William Cullen Bryant

American romantic poet and journalist (1794-1878)

William Cullen Bryant (November 3, 1794June 12, 1878) was an American Romantic poet and journalist.

Weep not that the world changes—did it keep
A stable, changeless state, 'twere cause indeed to weep.


  • All things that are on earth shall wholly pass away,
    Except the love of God, which shall live and last for aye.
    • as quoted in Poems, from the Provensal Of Bernard Rascas
  • There is a day of sunny rest
    For every dark and troubled night;
    And a grief may bid, and evening guest,
    Bot joy shall come with early light
    • Blessed are they that mourn
  • Vainly the fowler's eye
    Might mark thy distant flight to do thee wrong,
    As, darkly painted on the crimson sky,
    Thy figure floats along.
  • He who, from zone to zone,
    Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
    In the long way that I must tread alone,
    Will lead my steps aright.
  • Thine eyes are springs in whose serene
    And silent waters heaven is seen;
    Their lashes are the herbs that look
    On their young figures in the brook.
  • Here the free spirit of mankind, at length,
    Throws its last fetters off; and who shall place
    A limit to the giant's unchained strength,
    Or curb his swiftness in the forward race!
  • Oh, sun! that o'er the western mountains now
    Goest down in glory! ever beautiful
    And blessed is thy radiance, whether thou
    Colourest the eastern heaven and night-mist cool,
    Till the bright day-star vanish, or on high
    Climbest and streamest thy white splendours from mid-sky.
  • The little wind-flower, whose just opened eye
    Is blue as the spring heaven it gazes at.
  • Ah, why
    Should we, in the world's riper years, neglect
    God's ancient sanctuaries, and adore
    Only among the crowd and under roofs
    That our frail hands have raised?
    • A Forest Hymn
  • They talk of short-lived pleasures—be it so—
    pain dies as quickly: stern, hard-featured pain
    Expires, and lets her weary prisoner go.
    The fiercest agonies have shortest reign;
    And after dreams of horror, comes again
    The welcome morning with its rays of peace.
  • Remorse is virtue's root; its fair increase
    Are fruits of innocence and blessedness.
    • Mutation. A Sonnet
  • Weep not that the world changes—did it keep
    A stable, changeless state, 'twere cause indeed to weep.
    • Mutation. A Sonnet
  • And the blue gentian flower, that, in the breeze,
    Nods lonely, of her beauteous race the last.
  • Loveliest of lovely things are they,
    On earth, that soonest pass away.
    The rose that lives its little hour
    Is prized beyond the sculptured flower.
  • Thou unrelenting Past!
    Strong are the barriers round thy dark domain,
    And fetters, sure and fast,
    Hold all that enter thy unbreathing reign.
  • The melancholy days are come, the saddest of the year,
    Of wailing winds, and naked woods, and meadows brown and sere.
  • The south wind searches for the flowers whose fragrance late he bore,
    And sighs to find them in the wood and by the stream no more.
  • These are the gardens of the Desert, these
    The unshorn fields, boundless and beautiful,
    For which the speech of England has no name—
    The Prairies.
  • The summer morn is bright and fresh, the birds are darting by,
    As if they loved to breast the breeze that sweeps the cool clear sky.
  • Heed not the night; a summer lodge amid the wild is mine -
    'Tis shadowed by the tulip-tree, 'tis mantled by the vine.
    • The Strange Lady, st. 6
  • When April winds
    Grew soft, the maple burst into a flush
    Of scarlet flowers. The tulip tree, high up,
    Opened in airs of June her multitude
    Of golden chalices to humming-birds
    And silken-wing'd insects of the sky.
  • Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again;
    The eternal years of God are hers;
    But Error, wounded, writhes with pain,
    And dies among his worshippers.
  • I would make
    Reason my guide, but she should sometimes sit
    Patiently by the way-side, while I traced
    The mazes of the pleasant wilderness
    Around me.
    She should be my counsellor,
    But not my tyrant. For the spirit needs
    Impulses from a deeper source than hers,
    And there are motions, in the mind of man,
    That she must look upon with awe.
    I bow
    Reverently to her dictates, but not less
    Hold to the fair illusions of old time —
    lllusions that shed brightness over life,
    And glory over nature.
    • "The Conjunction of Jupiter and Venus" in Poems (1841)
  • 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.
  • And suns grow meek, and the meek suns grow brief,
    And the year smiles as it draws near its death.
  • Glorious are the woods in their latest gold and crimson,
    Yet our full-leaved willows are in the freshest green.
    Such a kindly autumn, so mercifully dealing
    With the growths of summer, I never yet have seen.
    • The Third of November, 1861. Thirty Poems. Appleton, New York. pp. 112-115. (1864)
  • The rugged trees are mingling
    Their flowery sprays in love;
    The ivy climbs the laurel
    To clasp the boughs above.
  • Wild was the day; the wintry sea
    Moaned sadly on New England's strand,
    When first the thoughtful and the free,
    Our fathers, trod the desert land.
  • The right to discuss freely and openly, by speech, by the pen, by the press, all political questions, and to examine and animadvert upon all political institutions, is a right so clear and certain, so interwoven with our other liberties, so necessary, in fact to their existence, that without it we must fall at once into depression or anarchy. To say that he who holds unpopular opinions must hold them at the peril of his life, and that, if he expresses them in public, he has only himself to blame if they who disagree with him should rise and put him to death, is to strike at all rights, all liberties, all protection of the laws, and to justify and extenuate all crimes.
    • Editorial written in remembrance of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, Presbyterian minister, journalist, newspaper editor and abolitionist, who was murdered by a pro-slavery mob in Alton, Illinois during their attack on his warehouse to destroy his press and abolitionist materials.
    • Bryant, William Cullen (1994). "The Death of Lovejoy; November 18, 1837". in William Cullen Bryant II. Power For Sanity: Selected Editorials of William Cullen Bryant, 1829–61. Fordham University Press. p. 78. ISBN 0-8232-1543-1. Retrieved on 2012-10-15. 

Thanatopsis (1817–1821)

  • To him who in the love of Nature holds
    Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
    A various language.
    • l. 1
  • Go forth under the open sky, and list
    To Nature's teachings.
    • l. 14
  • The hills,
    Rock-ribbed, and ancient as the sun.
    • l. 37
  • Old ocean's gray and melancholy waste.
    • l. 43
  • All that tread,
    The globe are but a handful to the tribes
    That slumber in its bosom.
    • l. 48
  • 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 to his dungeon, but, sustained 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.
    • l. 73. Note: The edition of 1821 read, "The innumerable caravan that moves / To the pale realms of shade, where each shall take".

About William Cullen Bryant

  • There is something in this universe which justifies William Cullen Bryant in saying Truth crushed to earth will rise again.
    • Martin Luther King Jr., 3 Dec. 1956, as quoted in The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr: Advocate of the social gospel, p. 162
  • [Thanatopsis] was written in 1817, when Bryant was 23. Had he died then, the world would have thought it had lost a great poet. But he lived on.


  • The stormy March has come at last,
    With winds and clouds and changing skies;
    I hear the rushing of the blast
    That through the snowy valley flies.
    • March. Reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • But ’neath yon crimson tree
    Lover to listening maid might breathe his flame,
    Nor mark, within its roseate canopy,
    Her blush of maiden shame.
    • Autumn Woods. Reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)