Afternoon


O sun of noon refulgent! Thou orb aloft full-dazzling!
My special word to thee.

This balmy-bright noon, the fulfill’d noon,
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their open dinner-kettles,
Envelop’d in the warmth and light of the noonday sun;
The splash of swimmers and divers cools the warm noon.

The crickets and grasshoppers are mute in the noon heat,
But I hear the song of the first cicadas. the full-noon trill.
A single locust is now heard near noon,
The chromatic song of the one persevering locust,
Beginning slowly, rising and swelling to much emphasis, and then abruptly falling,
So appropriate to the scene, so quaint, so racy and suggestive in the warm sunbeams.

Near noon there are bluebirds already flying about, and I hear much chirping and twittering and two or three real songs, sustain’d quite awhile, in the mid-day brilliance and warmth. (There! that is a true carol, coming out boldly and repeatedly, as if the singer meant it.) As the noon strengthens, the reedy trill of the robin—to my ear the most cheering of bird-notes. 

Splendid and warm the afternoon sun shines down,
The yellow, golden, transparent haze of the warm afternoon sun pours in here so nice.
As afternoon advances, so calm, so bathed with flooding splendor from heaven’s most excellent sun,
Far-reaching splendors accumulate under the bright sun in this pure air—
Atmosphere of sweetness, so clear it show’d the stars, long, long before they were due.
Behold me well-clothed going gayly or returning in the afternoon,
Joy of the glad light-beaming day, full of effulgence—full of seminal lust and love—full of action, life, strength, aspiration.

Under the arching heavens the afternoon swift passing, and the voices of children and women,
Late in the afternoon the mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing in the Great Dismal Swamp—
Out of the mocking-bird’s throat, the musical shuttle, the late afternoon sounds, more penetrating and sweeter, seem’d to touch the soul.

The spread of emerald-green and brown, the knolls, the score or two of little haycocks dotting the meadow, the loaded-up wagons, the patient horses, the slow-strong action of the men and pitch-forks,
The country boy at the close of the day driving the herd of cows and shouting to them as they loiter to browse by the roadside—
All in the just-waning afternoon, with patches of yellow sun-sheen, mottled by long shadows.

Clouds of the west—sun there well declining to the west, half an hour high —I see you face to face,
O you hastening light!
I think of sallying forth, soon as the sun gets pretty well down.
During the war, I form’d the habit of visiting the army hospitals the latter part of day. Somehow (or I thought it so) the effect of the hour was palpable. The badly wounded would get some ease, and would like to talk a little, or be talk’d to. Intellectual and emotional natures would be at their best; deaths were always easier; medicines seem’d to have better effect when given then; and a lulling atmosphere would pervade the wards.
Similar influences, day-close, on the fields cover’d with fallen after great battles, even with all their horrors. 

A cricket shrilly chirping, herald of the dusk,
An approaching sunset of unusual splendor.
As gorgeous, vapory, silent hues cover the evening sky,
A broad tumble of clouds, with much golden haze and profusion of beaming shaft and dazzle,
The earth’s whole amplitude and nature’s multiform power consign’d for once to colors,
The light, the general air possess’d by them—colors till now unknown—enough to make a colorist go delirious:
The soft voluptuous opiate shades,
With floods of the yellow gold of the gorgeous, indolent, sinking  sun,

Shot gold, maroon and violet, dazzling silver, emerald, fawn,
Burning, expanding the air.

An incomparable sunset shooting in molten sapphire and gold, shaft after shaft—darts of fire and a gorgeous show of light-yellow, liver-color, and red, with a vast silver glaze askant on the water—that peculiar evening haze which sometimes renders quite distant objects so distinctly, and vivid colors beyond all the paintings ever made—a sunset filling, dominating the esthetic and soul senses, sumptuously, tenderly, full.

This is the hour for strange effects in light and shade. I watch dazzling, through the interstices of a knoll of big trees, long spokes of molten silver, great shafts of horizontal fire thrown through the trees and along the grass, offset by the rapidly deepening black-green murky-transparent shadows behind—the transparent shadows, shafts, sparkle, each leaf and branch of endless foliage a lit-up miracle, giving the blades not only aggregate but individual splendor, in ways unknown to any other hour. These, with as the sun lowers, give effects more and more peculiar, more and more superb, unearthly, rich, all in sunset pomp and dazzle.

Illustrious the passing light,
The long bar
of maroon tint away solitary by itself,
The spread of purity it lies motionless in, 
No limit, confine—not the western sky alone—the high meridian—north, south, all,
Pure luminous color fighting the silent shadows to the last.

The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow’d wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

O setting sun! though the time has come,
I still warble under you, if none else does, unmitigated adoration,
Splendor of ended day floating and filling me,
inflating my throat,
You divine average, you earth and life, till the last ray gleams I sing.

Hour prophetic, hour resuming the past,
Prepare the later afternoon of me myself,
The last of afternoons, the evening hours,
Prepare my lengthening shadows,
Prepare my starry nights.
Through death and waning day and the ebb’s depletion—life, light, and the inbound tides,
The sun now low in the west rises for mornings and for noons continual.

NEXT: Night