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.
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
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.
Shall send his roots abroad and pierce thy mould.
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.
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.
William Cullen Bryant
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