“Sunset on the Hudson” by Henry William Herbert

by Ann Neilson

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Sunset on the Hudson
By Henry William Herbert
Found in The Magnolia for 1837
(This poem is here paired with its original, featured engraving.)

In the cloud-curtained chambers of the west,
Serene and glorious, he hath sunk to rest—
Immortal giant—but his parting kiss
Hath steeped his earthly bride in holier bliss,
Than when she sunned her in his rapturous ray
Of noontide ardor. Slow they glide away,
The gorgeous gleams that flash from Hudson’s tide,
And paint the woods that gird old Beacon’s side;
Yet round the clouds, that veil the bridegroom’s head,
A fringe of lucent glory still is spread;
While, from the zenith, tints of deeper blue
Steal o’er the bright horizon’s azure hue,
Rob the broad forests of their verdant cheer,
And tinge the silvery brook with shadows clear.
The dewy rushes wave in arrowy ranks,
Now gilt, now gloomy, on the darkening banks;
And snowy sails, that stud the distant river,
Glance, and are lost, as in the breeze they shiver.
There is a thrill in the awakening flush
Of early morn—there is a breathless hush
In fainting noonday—but the faëry space,
That parts the evening from the night’s embrace,
Breathes out a stronger charm, a purer spell,
Bathing the soul in thoughts, that fondly swell
Like sacred music’s melancholy close,—
Sweeter than grief, and sadder than repose.
And is it fancy’s fond delusion only,
That hallows so these woods and waters lonely?—
Or is there in each bold majestic hill
A mighty legend, in each tinkling rill
A whispering voice, and in the wind’s low sigh,
Telling of days and deeds that ne’er shall die?
‘Tis holy all, and haunted!—Each green tree
Hath its own tale, each leaf its memory.
The streams, that knew the Indian’s tread of yore,
The breezy hills, with rock-ribbed summits hoar,
The lordly river, with its ceaseless moan,
Have all a power more potent than their own;
For each and all, with echoing pride, have rung
To the wild peal which freedom’s trumpet sung,
When forth, to shield his bleeding country’s breast,
HE stood—The Cincinnatus of the West—
The founder of a world—whose course was run
All bright and blessing!—like yon setting sun,
Alone of men, HIS youth was spotless seen,
His manhood mighty, and his end serene;
Without one blot to dim his deathless name,
Or bid the nations weep, that watch his fame.