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by William Cullen Bryant



Erewhile, on England's pleasant shores, our sires

Left not their churchyards unadorned with shades

Or blossoms, but indulgent to the strong

And natural dread of man's last home, the grave,

Its frost and silence- they disposed around,

To soothe the melancholy spirit that dwelt

Too sadly on life's close, the forms and hues

Of vegetable beauty. There the yew,

Green ever amid the snows of winter, told

Of immortality, and gracefully

The willow, a perpetual mourner, drooped;

And there the gadding woodbine crept about,

And there the ancient ivy. From the spot

Where the sweet maiden, in her blossoming years

Cut off, was laid with streaming eyes, and hands

That trembled as they placed her there, the rose

Sprung modest, on bowed stalk, and better spoke

Her graces, than the proudest monument.

There children set about their playmate's grave

The pansy. On the infant's little bed,

Wet at its planting with maternal tears,

Emblem of early sweetness, early death,

Nestled the lowly primrose. Childless dames,

And maids that would not raise the reddened eye-

Orphans, from whose young lids the light of joy

Fled early- silent lovers, who had given

All that they lived for to the arms of earth,

Came often, o'er the recent graves to strew

Their offerings, rue, and rosemary, and flowers. -

The pilgrim bands who passed the sea to keep

Their Sabbaths in the eye of God alone,

In his wide temple of the wilderness,

Brought not these simple customs of the heart

With them. It might be, while they laid their dead

By the vast solemn skirts of the old groves,

And the fresh virgin soil poured forth strange flowers

About their graves; and the familiar shades

Of their own native isle, and wonted blooms,

And herbs were wanting, which the pious hand

Might plant or scatter there, these gentle rites

Passed out of use. Now they are scarcely known,

And rarely in our borders may you meet

The tall larch, sighing in the burial-place,

Or willow, training low its boughs to hide

The gleaming marble. Naked rows of graves

And melancholy ranks of monuments

Are seen instead, where the coarse grass, between,

Shoots up its dull green spikes, and in the wind

Hisses, and the neglected bramble nigh,

Offers its berries to the schoolboy's hand,

In vain- they grow too near the dead. Yet here,

Nature, rebuking the neglect of man,

Plants Often, by the ancient mossy stone,

The brier-rose, and upon the broken turf

That clothes the fresher grave, the strawberry plant

Sprinkles its swell with blossoms, and lays forth

Her ruddy, pouting fruit.... - -