Home  »  Prose Works  »  188. Denver Impressions

Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Prose Works. 1892.

I. Specimen Days

188. Denver Impressions

THROUGH the long-lingering half-light of the most superb of evenings we return’d to Denver, where I staid several days leisurely exploring, receiving impressions, with which I may as well taper off this memorandum, itemizing what I saw there. The best was the men, three-fourths of them large, able, calm, alert, American. And cash! why they create it here. Out in the smelting works, (the biggest and most improv’d ones, for the precious metals, in the world,) I saw long rows of vats, pans, cover’d by bubbling-boiling water, and fill’d with pure silver, four or five inches thick, many thousand dollars’ worth in a pan. The foreman who was showing me shovel’d it carelessly up with a little wooden shovel, as one might toss beans. Then large silver bricks, worth 2000 a brick, dozens of piles, twenty in a pile. In one place in the mountains, at a mining camp, I had a few days before seen rough bullion on the ground in the open air, like the confectioner’s pyramids at some swell dinner in New York. (Such a sweet morsel to roll over with a poor author’s pen and ink—and appropriate to slip in here—that the silver product of Colorado and Utah, with the gold product of California, New Mexico, Nevada and Dakota, foots up an addition to the world’s coin of near or toward a hundred millions every year.)

A city, this Denver, well-laid out—Laramie street, and 15th and 16th and Champa streets, with others, particularly fine—some with tall storehouses of stone or iron, and windows of plateglass—all the streets with little canals of mountain water running along the sides—plenty of people, “business,” modernness—yet not without a certain racy wild smack, all its own. A place of fast horses, (many mares with their colts,) and I saw lots of big greyhounds for antelope hunting. Now and then groups of miners, some just come in, some starting out, very picturesque.

One of the papers here interview’d me, and reported me as saying off-hand: “I have lived in or visited all the great cities on the Atlantic third of the republic—Boston, Brooklyn with its hills, New Orleans, Baltimore, stately Washington, broad Philadelphia, teeming Cincinnati and Chicago, and for thirty years in that wonder, wash’d by hurried and glittering tides, my own New York, not only the New World’s but the world’s city—but, newcomer to Denver as I am, and threading its streets, breathing its air, warm’d by its sunshine, and having what there is of its human as well as aerial ozone flash’d upon me now for only three or four days, I am very much like a man feels sometimes toward certain people he meets with, and warms to, and hardly knows why. I, too, can hardly tell why, but as I enter’d the city in the slight haze of a late September afternoon, and have breath’d its air, and slept well o’ nights, and have roam’d or rode leisurely, and watch’d the comers and goers at the hotels, and absorb’d the climatic magnetism of this curiously attractive region, there has steadily grown upon me a feeling of affection for the spot, which, sudden as it is, has become so definite and strong that I must put it on record.”

So much for my feeling toward the Queen city of the plains and peaks, where she sits in her delicious rare atmosphere, over 5000 feet above sea-level, irrigated by mountain streams, one way looking east over the prairies for a thousand miles, and having the other, westward, in constant view by day, draped in their violet haze, mountain tops innumerable. Yes, I fell in love with Denver, and even felt a wish to spend my declining and dying days there.