Mountains

- 1817-1862

With frontier strength ye stand your ground,
With grand content ye circle round,
Tumultuous silence for all sound,
Ye distant nursery of rills,
Monadnock, and the Peterborough hills;—
Firm argument that never stirs,
Outcircling the philosophers,—
Like some vast fleet
Sailing through rain and sleet,
Through winter's cold and summer's heat;
Still holding on upon your high emprise,
Until ye find a shore amid the skies;
Not skulking close to land,
With cargo contraband;
For they who sent a venture out by ye
Have set the Sun to see
Their honesty.
Ships of the line, each one,
Ye westward run,
Convoying clouds,
Which cluster in your shrouds,
Always before the gale,
Under a press of sail,
With weight of metal all untold;—
I seem to feel ye in my firm seat here,
Immeasurable depth of hold,
And breadth of beam, and length of running gear.

Methinks ye take luxurious pleasure
In your novel western leisure;
So cool your brows and freshly blue,
As Time had nought for ye to do;
For ye lie at your length,
An unappropriated strength,
Unhewn primeval timber
For knees so stiff, for masts so limber,
The stock of which new earths are made,
One day to be our western trade,
Fit for the stanchions of a world
Which through the seas of space is hurled.

While we enjoy a lingering ray,
Ye still o'ertop the western day,
Reposing yonder on God's croft,
Like solid stacks of hay.
So bold a line as ne'er was writ
On any page by human wit;
The forest glows as if
An enemy's camp-fires shone
Along the horizon,
Or the day's funeral pyre
Were lighted there;
Edged with silver and with gold,
The clouds hang o'er in damask fold,
And with fresh depth of amber light
The west is dight,
Where still a few rays slant,
That even Heaven seems extravagant.
Watatic Hill
Lies on the horizon's sill
Like a child's toy left overnight,
And other duds to left and right;
On the earth's edge, mountains and trees
Stand as they were on air graven,
Or as the vessels in a haven
Await the morning breeze.
I fancy even
Through your defiles windeth the way to heaven;
And yonder still, in spite of history's page,
Linger the golden and the silver age;
Upon the laboring gale
The news of future centuries is brought,
And of new dynasties of thought,
From your remotest vale.

⁠   But special I remember thee,
Wachusett, who like me
Standest alone without society.
Thy far blue eye,
A remnant of the sky,
Seen through the clearing of the gorge,
Or from the windows of the forge,
Doth leaven all it passes by.
Nothing is true,
But stands 'tween me and you,
Thou western pioneer,
Who know'st not shame nor fear,
By venturous spirit driven
Under the eaves of heaven,
And canst expand thee there,
And breathe enough of air.
Even beyond the West
Thou migratest
Into unclouded tracts,
Without a pilgrim's axe,
Cleaving thy road on high
With thy well-tempered brow,
And mak'st thyself a clearing in the sky.
Upholding heaven, holding down earth,
Thy pastime from thy birth,
Not steadied by the one, nor leaning on the other;—
May I approve myself thy worthy brother!

More by Henry David Thoreau

Smoke

Light-winged Smoke! Icarian bird,	
Melting thy pinions in thy upward flight;	
Lark without song, and messenger of dawn,	
Circling above the hamlets as thy nest;	
Or else, departing dream, and shadowy form
Of midnight vision, gathering up thy skirts;	
By night star-veiling, and by day	
Darkening the light and blotting out the sun;	
Go thou, my incense, upward from this hearth,	
And ask the gods to pardon this clear flame.

Inspiration

Whate'er we leave to God, God does, 
And blesses us; 
The work we choose should be our own, 
God leaves alone.
 
If with light head erect I sing, 
Though all the Muses lend their force, 
From my poor love of anything, 
The verse is weak and shallow as its source. 

But if with bended neck I grope 
Listening behind me for my wit, 
With faith superior to hope, 
More anxious to keep back than forward it; 

Making my soul accomplice there 
Unto the flame my heart hath lit, 
Then will the verse forever wear—
Time cannot bend the line which God hath writ. 

Always the general show of things 
Floats in review before my mind, 
And such true love and reverence brings, 
That sometimes I forget that I am blind. 

But now there comes unsought, unseen, 
Some clear divine electuary, 
And I, who had but sensual been, 
Grow sensible, and as God is, am wary. 

I hearing get, who had but ears, 
And sight, who had but eyes before, 
I moments live, who lived but years, 
And truth discern, who knew but learning's lore. 

I hear beyond the range of sound, 
I see beyond the range of sight, 
New earths and skies and seas around, 
And in my day the sun doth pale his light. 

A clear and ancient harmony 
Pierces my soul through all its din, 
As through its utmost melody—
Farther behind than they, farther within. 

More swift its bolt than lightning is, 
Its voice than thunder is more loud, 
It doth expand my privacies 
To all, and leave me single in the crowd. 

It speaks with such authority, 
With so serene and lofty tone, 
That idle Time runs gadding by, 
And leaves me with Eternity alone. 

Now chiefly is my natal hour, 
And only now my prime of life; 
Of manhood's strength it is the flower, 
'Tis peace's end and war's beginning strife. 

It comes in summer's broadest noon, 
By a grey wall or some chance place, 
Unseasoning Time, insulting June, 
And vexing day with its presuming face. 

Such fragrance round my couch it makes, 
More rich than are Arabian drugs, 
That my soul scents its life and wakes 
The body up beneath its perfumed rugs. 

Such is the Muse, the heavenly maid, 
The star that guides our mortal course, 
Which shows where life's true kernel's laid, 
Its wheat's fine flour, and its undying force. 

She with one breath attunes the spheres, 
And also my poor human heart, 
With one impulse propels the years 
Around, and gives my throbbing pulse its start. 

I will not doubt for evermore, 
Nor falter from a steadfast faith, 
For thought the system be turned o'er, 
God takes not back the word which once He saith. 

I will not doubt the love untold 
Which not my worth nor want has bought, 
Which wooed me young, and woos me old, 
And to this evening hath me brought. 

My memory I'll educate 
To know the one historic truth, 
Remembering to the latest date 
The only true and sole immortal youth. 

Be but thy inspiration given, 
No matter through what danger sought, 
I'll fathom hell or climb to heaven, 
And yet esteem that cheap which love has bought.


Fame cannot tempt the bard Who's famous with his God, Nor laurel him reward Who has his Maker's nod.

Great God, I Ask Thee for No Meaner Pelf

Great God, I ask for no meaner pelf
Than that I may not disappoint myself,
That in my action I may soar as high
As I can now discern with this clear eye.

And next in value, which thy kindness lends, 
That I may greatly disappoint my friends,
Howe'er they think or hope that it may be,
They may not dream how thou'st distinguished me.

That my weak hand may equal my firm faith
And my life practice what my tongue saith
That my low conduct may not show
Nor my relenting lines
That I thy purpose did not know
Or overrated thy designs.