To a Waterfowl

By William Cullen Bryant 1794–1878
          Whither, 'midst falling dew,
While glow the heavens with the last steps of day,
Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue
          Thy solitary way?

          Vainly the fowler’s eye
Might mark thy distant flight, to do thee wrong,
As, darkly seen against the crimson sky,
          Thy figure floats along.

          Seek’st thou the plashy brink
Of weedy lake, or marge of river wide,
Or where the rocking billows rise and sink
          On the chaféd ocean side?

          There is a Power, whose care
Teaches thy way along that pathless coast,—
The desert and illimitable air
          Lone wandering, but not lost.

          All day thy wings have fanned,
At that far height, the cold thin atmosphere;
Yet stoop not, weary, to the welcome land,
          Though the dark night is near.

          And soon that toil shall end,
Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest,
And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend,
          Soon, o’er thy sheltered nest.

          Thou’rt gone, the abyss of heaven
Hath swallowed up thy form, yet, on my heart
Deeply hath sunk the lesson thou hast given,
          And shall not soon depart.

          He, who, from zone to zone,
Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
In the long way that I must trace alone,
          Will lead my steps aright.


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Poet William Cullen Bryant 1794–1878

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Religion, God & the Divine

Poetic Terms Metaphor

 William Cullen Bryant

Biography

No line of his poetry survives in the consciousness of his nation, and none of his editorial pronouncements still resonates from his five decades with the New-York Evening Post, yet William Cullen Bryant stood among the most celebrated figures in the frieze of nineteenth-century America. The fame he won as a poet while in his youth remained with him as he entered his eighties; only Longfellow and Emerson were his rivals in . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, God & the Divine

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Metaphor

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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