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short, but their brief extent suffices to ing things—the power of telling an entire possess us of all there is worth knowing of story or of depicting a whole state of things the sturdy sentiment that underlies them. in a very few words—which brought to Mr. Penelope's tirade is a capital picture of the Harte the reputation of having created a way in which a woman uses a scolding distinctive American literature. This trait tongue to hide the treacherous softness that appears with great pathetic effect in the is in her heart; and the climax, in which it former poem, where, on top of all the rest of appears that she was not only not in earnest, his bad luck, Dow's wife and five children but ready to accept Joe then and there, will come in on him from the States. touch a chord of experience in the heart of
“It was rough-mighty rough; more than one man. It is less hacknied
But the boys they stood by, than the others, and is so good in illustra
And they brought him the stuff tion as to justify quotation.
For a house on the sly.
And the old woman-well, she did washing, and took “So you've kem ’yer again,
on when no one was nigh.”
Equally happy is the way in which the
status of society at Poverty Flat is fixed in O Sal! 'yer's that derned fool from Simpson's cavor- one line written by “Miss Jo,” after her
tin round yer in the dew. translation to New York society, to her lover “Kem in, ef you will.
at home in California, reminding him of a Thar--quit! Take a cheer
ball at the “Fork": Not that; you can't fill
“Of Harrison's barn with its muster Them theer cushings this year. For that cheer was my old man's, Joe Simpson, and
Or flags festooned over the wall;
Of the candles that shed their soft luster they don't make such men about
And tallow on head-dress and shawl; 'yer.
Of the steps that we took to one fiddle, “He was tall, was my Jack,
Of the dress of my queer vis-à-vis,
And how I once went down the middle
With the man that shot Sandy McGee."
This feature redeems many of the later And you come a courtin' his widder! Lord! where
poems which otherwise are strained and less can that critter, Sal, be!
poetical. Yet, if we had not those above “You'd fill my Jack's place?
mentioned, many of the later ones would And a man of your size,
serve to answer for Bret Harte's fame.
As a whole, they are a powerfully handled And nary, Sho! thar! I was foolin'— I was, Joe, work, and make a distinct addition to seriofor sartain--don't rise.
comic literature. They are positively unique
in their way; there is nothing in literature "Sit down. Law! why, sho!
with which to test them. Bret Harte has I'm as weak as a gal. Sal! Don't you go, Joe,
been compared to Lowell; but the “Biglow Or I'll faint-sure I shall.
Papers," whether as satires or word pictures Sit down—anywheer, wheer you like, Joe—in that of life and manners, are less purely artistic
cheer if you choose-Lord! where's than the best work of the western poet. Sal?'"
One thinks twice of the rareness of real "Jim" displays a wealth of pathos in the originality before venturing an estimate of presentation of the strong friendships that their rank and duration; and I observe that bound together the miners of those days; Mr. Howells puts no mean limit on them. and “Chiquita” is remarkable for its de- It is no little in favor of mass judgment that lightful use of the modern hexameter. In these dialect poems first brought Mr. Harte “Dow's Flat” and “Her Letter” occur good the reputation among those who have literinstances of the peculiar method of present- ary weight, which his more ambitious efforts,
in other lines, had failed to do for him. There is a trace of Poe in “The Two Ships” From the date of publication of "The and "A Newport Legend.” “On the Pen Heathen Chinee” his success as a poet has of Thomas Starr King” is strong, tender, been assured.
original. The Starr King obituary poem, His parodies are good-natured hits at the too, is very sweet. styles of different bards, and bear the same
“Came the relief. • What, sentry, ho! general relation to the poems that the “Con
How passed the night through thy long waking?' densed Novels” do to his prose. They are 'Cold, cheerless, dark---
-as may befit earlier work and of rather uneven merit.
The hour before the dawn is breaking.' The address “To the Pliocene Skull”—a very "No sight? Nɔ sound ?' 'No; nothing save clever imitation of Holmes's "De Sauty”—is The plover from the marshes calling, the best, and like most of the others easily And in yon western sky, about recognizable. It is hard to understand why
An hour ago, a star was falling.' Mr. Harte should keep these parodies in his “* A star? There's nothing strange in that.' editions when he has discarded so much ‘No, nothing; but just above the thicket,
Somehow it seemed to me that God that is better in giving them a place. The
Somewhere had just relieved a picket.'” imitations in some cases are not bad, and the mannerisms of Poe and other authors are “The Reveille” expresses in a word all deftly handled. They are mainly interesting the conflict between duty and the hearts in that they show that Mr. Harte is uneven; that hesitated over the stirring work of '63.
It is but as one does not care to perpetuate this It is the drum that stirs the conflict. fact, the probabilities are that sooner or the heart that begs. later they will be relegated by the author to “• Let me of my heart take counsel; their place as youthful effusions, and as a
War is not of life the sum; part of Mr. Harte's past be thenceforth for
Who will stay and reap the harvest
When the autumn days shall come?' gotten.
But the drum Bret Harte's dialect diversions, so cramp
Echoed, “Come! ed in range, could not have been made Death shall reap the braver harvest,' said the solemn without some supplemental work in the way
sounding drum.” of legitimate song. His American poetry The heart, trembling with the thought of will always be overshadowed by his Califor- standing where bullets are whistling, and nian verse; but he has shown himself quite brothers falling at its side, tempts itself into equal to delighting us all in English of per- believing that victory may bring only greater fect saneness and sobriety. His earlier ills, and yet through everything hears perwork--the Spanish legends and the war sistent the throb and humn, as lyrics--are noticeable for their taste and
«« The drum vigor. He has a free hand as a poet. Sat
Answered · Come! ire, dialect verse and humor, seem to flow Better there in death united than in life a recreantfrom him as naturally as his most delicate
Come." fancies. He seldom becomes subjective; it These doubtings troubled many spirits in is not consistent with his mental equipment; those days. But the end was good.
Mr. and he does not always make truth the ob- Harte has felt this, and the last stanza rises ject of his serious verse. Some of the long almost to a pæan : poems lack completeness, and many betray
“Thus they answered—hoping, fearing, a touch still somewhat groping. Thoroughly
Some in faith, and doubting some, and admirably good is “John Burns of Get- Till a trumpet voice proclaiming, tysburg,” and alone would serve to make the
Said, “My chosen people, come!' reputation of another man. “How are you,
Then the drum,
Lo! was dumb, Sanitary,” “The Goddess,” “Battle Bunny,” For the great heart of the nation, throbbing, an“Our Privilege," read like first poems.
swered, 'Lord, we come!
Love poetry plays a small part in Bret lines; but the throwing of the rose to the Harte's verse.
As in prose, he seems to passing veterans serves admirably to illuswrite of and for his own sex alone. Look- trate Mr. Harte's idea of poetry. ing from the civilized standpoint, I do not
“You smile, O poet, and what do you? remember one thoroughly delicate woman in
You lean from your window and watch life's his works. There are “Flips” and “Miss
column Joes" in abundance; but the charming Trampling and struggling through dust and dew,
Filled with its purposes grave and solemn; women, such as one finds in Mr. Howells,
An act, a gesture, a face—who knows ?are conspicuous by their absence. Occasion
Touches your fancy to thrill and haunt you, ally, however, one stumbles on little bits of
And you pluck from your bosom the verse that song and tender snatches. Quite often these
grows, are followed by half-apology, as if the poet
And down it flies like my red, red rose, was ashamed at being discovered at anything
And you sit and dream as away it goes,
And think that your duty is done—now don't sentimental. They are not true love songs, in that they are never reflective, being for the
“The Mountain Heart's-ease" reflects the most part the depicting of something Mr. Harte has observed in others. His sense
“The Angelus” and “Dickens never was more subtle, his touch never more
in Camp” are simple, pathetic, and direct. delicate
, than in the delightful “Newport People were right in liking “Concepcion de Legend.” The picture is perfect of the fair Arguello,” than which there are few more Quakeress who faded away with the bunch touching idyls of the affections. As an exof mignonette, which alone remained to her ample of Mr. Harte's lyric taste, perhaps the of her fickle lover; and whose spirit haunts “Bugle Song" from "Cadet Grey” is as light the old house in the odor of mignonette,
and fanciful as any: that alone recalls her story. The poet waits
“ Fades the light for her in the darkened room till he breathes
And afar the odor. There is a suggestion of Long
Goeth day, cometh night,
And a star fellow in the lines:
Leadeth all, "For the laugh is fled from porch and lawn,
To their rest!
Love, good night!
Must thou go
When the day and the light
Need thee so--
Heedeth all When the perfume has come and passed,
That is best?” even the fresh morning air and sunlight can
There is an intoxicating feeling in all of not lift its breath from his imagination; for, Bret Harte's poems that have to do with "The soul of that subtle, sad perfume,
Nature. The philosophic spirit of WordsAs the spiced embalmings, they say, outlast
worth is entirely wanting. He approaches The mummy laid in his rocky tomb, Awakens my buried past.
her with the lightness of a happy, full-spirAnd I think of the passion that shook my youth
ited child. His descriptions are seldom Of its aimless love and its idle pains,
productive of thought. Their power lies in And am thankful now for the certain truth
their freshness. He assumes the attitude of That only the sweet remains."
one who knows about the charms of the "Miss Blanche Says” is highly dramatic, mountains and the spicy balm of the forests, and written in the strong elementary meter and who wishes to share with you the secret. that appeals to the middle-class reader. He pictures these beauties felicitously and The close is a little blurred in some of its well, but that is the end. He never tells
you what he thinks about it, nor attempts to
“The air and woods are still,
The faintest rustle in the trees below, stamp your notion with his individuality.
The lowest tremor from the mountain rill, But he beguiles one curiously. The boyish
Comes to the ear as but the trailing flow instincts linger in the man. The breath of
Of spirit robes that walk unseen the hill; the woods, the flash of a bird's wing, the The moon, low sailing o'er the upland farm, perfume of the flowers, are magic in bring- The moon, low sailing where the waters fill ing back the old childish thrill. Our pulses
The lozenge lake, beside the banks of balm,
Gleams like a chevron on the river's arm.” dance with his as we read, and without a care to know the reason why. A few of his
IV. poems bring messages from the ocean. He has been abroad in the storm, when
The highest praise that could be given a “The marshes, black with summer drough t;
man in times gone by was that he dealt simWere all abroad with sea foam white." ply, honestly, and briefly with his hearers. Concepcion waiting for her lover saw how,
The same encomium is applicable to Bret
Harte, but in a different sense from. more “Day by day the daylight glittered on the vacant, conventional writers. In prose as in poesmiling seas.
try he occupies a unique position in AmeriAnd when
can authorship, not only in that his work lies “The rains came, and far-breaking, on the fierce in unfurrowed fields, but that he looks at life south-wester tost
from such a peculiar standpoint. His greatDashed the whole long coast with color, and then est mental power and rarest imagery are to be
vanished and were lost; Still she found him with the waters, lifted by the found in his prose tales. To them, and to morning breeze,
his imitations and sketches, the bulk of his Still she lost him with the folding of the great time has been given. white-tinted seas.”
He is an apostle of the impressionist But by far the greater part are inland in school, and his susceptibility carries him their imagery-pictures of valley, plain, almost to the entire suppression of his indiand hills. Bret Harte has the true western viduality. His strain of Jewish blood brings spirit, to which the deserted cabin is near him an oriental luxuriance of coloring. He and familiar, and mountain streams and has all the arts of the romancers at his finpine-spiced air are like wine. What he likes gers' ends. A pupil of Dickens, Thackeray, are the forests with their living tenants, and Hawthorne, and Irving, the most original of the plains that roll unplowed. “On a Cone his prose reflects in some degree the styles of the Big Trees” has a pleasing and honest of individuals of this group. He assumes avowal of these mountaineering tastes:
the methods of one or the other, as the
needs of his subject demand, and applies “Thou bringest me back the halcyon days
them to people and situations in ordinary Of grateful rest, the week of leisure: The journey lapped in autumn haze,
life; while his judgment seems unerring The sweet fatigue that seemed a pleasure;
in divining which pose to assume. The morning ride, the noonday halt,
studies of character are always made from The blazing slopes, the red dust rising; personal observation. With a facility that is And then the dim, brown, columned vault,
almost unconsciousness, he absorbs and reWith its cool, damp, sepulchral spicing.”
produces all that is unusual in the things “Cadet Grey” contains a stanza equally with which he is brought in contact. This characteristic. Very few of Bret Harte's fact accounts for the meagerness of incipoems are entirely given to description. dents depicted by him, the absence from his The pictures are scattered about through pages of many well-known and startling work of different vein, often -as here— events—such as the Vigilance Committee in merely serving as a foil for the comic vein San Francisco-which would seem to be of the piece:
attractive material for a Californian novelist.
He is master of that portion of criticism fascinating in the performance condemned, which consists of analysis, and this faculty, and turns upon himself and enjoys it. Mr. in all probability, is the source of many of Harte ventures no speculation on what the his happiest efforts. Yet I doubt if it will effect would be if this sort of thing were carguide him in the production of enduring lit- ried generally into society; and I doubt if erature. No writer is of high grade who, he would want to carry the matter so far. besides the analytical faculty, does not He presents merely the facts as they are possess the deductive faculty of judgment and where they are; and the only lesson Bret Harte's strength is unquestionable in taught is a little leniency in judgment, and a those brilliant pieces of analysis, "The Con- charitable disbelief in total depravity. Perdensed Novels." They are reductions to haps Miggles would not, in real life, have scale of the intellects of noted authors, and given herself up to a career of such unselfprod at faults and mannerisms as unmerci- ish devotion, and perhaps Oakhurst was not fully and surely as Poe's most sarcastic equal to the act of shooting himself so as to shasts. They are parodies, but they are save food for his starving companions; but more: aside from the burlesque of style and there appears to be the stamp of truth upon manners, the spirit of the individual novelist it as we read, and that is all that can be deis condensed and imitated till the work manded. assumes the proportions of a new creation. The dates of the production of these tales But nowhere does Bret Harte allow himself are of small importance. There is a group to record a judgment of the thing condensed. of six stories—most of them produced early
This faculty is the key to all his following that stand head and shoulders above the work. The field is altered, but the method remainder of Bret Harte's prose. Yet much remains the same. In the Spanish legends interest attaches to the earlier sketches, in there is always a tinge of Irving; and the that they are studies in the material from dramatic stories have many of the Dickens which Mr. Harte has produced his more finear-marks. Mr. Harte's contempt for the ished pictures. They are unpretending in "cant of “too much mercy'” crops out even form, and display a remarkable facility for in the stories that seem most moral. They grasping and recording the particulars of carry the idea that in this world of lawless- all that he reports. The work in them is ness and crime there is a steady undercur- strong, and betrays the spirit of the storyrent of purity and honor that is plainly to teller behind that of the reporter. “Notes be seen if we will but look for it. They are by Flood and Field,” for instance, is almost his firm endeavor to substitute the world of a story in itself, as is also the sketch called sentiment for the world of sense. He strug- “High-Water Mark." In each there is a
” gles, in the name of human charity, to screen distinct line of fiction, and the character behind some single virtue the moral filth and drawing is more vigorous than in much of blackness of the desperado. It hurts him his later work. to believe that any man is irreclaimably bad. These sketches were the foundation on His impatient spirit took arms against the which Bret Harte built up the stories that conventionalism of “man's inhumanity to brought him his sudden reputation. Nothman,” and expressed itself in works of which ing illustrates his methods of work better “The Outcasts of Poker Flat” and “Mig- than the progressive character of these progles” are the most perfect types.
ductions. He has a way of groping round Yet he presents his immorality in such an a thing with his words in search of the best unmoral way as to render it practically harm- methods of expression for it. The same less. The stories are masterpieces of deli- thought will be found repeated in successive cate handling: so much so that the moral articles, but smoother and more polished censor who has made out his case against with each repetition. One can almost see them often finds something treacherously the painful work of erasure and interlineation