I probably first read William Cullen Bryant’s poem “To a Waterfowl” in college, but the first time it really stood out to me was when Elisabeth Elliot quoted some of these stanzas in her book The Savage My Kinsman after her husband’s death.
Whither, ‘midst falling dew,
While glow the heavens with the last steps of day,
Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue
Thy solitary way?
There is a Power whose care
Teaches thy way along that pathless coast,–
The desert and illimitable air,–
Lone wandering, but not lost.
Thou’rt gone, the abyss of heaven
Hath swallowed up thy form; yet, on my heart
Deeply hath sunk the lesson thou hast given,
And shall not soon depart.
He, who, from zone to zone,
Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
In the long way that I must tread alone,
Will lead my steps aright.
As a young wife then I empathized with Elisabeth’s picking up and going forward in the comfort of God’s care after the loss of her husband and was comforted with the thought that, if the Lord should ever ask me to “tread alone,” He would lead me and care for me, too. Even within 28 years of marriage, there have been many days of treading alone while my husband traveled, and I have been comforted to know that I am never truly alone.
The rest of the poem, which describes Bryant’s observation and thoughts of the bird’s activity, can be found here along with some instructive links. Becky’s Book Reviews is hosting Poetry Friday today.