As obscure as the poem from yesterday’s post may have been, today’s verse is not. Found in many versions—the first stanza often standing alone in quotation—William Cullen Bryant’s poem, “May Evening” contained just the right pensive element to be included in Catherine Malloy Tully’s personal shrine for her lost child, Daisy.
The copy of the poem pasted into Catherine’s little folder has seen some damage over the years. I am not sure whether she included the full version of the poem, or merely cut an excerpt. There is evidence that something was folded up and overlaid upon the bottom of the original poem—perhaps those same missing stanzas. Her copy was obliterated at the stanza that began, “Pass on to homes where cheerful voices sound.”
I’ve included the full version of the poem below. One version available on Google Books indicates it was written at the poet’s estate in Roslyn, New York, in 1869, and published in “Appleton’s Journal” in May of that same year.
May Evening.By William Cullen Bryant.The breath of springtime at this twilight hour,Comes through the gathering glooms,And bears the stolen sweets of many a flowerInto my silent rooms.Where hast thou wandered, gentle gale, to findThe perfumes thou dost bring?By brooks, that through the wakening meadows windOr brink of rushy spring?Or woodside, where, in little companies,The early wild flowers rise,Or sheltered lawn, where ‘mid encircling trees,May’s warmest sunshine lies!Now sleeps the humming-bird, that, in the sun,Wandered from bloom to bloom;Now, too, the weary bee, his day’s work done,Rests in his waxen room.Now every hovering insect in his placeBeneath the leaves hath flown;And, through the long night hours, the flowery raceAre left to thee alone.O’er the pale blossoms of the sassafrasAnd o’er the spice-bush spray,Among the opening buds, thy breathings passAnd come embalmed away.Yet there is sadness in thy soft caress,Wind of the blooming year!The gentle presence, that was wont to blessThy coming, is not here.Go, then: and yet I bid thee not repair,Thy gathered sweets so shed,Where pine and willow, in the evening air,Sigh o’er the buried dead.Pass on to homes where cheerful voices sound,And cheerful looks are cast,And where thou wakest, in thine airy round,No sorrow of the past.Refresh the languid student pausing o’erThe learned page apart,And he shall turn to con his task once moreWith an encouraged heart.Bear thou a promise, from the fragrant sward,To him who tills the land,Of springing harvests that shall yet rewardThe labors of his hand.And whisper everywhere that Earth renewsHer beautiful array,Amid the darkness and the gathering dews,For the return of day.