Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant



OH, stranger, whose repose profound
These latter ages dare to break,
And call thee from beneath the ground
Ere nature did thy slumber shake!
What wonders of the secret earth
Thy lip, too silent, might reveal!
Of tribes round whose mysterious birth
A thousand envious ages wheel!
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Thy race, by savage war o'errun,
Sunk down, their very name forgot;
But, ere those fearful times begun,
Perhaps, in this sequester'd spot,
By Friendship's hand thine eyelids closed,
By Friendship's hand the turf was laid;
And Friendship here, perhaps, reposed,
With moonlight vigils in the shade.
The stars have run their nightly round,
The sun look'd out and pass'd his way,
And many a season o'er the ground
Has trod where thou so softly lay.
And wilt thou not one moment raise
Thy weary head, a while to see
The later sports of earthly days,
How like what once enchanted thee?
Thy name, thy date, thy life declare;
Perhaps a queen, whose feathery band
A thousand maids have sigh'd to wear,
The brightest in thy beauteous land;
Perhaps a Helen, from whose eye
Love kindled up the flames of war:
Ah, me! do thus thy graces lie
A faded phantom, and no more?
Oh, not like thee would I remain,
But o'er the earth my ashes strew,
And in some rising bud regain
The freshness that my childhood knew
But has thy soul, oh maid! so long
Around this mournful relic dwelt?
Or burst away, with pinion strong,
And at the foot of Mercy knelt?
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Or has it, in some distant clime,
With curious eye, unsated, stray'd,
And, down the winding stream of time,
On every changeful current play'd?
Or, lock'd in everlasting sleep,
Must we thy heart extinct deplore,
Thy fancy lost in darkness weep,
And sigh for her who feels no more?
Or, exiled to some humbler sphere,
In yonder wood-dove dost thou dwell,
And, murmuring in the stranger's ear,
Thy tender melancholy tell?
Whoe'er thou be, thy sad remains
Shall from the Muse a tear demand,
Who, wandering on these distant plains,
Looks fondly to a distant land.