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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.


by William Cullen Bryant |

A Forest Hymn

The groves were God's first temples.
Ere man learned To hew the shaft, and lay the architrave, And spread the roof above them,---ere he framed The lofty vault, to gather and roll back The sound of anthems; in the darkling wood, Amidst the cool and silence, he knelt down, And offered to the Mightiest solemn thanks And supplication.
For his simple heart Might not resist the sacred influences, Which, from the stilly twilight of the place, And from the gray old trunks that high in heaven Mingled their mossy boughs, and from the sound Of the invisible breath that swayed at once All their green tops, stole over him, and bowed His spirit with the thought of boundless power And inaccessible majesty.
Ah, why Should we, in the world's riper years, neglect God's ancient sanctuaries, and adore Only among the crowd, and under roofs, That our frail hands have raised? Let me, at least, Here, in the shadow of this aged wood, Offer one hymn---thrice happy, if it find Acceptance in His ear.
Father, thy hand Hath reared these venerable columns, thou Didst weave this verdant roof.
Thou didst look down Upon the naked earth, and, forthwith, rose All these fair ranks of trees.
They, in thy sun, Budded, and shook their green leaves in the breeze, And shot towards heaven.
The century-living crow, Whose birth was in their tops, grew old and died Among their branches, till, at last, they stood, As now they stand, massy, and tall, and dark, Fit shrine for humble worshipper to hold Communion with his Maker.
These dim vaults, These winding aisles, of human pomp and pride Report not.
No fantastic carvings show The boast of our vain race to change the form Of thy fair works.
But thou art here---thou fill'st The solitude.
Thou art in the soft winds That run along the summit of these trees In music; thou art in the cooler breath That from the inmost darkness of the place Comes, scarcely felt; the barky trunks, the ground, The fresh moist ground, are all instinct with thee.
Here is continual worship;---Nature, here, In the tranquility that thou dost love, Enjoys thy presence.
Noiselessly, around, From perch to perch, the solitary bird Passes; and yon clear spring, that, midst its herbs, Wells softly forth and wandering steeps the roots Of half the mighty forest, tells no tale Of all the good it does.
Thou hast not left Thyself without a witness, in these shades, Of thy perfections.
Grandeur, strength, and grace Are here to speak of thee.
This mighty oak--- By whose immovable stem I stand and seem Almost annihilated---not a prince, In all that proud old world beyond the deep, E'er wore his crown as lofty as he Wears the green coronal of leaves with which Thy hand has graced him.
Nestled at his root Is beauty, such as blooms not in the glare Of the broad sun.
That delicate forest flower With scented breath, and look so like a smile, Seems, as it issues from the shapeless mould, An emanation of the indwelling Life, A visible token of the upholding Love, That are the soul of this wide universe.
My heart is awed within me when I think Of the great miracle that still goes on, In silence, round me---the perpetual work Of thy creation, finished, yet renewed Forever.
Written on thy works I read The lesson of thy own eternity.
Lo! all grow old and die---but see again, How on the faltering footsteps of decay Youth presses----ever gay and beautiful youth In all its beautiful forms.
These lofty trees Wave not less proudly that their ancestors Moulder beneath them.
Oh, there is not lost One of earth's charms: upon her bosom yet, After the flight of untold centuries, The freshness of her far beginning lies And yet shall lie.
Life mocks the idle hate Of his arch enemy Death---yea, seats himself Upon the tyrant's throne---the sepulchre, And of the triumphs of his ghastly foe Makes his own nourishment.
For he came forth From thine own bosom, and shall have no end.
There have been holy men who hid themselves Deep in the woody wilderness, and gave Their lives to thought and prayer, till they outlived The generation born with them, nor seemed Less aged than the hoary trees and rocks Around them;---and there have been holy men Who deemed it were not well to pass life thus.
But let me often to these solitudes Retire, and in thy presence reassure My feeble virtue.
Here its enemies, The passions, at thy plainer footsteps shrink And tremble and are still.
Oh, God! when thou Dost scare the world with falling thunderbolts, or fill, With all the waters of the firmament, The swift dark whirlwind that uproots the woods And drowns the village; when, at thy call, Uprises the great deep and throws himself Upon the continent, and overwhelms Its cities---who forgets not, at the sight Of these tremendous tokens of thy power, His pride, and lays his strifes and follies by? Oh, from these sterner aspects of thy face Spare me and mine, nor let us need the wrath Of the mad unchained elements to teach Who rules them.
Be it ours to meditate, In these calm shades, thy milder majesty, And to the beautiful order of the works Learn to conform the order of our lives.


by William Cullen Bryant |

A Forest Hymn

THE GROVES were God's first temples.
Ere man learned To hew the shaft and lay the architrave And spread the roof above them¡ªere he framed The lofty vault to gather and roll back The sound of anthems; in the darkling wood 5 Amidst the cool and silence he knelt down And offered to the Mightiest solemn thanks And supplication.
For his simple heart Might not resist the sacred influences Which from the stilly twilight of the place 10 And from the gray old trunks that high in heaven Mingled their mossy boughs and from the sound Of the invisible breath that swayed at once All their green tops stole over him and bowed His spirit with the thought of boundless power 15 And inaccessible majesty.
Ah why Should we in the world's riper years neglect God's ancient sanctuaries and adore Only among the crowd and under roofs That our frail hands have raised? Let me at least 20 Here in the shadow of this aged wood Offer one hymn¡ªthrice happy if it find Acceptance in His ear.
Father thy hand Hath reared these venerable columns thou 25 Didst weave this verdant roof.
Thou didst look down Upon the naked earth and forthwith rose All these fair ranks of trees.
They in thy sun Budded and shook their green leaves in thy breeze And shot towards heaven.
The century-living crow 30 Whose birth was in their tops grew old and died Among their branches till at last they stood As now they stand massy and tall and dark Fit shrine for humble worshipper to hold Communion with his Maker.
These dim vaults 35 These winding aisles of human pomp or pride Report not.
No fantastic carvings show The boast of our vain race to change the form Of thy fair works.
But thou art here¡ªthou fill'st The solitude.
Thou art in the soft winds 40 That run along the summit of these trees In music; thou art in the cooler breath That from the inmost darkness of the place Comes scarcely felt; the barky trunks the ground The fresh moist ground are all instinct with thee.
45 Here is continual worship;¡ªNature here In the tranquillity that thou dost love Enjoys thy presence.
Noiselessly around From perch to perch the solitary bird Passes; and yon clear spring that midst its herbs 50 Wells softly forth and wandering steeps the roots Of half the mighty forest tells no tale Of all the good it does.
Thou hast not left Thyself without a witness in these shades Of thy perfections.
Grandeur strength and grace 55 Are here to speak of thee.
This mighty oak ¡ª By whose immovable stem I stand and seem Almost annihilated¡ªnot a prince In all that proud old world beyond the deep E'er wore his crown as loftily as he 60 Wears the green coronal of leaves with which Thy hand has graced him.
Nestled at his root Is beauty such as blooms not in the glare Of the broad sun.
That delicate forest flower With scented breath and look so like a smile 65 Seems as it issues from the shapeless mould An emanation of the indwelling Life A visible token of the upholding Love That are the soul of this great universe.
My heart is awed within me when I think 70 Of the great miracle that still goes on In silence round me¡ªthe perpetual work Of thy creation finished yet renewed Forever.
Written on thy works I read The lesson of thy own eternity.
75 Lo! all grow old and die¡ªbut see again How on the faltering footsteps of decay Youth presses ¡ªever-gay and beautiful youth In all its beautiful forms.
These lofty trees Wave not less proudly that their ancestors 80 Moulder beneath them.
O there is not lost One of earth's charms: upon her bosom yet After the flight of untold centuries The freshness of her far beginning lies And yet shall lie.
Life mocks the idle hate 85 Of his arch-enemy Death¡ªyea seats himself Upon the tyrant's throne¡ªthe sepulchre And of the triumphs of his ghastly foe Makes his own nourishment.
For he came forth From thine own bosom and shall have no end.
90 There have been holy men who hid themselves Deep in the woody wilderness and gave Their lives to thought and prayer till they outlived The generation born with them nor seemed Less aged than the hoary trees and rocks 95 Around them;¡ªand there have been holy men Who deemed it were not well to pass life thus.
But let me often to these solitudes Retire and in thy presence reassure My feeble virtue.
Here its enemies 100 The passions at thy plainer footsteps shrink And tremble and are still.
O God! when thou Dost scare the world with tempests set on fire The heavens with falling thunderbolts or fill With all the waters of the firmament 105 The swift dark whirlwind that uproots the woods And drowns the villages; when at thy call Uprises the great deep and throws himself Upon the continent and overwhelms Its cities¡ªwho forgets not at the sight 110 Of these tremendous tokens of thy power His pride and lays his strifes and follies by? O from these sterner aspects of thy face Spare me and mine nor let us need the wrath Of the mad unchain¨¨d elements to teach 115 Who rules them.
Be it ours to meditate In these calm shades thy milder majesty And to the beautiful order of thy works Learn to conform the order of our lives.


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.


by William Cullen Bryant |

The Planting of the Apple-Tree

COME let us plant the apple-tree.
Cleave the tough greensward with the spade; Wide let its hollow bed be made; There gently lay the roots and there Sift the dark mould with kindly care 5 And press it o'er them tenderly As round the sleeping infant's feet We softly fold the cradle sheet; So plant we the apple-tree.
What plant we in this apple-tree? 10 Buds which the breath of summer days Shall lengthen into leafy sprays; Boughs where the thrush with crimson breast Shall haunt and sing and hide her nest; We plant upon the sunny lea 15 A shadow for the noontide hour A shelter from the summer shower When we plant the apple-tree.
What plant we in this apple-tree? Sweets for a hundred flowery springs 20 To load the May-wind's restless wings When from the orchard row he pours Its fragrance through our open doors; A world of blossoms for the bee Flowers for the sick girl's silent room 25 For the glad infant sprigs of bloom We plant with the apple-tree.
What plant we in this apple-tree! Fruits that shall swell in sunny June And redden in the August noon 30 And drop when gentle airs come by That fan the blue September sky While children come with cries of glee And seek them where the fragrant grass Betrays their bed to those who pass 35 At the foot of the apple-tree.
And when above this apple-tree The winter stars are quivering bright And winds go howling through the night Girls whose young eyes o'erflow with mirth 40 Shall peel its fruit by cottage-hearth And guests in prouder homes shall see Heaped with the grape of Cintra's vine And golden orange of the line The fruit of the apple-tree.
45 The fruitage of this apple-tree Winds and our flag of stripe and star Shall bear to coasts that lie afar Where men shall wonder at the view And ask in what fair groves they grew; 50 And sojourners beyond the sea Shall think of childhood's careless day And long long hours of summer play In the shade of the apple-tree.
Each year shall give this apple-tree 55 A broader flush of roseate bloom A deeper maze of verdurous gloom And loosen when the frost-clouds lower The crisp brown leaves in thicker shower; The years shall come and pass but we 60 Shall hear no longer where we lie The summer's songs the autumn's sigh In the boughs of the apple-tree.
And time shall waste this apple-tree.
Oh when its aged branches throw 65 Thin shadows on the ground below Shall fraud and force and iron will Oppress the weak and helpless still? What shall the tasks of mercy be Amid the toils the strifes the tears 70 Of those who live when length of years Is wasting this little apple-tree? Who planted this old apple-tree? The children of that distant day Thus to some aged man shall say; 75 And gazing on its mossy stem The gray-haired man shall answer them: A poet of the land was he, Born in the rude but good old times; 'T is said he made some quaint old rhymes 80 On planting the apple-tree.


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.


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


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.


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.


by William Cullen Bryant |

Thanatopsis

TO HIM who in the love of Nature holds 
Communion with her visible forms she speaks 
A various language; for his gayer hours 
She has a voice of gladness and a smile 
And eloquence of beauty and she glides 5 
Into his darker musings with a mild 
And healing sympathy that steals away 
Their sharpness ere he is aware.
When thoughts Of the last bitter hour come like a blight Over thy spirit and sad images 10 Of the stern agony and shroud and pall And breathless darkness and the narrow house Make thee to shudder and grow sick at heart;¡ª Go forth under the open sky and list To Nature's teachings while from all around¡ª 15 Earth and her waters and the depths of air¡ª Comes a still voice¡ªYet a few days and thee The all-beholding sun shall see no more In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground Where thy pale form was laid with many tears 20 Nor in the embrace of ocean shall exist Thy image.
Earth that nourished thee shall claim Thy growth to be resolved to earth again And lost each human trace surrendering up Thine individual being shalt thou go 25 To mix forever with the elements; To be a brother to the insensible rock And to the sluggish clod which the rude swain Turns with his share and treads upon.
The oak Shall send his roots abroad and pierce thy mould.
30 Yet not to thine eternal resting-place Shalt thou retire alone nor couldst thou wish Couch more magnificent.
Thou shalt lie down With patriarchs of the infant world ¡ªwith kings The powerful of the earth ¡ªthe wise the good 35 Fair forms and hoary seers of ages past All in one mighty sepulchre.
The hills Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun; the vales Stretching in pensive quietness between; The venerable woods¡ªrivers that move 40 In majesty and the complaining brooks That make the meadows green; and poured round all Old Ocean's gray and melancholy waste ¡ª Are but the solemn decorations all Of the great tomb of man! The golden sun 45 The planets all the infinite host of heaven Are shining on the sad abodes of death Through the still lapse of ages.
All that tread The globe are but a handful to the tribes That slumber in its bosom.
¡ªTake the wings 50 Of morning pierce the Barcan wilderness Or lose thyself in the continuous woods Where rolls the Oregon and hears no sound Save his own dashings ¡ªyet the dead are there: And millions in those solitudes since first 55 The flight of years began have laid them down In their last sleep¡ªthe dead reign there alone.
So shalt thou rest; and what if thou withdraw In silence from the living and no friend Take note of thy departure? All that breathe 60 Will share thy destiny.
The gay will laugh When thou art gone the solemn brood of care Plod on and each one as before will chase His favorite phantom; yet all these shall leave Their mirth and their employments and shall come 65 And make their bed with thee.
As the long train Of ages glide away the sons of men The youth in life's green spring and he who goes In the full strength of years matron and maid The speechless babe and the gray-headed man¡ª 70 Shall one by one be gathered to thy side By those who in their turn shall follow them.
So live that when thy summons comes to join The innumerable caravan which moves To that mysterious realm where each shall take 75 His chamber in the silent halls of death Thou go not like the quarry-slave at night Scourged to his dungeon but sustained and soothed By an unfaltering trust approach thy grave Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch 80 About him and lies down to pleasant dreams.