Mount Shasta as a symbol of high ideals, as a symbol of God's domain, as a symbol of purity, and as an inspiring presence, are some of the varied themes which run throught the 19th and 20th century poems about this majestic mountain. In 1854 John Rollin Ridge, a Cherokee Indian who later became editor of the Sacramento Bee newspaper, wrote one of the earliest Mount Shasta poems; entitled Mount Shasta it became one of the most famous California poems. Ridge's message was one for the entire state, and the poem contains lines such as
And well this Golden State shall thrive, if like Its own Mount Shasta, Sovereign Law shall lift Itself in purer atmosphere--so high...
The well-known abolitionist poet John Greenleaf Whittier, in his 1863 poem entitled Hymn for the opening of Thomas Starr King's House of Worship, used Shasta as a symbol of God's works:
Amidst the glorious works of thine, The solemn minarets of Pine, And awful Shasta's icy shrine,-Where swell thy hymns from wave and gale....In At The Banquet to the Grand Duke Alexis, Oliver Wendall Homles, a 19th century American romanticist, personifys Shasta as a king that "...shouts forth, from his throne in the sky/ to the storm-splintered summits, the peaks of Altai!" Also envisioning the mountain as male royalty, J.W. Strevell's Mount Shasta proclaims "I fain would linger near, and gaze upon/ Thy kingly splendor and Thy robe of light." On the other hand, in A.B. Curtis' poem, Mount Shasta, the mountain is referred to as a "frozen queen." Moving away from personification, but maintaining the moutain's lofty position, Ralph Bacon's Night on Shasta claims the mountain is "the very throne of God." While Mary Bantz's poem, The Snows of Shasta, refer to "Her stately head with snowy crown," it is the mountain's calm dignity that the poet believes holds a message for humanity. Also enamored of the mountain's calm, Edward Rowland Sill's poem, On a Picture of Mt. Shasta by Keith, questions how anyone could be "eager or perturbed" once captivated by the mountain's calm.
Many Mount Shasta poems are less abstract and more personal in sentiment. Joaquin Miller, who lived from 1854-57 near Mount Shasta, and who visited many times thereafter, wrote several poems about his old home mountain. In his Shadows of Shasta and Mount Shasta poems, one sees his recurring theme of the 'Shadows,' or dark secrets, he saw inflicted on the lives of the Indians at the hands of the whites. Another very personal poem is Virna Wood's sonnet, On the Oregon Express. While not actually a poem, Evelyn Horner's rhymed and descriptive song lyrics for the Mt. Shasta Waltz atest to the mountain's continued significance.
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