WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT.
NEW YORK: D. APPLETON AND COMPANY, 1, 3, AND 5 BOND STREET. LONDON: 16 LITTLE BRITAIN. 1880.
ENTERED, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1854, by W. C. BRYANT, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.
ENTERED, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1871, by W. C. BRYANT, in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
ENTERED, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1878, by D. APPLETON & CO., in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT.
The ancestry of William Cullen Bryant might have been inferred from the character of his writings, which reflect whatever is best and noblest in the life and thought of New England. It was a tradition that the first Bryant of whom there is any account in the annals of the New World came over in the Mayflower, but the tradition is not authenticated. What is known of this gentleman, Mr. Stephen Bryant, is that he came over from England, and that he was at Plymouth, Massachusetts, as early as 1632. He married Abigail Shaw, who had emigrated with her father, and who bore him several children between 1650 and 1665, it is to be presumed at Plymouth, of which town he was chosen constable in 1663. Stephen Bryant had a son named Ichabod, who was the father of Philip Bryant, who was born in 1732. Philip Bryant married Silence Howard, the daughter of Dr. Abiel Howard, of West Bridgewater, whose profession he adopted, being a practitioner in medicine in North Bridgewater. He was the father of nine children, one of whom, Peter Bryant, born in 1767, succeeded him in his profession. Young Dr. Bryant became enamored of Miss Sarah Snell, the daughter of Mr. Ebenezer Snell, of Bridgewater, who removed his family to Cummington, whither he was followed by his future son-in-law, who married the lady of his love in 1792. Two years later, on the 3d of November, there was born to him a man-child, who was to win, and to leave,
"One of the few immortal names That were not born to die."
Dr. Bryant was proud of his profession; and in the hope, no doubt, that his son would become a shining light therein, he perpetuated at his christening the name of a great medical authority, who had departed this life four years before—William Cullen. Dr. Bryant was the last of his family to practise the healing art; for Nature, wiser than he, early determined the future course of Master William Cullen Bryant. He was not to be a doctor, but a poet. A poet, that is, if he lived to be anything; for the chances were against his living at all. The lad was exceedingly frail, and had a head the immensity of which troubled his anxious father. How to reduce it to the normal size was a puzzle which Dr. Bryant solved in a spring of clear, cold water, which burst out of the ground on or near his homestead, and into which the child was immersed every morning, head and all, by two of Dr. Bryant's students—kicking lustily, we may be sure, at this matutinal dose of hydropathy.
William Cullen Bryant came of Mayflower stock, his mother being a descendant of John Alden; and the characteristics of his family included some of the sterner qualities of the Puritans. Grandfather Snell was a magistrate, and, without doubt a severe one, for the period was not one which favored leniency to criminals. The whipping-post was still extant in Massachusetts, and the poet remembered that it stood about a mile from his early home at Cummington, and that he once saw a young fellow of eighteen who had received forty lashes as a punishment for a theft he had committed. It was, he thought, the last example of corporal punishment inflicted by law in that neighborhood, though the whipping-post remained in its place for several years, a possible terror to future evildoers. "Spare the rod, spoil the child," was the Draconian code then; and the rod, in the shape of a little bundle of birchen twigs, bound together with a small cord, was generally suspended on a nail against the wall in the kitchen, and was as much a part of the necessary furniture as the crane that hung in the fireplace or the shovel and tongs.
Magistrate Snell was a disciplinarian of the stricter sort; and as he and his wife resided with Dr. Bryant and his family, the latter stood in awe of him, so much so that young William Cullen was prevented from feeling anything like affection for him. It was an age of repression, not to say oppression, for children, who had few rights that their elders were bound to respect. To the terrors of the secular arm were added the deeper terrors of the spiritual law, for the people of that primitive period were nothing if not religious. The minister was the great man, and his bodily presence was a restraint upon the unruly, and the ruly too, for that matter. The lines of our ancestors did not fall in pleasant places as far as recreations were concerned; for they were few and far between, consisting, for the most part, of militia musters, "raisings," corn-huskings, and singing-schools, diversified with the making of maple sugar and cider. Education was confined to the three R's, though the children of wealthy parents were sent to colleges as they now are. It was not a genial social condition, it must be confessed, to which William Cullen Bryant was born, though it might have been worse but for his good father, who was in many respects superior to his rustic neighbors. A broad-shouldered, muscular gentleman, proud of his strength, his manners were gentle and reserved, his disposition was serene, and he was fond of society. He was not without political distinction, for he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for several terms, and afterward to the State Senate, and he associated with the cultivated circles of Boston both as a legislator and a physician.
William Cullen Bryant was fortunate in his father, who, if he was disappointed when he found that his son was born to be a follower of Apollo and not of AEsculapius, kept his disappointment to himself, and encouraged the lad in his poetical attempts. We have the authority of the poet himself that his father taught his youth the art of verse, and that he offered him to the Muses in the bud of life. His first efforts were several clever "Enigmas," in imitation of the Latin writers, a translation from Horace, and a copy of verses which were written in his twelfth year, to be recited at the close of the winter school, "in the presence of the Master, the Minister of the parish, and a number of private gentlemen." They were printed on the 18th of March, 1807, in the Hampshire Gazette, from which these particulars are derived, and which was favored with other contributions from the pen of "C. B."
The juvenile poems of William Cullen Bryant are as clever as those of Chatterton, Pope, and Cowley; but they are in no sense original, and it would have been strange if they had been. There was no original writing in America at the time they were written; and if there had been, it would hardly have commended itself to the old-fashioned taste of Dr. Bryant, to whom Pope was still a power in poetry, as Addison, no doubt, was in prose. It was natural, therefore, that he should offer his boy to the strait-laced Muses of Queen Anne's time; that the precocious boy should lisp in heroic couplets, and that he should endeavor to be satirical. Politics were running high in the first decade of the present century, and the favorite bug-bear in New England was President Jefferson, who in 1807 had laid an embargo on American shipping, in consequence of the decrees of Napoleon, and the British orders in council in relation thereto. This act was denounced, and by no one more warmly than by Master Bryant, who made it the subject of a satire, which was published in Boston in 1808. It was entitled "The Embargo; or, Sketches of the Times," and was printed for the purchasers, who were found in sufficient numbers to exhaust the first edition. It is said to have been well received, but doubts were expressed as to whether the author was really a youth of thirteen. His friends came to his rescue in an "Advertisement," which was prefixed to a second edition of his little brochure, published in the following year, and certified to his age from their personal knowledge of himself and his family. They also certified to his extraordinary talents, though they should prefer to have him judged by his works, without favor or affection. They concluded by stating that the printer was authorized to disclose their names and places of residence.
The early poetical exercises of William Cullen Bryant, like those of all young poets, were colored by the books which he read. Among these were the works of Pope, as I have already intimated, and, no doubt, the works of Cowper and Thomson. The latter, if they were in the library of Dr. Bryant, do not appear to have impressed his son at this time; nor, indeed, does any English poet except Pope, so far as we can judge from his contributions to the Hampshire Gazette, which were continued from time to time. They were bookish and patriotic; one, which was written at Cummington on the 8th of January, 1810, being "The Genius of Columbia;" and another, "An Ode for the Fourth of July, 1812," to the tune of "Ye Gentlemen of England." These productions are undeniably clever, but they are not characteristic of their writer, nor of the nature which surrounded his birthplace, with which he was familiar, and of which he was a close observer, as his poetry was soon to disclose.
He entered Williams College, in Williamstown, Mass., in his sixteenth year, and remained there until 1812, distinguishing himself for aptness and industry in classical learning and polite literature. At the end of two years he withdrew, and commenced the study of law, first with Judge Howe, of Worthington, and afterward with Mr. William Baylies, of Bridgewater. So far he had written nothing but clever amateur verse; but now, in his eighteenth year, he wrote an imperishable poem. The circumstances under which it was composed have been variously stated, but they agree in the main particulars, and are thus given in "The Bryant Homestead Book" (1870), apparently on authentic information: "It was here at Cummington, while wandering in the primeval forests, over the floor of which were scattered the gigantic trunks of fallen trees, mouldering for long years, and suggesting an indefinitely remote antiquity, and where silent rivulets crept along through the carpet of dead leaves, the spoil of thousands of summers, that the poem entitled 'Thanatopsis' was composed. The young poet had read the poems of Kirke White, which, edited by Southey, were published about that time, and a small volume of Southey's miscellaneous poems; and some lines of those authors had kindled his imagination, which, going forth over the face of the inhabitants of the globe, sought to bring under one broad and comprehensive view the destinies of the human race in the present life, and the perpetual rising and passing away of generation after generation who are nourished by the fruits of its soil, and find a resting-place in its bosom." We should like to know what lines in Southey and Kirke White suggested "Thanatopsis," that they might be printed in letters of gold hereafter.
When the young poet quitted Cummington to begin his law studies, he left the manuscript of this incomparable poem among his papers in the house of his father, who found it after his departure. "Here are some lines that our William has been writing," he said to a lady to whom he showed them. She read them, and, raising her eyes to the face of Dr. Bryant, burst into tears—a tribute to the genius of his son in which he was not ashamed to join. Blackstone bade his Muse a long adieu before he turned to wrangling courts and stubborn law; and our young lawyer intended to do the same (for poetry was starvation in America seventy years ago), but habit and nature were too strong for him. There is no difficulty in tracing the succession of his poems, and in a few instances the places where they were written, or with which they concerned themselves. "Thanatopsis," for example, was followed by "The Yellow Violet," which was followed by the "Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood," and the song beginning "Soon as the glazed and gleaming snow." The exquisite lines "To a Waterfowl" were written at Bridgewater, in his twentieth year, where he was still pursuing the study of law, which appears to have been distasteful to him. The concluding stanza sank deeply into a heart that needed its pious lesson:
"He who, from zone to zone, Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight, In the long way that I must tread alone, Will lead my steps aright."
The lawyer-poet had a long way before him, but he did not tread it alone; for, after being admitted to the bar in Plymouth, and practising for a time in Plainfield, near Cummington, he removed to Great Barrington, in Berkshire, where he saw the dwelling of the Genevieve of his chilly little "Song," his Genevieve being Miss Frances Fairchild of that beautiful town, whom he married in his twenty-seventh year, and who was the light of his household for nearly half a century. It was to her, the reader may like to know, that he addressed the ideal poem beginning "O fairest of the rural maids" (circa 1825), "The Future Life" (1837), and "The Life that Is" (1858); and her memory and her loss are tenderly embalmed in one of the most touching of his later poems, "October, 1866."
"Thanatopsis" was sent to the North American Review (whether by its author or his father we are not told), and with such a modest, not to say enigmatical, note of introduction, that its authorship was left in doubt. The Review was managed by a club of young literary gentlemen, who styled themselves "The North American Club," two of whose members, Mr. Richard Henry Dana and Mr. Edward Tyrrel Channing, were considered its editors. Mr. Dana read the poem carefully, and was so surprised at its excellence that he doubted whether it was the production of an American, an opinion in which his associates are understood to have concurred. While they were hesitating about its acceptance, he was told that the writer was a member of the Massachusetts Senate; and, the Senate being then in session, he started immediately from Cambridge for Boston. He reached the State House, and inquired for Senator Bryant. A tall, middle-aged man, with a business-like look, was pointed out to him. He was satisfied that he could not be the poet he sought, so he posted back to Cambridge without an introduction. The story ends here, and rather tamely; for the original narrator forgot, or perhaps never knew, that Dr. Bryant was a member of the Senate, and that it was among the possibilities that he was the Senator with a similar name. American poetry may be said to have commenced in 1817 with the September number of the North American Review, which contained "Thanatopsis" and the "Inscription for the Entrance of a Wood," the last being printed as a "Fragment." Six months later, in March, 1818, the impression which "Thanatopsis" created was strengthened by the appearance of the lines "To a Waterfowl," and the "Version of a Fragment of Simonides."
Mr. Bryant's literary life may now be said to have begun, though he depended upon the practice of his profession for his daily bread. He continued his contributions to the North American Review in the shape of prose papers on literary topics, and maintained the most friendly relations with its conductors; notably so with Mr. Dana, who was seven years his elder, and who possessed, like himself, the accomplishment of verse. At the suggestion of this poetical and critical brother, he was invited to deliver a poem before the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Harvard College—an honor which is offered only to those who have already made a reputation, and are likely to reflect credit on the Society as well as on themselves. He accepted, and in 1821 wrote his first poem of any length, "The Ages," which still remains the best poem of the kind that was ever recited before a college society either in this country or in England; grave, stately, thoughtful, presenting in animated, picturesque stanzas a compact summary of the history of mankind. A young Englishman of twenty-one—Thomas Babington Macaulay—delivered in the same year a poem on "Evening," before the students of Trinity College, Cambridge; and it is instructive to compare his conventional heroics with the spirited Spenserian stanzas of William Cullen Bryant.
The lines "To a Waterfowl," which were written at Bridgewater in 1815, were followed by "Green River," "A Winter Piece," "The West Wind," "The Burial-Place," "Blessed are they that mourn," "No man knoweth his Sepulchre," "A Walk at Sunset," and "The Hymn to Death."
These poems, which cover a period of six busy years, are interesting to the poetic student as examples of the different styles of their writer, and of the changing elements of his thoughts and feelings. "Green River," for example, is a momentary revealment of his shy temperament and his daily pursuits. Its glimpses of nature are charming, and his wish to be beside its waters is the most natural one in the world. The young lawyer is not complimentary to his clients, whom he styles "the dregs of men," while his pen, which does its best to serve them, becomes "a barbarous pen." He is dejected, but a visit to the river will restore his spirits; for, as he gazes upon its lonely and lovely stream,
"An image of that calm life appears That won my heart in my greener years."
"A Winter Piece" is a gallery of woodland pictures which anything of the kind in the language. "A Walk at Sunset" is notable in that it is the first poem in which we see (faintly, it must be confessed) the aboriginal element, which was soon to become a prominent one in Mr. Bryant's poetry. It was inseparable from the primeval forests of the New World, but he was the first to perceive its poetic value. The "Hymn to Death"—stately, majestic, consolatory—concludes with a touching tribute to the worth of his good father, who died while he was writing it, at the age of fifty-four. The year 1821 was an important one to Mr. Bryant, for it witnessed the publication of his first collection of verse, his marriage, and the death of his father.
The next four years of Mr. Bryant's life were more productive than any that had preceded them, for he wrote upward of thirty poems during that time. The aboriginal element was creative in "The Indian Girl's Lament," "An Indian Story," "An Indian at the Burial-Place of his Fathers," and, noblest of all, "Monument Mountain;" the Hellenic element predominated in "The Massacre at Scio" and "The Song of the Greek Amazon;" the Hebraic element touched him lightly in "Rizpah" and the "Song of the Stars;" and the pure poetic element was manifest in "March," "The Rivulet" (which, by the way, ran through the grounds of the old homestead at Cummington), "After a Tempest," "The Murdered Traveler," "Hymn to the North Star," "A Forest Hymn," "O fairest of the rural maids," and the exquisite and now most pathetic poem, "June." These poems and others not specified here, if read continuously and in the order in which they were composed, show a wide range of sympathies, a perfect acquaintance with many measures, and a clear, capacious, ever-growing intellect. They are all distinctive of the genius of their author, but neither exhibits the full measure of his powers. We can say of none of them, "The man who wrote this will never write any better."
The publication of Mr. Bryant's little volume of verse was indirectly the cause of his adopting literature as a profession. It was warmly commended, and by no one more so than by Mr. Gulian C. Verplanck, in the columns of the New York American. He was something of a literary authority at the time, a man of fortune and college-bred, known in a mild way as the author of an anniversary discourse delivered before the New York Historical Society in 1818, of a political satire entitled "The Bucktail Bards," and later of an "Essay on the Doctrine of Contracts." Among his friends was Mr. Henry D. Sedgwick, a summer neighbor, so to speak, of Mr. Bryant's, having a country-house at Stockbridge, a few miles from Great Barrington, and a house in town, which was frequented by the literati of the day, such as Verplanck, Halleck, Percival, Cooper, and others of less note. An admirer of Mr. Bryant, Mr. Sedgwick set to work, with the assistance of Mr. Verplanck, to procure him literary employment in New York, in order to enable him to escape his hated bondage to the law; and he was appointed assistant editor of a projected periodical called the New York Review and Athenaeum Magazine. The at last enfranchised lawyer dropped his barbarous pen, closed his law-books, and in the winter or spring of 1825 removed with his household to New York. The projected periodical was started, as these sanguine ventures always are, with fair hopes of success. It was well edited, and its contributors were men of acknowledged ability. The June number contained two poems which ought to have made a great hit. One was "A Song of Pitcairn's Island;" the other was "Marco Bozzaris." There was no flourish of trumpets over them, as there would be now; the writers merely prefixed their initials, "B." and "H." The reading public of New York were not ready for the Review, which had been projected for their mental enlightenment; so, after about a year's struggle, it was merged in the New York Literary Gazette, which began its mission about four years before. This magazine shared the fate of its companion in a few months, when it was consolidated with the United States Literary Gazette, which in two months was swallowed up in the United States Review. The honor of publishing and finishing the last was shared by Boston and New York. Profit in these publications there was none, though Bryant, Halleck, Willis, Dana, Bancroft, and Longfellow wrote for them. Too good, or not good enough, they lived and died prematurely. Mr. Bryant's success as a metropolitan man of letters was not brilliant so far; but there were other walks than those of pure literature open to him, as to others, and into one of the most bustling of these he entered in his thirty-second year. In other words, he became one of the editors of the Evening Post. Henceforth he was to live by journalism.
Journalism, though an exacting pursuit, leaves its skillful followers a little leisure in which to cultivate literature. It the heyday of those ephemeral trifles, Annuals, and Mr. Bryant found time to edit one, with the assistance of his friend Mr. Verplanck, and his acquaintance Mr. Robert C. Sands (who, by the way, was one of the editors of the Commercial Advertiser), and a very creditable work it was. His contributions to "The Talisman" included some of his best poems. Poetry was the natural expression of his genius—a fact which he could never understand, for it always seemed to him that prose was the natural expression of all mankind. His prose was, and always continued to be, masterly. Its earliest examples, outside of his critical papers in the North American Review and other periodicals (and outside of the Evening Post, of course), are two stories entitled "Medfield" and "The Skeleton's Cave," contributed by him to "Tales of the Glauber Spa" (1832)—a collection of original stories by Mr. James K. Paulding, Mr. Verplanck, Mr. Sands, Mr. William Leggett, and Miss Catharine Sedgwick. Three years before (1828) he had become the chief editor of the Evening Post. Associated with him was Mr. Leggett, who had shown some talent as a writer of sketches and stories, and who had failed, like himself, in conducting a critical publication, for which his countrymen were not ready. He made a second collection of his poems at this time (1832), a copy of which was sent by Mr. Verplanck to Mr. Washington Irving, who was then, what he had been for years, the idol of English readers, and not without weight with the Trade. Would he see if some English house would not reprint it? No leading publisher nibbled at it, not even Murray, who was Mr. Irving's publisher; but an obscure bookseller named Andrews finally agreed to undertake it, if Mr. Irving would put his valuable name on the title-page as the editor. He was not acquainted with Mr. Bryant, but he was a kind-hearted, large-souled gentleman, who knew good poetry when he saw it, and he consented to "edit" the book. He was not a success in the estimation of Andrews, who came to him one day, by no means a merry Andrew, and declared that the book would ruin him unless one or more changes were made in the text. What was amiss in it? He turned to the "Song of Marion's Men," and stumbled over an obnoxious couplet in the first stanza:
"The British soldier trembles When Marion's name is told."
"That won't do at all, you know." The absurdity of the objection must have struck the humorist comically; but as he wanted the volume republished, he good-naturedly saved the proverbial valor of the British soldier by changing the first line to
"The foeman trembles in his camp,"
and the tempest in a teapot was over, as far as England was concerned. Not as far as the United States was concerned, however; for when the circumstance became known to Mr. Leggett, he excoriated Mr. Irving for his subserviency to a bloated aristocracy, and so forth. Mr. John Wilson reviewed the book in Blackwood's Magazine in a half-hearted way, patronizing the writer with his praise.
The poems that Mr. Bryant wrote during the first seven years of his residence in New York (some forty in number, not including translations) exhibited the qualities which distinguished his genius from the beginning, and were marked by characteristics which were rather acquired than inherited. In other words, they were somewhat different from those which were written at Great Barrington. The Hellenic element was still visible in "The Greek Partisan" and "The Greek Boy," and the aboriginal element in "The Disinterred Warrior." The large imagination of "The Hymn to the North Star" was radiant in "The Firmament," and in "The Past." Ardent love of nature found expressive utterance in "Lines on Revisiting the Country," "The Gladness of Nature," "A Summer Ramble," "A Scene on the Banks of the Hudson," and "The Evening Wind." The little book of immortal dirges had a fresh leaf added to it in "The Death of the Flowers," which was at once a pastoral of autumn and a monody over a beloved sister. A new element appeared in "The Summer Wind," and was always present afterward in Mr. Bryant's meditative poetry—the association of humanity with nature—a calm but sympathetic recognition of the ways of man and his presence on the earth. The power of suggestion and of rapid generalization, which was the key-note of "The Ages," lived anew in every line of "The Prairies," in which a series of poems present themselves to the imagination as a series of pictures in a gallery—pictures in which breadth and vigor of treatment and exquisite delicacy of detail are everywhere harmoniously blended, and the unity of pure Art is attained. It was worth going to the ends of the world to be able to write "The Prairies."
Confiding in the discretion of his associate Mr. Leggett, and anxious to escape from his daily editorial labors, Mr. Bryant sailed for Europe with his family in the summer of 1834. It was his intention to perfect his literary studies while abroad, and to devote himself to the education of his children; but his intention was frustrated, after a short course of travel in France, Germany, and Italy, by the illness of Mr. Leggett, whose mistaken zeal in the advocacy of unpopular measures had seriously injured the Evening Post. He returned in haste early in 1836, and devoted his time and energies to restoring the prosperity of his paper. Nine years passed before he ventured to return to Europe, though he managed to visit certain portions of his own country. His readers tracked his journeys through the letters which he wrote to the Evening Post, and which were noticeable for justness of observation and clearness of expression. A selection from Mr. Bryant's foreign and home letters was published in 1852, under the title of "Letters of a Traveler."
The life of a man of letters is seldom eventful. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule; for literature, like other polite professions, is never without its disorderly followers. It is instructive to trace their careers, which are usually short ones; but the contemplation of the calm, well-regulated, self-respecting lives of the elder and wiser masters is much more satisfactory. We pity the Maginns, and Mangans, and Poes, whom we have always with us; but we admire and reverence such writers as Wordsworth, and Thackeray, and Bryant, who dignify their high calling. The last thirty years of the life of Mr. Bryant were devoid of incidents, though one of them (1866) was not without the supreme sorrow—death. He devoted himself to journalism as conscientiously as if he still had his spurs to win, discussing all public questions with independence and fearlessness; and from time to time, as the spirit moved him, he added to our treasures of song, contributing to the popular magazines of the period, and occasionally issuing these contributions in separate volumes. He published "The Fountain and Other Poems" in 1842; "The White-Footed Deer and Other Poems" in 1844; a collected edition of his poems, with illustrations by Leutze, in 1846; an edition in two volumes in 1855; "Thirty Poems" in 1866; and in 1876 a complete illustrated edition of his poetical writings. To the honors which these volumes brought him he added fresh laurels in 1870 and 1871 by the publication of his translation of the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey"—a translation which was highly praised both at home and abroad, and which, if not the best that the English language is capable of, is, in many respects, the best which any English-writing poet has yet produced.
There comes a day in the intellectual lives of most poets when their powers cease to be progressive and productive, or are productive only in the forms to which they have accustomed themselves, and which have become mannerisms. It was not so with Mr. Bryant. He enjoyed the dangerous distinction of proving himself a great poet at an early age; he preserved this distinction to the last, for the sixty-four years which elapsed between the writing of "Thanatopsis" and the writing of "The Flood of Years" witnessed no decay of his poetic capacities, but rather the growth and development of trains of thought and forms of verse of which there was no evidence in his early writings. His sympathies were enlarged as the years went on, and the crystal clearness of his mind was colored with human emotions.
To Bryant, beyond all other modern poets, the earth was a theatre upon which the great drama of life was everlastingly played. The remembrance of this fact is his inspiration in "The Fountain," "An Evening Revery," "The Antiquity of Freedom," "The Crowded Street," "The Planting of the Apple-Tree," "The Night Journey of a River," "The Sower," and "The Flood of Years." The most poetical of Mr. Bryant's poems are, perhaps, "The Land of Dreams," "The Burial of Love," "The May Sun sheds an Amber Light," and "The Voice of Autumn;" and they were written in a succession of happy hours, and in the order named. Next to these pieces, as examples of pure poetry, should be placed "Sella" and "The Little People of the Snow," which are exquisite fairy fantasies. The qualities by which Mr. Bryant's poetry are chiefly distinguished are serenity and gravity of thought; an intense though repressed recognition of the mortality of mankind; an ardent love for human freedom; and unrivaled skill in painting the scenery of his native land. He had no superior in this walk of poetic art—it might almost be said no equal, for his descriptions of nature are never inaccurate or redundant. "The Excursion" is a tiresome poem, which contains several exquisite episodes. Mr. Bryant knew how to write exquisite episodes, and to omit the platitudes through which we reach them in other poets.
It is not given to many poets to possess as many residences as Mr. Bryant, for he had three—a town-house in New York, a country-house, called "Cedarmere," at Roslyn, Long Island, and the old homestead of the Bryant family at Cummington. He passed the winter months in New York, and the summer and early autumn months at his country-houses. No distinguished man in America was better known by sight than he.
"O good gray head that all men knew"
rose unbidden to one's lips as he passed his fellow-pedestrians in the streets of the great city, active, alert, with a springing step and a buoyant gait. He was seen in all weathers, walking down to his office in the morning, and back to his house in the afternoon—an observant antiquity, with a majestic white beard, a pair of sharp eyes, and a face which, noticed closely, recalled the line of the poet:
"A million wrinkles carved his skin."
Mr. Bryant had a peculiar talent, in which the French excel—the talent of delivering discourses upon the lives and writings of eminent men; and he was always in request after the death of his contemporaries.
Beginning with a eulogy on his friend Cole, the painter, who died in 1848, he paid his well-considered tributes to the memory of Cooper and Irving, and assisted at the dedication in the Central Park of the Morse, Shakespeare, Scott, and Halleck monuments. His addresses on those occasions, and others that might be named, were models of justice of appreciation and felicity of expression. His last public appearance was at the Central Park, on the afternoon of May 29, 1878, at the unveiling of a statue to Mazzini. It was an unusually hot day, and after delivering his address, which was remarkable for its eloquence, he accompanied General James Grant Wilson, an acquaintance of some years' standing, to his residence in East Seventy-fourth street. General Wilson reached his door with Mr. Bryant leaning on his arm; he took a step in advance to open the inner door, and while his back was turned the poet fell, striking his head on the stone platform of the front steps. It was his death-blow; for, though he recovered his consciousness sufficiently to converse a little, and was able to ride to his own house with General Wilson, his fate was sealed. He lingered until the morning of the 12th of June, when his capacious spirit passed out into the Unknown. Two days later all that was mortal of him was buried beside the grave of his wife at Roslyn.
Such was the life and such the life-work of William Cullen Bryant.
R. H. STODDARD.
TO THE READER.
The poems in this volume follow each other in the order in which they were written, it being believed that this arrangement would be as satisfactory to the reader as any classification founded on the nature of the subjects or their mode of treatment.
POEMS: PAGE The Ages 11 Thanatopsis 21 The Yellow Violet 23 Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood 24 Song 26 To a Waterfowl 26 Green River 27 A Winter Piece 29 The West Wind 33 The Burial-place—A Fragment 34 "Blessed are they that Mourn" 35 "No Man knoweth his Sepulchre" 36 A Walk at Sunset 37 Hymn to Death 39 The Massacre at Scio 43 The Indian Girl's Lament 44 Ode for an Agricultural Celebration 46 Rizpah 47 The Old Man's Funeral 49 The Rivulet 50 March 53 Consumption 54 An Indian Story 54 Summer Wind 57 An Indian at the Burial-place of his Fathers 58 Song 61 Hymn of the Waldenses 62 Monument Mountain 63 After a Tempest 66 Autumn Woods 68 Mutation 70 November 70 Song of the Greek Amazon 71 To a Cloud 72 The Murdered Traveller 73 Hymn to the North Star 74 The Lapse of Time 75 Song of the Stars 77 A Forest Hymn 79 "Oh Fairest of the Rural Maids" 82 "I broke the Spell that held me long" 83 June 83 A Song of Pitcairn's Island 86 The Firmament 86 "I cannot forget with what Fervid Devotion" 88 To a Mosquito 89 Lines on Revisiting the Country 91 The Death of the Flowers 92 Romero 93 A Meditation on Rhode Island Coal 95 The New Moon 98 October 99 The Damsel of Peru 100 The African Chief 101 Spring in Town 103 The Gladness of Nature 105 The Disinterred Warrior 106 Midsummer 107 The Greek Partisan 108 The Two Graves 109 The Conjunction of Jupiter and Venus 111 A Summer Ramble 113 A Scene on the Banks of the Hudson 115 The Hurricane 116 William Tell 118 The Hunter's Serenade 118 The Greek Boy 120 The Past 121 "Upon the Mountain's Distant Head" 123 The Evening Wind 124 "When the Firmament Quivers with Daylight's Young Beam" 125 "Innocent Child and Snow-white Flower" 126 To the River Arve 126 To Cole, the Painter, departing for Europe 127 To the Fringed Gentian 128 The Twenty-second of December 129 Hymn of the City 129 The Prairies 130 Song of Marion's Men 134 The Arctic Lover 135 The Journey of Life 137
Version of a Fragment of Simonides 138 From the Spanish of Villegas 139 Mary Magdalen. (From the Spanish of Bartolome Leonardo de Argensola) 139 The Life of the Blessed. (From the Spanish of Luis Ponce de Leon) 140 Fatima and Raduan. (From the Spanish) 142 Love and Folly. (From La Fontaine) 143 The Siesta. (From the Spanish) 144 The Alcayde of Molina. (From the Spanish) 145 The Death of Aliatar. (From the Spanish) 146 Love in the Age of Chivalry. (From Peyre Vidal, the Troubadour) 148 The Love of God. (From the Provencal of Bernard Rascas) 149 From the Spanish of Pedro de Castro y Anaya 150 Sonnet. (From the Portuguese of Semedo) 161 Song. (From the Spanish of Iglesias) 151 The Count of Greiers. (From the German of Uhland) 152 The Serenade. (From the Spanish) 153 A Northern Legend. (From the German of Uhland) 155 The Paradise of Tears. (From the German of N. Mueller) 156 The Lady of Castle Windeck. (From the German of Chamisso) 157
To the Apennines 159 Earth 160 The Knight's Epitaph 163 The Hunter of the Prairies 165 Seventy-six 166 The Living Lost 168 Catterskill Falls 169 The Strange Lady 172 "Earth's Children Cleave to Earth" 176 The Hunter's Vision 176 The Green Mountain Boys 178 A Presentiment 179 The Child's Funeral 180 The Battle-field 181 The Future Life 183 The Death of Schiller 184 The Fountain 185 The Winds 188 The Old Man's Counsel 191 In Memory of William Leggett 193 An Evening Revery 194 The Painted Cup 196 A Dream 197 The Antiquity of Freedom 198 The Maiden's Sorrow 200 The Return of Youth 201 A Hymn of the Sea 203 Noon. (From an unfinished Poem) 205 The Crowded Street 206 The White-footed Deer 208 The Waning Moon 210 The Stream of Life 212 The Unknown Way 212 "Oh Mother of a Mighty Race" 214 The Land of Dreams 215 The Burial of Love 217 "The May Sun sheds an Amber Light" 218 The Voice of Autumn 219 The Conqueror's Grave 220 The Planting of the Apple-Tree 222 The Snow-Shower 225 A Rain-Dream 226 Robert of Lincoln 229 The Twenty-seventh of March 231 An Invitation to the Country 232 Song for New-Year's Eve 234 The Wind and Stream 235 The Lost Bird. (From the Spanish of Carolina Coronado de Perry) 236 The Night-Journey of a River 237 The Life that Is 240 Song.—"These Prairies Glow with Flowers" 241 A Sick-Bed 242 The Song of the Sower 244 The New and the Old 249 The Cloud on the Way 250 The Tides 252 Italy 253 A Day-Dream 255 The Ruins of Italica. (From the Spanish of Rioja) 257 Waiting by the Gate 260 Not Yet 262 Our Country's Call 263 The Constellations 265 The Third of November, 1861 266 The Mother's Hymn 267 Sella 268 The Fifth Book of Homer's Odyssey.—Translated 282 The Little People of the Snow 297 The Poet 306 The Path 308 The Return of the Birds 310 "He hath put all Things under His Feet" 312 My Autumn Walk 313 Dante 315 The Death of Lincoln 316 The Death of Slavery 317 Hymn.—"Receive thy Sight" 319 A Brighter Day 320 Among the Trees 321 May Evening 325 October, 1866 327 The Order of Nature. (From Boethius de Consolatione) 329 Tree-Burial 330 A Legend of the Delawares 332 A Lifetime 336 The Two Travellers 341 Christmas in 1875. (Supposed to be written by a Spaniard) 343 The Flood of Years 344 Our Fellow-Worshippers 348
When to the common rest that crowns our days, Called in the noon of life, the good man goes, Or full of years, and ripe in wisdom, lays His silver temples in their last repose; When, o'er the buds of youth, the death-wind blows And blights the fairest; when our bitter tears Stream, as the eyes of those that love us close, We think on what they were, with many fears Lest goodness die with them, and leave the coming years.
And therefore, to our hearts, the days gone by, When lived the honored sage whose death we wept, And the soft virtues beamed from many an eye, And beat in many a heart that long has slept— Like spots of earth where angel-feet have stepped, Are holy; and high-dreaming bards have told Of times when worth was crowned, and faith was kept, Ere friendship grew a snare, or love waxed cold— Those pure and happy times—the golden days of old.
Peace to the just man's memory; let it grow Greener with years, and blossom through the flight Of ages; let the mimic canvas show His calm benevolent features; let the light Stream on his deeds of love, that shunned the sight Of all but heaven, and in the book of fame The glorious record of his virtues write And hold it up to men, and bid them claim A palm like his, and catch from him the hallowed flame.
But oh, despair not of their fate who rise To dwell upon the earth when we withdraw! Lo! the same shaft by which the righteous dies, Strikes through the wretch that scoffed at mercy's law And trode his brethren down, and felt no awe Of Him who will avenge them. Stainless worth, Such as the sternest age of virtue saw, Ripens, meanwhile, till time shall call it forth From the low modest shade, to light and bless the earth.
Has Nature, in her calm, majestic march, Faltered with age at last? does the bright sun Grow dim in heaven? or, in their far blue arch, Sparkle the crowd of stars, when day is done, Less brightly? when the dew-lipped Spring comes on, Breathes she with airs less soft, or scents the sky With flowers less fair than when her reign begun? Does prodigal Autumn, to our age, deny The plenty that once swelled beneath his sober eye?
Look on this beautiful world, and read the truth In her fair page; see, every season brings New change, to her, of everlasting youth; Still the green soil, with joyous living things, Swarms, the wide air is full of joyous wings, And myriads, still, are happy in the sleep Of ocean's azure gulfs, and where he flings The restless surge. Eternal Love doth keep, In his complacent arms, the earth, the air, the deep.
Will then the merciful One, who stamped our race With his own image, and who gave them sway O'er earth, and the glad dwellers on her face, Now that our swarming nations far away Are spread, where'er the moist earth drinks the day, Forget the ancient care that taught and nursed His latest offspring? will he quench the ray Infused by his own forming smile at first, And leave a work so fair all blighted and accursed?
Oh, no! a thousand cheerful omens give Hope of yet happier days, whose dawn is nigh. He who has tamed the elements, shall not live The slave of his own passions; he whose eye Unwinds the eternal dances of the sky, And in the abyss of brightness dares to span The sun's broad circle, rising yet more high, In God's magnificent works his will shall scan— And love and peace shall make their paradise with man.
Sit at the feet of History—through the night Of years the steps of virtue she shall trace, And show the earlier ages, where her sight Can pierce the eternal shadows o'er their face;— When, from the genial cradle of our race, Went forth the tribes of men, their pleasant lot To choose, where palm-groves cooled their dwelling-place, Or freshening rivers ran; and there forgot The truth of heaven, and kneeled to gods that heard them not.
Then waited not the murderer for the night, But smote his brother down in the bright day, And he who felt the wrong, and had the might, His own avenger, girt himself to slay; Beside the path the unburied carcass lay; The shepherd, by the fountains of the glen, Fled, while the robber swept his flock away, And slew his babes. The sick, untended then, Languished in the damp shade, and died afar from men.
But misery brought in love; in passion's strife Man gave his heart to mercy, pleading long, And sought out gentle deeds to gladden life; The weak, against the sons of spoil and wrong, Banded, and watched their hamlets, and grew strong; States rose, and, in the shadow of their might, The timid rested. To the reverent throng, Grave and time-wrinkled men, with locks all white, Gave laws, and judged their strifes, and taught the way of right;
Till bolder spirits seized the rule, and nailed On men the yoke that man should never bear, And drave them forth to battle. Lo! unveiled The scene of those stern ages! What is there? A boundless sea of blood, and the wild air Moans with the crimsoned surges that entomb Cities and bannered armies; forms that wear The kingly circlet rise, amid the gloom, O'er the dark wave, and straight are swallowed in its womb.
Those ages have no memory, but they left A record in the desert—columns strown On the waste sands, and statues fallen and cleft, Heaped like a host in battle overthrown; Vast ruins, where the mountain's ribs of stone Were hewn into a city; streets that spread In the dark earth, where never breath has blown Of heaven's sweet air, nor foot of man dares tread The long and perilous ways—the Cities of the Dead!
And tombs of monarchs to the clouds up-piled— They perished, but the eternal tombs remain— And the black precipice, abrupt and wild, Pierced by long toil and hollowed to a fane;— Huge piers and frowning forms of gods sustain The everlasting arches, dark and wide, Like the night-heaven, when clouds are black with rain. But idly skill was tasked, and strength was plied, All was the work of slaves to swell a despot's pride.
And Virtue cannot dwell with slaves, nor reign O'er those who cower to take a tyrant's yoke; She left the down-trod nations in disdain, And flew to Greece, when Liberty awoke, New-born, amid those glorious vales, and broke Sceptre and chain with her fair youthful hands: As rocks are shivered in the thunder-stroke. And lo! in full-grown strength, an empire stands Of leagued and rival states, the wonder of the lands.
Oh, Greece! thy flourishing cities were a spoil Unto each other; thy hard hand oppressed And crushed the helpless; thou didst make thy soil Drunk with the blood of those that loved thee best; And thou didst drive, from thy unnatural breast, Thy just and brave to die in distant climes; Earth shuddered at thy deeds, and sighed for rest From thine abominations; after-times, That yet shall read thy tale, will tremble at thy crimes!
Yet there was that within thee which has saved Thy glory, and redeemed thy blotted name; The story of thy better deeds, engraved On fame's unmouldering pillar, puts to shame Our chiller virtue; the high art to tame The whirlwind of the passions was thy own; And the pure ray, that from thy bosom came, Far over many a land and age has shone, And mingles with the light that beams from God's own throne.
And Rome—thy sterner, younger sister, she Who awed the world with her imperial frown— Rome drew the spirit of her race from thee, The rival of thy shame and thy renown. Yet her degenerate children sold the crown Of earth's wide kingdoms to a line of slaves; Guilt reigned, and woe with guilt, and plagues came down, Till the North broke its floodgates, and the waves Whelmed the degraded race, and weltered o'er their graves.
Vainly that ray of brightness from above, That shone around the Galilean lake, The light of hope, the leading star of love, Struggled, the darkness of that day to break; Even its own faithless guardians strove to slake, In fogs of earth, the pure ethereal flame; And priestly hands, for Jesus' blessed sake, Were red with blood, and charity became, In that stern war of forms, a mockery and a name.
They triumphed, and less bloody rites were kept Within the quiet of the convent-cell; The well-fed inmates pattered prayer, and slept, And sinned, and liked their easy penance well. Where pleasant was the spot for men to dwell, Amid its fair broad lands the abbey lay, Sheltering dark orgies that were shame to tell, And cowled and barefoot beggars swarmed the way, All in their convent weeds, of black, and white, and gray.
Oh, sweetly the returning muses' strain Swelled over that famed stream, whose gentle tide In their bright lap the Etrurian vales detain, Sweet, as when winter storms have ceased to chide, And all the new-leaved woods, resounding wide, Send out wild hymns upon the scented air. Lo! to the smiling Arno's classic side The emulous nations of the West repair, And kindle their quenched urns, and drink fresh spirit there.
Still, Heaven deferred the hour ordained to rend From saintly rottenness the sacred stole; And cowl and worshipped shrine could still defend The wretch with felon stains upon his soul; And crimes were set to sale, and hard his dole Who could not bribe a passage to the skies; And vice, beneath the mitre's kind control, Sinned gayly on, and grew to giant size, Shielded by priestly power, and watched by priestly eyes.
At last the earthquake came—the shock, that hurled To dust, in many fragments dashed and strown, The throne, whose roots were in another world, And whose far-stretching shadow awed our own. From many a proud monastic pile, o'erthrown, Fear-struck, the hooded inmates rushed and fled; The web, that for a thousand years had grown O'er prostrate Europe, in that day of dread Crumbled and fell, as fire dissolves the flaxen thread.
The spirit of that day is still awake, And spreads himself, and shall not sleep again; But through the idle mesh of power shall break Like billows o'er the Asian monarch's chain; Till men are filled with him, and feel how vain, Instead of the pure heart and innocent hands, Are all the proud and pompous modes to gain The smile of Heaven;—till a new age expands Its white and holy wings above the peaceful lands.
For look again on the past years;—behold, How like the nightmare's dreams have flown away Horrible forms of worship, that, of old, Held, o'er the shuddering realms, unquestioned sway: See crimes, that feared not once the eye of day, Rooted from men, without a name or place: See nations blotted out from earth, to pay The forfeit of deep guilt;—with glad embrace The fair disburdened lands welcome a nobler race.
Thus error's monstrous shapes from earth are driven; They fade, they fly—but Truth survives their flight; Earth has no shades to quench that beam of heaven; Each ray that shone, in early time, to light The faltering footstep in the path of right, Each gleam of clearer brightness shed to aid In man's maturer day his bolder sight, All blended, like the rainbow's radiant braid, Pour yet, and still shall pour, the blaze that cannot fade.
Late, from this Western shore, that morning chased The deep and ancient night, which threw its shroud O'er the green land of groves, the beautiful waste, Nurse of full streams, and lifter-up of proud Sky-mingling mountains that o'erlook the cloud. Erewhile, where yon gay spires their brightness rear, Trees waved, and the brown hunter's shouts were loud Amid the forest; and the bounding deer Fled at the glancing plume, and the gaunt wolf yelled near.
And where his willing waves yon bright blue bay Sends up, to kiss his decorated brim, And cradles, in his soft embrace, the gay Young group of grassy islands born of him, And crowding nigh, or in the distance dim, Lifts the white throng of sails, that bear or bring The commerce of the world;—with tawny limb, And belt and beads in sunlight glistening, The savage urged his skiff like wild bird on the wing.
Then all this youthful paradise around, And all the broad and boundless mainland, lay Cooled by the interminable wood, that frowned O'er mount and vale, where never summer ray Glanced, till the strong tornado broke his way Through the gray giants of the sylvan wild; Yet many a sheltered glade, with blossoms gay Beneath the showery sky and sunshine mild, Within the shaggy arms of that dark forest smiled.
There stood the Indian hamlet, there the lake Spread its blue sheet that flashed with many an oar, Where the brown otter plunged him from the brake, And the deer drank: as the light gale flew o'er, The twinkling maize-field rustled on the shore; And while that spot, so wild, and lone, and fair, A look of glad and guiltless beauty wore, And peace was on the earth and in the air, The warrior lit the pile, and bound his captive there.
Not unavenged—the foeman, from the wood, Beheld the deed, and, when the midnight shade Was stillest, gorged his battle-axe with blood; All died—the wailing babe—the shrinking maid And in the flood of fire that scathed the glade, The roofs went down; but deep the silence grew, When on the dewy woods the day-beam played; No more the cabin-smokes rose wreathed and blue, And ever, by their lake, lay moored the bark canoe.
Look now abroad—another race has filled These populous borders—wide the wood recedes, And towns shoot up, and fertile realms are tilled; The land is full of harvests and green meads; Streams numberless, that many a fountain feeds, Shine, disembowered, and give to sun and breeze Their virgin waters; the full region leads New colonies forth, that toward the western seas Spread, like a rapid flame among the autumnal trees.
Here the free spirit of mankind, at length, Throws its last fetters off; and who shall place A limit to the giant's unchained strength, Or curb his swiftness in the forward race? On, like the comet's way through infinite space. Stretches the long untravelled path of light, Into the depths of ages; we may trace, Afar, the brightening glory of its flight, Till the receding rays are lost to human sight.
Europe is given a prey to sterner fates, And writhes in shackles; strong the arms that chain To earth her struggling multitude of states; She too is strong, and might not chafe in vain Against them, but might cast to earth the train That trample her, and break their iron net. Yes, she shall look on brighter days and gain The meed of worthier deeds; the moment set To rescue and raise up, draws near—but is not yet.
But thou, my country, thou shalt never fall, Save with thy children—thy maternal care, Thy lavish love, thy blessings showered on all— These are thy fetters—seas and stormy air Are the wide barrier of thy borders, where, Among thy gallant sons who guard thee well, Thou laugh'st at enemies: who shall then declare The date of thy deep-founded strength, or tell How happy, in thy lap, the sons of men shall dwell?
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 for ever 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.
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—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 Barean 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 come 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— 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.
THE YELLOW VIOLET.
When beechen buds begin to swell, And woods the blue-bird's warble know. The yellow violet's modest bell Peeps from the last year's leaves below.
Ere russet fields their green resume, Sweet flower, I love, in forest bare, To meet thee, when thy faint perfume Alone is in the virgin air.
Of all her train, the hands of Spring First plant thee in the watery mould. And I have seen thee blossoming Beside the snow-bank's edges cold.
Thy parent sun, who bade thee view Pale skies, and chilling moisture sip, Has bathed thee in his own bright hue, And streaked with jet thy glowing lip.
Yet slight thy form, and low thy seat, And earthward bent thy gentle eye, Unapt the passing view to meet, When loftier flowers are flaunting nigh.
Oft, in the sunless April day, Thy early smile has stayed my walk; But midst the gorgeous blooms of May, I passed thee on thy humble stalk.
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.
And when again the genial hour Awakes the painted tribes of light, I'll not o'erlook the modest flower That made the woods of April bright.
INSCRIPTION FOR THE ENTRANCE TO A WOOD.
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. Thou wilt find nothing here Of all that pained thee in the haunts of men, And made thee loathe thy life. The primal curse Fell, it is true, upon the unsinning earth, But not in vengeance. God hath yoked to guilt Her pale tormentor, misery. Hence, these shades Are still the abodes of gladness; the thick roof Of green and stirring branches is alive And musical with birds, that sing and sport In wantonness of spirit; while below The squirrel, with raised paws and form erect, Chirps merrily. Throngs of insects in the shade Try their thin wings and dance in the warm beam That waked them into life. Even the green trees Partake the deep contentment; as they bend To the soft winds, the sun from the blue sky Looks in and sheds a blessing on the scene. Scarce less the cleft-born wild-flower seems to enjoy Existence, than the winged plunderer That sucks its sweets. The mossy rocks themselves, And the old and ponderous trunks of prostrate trees That lead from knoll to knoll a causey rude Or bridge the sunken brook, and their dark roots, With all their earth upon them, twisting high, Breathe fixed tranquillity. The rivulet Sends forth glad sounds, and tripping o'er its bed Of pebbly sands, or leaping down the rocks, Seems, with continuous laughter, to rejoice In its own being. Softly tread the marge, Lest from her midway perch thou scare the wren That dips her bill in water. The cool wind, That stirs the stream in play, shall come to thee. Like one that loves thee nor will let thee pass Ungreeted, and shall give its light embrace.
Soon as the glazed and gleaming snow Reflects the day-dawn cold and clear, The hunter of the West must go In depth of woods to seek the deer.
His rifle on his shoulder placed, His stores of death arranged with skill, His moccasins and snow-shoes laced— Why lingers he beside the hill?
Far, in the dim and doubtful light, Where woody slopes a valley leave, He sees what none but lover might, The dwelling of his Genevieve.
And oft he turns his truant eye, And pauses oft, and lingers near; But when he marks the reddening sky, He bounds away to hunt the deer.
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 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, 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— The desert and illimitable air— 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.
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 Hath swallowed up thy form; yet, on my heart Deeply has 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, In the long way that I must tread alone, Will lead my steps aright.
When breezes are soft and skies are fair, I steal an hour from study and care, And hie me away to the woodland scene, Where wanders the stream with waters of green, As if the bright fringe of herbs on its brink Had given their stain to the waves they drink; And they, whose meadows it murmurs through, Have named the stream from its own fair hue. Yet pure its waters—its shallows are bright With colored pebbles and sparkles of light, And clear the depths where its eddies play, And dimples deepen and whirl away, And the plane-tree's speckled arms o'ershoot The swifter current that mines its root, Through whose shifting leaves, as you walk the hill, The quivering glimmer of sun and rill With a sudden flash on the eye is thrown, Like the ray that streams from the diamond-stone. Oh, loveliest there the spring days come, With blossoms, and birds, and wild-bees' hum; The flowers of summer are fairest there, And freshest the breath of the summer air; And sweetest the golden autumn day In silence and sunshine glides away.
Yet, fair as thou art, thou shunnest to glide, Beautiful stream! by the village side; But windest away from haunts of men, To quiet valley and shaded glen; And forest, and meadow, and slope of hill, Around thee, are lonely, lovely, and still, Lonely—save when, by thy rippling tides, From thicket to thicket the angler glides; Or the simpler comes, with basket and book, For herbs of power on thy banks to look; Or haply, some idle dreamer, like me, To wander, and muse, and gaze on thee, Still—save the chirp of birds that feed On the river cherry and seedy reed, And thy own wild music gushing out With mellow murmur of fairy shout, From dawn to the blush of another day, Like traveller singing along his way.
That fairy music I never hear, Nor gaze on those waters so green and clear, And mark them winding away from sight, Darkened with shade or flashing with light, While o'er them the vine to its thicket clings, And the zephyr stoops to freshen his wings, But I wish that fate had left me free To wander these quiet haunts with thee, Till the eating cares of earth should depart, And the peace of the scene pass into my heart; And I envy thy stream, as it glides along Through its beautiful banks in a trance of song.
Though forced to drudge for the dregs of men, And scrawl strange words with the barbarous pen, And mingle among the jostling crowd, Where the sons of strife are subtle and loud— I often come to this quiet place, To breathe the airs that ruffle thy face, And gaze upon thee in silent dream, For in thy lonely and lovely stream An image of that calm life appears That won my heart in my greener years.
A WINTER PIECE.
The time has been that these wild solitudes, Yet beautiful as wild, were trod by me Oftener than now; and when the ills of life Had chafed my spirit—when the unsteady pulse Beat with strange flutterings—I would wander forth And seek the woods. The sunshine on my path Was to me as a friend. The swelling hills, The quiet dells retiring far between, With gentle invitation to explore Their windings, were a calm society That talked with me and soothed me. Then the chant Of birds, and chime of brooks, and soft caress Of the fresh sylvan air, made me forget The thoughts that broke my peace, and I began To gather simples by the fountain's brink, And lose myself in day-dreams. While I stood In Nature's loneliness, I was with one With whom I early grew familiar, one Who never had a frown for me, whose voice Never rebuked me for the hours I stole From cares I loved not, but of which the world Deems highest, to converse with her. When shrieked The bleak November winds, and smote the woods, And the brown fields were herbless, and the shades. That met above the merry rivulet. Were spoiled, I sought, I loved them still; they seemed Like old companions in adversity. Still there was beauty in my walks; the brook, Bordered with sparkling frost-work, was as gay As with its fringe of summer flowers. Afar, The village with its spires, the path of streams And dim receding valleys, hid before By interposing trees, lay visible Through the bare grove, and my familiar haunts Seemed new to me. Nor was I slow to come Among them, when the clouds, from their still skirts, Had shaken down on earth the feathery snow, And all was white. The pure keen air abroad, Albeit it breathed no scent of herb, nor heard Love-call of bird nor merry hum of bee, Was not the air of death, Bright mosses crept Over the spotted trunks, and the close buds, That lay along the boughs, instinct with life, Patient, and waiting the soft breath of Spring, Feared not the piercing spirit of the North. The snow-bird twittered on the beechen bough, And 'neath the hemlock, whose thick branches bent Beneath its bright cold burden, and kept dry A circle, on the earth, of withered leaves, The partridge found a shelter. Through the snow The rabbit sprang away. The lighter track Of fox, and the raccoon's broad path, were there, Crossing each other. From his hollow tree The squirrel was abroad, gathering the nuts Just fallen, that asked the winter cold and sway Of winter blast, to shake them from their hold.
But Winter has yet brighter scenes—he boasts Splendors beyond what gorgeous Summer knows; Or Autumn with his many fruits, and woods All flushed with many hues. Come when the rains Have glazed the snow and clothed the trees with ice, While the slant sun of February pours Into the bowers a flood of light. Approach! The incrusted surface shall upbear thy steps, And the broad arching portals of the grove Welcome thy entering. 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. But round the parent-stem the long low boughs Bend, in a glittering ring, and arbors hide The glassy floor. Oh! you might deem the spot The spacious cavern of some virgin mine, Deep in the womb of earth—where the gems grow, And diamonds put forth radiant rods and bud With amethyst and topaz—and the place Lit up, most royally, with the pure beam That dwells in them. Or haply the vast hall Of fairy palace, that outlasts the night, And fades not in the glory of the sun;— Where crystal columns send forth slender shafts And crossing arches; and fantastic aisles Wind from the sight in brightness, and are lost Among the crowded pillars. Raise thine eye; Thou seest no cavern roof, no palace vault; There the blue sky and the white drifting cloud Look in. Again the wildered fancy dreams Of spouting fountains, frozen as they rose, And fixed, with all their branching jets, in air, And all their sluices sealed. All, all is light; Light without shade. But all shall pass away With the next sun. From numberless vast trunks Loosened, the crashing ice shall make a sound Like the far roar of rivers, and the eve Shall close o'er the brown woods as it was wont.
And it is pleasant, when the noisy streams Are just set free, and milder suns melt off The plashy snow, save only the firm drift In the deep glen or the close shade of pines— 'Tis pleasant to behold the wreaths of smoke Roll up among the maples of the hill, Where the shrill sound of youthful voices wakes The shriller echo, as the clear pure lymph, That from the wounded trees, in twinkling drops, Falls, mid the golden brightness of the morn, Is gathered in with brimming pails, and oft, Wielded by sturdy hands, the stroke of axe Makes the woods ring. Along the quiet air, Come and float calmly off the soft light clouds, Such as you see in summer, and the winds Scarce stir the branches. Lodged in sunny cleft, Where the cold breezes come not, blooms alone The little wind-flower, whose just opened eye Is blue as the spring heaven it gazes at— Startling the loiterer in the naked groves With unexpected beauty, for the time Of blossoms and green leaves is yet afar. And ere it comes, the encountering winds shall oft Muster their wrath again, and rapid clouds Shade heaven, and bounding on the frozen earth Shall fall their volleyed stores, rounded like hail And white like snow, and the loud North again Shall buffet the vexed forest in his rage.
THE WEST WIND.
Beneath the forest's skirt I rest, Whose branching pines rise dark and high, And hear the breezes of the West Among the thread-like foliage sigh.
Sweet Zephyr! why that sound of woe? Is not thy home among the flowers? Do not the bright June roses blow, To meet thy kiss at morning hours?
And lo! thy glorious realm outspread— Yon stretching valleys, green and gay, And yon free hill-tops, o'er whose head The loose white clouds are borne away.
And there the full broad river runs, And many a fount wells fresh and sweet, To cool thee when the mid-day suns Have made thee faint beneath their heat.
Thou wind of joy, and youth, and love; Spirit of the new-wakened year! The sun in his blue realm above Smooths a bright path when thou art here.
In lawns the murmuring bee is heard, The wooing ring-dove in the shade; On thy soft breath, the new-fledged bird Takes wing, half happy, half afraid.
Ah! thou art like our wayward race;— When not a shade of pain or ill Dims the bright smile of Nature's face, Thou lov'st to sigh and murmur still.
Erewhile, on England's pleasant shores, our sires Left not their churchyards unadorned with shades Or blossoms, but indulgent to the strong And natural dread of man's last home, the grave, Its frost and silence—they disposed around, To soothe the melancholy spirit that dwelt Too sadly on life's close, the forms and hues Of vegetable beauty. There the yew, Green ever amid the snows of winter, told Of immortality, and gracefully The willow, a perpetual mourner, drooped; And there the gadding woodbine crept about, And there the ancient ivy. From the spot Where the sweet maiden, in her blossoming years Cut off, was laid with streaming eyes, and hands That trembled as they placed her there, the rose Sprung modest, on bowed stalk, and better spoke Her graces, than the proudest monument. There children set about their playmate's grave The pansy. On the infant's little bed, Wet at its planting with maternal tears, Emblem of early sweetness, early death, Nestled the lowly primrose. Childless dames, And maids that would not raise the reddened eye— Orphans, from whose young lids the light of joy Fled early—silent lovers, who had given All that they lived for to the arms of earth, Came often, o'er the recent graves to strew Their offerings, rue, and rosemary, and flowers.
The pilgrim bands who passed the sea to keep Their Sabbaths in the eye of God alone, In his wide temple of the wilderness, Brought not these simple customs of the heart With them. It might be, while they laid their dead By the vast solemn skirts of the old groves, And the fresh virgin soil poured forth strange flowers About their graves; and the familiar shades Of their own native isle, and wonted blooms, And herbs were wanting, which the pious hand Might plant or scatter there, these gentle rites Passed out of use. Now they are scarcely known, And rarely in our borders may you meet The tall larch, sighing in the burial-place, Or willow, trailing low its boughs to hide The gleaming marble. Naked rows of graves And melancholy ranks of monuments Are seen instead, where the coarse grass, between, Shoots up its dull green spikes, and in the wind Hisses, and the neglected bramble nigh, Offers its berries to the schoolboy's hand, In vain—they grow too near the dead. Yet here, Nature, rebuking the neglect of man, Plants often, by the ancient mossy stone, The brier-rose, and upon the broken turf That clothes the fresher grave, the strawberry plant Sprinkles its swell with blossoms, and lays forth Her ruddy, pouting fruit....
"BLESSED ARE THEY THAT MOURN."
Oh, deem not they are blest alone Whose lives a peaceful tenor keep; The Power who pities man, hath shown A blessing for the eyes that weep.
The light of smiles shall fill again The lids that overflow with tears; And weary hours of woe and pain Are promises of happier years.
There is a day of sunny rest For every dark and troubled night: And grief may hide an evening guest, But joy shall come with early light.
And thou, who, o'er thy friend's low bier, Dost shed the bitter drops like rain, Hope that a brighter, happier sphere Will give him to thy arms again.
Nor let the good man's trust depart, Though life its common gifts deny,— Though with a pierced and bleeding heart And spurned of men, he goes to die.
For God hath marked each sorrowing day And numbered every secret tear, And heaven's long age of bliss shall pay For all his children suffer here.
"NO MAN KNOWETH HIS SEPULCHRE."
When he, who, from the scourge of wrong, Aroused the Hebrew tribes to fly, Saw the fair region, promised long, And bowed him on the hills to die;
God made his grave, to men unknown, Where Moab's rocks a vale infold, And laid the aged seer alone To slumber while the world grows old.
Thus still, whene'er the good and just Close the dim eye on life and pain, Heaven watches o'er their sleeping dust Till the pure spirit comes again.
Though nameless, trampled, and forgot, His servant's humble ashes lie, Yet God hath marked and sealed the spot, To call its inmate to the sky.
A WALK AT SUNSET.
When insect wings are glistening in the beam Of the low sun, and mountain-tops are bright, Oh, let me, by the crystal valley-stream, Wander amid the mild and mellow light; And while the wood-thrush pipes his evening lay, Give me one lonely hour to hymn the setting day.
Oh, sun! that o'er the western mountains now Go'st 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 splendors from mid-sky.
Yet, loveliest are thy setting smiles, and fair, Fairest of all that earth beholds, the hues, That live among the clouds, and flush the air, Lingering and deepening at the hour of dews. Then softest gales are breathed, and softest heard The plaining voice of streams, and pensive note of bird.
They who here roamed, of yore, the forest wide, Felt, by such charm, their simple bosoms won; They deemed their quivered warrior, when he died, Went to bright isles beneath the setting sun; Where winds are aye at peace, and skies are fair, And purple-skirted clouds curtain the crimson air.
So, with the glories of the dying day, Its thousand trembling lights and changing hues, The memory of the brave who passed away Tenderly mingled;—fitting hour to muse On such grave theme, and sweet the dream that shed Brightness and beauty round the destiny of the dead.
For ages, on the silent forests here, Thy beams did fall before the red man came To dwell beneath them; in their shade the deer Fed, and feared not the arrow's deadly aim. Nor tree was felled, in all that world of woods, Save by the beaver's tooth, or winds, or rush of floods.
Then came the hunter tribes, and thou didst look, For ages, on their deeds in the hard chase, And well-fought wars; green sod and silver brook Took the first stain of blood; before thy face The warrior generations came and passed, And glory was laid up for many an age to last.
Now they are gone, gone as thy setting blaze Goes down the west, while night is pressing on, And with them the old tale of better days, And trophies of remembered power, are gone. Yon field that gives the harvest, where the plough Strikes the white bone, is all that tells their story now.
I stand upon their ashes in thy beam, The offspring of another race, I stand, Beside a stream they loved, this valley-stream; And where the night-fire of the quivered band Showed the gray oak by fits, and war-song rung, I teach the quiet shades the strains of this new tongue.
Farewell! but thou shalt come again—thy light Must shine on other changes, and behold The place of the thronged city still as night— States fallen—new empires built upon the old— But never shalt thou see these realms again Darkened by boundless groves, and roamed by savage men.
HYMN TO DEATH.
Oh! could I hope the wise and pure in heart Might hear my song without a frown, nor deem My voice unworthy of the theme it tries,— I would take up the hymn to Death, and say To the grim power, The world hath slandered thee And mocked thee. On thy dim and shadowy brow They place an iron crown, and call thee king Of terrors, and the spoiler of the world, Deadly assassin, that strik'st down the fair, The loved, the good—that breathest on the lights Of virtue set along the vale of life, And they go out in darkness. I am come, Not with reproaches, not with cries and prayers, Such as have stormed thy stern, insensible tar From the beginning; I am come to speak Thy praises. True it is, that I have wept Thy conquests, and may weep them yet again, And thou from some I love wilt take a life Dear to me as my own. Yet while the spell Is on my spirit, and I talk with thee In sight of all thy trophies, face to face, Meet is it that my voice should utter forth Thy nobler triumphs; I will teach the world To thank thee. Who are thine accusers?—Who? The living!—they who never felt thy power, And know thee not. The curses of the wretch Whose crimes are ripe, his sufferings when thy hand Is on him, and the hour he dreads is come, Are writ among thy praises. But the good— Does he whom thy kind hand dismissed to peace, Upbraid the gentle violence that took off His fetters, and unbarred his prison-cell?
Raise then the hymn to Death. Deliverer! God hath anointed thee to free the oppressed And crush the oppressor. When the armed chief, The conqueror of nations, walks the world, And it is changed beneath his feet, and all Its kingdoms melt into one mighty realm— Thou, while his head is loftiest and his heart Blasphemes, imagining his own right hand Almighty, thou dost set thy sudden grasp Upon him, and the links of that strong chain Which bound mankind are crumbled; thou dost break Sceptre and crown, and beat his throne to dust. Then the earth shouts with gladness, and her tribes Gather within their ancient bounds again. Else had the mighty of the olden time, Nimrod, Sesostris, or the youth who feigned His birth from Libyan Ammon, smitten yet The nations with a rod of iron, and driven Their chariot o'er our necks. Thou dost avenge, In thy good time, the wrongs of those who know No other friend. Nor dost thou interpose Only to lay the sufferer asleep, Where he who made him wretched troubles not His rest—thou dost strike down his tyrant too. Oh, there is joy when hands that held the scourge Drop lifeless, and the pitiless heart is cold. Thou too dost purge from earth its horrible And old idolatries;—from the proud fanes Each to his grave their priests go out, till none Is left to teach their worship; then the fires Of sacrifice are chilled, and the green moss O'ercreeps their altars; the fallen images Cumber the weedy courts, and for loud hymns, Chanted by kneeling multitudes, the wind Shrieks in the solitary aisles. When he Who gives his life to guilt, and laughs at all The laws that God or man has made, and round Hedges his seat with power, and shines in wealth,— Lifts up his atheist front to scoff at Heaven, And celebrates his shame in open day, Thou, in the pride of all his crimes, cutt'st off The horrible example. Touched by thine, The extortioner's hard hand foregoes the gold Wrung from the o'er-worn poor. The perjurer, Whose tongue was lithe, e'en now, and voluble Against his neighbor's life, and he who laughed And leaped for joy to see a spotless fame Blasted before his own foul calumnies, Are smit with deadly silence. He, who sold His conscience to preserve a worthless life, Even while he hugs himself on his escape, Trembles, as, doubly terrible, at length, Thy steps o'ertake him, and there is no time For parley, nor will bribes unclench thy grasp. Oft, too, dost thou reform thy victim, long Ere his last hour. And when the reveller, Mad in the chase of pleasure, stretches on, And strains each nerve, and clears the path of life Like wind, thou point'st him to the dreadful goal, And shak'st thy hour-glass in his reeling eye, And check'st him in mid course. Thy skeleton hand Shows to the faint of spirit the right path, And he is warned, and fears to step aside. Thou sett'st between the ruffian and his crime Thy ghastly countenance, and his slack hand Drops the drawn knife. But, oh, most fearfully Dost thou show forth Heaven's justice, when thy shafts Drink up the ebbing spirit—then the hard Of heart and violent of hand restores The treasure to the friendless wretch he wronged. Then from the writhing bosom thou dost pluck The guilty secret; lips, for ages sealed, Are faithless to their dreadful trust at length, And give it up; the felon's latest breath Absolves the innocent man who bears his crime; The slanderer, horror-smitten, and in tears, Recalls the deadly obloquy he forged To work his brother's ruin. Thou dost make Thy penitent victim utter to the air The dark conspiracy that strikes at life, And aims to whelm the laws; ere yet the hour Is come, and the dread sign of murder given.
Thus, from the first of time, hast thou been found On virtue's side; the wicked, but for thee, Had been too strong for the good; the great of earth Had crushed the weak for ever. Schooled in guile For ages, while each passing year had brought Its baneful lesson, they had filled the world With their abominations; while its tribes, Trodden to earth, imbruted, and despoiled, Had knelt to them in worship; sacrifice Had smoked on many an altar, temple-roofs Had echoed with the blasphemous prayer and hymn: But thou, the great reformer of the world, Tak'st off the sons of violence and fraud In their green pupilage, their lore half learned— Ere guilt had quite o'errun the simple heart God gave them at their birth, and blotted out His image. Thou dost mark them flushed with hope, As on the threshold of their vast designs Doubtful and loose they stand, and strik'st them down.
* * * * *
Alas! I little thought that the stern power, Whose fearful praise I sang, would try me thus Before the strain was ended. It must cease— For he is in his grave who taught my youth The art of verse, and in the bud of life Offered me to the Muses. Oh, cut off Untimely! when thy reason in its strength, Ripened by years of toil and studious search, And watch of Nature's silent lessons, taught Thy hand to practise best the lenient art To which thou gavest thy laborious days, And, last, thy life. And, therefore, when the earth Received thee, tears were in unyielding eyes And on hard cheeks, and they who deemed thy skill Delayed their death-hour, shuddered and turned pale When thou wert gone. This faltering verse, which thou Shalt not, as wont, o'erlook, is all I have To offer at thy grave—this—and the hope To copy thy example, and to leave A name of which the wretched shall not think As of an enemy's, whom they forgive As all forgive the dead. Rest, therefore, thou Whose early guidance trained my infant steps— Rest, in the bosom of God, till the brief sleep Of death is over, and a happier life Shall dawn to waken thine insensible dust.
Now thou art not—and yet the men whose guilt Has wearied Heaven for vengeance—he who bears False witness—he who takes the orphan's bread, And robs the widow—he who spreads abroad Polluted hands in mockery of prayer, Are left to cumber earth. Shuddering I look On what is written, yet I blot not out The desultory numbers; let them stand, The record of an idle revery.
THE MASSACRE AT SCIO.
Weep not for Scio's children slain; Their blood, by Turkish falchions shed, Sends not its cry to Heaven in vain For vengeance on the murderer's head.
Though high the warm red torrent ran Between the flames that lit the sky, Yet, for each drop, an armed man Shall rise, to free the land, or die.
And for each corpse, that in the sea Was thrown, to feast the scaly herds, A hundred of the foe shall be A banquet for the mountain-birds.
Stern rites and sad shall Greece ordain To keep that day along her shore, Till the last link of slavery's chain Is shattered, to be worn no more.
THE INDIAN GIRL'S LAMENT.
An Indian girl was sitting where Her lover, slain in battle, slept; Her maiden veil, her own black hair, Came down o'er eyes that wept; And wildly, in her woodland tongue, This sad and simple lay she sung:
"I've pulled away the shrubs that grew Too close above thy sleeping head, And broke the forest-boughs that threw Their shadows o'er thy bed, That, shining from the sweet southwest, The sunbeams might rejoice thy rest.
"It was a weary, weary road That led thee to the pleasant coast, Where thou, in his serene abode, Hast met thy father's ghost; Where everlasting autumn lies On yellow woods and sunny skies.
"'Twas I the broidered mocsen made, That shod thee for that distant land; 'Twas I thy bow and arrows laid Beside thy still cold hand; Thy bow in many a battle bent, Thy arrows never vainly sent.
"With wampum-belts I crossed thy breast, And wrapped thee in the bison's hide, And laid the food that pleased thee best, In plenty, by thy side, And decked thee bravely, as became A warrior of illustrious name.
"Thou'rt happy now, for thou hast passed The long dark journey of the grave, And in the land of light, at last, Hast joined the good and brave; Amid the flushed and balmy air, The bravest and the loveliest there.
"Yet, oft to thine own Indian maid Even there thy thoughts will earthward stray— To her who sits where thou wert laid, And weeps the hours away, Yet almost can her grief forget, To think that thou dost love her yet.
"And thou, by one of those still lakes That in a shining cluster lie, On which the south wind scarcely breaks The image of the sky, A bower for thee and me hast made Beneath the many-colored shade.
"And thou dost wait and watch to meet My spirit sent to join the blessed, And, wondering what detains my feet From that bright land of rest, Dost seem, in every sound, to hear The rustling of my footsteps near."
ODE FOR AN AGRICULTURAL CELEBRATION.
Far back in the ages, The plough with wreaths was crowned; The hands of kings and sages Entwined the chaplet round; Till men of spoil disdained the toil By which the world was nourished, And dews of blood enriched the soil Where green their laurels flourished. —Now the world her fault repairs— The guilt that stains her story; And weeps her crimes amid the cares That formed her earliest glory.
The proud throne shall crumble, The diadem shall wane, The tribes of earth shall humble The pride of those who reign; And War shall lay his pomp away;— The fame that heroes cherish, The glory earned in deadly fray Shall fade, decay, and perish. Honor waits, o'er all the earth, Through endless generations, The art that calls her harvest forth, And feeds th' expectant nations.
And he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the Lord; and they fell all seven together, and were put to death in the days of the harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley-harvest.
And Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah, took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until the water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest upon them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night. 2 SAMUEL, xxi. 10.
Hear what the desolate Rizpah said, As on Gibeah's rocks she watched the dead. The sons of Michal before her lay, And her own fair children, dearer than they: By a death of shame they all had died, And were stretched on the bare rock, side by side. And Rizpah, once the loveliest of all That bloomed and smiled in the court of Saul, All wasted with watching and famine now, And scorched by the sun her haggard brow, Sat mournfully guarding their corpses there, And murmured a strange and solemn air; The low, heart-broken, and wailing strain Of a mother that mourns her children slain:
"I have made the crags my home, and spread On their desert backs my sackcloth bed; I have eaten the bitter herb of the rocks, And drunk the midnight dew in my locks; I have wept till I could not weep, and the pain Of the burning eyeballs went to my brain. Seven blackened corpses before me lie, In the blaze of the sun and the winds of the sky. I have watched them through the burning day, And driven the vulture and raven away; And the cormorant wheeled in circles round, Yet feared to alight on the guarded ground. And when the shadows of twilight came, I have seen the hyena's eyes of flame, And heard at my side his stealthy tread, But aye at my shout the savage fled: And I threw the lighted brand to fright The jackal and wolf that yelled in the night.
"Ye were foully murdered, my hapless sons, By the hands of wicked and cruel ones; Ye fell, in your fresh and blooming prime, All innocent, for your father's crime. He sinned—but he paid the price of his guilt When his blood by a nameless hand was spilt; When he strove with the heathen host in vain, And fell with the flower of his people slain, And the sceptre his children's hands should sway From his injured lineage passed away.
"But I hoped that the cottage-roof would be A safe retreat for my sons and me; And that while they ripened to manhood fast, They should wean my thoughts from the woes of the past; And my bosom swelled with a mother's pride, As they stood in their beauty and strength by my side, Tall like their sire, with the princely grace Of his stately form, and the bloom of his face.
"Oh, what an hour for a mother's heart, When the pitiless ruffians tore us apart! When I clasped their knees and wept and prayed, And struggled and shrieked to Heaven for aid, And clung to my sons with desperate strength, Till the murderers loosed my hold at length, And bore me breathless and faint aside, In their iron arms, while my children died. They died—and the mother that gave them birth Is forbid to cover their bones with earth.
"The barley-harvest was nodding white, When my children died on the rocky height, And the reapers were singing on hill and plain, When I came to my task of sorrow and pain. But now the season of rain is nigh, The sun is dim in the thickening sky, And the clouds in sullen darkness rest Where he hides his light at the doors of the west. I hear the howl of the wind that brings The long drear storm on its heavy wings; But the howling wind and the driving rain Will beat on my houseless head in vain: I shall stay, from my murdered sons to scare The beasts of the desert, and fowls of air."
THE OLD MAN'S FUNERAL.
I saw an aged man upon his bier, His hair was thin and white, and on his brow A record of the cares of many a year;— Cares that were ended and forgotten now. And there was sadness round, and faces bowed, And woman's tears fell fast, and children wailed aloud.