Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood

Author: William Cullen Bryant  | Date: 1815


Stranger, if thou hast learned a truth which needs

No school of long experience, that the world

Is full of guilt and misery, and hast seen

Enough of all its sorrows, crimes, and cares,

To tire thee of it, enter this wild wood

And view the haunts of Nature. The calm shade

Shall bring a kindred calm, and the sweet breeze

That makes the green leaves dance, shall waft a balm

To thy sick heart. Thou wilt find nothing here

Of all that pained thee in the haunts of men,

And made thee loathe thy life. The primal curse

Fell, it is true, upon the unsinning earth,

But not in vengeance. God hath yoked to guilt

Her pale tormentor, misery. Hence, these shades

Are still the abodes of gladness; the thick roof

Of green and stirring branches is alive

And musical with birds, that sing and sport

In wantonness of spirit; while below

The squirrel, with raised paws and form erect,

Chirps merrily. Throngs of insects in the shade

Try their thin wings and dance in the warm beam

That waked them into life. Even the green trees

Partake the deep contentment; as they bend

To the soft winds, the sun from the blue sky

Looks in and sheds a blessing on the scene.

Scarce less the cleft-born wild-flower seems to enjoy

Existence, than the winged plunderer

That sucks its sweets. The mossy rocks themselves

And the old and ponderous trunks of postrate trees

That lead from knoll to knoll a causey rude

Or bridge the sunken brook, and their dark roots,

With all their earth upon them, twisting high,

Breathe fixed tranquillity. The rivulet

Sends forth glad sounds, and tripping o’er its bed

Of pebbly sands, or leaping down the rocks,

Seems, with continuous laughter, to rejoice

In its own being. Softly tread the marge,

Lest from her midway perch thou scare the wren

That dips her bill in water. The cool wind,

That stirs the stream in play, shall come to thee,

Like one that loves thee nor will let thee pass

Ungreeted, and shall give its light embrace.

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Chicago: William Cullen Bryant, Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood Original Sources, accessed August 4, 2020,

MLA: Bryant, William Cullen. Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood, Original Sources. 4 Aug. 2020.

Harvard: Bryant, WC, Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood. Original Sources, retrieved 4 August 2020, from