William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)
A power is on the earth and in the air
From which the vital spirit shrinks afraid,
And shelters him, in nooks of deepest shade,
From the hot steam and from the fiery glare.
Look forth upon the earth--her thousand plants
Are smitten; even the dark sun-loving maize
Faints in the field beneath the torrid blaze;
The herd beside the shaded fountain pants;
For life is driven from all the landscape brown;
The bird has sought his tree, the snake his den,
The trout floats dead in the hot stream, and men
Drop by the sun-stroke in the populous town;
As if the Day of Fire had dawned, and sent
Its deadly breath into the firmament.
Aye, thou art welcome, heaven's delicious breath!
When woods begin to wear the crimson leaf,
And sons grow meek, and the meek suns grow brief,
And the year smiles as it draws near its death.
Wind of the sunny south! oh, still delay
In the gay woods and in the golden air,
Like to a good old age released from care,
Journeying, in long serenity, away.
In such a bright, late quiet, would that I
Might wear out life like thee, 'mid bowers and brooks,
And dearer yet, the sunshine of kind looks,
And music of kind voices ever nigh;
And when my last sand twinkled in the glass,
Pass silently from men, as thou dost pass.
Yet one smile more, departing, distant sun!
One mellow smile through the soft vapory air,
Ere, o'er the frozen earth, the loud winds run,
Or snows are sifted o'er the meadows bare.
One smile on the brown hills and naked trees,
And the dark rocks whose summer wreaths are cast,
And the blue gentian-flower, that, in the breeze,
Nods lonely, of her beauteous race the last.
Yet a few sunny days, in which the bee
Shall murmur by the hedge that skirts the way,
The cricket chirp upon the russet lea,
And man delight to linger in thy ray.
Yet one rich smile, and we will try to bear
The piercing winter frost, and winds, and darkened air.
To an American Painter Departing for Europe
Thine eyes shall see the light of distant skies:
Yet, Cole! thy heart shall bear to Europe's strand
A living image of thy native land,
Such as on thy own glorious canvass lies.
Lone lakes--savannahs where the bison roves--
Rocks rich with summer garlands--solemn streams--
Skies, where the desert eagle wheels and screams--
Spring bloom and autumn blaze of boundless groves
Fair scenes shall greet thee where thou goest--fair,
But different--every where the trace of men,
Paths, homes, graves, ruins, from the lowest glen
To where life shrinks from the fierce Alpine air.
Gaze on them, till the tears shall dim thy sight,
But keep that earlier, wilder image bright.
They talk of short-lived pleasure--be it so--
Pain dies as quickly: stern, hard-featured pain
Expires, and lets her weary prisoner go.
The fiercest agonies have shortest reign;
And after dreams of horror, comes again
The welcome morning with its rays of peace.
Oblivion, softly wiping out the stain,
Makes the strong secret pangs of shame to cease:
Remorse is virtue's root; its fair increase
Are fruits of innocence and blessedness:
Thus joy, o'erborne and bound, doth still release
His young limbs from the chains that round him press.
Weep not that the world changes--did it keep
A stable, changeless state, 'twere cause indeed to weep.
Chains may subdue the feeble spirit, but thee,
Tell, of the iron heart! they coiuld not tame!
For thou wert of the mountains; they proclaim
The everlasting creed of liberty--
That creed is written on the untrampled snow,
Thundered by torrents which no power can hold,
Save that of God, when He sends forth His cold,
And breathed by winds that through the free heaven blow.
Thou, while thy prison-walls were dark around,
Didst meditate the lesson Nature taught,
And to thy brief captivity was brought
A vision of thy Switzerland unbound.
The bitter cup they mingled, strengthened thee
For the great work to set thy country free.