Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant



LET me gaze a while on that marble brow,
On that full dark eye, on that check's warm glow,
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Let me gaze for a moment, that, ere I die,
I may read thee, maiden, a prophecy.
That brow may beam in glory a while;
That cheek may bloom, and that lip may smile;
That full, dark eye may brightly beam
In life's gay morn, in hope's young dream;
But clouds shall darken that brow of snow,
And sorrow blight thy bosom's glow.
I know by that spirit so haughty and high,
I know by that brightly-flashing eye,
That, maiden, there's that within thy breast,
Which hath mark'd thee out for a soul unbless'd:
The strife of love with pride shall wring
Thy youthful bosom's tenderest string;
And the cup of sorrow, mingled for thee,
Shall be drained to the dregs in agony.
Yes, maiden, yes, I read in thine eye
A dark and a doubtful prophecy.
Thou shalt love, and that love shall be thy curse;
Thou wilt need no heavier, thou shalt feel no worse
I see the cloud and the tempest near;
The voice of the troubled tide I hear;
The torrent of sorrow, the sea of grief,
The rushing waves of a wretched life;
Thy bosom's bark on the surge I see,
And, maiden, thy loved one is there with thee.
Not a star in the heavens, not a light on the wave.
Maiden, I've gazed on thine early grave.
When I am cold, and the hand of Death
Hath crown'd my brow with an icy wreath;
When the dew hangs damp on this motionless lip
When this eye is closed in its long, last sleep,
Then, maiden, pause, when thy heart beats high,
And think on my last sad prophecy.
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OH! touch the chord yet once again,
Nor chide me though I weep the while;
Believe me, that deep seraph strain
Bore with it memory's moonlight smile.
It murmur'd of an absent friend;
The voice, the air, 'twas all her own;
And hers those wild, sweet notes, which blend
In one mild, murmuring, touching tone.
And days and months have darkly pass'd
Since last I listen'd to her lay;
And Sorrow's cloud its shade hath cast,
Since then, across my weary way.
Yet still the strain comes sweet and clear,
Like seraph-whispers lightly breathing;
Hush, busy Memory, Sorrow's tear
Will blight the garland thou art weaving.
'Tis sweet, though sad—yes, I will stay,
I cannot tear myself away.
I thank thee, lady, for the strain,
The tempest of my soul is still;
Then touch the chord yet once again,
For thou canst calm the storm at will.