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by William Cullen Bryant


O Constellations of the early night,

That sparkled brighter as the twilight died,

And made the darkness glorious! I have seen

Your rays grow dim upon the horizon's edge,

And sink behind the mountains. I have seen

The great Orion, with his jewelled belt,

That large-limbed warrior of the skies, go down

Into the gloom. Beside him sank a crowd

Of shining ones. I look in vain to find

The group of sister-stars, which mothers love

To show their wondering babes, the gentle Seven.

Along the desert space mine eyes in vain

Seek the resplendent cressets which the Twins

Uplifted in their ever-youthful hands.

The streaming tresses of the Egyptian Queen

Spangle the heavens no more. The Virgin trails

No more her glittering garments through the blue.

Gone! all are gone! and the forsaken Night,

With all her winds, in all her dreary wastes,

Sighs that they shine upon her face no more.

Now only here and there a little star

Looks forth alone. Ah me! I know them not,

Those dim successors of the numberless host

That filled the heavenly fields, and flung to earth

Their quivering fires. And now the middle watch

Betwixt the eve and morn is past, and still

The darkness gains upon the sky, and still

It closes round my way. Shall, then, the Night

Grow starless in her later hours? Have these

No train of flaming watchers, that shall mark

Their coming and farewell? O Sons of Light!

Have ye then left me ere the dawn of day

To grope along my journey sad and faint?

Thus I complained, and from the darkness round

A voice replied- was it indeed a voice,

Or seeming accents of a waking dream

Heard by the inner ear? But thus it said:

O Traveller of the Night! thine eyes are dim

With watching; and the mists, that chill the vale

Down which thy feet are passing, hide from view

The ever-burning stars. It is thy sight

That is so dark, and not the heavens. Thine eyes,

Were they but clear, would see a fiery host

Above thee; Hercules, with flashing mace,

The Lyre with silver chords, the Swan uppoised

On gleaming wings, the Dolphin gliding on

With glistening scales, and that poetic steed,

With beamy mane, whose hoof struck out from earth

The fount of Hippocrene, and many more,

Fair clustered splendors, with whose rays the Night

Shall close her march in glory, ere she yield,

To the young Day, the great earth steeped in dew.

So spake the monitor, and I perceived

How vain were my repinings, and my thought

Went backward to the vanished years and all

The good and great who came and passed with them,

And knew that ever would the years to come

Bring with them, in their course, the good and great,

Lights of the world, though, to my clouded sight,

Their rays might seem but dim, or reach me not. - -