Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IX. Tragedy: Humor
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IX. Tragedy: Humor.  1904.
Poems of Tragedy: XIII. America
Bret Harte (1836–1902)
Refugio Mine, Northern Mexico

  DRUNK and senseless in his place,
  Prone and sprawling on his face,
More like brute than any man
      Alive or dead,—
  By his great pump out of gear,        5
  Lay the peon engineer,
  Waking only just to hear,
  Angry tones that called his name,
  Oaths and cries of bitter blame,—        10
Woke to hear all this, and waking, turned and fled!
  “To the man who ’ll bring to me,”
  Cried Intendant Harry Lee,—
Harry Lee, the English foreman of the mine,—
  “Bring the sot alive or dead,        15
  I will give to him,” he said,
  “Fifteen hundred pesos down,
  Just to set the rascal’s crown
Underneath this heel of mine:
      Since but death        20
Deserves the man whose deed,
  Be it vice or want of heed,
  Stops the pumps that give us breath,—
  Stops the pumps that suck the death
From the poisoned lower level of the mine!”        25
  No one answered, for a cry
  From the shaft rose up on high;
And shuffling, scrambling, tumbling from below,
  Came the miners each, the bolder
  Mounting on the weaker’s shoulder,        30
  Grappling, clinging to their hold or
      Letting go,
  As the weaker gasped and fell
  From the ladder to the well,—
  To the poisoned pit of hell        35
      Down below!
  “To the man who sets them free,”
  Cried the foreman, Harry Lee,—
Harry Lee, the English foreman of the mine,—
  “Brings them out and sets them free,        40
  I will give that man,” said he,
  “Twice that sum, who with a rope
  Face to face with death shall cope:
  Let him come who dares to hope!”
  “Hold your peace!” some one replied,        45
  Standing by the foreman’s side;
“There has one already gone, whoe’er he be!”
  Then they held their breath with awe,
  Pulling on the rope, and saw
  Fainting figures reappear,        50
  On the black ropes swinging clear,
Fastened by some skilful hand from below;
  Till a score the level gained,
  And but one alone remained,—
  He the hero and the last,        55
  He whose skilful hand made fast
The long line that brought them back to hope and cheer!
  Haggard, gasping, down dropped he
  At the feet of Harry Lee,—
Harry Lee, the English foreman of the mine;        60
  “I have come,” he gasped, “to claim
  Both rewards, Señor,—my name
      Is Ramon!
  I ’m the drunken engineer,—
  I ’m the coward, Señor—” Here        65
  He fell over, by that sign
      Dead as stone!

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