To William Cullen Bryant: On His Seventieth Birthday. November 3, 1864

CALM priest of Nature, her maternal hand
Led thee, a reverent child,
To mountain-altars, by the lonely strand,
And through the forest wild.
Haunting her temple, filled with love and awe,
To thy responsive youth
The harmonies of her benignant law
Revealed consoling truth.
Thenceforth, when toiling in the grasp of Care
Amid the eager throng,
A votive seer, her greetings thou didst bear,
Her oracles prolong.
The vagrant winds and the far heaving main
Breathed in thy chastened rhyme,
Their latent music to the soul again,
Above the din of time.
The seasons, at thy call, renewed the spell
That thrilled our better years,
The primal wonder o’er our spirits fell,
And woke the fount of tears.
And Faith’s monition, like an organ’s strain,
Followed the sea-bird’s flight,
The river’s bounteous flow, the ripening grain,
And stars’ unfathomed light.
In the dank woods and where the meadows gleam,
The lowliest flower that smiled
To wisdom’s vigil or to fancy’s dream
Thy gentle thought beguiled.
They win fond glances in the prairie’s sweep,
And where the moss-clumps lie,
A welcome find when through the mould they creep,
A requiem when they die.
Unstained thy song with passion’s fitful hues
Or pleasure’s reckless breath,
For Nature’s beauty to thy virgin muse
Was solemnized by death.
O’er life’s majestic realm and dread repose,
Entranced with holy calm,
From the rapt soul of boyhood then uprose
The memorable psalm.
And roaming lone beneath the woodland shades,
Thy meditative prayer
In the umbrageous aisles and choral glades
We murmur unaware;
Or track the ages with prophetie cheer,
Lured by thy chant sublime,
Till bigotry and kingcraft disappear
In Freedom’s chosen clime, —
While on her ramparts with intrepid mien,
O’er faction’s angry sea,
Thy voice proclaims, undaunted and serene,
The watchwords of the free.
Not in vague tones or tricks of verbal art
The plaint and pæan rung :
Thine the clear utterance of an earnest heart,
The limpid Saxon tongue.
Our country’s minstrel! in whose crystal verse
With tranquil joy we trace
Her native glories, and the tale rehearse
Of her primeval race, —
Blest are thy laurels, that unchallenged crown
Worn brow and silver hair,
For truth and manhood consecrate renown,
And her pure triumph share !