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“The Tides” / The moon is at its full

william cullen bryantLaura Ingalls Wilder ends These Happy Golden Years with newlyweds Laura and Almanzo sitting in the doorstep of their home on the tree claim, talking about what a beautiful world it is. She includes lines from the song, “Golden Years are Passing By,” from which the title of the book is also taken.

At the end of Pioneer Girl (and before she ruins it by mentioning the $500 debt on the house), Wilder uses a slightly mis-quoted first stanza of William Cullen Bryant’s poem, “The Tides.” She writes: “The moon is at its full;” Bryant’s poem uses “at her full…”

“The Tides” was first published in the New York Ledger dated July 28, 1860. It was included in a 1876 collection of Bryant’s poetry titled Thirty Poems. William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878) was an American poet, attorney, and journalist.

The Tides

The moon is at her full, and, riding high,
    Floods the calm fields with light.
The airs that hover in the summer sky
    Are all asleep to-night.

There comes no voice from the great woodlands round
    That murmured all the day;
Beneath the shadow of their bought, the ground
    Is not more still than they.

But ever heaves and moans the restless Deep;
    His rising tides I hear,
Afar I see the glimmering billows leap;
    I see them breaking near.

Each wave springs upward, climbing toward the fair
    Pure light that sits on high–
Springs eagerly, and faintly sinks, to where
    The mother waters lie.

Upward again it swells; the moonbeams show,
    Again, its glimmering crest;
Again it feels the fatal weight below,
    And sinks, but not to rest.

Again and yet again; until the Deep
    Recalls his brood of waves;
And, with a sullen moan, abashed, they creep
    Back to his inner caves.

Brief respite! they shall rush from that recess
    With noise and tumult soon,
And fling themselves, with unavailing stress,
    Upward toward the placid moon.

Oh, restless Sea, that, in thy prison here,
    Does struggle and complain;
Through the slow centuries yearning to be near
    To that fair orb in vain;

The glorious source of light and heat must warm
    Thy billows from on high,
And change them to the cloudy trains that form
    The curtains of the sky.

Then only may they leave the waste of brine
    In which they welter here,
And rise above the hills of earth, and shine
    In a serener sphere.

The moon is at its full (PG)