"Letter from the Mountains" by James K. Baxter is a reflective poem about the speaker's sense of ease and connection to nature while staying in an old rabbiters' hut in the mountains. The poem contrasts the city and its shallow relationships with the natural world and deeper connections. The speaker reflects on the true dreams that come to them in this setting but refuses to explain them. The poem ends with an image of tears from faces of stone, suggesting the interconnectedness of all things in nature.
Letter from the Mountains
There was a message. I have forgotten it.
There was a journey to make. It did not come to anything.
But these nights, my friend, under the iron roof
Of this old rabbiters' hut where the traps
Are still hanging up on nails,
Lying in a dry bunk, I feel strangely at ease.
The true dreams, those longed-for strangers,
Begin to come to me through the gates of horn.
I will not explain them. But the city, all that other life
In which we crept sadly like animals
Through thickets of dark thorns, haunted by the moisture of women,
And the rock of barren friendship, has now another shape.
Yes, I thank you. I saw you rise like a Triton,
A great reddish gourd of flesh, From the sofa at that last party, while your mistress smiled
That perfect smile, and shout as if drowning—
'You are always—'
Despair is the only gift;
When it is shared, it becomes a different thing; like rock, like water;
And so you also can share this emptiness with me.
Tears from faces of stone. They are our own tears.
Even if I had forgotten them
The mountain that has taken my being to itself
Would still hang over this hut, with the dead and the living
Twined in its crevasses. My door has forgotten how to shut.
Critical Analysis"Letter from the Mountains" by James K. Baxter is a reflective poem that explores themes of isolation, the human condition, and the value of despair. The speaker begins by recalling a forgotten message and an unfulfilled journey, but then shifts focus to the present moment in a rabbiters' hut where he feels strangely at ease. The true dreams begin to come to him through the gates of horn, and the city and other life he left behind takes on a new shape.
The speaker then addresses his friend, thanking him for rising like a Triton from the sofa at the last party and shouting as if drowning that the speaker is always... The line trails off, leaving the reader to fill in the blank. The speaker then acknowledges the gift of despair, which becomes something different when shared, like rock or water. He invites his friend to share this emptiness with him.
The final stanza speaks of tears from faces of stone, suggesting that the mountains are intimately connected with the human experience. The speaker acknowledges that even if he had forgotten them, the mountain that has taken his being to itself would still hang over the hut. The door has forgotten how to shut, perhaps suggesting a blurring of boundaries between the speaker and the natural world.
Baxter's use of imagery and metaphor creates a dreamlike quality in the poem. The gates of horn, for example, refer to the entrance through which true dreams pass, while the Triton is a mythological sea god. The mountain becomes a metaphor for the speaker's relationship with the natural world, and the tears from faces of stone suggest a deep connection between humanity and the landscape. The poem also employs a sense of ambiguity, as the true message and the blank left by the speaker's friend's statement are left up to interpretation.
Overall, "Letter from the Mountains" is a haunting and thought-provoking poem that delves into themes of the human experience and our relationship with nature.
Summary of the PoemThe poem "Letter from the Mountains" by James K. Baxter is a reflection on the speaker's experiences while staying in an old rabbiters' hut in the mountains. The speaker begins by stating that they have forgotten a message and a journey that did not come to anything. Despite this, the speaker feels a sense of ease and comfort in their current surroundings. They describe the old rabbiters' hut with its iron roof and hanging traps.
The speaker then talks about the "true dreams" that come to them "through the gates of horn". The dreams remain unexplained, but they seem to be important to the speaker. The speaker then contrasts their current life in the mountains with their previous life in the city. They describe their former life as being full of shallow relationships and haunted by the "moisture of women" and "the rock of barren friendship".
The poem then shifts to a scene from a party where the speaker sees their friend rise like a Triton from a sofa, shouting as if drowning. The friend's despair is described as a gift that can be shared with others. The speaker then connects this idea of sharing despair with the tears from faces of stone. The image suggests that the speaker sees the interconnectedness of all things in nature.
The poem ends with the speaker describing how the mountain has taken their being and how the dead and living are "twined in its crevasses". The speaker's door has "forgotten how to shut", suggesting a sense of openness and connection to the world around them. Overall, the poem portrays the speaker's deep connection with nature and the sense of peace that it brings.