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Written by William Cullen Bryant | |

Oh Mother of a Mighty Race

OH mother of a mighty race  
Yet lovely in thy youthful grace! 
The elder dames thy haughty peers  
Admire and hate thy blooming years.
With words of shame 5 And taunts of scorn they join thy name.
For on thy cheeks the glow is spread That tints thy morning hills with red; Thy step¡ªthe wild deer's rustling feet Within thy woods are not more fleet; 10 Thy hopeful eye Is bright as thine own sunny sky.
Ay let them rail¡ªthose haughty ones While safe thou dwellest with thy sons.
They do not know how loved thou art 15 How many a fond and fearless heart Would rise to throw Its life between thee and the foe.
They know not in their hate and pride What virtues with thy children bide; 20 How true how good thy graceful maids Make bright like flowers the valley-shades; What generous men Spring like thine oaks by hill and glen.
What cordial welcomes greet the guest 25 By thy lone rivers of the West; How faith is kept and truth revered And man is loved and God is feared In woodland homes And where the ocean-border foams.
30 There 's freedom at thy gates and rest For Earth's down-trodden and opprest A shelter for the hunted head For the starved laborer toil and bread.
Power at thy bounds 35 Stops and calls back his baffled hounds.
Oh fair young mother! on thy brow Shall sit a nobler grace than now.
Deep in the brightness of the skies The thronging years in glory rise 40 And as they fleet Drop strength and riches at thy feet.
Thine eye with every coming hour Shall brighten and thy form shall tower; And when thy sisters elder born 45 Would brand thy name with words of scorn Before thine eye Upon their lips the taunt shall die.


Written by William Cullen Bryant | |

The Past

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Far in thy realm withdrawn 5 Old empires sit in sullenness and gloom And glorious ages gone Lie deep within the shadow of thy womb.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


Written by William Cullen Bryant | |

The Snow-Shower

STAND here by my side and turn, I pray, 
On the lake below thy gentle eyes; 
The clouds hang over it, heavy and gray, 
And dark and silent the water lies; 
And out of that frozen mist the snow 5 
In wavering flakes begins to flow; 
Flake after flake 
They sink in the dark and silent lake.
See how in a living swarm they come From the chambers beyond that misty veil; 10 Some hover awhile in air, and some Rush prone from the sky like summer hail.
All, dropping swiftly or settling slow, Meet and are still in the depths below; Flake after flake 15 Dissolved in the dark and silent lake.
Here delicate snow-stars, out of the cloud, Come floating downward in airy play, Like spangles dropped from the glistening crowd That whiten by night the milky-way; 20 There broader and burlier masses fall; The sullen water buries them all¡ª Flake after flake All drowned in the dark and silent lake.
And some, as on tender wings they glide 25 From their chilly birth-cloud, dim and gray, Are joined in their fall, and, side by side, Come clinging along their unsteady way; As friend with friend, or husband with wife, Makes hand in hand the passage of life; 30 Each mated flake Soon sinks in the dark and silent lake.
Lo! while we are gazing, in swifter haste Stream down the snows, till the air is white, As, myriads by myriads madly chased, 35 They fling themselves from their shadowy height.
The fair, frail creatures of middle sky, What speed they make, with their grave so nigh; Flake after flake, To lie in the dark and silent lake! 40 I see in thy gentle eyes a tear; They turn to me in sorrowful thought; Thou thinkest of friends, the good and dear, Who were for a time and now are not; Like these fair children of cloud and frost, 45 That glisten a moment and then are lost, Flake after flake¡ª All lost in the dark and silent lake.
Yet look again, for the clouds divide; A gleam of blue on the water lies; 50 And far away, on the mountain-side, A sunbeam falls from the opening skies.
But the hurrying host that flew between The cloud and the water, no more is seen; Flake after flake, 55 At rest in the dark and silent lake.


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Written by William Cullen Bryant | |

June

I GAZED upon the glorious sky 
And the green mountains round  
And thought that when I came to lie 
At rest within the ground  
'T were pleasant that in flowery June 5 
When brooks send up a cheerful tune  
And groves a joyous sound  
The sexton's hand my grave to make  
The rich green mountain-turf should break.
A cell within the frozen mould 10 A coffin borne through sleet And icy clods above it rolled While fierce the tempests beat¡ª Away!¡ªI will not think of these¡ª Blue be the sky and soft the breeze 15 Earth green beneath the feet And be the damp mould gently pressed Into my narrow place of rest.
There through the long long summer hours The golden light should lie 20 And thick young herbs and groups of flowers Stand in their beauty by.
The oriole should build and tell His love-tale close beside my cell; The idle butterfly 25 Should rest him there and there be heard The housewife bee and humming-bird.
And what if cheerful shouts at noon Come from the village sent Or song of maids beneath the moon 30 With fairy laughter blent? And what if in the evening light Betroth¨¨d lovers walk in sight Of my low monument? I would the lovely scene around 35 Might know no sadder sight nor sound.
I know that I no more should see The season's glorious show Nor would its brightness shine for me Nor its wild music flow; 40 But if around my place of sleep The friends I love should come to weep They might not haste to go.
Soft airs and song and light and bloom Should keep them lingering by my tomb.
45 These to their softened hearts should bear The thought of what has been And speak of one who cannot share The gladness of the scene; Whose part in all the pomp that fills 50 The circuit of the summer hills Is that his grave is green; And deeply would their hearts rejoice To hear again his living voice.


Written by William Cullen Bryant | |

The Death of the Flowers

THE MELANCHOLY days have come the saddest of the year  
Of wailing winds and naked woods and meadows brown and sere; 
Heaped in the hollows of the grove the autumn leaves lie dead; 
They rustle to the eddying gust and to the rabbit's tread; 
The robin and the wren are flown and from the shrubs the jay 5 
And from the wood-top calls the crow through all the gloomy day.
Where are the flowers the fair young flowers that lately sprang and stood In brighter light and softer airs a beauteous sisterhood? Alas! they all are in their graves the gentle race of flowers Are lying in their lowly beds with the fair and good of ours.
10 The rain is falling where they lie but the cold November rain Calls not from out the gloomy earth the lovely ones again.
The wind-flower and the violet they perished long ago And the brier-rose and the orchis died amid the summer glow; But on the hill the goldenrod and the aster in the wood 15 And the blue sunflower by the brook in autumn beauty stood Till fell the frost from the clear cold heaven as falls the plague on men And the brightness of their smile was gone from upland glade and glen.
And now when comes the calm mild day as still such days will come To call the squirrel and the bee from out their winter home; 20 When the sound of dropping nuts is heard though all the trees are still And twinkle in the smoky light the waters of the rill The south wind searches for the flowers whose fragrance late he bore And sighs to find them in the wood and by the stream no more.
And then I think of one who in her youthful beauty died 25 The fair meek blossom that grew up and faded by my side.
In the cold moist earth we laid her when the forests cast the leaf And we wept that one so lovely should have a life so brief: Yet not unmeet it was that one like that young friend of ours So gentle and so beautiful should perish with the flowers.
30


Written by William Cullen Bryant | |

To a Waterfowl

WHITHER midst falling dew  
While glow the heavens with the last steps of day  
Far through their rosy depths dost thou pursue 
Thy solitary way? 

Vainly the fowler's eye 5 
Might mark thy distant flight to do thee wrong  
As darkly seen against the crimson sky  
Thy figure floats along.
Seek'st thou the plashy brink Of weedy lake or marge of river wide 10 Or where the rocking billows rise and sink On the chafed ocean-side? There is a Power whose care Teaches thy way along that pathless coast¡ª The desert and illimitable air¡ª 15 Lone wandering but not lost.
All day thy wings have fanned At that far height the cold thin atmosphere Yet stoop not weary to the welcome land Though the dark night is near.
20 And soon that toil shall end; Soon shalt thou find a summer home and rest And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend Soon o'er thy sheltered nest.
Thou 'rt gone the abyss of heaven 25 Hath swallowed up thy form; yet on my heart Deeply hath sunk the lesson thou hast given And shall not soon depart.
He who from zone to zone Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight 30 In the long way that I must tread alone Will lead my steps aright.


Written by William Cullen Bryant | |

The Crowded Street

LET me move slowly through the street  
Filled with an ever-shifting train  
Amid the sound of steps that beat 
The murmuring walks like autumn rain.
How fast the flitting figures come! 5 The mild the fierce the stony face; Some bright with thoughtless smiles and some Where secret tears have left their trace.
They pass¡ªto toil to strife to rest; To halls in which the feast is spread; 10 To chambers where the funeral guest In silence sits beside the dead.
And some to happy homes repair Where children pressing cheek to cheek With mute caresses shall declare 15 The tenderness they cannot speak.
And some who walk in calmness here Shall shudder as they reach the door Where one who made their dwelling dear Its flower its light is seen no more.
20 Youth with pale cheek and slender frame And dreams of greatness in thine eye! Go'st thou to build an early name Or early in the task to die? Keen son of trade with eager brow! 25 Who is now fluttering in thy snare? Thy golden fortunes tower they now Or melt the glittering spires in air? Who of this crowd to-night shall tread The dance till daylight gleam again? 30 Who sorrow o'er the untimely dead? Who writhe in throes of mortal pain? Some famine-struck shall think how long The cold dark hours how slow the light; And some who flaunt amid the throng 35 Shall hide in dens of shame to-night.
Each where his tasks or pleasures call They pass and heed each other not.
There is who heeds who holds them all In His large love and boundless thought.
40 These struggling tides of life that seem In wayward aimless course to tend Are eddies of the mighty stream That rolls to its appointed end.


Written by William Cullen Bryant | |

The Future Life

HOW shall I know thee in the sphere which keeps 
The disembodied spirits of the dead  
When all of thee that time could wither sleeps 
And perishes among the dust we tread? 

For I shall feel the sting of ceaseless pain 5 
If there I meet thy gentle presence not; 
Nor hear the voice I love nor read again 
In thy serenest eyes the tender thought.
Will not thy own meek heart demand me there? That heart whose fondest throbs to me were given¡ª 10 My name on earth was ever in thy prayer And wilt thou never utter it in heaven? In meadows fanned by heaven's life-breathing wind In the resplendence of that glorious sphere And larger movements of the unfettered mind 15 Wilt thou forget the love that joined us here? The love that lived through all the stormy past And meekly with my harsher nature bore And deeper grew and tenderer to the last Shall it expire with life and be no more? 20 A happier lot than mine and larger light Await thee there for thou hast bowed thy will In cheerful homage to the rule of right And lovest all and renderest good for ill.
For me the sordid cares in which I dwell 25 Shrink and consume my heart as heat the scroll; And wrath has left its scar¡ªthat fire of hell Has left its frightful scar upon my soul.
Yet though thou wear'st the glory of the sky Wilt thou not keep the same belov¨¨d name 30 The same fair thoughtful brow and gentle eye Lovelier in heaven's sweet climate yet the same? Shalt thou not teach me in that calmer home The wisdom that I learned so ill in this¡ª The wisdom which is love¡ªtill I become 35 Thy fit companion in that land of bliss?


Written by William Cullen Bryant | |

The Battle-Field

ONCE this soft turf, this rivulet's sands, 
Were trampled by a hurrying crowd, 
And fiery hearts and arm¨¨d hands 
Encountered in the battle-cloud.
Ah! never shall the land forget 5 How gushed the life-blood of her brave¡ª Gushed, warm with hope and courage yet, Upon the soil they fought to save.
Now all is calm, and fresh, and still; Alone the chirp of flitting bird, 10 And talk of children on the hill, And bell of wandering kine, are heard.
No solemn host goes trailing by The black-mouthed gun and staggering wain; Men start not at the battle-cry,¡ª 15 O, be it never heard again! Soon rested those who fought; but thou Who minglest in the harder strife For truths which men receive not now, Thy warfare only ends with life.
20 A friendless warfare! lingering long Through weary day and weary year; A wild and many-weaponed throng Hang on thy front, and flank, and rear.
Yet nerve thy spirit to the proof, 25 And blench not at thy chosen lot, The timid good may stand aloof, The sage may frown¡ªyet faint thou not.
Nor heed the shaft too surely cast, The foul and hissing bolt of scorn; 30 For with thy side shall dwell, at last, The victory of endurance born.
Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again; The eternal years of God are hers; But Error, wounded, writhes in pain, 35 And dies among his worshippers.
Yea, though thou lie upon the dust, When they who helped thee flee in fear, Die full of hope and manly trust, Like those who fell in battle here.
40 Another hand thy sword shall wield, Another hand the standard wave, Till from the trumpet's mouth is pealed The blast of triumph o'er thy grave.


Written by William Cullen Bryant | |

Song of Marions Men

OUR band is few but true and tried  
Our leader frank and bold; 
The British soldier trembles 
When Marion's name is told.
Our fortress is the good greenwood 5 Our tent the cypress-tree; We know the forest round us As seamen know the sea.
We know its walls of thorny vines Its glades of reedy grass 10 Its safe and silent islands Within the dark morass.
Woe to the English soldiery That little dread us near! On them shall light at midnight 15 A strange and sudden fear: When waking to their tents on fire They grasp their arms in vain And they who stand to face us Are beat to earth again; 20 And they who fly in terror deem A mighty host behind And hear the tramp of thousands Upon the hollow wind.
Then sweet the hour that brings release 25 From danger and from toil; We talk the battle over And share the battle's spoil.
The woodland rings with laugh and shout As if a hunt were up 30 And woodland flowers are gathered To crown the soldier's cup.
With merry songs we mock the wind That in the pine-top grieves And slumber long and sweetly 35 On beds of oaken leaves.
Well knows the fair and friendly moon The band that Marion leads¡ª The glitter of their rifles The scampering of their steeds.
40 'T is life to guide the fiery barb Across the moonlit plain; 'T is life to feel the night-wind That lifts his tossing mane.
A moment in the British camp¡ª 45 A moment¡ªand away Back to the pathless forest Before the peep of day.
Grave men there are by broad Santee Grave men with hoary hairs; 50 Their hearts are all with Marion For Marion are their prayers.
And lovely ladies greet our band With kindliest welcoming With smiles like those of summer 55 And tears like those of spring.
For them we wear these trusty arms And lay them down no more Till we have driven the Briton Forever from our shore.
60


Written by William Cullen Bryant | |

The West Wind

 IT'S a warm wind, the west wind, full of birds' cries; 
I never hear the west wind but tears are in my eyes.
For it comes from the west lands, the old brown hills.
And April's in the west wind, and daffodils.
It's a fine land, the west land, for hearts as tired as mine, Apple orchards blossom there, and the air's like wine.
There is cool green grass there, where men may lie at rest, And the thrushes are in song there, fluting from the nest.
"Will ye not come home brother? ye have been long away, It's April, and blossom time, and white is the may; And bright is the sun brother, and warm is the rain,-- Will ye not come home, brother, home to us again? "The young corn is green, brother, where the rabbits run.
It's blue sky, and white clouds, and warm rain and sun.
It's song to a man's soul, brother, fire to a man's brain, To hear the wild bees and see the merry spring again.
"Larks are singing in the west, brother, above the green wheat, So will ye not come home, brother, and rest your tired feet? I've a balm for bruised hearts, brother, sleep for aching eyes," Says the warm wind, the west wind, full of birds' cries.
It's the white road westwards is the road I must tread To the green grass, the cool grass, and rest for heart and head, To the violets, and the warm hearts, and the thrushes' song, In the fine land, the west land, the land where I belong.


Written by William Cullen Bryant | |

November

 There is wind where the rose was, 
Cold rain where sweet grass was, 
And clouds like sheep 
Stream o'er the steep 
Grey skies where the lark was.
Nought warm where your hand was, Nought gold where your hair was, But phantom, forlorn, Beneath the thorn, Your ghost where your face was.
Cold wind where your voice was, Tears, tears where my heart was, And ever with me, Child, ever with me, Silence where hope was.


Written by William Cullen Bryant | |

A Song of Pitcairns Island

 Come, take our boy, and we will go
Before our cabin door;
The winds shall bring us, as they blow,
The murmurs of the shore;
And we will kiss his young blue eyes, 
And I will sing him, as he lies,
Songs that were made of yore:
I'll sing, in his delighted ear,
The island lays thou lov'st to hear.
And thou, while stammering I repeat, Thy country's tongue shalt teach; 'Tis not so soft, but far more sweet, Than my own native speech: For thou no other tongue didst know, When, scarcely twenty moons ago, Upon Tahete's beach, Thou cam'st to woo me to be thine, With many a speaking look and sign.
I knew thy meaning--thou didst praise My eyes, my locks of jet; Ah! well for me they won thy gaze,-- But thine were fairer yet! I'm glad to see my infant wear Thy soft blue eyes and sunny hair, And when my sight is met By his white brow and blooming cheek, I feel a joy I cannot speak.
Come talk of Europe's maids with me, Whose necks and cheeks, they tell, Outshine the beauty of the sea, White foam and crimson shell.
I'll shape like theirs my simple dress, And bind like them each jetty tress.
A sight to please thee well: And for my dusky brow will braid A bonnet like an English maid.
Come, for the soft low sunlight calls, We lose the pleasant hours; 'Tis lovelier than these cottage walls,-- That seat among the flowers.
And I will learn of thee a prayer, To Him, who gave a home so fair, A lot so blessed as ours-- The God who made, for thee and me, This sweet lone isle amid the sea.


Written by William Cullen Bryant | |

Hymn of the City

 Not in the solitude 
Alone may man commune with heaven, or see 
Only in savage wood 
And sunny vale, the present Deity; 
Or only hear his voice 
Where the winds whisper and the waves rejoice.
Even here do I behold Thy steps, Almighty!--here, amidst the crowd, Through the great city rolled, With everlasting murmur deep and loud-- Choking the ways that wind 'Mongst the proud piles, the work of humankind.
Thy golden sunshine comes From the round heaven, and on their dwellings lies, And lights their inner homes; For them thou fill'st with air the unbounded skies, And givest them the stores Of ocean, and the harvests of its shores.
Thy spirit is around, Quickening the restless mass that sweeps along; And this eternal sound-- Voices and footfalls of the numberless throng-- Like the resounding sea, Or like the rainy tempest, speaks of thee.
And when the hours of rest Come, like a calm upon the mid-sea brine, Hushing its billowy breast-- The quiet of that moment too is thine; It breathes of him who keeps The vast and helpless city while it sleeps.


Written by William Cullen Bryant | |

After a Tempest

 The day had been a day of wind and storm;-- 
The wind was laid, the storm was overpast,-- 
And stooping from the zenith, bright and warm 
Shone the great sun on the wide earth at last.
I stood upon the upland slope and cast My eye upon a broad and beauteous scene, Where the vast plain lay girt by mountains vast, And hills o'er hills lifted their heads of green, With pleasant vales scooped out and villages between.
The rain-drops glistened on the trees around, Whose shadows on the tall grass were not stirred, Save when a shower of diamonds, to the ground, Was shaken by the flight of startled bird; For birds were warbling round, and bees were heard About the flowers; the cheerful rivulet sung And gossiped, as he hastened ocean-ward; To the gray oak the squirrel, chiding clung, And chirping from the ground the grasshopper upsprung.
And from beneath the leaves that kept them dry Flew many a glittering insect here and there, And darted up and down the butterfly, That seemed a living blossom of the air.
The flocks came scattering from the thicket, where The violent rain had pent them; in the way Strolled groups of damsels frolicksome and fair; The farmer swung the scythe or turned the hay, And 'twixt the heavy swaths his children were at play.
It was a scene of peace--and, like a spell, Did that serene and golden sunlight fall Upon the motionless wood that clothed the fell, And precipice upspringing like a wall, And glassy river and white waterfall, And happy living things that trod the bright And beauteous scene; while far beyond them all, On many a lovely valley, out of sight, Was poured from the blue heavens the same soft golden light.
I looked, and thought the quiet of the scene An emblem of the peace that yet shall be, When, o'er earth's continents and isles between, The noise of war shall cease from sea to sea, And married nations dwell in harmony; When millions, crouching in the dust to one, No more shall beg their lives on bended knee, Nor the black stake be dressed, nor in the sun The o'erlabored captive toil, and wish his life were done.
Too long, at clash of arms amid her bowers And pools of blood, the earth has stood aghast, The fair earth, that should only blush with flowers And ruddy fruits; but not for aye can last The storm, and sweet the sunshine when 'tis past.
Lo, the clouds roll away--they break--they fly, And, like the glorious light of summer, cast O'er the wide landscape from the embracing sky, On all the peaceful world the smile of heaven shall lie.