Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Fight of Paso del Mar

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Western States: Paso del Mar, Cal.

The Fight of Paso del Mar

By Bayard Taylor (1825–1878)

GUSTY and raw was the morning,

A fog hung over the seas,

And its gray skirts, rolling inland,

Were torn by the mountain trees;

No sound was heard but the dashing

Of waves on the sandy bar,

When Pablo of San Diego

Rode down to the Paso del Mar.

The pescadòr, out in his shallop,

Gathering his harvest so wide,

Sees the dim bulk of the headland

Loom over the waste of the tide;

He sees, like a white thread, the pathway

Wind round on the terrible wall,

Where the faint, moving speck of the rider

Seems hovering close to its fall.

Stout Pablo of San Diego

Rode down from the hills behind;

With the bells on his gray mule tinkling

He sang through the fog and wind.

Under his thick, misted eyebrows

Twinkled his eye like a star,

And fiercer he sang as the sea-winds

Drove cold on the Paso del Mar.

Now Bernal, the herdsman of Chino,

Had travelled the shore since dawn,

Leaving the ranches behind him,—

Good reason had he to be gone!

The blood was still red on his dagger,

The fury was hot in his brain,

And the chill, driving scud of the breakers

Beat thick on his forehead in vain.

With his poncho wrapped gloomily round him,

He mounted the dizzying road,

And the chasms and steeps of the headland

Were slippery and wet, as he trod:

Wild swept the wind of the ocean,

Rolling the fog from afar,

When near him a mule-bell came tinkling,

Midway on the Paso del Mar.

“Back!” shouted Bernal, full fiercely,

And “Back!” shouted Pablo, in wrath,

As his mule halted, startled and shrinking,

On the perilous line of the path.

The roar of devouring surges

Came up from the breakers’ hoarse war;

And, “Back, or you perish!” cried Bernal,

“I turn not on Paso del Mar!”

The gray mule stood firm as the headland:

He clutched at the jingling rein,

When Pablo rose up in his saddle

And smote till he dropped it again.

A wild oath of passion swore Bernal,

And brandished his dagger, still red,

While fiercely stout Pablo leaned forward,

And fought o’er his trusty mule’s head.

They fought till the black wall below them

Shone red through the misty blast;

Stout Pablo then struck, leaning farther,

The broad breast of Bernal at last.

And, frenzied with pain, the swart herdsman

Closed on him with terrible strength,

And jerked him, despite of his struggles,

Down from the saddle at length.

They grappled with desperate madness,

On the slippery edge of the wall;

They swayed on the brink, and together

Reeled out to the rush of the fall.

A cry of the wildest death-anguish

Rang faint through the mist afar,

And the riderless mule went homeward

From the fight of the Paso del Mar.