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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

From “Arizonian”

By Joaquin (Cincinnatus Hiner) Miller (1837–1913)

[Born in Wabash District, Ind. Died in Oakland, Ca., 1913. Songs of the Sierras. By Joaquin Miller. 1871.]

THE RED ripe stars hang low overhead,

Let the good and the light of soul reach up,

Pluck gold as plucking a butter-cup:

But I am as lead and my hands are red;

There is nothing that is that can wake one passion

In soul or body, or one sense of pleasure,

No fame or fortune in the world’s wide measure,

Or love full-bosomed or in any fashion.

The doubled sea, and the troubled heaven,

Starred and barred by the bolts of fire,

In storms where stars are riven, and driven

As clouds through heaven, as a dust blown higher;

The angels hurled to the realms infernal,

Down from the walls in unholy wars

That man misnameth the falling stars;

The purple robe of the proud Eternal,

The Tyrian blue with its fringe of gold,

Shrouding His countenance, fold on fold—

All are dull and tame as a tale that is told.

For the loves that hasten and the hates that linger,

The nights that darken and the days that glisten,

And men that lie and maidens that listen,

I care not even the snap of my finger.

So the sun climbs up, and on, and over,

And the days go out and the tides come in,

And the pale moon rubs on the purple cover

Till worn as thin and as bright as tin;

But the ways are dark and the days are dreary,

And the dreams of youth are but dust in age,

And the heart gets hardened, and the hands grow weary

Holding them up for their heritage.

And the strained heartstrings wear bare and brittle,

And the fond hope dies when so long deferred;

Then the fair hope lies in the heart interred,

So stiff and cold in its coffin of lead.

For you promise so great and you gain so little;

For you promise so great of glory and gold,

And gain so little that the hands grow cold;

And for gold and glory you gain instead

A fond heart sickened and a fair hope dead.

So I have said, and I say it over,

And can prove it over and over again,

That the four-footed beasts on the red-crowned clover,

The pied and hornèd beasts on the plain

That lie down, rise up, and repose again,

And do never take care or toil or spin,

Nor buy, nor build, nor gather in gold,

Though the days go out and the tides come in,

Are better than we by a thousandfold;

For what is it all, in the words of fire,

But a vexing of soul and a vain desire?