A Walk at Sunset

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  When insect wings are glistening in the beam
  Of the low sun, and mountain-tops are bright,
  Oh, let me, by the crystal valley-stream,
  Wander amid the mild and mellow light;
And while the wood-thrush pipes his evening lay,
Give me one lonely hour to hymn the setting day.

Oh, sun! that o'er the western mountains now
  Goest down in glory! ever beautiful
  And blessed is thy radiance, whether thou
  Colourest the eastern heaven and night-mist cool,
Till the bright day-star vanish, or on high
Climbest and streamest thy white splendours from mid-sky.

  Yet, loveliest are thy setting smiles, and fair,
  Fairest of all that earth beholds, the hues
  That live among the clouds, and flush the air,
  Lingering and deepening at the hour of dews.
Then softest gales are breathed, and softest heard
The plaining voice of streams, and pensive note of bird.

  They who here roamed, of yore, the forest wide,
  Felt, by such charm, their simple bosoms won;
  They deemed their quivered warrior, when he died,
  Went to bright isles beneath the setting sun;
Where winds are aye at peace, and skies are fair,
And purple-skirted clouds curtain the crimson air.

  So, with the glories of the dying day,
  Its thousand trembling lights and changing hues,
  The memory of the brave who passed away
  Tenderly mingled;--fitting hour to muse
On such grave theme, and sweet the dream that shed
Brightness and beauty round the destiny of the dead.

  For ages, on the silent forests here,
  Thy beams did fall before the red man came
  To dwell beneath them; in their shade the deer
  Fed, and feared not the arrow's deadly aim.
Nor tree was felled, in all that world of woods,
Save by the beaver's tooth, or winds, or rush of floods.

  Then came the hunter tribes, and thou didst look,
  For ages, on their deeds in the hard chase,
  And well-fought wars; green sod and silver brook
  Took the first stain of blood; before thy face
The warrior generations came and passed,
And glory was laid up for many an age to last.

  Now they are gone, gone as thy setting blaze
  Goes down the west, while night is pressing on,
  And with them the old tale of better days,
  And trophies of remembered power, are gone.
Yon field that gives the harvest, where the plough
Strikes the white bone, is all that tells their story now.

  I stand upon their ashes in thy beam,
  The offspring of another race, I stand,
  Beside a stream they loved, this valley stream;
  And where the night-fire of the quivered band
Showed the gray oak by fits, and war-song rung,
I teach the quiet shades the strains of this new tongue.

Farewell! but thou shalt come again--thy light
  Must shine on other changes, and behold
  The place of the thronged city still as night--
  States fallen--new empires built upon the old--
But never shalt thou see these realms again
Darkened by boundless groves, and roamed by savage men.

© William Cullen Bryant