poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

Born on November 3, 1794, William Cullen Bryant was an American nature poet and journalist. He wrote poems, essays, and articles that championed the rights of workers and immigrants. In 1829, Bryant became editor in chief of the New York Evening Post, a position he held until his death in 1878. His influence helped establish important New York civic institutions such as Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1884, New York City's Reservoir Square, at the intersection of 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue, was renamed Bryant Park in his honor.

Thanatopsis

William Cullen Bryant, 1794 - 1878
   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 nourished 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 thy 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 
Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun,—the vales 
Stretching in pensive quietness between; 
The venerable woods—rivers that move 
In majesty, and the complaining brooks 
That make the meadows green; and poured round all, 
Old ocean's grey 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—and the Barcan wilderness, 
Or lose thyself in the continuous woods 
Where rolls the Oregan, and hears no sound, 
Save his 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 favourite 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 fresh spring, and he who goes 
In the full strength of years, matron, and maid, 
The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man,—  
Shall one by one be gathered to thy side, 
By those, who in their turn shall follow them. 

   So live, that when thy summons comes to join 
The innumerable caravan, that 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.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

William Cullen Bryant

Born on November 3, 1794, William Cullen Bryant was an American nature poet and journalist. 

by this poet

poem
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,
poem
Stay yet, my friends, a moment stay— 
     Stay till the good old year, 
So long companion of our way, 
     Shakes hands, and leaves us here. 
          Oh stay, oh stay, 
One little hour, and then away.

The year, whose hopes were high and strong, 
     Has now no hopes to wake; 
Yet one hour more of jest and
poem

Stranger, if thou hast learned a truth which needs
No school of long experience, that the world
Is full of guilt and misery, and hast seen
Enough of all its sorrows, crimes, and cares,
To tire thee of it, enter this wild wood
And view the haunts of Nature. The calm shade
Shall bring a