The Ballad of John Muir

by Jeanne McDougall


He was born in the land of the Highlands, within sight of the stormy North Sea 
Even then as a child, he loved all creatures wild and life’s great mystery
He loved to wander the fields by day and to hear the songbirds sing
And he’d gaze from the shore as he dreamed of much more
Of the places he would go, there was so much more to know

(chorus:)

From Dunbar to California, a wandering man was he
In losing his sight, he gained his vision and carried it over the sea
He landed in California and he found his destiny
In the fields and the wood, he did all that he could to conserve a legacy
And he left it for you and for me

As a boy of eleven he traveled on a ship headed far ‘cross the sea
In Wisconsin they found their own patch of ground, a home for their family
He worked with his brother from dawn to dusk, a slave to plow and hoe
But amid the harsh toil they were close to the soil
And together they’d roam the land, with the wildness near at hand

The young man became an inventor of gadgets and clocks made of wood
And acclaimed far and wide, his work was his pride, his gift of practical good
He entered the university, but his heart was still in the wild
So he left all his books for the fields and the brooks
And the land he loved so well, the unspoiled hill and dell (chorus)

While working his way ‘round the country, an injury robbed him of sight
His eyes slowly healed, and a vision revealed, reborn into the light
He swore he would turn to the land again, to roam the wilds once more
And every fresh sight was a cause for delight
As he walked a thousand miles more to the Gulf of Mexico’s shore

He sailed ‘cross the wide Caribbean, to Cuba, then crossed Panama
To roam he was doomed, but his intellect bloomed and filled his heart with awe
He never knew where he was going, just that going was what he must do
So he sailed up the coast, with his nautical host
And savored the sky and sea, to the coast of old Barbary (chorus)

They called it Sierra Nevada, but he called it the Range of Light
And Yosemite’s powers held him spellbound for hours, the music and magic and might
He studied the glaciers that carved the land and the forces that shaped its form
And many great men came again and again
To his humble cabin door, to hear his mountain lore

How wonderful is Nature’s beauty, beyond thought, beyond words, beyond all
Enchanted we drift, our spirits they lift, responding to her call
For between each two pine trees a doorway leads us into a new way of life
And the mountains they ring and their glad tidings sing
The song of the wild and the wood, in communion with everything good

The planet is just a great dewdrop, with islands and continents wide
While we’re flying through space, now’s the time and the place, to look at our world with pride
Do something today for the wildness and make the mountains glad
And let nature stay as it was in his day
And walk, just once ere you die, where the wildflowers grow waist-high (chorus)

© 2003, 2005, Jeanne McDougall, reprinted here by peermission.



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