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by William Cullen Bryant


Let me move slowly through the street,

Filled with an ever-shifting train,

Amid the sound of steps that beat

The murmuring walks like autumn rain. -

How fast the flitting figures come!

The mild, the fierce, the stony face;

Some bright with thoughtless smiles, and some

Where secret tears have left their trace. -

They pass- to toil, to strife, to rest;

To halls in which the feast is spread;

To chambers where the funeral guest

In silence sits beside the dead. -

And some to happy homes repair,

Where children, pressing cheek to cheek,

With mute caresses shall declare

The tenderness they cannot speak. -

And some, who walk in calmness here,

Shall shudder as they reach the door

Where one who made their dwelling dear,

Its flower, its light, is seen no more. -

Youth, with pale cheek and slender frame,

And dreams of greatness in thine eye!

Go'st thou to build an early name,

Or early in the task to die? -

Keen son of trade, with eager brow!

Who is now fluttering in thy snare?

Thy golden fortunes, tower they now,

Or melt the glittering spires in air? -

Who of this crowd to-night shall tread

The dance till daylight gleam again?

Who sorrow o'er the untimely dead?

Who writhe in throes of mortal pain? -

Some, famine-struck, shall think how long

The cold, dark hours, how slow the light;

And some, who flaunt amid the throng,

Shall hide in dens of shame to-night. -

Each, where his tasks or pleasures call,

They pass, and heed each other not.

There is who heeds, who holds them all,

In His large love and boundless thought. -

These struggling tides of life that seem

In wayward, aimless course to tend,

Are eddies of the mighty stream

That rolls to its appointed end. -