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Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Prose Works. 1892.

I. Specimen Days

147. Death of William Cullen Bryant

New York City.—CAME on from West Philadelphia, June 13, in the 2 P. M. train to Jersey city, and so across and to my friends, Mr. and Mrs. J. H. J., and their large house, large family (and large hearts,) amid which I feel at home, at peace—away up on Fifth avenue, near Eighty-sixth street, quiet, breezy, overlooking the dense woody fringe of the park—plenty of space and sky, birds chirping, and air comparatively fresh and odorless. Two hours before starting, saw the announcement of William Cullen Bryant’s funeral, and felt a strong desire to attend. I had known Mr. Bryant over thirty years ago, and he had been markedly kind to me. Off and on, along that time for years as they pass’d, we met and chatted together. I thought him very sociable in his way, and a man to become attach’d to. We were both walkers, and when I work’d in Brooklyn he several times came over, middle of afternoons, and we took rambles miles long, till dark, out towards Bedford or Flatbush, in company. On these occasions he gave me clear accounts of scenes in Europe—the cities, looks, architecture, art, especially Italy—where he had travel’d a good deal.

June 14.—The Funeral.—And so the good, stainless, noble old citizen and poet lies in the closed coffin there—and this is his funeral. A solemn, impressive, simple scene, to spirit and senses. The remarkable gathering of gray heads, celebrities—the finely render’d anthem, and other music—the church, dim even now at approaching noon, in its light from the mellowstain’d windows—the pronounc’d eulogy on the bard who loved Nature so fondly, and sung so well her shows and seasons—ending with these appropriate well-known lines:

  • I gazed upon the glorious sky,
  • And the green mountains round,
  • And thought that when I came to lie
  • At rest within the ground,
  • ’Twere pleasant that in flowery June,
  • When brooks send up a joyous tune,
  • And groves a cheerful sound,
  • The sexton’s hand, my grave to make,
  • The rich green mountain turf should break.