Edmund Clarence Stedman



The Mountain

by Edmund Clarence Stedman

Two thousand feet in air it stands
Betwixt the bright and shaded lands,
Above the regions it divides
And borders with its furrowed sides.
The seaward valley laughs with light
Till the round sun o'erhangs this height;
But then the shadow of the crest
No more the plains that lengthen west
Enshrouds, yet slowly, surely creeps
Eastward, until the coolness steeps
A darkling league of tilth and wold,
And chills the flocks that seek their fold.

Not like those ancient summits lone,
Mont Blanc, on his eternal throne, --
The city-gemmed Peruvian peak, --
The sunset portals landsmen seek,
Whose train, to reach the Golden Land,
Crawls slow and pathless through the sand, --
Or that, whose ice-lit beacon guides
The mariner on tropic tides,
And flames across the Gulf afar,
A torch by day, by night a star, --
Not thus, to cleave the outer skies,
Does my serener mountain rise,
Nor aye forget its gentle birth
Upon the dewy, pastoral earth.

But ever, in the noonday light,
Are scenes whereof I love the sight, --
Broad pictures of the lower world
Beneath my gladdened eyes unfurled.
Irradiate distances reveal
Fair nature wed to human weal;
The rolling valley made a plain
Its checkered squares of grass and grain;
The silvery rye, the golden wheat,
The flowery elders where they meet, --
Ay, even the springing corn I see,
And garden haunts of bird and bee;
And where, in daisied meadows, shines
The wandering river through its vines,
Move specks at random, which I know
Are herds a-grazing to and fro.

Yet still a goodly height it seems
From which the mountain pours his streams,
Or hinders, with caressing hands,
The sunlight seeking other lands.
Like some great giant, strong and proud,
He fronts the lowering thunder-cloud,
And wrests its treasures, to bestow
A guerdon on the realm below;
Or, by the deluge roused from sleep
Within his bristling forest-keep,
Shakes all his pines, and far and wide
Sends down a rich, imperious tide.
At night the whistling tempests meet
In tryst upon his topmost seat,
And all the phantoms of the sky
Frolic and gibber, storming by.

By day I see the ocean-mists
Float with the current where it lists,
And from my summit I can hail
Cloud-vessels passing on the gale, --
The stately argosies of air, --
And parley with the helmsmen there;
Can probe their dim, mysterious source,
Ask of their cargo and their course, --
Whence come? where bound? -- and wait reply,
As, all sails spread, they hasten by.

If, foiled in what I fain would know,
Again I turn my eyes below
And eastward, past the hither mead
Where all day long the cattle feed,
A crescent gleam my sight allures
And clings about the hazy moors, --
The great, encircling, radiant sea,
Alone in its immensity.

Even there, a queen upon its shore,
I know the city evermore
Her palaces and temples rears,
And wooes the nations to her piers;
Yet the proud city seems a mole
To this horizon-bounded whole;
And, from my station on the mount,
The whole is little worth account
Beneath the overhanging sky,
That seems so far and yet so nigh.
Here breathe I inspiration rare,
Unburdened by the grosser air
That hugs the lower land, and feel
Through all my finer senses steal
The life of what that life may be,
Freed from this dull earth's density,
When we, with many a soul-felt thrill,
Shall thrid the ether at our will,
Through widening corridors of morn
And starry archways swiftly borne.

Here, in the process of the night,
The stars themselves a purer light
Give out, than reaches those who gaze
Enshrouded with the valley's haze.
October, entering Heaven's fane,
Assumes her lucent, annual reign:
Then what a dark and dismal clod,
Forsaken by the Sons of God,
Seems this sad world, to those which march
Across the high, illumined arch,
And with their brightness draw me forth
To scan the splendors of the North!
I see the Dragon, as he toils
With Ursa in his shining coils,
And mark the Huntsman lift his shield,
Confronting on the ancient field
The Bull, while in a mystic row
The jewels of his girdle glow;
Or, haply, I may ponder long
On that remoter, sparkling throng,
The orient sisterhood, around
Whose chief our Galaxy is wound;
Thus, half enwrapt in classic dreams,
And brooding over Learning's gleams,
I leave to gloom the under-land,
And from my watch-tower, close at hand,
Like him who led the favored race,
I look on glory face to face!

So, on the mountain-top, alone,
I dwell, as one who holds a throne;
Or prince, or peasant, him I count
My peer, who stands upon a mount,
Sees farther than the tribes below,
And knows the joys they cannot know;
And, though beyond the sound of speech
They reign, my soul goes out to reach,
Far on their noble heights elsewhere,
My brother-monarchs of the air.


The Blameless Prince, And Other Poems
Copyright 1869
Fields, Osgood, and Co., Boston