The Valley of the Yumuri

William Gibson

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!