Mountains


What are the mountains call’d that rise so high in the 
mists?
These reckless heaven-ambitious peaks,
Mountainous chains and peaks in every variety of perspective, every hue of vista, fringe the view, in nearer, or middle, or far-dim distance, or fade on the horizon.
Everywhere the white-topt mountains show in the distance, far glimpses of a hundred peaks
gigantic,
Titanic necklaces, hundreds, it seems thousands, interminable necklaces of them, stretching north and south,
Constantly in sight in the apparently near distance.

I have seen the mountains just before sunset,
It was only ten minutes, but I shall never forget it.
Veil’d slightly, but still clear and very grand—their cones, colors, sides, distinct against the sky,
The broad handling and absolute uncrampedness—the fantastic forms—the most spiritual show of objective nature I ever beheld, or ever thought possible.

Lands bathed in sweeter, rarer, healthier air,
Perhaps the rarest sight of all is in atmospheric hues;
These mountains seem to afford new lights and shades,
Near one’s eye ranges an infinite variety,
Mountain tops innumerable, bathed in delicate vari-colors.
Sunshine upon the mountains, bathed in transparent browns, faint reds and grays,
Earth of the mountains misty-topt, draped in their violet haze,
Their tops and slopes hazed more or less slightly in that blue-gray, for over a hundred miles,
High up, the bare whitey-brown, above timber line,
At their tops now and then huge masses pois’d, and mixing with the clouds, with only their outlines, hazed in misty lilac, visible,
Everywhere the aerial gradations and sky-effects inimitable,
Nowhere else such perspectives, such transparent lilacs and grays.

Through the caňon we fly—mountains not only each side, but seemingly, till we get near, right in front of us,
The terraced sides of a mountain, abrupt, in places rising high,
Strata of mountains, soils, rocks, giant trees,
This amplitude, glaciers, torrents, valleys.
Dominating all, those towering rocks, rocks, rocks,
The yellow granite in the sunshine, then rhinoceros color—then gamboge and tinted 
chromos.

The great sierras and the high plateaus,
Huge precipitous cliffs, long stretches of straight-upright palisades, sometimes a thousand, sometimes two or three thousand feet high,
Here start up in every conceivable presentation of shape, these tumbled rock-piles grim and red, these non-utilitarian piles in grotesque shapes—natural spires, minarets, castellated perches far aloft coping the skies.

Alone far in the wilds and mountains, all the wonders, beauty, savage power of the scene,
New senses, new joys, seem develop’d.
A typical Rocky Mountain cañon tallies, perhaps expresses, certainly wakes, those grandest and subtlest element-emotions in the human soul, that all the marble temples and sculptures, all paintings, poems, reminiscences, or even music, probably never can;
These gorges,
this naked freshness, entire absence of art, emanating a beauty, terror, power, more than Dante or Angelo ever knew.
Talk of going to Europe, of visiting the ruins of feudal castles, or Coliseum remains, or kings’ palaces—when you can come here!

Most of all, or far or near, the wind of the mountains—nature’s mighty whisper.
Through the high tree-tops, or through low bushes, down the edges, through the passes, up the mountains steep,
The low hum of living breezes, laving one’s face and hands so gently,
Strong hum of forest tree-tops—how sibilant.
The winds’ free orchestra steadily keeps up its hoarse, soothing music,
Always a firm, sane, cheery expression,
Though a monotone, giving many varieties, or swift or slow, or dense or delicate.
Winds whose soft-tickling genitals rub against me,
I think I have blown with you, you winds.

Spirit that form’d this scene,
These formless wild arrays, for reasons of their own,
I know thee, savage spirit—we have communed together,
Mine too such wild arrays, for reasons of their own.
I have found the law of my own poems amid all this grim yet joyous elemental abandon—this plenitude of material, untrammel’d play of primitive nature—the chasm, the gorge, the crystal mountain stream, repeated scores, hundreds of miles.

O secret of you strong mountains of my land!
I match my spirit against yours, and become the master myself,
My soul prepared in the mountains absorbs your immortal strong nutriment.

NEXT: TREES