Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant


I DREAM'D and 'twas a lovely, blessed dream,
That I again my native hills had found,
The mossy rocks, the valley, and the stream
That used to hold me captive to its sound.
I was a child again: I roam'd anew
About my early haunts, and saw the whole
That fades, with waking memory, from the view
Of this mysterious thing we call the soul.
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A very child, again beside the brook,
I made my puny hand a cup to dip
Among the sparkling waters, where I took
Its hollow full and brought it to my lip.
And oh! that cooling draught I still can taste,
And feel it in the spirit and the flesh:
'Tis like a fount, that in the desert waste
Leaps out, the weary pilgrim to refresh.
The spice of other days was borne along,
From shrub and forest, on the balmy breeze;
I heard my warbling wild-bird's tender song
Come sweet and thrilling through the rustling trees.
All was restored, as in the sunny day
When I believed my little rural ground
The centre of the world, whose limits lay
Just where the bright horizon hemm'd it round.
And she—who was my sister then, but now
What she may be the pure immortals know,
Who round the throne of the Eternal bow,
And bathe in glory, veil'd from all below—
Yes, she was there; who, with her riper years,
Once walk'd, the guardian of my infant feet;
Drew from my hand the thorn, wiped off my tears,
And brought fresh flowers to deck our grassy seat.
I saw her cheek with life's warm current flush'd;
Clung to the fingers that I used to hold;
Heard the loved voice that is for ever hush'd,
And felt the form that long ago was cold.
All I have been and known, in all the years
Since I was sporting in that cherish'd spot,
My hopes, my joys, my wishes, and my tears,
As only dreamings, were alike forgot.
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'Twas this that made my dream so bless'd and bright,
And me the careless thing that I was then:
Yet, Time, I would not now reverse thy flight,
And risk the running of my race again.
The fairest joys that struck their roots in earth,
I would not rear again to bloom and fade!
I've had them once in their ideal worth;
Their height I've measured, and their substance weigh'd.
Nor those who sleep in peace would I awake,
To have their hearts with time's delusions fill'd;
The seal that God has set I would not break,
Nor call the voice to lips that he has still'd.
And yet I love my dream: 'twas very sweet
To be among my native hills again;
Where my light heart was borne by infant feet,
The careless, blissful creature I was then!
Whene'er I think of it, the warm tears roll,
Uncall'd and unforbidden, down my cheek
But not for joy or sorrow. Oh, my soul,
Thy nature, power, or purpose, who can speak?