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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

New England: Bearcamp, the River, N. H.

Sunset on the Bearcamp

By John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)

A GOLD fringe on the purpling hem

Of hills, the river runs,

As down its long, green valleys 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.