Eight Spenserians: a descriptive exercise allegorizing the seasons signed "W. G. C.": "I marked the picture — 't twas the changeful scene, | Which life holds up to the observant eye; | Youth's spring of gladness and its bowers of green, | The streaming sunlight of its morning sky, | And the dark clouds of Death, that linger by!" Willis Gaylord Clark was eighteen years old at the time the poem was published. "A Changeful Picture" was published in the posthumous Poetical Writings (1847) as "A contrasted Picture."
Samuel Kettell: "A native of Otisco, Onodaga county, New York, at present editor of The Ladies Literary Port Folio, in Philadelphia" Specimens of American Poetry (1829) 3:302.
Samuel Austin Allibone: "Willis Gaylord Clark, 1810-1841, a native of Otisco, New York, proprietor and editor of the venerable Philadelphia Gazette, gained great distinction in the walks of both poetry and prose" Allibone, Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:388.
It was the morning of a day in Spring,
The sun looked gladness from the eastern sky;
Birds were upon the trees and on the wing,
And all the air was rich with melody;
The heaven, the calm, clear heaven, was bright on high;
Earth laughed beneath in all its freshening green;
The free, blue stream sung as it wandered by;
And many a sunny glade and flowery scene
Gleamed out, like thoughts of youth, life's troubled years between.
The rose's breath upon the south wind came,
Oft, as its whisperings the young boughs stirred,
And flowers for which the poet has no name;
While, 'midst the blossoms of the grove was heard
The murmur of the restless humming-bird;
Waters were dancing in the mellow light,
And joyous tones, and many a cheerful word
Stole to the charmed ear with such delight,
As waits on soft light tones of music heard at night.
The night dews lay in the half-opened flower,
Like hopes that nestle in the youthful breast;
And ruffled by the light airs of the hour,
Awoke the clear lake from its glassy rest;
Far, blending with the blue and distant west,
Lay the dim woodlands, and the quiet gleam
Of amber clouds, like islands of the blest,—
Glorious and bright and changing like a dream,
And lessening fast away beneath the intenser beam.
Songs were amid the mountains far and wide,
Songs were on the green slopes that blossomed nigh;
While 'mid the springing flowers on every side,
Upon its painted wings, the butterfly
Roamed a sweet blossom of the sunny sky;
The visible smile of joy was on the scene;
'Twas a bright vision but too soon to die:
Spring may not linger in her robes of green,
Autumn, in storm and shade, shall quench the Summer sheen.
I came again; — 'twas Autumn's stormy hour;
The wild winds murmured in the yellow wood;
The sere leaves, rustling in the naked bower,
Were whirled in eddies to the mountain-flood;
Dark clouds enthralled the west; an orb of blood,
The red sun pierced the hazy atmosphere;
And torrent murmurs broke the solitude,
Where, straying lonely, as with steps of fear,
I marked the deepening gloom which shrouds the fading year!
The ruffled lake heaved wildly; near the shore
It bore the red leaves of the shaken tree,
Shed in the violent north wind's restless roar—
Emblems of man upon life's stormy sea;
Pale, withered leaves! once to the breezes free
They waved in Spring and Summer's golden prime;
Now even as clouds or dew, how fast they flee!
Weak, trembling on the boughs in Autumn's clime,
As man sinks down in death, chilled by the touch of time.
I looked again; — and fast the dying sun
Was fading to the melancholy west—
Sending his fitful gleams, through clouds of dun,
O'er nature's desolate and dreary breast;
He lit the dew-drop's cold and frozen rest,
That slept on yellow leaves the woods among;
The scared earth's flowers, that did the glades invest,
Had perished, and were buried where they sprung,
While the wild Autumn wind their mournful requiem sung!
I marked the picture — 't twas the changeful scene,
Which life holds up to the observant eye;
Youth's spring of gladness and its bowers of green,
The streaming sunlight of its morning sky,
And the dark clouds of Death, that linger by!
Yet oft, when life is fresh and hope is strong,
Shall sorrow fill with tears the youthful eye,
And age to death move peacefully along,
As on the singer's lip expires the finished song!