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

Middle States: Beaverkill, the River, N. Y.

The Island

By Alfred Billings Street (1811–1881)


UPON a narrow river-flat

The sunset falls in streaking glow;

Here, the mown meadow’s velvet plat,

And there, the buckwheat’s scented snow.

A cluster of low roofs is prest

Against the mountain’s leaning breast.

But each rude porch is closed and barred:

For tenderest Youth and Age alone

Are left those humble roofs to guard,

Till Day resumes his blazing throne.

Where deepest shade the forest flings,

The hunters seek that forest’s game;

Men tireless as the eagle’s wings,

Of dauntless heart and iron frame.

The sparkling Beaverkill beside,

Benighted in their wanderings wide,

They merry dress the slaughtered deer,

And make the twilight ring with cheer;

Now chorus of the woods, now tale

Of panther-fight and Indian trail,

Till the rude group, the camp-fire round,

Crouch with their rifles, on the ground.

Where wide the branch-linked river spreads,

Near rapids swift, a fairy isle,

Three leagues above those mountain-sheds,

Looks like a sweet perpetual smile.

The muskrat burrows in its sides,

Down its steep slopes the otter slides;

The splendid sheldrake, floating, feeds

In his close haunts amid the reeds;

Around its sandy points, all day,

Watches and wades the crane for prey;

While show its shallows lily-robes

Of heart-shaped leaves and golden globes.

Above the mountain hamlet, fade

Eve’s tints, and darkness spreads its shade;

Their pointed tops the cedars rear

Against the starlight bright and clear.

Then come the many sounds and sights

Usual in forest summer-nights:

At intervals, the flitting breeze

Draws soft, low sobbings from the trees;

From the deep woods, in transient float,

Tinkles the whetsaw’s double note;

The wakeful frog, unceasing, groans;

Twang the mosquito’s hungry tones,

And echoing sweetly, on the hill,

Whistles the sorrowing whippoorwill;

From the cleft pine the gray owl hoots,

Swells from the swamp the wolf’s long cry,

And, now and then, a meteor shoots

And melts within the spangled sky.

The firefly opes and shuts its gleam,

The cricket chirps, the tree-toad crows;

And hark! the cougar’s distant scream

Afar the mountain echo throws.