Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant

THE LAST DAYS OF AUTUMN

HARK to the sounding gale! how through the soul
It vibrates, and in thunder seems to roll
Along the mountains! Loud the forest moans,
And, naked to the blast, the o'ermastering spirit owns.
Rustling, the leaves are rudely hurried by,
Or in dark eddies whirl'd; while from on high
The ruffian Winds, as if in giant mirth,
Unseat the mountain pine, and headlong dash to earth!
With crest of foam, the uplifted flood no more!
Flows placidly along the sylvan shore;
But, vex'd to madness, heaves its turbid wave,
Threatening to leap the banks it whilom loved lave:
And in the angry heavens, where, wheeling low,
The sun exhibits yet a fitful glow,
The clouds, obedient to the stormy power,
Or shatter'd fly along, or still more darkly lower
Amazement seizes all! within the vale
Shrinking, the mute herd snuff the shivering gale,
The while, with tossing head and streaming mane,
The horse affrighted bounds, or wildly skims the plain.
Whither, with charms to Fancy yet so dear,
Whither has fled the lovely infant year?
Where, too, the groves in greener pomp array'd?
The deep and solemn gloom of the inspiring shade?
The verdant heaven that once the woods o'erspread,
And underneath a pensive twilight shed,
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Is shrivell'd all: dead the vine-mantled bowers,
And wither'd in their bloom the beautiful young flowers!
Mute, too, the voice of Joy! no tuneful bird
Amid the leafless forest now is heard;
Nor more may ploughboy's laugh the bosom cheer,
Nor in the velvet glade Love's whisper charm the ear.
But lo, the ruthless storm its force hath spent;
And see! where sinking 'neath yon cloudy tent,
The sun withdraws his last cold, feeble ray,
Abandoning to Night his short and dubious sway.
A heavier gloom pervades the chilly air!
Now in their northern caves the Winds prepare
The nitrous frost to sheet with dazzling white,
The long-deserted fields at the return of light:
Or with keen icy breath they may glass o'er
The restless wave, and on the lucid floor
Let fall the feathery shower, and far and wide
Involve in snowy robe the land and fetter'd tide!
Thus shut the varied scene! and thus, in turn,
Oh Autumn! thou within thine ample urn
Sweep'st all earth's glories. Ah, for one brief hour,
Spare the soft, virgin's bloom and tender human flower!