James Gates Percival (1795-1856)

"A close disciple of Bryant, but inferior to his master in insight and style." (Sharp)

"James Gates Percival wrote twenty-five sonnets of reflection, the best one being the one reprinted here ["A Sonnet"]." (Sterner)

return to sonnet central return to 19th century Americans


Am I not all alone?--The world is still
In passionless slumber,--not a tree but feels
The far-pervading hush, and softer steals
The misty river by. Yon broad bare hill
Looks coldly up to heaven, and all the stars
Seem eyes deep fixed in silence, as if bound
By some unearthly spell,--no other sound
But the owl's unfrequent moan.--Their airy cars
The winds have stationed on the mountain peaks.
Am I not all alone?--A spirit speaks
From the abyss of night, "Not all alone:
Nature is round thee with her banded powers,
And ancient genius haunts thee in these hours,
Mind and its kingdom now are all thine own."

(Text from American Sonnets)

A Sonnet

Whence? Whither? Where?--a taper point of light,
My life and world--the infinite around;
A sea, not even highest thought can sound;
A formless void; unchanging, endless night.
In vain the struggling spirit aims its flight
To the empyrean, seen as is a star,
Sole glimmering through the hazy night afar,--
In vain it beats its wings with daring might.
What yonder gleams? What heavenly shapes arise
From out the bodiless waste? Behold the dawn,
Sent from on high! Uncounted ages gone,
Burst full and glorious on my wondering eyes:
Sun-clear the world around, and far away,
A boundless future sweeps in golden day.

(Text from The Sonnet in America)