The source of the Arveiron

From the sequence 'Towne's Light'.

The source of the Arveiron

The Source of the Arveiron

Why this blankness among cold forms,
empty in their composure?
Is eternity a pattern of interlocking planes,
mute shapes in blue, white, grey-green, silver?

Baffled not so much by what he saw
as by what he was unable to conceive
he gave up on all the usual tricks
for conveying scale, perspective, grandeur.
Only the plunge of brown volcanic rock
suggests shadowy space below,
only the distant trees give a hint of texture.

Look at his mountain, imprisoned in its outline.
Look at his crumpled immobile glacier.
Oh, this is beauty as death, an abstraction!
Is water fluid, does a torrent rush and pour?
Do frozen stones under their white canopy of snow
creep gradually downwards?

The mighty source of the Arveiron
is motionless and dumb.
Even the streams are chained,
even the clouds have forgotten freedom.

Francis Towne, 'The Source of the Arveiron'