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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.

Poem by William Cullen Bryant
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