Ina Coolbrith

1841 – 1928 / Nauvoo, Illinois

Bret Harte

What wizardry is this? What necromance?
These forest-aisles, these mountains grim and vast?
These shadowy forms and faces that advance
From out of the misty past?

The old familiar faces, how they crowd!
Like ghosts returning from the farther shore!
These Beings without Being, yet endowed
With life for evermore.

Each in my own life-weft has woven part,
Whether or grave or gay; unkempt or shorn;
This one, ‘The Luck' they call him, stole my heart
The day that he was born.

With these I sat beside the camp-fire's glow
And heard, through untaught lips, old Homer tell
The Tale of Troy, till with the falling snow
God's last white silence fell.

I knew the cabin in the lone ravine
Where she, the Fallen, far from mart and men,
Watched by the stricken and, unknown, made clean
Her garment's hem again.

And these, the Partners in world-storm and stress,
With faithful love, unknowing selfish aim;
The friendship pure that grew not cold nor less
Through good or evil fame.

These, too (I loved them!) , reckless, debonair,
That life and fortune staked upon a cast;
The soul itself held lightly as the air,
To win or lose at last.

I tracked the mountain trail with them; the sweet
Cool smell of pines I breathed beneath the stars;
The laugh, the song I heard; the rhythmic feet
To tinkle of guitars.

I knew the Mission's fragrant garden-close,
Heavy with blooms the wind might scarcely stir,
Its little laughing maid-Castilian rose! -
And saucy speech of her.

I knew them all-but best of all I knew
(Who in himself had something of all these)
The Man, within whose teeming fancy grew
These wondrous histories.

I see him often, with the brown hair half
Tossed from the leaning brow, the soft yet keen
Gray eyes uplifted with a tear or laugh
From the pen-pictured scene.

And hear the voice that read to me his dear
World-children-and I listen till I seem
Back in the olden days; they are the near
And these are but a dream.

O Prince of Song and Story! Thee we claim,
The first and dearest, still our very own!
We will not yield the glory of thy name
Nor share thy laureled throne!

Altho beneath a gray and alien sky,
Across long leagues of land and leagues of wave,
We may not reach thy dust with tear and sigh,
Nor deck thy lonely grave.
221 Total read