« السابقةمتابعة »
For look again on the past years;—behold,
Flown, like the night-mare's hideous shapes, away
Full many a horrible worship, that, of old,
Held, o'er the shuddering realms, unquestioned sway:
See crimes that feared not once the eye of day,
Rooted from men, without a name or place :
See nations blotted out from earth, to pay
The forfeit of deep guilt;-with glad embrace
The fair disburdened lands welcome a nobler race.
Thus error's monstrous shapes from earth are driven;
They fade, they fly—but truth survives their flight;
Earth has no shades to quench that beam of heaven;
Each ray, that shone, in early time, to light
The faltering footsteps in the path of right,
Each gleam of clearer brightness, shed to aid
In man's maturer day his bolder sight,
All blended, like the rainbow’s radiant braid,
Pour yet, and still shall pour, the blaze that cannot fade.
Late, from this western shore, that morning chased
The deep and ancient night, that threw its shroud
O'er the green land of groves, the beautiful waste,
Nurse of full streams, and lister up of proud
Sky-mingling mountains that o'erlook the cloud.
Erewhile, where yon gay spires their brightness rear,
Trees waved, and the brown hunter's shouts were loud
Amid the forest; and the bounding deer
Fled at the glancing plume, and the gaunt wolf yelled near.
And where his willing waves yon bright blue bay
Sends up, to kiss his decorated brim,
And cradles, in his soft embrace, the gay
Young group of grassy islands born of him,
And, crowding nigh, or in the distance dim,
Lifts the white throng of sails, that bear or bring
The commerce of the world;—with tawny limb,
And belt and beads in sunlight glistening,
The savage urged his skiff like wild bird on the wing.
Then, all this youthful paradise around,
And all the broad and boundless mainland, lay
Cooled by the interminable wood, that frowned
O'er mount and vale, where never summer ray
Glanced, till the strong tornado broke his way
Through the gray giants of the sylvan wild;
Yet many a sheltered glade, with blossoms gay,
Beneath the showery sky and sunshine mild,
Within the shaggy arms of that dark forest smiled.
There stood the Indian hamlet, there the lake Spread its blue sheet that flashed with many an oar, Where the brown otter plunged him from the brake, And the deer drank : as the light gale flew o'er, The twinkling maize-field rustled on the shore ; And while that spot, so wild, and lone, and fair, A look of glad and innocent beauty wore, And peace was on the earth and in the air, The warrior lit the pile, and bound his captive there :
Not unavenged—the foeman, from the wood, Beheld the deed, and when the midnight shade Was stillest, gorged his battle-axe with blood; All died—the wailing babe—the shrieking maid— And in the flood of fire that scathed the glade, The roofs went down; but deep the silence grew, When on the dewy woods the day-beam played; No more the cabin smokes rose wreathed and blue, And ever, by their lake, lay moored the light canoe.
Look now abroad—another race has filled These populous borders—wide the wood recedes, And towns shoot up, and fertile realms are tilled; The land is full of harvests and green meads; Streams numberless, that many a fountain feeds, Shine, disembowered, and give to sun and breeze Their virgin waters; the full region leads New colonies forth, that toward the western seas Spread, like a rapid flame among the autumnal trees.
Here the free spirit of mankind, at length,
Throws its last setters off; and who shall place
A limit to the giant's unchained strength,
Or curb his swiftness in the forward race 2
Far, like the comet's way through infinite space,
Stretches the long untravelled path of light
Into the depths of ages: we may trace,
Distant, the brightening glory of its flight,
Till the receding rays are lost to human sight.
Europe is given a prey to sterner fates, And writhes in shackles; strong the arms that chain To earth her struggling multitude of states; She too is strong, and might not chase in vain Against them, but shake off the vampyre train That batten on her blood, and break their net. Yes, she shall look on brighter days, and gain The meed of worthier deeds; the moment set To rescue and raise up, draws near—but is not yet.
But thou, my country, thou shalt never fall,
But with thy children—thy maternal care,
Thy lavish love, thy blessings showered on all—
These are thy fetters—seas and stormy air
Are the wide barrier of thy borders, where
Among thy gallant sons that guard thee well,
Thou laugh'st at enemies: who shall then declare
The date of thy deep-founded strength, or tell
How happy, in thy lap, the sons of men shall dwell ?”
We have already alluded to “Thanatopsis.” This poem is in a grand and majestic strain. It is a vision of death, expressed with a solemnity of thought, and a majestic harmony of language, appropriate to such a theme. Death appears in all his awfulness, but with none of his ghastly terrors. The subject is surrounded with those serious associations which it awakens in thinking minds, and the whole effect of the piece is soothing and delightful. There is doubtless, in a physical view of death, much from which humanity shrinks; much to excite a loathing in the sensitive spirit;
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod—
are images that have come up to dismay better disciplined and devouter men than Claudio. But such a view, when taken alone, belongs neither to common sense, philosophy, or religion. With a fine moral discernment, united to a just poetical taste, Bryant has glanced at this, because it belonged to his subject; but has then passed to other more essential images, which soothe the agitated soul down to a willingness to die, and join the “innumerable caravan.”—Nay, he has given the impression, if we may be allowed such language, that death is a social state, and that perpetual life, in this world of change, would be a dreary solitude to the unhappy spirit doomed to endure it. We extract the following noble passage, which is worthy to be in the memory of every lover of poetry and truth.
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 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—and the Barcan desert pierce,
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 shalt fall
Unheeded by 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 glide 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 grey-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.”
Bryant has an exquisite feeling of the daily influences of nature. He describes them with such truth and beauty, that his descriptions refresh us aster the weariness of daily toil, just like their prototypes. Thus from the stanzas “To the Evening Wind.”
“—a thousand bosoms round
Inhale thee in the fullness of delight;
And languid forms rise up, and pulses bound
Livelier, at coming of the wind of night;
And, languishing to hear thy grateful sound,
Lies the vast inland stretched beyond the sight.
Go forth, into the gathering shade ; go forth,
God's blessing breathed upon the fainting earth!
Go, rock the little wood-bird in his nest,
Curl the still waters, bright with stars, and rouse
The wide old wood from his majestic rest,
Summoning from the innumerable boughs
The strange, deep harmonies that haunt his breast;
Pleasant shall be thy way where meekly bows
The shutting flower, and darkling waters pass,
And 'twixt the o'ershadowing branches and the grass.
The faint old man shall lean his silver head
To feel thee; thou shalt kiss the child asleep,
And dry the moistened curls that overspread
His temples, while his breathing grows more deep ;
And they who stand about the sick man's bed,
Shall joy to listen to thy distant sweep,
And softly part his curtains to allow
Thy visit, grateful to his burning brow.”
Such passages need no comment.
The “Forest Hymn" is conceived in a peculiarly grave tone. As we read it, we call up the image of the venerable wood, over whose top centuries have rolled. Time and space and creative power solemnize the mind and fill it with serious but agreeable contemplations. The execution of this piece is worthy the hand of Thomson, and in some respects superior to any thing that ever came from his pen. It is superior in delicacy of expression, and refinement of moral association, to the conceptions of the Poet of the Seasons, while in vigor of thought and stately march of verse, it does not fall below his best passages. The following extract will show the truth of what we have said.