The White-Footed Deer

Author: William Cullen Bryant  | Date: 1844


It was a hundred years ago,

When, by the woodland ways,

The traveller saw the wild-deer drink,

Or crop the birchen sprays.

Beneath a hill, whose rocky side

O’erbrowed a grassy mead,

And fenced a cottage from the wind,

A deer was wont to feed.

She only came when on the cliffs

The evening moonlight lay,

And no man knew the secret haunts

In which she walked by day.

White were her feet, her forehead showed

A spot of silvery white,

That seemed to glimmer like a star

In autumn’s hazy night.

And here, when sang the whippoorwill,

She cropped the sprouting leaves,

And here her rustling steps were heard

On still October eves.

But when the broad midsummer moon

Rose o’er that grassy lawn,

Beside the silver-footed deer

There grazed a spotted fawn.

The cottage dame forbade her son

To aim the rifle here;

"It were a sin," she said, "to harm

Or fright that friendly deer.

"This spot has been my pleasant home

Ten peaceful years and more;

And ever, when the moonlight shines,

She feeds before our door.

"The red-men say that here she walked

A thousand moons ago;

They never raise the war-whoop here,

And never twang the bow.

"I love to watch her as she feeds,

And think that all is well

While such a gentle creature haunts

The place in which we dwell."

The youth obeyed, and sought for game

In forests far away,

Where, deep in silence and in moss,

The ancient woodland lay.

But once, in autumn’s golden time

He ranged the wild in vain,

Nor roused the pheasant nor the deer,

And wandered home again.

The crescent moon and crimson eve

Shone with a mingling light;

The deer, upon the grassy mead,

Was feeding full in sight.

He raised the rifle to his eye,

And from the cliffs around

A sudden echo, shrill and sharp,

Gave back its deadly sound.

Away, into the neighboring wood,

The startled creature flew,

And crimson drops at morning lay

Amid the glimmering dew.

Next evening shone the waxing moon

As brightly as before;

The deer upon the grassy mead

Was seen again no more.

But ere that crescent moon was old,

By night the red-men came,

And burnt the cottage to the ground,

And slew the youth and dame.

Now woods have overgrown the mead,

And hid the cliffs from sight;

There shrieks the hovering hawk at noon,

And prowls the fox at night.

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Chicago: William Cullen Bryant, The White-Footed Deer Original Sources, accessed June 24, 2024,

MLA: Bryant, William Cullen. The White-Footed Deer, Original Sources. 24 Jun. 2024.

Harvard: Bryant, WC, The White-Footed Deer. Original Sources, retrieved 24 June 2024, from