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A Collection of Short Poems by William Cullen Bryant

Below you'll find a variety of shorter poems by the "poet of nature" William Cullen Bryant. This assortment of shorter poems, hymns and sonnets includes, "The Centennial Hymn," "Consumption," "The Death of Channing," "The Death of Lincoln," "Earth's Children Cleave to Earth," "Except the Lord Build the House," "The Freeman's Hymn," "How Amiable Are Thy Tabernacles," "I Broke the Spell That Held Me Long," "Innocent Child and Snow-white Flower," "The Journey of Life," "The Lord Giveth Wisdom," "The Massacre at Scio," "Midsummer," "Mutation," "No Man knoweth his Sepulchre," "November," "October," "The Pastor's Return," Song: "Soon as the glazed and gleaming snow," Song: "These Prairies Glow with Flowers," "The Stream of Life," "Thou, God, Seest Me," "Thy Word Is Truth," "To Cole, the Painter, Departing for Europe," "To Death," "The Truth Shall Make You Free," "Upon the Mountain's Distant Head," "William Tell," and others.

The various eBooks, short stories and poems we offer are presented free of charge with absolutely no advertising as a public service from Internet Accuracy Project. To see all available titles by other authors, drop by our index of free books alphabetized by author or arranged alphabetically by title.

Visit these other poems by William Cullen Bryant
"The African Chief"
"The Ages"
"Among the Trees"
"Catterskill Falls"
"The Cloud on the Way"
"The Death of Slavery"
"The Embargo"
"A Forest Hymn"
"The Fountain"
"Hymn to Death"
"A Legend of the Delawares"
"A Meditation on Rhode Island Coal"

"The Night Journey of a River"
"The Old Man's Counsel"
"The Planting of the Apple-Tree"
"The Prairies"
"A Rain-Dream"
"The Rats and Mice"
"The Rivulet"
"The Song of the Sower"
"To a Mosquito"
"The Two Graves"
"A Winter Piece"

Potential uses for the free books, stories and prose we offer
* Rediscovering an old favorite book, poem or story.
* Bibliophiles expanding their collection of public domain eBooks at no cost.
* Teachers trying to locate a free online copy of a classic poem or short story for use in the classroom.

NOTE: We try to present these classic poetic works as they originally appeared in print. As such, they sometimes contain adult themes, offensive language, typographical errors, and often utilize unconventional, older, obsolete or intentionally incorrect spelling and/or punctuation conventions.

"The Centennial Hymn" by William Cullen Bryant


by William Cullen Bryant

Through calm and storm the years have led
Our nation on, from stage to stage--
A century's space--until we tread
The threshold of another age.

We see where o'er our pathway swept
A torrent-stream of blood and fire,
And thank the Guardian Power who kept
Our sacred League of States entire.

Oh, chequered train of years, farewell!
With all thy strifes and hopes and fears!
Yet with us let thy memories dwell,
To warn and teach the coming years.

And thou, the new-beginning age,
Warned by the past, and not in vain,
Write on a fairer, whiter page,
The record of thy happier reign.

"Consumption" by William Cullen Bryant


by William Cullen Bryant

Ay, thou art for the grave; thy glances shine
Too brightly to shine long; another Spring
Shall deck her for men's eyes--but not for thine--
Sealed in a sleep which knows no wakening.
The fields for thee have no medicinal leaf,
And the vexed ore no mineral of power;
And they who love thee wait in anxious grief
Till the slow plague shall bring the fatal hour.
Glide softly to thy rest then; Death should come
Gently, to one of gentle mould like thee,
As light winds wandering through groves of bloom
Detach the delicate blossom from the tree.
Close thy sweet eyes, calmly, and without pain;
And we will trust in God to see thee yet again.

"The Death of Channing" by William Cullen Bryant


by William Cullen Bryant

While yet the harvest-fields are white,
And few the toiling reapers stand,
Called from his task before the night,
We miss the mightiest of the band.

O thou of strong and gentle mind,
Thy thrilling voice shall plead no more
For Truth, for Freedom, and Mankind--
The lesson of thy life is o'er.

But thou in brightness, far above
The fairest dream of human thought,
Before the seat of Power and Love,
Art with the Truth that thou hast sought.

"The Death of Lincoln" by William Cullen Bryant


by William Cullen Bryant

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.

"Earth's Children Cleave to Earth"


by William Cullen Bryant

Earth's children cleave to Earth--her frail
Decaying children dread decay.
Yon wreath of mist that leaves the vale,
And lessens in the morning ray--
Look, how, by mountain rivulet,
It lingers as it upward creeps,
And clings to fern and copsewood set
Along the green and dewy steeps:
Clings to the flowery kalmia, clings
To precipices fringed with grass,
Dark maples where the wood-thrush sings,
And bowers of fragrant sassafras.
Yet all in vain--it passes still
From hold to hold, it cannot stay,
And in the very beams that fill
The world with glory, wastes away,
Till, parting from the mountain's brow,
It vanishes from human eye,
And that which sprung of earth is now
A portion of the glorious sky.

"Except the Lord Build the House"


by William Cullen Bryant

Ancient of Days! except thou deign
Upon the finished task to smile,
The workman's hand hath toiled in vain,
To hew the rock and rear the pile.

Oh, let thy peace, the peace that tames
The wayward heart, inhabit here,
That quenches passion's fiercest flames,
And thaws the deadly frost of fear.

And send thy love, the love that bears
Meekly with hate, and scorn, and wrong,
And loads itself with generous cares,
And toils, and hopes, and watches long.

Here may bold tongues thy truth proclaim,
Unmingled with the dreams of men,
As from His holy lips it came
Who died for us and rose again.

"The Freeman's Hymn"


by William Cullen Bryant

In eastern lands a servile race
May bow to thrones and diadems;
And hide in dust the abject face,
Before the glare of gold and gems.

For us, we kneel to One alone;
And freemen worship only Him
Before the brightness of whose throne
The proudest pomps of earth are dim.

And therefore to his children here
This bright and blooming land He gave,
Where famine never blasts the year,
Nor plagues, nor earthquakes glut the grave;

A land where all the gifts unite
That Heaven bestows to make life sweet;
A land of peace, a land of light,
A land where truth and mercy meet.

"His Mother Kept All These Sayings in Her Heart"


by William Cullen Bryant

As o'er the cradle of her Son
The blessed Mary hung,
And chanted to the Anointed One
The psalms that David sung,

What joy her bosom must have known,
As, with a sweet surprise,
She marked the boundless love that shone
Within his infant eyes.

But deeper was her joy to hear,
Even in his ripening youth,
And treasure up, from year to year,
His words of grace and truth.

Oh, may we keep his words like her
In all their life and power,
And to the law of love refer
The acts of every hour.

"How Amiable Are Thy Tabernacles!"

by William Cullen Bryant

Thou, whose unmeasured temple stands,
Built over earth and sea,
Accept the walls that human hands
Have raised, O God! to thee.

And let the Comforter and Friend,
Thy Holy Spirit, meet
With those who here in worship bend
Before thy mercy seat.

May they who err be guided here
To find the better way,
And they who mourn and they who fear
Be strengthened as they pray.

May faith grow firm, and love grow warm,
And hallowed wishes rise,
While round these peaceful walls the storm
Of earth-born passion dies.

"I Broke the Spell That Held Me Long"

by William Cullen Bryant

I broke the spell that held me long,
The dear, dear witchery of song.
I said, the poet's idle lore
Shall waste my prime of years no more,
For Poetry, though heavenly born,
Consorts with poverty and scorn.

I broke the spell--nor deemed its power
Could fetter me another hour.
Ah, thoughtless! how could I forget
Its causes were around me yet?
For wheresoe'er I looked, the while,
Was Nature's everlasting smile.

Still came and lingered on my sight
Of flowers and streams the bloom and light,
And glory of the stars and sun;--
And these and poetry are one.
They, ere the world had held me long,
Recalled me to the love of song.

"I Will Send Them Prophets and Apostles"

by William Cullen Bryant

All that in this wide world we see,
Almighty Father! speaks of Thee;
And in the darkness, or the day,
Thy monitors surround our way.

The fearful storms that sweep the sky,
The maladies by which we die,
The pangs that make the guilty groan,
Are angels from thy awful throne.

Each mercy sent when sorrows lower,
Each blessing of the winged hour,
All we enjoy, and all we love,
Bring with them lessons from above.

Nor thus content, thy gracious hand,
From midst the children of the land,
Hath raised, to stand before our race,
Thy living messengers of grace.

We thank thee that so clear a ray
Shines on thy straight, thy chosen way,
And pray that passion, sloth, or pride,
May never lure our steps aside.

"In Memory of William Leggett"

by William Cullen Bryant

The earth may ring, from shore to shore,
With echoes of a glorious name,
But he, whose loss our tears deplore,
Has left behind him more than fame.

For when the death-frost came to lie
On Leggett's warm and mighty heart,
And quench his bold and friendly eye,
His spirit did not all depart.

The words of fire that from his pen
Were flung upon the fervid page,
Still move, still shake the hearts of men,
Amid a cold and coward age.

His love of truth, too warm, too strong
For Hope or Fear to chain or chill,
His hate of tyranny and wrong,
Burn in the breasts he kindled still.

"Innocent Child and Snow-White Flower"

by William Cullen Bryant

Innocent child and snow-white flower!
Well are ye paired in your opening hour.
Thus should the pure and the lovely meet,
Stainless with stainless, and sweet with sweet.

White as those leaves, just blown apart,
Are the folds of thy own young heart;
Guilty passion and cankering care
Never have left their traces there.

Artless one! though thou gazest now
O'er the white blossom with earnest brow,
Soon will it tire thy childish eye;
Fair as it is, thou wilt throw it by.

Throw it aside in thy weary hour,
Throw to the ground the fair white flower;
Yet, as thy tender years depart,
Keep that white and innocent heart.

"The Journey of Life" by William Cullen Bryant

by William Cullen Bryant

Beneath the waning moon I walk at night,
And muse on human life--for all around
Are dim uncertain shapes that cheat the sight,
And pitfalls lurk in shade along the ground,
And broken gleams of brightness, here and there,
Glance through, and leave unwarmed the death-like air.

The trampled earth returns a sound of fear--
A hollow sound, as if I walked on tombs;
And lights, that tell of cheerful homes, appear
Far off, and die like hope amid the glooms.
A mournful wind across the landscape flies,
And the wide atmosphere is full of sighs.

And I, with faltering footsteps, journey on,
Watching the stars that roll the hours away,
Till the faint light that guides me now is gone,
And, like another life, the glorious day
Shall open o'er me from the empyreal height,
With warmth, and certainty, and boundless light.

"The Lord Giveth Wisdom" by William Cullen Bryant

by William Cullen Bryant

Mighty One, before whose face
Wisdom had her glorious seat,
When the orbs that people space
Sprang to birth beneath thy feet!

Source of Truth, whose beams alone
Light the mighty world of mind!
God of Love, who, from thy throne,
Watchest over all mankind!

Shed on those who, in Thy name,
Teach the way of Truth and Right,
Shed that Love's undying flame,
Shed that Wisdom's guiding light.

"The Massacre at Scio" by William Cullen Bryant

by William Cullen Bryant

Weep not for Scio's children slain;
Their blood, by Turkish falchions shed,
Sends not its cry to Heaven in vain
For vengeance on the murderer's head.

Though high the warm red torrent ran
Between the flames that lit the sky,
Yet, for each drop, an armed man
Shall rise, to free the land, or die.

And for each corpse, that in the sea
Was thrown, to feast the scaly herds,
A hundred of the foe shall be
A banquet for the mountain birds.

Stern rites and sad, shall Greece ordain
To keep that day, along her shore,
Till the last link of slavery's chain
Is shattered, to be worn no more.

"Midsummer" by William Cullen Bryant

by William Cullen Bryant

A power is on the earth and in the air,
From which the vital spirit shrinks afraid,
And shelters him, in nooks of deepest shade,
From the hot steam and from the fiery glare.
Look forth upon the earth--her thousand plants
Are smitten; even the dark sun-loving maize
Faints in the field beneath the torrid blaze;
The herd beside the shaded fountain pants;
For life is driven from all the landscape brown;
The bird has sought his tree, the snake his den,
The trout floats dead in the hot stream, and men
Drop by the sun-stroke in the populous town;
As if the Day of Fire had dawned, and sent
Its deadly breath into the firmament.

"Mutation" by William Cullen Bryant

by William Cullen Bryant

They talk of short-lived pleasure--be it so--
Pain dies as quickly: stern, hard-featured pain
Expires, and lets her weary prisoner go.
The fiercest agonies have shortest reign;
And after dreams of horror, comes again
The welcome morning with its rays of peace.
Oblivion, softly wiping out the stain,
Makes the strong secret pangs of shame to cease:
Remorse is virtue's root; its fair increase
Are fruits of innocence and blessedness:
Thus joy, o'erborne and bound, doth still release
His young limbs from the chains that round him press.
Weep not that the world changes--did it keep
A stable, changeless state, 'twere cause indeed to weep.

"No Man Knoweth His Sepulchre"

by William Cullen Bryant

When he, who, from the scourge of wrong,
Aroused the Hebrew tribes to fly,
Saw the fair region, promised long,
And bowed him on the hills to die;

God made his grave, to men unknown,
Where Moab's rocks a vale infold,
And laid the aged seer alone
To slumber while the world grows old.

Thus still, whene'er the good and just
Close the dim eye on life and pain,
Heaven watches o'er their sleeping dust
Till the pure spirit comes again.

Though nameless, trampled, and forgot,
His servant's humble ashes lie,
Yet God has marked and sealed the spot,
To call its inmate to the sky.

"November" by William Cullen Bryant

by William Cullen Bryant

Yet one smile more, departing, distant sun!
One mellow smile through the soft vapory air,
Ere, o'er the frozen earth, the loud winds run,
Or snows are sifted o'er the meadows bare.
One smile on the brown hills and naked trees,
And the dark rocks whose summer wreaths are cast,
And the blue gentian-flower, that, in the breeze,
Nods lonely, of her beauteous race the last.
Yet a few sunny days, in which the bee
Shall murmur by the hedge that skirts the way,
The cricket chirp upon the russet lea,
And man delight to linger in thy ray.
Yet one rich smile, and we will try to bear
The piercing winter frost, and winds, and darkened air.

"October" by William Cullen Bryant

by William Cullen Bryant

Ay, thou art welcome, heaven's delicious breath!
When woods begin to wear the crimson leaf,
And suns grow meek, and the meek suns grow brief,
And the year smiles as it draws near its death.
Wind of the sunny south! oh, still delay
In the gay woods and in the golden air,
Like to a good old age released from care,
Journeying, in long serenity, away.
In such a bright, late quiet, would that I
Might wear out life like thee, mid bowers and brooks,
And, dearer yet, the sunshine of kind looks,
And music of kind voices ever nigh;
And when my last sand twinkled in the glass,
Pass silently from men, as thou dost pass.

"The Pastor's Return" by William Cullen Bryant

by William Cullen Bryant

From ancient realms, from many a seat
Of art and power beyond the sea;
From fields o'er which the blessed feet
Of Jesus walked in Galilee;

From snow-capped peak and glorious vale,
That listen to the cataract's voice,
Led by the hand of God, we hail,
Once more, the pastor of our choice.

The reaper takes his place again,
Where the white harvest skirts the way,
With sinews strengthened to sustain
The heat and burden of the day.

And while our hearts, with one accord,
Welcome him to his cherished home;
As Thou hast blessed his wanderings, Lord,
Oh, bless his labors yet to come!

"Proclaim Liberty throughout the Land"

by William Cullen Bryant

Go forth, O Word of Christ! go forth,
O Truth of God supremely strong!
To banish, from the groaning earth,
All forms of tyranny and wrong.

For where the Word of Christ prevails
To touch a nation's mighty heart,
The oppressor's pride before it quails,
The links of bondage fall apart.

When the pure faith by Jesus taught
Its conquering course on earth began,
Where'er the blessed news was brought
The fettered slave stood up a man.

Still may thy heralds, Lord, proclaim
The gracious message published then,
And teach the world, in Jesus' name,
How love makes free the sons of men.

"Receive Thy Sight" by William Cullen Bryant

by William Cullen Bryant

When the blind suppliant in the way,
By friendly hands to Jesus led,
Prayed to behold the light of day,
"Receive thy sight," the Saviour said.

At once he saw the pleasant rays
That lit the glorious firmament;
And, with firm step and words of praise,
He followed where the Master went.

Look down in pity, Lord, we pray,
On eyes oppressed by moral night,
And touch the darkened lids and say
The gracious words, "Receive thy sight."

Then, in clear daylight, shall we see
Where walked the sinless Son of God;
And, aided by new strength from Thee,
Press onward in the path He trod.

Song: "Soon as the glazed and gleaming snow"

by William Cullen Bryant

Soon as the glazed and gleaming snow
Reflects the day-dawn cold and clear,
The hunter of the West must go
In depth of woods to seek the deer.

His rifle on his shoulder placed,
His stores of death arranged with skill,
His moccasins and snow-shoes laced--
Why lingers he beside the hill?

Far, in the dim and doubtful light,
Where woody slopes a valley leave,
He sees what none but lover might,
The dwelling of his Genevieve.

And oft he turns his truant eye,
And pauses oft, and lingers near;
But when he marks the reddening sky,
He bounds away to hunt the deer.

Song: "These Prairies Glow with Flowers"

by William Cullen Bryant

These prairies glow with flowers,
These groves are tall and fair,
The sweet lay of the mocking-bird
Rings in the morning air;
And yet I pine to see
My native hill once more,
And hear the sparrow's friendly chirp
Beside its cottage-door.

And he, for whom I left
My native hill and brook,
Alas, I sometimes think I trace
A coldness in his look!
If I have lost his love,
I know my heart will break;
And haply, they I left for him
Will sorrow for my sake.

"The Stream of Life" by William Cullen Bryant

by William Cullen Bryant

Oh silvery streamlet of the fields,
That flowest full and free,
For thee the rains of spring return,
The summer dews for thee;
And when thy latest blossoms die
In autumn's chilly showers,
The winter fountains gush for thee,
Till May brings back the flowers.

Oh Stream of Life! the violet springs
But once beside thy bed;
But one brief summer, on thy path,
The dews of heaven are shed.
Thy parent fountains shrink away,
And close their crystal veins,
And where thy glittering current flowed
The dust alone remains.

"This Do in Remembrance of Me"

by William Cullen Bryant

All praise to Him of Nazareth,
The Holy One who came,
For love of man, to die a death
Of agony and shame.

Dark was the grave; but since he lay
Within its dreary cell,
The beams of heaven's eternal day
Upon its threshold dwell.

He grasped the iron veil, he drew
Its gloomy folds aside,
And opened, to his followers' view,
The glorious world they hide.

In tender memory of his grave
The mystic bread we take,
And muse upon the life he gave
So freely for our sake.

A boundless love he bore mankind;
Oh, may at least a part
Of that strong love descend and find
A place in every heart.

"Thou, God, Seest Me" by William Cullen Bryant

by William Cullen Bryant

When this song of praise shall cease,
Let thy children, Lord, depart
With the blessing of thy peace
And thy love in every heart.

Oh, where'er our path may lie,
Father, let us not forget
That we walk beneath thine eye,
That thy care upholds us yet.

Blind are we, and weak, and frail;
Be thine aid forever near;
May the fear to sin prevail
Over every other fear.

"Thy Word Is Truth" by William Cullen Bryant

by William Cullen Bryant

O thou, whose Love can ne'er forget
Its offspring, Great Eternal Mind!
We thank thee that thy truth is yet
A sojourner among mankind;

A light before whose brightness fall
The feet arrayed to tread it down,
A voice whose strong and solemn call
The cry of nations cannot drown.

Thy servants, at this sacred hour,
With humble prayer thy throne surround,
That here, in glory and in power,
That light may shine, that voice may sound;

Till Error's shades shall flee away,
And Faith, descending from above,
Amid the pure and perfect day,
Shall bring her fairer sister Love.

"To Cole, the Painter, Departing for Europe"

by William Cullen Bryant

Thine eyes shall see the light of distant skies;
Yet, Cole! thy heart shall bear to Europe's strand
A living image of our own bright land,
Such as upon thy glorious canvas lies;
Lone lakes--savannas where the bison roves--
Rocks rich with summer garlands--solemn streams--
Skies, where the desert eagle wheels and screams--
Spring bloom and autumn blaze of boundless groves.
Fair scenes shall greet thee where thou goest--fair,
But different--everywhere the trace of men,
Paths, homes, graves, ruins, from the lowest glen
To where life shrinks from the fierce Alpine air,
Gaze on them, till the tears shall dim thy sight,
But keep that earlier, wilder image bright.

"To Death" by William Cullen Bryant

by William Cullen Bryant


Oh, thou whom the world dreadeth! Art thou nigh,
To thy pale kingdom, Death, to summon me?
While life's scarce-tasted cup yet charms my eye,
And yet my youthful blood is dancing free
And fair in prospect smiles futurity.
Go, to the crazed with care thy quiet bring;
Go to the galley-slave who pines for thee;
Go to the wretch whom throes of torture wring,
And they will bless thy hand, that plucks the fiery sting.

I from thine icy touch with horror shrink,
That leads me to the place where all must lie;
And bitter is my misery to think
That in the springtime of my being, I
Must leave this pleasant land, and this fair sky;
All this hath charmed me from my feeble birth;
The friends I love, and every gentle tie;
All that disposed to thought, or waked to mirth;
And lay me darkly down, and mix with the dull earth.

"The Truth Shall Make You Free"

by William Cullen Bryant

Lord, from whose glorious presence came
The truth that made our fathers free,
And kindled in their hearts the flame
Of love to man and love to thee.

Bow the great heavens, thy throne of light,
And fill these walls, as once, of yore,
Thy spirit rested in its might
Upon the ark that Israel bore.

Here, let thy love be strong to draw
Our wavering hearts to do thy will,
And hush them with the holy awe
That makes the rebel passions still.

And while thy children, frail and blind,
Here bend in humble prayer to thee,
Oh, shed abroad, on every mind,
The truth that made our fathers free.

"Upon the Mountain's Distant Head"

by William Cullen Bryant

Upon the mountain's distant head,
With trackless snows forever white,
Where all is still, and cold, and dead,
Late shines the day's departing light.

But far below those icy rocks,
The vales, in summer bloom arrayed,
Woods full of birds, and fields of flocks,
Are dim with mist and dark with shade.

'Tis thus, from warm and kindly hearts,
And eyes where generous meanings burn,
Earliest the light of life departs,
But lingers with the cold and stern.

"Whatsoever He Sayeth Unto You, Do It"

by William Cullen Bryant

"Whate'er he bids, observe and do;"
Such were the words that Mary said,
What time the Holy One and True
Sat where the marriage feast was spread.

Then, at his word, the servants sought
The streams from Cana's fountains poured,
And lo! the crystal water brought
Was ruddy wine upon the board.

Whate'er he bids observe and do;
Such be the law that we obey,
And greater wonders men shall view
Than that of Cana's bridal day.

The flinty heart with love shall beat,
The chains shall fall from passion's slave,
The proud shall sit at Jesus' feet
And learn the truths that bless and save.

"William Tell" by William Cullen Bryant

by William Cullen Bryant

Chains may subdue the feeble spirit, but thee,
Tell, of the iron heart! they could not tame!
For thou wert of the mountains; they proclaim
The everlasting creed of liberty.
That creed is written on the untrampled snow,
Thundered by torrents which no power can hold,
Save that of God, when He sends forth His cold,
And breathed by winds that through the free heaven blow.
Thou, while thy prison walls were dark around,
Didst meditate the lesson Nature taught,
And to thy brief captivity was brought
A vision of thy Switzerland unbound.
The bitter cup they mingled, strengthened thee
For the great work to set thy country free.

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