Pennsylvania Game News - January 2012 - 33

Any hunter in Penn’s Woods can relate to Poe’s words in advising this scenery-seeking traveler that “he must walk, he must leap ravines, he must risk his neck among precipices, or he must leave unseen the truest, the richest, and most unspeakable glories of the land.” Poe describes a drowsy boating trip he undertakes one summer day on the Wissahickon, which he describes as being “of so remarkable a loveliness that, were it flowing in England, it would be the theme of every bard, and the common topic of every tongue.” His evocative description of his surroundings is nearly as lovely as the Wissahickon Creek itself: “Its banks are generally, indeed almost universally, precipitous, and consist of high hills, clothed with noble shrubbery near the water, and crowned at a greater elevation, with some of the most magnificent forest trees of America, among which stands conspicuous the [tulip tree]. The immediate shores, however, are of granite, sharply defined or mosscovered, against which the pellucid water lolls in its gentle flow, as the blue waves of the Mediterranean upon the steps of her palaces of marble. The windings of the stream are many and abrupt, as is usually the case where banks are precipitous, and thus the impression conveyed to the voyager’s eye, as he proceeds, is that of an endless succession of infinitely varied small lakes.” While drifting along the Wissahickon, Poe falls into a groggy state and daydreams about the Wissahickon hundreds of years earlier, when the area was inhabited only by elk and the Lenape Native Americans, and there were no roads, steam engines or other intrusions of European culture on the surrounding land. At
JANUARY  2012 

The full text of “Morning on the Wissahiccon is freely available on the Internet by using any major search engine to find it.

that moment, Poe rounded a bend in the stream and sees an elk standing majestically on a steep, overhanging cliff. Not sure if he was dreaming, Poe “fancied the elk repining, not less than wondering, at the manifest alterations for the worse, wrought upon the brook and its vicinage, even within the last few years, by the stern hand of the utilitarian.” Poe’s revelry is interrupted by the appearance of a servant, who concludes the story by luring the elk into a harness with a bribe of salt. The elk was a tame pet belonging to a nearby sanitarium. Poe might be surprised to learn that more than 160 years later, the Wissahickon is still an area of great natural beauty, and is in some ways in a more pristine condition than he encountered it. Although part of the Philadelphia metropolitan area, the Wissahickon Valley Park has been protected by the Fairmount Park Commission since 1868. Poe doubtless would have approved of the subsequent removal of mills and taverns along its course. The location where Poe spotted the elk is marked today by an unrelated statue of William Penn bearing the inscription “Toleration.” The statue can be found on the east bank of the Wissahickon, north of the bridge on Walnut Lane. The confusion Poe feels at the sight of the elk is understandable, as the elk was in the process of being exterminated from Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s elk hung on the longest in the Allegheny Mountains, but the loss of habitat to farms and over-harvesting combined to completely extirpate elk from the state by 1867. Poe did not offer any predictions of whether the elk would make a resurgence in Pennsylvania, but the dawn of the
33



Pennsylvania Game News - January 2012

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pennsylvania Game News - January 2012

Pennsylvania Game News - January 2012 - Cover1
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2012 - Cover2
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2012 - 1
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2012 - 2
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2012 - 3
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2012 - 4
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Pennsylvania Game News - January 2012 - BB1
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2012 - BB2
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2012 - Cover3
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2012 - Cover4
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