Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant
DEEP thoughts o'ershade my spirit while I gaze
Upon the blue depths of thy mighty breast:
Thy glassy face is bright with sunset rays,
And thy far-stretching waters are at rest,
Save the small wave that on thy margin plays,
Lifting to summer airs its flashing crest;
While the fleet hues across thy surface driven,
Mingle afar in the embrace of heaven.
Thy smile is glorious when the morning's spring
Gives half its glowing beauty to the deep;
When the dusk swallow dips his drooping wing,
And the gay winds that o'er thy bosom sweep,
Tribute from dewy woods and violets bring,
Thy restless billows in their gifts to steep.Page 231
Thou'rt beautiful when evening moonbeams shine,
And the soft hour of night and stars is thine.
Thou hast thy tempests, too; the lightning's home
Is near thee, though unseen; thy peaceful shore,
When storms have lash'd these waters into foam,
Echoes full oft the pealing thunder's roar.
Thou hast dark trophies: the unhonour'd tomb
Of those now sought and wept on earth no more:
Full many a goodly form, the loved and brave,
Lies whelm'd and still beneath thy sullen wave.
The world was young with thee; this swelling flood
As proudly swell'd, as purely met the sky,
When sound of life roused not the ancient wood,
Save the wild eagle's scream, or panther's cry.
Here on this verdant bank the savage stood,
And shook his dart and battle-axe on high,
While hues of slaughter tinged thy billows blue,
As deeper and more close the conflict grew.
Here, too, at early morn, the hunter's song
Was heard from wooded isle and grassy glade;
And here at eve, these cluster'd bowers among,
The low, sweet carol of the Indian maid,
Chiding the slumbering breeze and shadows long,
That kept her lingering lover from the shade:
While, scarcely seen, thy willing waters o'er,
Sped the light bark that bore him to the shore.
Those scenes are past. The spirit of changing years
Has breathed on all around save thee alone.
More faintly the receding woodland hears
Thy voice, once full and joyous as its own.
Nations have gone from earth, nor trace appears
To tell their tale—forgotten or unknown.
Yet here, unchanged, untamed, thy waters lie,
Azure, and clear, and boundless as the sky.