William Cullen Bryant
The Conqueror’s Grave - Poem by William Cullen Bryant
WITHIN this lowly grave a Conqueror lies,
And yet the monument proclaims it not,
Nor round the sleeper’s name hath chisel wrought
The emblems of a fame that never dies,—
Ivy and amaranth, in a graceful sheaf,
Twined with the laurel’s fair, imperial leaf.
A simple name alone,
To the great world unknown,
Is graven here, and wild-flowers, rising round,
Meek meadow-sweet and violets of the ground,
Lean lovingly against the humble stone.
Here, in the quiet earth, they laid apart
No man of iron mould and bloody hands,
Who sought to wreak upon the cowering lands
The passions that consumed his restless heart;
But one of tender spirit and delicate frame,
Gentlest, in mien and mind,
Of gentle womankind,
Timidly shrinking from the breath of blame:
One in whose eyes the smile of kindness made
Its haunts, like flowers by sunny brooks in May,
Yet, at the thought of others’ pain, a shade
Of sweeter sadness chased the smile away.
Nor deem that when the hand that moulders here
Was raised in menace, realms were chilled with fear,
And armies mustered at the sign, as when
Clouds rise on clouds before the rainy East—
Gray captains leading bands of veteran men
And fiery youths to be the vulture’s feast.
Not thus were waged the mighty wars that gave
The victory to her who fills this grave:
Alone her task was wrought,
Alone the battle fought;
Through that long strife her constant hope was stayed
On God alone, nor looked for other aid.
She met the hosts of Sorrow with a look
That altered not beneath the frown they wore,
And soon the lowering brood were tamed, and took,
Meekly, her gentle rule, and frowned no more.
Her soft hand put aside the assaults of wrath,
And calmly broke in twain
The fiery shafts of pain,
And rent the nets of passion from her path.
By that victorious hand despair was slain.
With love she vanquished hate and overcame
Evil with good, in her Great Master’s name.
Her glory is not of this shadowy state,
Glory that with the fleeting season dies;
But when she entered at the sapphire gate
What joy was radiant in celestial eyes!
How heaven’s bright depths with sounding welcomes rung,
And flowers of heaven by shining hands were flung!
And He who, long before,
Pain, scorn, and sorrow bore,
The Mighty Sufferer, with aspect sweet,
Smiled on the timid stranger from his seat;
He who returning, glorious, from the grave,
Dragged Death, disarmed, in chains, a crouching slave.
See, as I linger here, the sun grows low;
Cool airs are murmuring that the night is near.
Oh, gentle sleeper, from thy grave I go
Consoled though sad, in hope and yet in fear.
Brief is the time, I know,
The warfare scarce begun;
Yet all may win the triumphs thou hast won.
Still flows the fount whose waters strengthened thee,
The victors’ names are yet too few to fill
Heaven’s mighty roll; the glorious armory,
That ministered to thee, is open still.
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