On This Rock

By Daryl Hine 1936–2012 Daryl Hine
Mountains rise above us like ideas
Vague in their superior extent,
Part of the range of disillusionment
Whose arresting outline disappears
Into the circumstantial clouds that look
Like footnotes from above. What wisdom said   
The mind has mountains? Imagination read   
The history of the world there like a book.

Playing peek-a-boo with famous peaks
Afflicted with the vapours leaves a sense,   
Frowned down upon by all that bleak immense   
City of rock and ice, that men are freaks,   
In the original program of creation,
Afterthoughts. Each jack pine seems a brother;   
Even in lichens we perceive another
Example of our own organization,

Tenacious, patient, in a century
Growing perhaps a quarter-of-an-inch:
Glaciers do more daily, an avalanche
In minutes. The eroded immobility
Attributed to mountains is a fable,
Like the Great Divide. They move when you’re not looking,   
Like stars and stocks, distinctly better looking
From a distance, and chronically unstable.

Daryl Hine, “On This Rock” from Resident Alien (New York: Atheneum Publishers, 1975). Copyright © 1975 by Daryl Hine. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: In & Out: A Confessional Poem (1975)

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Poet Daryl Hine 1936–2012


 Daryl  Hine


Poet, editor, and translator Daryl Hine was born in 1936 in British Columbia and grew up in New Westminster. His mother’s death while he was still a teenager had a profound influence on him. He studied Classics and philosophy at McGill University, and he earned his PhD in comparative literature from the University of Chicago. The editor of Poetry from 1968-78, Hine was also a highly regarded translator of Classical writers such . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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