A poem I've rendered from the lyrical prose of St John (Muir) of the Sierra. Muir never wrote poetry (to my knowledge), but I find his writings, especially his journals to be stunningly lyrical, and so, this little project to turn some of them into poems.
This one I call Christmas on the Valley Floor. The angels visited the shepherds on the first Christmas Eve; let us not envy them. The heavenly messengers are always near us if we have eyes to see and ears to hear their message.
Christmas on the Valley Floor
Christmas brings a cordial, gentle, soothing snowstorm—
a thing of plain, palpable, innocent beauty
that the frailest child would love.
The myriad diamonds of the sky
come gracefully in great congregational flakes,
not falling or floating,
but just coming to their appointed places
upon rock or leaf
in a loving, living way of their own—
snow-gems, flowers of the mountain clouds
in whose folds and fields all rivers take their rise.
The floral stars of the fields above
are planted upon the fields below.
The pines, the naked oaks, the bushes,
the mosses too
and crumpled ferns
are all in equal bloom,
and belong to the same one great icy order.
Now the last sky blossom has fallen,
the clouds depart in separate companies,
leaving the valley open to other influences and communions.
Every tree seems to be possessed
with a new kind of life—
in sounds and gestures
they are new creatures,
The whole valley, sparkling in the late sunlight,
looks like a trim, polished, perfect existence.
The dome Tissiack,*
looks down the valley like the most living being
of all the rocks and mountains;
one would fancy that there were brains in that lofty brow.
How grandly comes the gloaming over this pearly beauty!
What praise songs pour from the white chambers of the falls!
Surely the Lord loves this new creation,
and His angels are now looking down
at this new thing that His hands have wrought.
Muir’s journal, December 25, 1869, John of the Mountains: Unpublished Journals, p. 39-40.
*Tissiack is the name given to the image of a young woman that can be seen on the face of Half Dome. Indigenous legends tell of an Indian maiden turned to stone by the wrath of the gods; some say her tears are still visible on the north face of the monolith.