A while back, Ann Roberts passed on this poem celebrating the beauties of the Mattole River and Valley. She mentioned the question of whether this was the first occurrence of the rallying cry, “Mattole Against the World!” which Stephen Goff was rumored to have shouted from the bartops of Ferndale. (Some people have noted the warlike tone of that slogan and taken exception to it, but i like to think of it more as an expression of our sense of escape from the “world”–in the weary spiritual sense– where we feel like walling off the news, the noise, and the nuisances of the modern and materialistic world in favor of pleasures sublime.) I don’t know if this was the first written appearance, and could never know whether it was it was the first time used conversationally. But it’s interesting to see the existence of the sentiment in 1889. Outback Mattolians then may have felt they needed to “represent” when in the big town of Ferndale.
The poem was printed in the Ferndale Enterprise of August 16, 1889, by an author who often wrote in flowery terms of the pioneer years and spirit of the area. Ann also pointed out the writer’s amusing name. Commentary elsewhere in the Enterprises of those years suggests there was some friendly joking about the windiness and pomposity of the regularly-contributing poets, so a self-deprecating joke like this is fitting. (If anyone can suggest a true identity for I.N. Khorn, please let us know… i suspect a woman.)
I suggest listening to “The Moldau,” by Czechoslovakian composer Bedrich Smetana and first performed in 1882, as you read the poem. It is 13 minutes long so you’ll probably finish the poem first… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3G4NKzmfC-Q
NOTE: “The Moldau” is not just some random Laura taste in music. It represents the birth, meanderings, and final destination of the river Moldau. My mother used to listen to it and point out to us the wonder of a classical work that directly represented Nature. Here is Wikipedia on the topic: “Smetana dedicated Má vlast [the larger work] to the city of Prague; after its first performance in November 1882 it was acclaimed by the Czech musical public as the true representation of Czech national style. Its Vltava (or “The Moldau” in German) movement, depicting the river that runs through Prague towards its junction with the Elbe, is Smetana’s best-known and most internationally popular orchestral composition. “
(Open another window on your browser to return to this page if the link makes you lose it temporarily)
The Mattole River
by I.N. Khorn
In a region robed in verdure, Filled with scenery sublime,
In the landscape’s savage grandeur, Mellowed by the march of Time;
In the highest Coast Range mountains, ‘Midst the wildest of the hills,
Gush forth the tiny fountains, And sparkling little rills;
Down the rugged mountain flowing, To join each other in the glen,
Then out, increasing growing, They chatter on their course again,
Through that wild romantic region, Where the bear and panther roam;
Smaller beasts, whose name is legion, And wild deer, have their home.
Dashing down the hillside, Into the deep ravine,
The flashing waters swiftly glide Between their banks of green.
Now through forest winding, With many a twist and crook,
The added waters finding, The spring becomes a brook.
Where the water leaps in bright cascades, Another fork joins in;
As they sweep away from gloomy glades, The river doth begin.
As the river now the valley seeks, The rapid torrents roar;
Fed all the way by brooks and creeks, That swell its volume more.
Through country wild, where campers go For the climate, unsurpassed;
The bright clear waters swiftly flow Through varied scenes and vistas vast,
And find the upper valley, grand, And filled with sweet repose;
With rarest fruits on every hand, And every flower that grows.
As surging ’round the mountain’s hem, The rippling waters leap,
It wanders through “Jerusalem,” And the haunts of cows and sheep.
Past fruitful farms and ranches high, Amid the mountains, brown;
Then soon the river hurries by The little country town.
‘Neath the buckeye and magnolia, reposing in their shade,
Is the pretty town Petrolia, Center of the valley’s trade.
Still the waters keep in motion, And hold their onward way;
But soon approach old ocean, Who welcomes them with spray.
And we watch the sunbeams quiver, Where the crystal waters roll;
As we muse beside the river–The sparkling pure Mattole.
And hear in loudest trumpet notes, Of proud defiance hurled;
As through the air the challenge floats,–Mattole against the world!