The Lapse of Time
by WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT (1794-1878)
Lament who will, in fruitless tears,
The speed with which our moments fly;
I sigh not over vanished years,
But watch the years that hasten by.
Look, how they come,—a mingled crowd
Of bright and dark, but rapid days;
Beneath them, like a summer cloud,
The wide world changes as I gaze.
What! grieve that time has brought so soon
The sober age of manhood on!
As idly might I weep, at noon,
To see the blush of morning gone.
Could I give up the hopes that glow
In prospect like Elysian isles;
And let the cheerful future go,
With all her promises and smiles.
The future!– cruel were the power
Whose doom would tear thee from my heart.
Thou sweetener of the present hour!
We cannot– no– we will not part.
Oh, leave me, still, the rapid flight
That makes the changing seasons gay,
The grateful speed that brings the night,
The swift and glad return of day;
The months that touch, with added grace,
This little prattler at my knee,
In whose arch eye and speaking face
New meaning every hour I see;
The years, that o’er each sister land
Shall lift the country of my birth,
And nurse her strength, till she shall stand
The pride and pattern of the earth:
Till younger commonwealths, for aid,
Shall cling about her ample robe,
And from her frown shall shrink afraid
The crowned oppressors of the globe.
True– tune will seam and blanch my brow –
Well– I shall sit with aged men,
And my good glass will tell me how
A grizzly beard becomes me then.
And then Should no dishonour lie
Upon my head, when I am gray,
Love yet shall watch my fading eye,
And smooth the path of my decay.
Then haste thee, Time — ’tis kindness all
That speeds thy winged feet so fast:
Thy pleasures stay not till they pall,
And all thy pains are quickly past.
Thou fliest and bear’st away our woes,
And as thy shadowy train depart,
The memory of sorrow grows
A lighter burden on the heart.
William Cullen Bryant played a major role in the 19th century in introducing Latin American poetry to the American public. In the 1820s, he translated the exiled Cuban poet, José María Heredia, and who throughout his long career was committed to social justice and the art of translation. Bryant published his translations of Latin American poets in his daily newspaper, the New York Evening Post. He also published translations in the literary journals he edited and, like Longfellow, in widely read anthologies.