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1821

THE AGES

by William Cullen Bryant

THE AGES -

I When to the common rest that crowns our days

Called in the noon of lifethe good man goes

Or full of yearsand ripe in wisdomlays

His silver temples in their last repose;

Wheno'er the buds of youththe death-wind blows

And blights the fairest; when our bitter tears

Streamas the eyes of those that love us close

We think on what they werewith many fears

Lest goodness die with them; and leave the coming years. -

II And thereforeto our heartsthe days gone by

When lived the honored sage whose death we wept

And the soft virtues beamed from many an eye

And beat in many a heart that long has slept-

Like spots of earth where angel-feet have stepped

Are holy; and high-dreaming bards have told

Of times when worth was crownedand faith was kept

Ere friendship grew a snareor love waxed cold-

Those pure and happy times- the golden days of old. -

III Peace to the just man's memory; let it grow

Greener with yearsand blossom through the flight

Of ages; let the mimic canvas show

His calm benevolent features; let the light

Stream on his deeds of lovethat shunned the sight

Of all but heavenand in the book of fame

The glorious record of his virtues write

And hold it up to menand bid them claim

A palm like hisand catch from him the hallowed flame. -

IV But ohdespair not of their fate who rise

To dwell upon the earth when we withdraw!

Lo! the same shaft by which the righteous dies

Strikes through the wretch that scoffed at mercy's law

And trode his brethren downand felt no awe

Of Him who will avenge them. Stainless worth

Such as the sternest age of virtue saw

Ripensmeanwhiletill time shall call it forth

From the low modest shadeto light and bless the earth. -

V Has Naturein her calmmajestic march

Faltered with age at last? does the bright sun

Grow dim in heaven? orin their far blue arch

Sparkle the crowd of starswhen day is done

Less brightly? when the dew-lipped Spring comes on

Breathes she with airs less softor scents the sky

With flowers less fair than when her reign begun?

Does prodigal Autumnto our agedeny

The plenty that once swelled beneath his sober eye? -

VI Look on this beautiful worldand read the truth

In her fair page; seeevery season brings

New changeto herof everlasting youth;

Still the green soilwith joyous living things

Swarmsthe wide air is full of joyous wings

And myriadsstillare happy in the sleep

Of ocean's azure gulfsand where he flings

The restless surge. Eternal Love doth keep

In his complacent armsthe earththe airthe deep. -

VII Will then the merciful Onewho stamped our race

With his own imageand who gave them sway

O'er earthand the glad dwellers on her face

Now that our swarming nations far away

Are spreadwhere'er the moist earth drinks the day

Forget the ancient care that taught and nursed

His latest offspring? will he quench the ray

Infused by his own forming smile at first

And leave a work so fair all blighted and accursed? -

VIII Ohno! a thousand cheerful omens give

Hope of yet happier dayswhose dawn is nigh.

He who has tamed the elementsshall not live

The slave of his own passions; he whose eye

Unwinds the eternal dances of the sky

And in the abyss of brightness dares to span

The sun's broad circlerising yet more high

In God's magnificent works his will shall scan-

And love and peace shall make their paradise with man. -

IX Sit at the feet of History- through the night

Of years the steps of virtue she shall trace

And show the earlier ageswhere her sight

Can pierce the eternal shadows o'er their face;-

Whenfrom the genial cradle of our race

Went forth the tribes of mentheir pleasant lot

To choosewhere palm-groves cooled their dwelling-place

Or freshening rivers ran; and there forgot

The truth of heavenand kneeled to gods that heard them not. -

X Then waited not the murderer for the night

But smote his brother down in the bright day

And he who felt the wrongand had the might

His own avengergirt himself to slay;

Beside the path the unburied carcass lay;

The shepherdby the fountains of the glen

Fledwhile the robber swept his flock away

And slew his babes. The sickuntended then

Languished in the damp shadeand died afar from men. -




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