The Mountain Path.

From: The Bird and the Bell with Other Poems (1875)
Author: Christopher Pearse Cranch
Published: Osgood and Company 1875 Boston


FAR, far above
This easy slope I gained, a mountain shines
And darkens skyward with its crags and pines;
And upward slowly I move,

Because I know
There is no level where I can pause, and say,
“This is sure gain.” It is too steep a way
For mortal foot to go.

There is no end
Of things to learn, and books to cram the brain;
They who know all, still hunger to attain.
What boots it that they spend

Long toiling years
To gain horizons dim and limitless?
The higher up, the more the soul’s distress
In alien atmospheres.

All is the same.
What profit hath the scholar more than I?
Let bookworms crawl. Better to leap or fly
With some small earnest aim.

What is the good
Of heaping pile on pile of musty lore?
Nor paper promises, nor uncoined ore
Can buy the spirit’s food.

Even the flame
Of morning burning o’er yon cedar heights
Is dull, unless an inward morn delights.
All sunshine is the same.

Our skill and wit
Snare us in useless labor and routine.
The more we search, the more retires unseen
Nature the Infinite.

The same in all.
And telescope and microscope but teach
One mystery, far above, below our reach.
There is no great or small,

No grand or mean;
No end, and no beginning. For we float
In Being, and learn all our creeds by rote,
Nor see through Heaven’s screen.

This, mainly this,
We cling to,—hope that as we upward climb,
Some essence of the juices of the time,
Some light we cannot miss,

Gives toil its worth;
Secretes and feeds and builds up strong and fair
The young recipient being with food and air
Of mingled heaven and earth.

Only what creeps
As sap from trunk to tree, from branch to flower,
Fills with the quiet plenitude of power
The oak’s unconscious deeps;

While south-winds sift,
Rain falls and sunlight sparkles through the leaves,
And the gnarled regent of the woods receives
The heaven’s benignant gift.

What the soul needs,
It takes to itself,—aromas, sounds, and sights,
Beliefs and hopes; finds star-tracks through the nights,
And miracles in weeds;

Grows unawares
To greatness, through small help and accidents,
Puzzling the pedagogue Routine, whose tents
It leaves for manlier cares.

And by the light
Of some great law that shines on passing facts,
Some nobler purpose blending with our acts,
We read our tasks aright;

And gain the trust
That knowledge is best wealth. So shall the ends
Crown the beginnings. He who wisely spends,
Gathers the stars as dust.


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