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To him who, in the love of Nature, holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language : for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
Into his darker musings with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts
of the last bitter hour come like a blight
Over thy spirit, and sad images
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,
Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart ;-
Go forth, under the open sky, and list
To Nature's teachings, while from all around-
Earth and her waters, and the depths of air-
Comes a still voice. ---Yet a few days, and thee
The all-beholding sun shall see no more
In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,
Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears,
Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist
Thy image. Earth, that nourish'd thee, shall claim
Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again ;
And, lost each human trace, surrendering up
Thine individual being, shalt thou go
To mix forever with the elements,
To be a brother to the insensible rock
And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain
Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak
Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould.
Yet not to thine eternal resting-place
Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish
Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down
With patriarchs of the infant world, —with kings,
The powerful of the earth,—the wise, the good,
Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,
All in one mighty sepulchre. The hills
They have consecrated to many minds things which before it was painful to contemplate. Who can say that his feelings and fears respecting death have not received an insensible change since reading the Thanatopeis! Indeed, we think that Bryant's poems are valuable not only for their intrinsic excellence, but for the vast influence their wide circulation is calculated to exercise on national feelings and manners. It is impossible to read them without being morally benefited: they purify as well as please; they develop or encourago all the elevated and thoughtful tendencies of the mind. In the jar and bustle of our American life, more favorable to quickness and acuteness of mind than to meditation, it is well that we have a poet who can bring the hues and odors of nature into the crowded mart, and, by ennobling thoughts of man and his destiny, induce the most worldly to give their eyes an occasional glance upward, and the most selfish to feel that the love of God and man is better than the love of mammon.'
An elegant edition of Mr. Bryant's poems, arranged by himself, and richly illustrated, has just been published by Appleton & Co.
Rock-ribb'd and ancient as the sun,-the vales
Stretching in pensive quietness between;
The venerable woods,--rivers tha
In majesty, and the complaining brooks
That make the meadows green; and, pour'd round all,
Old ocean's gray and melancholy waste,-
Are but the solemn decorations all
Of the great tomb of man. The golden sun,
The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,
Are shining on the sad abodes of death,
Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread
The globe are but a handful to the tribes
That slumber in its bosom. Take the wings
Of morning, traverse Barca's desert sands,
Or lose thyself in the continuous woods
Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound
Save its own dashings,-yet-the dead are there,
And millions in those solitudes, since first
The flight of years began, have laid them down
In their last sleep,—the dead reign there alone.
So shalt thou rest; and what if thou withdraw
In silence from the living, and no friend
Take note of thy departure? All that breathe
Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh
When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care
Plod on, and each one, as before, will chase
His favorite phantom; yet all these shall leave
Their mirth and their employments, and shall come
And make their bed with thee. As the long train
Of ages glides away, the sons of men-
The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes
In the full strength of years, matron and maid,
And the sweet babe, and the gray-headed man-
Shall, one by one, be gather'd to thy side,
By those who in their turn shall follow them.
So live that, when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious realm where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon; but, sustain'd and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.
Whither, ’midst falling dew,
While glow the heavens with the last steps of day,
Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue
Thy solitary way?
Vainly the fowler's eye
Night mark thy distant flight to do thee wrong,
As, darkly limn'd upon the crimson sky,
Thy figure floats along.
Seek'st thou the plashy brink
Of weedy lake, or marge of river wide,
Or where the rocking billows rise and sirk
On the chafed ocean side ?
There is a Power whose care
Teaches thy way along that pathless coast, -
The desert and illimitable air,
Lone wandering, but not lost.
All day thy wings have fann'd,
At that far height, the cold, thin atmosphere,
Yet stoop not, weary, to the welcome land,
Though the dark night is near.
And soon that toil shall end; Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest, And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend,
Soon, o'er thy shelter'd nest.
Thou’rt gone; the abyss of heaven
Hath swallow'd up thy form; yet on my heart
Deeply hath sunk the lesson thou hast given,
And shall not soon depart.
He who, from zone to zone, Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight, In the long way that I must tread alone,
Will lead my steps aright.
Within this lowly grave a conqueror lies ;
And yet the monument proclaims it not,
Nor round the sleeper's name hath chisel wrought The emblems of a fame that never dies,Ivy and amaranth in a graceful sheaf Twined with the laurel's fair, imperial leaf.
A simple name alone,
To the great world unknown,
Is graven here, and wild flowers rising round,
Meek meadow-sweet and violets of the ground,
Lean lovingly against the humble stone.
Here, in the quiet earth, they laid apart
No man of iron mould and bloody hands,
Who sought to wreak upon the cowering lands
The passions that consumed his restless heart;
But one of tender spirit and delicate frame,
Gentlest in mien and mind
Of gentle womankind,
Timidly shrinking from the breath of blame;
One in whose eyes the smile of kindness made
Its haunt, like flowers by sunny brooks in May;
Yet at the thought of others' pain, a shade
Of sweeter sadness chased the smile away.
Nor deem that when the hand that moulders here
Was raised in menace, realms were chill’d with fear,
And armies muster'd at the sign as when
Clouds rise on clouds before the rainy east, –
Gray captains leading bands of veteran men
And fiery youths to be the vultures' feast.
Not thus were waged the mighty wars that gave
The victory to her who fills this grave;
Alone her task was wrought;
Alone the battle fought;
Through that long strife her constant hope was stay'd
On God alone, nor look'd for other aid.
She met the hosts of sorrow with a look
That alter'd not beneath the frown they wore;
And soon the lowering brood were tamed, and took
Meekly her gentle rule, and frown'd no more. Her soft hand put aside the assaults of wrath,
And calmly broke in twain
The fiery shafts of pain,
And rent the nets of passion from her path.
By that victorious hand despair was slain.
With love she vanquish d hate, and overcame
Evil with good in her Great Master's name.
Her glory is not of this shadowy state,
Glory that with the fleeting season dies; But when she enter'd at the sapphire gate,
What joy was radiant in celestial eyes ! How heaven's bright depths with sounding welcomes rung, And flowers of heaven by shining hands were flung!
And He who, long before,
Pain, scorn, and sorrow bore,
The mighty Sufferer, with aspect sweet,
Smiled on the timid stranger from his seat;
He who, returning glorious from the grave,
Dragg'd Death, disarm’d, in chains, a crouching slave.
See, as I linger here, the sun grows low;
Cool airs are murmuring that the night is near.
O gentle sleeper, from thy grave I go
Consoled, though sad, in hope, and yet in fear.
Brief is the time, I know,
The warfare scarce begun;
Yet all may win the triumphs thou hast won;
Still flows the fount whose waters strengihend thee.
The victors' names are yet too few to fill
Heaven's mighty roll; the glorious armory
That minister'd to thee is open'd still.
Thou unrelenting Past!
Strong are the barriers round thy dark domain,
And fetters, sure and fast,
Hold a!l that enter thy unbreathing reign.
Far in thy realm withdrawn
Old empires sit in sullenness and gloom,
And glorious ages gone
Lie deep within the shadow of thy womb.
Childhood, with all its mirth,
Youth, Manhood, Age that draws us to the ground,
And, last, Man's Life on earth,
Glide to thy dim dominions, and are bound.
Thou hast my better years,
Thou hast my earlier friends—the good—the kind,
Yielded to thee with tears,— The venerable form--the exalted mind.
My spirit yearns to bring
The lost ones back ;-yearns with desire intense,
And struggles hard to wring
Thy bolts apart, and pluck thy captives thence.
In vain :—thy gates deny
All passage save to those who hence depart;
Nor to the streaming eye
Thou giv'st them back,—nor to the broken heart.
In thy abysses hide
Beauty and excellence unknown:-to thee
Earth's wonder and her pride
Are gather'd, as the waters to the sea;
Labors of good to man, Unpublish'd charity, unbroken faith,
Love, that midst grief began, And grew
with years, and falter'd not in death.
Full many a mighty name
Lurks thy depths, unutter'd, unrevered;
With thee are silent fame,
Forgotten arts, and wisdom disappear'd.
Thine for a space are they :--
Yet shalt thou yield thy treasures up at last;
Thy gates shall yet give way,
Thy bolts shall fall, inexorable Past!
All that of good and fair
Has gone into thy womb from earliest time,
Shall then come forth, to wear
The glory and the beauty of its prime.
They have not perish’d-no!
Kind words, remember d voices once so sweet,
Smiles, radiant long ago,
And features, the great soul's apparent seat,
All shall come back; each tie
Of pure affection shall be knit again;
Alone shall Evil die,
And Sorrow dwell a prisoner in thy reign.