Among the Sierra Nevada, California (1868), Albert Bierstadt, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

By Ephraim Peabody

The silent wilderness for me!
Where never sound is heard,
Save the rustling of the squirrel’s foot,
And the flitting wing of bird,
Or its low uninterrupted note,
Or the deer’s quick crackling tread,
And the swaying of the forest boughs,
As the wind moves overhead.

I stand upon the mountain’s top,
And (solitude profound!)
Not even a woodsman’s smoke curls up
Within the horizon’s bound.
Below, as o’er its ocean breadth
The air’s light currents run,
The wilderness of moving leaves,
Is glancing in the sun.

I look around to where the sky
Meets the far forest line,
And this imperial domain –
This kingdom – all is mine.
This bending heaven – these floating clouds –
Waters that ever roll –
And wilderness of glory, bring
Their offerings to my soul.

My palace, built by God’s own hand,
The world’s fresh prime hath seen;
Wide stretch its living halls away,
Pillared and roofed with green.
My music is the wind that now
Pours loud its swelling bars,
Now lulls in dying cadences; –
My festal lamps are stars.

Though when, in this my lonely home,
My star-watched couch I press,
I hear no fond “good night” – think not
I am companionless.
O no! I see my father’s house,
The hill, the tree, the stream,
And the looks and voices of my home,
Come gently to my dream.

And in the solitary haunts,
While slumbers every tree
In night and silence, God himself
Seems nearer unto me.
I feel his presence in these shades
Like the embracing air;
And as my eyelids close in sleep,
My heart is hushed in prayer.


Note from Lost Wit and Wisdom: I found this poem in “The Farmer’s Cabinet, and American Herd-Book” Vol. VII – No. 5, December 15th, 1842. This quote was also in the volume: “The productions for the Earth will always be in proportion to the culture bestowed upon it.”

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One thought on “The Backwoodsman

  1. The poem is beautiful and perfect, and it should be read, pondered and appreciated at least once every day!

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