Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant


HERE the lamented dead in dust shall lie,
Life's lingering languors o'er, its labours done;
Where waving boughs, betwixt the earth and sky,
Admit the farewell radiance of the sun.
Here the long concourse from the murmuring town,
With funeral pace and slow, shall enter in;
To lay the loved in tranquil silence down,
No more to suffer, and no more to sin.
And in this hallow'd spot, where Nature showers
Her summer smiles from fair and stainless skies,
Affection's hand may strew her dewy flowers,
Whose fragrant incense from the grave shall rise.
And here the impressive stone, engraved with words
Which grief sententious gives to marble pale,
Shall teach the heart; while waters, leaves, and birds
Make cheerful music in the passing gale.
Say, wherefore should we weep, and wherefore pour
On scented airs the unavailing sigh—
While sun-bright waves are quivering to the shore,
And landscapes blooming—that the loved must die?
There is an emblem in this peaceful scene:
Soon rainbow colours on the woods will fall;
And autumn gusts bereave the hills of green,
As sinks the year to meet its cloudy pall.
Then, cold and pale, in distant vistas round,
Disrobed and tuneless, all the woods will stand;
While the chain'd streams are silent as the ground,
As Death had numb'd them with his icy hand.
Yet when the warm, soft winds shall rise in spring,
Like struggling daybeams o'er a blasted heath,
The bird return'd shall poise her golden wing,
And liberal Nature break the spell of Death
Page  296
So, when the tomb's dull silence finds an end,
The blessed dead to endless youth shall rise;
And hear th' archangel's thrilling summons blend
Its tone with anthems from the upper skies.
There shall the good of earth be found at last,
Where dazzling streams and vernal fields expand
Where Love her crown attains—her trials past—
And, fill'd with rapture, hails the "better land!"