Published on Academy of American Poets (

Down By the Carib Sea (VI: Sunset in the Tropics)

A silver flash from the sinking sun, 
Then a shot of crimson across the sky
That, bursting, lets a thousand colors fly
And riot among the clouds; they run,
Deepening in purple, flaming in gold,
Changing, and opening fold after fold,
Then fading through all of the tints of the rose into gray.
Till, taking quick fright at the coming night,
They rush out down the west,
In hurried quest
Of the fleeing day.

Now above where the tardiest color flares a moment yet,
One point of light, now two, now three are set
To form the starry stairs,—
And, in her firefly crown,
Queen Night, on velvet slippered feet, comes softly down.


This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 4, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Sunset in the Tropics” was published in Fifty Years and Other Poems (Cornhill, 1917).


James Weldon Johnson

James Weldon Johnson, born in Florida in 1871, was a national organizer for the NAACP and an author of poetry and nonfiction. Perhaps best known for the song "Lift Every Voice and SIng," he also wrote several poetry collections and novels, often exploring racial identity and the African American folk tradition.

Date Published: 1917-01-01

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