounds god-like at first

Using ‘I’ sounds personal and direct

Suggests he fancies women

The River God

I may be smelly and I may be old,

Rough in my pebbles, reedy in my pools,

But where my fish float by I bless their swimming

And I like the people to bathe in me, especially women.

But I can drown the fools

Who bathe too close to the weir, contrary to rules.

And they take a long time drowning

As I throw them up now and then in the spirit of clowning.

Hi yih, yippity-yap, merrily I flow,

O I may be an old foul river but I have plenty of go.

Once there was a lady who was too bold

She bathed in me by the tall black cliff where the water runs cold,

So I brought her down here

To be my beautiful dear.

My – controlling or loving?

Suddenly talks about death

Childlike words sound like the river

A nice way of saying drowning – he pretends he is caring about her

The woman’s beauty stands out against the dirty old river

River god goes from loving to dangerous.


POWER: The river god doesn’t want the woman to leave. He calls her beautiful and talks about her sexually. Looks are important to him.

The river sounds loving but he is forcing her to stay with him

Oh will she stay with me will she stay

This beautiful lady, or will she go away?

She lies in my beautiful deep river bed with many a weed

To hold her, and many a waving reed.

Oh who would guess what a beautiful white face lies there

Waiting for me to smooth and wash away the fear

She looks at me with. Hi yih, do not let her

Go. There is no one on earth who does not forget her

Now. They say I am a foolish old smelly river

But they do not know of my wide original bed

Where the lady waits, with her golden sleepy head.

If she wishes to go I will not forgive her.

The river sounds loving but contrasts with her frightened face

Everyone has forgotten her.

Talks about her as if she is alive

The river god shows his power

Contrast: old smelly river – beautiful woman. His loving words are shocking compared to the death of the woman.



How is the River God presented in this poem?Choose four adjectives from the list below which you think best describe the speaker of this poem. Are there any that you think don’t apply at all?

  • Playful
  • Lonely
  • Friendly
  • Humorous
  • Sad
  • Argumentative
  • Dangerous
  • Apologetic
  • Boastful
  • Threatening
  • Cruel
  • Powerful
  • Secretive
  • Misunderstood

Look again at the poem’s opening line. It sounds like a response to part of a conversation that we haven’t heard. What do you think might have prompted the River God to speak in this way? Is the poet imagining that the River God is defending himself against criticism or is she suggesting that we should guard against making assumptions based on what things seem to be like (still waters run deep)?

  • How do you respond to what the River God says at the end of the poem? Are you left feeling:
    • confused?
    • sympathetic or unsympathetic to the River God?
    • something else?
  • Imagine that you are the river god.
  • Using techniques from the poem write a soliloquy where the river god is talking about the things he has done.
  • You must include:
  • Words that are made up to sound like the river.
  • A metaphor
  • Contrasting the woman with the river.