by William Cullen Bryant
Midst greens and shades the Catterskill leaps
From cliffs where the wood-flower clings;
All summer he moistens his verdant steeps
With the sweet light spray of the mountain-springs
And he shakes the woods on the mountain-side
When they drip with the rains of autumn-tide.
But whenin the forest bare and old
The blast of December calls
He buildsin the starlight clear and cold
A palace of ice where his torrent falls
With turretand archand fretwork fair
And pillars blue as the summer air.
For whom are those glorious chambers wrought
In the cold and cloudless night?
Is there neither spirit nor motion of thought
In forms so lovelyand hues so bright?
Hear what the gray-haired woodmen tell
Of this wild stream and its rocky dell.
'Twas hither a youth of dreamy mood
A hundred winters ago
Had wandered over the mighty wood
When the panther's track was fresh on the snow
And keen were the wind's that came to stir
The long dark boughs of the hemlock-fir.
Too gentle of mien he seemed and fair
For a child of those rugged steeps;
His home lay low in the valley where
The kingly Hudson rolls to the deeps;
But he wore the hunter's frock that day
And a slender gun on his shoulder lay.
And here he pausedand against the trunk
Of a tall gray linden leant
When the broad clear orb of the sun had sunk
From his path in the frosty firmament
And over the round dark edge of the hill
A cold green light was quivering still.
And the crescent moonhigh over the green
From a sky of crimson shone
On that icy palacewhose towers were seen
To sparkle as if with stars of their own
While the water fell with a hollow sound
'Twixt the glistening pillars ranged around.
Is that a being of lifethat moves
Where the crystal battlements rise?
A maiden watching the moon she loves
At the twilight hourwith pensive eyes?
Was that a garment which seemed to gleam
Betwixt the eye and the falling stream?
'Tis only the torrent tumbling o'er
In the midst of those glassy walls
Gushingand plungingand beating the floor
Of the rocky basin in which it falls.
'Tis only the torrent- but why that start?
Why gazes the youth with a throbbing heart?
He thinks no more of his home afar
Where his sire and sister wait.
He heeds no longer how star after star
Looks forth on the night as the hour grows late.
He heeds not the snow-wreathslifted and cast
From a thousand boughsby the rising blast.
His thoughts are alone of those who dwell
In the halls of frost and snow
Who pass where the crystal domes upswell
From the alabaster floors below
Where the frost-trees shoot with leaf and spray
And frost-gems scatter a silvery day.
"And oh that those glorious haunts were mine!"
He speaksand throughout the glen
Thin shadows swim in the faint moonshine
And take a ghastly likeness of men
As if the slain by the wintry storms
Came forth to the air in their earthly forms.
There pass the chasers of seal and whale
With their weapons quaint and grim
And bands of warriors in glittering mail
And herdsmen and hunters huge of limb;
There are naked armswith bow and spear
And furry gauntlets the carbine rear.
There are mothers- and oh how sadly their eyes
On their children's white brows rest!
There are youthful lovers- the maiden lies
In a seeming sleepon the chosen breast;
There are fair wan women with moonstruck air
The snow-stars flecking their long loose hair.
They eye him not as they pass along
But his hair stands up with dread
When he feels that he moves with that phantom throng
Till those icy turrets are over his head
And the torrent's roar as they enter seems
Like a drowsy murmur heard in dreams.
The glittering threshold is scarcely passed
When there gathers and wraps him round
A thick white twilightsullen and vast
In which there is neither form nor sound;
The phantomsthe gloryvanish all
With the dying voice of the waterfall.
Slow passes the darkness of that trance
And the youth now faintly sees
Huge shadows and gushes of light that dance
On a rugged ceiling of unhewn trees
And walls where the skins of beasts are hung
And rifles glitter on antlers strung.
On a couch of shaggy skins he lies;
As he strives to raise his head
Hard-featured woodmenwith kindly eyes
Come round him and smooth his furry bed
And bid him restfor the evening star
Is scarcely set and the day is far.
They had found at eve the dreaming one
By the base of that icy steep
When over his stiffening limbs begun
The deadly slumber of frost to creep
And they cherished the pale and breathless form
Till the stagnant blood ran free and warm.