Friday, August 6, 2010

Thanks Be To God For Mountains!

As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever. (Ps. 125.2)

Stonewall Jackson, Letter to his sister, Lexington, Virginia, September 7, 1852:

Of all places which have come under my observation in the United States, this little village is the most beautiful.

Robert Burns, My Heart's in the Highlands:

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands wherever I go.

William Howitt, The Book of Seasons; or, The Calendar of Nature, pp. 262-268:

Mountains! how one's heart leaps up at the very word! There is a charm connected with mountains so powerful, that the merest mention of them, the merest sketch of their magnificent features, kindles the imagination, and carries the spirit at once into the bosom of their enchanted regions. How the mind is filled with their vast solitude! how the inward eye is fixed on their silent, their sublime, their everlasting peaks! How our heart bounds to the music of their solitary cries, to the tinkle of their gushing rills, to the sound of their cataracts! How inspiring are the odours that breathe from the upland turf, from the rock-hung flower, from the hoary and solemn pine! how beautiful are those lights and shadows thrown abroad, and that fine transparent haze which is diffused over the valleys and lower slopes, as over a vast, inimitable picture!
We delight to think of the people of mountainous regions; we please our imaginations with their picturesque and quiet abodes; with their peaceful secluded lives, striking and unvarying costumes, and primitive manners. We involuntarily gives to the mountaineer heroic and elevated qualities. He lives amongst the noble objects, and must imbibe some of their nobility; he lives amongst the elements of poetry, and must be poetical; he lives where his fellow-beings are far, far separated from their kind, and surrounded by the sternness and the perils of savage nature; his social affections must therefore be proportionably concentrated, his home-ties lively and strong; but, more than all, he lives within the barriers, the strongholds, the very last refuge which Nature herself has reared to preserve alive liberty in the earth, to preserve to man his highest hopes, his noblest emotions, his dearest treasures, his faith, his freedom, his hearth and his home. How glorious do those mountain-ridges appear when we look upon them as the unconquerable abodes of free hearts; as the stern, heaven-built walls from which the few, the feeble, the persecuted, the despised, the helpless child, the delicate woman, have from age to age, in their last perils, in all their weaknesses and emergencies, when power and cruelty were ready to swallow them up, looked down and beheld the million waves of despotism break at their feet: -- have seen the rage of murderous armies, and tyrants, the blasting spirit of ambition, fanaticism, and crushing domination recoil from the bases in despair! -- "Thanks be to God for mountains!" is often the exclamation of my heart as I trace the History of the World. From age to age, they have been the last friends of man. In a thousand extremities they have saved him. What great hearts have throbbed in their defiles from the days of Leonidas to those of Andreas Hofer! What lofty souls, what tender hearts, what poor and persecuted creatures have they sheltered in their stony bosoms from the weapons and tortures of their fellow-men!

Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold!

was the burning exclamation of Milton's agonized and indignant spirit, as he beheld those sacred bulwarks of freedom for once violated by the disturbing demons of the earth; and the sound of his fiery and lamenting appeal to Heaven will be echoed in every generous soul to the end of time.

Thanks be to God for mountains! The variety which they impart to the glorious bosom of our planet were no small advantage; the beauty which they spread out to our vision in their woods and waters, their crags and slopes, their clouds and atmospheric hues, were a splendid gift; the sublimity which they pour into our deepest souls from the majestic aspects; the poetry which breathes from their streams, and dells, and airy heights, from the sweet abodes, the garbs and manners of their inhabitants, the songs and legends which have awoke in them, were a proud heritage to imaginative minds; but what are all these when the thought comes, that without mountains the spirit of man must have bowed to the brutal and the base, and probably have sunk to the monotonous level of the unvaried plain?

When I turn my eyes upon the map of the world, and behold how wonderfully the countries where our faith was nurtured, where our liberties were generated, where our philosophy and literature, the fountains of our intellectual grace and beauty, sprang up, were as distinctly walled out by God's hand with mountain ramparts from the irruptions and interruptions of barbarism, as if at the especial prayer of the early father's of man's destinies, I am lost in an exulting admiration. Look at the bold barriers of Palestine! see how the infant liberties of Greece were sheltered from the vast tribes of the uncivilized North by the heights of Haemus and Rhodope! behold how the Alps describe their magnificent crescent, inclining their opposite extreminities to the Adriactic and Tyrrhene Seas, locking up Italy from the Gallic and Teutonic hordes till the power and spirit of Rome had reached their maturity, and she had opened the wide forest of Europe to the light, spread far her laws and language, and planted the seeds of many mighty nations!

Thanks to God for mountains! Their colossal firmness seems almost to break the current of time itself; the geologist in them searches for traces of the earlier world, and it is there too that man, resisting the revolutions of lower regions, retains through innumerable years his habits and his rights. While a multitude of changes has remoulded the people of Europe, -- while languages, and laws, and dynasties, and creeds, have passed over it like shadows over the landscape, -- the children of the Celt and the Goth, who fled to the mountains a thousand years ago, are found there now, and show us in face and figure, in language and garb, what their fathers were; show us a fine contrast with the modern tribes dwelling below and around them; and show us, moreover, how adverse is the spirit of the mountain to mutability, and that there the fiery heart of Freedom is found for ever.

J.G. Machen, Mountains and Why We Love Them:

Can the love of the mountains be conveyed to those who have it not? I am not sure. Perhaps if a man is not born with that love it is almost as hopeless to try to bring it to him as it would be to explain what color is to a blind man or to try to make President Roosevelt understand the Constitution of the United States. But on the whole I do believe that the love of the mountains can at least be cultivated, and if I can do anything whatever toward getting you to cultivate it, the purpose of this little paper will be amply attained.

One thing is clear—if you are to learn to love the mountains you must go up them by your own power. There is more thrill in the smallest hill in Fairmount Park if you walk up it than there is in the grandest mountain on earth if you go up it in an automobile. There is one curious thing about means of locomotion—the slower and simpler and the closer to nature they are, the more real thrill they give. I have got far more enjoyment out of my two feet than I did out of my bicycle; and I got more enjoyment out of my bicycle than I ever have got out of my motor car; and as for airplanes—well, all I can say is that I wouldn't lower myself by going up in one of the stupid, noisy things! The only way to have the slightest inkling of what a mountain is is to walk or climb up it.

Now I want you to feel something of what I feel when I am with the mountains that I love. To that end I am not going to ask you to go with me to any out-of-the-way place, but I am just going to take you to one of the most familiar tourist's objectives, one of the places to which one goes on every ordinary European tour—namely, to Zermatt—and in Zermatt I am not going to take you on any really difficult climbs but merely up one or two of the peaks by the ordinary routes which modern mountaineers despise. I want you to look at Zermatt for a few minutes not with the eyes of a tourist, and not with the eyes of a devotee of mountaineering in its ultra-modern aspects, but with the eyes of a man who, whatever his limitations, does truly love the mountains.
Then there is something else bout that view from the Matterhorn. I felt it partly at least as I stood there, and I wonder whether you can feel it with me. It is this. You are standing there not in any ordinary country, but in the very midst of Europe, looking out from its very centre. Germany just beyond where you can see to the northeast, Italy to the south, France beyond those snows of Mont Blanc. There, in that glorious round spread out before you, that land of Europe, humanity has put forth its best. There it has struggled; there it has fallen; there it has looked upward to God. The history of the race seems to pass before you in an instant of time, concentrated in that fairest of all the lands of the earth. You think of the great men whose memories you love, the men who have struggled there in those countries below you, who have struggled for light and freedom, struggled for beauty, struggled above all for God's Word. And then you think of the present and its decadence and its slavery, and you desire to weep. It is a pathetic thing to contemplate the history of mankind.
The alternative is that there is a God—a God who in His own good time will bring forward great men again to do His will, great men to resist the tyranny of experts and lead humanity out again into the realms of light and freedom, great men, above all, who will be messengers of His grace. There is, far above any earthly mountain peak of vision, a God high and lifted up who, though He is infinitely exalted, yet cares for His children among men.

J.A. Wylie, Wanderings and Musings in the Valleys of the Waldenses, pp. 44-45:

We bid the garish plain, with its white towns and glancing spires, farewell, and we enter the sanctuary of the mountains. Ye solemn shadows, hail! Ye peaks that rise to heaven, untrodden by foot of man, welcome! Ye châlets that look out so sweetly from your nests of verdure -- ye frowning rocks -- ye peaks that greet the morning -- ye majestic pines -- ye gleaming snows -- ye herdsmen keeping your watch on the far-off pasture lands, all through the summer's day and star-lit night -- ye mists that now veil, now reveal, the glories amid which you move -- ye clouds, now dark with thunder, now flaming in gold -- ye rivulets, that sing with quiet gladness in the shade -- ye cataracts, that leap, with shouting joy, from cliff to cliff -- ye torrents, that send up to heaven in eternal thunder your hymns of praise, welcome all! welcome! welcome!

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