The Hunter Of The Prairies
By William Cullen Bryant
Ay, this is freedom!—these pure skies
Were never stained with village smoke:
The fragrant wind, that through them flies,
Is breathed from wastes by plough unbroke.
Here, with my rifle and my steed,
And her who left the world for me,
I plant me, where the red deer feed
In the green desert—and am free.
For here the fair savannas know
No barriers in the bloomy grass;
Wherever breeze of heaven may blow,
Or beam of heaven may glance, I pass.
In pastures, measureless as air,
The bison is my noble game;
The bounding elk, whose antlers tear
The branches, falls before my aim.
Mine are the river-fowl that scream
From the long stripe of waving sedge;
The bear, that marks my weapon’s gleam,
Hides vainly in the forest’s edge;
In vain the she-wolf stands at bay;
The brinded catamount, that lies
High in the boughs to watch his prey,
Even in the act of springing, dies.
With what free growth the elm and plane
Fling their huge arms across my way,
Gray, old, and cumbered with a train
Of vines, as huge, and old, and gray!
Free stray the lucid streams, and find
No taint in these fresh lawns and shades;
Free spring the flowers that scent the wind
Where never scythe has swept the glades.
Alone the Fire, when frostwinds sere
The heavy herbage of the ground,
Gathers his annual harvest here,
With roaring like the battle’s sound,
And hurrying flames that sweep the plain,
And smoke-streams gushing up the sky:
I meet the flames with flames again,
And at my door they cower and die.
Here, from dim woods, the aged past
Speaks solemnly; and I behold
The boundless future in the vast
And lonely river, seaward rolled.
Who feeds its founts with rain and dew?
Who moves, I ask, its gliding mass,
And trains the bordering vines, whose blue
Bright clusters tempt me as I pass?
Broad are these streams—my steed obeys,
Plunges, and bears me through the tide.
Wide are these woods—I thread the maze
Of giant stems, nor ask a guide.
I hunt, till day’s last glimmer dies
O’er woody vale and grassy height;
And kind the voice and glad the eyes,
That welcome my return at night.