Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant
Page  176


LOUD o'er thy savage child,
Oh God, the night-wind roar'd,
As, houseless, in the wild
He bow'd him and adored.
Thou saw'st him there,
As to the sky
He raised his eye
In fear and prayer.
Thine inspiration came!
And, grateful for thine aid,
An altar to thy name
He built beneath the shade,
The limbs of larch
That darken'd round,
He bent and bound
In many an arch;
Till in a sylvan fane
Went up the voice of prayer,
And music's simple strain
Arose in worship there.
The arching boughs,
The roof of leaves
That summer weaves,
O'erheard his vows.
Then beam'd a brighter day;
And Salem's holy height
And Greece in glory lay
Beneath the kindling light.
Thy temple rose
On Salem's hill,
While Grecian skill
Adorn'd thy foes.
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Along those rocky shores,
Along those olive plains,
Where pilgrim Genius pores
O'er Art's sublime remains,
Long colonnades
Of snowy white
Look'd forth in light
Through classic shades.
Forth from the quarry stone
The marble goddess sprung;
And, loosely round her thrown,
Her marble vesture hung;
And forth from cold
And sunless mines
Came silver shrines
And gods of gold.
The Star of Bethlehem burn'd
And, where the Stoic trod,
The altar was o'erturn'd,
Raised "to an unknown God."
And now there are
No idol fanes
On all the plains
Beneath that star.
To honour thee, dread Power!
Our strength and skill combine;
And temple, tomb, and tower
Attest these gifts divine.
A swelling dome
For pride they gild,
For peace they build
An humbler home.
By these our fathers' host
Was led to victory first,
When on our guardless coast
The cloud of battle burst,
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Through storm and spray,
By these controll'd,
Our navies hold
Their thundering way.
Great Source of every art!
Our homes, our pictured halls,
Our throng'd and busy mart,
That lifts its granite walls,
And shoots to heaven
Its glittering spires,
To catch the fires
Of morn and even;
These, and the breathing forms
The brush or chisel gives,
With this when marble warms,
With that when canvass lives;
These all combine
In countless ways
To swell thy praise,
For all are thine.