William Cullen Bryant

William Cullen Bryant was an American romantic poet, journalist, and long-time editor of the New York Evening Post.

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Poems by
William Cullen Bryant
The Death of Lincoln

Oh, slow to smite and swift to spare,

Gentle and merciful and just!

Who, in the fear of God, didst bear

The sword of power, a nation’s trust!

In sorrow by thy bier we stand,

Amid the awe that hushes all,

And speak the anguish of a land

That shook with horror at thy fall.

Thy task is done; the bond are free:

We bear thee to an honored grave,

Whose proudest monument shall be

The broken fetters of the slave.

Pure was thy life; its bloody close

Hath placed thee with the sons of light,

Among the noble host of those

Who perished in the cause of Right.

The Future Life

How shall I know thee in the sphere which keeps

The disembodied spirits of the dead,

When all of thee that time could wither sleeps

And perishes among the dust we tread?

For I shall feel the sting of ceaseless pain

If there I meet thy gentle presence not;

Nor hear the voice I love, nor read again

In thy serenest eyes the tender thought.

Will not thy own meek heart demand me there?

That heart whose fondest throbs to me were given;

My name on earth was ever in thy prayer,

And wilt thou never utter it in heaven?

In meadows fanned by heaven’s life-breathing wind,

In the resplendence of that glorious sphere,

And larger movements of the unfettered mind,

Wilt thou forget the love that joined us here?

The love that lived through all the stormy past,

And meekly with my harsher nature bore,

And deeper grew, and tenderer to the last.

Shall it expire with life, and be no more?

A happier lot than mine, and larger light,

Await thee there; for thou hast bowed thy will

In cheerful homage to the rule of right,

And lovest all, and renderest good for ill.

For me, the sordid cares in which I dwell,

Shrink and consume my heart, as heat the scroll;

And wrath has left its scar—that fire of hell

Has left its frightful scar upon my soul.

Yet though thou wear’st the glory of the sky,

Wilt thou not keep the same belovèd name,

The same fair thoughtful brow, and gentle eye,

Lovelier in heaven’s sweet climate, yet the same?

Shalt thou not teach me, in that calmer home,

The wisdom that I learned so ill in this—

The wisdom which is love—till I become

Thy fit companion in that land of bliss?