Poems (Bryant, 1821)/Inscription for the Entrance into a Wood

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Poems  (1821)  by William Cullen Bryant
Inscription for the Entrance into a Wood

INSCRIPTION

FOR THE

ENTRANCE INTO A WOOD.

Stranger, if thou hast learnt a truth which needs
Experience more than reason, that the world
Is full of guilt and misery; and hast known
Enough of all its sorrows, crimes and cares
To tire thee of it—enter this wild wood
And view the haunts of Nature. The calm shade
Shall bring a kindred calm, and the sweet breeze
That makes the green leaves dance, shall waft a balm
To thy sick heart. Thou wilt find nothing here
Of all that pain’d thee in the haunts of men,
And made thee loathe thy life. The primal curse
Fell, it is true, upon the unsinning earth,
But not in vengeance. Misery is wed
To guilt. And hence these shades are still the abodes
Of undissembled gladness; the thick roof
Of green and stirring branches, is alive
And musical with birds, that sing and sport
In wantonness of spirit; while, below,
The squirrel with raised paws and form erect
Chirps merrily. Throngs of insects in the glade
Try their thin wings, and dance in the warm beam
That waked them into life. Even the green trees
Partake the deep contentment; as they bend
To the soft winds, the sun from the blue sky
Looks in, and sheds a blessing on the scene.
Scarce less the cleft-born wild-flower seems to enjoy
Existence, than the winged plunderer
That sucks its sweets. The massy rocks themselves,
And the old and ponderous trunks of prostrate trees,
That lead from knoll to knoll, a causey rude,
Or bridge the sunken brook, and their dark roots
With all their earth upon them, twisting high,
Breathe fixed tranquillity. The rivulet
Sends forth glad sounds, and tripping o’er its bed
Of pebbly sands, or leaping down the rocks,
Seems with continuous laughter to rejoice
In its own being. Softly tread the marge,
Lest from her midway perch, thou scare the wren
That dips her bill in water. The cool wind,
That stirs the stream in play, shall come to thee,
Like one that loves thee, nor will let thee pass
Ungreeted, and shall give its light embrace.