In the survey of grand scenery, distance always lends enchantment; in California, distance covers the naked earth, fills up spaces which intervene between clumps of foliage, mats the thin grass into lawns inviting to repose, tones down rugged deformities, bridges aupalling chasms, blends colors, veils the hills in purple gauze, and casts a halo over the remoter mountains; until the landscape, cold and forbidding perhaps under closer scrutiny, fades away in warm, dreamy perspective. Nowhere on earth do landscapes display so great a variety of tints and shades. Italy may boast the blue haze, but only Californian skies disclose the golden.
Besides these qualities of land and sky and water, ever varying and inspiring, ever revealing fresh resources and new blessings, there are natural wonders, the show-grounds of our lotos-land, unsurpassed for their beauty, grandeur, and marvel. Instance the Yosemite chasm, with its series of stupendous domes and peaks, of perpendicular walls nearly a mile in height, of rushing cascades fed by glaciers, and its succession of waterfalls matchless in height and striking features. Within the radius of less than half a dozen miles is here presented a combination of magnificence which lures travellers from every corner of the globe, and leaves them impressed with ineffaceable awe and admiration. And this plateau-rent has its counterpart, or nearly so, in the Hetch-hetchy. Along the approaches to both are numerous groves of mammoth trees that rise from pedestals of more than thirty feet in diameter, into majestic proportions and height, or lie in petrified masses. There are natural arches and bridges, three hundred feet in span, formed by burrowing rivers, and caves with stalactite and tortuous chambers ; and there are bubbling lakes and springs of miraculous virtue, among them the world famed geysers, fuming and spurting their steam and heated water, hissing and' roaring under the volcanic forces that impel them; w^eird in aspect, and Plutonic in their many local appellations.
Everything is great and glorious, compact and peculiar, in this favored country; in soil and climate, resources and enjoyments, it more than verifies the glowing scenes ascribed to an ever-retreating Hesperides, even to the doubling of the golden apples, in
Glittering metal, and in fruit of orange groves and orchards. Here, at the world's end, nature has in truth made the last and supreme effort toward a masterpiece.
Thus dreamily the Pacific had slept the sleep of the ages, its waters unploughed save by whale and porpoise, its sunny islands breaking into ripples the sea's lazy swells, or frowning back the laboring tempest. Thus ages have rolled along, centuries have come and gone, while no stranger approached the gilded shore. And now, silent as a snow-bound canon of the Sierra, lonely as night on a moon-lit lake, beautiful as unfolding womanhood upon whose face the rude gaze of man hath never brought a blush, sits California, on the shore of a great sailless sea, the world's divinest poem, all unsung save by the waters that murmur their presence at her feet, save by the mountain birds and wild fowl, the land beasts and water beasts, that raise their voices to scare away the stillness; all hidden and unknown her blushing beauties and her treasures, save to the native men and women, who, clothed in the innocence of Eden, creep through the chaparral, or lie listless on the bank beside their rustic rancheria.
"Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind, In the hollow Lotos-land to live, and lie reclined On the hills like gods together, careless of mankind."
This and the previous posts come from:
THE WORKS OF HUBERT HOWE BANCROFT.
This piece absolutely blew me away. The prose is awesome and doesn't come close to matching what I've waded through in his other works about the history of California. It still contains some of the typos created by digitizing the original and I left most of his spelling as he wrote it.
However, the first three chapters didn't thrill me as it was a personal discourse on the evils of European history and how it destroyed the lives of so many. They also showed his disdain of religions and in Chapter V showed his clear bias against the Catholic church and the religious orders that came to California. He does admit that the friars managed to create some efficient and productive “manufacturies” that produced a wealth of food and products.
I hope you enjoy them and look forward to any comments you might see fit to add.