Well before public gatherings in New Hampshire were limited to 50 people or less due to COVID-19, we had a talent show here at Saint Benedict Center. First place went to a lovely young lady who artfully recited from memory a poem she herself authored. From one of our wonderful large families, little Anastasia is but fourteen years old, yet her poem shows a certain maturity of mind, weaving numerous historical references to people, places, and events surrounding a major feature of our local topography, Mount Monadnock.
In writing “The Mountain That Stands Alone,” Anastasia joins the ranks of the New England litterateurs Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Greenleaf Whittier, H.P. Lovecraft (the horror writer) and others who have hymned the beauty of Monadnock, the rocky summit of which supposed to be the only place where one can see all six New England states. (For more on Monadnock, please see God Loves Mountains.)
There is one last note of appreciation to make. Numerous articles on this site speak in one way or another of the concept of “rootedness” (see, e.g., Gary Potter’s The Civilizationists, Robert Hickson’s Saint Boniface and the Missionary Culture of the Faith, and my own Catholic and Patriotic). Anastasia’s poem not only speaks of a massive and enduring symbol of rootedness (she writes of the “mountain’s roots”), but because it is so deeply fixed in a place, its history, and its culture, the poem shows her own rootedness — a reflection of her dear family’s profound Catholic culture.
The Mountain That Stands Alone
The Mountain that stands alone
My name in Algonquin means;
I tower above the Cheshire region
Rindge, Jaffrey, Peterborough and Keene.
My first recorded discovery
Samuel Willard claims to hold;
But others found me before that
I am exceedingly old.
I’m considered the most climbed mountain
Drawing hikers in sunshine or rain;
I was loved by some famous people
Like Kipling, Emerson and Twain.
A freed slave called Amos Fortune
Lived right under my peak;
Its true he lived in Jaf-FREE
He believed I was unique.
I have lived to see many marvels
Horrors and nightmares too;
Sit tight for a few more minutes
And I’ll share with you a few.
Once after a brutal winter
March was exceedingly warm;
1936 had sadly caused
A devastating storm.
Peterborough and Keene were flooded
Their streets filled to the top;
And after an entire day
The rain would still not stop!
Then the rivers melted
And added to the flood;
The homes of many were destroyed:
The roads were made of mud.
But those are worldwide stories,
Ones that most everyone knows;
There are several briefer stories
Which below I will disclose.
A young man, as a guide, once worked for me
Telling folks where to go and stop;
Then a gust of wind surprised him —
He fell right off my top.
A cave called Megalithia
Is claimed to be hidden on me;
But even with good binoculars,
It’s very hard to see.
Then there’s The Eagles Nest
A pretty place to be:
Hidden on a rocky outcrop,
Tucked very close to me.
There are rumored to be many more
Hidden treasures round my peak;
But I won’t tell you exactly where:
You must go yourself and seek.
For truly do a mountain’s roots
Burrow ever deeper and deeper,
And its towering peak all capped in snow
Mounts forever steeper and steeper.
The legends I hold are buried
Like gold beneath my seams;
And the magic’s that’s mine is powerful:
Ending nightmares, starting new dreams.
I am one with the Cheshire Region,
Its stories carved deep in my stone;
I am an emblem of freedom and glory —
I am the mountain that stands alone.
And here she is…