A Day-Dream

Author: William Cullen Bryant  | Date: 1858


A day-dream by the dark-blue deep;

Was it a dream, or something more?

I sat where Posilippo’s steep,

With its gray shelves, o’erhung the shore.

On ruined Roman walls around

The poppy flaunted, for ’twas May;

And at my feet, with gentle sound,

Broke the light billows of the bay.

I sat and watched the eternal flow

Of those smooth billows toward the shore,

While quivering lines of light below

Ran with them on the ocean-floor:

Till, from the deep, there seemed to rise

White arms upon the waves outspread,

Young faces, lit with soft blue eyes,

And smooth, round cheeks, just touched with red.

Their long, fair tresses, tinged with gold,

Lay floating on the ocean-streams,

And such their brows as bards behold-

Love-stricken bards- in morning dreams.

Then moved their coral lips; a strain

Low, sweet and sorrowful, I heard,

As if the murmurs of the main

Were shaped to syllable and word.

"The sight thou dimly dost behold,

Oh, stranger from a distant sky!

Was often, in the days of old,

Seen by the clear, believing eye.

"Then danced we on the wrinkled sand,

Sat in cool caverns by the sea,

Or wandered up the bloomy land,

To talk with shepherds on the lea.

"To us, in storms, the seaman prayed,

And where our rustic altars stood,

His little children came and laid

The fairest flowers of field and wood.

"Oh woe, a long, unending woe!

For who shall knit the ties again

That linked the sea-nymphs, long ago,

In kindly fellowship with men?

"Earth rears her flowers for us no more;

A half-remembered dream are we;

Unseen we haunt the sunny shore,

And swim, unmarked, the glassy sea.

"And we have none to love or aid,

But wander, heedless of mankind,

With shadows by the cloud-rack made,

With moaning wave and sighing wind.

"Yet sometimes, as in elder days,

We come before the painter’s eye,

Or fix the sculptor’s eager gaze,

With no profaner witness nigh.

"And then the words of men grow warm

With praise and wonder, asking where

The artist saw the perfect form

He copied forth in lines so fair."

As thus they spoke, with wavering sweep

Floated the graceful forms away;

Dimmer and dimmer, through the deep,

I saw the white arms gleam and play.

Fainter and fainter, on mine ear,

Fell the soft accents of their speech,

Till I, at last, could only hear,

The waves run murmuring up the beach.

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Chicago: William Cullen Bryant, A Day-Dream Original Sources, accessed June 24, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DZERZWQUWJ71NNZ.

MLA: Bryant, William Cullen. A Day-Dream, Original Sources. 24 Jun. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DZERZWQUWJ71NNZ.

Harvard: Bryant, WC, A Day-Dream. Original Sources, retrieved 24 June 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DZERZWQUWJ71NNZ.