The River Columbia

William Gibson

Oregon midnight with a round moon. Mellow
On savage steeps sublime a stillness argent
Along the lone Columbia; every billow
Where the moon's slumber breathes a smoothed pillow;
As calm the caves in rock-columnar shadows,
Blacker for fir and hemlock. Islands, meadows,
Wave in the low winds, all the alluvial margent
Fragrant with fringe of cottonwood and willow.
A lovelier witchery than hers of Endor,
Than Samuel's form a phantom more tremendous;
For, vague in shroud-like mantle, misty white,
Looms hoar Saint Helen's with a ghostly splendor
The apparition of some mount stupendous
Belonging to a world pre-Adamite!

Look; use that one sense only; naught to listen
Hast thou in the sweet calm. Superbly flowing
By piny banks basaltiform, romantic,
Lo! the smoke-purple river amethystine;
While the sun rises a discoloring mist in
With lustre like a full-blown rose gigantic.
High up in whiter hght three snow-peaks glisten.
A reflex, like a levelled obelisk,
Lies pointing to the sun's purpureal disk;
Like rubies lucid through the thin wave glowing
Along: 't is magical: her treasures shine,
At flow of morning's oriental fountains,
Revealed by some Enchantress of the Mine
To Genii of the Stream and of the Mountains!

Rolled up the huge gorge long a billowy roar
Has shaken the mountain firs with storms of sound;
But now the Cascades, as the bluff ye round,
Burst forth like a magnificent meteor,
Grand the white turbulence, the foamy smother,
And beautiful the blue-green stream behind,
Made less crystalline by nor wave nor wind,
As if— the one contiguous to the other—
The calm slept dead and the storm surged on ocean.
Careers, like scud before a hurricane.
The vast foam,— the great mountains whirl,— your brain
Reels with the rushing parallactic motion.
Look up, where flows the river gentliest,
There is a charm of peace —lo! all again is rest!

Proud Bird, with no compeer and no companion,
From where snow-summits highest are and hoarest
To where the slow swell lifts the ocean-kelp,
The river rolled in cataract through the cañon
Or seaward floating wrecks of vast fir forest,
High o'er the raven's croak, the sea-gull's yelp,
Bald Eagle of the Oregon, thou soarest!
And thou that here thy tides and billows pourest,
Calm and as strong as Heaven, subliuie Pacific,
Here where the freighted inland waters launch —
Where'er the bird screams or the salt air pipes,
Ocean and Eagle, ye are Freedom's types;
When all her broad domain is beatific,
And her uncrimsoned conquering bears the olive branch!

Main Location:

Columbia River, Oregon, USA

Other locations: