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John Muir

by David Starr Jordan

From Sierra Club Bulletin, John Muir Memorial Number, (January, 1916).


It is not easy to write of my good friend, John Muir. The impression of his personality was so strong on those who knew him that all words seem cheap beside it. Those who never knew him can never, through any word of ours, be brought to realize what they have missed.

John Muir first came to my notice in Indianapolis, forty years ago, but he was gone before I came there. He was a printer, I believe, in those days, and he made friends, for he was rich in wisdom and in love of nature. Five years later, in San Francisco, I met him frequently. He was lately back from the Yosemite, where, in rollicking enthusiasm, he had written the finest bird biography in existence, the story of the Water Ouzel in the "Ouzel Basin" of the Brewer Range.

In those days every meeting with him was a fresh joy. He was possessed with love and the enthusiasm for a fresh great mountain range, almost new to literature in those days, but fit to dominate it when the Alps and the Apennines have vanished, swallowed up in the sea of blood. He had, moreover, a quaint, crisp way of talking, his literary style in fact, and none of the nature lovers, the men who know how to feel in the presence of great things and beautiful, have expressed their craft better than he.

There is another Scotsman of the cosmopolitan order to whom, in many ways, John Muir bore a strong resemblance. John Muir cared little for world-politics, and James Bryce knew little of the songs of birds, but these two great men looked on life and the universe in much the same way, both frank-spoken and absolutely democratic; both open-eyed to all phenomena of the world, whatever and wheresoever they be; both wandering wide from their homes; both large-brained, cosmopolitan citizens of the world, the world God made and which lies open to us all the time.


Source: Sierra Club Bulletin, Vol. 10, No. 1 (1916 January)


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