Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Ye mountains!

Project HaMo (translation): Hans Morgenthaler's invocation to the Swiss Alps

And so the centuries gushed forth from their limitless source, like the shock waves of eternity. New ones rolled in, old ones passed, one by one they came and passed, raising in their train countless generations of men. Ye mountains! Feared, ignored, you kept your sad vigil, waiting and watching for the dawn to break when finally you would touch the fate of men.

Original illustration from Hans Morgenthaler's Ihr Berge

Yet, bastioned by faith in your future deliverance from death’s rigid spell, you defied endless ages of assaults from the stormwinds, the burning sun, the grinding ice-fangs, and the water’s gnawing, all to fulfil your destiny as benefactors of mankind.

And you stood fast!

At last, when you had already half-crumbled to grey ruins, men came to their senses and finally opened their eyes to you, ye castles of freedom, woke to a burning love for mountains.

Like a sacred torch, you touched off in the human race first a few paltry sparks, then steady flames, before whipping a wildfire of mountain passion that blazed to heaven.

Your fatal splendour, the mysteries lurking within your death-dealing glaciers, shunned by older generations, were suddenly sought out by the young. All of a sudden, you lured them irresistibly in. The wonders of the high mountains lifted them from the tedium of their circumscribed lives, as if with a single jolt, onto the plane of a nobler existence.

Ye mountains! Can you know what you mean to so many today? That your mere existence enriches so many lives? That legions of good men think of nothing higher or nobler than devoting themselves to mountains, in their strength and obduracy? To serve you for the rest of their lives, to the last breath?

To them, you have become as gods.

Nothing in this world is more sacred to these men. Besotted, smitten, none can wrench themselves free of your love. You hold them in your iron grip. And even when your abyss yawns for them, even as the pulverising rockfall roars and thunders and takes their lives, still they keep their troth in you.


This is an excerpt from a centennial translation of Ihr Berge (1916), a mountain memoir by Hans "Hamo" Morgenthaler (1890-1928). Translation (c) Project Hyakumeizan.

No comments: