The Poetry of John Muir 1838-1914

Sponsored By
Dakota Balmore

Although John Muir was not a poet, he penned many poetic elements into his non-technical descriptions of the beauties of the west. These were taken out of his writings about the Sierras and set into stanzas.

WATER-OUZEL (a bird)

Faint are the marks of any kind of life,
and at first you cannot see them or feel them at all.
But here is the blessed water-ouzel pleading,
fluttering about amid the spray,
and blending his sweet, small, human songs
with those of the streams he loves so well.
And many other birds who build their nests here,
and the flowers with few leaves that bloom on the rocks
as if fallen like snow from the sky.


What wonders lie in every mountain day!
Crystals of snow, plash of small raindrops,
hum of small insects, booming beetles,
the jolly rattle of grasshoppers, chirping crickets,
the screaming of hawks, jays, and Clark crows,
the 'coo-r-r-r' of cranes, the honking of geese,
partridges drumming, trumpeting swans, frogs croaking,
the whirring rattle of snakes,
the awful enthusiasm of booming falls,
the roar of cataracts, the crash and roll of thunder,
earthquake shocks, the whisper of rills soothing to slumber,
the piping of marmots, the bark of squirrels,
the laugh of a wolf, the snorting of deer,
the explosive roaring of bears, the squeak of mice,
the cry of the loon-loneliest, wildest of sounds.
What wonders lie in every mountain day!


Only in the roar of storms do these mighty solitudes
find voice at all commensurate with their grandeur.
The pines at the approach of storms show eager expectancy,
bowing, swishing, tossing their branches with eager gestures,
roaring like lions about to be fed,
standing bent and round-shouldered
like sentinels exposed.


Here is calm so deep, grasses cease waving.
Everything in wild nature fits into us,
as if truly part and parent of us.
The sun shines not on us but in us.
The rivers flow not past, but through us,
thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell
of the substance of our bodies,
Making them glide and sing.
The trees wave and the flowers bloom
in our bodies as well as our souls,
and every bird song, wind song,
and; tremendous storm song of the rocks
in the heart of the mountains is our song,
our very own, and sings our love.


Let children walk with nature,
let them see the beautiful blendings.
communions of death and life,
their joyous inseparable unity,
as taught in woods and meadows,
plains and mountains and streams.
And they will learn that death is stingless.
And as beautiful as life.


The Song of God, sounding on forever.
So pure and sure and universal is the harmony,
it matters not where we are,
where we strike in on the wild lowland plains.
We care not to go to the mountains,
and on the mountains we care not to go to the plains.
But as soon as we are absorbed in the harmony,
plain, mountain, calm, storm, lilies and sequoias,
forests and meads are only different strands
of many-colored Light-
are one in the sunbeam!


One thinks of the redmen
with flesh colored like the rocks,
and sinews tough as the granite,
who for thousands of years
have dragged in files
through these silent depths,
clad in dull skins and grass,
with mountain flowers
stuck in their black hair
and their wild animal eyes
sparkling bright as the lakes.


The cleanness of the ground
suggests Nature taking pains like a housewife,
the rock pavements seem as if carefully
swept and dusted and polished every day.
No wonder one feels a magic exhilaration
when these pavements are touched,
when the manifold currents of life
that flow through the pores of the rock are considered,
that keep every crystal particle
in rhythmic motion dancing.

Graphics graciously provided by:

Link to Symphony Graphics

email graphic by,
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