From Mountains and Meadows by William Quale


Moonlit Landscape with Bridge
I camped for the night at a bend of the stream. The mountains were yellow as Autumn leaves. A grass plot, soft, cool, inviting, rimmed my side of the water. My camp was at the elbow of the river where it turned suddenly up an unexpected gorge. A boulder high as my head made a table fit for the Argonauts. A fallen pine, prone but not uprooted, lay sprawled full length along the river edge, beautiful, fragrant, delicious with the darkness gathered in its branches while light was abundant in the sky. Just where the river turned up the gorge it took a run and jump of about four feet, making great laughter and abundant music. The mountains closed in on every side, and climbed eager for the rising of the moon. What a place to camp! The singing river, the prone pine, the yellow rocks, the swish of waters laving the naked rocks, the slow wind crooning among the pines, the stream for a wash-dish and the stream for a drinking cup (spots changed, as becometh a Christian, not using the same spot to drink in and to wash in), scant pines pluming the ascending yellow rocks, air a balm of spicery and mountain cleanness, mountain poppies fallen asleep early, clean tired out. Supper is had cooked on the rock, with pine-wood fire, fragrance oozing out and sparkles shooting out. A pine fire amidst mountains on a summer night, and the incense of dead forests mixing with the incense of living forests, and the exhilarance of mountain air while a mountain river sang! Under what happy conjunction of stars must I have been born! And the night set in. The world is remote.
I have forgotten it. I lie under the stars. No tent for a lover of mountains. Let him use the sky for a coverlid, and the stars for candles, and the fragrant pine fire for holy nard. 1 lie alongside the fallen pine, with its branches touching me as they sway. My head is near and toward the waterfall, so that not one of its rejoicing voices was lost to my heart. The sentinel pines climbing the rocks, stood silhouetted against the sky. Clouds cluttered across the heavens. Stars winked through the half-closed shutters of the clouds. The wind amongst the chasms was as a strong man taking long breaths. The solemn mountains were fast asleep, but very noble in their slumbers, with broad shoulders erect, on which stars might rest if they grew weary in the night, and on which eager dawns were free to stand tiptoe if they would. To fall asleep seemed a crime. Such nights in such places were meant for waking, not for sleeping. By and by the slow moon climbed the east. The eastern rockrow of black mountain won a halo of palpitating silver; then the lunar shield flashed out above the serried blackness; then gentle light illumined the western mountain-tops, and stole down stealthily toward the river, calling to the moonlight, "Come, O come" I lie and watch. The clouds grew tired, and went to bed like the poppies. The stream and I and the moonlight staid awake; but in due time I succumbed to the flute-song of the waterfall, and heard this music dimly, and saw the moonlight wasting to a silver haze, and sleepily said my prayer: "I thank Thee, O God of the out-of-doors, that Thou art in the mountains; and I am with them and Thee. Hear my voice mixed with the music of Thy waterfalls, and think of my prayer as if it were a song to Thee whom I love to bless for this great mercy of the mountain and mountain music and shadow, and moonlight and mystery. Thee I love and bless." And the stream chanted, "He heareth prayer." And I was in happy sleep. And God was with me till the dawn.