Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant
DEATH OF THE FIRSTBORN.
"Ah! welaway! most angel-like of face,
A childe, young in his pure innocence,
Tender of limbes, God wrote, full guilteless,
The goodly faire that lieth here speecheless.
A mouth he has, but words hath he none;
Cannot complain, alas! for none outrage,
Nor grutcheth not, but lies here, all alone,
Still as a lambe, most meke of his visage:
What hearte of stele could do to him damage,
Or suffer him die, beholding the manere,
And looke benigne of his tweine eyen clere?"
YOUNG mother, he is gone!
His dimpled cheek no more will touch thy breast;
No more the music-tone
Float from his lips, to thine all fondly press'd;
His smile and happy laugh are lost to thee:
Earth must his mother and his pillow be.
His was the morning hour;
And he hath pass'd in beauty from the day,
A bud, not yet a flower,
Torn, in its sweetness, from the parent spray:
The death-wind swept him to his soft repose,
As frost, in springtime, blights the early rose.
Never on earth again
Will his rich accents charm thy listening ear,
Like some Æolian strain,
Breathing at eventide serene and clear;Page 298
His voice is choked in dust, and on his eyes
The unbroken seal of peace and silence lies.
And from thy yearning heart,
Whose inmost core was warm with love for him,
A gladness must depart,
And those kind eyes with many tears be dim;
While lonely memories, an unceasing train,
Will turn the raptures of the past to pain.
Yet, mourner! while the day
Rolls like the darkness of a funeral by,
And Hope forbids one ray
To stream athwart the grief-discolour'd sky;
There breaks upon thy sorrow's evening gloom,
A trembling lustre from beyond the tomb.
'Tis from the Better Land!
There, bathed in radiance that around them springs
Thy loved one's wings expand;
As with the choiring cherubim he sings,
And all the glory of that God can see,
Who said, on earth, to children, "Come to me."