The Centennial of William Cullen Bryant's Birth

The Centennial of William Cullen Bryant's Birth  (1894) 
by Julia Ward Howe

Celebrated at Cummington, Mass., November 3, 1894.

The age its latest decade shows,
The wondrous century nears its close,
Revealing in its fateful span,
Unwonted ways of good to man.

Imprisoned vapor speeds its course,
Flies, quick with life, th' electric force,
Nature's dæmonic mysteries
Are angels now that win and please.

Above the wild industrial din,
The race an hundred goals to win,
The gathered wealth, the rifled mine,
Still sounds the poet's song divine;

And Skill that marshals myriad hands
For manhood's task in many lands,
Attunes her anvil by the lyre,
And forges with Promethean fire.

O master of imperial lays,
Crowned in the fullness of thy days,
One heart that owns thy gracious spell
Thy revere mien remembers well.

For mine it was, ere fell the snow
Upon this head of long ago,
My modest wreath to intertwine
With richer offerings at thy shrine.

A guest upon that day of days,[1]
How leapt my heart to hymn thy praise!
Yea, from that hour my spirit wore
A high content unknown before.

The past engulfs these echoes fond;
Thou and thy mates have passed beyond,
And that fair festival appears
Dim through the vista of long years.

But love still keeps his watch below,
When fades from sight the sunset glow,
And at the challenge of thy name
Stirs in each heart the loyal flame.

Still battling on the field of life,
We break from the unequal strife,
From task or pastime hasten all
As at a vanished leader's call.

Within the shadow of thy tent
We read again thy testament,
Review the treasure which thy art
Bequeathed t' enrich thy country's heart.

No gift whose precious bloom can fade,
No holocaust on false shrine laid,
A legacy of good untold,
August as oracles of old,
The winged words that cannot die,
The world-transcending prophecy.

  1. The celebration of Mr. Bryant's sixtieth birthday by the Century Club of New York.

This work was published before January 1, 1927, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.