Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A MENDOCINO MEMORY, by EDWIN MARKHAM



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A MENDOCINO MEMORY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Once in my lonely, eager youth I rode
Last Line: Bearing the pines hewn out of oregon.
Subject(s): Mendocino, California; Travel; Journeys; Trips


Once in my lonely, eager youth I rode,
With jingling spur, into the clouds' abode—
Rode northward lightly as the high crane goes—
Rode into the hills in the month of the frail wild rose,
To find the soft-eyed heifers in the herds,
Strayed north along the trail of nesting birds,
Following the slow march of the springing grass,
From range to range, from pass to flowering pass.

I took the trail: the fields were yet asleep:
I saw the last star hurrying to its deep—
Saw the shy wood-folk starting from their rest
In many a crannied rock and leafy nest.
A bold, tail-flashing squirrel in a fir,
Restless as fire, set all the boughs astir:
A jay, in dandy blue, flung out a fine
First fleering sally from a sugar-pine.

A flight of hills, and then a deep ravine
Hung with madrono boughs—the quail's demesne:
A quick turn in the road, a wingéd whir,
And there he came with fluted whispering,
The captain of the chaparral, the king,
With nodding plume, with circumstance and stir,
And step of Carthaginian conqueror!

I climbed the canyon to a river-head,
And looking backward saw a splendor spread,
Miles beyond miles, of every kingly hue
And trembling tint the looms of Arras knew—
A flowering pomp as of the dying day,
A splendor where a god might take his way.

And farther on the wide plains under me,
I watched the light-foot winds of morning go,
Soft shading over wheat-fields far and free,
To keep their old appointment with the sea.
And farther yet, dim in the distant glow,
Hung on the east a line of ghostly snow.

After the many trails an open space
Walled by the tules of a perished lake;
And there I stretched out, bending the green brake,
And felt it cool against my heated face.
My horse went cropping by a sunny crag,
In wild oats taller than the antlered stag
That makes his pasture there. In gorge below,
Blind waters pounded boulders, blow on blow—
Waters that gather, scatter and amass
Down the long canyons where the grizzlies pass,
Slouching thru manzanita thickets old,
Strewing the small red apples on the ground,
Tearing the wild grape from its tree-top hold,
And wafting odors keen through all the hills around.

Now came the fording of the hurling creeks,
And joyous days among the breezy peaks,
Till through the hush of many canyons fell
The faint quick tenor of a brazen bell,
A sudden, soft, hill-stilled, far-falling word,
That told the secret of the straying herd.

It was the brink of night, and everywhere
Tall redwoods spread their filmy tops in air:
Huge trunks, like shadows upon shadow cast,
Pillared the under twilight, vague and vast.
And one had fallen across the mountain way,
A tree hurled down by hurricane to lie
With torn-out roots pronged-up against the sky,
And clutching still their little lift of clay.

Lightly I broke green branches for a bed,
And gathered ferns, a pillow for my head.
And what to this were kingly chambers worth—
Sleeping, an ant, upon the sheltering earth,
High over Mendocino's windy capes,
Where ships go flying south like shadow-shapes—
Gleam into vision and go fading on,
Bearing the pines hewn out of Oregon.





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