Mountain Pictures and Others

Sunset on the Bearcamp


John Greenleaf Whittier

A GOLD fringe on the purpling hem
    Of hills the river runs,
As down its long, green valley falls
    The last of summer’s suns.
Along its tawny gravel-bed
    Broad-flowing, swift, and still,
As if its meadow levels felt
    The hurry of the hill,
Noiseless between its banks of green
    From curve to curve it slips;
The drowsy maple-shadows rest
    Like fingers on its lips.
A waif from Carroll’s wildest hills,
    Unstoried and unknown;
The ursine legend of its name
    Prowls on its banks alone.
Yet flowers as fair its slopes adorn
    As ever Yarrow knew,
Or, under rainy Irish skies,
    By Spenser’s Mulla grew;
And through the gaps of leaning trees
    Its mountain cradle shows
The gold against the amethyst,
    The green against the rose.

Touched by a light that hath no name,
    A glory never sung,
Aloft on sky and mountain wall
    Are God’s great pictures hung.
How changed the summits vast and old!
    No longer granite-browed,
They melt in rosy mist; the rock
    Is softer than the cloud;
The valley holds its breath; no leaf
    Of all its elms is twirled:
The silence of eternity
    Seems falling on the world.
The pause before the breaking seals
    Of mystery is this;
Yon miracle-play of night and day
    Makes dumb its witnesses.
What unseen altar crowns the hills
    That reach up stair on stair?
What eyes look through, what white wings fan
    These purple veils of air?
What Presence from the heavenly heights
    To those of earth stoops down?
Not vainly Hellas dreamed of gods
    On Ida’s snowy crown!

Slow fades the vision of the sky,
    The golden water pales,
And over all the valley-land
    A gray-winged vapor sails.
I go the common way of all;
    The sunset fires will burn,
The flowers will blow, the river flow,
    When I no more return.
No whisper from the mountain pine
    Nor lapsing stream shall tell
The stranger, treading where I tread,
    Of him who loved them well.
But beauty seen is never lost,
    God’s colors all are fast;
The glory of this sunset heaven
    Into my soul has passed,
A sense of gladness unconfined
    To mortal date or clime;
As the soul liveth, it shall live
    Beyond the years of time.
Beside the mystic asphodels
    Shall bloom the home-born flowers,
And new horizons flush and glow
    With sunset hues of ours.

Farewell! these smiling hills must wear
    Too soon their wintry frown,
And snow-cold winds from off them shake
    The maple’s red leaves down.
But I shall see a summer sun
    Still setting broad and low;
The mountain slopes shall blush and bloom,
    The golden water flow.
A lover’s claim is mine on all
    I see to have and hold,—
The rose-light of perpetual hills,
    And sunsets never cold!

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