Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant
Page  185


THE clouds, that upward curling from
Nevada's summit fly,
Melt into air: gone are the showers,
And, deck'd, as 'twere with bridal flowers,
Earth seems to wed the sky.
All hearts are by the spirit that
Breathes in the sunshine stirr'd;
And there's a girl that, up and down,
A merry vagrant, through the town
Goes singing like a bird.
A thing all lightness, life, and glee;
One of the shapes we seem
To meet in visions of the night;
And, should they greet our waking sight,
Imagine that we dream.
With glossy ringlet, brow that is
As falling snow-flake whim,
Half hidden by its jetty braid,
And eye like dewdrop in the shade,
At once both dark and bright:
And cheek whereon the sunny clime
Its brown tint gently throws,
Gently, as it reluctant were
To leave its print on thing so fair—
A shadow on a rose.
She stops, looks up—what does she see?
A flower of crimson dye,
Whose vase, the work of Moorish hands,
A lady sprinkles, as it stands
Upon a balcony:
Page  186
High, leaning from a window forth,
From curtains that half shroud
Her maiden form, with tress of gold,
And brow that mocks their snow-white fold,
Like Dian from a cloud.
Nor flower, nor lady fair she sees—
That mountain girl—but dumb
And motionless she stands, with eye
That seems communing with the sky:
Her visions are of home.
That flower to her is as a tone
Of some forgotten song,
One of a slumbering thousand, struck
From an old harp-string; but, once woke,
It brings the rest along.
She sees beside the mountain brook,
Beneath the old cork-tree
And toppling crag, a vine-thatch'd shed,
Perch'd, like the eagle, high o'erhead,
The home of liberty;
The rivulet, the olive shade,
The grassy plot, the flock;
Nor does her simple thought forget,
Haply, the little violet,
That springs beneath the rock.
Sister and mate, they may not from
Her dreaming eye depart;
And one, the source of gentler fears,
More dear than all, for whom she wears
The token at her heart.
And hence her eye is dim, her cheek!
Has lost its livelier glow;
Her song has ceased, and motionless
She stands, an image of distress:
Strange what a flower can do!