John Muir


John Muir


[Ralph Waldo] Emerson


brown trunk which makes a magnificent background for their level benches of silvery spray, Among his other friends living far below in his shadow are the [Ceanothus?] & the rose & the lupine & violet & the broad shouldered breckan. And little mosses & lichens also - humblest children of the kingdom, meet King Sequoia & dwell with him & they paint his grand column with their green & gold as big congregations of social flowers color the flutings of a hillside I remember that some of your party remarked the silence of our woods & the absence of birds. Well, ere you were half way down the hill a gush of the richest forest song that ever tingled human soul came [2]

in grand confidence from the whole grove choir of trees, birds, & flies. When you went away I walked to the top of the ridge [commanding?] a view of the arterial grooves of the [Fresnoe?], to Ca[illegible], & when I returned to the grove near S[illegible] I was welcomed by five or six birds, The magnificent pileated woodpecker eighteen inches in length came right up to me & turned round & round as if anxious that I should know all his gestures & notes. & observe the color & polish of every feather. A little brown specky titmouse was building a house near the ground beneath a flake of Sequoia bark & she allowed one to remain within five feet of her building without ceasing her work only pausing an instant now & then to look at me. Alas a very shy [slim?] ash colored bird about the size of the robin shewed himself [3]

occasionally. He is swift & im- pulsive in flight & frequently hovers about the ends of spruce boughs like a humming bird A lot of Chickadee like birds flitted about like moths & one with a rich fluty voice approached in the Ce[illegible] tangle but did not show himself & after all these were [illegible] a big voiced owl echoed the column grove from end to end, & next day as I drifted slowly down to the lower trees I saw birds everywhere. - The Grizzly giant was full of birds, & as I was about to start for Clarks while I linger- ed among farewell impressions at the base of the last Sequoia a bird came down to one of the lowest branches near my head & uttered loud & clear a bosomful of the most startling worded song that I ever felt From first to last all of Nature seemed to hear the call of another King David & joined in one grand rejoicing. There was the sweetest wavings & hushings of trees hummings of insect wings open jointed warbligs of birds & the rocks too pulsed to the general joy, & every crystal & individual dust [4]

Yosemite July 6th

Dear Emerson, You are in the calm of home & perhaps will be glad to hear this small echo from our Mariposa trees. Here is [Ramoset?] with whom you are acquainted & with whom I spent a night & day. He is noble in form & behaviour as any Sequoia friend that I have - less proper- less orthodox than his two companions but has more dignity - more freedom, wh' he manifests by the curving & thrusting of every limb. All three touch & intermingle at the top, at least when breathed upon by the winds Some spurey arrowey firs are poised about his [1]

been very deeply interested with them & am far from being done with them Excepting the woodnotes wh Mrs Carr read me & the Barly bumble bee' I have not seen any of your [poems?] before

Since I cannot have yourself I want your photo- graph Ever Yours John Muir

John Muir July 1871


In a few days I start for the high Sierra East of Yosemite & I would willingly walk all the way to your Concord if so I could have you for a com- panion - the Indians & hot plains would be nothing In particular I want to study a certain pine tree at different elevations, & the lavas of mous. The dear mother has told me one magnificent truth since you were here. Two years ago I crossed the basin of Yosemite creek a mile or two back of the top of the falls & observed what appeared as indications of a glacier, & again about a month ago I was upon Mt Hoffman & on my return to the valley crossed the Yosemite basin & received still more satisfactory hints of the former existence of a glacier [5]

wh flowed at right angles to those later & larger ones of the summits Now there is a very deep canon on the left of Yosemite falls wh has compelled me to think to it every day for more than a year & I could not account for its formation in any other way than by supposing the existence of a glacier in the basin above as one of the conditions Last Sabbath the big truth came to the birth. I ran out of the valley by Indian Canon, & round to the top of the falls - said my prayers in the irised spray & started for the upper end of the basin ten or twelve miles distant hoping somewhere to discover positive evidence of my missing glacier in the higher deeper portions of its channel where it would linger longest, or where it had been compelled to [6]

wedge through some narrow place thus hardening & more deeply grooving the granite wh then would not be so susceptible of disintegration Well I had not gone four miles ere I found all I had so long sought & you might have heard a shout in concord This glacier was about 12 ms' in length by about 6 in breath, Of the depth I have as yet no data. Its course was nearly at right angles to the summit glaciers & perhaps it was not born quite so early as they. & I am sure that it died long before they were driven from the canons of the Tenaya & Nevada streams. I have just finished a first reading of your [Society?] & Solitude. The poems I have head several times. I have [7]




Original letter dimensions unknown.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 02, Image 0471

Copyright Statement

The unpublished works of John Muir are copyrighted by the Muir-Hanna Trust. To purchase copies of images and/or obtain permission to publish or exhibit them, see

Owning Institution

The Houghton Library, Harvard University. Please contact this institution directly to obtain copies of the images or permission to publish or use them beyond educational purposes.

Copyright Holder

Muir-Hanna Trust

Copyright Date



4 pages



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