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Literature of Mount Shasta

On a Picture of Mt. Shasta by Keith

From Overland Monthly, July 1883

By Edward Rowland Sill

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Painting by William Keith courtesy of the Montagne Collection

Two craggy slopes, sheer down on either hand,
Fall to a cleft, dark and confused with pines.
Out of their sombre shade-one gleam of light-
Escaping toward us like a hurrying child,
Half laughing, half afraid, a white brook runs.
The fancy tracks it back through the thick gloom
Of crowded trees, immense, mysterious
As monoliths of some colossal temple,
Dusky with incense, chill with endless time:
Through their dim arches chants the distant wind,
Hollow and vast, and ancient oracles
Whisper and wait to be interpreted.
Far up the gorge denser and denser grows
The forest; columns lie with writhen roots in air,
And across open glades the sunbeams slant
To touch the vanishing wing-tips of shy birds;
Till from a mist-rolled valley soar the slopes,
Blue-hazy, dense with pines to the verge of snow,
Up into cloud. Suddenly parts the cloud,
And lo! In heaven-as pure as very snow,
Uplifted like a solitary world-
A star, grown all at once distinct and clear,--
The white earth-spirit, Shasta! Calm, alone,
Silent it stands, cold in the crystal air,
White-bosomed sister of the stainless dawn,
With whom the clouds hold converse, and the storm
Rests there, and stills its tempest into snow.

Once-you remember?-we beheld that vision,
But busy days recalled us, and the whole
Fades now among my memories like a dream.
The distant thing is all incredible,
And the dim past as if it had not been.
Our world flees from us; only the one point,
The unsubstantial moment, is our own.
We are but as the dead, save that swift mote
Of conscious life. Then the great artist comes,
Commands the chariot wheels of Time to stay,
Summons the distant, as by some austere
Grand gesture of a mighty sorcerer's wand,
And our whole world again becomes our own.
So we escape the petty tyranny
Of the incessant hour; pure thought evades
Its customary bondage, and the mind
Is lifted up, watching the moon-like globe.

How should a man be eager or perturbed
Within this calm? How should he greatly care
For reparation, or redress of wrong,--
To scotch the liar, or spurn the fawning knave,
Or heed the babble of the ignoble crew?
Seest thou yon blur far up the icy slope,
Like a man's footprint? Half thy little town
Might hide there, or be buried in what seems
From yonder cliff a curl of feathery snow.
Still the far peak would keep its frozen calm,
Still at the evening on its pinnacle
Would the one tender touch of sunset dwell,
And o'er it nightlong wheel the silent stars.
So the great globe rounds on,--mountains and vales;
Forests, waste stretches of gaunt rock and sand,
Shore, and the swaying ocean,--league on league;
And blossoms open, and are sealed in frost;
And babes are born, and men are laid to rest.
What is this breathing atom, that his brain
Should build or purpose aught or aught desire,
But stand a moment in amaze and awe,
Rapt on the wonderfulness of the world?


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