A man who enjoyed solitude and the contemplation of natural scenery found himself in a far distant region of mountains, rivers, and forests. The narrator expresses his belief that the beauty of nature can only be truly appreciated in solitude, as he begins to describe the enchanting island he discovered.
In truth, the man who would behold aright the glory of God upon earth must in solitude behold that glory.
One day, he came upon a small circular island in the middle of a river. The island was divided into two distinct parts: one end was radiant with flowers and bright trees, while the other was shrouded in darkness and somber vegetation. As the man lay on the grass, he began to imagine that the island was enchanted and inhabited by gentle Fays, mythical creatures who were the last of their kind.
He wondered if the green hillocks on the dark side of the island were their tombs, or if they slowly faded away like the shadows of the trees that fell upon the water. The narrator, upon discovering the island, muses about its magical nature and the presence of the fay, as he observes the island's unique characteristics and the fay's movements.
If ever island were enchanted, said I to myself, this is it. This is the haunt of the few gentle Fays who remain from the wreck of the race.
As the sun began to set, the man saw a figure of a Fay gliding in a fragile canoe around the island. She appeared joyful in the sunlight but sorrowful in the shade.
With each circuit of the island, her figure grew fainter and her shadow darker. The man believed that the Fay's journey around the island represented the cycle of her life, and with each passage into the darkness, she was a year closer to death. The narrator contemplates the fay's life cycle as she moves around the island, losing her shadow and vitality with each passage, symbolizing the fleeting nature of life and the approach of death.
She is a year nearer unto Death; for I did not fail to see that, as she came into the shade, her shadow fell from her, and was swallowed up in the dark water, making its blackness more black.
As the sun disappeared completely, the Fay, now a mere ghost of her former self, entered the region of darkness one last time. The man could not see if she emerged again, as darkness enveloped everything, and her magical figure vanished from his sight.