English Stories and books

English poems by Francis Bret Harte

Francis Bret Harte (1836-1902)

At The Hacienda

Know I not whom thou mayst be

Carved upon this olive-tree,–

“Manuela of La Torre,”–

For around on broken walls

Summer sun and spring rain falls,

And in vain the low wind calls

“Manuela of La Torre.”

Of that song no words remain

But the musical refrain,–

“Manuela of La Torre.”

Yet at night, when winds are still,

Tinkles on the distant hill

A guitar, and words that thrill

Tell to me the old, old story,–

Old when first thy charms were sung,

Old when these old walls were young,

“Manuela of La Torre.”


Above the pines the moon was slowly drifting,

The river sang below;

The dim Sierras, far beyond, uplifting

Their minarets of snow.

The roaring camp-fire, with rude humor, painted

The ruddy tints of health

On haggard face and form that drooped and fainted

In the fierce race for wealth;

Till one arose, and from his pack`s scant treasure

A hoarded volume drew,

And cards were dropped from hands of listless leisure

To hear the tale anew.

And then, while round them shadows gathered faster,

And as the firelight fell,

He read aloud the book wherein the Master

Had writ of “Little Nell.”

Perhaps `twas boyish fancy,–for the reader

Was youngest of them all,–

But, as he read, from clustering pine and cedar

A silence seemed to fall;

The fir-trees, gathering closer in the shadows,

Listened in every spray,

While the whole camp with “Nell” on English meadows

Wandered and lost their way.

And so in mountain solitudes–o`ertaken

As by some spell divine–

Their cares dropped from them like the needles shaken

From out the gusty pine.

Lost is that camp and wasted all its fire;

And he who wrought that spell?

Ah! towering pine and stately Kentish spire,

Ye have one tale to tell!

Lost is that camp, but let its fragrant story

Blend with the breath that thrills

With hop-vine`s incense all the pensive glory

That fills the Kentish hills.

And on that grave where English oak and holly

And laurel wreaths entwine,

Deem it not all a too presumptuous folly,

This spray of Western pine!

July, 1870.


They say that she died of a broken heart

(I tell the tale as `twas told to me);

But her spirit lives, and her soul is part

Of this sad old house by the sea.

Her lover was fickle and fine and French:

It was nearly a hundred years ago

When he sailed away from her arms–poor wench!–

With the Admiral Rochambeau.

I marvel much what periwigged phrase

Won the heart of this sentimental Quaker,

At what gold-laced speech of those modish days

She listened–the mischief take her!

But she kept the posies of mignonette

That he gave; and ever as their bloom failed

And faded (though with her tears still wet)

Her youth with their own exhaled.

Till one night, when the sea-fog wrapped a shroud

Round spar and spire and tarn and tree,

Her soul went up on that lifted cloud

From this sad old house by the sea.

And ever since then, when the clock strikes two,

She walks unbidden from room to room,

And the air is filled that she passes through

With a subtle, sad perfume.

The delicate odor of mignonette,

The ghost of a dead-and-gone bouquet,

Is all that tells of her story; yet

Could she think of a sweeter way?

I sit in the sad old house to-night,–

Myself a ghost from a farther sea;

And I trust that this Quaker woman might,

In courtesy, visit me.

For the laugh is fled from porch and lawn,

And the bugle died from the fort on the hill,

And the twitter of girls on the stairs is gone,

And the grand piano is still.

Somewhere in the darkness a clock strikes two:

And there is no sound in the sad old house,

But the long veranda dripping with dew,

And in the wainscot a mouse.

The light of my study-lamp streams out

From the library door, but has gone astray

In the depths of the darkened hall. Small doubt

But the Quakeress knows the way.

Was it the trick of a sense o`erwrought

With outward watching and inward fret?

But I swear that the air just now was fraught

With the odor of mignonette!

I open the window, and seem almost–

So still lies the ocean–to hear the beat

Of its Great Gulf artery off the coast,

And to bask in its tropic heat.

In my neighbor`s windows the gas-lights flare,

As the dancers swing in a waltz of Strauss;

And I wonder now could I fit that air

To the song of this sad old house.

And no odor of mignonette there is,

But the breath of morn on the dewy lawn;

And mayhap from causes as slight as this

The quaint old legend is born.

But the soul of that subtle, sad perfume,

As the spiced embalmings, they say, outlast

The mummy laid in his rocky tomb,

Awakens my buried past.

And I think of the passion that shook my youth,

Of its aimless loves and its idle pains,

And am thankful now for the certain truth

That only the sweet remains.

And I hear no rustle of stiff brocade,

And I see no face at my library door;

For now that the ghosts of my heart are laid,

She is viewless for evermore.

But whether she came as a faint perfume,

Or whether a spirit in stole of white,

I feel, as I pass from the darkened room,

She has been with my soul to-night!


As I stand by the cross on the lone mountain`s crest,

Looking over the ultimate sea,

In the gloom of the mountain a ship lies at rest,

And one sails away from the lea:

One spreads its white wings on a far-reaching track,

With pennant and sheet flowing free;

One hides in the shadow with sails laid aback,–

The ship that is waiting for me!

But lo! in the distance the clouds break away,

The Gate`s glowing portals I see;

And I hear from the outgoing ship in the bay

The song of the sailors in glee.

So I think of the luminous footprints that bore

The comfort o`er dark Galilee,

And wait for the signal to go to the shore,

To the ship that is waiting for me.


Captain of the Western wood,

Thou that apest Robin Hood!

Green above thy scarlet hose,

How thy velvet mantle shows!

Never tree like thee arrayed,

O thou gallant of the glade!

When the fervid August sun

Scorches all it looks upon,

And the balsam of the pine

Drips from stem to needle fine,

Round thy compact shade arranged,

Not a leaf of thee is changed!

When the yellow autumn sun

Saddens all it looks upon,

Spreads its sackcloth on the hills,

Strews its ashes in the rills,

Thou thy scarlet hose dost doff,

And in limbs of purest buff

Challengest the sombre glade

For a sylvan masquerade.

Where, oh, where, shall he begin

Who would paint thee, Harlequin?

With thy waxen burnished leaf,

With thy branches` red relief,

With thy polytinted fruit,–

In thy spring or autumn suit,–

Where begin, and oh, where end,

Thou whose charms all art transcend?

*** madrona, madrone, madrono n исп. бот.

мадронья, земляничное дерево (Arbutus menziesii)


By scattered rocks and turbid waters shifting,

By furrowed glade and dell,

To feverish men thy calm, sweet face uplifting,

Thou stayest them to tell

The delicate thought that cannot find expression,

For ruder speech too fair,

That, like thy petals, trembles in possession,

And scatters on the air.

The miner pauses in his rugged labor,

And, leaning on his spade,

Laughingly calls unto his comrade-neighbor

To see thy charms displayed.

But in his eyes a mist unwonted rises,

And for a moment clear

Some sweet home face his foolish thought surprises,

And passes in a tear,–

Some boyish vision of his Eastern village,

Of uneventful toil,

Where golden harvests followed quiet tillage

Above a peaceful soil.

One moment only; for the pick, uplifting,

Through root and fibre cleaves,

And on the muddy current slowly drifting

Are swept by bruised leaves.

And yet, O poet, in thy homely fashion,

Thy work thou dost fulfill,

For on the turbid current of his passion

Thy face is shining still!


(SANTA CRUZ, 1869)

Sauntering hither on listless wings,

Careless vagabond of the sea,

Little thou heedest the surf that sings,

The bar that thunders, the shale that rings,–

Give me to keep thy company.

Little thou hast, old friend, that`s new;

Storms and wrecks are old things to thee;

Sick am I of these changes, too;

Little to care for, little to rue,–

I on the shore, and thou on the sea.

All of thy wanderings, far and near,

Bring thee at last to shore and me;

All of my journeyings end them here:

This our tether must be our cheer,–

I on the shore, and thou on the sea.

Lazily rocking on ocean`s breast,

Something in common, old friend, have we:

Thou on the shingle seek`st thy nest,

I to the waters look for rest,–

I on the shore, and thou on the sea.


“The sky is clouded, the rocks are bare,

The spray of the tempest is white in air;

The winds are out with the waves at play,

And I shall not tempt the sea to-day.

“The trail is narrow, the wood is dim,

The panther clings to the arching limb;

And the lion`s whelps are abroad at play,

And I shall not join in the chase to-day.”

But the ship sailed safely over the sea,

And the hunters came from the chase in glee;

And the town that was builded upon a rock

Was swallowed up in the earthquake shock


Beg your pardon, old fellow! I think

I was dreaming just now when you spoke.

The fact is, the musical clink

Of the ice on your wine-goblet`s brink

A chord of my memory woke.

And I stood in the pasture-field where

Twenty summers ago I had stood;

And I heard in that sound, I declare,

The clinking of bells in the air,

Of the cows coming home from the wood.

Then the apple-bloom shook on the hill;

And the mullein-stalks tilted each lance;

And the sun behind Rapalye`s mill

Was my uttermost West, and could thrill

Like some fanciful land of romance.

Then my friend was a hero, and then

My girl was an angel. In fine,

I drank buttermilk; for at ten

Faith asks less to aid her than when

At thirty we doubt over wine.

Ah, well, it DOES seem that I must

Have been dreaming just now when you spoke,

Or lost, very like, in the dust

Of the years that slow fashioned the crust

On that bottle whose seal you last broke.

Twenty years was its age, did you say?

Twenty years? Ah, my friend, it is true!

All the dreams that have flown since that day,

All the hopes in that time passed away,

Old friend, I`ve been drinking with you!


Blown out of the prairie in twilight and dew,

Half bold and half timid, yet lazy all through;

Loath ever to leave, and yet fearful to stay,

He limps in the clearing, an outcast in gray.

A shade on the stubble, a ghost by the wall,

Now leaping, now limping, now risking a fall,

Lop-eared and large-jointed, but ever alway

A thoroughly vagabond outcast in gray.

Here, Carlo, old fellow,–he`s one of your kind,–

Go, seek him, and bring him in out of the wind.

What! snarling, my Carlo! So even dogs may

Deny their own kin in the outcast in gray.

Well, take what you will,–though it be on the sly,

Marauding or begging,–I shall not ask why,

But will call it a dole, just to help on his way

A four-footed friar in orders of gray!



No life in earth, or air, or sky;

The sunbeams, broken silently,

On the bared rocks around me lie,–

Cold rocks with half-warmed lichens scarred,

And scales of moss; and scarce a yard

Away, one long strip, yellow-barred.

Lost in a cleft! `Tis but a stride

To reach it, thrust its roots aside,

And lift it on thy stick astride!

Yet stay! That moment is thy grace!

For round thee, thrilling air and space,

A chattering terror fills the place!

A sound as of dry bones that stir

In the dead Valley! By yon fir

The locust stops its noonday whir!

The wild bird hears; smote with the sound,

As if by bullet brought to ground,

On broken wing, dips, wheeling round!

The hare, transfixed, with trembling lip,

Halts, breathless, on pulsating hip,

And palsied tread, and heels that slip.

Enough, old friend!–`tis thou. Forget

My heedless foot, nor longer fret

The peace with thy grim castanet!

I know thee! Yes! Thou mayst forego

That lifted crest; the measured blow

Beyond which thy pride scorns to go,

Or yet retract! For me no spell

Lights those slit orbs, where, some think, dwell

Machicolated fires of hell!

I only know thee humble, bold,

Haughty, with miseries untold,

And the old Curse that left thee cold,

And drove thee ever to the sun,

On blistering rocks; nor made thee shun

Our cabin`s hearth, when day was done,

And the spent ashes warmed thee best;

We knew thee,–silent, joyless guest

Of our rude ingle. E`en thy quest

Of the rare milk-bowl seemed to be

Naught but a brother`s poverty,

And Spartan taste that kept thee free

From lust and rapine. Thou! whose fame

Searchest the grass with tongue of flame,

Making all creatures seem thy game;

When the whole woods before thee run,

Asked but–when all was said and done–

To lie, untrodden, in the sun!

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