Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant

FOOTSTEPS OF ANGELS.

WHEN the hours of Day are number'd,
And the voices of the Night
Wake the better soul that slumber'd,
To a holy, calm delight;
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Ere the evening lamps are lighted,
And, like phantoms grim and tall,
Shadows from the fitful firelight
Dance upon the parlour wall;
Then the forms of the departed
Enter at the open door;
The beloved ones, the true-hearted,
Come to visit me once more;
He, the young and strong, who cherish'd
Noble longings for the strife,
By the roadside fell and perish'd,
Weary with the march of life!
They, the holy ones and weakly,
Who the cross of suffering bore,
Folded their pale hands so meekly,
Spake with us on earth no more!
And with them the Being Beauteous,
Who unto my youth was given,
More than all things else to love me,
And is now a saint in heaven.
With a slow and noiseless footstep
Comes that messenger divine,
Takes the vacant chair beside me,
Lays her gentle hand in mine.
And she sits and gazes at me
With those deep and tender eyes,
Like the stars, so still and saint-like,
Looking downward from the skies.
Utter'd not, yet comprehended,
Is the spirit's voiceless prayer,
Soft rebukes, in blessings ended,
Breathing from her lips of air.
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Oh, though oft depress'd and lonely,
All my fears are laid aside
If I but remember only
Such as these have lived and died!