Into the Highlands of the Mind Let Me Go

Inscribed in marble, upon architectural design reminiscent of the beginnings of civilization (the Mediterranean) reads a line of an obscure 20th century English poet. “Into the highlands of the mind let me go,” is the paraphrase from William Watson’s poem published in 1917 entitled “Shakespeare”. The State of California Capitol Mall pays homage to its legislative heritage located on the other side of the world. Greece to Rome to Sacramento, the vertical columns and structural grandiosity communicate the authoritative power and necessity of government. Viewed in the 21st century, one looks at the material reality of the heredity of thought; democratic organization of the masses through representative government – a collection of ideas 2,500 years in the making.

Poetry allows for the abstraction of human experience into common themes, while constrained to the order of rhyme. Bound to truth and elements of mystery, it provides a venue for reflection; a moment of consideration provided by the mind of the poet, the dreamer. With full empowerment of the English language, poetry is praised as the height of the written word, contrasted by the meticulous rigor of legal contracts, which assuredly carry out an invaluable duty in the capitalist system. Poetry and contracts, chaos and order. The palace of contracts is adorned with poetry.

The poet expresses the literary tradition of his predecessors, John Keats and Edmund Spenser, for whom he communicates his admiration. Yet he recognizes the danger of complacency and longs for more in the opportunity of the unknown; the chaos of the heights. From the pinnacle he will survey the tumult of those below. A fitting message for the Land of Opportunity, the pursuit of the highlands of the mind is reward enough; to begin the journey not knowing the destination. It is the story of the pioneers and the founders of order in this novel land. As the generations unfold in time the threat is to forget the ventures of those; devoid of guarantee and safety.


By William Watson

O LET me leave the plains behind,
And let me leave the vales below!
Into the highlands of the mind,
Into the mountains let me go.

My Keats, my Spenser, loved I well;
Gardens and statued lawns were these;
Yet not for ever could I dwell
In arbours and in pleasances.

Here are the heights, crest beyond crest.
With Himalayan dews impearled,
And I will watch from Everest
The long heave of the surging world.