The great mountain slopes and forests had been ruinously detimbered; the farm-soil on hill sides had eroded and washed down…It was evident that a huge compulsive greed had been at work: the whole region had been sucked and gutted, milked dry, denuded of its rich primeval treasures: something blind and ruthless had been here, grasped, and gone. The blind scars on the hills, the denuded slopes, the empty mica pits were what was left.
And true, the hills were left – with these deteriorations; and all around, far-flung in their great barricades, the immense wild grandeur of the mountain wall, the great Blue Ridge across which they had come long, long ago; and which had held them from the world.
And the old formations of the earth were left: the boiling clamor of rocky streams, the cool slant darkness of the mountain hollows. Something wild, world-lost, and lyrical, and special to the place called Zebulon was somehow left: the sound of rock-bright waters, bird calls, and something swift and fleeting in a wood; the way light comes and goes; cloud shadows passing on a hill; the wind through the hill grasses, and the quality of light – something world-lost, far, and haunting in the quality of light; and little shacks and cabins stuck to hill or hollow, sunken, tiny, in the gap; the small, heart-piercing wisps of smoke that coiled into the clear immensity of weather from some mountain shack, with its poignant evidence that men fasten to a ledge, and draw their living from a patch of earth – because they have been here so long and love it and cannot be made to leave; together with lost voices of one’s kinsmen long ago – all this was left, but their inheritance was bare.
Something had come into the wilderness, and had left the barren land.
-Thomas Wolfe, The Hills Beyond
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