Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE GOLD THAT GREW BY SHASTA TOWN, by CINCINNATUS HEINE MILLER



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE GOLD THAT GREW BY SHASTA TOWN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: From shasta town to redding town
Last Line: By pleasant, sunlit shasta town.
Alternate Author Name(s): Miller, Joaquin
Subject(s): California - Gold Discoveries; Gold Rush; Forty-niners


From Shasta town to Redding town
The ground is torn by miners dead;
The manzanita, rank and red,
Drops dusty berries up and down
Their grass-grown trails. Their silent mines
Are wrapped in chaparral and vines;
Yet one gray miner still sits down
'Twixt Redding and sweet Shasta town.

The quail pipes pleasantly. The hare
Leaps careless o'er the golden oat
That grows below the water moat;
The lizard basks in sunlight there.
The brown hawk swims the perfumed air
Unfrightened through the livelong day;
And now and then a curious bear
Comes shuffling down the ditch by night,
And leaves some wide, long tracks in clay
So human-like, so stealthy light,
Where one lone cabin still stoops down
'Twixt Redding and sweet Shasta town.

That great graveyard of hopes! of men
Who sought for hidden veins of gold;
Of young men suddenly grown old --
Of old men dead, despairing when
The gold was just within their hold!
That storied land, whereon the light
Of other days gleams faintly still;
Somelike the halo of a hill
That lifts above the falling night;
That warm, red, rich and human land,
That flesh-red soil, that warm red sand,
Where one gray miner still sits down!
'Twixt Redding and sweet Shasta town!

"I know the vein is here!" he said;
For twenty years, for thirty years!
While far away fell tears on tears
From wife and babe who mourned him dead.
No gold! No gold! And he grew old
And crept to toil with bended head
Amid a graveyard of his dead,
Still seeking for that vein of gold.

Then lo, came laughing down the years
A sweet grandchild! Between his tears
He laughed. He set her by the door
The while he toiled; his day's toil o'er
He held her chubby cheeks between
His hard palms, laughed; and laughing cried.
You should have seen, have heard and seen
His boyish joy, his stout old pride,
When toil was done and he sat down
At night, below sweet Shasta town!

At last his strength was gone. "No more!
I mine no more. I plant me now
A vine and fig-tree; worn and old,
I seek no more my vein of gold.
But, oh, I sigh to give it o'er;
These thirty years of toil! somehow
It seems so hard; but now, no more."

And so the old man set him down
To plant, by pleasant Shasta town.
And it was pleasant; piped the quail
The full year through. The chipmunk stole,
His whiskered nose and tossy tail
Full buried in the sugar-bowl.

And purple grapes and grapes of gold
Swung sweet as milk. While orange-trees
Grew brown with laden honey-bees.
Oh! it was pleasant up and down
That vine-set hill of Shasta town.

And then that cloud-burst came! Ah, me!
That torn ditch there! The mellow land
Rolled seaward like a rope of sand,
Nor left one leafy vine or tree
Of all that Eden nestling down
Below that moat by Shasta town!

The old man sat his cabin's sill,
His gray head bowed to hands and knee;
The child went forth, sang pleasantly,
Where burst the ditch the day before,
And picked some pebbles from the hill.
The old man moaned, moaned o'er and o'er:
"My babe is dowerless, and I
Must fold my helpless hands and die!
Ah, me! What curse comes ever down
On me and mine at Shasta town."

"Good Grandpa, see!" the glad child said,
And so leaned softly to his side, --
Laid her gold head to his gray head,
And merry voiced and cheery cried,
"Good Grandpa, do not weep, but see!
I've found a peck of orange seeds!
I searched the hill for vine or tree;
Not one! -- not even oats or weeds;
But, oh! such heaps of orange seeds!

"Come, good Grandpa! Now, once you said
That God is good. So this may teach
That we must plant each seed, and each
May grow to be an orange tree.
Now, good Grandpa, please raise your head,
And please come plant the seeds with me."
And prattling thus, or like to this,
The child thrust her full hands in his.

He sprang, sprang upright as of old.
"'Tis gold! 'tis gold! my hidden vein!
'Tis gold for you, sweet babe, 'tis gold!
Yea, God is good; we plant again!"
So one old miner still sits down
By pleasant, sunlit Shasta town.





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