Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
The Mountain
By William Ellery Channing (1818–1901)
… ONCE we built our fortress where you see
Yon group of spruce-trees sidewise on the line
Where the horizon to the eastward bounds,—
A point selected by sagacious art,
Where all at once we viewed the Vermont hills,        5
And the long outlines of the mountain-ridge,
Ever-renewing, changeful every hour.
Strange, a few cubits raised above the plain,
And a few tables of resistless stone
Spread round us, with that rich delightful air,        10
Draping high altars in cerulean space,
Could thus enchant the being that we are!
Those altars, where the airy element
Flows o’er in new perfection, and reveals
Its constant lapsing (never stillness all),        15
As a mother’s kiss, touching the bright spruce-foliage;
And in her wise distilment the soft rain,
Trickling below the sphagnum that o’erlays
The plateau’s slope, is led to the ravine,
And so electrified by her pure breath,        20
As if in truth the living water famed
Recorded in John’s mythus, who first dashed
Ideal baptism on Jordan’s shore.
In this sweet solitude, the Mountain’s life,
At morn and eve, at rise and hush of day,        25
I heard the wood-thrush sing in the white spruce.
The living water, the enchanted air
So mingling in its crystal clearness there
A sweet, peculiar grace from both,—this song,
Voice of the lonely mountain’s favorite bird!        30
These steeps inviolate by human art,
Centre of awe, raised over all that man
Would fain enjoy, and consecrate to one,
Lord of the desert and of all beside,
Consorting with the cloud, the echoing storm,        35
When like a myriad bowls the mountain wakes
In all its alleys one responsive roar;
And sheeted down the precipice, all light
Tumble the momentary cataracts,—
The sudden laughter of the mountain-child.
*        *        *        *        *
          On the mountain-peak
I marked the sage at sunset, where he mused,
Forth looking on the continent of hills;
While from his feet the five long granite spurs
That bind the centre to the valley’s side,        45
(The spokes from this strange middle to the wheel)
Stretched in the fitful torrent of the gale,
Bleached on the terraces of leaden cloud
And passages of light,—Sierras long
In archipelagoes of mountain sky,        50
Where it went wandering all the livelong year.
He spoke not, yet methought I heard him say,
“All day and night the same; in sun or shade,
In summer flames, and the jagged, biting knife
That hardy winter splits upon the cliff,—        55
From earliest time the same.
One mother and one father brought us forth
Thus gazing on the summits of the days,
Nor wearied yet when generations fade.
The crystal air, the hurrying light, the night,        60
Always the day that never seems to end,
Always the night whose day does never set;
One harvest and one reaper, ne’er too ripe,
Sown by the self-preserver, free from mould,
And builded in these granaries of heaven,        65
This ever-living purity of air,
In these perpetual centres of repose
Still softly rocked.”

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