Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant



NEVER tell me that cheek is not painted, false maid!
'Tis a fib, though your pretty lip parts while I say it;
And if the cheat were not already betray'd,
Those exquisite blushes themselves would betray it.
But listen! This morning you rose ere the dawn,
To keep an appointment, perhaps—with Apollo;
And, finding a fairy footprint on the lawn
Which I could not mistake, I determined to follow.
To the hillside I track'd it, and, tripping above me,
Her sunringlets flying and jewell'd with dew,
A maiden I saw! Now the truth, if you love me—
But why should I question—I'm sure it was you.
And you cannot deny you were met in ascending—
I, meanwhile, pursuing my truant by stealth—
By a blooming young seraph, who turn'd, and, attending
Your steps, said her name was the Spirit of Health.
Meantime, through the mist of transparent vermillion
That suddenly flooded the brow of the hill,
All fretted with gold rose Aurora's pavilion,
Illumining meadow, and mountain, and rill.
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And Health, floating up through the luminous air,
Dipp'd her fingers of snow in those clouds growing bright;
Then turn'd, and dash'd down o'er her votary fair
A handful of rose-beams that bathed her in light.
Even yet they're at play here and there in your form,
Through your fingers they steal to your white taper tips,
Now rush to that cheek its soft dimples to warm,
Now deepen the crimson that lives in your lips.
Will you tell me again, with that scorn-lighted eye,
That you do not use paint, while such tinting is there?
While the glow still affirms what the glance would deny?
No, in future disclaim the sweet theft, if you dare!