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Poem by William Cullen Bryant

The Constellations

O constellations of the early night, 
That sparkled brighter as the twilight died, 
And made the darkness glorious! I have seen 
Your rays grow dim upon the horizonТs edge, 
And sink behind the mountains. I have seen 
The great Orion, with his jewelled belt, 
That large-limbed warrior of the skies, go down 
Into the gloom. Beside him sank a crowd 
Of shining ones. I look in vain to find 
The group of sister-stars, which mothers love 
To show their wondering babes, the gentle Seven. 
Along the desert space mine eyes in vain 
Seek the resplendent cressets which the Twins 
Uplifted in their ever-youthful hands. 
The streaming tresses of the Egyptian Queen 
Spangle the heavens no more. The Virgin trails 
No more her glittering garments through the blue. 
Gone! all are gone! and the forsaken Night, 
With all her winds, in all her dreary wastes, 
Sighs that they shine upon her face no more. 
No only here and there a little star 
Looks forth alone. Ah me! I know them not, 
Those dim successors of the numberless host 
That filled the heavenly fields, and flung to earth 
Their guivering fires. And now the middle watch 
Betwixt the eve and morn is past, and still 
The darkness gains upon the sky, and still 
It closes round my way. Shall, then, the Night, 
Grow starless in her later hours? Have these 
No train of flaming watchers, that shall mark 
Their coming and farewell? O Sons of Light! 
Have ye then left me ere the dawn of day 
To grope along my journey sad and faint? 
Thus I complained, and from the darkness round 
A voice replied--was it indeed a voice, 
Or seeming accents of a waking dream 
Heard by the inner ear? But thus it said: 
O Traveller of the Night! thine eyes are dim 
With watching; and the mists, that chill the vale 
Down which thy feet are passing, hide from view 
The ever-burning stars. It is thy sight 
That is so dark, and not the heaens. Thine eyes, 
Were they but clear, would see a fiery host 
Above thee; Hercules, with flashing mace, 
The Lyre with silver cords, the Swan uppoised 
On gleaming wings, the Dolphin gliding on 
With glistening scales, and that poetic steed, 
With beamy mane, whose hoof struck out from earth 
The fount of Hippocrene, and many more, 
Fair clustered splendors, with whose rays the Night 
Shall close her march in glory, ere she yield, 
To the young Day, the great earth steeped in dew. 
So spake the monitor, and I perceived 
How vain were my repinings, and my thought 
Went backward to the vanished years and all 
The good and great who came and passed with them, 
And knew that ever would the years to come 
Bring with them, in their course, the good and great, 
Lights of the world, though, to my clouded sight, 
Their rays might seem but dim, or reach me not.

William Cullen Bryant

William Cullen Bryant's other poems:
  1. An Indian Story
  2. Hymn of the City
  3. The Living Lost
  4. The Death of Lincoln
  5. To a Cloud

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