Title: Cactus and pine: Songs of the Southwest
Author: Sharlot Mabridth Hall
Release date: December 16, 2022 [eBook #69555]
Original publication: United States: Sherman, French & Company, 1910
Credits: Charlene Taylor and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)
SHARLOT M. HALL
SHERMAN, FRENCH & COMPANY
Sherman, French & Company
To the mother who bore my body;
To the land that mothered my soul;
To the Ultimate Guide who led me
Scarred through the battle, but whole;
Mother, and Land, and The Vision,
Stern trails where my feet were set;
Take these from the Price I owe ye—
Whose life is less than the Debt.
|THE SANTA FE TRAIL||5|
|THE SONG OF THE COLORADO||9|
|SPRING IN THE DESERT||16|
|IN OLD TUCSON||18|
|THE LITTLE HOUSE OF MARY||20|
|THE SONG OF THE PINE||23|
|THE MERCY OF NA-CHIS||28|
|THE SEA TO A DESERT DWELLER||31|
|THE TRAIL OF DEATH||35|
|THE PINES OF THE MOGOLLONES||38|
|THE IVORY CRUCIFIX||40|
|A SONG FROM THE HILLS||43|
|JUAN OF THE SLAG POTS||45|
|OVER THE RANGE||47|
|A SADDLE SONG||49|
|AT MISSION PURISSIMA||51|
|POPPIES OF WICKENBURG||54|
|THE DESERT QUEEN||57|
|TO A HOME IN A CANON||58|
|THE DEATH OF THE OLD HUNTER||59|
|THE MASS OF MANGAS||61|
|THE WATER TANK AT DUSK||64|
|NIGHT IN THE PINES||69|
|THE EAGLE OF SACRAMENTO||72|
|CACTUS AND ROSE||77|
|OUR LADY OF MIRAGE||79|
|THE MAID OF TUCANO||80|
|A FLOWER ON THE TRAIL||85|
|THE OCCULTATION OF VENUS||86|
|A FOREST LULLABY||87|
|THE COLORADO RIVER||88|
|THE END OF THE TRAIL||89|
|THE RANGE RIDER||90|
|THE YUCCA PALMS||92|
|IN THE BRACKEN||93|
|CAMP FIRE TALES|
|BEYOND THE DESERT|
|THE GREATER FLAG||115|
|THE HYMN OF THE MEN THAT FAIL||119|
|THE LAST CAMP-FIRE||122|
|MEDUSA TO PERSEUS||127|
|THE LONG QUEST||130|
|A LITANY OF EVERY DAY||132|
|THE LOST THOUGHTS||136|
|THE FIRST FIRE ON THE HEARTH||140|
|A TRUCE WITH DEAD SOULS||142|
|THE EARTH MADONNA||146|
|LIFE IS A DAY||151|
|ON MY OWN PORTRAIT||161|
|THE BEDESMAN OF THE YEAR||165|
|THE LONG MARCH||166|
|THE RACE MOTHER||170|
|WINE OF DREAMS||175|
|HER FINGER FATE||179|
|DUMB IN JUNE||181|
|AS A LITTLE SHADOW ON THE GRASS||184|
|A BALLAD OF CHARLIE’S MEN||186|
|A LOST IDEAL||188|
|THE LIFE EXPRESS||192|
|FOR A BIRTHDAY||193|
|A CHANT TO DEATH||195|
|WHEN SHE WENT ON||200|
|O GREAT CONSOLER||201|
|AND THIS IS LIFE||203|
CACTUS AND PINE
When the world of waters was parted by the stroke of a mighty rod,
Her eyes were first of the lands of earth to look on the face of God;
The white mists robed and throned her, and the sun in his orbit wide
Bent down from his ultimate pathway and claimed her his chosen bride;
And he who had formed and dowered her with the dower of a royal queen,
Decreed her the strength of mighty hills, the peace of the plains between;
The silence of utmost desert, and cañons rifted and riven,
And the music of wide-flung forests were strong winds shout to heaven.
Then high and apart he set her and bade the gray seas guard,
And the lean sands clutching her garments’ hem keep stern and solemn ward.
What dreams she knew as she waited! What strange keels touched her shore!
And feet went into the stillness and returned to the sea no more.
They passed through her dream like shadows—till she woke one pregnant morn
[Pg 2]And watched Magellan’s white-winged ships swing round the ice-bound Horn;
She thrilled to their masterful presage, those dauntless sails from afar,
And laughed as she leaned to the ocean till her face shone out like a star.
And men who toiled in the drudging hives of a world as flat as a floor
Thrilled in their souls to her laughter and turned with face to the door;
And creeds as hoary as Adam, and feuds as old as Cain,
Fell deaf on the ear that harkened and caught that far refrain;
Into dungeons by light forgotten, and prisons of grim despair,
Hope came with pale reflection of her star on the swooning air;
And the old, hedged, human whirlpool, with its seething misery,
Broke bound, as a pent-up river breaks through to the healing sea.
Calling, calling, calling; resistless, imperative, strong;
Soldier and priest and dreamer—she drew them, a mighty throng;
The unmapped seas took tribute of many a dauntless band,
[Pg 3]And many a brave hope measured but bleaching bones in the sand;
Yet for one that fell a hundred sprang out to fill his place;
For death at her call was sweeter than life in a tamer race.
Sinew and bone she drew them; steel-thewed—and the weaklings shrank;
Grim-wrought of granite and iron were the men of her foremost rank.
Stern as the land before them, and strong as the waters crossed;
Men who had looked on the face of defeat nor counted the battle lost;
Uncrowned rulers and statesmen, shaping their daily need
To the law of brother with brother, till the world stood by to heed;
The sills of a greater empire they hewed and hammered and turned,
And the torch of a larger freedom from their blazing hilltops burned;
Till the old ideals that had led them grew dim as a childhood’s dream,
And Caste went down in the balance, and Manhood stood supreme.
The wanderers of earth turned to her, outcast of the older lands;
[Pg 4]With a promise and hope in their pleading, and she reached them pitying hands;
And she cried to the Old World cities that drowse by the Eastern main:
“Send me your weary, house-worn broods, and I’ll send you Men again!
Lo, here in my wind-swept reaches, by my marshalled peaks of snow,
Is room for a larger reaping than your o’ertilled fields can grow;
Seed of the Man-Seed springing to stature and strength in my sun;
Free, with a limitless freedom no battles of men have won.”
For men, like the grain of the cornfields, grow small in the huddled crowd;
And weak for the breath of spaces where a soul may speak aloud;
For hills like stairways to heaven, shaming the level track;
And sick with the clang of pavements, and the marts of the trafficking pack;
Greatness is born of greatness, and breadth of a breadth profound;
The old Antaean fable of strength renewed from the ground
Was a human truth for the ages; since the hour of the Eden-birth,
That man among men was strongest who stood with his feet on the earth.
This way walked Fate; and as she went flung far the line of destiny
That bound an untracked continent to brotherhood from sea to sea;
That long gray trail of dream and hope, marked mile by mile with graves that keep
On every barren hill and slope some stout heart lost in dreamless sleep.
Patience and faith and fortitude were willed to it and justified;
Stern, homely virtues, plain and rude; eternal as the sky, and wide.
Nor ever sea king dared the sea in braver mood than those who went
Strong-armed to wrest from Mystery their birth-right, half a continent.
Gay, hawk-eyed, brown-faced voyageurs, tired of the river’s muddy tide,
Or drawn by whispered, golden lures, or beckoned by the prairies wide;
These first, and lightly down the wind their songs float backward as they pass;—
So light they go they leave behind scarce one dim footprint on the grass.
And after them, lean, rugged, grim,—one marked untrodden heights to scan;
[Pg 6]The gray peak looking down on him knew something kindred in the man:
Prophetic his keen eyes could trace in those lone wastes that seemed to wait,
The larger promise of his race, the germ of many an unborn State.
Then Fremont, leading Empire’s way; beside him, silent, dim, unguessed,
Unheralded to claim her own, the Soul of the Awakening West:
Behind above the thundering flight of fear-swept bison vaguely beat
A murmur dominant with might, the trample of a million feet.
That long gray trail! That path of fate! For gain or loss, for life or death,
Driven by greed or hope or hate, it drew them to the latest breath;
It broke them to its giant mold; it seared their weakness to the bone;
It stripped them stark to sun and cold and mocked at whimperer and drone.
And they were Men that bore its mark; and they were Men its service made—
Strong-souled to face the utter dark, and watch with Fear still unafraid;
Stern school of heroes unconfessed; unweighed for meed of right or wrong;
[Pg 7]By glib late-comers dispossessed of honors that to them belong;
As in the fire-tried furnace hour strange, warring elements will fuse
To purpose, unity, and power; to truer strength and nobler use—
Unconscious, save that here was life a man might live as manhood meant,
They wrought a nation from their strife and shaped it with their discontent.
No pulseless, still-born hope was theirs; each man a later Argonaut,
Who from great dreams and ceaseless cares outwove the golden fleece he sought;
And single-handed out of need made potent opportunity;
Nor shamed the hour with laggard deed; nor quailed at naked Destiny:
They touched the Wilderness to flower; they gave the unvoiced solitude
A tongue that spoke with master power the message of its iron mood:—
But ah! the coast! The hands that bled! The toll of heart-aches and of tears!
The stern, white faces of the dead that paved that highway through the years!
The long grass hides the rutted trail where tracked those mighty caravans
[Pg 8]Whose far-lit camp fires low and pale, elude, howe’er the vision scans
That lost horizon, shrunk to fit the little roads that come and go,
By easy ways of greatness quit, that any chance-drawn foot may know;
Light trails and traffic o’er the dust of them that were a braver breed;
Forgotten in the careless lust for larger gain and lesser deed.—
Mother of all the Roads that hold that power o’er men that makes or mars!
These lead to cities, lands, and gold—this led to the eternal stars!
From the heart of the mighty mountains strong-souled for my fate I came,
My far-drawn track to a nameless sea through a land without a name;
And the earth rose up to hold me, to bid me linger and stay;
And the brawn and bone of my mother’s race were set to bar my way.
Yet I stayed not, I could not linger; my soul was tense to the call
The wet winds sing when the long waves leap and beat on the far sea wall.
I stayed not, I could not linger; patient, resistless, alone,
I hewed the trail of my destiny deep in the hindering stone.
How narrow that first dim pathway—yet deepening hour by hour!
Years, ages, eons, spent and forgot, while I gathered me might and power
To answer the call that led me, to carve my road to the sea,
Till my flood swept out with that greater tide as tireless and tameless and free.
[Pg 10]From the far, wild land that bore me, I drew my blood as wild—
I, born of the glacier’s glory, born of the uplands piled
Like stairs to the door of heaven, that the Maker of All might go
Down from His place with honor, to look on the world and know
That the sun and the wind and the waters, and the white ice cold and still,
Were moving aright in the plan He had made, shaping His wish and will.
When the spirit of worship was on me, turning alone, apart,
I stayed and carved me temples deep in the mountain’s heart,
Wide-domed and vast and silent, meet for the God I knew,
With shrines that were shadowed and solemn and altars of richest hue;
And out of my ceaseless striving I wrought a victor’s hymn,
Flung up to the stars in greeting from my far track deep and dim.
For the earth was put behind me; I reckoned no more with them
[Pg 11]That come or go at her bidding, and cling to her garment’s hem.
Apart in my rock-hewn pathway, where the great cliffs shut me in,
The storm-swept clouds were my brethren, and the stars were my kind and kin.
Tireless, alone, unstaying, I went as one who goes
On some high and strong adventure that only his own heart knows.
Tireless, alone, unstaying, I went in my chosen road—
I trafficked with no man’s burden—I bent me to no man’s load.
On my tawny, sinuous shoulders no salt-gray ships swung in;
I washed no feet of cities, like a slave whipped out and in;
My will was the law of my moving in the land that my strife had made—
As a man in the house he has builded, master and unafraid.
O ye that would hedge and bind me—remembering whence I came!
I, that was, and was mighty, ere your race had breath or name!
Play with your dreams in the sunshine—delve and toil and plot—
Yet I keep the way of my will to the sea, when ye and your race are not!
Two Bits was an old race horse well known from Texas to Arizona. He belonged at the time of his death to Lieut. Charles Curtis (now Capt. Curtis, Military Instructor at the University of Wisconsin), who built the first stockade on the site of the present Fort Whipple, Arizona. The incident is true; wounded to his death, the old horse out-ran the Apaches and after his rider, who was severely wounded, fell off, Two Bits went on to Fort Wingate where the sight of his wounds and the bloody pouches told the story. The old horse headed the relief party and led them back to his fallen rider and then dropped dead. The troops, to all of whom the old race horse was a familiar comrade, buried him under a heap of lava bowlders beside the old Government Trail a few miles west of Fort Wingate, New Mexico.
Where the shimmering sands of the desert beat
In waves to the foothills’ rugged line,
And cat-claw and cactus and brown mesquite
Elbow the cedar and mountain pine;
Under the dip of a wind-swept hill,
Like a little gray hawk Fort Whipple clung;
The fort was a pen of peeled pine logs
And forty troopers the army strong.
At the very gates when the darkness fell,
Prowling Mohave and Yavapai
Signalled with shrill coyote yell,
Or mocked the night owl’s piercing cry;
Till once when the guard turned shuddering
For a trace in the east of the welcome dawn,
Spent, wounded, a courier reeled to his feet:—
“And half the troop at the Date Creek Camp!”
The Captain muttered; “Those devils heard!”
White-lipped he called for a volunteer
To ride Two Bits and carry the word.
“Alone; it’s a game of hide and seek;
One man may win where ten would fail.”
Himself the saddle and cinches set
And headed Two Bits for the Verde Trail.
Two Bits! How his still eyes woke to the chase!
The bravest soul of them all was he!
Hero of many a hard-won race,
With a hundred scars for his pedigree.
Wary of ambush, and keen of trail,
Old in wisdom of march and fray;
And the grizzled veteran seemed to know
The lives that hung on his hoofs that day.
“A week. God speed you and make it less!
Ride by night from the river on.”
Caps were swung in a silent cheer,
A quick salute, and the word was gone.
Sunrise, threading the Point of Rocks;
Dusk, in the cañons dark and grim,
Where coiled like a rope flung down the cliffs,
The trail crawls up to the frowning Rim.
A pebble turned, a spark out-struck
[Pg 14]From steel-shod hoofs on the treacherous flint—
Ears strain, eyes wait, in the rocks above
For the faintest whisper, the farthest glint;
But shod with silence and robed with night
They pass untracked, and mile by mile
The hills divide for the flying feet,
And the stars lean low to guide the while.
Never a plumed quail hid her nest
With the stealthiest care that a mother may,
As crouched at dawn in the chaparral
These two, whom a heart-beat might betray.
So, hiding and riding, night by night;
Four days, and the end of the journey near;
The fort just hid in the distant hills—
But hist! A whisper—a breath of fear!
They wheel and turn—too late. Ping! Ping!
From their very feet a fiery jet.
A lurch, a plunge, and the brave old horse
Leaped out with his broad breast torn and wet.
Ping! Thud! On his neck the rider swayed;
Ten thousand deaths if he reeled and fell!
Behind, exultant, the painted horde
Poured down like a skirmish line from Hell.
Not yet! Not yet! Those ringing hoofs
Have scarred their triumph on many a course;
[Pg 15]And the desperate, blood-trailed chase swept on,
Apache sinews ’gainst wounded horse.
Hour crowding hour till the yells died back,
Till the pat of the moccasined feet was gone;
And dumb to heeding of foe or fear
The rider dropped,—but the horse kept on.
Stiff and stumbling and spent and sore,
Plodding the long miles doggedly;
Till the daybreak bugles of Wingate rang
And a feint neigh answered the reveille.
Wide swung the gates—a wounded horse—
Red-dabbled pouches and riding gear;
A shout, a hurry, a quick-flung word—
And “Boots and Saddles” rang sharp and clear.
Like a stern commander the old horse turned
As the troop filed out, and straight to the head
He guided them back on that weary trail
Till he fell by his fallen rider—dead—
But the man and the message saved. And he
Whose brave heart carried the double load,
With his last trust kept and his last race won,
They buried him there on the Wingate road.
Silence, and the heat lights shimmer like a mist of sifted silver,
Down across the wide, low washes where the strange sand rivers flow;
Brown and sun-baked, quiet, waveless, trailed with bleaching, flood-swept bowlders;
Rippled into mimic water where the restless whirlwinds go.
On the banks the gray mesquite trees droop their slender, lace-leafed branches;
Fill the lonely air with fragrance, as a beauty unconfessed;
Till the wild quail comes at sunset with her timorous, plumed covey,
And the iris-throated pigeon coos above her hidden nest.
Every shrub distills vague sweetness; every poorest leaf has gathered
Some rare breath to tell its gladness in a fitter way than speech;
Here the silken cactus blossoms flaunt their rose and gold and crimson,
And the proud zahuaro lifts its pearl-carved crown from careless reach.
[Pg 17]Like to Lillith’s hair down-streaming, soft and shining, glorious, golden,
Sways the queenly palo verde robed and wreathed in golden flowers;
And the spirits of dead lovers might have joy again together
Where the honey-sweet acacia weaves its shadow-fretted bowers.
Velvet-soft and glad and tender goes the night wind down the cañons,
Touching lightly every petal, rocking leaf and bud and nest;
Whispering secrets to the black bees dozing in the tall wild lilies,
Till it hails the sudden sunrise trailing down the mountain’s crest.
Silence, sunshine, heat lights painting opal-tinted dream and vision
Down across the wide, low washes where the whirlwinds wheel and swing;—
What of dead hands, sun-dried, bleaching? What of heat and thirst and madness?
Death and life are lost, forgotten, in the wonder of the spring.
In old Tucson, in old Tucson,
How swift the happy days ran on!
How warm the yellow sunshine beat
Along the white caliche street!
The flat roofs caught a brighter sheen
From fringing house leeks thick and green,
And chiles drying in the sun;
Splashes of crimson ’gainst the dun
Of clay-spread roof and earthen floor;
The squash vine climbing past the door
Held in its yellow blossoms deep
The drowsy desert bees asleep.
By one low wall, at one shut gate,
The dusty roadway turned to wait;
The pack mules loitered, passing where
The muleteers had sudded care
Of cinche and pack and harness bell.
The oleander blossoms fell,
Wind-drifted flecks of flame and snow;
The fruited pomegranate swung low;
And in the patio dim and cool
The gray doves flitted round the pool
That caught her image lightly as
The face that fades across a glass.
In old Tucson, in old Tucson,
The pool is dry, the face is gone.
[Pg 19]No dark eyes through the lattice shine,
No slim brown hand steals through to mine;
There where her oleander stood
The twilight shadows bend and brood,
And through the glossed pomegranate leaves
The wind remembering waits and grieves;
Waits with me, knowing as I know,
She may not choose to come and go—
She who with life no more has part
Save in the dim pool of my heart.
And yet I wait, and yet I see
The dream that was come back to me;
The green leek springs above the roof,
The dove that mourned alone, aloof,
Flutes softly to her mate among
The fig leaves where the fruit has hung
Slow-purpling through the sunny days;
And down the golden desert haze
The mule bells tinkle faint and far;—
But where her candle shone, a star;
And where I watched her shadow fall,—
The gray street and a crumbling wall.
Throughout the desert region of the Southwest are abandoned mining camps; shafts caved, machinery silent and rusting away, sand drifted in the long-empty cabins. In one such deserted camp a child’s play-house was found beside a great bowlder, the little toys and treasures undisturbed through all the years.
The hoof-worn pack trails still wind down past barren cliff and ledge,
And fail and fade like water spilled at the sage gray desert’s edge;
Lost in the shifting sand banks, clear where the long dykes lift
Their rough, brown, sun-burned shoulders out of the wind-blown drift.
Like scars long-healed the weed-grown dumps where the miners plied their craft,
And the tuna drops its crimson fruit down the mouth of the caving shaft.
A broken shovel, a worn-out pick—and down in the gulch below
A lean coyote homes her whelps where the stamps beat blow on blow.
Where the tent camp took its careless way to the rocky cañon’s brink,
[Pg 21]The plumed quail leads her covey, and the wild deer come to drink;
But then the mule bells tinkled, and, proud of her rank and place,
The old white bell mare took the lead, setting the train its pace.
And close by a gray-ribbed bowlder, shading her eyes with her hands,
Watching the ore trains passing out to the unknown lands,
A little, wistful figure with dreaming, gentle face,
Like a flower from some old-time garden abloom in that rugged place.
Child of the sun-white desert; no other land she knew;
Its cactus and sage were her greenest green; its skies were her deepest blue;
The shy, wild things were her playmates, and under the old cleft stone
She builded a little kingdom for her and them alone.
And here are her guarded treasures, quaint little shapes of clay,
Fashioned by small brown fingers as she sang at her lonely play;—
But the dust lies thick upon them, and sand drifts bar the door,
[Pg 22]And only a swift green lizard shimmers across the floor.
Like memories worn too deep to lose the pack trail still winds down,
Out past the old gray bowlder and the ledges seamed and brown;
Till here it swerves a hand-width back, where once the rough cross stood,
With a child’s brief name and a child’s scant years carved in the sun-bleached wood.
The cross is fallen and crumbling, but still the wild quails call
As if they missed a comrade through the sage brush thick and tall;
And where the love vine tangles and the wind croons low at even,
The little playhouse waits for her, for “Mary, aged seven.”
Hear now the song of the pine
That is sung when strong winds sweep
Hot-flung from the mighty South,
Or the North Wind bellows deep:
Hear thou the song of the pine
When the sea-wet West beats in,
Or the East from his tether breaks
With clamorous, human din.
The long boughs quiver and shake,
Uproused from their primal ease,
And bend as an organ reed
When a strong hand strikes the keys;
And a mighty hymn rolls forth
To the far hills farthest line,
Earth’s challenge and trumpet call—
Hear now the song of the pine.
The strong gray hills are my throne, the rock-ribbed thews of the earth;
There have I marshalled my brethren, and laughed at wind and sun;
I tent with the crag and the eagle; the Cloud Gods saw my birth;
I have drunk the strength of ages—a thousand years as one.
I have warred with rift and crevice, with avalanche and shale,
[Pg 24]Grappling my barren ridge with the grip of a mail-clad fist;
Storms roll their anger around me, torn through with lightnings pale,
Or robe me in lonely ermine, or garb me with sodden mist.
The stars are my near companions; ever to them I lift,
And grow to their nightly splendor with soul as far and free;
Counting the swinging seasons by the planet’s veer and drift,
Till again the wild Spring-Joy wells up from the earth to me:—
The old, fierce joy of living, all primitive, undenied;
As breathed from the Maker’s lips on clay still warm with its touch;
When no soul skulked or whimpered, or in impotent weakness cried,
And life was a strong man’s gift to be held in an iron clutch.
Held—or flung down as the pine-top shakes down a ripened cone;
Then stretches green fingers skyward with larger faith and hope;
Glad without thought or question, undoubtful of earth or sun,
[Pg 25]From the bent blue overhead to the mold where the dark roots grope.
But level sinketh to level as height calls up to height;
Courage is born of danger; the deed of the naked need;
Came Ease to sit on the hearth, dear-bought with the ancient might,
And drunk with her smile men slept and lapsed to a weaker breed,
O men that dream in the lowland, men that drowse in the plain,
Wake ye, and turn to the forest, turn to the far, high hills;
Ye shall win from their unspent greatness the olden strength again;
Ye shall hear in that lofty silence the battle shout that thrills.
Ye shall find in those utmost reaches power undefiled;
Wisdom untaught of sages, and patience and truth divine;
Life tameless still; untainted; primal and potent and wild—
Rouse ye, nor linger belittled,—shamed by the wind-swung pine.
A gray, slow-moving, dust-bepowdered wave,
That on the edges breaks to scattering spray,
Round which the faithful collies wheel and bark
To scurry in the laggard feet that stray:
A babel of complaining tongues that make
The dull air weary with their ceaseless fret;
Brown hills akin to those of Gallilee
On which the shepherds tend their charges yet.
The long, hot days; the stark, wind-beaten nights;
No human presence, human sight or sound;
Grim, silent land of wasted hopes, where they
Who came for gold oft times have madness found;
A bleating horror that fore-gathers speech;
Freezing the word that from the lip would pass;
And sends the herdsman grovelling with his sheep,
Face down and beast-like on the trampled grass.
The collies halt; the slow herd sways and reels,
Huddled in fright above a low ravine,
Where wild with thirst a herd unshepherded
[Pg 27]Beats up and down—with something dark between;
A narrow circle that they will not cross;
A thing to stop the maddest in their run—
A guarding dog too weak to lift his head,
Who licks a still hand shriveled in the sun.
Felix Knox was killed by a band of renegade Apaches under Na-chis, son of the famous chief Ca-chis, near York’s Ranch in south-eastern Arizona. Knox made a brave fight and when found his body was not mutilated, and the face had been covered to keep away the coyotes and vultures.
Knox the gambler—Felix Knox;
Trickster, short-card man, if you will;
Rustler, brand-wrangler—all of that—
But Knox the man and the hero still!
For life at best is a hard-set game;
The cards come stacked from the Dealer’s hand;
And a man plays king of his luck just once—
When he faces death in the last grim stand.
Knox had been drummer in Crook’s command;
A devil of daring lived in his drum;
With his heart in the call and his hand on the sticks
The dead from their sand-filled graves might come:
Crippled for life he drummed his last;
Shot through the knee in the Delshay fight—
But he crawled to a rock and drummed “Advance”
Till the Tonto renegades broke in flight.
That was the man who shamed Na-chis!
[Pg 29]Two miles out on the Clifton Road
Beyond York’s Ranch the ambush lay,—
Till a near, swift-moving dust-whirl showed
Where the buckboard came. Na-chis crouched low
And gripped his rifle and grimly smiled
As he counted his prey with hawk-like eyes—
The men, the woman, the little child.
They halted—full in the teeth of the trap.
Knox saw—too late. He weighed the chance
And thrust the whip in the driver’s hand
And wheeled the mules: “Back! Back to the ranch!”
He cried as he jumped; “I’ll hold them off.
Whip for your life!” The bullets sung
Like swarming bees through the narrow pass,
And whirred and hummed and struck and stung.
But he turned just once—to wave his hand
To wife and child; then straight ahead,
With yell for yell and shot for shot,
Till the rocks of the pass were spattered red;
And seven bodies bepainted and grim
Sprawled in the cactus and sand below;
And seven souls of the Devil’s kin
[Pg 30]Went with him the road that dead men know.
Ay! That was Knox! When the cowboys came
On the day-old trail of the renegade,
Na-chis the butcher, the merciless,
This was the tribute the chief had paid
To the fearless dead. No scarring fire;
No mangling knife; but across the face
His own rich blanket drawn smooth and straight,
Stoned and weighted to keep its place.
Lo here is the sea, the sea!
And long waves leaped to my feet;
Foam-white the breakers beat,
Or crept to the hedging rocks
As a whipped cur creeps to the knee—
Look, here is the sea, the sea!
Was it regal, as I had dreamed,
With its far-drawn dole of ships?
Or sad with the breath of lips
That greet their beloved no more?
Wetly the white sands gleamed;
Like those other sands they seemed.
I have stood as the sun went down,
At dusk on the desert’s edge,
In the grip of a sheltering ledge,
And watched the wide plain burn
To silver from red and brown;
Gem-set like a royal crown.
These waves that ripple and roll
Have rippled in waves of light
Long since to my childish sight;
And the pale heat vapors that glide
Were sea sprites taking toll
[Pg 32]For a chartless voyager’s soul.
Low lights ashine on the lee,
Where the orient steamers come;
E’en so the stars at home
Hang low in the purple sky;—
’Twas the face of a friend to me,
But they cry “The sea! The sea!”
To the enduring memory of Clarence H. Shaw, who knew the desert as few men know it, and who lies at rest in one of its most beautiful corners.
This is his place—here where the mountains run,
Naked and scarred and seamed up to the face of the sun;
His place—reaches of wind-blown sand, brown and barren and old;
Where the creosote, scorched and glazed, clings with a stubborn hold;
And tall and solemn and strange the fluted cactus lifts
Its arms like a cross that pleads from the lonely, rock-hedged rifts;
His place—where the great, near stars lean low and burn and shine
Still and steady and clear, like lamps at the door of a shrine.
This is his land, his land—where the great skies bend
Over the wide, clean sweep of a world without measure or end:
His land—where across and between the pale, swift whirlwinds go
Like souls that may not rest, by their quest sent to and fro:
[Pg 34]And down the washes of sand the vague mirages lay
Their spell of enchanted light, moving in ripple and spray
Of waters that gleam and glisten, with joy and color rife—
Streams where no mouth may drink, but fair as the River of Life.
This is his place—the mesquite, like a thin green mist of tears,
Knows the way of his wish, keeps the hope of his years;
Till, one appointed day, comes the with-holden spring;
Then, miracle wrought in gold, that swift, rare blossoming!
This is his place—where silence eternal fills
The still, white, sun-drowsed plain, and the slumbering, iron-rimmed hills;
Where To-day and Forever mingle, and Changeless and Change are one—
Here in his own land he waits till To-day and Forever are done.
The Jornado del Muerto, the desert trail across southern New Mexico and Arizona.
We rode from daybreak; white and hot
The sun beat like a hammer-stroke
On molten iron; the blistered dust
Rose up in clouds to sere and choke;
But on we rode, gray-white as ghosts,
Bepowdered with that bitter snow,
The stinging breath of alkali
From the grim, crusted earth below.
Silent, our footsteps scarcely wrung
An echo from the sullen trail;
Silent, parched lip and stiffening tongue,
We watched the horses fall and fail:
Jack’s first; he caught my stirrup strap;—
God help me! but I shook him off;
Death had not diced for two that day
To meet him in that Devil’s trough.
I flung him back my dry canteen,
An ounce at most, weighed drop by drop
With life; he clutched it, drank, and laughed;
Hard, hideous—a peal to stop
The strongest heart; then turned and ran
With arms outflung and mad eyes set,
Straight on where ’gainst the dun sky’s rim
[Pg 36]Green trees stood up, and cool and wet
Long silver waves broke on the sand.
The cursed mirage! that lures and taunts
The thirst-scourged lip and tortured sight
Like some lost hope that mocking haunts
A dying soul. I tried to call,—
The dry words rattled in my throat;
And sun and sand and crouching sky—
God! How they seemed to glare and gloat!
Reeling I caught the saddle-horn;
On, on; but now it seemed to be
The spring-house path, and at the well
My mother stood and beckoned me:
The bucket glistened; drip, drip, drip,
I heard the water fall and plash;
Then keen as Hell the burning wind
Awoke me with its fiery lash.
On, on; what was that bleaching thing
Across the trail? I dared not look;
But on—blind, aimless, till the sun
Crept grudging past the hills and took
His curse from off the gasping land.
The blessed dusk! my gaunt horse raised
His head and neighed, and staggered on;
And I, with bleeding lips, half-crazed,
Laughed out; for just above us there,
Rock-caught against a blackened ledge
A little pool; one last hard climb;
[Pg 37]Full spent we fell upon its hedge—
One still forever. Weak I lay
And drank; hot hands and temples laved:
Jack gone, alas! the horses dead;
But night and water—I was saved!
In the forests on the mountains sing the pines a wondrous measure,
As the wind, the master-player, sways their branches to and fro:
Varied music, full of power, full of passion, joy, and sorrow;
Wild and loud with pain and heart-break, then with love and gladness low.
And that music holds the story of the world since its first waking;
Holds the secret of all living and the life that yet will be;
All the lore the wind has gathered as he roamed the wide earth over,
From the silent, sun-white desert to the restless, moaning sea.
In that singing whisper softly voices of the long lost peoples;
Hymns that rose o’er crumbled altars, prayers for the forgotten dead;
Mothers’ sighs and children’s laughter mingle with the soldiers’ war cry,
Clash of arms and blare of trumpets, and the conquering army’s tread.
[Pg 39]And above this earth-born music rings a higher tone incessant,
Calling: “Upward! Upward! Upward! Rise and follow where I go;
Leave the camp-fire, leave the quarry, seek the joy that comes of seeking,
While the strong peaks keep their places and the snow-sweet waters flow.”
And the wind, the master-player, blends these varied tones together
Till they rise, a glorious paean, from the forests wide and free—
Rise and echo on forever; full of courage, hope, and daring;
Wild with all the pain of living, glad with all life’s harmony.
In crossing southern Arizona many years ago the late Captain W. O. O’Neill, “Buckey” O’Neill, as he was then called, saw something protruding from a mound of sand at the foot of a giant cactus. Turning aside to investigate he found the sun-dried bodies of a man and woman, the withered, skeleton hand of the woman still holding an ivory crucifix.
Captain O’Neill buried the bodies and brought away the crucifix. Some time later he learned that it had belonged to the young wife of a Mexican cattle rancher. She had loved one of her husband’s vaqueros and they had gone away together. The husband and his men followed till turned back by the sand storm which had swallowed up the fugitives. It seemed that the woman, too weak to unclasp the crucifix from her neck, had stretched the slender rosary to its full length in her effort to lay the crucifix on her lover’s lips as he breathed his last.
“Ride, Juan, he follows, follows fast!”
Nay, darling, down the wind
You do but hear the trampling herds
That flee our path behind:
Look forward where the sunrise plays
Across the mountain’s rim;
There shall you measure fairer days
With me, and far from him.
“Oh! Juan, the desert lies between,
A waste of fear and dread;
Smitten with bitter winds that shake
The white bones of the dead:
It lies between, as in our hearts
Our sinful loving lies;
Think you that earth will grant us peace
[Pg 41]An angry heaven denies?”
“Haste! Haste! I hear the click of steel,
The ring of muffled spur,
And fearful shapes loom grim against
The far mirage’s blur;
Up-swimming on its trembling light
Huge, shadowy giants ride,
Like blood-avengers through the haze—
He, with his men beside!”
Red swung the sun, a sullen disk
Across the copper sky,
And whirling sand-wreaths pale as ghosts
Beat upward spitefully;
Beat up and broke, and whirled anew,
And called their nameless kin
To race with them the race of death
No soul of man may win.
Forgot and far the fear behind;
Before the God of Wrath
Out-stretched his hand upon the storm
And barred their guilty path:
“A cross!” How grim and gray and gaunt
The tall zahauro loomed,
As if in solemn vigil o’er
Some martyr-saint entombed.
“Pray! Pray!” she whispered as they fell;
“The pitying saints may hear.
[Pg 42]Jesus! One mercy in the name
Of her that is most dear!
Oh! Mary! Mother! if your grace
Be given to such as we,
I pray you of your tenderness,
Spare him and punish me!”
“The crucifix my mother gave!”
With dying breath she strove
To lay the carven, ivory Christ
Upon the lips beloved.
“Mine be the penance, gracious Lord!”
The dark wall closed apace,
As if earth strove to hide from Heaven
The anguished, pleading face.
Still, still, along the drifted sand;
How still the starlight crept!
How still his vigil sad and lone
The gaunt zahuaro kept!
There, where in wavering shadows that
Like life’s threads intermix,
Her dead hand still to his dead lips
Pressed close the crucifix.
Oh, the black bear on the mountain!
Oh, the trout in stream and fountain!
Oh, the bloodhound’s bay that echoes loud and clear!
Oh, the buck, his proud head shaking,
From the leafy covert breaking,
As he scents the air that tells of danger near!
Oh, the sunlight softly streaming,
On the polished rifle gleaming
As we follow on the trail with stealthy tread!
Oh, the camp-fire dimly glowing,
Dusky, flickering shadows throwing
O’er the piney boughs that form the hunter’s bed!
Oh, the woodland life enchanting,
Memory’s farthest chamber haunting
With the mountain air and odor of the pine!
Though a palace door stood waiting,
I would pass its golden grating
With a smile and never wish its splendors mine.
For the forests with their shadows,
Hidden springs and sunny meadows,
And the mountains in their glory are my own:
In the breeze the fir trees whisper
Music like a solemn vesper,
[Pg 44]And the pines take up the song in fuller tone.
Life is freer here and fuller;
All beside of earth grows duller;
And the one whose soul this strong enchantment fills
Leaves all other things when dying,
And like a homing pigeon flying
Turns him back to lie and rest among the hills.
A “Run-away” in the smelter, at Jerome, Arizona.
Juan of the slag pots, sullen and grim,
Scarred of jaw and crooked of limb;
May the Mother of Christ have thought of him!
Ay! Juan, lame Juan; no saint indeed,
But a better thing—a man, at need.
Night long where the reek of the sulphur smoke
Rolls up till the heart is like to choke;
Till the ears are sick with the clang and whirr,
And the eyeballs ache with the fiery blur,
Juan rolled the slag pots, huge and black,
And poured them out in a burning track
Down the slippery dump like a lava flow,
To cool in the cañon depths below.
Behind in the smelter vast and dim
The beat of the great blasts called to him,
And deep in the throat of the furnace glowed
The molten ore on its fiery road;
Soon to flow in a golden stream,
With rainbow shimmer and jeweled gleam
Into the pots like some strange wine.
“Tap!” the foreman gave the sign.
Juan poised the bar on his arm at rest
And swung it straight for the clay-cloaked “breast”;
A touch; a fury of blinding light;
[Pg 46]A sweep of the swirling mass flame-white;
Hot drops flung like scorching hail
As the swift flood leaped from its narrow trail
Like a hungry hound on a blood-stained track.
“Back!” the frightened men surged back;
Reeled and ran—but the hindmost fell
Straight in the path of that molten hell.
Cheeks that were black with the stinging smoke
Went white beneath, and a hoarse shout broke
From the swaying crowd—but no man moved;
And the hot flood crept and crawled and shoved
Its flame-tongues out. Then straight and swift
Juan leaped, and they saw him stoop and lift
A fear-dazed burden, and turn and call
On the saints for mercy. Ay! that’s all.
Where the great blasts beat and the smoke drifts low,
Like ragged veils swung to and fro,
Shifting, shimmering, dun and gray,
Juan sits in the sunshine day by day;
Juan of the slag pots, sullen and grim,
Scarred of jaw and crooked of limb—
May the Mother of Christ have thought of him!
“L—— died at Chilikoot Pass: ‘Good-bye boys,’ he said; ‘I’m going over the range too—but I’ve got to blaze my own trail.’”
Letter from the Klondyke.
Open the door of the tent, boys,
And turn my face to the snow;
Let me look once more on the grand old peaks
Ere my summons comes to go;
For I start tonight on a stranger trail
Than any our feet have trod—
With never a blaze to mark the way,
Nor a footstep pressed on the sod.
’Tis an old, old road, but who passes there
Goes out in the dark alone;
With no hail from the comrades gone before,
And the camping-grounds unknown;
There’s never a guide for love or gold
Would lead you along that track,
And you needn’t tighten your cartridge belt,
Nor diamond hitch the pack.
What foes may lurk in the shadows dark
No mortal hand can stay;
And the wealth you have heaped with a lifetime’s toil
Is as dust beside the way;
For empty-handed we strike Life’s trail
[Pg 48]When the dawn wind sings of hope,—
And empty-handed we turn at last
On the brink of its utmost slope.
I set my face to the stars tonight,
My heart to the Silent Call;
And fearlessly follow the unknown path
That leads to the fate of all.—
Be it rest or work or peace or strife—
Be rust or growth the change—
Here’s one who goes with a joyous soul,
Nor shrinks to cross the range.
“The jingle of spur and rattle of rein; the musical squeak of good saddle leather.”
To horse! as rode the knights of old for tourney and affray;
To horse! the world is wide, and ours, free heart and summer day:
Oh! Laughter now shall be our god and every care take wings,
And we’ll take our marching orders from the song the saddle sings.
The gipsey blood is coursing red along each leaping vein;
We are brothers to the bursting flower and kindred with the rain:
How the voice of nature calls us! How it beckons! How it rings,
In the echoes of the marching song the old saddle sings!
The fir trees standing sentinel upon the mountain’s crest
Have sent their message on the wind to fill us with unrest;
To mingle with our dreams the scent the healing balsam flings,
[Pg 50]And blend the forest whispers with the song the saddle sings.
O jingling spur and rattling rein, brown earth and bending sky,
We turn to you to brim again the cup of life run dry;
Take toll of all the fancied gain that hard-spent striving brings,
But set our days in measure with the song the saddle sings.
The hands are dust that piled these rough brown walls,
Yet still the sunshine falls
Like a touch warm with love upon the gilded cross,
Whose yearly loss
By wind and rain has worn its gilt away,
As youth, which cannot stay
When life frets hard upon its shining stuff:
Yet ’tis enough
That once the cross was gold, the heart alive to joy.
The dark-faced altar boy
Still lights the candles at the Virgin’s feet;
And strange and sad and sweet
The air is dim with long-dead incense-smoke:
Wan Joseph draws his cloak,
Faded and torn, still ’round the Holy Child;
And woman-wise and mild
Pure Mary bends her soft eyes to the floor,
Where from the far-off door,
Through which the sky looks and the green-branched trees,
On bended, praying knees
Sad penitents have worn a weary trail
There to the altar rail.
Down that old road of pain a woman glides;
[Pg 52]The dim place hides
Her eyes that plead and lips that wince and pray:
The saints that stay
Up on the painted walls in the sweet dusk
Of sandal-smoke and musk,
And scent of withering altar flowers, and holy myrrh,
Look down on her
With pity—for a saint must understand.
In one slim hand
She bears a small, rude-shapen earthen jar,
Whose roughness cannot mar
The rare, green grace of the mimosa tree
Whose lace-like tracery
Of leaf and stem she touches as she prays.
Suppliant she lays
Her fingers gently, and each little leaf,
Feeling her grief,
Folds to its green mate like two hands in prayer:
The branches share
Her heart’s hurt tremble, as if they would plead
For her at need.
Above the candles in her deep-niched place
Pure Mary’s face,
Compassionate and tender, bids her speak.
The slow words come: “O Queen of Heaven!
[Pg 53]Who yet on earth was even
Woman as I—hear this my woman’s plea;
Grant this to me,—
Thou in whose white breast a woman’s heart hath beat.
O Pure! O Sweet!
Keep me, thy little one, still clean and pure.
Let me endure
All pain of life, so that thou make me strong.
Hold me from wrong;
And as these leaves that tremble over-much
Close at my touch,
Shut thou my heart against this evil love.
As the gray dove
Beside the water pool would flee the snare,
Keep me aware
How he who seeks seeks not my soul at all,
Which flies beyond his call;
But for his careless joy one idle hour
Would bind his power
Like Eve’s snake round me, laughing as he crushed.”
There in the hushed,
Sweet darkness, pierced by points of candle light
Like stars at night,
She left the green mimosa at the Virgin’s feet,
Continually to entreat
Her soul’s safety—then across the worn old floor
She walked, with face transfigured, to the door.
Where Coronado’s men of old
Sought the Pecos’ fabled gold
Vainly many weary days,
Now the land is all ablaze.
Where the desert breezes stir,
Earth, the old sun-worshiper,
Lifts her shining chalices
Up to tempt the priestly bees.
Every golden cup is filled
With a nectar sun-distilled;
And the perfume, Nature’s prayer,
Sweetens all the desert air.
Poppies, poppies, who would stray
O’er the mountains far away,
Seeking still Quivira’s gold,
When your wealth is ours to hold?
In the old days of the Frontier, the cemetery in every town and mining camp was called “Boot Hill,” because many of its inmates died, literally, “With their boots on.” Today these graveyards, with their sunken, half-obliterated graves, are all that is left of many a once-thriving camp. Their nameless dead are the drift that mark forgotten channels where once the tide of human life flowed full and strong.
Go softly, you whose careless feet
Would crush the sage brush, pungent, sweet,
And brush the rabbit weed aside
From burrows where the ground squirrels hide,
And prairie dog his watch-tower keeps
Among the ragged gravel heaps.
Year long the wind blows up and down
Each lessening mound, and drifts the brown,
Dried wander-weed there at their feet—
Who no more wander, slow or fleet.
Sun-bleached, rain-warped, the head boards hold
One story, all too quickly told:
That here some wild heart takes its rest
From spent desire and fruitless quest.
Here in the greasewood’s scanty shade
How many a daring soul was laid!
Boots on, full-garbed as when he died;
The pistol belted at his side;
The worn sombrero on his breast—
To prove another man the best.
[Pg 56]Arrow or knife, or quick-drawn gun—
The glad, mad, fearless game was done,
A life for stakes—play slow or fast—
Win—lose—yet Death was trumps at last.
Some went where bar-room tinsel flared,
Or painted dance-hall wantons stared;
Some, where the lone, brown ranges bared
Their parched length to a parching sky,
And God alone might hear the cry
From thirst-dried lips that, stiff and cold,
Seemed still to babble: “Gold, gold, gold!”
Woman, or wine, or greed, or Chance;—
A comrade’s shot; an Indian lance;
By camp or cañon, trail or street—
Here all games end; here all trails meet.
The ground squirrels chatter in the sun;
The dry, gray sage leaves, one by one,
Drift down, close-curled, in odorous heaps;
Above, wide-winged, a wild hawk sweeps;
And on the worn board at the head
Of one whose name was fear and dread,
A little, solemn ground owl sits.
Ah, here the Man and Life are quits!
Go softly, nor with careless feet—
Here all games end; here all trails meet.
Cereus Giganteus; the “Giant Cactus” of the Southwest.
I was Zenobia in the olden time
And ruled the desert from Palmyra’s walls;
I flung my challenge to imperial Rome
So far that still across the years it calls
In proud defiance—but my halls are dust;
The jackal suns him at the temple door;
The wind-blown sands hide street and corridor
And heap the palace floor.
Forgotten is Aurelian and his might;
Above his grave the beggar children smile;
And I, who swayed the East in other days,
Am mistress now of many a Western mile:
Crowned with a coronal of snowy flowers,
And armed and guarded with a thousand spears,
I dream—while dim mirages recreate
In shimmering light the splendor of past years.
Strength of the mighty hills, and peace of them;
Peace of white, silent peaks against the sky,
And silence of far deserts gray and wide;
Freedom of winds that blow in earth’s lone places,
And the brooding rest of night above the pines,
Are in these walls; eternal as the hills,
The desert, and the wind that goes between.
The hands will pass; the written word grow dim;
The name an echo’s echo faint and die;
But when its farthest whisper is forgot
These walls shall speak of human hope and love;
Shall say to unknown men in unguessed years:
“Here one made truce with Time a little hour;
Fought, worked; held hard-won victory—knew defeat;
Drained Life’s cup from the bubbles to the lees
And tossed it down and took him to the dust.”
For a third of a century William Reavis, the “Old Hunter,” “The Hermit of Superstition Mountains,” lived alone with his traps and rifle and burros, and died at last as he had lived: “Alone with the wind and the stars and the sky.” In his life and death he was a type of frontiersman now passed and almost forgotten.
Out! Carry me out! I choke in these cabin walls!
Lay me down on the earth under the wide night sky:
Straight on the strong, clean earth—no idle blanket between;
Cheek to cheek with the dust I will watch my last lean hour go by.
Farther! Push back that bough till I face the stars:
North star—Dipper—Pointer that still holds true;
Many a night ye have led—through storm and wind-whipped cloud;
Lead still, old guides—I line my last long course by you.
Hark! The night wind sweeps through the crackling grass,
[Pg 60]Nosing the thin, sere weeds that hide in the prairie swale;
Rattling the hunted reeds that shiver and shrink in the marsh,
With whimper and snarl and whine, like a hound that bays on the trail.
Lift me up! My soul hunts with you tonight,
Old mate of a hundred trails; speed on the eager pack;
There was never a road ye knew too wild for my feet to take—
Tonight they will keep the way when even ye turn back.
Lift me up! To my feet! A hand-clasp each!
May your trail be long as mine—knife keen—and powder dry!
Eye true to the bead! Now go—quick—while I keep my feet!
I die as I lived—alone with the wind and the stars and the sky.
Mission San Xavier del Bac, near Tucson, Arizona.
Years had the Mission stood alone,
Its silent chapels bat-tenanted;
On its altars the gray owl nested her young,
And the ground squirrels burrowed above the dead
By the western wall, nor stirred their sleep;
Bare lay the fields, sun-scorched and white;—
As black hawks scatter the timorous quail
Padre and soldier and neophyte
Scattered before the Apache hordes
That swept the valley with death and flame—
Now back at last like quail to their nests,
Timorous, fearing, they slowly came,
Priest and people; to wring anew
From the sullen desert a grudging chance
For scanty food and room to toil,
Or a quick-won end on a blood-stained lance.
With fragrant branches of gray mesquite,
And waxen yuccas fair and tall;
Lifting their bells like hands in prayer,
Slender and snowy and virginal;
And desert lilies as frail as hope,
They wreathed the altars, and lit once more
The long-dead altars, and set the rood
[Pg 62]Over the arrow-bitten door.
The pale Christ leaned from the iron-wood cross
High in its niche deep-walled and gray;
And under his feet, in order set,
Censer and chalice in rough-wrought clay
Where once was silver shaped in Spain—
Now spoil of fight to the savage foe,
And bandied from careless hand to hand
Unblest uses and lips to know.
The tapers flickered and tenderly
The last words whispered and echoed up
To the painted saints in the dusk above,
As the padre lifted the earthen cup
And the blessed wine—but crash it fell,
Staining the floor with a crimson tide
Unseen of the startled worshipers—
For look! where the door unbarred swings wide!
Sombre and splendid in paint and plume,
With claws of eagle and puma skin,
Mangas, the dread Apache chief,
And a hundred braves at his back crowd in;
He swept the shards of the cup aside
And its silver mate on the altar set:
“Padre, the boy you stopped to draw
From the lion’s jaw makes good his debt.
“With Death hot-heel on your track you turned
[Pg 63]To save a child of the enemy;
Let these, beloved of your hidden God,
Be bond of peace for mine and me;
And these in thanks for that other day.”
Censer and chalice he set them down,
And bared his arms of their turquoise beads,
And stripped the robe from his shoulders brown.
Man by man his men heaped up
The pile till it grew to the Virgin’s feet;
Skin and blanket, and beads that hung
Like jeweled buds in the pale mesquite.
Then swift as they came they went again;
But, so ’tis writ in the Mission rolls,
With wine and incense the padre straight
Said holy mass for their heathen souls,
And held them saved to the Mother Church;
For a grateful heart is a thing indeed
That weighed in the palm of the Savior’s hand
Out-values penance and prayer and creed;
And year by year when the yucca bells
Like flags of truce swung tall and white,
The name of Mangas was blessed anew
With book and taper and solemn rite.
(In the Harqua Hala desert.)
The wild, bare, rock-fanged hills that all day long
Shut in the hand-width valley from the world,
Like wolfish out-posts which no foot might pass,
Creep close as friendly dogs with head on paws
And drowsy eyes that watch the evening fire.
Their sun-baked, tawny brown melts into mist
Of rose and violet and translucent blue,
With gold dust powdered softly through the air
That swims and shimmers as if all the earth
Were carven jewels bathed in golden light.
In the soft dusk the desert seems to pant,
Only half-rested from the burning day;
Yet stirs a little happily to feel
The night wind, cool and gentle, whispering
In the white-flowered mesquite where wild bees hum
Delirious with honey sweets and fragrances;
And through the leafless thorn whose tortured boughs
Were wreathed, men say, to crown the suffering Christ
On his high cross. (And still each Passion Week
The sorrowing tree wears buds like drops of blood
In memory.) With swift, soft whirr of wings
[Pg 65]The gray doves flutter down beside the pool,
Cooing their love notes sweet as fairy flutes,
And in the grass the fiddler-crickets chirp.
The spotted night hawk saws his raucous note,
Like some harsh rasp upon an o’er-drawn string;
The squeaking bats drop from the cotton-wood trees,
Dipping and diving round the shining pool
Where night moths hover like moon-elves astray.
It seems the deep blue sky has fallen there
In the blue, star-set water, where the wind
Makes mimic waves that hardly over-toss
The peach-leaf boat on which the dragon fly
Rides sailor-wise to rest his gorgeous wings.
The hot, dry, day-time scent of sun-burned sand
Is drowned in sweetness of the blossoming grape,
And pungent odour of the wax-white cups
Of yerba mansa, hedging the blue pool
With a green wall whose every flower
Blooms twice, once on its tall-leafed stalk, and once
Down where the waves like silver mirrors mix
Its whiteness with the red pomegranate stars.
In the shadow of the plume-branched tamerask
There is a half-hushed, honey-throated call,
And from the cotton-wood’s topmost moonlit bough
[Pg 66]Music’s enraptured soul seems waked to answer.
So sweet, so low, so pure, so tender-clear;
So brimmed with joy; so wistful, plaintive-sad;
As if all love o’ the world pulsed in that throat;
As if all pain o’ life beat in the heart below.
It is the mocking bird to his brown mate,
The desert’s vesper song of rest and peace.
In Mexico the fiesta of San Juan, in the heart of June, is a time of sport and pleasure and love-making. The eve of All Soul’s Night in November is a time of universal prayer for the dead. Friendless indeed is the soul for which no word is uttered then, and dearest treasures go, if need be, to buy prayers and candles for the loved one’s rest.
San Juan’s Day in Guadalupe; the plaza is astir
With caballeros bold and gay and senoritas shy,
And Miguel the alfarero wends through the crowd to her,
Dolores with the dusky eyes as soft as twilit sky.
Dolores ’neath whose lightest touch his heart is like the clay;
Who molds him as he molds his wares upon the whirring wheel;
Oh! may the Saints be good to him on this auspicious day,
And grant him words to tell her all the love a man may feel.
Mi alma, see, this olla—how it flashes in the sun,
[Pg 68]And shimmers with the iris of paloma’s dimpled breast!
Lift thou the lid and look within, querida, little one;
My heart lies warm below your gaze as birds lie in the nest.
“Ay de mi! Valgame Dios! Senor, but a moment, stay!
The jar! The olla! Will you buy it? Very little you shall pay.
Look you, burnished green and copper, flecked with waves of rainbow light;
Miguel, best alfarero—Good saints keep his soul tonight!
Miguel made it. Ah! The padre—going to the mass so soon!
Father, wait—a prayer for Miguel! Mary, Mother, grant the boon!—
Senor, gracias! When the aves rise tonight for Miguel’s rest,
Know a woman in the darkness prays that you too may be blest.”
It were mid-day one had said, with a brighter sun o’erhead,
When a little hush came stealing through the branches swaying low;
Such a space of silence tender as the pause that serves to render
Some sweet music even sweeter in its pulsing after-flow.
The gold-sifted light that rested on the bracken plumes green-crested,
Shimmered faintly into silver on the diamond-dusted firs;
Upward where the mountain lifted one brown shoulder seamed and rifted,
Grew a shadow ’gainst the sky line, softly as the shade that stirs
Lightly o’er a sleeper dreaming;—then the star lamps trimmed and gleaming,
From the dim, blue dome near-bending flashed their jewelled radiance down:
Where the timid aspens quiver gusty wind-puffs start and shiver,
[Pg 70]Like the ghosts of wandering night elves rustling through the needles brown.
Night that elsewhere silently lays her spell on land and sea,
Soothing restless souls to quiet in the shadow of her wings,
Here with hushing tone and slow through the rocking pines croons low
Earth-old lullabies as tender as a watching mother sings.
Rest ye, weary hearts and lone; lean ye down against mine own;
Put aside the fret of living and be glad in dreamless sleep;
Lose awhile the vain regretting in the balm of sweet forgetting—
Or remember but the promise that the coming mornings keep.
That silence which enfolds the Great Beyond
Broods in these spaces where the yucca palms
Like gray old votaries chant unworded psalms,
Grand, voiceless harmonies where-to the Heavens respond.
Lone, vast, eternal as Eternity,
The brown wastes crawl to clutch the wrinkled hills,—
Till night lets down her solemn dusk and fills
The waiting void with haunting mystery.
Here Solitude hath made her dwelling place,
As when of old amid untrodden sands,
Slow-journeying, wise men of all alien lands
Sought at her feet life’s hidden roads to trace.
All ways of earth, still glad or sad they go,
The roads of life—till breath of man shall cease—
Silent, the desert keeps her ancient peace,
And that last secret which the dead may know.
This poem is founded upon an incident in Colonel Doniphan’s campaign with the Army of the West in 1846-47. The battle of Sacramento was fought Feb. 28, 1847; the Mexican army, accompanied by the governor and leading citizens of Chihuahua, had taken a strong position in the rocky foothills of the Sierra de Victoriano, and there awaited Colonel Doniphan who had about nine hundred men. The Mexican army numbered 2200 men, with heavy artillery and entrenched. They expected to rout the Americans at the first fire, and amused themselves with feasting and sports while awaiting their approach.
Colonel Doniphan was compelled to make his attack across a small plain in full range of the artillery and cut by a deep gulch which offered a serious stay to the charge. Just as the column halted on its brink some of the men saw a bald eagle hovering over the plain and set up a shout of “Victory! The eagle!” They charged up the hill, sweeping the Mexican army before them, with the loss of but one man, Major Owens, who was shot from his horse.
The Chihuahuan army lost 1100 men and all stores, sheep, cattle, hard bread, and much silver coin. Several wagons were found filled with ropes cut in lengths with which to tie the captured Americans. The governor, citizens, and army fled in confusion back to the city of Chihuahua, which was occupied by Doniphan’s troops and held for some weeks.
The Hills of Victoriano were gay that winter morning;
Chihuahuan gentlemen looked down tricked out in brave array;
When Trial with the ebon flag rode forth to give us warning.
[Pg 73]“Your leader”—“Come and take him—and luck be yours the day!”
“No quarter to the Gringo”! the skull and cross-bones fluttered;
Four thousand throats took up the yell, the echoes flung it back;
How boastfully, exultantly, the taunting threat they uttered—
As coyotes bold with number yelp round a gray wolf’s pack.
Nine hundred men in buckskin, in patches and in tatters;
Lean and hungry as the deserts we had traversed wearily;
But little versed in pipe clay, in gold lace and such matters—
Only our bare brown rifles to match their pageantry.
There on the hills above us the proud senores gathered
As for some rare fiesta, laughed with their men below;
“Now by the flag they jest at they’ll pray they ne’er were fathered;
Their jaunty coats shall sit awry ere this day’s sun is low.”
Their peons manned the cannon, their rabble filled the trenches—
[Pg 74]We were too mean a crew to soil the hands of gentlemen;
Their mocking words they fling at us, till Mitchell fiercely clenches
His fist and shouts: “Now, rangers! Sweep the vermin from their den!”
Barred with a rain-washed gulley the hill sloped up before us;
A deep-worn trench too wide to leap and like to cost us dear;
Just on its edge we halted—broad wings were hovering o’er us—
“An omen! Look! the eagle!” uprose a mighty cheer.
With one wild charge we crossed the gulch, half on our comrades’ shoulders,
And, the great bald eagle leading, stormed up the rocky hill;
Their grape went wide below us, or crashed among the bowlders,
And when our rifles spoke them back the beaten guns were still:
We scared them from their cover, we sent the peons flying;
We turned on them the cannon they had not wit to fire;
What way the battle led us was strewn with dead and dying,
[Pg 75]And we heaped their gaudy trappings to feed the funeral pyre.
One knee around the saddle horn, half lounging in his saddle,
Sat Doniphan, and whistled as he whittled carelessly,
Shaping a cedar splinter to a rough-turned wooden paddle:—
“With my compliments to Trial for his pirate flag,” said he.
The flag was torn and trampled and the throats that cried “No quarter!”
Were silent on the bloody field or sullen in defeat;
The ropes they’d cut to bind our hands we cut again still shorter,
And we bound the fleeing stragglers as we caught them in retreat.
Back on the road where late they came with pomp and jest and laughter,
They fled, the governor leading, to Chihuahua’s very gate;
And in their gay-decked carriages our rangers followed after,
Or on their prancing horses rode down in martial state.
What spoil was ours for taking—bread and corn and sheep and cattle!
[Pg 76]How the “Gringo beggars” feasted on the feast the Dons had spread!
And the priest Ortiz who cursed us and reviled us through the battle,
Was left to scare the vultures and say masses for the dead.
We had three score captured cannon, guns and gun mules all together;
Our saddle bags were heavy with peso and doubloon;
We had bridles silver-studded and carved of Spanish leather—
Ah! well we turned the tale of them that boasted all too soon!
And well we cheered the eagle till the hills above us thundered;
We set the old cathedral bells to peal triumphantly—
And in the gray old plaza, while our prisoners scoffed and wondered,
We shamed our sullen foemen when we gave them amnesty.
She wore red roses as a queen
Her jewels when she wills to shine;
She pressed one full bud to her lips,
The while she bent her eyes to mine:
“Were not life cheap for such a flower?”
Was it by chance her fingers strayed
So near my own? But ere the touch
The tempter in my blood was stayed.
A mist was on the laughing eyes,
It veiled her soft, enticing grace;
Beyond her lure of gold and blue
A tender, shadowy, haunting face
Grew like a star in twilit skies
When evening fades to rarer light;
Again I saw the cactus flowers,
Blood red, in braids as black as night.
Again we paced the earthen floor
In waiting measure, till the dance
Swept to its swift and dizzy whirl;
And there were eyes that looked askance
Because her brown hand lay in mine
Like some small, gentle, brown-winged bird;
And there were hearts had given life
[Pg 78]For that one shy, low-spoken word
That made the night so more than dear;
That set my years to one strange tune
Of footfalls on the hard-beat earth,
And soft guitar and low-hung moon;
And wind that whispered through the roof’s
Rude thatch of branches interlaced;
And bare, dark, earthen walls whereon
The leaping firelight roughly traced
Her shadow, swaying as we danced.—
Then morning came, as calm and pale
As some dead face where tapers shine;
And through the tule reeds the quail
Called mournfully—as if they knew
No other night would ever be
So dear, so rare, so blessed of God,
From sunrise to eternity.
White-robed as any bride she lay;
Like weary stars the tapers shone;
And what I vowed in that dim place
Was vowed to her dead heart alone:
I went forth old, that had been young;
But still I keep till life’s last hour
The quail call through the tule reeds,
And one dead, crumbling, cactus flower.
She walks across the desert and the shuttle in her hand
Weaves out behind her webs of light that clothe the shifting sand;
Where her swift footstep passes strange, shadowy cities rise,
And chartless seas roll shoreward where never sea-shore lies;
And where no house was builded nor ever home shall be
Stretch green and peaceful homelands with tender witchery:
Like flowers that bend to greet her soft colors glow and gleam
Of gardens never tended beside an unknown stream;
And there like silver shadows move women gentle-eyed,
And children run before them and lovers walk beside;
And all that life has banished and all that love has missed
Comes in that mystic vision to keep a holy tryst.
The restless winds are music, the shifting sands reveal
The truth beyond the substance, the dream forever real—
Across life’s poorest barrens, o’er desert waste and slope,
She weaves her bright illusions, the blest mirage of hope.
Some years ago a small agate carved with the head of a woman was found in a pre-historic mound near Phoenix, Arizona. More recently the explorations made by Dr. J. Walter Fewkes at Casa Grande have proven these mounds to have been the communal homes of a considerable people, of whom the Pima Indians of the region retain some traditions. Based somewhat upon the carved agate and with a slight thread of tradition in it the poem is still mostly fanciful.
Fair lies the vale of Tucano,
Rich Heart of the Land of the Sun;
Broad spread its emerald mesas,
Sparkling its bright waters run;
Far spread the golden-plumed maize fields,
With orchard and garden between,
To where like sentinels watching
The pines of the uplands lean.
Here in the days long forgotten
Ruled Che-he-ah-pik the Chief,
And here lived a maid of his people,
Fair in her love and her grief.
Sister in grace to the yuccas,
Swaying white-chaliced and tall;
But her heart was the heart of the snow-flower
That blooms on the high mountain wall;
Far from the reach of the many,
Who mar with the dust of their feet
[Pg 81]And the plucking of idle fingers
Blossoms that else were sweet.
Yet the fleet-footed, venturesome climber
May win to the snowy peaks;
And to him who is true in his loving
At last turns the love that he seeks.
When the signal-smoke rose on the mountain
Like a gray banner tossed in the wind,
Or the watch fires at night glimmered star-like
Against the grim darkness behind;
The Chief said: “My forts are still holden,
No enemy strives at the pass;”
But the maid with eyes misty and tender
Looked upward and whispered “Alas!
“For the distance that lieth between us!
O Heart of my Heart! Do you dream
Of me here in the vale as you wander
By rock-riven cañon and stream,
Where in childhood we gathered the pine nuts,
Or plundered the blue pigeon’s nest,
Or standing knee deep in the bracken
Watched the sun burn to gold in the west?
“The red roses bloom for my taking,
But fairer the roses we knew,
Swaying over the cliffs in the spring time,
[Pg 82]Their pale blossoms dappled with dew;
And sweet is the mocking bird’s music,
And the laughter in garden and hall;
But sweeter the wind in the pine trees
And the slow-pacing sentinel’s call.”
So the maiden dreamed, twining the garlands
To lay on the Harvest God’s shrine,
And mingling the fruits of the lowland
With balsamic cedar and pine;
Till the chief on his roof-terrace lying
A-weary of rule and of sport,
Let his gaze idly rest on the worker,
Alone in the old temple court.
The gray walls seemed bright with her presence,
As when a stray moonbeam illumes
With its silvery radiance the shadow
That darkens in desolate rooms:
Soft-crooning a melody tender,
And low with her home-longing grief,
She turned at a footstep and, startled,
Looked up from the flowers to the chief.
Smiling into her dark eyes that questioned
He raised the fresh garlands, “Now see
How each blossom you touch, making sweeter,
Is robbed of its sweets by a bee.
Can you wonder that I, being stronger,
[Pg 83]And you than the blossoms more sweet,
Was drawn like the bees to the honey
And found myself here at your feet?
“Leave the garlands to fingers less slender,
These rough walls to faces less fair,
And come where love laughs in the sunshine,
And joy waits to welcome you there;
Here is silence and service and shadow,
There is music and gladness and light,
And I, who am chief to all others,
Will serve you and love you to-night.”
“Nay, your bees seek the garden buds only;
Scant honey the cactus flowers hold;
Nor careless hands linger to pluck them,
For all of their crimson and gold;
Desert born with the birthright of freedom,
They wither and fade in the close,
As I pine in the garden-set valley
For the breath of the hills and the snows.
“Think you love can be bought with a jewel?
Or caught in the net of a name?
Or a black mountain eaglet held captive
Sing sweet as your mocking bird tame?
Like to like—go you back to your roses;
For me, warrior’s daughter and bride,
Fitter home is the cloud-beaten fortress
[Pg 84]Than here by the green river side.
“When the feast of the Harvest is over
Comes one whom you fighting-men know,
Whose station was won at the spear point,
Whose fortune is bent with the bow;
Stern guard of your battle-swept passes,
As free as the winds are and bold;
Yet with honor and truth above jewels,
And faithfulness dearer than gold.
“So farewell! Nor remember the madness
That tempted your fancy and hour;
Know no bud ever swells in the desert
But thorns hedge the heart of the flower.”
Che-he-ah-pik passed out of the courtyard
And seeking with wonder-lit face
A keen-fingered carver of gem stones,
He bade him to cunningly trace
On red agate the head of the worker,
And set it his necklace within;
“So shall those who forget me remember
The love that a chief could not win.”
Dust is the Harvest God’s altar;
Naught of his people is known—
Only the face of the maiden
Carved on the red agate stone.
My heart was weary yesterday;
I said: “The road is long;
The busy hum of middle day
Shuts out the morning song;
The rush of careless, hurrying feet
That crowd the upward slope,
Have crushed the daisies into dust,
And spent the dews of hope.”
Then straight within the trampled path
The eager throng had trod,
A little purple flower unclosed,
Nor pined for greener sod:
And one whose load had weighed him sore
Looked down at it and smiled,
And dreamed of woodland trails he loved
To follow when a child.
So still when bitterness and fret
Would drown the melody,
Some little harmony steals in
To set the music free;
And we may keep till day is done
The morning dreams we knew,
If ever in our hearts there live
The daisies and the dew.
The occultation of Venus and the moon, in March, 1899, was wonderfully beautiful and impressive as seen in the desert.
A jeweled crown for an old man’s brow,
That mystical, splendid, tropic sky
Arched low o’er the desert, reaching far
Its weary leagues wind-parched and dry:
So bare and lone and sad it lay,
The gray old land that seemed to yearn
With a human longing for some caress
From its granite barriers, grim and stern.
Shouldering up to the very stars
The strong peaks lifted their solemn might;
And through their rock-gapped pinnacles burned
The wondrous glory that charmed the night.
Like a giant’s scimeter wrought in gold
The late moon rose in the dawn-touched east,
And close beside white Venus shone,
As once she shone on shrine and priest.
Like a soul’s white flame the planet passed—
Alone the moon rode proud and high—
O wait of God! the lost star swung
A silver sphere in the hither sky;—
(Is it so, O Life, that thy light is lost
In the disk of Death if we could but know?)
And the old land blushed with sudden youth
In the tender fire of the morning-glow.
Wind among the green leaves singing,
Bend the branches as you go;
Gently, gently, that their swinging
Hush the little heart below;
Still the busy little fingers,
Softly close the dark-fringed eyes,
For no gleam of daylight lingers
In the dusky, twilight skies.
Silver stars, come peeping, peeping,
Weaving with your shining beams,
Round my drowsy blossom sleeping,
Fairy spells of happy dreams:
Lullaby, O captive rover,
All your playmates are at rest;
Bees have left the scented clover,
Baby birds are in the nest.
Little rabbits warmly cuddle
In the grasses soft and deep;
And the wee white daisies huddle
In the shadow fast asleep:
Lullaby my bird, my blossom;
Sleep my light-winged butterfly,
Cradled safe on earth’s brown bosom
Till the morning you shall lie.
Long, silent leagues of ever-shifting sand,
White-hot and shimmering to the distant hills
Where wheeling slow the whirlwind dips and fills,
Or beckons like some shadowy, giant hand.
Gray wisps of greenwood and mesquite that stand
In withered patches like an old man’s beard,
Ragged and grizzled: nearer, dark and weird,
The river slips along the cringing land,
Swift to possess and loath to give again.
Foam-ribbed and sullen, staggering with the weight
Of forests spoiled, he takes his price in full,
Stern toll for every drop to land and men;
In witness there—Poor pawn of love or hate!—
Caught in a drift a grinning human skull.
Sunset—and the end of the Trail;
Here the last faint footsteps fail
And I go on alone
Into the untracked ways;
I who in other days
Blazed many a road straight up
To the peaks that touch the sun—
But now is the climbing done.
No more to my feet the trail;
No more to my hand the rein;
No more—Ah! never again
The sun and the wind, and free!
The far stars over me!
As the Wilderness called I went;
Now deep and solemn and low
A Mightier calls—and I go.
Nor guide nor compass nor sign;
Face out, to the uttermost dark;
And the wind in the strong boughs—Hark!
Paean and dirge for a king!
Life, I have loved you well;
Forget the rest when you tell—
This soul did not falter, nor quail,
Nor shrink at the end of the Trail.
Up and saddle at daybreak,
Into the hills with the light,
While still on piñon and cedar
Lingers the wings of night;
Clatter of hoofs in the cañon,
Scatter of horns on the trail;
Dim forms lost in the chaparral,
Fleeing like frightened quail.
Follow! the deer behind them
Pant in a beaten race;
Light in its flight is slower
Than a mountain steer in chase.
’Ware! That black bull charges;
Head down, red eyes aglow;
Crack! Crack! the pistol flashes—
God, but a noble foe!
His black bulk reels from the pathway,
The horses reek and sweat;
Unsaddle a space and breathe them,
The day’s before us yet:
Look back from our bed of bracken
Here on the world’s green roof,
You’d lie at less ease in the green below
But for pistol and sure-set hoof.
What! Is your nerve so shaken?
[Pg 91]A man can die but once!
Who shirks the game for the chance-sent end
Is a coward soul, or a dunce.—
The turn of a loose-cinched saddle,
The plunge of a keen-curved horn—
Play down to-day—and to-morrow
Who cares that we were born!
Gray pilgrims without pouch or staff,
Or dust-stained robe, or cockle shell;
Seek ye the path to some lost shrine
Here in the desert grim as Hell?
No arched cathedral dome bends down;
The earth is iron, the sky is brass;
’Tis ages since these blistered sands
Forgot the touch of flower and grass.
Stern penance do ye for old wrongs
Mayhap, or saintship seek from pain;
With suppliant hands that never win
The benison of cooling rain.
In beggar rags like that wild throng
That once in old Perugia stood,
Ye bear your serried scourges high,
A flagellante brotherhood.
Scent of the pine on the hilltops,
Rush of the mountain breeze,
And long, deep slopes of bracken fern
Like sun-lit emerald seas.
Gray old rocks where the lizards hide
And chattering chipmunks play;
Where the brown quail leads her timorous brood
Through the fronds that bend and sway.
Home of the doe and her spotted fawns,
(Shyest of woodland things.)
Haunt of the hawks that dip and dive
On circling, fearless winds.
The skies bend down with a deeper blue
Where the white clouds drift and hover;
And the tall peaks drowse in the golden haze
That dapples their forest cover.
The needles whisper an endless song
As the brown cones bend and nod:
“O rest, O rest, with the bracken and pine
In the strong, green hills of God.”
In his message of December, 1905, President Roosevelt advised that Arizona and New Mexico be admitted to the Union as one state. In Arizona the opposition to this “joint-statehood” measure was bitter and determined.
No beggar she in the mighty hall where her bay-crowned sisters wait,
No empty-handed pleader for the right of a free-born State;
No child, with a child’s insistance, demanding a gilded toy;
But a fair-browed, queenly woman, strong to create or destroy.
Wise for the need of the sons she has bred in the school where weaklings fail;
Where cunning is less than manhood, and deeds, not words, avail:
With the high, unswerving purpose that measures and overcomes;
And the faith in the Farthest Vision that builded her hard-won homes.
Link her, in her clean-proved fitness, in her right to stand alone,—
Secure for whatever future in the strength that her past has won,—
Link her, in her morning beauty, with another, however fair?
[Pg 95]And open your jealous portal and bid her enter there
With shackles on wrist and ankle and dust on her stately head,
And her proud eyes dim with weeping? No! Bar your doors instead
And seal them fast forever! But let her go her way—
Uncrowned, if you will, but unshackled, to wait for a larger day.
Ay! let her go bare-handed; bound with no grudging gift;
Back to her own free spaces, where her rock-ribbed mountains lift
Their walls like a sheltering fortress; back to her house and blood;
And we of her blood will go our way and reckon your judgment good.
We will wait outside your sullen door till the stars you wear grow dim
As the pale dawn-stars that swim and fade o’er our mighty Cañon’s rim;
We will lift no hand for the bays ye wear nor covet your robes of state—
But ah! By the skies above us all we will shame ye while we wait!
We will make ye the mould of an empire here in the land ye scorn;
[Pg 96]While ye drowse, and dream in your well-housed ease that States at your nod are born.
Ye have blotted your own beginnings, and taught your sons to forget
That ye did not spring fat-fed and old from the powers that bear and beget;
But the while ye follow your smooth-made roads to a fireside safe of fears,
Shall come a voice from a land still young to sing in your age-dulled ears
The hero song of a strife as fine as your father’s fathers knew.
When they dared the rivers of unmapped wilds at the will of a bark canoe.
The song of the deed in the doing; of the work still hot from the hand;
Of the yoke of man laid friendly-wise on the neck of a tameless land.
While your merchandise is weighing we will bit and bridle and rein
The floods of the storm-rocked mountains and lead them down to the plain;
And the foam-ribbed, dark-hued waters, tired with that mighty race,
Shall lie at the feet of palm and vine and know their appointed place;
And out of that subtle union, desert with mountain flood,
[Pg 97]Shall be homes for a nation’s choosing, where no home else had stood.
We will match the gold of your minting, with its mint-stamp dulled and marred
By the blood and tears that have stained it, and the hands that have clutched too hard,
With the gold that no man has lied for; the gold no woman has made
The price of her truth and honor, plying a shameless trade:
The clean, pure gold of the mountains, straight from the strong, dark earth;
With no tang or taint upon it from the hour of its primal birth.
The trick of the Money-changer, shifting his coins as he wills,
Ye may keep—no Christ was bartered for the wealth of our lavish hills.
“Yet we are a little people—too weak for the cares of state!”
Let us go our way—when ye look again ye may find us, mayhap, too great.
Cities we lack—and gutters where children snatch for bread:
Numbers—and hordes of starvelings, toiling but never fed.
Spare pains that would make us greater in the pattern that ye have set;
[Pg 98]We hold to the larger measure of the men that ye forget—
The men who from trackless forests and prairies lone and far,
Hewed out the land where ye sit at ease and grudge us our fair-won star.
“There yet be men, my masters,”—though the net that the trickster flings
Lies wide on the land to its bitter shame, and his cunning parleyings
Have deafened the ears of Justice, that was blind and slow of old:
Yet Time, the last Great Judge, is not bought, or bribed, or sold;
And Time and the Race shall judge us—not a league of trafficking men,
Selling the trust of the people to barter it back again;
Palming the lives of millions as a handful of easy coin—
With a single heart to the narrow verge where Craft and State-craft join.
Being the story of the life and death of the camp cook, as told by an old cow puncher.
Of course the boss he carries some weight, tho’ the owner’s a figger-head;
(Handy fer signin’ checks an’ sich— the Lord in His pity makes some folks rich!
Fortune at best’s a skittish bitch as’ll neither be drove er led;
An’ “A fool fer luck!” is a standing rule, which I reckon Solomon said.)
There’s some as growed on the own home range, an’ some as was vented young;
An’ I’ve knowed buckaros as can’t be beat that wrastled the Greaser tongue;
An’ there’s now an’ again a tenderfoot the cinches don’t seem to rub;
But the man that the outfit hitches to is the man that hustles the grub.
It ain’t no cinch in the summer time to tighten a hungry belt,
When yer horse is lathered an’ steamin’ hot, an’ ye think yer goin’ to melt;
But that old chuck wagon’s a bigger throne than the Czar of Rushy owns
[Pg 102]When you’ve punched a blizzard from dark to dark, an’ the marrer chilled in yer bones.
Yer chaps is froze to the saddle skirts an’ the froth on yer bridle white,
An’ the sigh ye let it ain’t no bluff when that camp-fire heaves in sight;
An’ ye see him grab up the coffee pot an’ rattle the lid like sin;
An’ holler away to beat the band: “Grub pile! Fa-all in! Fa-a-all in!”
It’s then that ye know yer friend o’ friends, an’ that wrastler gits his due—
In cussin’ an’ sich—fer a haloed saint couldn’t cook to suit the crew.
It’s: “Slushy, say, yer off yer base; them biskits is dough inside.
Did ye bile the critter that Noah milked, or only her horns an’ hide?”
“Stove?” Oh, sure! A hole in the ground on the leeward side of the camp;
The end-gate dropped fer a kneadin’ board, an’ some grease an’ rag fer a lamp:
But his kittles was slammin’ by three o’clock, along with the bosses snore;
A-knowin’ we’d polish his skillets clean an’ yell possessed fer more.
There was me an’ Jim an’ Otero’s Kid, I reckon we didn’t make
[Pg 103]That wrastler’s life one shinin’ round of lemon pie an’ cake:
But he paid us off as slick an’ clean as ever a debt was paid—
An’ I low if our pull was better Beyond he’d git some boot on the trade.
The fall rodear was all but done an’ the beef steers waitin’ to ship,
When it seemed that the Kid an’ me an’ Jim was booked fer a longer trip.
Smallpox—an’ the way them boys lit out was worse’n the worst stampede
Of buffaloed steers on a rainy night the Old Trail ever seed.
All but that lank-jawed slinger o’ pots, that blamed hash-wrastlin’ fool;—
“I’m runnin’ this camp—you tend to biz;” he says, as stiddy an’ cool
As a chunk of ice on a Christmas tree—an’ I reckon we didn’t dispute;
Fer the Kid an’ me was as crazy as loons, an’ Jim on the cut an’ shoot.
He tied Jim up with a hackamore, an’ he pulled the three of us through—
But I swear when I think o’ the way things went, an’ him, I feel plumb blue;
Fer that same disease jist doused his glim as quick as you’d holler “Scat!”
[Pg 104]Jist cut him out an’ afore we knew he was gone like the drop of a hat.
“Th’ boys is comin’,” he says quite wild; “an’ them beans ain’t seasoned right;
An’ Jim’ll kick at th’ bread an’ say th’ coffee’s a holy fright.
You tell ’em”—he fingered the kiverlid, an’ his words come choked an’ thin—
“Reddy jist to th’ minnit, boys—Grub pile! Fa-a-ll in! Fa-a-ll in!”
What’s that ye say? That yaller dog
Ain’t killed with handsomeness, ye low?
Well, he ain’t travellin’ on his shape,
I tell ye that right here an’ now.
Ye wouldn’t have him follerin’ you,
Ner be ketched dead with him beside?
Well, I don’t want no better pard
When I tramp up the Great Divide.
The beauty club shied off I guess
An’ hit him pretty middlin’ light;
But looks don’t fill no empty tanks—
An’ plain old stay’s what wins a fight.
An’ that dog’s got the stayin’ powers
A long sight more’n the most o’ men;
He’s just clean grit an’ “stay there” mixed,
An’ don’t ask no odds how an’ when.
’Twas crossin’ of the Plomas Range;
I’d made a right big strike, ye see,
An’ ever’ loafer in the camp
Was hangin’ round an’ watchin’ me.
So thinks I: “You’d better pull your freight
[Pg 106]Between two suns an’ cache that dust,
Unless ye want some knife to let
Th’ daylight in through your ol’ crust.”
Well, me an’ Watch an’ my ol’ mule
Jest humped ourselves fer three hull days,
An’ then, sez I: “We’ll rest, ol’ pard;
Nobody’s follered us this ways.”
So I just cooks a bit o’ grub
An’ lays right down an’ goes to snorin’,
An’ never knows another thing
Untell I hear ol’ Watch a-roarin’.
I jumped right up an’ into Hell—
A pair o’ Greasers chokin’ me,
An’ punchin’ of me with a knife—
Another’n fightin’ Watch—an he
Jest looks at me an’ keeps a-chawin’
The rascal’s throat, an’ growlin’ low
As if to say: “Hold on, ol’ pard—
I’m comin’ soon’s I git a show.”
I fit an’ scratched an’ dodged that knife—
An’ then my foot slipped on a stone
An’ things looked dark—but next I knowed
Ol’ Watch was playin’ it alone.
He dropped his man an’ tackled mine—
[Pg 107]An’ when my head got clear agin
I see a pile o’ rags an’ truck
Where them three Greaser thieves had bin.
An’ that ol’ dog was guardin’ me,
An’ lickin’ of my hands an’ face—
An’ him just red with drippin’ blood—
There wasn’t nary yaller place
On his ol’ hide frum head to foot.
I’se most as bad—but I caught that mule
An’ somehow histed me an’ Watch
Up on ’er back—the night was cool—
An’ we lit out—an’ long near day
I hear ’way off a rooster crowin’—
An’ jest what happened after that
I haint no certain way o’ knowin’;
Fer next I knowed I hear a voice
That kep’ a tellin’ me: “Be still—
Jest swaller this here mighty quick,
An’ when ye’ve et an’ drunk yer fill
I’ll let ye talk. Th’ dog, ye say?
Oh! he’s all right—he saved yer skin;
Come howlin’ here ’fore break o’ day,
An’ we lit out an’ brung ye in—
Him leadin’ right to where you lay—
[Pg 108]Down crost th’ wash an’ up th’ hill—
Live? Course he’ll live. Now you hol’ on—
This haint your talk—you jes’ keep still.”
So I lays still—an’ Watch does too—
Jest sort o’ laid up fer repairs,
Fer weeks an’ weeks—till last we got
As hearty as a pair o’ bears.
Then we lit out—a-headin’ straight
Back to th’ ol’ home in Mizzury—
An’ me an’ Watch’ll settle down
An’ take our ease, I jest assure ye.
An’ any feller that thinks our looks
Haint up to par, ner apt to mash
Th’ most o’ folks, kin have his say—
But me an’ Watch has got th’ cash.
An’ its cash that counts—clean cash an’ grit;
An’ Watch has got th’ grit, I low,
An’ me th’ cash—an’ we two’s pards—
But he’s th’ best I tell ye now.
An’ when Life’s fight is fit an’ done,
An’ we go crost th’ Great Divide,
W’y Watch an’ me has made it up
That we’ll be planted side by side.
As told by the old stage driver
See that big black zahuaro
Out there alone on the hill,
With the sand piled up at its sun-bleached roots?
Well, there lies Monte Bill.
Rough? Well I reckon you’d think so!
A devil to cut an’ shoot;
He’d face all the men in Creation,
An’ the fiends in Hell to boot.
His business? Oh! that was the pasteboards,
They was just the whole o’ his game;
An’ he handled ’em like greased lightnin’—
That’s how he got his name.
(An’ a name is a durned poor measure
When you’re weighin’ th’ worth of a man;
An’ you can’t go all by his business
To git at his clean ground plan.)
Bill was stagin’ it up from Ehrenberg—
I was drivin’ the six that fall!
It was hotter’n all tarnation
An’ the desert shut in like a wall;
The mirage it was sloshin’ an’ shinin’
Like the water before an’ behind;
An’ the dust in your throat near chokin’,
An’ burnin’ your eyes fair blind.
They was only two other passengers
A-making the trip that day;
A little mite of a woman,
An’ a child like a bird at play:
She was goin’ up to Fort Whipple,
Were an officer’s wife, she said,
An’ the way her baby took to Bill
Just mighty near turned his head.
We was joggin’ along through a sand-wash,
An’ talkin’ an’ laughin’ the while,
An’ nobody s’posed an Apache
Was nearer’n fifty miles;
But the time that ye think yer safest
It’s good to be sayin’ a prayer,
An’ the yell that come from a patch o’ mesquite
Plumb raised the roots o’ my hair.
Bill gobbled the situation—
Took it all to onct at a glance;
An’ to save that woman an’ baby
He saw they was just one chance.
He yelled up the boot to warn me,
An’ out o’ the side he jumped,
An’ I swung the whip an’ swore for life,—
An’ I tell ye them six bronks humped.
Bill lit on his feet an’ runnin’
An’ down by a greasewood dropped—
[Pg 111]He knowed he had nary a show to beat
But he wasn’t the breed that stopped.—
An’ the rest? Well, Cullin’s station
Was a long ten mile away;
’Twas a run with Death—but that baby
An’ woman wan’t hurt that day.
An’ Bill? Well, it’s no good talkin’—
You know what Apaches is!
An’ a man that they git their claws on
Had better take Hell for his
When the troop from old Camp Date Creek
Got to him they came too late—
Just a smolderin’ pile of ashes
Was left to tell his fate.
We dug out a grave on the hillside
An’ filled it with cactus an’ stones;
For we didn’t want the kiotes
To chaw what was left of his bones:
An’ that “giant” growed up above him,
An’ the wind piled the sand below—
But I reckon as how old Bill don’t care,
For he’s gone where brave men go.
 Giant cactus of the Southwest
BEYOND THE DESERT
Fling out its folds to the winds of earth from every crest and crag,
Roll strong salute from a million throats to honor this greater flag;
The flag of a larger freedom, the flag of a wider trust,
From the Arctic snow-peaks circling to the sun-scourged desert dust:
Flower of the New World’s morning; noon promise and prophesy,
Spanning the reach of endeavor into the vast To Be:
Broadening its stripes that their shadow shelter a mightier brood,
A nation reckoned of nations, fearless of temper and mood.
Never the past forgetting, to the hope of the past still true;
But formed to a larger stature ’neath skies of a deeper blue;
Grown to a fuller being; wise with the price of the years;
The wisdom born of mistakes outwrought, the tenderness taught of tears;
[Pg 116]Strong with the pain of the purchase, tense muscle and sweat of brow,
When Destiny over the nation’s heart drove deep its iron plow,
Fit with the brawn of battle for guarding the ways of peace,
That the factions of evil dwindle and the forces of right increase.
Hemmed no more in the cradle by the marge of the Eastern Sea,
No more for a home-hedged people the Stars of the West float free;
As the pine to its tall pride reaches, as the man to his power and prime,
So the life of the nation broadens, strong-souled, to its riper time:
With the might of a Titan impulse, a million hands at the wheel;
A million minds far-serving, a million hearts to feel;
Upborn as a ship sea-driven when the full tides sweep and roll,
In the track of the gods fore-destined to the one unchanging goal.
In the front of the great World-Shapers given to lead and mold,
Lining the course of the New to plumb with the tried of the Old:
[Pg 117]On the broad foundation whose mortar was leavened with blood and tears,
Rounding the temple fore-tokened in dreams of prophets and seers;
Wide-domed as the vault of heaven; including as heaven includes;
Puny and strong alike, full-handed or bare of goods:
Holding no caste in justice, no fief of air and light—
Not flung as a bone to beggars but ceded a primal right.
No more shall the Grail of the ages for the few be sought and won;
But alike and alike the sharing when the strife is striven and done.
Each man by the flag above him bound to his bravest and best;
To full, free chance for his making, to room for his highest quest;
Bound by the flag above him to reckon his brother’s need;
Bound by the flag above him to hearken and help and heed
The voices crying in darkness, as the crying of kind and kin;
The call of the scourged and outcast, as the call of the housed within.
[Pg 118]Unfurl its folds to the winds of earth from every crest and crag;
Roll strong salute from a million throats to honor this greater flag;
The flag of a larger freedom, the flag of a wider trust;
From the Arctic snow-peaks waving to the sun-scourged desert dust;
With the light of its starry halo out-tossed on the utmost seas,
And its stripes in the sunshine rippling caressed by the farthest breeze;
With the hope of the hearts that won it our torch and beacon still,
And the blood yet red for its keeping that flowed on Bunker Hill.
Lo, here we face the Weigher with our balance; we, who out of all our toil have won
Only hope fore-spent and ideals vanished; only scars and sweat beneath the sun;
All we dared, and spent our hearts in daring, grasping as a hand that grasps a star,
Star-wise in its beauty and eluding lies beyond us still as dim and far.
And the soul that panoplied for battle once rode bravely forth in Fortune’s train;
Wise now by futile march and foray, knows the high adventure was in vain:
We have gained no laurels for our striving, naught of praise from them that sit to judge;
Yet while there is room for new endeavor life is all too full for fret or grudge.
We have failed—and bitter was the failing; full the price we paid of faith and trust;
Still our souls turn backward unavailing to the Gods thrown prostrate in the dust:
For we could not keep the sight of childhood; and the Grail our hearts set out to seek—
It was but a vessel, empty, earthen—yet we had the joy of them that seek.
[Pg 120]All the winds of earth have blown us backward; all her tides have turned our course awry;
And though night be gemmed with starry splendor there is never lode star in our sky:
Straight against the winds of Fate we venture; in the teeth of every tide we steer;
High above the darkness that enfolds us burns our guiding hope forever clear.
We are them that fail; our hands are empty; hall and mart and temple know us not;
Power is not to us, nor place uplifted; wit is not of us to plan and plot;
But the wide and lonely places know us; hill and plain and wood and dark morrass;
And the light of homes and smoke of cities rise behind our footsteps as we pass.
We have broke the way our brother followed; we have set the harvest to his hand;
And the gold he heaps to fill his coffers we have winnowed out of barren sand:
Earth yields her good to only stern compellers; ours the knotted grip that bent her will;
Bound her to the serving of our kindred—and her captive-hate is on us still.
Homeless we have reared the homes of nations; mirthless we have laughed for others’ mirth;
[Pg 121]Striven that another might have honor, as the stars appointed at our birth;
Ours the blood that reddened fields forgotten; ours the faith that sped a hope forlorn;
Ours the eyes that doomed to watch through darkness, see the first, far promises of morn.
We are them that fail—O ye that reckon—holding high our shortage to be weighed;
Grant ye that no other bore our burden; grant ye that the debt we made we paid:
We have failed; but beaten and defeated, still we face whatever Life may send;
Still we ask no odds of Fate or Fortune—we that go down fighting to the end.
Scar not earth’s breast that I may have
Somewhere above her heart a grave;
Mine was a life whose swift desire
Bent ever less to dust than fire;
Then through the swift, white path of flame
Send back my soul to whence it came:
From some great peak storm-challenging,
My death-fire to the heavens fling;
The rocks my altar, and above
The still eyes of the stars I love;
No hymn, save as the midnight wind
Comes whispering to seek his kind.
Heap high the logs of spruce and pine,
Balsam for spices and for wine;
Brown cones, and knots a golden blur
Of hoarded pitch more sweet than myrrh;
Cedar to stream across the dark
Its scented embers spark on spark;
Long shaggy boughs of juniper,
And silvery, odorous sheafs of fir;
Spice wood to die in incense smoke
Against the stubborn roots of oak—
Red to the last for hate or love,
As that red, stubborn heart above.
Watch till the last pale ember dies,
Till wan and low the dead pyre lies;
[Pg 123]Then let the thin, white ashes blow
To all earth’s winds, a finer snow;
There is no wind of hers but I
Have loved it as it whistled by;
No leaf whose life I would not share,
No weed that is not someway fair:
Hedge not my dust in one close urn,
It is to these I would return—
The wild, free winds, the things that know
No master’s rule, no ordered row.
To be, if nature will, at length
Part of some great tree’s noble strength;
Growth of the grass; to live anew
In many a wild flower’s richer hue;
Find immortality indeed
In ripened heart of fruit and seed.
Time grants not any man redress
Of his broad law, forgetfulness:—
I parley not with shaft and stone,
Content that in the perfume blown
From next year’s hillsides something sweet,
And mine, shall make earth more complete.
At the house of a soul once came knocking
The first of a line of gift-bearers,
Close-veiled and light-footed as silence,
And speaking with voice soft and tender:
“Lo, here is a season for growing,”
He said, then passed into the stillness,
Leaving his room to a brother.
And they that came after him softly
Set down in the doorway their burdens,
And whispered, “Make use of them swiftly,
O soul, ere one cometh to reckon.”
But he, the proud soul, laughing lightly,
Looked up where the sun was unrisen
And said, “I will slumber till daybreak.”
So he turned on his pillow and, dreaming,
Saw laurels inwoven to crown him;
And wealth for his taking; and Beauty,
With love in her eyes, run to meet him;
Then he woke to a step in the doorway:
“All night at thy feet lay thy wishes;
Now I take them,” one said, and departed.
Let others frame their creeds; mine is to work;
To do my best, however far it fall
Below the keener craft of stronger hands:
To be myself, full-hearted, free, and true
To what my own soul sees, below, above;
To think my thought straight-forward from the heart;
To feel, and be, and never stop to ask:
“Do all men so? Is this the World’s highway?”
To look unflinching in the face of life
As eagles look upon the noonday sun;
To cut my own path through primeval woods;
To lay my own course by the polar star
Across the trackless plains and mountains vast;
To seek, not follow, ever to the end.
And for the rest—bare-handed have I come
Into this world, I know not whence nor why;
Bare-handed and alone and unafraid,
With heart of fire and eyes that question still,
Will I go forth into the wide Beyond;
As went the men who bore my blood of old
To prove their dream of Heaven, or dare their Hell.
Life made no easy truce with me,
He set no white flag on my road;
Unshod he thrust me to the trail
And laughed the while he piled my load.
Greeting, old master! Greeting, friend!
I’ve made you friend; I’ve fought you fair;
I’ve stumbled, fallen, scrambled up;
Yet somehow borne the appointed share
To this last station. Take the pack;
Sort, weigh it—lack or over-due,
Still here’s the load; the climb was mine,
Scars, road-marks—all the rest to you.
We’re done; shake hands before we part.
I rest here—feel the wind and rain
Year-long blow past my rough, brown tent—
Joy with you till we meet again!
Perseus, draw near to me and fear me not;
Think’st thou I have not listened for thy step
Through all the eons of my awful doom,
As on the earth when light of Helios fades
The young maid listens for her lover’s step
Crushing the daisies and the dewy grass?
No lover’s feet will ever come to me
But thine are dearer; and the asphodel
Thou bearest fairer than Love’s fairest flowers.
Draw near, and near, and nearer; I would feel
The end of this long waiting; I would be
For one quick moment all I might have been—
Woman and tender; drain at this one draught
My woman’s cup; tear-jeweled, brimmed with pain:
Ay! By these tears I cheat thee, Mighty Maid,
And by this pain—my heart is human still!
Thy curse fell impotent, that left me yet
Bond-thrall to one dark prover of humanity.
Dreams; old, old dreams that gather in the dusk;
Death’s dusk that soon will end them! How they press
Upon me! Voices that I loved but never knew;
[Pg 128]Strong hands that clung across my black despair;
Eyes that were stars of many a night that else
Had known no morning. Oh! life, life, life, life!
What hast thou given me—that would have made
Thee rich with giving? Only bitter breath
And tears; loathing of them I would have loved;
And fear of them whose fears I would have borne.
Truly thou wert a generous patron!
I thank thee—that thou favor me no more!
How wan those vapors rise from this sad place,
As if they too would seek a brighter world;
A world of heat and frost and night and sun!
So have I, sitting, watched them hour by hour;
Seeing in each some hearth smoke newly lit,
Some sweet, small home where happiness had room.
How have I hungered in this silence for
Earth’s common sounds; the crying and the mirth!
Her poorest field I would have tilled with love;
Her roughest path I would have walked with joy.
These idle hands had worn them to the bone
In common tasks and found the labor sweet;
Served slave to slaves, could any serving buy
[Pg 129]Or beg, or bribe, the meanest human lot.
Alas! in this dim cave they could but grope
Each into each and, clasping, feign to hold
The grasp of friend, the hand of love and kin:
So out of moans my lips would form strange words;
All tender, crooning, soft and slow and hushed;
And warm, wet mouths in dreams have touched my breast,
Seeking for food above the heart that breaks.
But now the sleep—the end—the doom fulfilled!
Hope, fear, despair—I bid ye long farewell—
Here at this brink whereon your feet must turn
Backward to haunt some other mortal soul:
For I am free—am free—am free at last!
Wrapped round with death as with a royal robe!
Sisters, farewell! I would that ye might keep
Some memory of the tortured human heart
That vexed your silence with its agony,
And loved while vexing. Perseus, the sword!
Strike swift! I would be gone on what far way
A soul must take to seek the Other World.
Stay not for pleadings and petitionings;
I crave no gift the Gods can give but rest—
Strike deep and strong and sure and set me free.
“Has the longest prayer of man been answered to thee, Stranger, and hast thou thy friend?”
Friend, I have found thee not; I have not heard
Thy voice, nor touched thy hand, nor seen thine eyes
Grow clear with that great speech which needs not words:
Yet do I seek thee—asking of the stars,
Low-swung across this desert sky of mine,
If anywhere they shine on one who goes
Swift-footed to like end on kindred road.
Yet do I seek thee—asking of the wind,
Old Master-Singer, singing down the world,
Mingling all music in his endless song,
If he has caught some word, some tone, of thine
To stir my silence like a trumpet call.
I seek thee where the tall pines laugh and lean
Against the sun, against the storm and cloud;
For thou art strong like them and swift to joy;
Strong to endure; deep-rooted into life;
And glad of earth as of the blue above.
I seek thee where the patient grasses go
Across the hills; their patience is as thine;
Thy quiet surety that Life’s barrens yet
[Pg 131]Shall blossom; yet shall yield their fruit and seed;
Not less, nor less approved, measured at last,
Than lavish harvests won by lighter toil.
I seek thee where the wild floods whirl and swing
Through riven cañons, mad to reach the sea;
As some great soul that dares to know the all—
The worst, the best, the farthest bound of life;
Holding the pain and passion little price
For one strong leap beyond the utmost verge,
One mighty hail across the infinite.
Friend, friend, I seek thee; holding that high quest
Better than all earth’s finding. Go thy way
Swift and unhindered under thine own star;
Along whatever way thy feet must take
Past high and higher, on to higher yet;
On to the farthest peak thine eyes can see;—
I seek thee, seek thee; call to thee “God speed!”
Go thou, nor wait—sure that somewhere I come.
Not that there be less to bear,
Not that there be more to share;
But for braver heart for bearing,
But for freer heart for sharing,
Here I pray.
Not for scenes of richer beauty,
Not for paths of lighter duty;
But for clearer eyes for seeing,
Gentler hands, more patient being,
Not that joy and peace enfold me,
Not that wealth and pleasure hold me;
But that I may dry a tear,
Speak a word of strength and cheer
On the way.
Not that I may sit apart,
Housed from hurt of fling and smart;
But that in the press and throng
I may keep a courage strong,
Here I pray.
Not that I at set of sun
Measure deeds of greatness done;
But that when my feet shall pass
To my low tent in the grass
[Pg 133]One may say
“Speed thee well, O friend, who gave
Freely all thy heart did crave;
Love and truth and tenderness,
Faith and trust and kindliness,
In thy day.”
One day upon the wings of air
My soul shall get him forth;
And nothing know I whence or where,
To East or South or North;
And little care I through what ways
This soul of mine shall ride;
Or if the call be soon or late,
At morn or eventide.
But I would go when strong winds blow
Full-throated down the heaven;
And on the blast like pennants cast
The wild, black hawks are driven:
O kith and kin are they to me,
Wild-winged my soul shall pass
With them as their own shadows drive
Across the wind-swept grass.
Free winds that wander up and down
The weary hills of earth;
What call like yours can sorrow drown,
Or touch her seas to mirth!
Strong winds that were tempestuous souls,
O brothers, turn and wait;
Take up my longing on your wings
Till I shall master Fate.
Take up my longing on your wings,
[Pg 135]O brothers, as ye go;
The dauntless soul within me sings
That mighty hymn ye know;
Kindred are we, though but for ye
The boundless ways were made;
Yet I would go my lesser road
As strong and unafraid.
Guy de Maupassant, in his last days, believed his thoughts to be fluttering about his head like many-colored butterflies. “Where are my lost thoughts? Who will tell me where to find my thoughts?” he cried to those who tended him.
See! Do you see that wondrous, winged cloud?
As if all the garden flowers had taken flight
Into the blue air for a holiday,
And left their tall green stalks beteared with dew?
They are butterflies now, but once I know
They were my thoughts. I called them when I chose;
They came to me in gentle, circling troops
Like fairies tamed by love, and poised upon
My hands, and brushed my cheeks and lips with wings
As soft as Psyche’s kisses in the dark.
There was a white one like an orient pearl
Seen in the moonlight; pure and holy as
The Virgin’s white throat in the candle shine
Of her high altar—or a young girl’s soul.
There was a girl—we two were boy and girl
And play-mate lovers. I must have caught
The white wings roughly, for they still are stained.
I do forget—but Ah! the silken-bright
Red poppy flowers that are red butterflies!
[Pg 137]My thoughts, my thoughts, shot through with gleaming gold
And gemmed and jewelled like a Hindu queen,
Amber and emerald, ruby and topaz,
And charmful jade, and opal’s mystic fire;
And richer dyes than Tyre knew in her pride—
(My own soul broken to a thousand hues
As light upon a prism—the prism Life.)
My wingèd thoughts! My heavenly butterflies!
Now they are black, all black, with eyes of fire;
I smother in the sable of their wings
That wrap around me like a velvet pall—
I cannot see the sun for their deep eyes—
Be merciful! My butterflies! O my lost thoughts!
Art stranger, Love? because no lover’s hand
Hath clasped my own with pressure strong and sweet?
Because my ears heed not those tender tales
That hearts in tune with Spring and thee repeat?
Nay, rather walk we closer, soul to soul,
Great Love and I; I love thee all too much
To jar thy music with a lesser tone,
Or mar thy radiance with a duller touch.
I hold me to thy uses consecrate,
As some white temple set beside the sea;
With close-shut door no foot may enter in
Till fair tides bring its own divinity:
Here are no withered flowers against the shrine;
No dusty highways through the beaten grass
Where all men go; only the birds and thee,
The salt winds and the sun, unstayed may pass.
Swiftly at set of sun,
The long day being done,
I seek my love;
Her whom my heart doth hold
Dearer than gems and gold
Or treasure trove.
Still are her eyes and cool
As some clear mountain pool
Fern-hid and lone,
Some reed-edged pool that lies
Blue under star-lit skies,
The wild-fowl flown;
The ousel’s fluting note
Hushed in his dappled throat,
The night wind still—
And over all the peace
Which is my soul’s release
From life sore-spent and days that reckon ill.
Clean as a new-built altar to the Gods
The new hearth stands;
No tears have stained, no prayers have hallowed it;
Make clean thy hands
As some High Priest who tends the holy flame
Life-long in temples old;
Bring not to kindle this divine first fire
Wood that is bought and sold
In common marts; but such as symbols clear
The life that thou shalt make,
Here under this new roof, by this new hearth,
For Great Love’s sake.
Bring heart of pine to point thee to the stars;
Higher and yet more high
Thy thought on its green pinions shall ascend—
Yet keep thee ever nigh
Tender and kind to every earth-born need;
As low-spread cedar boughs
Give grateful shade, or laid upon the fire
Shed fragrance through the house.
Here let the oak outspend his noble strength
In flame that shall endure
Beyond the last red coal to thy life’s end
In strength as great and sure.
Lay here red sandal and dark orient teak,
[Pg 141]That their rich wood may turn
To star-crowned dreams and visions in the flame
Wherein their kindred burn;
And mystic, harp-stringed branches of the palm—
Prophet and seer of trees—
Speeding thy life through all that can beset
To noblest destinies:
Bring these, as men bring votive offerings,
And let rare spices fall
Into the unswept flame. High, higher yet,
Thy life at Love’s great call!
Now loose me, loose me, O ye dead
Whose shadowy fingers clasp my own;
I must fare on my way alone,
Along a road ye may not tread,
To hopes and fears ye have not known.
Nor shall ye challenge my high truth,
Nor deem of me that I forget
That far goal where our eyes were set;
Nor hold me false to that lost youth
Whose solemn visions lead me yet.
Ye quiet, ye untroubled dead,
Count ye the stones that stay my feet?
Or reckon ye the winds that beat
Fiercely upon my naked head?
Weigh ye the fear my soul must meet?
O loose me, for I journey far;
O hold me not; ye cannot know
On what rough trails my feet must go
In lands unlit of sun and star,
Where still the swiftest feet are slow.
I see what ye no more may see;
I seek our vision’s noblest use;
And he that keeps that quest with me
Through good and ill all patiently
Is Life. Ah! dead souls, grant the truce!
I choose no friend as one may choose a glove,
To use, hold in his hand, and cast aside
When it is old; forgetting that awhile
It served his purpose—neither more nor less
Than others of its kind have served, and will:
Nor as we in a grave or idle hour
Take up a book and say: “This shall beguile
My listlessness, or teach what I would know;”
Then leave its crumpled pages on a shelf
And go about the various ways of life.
More would I take my friend as one who finds
A cool spring in the desert, where his cup,
Filled to the brim, leaves gratitude behind;
And though he wander far knows if at last
His feet turn back along that self-same road
The same good welcome waits him at the end:
Or as those faces we behold in dreams;
Haunting us, waking, with their strange, deep eyes
That sting the soul into a thousand needs
Finer and freer than it knew before.
He is my friend who tempts me ever on
To high and higher; standing yet above
With hand reached back, as one who knows the path
[Pg 144]Has stones a-many for the surest feet;
Who weighs my weakness fairly with my strength
And sets a better higher than my best;
Bidding me work when others say “Well done!”
My friend is he who gives me larger faith
In men and life and hope of final good;
Who by the alchemy of his fine breadth
Transmutes my doubt and pain and weariness
Into peace and the pure gold of patience.
The wind and stars, those old, old friends of mine,
Are symbols of the human souls I love;
Free as the wind is, high and pure and clear
As shine the stars—so would I have my friend.
Do you remember, love, the thing I was
That summer morning when you stood with me
There in the rain-wet fields, where the sweet wind
Blew my hair loose and free?
Do you remember? Ay! My soul was clean
As that clean wind that blew between us two;
My spirit burned as some white temple flame
When the god passes through.
You were my god—and all of earth fell back;
I saw but you—knew only you were near;
Look in my eyes—What is it there today
That strikes you cold with fear?
You stooped that day to touch your cheek to mine—
I laugh to watch you shrink and shudder now;
Am I so changed? Look well—it is your mark
That brands me, cheek and brow.
Ay! and my hand-print lies upon your soul!
You cannot loose my fingers from your own;
And though your feet go up to palaces,
Or down to Hell they do not go alone.
Beloved, see, within my close-curved arm
He lies, your child. Oh! keep us well from harm!
Love him, by all our tender love and true—
As I through him find deeper love for you.
All our great hopes and dreams and dear desires
Lie in this small shut hand; our purest fires
Burn here in this new life—your soul and mine
Fused to new shape immortal and divine.
And yet—if in this holy hour and dear
Great Death came down and stood beside me here,
And said “One must I take with me tonight, but keep
That one for which your heart would longest weep
Tears of heart’s blood,——Beloved, I could smile
And lift the child to meet his kiss the while,
So you were left. For he, so dear, so dear,
Is but my child—But you, my Life, stay near!
Woulds’t thou be loved? Then set thy love so high
No man may win it, though he stand upon
The utmost peaks with face against the stars.
Aloof! Nor bend thee once to eyes that burn,
And lips that plead, and hands that clasp and cling:
The jewel that within the temple glowed
A soul’s fit forfeit, as a bit of glass
Cast with the pot-shreds lies when it is won.
Who minds him of the flower that undenied
He plucked and kissed? Or for an hour forgets
The rose that slipped his grasp and left a thorn
Deep in his hands to mock their daring quest?
And who hath loved the broad plains, lavish-souled
Of all rich gifts that make life dear and good,
As men have loved the mountains that afar
Beckon in untrod grandeur, and deny?
Still is the vision dearer than the real,
The dreaming sweeter than the dream fulfilled;
For men love most the unattainable;
Leaving the hearth-light, warm and near and kind,
To follow pale auroras through the night,
With beggared souls that to the winds have flung
[Pg 148]Their rarest gifts in hopeless bribery.
Woulds’t thou be loved? Then hold thyself apart,—
Nor yield to any, though he drain his life
To flood thine own; for if thou give again
Such barter in its usage carries scorn
Of too free giving:—so thy love were lost,
And thou uncrowned, that else had reigned a queen.
Heaven’s self were transient lure, were it not set
Too high for careless winning, over earth.
There were three gifts at eventide the West Wind brought to me,
That I might choose for joy or use my fate from out the three:
“Now here is gold,” the West Wind saith, “and fair it is to see;
Who chooseth gold hath power to hold; men serve him loyally.”
“A prince he is,” the West Wind saith; “I know the hidden mine;
Shalt lead thee now o’er fire and snow to where the ingots shine?”
Nay then, who hath the yellow gold hath trouble at his back;
Whose needs are few, whose heart is true, what knoweth he of lack?
“But here is Love,” the West Wind saith, “the light of life is he;
Wilt bid him now to bind thy brow with myrtle greenery?
He sets the pace that young feet dance, and leads with lute and bow;
Take thou his hand and through the land with him till curfew go.”
[Pg 150]Nay then, for he who seeketh Love finds but an empty nest;
Love cometh still of his own will, unsought, and that is best.
Then one spake up full loud and clear: “Now I am Work,” said he;
“And they that hold not love nor gold have need of mine and me.”
“Wilt follow, follow, where I lead?” his voice rang free and strong;
“Here’s hope and cheer for all the year; here’s balm for every wrong.”
Yea, I will turn and follow thee; thou speakest like a king;—
“Then shalt thou see if true thou be, the other gifts I bring.”
“Life is as a day that hath its morn of hope, its noon of strength, its night of peace, whose morrow no man knoweth.”
Young Heart, Spring Heart,
Waken with the morning;
Sing for the long road
That lieth white before;
Lieth there untrodden
With little flowers adorning,
And green hills of promise
Thy fathers saw of yore.
Young Heart, Spring Heart,
Wine of Life is flowing;
Stoop thee to the beaker
And drain it at a draught;
Gird thee for the journey,
Joy is in the going,
And hope is in the heart of him
Who wine of Life hath quaffed.
Strong Heart, Bold Heart,
Brace thee for the battle;
Wait now the onset
Exultant and calm;
Love lilt and war cry,
[Pg 152]Babies’ soft prattle,
Mingle and meet
In thy life’s swelling psalm.
Dreaming is over,
The old gods are buried;
Joy was a phantom
Ye chased through the mist;
Broken the shrines where
Thy young feet have tarried;
Dust are the lips that
Thy young lips have kissed.
Old Heart, Still Heart,
Lying in the shadow;
Lying there all silent
With the glory on thy face;
Feet that have trodden
The upland and meadow
To the heat of the race.
Old Heart, Still Heart,
Life is a striving;
Of all that it promises
Work is the best;
Love is a fable,
And wealth is but giving—
Kind is the evening
That leadeth to rest.
“Body, pray thee, let me go!
It is the soul that struggles so.”
O Life, let us make compact here, as men who set a bond between them;
We have been comrades, journeying all roads together, near and far,
And rough and smooth; all the winds that blow hail us as brothers,
And the stars of every land speak us in common tongue as kin:
Right gladly have we dared all chance and found it good—if won or lost;
But there must come a day when thou and I loose hands, divide the pack,
And fare us each alone on widening trails that nevermore shall meet.
Friend, when we know that hour face to face; in hall or tent, on road or waste or plain;
Or, as I pray, where some great, silent peak fronts solemn, fearless, to eternity;
Say thou “Godspeed!” and lift the stirrup cup right gaily to the lips that cry “Farewell!”
Grip thou my hand, as one who sees his long-tried friend go forth
[Pg 154]On some great quest he would, but may not, share—where danger jostles honor on the road.
When that stern call no mortal may gainsay rings in my ears,
Do thou make generous haste; nor grudge my going, nor cling doggedly
Till flesh and soul are riven with mighty pain, or worn with slow decay;
But as thou love me, as I have been true to thee and to thy service,
Give me swift release, and lift our love up as a lifted torch to light my going.
I have no quarrel that we two must part; nor fear of that still, wondrous mystery
Beyond the parting: but spare thou my human weakness; I would go out undismayed;
Unshrinking; shadowed with no vain regret for done or undone;—
As we could we wrought; let who comes after better us in deed, but not in will:
Now Hope, and Courage, and my comrade Life, shoulder to shoulder for the final stand!
Till from beyond those farthest heights of all my cheer rings down to meet your parting cheer,
As some path seeker on untrodden peaks shouts backward to his fellows and goes on.
At daybreak when the sunrise lay
Along the desert sand,
I buckled girth and tightened rein,
And rode to win the land;
I rode as rides a careless youth
Who fears no evil tide;
But from the dark a phantom stark
Pressed out to gain my side.
Gray-cowled and still he nearer drew,
The morning air grew chill;
The wind wailed low the while I turned
And bade him name his will:
“My will it is to ride with thee,
Whatever chance betide;
For good or ill to follow still,
More close than friend or bride.”
My heart turned cold, my arm grew weak;
I struck a stinging spur
And strove at maddest pace to lose
That ghostly follower.
We reeled upon the desert’s verge,
My hard-pressed steed and I,—
And full beside through that wild ride
The wraith smiled silently.
He clasped my hand, he touched my brow
[Pg 156]With lips that froze and burned;
“Now art thou mine to have and hold
Till all the tale be learned.
Put by the whip and ringing spur;
Put by the brave array;
For thou with me shall presently
Go forth in hodden gray.
“I lay my chrism upon thine eyes
That thy blind soul may see
The grandeur rife in human life,
Its joy and misery.”—
So fare we softly side by side,
Nor ever turn again;
And now I hail the presence “Friend,”
Who once had called him “Pain.”
Oh! arms that ache with weary emptiness,
Yet knew Love’s fullness ere your day was old,
How shall I turn with comforting to you
Who have the burden’s tender memory still?
Hands that but clasp each other, wet with tears
Yet tingling with the pressure of a touch
Scarce now withdrawn, I give you no regret—
Whose “has been” gladdens all the long “to be.”
What know you, though you grieve, of loneliness,
Who count the days back sure of smiles that were,
And eyes that looked and loved and understood?
Empty the arms, companioned still the soul—
For souls once met blend all futurity
Into that meeting.
But one I knew whose empty heart had ne’er
Beat faster to the sound of kindred step;
Whose hand no other hand had reached to grasp
In brotherhood of purpose; in whose ear
No voice spoke greeting in a mother tongue:
A soul that from the Chaos back of Time
Passed out alone, and through the Then and Now
Walked alien past the homes of happy men.
E’en stars bend to each other through the blue,
And earth calls upward to her sister spheres;
But seeking, seeking, still in ceaseless quest,
This soul went outward to Eternity.
Look you, ye line of men and women reaching back
Behind my shoulders into Life’s lost dawn—
Ye square-jawed, low-browed, fierce-eyed fighting-man;
Ye fawning slave, cringing before the whip;
Ye strong-souled prophet of diviner things;
Ye praying saint, ye sensuous, sin-steeped fool;
Ye seer, love driven, paying drop by drop
Thy own blood down to buy thy brother’s need;
Ye sleek and shifty plotter, cunning-lipped
Ye pale ascetic, ye the loose-tongued bawd;
Ye weak, and tender, loving, scorning, mad
With glutted pride—abased in misery;
Ye that have measured all the pendulum
Of human passion, chance, and hope, and pain—
I bid ye halt; I am the crucible,
My will the furnace fire; fused here in me
Your motley ore shall take what shape I choose,
To serve what end I order and command.
I’ll make of ye my weapon and my tool,
My sword and plowshare. Ye shall hold or break,
Strike or be idle, at my word. In my hand
Ye shall be gathered as a missile fit
And hurled subservient to seek my goal.
[Pg 159]Look in my eyes and know I fear ye not;
Because ye were I am—and rule ye now.
I will not go your road nor seek your end;
I will not pray your prayer nor sing your song;
Ye shall not sear me with the sullen heat
Of your spent passions. My lips shall never writhe
With bitter pleading for your old desires.
Ye shall not shake my soul with your lost fears,
Nor grip my heart with dead regret and pain.
I am your master; if ye live again
Ye take life from my hand at my own terms.
I will bind up the fire that flared in you
To use diverse, and make of it a torch
Clear-flamed and strong to light the road I choose.
Your wrongs shall set me free from kindred wrong;
Your labor and your loss shall be the steps
Beneath my feet on which I stand to rise.
Your hopes undone shall wing my hope for flight;
I will take up the broken dreams that fell
From your spent grasp and weld them into one—
A deathless vision of futurity.
O ye dead hearts that ached; dead hands that clinched
[Pg 160]In fear or fury; dead lips that lied or loved;
Dead souls that grovelled or aspired as ye could—
Ye rule me not—I am the master here.
For my swift hour ye serve me as I will—
Till from forgotten dust I serve the men that come.
And yet—the face shall pass
As a shadow ’cross the grass;
As the shadow of a bird-wing
Spread a moment in the sun;
As the light-blown dust that dances
In the wind and whirls and glances
Mote-wise in a passing sunbeam,
When the Sand of Fate is run.
Out of silence—here and hither;
Into silence—whence and whither
Still unanswered; still unmapped
The road the feet have come and gone.
Heart of fire, soul aspiring;
Spirit daring, strong, untiring—
Is the unmapped Road to Silence
All that ye and Life have won?
Ah! but there was still the fight!
Darkness—and the search for light!
Road unmapped—but fearless going
Out upon the journey—knowing
Naught and daring all.
As ye will then, weigh and measure;
Count the gain and hoard the treasure—
But the Fight was more than all.
King and priest and poet met
In a garden, arbor set,
On a green hill by the sea
Where the waves lapped tenderly,
Crooning to the restless sands
Lullabies of distant lands.
From the stately palace near
Rippling music smote the ear,
Mingled with the solemn bell
Of the monks that matins tell
’Neath the censer swinging slow
In the ancient church below.
Dawn, with rosy fingertips
Reached to Day, her lingering lips
Pressed upon the dead Night’s brow;
As we mortals, too, somehow,
Turn us in the past to grope
Ere we grasp the hand of Hope.
Spake the king, as wistfully
He looked out across the sea
Sparkling in the growing light:
“Ah! the morning-promise bright!
Bright as life, whose morning glow
Shadows but to dusk we know!
Is it then a little striving,
Ending at the last in nothing?
Lieth there a fairer day
[Pg 163]Past Death’s night, O poet, say?
Priest, what sayeth your heart’s need,
Standing clear of myth and creed?
Said the priest: “Man is the flower
Of creation’s natal hour;
He earth’s lord—and yet earth’s sorrow
Presseth him, till he must borrow
Joy from some half-guessed tomorrow—
If his making be not jest;
Or a mockery, at best.
You who rule and I who pray,
Shut from common strife away,
Still find in our life’s brief cup
Tears and wormwood welling up;
Vain would our existence be
Lightly then the poet laughed
As the ruddy wine he quaffed:
“What is immortality
To the butterfly or bee?
Yet life’s sweetest sweets are theirs,
Summer suns and summer airs;
Skyward still the brown larks climb
And the ring doves in the lime
Wake the roses with their cooing,
Silence into sweetness wooing;
And the grass is glad in growing
[Pg 164]For the white flocks hillward going.
“E’en with gifts of sorrow’s giving
There is joy enough in living;
Heart-kept joys in every day
No ill chance can take away.
Truth and beauty are immortal,
And if we tomorrow’s portal
Should not pass, yet men may say:
“He lived kindly yesterday;
Sought no evil, thought no ill;
So we keep his memory still,
As a lamp our feet to guide
Till the ebbing of the tide
Calls us seaward in the dark.”
Look you, brothers, if a spark
Of eternal fire be caught
In these bodies weakly wrought,
Let it flame to noble deeds
For our present, human needs—
So from life itself may we
Build our immortality.”
Stands Time, the gray old bedesman,
And loosely through his hold
Slip down the days like carven beads,
Silver and dusk and gold.
And each day hath its whispered prayer,
Each one its patron saint;
And each its tender memories
Like incense sweet and faint.
O gray old bedesman, when you’ve told
Life’s rosary all through,
Leave us the old life’s memory
To consecrate the new.
Ho, comrades, on the mountain top the sun has touched the trees,
Strike camp and march, the ringing bugles call;
Swing lightly to the saddle with the rifle held at ease,—
We may need it, we who ride to win or fall.
What is living but a battle? What is dying but a rest?
If there’s time to snatch a laurel ere we go,
And to leave one hot kiss printed on the lips we love the best
We have garnered all the fullest life can know.
With our faces toward the morning, with her music in our hearts,
And the sunrise on our banners bright with hope,
Lo, our line of march is upward where the snowy summit starts,
Press forward for the rough, untrodden slope.
Through the pines the wind is laughing and the tall trees sway and swing
[Pg 167]Like the swaying crowds that cheer us as we ride;
And our bugles wake the echoes till the far peaks shout and sing—
Ah! but life is youth and love and battle-pride.
Halt, comrades, here the sun of noon falls straight upon the grass,
And the droning locust drowns the bugle call;
In the valley there below us see the harvesters that pass
Where the gold of ripened grain is over all.
Like a flag of truce the home-smoke waving in the summer wind
Calls the workers from the field for rest and cheer—
When the battle din is over and the glory all behind
It were good to find such welcome kind and near.
Who has clasped the hand of woman in the hour when life was hard,
Who has loved a little child and called him son;
Who has set himself with broken arms the homeland road to guard,
[Pg 168]Yearns for friendly board and hearth when all is done.
Coin of peace is price of battle, glory but a rainbow set
In the clearing sky for sign of hope to come;
As the road winds down the valley all the rest we may forget,
Knowing life is work and love and joy of home.
Look, comrades, through the bending trees a gleam of silver light,
Where the winding river goes to find the sea;
Off-saddle,—here we bivouac the long appointed night,
Till the Great Commander sounds reveille.
All along the trail behind us in the grasses and the pines
Lie the brothers who were weary e’re the night;
And we shoulder close together now to hide the thinning lines,
And there’s more than mist of years to dim our sight.
Old ambitions burned to ashes sift their whiteness through the hair
Of the gayest youth who faced the morning sun;
And it’s more of scars than honors that the bravest comrades wear,
[Pg 169]As we count the cost and know the fight is done.
Guidons flutter in the night wind and the campfires flicker low,
We are silent with old memories deep and fond;
Up, comrades, cheer the joy of life once more before we go—
Knowing now ’tis love and service and a mighty hope Beyond.
At sunrise I saw her, the woman eternal, the Race Mother;
She stood upon a great, gray cliff—and behind her the forest;
The dawn was on her face; over the world she looked as one seeking—
As one whose eyes have watched long through shadow,
And are weary still watching for one who comes not.
Her mate she sought—waiting there with the forest behind her,
And the world stretching wide, and the wind singing glory to daybreak.
Strong and pure and clean-limbed and deep-bosomed—
Goddess and woman in one—loving and longing she waited.
Out from the foot of the cliff one crept up to take her;
Huge-muscled, careless—o’er-borne with fierce cravings and hunger.
He saw not her eyes with the passionate longing within them—
Burning holy and tender with infinite love and compassion.
[Pg 171]Only the strong, sweet body he grasped—crushed and maimed—bound to serve him;
Bent at his will, and distorted—till ugly and broken,
Unmeet even to serve, it shambled beside him.
On the breast hung a child, half-divine, half-monstrous—
Maimed too, scarred, deformed—mingling strangely
The holy dawn-dream in the deep, waiting eyes of the woman,
And the careless, fierce face of the man as he fought up to take her.
It was night now, and the dawn-light was dead, and the wide world was hidden,
And the wind whimpered and wailed like a creature that suffers and hopes not.
The old wife by the grave-stone stands
And looketh far away;
Her eyes are deep as pools of rain
Twilit at close of day.
“God rest ye, husband of my flesh—
Life-Stranger to my soul—
I pray thy spirit goes to seek
Some dear-desired goal.”
“How long, how long, the way chance willed,
We journeyed side by side,
Yet never met at stile or gate—
I was thy body’s bride!
That far-off day, our wedding day,
I dreamed as women will—
The heart a-hungered and alone
Is lone and hungered still.”
“Four hands won roof and goods and gear
And ploughed and gleaned and spun—
Two stranger hearts the world apart
Sat down when toil was done.
God rest ye now beyond the end;
God light the way ahead—
And that the living eyes were blind,
Lay sight upon the dead.”
“Here is life,” I said to my heart;
“Shall thou and I take part
In his battle and busy mart?
Shall we follow the voices that call
From temple and workshop and hall:
‘Lo, brother, we bid thee come?’”
“There is pleasure in palace and bower;
There is gold for our winning, and power;
And fame—for an idle hour
A bauble to tempt the best.
Shall we make us one with the rest,
And attempt, and achieve—or fail?”
But my heart, grown sudden wise,
Looked out from steadfast eyes
And said: “In myself it lies
To be more than a tool for gain—
Nay, Life, ye must bid again
Ere I answer to your call.”
“What say you of honor, O Life?
Has it room in the bitter strife
With which your service is rife?
Is there room for a soul to be
All the best it can feel and see;
[Pg 174]To unfold its wings and arise?”
Then Life, with sphinx-like face,
And smile wherein no trace
Of answering had place;
Said: “Take my gift, or leave it—
But know they that receive it
Can make it what they will.”
With wine of dream-land fill the cup
And pledge the past, my soul, with me;
Drink deep, old friend, and summons up
The ghost of all the Used-To-Be.
Here’s to the joys we knew erstwhile;
Look how they troop, a motley crew!
Here’s to the laugh, the jest, the smile,
That cheered our way when life was new.
“Comrades, good cheer! Good luck be yours!
Long may you follow on our track;
Until we pass to farther shores—
Then to our place here turn you back
And laugh with those we leave behind;
Ring merry music in their ears;
Crack joke with joke in merry kind,
Till they shall give no place to tears.”
We crave no grief, my soul and I;
Each life enough of sorrow knows;
Let none mourn darkly when we lie
In silence under rue and rose.
And you, gray wraith in cowl and gown,
Who “Closer than a brother” pressed;
Here on this last couch lay you down—
Together neath Death’s touch we rest.
For you were fashioned of our tears;
[Pg 176]You were the shadow which Life’s real,
With broken hopes and bitter fears,
Cast o’er our shining, high ideal.
Your power is done—hide in the dust
Of that wild heart which gave you birth—
But all our joys we leave in trust
To cheer some toiling child of earth.
My heart is a little garden
Set in a desert waste;
The walls are rough, the door is small,
And high the key is placed.
None guess my hidden riches,
My wealth of leaf and bloom;
The gold of chaliced lilies,
The roses rare perfume.
Here climbs the starry jasmine,
Hope’s ladder to the skies;
And here like thoughts too pure for words
The silken moonflowers rise.
Here falls the plashing fountain
With Fancy’s waters bright;
Here flit Ambition’s butterflies,
Winged jewels in the light.
And all sweet birds are singing
Their happy songs together;
So brings the year whatever cheer
My heart holds summer weather.
Apples of Hesperides,
Jugglers’ golden balls are these;
Look within them and you’ll see
Many a magic mystery:
Winter snows are prisoned here;
April showers, May sunshine clear;
All the witchery of June,
Rose’s red and robin’s tune;
Wrought by Nature’s alchemy
Into sweet reality.
“A friend, a foe, a true love, a beau, a journey to go.”
The old superstition of naming the spots on the fingernails still survives in country places, where some old lady may say gravely: “You have an enemy; look at the spots on your finger nails,” and young girls count them for friend or lover. “I knew he would be a wanderer,” said one woman of an absent son, “there was always a journey on both his hands.”
Softly she whispered it over,
Knee deep in the scented grass,
Where I and the first wild roses
Lingered to watch her pass.
She kissed her hand to the swallows
Skimming the pond below,
And turned with a face all archness
As she chanted ‘Friend or foe?’
“See, here is my life before me,
All that I keep or fail;”
And she counted the spots that glistened
On each rose-leaf finger nail;
Like baby pearls in the sunshine,
Or wind-rocked, cloudy flecks;
The little white dots that dappled
Her nails with snowy specks.
“A friend—but look, how many!
A foe—” Not one, I said;
“A true love”—Sweet, he is near you—
[Pg 180]She blushed as the roses red.
He is waiting, dear, to claim you;
Your truest love and beau—
Ah! why did my eyes turn misty
As she murmured “A journey to go”?
The roses bloom in the meadow
As they bloomed that other day,
And I and the spring and the swallows
Wander the old sweet way;
We call but we cannot wake her,
So still in the vale below;
And my heart and the blossoms whisper,
“A journey, a journey to go.”
Written on the fly leaf of Richard Burton’s volume of verse, “Dumb in June.”
June that floods the earth with sweetness,
Songs and scents and petals bright;
How my heart in your completeness
Loses self with full delight!
Think you if with no lip-greeting
I give welcome warmly told,
That my spirit to this meeting
Springs not as in time of old?
Dearer comer than when child-heart
Sang to greet you from the hill;
Dearer to the captive wild-heart
Where the music now is still.
Should I sing when you are singing
Through my soul’s most shadowed ways,
Jubilant with promise, ringing
Down the drone of common days?
June-time! Spring-time! Hour of growing!
Time with all renewing blest!
Throbbing from a heart o’er-flowing,
Silent songs may praise you best.
In memory of our dead! The dead that lie
Near, love-guarded graves, where still our tenderness
Can reach out like a hand across the dark
To touch the still hands folded close in rest.
The near, loved dead that were our own;
That walked with us the busy common ways,
And made life dear, and homely duties sweet.
In memory of our dead! In memory of the memories that go
Forever with us, till we, too, shall lie
With still, white faces turned to meet the stars.
In memory, in hope, in tenderness!
Rest ye, O well-beloved, remembered dead!
Peace with you! Ye that do but keep
The bivouac till we come.
Ye that but wait us till the march is done;
Arms stacked; and guidons fluttering
Above the camp of our eternal rest.
In memory! In memory of the far, forgotten dead,
That lie unheeded in the common dust.
In memory of the daring hearts that sleep
In unmarked graves beside forgotten trails;
The men who set their faces to the West,
And blazed the way for empires yet to come—
[Pg 183]Winning at last a width of nameless sod.
In memory! Wherever one brave soul goes out
Strong-hearted on that last, lone road all men must take,
He, too, is comrade, and his courage is
A bugle call that rings “Advance, nor fear!”
To every hard-pressed soul upon the way.
Wherever one spent toiler for the common good
Lets fall his tools from weary, calloused hands,
His work is ours,—a trust to further to the fullest end.
No hope that ever warmed a human heart
Was lost when that heart crumbled into dust:
The dreams that woke the sunrise of the world are ours—
Our dead walk with us daily, hand in hand.
But every joy we know to give or keep;
By hearts more gentle, and by eyes more true,
They are our own, and undivided still.
In memory! In memory of the dead!
In tenderness and hope for all who live!
Peace with you, ye that lie at rest!
Hope with you, ye that live and yet must face
The pain of living!
In memory, in hope, in tenderness!
How all alone we are, despite our striving
For sympathy and love!
How all alone we are in this our living,
With silent skies above!
These stars of ours have shone on Alexander;
Their tender light was old
What time the Roman hills knew lost Evander;
The night winds sweet and cold
Have lingered in the dusk with Omar’s roses;
They keep the fragrance yet!
And all the rare, green earth that round us closes
Whispers a vague regret.
It is not ours; we are not its first lovers;
We do but journey here
Where every little springing grass blade covers
Some heart once held as dear.
We yearn to touch them, stretch our hands in greeting;
To make them all our own.
Mist wraiths and dreams! they vanish at the meeting
And we pass on alone.
Once the Dawn among the trees whispered me such words as these:
“There was stillness in the valley, there was darkness on the hill,
Till my spirit came among them, borne upon a minion breeze,
Woke them into light and music and dispelled them with my will.
“Where my fingers touched the tresses of the clouds with swift caresses,
Burned a splendor like the jewels set to bind a princess’ hair;
Softly from my garment shaken fell the gentle dew that blesses
Every sweet and stately blossom meet to make the morning fair.
“Then the birds with liquid singing set the leafy woodland ringing,
Till the cattle in the meadow waked the joyous songs to mark;
And the great, gold sun leaped upward, all the light of heaven bringing—
Heart, hast thou a morning also, waiting just beyond the dark?”
Duncan and I at the kirk would wed,
And soon should our bridal vows be said;
But a pibroch thrilled through the morning air,
And a white cockade gleamed brightly there;
’Twas Charlie Stuart bowed low at my side:
“O, lend me your lover now,” he cried,
“And when I march homeward adown the glen
You shall wed the bravest of Charlie’s men.”
Duncan my lover was good to see,
Straight and tall as the dark pine tree;
Black was his eye as the deep midnight;
His arm was strong and his step was light;
His words were kind and his laugh rang free,—
And oh! he was all in the world to me!
But he marched away through the narrow glen
To fight for Scotland with Charlie’s men.
The days were long and the nights were drear,
My heart grew sick with its weight of fear;
For the battle was fought and the battle was lost,
And the hearts of the living must count the cost;
[Pg 187]And Charlie Stuart’s an outlaw now
With a price in gold on his bonnie brow;
And never the watchers in brae and glen
Shall welcome the coming of Charlie’s men.
And Duncan, my lover, my life, my light,
Was the first to fall in that bitter fight;
With Scotland’s banner clasped close in his hand
They laid him to sleep in that stranger land;
Narrow and lonely and low is his bed,
And the gorse of the Southland blooms thick o’er his head;
But still I roam through the mournful glen
And wait for the marching of Charlie’s men.
The mavis and merle in the thicket pipe clear,
But the wail of the pibroch is all I can hear;
The heather a-bloom takes the tint of his plaid,
And the foam on the burn shows the Stuart cockade;
The moonlight that falls on the rocks of Ben More
Is alive with the gleam of his targe and claymore—
And still in my heart and the haunted glen
There echoes the marching of Charlie’s men.
A mocking bird from out the South
Sang through my dream, he said,
But when the dream was done I heard
A woman’s voice instead.
A woman’s voice that strove to wake
The joyous tones I missed;
But only breathed a sigh across
The lips that pain had kissed.
A deep perfume of tropic flowers
Stole through my dream, he said;
But when I sought the blossoms bright
I saw a face instead.
A woman’s face where Nature wrote
The score of some grand hymn,
Then blotting it with life and toil
Left all the record dim.
And in the dream my soul thrice turned
To greet a comrade call;
But when I woke the gray of night
Lay silent over all.
“The last brotherhood is of pain.”—Hindoo Saying.
You think my mouth is over-stern
For woman-grace and tenderness;
You wonder if my lips could learn
The trick of love word and caress;
You sadden when you meet my eyes;
You say they are too still and deep,
Like water where a shadow lies
Some secret thing to hide and keep.
My face no smooth, soft beauty owns,
Unlined and happy as a flower;
My voice has lack of laughing tones
To charm you in a care-free hour—
But I have lived! I do not need
Your play-day love, that only seeks
It’s own light joy, nor stays to heed
The message which the shadow speaks.
Death-darkening eyes have looked in mine
And gone the braver for that glance;
And hearts sore-pressed have sought a sign,
Then turned to meet the fighting chance;
And hands that fought to hold the breach
Have caught fresh weapons from my hands;
And lips that knew but stranger speech
Have learned how love may understand.
Joy with you, friend, and happiness!
You do not need me now, but when
Life wills your hour of pain and stress
Turn back—and find me waiting then.
Grant us, O Soul of Song, that we may find
Much joy in singing, though the road be blind;
Thou knowest we, thy Children of the Air,
Must get our dinners, God alone knows where,
And for a ragged coat have scanty words;
So let us joy in music with the birds,
Our brother minstrels, who among the trees
Have short delight what time the summer please.
Make summer for us, e’en when winter snows
Beat down upon us and the north winds blows;
Fence us with mail against the biting blast,
And feed our fancy, though the body fast.
If any Hall keep still the olden cheer,
Grant thou we find an ungrudged welcome there,
And as of old have leave to harp and sing
Till wild bees hum the reveille of Spring;
And black birds pipe it, and the cuckoos call;
And every ivy leaf along the wall
Shakes to the sun a tender green leaf-wing
And whispers “Spring! The Spring! It is the Spring!”
Then Ho! for pouch and staff and cockle shell!
Ho! for the road we know and love so well!
Stay an you will! For us the Open Way;
The sun and stars and winds of Arcady!
To Our Lady of La Casa Nichita.
She would have told you that she had
No clever gifts to win and wile;
No cunning trick of speech or song
To charm and change your mood the while,
Not under her smooth fingers flowed
The music, by her touch set free;
Not through her hands her inward dream
Was wrought for all the world to see.
And yet—she spoke, and in his soul
One heard the song his vision sought;
And one within her eyes beheld
The symbol of his noblest thought;
And one who held that Beauty dwelt
A thing apart from common need,
Passed through her door and went his way
To voice a finer, truer creed.
She would have said no gift was hers,
No power of speech or brush or pen;
And yet—who passing touched her hand,
Turned to his highest dream again
With surer faith and larger hope—
For hers, the great gift to inspire,
To shine across our duller lives
And light them as with temple fire.
When all is said life’s not unlike a train—
Save that we take it if we will or no—
And whence it comes, and whither it will go,
Or if it will companion us again,
No guide books tell, no mapped time tables show;
Nor of the miles ahead can any know—
Whether tomorrow’s road be hill or plain.
For some the swift express; the rumbling freight
For others; some must till the end harrass
Their souls for fare, while others ride in state—
Yet to one end that heeds not caste or class.
When we outside that far Last Station wait
May the Great Agent meet us with a pass.
Wiser and older grown
I will not wish you, nor say,
“Many returns of the day!”
Nor bid for happiness—
Since Life will ban or bless
Still in the old, stern way.
If years be a boon or curse
I reckon a close-drawn thing;
And doubt if the good they bring
Outweighs by a hair the pain—
If the loss sink not the gain—
Yet, be yours as you onward wend,
Strong soul, and rest at the end.
Comrade, whose eyes have seen beyond
That Last Horizon lone and far;
Remoter than the utmost star
That watches on the rim of space;
I that shall see no more your face,
Save in some vision brief and fond,
I that alone must go and come,
I that alone must stay or roam,
Bid you God speed and hearty cheer,
Bid you a joy untouched of fear
On every road a soul may take.
To fuller life, to dreamless sleep,
To all a heart may give or keep,
God speed you, guide your going—yet
The roads of earth not quite forget.
When the bright sunrise slants across the hills
And every peak is like a golden tower
Where some glad face looks East to meet the day,
My heart leaps strong with thankfulness for dawn,
Singing like Memnon in the sands of old
For fresh hope and new promise. And when noon
Poises the far sun midway in his course
I joy in space for working; for an hour
In which to shape my hidden thought a form
Before my fellows, that my dream may live
When I am brother to the silent dust.
And when night’s shadow folds the weary earth,
With all her burden of tired hearts that pray,
Best of life’s gifts, sleep and forgetfulness,
One boon alone I crave of heaven, rest.
But most I bow in thankfulness for death;
Wise death, kind death, who softly stoops to lay
All pitiful a cool hand on the brow
That life has fevered with his pitiless
Stern goading on an ever-fruitless round.
Master of Fate, and rest’s own almoner,
No angel sable-winged and harsh and cold,
[Pg 196]No black-robed, hidden-visaged shape art thou,
Preying upon the frightened souls of men;
But a near friend, whose hand upon our own
Touches to strengthen, and whose shadow is
Like the one tree within a sun swept waste.
Hope giver, healer, they who would upbraid
Thy name and coming know not thee nor life;
But we who work here in the dark, we know.
We know whose name gives courage for the fight;
Whose call rings “Forward” down the lagging line.
Captained by thee we lift each day the load
To aching shoulders, take the road once more
With song and laughter and bugle blown
To straggling comrades: “Look you, man, good cheer!”
Who knows? Perhaps tonight we bivouac;
Face front, and let us win our rest like men;
With tasks well done and nothing scrimped or shirked;
Sure that at last we get discharge of Life
And serve a gentler master, even Death.
The French peasants have a belief that if a green bough be found upon the cradle of a new-born child the fairies have called that child to wander far in quest of other-worldly things all its mortal life.
When on the bed of birth I lay
Out of the dark one came,
And laid the green bough on my head
And kissed my lips with flame;
And whispered in my ear the call
I may no more deny;
Nor ever drown in lesser sound
Until the hour I die.
And though my feet go down the street
They feel not wood and stone;
But tread the floor of forests far,
And uplands wide and lone:
And eyes like clouds blown through with rain
Turn pleading-like to me—
Their sorrow I may stay to ease,
But not their gladness see.
I know the roads my kindred take
To gain and gear and home,
I turn and bid them all Godspeed—
And yet I may not come.
I know the good of gain and gear,
And hearth alight with love—
Bide ye that may—I cannot stay,
[Pg 198]That seeking still must rove.
And little camp-fires in the dark
Send out their light to me;
And little sweet, low voices call:
“O traveller, who are ye,
That goes so fast, that goes so far
Along the hidden night,
As if ye sought some radiant star,
Nor ever camp-fire’s light?”
But for my soul I may not turn,
My feet are strong and swift;
I go to find beyond the wind
Where unknown mountains lift,
The tree where-from the green bough came,
The voice that calls to me;
Visions more bright than star or light,
That lead and beckon me.
I wonder if the growing grass
Has ever weariness?
Or the little flowers that lean
The gray hillside to bless?
Their roots reach down into the mold
So deep, that once was men;
I wonder do they ever draw
A heart-ache from it then?
And the rain that patters down
On the green blades like tears;
Has it kept a taste of salt
From the forgotten years?
And the wind that has been breath
Of happy lips or sad;
Is that why its voice has still
No sound ever wholly glad?
Forget us, Earth, forget;
When we dry our tears on your breast;—
As we and the mold are one
Let us nothing know but rest.
How white and calm and still she lay!
The little child-like hands at rest,
Folded so lightly on her breast—
It seemed some solemn wonder-play!
The waxen lids pressed down her eyes,
Blue, wistful eyes that could not see
How still beside her tenderly
We kept our useless ministries.
One smoothed the pillow at her head,
With hands that trembled overmuch;
And drew the sheet with lingering touch,
And closed the books that she had read.
The little room still seemed to hold
All of her warm, bright, living self;
The empty slippers on the shelf
Still kept her foot’s slim mold.
O restless feet that could not wait
Our slower footsteps, blundering, fond;
Turn back to us when soon or late
We seek you in the Land Beyond.
A hymn to thee, a hymn to thee, consoler;
Thou strong consoler who hast touched our life
With a great quiet brooding o’er its strife;
With a great peace beyond its wrath and dolor.
All other hopes, all other loves, may fail us;
Thou over all art truth and constancy;
Our little passions quench themselves in thee;
Thy balm and strength must at the last avail us.
Walk with me then as brother walks with brother;
Hold thou my hand; I think I hear thee say:
“Bethink thee; this may be thy last ‘today’;
Thine eyes may not look out across another.
“Then forward! face what e’er it brings and laugh
Straight in the eyes of Fortune at her worst;
No loss he fears who hath lost all at first,
[Pg 202]Nor fears to drink, who my dark wine would quaff.
“Art empty-handed? Yea, but at the best
No wealth of earth could stay an hour my feet;
Dost thirst! My cup upon the lip is sweet;
Art weary? I alone can give thee rest.”
And this is life—to have and hold
A little love, a little gold;
To prove the Dream with work well done;
To rest an hour before the sun
Drops down to night—then journey on
An unmapped road to seek the Dawn.
He who grasps at the flowers of thought
Oft finds in his eager fingers naught,
But leafless stalks where the blossoms hung,
In some long-lost summer when life was young—
Or at best but a glimmer of thistle down
To sprinkle his hair ’neath the laurel crown.
It was decided not to correct likely mistakes in the poems. However, for the convenience of the reader, we are providing this list of some deviations from other editions.
Page 13: In lieu of “A week. God speed”, “A week--God speed”
Page 18: In lieu of “muleteers had sudded”, “muleteers had sudden”
Page 36: In lieu of “upon its hedge”, “upon its edge”
Page 61: In lieu of “The long-dead altars”, “The long-dead tapers”
Page 68: In lieu of “Senor”, “Señor”
Page 101: In lieu of “growed on the own”, “growed on the’r own”
Page 102: In lieu of “along with the bosses”, “along with the boss’s” and “An’ I lay” instead of “An’ I low”
Page 105: In lieu of “handsomeness, ye low”, “handsomeness, ye ’low”
Page 107: In lieu of “I haint”, “I hain’t”
Page 108: In lieu of “I low”, I ’low”