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

West Indies: Yumuri, the Valley, Cuba

The Valley of the Yumuri

By William Gibson (1826–1887)

WHEN the dull gray mists of the morning

Hung over the land and sea,

We rode to the heights o’erlooking

The Vale of the Yumuri:

Thither we rode, and waited

Till the sun, like an Angel of Light,

Touched with transfiguring glory

The vaporous ghost of night.

While over the sea behind us

The clouds yet darkly lie,

They are silvery on the hillsides,

They are crimsoned up in the sky;

And with noiseless smoke-surf drifting

And breaking on palmy knolls,

With its great drop-curtain lifting,

The tropical scene outrolls!

In the lap of the verdant mountains,

In many a mural chain,

Here ripens the golden orange,

Here sweetens the sugar-cane;

Not fairer the Happy Valley

Of the Abyssinian tale,

And the giant Pan of Matanzas

Is monarch of the vale.

With glistening eyes, as of childhood,

O’er the summer hills I glance,

With eyes that the unfamiliar

Enchants with the hues of romance.

Oh, I stood there, as youth stands ever,

With the morning light on the earth,

Yet near the veiled ocean, shadowing

The mystery of birth.

We rode through the valley at evening:

A golden sunset burned,

And against it the piny summits

Were black, as we returned;

The mountain shadows lengthened,

The sun went down behind,

And in streamers of rosy color

Grew the twilight arch defined.

With luminous interspaces

Of that glory in the west,

The feathering palm-trees tapered

Up from each hillock’s crest,

Than columns of human temples

More tall and graceful far;

Their broad leaves faintly silvered

By the rays of the evening star.

It was beautiful as a vision!

But we passed a gap in the hills,

By a river,—and lo! the ocean

The vast horizon fills!

No more as it was at morning,

Wrapped in a misty cloud,

It stretched to the north in its grandeur,

With the gathering night its shroud;

And I thought of the valley’s legend,

Of the chief in battle slain,

Whose soul went forth as thy winds go,

Thou melancholy main!

Oh, often in pleasant places

Our lines of life may be,

But Joy casts a shadow,—and round us

Forever flows the sea!