Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant
THE DEAD OF 1832.
OH Time and Death! with certain pace,
Though still unequal, hurrying on,
O'erturning in your awful race,
The cot, the palace, and the throne!
Not always in the storm of war,
Nor by the pestilence that sweeps
From the plague-smitten realms afar,
Beyond the old and solemn deeps:
In crowds the good and mighty go,
And to those vast dim chambers hie:
Where, mingled with the high and low,
Dead Cæsars and dead Shakspeares lie!
Dread ministers of God! sometimes
Ye smite at once to do his will,
In all earth's ocean-severed climes,
Those—whose renown ye cannot kill!
When all the brightest stars that burn
At once are banished from their spheres,
Men sadly ask, when shall return
Such lustre to the coming years?
For where is he3—who lived so long—
Who raised the modern Titan's ghost,
And showed his fate in powerful song,
Whose soul for learning's sake was lost?
Where he—who backward to the birth
Of Time itself, adventurous trod,
And in the mingled mass of earth
Found out the handiwork of God?4
Where he—who in the mortal head,5
Ordained to gaze on heaven, could trace
The soul's vast features, that shall tread
The stars, when earth is nothingness?
Where he—who struck old Albyn's lyre,6
Till round the world its echoes roll,
And swept, with all a prophet's fire,
The diapason of the soul?
Where he—who read the mystic lore,7
Buried, where buried Pharaohs sleep;
And dared presumptuous to explore
Secrets four thousand years could keep?
Where he—who, with a poet's eye8
Of truth, on lowly nature gazed,
And made even sordid Poverty
Classic, when in HIS numbers glazed?
Where—that old sage so hale and staid,9
The "greatest good" who sought to find,
Who in his garden mused, and made
All forms of rule for all mankind?
And thou—whom millions far removed10
Revered—the hierarch meek and wise,
Thy ashes sleep, adored, beloved,
Near where thy Wesley's coffin lies.
He too—the heir of glory—where11
Hath great Napoleon's scion fled?
Ah! glory goes not to an heir!
Take him, ye noble, vulgar dead!
But hark! a nation sighs! for he,12
Last of the brave who perilled all
To make an infant empire free,
Obeys the inevitable call!
They go—and with them is a crowd,
For human rights who THOUGHT and DID,
We rear to them no temples proud,
Each hath his mental pyramid.