The Unknown Way

Author: William Cullen Bryant  | Date: 1845


A burning sky is o’er me,

The sands beneath me glow,

As onward, onward, wearily,

In the sultry morn I go.

From the dusty path there opens,

Eastward, an unknown way;

Above its windings, pleasantly,

The woodland branches play.

A silvery brook comes stealing

From the shadow of its trees,

Where slender herbs of the forest stoop

Before the entering breeze.

Along those pleasant windings

I would my journey lay,

Where the shade is cool and the dew of night

Is not yet dried away.

Path of the flowery woodland!

Oh whither dost thou lead,

Wandering by grassy orchard-grounds,

Or by the open mead?

Goest thou by nestling cottage?

Goest thou by stately hall,

Where the broad elm droops, a leafy dome,

And woodbines flaunt on the wall?

By steeps where children gather

Flowers of the yet fresh year?

By lonely walks where lovers stray

Till the tender stars appear?

Or haply dost thou linger

On barren plains and bare,

Or clamber the bald mountain-side

Into the thinner air?-

Where they who journey upward.

Walk in a weary track,

And oft upon the shady vale

With longing eyes look back?

I hear a solemn murmur

And, listening to the sound,

I know the voice of the mighty Sea,

Beating his pebbly bound.

Dost thou, oh path of the woodland!

End where those waters roar,

Like human life, on a trackless beach,

With a boundless Sea before?

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Chicago: William Cullen Bryant, The Unknown Way Original Sources, accessed June 24, 2024,

MLA: Bryant, William Cullen. The Unknown Way, Original Sources. 24 Jun. 2024.

Harvard: Bryant, WC, The Unknown Way. Original Sources, retrieved 24 June 2024, from