Sunday, March 18, 2012

William Cullen Bryant Passed To the Higher Life

Likeness from the latest photograph from life.
Johnson, Fry & Co. Publishers New York

It was but two weeks ago, that we made mention of the remarkable physical activity and energy of this well known poet and journalist, citing the fact that though, in his 84th year, it was almost his daily habit to refuse the use of the elevator in going to his office in New York City, and would mount seven flights of stairs on foot, and with as little exhaustion as most young men. But alas, no man knoweth what a day or an hour may bring forth. Four days subsequently, he was prostrated suddenly, on the sidewalk, with apoplexy, and on the 12th, was gathered to his fathers, like a shock of corn fully ripe. He was universally beloved by those who knew him, and now he is dea, he is universally lamented.
He was born at Cummington, Mass., Nov. 3, '94, and was therefore 83 years, 7 months and 9 days old. The funeral services over the body were held at 11 o'clock Friday, in All Souls' Church; Rev. Dr. Bellows officiating. The body was transferred from the late residence of the deceased, 24 West Sixteenth Street, New York city, to the church before 10 o'clock. Long before this hour a crowd of people had gathered in front of the house, fascinated, as human nature always is under such circumstances, by the spectacle of death and all its solemn accessories. The family were anxious to avoid all appearances of display, and, in order to more fully carry out Mr. Bryant's express wishes, the funeral surroundings and preparations were as simple as possible. The number of people desirous of gaining admittance to the church was very large, and most of them were obliged to turn away.
The scene within the church, although presenting some unusual phases, differed in a few respects from that which characterizes it on each Sunday morning. The crowd filled every seat and space available as standing room, the aisles being blocked. The central portion of the church was entirely filled with old men, whose white locks seemed appropriate for the occasion. A great many women were also among this multitude, although they were mostly congregated on the two sides. The coffin, which was exceedingly plain and neat, was placed directly under the pulpit. The two brothers of the deceased, John H. Bryant and Arthur Bryant, both of whom are well advanced in years, occupied a pew near the coffin. With them, heavily draped in black, sat Miss Julia Bryant, the poet's unmarried daughter. Miss Godwin, a sister of Parke Godwin, son-in-law of Mr. Bryant, and a few other intimate friends of the family, sat behind the mourners. The services began with a dirge played by the organist, which was followed by singing. Rev. Dr. Bellows then prayed, while the congregation stood, after which he read from the Scriptures. The whole ceremony was simple and unostentatious. Dr. Bellows spoke feelingly, at the close of the purely religious services, of the poet's life and work. Then the congregation were invited to take a last look at the deceased. This invitation was generally accepted, and a vast throng of people marched solemnly in line around the church and past the coffin. The only flowers that were displayed were those composing a cross of immortelles.
A large number of literary men, and others of Mr. Bryant's persoanl and newspaper friends, wre present to do honor to his memory. The address of Dr. Bellows was a feeling and eloquent tribute to the dead poet. The remains were taken to Goslin, L.I., for interment.
In 1849, Mr. Bryant published a volume of poems, which contained a charming production entitled "June." The following is the last stanza, and is significant. The good man's prayer was answered:-
"I gazed upon the glorious sky,
And the green mountains round;
And thought that when I came to lie
Within the silent ground,
'Twere pleasant, that in flowery June,
When brooks send up a cheerful tune,
And groves a pleasant sound,
The sexton's hand my grave to make,
The rich, green mountain turf should break."

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