The day is done, the sunset fires grow pale
Behind the lone Sierras, but the light still glows
In pine-clad promontory, wooded cape;
The nearest mountain peaks grow rosy-red,
And red the far-off heights where snow-drifts rest
Rich tints of orange stain this lovely lake,
Where it lies still and solemn by its shores
Under the shadow of its stately pines.
The sunset had pass'd through each state of bloom
Through every pomp and rioting of hue,
Through all the ecstasy of rich coloring,
Into a dreamy rest, till over all
Succeeds the deep solemnity of night;
And when the moon wheels up the heavenly dome,
Silence prevails, save when the wild-beast cries
Awake the slumber of the woods around.
When all these jewell'd peaks grow wan and cold
The flickering blaze of the red forest-fires
Glitters and flashes on the craggy rifts
Where miners toil and smelting-flames gleam out
Each granite slope, each chasm and ravine,
Flames redly out, as if a swarthy smith
Beat his great anvil by the smithy forge.
Grim, greedful men have come into these hills
To seek the hidden treasures of the earth,
To search in sandy placers and in gulch
For gold inlaid in crevices of rock,
Hid since creation's day; they sift the soil,
The precious yellow metal to secure;
And in the quarried shaft to find the ore.
And yet this lovely lake lies placid still
As when, years since, the Indian pitch'd his lodge
And the lone trapper roam'd the wilderness,
Ere came for gold the mining multitudes.
A fair land this, of flowery vale and slope,
With all the ecstasy of hue inlaid;
Deep fairy dells where gelid streamlets run,
Far-spreading plains where grassy pastures wave,
Brows'd by the cropping elk and bounding deer;
A land enrich'd with winding rivers bright,
Gemm'd with fair lakes of crystal purity.
Here blows the fresh elixir air of life,
Through the branching wood and forest recesses;
Here bend the silvery birch and spiring fir,
The quivering aspen and the cotton-wood,
The regal pine, with yellow lichens clasp'd
Through which the crested jay and pigeons dart,
And the red dragon-flies like arrows glance.
A solemn land, with mountain-ridges seam'd;
With cañons dim with pines and cold with snows,
Now dark with shadows, and now bright with light,
Now kiss'd by brook, now swept by waterfall;
Where on this earth such paradise of green,
And where such grand, majestic mountain-range?