Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  To a Mountain

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Henry Clarence Kendall 1841–82

To a Mountain

TO thee, O father of the stately peaks,

Above me in the loftier light—to thee,

Imperial brother of those awful hills,

Whose feet are set in splendid spheres of flame,

Whose heads are where the gods are, and whose sides

Of strength are belted round with all the zones

Of all the world, I dedicate these songs.

And if, within the compass of this book,

There lives and glows one verse in which there beats

The pulse of wind and torrent—if one line

Is here that like a running water sounds,

And seems an echo from the lands of leaf,

Be sure that line is thine. Here, in this home,

Away from men and books and all the schools,

I take thee for my Teacher. In thy voice

Of deathless majesty, I, kneeling, hear

God’s grand authentic gospel! Year by year,

The great sublime cantata of thy storm

Strikes through my spirit—fills it with a life

Of startling beauty! Thou my Bible art

With holy leaves of rock, and flower, and tree,

And moss, and shining runnel. From each page

That helps to make thy awful volume, I

Have learned a noble lesson. In the psalm

Of thy grave winds, and in the liturgy

Of singing waters, lo! my soul has heard

The higher worship; and from thee, indeed,

The broad foundations of a finer hope

Were gathered in; and thou hast lifted up

The blind horizon for a larger faith.

Moreover, walking in exalted woods

Of naked glory, in the green and gold

Of forest sunshine, I have paused like one

With all the life transfigured: and a flood

Of life ineffable has made me feel

As felt the grand old prophets caught away

By flames of inspiration; but the words

Sufficient for the story of my dream

Are far too splendid for poor human lips!

But thou, to whom I turn with reverent eyes—

O stately Father, whose majestic face

Shines far above the zone of wind and cloud,

Where high dominion of the morning is—

Thou hast the Songs complete of which my songs

Are pallid adumbrations! Certain sounds

Of strong authentic sorrow in this book

May have the sob of upland torrents—these,

And only these, may touch the great World’s heart;

For lo! they are the issues of that grief

Which makes a man more human, and his life

More like that frank exalted life of thine.

But in these pages there are other tones

In which thy large, superior voice is not—

Through which no beauty that resembles thine

Has ever shown. These are the broken words

Of blind occasions, when the World has come

Between me and my dream. No song is here

Of mighty compass; for my singing robes

I ’ve worn in stolen moments. All my days

Have been the days of a laborious life,

And ever on my struggling soul has burned

The fierce heat of this hurried sphere. But thou,

To whose fair majesty I dedicate

My book of rhymes—thou hast the perfect rest

Which makes the heaven of the highest gods!

To thee the noises of this violent time

Are far, faint whispers, and, from age to age,

Within the world and yet apart from it,

Thou standest! Round thy lordly capes the sea

Rolls on with a superb indifference

Forever; in thy deep, green, gracious glens

The silver fountains sing forever. Far

Above dim ghosts of waters in the caves,

The royal robe of morning on thy head

Abides forever! Evermore the wind

Is thy august companion; and thy peers

Are cloud, and thunder, and the face sublime

Of blue mid-heaven! On thy awful brow

Is Deity; and in that voice of thine

There is the great imperial utterance

Of God forever; and thy feet are set

Where evermore, through all the days and years,

There rolls the grand hymn of the deathless wave.