Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant
YE mighty waters, that have join'd your forces,
Roaring and dashing with this awful sound,
Here are ye mingled; but the distant sources
Whence ye have issued, where shall they be found?
Who may retrace the ways that ye have taken,
Ye streams and drops? who separate you all,
And find the many places ye've forsaken,
To come and rush together down the fall?
Through thousand, thousand paths have ye been roaming,
In earth and air, who now each other urge
To the last point! and then, so madly foaming,
Leap down at once from this stupendous verge.
Some in the lowering cloud a while were centred,
That in the stream beheld its sable face,
And melted into tears, that, falling, enter'd
With sister waters on the sudden race.
Others, to light that beam'd upon the fountain,
Have from the vitals of the rock been freed,
In silver threads, that, shining down the mountain,
Twined off among the verdure of the mead.
And many a flower that bow'd beside the river,
In opening beauty, ere the dew was dried,
Stirr'd by the breeze, has been an early giver
Of her pure offering to the rolling tide.
Thus from the veins, through earth's dark bosom pouring,
Many have flow'd in tributary streams;
Some, in the bow that bent, the sun adoring,
Have shone in colours borrow'd from his beams.
But He who holds the ocean in the hollow
Of his strong hand can separate you all!
His searching eye the secret way will follow,
Of every drop that hurries to the fall!
We are, like you, in mighty torrents mingled,
And speeding downward to one common home;
Yet there's an eye that every drop hath singled,
And mark'd the winding ways through which we come.
Those who have here adored the Sun of heaven,
And shown the world their brightness drawn from him,
Again before him, though their hues be seven,
Shall blend their beauty, never to grow dim.