ONE warm day in early May, a year or two before the building of the railroad, I took the long stage ride through forest and desert to the Grand Cañon of the Colorado River. I remember that at one of the relay stations where we changed horses, or rather mules, — one of those meagre outposts of humanity against the immense and sombre wilderness, — a coarse-featured, kindly German housewife greeted the travelers and asked news of the world. The bare and friendless desert lay all around her little foothold, half bounded at the remote horizon by violet mountains fringed at the base with the softness of treetops ; and from one point in these treetops a wraith of smoke rose straight toward a sky that ached with blue. Three or four flaxenhaired urchins scrutinized us from their play on the hard earth under the staring sun as their mother met us at her doorway, and invited us into the shadow of her roof. The hut was made of rude timber, and its floor was the sun-baked soil of the desert. Its furniture was rough and meagre, — pitiful contrivances of boards and boxes, or more hideous rickety products of the factory; but in the corner a fire was burning in the large cook stove, and the air of the place was heavy with the odors of a meal.
“ I don’t know ven dey vill come, dose men,” she said. “ Look, I have had dinner here for forty men since twelve o’clock, und dey can’t come to eat it,” and she showed us great steaming pots of meat and potatoes which she had kept hot these three hours.
“ But why can’t they come ? ” I asked.
“ Dey are out fighting dose fires,” she answered. “ De government has twenty men, und now it has hired twenty more, und dey yust work night and day, but still de fires burn.”
“ But they must be miles away,” I protested. “ I see the line of smoke on the horizon.”
“ Yes, miles away,” she assented equably.
The woman’s talk seemed to widen the world. All day I had been growing accustomed to vastness ; through interminable solitudes we had followed our narrow way over the strange plateau, wondering that even the prairie dogs and the low scant sagebrush and cactus could eke a living out of that parched earth. We had skirted the edge of lifted mesas that overlapped the plain with their shelving bluffs of rock, lesser plateaux so inhospitable that even the savages seemed never to have climbed them. Now suddenly through all this intolerable desolation the woman’s words uncovered energies of life. In these wastes, it appeared, human dreams grew as large as the earth’s impenetrable mood ; men did not fear to fight immensities of fire and drought, of loneliness and thirst and sorrow, in the service of a future whose reward they could not share. Their labors became heroic, epic, as worthy of a Homer as the Trojan War. Those forty rangers, forgetting meat and drink and sleep and shelter to save mountain-loads of forests from destruction, made me oddly discontented with lesser deeds, — with the systematized routine of cities, with the petty intrigues of politics, with the jealous exactitudes of the arts. I remembered that a year before that very day I had been in beautiful Florence, where students were still devoting lives to the analysis of Giorgione’s color and Donatello’s silver line ; that the year before that I had seen the Queen of England making an impressive show of power at her jubilee, upheld by her world-wandering soldiers and the ambassadors of all nations : and irresistibly, in that poor little hut, face to face with the bare desert, I felt ashamed of my long preoccupation with all these. The inspiration of the future seized me, carried me beyond reach of any inspiration of the past. I felt the coming of new empires, the burden of unborn centuries, and grew great with the unspeakable hope and unspeakable sadness of the wilderness.
It was a most complex emotion, this vision of unachieved glory set against a background of immemorial antiquity. For the desert is old beyond one’s dreams of age ; it makes Rome or Nineveh seem a thing of yesterday. One cannot evoke ruined palaces out of this waste ; even Egypt’s Pyramids and the unanswering Sphinx would seem too new. Not hierarchies and civilizations could fitly people it, but primeval man alone, — barbarians cowering on their lofty mesas, savages scouring their thirsty plains. And yet hierarchies and civilizations shall surely inherit it, shall make the wilderness blossom as the rose, and fill it with children and music and laughter. The stubborn problem of drought will surely be solved by the united energies of the genius of man, and these sad inclement solitudes will yield up at last the stored riches of ages.
Yet when that day of plenty shall dawn, when the Western states shall have multiplied their millions, we shall have won the fulfillment but lost the vision. Already the beauty of unploughed prairies has faded away, — that tumult of flowers and grasses which Harriet Martineau wondered at as she took her long wagon ride from Chicago to Joliet over sixty years ago. To-day those prairies, and others far beyond them to the west and the north, are the granary of the world, but he who longs in the spring for their billows of bloom can find them no more. With the seven-leagued boots of the fairy tale — nay, with the swifter boots of iron no fairy tale could foresee — is man advancing in the conquest of the earth. When the first rails were laid across the plains the sombre barrenness of those endless level wastes baffled the imagination of the casual traveler. Here, surely, God had shut his people out; like the Desert of Sahara, the land was forbidden to the hope of man ; and the wanderer hastened on, scarcely pausing to interpret the savage beauty of those dusky levels, their sternness of purple and brown, their steep blue deeps of sky, their dramatic magnificence of sunset and dawn. Now Nebraska and Kansas are greener than Illinois, and no painter has told us the desolate story of their past.
And while these epics were being written in the stubborn earth by the labor of man, what have most of us been doing in our lesser world ? Staying at home by our cosy hearths — is it not so? — and taking summer rests by the sea, and months or years of wandering in historyhaunted Europe ; until, perhaps, many of us grow too old to explore, and lie down at last in the arms of Earth without knowing her sublimest secrets. Mea culpa ! I also am guilty ; and I cannot repent of seeing Italy before Arizona, for only thus may I be sure that Arizona is more inspiring than Italy, that for us of the new world and the new century it has the richer and profounder and more mysterious message of beauty.
For Italy presents the realization of certain human ideals, gives one a sense of things achieved rather than a stimulus toward a new revelation. Its beauty is self-contained and measurable; one rests in it with profound content, analyzes and imitates it without taking a step forward. Have not the Italians themselves become the slaves of their own past, so that for centuries they have been incapable of anything but banalities in art ? In Arizona, on the contrary, man has done nothing, and even Nature has done no little things. There Nature is not conciliatory and charming ; she is terrible and magnificent. With one stroke of her mighty arm she lays bare the foundations of the earth, with one hot breath she strips the soil; and we venture into those ultimate primitive ages — the beginning and the end of things — upon whose fundamental immensity and antiquity our boasted civilization blooms like the flower of a day. It is not strange, perhaps, that we should quail from this unfamiliar and incomprehensible beauty ; so remote is it from all our knowledge and our dreaming that we feel lost for a time in the shock of an emotion too great for our souls to accept, and often dare not accept nor interpret it. The sublimity of the Pyramids is endurable, but at the rim of the Grand Cañon we feel outdone. And not only there, where colossal Nature presents her masterpiece, — for thither I must not wander in this paper, having ventured my little utmost in another, — not only in that throne-room of creation do we feel too little for this mighty world, but also in the livid deserts or the petrified forests, and under the savage buttes and mesas. We love what we can understand, what history and letters and art have taught us to understand, have wreathed and entwined and made human and eloquent with deeds and vows. We prefer to follow other feet, — to see Shakespeare’s England, and Byron’s Switzerland, and the Paris of many wars and loves. But no poet has said an adequate word for these unexplored sublimities ; history hushes before them; no art has yet achieved them. To them the mind of man must venture as a pioneer ; there at last he stands face to face with Nature, with not a human voice or foot to guide him, measuring intrepidly the stature of his soul with God.
And is not this after all the more heroic adventure ? Are we not fortunate, we who may penetrate the meaning of solitude, who may know these cañons and deserts before they have become the resort of idle tourists, the theme of all men’s praise, the El Dorado of some poet unborn ? Now, indeed, they are mine, not theirs. I may think my own thoughts, dream my own dreams, find out how far my imagination can reach when it moves unguided and unaided. Is not this more stimulating than even to think the thoughts of Goethe, to dream the dreams of Dante ? Is it not a bath at dawn in ever fresh and living waters, a refreshment, a re-creation of the soul ?
When the opportunity of going West came to me through illness, it was Arizona, rather than southern California, which I chose to explore, because garden lands had been commoner in my experience than deserts, and because a winter of unchanging sunshine allured me. It was a white journey all the way, — through the level farms of Kansas, monotonous and dreary under their light mantle of snow; over the wintry Colorado plateau, whence whiter slopes, range after range, rose lightly, ineffably out of the quiet distance : and even across New Mexico and Arizona, under the beautiful curve of San Francisco Mountain, which assailed the sky like a white wraith, gleaming and wonderful, a friend of the dawn. And there were streaks of snow even at Ash Fork, where I left the main road to descend from the bleak heights of northern Arizona to the perpetual summer of its low southern plains.
The strangeness of that half-day journey from Ash Fork to Phœnix first made me aware of the difference — of that other world I was entering, as unlike our familiar planet as the moon. Through the twists and curves and switch-backs of this precipitous downward ride the earth protested with a black frown, conceding nothing to man nor beast — no drop of water, no foothold of kindly soil. Harsh, forbidding mountains rose everywhere bold and black, blotched with a dry and scrubby growth of some evil unearthly plant. I plunged into abysses of time ; I measured the age of the world. Here, in the infinite deeps of the past, armies of giants must have fought, must have hurled vast rocks from peak to peak, and deserted the bones of their dead, and cursed the place.
For hours the ashen earth seemed bereft of color, — for hours, until the falling sun began to make magic of the scene and work the strangest transformations. One illusion which I could not shake off was that of a still and boundless sea, with capes jutting out from the shore. I thought of the tales of lost travelers in the desert, for whom thirst evokes such visions, and no longer did their fancies seem fantastic or improbable. And when we drew out of range of this ecstatic ocean the sunset was glowing over the hills in many tones of vivid miraculous color. The scant vegetation in the foreground was precisely the same thick, brownish gray as the smoke issuing from the engine, and through a wide crevice in the nearer purple hills, range after range of distant mountains shaded off through the whole rich scale of violet to a scarlet horizon, from which the sky paled upward through yellow and green to a vivid blue at the zenith. Only a swift five minutes was given for this vision, before we rounded the hills, which spared us the tragedy of its fading, and then gradually the darkness fell and the stars came out — Arizona stars, which love the earth better than those we know in the North. And under their espionage we skirted the last of the bleak hills, and crossed the level miles of the Salt River Valley to the half-breed capital of the summer land.
Phœnix proved to be a mushroom Western town, too much like any other, save for its sudden alternations of bits of garden with bits of desert. Its people build as though still in their native North, too neglectful of the Mexican architectural motive which, expressed in adobe houses with interior courts, with low, sloping eaves over broad verandas, might easily make their sunburnt city beautifully expressive of tropical life. In Egypt, art once dared to accept the desert’s challenge: here, it does not even hear it; so that it was only by the aid of a horse that I found once more that uncanny world of some witch’s dreaming, which my railroad journey had penetrated. Not the same phase of it, however, for here the country was flat and rolling, not mountainous ; the reddish purple hills to the north, the blue ones to the south, which shut in the horizon with gleaming color, were merely the enameled rim of its polished silver disk. For the low valley between them lay silver in the sun, offering to its pitiless lord a ghostly growth of cactus and sagebrush, of mesquite and palo-verde, of every plant that could slake its thirst from the rich unwatered soil. No desert of bare sands was this, stript and burnt and barren, like the high plateau of northern Arizona, but a weird and formidable luxuriance, — a luxuriance more like death than life, as though a multitude of armed and prickly dragons, sentineled by the giant cactus, threatened extinction to the soul. Was it beauty or hideousness — this vast reach of reptilian vegetation which tortured me with an unrecognizable and incredible emotion ? Should I deplore or welcome the sacrilegious invasion of man, whose crisscross of little ditches was softening the hard crust of the earth and gradually changing the fearsome wilderness into a garden ?
Not in an hour could I answer this question, portentous with the fate of one of the gods of cld. If this desert should pass, one of Nature’s slowly evolved ideas would be lost forever : let me live with it first, and try to understand. Day after day I brave the thorns, the stillness, the sun’s persistent sadness ; resisting always a creeping horror, a strange uncanny sense of doom. I sit on the hard earth, under the feathery half-shade of a paloverde, watching these varied ranks of crouching cacti, and gazing upward at their chief, the giant saguaro, which rises everywhere, gaunt and armed and formidable, — a ridged and slender trunk, twenty, forty, sixty feet high, breaking near the top into smaller trunks that curve and then straighten upward, like a long arm bearing a stiffened hand, and pointing deformed and stunted fingers skyward. This tall, grim, spectral monster, these harsh and bristling armies at its feet, do not seem to grow any more than the baked and crusted soil they spring from. This is not our friendly world with its companionable trees and flowers, but the aftergrowth of an ancient earth, of some planet outworn in the sun, and heavy with the bones of nations. Humanity has no rights in this enormous desolation ; its profound mysterious beauty is not for the eyes of men. We should leave it to the life which will endure longer than we on earth, inheriting our broad estates at last, — to the serpents and lizards and poisonous reptiles which lurk under bush and rock to punish our invasion.
But we cannot leave it. Not ours, it allures us by its inscrutable and solemn majesty, by its indifference, by its immeasurable age and impenetrable knowledge. We must go forth into the strange kingdom and accept its laws. We must tear our hearts with its thorns, and wonder at the anachronism of its flowers. Of no other corner of the earth can it remind us, even though the fluted cactus columns seem the type of a primitive architecture, and might have suggested to the architects of great King Rameses those squat pillars with bulging capitals which still uphold his temples against the obliterating years. But no one ever saw the giant cactus on the sandy deserts of Africa ; the primeval architects of the Nile never knew this motive for their colossal dreams. Here alone do these tall monuments guard the graves of worlds, and perhaps this very one I gaze on was scarcely begun when Rameses was born. Day and night I question it, by sunlight and moonlight and the unfailing stars, until gradually the unfamiliar harmonies of its sun-searched life justify themselves to my soul. The sense of uncanniness, of monstrosity, passes away ; the emotion no longer appalls and rends me, but soothes with immensities of restfulness.
To go out on the desert day after day and meet these cacti is like whispering into the ear of the Sphinx and listening at her locked lips. So wise they are, so old with the age of the world, so majestically still in those cataclysmic solitudes ! And to go out in April and see them suddenly abloom is as though the lips of the Sphinx should part and utter solemn words. A bunch of white flowers at the tip of the obelisk, flowers springing white and wonderful out of this dead, gaunt, prickly thing — is not that Nature’s consummate miracle, a symbol of resurrection more profound than the lily of the fields ? And in April also the lesser cacti are abloom with gorgeous flaming colors,—each dragon bears a jewel in its teeth as a tribute to the fervid sun. Then the palo-verde puts forth its delicate, downy, yellow plumage, and the sagebrush renews its silver. Even the changeless desert must follow the changing year, must greet the spring with renewal of life, must unfurl its banners to the sun. And if a few drops of rain just moisten its crust, it is strange how swiftly the sternness of its mood will change : the entire face of the pale earth will become softly green in a night, gratefully veiling itself close with a silvery leafage tiny and tender and delicate ; and masses of California poppies will spread out their patches of cloth of gold.
Gradually I began to associate with these portentous solitudes the wildness of primitive man, the sullen savage life which our pioneers and soldiers so rudely interrupted only the other day. The desert can never be ours, — we take it only to make a garden of it; but to these remnants of lost races it was a refuge and a spacious home. They scoured its plains like the dust storms which send every living thing to shelter in terror. They huddled in its caves and between the ledges of its cliffs, and crowned its lifted mesas with an architecture as rude as the rocks and as harsh as the prickly mesquite. They hunted the coyote and the mountain sheep, and shot the quail from their innumerable myriads, and wrenched scanty crops from the arid soil. And with archaic rites of a lost mysterious antiquity they made friends with the serpent, and invoked his intercession with the lord of rain, and peopled the wastes with grim and fearsome gods. But even more swiftly than we invade the wilderness with our gardens do we despoil the desert of this ancient life. The change is inevitable ; we cannot arrest it if we would. The savage must cease to be savage or he must pass away. He must become as we are, give up his gods and his wars, his tepees and his blankets, or else he must perish from the earth and leave his kingdom to the stronger race.
But when he is gone or changed this land of ours will have lost its youth. No more shall we stand face to face with the Stone Age, with primitive man in his caves and tents, with the very beginnings of time. Already with unreasonable sadness I watched the transformation, for in Phœnix is one of the government’s Indian schools, where dark-skinned children of many tribes are taught to give up their legends for our learning and their religion for our laws, to forget their beautiful blanket-weaving and pottery-making in acquiring the rudiments of the white man’s alien arts. Here I studied in little the efforts of our selfrighteous civilization to monotonize the world. Here one night bronze-colored boys recited speeches in praise of Columbus and “ the good George Washington,” and squat square girls — I looked in vain for the lithe and graceful Indian maiden — marched stockily through broom drills and sang patriotic songs out of tune. Then a tiny boy, not more than six or seven years old, faced the audience to prepare us for the old Apache war dance which his elders were to contribute to the exhibition. Strange mocking words were put into the baby’s mouth ; shamelessly the little innocent defamed the past of his warlike race. “ We do not show you this dance because we are proud of it,” he said in his reluctant English, “ but so that you may see how much we have improved here in this pleasant school which you good white people have given us.” My lordly blood ran cold at the irony of his praise, and after all the evening’s ineffectual and abortive modern show, the war dance moved me profoundly as a suggestion of the authentic and effective past. The lights went out as the curtain rose upon a semicircle of blanketed warriors, who, squatting around their council fire, beat a tattoo and wailed a wild chant as three slender and hardy braves began their swaying and leaping. Most curiously were these three tricked out in many-colored paints and beads and fringes, with anachronistic dark scant skirts binding their legs as a tribute to civilization. But we forgot the skirts in the splendor of their headdresses, which were dark masks surmounted by broad, three-storied crowns of vivid green and red, that shook many danglers in the dance. The leaping and swaying and wailing went on without change ; long enough to give a hint of its old hypnotic power over the tribesmen of the desert, who for days and nights together used to invoke the spirit of war by this ceremonial ecstasy of body and soul.
I think the most dull imagination must have conceived the original of this picture, must have realized how fierce a mood of slaughter might be developed in barbarous minds by these emotional dances and songs prolonged to the point of agony. No wonder the gentler tribes huddled in inaccessible caves and cliffledges, or crowded in terror on their fortress-like mesas, when the Apache danced for war and swept forth to scourge the plains. No wonder the white settler feared these wild men more than wild beasts, and kept his guns loaded to welcome them. Yet now the children of Apache and Moki and Navajo are growing up quietly together in the white man’s schools, and the murderous race hatreds of the past are suppressed. Suppressed, not destroyed; for the invader despises the Indian now that he needs no longer fear him, and the Apache scorns the Navajo all the more bitterly perhaps because he can no longer kill him.
The dance belonged to the desert; even in that darkened hall we felt the pride and strength in it, its expression of mastery, of lordship over vast open spaces of the earth. Doubtless every motion had its meaning, and those elaborate pyramidal head-edifices were an intricate system of symbols. The young brave, leaping thus around the camp-fire an hundred years ago, felt himself lord of his world more keenly than any heir of all our civilized ages, because he knew of no living thing more powerful than he. Yet now the orange and almond are blooming on his barren battle - ground, and his desert kingdom has room for all but him. Rapidly the king has become a slave, and there is “none so poor to do him reverence.”
Even in our time his doom has fallen. His conquerors are not yet old : our brothers may have been in the fearless band of cavalry which pursued Geronimo to his last fastness, pursued him by forced night marches through a waterless country, where the temperature reached 130° under the pitiless unshadowed sun. Heroically, through years of battle, those frontier soldiers did their work, protecting from fire and sword the little cabin in the wilderness. And now that the work is done forever we turn to the scattered and cowering tribes to pick up the remnants of their ancient life. Now that the desert plains are cleared of marauding warriors, we climb the rock-lifted mesas to the pueblos where strange rites are still enacted. We study old ceremonies and superstitions, sometimes curiously christianized by the early Spanish lords and priests, sometimes frankly pagan, like the snake dance of the Moki, who bloodily rejected Spanish rule more than two centuries ago. And all these poetic memorials of the childhood of the world we may be the last to look upon. We ourselves have doomed them, and our regrets are vain to arrest their doom. “ There will not be many more snake dances,” mourned the chief priest of the Moki three years ago ; “ our children go to the schools, and when they come back they laugh at what we tell them.”
No more snake dances, and yet the snake dance is perhaps the oldest rite on earth, twin brother to the mysteries of old Nile, a survival of the animal worship of prehistoric man. In this short paper I cannot dwell upon it. This strange, long, two days’ ride across that gorgeous Inferno, the Painted Desert, and beyond, past the grotesque red buttes and black volcanic cones; the steep climb up the white wall of the mesa to the “ sky-city; ” the glad race at sunrise and the dark dance with death at sunset, — these pictures in their infinities of desert and sunshine would allure me too far. It was a plunge out of life, out of time. The stamping and chanting of the painted priests, their downward rush with the savage snakes, was the climax of some pageant of long ago. I was watching dark-skinned children of the Pharaohs at one of their prodigious festivals. It was no surprise to learn that every word and motion of the dance has been handed down from generations so remote that even the priests no longer understand the poetry they intone. Its words have become archaic, are no longer the spoken language of the tribe, but the dead one of their ancestors. And the music also seems archaic, more ancient than the most ancient chants we know, following a scale remote and weird to our ear, and yet with a strange beauty in it which our musicians should analyze before it disappears forever.
Yet who of our more eminent composers has heard this music, given his imagination this impetus toward a symphony of the desert that shall interpret its mighty harmonies of loneliness and life ? Must these pass away unheard and unrevealed ?
We have preserved mere fragments of a folk-lore as richly poetic as the rhythmic names which these tribes have left us in passing. What reminders of Europe or old Cathay could have enriched our national life like the beautiful names of the wilderness — Ohio, Dakotah, Wyoming, Chicago, Tacoma, and Iowa ? Shall the names of our states and cities be all that we preserve of their past ? A few years ago the socalled ghost dances of our Northwestern tribes terrified the great government of the United States, which sought to stamp them out as an incitement to war. Yet they were merely an orgy of prayer to the Great Spirit, — that he might be pleased to give back to his people the buffalo and the elk, the spacious hunting grounds of the olden time ; a forlorn hope of the dying faith against the dark certainty of its doom. This hope spread like wild-fire from reservation to reservation, and urged men to prodigies of fasting and watching and ecstatic motion. But it was not a war dance, for these warriors, penned into reservations, had begun to learn the futility of war. None of us but the few ethnologists who studied with sympathy knew how much more tragic than war was this despairing outcry of prayer from the heart of a conquered people.
We scarcely realize how swift has been the change for them. The tribes of the great plains heard but vague rumors of the palefaces for three centuries after the voyage of Columbus, and for another half century and more they were left in peace. Meanwhile the white man’s gift of horses, increasing from a few wanderers to wild herds, magnificently enlarged the Indian’s world and changed the conditions of his life. For a century or more he rode to the chase and to war over larger ranges than even his swift foot had ever compassed, before the narrow road of steel crossed prairie and mountain, and a swifter steed than the horse brought him face to face with his fate. Even then the invasion was gradual, — the savage did not know what force of millions stood behind the lonely cabin he could easily pillage and burn. But beside the burned cabin rose another and another, till they grew to a village, to a city; the buffalo diminished and disappeared, and the prairie grasses yielded to wheat-fields, before the perplexed tribesmen appreciated the meaning of it all. Then, when natural forces ceased to aid them, they took refuge in the supernatural, listened to wild prophets who arose here and there and sent messages of hope to the scattered tribes, looked for an all-powerful Messiah who should crush out their crowding foes, and give back to the children of the Great Spirit their vast ranges and their big game. The prophets prescribed fasting and prayer and rhythmical ceremonies of ecstatic devotion; and unceasingly, for days and nights together, the painted and feathered warriors leapt and chanted before the altar of their gods. Only when this fire died out, when even the gods proved impotent to arrest the white man’s march, did the red man begin to accept the inevitable, to realize that only by learning the arts of his conqueror could he hope for a place in the new régime. His dogged stubborn mind is slow to face the future ; still he halts in the ignoble transition stage of idleness and dependence, learning our vices first, hopeless of acquiring our complicated civilization, with its elaborate machinery of life, its formidable engines of labor. But already certain tribes have passed the turning point in their fortunes, are growing rich and increasing in numbers and industry, and gradually others will doubtless follow their example. The curtain will fall upon the world-old drama of the wilderness; no more may we watch at the dawn of time the prodigious battle of primitive man against the power of Nature and the ferocity of his soul.
And when it is done, — when the savage is civilized and the desert is irrigated and the unbounded vastness of the West is fenced off into farms ; when even the mountains have been searched for gold to the last cliff, and even the last fastnesses of Nature — the geysers and great cañons and giant forests — have become government parks ; when the long epic of conquest is written by millions of hands in the hard broad earth, — will not something be lost out of the spirit of man ? Will not a flutter of bright wings cross the seas to frozen Siberia or torrid Africa, and leave our new world old?
I like to think that the weary races of Europe needed renewing and achieved it in the centuries of conflict with Nature and wild foes which followed-on this continent the landing of Columbus. I like to think that through these many seasons of intimacy with the great stern Mother the heart of man became as that of a little child, and began history anew in that large spirit of democracy which he had learned from her. Harsh lessons she taught him : to meet her singlehanded he must invent huge engines, he must clutch her hidden forces, he must burrow through mountains and change the course of rivers ; and so sublime were the dreams she whispered that he halted at none of these. “ I will make this wilderness blossom as the rose,” said one pioneer to a dreary Colorado plateau that frowned bare and brown in the sun ; and when, after years of difficult but joyous struggle, the garden bloomed out of the waste, he stayed not to reap the harvest, but gayly attacked new problems. “ I will find the gold in these mountains,” said another to the jagged ranges of the Rockies; and when it eluded him he persisted with courage as stern as theirs, patiently digging his little holes and living in his little lonely caves, until perhaps he grew old without finding it, and died happy in the habit of hopefulness. Is it money these men work for, the pitiful luxuries they scarcely know what to do with when they get them ? Even they think so, perhaps, but they belie the vision in their souls. Money is merely an incident; it is power they love, the sense of struggle, of conquest, of attainment, of striking out new paths, and measuring their strength against enemies as big as they. It is this long intimacy with large ideas, this long battle with mighty foes, which makes our Western men unconquerable, which keeps them so brave against difficulty, so hopeful against disaster. It was this training through obscure generations which gave us Lincoln, and so profoundly does it stimulate the imagination that in the coming time it may breed yet greater men.
It was not in vain that Moses roamed for forty years in the Wilderness; had he not lived for forty years in a court, and must he not learn to dream before he could lead his people to the Promised Land ? Like him, weighed down and inactive under all the learning of the Egyptians, races of men become inert, overloaded with civilization, and need the wilderness to dream in. And those who dare to read their hearts aright go out where they may find room and where their imaginations may be free. The imagination grows in the wilderness, grows strong and keen and daring. No longer does it need the familiar stimulus, the books and pictures, the old-world palaces and feudal politics on which it has leaned so long. It casts aside art and literature and history, perhaps, with one large simple gesture : strips itself clear of all the proudest achievements of the race. But in that bold breaking with the past may there not be a rebirth of the soul of man ? May he not plunge into oblivion as into a bath of sunlit waters, cast aside the old ideals — dreams which were not his but another’s — in order that he may be free for new ones which shall enforce and extend his dominion over the earth ? Does he not need a deep vision of things unachieved in order that he may face the threatening future in the spirit of an epic hero, eager to search and conquer, to found the new happier order, to build the new capital of the world, and adorn it with beauty surpassing the beauty of the experimental and divided past ?