Thursday, January 26, 2012

Robert Penn Warren's snow-snagged Tetons

I'm still practicing my Poem-a-Day habit like a monk at his daily matins.  This morning, I came across Robert Penn Warren's "Mortal Limit" and was happily surprised to see the Tetons, which loomed in my back yard as a child growing up in Jackson, make an appearance in his stanzas.  The other Warren poems in The Poets Laureate Anthology left me rather unmoved, but "Mortal Limit" really spoke to me--especially that one phrase "the last purity of snow-snags."  I really like the alliteration in that line and will carry it with me through the rest of my day.  (Note: I've also seen it transcribed as "lazy purity" elsewhere on the web.  I'm not sure which is the official version, or if Warren changed it at one point, but I'm sticking with "last" because it sounds better and makes more sense.)

Mortal Limit

I saw the hawk ride updraft in the sunset over Wyoming.
It rose from coniferous darkness, past gray jags
Of mercilessness, past whiteness, into the gloaming
Of dream-spectral light above the last purity of snow-snags.

There--west--were the Tetons. Snow-peaks would soon be
In dark profile to break constellations. Beyond what height
Hangs now the black speck? Beyond what range will gold eyes see
New ranges rise to mark a last scrawl of light?

Read the rest of the poem here.

Photo by Ansel Adams: The Tetons and the Snake River (1942)

1 comment:

  1. A bit of nostalgia! Thanks, David. We were more than blessed to have lived in view of those majestic, beautiful mountains for 25 years and to have raised you and Jonathan there. Keep up the good work! Love, Mom