By Francis Bret Harte
(1836 - 1902)
At the Hacienda
KNOW I not who thou mayst be
Carved upon this olive-tree,—
      “Manuela of La Torre,”—
For around on broken walls
Summer sun and spring rain falls,
And in vain the low wind calls
      “Manuela of La Torre.”
Of that song no words remain
But the musical refrain,—
      “Manuela of La Torre.”
Yet at night, when winds are still,
Tinkles on the distant hill
A guitar, and words that thrill
  Tell to me the old, old story,—
Old when first thy charms were sung,
Old when these old walls were young,
      “Manuela of La Torre.”
BEAUTIFUL! Sir, you may say so. Thar is n’t her match in the county;
Is thar, old gal,—Chiquita, my darling, my beauty?
Feel of that neck, sir,—thar ’s velvet! Whoa! steady,—ah, will you, you vixen!
Whoa! I say. Jack, trot her out; let the gentleman look at her paces.
Morgan!—she ain’t nothing else, and I ’ve got the papers to prove it.
Sired by Chippewa Chief, and twelve hundred dollars won’t buy her.
Briggs of Tuolumne owned her. Did you know Briggs of Tuolumne?
Busted hisself in White Pine, and blew out his brains down in ’Frisco?
Hed n’t no savey, hed Briggs. Thar, Jack! that ’ll do,—quit that foolin’!
Nothin’ to what she kin do, when she ’s got her work cut out before her.
Hosses is hosses, you know, and likewise, too, jockeys is jockeys:
And ’t ain’t ev’ry man as can ride as knows what a hoss has got in him.
Know the old ford on the Fork, that nearly got Flanigan’s leaders?
Nasty in daylight, you bet, and a mighty rough ford in low water!
Well, it ain’t six weeks ago that me and the Jedge and his nevey
Struck for that ford in the night, in the rain, and the water all round us;
Up to our flanks in the gulch, and Rattle-snake Creek jest a-bilin’,
Not a plank left in the dam, and nary a bridge on the river.
I had the gray, and the Jedge had his roan, and his nevey, Chiquita;
And after us trundled the rocks jest loosed from the top of the cañon.
Lickity, lickity, switch, we came to the ford, and Chiquita
Buckled right down to her work, and, afore I could yell to her rider,
Took water jest at the ford, and there was the Jedge and me standing,
And twelve hundred dollars of hoss-flesh afloat, and a-driftin’ to thunder!
Would ye b’lieve it? That night, that hoss, that ’ar filly, Chiquita,
Walked herself into her stall, and stood there, all quiet and dripping:
Clean as a beaver or rat, with nary a buckle of harness,
Jest as she swam the Fork,—that hoss, that ar’ filly, Chiquita.
That ’s what I call a hoss! and—What did you say?—Oh, the nevey?
Drownded, I reckon,—leastways, he never kem back to deny it.
Ye see the derned fool had no seat, ye could n’t have made him a rider;
And then, ye know, boys will be boys, and hosses—well, hosses is hosses!
NO life in earth, or air, or sky;
The sunbeams, broken silently,
On the bared rocks around me lie,—
Cold rocks with half-warmed lichens scarred,
And scales of moss; and scarce a yard
Away, one long strip, yellow-barred.
Lost in a cleft! T is but a stride
To reach it, thrust its roots aside,
And lift it on thy stick astride!
Yet stay! That moment is thy grace!
For round thee, thrilling air and space,
A chattering terror fills the place!
A sound as of dry bones that stir
In the Dead Valley! By yon fir
The locust stops its noonday whir!
The wild bird hears; smote with the sound,
As if by bullet brought to ground,
On broken wing, dips, wheeling round!
The hare, transfixed, with trembling lip,
Halts, breathless, on pulsating hip,
And palsied tread, and heels that slip.
Enough, old friend!—’t is thou. Forget
My heedless foot, nor longer fret
The peace with thy grim castanet!
I know thee! Yes! Thou mayst forego
That lifted crest; the measured blow
Beyond which thy pride scorns to go,
Or yet retract! For me no spell
Lights those slit orbs, where, some think, dwell
Machicolated fires of hell!
I only know thee humble, bold,
Haughty, with miseries untold,
And the old Curse that left thee cold,
And drove thee ever to the sun,
On blistering rocks; nor made thee shun
Our cabin’s hearth, when day was done,
And the spent ashes warmed thee best;
We knew thee,—silent, joyless guest
Of our rude ingle. E’en thy quest
Of the rare milk-bowl seemed to be
Naught but a brother’s poverty
And Spartan taste that kept thee free
From lust and rapine. Thou! whose fame
Searches the grass with tongue of flame,
Making all creatures seem thy game;
When the whole woods before thee run,
Asked but—when all was said and done—
To lie, untrodden, in the sun!
COWARD,—of heroic size,
In whose lazy muscles lies
Strength we fear and yet despise;
Savage,—whose relentless tusks
Are content with acorn husks;
Robber,—whose exploits ne’er soared
O’er the bee’s or squirrel’s hoard;
Whiskered chin, and feeble nose,
Claws of steel on baby toes,—
Here, in solitude and shade,
Shambling, shuffling plantigrade,
Be thy courses undismayed!
Here, where Nature makes thy bed,
Let thy rude, half-human tread
  Point to hidden Indian springs,
Lost in ferns and fragrant grasses,
  Hovered o’er by timid wings,
Where the wood-duck lightly passes,
Where the wild bee holds her sweets,
Epicurean retreats,
Fit for thee, and better than
Fearful spoils of dangerous man.
In thy fat-jowled deviltry
Friar Tuck shall live in thee;
Thou mayest levy tithe and dole;
  Thou shalt spread the woodland cheer,
From the pilgrim taking toll;
  Match thy cunning with his fear;
Eat, and drink, and have thy fill;
Yet remain an outlaw still!
SAY there! P’r’aps
Some on you chaps
  Might know Jim Wild?
Well,—no offense:
Thar aint no sense
  In gittin’ riled!
Jim was my chum
  Up on the Bar:
That ’s why I come
  Down from up yar,
Lookin’ for Jim.
Thank ye, sir! You
Ain’t of that crew,—
  Blest if you are!
Money? Not much:
  That ain’t my kind;
I ain’t no such.
  Rum? I don’t mind,
Seein’it ’syou.
Well, this yer Jim,—
Did you know him?
Jes’ ’bout your size;
Same kind of eyes;—
Well, that is strange:
  Why, it ’stwo year
  Since he came here,
Sick, for a change.
Well, here ’s to us:
The h—— you say!
That little cuss?
What makes you star’,
You over thar?
Can’t a man drop
’S glass in yer shop
But you must r’ar?
  It would n’t take
  D——d much to break
You and your bar.
Why, thar was me,
Jones, and Bob Lee,
Harry and Ben,—
No-account men:
Then to take him!
Well, thar—Good-by—
No more, sir—I—
What ’s that you say?
Why, dern it!—sho—
No? Yes! By Joe!
Sold! Why, you limb,
You ornery,
  Derned old
Long-legged Jim.
CAPTAIN of the Western wood,
Thou that apest Robin Hood!
Green above thy scarlet hose,
How thy velvet mantle shows!
Never tree like thee arrayed,
O thou gallant of the glade!
When the fervid August sun
Scorches all it looks upon,
And the balsam of the pine
Drips from stem to needle fine,
Round thy compact shade arranged,
Not a leaf of thee is changed!
When the yellow autumn sun
Saddens all it looks upon,
Spreads its sackcloth on the hills,
Strews its ashes in the rills,
Thou thy scarlet hose dost doff,
And in limbs of purest buff
Challengest the sombre glade
For a sylvan masquerade.
Where, oh, where, shall he begin
Who would paint thee, Harlequin?
With thy waxen burnished leaf,
With thy branches’ red relief,
With thy polytinted fruit,—
In thy spring or autumn suit,—
Where begin, and, oh, where end,
Thou whose charms all art transcend!
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 Society upon the Stanislaus
I RESIDE at Table Mountain, and my name is Truthful James;
I am not up to small deceit, or any sinful games;
And I ’ll tell in simple language what I know about the row
That broke up our Society upon the Stanislow.
But first I would remark, that it is not a proper plan
For any scientific gent to whale his fellowman,
And, if a member don’t agree with his peculiar whim,
To lay for that same member for to “put a head” on him.
Now nothing could be finer or more beautiful to see
Than the first six months’ proceedings of that same Society,
Till Brown of Calaveras brought a lot of fossil bones
That he found within a tunnel near the tenement of Jones.
Then Brown he read a paper, and he reconstructed there,
From those same bones, an animal that was extremely rare;
And Jones then asked the Chair for a suspension of the rules,
Till he could prove that those same bones was one of his lost mules.
Then Brown he smiled a bitter smile, and said he was at fault,—
It seemed he had been trespassing on Jones’s family vault:
He was a most sarcastic man, this quiet Mr. Brown,
And on several occasions he had cleaned out the town.
Now I hold it is not decent for a scientific gent
To say another is an ass,—at least, to all intent;
Nor should the individual who happens to be meant
Reply by heaving rocks at him, to any great extent.
Then Abner Dean of Angel’s raised a point of order—when
A chunk of old red sandstone took him in the abdomen,
And he smiled a kind of sickly smile, and curled up on the floor,
And the subsequent proceedings interested him no more.
For, in less time than I write it, every member did engage
In a warfare with the remnants of a palæozoic age;
And the way they heaved those fossils in their anger was a sin,
Till the skull of an old mammoth caved the head of Thompson in.
And this is all I have to say of these improper games,
For I live at Table Mountain, and my name is Truthful James;
And I ’ve told in simple language what I know about the row
That broke up our Society upon the Stanislow.
What the Bullet Sang
O JOY of creation
        To be!
O rapture to fly
        And be free!
Be the battle lost or won,
Though its smoke shall hide the sun,
I shall find my love,—the one
        Born for me!
I shall know him where he stands,
        All alone,
With the power in his hands
        Not o’erthrown;
I shall know him by his face,
By his godlike front and grace;
I shall hold him for a space,
        All my own!
It is he—O my love!
        So bold!
It is I—all thy love
It is I. O love! what bliss!
Dost thou answer to my kiss?
O sweetheart! what is this
        Lieth there so cold?