Artemis in Sierra

A poem by Francis Bret Harte

Dramatis Personæ

Poet. Philosopher. Jones of Mariposa.

Halt! Here we are. Now wheel your mare a trifle
Just where you stand; then doff your hat and swear
Never yet was scene you might cover with your rifle
Half as complete or as marvelously fair.

Dropped from Olympus or lifted out of Tempe,
Swung like a censer betwixt the earth and sky!
He who in Greece sang of flocks and flax and hemp, he
Here might recall them six thousand feet on high!

Well you may say so. The clamor of the river,
Hum of base toil, and man’s ignoble strife,
Halt far below, where the stifling sunbeams quiver,
But never climb to this purer, higher life!

Not to this glade, where Jones of Mariposa,
Simple and meek as his flocks we’re looking at,
Tends his soft charge; nor where his daughter Rosa
(A shot.)
Hallo! What’s that?

A something thro’ my hat
Bullet, I think. You were speaking of his daughter?

Yes; but your hat you were moving through the leaves;
Likely he thought it some eagle bent on slaughter.
Lightly he shoots (A second shot.)

As one readily perceives.
Still, he improves! This time your hat has got it,
Quite near the band! Eh? Oh, just as you please
Stop, or go on.

Perhaps we’d better trot it
Down through the hollow, and up among the trees.

Trot, trot, trot, where the bullets cannot follow;
Trot down and up again among the laurel trees.

Thanks, that is better; now of this shot-dispensing
Jones and his girl you were saying

Well, you see
I hang it all! Oh! what’s the use of fencing!
Sir, I confess it! these shots were meant for me.

Are you mad!

God knows, I shouldn’t wonder!
I love this coy nymph, who, coldly as yon peak
Shines on the river it feeds, yet keeps asunder
Long have I worshiped, but never dared to speak.

Till she, no doubt, her love no longer hiding,
Waked by some chance word her father’s jealousy;
Slips her disdain as an avalanche down gliding
Sweeps flocks and kin away to clear a path for me.

Hence his attack.

I see. What I admire
Chiefly, I think, in your idyl, so to speak,
Is the cool modesty that checks your youthful fire,
Absence of self-love and abstinence of cheek!

Still, I might mention, I’ve met the gentle Rosa,
Danced with her thrice, to her father’s jealous dread;
And, it is possible, she’s happened to disclose a
Ahem! You can fancy why he shoots at me instead.


Me. But kindly take your hand from your revolver,
I am not choleric but accidents may chance.
And here’s the father, who alone can be the solver
Of this twin riddle of the hat and the romance.

[Enter Jones of Mariposa.]

Speak, shepherd mine!

Hail! Time-and-cartridge waster,
Aimless exploder of theories and skill!
Whom do you shoot?

Jones of Mariposa
Well, shootin’ ain’t my taste, or
Ef I shoot anything I only shoot to kill.

That ain’t what’s up. I only kem to tell ye
Sportin’ or courtin’ trot homeward for your life!
Gals will be gals, and p’r’aps it’s just ez well ye
Larned there was one had no wish to be a wife.


Is this true?

Jones of Mariposa
I reckon it looks like it.
She saw ye comin’. My gun was standin’ by;
She made a grab, and ’fore I up could strike it,
Blazed at ye both! The critter is so shy!


Jones of Mariposa
My darter!


Jones of Mariposa
Same! Good-by!

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