Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant
I SAT me down upon a green bank-side,
Skirting the smooth edge of a gentle river,
Whose waters seemed unwillingly to glide,
Like parting friends who linger while they sever;
Enforced to go, yet seeming still unready,
Backward they wind their way in many a wistful eddy.
Gray o'er my head the yellow-vested willow
Ruffled its hoary top in the fresh breezes,
Glancing in light, like spray on a green billow,
Or the fine frostwork which young winter freezes
When first his power in infant pastime trying,
Congeals sad autumn's tears on the dead branches lying.
From rocks around hung the loose ivy dangling,
And in the clefts sumach of liveliest green,
Bright ising-stars the little beach was spangling,
The gold-cup sorrel from his gauzy screen
Shone like a fairy crown, enchased and beaded,
Left on some morn, when light flashed in their eyes unheeded.
The humbird shook his sun-touch'd wings around,
The bluefinch caroll'd in the still retreat;
The antic squirrel capered on the ground
Where lichens made a carpet for his feet:
Through the transparent waves, the ruddy minkle
Shot up in glimmering sparks his red fin's tiny twinkle.
There were dark cedars with loose mossy tresses,
White powdered dog-trees, and stiff hollies flaunting
Gaudy as rustics in their May-day dresses,
Blue pelloret from purple leaves upslanting
A modest gaze, like eyes of a young maiden
Shining beneath dropp'd lids the evening of her wedding.
The breeze fresh springing from the lips of morn,
Kissing the leaves, and sighing so to lose 'em,
The winding of the merry locust's horn,
The glad spring gushing from the rock's bare bosom:
Sweet sights, sweet sounds, all sights, all sounds excelling,
Oh! 'twas a ravishing spot formed for a poet's dwelling.
And did I leave thy loveliness, to stand
Again in the dull world of earthly blindness?
Pained with the pressure of unfriendly hands,
Sick of smooth looks, agued with icy kindness?
Left I for this thy shades, where none intrude,
To prison wandering thought and mar sweet solitude?