Anyone Who Loves The Outdoors Should Read These 11 Poems
Marvel at the magic of our universe locked in these short masterpieces.
Some things can speak to us without saying a word and evoke feelings that lie beyond the reach of human language. If you’ve ever watched the sunrise in the mountains, felt the ground shake after a thunder or were put to sleep by the soundless waltz of five thousand gleaming stars, you’ll know our world is full of wonders which by the virtue of their fundamental beauty will forever elude any attempt a man can make to do them justice with ink.
And yet we try. Poems, novels, songs, paintings and even religions have praised nature since the day we’ve learned to articulate our thoughts and emotions, and today we continue our efforts with the aid of cameras, recorders and drones. While it’s easy to visit Instagram, buy a copy of National Geographic or turn on the Discovery Channel and revel in a lifetime’s worth of sublime photography and stunning footage of our planet, written word injects our hearts with that quaint romance of the time long past and a sense of connection with the many generations that knew no other way to express their passions.
Below is a short list of my favourite poems and excerpts to stir your soul when the country is far and your spirits low. Read, learn, enjoy and share with your friends and family next time you’re out!
Photo: Austin Jackson
Complains of The Useless Stars
I see on high the Milky Way,
But here's a rougher road.
The Sacred Oxen shining stand;
They do not draw our load.
The Sieve is sparkling in the South,
But good and ill come through.
The Ladle opens wide its mouth,
And pours out naught for you.
At dawn the Weaving Sisters sleep,
At dusk they rise again;
But though their Shining Shuttle flies,
They weave no robe for men.
-- Jacques Bonhomme (translated from Chinese)
“The grass so little has to do, --
A sphere of simple green,
With only butterflies to brood,
And bees to entertain,
And even when it dies, to pass
In odours so divine,
As lowly spices gone to sleep,
Or amulets of pine.
And then to dwell in sovereign barns,
And dream the days away, --
The grass so little has to do,
I wish I were the hay!”
-- Emily Dickson
Photo: Jakub Konieczynski
Night On The Mountain
The fog has risen from the sea and crowned
The dark, untrodden summits of the coast,
Where roams a voice, in canyons uttermost,
From midnight waters vibrant and profound.
High on each granite altar dies the sound,
Deep as the trampling of an armored host,
Lone as the lamentation of a ghost,
Sad as the diapason of the drowned.
The mountain seems no more a soulless thing,
But rather as a shape of ancient fear,
In darkness and the winds of Chaos born
Amid the lordless heavens’ thundering–
A Presence crouched, enormous and austere,
Before whose feet the mighty waters mourn.
-- George Sterling
I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee;
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company;
I gazed-and gazed-but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
When is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
-- William Wordsworth
Earth Voices (an excerpt)
"I Heard the spring wind whisper
Above the brushwood fire,
"The world is made forever
Of transport and desire.
"I am the breath of being,
The primal urge of things;
I am the whirl of star dust,
I am the lift of wings.
"I am the splendid impulse
That comes before the thought,
The joy and exaltation
Wherein the life is caught.
"Across the sleeping furrows
I call the buried seed,
And blade and bud and blossom
Awaken at my need.
"Within the dying ashes
I blow the sacred spark,
And make the hearts of lovers
To leap against the dark."
-- Bliss Carman
Photo: Jakub Konieczynski
Heart of the Hills
If but for the span of a moment I swam in the aura of flame;
I caught the rapt secret of being clothed by the Ineffable Name.
And chastened with wonder and strengthened to meet life's beleaguering ills
I went, like a bondman unfettered, adown from the heart of the hills.
-- Clinton Scollard
I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother's breast,
As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.
-- Percy Bysshe Shelley
To The Rainbow
TRIUMPHANT arch! that fill'st the sky
When storms prepare to part,
I ask not proud philosophy
To teach me what thou art:-
Still seem, as to my childhood's sight,
A midway station given,
For happy spirits to alight
Betwixt the earth and heaven.
Can all that optics teach unfold
Thy form to please me so,
As when I dreamt of gems and gold
Hid in thy radiant bow?
When science from creation's face
Enchantment's veil withdraws,
What lovely visions yield their place
To cold material laws!
And yet, fair bow! no fabling dreams,
But words of the Most High,
Have told why first thy robe of beams
Was woven in the sky.
-- Joanna Baillie
Photo: Jakub Konieczynski
I came from the sunny valleys
And sought for the open sea,
For I thought in its gray expanses
My peace would come to me.
I came at last to the ocean
And found it wild and black,
And I cried to the windless valleys,
"Be kind and take me back!"
But the thirsty tide ran inland,
And the salt waves drank of me,
And I who was fresh as the rainfall
Am bitter as the sea.
-- Sara Teasdale
The Ocean has its silent caves,
Deep, quiet, and alone;
Though there be fury on the waves,
Beneath them there is none.
The awful spirits of the deep
Hold their communion there;
And there are those for whom we weep,
The young, the bright, the fair.
Calmly the wearied seamen rest
Beneath their own blue sea.
The ocean solitudes are blest,
For there is purity.
The earth has guilt, the earth has care,
Unquiet are its graves;
But peaceful sleep is ever there,
Beneath the dark blue waves.
-- Nathaniel Hawthorne
Teach Me Your Mood, O Patient Stars
Teach me your mood, O patient stars!
Who climb each night the ancient sky,
Leaving on space no shade, no scars,
No trace of age, no fear to die.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.