William Cullen Bryant [More Titles by Bryant
'Twas when the earth in summer glory lay,
We bore thee to thy grave; a sudden cloud
Had shed its shower and passed, and every spray
And tender herb with pearly moisture bowed.
How laughed the fields, and how, before our door,
Danced the bright waters!--from his perch on high
The hang-bird sang his ditty o'er and o'er,
And the song-sparrow from the shrubberies nigh.
Yet was the home where thou wert lying dead
Mournfully still, save when, at times, was heard,
From room to room, some softly-moving tread,
Or murmur of some softly-uttered word.
Feared they to break thy slumber? As we threw
A look on that bright bay and glorious shore,
Our hearts were wrung with anguish, for we knew
Those sleeping eyes would look on them no more.
Autumn is here; we cull his lingering flowers
And bring them to the spot where thou art laid;
The late-born offspring of his balmier hours,
Spared by the frost, upon thy grave to fade.
The sweet calm sunshine of October, now
Warms the low spot; upon its grassy mould
The purple oak-leaf falls; the birchen bough
Drops its bright spoil like arrow-heads of gold.
And gorgeous as the morn, a tall array
Of woodland shelters the smooth fields around;
And guarded by its headlands, far away
Sail-spotted, blue and lake-like, sleeps the sound.
I gaze in sadness; it delights me not
To look on beauty which thou canst not see;
And, wert thou by my side, the dreariest spot
Were, oh, how far more beautiful to me!
In what fair region dost thou now abide?
Hath God, in the transparent deeps of space,
Through which the planets in their journey glide,
Prepared, for souls like thine, a dwelling-place?
Fields of unwithering bloom, to mortal eye
Invisible, though mortal eye were near,
Musical groves, and bright streams murmuring by,
Heard only by the spiritual ear?
Nay, let us deem that thou dost not withdraw
From the dear places where thy lot was cast,
And where thy heart, in love's most holy law,
Was schooled by all the memories of the past.
Here on this earth, where once, among mankind,
Walked God's beloved Son, thine eyes may see
Beauty to which our dimmer sense is blind
And glory that may make it heaven to thee.
May we not think that near us thou dost stand
With loving ministrations, for we know
Thy heart was never happy when thy hand
Was forced its tasks of mercy to forego!
Mayst thou not prompt, with every coming day,
The generous aim and act, and gently win
Our restless, wandering thoughts to turn away
From every treacherous path that ends in sin!
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William Cullen Bryant's poem: October, 1866