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The Tollbridge Keeper

Wooden (not a toll) bridge in Bath, NH by J. Dennis Robinson/

We’re often asked why we’re satisfied just living by the river in New Hampshire and rarely traveling. Sam Walter Foss, a favorite New Hampshire poet, said it best in this little ode to ordinary living. Franz Kafka said it well too. If you stay in one place, he wrote, "the world will come and grovel itself at your feet."




MORE ABOUT Sam Walter Foss 

The Tollbridge Keeper
By Sam Walter Foss

I live here by my tollbridge
Content, without a want,--
My bridge, that joins these mighty States,
New Hampshire and Vermont.
The big Connecticut below
Among its piers is whirled;
I'm acquainted with the river
That's acquainted with the world.

For it goes winding on and on,
Through bowlders, hills, and sand,
A crinkly silver watch chain
On the jacket of the land.
And, though I live here all alone
Within my cottage curled,
I'm acquainted with the river
Thats acquainted with the world.

Through maple-sugar orchards,
And through the fields of hay,
And down through the tobacco farms
It winds upon its way;
And it sleeps in silent meadows
When the twilight settles down,
Then winds its cool, soft arm around
The hot brows of the town.

The people on the other side,
It is their only care
To cross to this, while people here
All wish to cross to there;
And after pondering long, I think
That, though the world is wide,
I am the only man on earth
Who's wholly satisfied.

And why should I not be content?
I sit here evermore,
While all the world to humor me
Goes riding by my door.
And when the latest wheel at night
Across the bridge is whirled,
I'm acquainted with the river
That's acquainted with the world.

"Why does my river hurry so?
What can its errand be?"
And it says, "I hear the music,
Hear the anthem of the sea."
"Stay and talk to me of cities
Where the many thousands be,"
But it says, "I feel the magic
Of the music of the sea."

Well I know the truth, my river,
That thou sayest unto me,
For I, too, have felt the magic
Of the music of the sea.
Though I live far in the mountains,
Still the Stream of Life is whirled
Toward the mist-enshrouded ocean
That encircles all the world.

From Back Country Poems (1892)

MORE POETRY by Foss and Others 

Keeper at tollbridge from Portsmouth to New Castle, NH /


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