Page images


BY WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT. Ay, this is freedom !--these pure skies

Were never stain'd with village smoke: The fragrant wind, that through them flies,

Is breathed from wastes by plough unbroke. Here, with my rifle and my steed,

And her who left the world for me, I plant me, where the red deer feed

In the green desert-and am free. For here the fair savannas know

No barriers in the bloomy grass ; Wherever breeze of heaven may blow,

Or beam of heaven may glance, I pass,
In pastures, measureless as air,

The bison is my noble game;
The bounding elk, whose antlers tear

The branches, falls before my aim.
Mine are the river-fowl that scream

From the long stripe of waving sedge; The bear, that marks my weapon's gleam,

Hides vainly in the forest's edge; In vain the she-wolf stands at bay;

The brinded catamount, that lies High in the boughs to watch his prey,

Even in the act of springing, dies.

With what free growth the elm and plane

Fling their huge arms across my way, Gray, old, and cumber'd with a train

Of vines, as huge, and old, and gray! Free stray the lucid streams, and find

No taint in these fresh lawns and shades ; Free spring the flowers that scent the wind

Where never scythe has swept the glades. Alone the fire, when frostwinds sere

The heavy herbage of the ground, Gathers his annual harvest here,

With roaring like the battle's sound, And hurrying flames that sweep the plain,

And smoke-streams gushing up the sky: I meet the flames with flames again,

And at my door they cower and die. Here, from dim woods, the aged past

Speaks solemnly; and I behold
The boundless future in the vast

And lonely river, seaward roll'd.
Who feeds its founts with rain and dew?

Who moves, I ask, its gliding mass,
And trains the bordering vines, whose blue,

Bright clusters tempt me as I pass ? Broad are these streams-my steed obeys, Plunges, and bears me through the tide. Wide are these woods—I thread the maze

Of giant stems, nor ask a guide.

I hunt, till day's last glimmer dies

O'er woody vale and grassy height; And kind the voice, and glad the eyes

That welcome my return at night.



Like an enfranchised bird, that wildly springs,

With a keen sparkle in his glancing eye, And a strong effort in his quivering wings,

Up to the blue vault of the happy sky,So my enamour'd heart, so long thine own,

At length from Love's imprisonment set free, Goes forth into the open world alone,

Glad and exulting in its liberty:
But like that helpless bird (confined so long,

His weary wings have lost all power to soar),
Who soon forgets to trill his joyous song,
And, feebly Auttering, sinks to earth once

more, So from its former bonds released in vain, My heart still feels the weight of that remember'd





The land for me! the land for me!
Where every living soul is free!
Where winter may come, where storms may rave
But the tyrant dare not bring his slave.

I should hate to dwell in a summer land
Where flowers spring up on every hand;
IV here the breeze is glad, the heavens are fair,
Put the taint of blood is every where.

I saw a peasant sit at his door,
When his weekly toil in the fields was o'er ;
He sat on the bench his grandsires made,
He sat in his father's walnut shade.

'Twas the golden hour of an April morn;
Lightly the lark sprang from the corn;
The blossoming trees shone purely white,
Quiver'd the young leaves in the light.

The sabbath bells, with a holy glee,
Were ringing o'er woodland, heath, and lea:
'Twas a season whose living influence ran
Through air, through earth, and the heart of man.


No feeble joy was that peasant's lot,
As his children gamboll'd before his cot,
And archly mimick'd the toils and cares
Which coming life shall make truly theirs.

But their mother, with breakfast call, anon
Came forth, and their merry masque was gone ;-
'Twas a beautiful sight, as, meekly still,
They sat in their joy on the cottage sill.

The sire look'd on them,-he look'd to the

skies ;-
I saw how his heart spake in his eyes;
Lightly he rose, and lightly he trod,
To pour out his soul in the house of God.

And is that the man, thou vaunting knave!
Thou hast dared to compare with the weeping

Away! find one slave in the world to cope
With him, in his heart, his home and hope !

He is not on thy lands of sin and pain-
Sear'd, scarr'd with the lash, cramp'd with the

chain :
In thy burning clime where the heart is cold,
And man, like the beast, is bought and sold !

He is not in the East, in his gorgeous halls,
Where the servile crowd before him falls,

« PreviousContinue »