Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant



IN the tempest of life, when the wave and the gale
Are around and above, if thy footing should fail,
If thine eye should grow dim, and thy caution depart,
"Look aloft!" and be firm, and be fearless of heart.
If the friend who embraced in prosperity's glow,
With a smile for each joy and a tear for each wo,
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Should betray thee when sorrows like clouds are array'd,
"Look aloft" to the friendship which never shall fade.
Should the visions which hope spreads in light to thine eye,
Like the tints of the rainbow, but brighten to fly,
Then turn, and through tears of repentant regret,
"Look aloft" to the Sun that is never to set.
Should they who are dearest, the son of thy heart,
The wife of thy bosom in sorrow depart,
"Look aloft" from the darkness and dust of the tomb,
To that soil where affection is ever in bloom.
And oh! when death comes in his terrors, to cast
His fears on the future, his pall on the past,
In that moment of darkness, with hope in thy heart
And a smile in thine eye, "look aloft" and depart.


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.