Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Pine Forest of Monterey

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Western States: Monterey, Cal.

The Pine Forest of Monterey

By Bayard Taylor (1825–1878)

WHAT point of Time, unchronicled, and dim

As yon gray mist that canopies your heads,

Took from the greedy wave and gave the sun

Your dwelling-place, ye gaunt and hoary Pines?

When, from the barren bosoms of the hills,

With scanty nurture, did ye slowly climb,

Of these remote and latest-fashioned shores

The first-born forest? Titans gnarled and rough,

Such as from out subsiding Chaos grew

To clothe the cold loins of the savage earth,

What fresh commixture of the elements,

What earliest thrill of life, the stubborn soil

Slow-mastering, engendered ye to give

The hills a mantle and the wind a voice?

Along the shore ye lift your rugged arms,

Blackened with many fires, and with hoarse chant,—

Unlike the fibrous lute your co-mates touch

In elder regions,—fill the awful stops

Between the crashing cataracts of the surf.

Have ye no tongue, in all your sea of sound,

To syllable the secret,—no still voice

To give your airy myths a shadowy form,

And make us of lost centuries of lore

The rich inheritors?
The sea-winds pluck

Your mossy beards, and gathering as they sweep,

Vex your high heads, and with your sinewy arms

Grapple and toil in vain. A deeper roar,

Sullen and cold, and rousing into spells

Of stormy volume, is your sole reply.

Anchored in firm-set rock, ye ride the blast,

And from the promontory’s utmost verge

Make signal o’er the waters. So ye stood,

When, like a star, behind the lonely sea,

Far shone the white speck of Grijalva’s sail;

And when, through driving fog, the breaker’s sound

Frighted Otondo’s men, your spicy breath

Played as in welcome round their rusty helms,

And backward from its staff shook out the folds

Of Spain’s emblazoned banner.

Ancient Pines,

Ye bear no record of the years of man.

Spring is your sole historian,—Spring, that paints

These savage shores with hues of Paradise;

That decks your branches with a fresher green,

And through your lonely, far cañadas pours

Her floods of bloom, rivers of opal dye

That wander down to lakes and widening seas

Of blossom and of fragrance,—laughing Spring,

That with her wanton blood refills your veins,

And weds ye to your juicy youth again

With a new ring, the while your rifted bark

Drops odorous tears. Your knotty fibres yield

To the light touch of her unfailing pen,

As freely as the lupin’s violet cup.

Ye keep, close-locked, the memories of her stay,

As in their shells the avelonès keep

Morn’s rosy flush and moonlight’s pearly glow.

The wild northwest, that from Alaska sweeps,

To drown Point Lobos with the icy scud

And white sea-foam, may rend your boughs and leave

Their blasted antlers tossing in the gale;

Your steadfast hearts are mailed against the shock,

And on their annual tablets naught inscribe

Of such rude visitation. Ye are still

The simple children of a guiltless soil,

And in your natures show the sturdy grain

That passion cannot jar, nor force relax,

Nor aught but sweet and kindly airs compel

To gentler mood. No disappointed heart

Has sighed its bitterness beneath your shade;

No angry spirit ever came to make

Your silence its confessional; no voice,

Grown harsh in Crime’s great market-place, the world,

Tainted with blasphemy your evening hush

And aromatic air. The deer alone,—

The ambushed hunter that brings down the deer,—

The fisher wandering on the misty shore

To watch sea-lions wallow in the flood,—

The shout, the sound of hoofs that chase and fly,

When swift vaqueros, dashing through the herds,

Ride down the angry bull;—perchance, the song

Some Indian heired of long-forgotten sires,—

Disturb your solemn chorus.

Stately Pines,

But few more years around the promontory

Your chant will meet the thunders of the sea.

No more, a barrier to the encroaching sand,

Against the surf ye ’ll stretch defiant arm,

Though with its onset and besieging shock

Your firm knees tremble. Nevermore the wind

Shall pipe shrill music through your mossy beards,

Nor sunset’s yellow blaze athwart your heads

Crown all the hills with gold. Your race is past:

The mystic cycle, whose unnoted birth

Coeval was with yours, has run its sands,

And other footsteps from these changing shores

Frighten its haunting Spirit. Men will come

To vex your quiet with the din of toil;

The smoky volumes of the forge will stain

This pure, sweet air; loud keels will ride the sea,

Dashing its glittering sapphire into foam;

Through all her green cañadas Spring will seek

Her lavish blooms in vain, and clasping ye,

O mournful Pines, within her glowing arms,

Will weep soft rains to find ye fallen low.

Fall, therefore, yielding to the fiat! Fall,

Ere the maturing soil, whose first dull life

Fed your belated germs, be rent and seamed!

Fall, like the chiefs ye sheltered, stern, unbent,

Your gray beards hiding memorable scars!

The winds will mourn ye, and the barren hills

Whose breast ye clothed; and when the pauses come

Between the crashing cataracts of the surf,

A funeral silence, terrible, profound,

Will make sad answer to the listening sea.