Now when I had mastered the language of this water,
and had come to know every trifling feature that bordered the great river
as familiarly as I knew the letters of the alphabet,
I had made a valuable acquisition.
But I had lost something, too.
I had lost something which could never be restored to me while I lived.
All the grace, the beauty, the poetry, had gone out of the majestic river!
I still kept in mind a certain wonderful sunset which I witnessed
when steamboating was new to me.
A broad expanse of the river was turned to blood;
in the middle distance the red hue brightened into gold,
through which a solitary log came floating, black and conspicuous;
in one place, a long slanting mark lay sparkling upon the water;
in another the surface was broken by boiling, tumbling rings,
that were as many-tinted as an opal;
where the ruddy flush was faintest,
was a smooth spot that was covered with graceful circles and radiating lines,
ever so delicately traced;
the shore on our left was densely wooded,
and the somber shadow that fell from this forest
was broken in one place by a long, ruffled trail that shone like silver;
and high above the forest wall a clean-stemmed dead tree waved a single leafy bough
that glowed like a flame in the unobstructed splendor that was flowing from the sun.
There were graceful curves,reflected images, woody heights,soft distances;
and over the whole scene, far and near, the dissolving lights drifted steadily,
enriching it every passing moment with new marvels of coloring.