Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE PATH, by WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT



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THE PATH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The path we planned beneath october's sky
Last Line: To bar the ways for mutual succor made!
Subject(s): Hiking; Nature


THE path we planned beneath October's sky,
Along the hillside, through the woodland shade,
Is finished; thanks to thee, whose kindly eye
Has watched me, as I plied the busy spade;
Else had I wearied, ere this path of ours
Had pierced the woodland to its inner bowers.

Yet, 'twas a pleasant toil to trace and beat,
Among the glowing trees, this winding way,
While the sweet autumn sunshine, doubly sweet,
Flushed with the ruddy foliage, round us lay,
As if some gorgeous cloud of morning stood,
In glory, mid the arches of the wood.

A path! what beauty does a path bestow
Even on the dreariest wild! its savage nooks
Seem homelike where accustomed footsteps go,
And the grim rock puts on familiar looks.
The tangled swamp, through which a pathway strays,
Becomes a garden with strange flowers and sprays.

See from the weedy earth a rivulet break
And purl along the untrodden wilderness;
There the shy cuckoo comes his thirst to slake,
There the shrill jay alights his plumes to dress;
And there the stealthy fox, when morn is gray,
Laps the clear stream and lightly moves away.

But let a path approach that fountain's brink,
And nobler forms of life, behold! are there:
Boys kneeling with protruded lips to drink,
And slender maids that homeward slowly bear
The brimming pail, and busy dames that lay
Their webs to whiten in the summer ray.

Then know we that for herd and flock are poured
Those pleasant streams that o'er the pebbles slip;
Those pure sweet waters sparkle on the board;
Those fresh cool waters wet the sick man's lip;
Those clear bright waters from the font are shed,
In dews of baptism, on the infant's head.

What different steps the rural footway trace!
The laborer afield at early day;
The schoolboy sauntering with uneven pace;
The Sunday worshipper in fresh array;
And mourner in the weeds of sorrow drest;
And, smiling to himself, the wedding guest.

There he who cons a speech and he who hums
His yet unfinished verses, musing walk.
There, with her little brood, the matron comes,
To break the spring flower from its juicy stalk;
And lovers, loitering, wonder that the moon
Has risen upon their pleasant stroll so soon.

Bewildered in vast woods, the traveller feels
His heavy heart grow lighter, if he meet
The traces of a path, and straight he kneels,
And kisses the dear print of human feet,
And thanks his God, and journeys without fear,
For now he knows the abodes of men are near.

Pursue the slenderest path across a lawn:
Lo! on the broad highway it issues forth,
And, blended with the greater track, goes on,
Over the surface of the mighty earth,
Climbs hills and crosses vales, and stretches far,
Through silent forests, toward the evening star--

And enters cities murmuring with the feet
Of multitudes, and wanders forth again,
And joins the climes of frost to climes of heat,
Binds East to West, and marries main to main,
Nor stays till at the long-resounding shore
Of the great deep, where paths are known no more.

Oh, mighty instinct, that dost thus unite
Earth's neighborhoods and tribes with friendly bands,
What guilt is theirs who, in their greed or spite,
Undo thy holy work with violent hands,
And post their squadrons, nursed in war's grim trade,
To bar the ways for mutual succor made!





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