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Poem by William Cullen Bryant

The Past

    Thou unrelenting Past!
Strong are the barriers round thy dark domain,
    And fetters, sure and fast,
Hold all that enter thy unbreathing reign.

    Far in thy realm withdrawn
Old empires sit in sullenness and gloom,
    And glorious ages gone
Lie deep within the shadow of thy womb.

    Childhood, with all its mirth,
Youth, Manhood, Age, that draws us to the ground,
    And last, Man's Life on earth,
Glide to thy dim dominions, and are bound.

    Thou hast my better years,
Thou hast my earlier friendsthe goodthe kind,
    Yielded to thee with tears
The venerable formthe exalted mind.

    My spirit yearns to bring
The lost ones backyearns with desire intense,
    And struggles hard to wring
Thy bolts apart, and pluck thy captives thence.

    In vainthy gates deny
All passage save to those who hence depart;
    Nor to the streaming eye
Thou giv'st them backnor to the broken heart.

    In thy abysses hide
Beauty and excellence unknownto thee
    Earth's wonder and her pride
Are gathered, as the waters to the sea;

    Labours of good to man,.
Unpublished charity, unbroken faith,
    Love, that midst grief began,
And grew with years, and faltered not in death.

    Full many a mighty name
Lurks in thy depths, unuttered, unrevered;
    With thee are silent fame,
Forgotten arts, and wisdom disappeared.

    Thine for a space are they
Yet shalt thou yield thy treasures up at last;
    Thy gates shall yet give way,
Thy bolts shall fall, inexorable Past!

    All that of good and fair
Has gone into thy womb from earliest time,
    Shall then come forth to wear
The glory and the beauty of its prime.

    They have not perishedno!
Kind words, remembered voices once so sweet,
    Smiles, radiant long ago,
And features, the great soul's apparent seat.

    All shall come back, each tie
Of pure affection shall be knit again;
    Alone shall Evil die,
And Sorrow dwell a prisoner in thy reign.

    And then shall I behold
Him, by whose kind paternal side I sprung,
    And her, who, still and cold,
Fills the next gravethe beautiful and young.

William Cullen Bryant

William Cullen Bryant's other poems:
  1. Ode for an Agricultural Celebration
  2. The Murdered Traveller
  3. The Journey of Life
  4. To the Apennines
  5. A Scene on the Banks of the Hudson

Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • Percy Shelley The Past ("Wilt thou forget the happy hours")
  • Ralph Emerson The Past ("The debt is paid")
  • Henry Timrod The Past ("To-days most trivial act may hold the seed")
  • Ella Wilcox The Past ("Fling my past behind me, like a robe")

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