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by William Cullen Bryant


A midnight black with clouds is in the sky;

I seem to feelupon my limbsthe weight

Of its vast brooding shadow. All in vain

Turns the tired eye in search of form; no star

Pierces the pitchy veil; no ruddy blaze

From dwellings lighted by the cheerful heath

Tinges the flowering summits of the grass.

No sound of life is heardno village hum

Nor measured tramp of footstep in the path

Nor rush of windwhileon the breast of Earth

I lie and listen to her mighty voice:

A voice of many tones- sent up from streams

That wander through the gloomfrom woods unseen

Swayed by the sweeping of the tides of air

From rocky chasms where darkness dwells all day

And hollows of the great invisible hills

And sands that edge the oceanstretching far

Into the night- a melancholy sound! -

O Earth! dost thou too sorrow for the past

Like man thy offspring? Do I hear thee mourn

Thy childhood's unreturning hoursthy springs

Gone with their genial airs and melodies

The gentle generations of thy flowers

And thy majestic groves of olden time

Perished with all their dwellers? Dost thou wail

For that fair age of which the poets tell

Ere yet the winds grew keen with frostor fire

Fell with the rains or spouted from the hills

To blast thy greennesswhile the virgin night

Was guiltless and salubrious as the day?

Or haply dost thou grieve for those that die-

For living things that trod thy paths awhile

The love of thee and heaven- and now thy sleep

Mixed with the shapeless dust on which thy herds

Trample and graze? I too must grieve with thee

O'er loved ones lost. Their graves are far away

Upon thy mountains; yetwhile I recline

Alonein darknesson thy naked soil

The mighty nourisher and burial-place

Of manI feel that I embrace their dust. -

Ha! how the murmur deepens! I perceive

And tremble at its dreadful import. Earth

Uplifts a general cry for guilt and wrong

And heaven is listening. The forgotten graves

Of the heart-broken utter forth their plaint.

The dust of her who loved and was betrayed

And him who died neglected in his age;

The sepulchres of those who for mankind

Laboredand earned the recompense of scorn;

Ashes of martyrs for the truthand bones

Of those whoin the strife for liberty

Were beaten downtheir corses given to dogs

Their names to infamyall find a voice.

The nook in which the captiveovertoiled

Lay down to rest at lastand that which holds

Childhood's sweet blossomscrushed by cruel hands

Send up a plaintive sound. From battle-fields

Where heroes madly drave and dashed their hosts

Against each otherrises up a noise

As if the armed multitudes of dead

Stirred in their heavy slumber. Mournful tones

Come from the green abysses of the sea-

A story of the crimes the guilty sought

To hide beneath its waves. The glensthe groves

Paths in the thicketpools of running brook

And banks and depths of lakeand streets and lanes

Of citiesnow that living sounds are hushed

Murmur of guilty force and treachery. -

Herewhere I restthe vales of Italy

Are round mepopulous from early time

And field of the tremendous warfare waged

'Twixt good and evil. Whoalas! shall dare

Interpret to man's ear the mingled voice

That comes from her old dungeons yawning now

To the black airher amphitheatres

Where the dew gathers on the mouldering stones

And fanes of banished godsand open tombs

And roofless palacesand streets and hearths

Of cities dug from their volcanic graves?

I hear a sound of many languages

The utterance of nations now no more

Driven out by mightieras the days of heaven

Chase one another from the sky. The blood

Of freemen shed by freementill strange lords

Came in their hour of weaknessand made fast

The yoke that yet is worncries out to heaven. -

What then shall cleanse thy bosomgentle Earth

From all its painful memories of guilt?

The whelming floodor the renewing fire

Or the slow change of time?- that soat last

The horrid tale of perjury and strife

Murder and spoilwhich men call history

May seem a fablelike the inventions told

By poets of the gods of Greece. O thou

Who sittest far beyond the Atlantic deep

Among the sources of thy glorious streams

My native Land of Groves! a newer page

In the great record of the world is thine;

Shall it be fairer? Fearand friendly Hope

And Envywatch the issuewhile the lines

By which thou shalt be judgedare written down. - -