NOT SO THE WRITINGS of Powell’s left hand, Captain Dutton. A Yale classmate of O. C. Marsh, two years ahead of Clarence King, he had been like King a college athlete and like King he was attractive, charming, many-sided. An aptitude for mathematics had led him after the war to take a permanent commission in the Ordnance Corps, but he had a literary flair too. As an undergraduate he had won the Yale Literary Prize; his reading all his life was so various and extensive that he called himself omnibiblical. During his years in Washington he developed a considerable reputation as a public lecturer, and there is plenty of testimony to the charm and instructiveness of his conversation.1 Altogether he was a somewhat less sybaritic and less spectacular King.
He arrived at geology by a process almost as circuitous as Powell’s own. Trained for the ministry, diverted to the army, he found himself at the war’s end stationed at the Watervliet Arsenal in West Troy, New York. There was nothing much for a peacetime officer to do; his wounds were healed, he was young and vigorous and interested in many things. Before long he got to studying the Bessemer Steel Works; his first scientific paper dealt with the chemistry of the Bessemer process and the mysterious and debated differences between iron and steel. But the influence of the local wise men touched him too: James Hall and R. P. Whitfield of Albany’s paleontological museum gave him a competing interest in geology. By 1871, when after two transfers he landed in Washington, geology had won, and most of the members of the Washington Philosophical Society with whom he associated — Henry and Baird of the Smithsonian, Hilgard of the Coast Survey, Newcomb, Hall, and Harkness of the Naval Observatory, Woodward and Billings of the Medical Department, Powell and Hayden of the Western surveys — confirmed his scientific bent. By 1874 Powell was sufficiently impressed with his capacities to urge him to take a field party west. In the next year the Major and Joseph Henry maneuvered a special act of Congress that released Dutton from the army for detached duty with the Powell Survey.2 In that work he spent at least part of every year for the next fifteen.
There is every evidence that Powell looked upon Dutton as his geological heir; like Gilbert, Dutton built upon the same base of Powell generalizations and Powell specialties. But the country into which his work led him, plus his earlier flirtation with chemistry, threw him a little to one side. Erosion and land-forms interested him — they had to, in that country — and he did his share toward amplifying and documenting Powell’s doctrine of antecedent, consequent, and superimposed drainage, his recession of cliffs, his homology between faults and monoclines, and his theory of plural erosion cycles postulated on nature’s tendency to approach a base level of erosion. These ideas were not so much his own as part of the common store. When he dealt with erosion, he started from Gilbert’s brilliant chapter in the Henry Mountains. When he classified structural forms he followed Powell’s Uinta Mountains and his “Physical Features of the Valley of the Colorado.” But when he became interested in the earth movements which caused the displacements of the Plateau Province, he speculated further and more brilliantly than Powell did.
Powell had used the plain observable facts of the province, with their implications, to reshape the science of physiography. Dutton used them to establish Herschel’s neglected theory of isostasy, which postulated the slow sinking of sea bottoms loaded with sediment and the corresponding rise of eroded land masses, with bending and fracturing along the margins or coastlines. Yet in his speculations about the creaking difficult adjustments by which the earth maintains its equilibrium Dutton was still drawing on the collaborative work of the survey. Powell had marked the homology between faults and monoclines, discounted the still prevalent theories of catastrophism, classified the basic structures of the great upraised and down-thrown blocks of plateaus, valleys, and mountains. Gilbert had proposed, probably for the first time in this country, the idea of an earth which was plastic without being necessarily fluid. Dutton, corroborating the beliefs of his old friend James Hall, took the step beyond.
His interests consistently led him to abstruse problems. Knowing blast furnaces from West Troy, he turned his attention to nature’s own blast furnaces. Volcanism was his most abiding interest — volcanism and the earth movements which accompanied it. As early as 1880, pondering the lava flows of southern Utah, he was coming to the conclusion that volcanic loci were not funnels down into a molten core of the earth, but relatively shallow and limited cysts, and even then he was groping for the source of volcanic heat, though it was not until thirty years later that he satisfied himself he had found it in radioactivity.3 Before he was through, he had studied extinct volcanoes in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Oregon, and had spent several months among the calderas of Hawaii. He had made the most exhaustive study of the Charleston earthquake of 1884, and had reported to Congress on the quake-threatened right of way of the proposed Nica raguan Canal. He had examined volcanic rocks microscopically and chemically and in the field, and had made adjustments in Richthofen’s theory of the order of extrusive lavas. Part of his work, like Gilbert‘s, was done with the Powell Survey, part with its successor. When the Western surveys were consolidated in 1879 into the United States Geological Survey, with Clarence King as the first director, Dutton continued under King and the new bureau the precise work he had been doing under the Powell Survey, and when Powell succeeded King in the spring of 1881 Dutton was still at it. It is the part of his work which grew directly out of Powell’s delegation of his own interests that gives Dutton a special position; and it is not his geological contributions, which were great, but his literary flair, which would seem quite irrelevant, that has kept his name fresh. Gilbert was perhaps a more important geologist, but Dutton is better known, because he was the first literary tourist in a country where tourist travel has become the number one business.
To the traveler from east or west — and most tourist travel comes from those directions — the Plateau Province presents difficulties. It is easy to skirt the region, hard to cross it, for from Bear Lake at its northern border to the Vermilion Cliffs along the south, Utah has a spine like a Stegosaurus. The northern half of the spine is the Wasatch, true mountains whose gorges used to spill glaciers into the waters of Lake Bonneville. The southern half is a triple chain of lofty plateaus separated by broad but profound valleys. The plateau chains overlap with the end of the Wasatch at Mount Nebo, near the modern town of Nephi, and gradually widen toward the south like a three-fingered hand. The western chain, from north to south, is composed of the Páhvant (Sigurd Mountain), the Tushar (Beaver Mountain), and the Markágunt, which terminates in the cliffs and temples of Zion National Park; these three form the eastern wall of the Great Basin and mark the ancient Mesozoic shoreline. The traveler between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles on Highway 91 skirts it from Levan nearly to St. George. The plateaus are deceptively high; the Tushar goes up above twelve thousand feet, and many others are well above eleven thousand, higher than many major mountain ranges. Roads across from chain to chain are opportunistic jogs through the few passes or laborious grapevines across the roofs. East of the Páhvant-Tushar-Markágunt chain the land falls away into the green garden-valleys of the Sevier and the Sanpete settled by Danish converts to Mormonism in the fifties and sixties. Eastward, walling the valleys, tower the flat crests of the Sevier and Paunságunt Plateaus, and across those and down again is Grass Valley tipping southward past the Koosharem Paiute reservation and along Otter Creek to its junction with the East Fork of the Sevier at the head of East Fork Canyon which splits the Sevier Plateau to its base. Straight across Grass Valley the struggling traveler is confronted with the eleven-thousand-foot rampart of the Fish Lake Plateau, which is linked southward with the Awapa, which in turn steps up to the last of this chain, the Aquarius, with its outliers Thousand Lake Mountain and Table Mountain.
These “High Plateaus” constitute a special and clearly marked division of the Plateau Province. The route by which Gunnison and later Fremont crossed them — Gunnison to his death — in 1853 remains undeveloped either as road or railroad.4 The tourist routes flow along lines of less resistance and come westward through the Wasatch at Salt Lake or Ogden; or around the southern end of the Plateau Province by Highway 66 and the Santa Fe, south of the Grand Canyon; or out through a break in the Great Basin wall along the Virgin River. The High Plateaus are only a part of the barrier, for eastward from the Wasatch, Thousand Lake, or Aquarius Plateaus one looks out across Castle Valley and the San Rafael Swell and the desert badlands, the emptiest part of America, that separate them from the Green River. Westward, Páhvant and Tushar and Markagunt overlook the twisted ranges and the whirlwind-haunted alkali valleys of the Great Basin. Southward, Markágunt, Paunságunt, and Aquarius break off in plunging cliffs to the lower platforms, and these rise steadily southward into the Paria, Kaibab, and Kanab Plateaus across which the Colorado has cut Marble Canyon and most of the Grand Canyon. The geography which made its exploration difficult and late continues to make its development even for tourist travel an enormous undertaking. Powell himself, though on several occasions he supported moves to make the Grand Canyon a national park, thought the difficulties of access and the lack of adequate water supplies might prove insuperable.
Intimately linked, by geological history, scenery, and at least rudimentary communications with the Grand Canyon, the High Plateaus have a character of their own. Tucked away in the cliffs and canyons of those remarkable mountains that are not mountains at all but greatly elevated rolling plains, are two national parks and three national monuments. Of the parks, Zion is carved in the southwestern flank of the Markágunt by one fork of the Virgin River, and Zion National Monument is carved by the other. (The first description of both of these was in Powell’s Exploration.) Bryce Canyon is a horseshoe amphitheater gaudily eroded back into the strawberry-ice-cream colors of the Pink Cliffs crowning the Paunságunt. Capitol Reef National Monument is a stretch on the upper Frémont or Dirty Devil River, where the Waterpocket Fold turns up a domed wall of white Jurassic sandstone between the Aquarius and Thousand Lake Plateaus. Cedar Breaks is another amphitheater on the western rim of the Markágunt, above ten thousand feet, where an even more colorful but less bizarre Bryce has been chewed and dissolved out of the Pink Cliffs.
Add to these the other reservations in the rest of the Plateau Province — the Arches National Monument near Moab, the Natural Bridges in White Canyon under the Bear’s Ears Plateau, the Hovenweep in the barren canyons of San Juan County, the Rainbow Natural Bridge on the flank of Navajo Mountain near the junction of the Colorado and the San Juan, and the Grand Canyon itself, the granddaddy of all spectacles, that divides the northern and southern parts of the Plateau Province — and it is clear that as a tourist attraction this part of the world justifies every superlative of the chambers of commerce. Culturally it is a kind of Ozarks, an isolated and wonderful pocket in industrial America, but that is another story. Traffic flows in and out of its better-advertised reservations, and fishermen and hunters’ come in from a thousand miles away in season and find their way up into the high marvelous weather of the Tushar or Fish Lake or Aquarius or Markágunt. But hundreds of square miles of country that anywhere else would be thought superlative lie unmarked and unadvertised, and the parts of the Plateau Province that asphalt has not reached are not greatly different from what they were when , Gilbert, Thompson, and Dutton worked through them in the seventies.
Much of the region will never have anything to offer but scenery. But scenery it has in superlative degree and extravagant forms. High Plateaus, Grand Canyon, or sandrock wilderness, the scenery is no raw material exported by a colonial dependency, but the finished product. It is not merely finished, but unparalleled; not merely superlative, but utterly new. What the Plateau Province at large and the Grand Canyon in particular presented the country in the way of scenery was an innovation as surely as Gilbert’s laccolithic mountains were a geological innovation, or the laws of physical geology that Powell derived from the cloven and eroded strata. Strangest and newest of our regions, last to be opened and last known, the northern part of the Plateau Province compelled new sensibilities and new aesthetic perceptions as well as new geological laws. It was Dutton’s distinction (and pleasure), while Powell in the eighteen-eighties acquired more and more power and more and more responsibility as the simultaneous head of two great and growing Washington bureaus, and while he solidified his position as the organizer and champion of government-sponsored science, to take over and elucidate the strange region Powell had opened.
The tourist and nature lover occupied a good large corner of Dutton. He never quite made up his mind whether he was literary traveler or sober scientific analyst: the temptations were essentially equal. He escaped his dilemma by being both, and in his reports a rich and embroidered nineteenth-century traveler’s prose flows around bastions of geological fact as some of the lava coulees on the Uinkaret flow around gables of sedimentary strata. The literary tendency is progressive; it is apparent in The Geology of the High Plateaus of Utah (1880) and dominant in The Tertiary History of the Grand Canyon District ( 1882 ) . With hardly an apology, Dutton forsook the “severe ascetic style” of science when he came to deal with the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon was beyond the reach of superlatives, it compelled effusion of a kind. The result is a scientific monograph of great geological importance which contains whole chapters as ebullient as the writing of John Muir, and deviates constantly into speculations so far from geological that they sound more like Ruskin than Lyell.
Dutton loved a grand view, a sweeping panorama. In the verbal landscape-painting into which he was constantly tempted it is easy to see the influence of that school which, painting from nature and with careful attention to the rocky bones of the earth, still threw over its pictures a romantic and exciting aura. That Tur neresque philosophy was illustrated by no one better than by Thomas Moran, who for a time traveled with Dutton’s party in the canyon country. It was, in fact, the method of a growing Western landscape school of which Moran was perhaps the greatest exemplar. What Moran loved to paint — the big, spectacular, colorful view — Dutton loved to describe. He took his stance like a painter and he composed like a painter, and his drift, like Moran‘s, was constantly away from the meticulous and toward the suggestive. Consider:
From the southwest salient of the Markágunt we behold one of those sublime spectacles which characterize the loftiest standpoints of the Plateau Province. Even to the mere tourist there are few panoramas so broad and grand; but to the geologist there comes with all the visible grandeur a deep significance. The radius of vision is from 80 to 100 miles. We stand upon the great cliff of Tertiary beds which meanders to the eastward till lost in the distance, sculptured into strange and even startling forms, and lit up with colors so rich and glowing that they awaken enthusiasm in the most apathetic. To the southward the profile of the country drops down by a succession of terraces formed by lower and lower formations which come to the daylight as those which overlie them are successively terminated in lines of cliffs, each formation rising gently to the southward to recover a portion of the lost altitude until it is cut off by its own escarpment. Thirty miles away the last descent falls upon the Carboniferous, which slowly rises with an unbroken slope to the brink of the Grand Canon. But the great abyss is not discernible, for the curvature of the earth hides it from sight. Standing among evergreens, knee-deep in succulent grass and a wealth of Alpine blossoms, fanned by chill, moist breezes, we look over terraces decked with towers and temples and gashed with canons to the desert which stretches away beyond the southern horizon, blank, lifeless, and glowing with torrid heat. To the southwestward the Basin Ranges toss up their angry waves in characteristic confusion, sierra behind sierra, till the hazy distance hides them as with a veil. Due south Mount Trumbull is well in view, with its throng of black basaltic cones looking down into the Grand Canon. To the southeast the Kaibab rears its noble palisade and smooth crest line, stretching southward until it dips below the horizon more than a hundred miles away .... 5
That is relatively precise and relatively restrained nineteenth-century nature writing. By the time Dutton came to describe the same scene two years later something had changed.
Before the observer who stands upon a southern salient of the Markágunt Plateau is spread out a magnificent spectacle. The altitude is nearly 11,000 feet above the sea, and the radius of vision reaches to the southward nearly a hundred miles. In the extreme distance is the calm of the desert platform, its surface mottled with indistinct lights and shades, too remote to disclose their meaning. Against the southeastern horizon is projected the pale blue escarpment of the Kaibab, which stretches away to the south until the curvature of the earth carries it out of sight. To the southward rise in merest outline, and devoid of all visible details, the dark mass of Mount Trumbull and the waving cones of the Uinkaret....6
What was precise in the first description has been hazed over by an act not so much of the eye as of the imagination — or perhaps what was reported too precisely before has been newly seen and more accurately rendered. The distant desert is now “mottled with indistinct lights and shades,” the Kaibab has acquired the romantic blue of distance, the Grand Canyon which was drawn in before is omitted now, because it cannot be seen, and the cones of the Uinkaret, distinct before, now shimmer with haze and heat. In the first passage Dutton supplied details which he knew but could not see; in the second he described only what the eye observed, with all its uncertainties. That change in temper presents a nice problem not only in scientific reporting but in art criticism; the first passage, diagrammatic and precise, is actually an improvement on nature. The second, for all its romantic haze and blurring, is the more realistic; it is closer to what the eye sees. And yet it is also, by normal standards either of science or of art, the more atmospheric and “literary.”
Like a Japanese painter, the observer of the Grand Canyon must deal with an atmosphere which is a fact, whatever its romantic connotations. The eighteenth-century English landscapists who wore gauze spectacles while painting could have taken off their glasses at the canyon:
Those who are familiar with western scenery have, no doubt, been impressed with the peculiar character of its haze — or atmosphere, in the artistic sense of the word — and have noted its more prominent qualities. When the air is free from common smoke it has a pale blue color which is quite unlike the neutral gray of the east. It is always apparently more dense when we look towards the sun than when we look away from it, and this difference in the two directions, respectively, is a maximum near sunrise and sunset. This property is universal, but its peculiarities in the Plateau Province become conspicuous when the strong rich colors of the rocks are seen through it. The very air is then visible. We see it, palpably, as a tenuous fluid, and the rocks beyond it do not appear to be colored blue as they do in other regions, but reveal themselves clothed in colors of their own. The Grand Canon is ever full of this haze. It fills it to the brim. Its apparent density, as elsewhere, is varied according to the direction in which it is viewed and the position of the sun; but it seems also to be denser and more concentrated than elsewhere. This is really a delusion arising from the fact that the enormous magnitude of the chasm and of its component masses dwarfs the distances; we are really looking through miles of atmosphere under the impression that they are only so many furlongs. This apparent concentration of haze, however, greatly intensifies all the beautiful or mysterious optical defects which are dependent upon the intervention of the atmosphere.7
Thus far the analyst. On his heels comes the man of sensibility, as subjective as a Muir or Burroughs:
Whenever the brink of the chasm is reached the chances are that the sun is high and these abnormal effects in full force. The canon is asleep. Or it is under a spell of enchantment which gives its bewildering mazes an aspect still more bewildering. Throughout the long summer forenoon the charm which binds it grows in potency. At midday the clouds begin to gather, first in fleecy flecks, then in cumuli, and throw their shadows into the gulf. At once the scene changes. The slumber of the chasm is disturbed. The temples and cloisters seem to raise themselves half awake to greet the passing shadow. Their wilted, drooping, flattened faces expand into relief. The long promontories reach out from the distant wall as if to catch a moment’s refreshment from the shade. The colors begin to glow; the haze loses its opaque density and becomes more tenuous. The shadows pass, and the chasm relapses into its dull sleep again. Thus through the midday hours it lies in fitful slumber, overcome by the blinding glare and withering heat, yet responsive to every fluctuation of light and shadow like a delicate organism.8
Call it, with some justice, an example of that pathetic fallacy that Ruskin thought the resource of second and third rate poets. Recognize it as part of the same rather effusive school of nature writing to which Powell himself, in his literary moments, subscribed. But compare it with the effusions of others on the Grand Canyon, with the “God-finding,” 9 the extravagance, the gasping, the clutching of the overburdened heart. It is part of both the romantic and the tourist creeds to be overcome by grand scenery. Compare Henry Van Dyke’s iambics10 in which timorous Dawn trips through the pines of the Kaibab and half expiring on the brink, pants for more light like the dying Goethe. Compare John Gould Fletcher’s secondhand Thunder Spirit sulking in the depths,11 or Harriet Monroe’s Earth, a victim of fluvial rape, lying “stricken to the heart, her masks and draperies torn away, confessing her eternal passion to the absolving sun.” 12 Dutton was as little likely to address apostrophes to the river, that “sullen, laboring slave of Gravitation,” as he was to believe with Joaquin Miller that the canyon had been formed by the collapse of the crust over an underground stream.13 And Fletcher’s poetic summation of the canyon, the message he saw written all over it “in bright invisible words, ‘It is finished,’ ” would have made Dutton smile.
The physical structures of the earth, Powell had taught them all, were ephemeral. The primordial river draining‘the great lake of Eocene times had established its course and held it across rising blocks of country, gouging its channel deeper as the land rose. Its walls had weathered back, and the walls of every side canyon and gulch had weathered back, under the tiny blows of rain and sand and wind. Ten thousand feet of rock that still showed in the terraces stepping up to the lava-capped High Plateaus had once stretched unbroken over the whole Plateau Province and had been swept away. The Grand Canyon itself was but one phase of a new denudation that would eventually sweep away the Marble Canyon Platform, and the Kaibab, Uinkaret, Kanab, Shivwits, the Coconino Plateau reaching southward, and level them down toward the ancient peneplain of dark Archaean schist that Powell’s boatmen had hated and feared. And at some immeasurably remote time beyond human caring the whole uneasy region might sink again beneath the sea and begin the cycle all over again by the slow deposition of new marls, shales, limestones, sandstones, deltaic conglomerates, perhaps with a fossil poet pressed and silicified between the leaves of rock.
It was so far from finished that it would have no end, as for human purposes it had never had a beginning. From one of the points of vantage that he liked, up on the eastern rim of the Wasatch Plateau, Dutton had looked down across the San Rafael Swell and seen how erosion, starting at a high central dome, had eaten that dome down until it was now a depression, and had eaten back into the surrounding country until now the swell was a hollow ringed with concentric lines of receding cliffs — an immense, rainbow-colored intaglio. He had studied the buttes on the Kanab Desert and knew them to be other remnants of the same denudation, this time in the form of isolated cameos. He had followed the tracks of erosion in the retreating tiers of cliffs, and in the great amphitheaters like that of the Paria eaten back into the edges of the High Plateaus. Intaglio, cameo, cliff-line, amphitheater, they were all evidences of endless cyclic change. Perhaps for that reason Dutton found no gods or thunder spirits in the canyon, but only itself, self-created, protean, and immortal.
What marks Captain Dutton off from the temperate pedestrians of science is a temperamental habit of metaphor, which revealed itself not only in his literary effusions but in a consistent playfulness and informality. He wrote to Clarence King about catching earth-faults in flagrante delicto, and described the behavior of certain volcanoes in orgastic similes.14 Where Major Powell delighted in Scott and Longfellow and the Standard Poets, and sometimes read them aloud to edify his men, Dutton admired Mark Twain. There was no echo in him of Powell’s quaint formality of address: he called King and Powell familiarly by their last names even though they were his official superiors and in a time when official correspondence even between close friends was sprinkled with Obedient Servants and Beg-to-Remains. Some of the poet’s iconoclasm was in him, making him stretch beyond known laws in search of the geological mysteries, and forcing him, upon provocation, to burst the bounds of the formal scientific monograph. A man is all of a piece. Dutton was of a metaphorical, associative, speculative kind. He was lured as surely into aesthetic as into geological speculations, and there is ample evidence that Powell delighted in his ungeological deviations, having been tempted in that way himself.
Scenic illusions such as those caused by the haze, or the apparent diminution of scale where everything was enormous, intrigued Dutton. He labored to achieve an “abiding sense” of a cliff a half mile high. Looking at the dark rim of the Sevier Plateau above Richfield in the Sevier Valley of Utah, he wondered why a nearly vertical wall over a mile high above the valley was not more impressive, and eventually blamed the lack of detail or emphasis or variety in the forms: a row of peaks that high and abrupt would have been as spectacular as the Tetons from Jackson Hole. Or he asked himself (and his geological reader) why a forest such as the Kaibab, composed primarily of coniferous trees, should strike him and all his party as the loveliest place any of them had ever visited, and went digging into all the possible causes. Several million tourists since Dutton’s time have found that climax forest as charming as he described it, but perhaps have not wondered quite so seriously why.
For the characteristic forms and colors of the Plateau Province there were no precedents, and he was compelled toward architectural terminology and architectural speculations, for the angular vertical-and-horizontal lines of the country aped human architecture in startling ways.15 The parallel, Dutton insisted, was no mere suggestion, but a “vivid resemblance,” and it was revealed not occasionally but everywhere, and with a curious persistence because of the way in which individual strata maintained their profiles under weathering. In any one place the piled effect might be bewildering — Baroque on Doric and Byzantine on Baroque and Churrigueresque on Byzantine, magenta on chocolate on yellow on pink — but the consistency with which any group of strata produced the same forms was very striking. The massive sandstone layer that Dutton knew as the White Wall 16changes from sugar-white in Zion and the Capitol Reef to salmon-color in Glen Canyon, but most of the strata maintain their coloring over scores or hundreds of miles. And even the White Wall is always vividly recognizable. In Zion or Capitol Reef, in Glen or Split Mountain Canyons, in Navajo Mountain, on the Colob Plateau, it is always massive, cross-bedded, intricately filagreed by weathering; and it always erodes into domes, caves, baldheads, arches. What Powell and Dutton called the Shinárump series 17 has always the gray, mingled, banded colors, the erosional statuary like a continuous frieze in high relief, above a flowing slope of chocolate and variegated shales. Wherever the Eocene Pink Cliffs are exposed, they are layered in pink and yellow and white, and carved into statuary even more fantastic than the frieze of the Organ Rock or the Shinárump. For endless miles, in all the formations, the forms are as repetitive as if carved to a master plan, the strata level or nearly so, the thickness and colors persistent or changing only by imperceptible degrees.
Dutton first taught the world to look at that country and see it as it was. He corrected the common belief that the canyons were impressive because they were deep and narrow. The grandest views in all the Grand Canyon are those from such observation posts as Point Sublime, where the chasm is widest and a just proportion of width to depth is obtained. He was a student of form, as of color, and he dismissed the alpine, craggy forms among which the romantic imagination has loved to wander since Childe Harold showed it how. Those alpine forms, which are “only big and rough,” do not appear in the Plateau Province. The forms that do appear have no counterparts among those which have shaped and trained our appreciation. What shall we make, he asks, of the Temples of the Virgin?
.. Directly in front of us a complex of white towers, springing from a central pile, mounts upwards to the clouds. Out of their midst, and high over all, rises a dome-like mass, which dominates the entire landscape. It is almost pure white, with brilliant streaks of carmine descending its vertical walls. At the summit it is truncated, and a flat tablet is laid upon the top, showing its edge of deep red. It is impossible to liken this object to any familiar shape, for it resembles none. Yet its shape is far from being indefinite; on the contrary, it has a definiteness and individuality which extort an exclamation of surprise when first beheld. There is no name provided for such an object, nor is it worth while to invent one. Call it a dome; not because it has the ordinary shape of such a structure, but because it performs the function of a dome.
The towers which surround it are of inferior mass and altitude, but each of them is a study of fine form and architectural effect. They are white above, and change to a strong, rich red below. Dome and towers are planted upon a substructure no less admirable. Its plan is indefinite, but its profiles are perfectly systematic. A curtain wall 1400 feet high descends vertically from the eaves of the temples and is succeeded by a steep slope of ever-widening base courses leading down to the esplanade below. The curtain wall is decorated with a lavish display of vertical mold ings, and the ridges, eaves, and mitered angles are fretted with serrated cusps. This ornamentation is suggestive rather than precise, but it is nonetheless effective. It is repetitive, not symmetrical. But though exact symmetry is wanting, nature has here brought home to us the truth that symmetry is only one of an infinite range of devices by which beauty can be materialized.
And finer forms are in the quarry
Than ever Angelo evoked.18
It is useful to have an open mind, especially in a new country or among new ideas. Not all had it, among the western-survey men. Dr. Hayden, for one, found the forms of the northern plateau country at first startling and then tiresome. For anyone, as Dutton said, the Plateau Province was “a great innovation in modern ideas of scenery,” which required long study for its understanding, and whose full appreciation was “a special culture.”
The lover of nature, whose perceptions have been trained in the Alps, in Italy, Germany, or New England, in the Appalachians or Cordilleras, in Scotland or Colorado, would enter this strange region with a shock, and dwell there for a time with a sense of oppression, and perhaps with horror. Whatsoever things he had learned to regard as beautiful and noble he would seldom or never see, and whatsoever he might see would appear to him as anything but beautiful and noble. Whatsoever might be bold or striking would at first seem only grotesque. The colors would be the very ones he had learned to shun as tawdry and bizarre. The tones and shades, modest and tender, subdued yet rich, in which his fancy had always taken special delight, would be the ones which are conspicuously absent. But time would bring a gradual change. Some day he would suddenly become conscious that outlines which at first seemed harsh and trivial have grace and meaning; that forms which seemed grotesque are full of dignity; that magnitudes which had added enormity to coarseness have become replete with strength and even majesty; that colors which had been esteemed unrefined, immodest, and glaring, are as expressive, tender, change ful, and capacious of effects as any others. Great innovations, whether in art or literature, in science or in nature, seldom take the world by storm. They must be understood before they can be estimated, and must be cultivated before they can be understood.19
Strange words in a geological monograph. Strange monograph, divided about equally between geology and nature description, salted with aesthetic speculation and illustrated like an art book by two of the painters who most helped to expand the nation’s appreciation to include the strange forms and colors of the West 20 Scattered all over that Plateau Province whose description Dutton had inherited from Powell were forms which “if planted upon the plains of Central Europe, would have influenced modern art as profoundly as Fusiyama has influenced the decorative art of Japan.” Being innovations, and newly discovered, they were powerless until cultivation released them into the aesthetic consciousness. Whether they have yet been so liberated, and whether the forms and colors of the plateau country strike most of us even yet as anything more than bizarre, is an open question.
Nevertheless the cultivation does go forward, if only through the activity of a cult of enthusiasts. And a surprising number of those who fall under the spell of that country find Dutton’s Tertiary History a bible, a wise book surviving from an earlier time. The delegation of authority which Powell made was a real delegation: Dutton is almost as much the genius loci of the Grand Canyon as Muir is of Yosemite. And though it is Powell’s monument to which the tourists walk after dinner to watch the sunset from the South Rim, it is with Dutton’s eyes, as often as not, that they see.