Lines Written On The Mountains West Of The Rio Del Norte

by Albert Pike

Albert Pike

The sun's last light is in the sky,
His last warm breath is on my brow,
Dark shadows to the mountains high
Begin to stoop on swift wings now.
The rudy twilight quivers up
Above the line of snowy crests,
Like wine that in an agate cup
From tremulous motion never rests.
The great hills in the south grow blue
And indistinct, and far away
In the orient their silver hue
Is changing into sullen gray.
All objects, where the shadows play,
Grow dim and indistinctly deep,
Tired Nature's eyes now close, and she inclines to sleep.

Into the soul sad fancies swarm,
As bees swarm, clinging to each other;
Or waves, when memories of storm
Excite them to devour each other.
The dreams of hope, at morning born
That love the daylight and the sun,
Have fled, and wander far, forlorn,
Or vanished slowly, one by one:
And all the painful thoughts that rested,
In deep calm slumber, in the breast
Which many a day they have infested,
Awake, and bitterly molest
The heart, their most unwilling nest,
Their home, and worse than all, the food
Of these, the vulture-eyed, and all their ravening .brood.

One thought of home is often there,
Like a lone bird, with sad, deep eyes,
Immovable as dull despair,
A grief profound that never dies.
Now when Death's influences seem
On all the universe around,
Now when the sleepy mountains dream,
Plunged into silence most profound;
When rock and pine, and snow and sky,
Sleep shaded by Night's dusky wing,
A sleep like death, to man's dim eye
The self-same awful, sombre thing;
All these sad influences bring
That melancholy thought again,
And on the heart it falls like a cold winter-rain.

Perhaps death now is busy there,
And some dear soul that I have loved,
Into the chill and desert air
Hath sadly from its home removed.
Perhaps they mourn some loved one dead
Thinking of me, the absent, too;
While I, unconscious, have not shed
A tear, nor even their sorrow knew.
Perhaps, whenever I return,
After my ordered task is done,
Instead of some loved face and form,
I may but find a simple stone,
A sister's cold heart set upon;
While they will long before have ceased
To mourn for her whom I shall mourn as just deceased.

'Tis sad to wander all alone
Through the wide world, a homeless thing,
Like a lost wave that makes its-moan,
And hastens to the land, to fling
Its life away upon the shore,
With nothing near to mourn its death;
But like the eagle far to soar,
While Fate his full nest shattereth;
Then to return, and fainting fly
Round a wrecked home made desolate,
Perhaps to hear his young's last cry,
The last sob of his dying mate;
This is the sharpest blow of Fate,
The most unutterable woe,
Crushing the heart and brain at one tremendous blow.

This must men bear, as men have borne
A thousand giant woes beside;
And should this dearest hope be shorn
Away, this light, that scarce descried,
Hath been my beacon-fire of late;
Still I have much to do in life,
And manfully must front my fate:
For duty is a constant strife.
The branchless tree still liveth on,
The mastless ship still holds her way,
Nor heeds the wind, the storm, the sun:
So will I work all life's brief day,
Doing my duty as I may:
And some, perhaps, will mourn my death,
When neither hate prevents, nor envy hindereth.

Last updated May 13, 2023