Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant
FOR THE CHARLESTOWN CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION.
Two hundred years! two hundred years!
How much of human power and pride,
What glorious hopes, what gloomy fears,
Have sunk beneath their noiseless tide!
The red man at his horrid rite,
Seen by the stars at night's cold noon,
His bark canoe, its track of light
Left on the wave beneath the moon;
His dance, his yell, his council-fire,
The altar where his victim lay,
His death-song, and his funeral pyre,
That still, strong tide hath borne away.
And that pale Pilgrim band is gone,
That on this shore with trembling trod,
Ready to faint, yet bearing on
The ark of freedom and of God.
And war—that since o'er ocean came,
And thunder'd loud from yonder hill,
And wrapp'd its foot in sheets of flame,
To blast that ark—its storm is still.
Chief, sachem, sage, bards, heroes, seers,
That live in story and in song,
Time, for the last two hundred years,
Has raised, and shown, and swept along.
'Tis like a dream when one awakes,
This vision of the scenes of old;
'Tis like the moon when morning breaks,
'Tis like a tale round watchfires told.
Then what are we? then what are we?
Yes, when two hundred years have roll'd
O'er our green graves, our names shall be
A morning dream, a tale that's told.
God of our fathers, in whose sight
The thousand years that sweep away
Man and the traces of his might
Are but the break and close of day,