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The Past

Written by: William Cullen Bryant | Biography
 | Quotes (29) |
THOU unrelenting Past! 
Strong are the barriers round thy dark domain  
And fetters sure and fast  
Hold all that enter thy unbreathing reign. 

Far in thy realm withdrawn 5 
Old empires sit in sullenness and gloom  
And glorious ages gone 
Lie deep within the shadow of thy womb. 

Childhood with all its mirth  
Youth Manhood Age that draws us to the ground 10 
And last Man's Life on earth  
Glide to thy dim dominions and are bound. 

Thou hast my better years; 
Thou hast my earlier friends the good the kind  
Yielded to thee with tears¡ª 15 
The venerable form the exalted mind. 

My spirit yearns to bring 
The lost ones back¡ªyearns with desire intense  
And struggles hard to wring 
Thy bolts apart and pluck thy captives thence. 20 

In vain; thy gates deny 
All passage save to those who hence depart; 
Nor to the streaming eye 
Thou giv'st them back¡ªnor to the broken heart. 

In thy abysses hide 25 
Beauty and excellence unknown; to thee 
Earth's wonder and her pride 
Are gathered as the waters to the sea; 

Labors of good to man  
Unpublished charity unbroken faith 30 
Love that midst grief began  
And grew with years and faltered not in death. 

Full many a mighty name 
Lurks in thy depths unuttered unrevered; 
With thee are silent fame 35 
Forgotten arts and wisdom disappeared. 

Thine for a space are they¡ª 
Yet shalt thou yield thy treasures up at last: 
Thy gates shall yet give way  
Thy bolts shall fall inexorable Past! 40 

All that of good and fair 
Has gone into thy womb from earliest time  
Shall then come forth to wear 
The glory and the beauty of its prime. 

They have not perished¡ªno! 45 
Kind words remembered voices once so sweet  
Smiles radiant long ago  
And features the great soul's apparent seat. 

All shall come back; each tie 
Of pure affection shall be knit again; 50 
Alone shall Evil die  
And Sorrow dwell a prisoner in thy reign. 

And then shall I behold 
Him by whose kind paternal side I sprung  
And her who still and cold 55 
Fills the next grave¡ªthe beautiful and young.