William Cullen Bryant

William Cullen

American Poet, Critic, Editor

Author Quotes

Oh, river! Darkling river! What a voice is that thou utterest while all else is still ? the ancient voice that, centuries ago, sounded between thy hills, while rome was yet a weedy solitude by tiber's stream!

So live that when thy summons comes to join the innumerable caravan that moves to that mysterious realm, where each shall take 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 about him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

The daffodil is our door-side queen; She pushes upward the sword already, To spot with sunshine the early green.

The praise of those who sleep in earth, the pleasant memory of their worth, the hope to meet when life is past, shall heal the tortured mind at last.

The words of fire that from his pen were flung upon the fervid page, still move, still shake the hearts of men, amid a cold and coward age.

Thy early smile has stayed my walk; but midst the gorgeous blooms of May, I passed thee on thy humble stalk.

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; 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.

By eloquence I understand those appeals to our moral perceptions that produce emotion as soon as they are uttered. This is the very enthusiasm that is the parent of poetry. Let the same man go to his closet and clothe in numbers conceptions full of the same fire and spirit, and they will be poetry.

Gaze on them, till the tears shall dim thy sight, but keep that earlier, wilder image bright.

I worship the quicksand he walks in.

Oh, river, gentle river! Gliding on in silence underneath this starless sky! Thine is a ministry that never rests even while the living slumber. Thou pausest not in thine allotted task, oh, darkling river!

So they, who climb to wealth, forget the friends in darker fortunes tried. I copied them -- but I regret that I should ape the ways of pride.

The earth may ring, from shore to shore, with echoes of a glorious name, but he, whose loss our tears deplore, has left behind him more than fame.

The right to discuss freely and openly, by speech, by the pen, by the press, all political questions, and to examine and animadvert (speak out) upon all political institutions, is a right so clear and certain, so interwoven with our other liberties, so necessary, in fact to their existence, that without it we must fall at once into depression or anarchy. To say that he who holds unpopular opinions must hold them at the peril of his life, and that, if he expresses them in public, he has only himself to blame if they who disagree with him should rise and put him to death, is to strike at all rights, all liberties, all protection of the laws, and to justify and extenuate all crimes.

There is a day of sunny rest for every dark and troubled night; and a grief may bid, and evening guest, bot joy shall come with early light.

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 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 of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall, and breathless darkness, and the narrow house, make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart;? go forth, under the open sky, and list to nature?s teachings, while from all around?earth and her waters, and the depths of air?comes a still voice?yet 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, 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 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 mold. Yet not to thine eternal resting-place shalt thou retire lone, nor couldst thou wish couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down with patriarchs of the infant world?with kings, the powerful of the earth?the wise, the good, 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?rivers that move in majesty, and the complaining brooks that make the meadows green; and, poured round all, old ocean?s gray and melancholy waste,? are but the solemn decorations all of the great tomb of man. The golden sun, 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.?take the wings 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?yet the dead are there: and millions in those solitudes, since first the flight of years began, have laid them down in their last sleep?the 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 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 comeand 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? 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 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 about him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

And sighs to find them in the wood and by the stream no more.

Can anything be imagined more abhorrent to every sentiment of generosity and justice, than the law which arms the rich with the legal right to fix, by assize, the wages of the poor? If this is not slavery, we have forgotten its definition. Strike the right of associating for the sale of labor from the privileges of a freeman, and you may as well bind him to a master, or ascribe him to the soil.

Genius, with all its pride in its own strength, is but a dependent quality, and cannot put forth its whole powers nor claim all its honors without an amount of aid from the talents and labors of others which it is difficult to calculate.

Is this a time to be cloudy and sad, when our Mother Nature laughs around; when even the deep blue heavens look glad, and gladness breathes from the blossoming ground?

Oh, sun! That o'er the western mountains now goest down in glory! Ever beautiful and blessed is thy radiance, whether thou colorest the eastern heaven and night-mist cool, till the bright day-star vanish, or on high climbest and streamest thy white splendours from mid-sky.

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 in wavering flakes begins to flow; flake after flake, they sink in the dark and silent lake.

The faint old man shall lean his silver head to feel thee; thou shalt kiss the child asleep, and dry the moistened curls that overspread his temples, while his breathing grows more deep.

The rugged trees are mingling their flowery sprays in love; the ivy climbs the laurel to clasp the boughs above.

There is a power whose care teaches thy way along that pathless coast, ? the desert and illimitable air, ? lone wandering, but not lost.

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William Cullen
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American Poet, Critic, Editor