COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
By Bret Harte
"Argonaut Edition" Of The Works Of Bret Harte, Vol. 8
P. F. Collier & Son
Copyright 1882, 1896, And 1902
By Houghton, Mifflin & Company
Although Bret Harte's name is identified with Californian life, it was not till he was fifteen that the author of "Plain Language from Truthful James" saw the country of his adoption. Francis Bret Harte, to give the full name which he carried till he became famous, was born at Albany, New York, August 25, 1839. He went with his widowed mother to California in 1854, and was thrown as a young man into the hurly-burly which he more than any other writer has made real to distant and later people. He was by turns a miner, school-teacher, express messenger, printer, and journalist. The types which live again in his pages are thus not only what he observed, but what he himself impersonated in his own experience.
He began trying his pen in The Golden Era of San Francisco, where he was working as a compositor; and when The Californian, edited by Charles Henry Webb, was started in 1864 as a literary newspaper, he was one of a group of brilliant young fellows—Mark Twain, Charles Warren Stoddard, Webb himself, and Prentice Mulford—who gave at once a new interest in California beside what mining and agriculture caused. Here in an early number appeared "The Ballad of the Emeu," and he contributed many poems, grave and gay, as well as prose in a great variety of form. At the same time he was appointed Secretary of the United States Branch Mint at San Francisco, holding the office till 1870.
But Bret Harte's great opportunity came when The Overland Monthly was established in 1868 by Anton Roman. This magazine was the outgrowth of the racy, exuberant literary spirit which had already found free expression in the journals named. An eager ambition to lift all the new life of the Pacific into a recognized place in the world of letters made the young men we have named put their wits together in a monthly magazine which should rival the Atlantic in Boston and Blackwood in Edinburgh. The name was easily had, and for a sign manual on the cover some one drew a grizzly bear, that formidable exemplar of Californian wildness. But the design did not quite satisfy, until Bret Harte, with a felicitous stroke, drew two parallel lines just before the feet of the halting brute. Now it was the grizzly of the wilderness drawing back before the railway of civilization, and the picture was complete as an emblem.
Bret Harte became, by the common urgency of his companions, the first editor of the Overland, and at once his own tales and poems began, and in the second number appeared "The Luck of Roaring Camp," which instantly brought him wide fame. In a few months he found himself besought for poems and articles, sketches and stories, in influential magazines, and in 1871 he turned away from the Pacific coast, and took up his residence, first in New York, afterward in Boston.
"No one," says his old friend, Mr. Stoddard, "who knows Mr. Harte, and knew the California of his day, wonders that he left it as he did. Eastern editors were crying for his work. Cities vied with one another in the offer of tempting bait. When he turned his back on San Francisco, and started for Boston, he began a tour that the greatest author of any age might have been proud of. It was a veritable ovation that swelled from sea to sea: the classic sheep was sacrificed all along the route. I have often thought that if Bret Harte had met with a fatal accident during that transcontinental journey, the world would have declared with one voice that the greatest genius of his time was lost to it."
In Boston he entered into an arrangement with the predecessors of the publishers of this volume, and his contributions appeared in their periodicals and were gathered into volumes. The arrangement in one form or another continued to the time of his death, and has for witness a stately array of comely volumes; but the prose has far outstripped the poetry. There are few writers of Mr. Harte's prodigality of nature who have used with so much fine reserve their faculty for melodious verse, and the present volume contains the entire body of his poetical work, growing by minute accretions during thirty odd years.
In 1878 he was appointed United States Consul at Crefeld, Germany, and after that date he resided, with little interruption, on the Continent or in England. He was transferred to Glasgow in March, 1880, and remained there until July, 1885. During the rest of his life he made his home in London. His foreign residence is disclosed in a number of prose sketches and tales and in one or two poems; but life abroad never dimmed the vividness of the impressions made on him by the experience of his early manhood when he partook of the elixir vitae of California, and the stories which from year to year flowed from an apparently inexhaustible fountain glittered with the gold washed down from the mountain slopes of that country which through his imagination he had made so peculiarly his own.
Mr. Harte died suddenly at Camberley, England, May 6, 1902.
JOHN BURNS OF GETTYSBURG
"HOW ARE YOU, SANITARY?"
ON A PEN OF THOMAS STARR KING
A SECOND REVIEW OF THE GRAND ARMY
A SANITARY MESSAGE
THE OLD MAJOR EXPLAINS
CALIFORNIA'S GREETING TO SEWARD
THE AGED STRANGER
THE IDYL OP BATTLE HOLLOW
CALDWELL OF SPRINGFIELD
POEM, DELIVERED ON THE FOURTEENTH ANNIVERSARY OF CALIFORNIA'S ADMISSION INTO THE UNION
MISS BLANCHE SAYS
AN ARCTIC VISION
II. SPANISH IDYLS AND LEGENDS.
THE MIRACLE OF PADRE JUNIPERO
THE WONDERFUL SPRING OF SAN JOAQUIN
CONCEPCION DE ARGUELLO
"FOR THE KING"
DON DIEGO OF THE SOUTH
AT THE HACIENDA
FRIAR PEDRO'S RIDE
IN THE MISSION GARDEN
THE LOST GALLEON
III. IN DIALECT.
IN THE TUNNEL
PLAIN LANGUAGE FROM TRUTHFUL JAMES
THE SOCIETY UPON THE STANISLAUS
"THE BABES IN THE WOODS"
THE LATEST CHINESE OUTRAGE
TRUTHFUL JAMES TO THE EDITOR
AN IDYL OF THE ROAD
THOMPSON OF ANGELS
THE HAWK'S NEST
HIS ANSWER TO "HER LETTER"
"THE RETURN OF BELISARIUS"
FURTHER LANGUAGE FROM TRUTHFUL JAMES
AFTER THE ACCIDENT
THE GHOST THAT JIM SAW
THE STAGE-DRIVER'S STORY
A QUESTION OF PRIVILEGE
THE THOUGHT-READER OF ANGELS
THE SPELLING BEE AT ANGELS
ARTEMIS IN SIERRA
JACK OF THE TULES
A GREYPORT LEGEND
A NEWPORT ROMANCE
THE MOUNTAIN HEART'S-EASE
TO A SEA-BIRD
WHAT THE CHIMNEY SANG
DICKENS IN CAMP
ASPIRING MISS DELAINE
A LEGEND OF COLOGNE
THE TALE OF A PONY
ON A CONE OF THE BIG TREES
THE TWO SHIPS
ADDRESS (OPENING OF THE CALIFORNIA THEATRE, SAN FRANCISCO, JANUARY 19, 1870)
TELEMACHUS VERSUS MENTOR
WHAT THE WOLF REALLY SAID TO LITTLE RED RIDING-HOOD
HALF AN HOUR BEFORE SUPPER
WHAT THE BULLET SANG
THE OLD CAMP-FIRE
THE STATION-MASTER OF LONE PRAIRIE
THE MISSION BELLS OF MONTEREY
ON WILLIAM FRANCIS BARTLETT
THE BIRDS OF CIRENCESTER
LINES TO A PORTRAIT, BY A SUPERIOR PERSON
HER LAST LETTER: BEING A REPLY TO "HIS ANSWER"
BEFORE THE CURTAIN
TO THE PLIOCENE SKULL
THE BALLAD OF MR. COOKE
THE BALLAD OF THE EMEU
MRS. JUDGE JENKINS
A GEOLOGICAL MADRIGAL
THE LOST TAILS OF MILETUS
A MORAL VINDICATOR
WHAT THE ENGINES SAID
THE LEGENDS OF THE RHINE
SONGS WITHOUT SENSE
VI. LITTLE POSTERITY.
MASTER JOHNNY'S NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBOR
MISS EDITH'S MODEST REQUEST
MISS EDITH MAKES IT PLEASANT FOR BROTHER JACK
MISS EDITH MAKES ANOTHER FRIEND
WHAT MISS EDITH SAW FROM HER WINDOW
ON THE LANDING
JOHN BURNS OF GETTYSBURG
Have you heard the story that gossips tell Of Burns of Gettysburg?—No? Ah, well: Brief is the glory that hero earns, Briefer the story of poor John Burns. He was the fellow who won renown,— The only man who didn't back down When the rebels rode through his native town; But held his own in the fight next day, When all his townsfolk ran away. That was in July sixty-three, The very day that General Lee, Flower of Southern chivalry, Baffled and beaten, backward reeled From a stubborn Meade and a barren field.
I might tell how but the day before John Burns stood at his cottage door, Looking down the village street, Where, in the shade of his peaceful vine, He heard the low of his gathered kine, And felt their breath with incense sweet; Or I might say, when the sunset burned The old farm gable, he thought it turned The milk that fell like a babbling flood Into the milk-pail red as blood! Or how he fancied the hum of bees Were bullets buzzing among the trees. But all such fanciful thoughts as these Were strange to a practical man like Burns, Who minded only his own concerns, Troubled no more by fancies fine Than one of his calm-eyed, long-tailed kine,— Quite old-fashioned and matter-of-fact, Slow to argue, but quick to act. That was the reason, as some folk say, He fought so well on that terrible day.
And it was terrible. On the right Raged for hours the heady fight, Thundered the battery's double bass,— Difficult music for men to face While on the left—where now the graves Undulate like the living waves That all that day unceasing swept Up to the pits the rebels kept— Round shot ploughed the upland glades, Sown with bullets, reaped with blades; Shattered fences here and there Tossed their splinters in the air; The very trees were stripped and bare; The barns that once held yellow grain Were heaped with harvests of the slain; The cattle bellowed on the plain, The turkeys screamed with might and main, And brooding barn-fowl left their rest With strange shells bursting in each nest.
Just where the tide of battle turns, Erect and lonely stood old John Burns. How do you think the man was dressed? He wore an ancient long buff vest, Yellow as saffron,—but his best; And buttoned over his manly breast Was a bright blue coat, with a rolling collar, And large gilt buttons,—size of a dollar,— With tails that the country-folk called "swaller." He wore a broad-brimmed, bell-crowned hat, White as the locks on which it sat. Never had such a sight been seen For forty years on the village green, Since old John Burns was a country beau, And went to the "quiltings" long ago.
Close at his elbows all that day, Veterans of the Peninsula, Sunburnt and bearded, charged away; And striplings, downy of lip and chin,— Clerks that the Home Guard mustered in,— Glanced, as they passed, at the hat he wore, Then at the rifle his right hand bore, And hailed him, from out their youthful lore, With scraps of a slangy repertoire: "How are you, White Hat?" "Put her through!" "Your head's level!" and "Bully for you!" Called him "Daddy,"—begged he'd disclose The name of the tailor who made his clothes, And what was the value he set on those; While Burns, unmindful of jeer and scoff, Stood there picking the rebels off,— With his long brown rifle and bell-crown hat, And the swallow-tails they were laughing at.
'Twas but a moment, for that respect Which clothes all courage their voices checked; And something the wildest could understand Spake in the old man's strong right hand, And his corded throat, and the lurking frown Of his eyebrows under his old bell-crown; Until, as they gazed, there crept an awe Through the ranks in whispers, and some men saw, In the antique vestments and long white hair, The Past of the Nation in battle there; And some of the soldiers since declare That the gleam of his old white hat afar, Like the crested plume of the brave Navarre, That day was their oriflamme of war.
So raged the battle. You know the rest: How the rebels, beaten and backward pressed, Broke at the final charge and ran. At which John Burns—a practical man— Shouldered his rifle, unbent his brows, And then went back to his bees and cows.
That is the story of old John Burns; This is the moral the reader learns: In fighting the battle, the question's whether You'll show a hat that's white, or a feather!
"HOW ARE YOU, SANITARY?"
Down the picket-guarded lane Rolled the comfort-laden wain, Cheered by shouts that shook the plain, Soldier-like and merry: Phrases such as camps may teach, Sabre-cuts of Saxon speech, Such as "Bully!" "Them's the peach!" "Wade in, Sanitary!"
Right and left the caissons drew As the car went lumbering through, Quick succeeding in review Squadrons military; Sunburnt men with beards like frieze, Smooth-faced boys, and cries like these,— "U. S. San. Com." "That's the cheese!" "Pass in, Sanitary!"
In such cheer it struggled on Till the battle front was won: Then the car, its journey done, Lo! was stationary; And where bullets whistling fly Came the sadder, fainter cry, "Help us, brothers, ere we die,— Save us, Sanitary!"
Such the work. The phantom flies, Wrapped in battle clouds that rise: But the brave—whose dying eyes, Veiled and visionary, See the jasper gates swung wide, See the parted throng outside— Hears the voice to those who ride: "Pass in, Sanitary!"
(MALVERN HILL, 1864)
"After the men were ordered to lie down, a white rabbit, which had been hopping hither and thither over the field swept by grape and musketry, took refuge among the skirmishers, in the breast of a corporal."—Report of the Battle of Malvern Hill.
Bunny, lying in the grass, Saw the shining column pass; Saw the starry banner fly, Saw the chargers fret and fume, Saw the flapping hat and plume,— Saw them with his moist and shy Most unspeculative eye, Thinking only, in the dew, That it was a fine review.
Till a flash, not all of steel, Where the rolling caissons wheel, Brought a rumble and a roar Rolling down that velvet floor, And like blows of autumn flail Sharply threshed the iron hail.
Bunny, thrilled by unknown fears, Raised his soft and pointed ears, Mumbled his prehensile lip, Quivered his pulsating hip, As the sharp vindictive yell Rose above the screaming shell; Thought the world and all its men,— All the charging squadrons meant,— All were rabbit-hunters then, All to capture him intent. Bunny was not much to blame: Wiser folk have thought the same,— Wiser folk who think they spy Every ill begins with "I."
Wildly panting here and there, Bunny sought the freer air, Till he hopped below the hill, And saw, lying close and still, Men with muskets in their hands. (Never Bunny understands That hypocrisy of sleep, In the vigils grim they keep, As recumbent on that spot They elude the level shot.)
One—a grave and quiet man, Thinking of his wife and child Far beyond the Rapidan, Where the Androscoggin smiled— Felt the little rabbit creep, Nestling by his arm and side, Wakened from strategic sleep, To that soft appeal replied, Drew him to his blackened breast, And— But you have guessed the rest.
Softly o'er that chosen pair Omnipresent Love and Care Drew a mightier Hand and Arm, Shielding them from every harm; Right and left the bullets waved, Saved the saviour for the saved.
Who believes that equal grace God extends in every place, Little difference he scans Twixt a rabbit's God and man's.
Hark! I hear the tramp of thousands, And of armed men the hum; Lo! a nation's hosts have gathered Round the quick alarming drum,— Saying, "Come, Freemen, come! Ere your heritage be wasted," said the quick alarming drum.
"Let me of my heart take counsel: War is not of life the sum; Who shall stay and reap the harvest When the autumn days shall come?" But the drum Echoed, "Come! Death shall reap the braver harvest," said the solemn-sounding drum.
"But when won the coming battle, What of profit springs therefrom? What if conquest, subjugation, Even greater ills become?" But the drum Answered, "Come! You must do the sum to prove it," said the Yankee answering drum.
"What if, 'mid the cannons' thunder, Whistling shot and bursting bomb, When my brothers fall around me, Should my heart grow cold and numb?" But the drum Answered, "Come! Better there in death united, than in life a recreant.—Come!"
Thus they answered,—hoping, fearing, Some in faith, and doubting some, Till a trumpet-voice proclaiming, Said, "My chosen people, come!" Then the drum, Lo! was dumb, For the great heart of the nation, throbbing, answered, "Lord, we come!"
Not ours, where battle smoke upcurls, And battle dews lie wet, To meet the charge that treason hurls By sword and bayonet.
Not ours to guide the fatal scythe The fleshless Reaper wields; The harvest moon looks calmly down Upon our peaceful fields.
The long grass dimples on the hill, The pines sing by the sea, And Plenty, from her golden horn, Is pouring far and free.
O brothers by the farther sea! Think still our faith is warm; The same bright flag above us waves That swathed our baby form.
The same red blood that dyes your fields Here throbs in patriot pride,— The blood that flowed when Lander fell, And Baker's crimson tide.
And thus apart our hearts keep time With every pulse ye feel, And Mercy's ringing gold shall chime With Valor's clashing steel.
THOMAS STARR KING. OBIIT MARCH 4, 1864
Came the relief. "What, sentry, ho! How passed the night through thy long waking?" "Cold, cheerless, dark,—as may befit The hour before the dawn is breaking."
"No sight? no sound?" "No; nothing save The plover from the marshes calling, And in yon western sky, about An hour ago, a star was falling."
"A star? There's nothing strange in that." "No, nothing; but, above the thicket, Somehow it seemed to me that God Somewhere had just relieved a picket."
CONTRIBUTED TO THE FAIR FOR THE LADIES' PATRIOTIC FUND OF THE PACIFIC
"Who comes?" The sentry's warning cry Rings sharply on the evening air: Who comes? The challenge: no reply, Yet something motions there.
A woman, by those graceful folds; A soldier, by that martial tread: "Advance three paces. Halt! until Thy name and rank be said."
"My name? Her name, in ancient song, Who fearless from Olympus came: Look on me! Mortals know me best In battle and in flame."
"Enough! I know that clarion voice; I know that gleaming eye and helm, Those crimson lips,—and in their dew The best blood of the realm.
"The young, the brave, the good and wise, Have fallen in thy curst embrace: The juices of the grapes of wrath Still stain thy guilty face.
"My brother lies in yonder field, Face downward to the quiet grass: Go back! he cannot see thee now; But here thou shalt not pass."
A crack upon the evening air, A wakened echo from the hill: The watchdog on the distant shore Gives mouth, and all is still.
The sentry with his brother lies Face downward on the quiet grass; And by him, in the pale moonshine, A shadow seems to pass.
No lance or warlike shield it bears: A helmet in its pitying hands Brings water from the nearest brook, To meet his last demands.
Can this be she of haughty mien, The goddess of the sword and shield? Ah, yes! The Grecian poet's myth Sways still each battlefield.
For not alone that rugged War Some grace or charm from Beauty gains; But, when the goddess' work is done, The woman's still remains.
ON A PEN OF THOMAS STARR KING
This is the reed the dead musician dropped, With tuneful magic in its sheath still hidden; The prompt allegro of its music stopped, Its melodies unbidden.
But who shall finish the unfinished strain, Or wake the instrument to awe and wonder, And bid the slender barrel breathe again, An organ-pipe of thunder!
His pen! what humbler memories cling about Its golden curves! what shapes and laughing graces Slipped from its point, when his full heart went out In smiles and courtly phrases?
The truth, half jesting, half in earnest flung; The word of cheer, with recognition in it; The note of alms, whose golden speech outrung The golden gift within it.
But all in vain the enchanter's wand we wave: No stroke of ours recalls his magic vision: The incantation that its power gave Sleeps with the dead magician.
A SECOND REVIEW OF THE GRAND ARMY
I read last night of the grand review In Washington's chiefest avenue,— Two hundred thousand men in blue, I think they said was the number,— Till I seemed to hear their trampling feet, The bugle blast and the drum's quick beat, The clatter of hoofs in the stony street, The cheers of people who came to greet, And the thousand details that to repeat Would only my verse encumber,— Till I fell in a reverie, sad and sweet, And then to a fitful slumber.
When, lo! in a vision I seemed to stand In the lonely Capitol. On each hand Far stretched the portico, dim and grand Its columns ranged like a martial band Of sheeted spectres, whom some command Had called to a last reviewing. And the streets of the city were white and bare, No footfall echoed across the square; But out of the misty midnight air I heard in the distance a trumpet blare, And the wandering night-winds seemed to bear The sound of a far tattooing.
Then I held my breath with fear and dread For into the square, with a brazen tread, There rode a figure whose stately head O'erlooked the review that morning, That never bowed from its firm-set seat When the living column passed its feet, Yet now rode steadily up the street To the phantom bugle's warning:
Till it reached the Capitol square, and wheeled, And there in the moonlight stood revealed A well-known form that in State and field Had led our patriot sires: Whose face was turned to the sleeping camp, Afar through the river's fog and damp, That showed no flicker, nor waning lamp, Nor wasted bivouac fires.
And I saw a phantom army come, With never a sound of fife or drum, But keeping time to a throbbing hum Of wailing and lamentation: The martyred heroes of Malvern Hill, Of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville, The men whose wasted figures fill The patriot graves of the nation.
And there came the nameless dead,—the men Who perished in fever swamp and fen, The slowly-starved of the prison pen; And, marching beside the others, Came the dusky martyrs of Pillow's fight, With limbs enfranchised and bearing bright; I thought—perhaps 'twas the pale moonlight— They looked as white as their brothers!
And so all night marched the nation's dead, With never a banner above them spread, Nor a badge, nor a motto brandished; No mark—save the bare uncovered head Of the silent bronze Reviewer; With never an arch save the vaulted sky; With never a flower save those that lie On the distant graves—for love could buy No gift that was purer or truer.
So all night long swept the strange array, So all night long till the morning gray I watched for one who had passed away; With a reverent awe and wonder,— Till a blue cap waved in the length'ning line, And I knew that one who was kin of mine Had come; and I spake—and lo! that sign Awakened me from my slumber.
There is peace in the swamp where the Copperhead sleeps, Where the waters are stagnant, the white vapor creeps, Where the musk of Magnolia hangs thick in the air, And the lilies' phylacteries broaden in prayer. There is peace in the swamp, though the quiet is death, Though the mist is miasma, the upas-tree's breath, Though no echo awakes to the cooing of doves,— There is peace: yes, the peace that the Copperhead loves.
Go seek him: he coils in the ooze and the drip, Like a thong idly flung from the slave-driver's whip; But beware the false footstep,—the stumble that brings A deadlier lash than the overseer swings. Never arrow so true, never bullet so dread, As the straight steady stroke of that hammer-shaped head; Whether slave or proud planter, who braves that dull crest, Woe to him who shall trouble the Copperhead's rest!
Then why waste your labors, brave hearts and strong men, In tracking a trail to the Copperhead's den? Lay your axe to the cypress, hew open the shade To the free sky and sunshine Jehovah has made; Let the breeze of the North sweep the vapors away, Till the stagnant lake ripples, the freed waters play; And then to your heel can you righteously doom The Copperhead born of its shadow and gloom!
A SANITARY MESSAGE
Last night, above the whistling wind, I heard the welcome rain,— A fusillade upon the roof, A tattoo on the pane: The keyhole piped; the chimney-top A warlike trumpet blew; Yet, mingling with these sounds of strife, A softer voice stole through.
"Give thanks, O brothers!" said the voice, "That He who sent the rains Hath spared your fields the scarlet dew That drips from patriot veins: I've seen the grass on Eastern graves In brighter verdure rise; But, oh! the rain that gave it life Sprang first from human eyes.
"I come to wash away no stain Upon your wasted lea; I raise no banners, save the ones The forest waves to me: Upon the mountain side, where Spring Her farthest picket sets, My reveille awakes a host Of grassy bayonets.
"I visit every humble roof; I mingle with the low: Only upon the highest peaks My blessings fall in snow; Until, in tricklings of the stream And drainings of the lea, My unspent bounty comes at last To mingle with the sea."
And thus all night, above the wind, I heard the welcome rain,— A fusillade upon the roof, A tattoo on the pane: The keyhole piped; the chimney-top A warlike trumpet blew; But, mingling with these sounds of strife, This hymn of peace stole through.
THE OLD MAJOR EXPLAINS
(RE-UNION, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, 12TH MAY, 1871)
Well, you see, the fact is, Colonel, I don't know as I can come: For the farm is not half planted, and there's work to do at home; And my leg is getting troublesome,—it laid me up last fall,— And the doctors, they have cut and hacked, and never found the ball.
And then, for an old man like me, it's not exactly right, This kind o' playing soldier with no enemy in sight. "The Union,"—that was well enough way up to '66; But this "Re-Union," maybe now it's mixed with politics?
No? Well, you understand it best; but then, you see, my lad, I'm deacon now, and some might think that the example's bad. And week from next is Conference.... You said the twelfth of May? Why, that's the day we broke their line at Spottsylvan-i-a!
Hot work; eh, Colonel, wasn't it? Ye mind that narrow front: They called it the "Death-Angle"! Well, well, my lad, we won't Fight that old battle over now: I only meant to say I really can't engage to come upon the twelfth of May.
How's Thompson? What! will he be there? Well, now I want to know! The first man in the rebel works! they called him "Swearing Joe." A wild young fellow, sir, I fear the rascal was; but then— Well, short of heaven, there wa'n't a place he dursn't lead his men.
And Dick, you say, is coming too. And Billy? ah! it's true We buried him at Gettysburg: I mind the spot; do you? A little field below the hill,—it must be green this May; Perhaps that's why the fields about bring him to me to-day.
Well, well, excuse me, Colonel! but there are some things that drop The tail-board out one's feelings; and the only way's to stop. So they want to see the old man; ah, the rascals! do they, eh? Well, I've business down in Boston about the twelfth of May.
CALIFORNIA'S GREETING TO SEWARD
We know him well: no need of praise Or bonfire from the windy hill To light to softer paths and ways The world-worn man we honor still.
No need to quote the truths he spoke That burned through years of war and shame, While History carves with surer stroke Across our map his noonday fame.
No need to bid him show the scars Of blows dealt by the Scaean gate, Who lived to pass its shattered bars, And see the foe capitulate:
Who lived to turn his slower feet Toward the western setting sun, To see his harvest all complete, His dream fulfilled, his duty done,
The one flag streaming from the pole, The one faith borne from sea to sea: For such a triumph, and such goal, Poor must our human greeting be.
Ah! rather that the conscious land In simpler ways salute the Man,— The tall pines bowing where they stand, The bared head of El Capitan!
The tumult of the waterfalls, Pohono's kerchief in the breeze, The waving from the rocky walls, The stir and rustle of the trees;
Till, lapped in sunset skies of hope, In sunset lands by sunset seas, The Young World's Premier treads the slope Of sunset years in calm and peace.
THE AGED STRANGER
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR
"I was with Grant"—the stranger said; Said the farmer, "Say no more, But rest thee here at my cottage porch, For thy feet are weary and sore."
"I was with Grant"—the stranger said; Said the farmer, "Nay, no more,— I prithee sit at my frugal board, And eat of my humble store.
"How fares my boy,—my soldier boy, Of the old Ninth Army Corps? I warrant he bore him gallantly In the smoke and the battle's roar!"
"I know him not," said the aged man, "And, as I remarked before, I was with Grant"— "Nay, nay, I know," Said the farmer, "say no more:
"He fell in battle,—I see, alas! Thou'dst smooth these tidings o'er,— Nay, speak the truth, whatever it be, Though it rend my bosom's core.
"How fell he? With his face to the foe, Upholding the flag he bore? Oh, say not that my boy disgraced The uniform that he wore!"
"I cannot tell," said the aged man, "And should have remarked before. That I was with Grant,—in Illinois,— Some three years before the war."
Then the farmer spake him never a word, But beat with his fist full sore That aged man who had worked for Grant Some three years before the war.
THE IDYL OF BATTLE HOLLOW
(WAR OF THE REBELLION, 1884)
No, I won't,—thar, now, so! And it ain't nothin',—no! And thar's nary to tell that you folks yer don't know; And it's "Belle, tell us, do!" and it's "Belle, is it true?" And "Wot's this yer yarn of the Major and you?" Till I'm sick of it all,—so I am, but I s'pose Thet is nothin' to you.... Well, then, listen! yer goes!
It was after the fight, and around us all night Thar was poppin' and shootin' a powerful sight; And the niggers had fled, and Aunt Chlo was abed, And Pinky and Milly were hid in the shed: And I ran out at daybreak, and nothin' was nigh But the growlin' of cannon low down in the sky.
And I saw not a thing, as I ran to the spring, But a splintered fence rail and a broken-down swing, And a bird said "Kerchee!" as it sat on a tree, As if it was lonesome, and glad to see me; And I filled up my pail and was risin' to go, When up comes the Major a-canterin' slow.
When he saw me he drew in his reins, and then threw On the gate-post his bridle, and—what does he do But come down where I sat; and he lifted his hat, And he says—well, thar ain't any need to tell THAT; 'Twas some foolishness, sure, but it 'mounted to this, Thet he asked for a drink, and he wanted—a kiss.
Then I said (I was mad), "For the water, my lad, You're too big and must stoop; for a kiss, it's as bad,— You ain't near big enough." And I turned in a huff, When that Major he laid his white hand on my cuff, And he says, "You're a trump! Take my pistol, don't fear! But shoot the next man that insults you, my dear."
Then he stooped to the pool, very quiet and cool, Leavin' me with that pistol stuck there like a fool, When thar flashed on my sight a quick glimmer of light From the top of the little stone fence on the right, And I knew 'twas a rifle, and back of it all Rose the face of that bushwhacker, Cherokee Hall!
Then I felt in my dread that the moment the head Of the Major was lifted, the Major was dead; And I stood still and white, but Lord! gals, in spite Of my care, that derned pistol went off in my fright! Went off—true as gospil!—and, strangest of all, It actooally injured that Cherokee Hall!
Thet's all—now, go 'long! Yes, some folks thinks it's wrong, And thar's some wants to know to what side I belong; But I says, "Served him right!" and I go, all my might, In love or in war, for a fair stand-up fight; And as for the Major—sho! gals, don't you know Thet—Lord! thar's his step in the garden below.
CALDWELL OF SPRINGFIELD
(NEW JERSEY, 1780)
Here's the spot. Look around you. Above on the height Lay the Hessians encamped. By that church on the right Stood the gaunt Jersey farmers. And here ran a wall,— You may dig anywhere and you'll turn up a ball. Nothing more. Grasses spring, waters run, flowers blow, Pretty much as they did ninety-three years ago.
Nothing more, did I say? Stay one moment: you've heard Of Caldwell, the parson, who once preached the word Down at Springfield? What, no? Come—that's bad; why, he had All the Jerseys aflame! And they gave him the name Of the "rebel high priest." He stuck in their gorge, For he loved the Lord God—and he hated King George!
He had cause, you might say! When the Hessians that day Marched up with Knyphausen, they stopped on their way At the "farms," where his wife, with a child in her arms, Sat alone in the house. How it happened none knew But God—and that one of the hireling crew Who fired the shot! Enough!—there she lay, And Caldwell, the chaplain, her husband, away!
Did he preach—did he pray? Think of him as you stand By the old church to-day,—think of him and his band Of militant ploughboys! See the smoke and the heat Of that reckless advance, of that straggling retreat! Keep the ghost of that wife, foully slain, in your view— And what could you, what should you, what would YOU do?
Why, just what HE did! They were left in the lurch For the want of more wadding. He ran to the church, Broke the door, stripped the pews, and dashed out in the road With his arms full of hymn-books, and threw down his load At their feet! Then above all the shouting and shots Rang his voice: "Put Watts into 'em! Boys, give 'em Watts!"
And they did. That is all. Grasses spring, flowers blow, Pretty much as they did ninety-three years ago. You may dig anywhere and you'll turn up a ball— But not always a hero like this—and that's all.
DELIVERED ON THE FOURTEENTH ANNIVERSARY OF CALIFORNIA'S ADMISSION INTO THE UNION, SEPTEMBER 9, 1864
We meet in peace, though from our native East The sun that sparkles on our birthday feast Glanced as he rose on fields whose dews were red With darker tints than those Aurora spread. Though shorn his rays, his welcome disk concealed In the dim smoke that veiled each battlefield, Still striving upward, in meridian pride, He climbed the walls that East and West divide,— Saw his bright face flashed back from golden sand, And sapphire seas that lave the Western land.
Strange was the contrast that such scenes disclose From his high vantage o'er eternal snows; There War's alarm the brazen trumpet rings— Here his love-song the mailed cicala sings; There bayonets glitter through the forest glades— Here yellow cornfields stack their peaceful blades; There the deep trench where Valor finds a grave— Here the long ditch that curbs the peaceful wave; There the bold sapper with his lighted train— Here the dark tunnel and its stores of gain; Here the full harvest and the wain's advance— There the Grim Reaper and the ambulance.
With scenes so adverse, what mysterious bond Links our fair fortunes to the shores beyond? Why come we here—last of a scattered fold— To pour new metal in the broken mould? To yield our tribute, stamped with Caesar's face, To Caesar, stricken in the market-place?
Ah! love of country is the secret tie That joins these contrasts 'neath one arching sky; Though brighter paths our peaceful steps explore, We meet together at the Nation's door. War winds her horn, and giant cliffs go down Like the high walls that girt the sacred town, And bares the pathway to her throbbing heart, From clustered village and from crowded mart.
Part of God's providence it was to found A Nation's bulwark on this chosen ground; Not Jesuit's zeal nor pioneer's unrest Planted these pickets in the distant West, But He who first the Nation's fate forecast Placed here His fountains sealed for ages past, Rock-ribbed and guarded till the coming time Should fit the people for their work sublime; When a new Moses with his rod of steel Smote the tall cliffs with one wide-ringing peal, And the old miracle in record told To the new Nation was revealed in gold.
Judge not too idly that our toils are mean, Though no new levies marshal on our green; Nor deem too rashly that our gains are small, Weighed with the prizes for which heroes fall. See, where thick vapor wreathes the battle-line; There Mercy follows with her oil and wine; Or where brown Labor with its peaceful charm Stiffens the sinews of the Nation's arm. What nerves its hands to strike a deadlier blow And hurl its legions on the rebel foe? Lo! for each town new rising o'er our State See the foe's hamlet waste and desolate, While each new factory lifts its chimney tall, Like a fresh mortar trained on Richmond's wall.
For this, O brothers, swings the fruitful vine, Spread our broad pastures with their countless kine: For this o'erhead the arching vault springs clear, Sunlit and cloudless for one half the year; For this no snowflake, e'er so lightly pressed, Chills the warm impulse of our mother's breast. Quick to reply, from meadows brown and sere, She thrills responsive to Spring's earliest tear; Breaks into blossom, flings her loveliest rose Ere the white crocus mounts Atlantic snows; And the example of her liberal creed Teaches the lesson that to-day we heed.
Thus ours the lot with peaceful, generous hand To spread our bounty o'er the suffering land; As the deep cleft in Mariposa's wall Hurls a vast river splintering in its fall,— Though the rapt soul who stands in awe below Sees but the arching of the promised bow, Lo! the far streamlet drinks its dews unseen, And the whole valley wakes a brighter green.
MISS BLANCHE SAYS
And you are the poet, and so you want Something—what is it?—a theme, a fancy? Something or other the Muse won't grant To your old poetical necromancy; Why, one half you poets—you can't deny— Don't know the Muse when you chance to meet her, But sit in your attics and mope and sigh For a faineant goddess to drop from the sky, When flesh and blood may be standing by Quite at your service, should you but greet her.
What if I told you my own romance? Women are poets, if you so take them, One third poet,—the rest what chance Of man and marriage may choose to make them. Give me ten minutes before you go,— Here at the window we'll sit together, Watching the currents that ebb and flow; Watching the world as it drifts below Up the hot Avenue's dusty glow: Isn't it pleasant, this bright June weather?
Well, it was after the war broke out, And I was a schoolgirl fresh from Paris; Papa had contracts, and roamed about, And I—did nothing—for I was an heiress. Picked some lint, now I think; perhaps Knitted some stockings—a dozen nearly: Havelocks made for the soldiers' caps; Stood at fair-tables and peddled traps Quite at a profit. The "shoulder-straps" Thought I was pretty. Ah, thank you! really?
Still it was stupid. Rata-tat-tat! Those were the sounds of that battle summer, Till the earth seemed a parchment round and flat, And every footfall the tap of a drummer; And day by day down the Avenue went Cavalry, infantry, all together, Till my pitying angel one day sent My fate in the shape of a regiment, That halted, just as the day was spent, Here at our door in the bright June weather.
None of your dandy warriors they,— Men from the West, but where I know not; Haggard and travel-stained, worn and gray, With never a ribbon or lace or bow-knot: And I opened the window, and, leaning there, I felt in their presence the free winds blowing. My neck and shoulders and arms were bare,— I did not dream they might think me fair, But I had some flowers that night in my hair, And here, on my bosom, a red rose glowing.
And I looked from the window along the line, Dusty and dirty and grim and solemn, Till an eye like a bayonet flash met mine, And a dark face shone from the darkening column, And a quick flame leaped to my eyes and hair, Till cheeks and shoulders burned all together, And the next I found myself standing there With my eyelids wet and my cheeks less fair, And the rose from my bosom tossed high in air, Like a blood-drop falling on plume and feather.
Then I drew back quickly: there came a cheer, A rush of figures, a noise and tussle, And then it was over, and high and clear My red rose bloomed on his gun's black muzzle. Then far in the darkness a sharp voice cried, And slowly and steadily, all together, Shoulder to shoulder and side to side, Rising and falling and swaying wide, But bearing above them the rose, my pride, They marched away in the twilight weather.
And I leaned from my window and watched my rose Tossed on the waves of the surging column, Warmed from above in the sunset glows, Borne from below by an impulse solemn. Then I shut the window. I heard no more Of my soldier friend, nor my flower neither, But lived my life as I did before. I did not go as a nurse to the war,— Sick folks to me are a dreadful bore,— So I didn't go to the hospital either.
You smile, O poet, and what do you? You lean from your window, and watch life's column Trampling and struggling through dust and dew, Filled with its purposes grave and solemn; And an act, a gesture, a face—who knows?— Touches your fancy to thrill and haunt you, And you pluck from your bosom the verse that grows And down it flies like my red, red rose, And you sit and dream as away it goes, And think that your duty is done,—now don't you?
I know your answer. I'm not yet through. Look at this photograph,—"In the Trenches"! That dead man in the coat of blue Holds a withered rose in his hand. That clenches Nothing!—except that the sun paints true, And a woman is sometimes prophetic-minded. And that's my romance. And, poet, you Take it and mould it to suit your view; And who knows but you may find it too Come to your heart once more, as mine did.
AN ARCTIC VISION
Where the short-legged Esquimaux Waddle in the ice and snow, And the playful Polar bear Nips the hunter unaware; Where by day they track the ermine, And by night another vermin,— Segment of the frigid zone, Where the temperature alone Warms on St. Elias' cone; Polar dock, where Nature slips From the ways her icy ships; Land of fox and deer and sable, Shore end of our western cable,— Let the news that flying goes Thrill through all your Arctic floes, And reverberate the boast From the cliffs off Beechey's coast, Till the tidings, circling round Every bay of Norton Sound, Throw the vocal tide-wave back To the isles of Kodiac. Let the stately Polar bears Waltz around the pole in pairs, And the walrus, in his glee, Bare his tusk of ivory; While the bold sea-unicorn Calmly takes an extra horn; All ye Polar skies, reveal your Very rarest of parhelia; Trip it, all ye merry dancers, In the airiest of "Lancers;" Slide, ye solemn glaciers, slide, One inch farther to the tide, Nor in rash precipitation Upset Tyndall's calculation. Know you not what fate awaits you, Or to whom the future mates you? All ye icebergs, make salaam,— You belong to Uncle Sam!
On the spot where Eugene Sue Led his wretched Wandering Jew, Stands a form whose features strike Russ and Esquimaux alike. He it is whom Skalds of old In their Runic rhymes foretold; Lean of flank and lank of jaw, See the real Northern Thor! See the awful Yankee leering Just across the Straits of Behring; On the drifted snow, too plain, Sinks his fresh tobacco stain, Just beside the deep inden- Tation of his Number 10.
Leaning on his icy hammer Stands the hero of this drama, And above the wild-duck's clamor, In his own peculiar grammar, With its linguistic disguises, La! the Arctic prologue rises: "Wall, I reckon 'tain't so bad, Seein' ez 'twas all they had.
True, the Springs are rather late, And early Falls predominate; But the ice-crop's pretty sure, And the air is kind o' pure; 'Tain't so very mean a trade, When the land is all surveyed. There's a right smart chance for fur-chase All along this recent purchase, And, unless the stories fail, Every fish from cod to whale; Rocks, too; mebbe quartz; let's see,— 'Twould be strange if there should be,— Seems I've heerd such stories told; Eh!—why, bless us,—yes, it's gold!"
While the blows are falling thick From his California pick, You may recognize the Thor Of the vision that I saw,— Freed from legendary glamour, See the real magician's hammer.
(A GEOGRAPHICAL SURVEY, 1868)
Very fair and full of promise Lay the island of St. Thomas: Ocean o'er its reefs and bars Hid its elemental scars; Groves of cocoanut and guava Grew above its fields of lava. So the gem of the Antilles— "Isles of Eden," where no ill is— Like a great green turtle slumbered On the sea that it encumbered.
Then said William Henry Seward, As he cast his eye to leeward, "Quite important to our commerce Is this island of St. Thomas."
Said the Mountain ranges, "Thank'ee, But we cannot stand the Yankee O'er our scars and fissures poring, In our very vitals boring, In our sacred caverns prying, All our secret problems trying,— Digging, blasting, with dynamit Mocking all our thunders! Damn it! Other lands may be more civil; Bust our lava crust if we will!"
Said the Sea, its white teeth gnashing Through its coral-reef lips flashing, "Shall I let this scheming mortal Shut with stone my shining portal, Curb my tide and check my play, Fence with wharves my shining bay? Rather let me be drawn out In one awful waterspout!"
Said the black-browed Hurricane, Brooding down the Spanish Main, "Shall I see my forces, zounds! Measured by square inch and pounds, With detectives at my back When I double on my track, And my secret paths made clear, Published o'er the hemisphere To each gaping, prying crew? Shall I? Blow me if I do!"
So the Mountains shook and thundered, And the Hurricane came sweeping, And the people stared and wondered As the Sea came on them leaping: Each, according to his promise, Made things lively at St. Thomas.
Till one morn, when Mr. Seward Cast his weather eye to leeward, There was not an inch of dry land Left to mark his recent island. Not a flagstaff or a sentry, Not a wharf or port of entry,— Only—to cut matters shorter— Just a patch of muddy water In the open ocean lying, And a gull above it flying.
"Have a care!" the bailiffs cried From their cockleshell that lay Off the frigate's yellow side, Tossing on Scarborough Bay, While the forty sail it convoyed on a bowline stretched away. "Take your chicks beneath your wings, And your claws and feathers spread, Ere the hawk upon them springs,— Ere around Flamborough Head Swoops Paul Jones, the Yankee falcon, with his beak and talons red."
How we laughed!—my mate and I,— On the "Bon Homme Richard's" deck, As we saw that convoy fly Like a snow-squall, till each fleck Melted in the twilight shadows of the coast-line, speck by speck; And scuffling back to shore The Scarborough bailiffs sped, As the "Richard" with a roar Of her cannon round the Head, Crossed her royal yards and signaled to her consort: "Chase ahead"
But the devil seize Landais In that consort ship of France! For the shabby, lubber way That he worked the "Alliance" In the offing,—nor a broadside fired save to our mischance!— When tumbling to the van, With his battle-lanterns set, Rose the burly Englishman 'Gainst our hull as black as jet,— Rode the yellow-sided "Serapis," and all alone we met!
All alone, though far at sea Hung his consort, rounding to; All alone, though on our lee Fought our "Pallas," stanch and true! For the first broadside around us both a smoky circle drew: And, like champions in a ring, There was cleared a little space— Scarce a cable's length to swing— Ere we grappled in embrace, All the world shut out around us, and we only face to face!
Then awoke all hell below From that broadside, doubly curst, For our long eighteens in row Leaped the first discharge and burst! And on deck our men came pouring, fearing their own guns the worst. And as dumb we lay, till, through Smoke and flame and bitter cry, Hailed the "Serapis:" "Have you Struck your colors?" Our reply, "We have not yet begun to fight!" went shouting to the sky!
Roux of Brest, old fisher, lay Like a herring gasping here; Bunker of Nantucket Bay, Blown from out the port, dropped sheer Half a cable's length to leeward; yet we faintly raised a cheer As with his own right hand Our Commodore made fast The foeman's head-gear and The "Richard's" mizzen-mast, And in that death-lock clinging held us there from first to last!
Yet the foeman, gun on gun, Through the "Richard" tore a road, With his gunners' rammers run Through our ports at every load, Till clear the blue beyond us through our yawning timbers showed. Yet with entrails torn we clung Like the Spartan to our fox, And on deck no coward tongue Wailed the enemy's hard knocks, Nor that all below us trembled like a wreck upon the rocks.
Then a thought rose in my brain, As through Channel mists the sun. From our tops a fire like rain Drove below decks every one Of the enemy's ship's company to hide or work a gun: And that thought took shape as I On the "Richard's" yard lay out, That a man might do and die, If the doing brought about Freedom for his home and country, and his messmates' cheering shout!
Then I crept out in the dark Till I hung above the hatch Of the "Serapis,"—a mark For her marksmen!—with a match And a hand-grenade, but lingered just a moment more to snatch One last look at sea and sky! At the lighthouse on the hill! At the harvest-moon on high! And our pine flag fluttering still! Then turned and down her yawning throat I launched that devil's pill!
Then a blank was all between As the flames around me spun! Had I fired the magazine? Was the victory lost or won? Nor knew I till the fight was o'er but half my work was done: For I lay among the dead In the cockpit of our foe, With a roar above my head,— Till a trampling to and fro, And a lantern showed my mate's face, and I knew what now you know!
Act first, scene first. A study. Of a kind Half cell, half salon, opulent yet grave; Rare books, low-shelved, yet far above the mind Of common man to compass or to crave; Some slight relief of pamphlets that inclined The soul at first to trifling, till, dismayed By text and title, it drew back resigned, Nor cared with levity to vex a shade That to itself such perfect concord made.
Some thoughts like these perplexed the patriot brain Of Jones, Lawgiver to the Commonwealth, As on the threshold of this chaste domain He paused expectant, and looked up in stealth To darkened canvases that frowned amain, With stern-eyed Puritans, who first began To spread their roots in Georgius Primus' reign, Nor dropped till now, obedient to some plan, Their century fruit,—the perfect Boston man.
Somewhere within that Russia-scented gloom A voice catarrhal thrilled the Member's ear: "Brief is our business, Jones. Look round this room! Regard yon portraits! Read their meaning clear! These much proclaim MY station. I presume YOU are our Congressman, before whose wit And sober judgment shall the youth appear Who for West Point is deemed most just and fit To serve his country and to honor it."
"Such is my son! Elsewhere perhaps 'twere wise Trial competitive should guide your choice. There are some people I can well surmise Themselves must show their merits. History's voice Spares me that trouble: all desert that lies In yonder ancestor of Queen Anne's day, Or yon grave Governor, is all my boy's,— Reverts to him; entailed, as one might say; In brief, result in Winthrop Adams Grey!"
He turned and laid his well-bred hand, and smiled, On the cropped head of one who stood beside. Ah me! in sooth it was no ruddy child Nor brawny youth that thrilled the father's pride; 'Twas but a Mind that somehow had beguiled From soulless Matter processes that served For speech and motion and digestion mild, Content if all one moral purpose nerved, Nor recked thereby its spine were somewhat curved.
He was scarce eighteen. Yet ere he was eight He had despoiled the classics; much he knew Of Sanskrit; not that he placed undue weight On this, but that it helped him with Hebrew, His favorite tongue. He learned, alas! too late, One can't begin too early,—would regret That boyish whim to ascertain the state Of Venus' atmosphere made him forget That philologic goal on which his soul was set.
He too had traveled; at the age of ten Found Paris empty, dull except for art And accent. "Mabille" with its glories then Less than Egyptian "Almees" touched a heart Nothing if not pure classic. If some men Thought him a prig, it vexed not his conceit, But moved his pity, and ofttimes his pen, The better to instruct them, through some sheet Published in Boston, and signed "Beacon Street."
From premises so plain the blind could see But one deduction, and it came next day. "In times like these, the very name of G. Speaks volumes," wrote the Honorable J. "Inclosed please find appointment." Presently Came a reception to which Harvard lent Fourteen professors, and, to give esprit, The Liberal Club some eighteen ladies sent, Five that spoke Greek, and thirteen sentiment.
Four poets came who loved each other's song, And two philosophers, who thought that they Were in most things impractical and wrong; And two reformers, each in his own way Peculiar,—one who had waxed strong On herbs and water, and such simple fare; Two foreign lions, "Ram See" and "Chy Long," And several artists claimed attention there, Based on the fact they had been snubbed elsewhere.
With this indorsement nothing now remained But counsel, Godspeed, and some calm adieux; No foolish tear the father's eyelash stained, And Winthrop's cheek as guiltless shone of dew. A slight publicity, such as obtained In classic Rome, these few last hours attended. The day arrived, the train and depot gained, The mayor's own presence this last act commended The train moved off and here the first act ended.
Where West Point crouches, and with lifted shield Turns the whole river eastward through the pass; Whose jutting crags, half silver, stand revealed Like bossy bucklers of Leonidas; Where buttressed low against the storms that wield Their summer lightnings where her eaglets swarm, By Freedom's cradle Nature's self has steeled Her heart, like Winkelried, and to that storm Of leveled lances bares her bosom warm.
But not to-night. The air and woods are still, The faintest rustle in the trees below, The lowest tremor from the mountain rill, Come to the ear as but the trailing flow Of spirit robes that walk unseen the hill; The moon low sailing o'er the upland farm, The moon low sailing where the waters fill The lozenge lake, beside the banks of balm, Gleams like a chevron on the river's arm.
All space breathes languor: from the hilltop high, Where Putnam's bastion crumbles in the past, To swooning depths where drowsy cannon lie And wide-mouthed mortars gape in slumbers vast; Stroke upon stroke, the far oars glance and die On the hushed bosom of the sleeping stream; Bright for one moment drifts a white sail by, Bright for one moment shows a bayonet gleam Far on the level plain, then passes as a dream.
Soft down the line of darkened battlements, Bright on each lattice of the barrack walls, Where the low arching sallyport indents, Seen through its gloom beyond, the moonbeam falls. All is repose save where the camping tents Mock the white gravestones farther on, where sound No morning guns for reveille, nor whence No drum-beat calls retreat, but still is ever found Waiting and present on each sentry's round.
Within the camp they lie, the young, the brave, Half knight, half schoolboy, acolytes of fame, Pledged to one altar, and perchance one grave; Bred to fear nothing but reproach and blame, Ascetic dandies o'er whom vestals rave, Clean-limbed young Spartans, disciplined young elves, Taught to destroy, that they may live to save, Students embattled, soldiers at their shelves, Heroes whose conquests are at first themselves.
Within the camp they lie, in dreams are freed From the grim discipline they learn to love; In dreams no more the sentry's challenge heed, In dreams afar beyond their pickets rove; One treads once more the piny paths that lead To his green mountain home, and pausing hears The cattle call; one treads the tangled weed Of slippery rocks beside Atlantic piers; One smiles in sleep, one wakens wet with tears.
One scents the breath of jasmine flowers that twine The pillared porches of his Southern home; One hears the coo of pigeons in the pine Of Western woods where he was wont to roam; One sees the sunset fire the distant line Where the long prairie sweeps its levels down; One treads the snow-peaks; one by lamps that shine Down the broad highways of the sea-girt town; And two are missing,—Cadets Grey and Brown!
Much as I grieve to chronicle the fact, That selfsame truant known as "Cadet Grey" Was the young hero of our moral tract, Shorn of his twofold names on entrance-day. "Winthrop" and "Adams" dropped in that one act Of martial curtness, and the roll-call thinned Of his ancestors, he with youthful tact Indulgence claimed, since Winthrop no more sinned, Nor sainted Adams winced when he, plain Grey, was "skinned."
He had known trials since we saw him last, By sheer good luck had just escaped rejection, Not for his learning, but that it was cast In a spare frame scarce fit for drill inspection; But when he ope'd his lips a stream so vast Of information flooded each professor, They quite forgot his eyeglass,—something past All precedent,—accepting the transgressor, Weak eyes and all of which he was possessor.
E'en the first day he touched a blackboard's space— So the tradition of his glory lingers— Two wise professors fainted, each with face White as the chalk within his rapid fingers: All day he ciphered, at such frantic pace, His form was hid in chalk precipitation Of every problem, till they said his case Could meet from them no fair examination Till Congress made a new appropriation.
Famous in molecules, he demonstrated From the mess hash to many a listening classful; Great as a botanist, he separated Three kinds of "Mentha" in one julep's glassful; High in astronomy, it has been stated He was the first at West Point to discover Mars' missing satellites, and calculated Their true positions, not the heavens over, But 'neath the window of Miss Kitty Rover.
Indeed, I fear this novelty celestial That very night was visible and clear; At least two youths of aspect most terrestrial, And clad in uniform, were loitering near A villa's casement, where a gentle vestal Took their impatience somewhat patiently, Knowing the youths were somewhat green and "bestial"— (A certain slang of the Academy, I beg the reader won't refer to me).
For when they ceased their ardent strain, Miss Kitty Glowed not with anger nor a kindred flame, But rather flushed with an odd sort of pity, Half matron's kindness, and half coquette's shame; Proud yet quite blameful, when she heard their ditty She gave her soul poetical expression, And being clever too, as she was pretty, From her high casement warbled this confession,— Half provocation and one half repression:—
Not yet, O friend, not yet! the patient stars Lean from their lattices, content to wait. All is illusion till the morning bars Slip from the levels of the Eastern gate. Night is too young, O friend! day is too near; Wait for the day that maketh all things clear. Not yet, O friend, not yet!
Not yet, O love, not yet! all is not true, All is not ever as it seemeth now. Soon shall the river take another blue, Soon dies yon light upon the mountain brow. What lieth dark, O love, bright day will fill; Wait for thy morning, be it good or ill. Not yet, O love, not yet!
The strain was finished; softly as the night Her voice died from the window, yet e'en then Fluttered and fell likewise a kerchief white; But that no doubt was accident, for when She sought her couch she deemed her conduct quite Beyond the reach of scandalous commenter,— Washing her hands of either gallant wight, Knowing the moralist might compliment her,— Thus voicing Siren with the words of Mentor.
She little knew the youths below, who straight Dived for her kerchief, and quite overlooked The pregnant moral she would inculcate; Nor dreamed the less how little Winthrop brooked Her right to doubt his soul's maturer state. Brown—who was Western, amiable, and new— Might take the moral and accept his fate; The which he did, but, being stronger too, Took the white kerchief, also, as his due.
They did not quarrel, which no doubt seemed queer To those who knew not how their friendship blended; Each was opposed, and each the other's peer, Yet each the other in some things transcended. Where Brown lacked culture, brains,—and oft, I fear, Cash in his pocket,—Grey of course supplied him; Where Grey lacked frankness, force, and faith sincere, Brown of his manhood suffered none to chide him, But in his faults stood manfully beside him.
In academic walks and studies grave, In the camp drill and martial occupation, They helped each other: but just here I crave Space for the reader's full imagination,— The fact is patent, Grey became a slave! A tool, a fag, a "pleb"! To state it plainer, All that blue blood and ancestry e'er gave Cleaned guns, brought water!—was, in fact, retainer To Jones, whose uncle was a paper-stainer!
How they bore this at home I cannot say: I only know so runs the gossip's tale. It chanced one day that the paternal Grey Came to West Point that he himself might hail The future hero in some proper way Consistent with his lineage. With him came A judge, a poet, and a brave array Of aunts and uncles, bearing each a name, Eyeglass and respirator with the same.
"Observe!" quoth Grey the elder to his friends, "Not in these giddy youths at baseball playing You'll notice Winthrop Adams! Greater ends Than these absorb HIS leisure. No doubt straying With Caesar's Commentaries, he attends Some Roman council. Let us ask, however, Yon grimy urchin, who my soul offends By wheeling offal, if he will endeavor To find— What! heaven! Winthrop! Oh! no! never!"
Alas! too true! The last of all the Greys Was "doing police detail,"—it had come To this; in vain the rare historic bays That crowned the pictured Puritans at home! And yet 'twas certain that in grosser ways Of health and physique he was quite improving. Straighter he stood, and had achieved some praise In other exercise, much more behooving A soldier's taste than merely dirt removing.
But to resume: we left the youthful pair, Some stanzas back, before a lady's bower; 'Tis to be hoped they were no longer there, For stars were pointing to the morning hour. Their escapade discovered, ill 'twould fare With our two heroes, derelict of orders; But, like the ghost, they "scent the morning air," And back again they steal across the borders, Unseen, unheeded, by their martial warders.
They got to bed with speed: young Grey to dream Of some vague future with a general's star, And Mistress Kitty basking in its gleam; While Brown, content to worship her afar, Dreamed himself dying by some lonely stream, Having snatched Kitty from eighteen Nez Perces, Till a far bugle, with the morning beam, In his dull ear its fateful song rehearses, Which Winthrop Adams after put to verses.
So passed three years of their novitiate, The first real boyhood Grey had ever known. His youth ran clear,—not choked like his Cochituate, In civic pipes, but free and pure alone; Yet knew repression, could himself habituate To having mind and body well rubbed down, Could read himself in others, and could situate Themselves in him,—except, I grieve to own, He couldn't see what Kitty saw in Brown!
At last came graduation; Brown received In the One Hundredth Cavalry commission; Then frolic, flirting, parting,—when none grieved Save Brown, who loved our young Academician. And Grey, who felt his friend was still deceived By Mistress Kitty, who with other beauties Graced the occasion, and it was believed Had promised Brown that when he could recruit his Promised command, she'd share with him those duties.
Howe'er this was I know not; all I know, The night was June's, the moon rode high and clear; "'Twas such a night as this," three years ago, Miss Kitty sang the song that two might hear. There is a walk where trees o'erarching grow, Too wide for one, not wide enough for three (A fact precluding any plural beau), Which quite explained Miss Kitty's company, But not why Grey that favored one should be.
There is a spring, whose limpid waters hide Somewhere within the shadows of that path Called Kosciusko's. There two figures bide,— Grey and Miss Kitty. Surely Nature hath No fairer mirror for a might-be bride Than this same pool that caught our gentle belle To its dark heart one moment. At her side Grey bent. A something trembled o'er the well, Bright, spherical—a tear? Ah no! a button fell!
"Material minds might think that gravitation," Quoth Grey, "drew yon metallic spheroid down. The soul poetic views the situation Fraught with more meaning. When thy girlish crown Was mirrored there, there was disintegration Of me, and all my spirit moved to you, Taking the form of slow precipitation!" But here came "Taps," a start, a smile, adieu! A blush, a sigh, and end of Canto II.
Fades the light, And afar Goeth day, cometh night; And a star Leadeth all, Speedeth all To their rest!
Love, good-night! Must thou go When the day And the light Need thee so,— Needeth all, Heedeth all, That is best?
Where the sun sinks through leagues of arid sky, Where the sun dies o'er leagues of arid plain, Where the dead bones of wasted rivers lie, Trailed from their channels in yon mountain chain; Where day by day naught takes the wearied eye But the low-rimming mountains, sharply based On the dead levels, moving far or nigh, As the sick vision wanders o'er the waste, But ever day by day against the sunset traced:
There moving through a poisonous cloud that stings With dust of alkali the trampling band Of Indian ponies, ride on dusky wings The red marauders of the Western land; Heavy with spoil, they seek the trail that brings Their flaunting lances to that sheltered bank Where lie their lodges; and the river sings Forgetful of the plain beyond, that drank Its life blood, where the wasted caravan sank.
They brought with them the thief's ignoble spoil, The beggar's dole, the greed of chiffonnier, The scum of camps, the implements of toil Snatched from dead hands, to rust as useless here; All they could rake or glean from hut or soil Piled their lean ponies, with the jackdaw's greed For vacant glitter. It were scarce a foil To all this tinsel that one feathered reed Bore on its barb two scalps that freshly bleed!
They brought with them, alas! a wounded foe, Bound hand and foot, yet nursed with cruel care, Lest that in death he might escape one throe They had decreed his living flesh should bear: A youthful officer, by one foul blow Of treachery surprised, yet fighting still Amid his ambushed train, calm as the snow Above him; hopeless, yet content to spill His blood with theirs, and fighting but to kill.
He had fought nobly, and in that brief spell Had won the awe of those rude border men Who gathered round him, and beside him fell In loyal faith and silence, save that when By smoke embarrassed, and near sight as well, He paused to wipe his eyeglass, and decide Its nearer focus, there arose a yell Of approbation, and Bob Barker cried, "Wade in, Dundreary!" tossed his cap and—died.
Their sole survivor now! his captors bear Him all unconscious, and beside the stream Leave him to rest; meantime the squaws prepare The stake for sacrifice: nor wakes a gleam Of pity in those Furies' eyes that glare Expectant of the torture; yet alway His steadfast spirit shines and mocks them there With peace they know not, till at close of day On his dull ear there thrills a whispered "Grey!"
He starts! Was it a trick? Had angels kind Touched with compassion some weak woman's breast? Such things he'd read of! Faintly to his mind Came Pocahontas pleading for her guest. But then, this voice, though soft, was still inclined To baritone! A squaw in ragged gown Stood near him, frowning hatred. Was he blind? Whose eye was this beneath that beetling frown? The frown was painted, but that wink meant—Brown!
"Hush! for your life and mine! the thongs are cut," He whispers; "in yon thicket stands my horse. One dash!—I follow close, as if to glut My own revenge, yet bar the others' course. Now!" And 'tis done. Grey speeds, Brown follows; but Ere yet they reach the shade, Grey, fainting, reels, Yet not before Brown's circling arms close shut His in, uplifting him! Anon he feels A horse beneath him bound, and hears the rattling heels.
Then rose a yell of baffled hate, and sprang Headlong the savages in swift pursuit; Though speed the fugitives, they hope to hang Hot on their heels, like wolves, with tireless foot. Long is the chase; Brown hears with inward pang The short, hard panting of his gallant steed Beneath its double burden; vainly rang Both voice and spur. The heaving flanks may bleed, Yet comes the sequel that they still must heed!
Brown saw it—reined his steed; dismounting, stood Calm and inflexible. "Old chap! you see There is but ONE escape. You know it? Good! There is ONE man to take it. You are he. The horse won't carry double. If he could, 'Twould but protract this bother. I shall stay: I've business with these devils, they with me; I will occupy them till you get away. Hush! quick time, forward. There! God bless you, Grey!"
But as he finished, Grey slipped to his feet, Calm as his ancestors in voice and eye: "You do forget yourself when you compete With him whose RIGHT it is to stay and die: That's not YOUR duty. Please regain your seat; And take my ORDERS—since I rank you here!— Mount and rejoin your men, and my defeat Report at quarters. Take this letter; ne'er Give it to aught but HER, nor let aught interfere."
And, shamed and blushing, Brown the letter took Obediently and placed it in his pocket; Then, drawing forth another, said, "I look For death as you do, wherefore take this locket And letter." Here his comrade's hand he shook In silence. "Should we both together fall, Some other man"—but here all speech forsook His lips, as ringing cheerily o'er all He heard afar his own dear bugle-call!
'Twas his command and succor, but e'en then Grey fainted, with poor Brown, who had forgot He likewise had been wounded, and both men Were picked up quite unconscious of their lot. Long lay they in extremity, and when They both grew stronger, and once more exchanged Old vows and memories, one common "den" In hospital was theirs, and free they ranged, Awaiting orders, but no more estranged.
And yet 'twas strange—nor can I end my tale Without this moral, to be fair and just: They never sought to know why each did fail The prompt fulfillment of the other's trust. It was suggested they could not avail Themselves of either letter, since they were Duly dispatched to their address by mail By Captain X., who knew Miss Rover fair Now meant stout Mistress Bloggs of Blank Blank Square.
II. SPANISH IDYLS AND LEGENDS
THE MIRACLE OF PADRE JUNIPERO
This is the tale that the Chronicle Tells of the wonderful miracle Wrought by the pious Padre Serro, The very reverend Junipero.
The heathen stood on his ancient mound, Looking over the desert bound Into the distant, hazy South, Over the dusty and broad champaign, Where, with many a gaping mouth And fissure, cracked by the fervid drouth, For seven months had the wasted plain Known no moisture of dew or rain. The wells were empty and choked with sand; The rivers had perished from the land; Only the sea-fogs to and fro Slipped like ghosts of the streams below. Deep in its bed lay the river's bones, Bleaching in pebbles and milk-white stones, And tracked o'er the desert faint and far, Its ribs shone bright on each sandy bar.
Thus they stood as the sun went down Over the foot-hills bare and brown; Thus they looked to the South, wherefrom The pale-face medicine-man should come, Not in anger or in strife, But to bring—so ran the tale— The welcome springs of eternal life, The living waters that should not fail.
Said one, "He will come like Manitou, Unseen, unheard, in the falling dew." Said another, "He will come full soon Out of the round-faced watery moon." And another said, "He is here!" and lo, Faltering, staggering, feeble and slow, Out from the desert's blinding heat The Padre dropped at the heathen's feet.
They stood and gazed for a little space Down on his pallid and careworn face, And a smile of scorn went round the band As they touched alternate with foot and hand This mortal waif, that the outer space Of dim mysterious sky and sand Flung with so little of Christian grace Down on their barren, sterile strand.
Said one to him: "It seems thy God Is a very pitiful kind of God: He could not shield thine aching eyes From the blowing desert sands that rise, Nor turn aside from thy old gray head The glittering blade that is brandished By the sun He set in the heavens high; He could not moisten thy lips when dry; The desert fire is in thy brain; Thy limbs are racked with the fever-pain. If this be the grace He showeth thee Who art His servant, what may we, Strange to His ways and His commands, Seek at His unforgiving hands?"
"Drink but this cup," said the Padre, straight, "And thou shalt know whose mercy bore These aching limbs to your heathen door, And purged my soul of its gross estate. Drink in His name, and thou shalt see The hidden depths of this mystery. Drink!" and he held the cup. One blow From the heathen dashed to the ground below The sacred cup that the Padre bore, And the thirsty soil drank the precious store Of sacramental and holy wine, That emblem and consecrated sign And blessed symbol of blood divine.
Then, says the legend (and they who doubt The same as heretics be accurst), From the dry and feverish soil leaped out A living fountain; a well-spring burst Over the dusty and broad champaign, Over the sandy and sterile plain, Till the granite ribs and the milk-white stones That lay in the valley—the scattered bones— Moved in the river and lived again!
Such was the wonderful miracle Wrought by the cup of wine that fell From the hands of the pious Padre Serro, The very reverend Junipero.
THE WONDERFUL SPRING OF SAN JOAQUIN
Of all the fountains that poets sing,— Crystal, thermal, or mineral spring, Ponce de Leon's Fount of Youth, Wells with bottoms of doubtful truth,— In short, of all the springs of Time That ever were flowing in fact or rhyme, That ever were tasted, felt, or seen, There were none like the Spring of San Joaquin.
Anno Domini eighteen-seven, Father Dominguez (now in heaven,— Obiit eighteen twenty-seven) Found the spring, and found it, too, By his mule's miraculous cast of a shoe; For his beast—a descendant of Balaam's ass— Stopped on the instant, and would not pass.
The Padre thought the omen good, And bent his lips to the trickling flood; Then—as the Chronicles declare, On the honest faith of a true believer— His cheeks, though wasted, lank, and bare, Filled like a withered russet pear In the vacuum of a glass receiver, And the snows that seventy winters bring Melted away in that magic spring.
Such, at least, was the wondrous news The Padre brought into Santa Cruz. The Church, of course, had its own views Of who were worthiest to use The magic spring; but the prior claim Fell to the aged, sick, and lame. Far and wide the people came: Some from the healthful Aptos Creek Hastened to bring their helpless sick; Even the fishers of rude Soquel Suddenly found they were far from well; The brawny dwellers of San Lorenzo Said, in fact, they had never been so; And all were ailing,—strange to say,— From Pescadero to Monterey.
Over the mountain they poured in, With leathern bottles and bags of skin; Through the canyons a motley throng Trotted, hobbled, and limped along. The Fathers gazed at the moving scene With pious joy and with souls serene; And then—a result perhaps foreseen— They laid out the Mission of San Joaquin.
Not in the eyes of faith alone The good effects of the water shone; But skins grew rosy, eyes waxed clear, Of rough vaquero and muleteer; Angular forms were rounded out, Limbs grew supple and waists grew stout; And as for the girls,—for miles about They had no equal! To this day, From Pescadero to Monterey, You'll still find eyes in which are seen The liquid graces of San Joaquin.
There is a limit to human bliss, And the Mission of San Joaquin had this; None went abroad to roam or stay But they fell sick in the queerest way,— A singular maladie du pays, With gastric symptoms: so they spent Their days in a sensuous content, Caring little for things unseen Beyond their bowers of living green, Beyond the mountains that lay between The world and the Mission of San Joaquin.
Winter passed, and the summer came The trunks of madrono, all aflame, Here and there through the underwood Like pillars of fire starkly stood. All of the breezy solitude Was filled with the spicing of pine and bay And resinous odors mixed and blended; And dim and ghostlike, far away, The smoke of the burning woods ascended. Then of a sudden the mountains swam, The rivers piled their floods in a dam, The ridge above Los Gatos Creek Arched its spine in a feline fashion; The forests waltzed till they grew sick, And Nature shook in a speechless passion; And, swallowed up in the earthquake's spleen, The wonderful Spring of San Joaquin Vanished, and never more was seen!
Two days passed: the Mission folk Out of their rosy dream awoke; Some of them looked a trifle white, But that, no doubt, was from earthquake fright. Three days: there was sore distress, Headache, nausea, giddiness. Four days: faintings, tenderness Of the mouth and fauces; and in less Than one week—here the story closes; We won't continue the prognosis— Enough that now no trace is seen Of Spring or Mission of San Joaquin.
You see the point? Don't be too quick To break bad habits: better stick, Like the Mission folk, to your ARSENIC.
(HEARD AT THE MISSION DOLORES, 1868)
Bells of the Past, whose long-forgotten music Still fills the wide expanse, Tingeing the sober twilight of the Present With color of romance!
I hear your call, and see the sun descending On rock and wave and sand, As down the coast the Mission voices, blending, Girdle the heathen land.
Within the circle of your incantation No blight nor mildew falls; Nor fierce unrest, nor lust, nor low ambition Passes those airy walls.
Borne on the swell of your long waves receding, I touch the farther Past; I see the dying glow of Spanish glory, The sunset dream and last!
Before me rise the dome-shaped Mission towers, The white Presidio; The swart commander in his leathern jerkin, The priest in stole of snow.
Once more I see Portala's cross uplifting Above the setting sun; And past the headland, northward, slowly drifting, The freighted galleon.
O solemn bells! whose consecrated masses Recall the faith of old; O tinkling bells! that lulled with twilight music The spiritual fold!
Your voices break and falter in the darkness,— Break, falter, and are still; And veiled and mystic, like the Host descending, The sun sinks from the hill!
CONCEPCION DE ARGUELLO
(PRESIDIO DE SAN FRANCISCO, 1800)
Looking seaward, o'er the sand-hills stands the fortress, old and quaint, By the San Francisco friars lifted to their patron saint,—
Sponsor to that wondrous city, now apostate to the creed, On whose youthful walls the Padre saw the angel's golden reed;
All its trophies long since scattered, all its blazon brushed away; And the flag that flies above it but a triumph of to-day.
Never scar of siege or battle challenges the wandering eye, Never breach of warlike onset holds the curious passer-by;
Only one sweet human fancy interweaves its threads of gold With the plain and homespun present, and a love that ne'er grows old;
Only one thing holds its crumbling walls above the meaner dust,— Listen to the simple story of a woman's love and trust.
Count von Resanoff, the Russian, envoy of the mighty Czar, Stood beside the deep embrasures, where the brazen cannon are.
He with grave provincial magnates long had held serene debate On the Treaty of Alliance and the high affairs of state;
He from grave provincial magnates oft had turned to talk apart With the Commandante's daughter on the questions of the heart,
Until points of gravest import yielded slowly one by one, And by Love was consummated what Diplomacy begun;
Till beside the deep embrasures, where the brazen cannon are, He received the twofold contract for approval of the Czar;
Till beside the brazen cannon the betrothed bade adieu, And from sallyport and gateway north the Russian eagles flew.
Long beside the deep embrasures, where the brazen cannon are, Did they wait the promised bridegroom and the answer of the Czar;
Day by day on wall and bastion beat the hollow, empty breeze,— Day by day the sunlight glittered on the vacant, smiling seas:
Week by week the near hills whitened in their dusty leather cloaks,— Week by week the far hills darkened from the fringing plain of oaks;
Till the rains came, and far breaking, on the fierce southwester tost, Dashed the whole long coast with color, and then vanished and were lost.
So each year the seasons shifted,—wet and warm and drear and dry Half a year of clouds and flowers, half a year of dust and sky.
Still it brought no ship nor message,—brought no tidings, ill or meet, For the statesmanlike Commander, for the daughter fair and sweet.
Yet she heard the varying message, voiceless to all ears beside: "He will come," the flowers whispered; "Come no more," the dry hills sighed.
Still she found him with the waters lifted by the morning breeze,— Still she lost him with the folding of the great white-tented seas;
Until hollows chased the dimples from her cheeks of olive brown, And at times a swift, shy moisture dragged the long sweet lashes down;
Or the small mouth curved and quivered as for some denied caress, And the fair young brow was knitted in an infantine distress.
Then the grim Commander, pacing where the brazen cannon are, Comforted the maid with proverbs, wisdom gathered from afar;
Bits of ancient observation by his fathers garnered, each As a pebble worn and polished in the current of his speech:
"'Those who wait the coming rider travel twice as far as he;' 'Tired wench and coming butter never did in time agree;'
"'He that getteth himself honey, though a clown, he shall have flies;' 'In the end God grinds the miller;' 'In the dark the mole has eyes;'
"'He whose father is Alcalde of his trial hath no fear,'— And be sure the Count has reasons that will make his conduct clear."
Then the voice sententious faltered, and the wisdom it would teach Lost itself in fondest trifles of his soft Castilian speech;
And on "Concha" "Conchitita," and "Conchita" he would dwell With the fond reiteration which the Spaniard knows so well.
So with proverbs and caresses, half in faith and half in doubt, Every day some hope was kindled, flickered, faded, and went out.
Yearly, down the hillside sweeping, came the stately cavalcade, Bringing revel to vaquero, joy and comfort to each maid;
Bringing days of formal visit, social feast and rustic sport, Of bull-baiting on the plaza, of love-making in the court.
Vainly then at Concha's lattice, vainly as the idle wind, Rose the thin high Spanish tenor that bespoke the youth too kind;
Vainly, leaning from their saddles, caballeros, bold and fleet, Plucked for her the buried chicken from beneath their mustang's feet;
So in vain the barren hillsides with their gay serapes blazed,— Blazed and vanished in the dust-cloud that their flying hoofs had raised.
Then the drum called from the rampart, and once more, with patient mien, The Commander and his daughter each took up the dull routine,—
Each took up the petty duties of a life apart and lone, Till the slow years wrought a music in its dreary monotone.
Forty years on wall and bastion swept the hollow idle breeze, Since the Russian eagle fluttered from the California seas;
Forty years on wall and bastion wrought its slow but sure decay, And St. George's cross was lifted in the port of Monterey;
And the citadel was lighted, and the hall was gayly drest, All to honor Sir George Simpson, famous traveler and guest.
Far and near the people gathered to the costly banquet set, And exchanged congratulations with the English baronet;
Till, the formal speeches ended, and amidst the laugh and wine, Some one spoke of Concha's lover,—heedless of the warning sign.
Quickly then cried Sir George Simpson: "Speak no ill of him, I pray! He is dead. He died, poor fellow, forty years ago this day,—
"Died while speeding home to Russia, falling from a fractious horse. Left a sweetheart, too, they tell me. Married, I suppose, of course!
"Lives she yet?" A deathlike silence fell on banquet, guests, and hall, And a trembling figure rising fixed the awestruck gaze of all.
Two black eyes in darkened orbits gleamed beneath the nun's white hood; Black serge hid the wasted figure, bowed and stricken where it stood.
"Lives she yet?" Sir George repeated. All were hushed as Concha drew Closer yet her nun's attire. "Senor, pardon, she died, too!"
"FOR THE KING"
(NORTHERN MEXICO, 1640)
As you look from the plaza at Leon west You can see her house, but the view is best From the porch of the church where she lies at rest;
Where much of her past still lives, I think, In the scowling brows and sidelong blink Of the worshiping throng that rise or sink
To the waxen saints that, yellow and lank, Lean out from their niches, rank on rank, With a bloodless Saviour on either flank;
In the gouty pillars, whose cracks begin To show the adobe core within,— A soul of earth in a whitewashed skin.
And I think that the moral of all, you'll say, Is the sculptured legend that moulds away On a tomb in the choir: "Por el Rey."
"Por el Rey!" Well, the king is gone Ages ago, and the Hapsburg one Shot—but the Rock of the Church lives on.
"Por el Rey!" What matters, indeed, If king or president succeed To a country haggard with sloth and greed,
As long as one granary is fat, And yonder priest, in a shovel hat, Peeps out from the bin like a sleek brown rat?
What matters? Naught, if it serves to bring The legend nearer,—no other thing,— We'll spare the moral, "Live the king!"
Two hundred years ago, they say, The Viceroy, Marquis of Monte-Rey, Rode with his retinue that way:
Grave, as befitted Spain's grandee; Grave, as the substitute should be Of His Most Catholic Majesty;
Yet, from his black plume's curving grace To his slim black gauntlet's smaller space, Exquisite as a piece of lace!
Two hundred years ago—e'en so— The Marquis stopped where the lime-trees blow, While Leon's seneschal bent him low,
And begged that the Marquis would that night take His humble roof for the royal sake, And then, as the custom demanded, spake
The usual wish, that his guest would hold The house, and all that it might enfold, As his—with the bride scarce three days old.
Be sure that the Marquis, in his place, Replied to all with the measured grace Of chosen speech and unmoved face;
Nor raised his head till his black plume swept The hem of the lady's robe, who kept Her place, as her husband backward stept.
And then (I know not how nor why) A subtle flame in the lady's eye— Unseen by the courtiers standing by—
Burned through his lace and titled wreath, Burned through his body's jeweled sheath, Till it touched the steel of the man beneath!
(And yet, mayhap, no more was meant Than to point a well-worn compliment, And the lady's beauty, her worst intent.)
Howbeit, the Marquis bowed again: "Who rules with awe well serveth Spain, But best whose law is love made plain."
Be sure that night no pillow prest The seneschal, but with the rest Watched, as was due a royal guest,—
Watched from the wall till he saw the square Fill with the moonlight, white and bare,— Watched till he saw two shadows fare
Out from his garden, where the shade That the old church tower and belfry made Like a benedictory hand was laid.
Few words spoke the seneschal as he turned To his nearest sentry: "These monks have learned That stolen fruit is sweetly earned.
"Myself shall punish yon acolyte Who gathers my garden grapes by night; Meanwhile, wait thou till the morning light."