On the Summit of the Sierra Madre

George Dennison Prentice

Perched like an eagle on this kingly height,
That towers toward heaven above all neighboring heights,
Owning no mightier but the King of kings,
I look abroad on what seems boundless space,
And feel in every nerve and pulsing vein
A deep thrill of my immortality.
How desolate is all around! No tree,
Or shrub, or blade, or blossom, ever springs
Amid these bald and blackened rocks; no wing
Save the fell vulture's ever fans the thin
And solemn atmosphere; no rain e'er falls
From passing clouds—for this stupendous peak
Is lifted far above the summer storm,
Its thunders and its lightnings. As I hold
Strange converse with the Genius of the place,
I feel as if I were a demi god,
And waves of thought seem beating on my soul
As ocean billows on a rocky shore
O'erstrown with moldering wrecks.
I look abroad,
And to my eyes the whole world seems unrolled
As 'twere an open scroll. The beautiful,
Grand, and majestic, near and far, are blent
Like colors in the bow upon the cloud.
Illimitable plains, with myriad flowers,
White, blue, and crimson, like our country's flag;
The green of ancient forests., like the green
Of the old ocean wrinkled by the winds;
Cities and towns, dim and mysterious,
Like something pictured in the dreams of sleep;
A hundred streams, with all their wealth of isles,
Some bright and clear, and some with gauze-like mists
Half-veiled like beauty's cheek; tall mountain-chains,
Stretching afar to the horizon's verge,
With an intense! blue than that of heaven,
Forever beckoning to the human soul
To fly from pinnacle to pinnnacle
Like an exulting storm-bird: these, all these,
Sink deep into my spirit like a spell
From God's own Spirit, and I can but bow
To Nature's awful majesty, and weep
As if my head were waters.
Old peak, bold monarch of the subject clouds,
That crouch in reverence at thy feet; I go
Afar from thee—to stand where now I stand
Oh, nevermore. Yet through my few brief years
Of mortal being, these wild wondrous scenes,
On which thou gazest out eternally,
Will be a picture graven on my life,
A portion of my never-dying soul.
What God has pictured Time may not erase.

Poetry Atlas has many other poems about California.