Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant


ALAS! sweet cousin, how can I,
In harsh, discordant rhyme, rehearse
His sweet, sweet song, whose melody
Had charms beyond the reach of verse?
Ah! I should need his tuneful art,
His tone with more than music rife,
In fitting numbers to impart
The tale of his harmonious life.
And yet that tale how shortly told,
One feast of flowers, one ceaseless strain;
At morn to plume, at eve to fold
His wings, to feed and sleep again.
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A simple life of joyance his,
A life of song, no care had he,
Except, perchance, thy glance to miss,
And in sad silence pine for thee.
Bless'd in thy smile of sunshine given,
His pinions sought no softer sky:
Happy to find his loveliest heaven
In the blue beauty of thine eye.
And, basking in that smile so bright,
He had no wish his wings to free;
Found in its beam his full delight,
And loved his sweet captivity.
But ah! that eye, that joyous voice
No more his dreamy sleep shall break;
No more his little heart rejoice,
Nor songs of warbling welcome wake.
In vain spring woos with balmy breath,
And bears sweet music on her wings;
The fine, quick ear is dull in death,
The answering throat no longer sings.
His lonely mate has lost her cheer;
Or, if to song her bosom stir,
Fixes her tiny head to hear
The note that ne'er shall answer her.
That note which hail'd thee to the last,
And call'd thee to his cage to see
That he was happy, thus to cast
His last, last lingering look on thee.
Then, since for ever hush'd his strain,
Lay him in fitting grave to sleep,
Where spring's soft dews and summer's rain,
With gentle tears his death may weep.
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There let the first soft sunbeam fling
A fresher green o'er all the ground;
There the first lonely wild flower spring,
And shed its sweetest fragrance round.
Thither let each fond bird repair,
At music's grave its vows to pay;
Or, doom'd to die, seek refuge there,
And, swan-like, sing its soul away.