My Autumn Walk

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ON woodlands ruddy with autumn
  The amber sunshine lies;
I look on the beauty round me,
  And tears come into my eyes.

For the wind that sweeps the meadows  
  Blows out of the far Southwest,
Where our gallant men are fighting,
  And the gallant dead are at rest.

The golden-rod is leaning,
  And the purple aster waves,  
In a breeze from the land of battles,
  A breath from the land of graves.

Full fast the leaves are dropping
  Before that wandering breath;
As fast, on the field of battle,  
  Our brethren fall in death.

Beautiful over my pathway
  The forest spoils are shed;
They are spotting the grassy hillocks
  With purple and gold and red.  

Beautiful is the death-sleep
  Of those who bravely fight
In their country’s holy quarrel,
  And perish for the Right.

But who shall comfort the living,  
  The light of whose homes is gone:
The bride that, early widowed,
  Lives broken-hearted on;

The matron whose sons are lying
  In graves on a distant shore;  
The maiden, whose promised husband
  Comes back from the war no more?

I look on the peaceful dwellings
  Whose windows glimmer in sight,
With croft and garden and orchard,  
  That bask in the mellow light;

And I know that, when our couriers
  With news of victory come,
They will bring a bitter message
  Of hopeless grief to some.  

Again I turn to the woodlands,
  And shudder as I see
The mock-grape’s blood-red banner
  Hung out on the cedar-tree;

And I think of days of slaughter,  
  And the night-sky red with flames,
On the Chattahoochee’s meadows,
  And the wasted banks of the James.

Oh, for the fresh spring-season,
  When the groves are in their prime,  
And far away in the future
  Is the frosty autumn-time!

Oh, for that better season,
  When the pride of the foe shall yield,
And the hosts of God and Freedom  
  March back from the well-won field;

And the matron shall clasp her first-born
  With tears of joy and pride;
And the scarred and war-worn lover
  Shall claim his promised bride!  

The leaves are swept from the branches;
  But the living buds are there,
With folded flower and foliage,
  To sprout in a kinder air.

© William Cullen Bryant