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THE GALAXY, January 1871



[short untitled miscellaneous item indexed as A "Forty-Niner"]

A "FORTY-NINER" (as the first emigrants to California are still called, in memory of the year 1849), who long ago returned from the Pacific, has discovered the following poem among his forgotten papers, and sends it for insertion in these pages. His note states that he picked it up in the streets of Stockton, California, twenty years ago; and the endorsement on the back and the old and yellow aspect of the MS. are good evidence of his truthfulness. Miners were very plenty in Stockton in those old days, and among them were many in whose hearts this "Lament" would have found an answering chord, and in their apparel an eloquent endorsement; but that is all past now. Stockton has no miners any more, and no celebrity except as being the place where the State insane asylum is located. But the celebrity is broad and well established; so much so, that when one is in California and tells a person he thinks of going to Stockton, the remark must be explained or an awkward report may get out that he is insane. You would not say in New York that a friend of yours had gone to Sing Sing, without explaining that he was not accredited to the penitentiary -- unless he was; in which case the explanation would be unnecessary elaboration of a remark that was elaborate enough before:



High on a rough and dismal crag,
Where Kean might spout, "Ay, there's the rub,"
Where oft, no doubt, some midnight hag
Had danced a jib with Beelzebub,
There stood beneath the pale moonlight
A miner grim, with visage long,
Who vexed the drowsy ear of night
With dreadful rhyme and dismal song.

He sang: "I have no harp or lute
To sound the stern decrees of Fate;
I once possessed a two-holed flute,
But that I sold to raise a stake.
Then wake thy strains, my wild tin pan,
Affright the crickets from their lairs,
Make wood and mountain ring again,
And terrify the grizzly bears.

"My heart is on a distant shore,
My gentle love is far away.
She dreams not that my clothes are tore!
And all besmeared with dirty clay;
She little knows how much of late,
Amid these dark and dismal scenes,
I've struggled with an adverse fate,
And lived, ah me! on pork and beans.

"Oh! that a bean would never grow,
To fling its shadow o'er my heart;
My tears of grief are hard to flow,
But food like this must make them start.
The good old times have passed away,
And all things now are strange and new,
All save my shirt and trousers gray,
Three stockings and one cowhide shoe!

"Oh, give me back the days of yore,
And all those bright tho' fading scenes
Connected with that happy shore
Where turkeys grow, and clams, and greens --
Those days that sank long weeks ago
Deep in the solemn grave of time,
And left no trace that man may know,
Save trousers all patched up behind!
And boots all worn, and shirts all torn,
Or botched with most outrageous stitches --
Oh, give me back those days of yore,
And take these weather-beaten breeches!"

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