Musings by William Cullen Bryant

I pass’d on my nightly path alone;
No friendly form was hovering near,
No friendly voice was in mine ear,
But the night wind’s wailing tone.
On the wide drear field no autumn bloom
Look’d gay, no flowret’s rich perfume
Was breathing incense o’er the pall
Of the shrouded earth: and dark and tall
And sighing to the passing breeze
Stood up the gray old trees.

I pass’d on my nightly path alone
And my weary feet trode faintly on:
I look’d around me—the desolate earth
To wan and sorrowful thoughts gave birth
And flung its own dark-woven stole
And its damp chill breathings o’er my soul
And my spirit was heavy: It is sad
To look on this beautiful earth when clad
In its robes of darkness; as it were
But one vast chamber of the dead:

A mighty mausoleum, where
Nature lay shrouded: And the tread
Of man gives out a hollow sound,
As from a tomb. I look’d around
O’er the desolate earth: there was no ray
Of gladness there: I turn’d away,
And look’d to the glorious heavens afar,
Where the stranger orb,[1] in his flaming car,
Rode on his destined way:
Like a proud and bloody conqueror,
Bearing the banner of his war,
Arrayed in his golden robes of fame,
And crown’d with a victor’s diadem.

I look’d to the lovely vestal throng
Of shining stars, and they smiled on me
With a kind and gentle sympathy—
For I have lov’d them long:
From youth to manhood I have lov’d
With each pure and bright divinity
To hold sweet commune: I have rov’d,
In boyhood’s hours of glee,
And since the sombre scarf of years
Was over me, full many a night
Beneath their canopy of light,
And felt my soul grow pure and bright
As I gaz’d on them: And yet it cheers
My spirit, when the phantom fears
Of the far future darkly rise,
Like storms in autumn’s mellow skies,
And memories of sorrow roll,
Like mountain mists, upon my soul.

I lov’d them all: each one had power
To chase the shades of my dark hour:
Each one was dear: but yet, than all
That sate within Night’s regal hall,—
As round some Sultan’s haram throne
Sit the bright dames,—more sweetly shone,
To me, my own lov’d Pleiades;
When glancing through the old elm trees,
That proudly rear’d their leafy dome
Around my boyhood’s peaceful home,
As the eyes of gentle sisters, they
Sent down their mild and tranquil ray.

When years had roll’d and on their wings
Were borne away life’s blossomings,
Their gentle smile, serene and calm,
Came o’er my heart, a healing balm.
For it brought in all the glow of truth
The hallow’d memories of youth.


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