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View Diary: Books That Changed My Life--What Is Your Favorite Poem About Death? (94 comments)

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  •  Thanatopsis (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Radiowalla, P Carey, RiveroftheWest

    by: William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)

    O him who in the love of Nature holds
    Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
    A various language; for his gayer hours
    She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
    And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
    Into his darker musings, with a mild
    And healing sympathy, that steals away
    Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts
    Of the last bitter hour come like a blight
    Over thy spirit, and sad images
    Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,
    And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,
    Make thee to shudder and grow sick at heart;--
    Go forth, under the open sky, and list
    To Nature's teachings, while from all around--
    Earth and her waters, and the depths of air--
    Comes a still voice--Yet a few days, and thee
    The all-beholding sun shall see no more
    In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,
    Where thy pale form was laid with many tears,
    Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist
    Thy image. Earth, that nourish'd thee, shall claim
    Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,
    And, lost each human trace, surrendering up
    Thine individual being, shalt thou go
    To mix for ever with the elements,
    To be a brother to the insensible rock,
    And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain
    Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak
    Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould.

    Yet not to thine eternal resting-place
    Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish
    Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down
    With patriarchs of the infant world--with kings,
    The powerful of the earth--the wise, the good,
    Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,
    All in one mighty sepulchre. The hills
    Rock-ribb'd and ancient as the sun,--the vales
    Stretching in pensive quietness between;
    The venerable woods; rivers that move
    In majesty, and the complaining brooks
    That make the meadows green; and, pour'd round all,
    Old Ocean's grey and melancholy waste,--
    Are but the solemn decorations all
    Of the great tomb of man. The golden sun,
    The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,
    Are shining on the sad abodes of death,
    Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread
    The globe are but a handful to the tribes
    That slumber in its bosom.--Take the wings
    Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness,
    Or lose thyself in the continuous woods
    Where rolls the Oregon and hears no sound
    Save his own dashings--yet the dead are there:
    And millions in those solitudes, since first
    The flight of years began, have laid them down
    In their last sleep--the dead reign there alone.
    So shalt thou rest: and what if thou withdraw
    In silence from the living, and no friend
    Take note of thy departure? All that breathe
    Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh
    When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care
    Plod on, and each one as before will chase
    His favourite phantom; yet all these shall leave
    Their mirth and their employments, and shall come
    And make their bed with thee. As the long train
    Of ages glides away, the sons of men,
    The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes
    In the full strength of years, matron and maid,
    The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man--
    Shall one by one be gathered to thy side
    By those who in their turn shall follow them.

    So live, that when thy summons comes to join
    The innumerable caravan which moves
    To that mysterious realm where each shall take
    His chamber in the silent halls of death,
    Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
    Scourged by his dungeon; but, sustain'd and soothed
    By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
    Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
    About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

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