Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant
COME thou with me! If thou hast worn away
All this most glorious summer in the crowd,
Amid the dust of cities, and the din,
While birds were carolling on every spray;
If, from gray dawn to solemn night's approach,
Thy soul hath wasted all its better thoughts,
Toiling and panting for a little gold;
Drudging amid the very lees of life
For this accursed slave that makes men slaves;
Come thou with me into the pleasant fields,
Let Nature breathe on us and make us free!
For thou shalt hold communion, pure and high,
With the great Spirit of the Universe;
It shall pervade thy soul; it shall renew
The fancies of thy boyhood: thou shalt know
Tears, most unwonted tears dimming thine eyes;
Thou shalt forget, under the old brown oak,
That the good south-wind and the liberal west
Have other tidings than the songs of birds,
Or the soft news wafted from fragrant flowers.
Look out on Nature's face, and what hath she
In common with thy feelings? That brown hill,
Upon whose sides, from the gray mountain ash,
We gather'd crimson berries, look'd as brown
When the leaves fell twelve autumn suns ago;
This pleasant stream, with the well-shaded verge,
On whose fair surface have our buoyant limbs
So often play'd, caressing and caress'd;
Its verdant banks are green as then they were,
So went its bubbling murmur down the tide.
Yes, and the very trees, those ancient oaks,
The crimson-crested maple, feathery elm,
And fair, smooth ash, with leaves of graceful gold,
Look like familiar faces of old friends.
From their broad branches drop the wither'd leaves
Drop, one by one, without a single breath,
Save when some eddying curl round the old roots
Twirls them about in merry sport a while.
They are not changed; their office is not done;
The first soft breeze of spring shall see them fresh
With sprouting twigs bursting from every branch,
As should fresh feelings from our wither'd hearts.
Scorn not the moral; for, while these have warm'd
To annual beauty, gladdening the fields
With new and ever-glorious garniture,
Thou hast grown worn and wasted, almost gray
Even in thy very summer. 'Tis for this
We have neglected nature! Wearing out
Our hearts and all life's dearest charities
In the perpetual turmoil, when we need
To strengthen and to purify our minds
Amid the venerable woods; to hold
Chaste converse with the fountains and the winds!
So should we elevate our souls; so be
Ready to stand and act a nobler part
In the hard, heartless struggles of the world.
Day wanes; 'tis autumn eventide again;
And, sinking on the blue hills' breast, the sun
Spreads the large bounty of his level blaze,
Lengthening the shades of mountains and tall trees,
And throwing blacker shadows o'er the sheet
Of this dark stream, in whose unruffled tide
Waver the bank-shrub and the graceful elm,
As the gay branches and their trembling leaves
Catch the soft whisper of the coming air:
So doth it mirror every passing cloud,
And those which fill the chambers of the west
With such strange beauty, fairer than all thrones,
Blazon'd with orient gems and barbarous gold.
I see thy full heart gathering in thine eyes:
I see those eyes swelling with precious tears;
But, if thou couldst have look'd upon this scenePage 245
With a cold brow, and then turn'd back to thoughts
Of traffic in thy fellow's wretchedness,
Thou wert not fit to gaze upon the face
Of Nature's naked beauty; most unfit
To look on fairer things, the loveliness
Of earth's most lovely daughters, whose glad forms
And glancing eyes do kindle the great souls
Of better men to emulate pure thoughts,
And, in high action, all ennobling deeds.
But lo! the harvest moon! She climbs as fair
Among the cluster'd jewels of the sky,
As, mid the rosy bowers of paradise,
Her soft light, trembling upon leaf and flower,
Smiled o'er the slumbers of the first-born man.
And, while her beauty is upon our hearts,
Now let us seek our quiet home, that sleep
May come without bad dreams; may come as light
As to that yellow-headed cottage-boy,
Whose serious musings, as he homeward drives
His sober herd, are of the frosty dawn,
And the ripe nuts which his own hand shall pluck.
Then, when the bird, high-courier of the morn,
Looks from his airy vantage o'er the world,
And, by the music of his mounting flight,
Tells many blessed things of gushing gold,
Coming in floods o'er the eastern wave,
Will we arise, and our pure orisons
Shall keep us in the trials of the day.