Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant

THE EDGE OF THE SWAMP.

'TIS a wild spot and hath a gloomy look;
The bird sings never merrily in the trees,
And the young leaves seem blighted. A rank growth
Spreads poisonously round, with pow'r to taint,
With blistering dews, the thoughtless hand that dares
To penetrate the covert. Cypresses
Crowd on the dank, wet earth; and, stretched at length,
The cayman—a fit dweller in such home—
Slumbers, half buried in the sedgy grass,
Beside the green ooze where he shelters him.
A whooping crane erects his skeleton form,
And shrieks in flight. Two summer ducks, aroused
To apprehension as they hear his cry,
Dash up from the lagoon with marvellous haste,
Following his guidance. Meetly taught by these,
And startled at our rapid, near approach,
The steel-jawed monster, from his grassy bed,
Crawls slowly to his slimy, green abode,
Which straight receives him. You behold him now,
His ridgy back uprising as he speeds
In silence to the centre of tile stream,
Whence his head peers alone. A butterfly,
That, travelling all the day, has counted climes
Only by flowers, to rest himself a while,
Lights on the monster's brow. The surly mute
Straightway goes down so suddenly, that he,
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The dandy of the summer flow'rs and woods,
Dips his light wings and spoils his golden coat
With the rank water of that turbid pond.
Wondering and vex'd, the pluméd citizen
Flies, with an hurried effort, to the shore,
Seeking his kindred flow'rs; but seeks in vain:
Nothing of genial growth may there be seen,
Nothing of beautiful! Wild, ragged trees,
That look like felon spectres—fetid shrubs,
That taint the gloomy atmosphere—dusk shades,
That gather, half a cloud and half a fiend
In aspect, lurking on the swamp's wild edge—
Gloom with their sternness and forbidding frowns
The general prospect. The sad butterfly,
Waving his lacker'd wings, darts quickly on,
And, by his free flight, counsels us to speed
For better lodgings, and a scene more sweet
Than these drear borders offer us to-night.