Sunset on Shawangunk Mountain

Alfred B. Street

 

A paradise of beauty in the light
Poured by the sinking sun, the mountain glows
In this soft summer evening. Dark and cool
The shadow of the opposite hills is spread
O’er Mamakating, save where brightly stretch
The edges of the golden mantle, wove
In the rich loom of sunset, and thrown o’er
The earthen monarch’s form. Within the light
Sparkles the stream, the shaven meadows glow,
The cornfields glitter, smiles the kindled grain,
Farm-house and barn cast far their ebon shapes,
While the long tip of the hay-barrack lies
Upon the clubbed foot of the midway pine
Bristling on Shawangunk. But within the midst
Of the sweet valley stand the village-roofs,
With the first shiftings of the twilight gray
Upon their outlines. Onward slowly creeps
The mighty shadow; no more shines the stream,
Meadow and cornfield darken, and the grain
Looks faded; deeper swim the twilight shades,
Until the hollow links in blended gloom.
On still the shadow steals; the mountain’s foot
Is blackened, but a glow of quivering tints
Yet plays upon its breast. Half light, half gloom,
Now shows the slope. Up, up the shadow creeps
Toward the steep brow; the lustrous gloss peels off
Before it, till along the ragged top
Smiles a rich stripe of gold, that up still slides
Until it dwindles to a thread, and then,
As breath glides from a mirror, melts away.
Now as I tread the twisting cattle-path
Along its base, the cool air on my brow,
I hear a ceaseless twitter running through
The trees and bushes from the nestling birds,
Blent with the long-heaved sighing of the pine,
The buzz of insects on their skimming wings,
And the deep-throated gurgle of the brook
Down in the black ravine. A mingled voice
The hollow too upsends: low human talk,
Shrill whistlings, tones of children at their play;
The cow-bell tinkling in the meadow-grass;
The loud, quick bellow echoing down the vale;
The bleat, the barn-yarn clarion, and the wheel
On the ear shaking; yea, so still the air,
I hear the pleasant rustling of the scythe
Cutting its keen way through the long, deep grass,
And even the fitful stamping of yon horse
Standing within a corner of the rails
Bounding his pasture.

Back I trace my path.
The twilight deepens. Shadowy, vast, and grim
The mountain looms, while on the western hills
The darkness gathers in one gloomy cloud;
O’erhead the stars out-tremble, and the moon,
Late cold and blind, is filling rich with light;
And as the east grows duskier, shadows faint
Are thrown upon the earth, till soft and sweet
The moonlight bathes all nature in its calm
And solemn joy. Oh holy, holy hour!
Hour of pure thought, when worldly cares depart, ‒
When heaven seems near the weary one of earth,
And God o’erbending with inviting smile.


The Poems of Alfred B. Street, Vol I, pp. 206-208. Originally published as “Sunset on a Mountain” in Graham’s American Monthly Magazine of Literature, Art, and Fashion, Vol. 27, No. 2, Feb 1845, pp. 74. The early version of the poem did not include any specific place names.

 

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Sunset on Shawangunk Mountain Copyright © 2018 by Alfred B. Street. All Rights Reserved.

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