William Cullen Bryant

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Weep not that the world changes—did it keep
A stable, changeless state, 'twere cause indeed to weep.

William Cullen Bryant (November 3, 1794 - June 12, 1878) was an American Romantic poet and journalist.


  • Vainly the fowler's eye
    Might mark thy distant flight to do thee wrong,
    As, darkly painted on the crimson sky,
    Thy figure floats along.
  • 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.
  • Thine eyes are springs in whose serene
    And silent waters heaven is seen;
    Their lashes are the herbs that look
    On their young figures in the brook.
  • Here the free spirit of mankind, at length,
    Throws its last fetters off; and who shall place
    A limit to the giant's unchained strength,
    Or curb his swiftness in the forward race!
  • Oh, sun! that o'er the western mountains now
    Goest down in glory! ever beautiful
    And blessed is thy radiance, whether thou
    Colourest the eastern heaven and night-mist cool,
    Till the bright day-star vanish, or on high
    Climbest and streamest thy white splendours from mid-sky.
  • The little wind-flower, whose just opened eye
    Is blue as the spring heaven it gazes at.
  • Ah, why
    Should we, in the world's riper years, neglect
    God's ancient sanctuaries, and adore
    Only among the crowd and under roofs
    That our frail hands have raised?
    • A Forest Hymn
  • They talk of short-lived pleasures—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.
  • Remorse is virtue's root; its fair increase
    Are fruits of innocence and blessedness.
    • Mutation. A Sonnet
  • Weep not that the world changes—did it keep
    A stable, changeless state, 'twere cause indeed to weep.
    • Mutation. A Sonnet
  • And the blue gentian flower, that, in the breeze,
    Nods lonely, of her beauteous race the last.
  • Loveliest of lovely things are they,
    On earth, that soonest pass away.
    The rose that lives its little hour
    Is prized beyond the sculptured flower.
  • Thou unrelenting Past!
    Strong are the barriers round thy dark domain,
    And fetters, sure and fast,
    Hold all that enter thy unbreathing reign.
  • The melancholy days are come, the saddest of the year,
    Of wailing winds, and naked woods, and meadows brown and sere.
  • The south wind searches for the flowers whose fragrance late he bore,
    And sighs to find them in the wood and by the stream no more.
  • These are the gardens of the Desert, these
    The unshorn fields, boundless and beautiful,
    For which the speech of England has no name—
    The Prairies.
  • The summer morn is bright and fresh, the birds are darting by,
    As if they loved to breast the breeze that sweeps the cool clear sky.
  • Heed not the night; a summer lodge amid the wild is mine -
    'Tis shadowed by the tulip-tree, 'tis mantled by the vine.
    • The Strange Lady, st. 6
  • When April winds
    Grew soft, the maple burst into a flush
    Of scarlet flowers. The tulip tree, high up,
    Opened in airs of June her multitude
    Of golden chalices to humming-birds
    And silken-wing'd insects of the sky.
  • Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again;
    The eternal years of God are hers;
    But Error, wounded, writhes with pain,
    And dies among his worshippers.
  • These struggling tides of life that seem
    In wayward, aimless course to tend,
    Are eddies of the mighty stream
    That rolls to its appointed end.
  • And suns grow meek, and the meek suns grow brief,
    And the year smiles as it draws near its death.
  • The rugged trees are mingling
    Their flowery sprays in love;
    The ivy climbs the laurel
    To clasp the boughs above.
  • Wild was the day; the wintry sea
    Moaned sadly on New England's strand,
    When first the thoughtful and the free,
    Our fathers, trod the desert land.

Thanatopsis (1817-1821)

  • To him who in the love of Nature holds
    Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
    A various language.
    • l. 1
  • Go forth under the open sky, and list
    To Nature's teachings.
    • l. 14
  • The hills,
    Rock-ribbed, and ancient as the sun.
    • l. 37
  • Old ocean's gray and melancholy waste.
    • l. 43
  • All that tread,
    The globe are but a handful to the tribes
    That slumber in its bosom.
    • l. 48
  • 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, sustained 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.
    • l. 73. Note: The edition of 1821 read, "The innumerable caravan that moves / To the pale realms of shade, where each shall take".

About William Cullen Bryant

  • [Thanatopsis] was written in 1817, when Bryant was 23. Had he died then, the world would have thought it had lost a great poet. But he lived on.


  • The stormy March has come at last,
    With winds and clouds and changing skies;
    I hear the rushing of the blast
    That through the snowy valley flies.
    • March. Reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • But ’neath yon crimson tree
    Lover to listening maid might breathe his flame,
    Nor mark, within its roseate canopy,
    Her blush of maiden shame.
    • Autumn Woods. Reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • A sculptor wields
    The chisel, and the stricken marble grows
    To beauty.
  • A world of blossoms for the bee,
    Flowers for the sick girl's silent room,
    For the glad infant sprigs of bloom,
    We plant with the apple tree.
  • Difficulty, my brethren, is the nurse of greatness - a harsh nurse, who roughly rocks her foster - children into strength and athletic proportion.
  • Eloquence is the poetry of prose.
  • Glorious are the woods in their latest gold and crimson,
    Yet our full-leaved willows are in the freshest green.
    Such a kindly autumn, so mercifully dealing
    With the growths of summer, I never yet have seen.
  • Modest and shy as a nun is she;
    One weak chirp is her only note;
    Braggarts and prince of braggarts is he,
    Pouring boasts from his little throat.
  • No trumpet-blast profound the hour in which the Prince of Peace was born; No bloody streamlet stained Earth's silver rivers on the sacred morn.
  • Pain dies quickly, and lets her weary prisoners go; the fiercest agonies have shortest reign.
  • Poetry is that art which selects and arranges the symbols of thought in such a manner as to excite the imagination the most powerfully and delightfully.
  • The daffodil is our doorside queen; she pushes upward the sword already, To spot with sunshine the early green.
  • The February sunshine steeps your boughs and tints the buds and swells the leaves within.
  • The moon is at her full, and riding high,
    Floods the calm fields with light.
    The airs that hover in the summer sky
    Are all asleep to-night.
  • There is no glory in star or blossom till looked upon by a loving eye; There is no fragrance in April breezes till breathed with joy as they wander by.
  • Truth gets well if she is run over by a locomotive, while error dies of lockjaw if she scratches her finger.
  • Where fall the tears of love the rose appears,
    And where the ground is bright with friendship's tears,
    Forget-me-not, and violets, heavenly blue,
    Spring glittering with the cheerful drops like dew.
  • Where hast thou wandered, gentle gale, to find the perfumes thou dost bring?
  • Winning isn't everything, but it beats anything in second place.

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