Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant
"The Pilgrim they laid in a large upper chamber, whose window opened towards the sun rising: the name of the chamber was Peace; where he slept till break of day, and then he awoke and sang."
—The Pilgrim's Progress.
Now, brighter than the host that all night long,
In fiery armour, up the heavens high
Stood watch, thou comest to wait the morning's song,
Thou comest to tell me day again is nigh.
Star of the dawning, cheerful is thine eye,
And yet in the broad day it must grow dim.
Thou seem'st to look on me, as asking why
My mourning eyes with silent tears do swim;
Thou bid'st me turn to God, and seek my rest in Him.
"Canst thou grow sad," thou say'st, "as earth grows bright?
And sigh, when little birds begin discourse
In quick, low voices, ere the streaming light
Pours on their nests, as sprung from day's fresh source?Page 85
With creatures innocent thou must perforce
A sharer be, if that thine heart be pure.
And holy hour like this, save sharp remorse,
Of ills and pains of life must be the cure,
And breathe in kindred calm, and teach thee to endure."
I feel its calm. But there's a sombrous hue
Along that eastern cloud of deep, dull red;
Nor glitters yet the cold and heavy dew;
And all the woods and hilltops stand outspread
With dusky lights, which warmth nor comfort shed.
Still—save the bird that scarcely lifts its song—
The vast world seems the tomb of all the dead—
The silent city emptied of its throng,
And ended, all alike, grief, mirth, love, hate, and wrong.
But wrong, and hate, and love, and grief, and mirth
Will quicken soon; and hard, hot toil and strife,
With headlong purpose, shake this sleeping earth
With discord strange, and all that man calls life.
With thousand scatter'd beauties nature's rife;
And airs, and woods, and streams breathe harmonies:
Man weds not these, but taketh art to wife;
Nor binds his heart with soft and kindly ties:
He, feverish, blinded, lives, and, feverish, sated, dies.
And 'tis because man useth so amiss
Her dearest blessings, Nature seemeth sad;
Else why should she in such fresh hour as this
Not lift the veil, in revelation glad,
From her fair face? It is that man is mad!
Then chide me not, clear star, that I repine
When Nature grieves: nor deem this heart is bad.
Thou look'st towards earth; but yet the heavens are thine,
While I to earth am bound: When will the heavens be mine?
If man would but his finer nature learn,
And not in life fantastic lose the sense
Of simpler things; could Nature's features stern
Teach him be thoughtful; then, with soul intense,
I should not yearn for God to take me hence,
But bear my lot, albeit in spirit bow'd,
Remembering humbly why it is, and whence:
But when I see cold man, of reason proud,
My solitude is sad—I'm lonely in the crowd.
But not for this alone, the silent tear
Steals to mine eyes, while looking on the morn,
Nor for this solemn hour: fresh life is near;
But all my joys! they died when newly born.
Thousands will wake to joy; while I, forlorn,
And,like the stricken dear, with sickly eye,
Shall see them pass. Breathe calm—my spirit's torn;
Ye holy thoughts, lift up my soul on high!
Ye hopes of things unseen, the far-off world bring nigh.
And when I grieve, oh rather let it be
That I, whom Nature taught to sit with her
On her proud mountains, by her rolling sea;
Who, when the winds are up, with mighty stir
Of woods and waters, feel the quick'ning spur
To my strong spirit; who, as mine own child,
Do love the flower, and in the ragged bur
A beauty see: that I this mother mild
Should leave, and go with care, and passions fierce and wild!
How suddenly that straight and glittering shaft
Shot 'thwart the earth! In crown of living fire
Up comes the Day! As if they conscious quaff'd
The sunny flood, hill, forest, city, spire
Laugh in the wakening light. Go, vain Desire!
The dusky lights have gone; go thou thy way!
And pining Discontent, like them, expire!
Be call'd my chamber, PEACE, when ends the day;
And let me with the dawn, like PILGRIM, sing and pray!