Part 1 out of 5
COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
"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
"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
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
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,--
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
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
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
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:--