Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant


THEN spake the Sylph of Spring serene.
'Tis I thy joyous heart, I ween,
With sympathy shall move:
For I with living melody
Of birds in choral symphony,
First waked thy soul to poesy,
To piety and love.
When thou, at call of vernal breeze,
And beck'ning bough of budding trees,
Hast left thy sullen fire;
And stretch'd thee in some mossy dell,
And heard the browsing wether's bell,
Blythe echoes rousing from their cell
To swell the tinkling quire:
Or heard from branch of flow'ring thorn
The song of friendly cuckoo warn
The tardy-moving swain;
Hast bid the purple swallow hail;
And seen him now through ether sail,
Now sweeping downward o'er the vale,
And skimming now the plain;
Then, catching with a sudden glance
The bright and silver-clear expanse
Of some broad river's stream,
Beheld the boats adown it glide,
And motion wind again the tide,
Where, chain'd in ice by Winter's pride,
Late roll'd the heavy team:
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Or, lured by some fresh-scented gale,
That woo'd the moored fishers' sail
To tempt the mighty main,
Hast watch'd the dim receding shore,
Now faintly seen the ocean o'er,
Like hanging cloud, and now no more
To bound the sapphire plain;
Then, wrapped in night, the scudding bark
(That seem'd, self-poised amid the dark,
Through upper air to leap),
Beheld, from thy most fearful height,
The rapid dolphin's azure light
Cleave, like a living meteor bright,
The darkness of the deep:
'Twas mine the warm, awakening hand
That made thy grateful heart expand,
And feel the high control
Of Him, the mighty Power, that moves
Amid the waters and the groves,
And through his vast creation proves
His omnipresent soul.
Or, brooding o'er some forest rill,
Fringed with the early daffodil,
And quiv'ring maiden-hair,
When thou hast mark'd the dusky bed,
With leaves and water-rust o'erspread,
That seem'd an amber light to shed
On all was shadow'd there;
And thence, as by its murmur call'd,
The current traced to where it brawl'd
Beneath the noontide ray;
And there beheld the checker'd shade
Of waves, in many a sinuous braid,
That o'er the sunny channel play'd,
With motion ever gay:
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'Twas I to these the magic gave,
That made thy heart, a willing slave,
To gentle Nature bend;
And taught thee how with tree and flower,
And whispering gale, and dropping shower,
In converse sweet to pass the hour,
As with an early friend.
That mid the noontide sunny haze,
Did in thy languid bosom raise
The raptures of the boy;
When, waked as if to second birth,
Thy soul through every pore look'd forth,
And gazed upon the beauteous Earth
With myriad eyes of joy:
That made thy heart, like HIS above,
To flow with universal love
For every living thing.
And oh! if I, with ray divine,
Thus tempering, did thy soul refine,
Then let thy gentle heart be mine,
And bless the Sylph of Spring.