Author: William Cullen Bryant  | Date: 1864


Oh Life! I breathe thee in the breeze,

I feel thee bounding in my veins,

I see thee in these stretching trees,

These flowers, this still rock’s mossy stains.

This stream of odors flowing by

From clover-field and clumps of pine,

This music, thrilling all the sky,

From all the morning birds, are thine.

Thou fill’st with joy this little one,

That leaps and shouts beside me here,

Where Isar’s clay-white rivulets run

Through the dark woods like frighted deer.

Ah! must thy mighty breath, that wakes

Insect and bird, and flower and tree,

From the low-trodden dust, and makes

Their daily gladness, pass from me-

Pass, pulse by pulse, till o’er the ground

These limbs, now strong, shall creep with pain,

And this fair world of sight and sound

Seem fading into night again?

The things, oh Life! thou quickenest, all

Strive upward toward the broad bright sky,

Upward and outward, and they fall

Back to earth’s bosom when they die.

All that have borne the touch of death,

All that shall live, lie mingled there,

Beneath that veil of bloom and breath,

That living zone ’twixt earth and air.

There lies my chamber dark and still

The atoms trampled by my feet

There wait, to take the place I fill

In the sweet air and sunshine sweet.

Well, I have had my turn, have been

Raised from the darkness of the clod,

And for a glorious moment seen

The brightness of the skirts of God;

And knew the light within my breast,

Though wavering oftentimes and dim,

The power, the will, that never rest,

And cannot die, were all from him.

Dear child! I know that thou wilt grieve

To see me taken from thy love,

Wilt seek my grave at Sabbath eve

And weep, and scatter flowers above.

Thy little heart will soon be healed,

And being shall be bliss, till thou

To younger forms of life must yield

The place thou fill’st with beauty now.

When we descend to dust again,

Where will the final dwelling be

Of thought and all its memories then,

My love for thee, and thine for me?

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Chicago: William Cullen Bryant, Life Original Sources, accessed June 24, 2024,

MLA: Bryant, William Cullen. Life, Original Sources. 24 Jun. 2024.

Harvard: Bryant, WC, Life. Original Sources, retrieved 24 June 2024, from