American Poet, Critic, Editor
William Cullen Bryant
American Poet, Critic, Editor
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.
To me it seems that one of the most important requisites for a great poet is a luminous style. The elements of poetry lie in natural objects, in the vicissitudes of human life, in the emotions of the human heart, and the relations of man to man.
And suns grow meek, and the meek suns grow brief, and the year smiles as it draws near its death.
Chained in the market-place he stood, a man of giant frame, amid the gathering multitude that shrunk to hear his name.
Gently - so have good men taught - gently, and without grief, the old shall glide into the new; the eternal flow of things, like a bright river of the fields of heaven, shall journey onward in perpetual peace.
Lay down the axe; fling by the spade; Leave in its track the toiling plough; The rifle and the bayonet-blade For arms like yours were fitter now; And let the hands that ply the pen Quit the light task, and learn to wield The horseman's crooked brand, and rein The charger on the battle-field.
Oh; not yet may'st thou unbrace thy corslet, nor lay by thy sword, nor yet, o freedom! Close thy lids in slumber; for thine enemy never sleeps. And thou must watch and combat, till the day of the new earth and heaven.
Stranger, if thou hast learned a truth which needs No school of long experience, that the world Is full of guilt and misery, and hast seen Enough of all its sorrows, crimes and cares, To tire thee of it, enter this wild wood And view the haunts of Nature. The calm shade Shall bring a kindred calm, and the sweet breeze That makes the green leaves dance, shall waft a balm To thy sick heart.
The February sunshine steeps your boughs and tints the buds and swells the leaves within.
The sad and solemn night hath yet her multitude of cheerful fires; The glorious host of light walk the dark hemisphere till she retires; All through her silent watches, gliding slow, Her constellations come, and climb the heavens, and go.
There is no glory in star or blossom till looked upon by a loving eye; There is no fragrance in April breezes till breathed with joy as they wander by.
A breeze came wandering from the sky, light as the whispers of a dream; he put the o'erhanging grasses by, and softly stooped to kiss the stream, the pretty stream, the flattered stream, the shy, yet unreluctant stream.
And the blue gentian-flower, that, in the breeze, Nods lonely, of her beauteous race the last.
Childhood, with all its mirth, youth, manhood, age that draws us to the ground, and last, man's life on earth, glide to thy dim dominions, and are bound.
Glorious are the woods in their latest gold and crimson, yet our full-leaved willows are in the freshest green. Such a kindly autumn, so mercifully dealing with the growths of summer, i never yet have seen.
Look! the massy trunks Are cased in the pure crystal; each light spray, Nodding and tinkling in the breath of heaven, Is studded with its trembling water-drops, That glimmer with an amethystine light.