Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant
TO THE CANARY-BIRD.
I CANNOT hear thy voice with others' ears,
Who make of thy lost liberty a gain;
And in thy tale of blighted hopes and fears
Feel not that every note is born with pain.
Alas! that with thy music's gentle swell
Past days of joy should through thy memory throng,
And each to thee their words of sorrow tell,
While ravish'd sense forgets thee in thy song.
The heart that on the past and future feeds,
And pours in human words its thoughts divine,
Though at each birth the spirit inly bleeds,
Its song may charm the listening ear like thine,
And men with gilded cage and praise will try
To make the bard, like thee, forget his native sky.
I LOVE thee when thy swelling buds appear,
And one by one their tender leaves unfold,
As if they knew that warmer suns were near,
Nor longer sought to hide from winter's cold;
And when with darker growth thy leaves are seen
To veil from view the early robin's nest,
I love to lie beneath thy waving screen
With limbs by summer's heat and toil oppress'd;Page 250
And when the autumn winds have stripp'd thee bare,
And round thee lies the smooth untrodden snow,
When naught is thine that made thee once so fair,
I love to watch thy shadowy form below,
And through thy leafless arms to look above
On stars that brighter beam when most we need their love.
THOU lookest up with meek, confiding eye
Upon the clouded smile of April's face,
Unharm'd, though Winter stands uncertain by,
Eying with jealous glance each opening grace.
Thou trustest wisely! in thy faith array'd,
More glorious thou than Israel's wisest king;
Such faith was his whom men to death betray'd,
As thine who hear'st the timid voice of Spring,
While other flowers still hide them from her call
Along the river's brink and meadow bare.
Thee will I seek beside the stony wall,
And in thy trust with childlike heart would share,
O'erjoyed that in thy early leaves I find
A lesson taught by him who loved all human kind.
FATHER, I wait thy word. The sun doth stand
Beneath the mingling line of night and day,
A listening servant, waiting thy command
To roll rejoicing on its silent way;
The tongue of Time abides the appointed hour,
Till on our ear its solemn warnings fall;
The heavy cloud withholds the pelting shower,
Then every drop speeds onward at thy call;Page 251
The bird reposes on the yielding bough,
With breast unswollen by the tide of song,
So does my spirit wait thy presence now
To pour thy praise in quickening life along,
Chiding with voice divine man's lengthen'd sleep
While round the Unutter'd Word and Love their vigils keep.
I LOOK'D to find a man who walk'd with God,
Like the translated patriarch of old;
Though gladden'd millions on his footstool trod,
Yet none with him did such sweet converse hold;
I heard the wind in low complaint go by,
That none its melodies like him could hear;
Day unto day spoke wisdom from on high,
Yet none, like David, turn'd a willing ear;
God walk'd alone unhonour'd through the earth;
For him no heart-built temple open stood;
The soul, forgetful of her nobler birth,
Had hewn him lofty shrines of stone and wood,
And left unfinish'd and in ruins still
The only temple he delights to fill.
THE LIVING GOD.
THERE is no death with Thee! Each plant and tree
In living haste their stems push onward still;
The pointed blade, each rooted trunk we see,
In various movement all attest thy will.
The vine must die when its long race is run,
The tree must fall when it no more can rise;
The worm has at its root his task bugun,
And hour by hour his steady labour plies;Page 252
Nor man can pause, hut in thy will must grow,
And, as his roots within more deep extend,
He shall o'er sons of sons his branches throw,
And to the latest born his shadows lend;
Nor know in thee disease nor length of days,
But lift his head for ever in thy praise.