Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant
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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
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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!"


"Why mourn for the young? Better that the light cloud should fade away in the morning's breath, than travel through the weary day, to gather in darkness, and end in storm."

IF it be sad to mark the bow'd with age
Sink in the halls of the remorseless tomb,
Closing the changes of life's pilgrimage
In the still darkness of its mouldering gloom;
Oh! what a shadow o'er the heart is flung,
When peals the requiem of the loved and young!
They to whose bosoms, like the dawn of spring
To the unfolding bud and scented rose,
Comes the pure freshness age can never bring,
And fills the spirit with a rich repose,
How shall we lay them in their final rest?
How pile the clods upon their wasting breast?
Life openeth brightly to their ardent gaze;
A glorious pomp sits on the gorgeous sky;
O'er the broad world Hope's smile incessant plays
And scenes of beauty win the enchanted eye:
How sad to break the vision, and to fold
Each lifeless form in earth's embracing mould!
Yet this is life! To mark from day to day,
Youth, in the freshness of its morning prime,
Pass, like the anthem of a breeze away,
Sinking in waves of Death ere chill'd by Time!
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Ere yet dark years on the warm cheek had shed
Autumnal mildew o'er its roselike red!
And yet what mourner, though the pensive eye
Be dimly thoughtful in its burning tears,
But should with rapture gaze upon the sky,
Through whose far depths the spirit's wing careers?
There gleams eternal o'er their ways are flung,
Who fade from earth while yet their years are young!


"Ah! welaway! most angel-like of face,
A childe, young in his pure innocence,
Tender of limbes, God wrote, full guilteless,
The goodly faire that lieth here speecheless.
A mouth he has, but words hath he none;
Cannot complain, alas! for none outrage,
Nor grutcheth not, but lies here, all alone,
Still as a lambe, most meke of his visage:
What hearte of stele could do to him damage,
Or suffer him die, beholding the manere,
And looke benigne of his tweine eyen clere?"

YOUNG mother, he is gone!
His dimpled cheek no more will touch thy breast;
No more the music-tone
Float from his lips, to thine all fondly press'd;
His smile and happy laugh are lost to thee:
Earth must his mother and his pillow be.
His was the morning hour;
And he hath pass'd in beauty from the day,
A bud, not yet a flower,
Torn, in its sweetness, from the parent spray:
The death-wind swept him to his soft repose,
As frost, in springtime, blights the early rose.
Never on earth again
Will his rich accents charm thy listening ear,
Like some Æolian strain,
Breathing at eventide serene and clear;
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His voice is choked in dust, and on his eyes
The unbroken seal of peace and silence lies.
And from thy yearning heart,
Whose inmost core was warm with love for him,
A gladness must depart,
And those kind eyes with many tears be dim;
While lonely memories, an unceasing train,
Will turn the raptures of the past to pain.
Yet, mourner! while the day
Rolls like the darkness of a funeral by,
And Hope forbids one ray
To stream athwart the grief-discolour'd sky;
There breaks upon thy sorrow's evening gloom,
A trembling lustre from beyond the tomb.
'Tis from the Better Land!
There, bathed in radiance that around them springs
Thy loved one's wings expand;
As with the choiring cherubim he sings,
And all the glory of that God can see,
Who said, on earth, to children, "Come to me."
Mother, thy child is bless'd:
And though his presence may be lost to thee,
And vacant leave thy breast,
And miss'd, a sweet load from thy parent knee;
Though tones familiar from thine ear have pass'd,
Thou'lt meet thy firstborn with his Lord at last.