Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Nature as a poet: John Muir

Nature as a poet, an enthusiastic workingman, becomes more and more visible the farther and higher we go; for the mountains are fountains - beginning places, however related to sources beyond mortal ken.

John Muir (1838 - 1914) writes effusively in My first summer in the Sierra of the wonders that he sees. Every tree, flower, mountain, and even house fly he sees there is a miracle, a beauty to be contemplated; to be enjoyed and protected. In 1869, he is the companion to a group taking a herd of sheep ('woolly locusts', he terms them) to find fresh pasture in the mountain meadows of the Yosemite. Taking his leave of the group for sometimes days on end, Muir walks and sketches and makes copious notes of his surroundings.

I think his predecessor and fellow Scotsman, Hugh Miller (1802 - 1856) would have agreed with Muir's 'nature as a poet' approach:  

Nature is a vast tablet, inscribed with signs, each of which has its own significancy, and becomes poetry in the mind when read; and geology is simply the key by which myriads of these signs, hitherto indecipherable, can be unlocked and perused, and thus a new province added to the poetical domain. (Lecture third) 

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