Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant
THE ROSE-TREE AT THE BIRTHPLACE OF WASHINGTON.
BRIGHT rose! what dost thou here, amid
These sad mementoes of the past?
The crumbling stones thy roots have hid,
The bramble's shade is o'er thee cast,
Yet still thy glowing beauty seems
Fair as young childhood's happy dreams.
The sunbeam on the heaving surf
Proclaims the tempest's rage is o'er;
The violet, on the frozen turf,
Breathes of the smiling spring once more;Page 239
But, rose, thy mission to the heart,
In things that alter, hath no part.
The mossgrown ruins round are spread,
Scarce rescued from earth's trodden mass,
And time-scathed trees, whose branches dead
Lie cumbering o'er the matted grass:
These tell the tale of life's brief day,
Hope, toil, enjoyment, death, decay!
The common record this of man,
We read, regret, and pass it by,
And rear the towers that deck our span,
Above the grave where nations lie;
And heroes, who like meteors shone,
Are, like that meteor's flashings, gone.
But, radiant rose, thy beauty breaks
Like eve's first star upon the sight;
A holier hue the vision takes,
The ruins shine with heaven's clear light;
His name, who placed thy root in earth,
Doth consecrate thy place of birth.
Yet 'tis not here his wreath we twine,
Nor here that Freedom's chief we praise;
The stars at rising softer shine,
Than when o'er night's dark vault they blaze
Not here, with Washington's great name,
Blend his achievements or his fame.
But brighter, holier is the ray
Which rests on this devoted ground;
Here pass'd his childhood's happy day,
Here glory's bud meet culture found:
Maternal smiles, and tears, and prayer,
These were its light, its dew, its air.