The Life That Is

Author: William Cullen Bryant  | Date: 1857


Thou, who so long hast pressed the couch of pain,

Oh welcome, welcome back to life’s free breath-

To life’s free breath and day’s sweet light again,

From the chill shadows of the gate of death!

For thou hadst reached the twilight bound between

The world of spirits and this grosser sphere;

Dimly by thee the things of earth were seen,

And faintly fell earth’s voices on thine ear.

And now, how gladly we behold, at last,

The wonted smile returning to thy brow!

The very wind’s low whisper, breathing past,

In the light leaves, is music to thee now.

Thou wert not weary of thy lot; the earth

Was ever good and pleasant in thy sight;

Still clung thy loves about the household hearth,

And sweet was every day’s returning light.

Then welcome back to all thou wouldst not leave,

To this grand march of seasons, days, and hours;

The glory of the morn, the glow of eve,

The beauty of the streams, and stars, and flowers;

To eyes on which thine own delight to rest;

To voices which it is thy joy to hear;

To the kind toils that ever pleased thee best,

The willing tasks of love, that made life dear.

Welcome to grasp of friendly hands; to prayers

Offered where crowds in reverent worship come,

Or softly breathed amid the tender cares

And loving inmates of thy quiet home.

Thou bring’st no tidings of the better land,

Even from its verge; the mysteries opened there

Are what the faithful heart may understand

In its still depths, yet words may not declare.

And well I deem, that, from the brighter side

Of life’s dim border, some o’erflowing rays

Streamed from the inner glory, shall abide

Upon thy spirit through the coming days.

Twice wert thou given me; once in thy fair prime,

Fresh from the fields of youth, when first we met,

And all the blossoms of that hopeful time

Clustered and glowed where’er thy steps were set.

And now, in thy ripe autumn, once again

Given back to fervent prayers and yearnings strong,

From the drear realm of sickness and of pain

When we had watched, and feared, and trembled long.

Now may we keep thee from the balmy air

And radiant walks of heaven a little space,

Where He, who went before thee to prepare

For His meek followers, shall assign thy place.

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Chicago: William Cullen Bryant, The Life That Is Original Sources, accessed June 17, 2024,

MLA: Bryant, William Cullen. The Life That Is, Original Sources. 17 Jun. 2024.

Harvard: Bryant, WC, The Life That Is. Original Sources, retrieved 17 June 2024, from