[Robert Underwood] Johnson
From John Muir
Martinez, Cal. Jan. 13, 1893.
My dear Mr Johnson.
I was very glad to get your letter of Dec 8th showing you were well again, as good a man as before your dangerous illness or better with all your capacity for work & fight & poetry jubilant & exuberant I heartily congratulate you & bid you godspeed over the ways of the New Year. I should have written you long ere this but for sickness in the family. For more than a week I did not take off my clothes; watching by the bed of my sick babies. All are well again Thank Heaven. By the way Arme’s father died a short time ago
& this probably was the cause of his not answering your letters; for he is heartily in favor of the recession of Yosemite & a good worker & good fighter. I think that not less than nine-tenths of the people of Cal are in favor of the recession of the Valley to the Gen Government to be made a part of the national park which naturally it is, But among the other tenth are those who are pecuniarly interested & one man whose pocket is touched to the quick will do more fighting in a case of sentiment & scenery than a thousand who only look at the question in a careless abstract way though they look in the right direction. Very few people in
California care for scenery to any appreciable extent,-to the extent say of subscribing 25 cents each to save Yosemite from being sunk in the sea. El Capitan meadows forests & all though nominally on the right side, We have a few good workers in the Sierra Club those who have friends in the legislature or in Congress have written to them, I have written to Noble & we have got the S.F. Call to take up the subject & some good lively columns are being printed. One of our directors is a state Senator Mr McAllister & he will introduce a bill for recession. Our Sec of State is cordially with us, but the governor seems to be
against us, Anyhow sooner as later we must be successful. Allen a special Agent of the Interior Department, attended one of the meetings of the directors of our club & submitted his report asking suggestions & [illegible] in the Yosemite & Tulare Reservation aims & this report probably submitted ere this is as strongly favorable as we could make it. We meet again tomorrow chiefly for the Yosemite question & will do what we can. Your Century editorial was capital And now your poems – it goes without saying that so keen a literary sharp would write nothing silly even in verse but I never knew before that you were so much a poet.
I have sauntered through your songs, only once & doubtless have missed much of the best they hold, but I am going to them again. I too love the [illegible]rse ever golden & am glad you set it “at the door of your little book – suggestive of the gold within.[“?] The Winter Hour is a fine manly well-balanced poem but you should not have introduced candle-light as you have in the second line, Candle light is a feeble greasy smutty thing: rather you should have gone straight to the glowing god like heart of the fire on the hearth. “The world is saved not lost by fire” a good line, Here you might possibly have hinted Volcanoes, god’s hearths7
about which wheat & wine, life & light abound. "Where's a warmer friend than fire" is certainly a safe question. The "Hearth song" is lively & goes dancing on like a hillside stream. Fireflies mock the early stars, - a good line, & so is "the music's lullaby Locks down at last the sleepy eye"- -where Beyond the midnight & the dawn Has now that other footstep gone- Very fine Poets that keep the world in heart Milton's massive lines that pour like waves upon a windward shore Wordsnorth's refuge from the crowd - -like a lark that mounts so high He sees not earth but from the sky fine lines all of them A [illegible] of Dagnan-Bouveret is charming
“Outglow the rainbow” – good “Love in Italy” – [lively?] & witty Life at its full is holiest Thy heart a thronged confessional A fount of sympathy, a store Of jewels at an open door Very good & the end of the poem is capital. “Grass half-robin high”, in a spring prelude is I think very good & vivid & so is “Oriole flute rich as his coat” Love in the Calendar has wit & a jolly lilt, When chinks in Aprils windy dome Let through a day of June – And every sound’s a tune – are fine sturdy poetic lines A sigh from now & it will be night in September Eve – good. So is the line – When tired equinoctials sleep, in “October” Here is the watershed of all the year
The [gaunt?] & wrinkled orchard shivers ’neath the blast like Lear upon the English heath And mossy boughs blow wild that undistressed Another spring shall hide the cheerful nest These lines in “November” seem to me wonderfully vivid & telling The Washington Hymn is grand but too short The poet that “Lights up the farthest dark & the final haze – very fine. In Browning at Asolo Yesterday he was part of it all – Sat here, discerning cloud from snow In the flush of the Alpine afterglow is vivid & telling as only the poet can make it. O muffled bell If speech “Divided Honors” is very clever & so is A tracer for J.B. These are the lines that at first sight caught my eye. It seems wonderful
that such a working, fighting man of affairs as you are should be so much a poet. I’m proud of you – go ahead & plan up more poets gold to brace & cheer & inspire your many already deeply indebted friends. I send herewith a few clippings will send more soon – Also the report of the Yosemite Commissioners containing the governors letter to the chairman of the Senate Committee on public lands – The governor is as you will see violently opposed to recession. We have found out (directors of the Sierra Club) that Caminetti’s bill is mainly in the interest of lumberman & those who own timber claims for sale to lumbermen – Timber claims within the boundaries of the park are very nearly worthless to the owners as they can make no use of them
by themselves- not being able to build mills, roads, flumes etc, or get their lumber to market if they could.
Again wishing you godspeed in this other new swing around the sun I am Ever Cordially your friend John Muir
Give my regards to J.B. when next you see him & tell him to come to Cal.
1893 Jan 13
Original letter dimensions unknown.
Muir, John, "Letter from John Muir to [Robert Underwood] Johnson, 1893 Jan 13." (1893). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 223.
Reel 07, Image 0746
Online finding aid for the microform version of the John Muir Correspondence http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt0w1031nc
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Environmentalist, naturalist, travel, conservation, national parks, John Muir, Yosemite, California, history, correspondence, letters