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grossness; nothing appears overstrained or feeble, deformed, misshapen, or out of place.
“To write such poetry at any time would be no trifling distinction. Mr Bryant deserves the greater praise, as he has exhibited a pure and classical standard in an age, the tendency of which is, in some respects, toward lawless fanaticism and wildness. There is a fashion in literature, as in everything else. The popular style is now the rapid, the hasty, the abrupt, and unfinished. The age is certainly not a superficial
It is distinguished beyond any former period for habits of deep, earnest thought. But one of its characteristics seems to be an impatience of restraint. It is fond of strong excitement, however produced. Whatever excites the mind into a state of fervor, whatever powerfully awakens the feelings, is listened to and applauded. It may be vague, fantastic, and shapeless, produced by a sort of extemporaneous effort, and sent abroad without the labor of revision. It will not have the less chance of becoming, for a time at least, popular. The press was never more prolific than at present. A great deal is written, and, as might be naturally supposed, much is written in haste. The mass of popular literature is swelling to an overgrown bulk; but much of it is crude, coarse, and immature. Mr Bryant has not been seduced by the temptations to slovenliness and negligence, which the age holds out to view; but, on the contrary, he affords a happy specimen of genuine, classical English. We are gratified to meet with such examples, especially among the distinguished and favored poets of our own country. It augurs well for the interests of taste and letters.
“We cannot express in too strong terms our approbation of the moral and devotional spirit, that breathes from all which Mr Bryant writes. Poetry, which is conversant with the deeper feelings of the heart, as well as the beautiful forms of outward nature, has, we conceive, certain affinities with devotion. It is connected with all our higher and holier emotions, and should send out an exalting, a healing, and sustaining influence. We are pleased to find such an influence pervading
every strain, uttered by a poet of so much richness of fancy, of so much power and sweetness, as Mr Bryant. No sentiment or expression ever drops from him, which the most rigid moralist would wish to blot. His works we may put into the hands of youth, confident, that in proportion as they become familiar with them, the best sympathies of their nature will be strengthened, and the moral taste be rendered more refined and delicate. Much of his poetry is description ; but his descriptions are fitted to instruct our piety,' and impart a warmth and glow of moral feeling."
WHEN, to the common rest that crowns our days,
Call'd in the noon of life, the good man goes,
Or full of years, and ripe in wisdom, lays
His silver temples in their last repose;
When, o'er the buds of youth, the death-wind blows,
And blights the fairest; when our bitterest tears
Stream, as the eyes of those that love us close,
We think on what they were, with many fears
Lest Goodness die with them, and leave the coming years.
And therefore, to our hearts, the days gone by,
When lived the honor'd sage whose death we wept,
And the soft virtues beam'd from many an eye,
And beat in many a heart that long has slept,--
Like spots of earth where angel-feet have stept-
Are holy; and high-dreaming bards have told
Of times when worth was crown'd, and faith was kept,
Ere friendship grew a snare, or love wax'd cold-
Those pure and happy times--the golden days of old.
Peace to the just man's memory,--let it grow
Greener with years, and blossom through the flight
Of ages; let the mimic canvas show
His calm benevolent features ; let the light
Stream on his deeds of love, that shunn'd the sight
Of all but heaven, and, in the book of fame,
The glorious record of his virtues write,
And hold it up to men, and bid them claim
A palm like his, and catch from him the hallow'd flame.
But oh, despair not of their fate who rise
To dwell upon the earth when we withdraw;
Lo! the same shaft, by which the righteous dies,
Strikes through the wretch that scoff’d at mercy's law,
And trode his brethren down, and felt no awe
Of him who will avenge them. Stainless worth,
Such as the sternest age of virtue saw,
Ripens, meanwhile, till time shall call it forth
From the low modest shade, to light and bless the earth.
Has Nature, in her calm majestic march, Falter'd with age at last? does the bright sun Grow dim in heaven? or, in their far blue arch, Sparkle the crowd of stars, when day is done, Less brightly? when the dew-lipp'd spring comes on, Breathes she with airs less soft, or scents the sky With flowers less fair than when her reign begun? Does prodigal autumn, to our age, deny The plenty that once swell'd beneath his sober eye?
Look on this beautiful world, and read the truth
In her fair page; see, every season brings
New change, to her, of everlasting youth;
Still the green soil, with joyous living things,
Swarms, the wide air is full of joyous wings,
And myriads, still, are happy in the sleep
Of ocean's azure gulfs, and where he flings
The restless surge. Eternal love doth keep
In his complacent arms, the earth, the air, the deep.
Will then the merciful One, who stamp'd our race
With his own image, and who gave them sway
O’er earth, and the glad dwellers on her face,
Now that our flourishing nations far away
Are spread, where'er the moist earth drinks the day,
Forget the ancient care that taught and nursed
His latest offspring? will he quench the ray
Infused by his own forming smile at first,
And leave a work so fair all blighted and accursed?
Oh no! a thousand cheerful omens give
Hope of yet happier days whose dawn is nigh
He, who has tamed the elements, shall not live
The slave of his own passions; he whose eye
Unwinds the eternal dances of the sky,
And in the abyss of brightness dares to span
The sun's broad circle, rising yet more high,
In God's magnificent works his will shall scan-
And love and peace shall make their paradise with man.
Sit at the feet of history—through the night
Of years the steps of virtue she shall trace,
And show the earlier ages, where her sight
Can pierce the eternal shadows o'er their face ;
When, from the genial cradle of our race,
Went forth the tribes of men, their pleasant lot
To choose, where palm-groves cool'd their dwelling place,
Or freshening rivers ran; and there forgot
The truth of heaven, and kneeld to gods that heard them not.
Then waited not the murderer for the night,
But smote his brother down in the bright day,
And he who felt the wrong, and had the might,
His own avenger, girt himself to slay ;
Beside the path the unburied carcass lay;
The shepherd, by the fountains of the glen,
Fled, while the robber swept his flock away,
And slew his babes. The sick, untended then,
Languish'd in the damp shade, and died afar from men.
But misery brought in love-in passion's strife
Man gave his heart to mercy pleading long,
And sought out gentle deeds to gladden life;
The weak, against the sons of spoil and wrong,
Banded, and watch'd their hamlets, and grew strong.
States rose, and, in the shadow of their might,
The timid rested. To the reverent throng,
Grave and time-wrinkled men, with locks all white,
Gave laws, and judged their strifes, and taught the way of
Till bolder spirits seized the rule, and nailid
On men the yoke that man should never bear,
And drove them forth to battle: Lo! unveil'd
The scene of those stern ages! What is there?
A boundless sea of blood, and the wild air
Moans with the crimson surges that intomb
Cities and banner'd armies ; forms that wear
The kingly circlet, rise, amid the gloom,
O’er the dark wave, and straight are swallow'd in its womb.
Those ages have no memory—but they left
A record in the desert-columns strown
On the waste sands, and statues fall’n and cleft,
Heap'd like a host in battle overthrown;
Vast ruins, where the mountain's ribs of stone
Were hewn into a city; streets that spread
In the dark earth, where never breath has blown
Of heaven's sweet air, nor foot of man dares tread
The long and perilous ways—the cities of the dead;
And tombs of monarchs to the clouds up-piled-
They perish'd—but the eternal tombs remain--
And the black precipice, abrupt and wild,
Pierced by long toil and hollow'd to a fane ;
Huge piers and frowning forms of gods sustain
The everlasting arches, dark and wide,
Like the night heaven when clouds are black with rain.
But idly skill was task'd, and strength was plied,
All was the work of slaves, to swell a despot's pride.
And virtue cannot dwell with slaves, nor reign
O'er those who cower to take a tyrant's yoke ;
She left the down-trod nations in disdain,
And flew to Greece, when liberty awoke,
New-born, amid those beautiful vales, and broke
Sceptre and chain with her fair youthful hands,
As the rock shivers in the thunder stroke.
And lo! in full-grown strength, an empire stands
Of leagued and rival states, the wonder of the lands.
Oh Greece! thy flourishing cities were a spoil
Unto each other; thy hard hand oppress'd
And crush'd the helpless; thou didst make thy soil
Drunk with the blood of those that loved thee best;
And thou didst drive, from thy unnatural breast,
Thy just and brave to die in distant climes;
Earth shudder'd at thy deeds, and sigh’d for rest
From thine abominations; after times
That yet shall read thy tale, will tremble at thy crimes.
Yet there was that within thee which has saved
Thy glory, and redeem'd thy blotted name;
The story of thy better deeds, engraved
On fame's unmouldering pillar, puts to shame
Our chiller virtue; the high art to tame