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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Americas: Vol. XXX. 1876–79.

South America: Laguayra

The Mountain Road from Laguayra to Caraccas

By James Barron Hope (1829–1887)

AT midnight we (my friends and I),

Beneath a tranquil tropic sky,

Bestrode our mules, and onward rode

Behind the guide, who swiftly strode

Up the dark mountain-side, while we

With mingled jest and repartee,

And jingling spurs, and swords, and bits,

Made trial of our youthful wits.

Ah! we were gay, for we were young,

And care had never on us flung—

But to my tale: the tranquil sky

Was thick o’erlaid with burning stars,

And oft the breeze that murmured by

Brought dreamy tones of soft guitars,

Until we sank in silence deep.

It was a night for thought, not sleep,

It was a night for song and love;

The blazing planets shone above,

The Southern Cross was all ablaze,—

’T is long since it then met my gaze!—

Above us, whispering in the breeze;

Were many strange, gigantic trees,

And in their shadow, deep and dark,

Slept many a pile of mouldering bones;

For tales of murder fell and stark

Are told by monumental stones

Flung by the passer’s hand, until

The place grows to a little hill.

Up through the shade we rode, nor spoke,

Till suddenly the morning broke.

Beneath we saw in purple shade

The mighty sea; above displayed

A thousand gorgeous hues which met

In tints that I remember yet,

But which I may not paint, my skill,

Alas! would but depict them ill!—

E’en Claude has never given hints

On canvas of such splendid tints!

The mountains which ere dawn of day

I ’d likened unto friars gray,

Gigantic friars clad in gray,

Now stood like kings wrapped in the fold

Of gorgeous clouds around them rolled,

Their lofty heads all crowned with gold.

And many a painted bird went by,

Strange to my unaccustomed eye,

Its plumage mimicking the sky.

O’er many a league and many a mile—

Crag, pinnacle, and lone defile—

All Nature woke, woke with a smile,

As though the morning’s golden gleam

Had broken some enchanting dream,

Yet left its soft impression still

On lofty peak and dancing rill.