John Muir


John Muir


[Ralph Waldo] Emerson


Yosemite Valley March 26th 72. Evening ---- -----Dear Emerson Yosemite is waving & throbbing in that kind of storm called Earthquake throbbing while I write. This morning at half past two oclock I was shaken most suddenly from sleep to blessed life. My cabin was full of strange sounds, & was rocking, crazing, swedging, shuddering in so boisterous a way that in crossing the floor I had to stagger & steady as if walking the deck of a schooner in waves. I had never experienced this kind of storm. Nevertheless I was not in doubt one moment for as the John Baptist Angel said squarely, "I am Gabriel", this storm said I am Earthquake, & I rumbled out to the open sky shooting. A noble Earthquake Noble Earthquake!!! The ground so reeled & jostled that I had to steady against a tree. The first "shock" was sustained for about three minutes with tremendous energy. It was no combination of chattering dismering tremors, but a most sublime out bloom of fervid passionate throbbings As if God had touched the mountains with a muscled hand, or were wearing them upon Him as common bones & flesh. The air was calm & the moon shone free, exposing strange agitation in the trees They waved & whipped as if their limbs had all been pressed close to their trunks then suddenly let

free. I expected the down crash of the Sentinel Rock, & many more beside, but there was hushed silence, as even Gravitation were in awe At length from up the valley opposite Yosemite Falls there came a glorious mountain voice. Would dear Soul that you had heard it, It would have become bone of your bone forever. The Eagle Rock had given way, not with one huge blocky gasp, but singing deeper deeper - louder louder for minutes long as years, pouring through trees & bushes in grains big as cabins & with smoke of fire & dust that filled the valley from wall to wall, Firs, oaks, & spruces were snipped like thistles. But the best of this stupendous rockfall to me was that it solved a question I had been studying for months, & its application flashed upon me at the first boom, before a single boulder reached the ground. Yosemite granite is well plum[illegible] & dovetailed else little would now be left of her brows & domes. 'Tis most astonishing that such scope, & rapidily, & flashing energy of movement is possible to granite mountains. When the ground began to calm I went to the river to see how it felt. I found that Down the Valley" was still down, & that Merced flowed confidingly in the old direction. The fall sang unchanged & so did a well known owl, no trace of nervousness was perceivable in the voice of any frog

I have been going about the valley all morning & day, anxious to learn what I could of this magnificent power. The ground is still in motion. It has never fairy settled since the first shock. Between each of the greater shocks a heavy rumbling is heard, not always dis- tinguishable from the explosive notes of the Upper Fall. These are the first spoken words that I have heard direct from the tender bosom of Mother Earth. Frogs cease their songs when a severe shock occurs. I noticed a pair of robins flying with a frightened cheep cheep from a shaken oak. Butterflies seem to know nothing about it. Vertical animals are mostly in sore consternation. Two or three have fled. A little girl of Hutchings cried terror stricken in the night, Grandma! Grandma! Pray to God to stop it. [I met?] two violets up by Indian Canon & I asked them while I looked in their eyes, what they thought of the great quake storm. They replied "It's all Love". We have lost Eagle Rock but have gained another that is more beautiful, Distruction is always creation; storms of water & & cloud, Storms of azure wind, & purple granite, are things of Beauty & Love, working Beauty & Love constantly "higher yet higher" - I did not purpose sending so much storm. I write mostly to repeat my invitation to Yosemite next summer. for this year Pacific letters fly Atlanticward like wounded birds, All are unsteady & many fall dead in drifts. Therefore

I say again, come to Yosemite. I am making a log cabin where you can nestle in calm, & when we go to the upper Yosemites I will have a horse & tent ready for you. We will drift about the blessed mtn's softly as winged seeds, & every night I'll make you a better bed than Milton made for Adam, & you will not take cold for mtn trees are full of sunshine gums, & we'll make a sunrise of a fire, that will glow all through the night. You will learn how mountains are carved to this beauty, you will bathe in bodily beamless light, Light that contains rays that no chemist, no colorist ever found. You will drink pure Mtn' winds those glorious gul[illegible] streams of the sky, Come! To you it matters little how many inches you are from Concord. You are angeled & safe, come a whole year if you can. Think How a whole Yo- Semite year would shine in the middle sky of a life like yours. Perhaps too much has been written & perhaps these sheets may have some impertinence, but I'll not take any blame for they [illegible] themselves. I often looked down to my pen & asked, what are you saying? The mtns themselves are calling you. I wish you were here this night to be trotted & dumpled on this mountain knee, Most cordially yrs John Muir -


Yosemite Valley

Date Original

1872 Mar 26


Original letter dimensions unknown.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 02, Image 0737

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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