Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  Hearing the News in Idaho

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

Hearing the News in Idaho

By Charles Henry Phelps (1853–1933)

A TRAIL, cut through the banks of snow,

Winds up and o’er the mountain chain

To where the pines of Idaho

Stand guard upon the Cœur d’Alene;

A thousand feet above the clouds,

A thousand feet below the stars,

The narrow path just rims the shrouds

That wrap the warlike form of Mars.

On Eagle and on Pritchard Creeks,

In Dream Gulch and at Murrayville,

The camp-fires play their ruddy freaks,

Redden the snow with lurid streaks,

And melt, perchance, on every hill,

The nuggets which the miner seeks.

One night in camp the game ran high;

Desperate some and reckless more;

In every cañon revelry;

And boisterous songs went rolling by

With rugged jokes and lusty roar—

When, all at once, a sudden hush

Passed like a whisper through the pines;

The chorus ceased its noisy rush,

The gamblers broke their eager lines,

And many bared a shaggy head,

And some upon that silent air

Breathed forth a rude, unpractised prayer;

The sick moaned on his hemlock bed;

For, down the peaks of Idaho,

Across the trail cut through the snow,

Had come this message:
“Grant is dead!”

Then men, who knew each other not,

Gathered, and talked in undertone.

And one said: “I have not forgot

How he led us at Donelson.”

And one, who spoke his name to bless,

Said: “I was in the Wilderness.”

And one: “I was in Mexico.”

And still another, old and scarred,

And weather-bronzed and battle-marred,

Broke down with this one word: “Shiloh.”

Then, by the firelight’s fitful blaze,

With broken voice, beneath the trees,

One read of those last painful days,

And of his calm soul’s victories,

So like his old heroic ways.

Touched to the heart, they did not seek

To hide the love of many years,

But down each rough and furrowed cheek

Crept manly, unaccustomed tears.

Ah! not upon this younger sod

Shall dew more grateful ever fall;

And never lips to Freedom’s God

In prayer more fervently shall call.

And thou, calm Spirit, in what path

Thy dauntless footsteps ever tread,

No blessing kindlier meaning hath

Than brave men speak above their dead.