previous next


1 [271]

Fling wide the golden shower; we trust
The strength of armies to the dust.

The grain shall ripen for the warrior. Then he goes on: “O fling it wide, for all the race: for peaceful workers on sea and land, for the wedding feast, for the various unfortunate, for the communion, for Orient and Southland” --and we live, as we read, wise in the basic fact of agriculture and wise in the activities of humankind. The precise idea is handled more lightly in The planting of the Apple Tree. Often the “survey” the word is convenient-starts from some on-moving phenomenon in nature-again an immediate fact-and proceeds by compassing that phenomenon's whence or whither, what it has experienced or what it will do: let one re-read his tale of The River, by what haunts it flows (like, but how unlike, Tennyson's brook); The unknown way, the spots it passes (becoming a path symbolic of the mystery of life); The sea, what it does under God (like and unlike Byron's apostrophe); The winds, what they do on sea and land; A Rain-Dream, imaging the waters of the globe. Sometimes the phenomenon is static and calls his imagination to penetrate its secret history, or what changes it has seen about it, as when he looks at the fountain1 or is among the trees.2 Sometimes the vision rides upon or stands beside no force in Nature, but is his own direct report, as in Fifty years, on the changes in individual lives, in history, in inventions, especially in these States, since his class graduated at Williams. “Broad surveys” of human affairs and of the face of earth, so dull, routine, bombastic as far as attempted in Thomson's Liberty, in Blair's Grave, in White's Time, become in Bryant's less pretentious poems the essential triumph of a unique imagination. The mode remained a favourite to the end: large as in The flood of years, intimate and tender in A Lifetime. No American poet, except Whitman, had an imagination at all like Bryant's, or, indeed, except Whitman and Emerson, as great as Bryant's.

No reminder should be needed that Bryant, like Thoreau and Burroughs, was a naturalist with wide and accurate knowledge. He knew the way of the mist on river and mountain-crest, all tints of sunset, the rising and the setting of the

2 Poems, p. 185.

3 Ibid., p. 321.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
I. Bryant (4)
Elizabeth Whitman (2)
Roger Williams (1)
Kirke White (1)
Thoreau (1)
Charles Thomson (1)
Tennyson (1)
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1)
Byron (1)
Edward Burroughs (1)
James Blair (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: