Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant


NEAREST the mount, of that mixed phalanx first,
Our general Parent stood; not as he looked
Wandering at eve amid the shady bowers
And odorous groves of that delicious garden,
Or flowery banks of some soft rolling stream,
Pausing to list its lulling murmur, hand
In hand with peerless Eve, the rose too sweet,
Fatal to Paradise. Fled from his cheek
The bloom of Eden; his hyacinthine locks
Were turned to gray; with years and sorrows bowed
He seemed, but through his ruined form still shone
The majesty of his Creator: round
Upon his sons a grieved and pitying look
He cast, and in his vesture hid his face.
Close at his side appeared a martial form
Of port majestic, clad in massive arms,
Cowering above whose helm, with outspread wings,
The Roman eagle flew; around its brim
Was charactered the name at which Earth's Queen
Bowed from her sevenfold throne and owned her lord.
In his dilated eye amazement stood;
Terror, surprise, and blank astonishment
Blanched his firm cheek, as when of old, close hemmed
Within the Capitol, amid the crowd
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Of traitors, fearless else, he caught the gleam
Of Brutus' steel. Daunted, yet on the pomp
Of towering seraphim, their wings, their crowns,
Their dazzling faces, and upon the Lord,
He fixed a steadfast look of anxious note,
Like that Pharsalia's hurtling squadrons drew
When all his fortunes hung upon the hour.
Near him, for wisdom famous through the East
Abraham rested on his staff; in guise
A Chaldee shepherd, simple in his raiment
As when at Mamre in his tent he sat,
The host of angels. Snow-white were his locks
And silvery beard that to his girdle rolled.
Fondly his meek eye dwelt upon his Lord,
Like one that, after long and troubled dreams,
A night of sorrows, dreary, wild, and sad,
Beholds, at last, the dawn of promised joys.