'All the transient multitudes'

Published:July 8, 2008 by Brendan Wolfe

The novelist Marilynne Robinson, in Amherst Magazine, refers to a different place but speaks, I think, to the spirit behind Encyclopedia Virginia:

I’ve always felt that people somehow immortalize themselves in a landscape, that the mere fact of a specific human presence in a place leaves it changed. The earliest American poetry is haunted by the Indian soul so palpably present here. How many souls have passed through this slightly secluded valley since the glaciers receded? Walt Whitman was right about everything, never more so than when he celebrated the epic and melancholy beauty created in a place by all the transient multitudes and generations that passed through it. Anonymity is beautiful, and names are beautiful. The universal is beautiful, and so are the particulars. Certain vivid souls have made an impress on this valley in the course of their pilgrimage, as we all k now. The list of local saints is very long. And who they were and what they meant is inscribed in highly legible forms, which are preserved and enjoyed as the special charm and richness of this valley, without much thought to the intentions that set them here, the hopes they were meant to fulfill. The same is true in many places in America.