Saturday, January 08, 2011


Workshop of the Gods

George S. Evans (1876-1904), "The Wilderness," The Overland Monthly: An Illustrated Magazine of the West 43.1 (January 1904) 31-33 (excerpts):
The wilderness still exists. Man has ravaged and plundered the earth in large measure, but there are still great tracts of wilderness where bear and deer and cougar wander as in the days of old.


Away off, far from the haunts of man, you pitch your camp by some cool spring. Your horse has brought you over the trail safely. The supplies have arrived without accident. The air is bracing. Mountain piled on mountain, vast wastes of forest verdure, bowlders heaped on bowlders, tracts of brush and leafy glades mark this primeval waste—a workshop of the gods.

Dull business routine, the fierce passions of the market place, the perils of envious cities become but a memory. At first you are appalled by the immensity of the wilderness. You do not seem to be a part of the waste. You do not seem to fit into the landscape. The rocks have equanimity, the mountains ruggedness, the trees sturdiness, the wind savagery.


Almost imperceptibly a sensation of serenity begins to take possession of you. You explore deep canyons, climb vast mountains, penetrate shaggy forests, follow the meanderings of wild, turbid streams.

You begin to take on some of the characteristics of the denizens of the woods. Your step becomes lighter, your eyesight keener, your hearing more acute. You think of the civilization you have left behind. Seen through the eyes of the wilderness, how stupid and inane it all seems. The mad eagerness of money-seeking men, the sham pleasures of conventional society, the insistence upon the importance of being in earnest over trifles, pall on you when you think of them.

Your blood clarifies; your brain becomes active. You get a new view of life. You acquire the ability to single out the things worth while. Your judgment becomes keener.


Whenever the light of civilization falls upon you with a blighting power, and work and pleasure become stale and flat, go to the wilderness. The wilderness will take hold on you. It will give you good red blood; it will turn you from a weakling into a man. It will give you a broad view of human nature and enlist your sympathies in its behalf. When your pack train leaves the dusty road and "hits the trail," you will acquire new courage to live your life. You will get new strength. You will soon behold all with a peaceful soul.
Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902), Western Landscape

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