Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Introductory to America


By William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878)

(From The Ages)

LOOK now abroad,—another race has filled

These populous borders,—wide the wood recedes,

And towns shoot up, and fertile realms are tilled;

The land is full of harvests and green meads;

Streams numberless, that many a fountain feeds,

Shine, disembowered, and give to sun and breeze

Their virgin waters; the full region leads

New colonies forth, that toward the western seas

Spread, like a rapid flame among the autumnal trees.

Here the free spirit of mankind, at length,

Throws its last fetters off; and who shall place

A limit to the giant’s unchained strength,

Or curb his swiftness in the forward race:

Far, like the comet’s way through infinite space,

Stretches the long untravelled path of light

Into the depths of ages: we may trace,

Distant, the brightening glory of its flight,

Till the receding rays are lost to human sight.

Europe is given a prey to sterner fates,

And writhes in shackles; strong the arms that chain

To earth her struggling multitude of states;

She too is strong, and might not chafe in vain

Against them, but shake off the vampire train

That batten on her blood, and break their net.

Yes, she shall look on brighter days, and gain

The meed of worthier deeds; the moment set

To rescue and raise up, draws near—but is not yet.

But thou, my country, thou shalt never fall,

But with thy children,—thy maternal care,

Thy lavish love, thy blessings showered on all,—

These are thy fetters,—seas and stormy air

Are the wide barrier of thy borders, where,

Among thy gallant sons that guard thee well,

Thou laugh’st at enemies: who shall then declare

The date of thy deep-founded strength, or tell

How happy, in thy lap, the sons of men shall dwell?