Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
His Answer to “Her Letter”
By Bret Harte (1836–1902)
Reported by Truthful James

BEING asked by an intimate party—
  Which the same I would term as a friend—
Which his health it were vain to call hearty,
  Since the mind to deceit it might lend;
For his arm it was broken quite recent,        5
  And has something gone wrong with his lung,—
Which is why it is proper and decent
  I should write what he runs off his tongue.
First, he says, Miss, he’s read through your letter
  To the end,—and the end came too soon.        10
That a slight illness kept him your debtor
  (Which for weeks he was wild as a loon),
That his spirits are buoyant as yours is;
  That with you, Miss, he challenges Fate,
(Which the language that invalid uses        15
  At times it were vain to relate).
And he says that the mountains are fairer
  For once being held in your thought;
That each rock holds a wealth that is rarer
  Than ever by gold-seeker sought—        20
(Which are words he would put in these pages,
  By a party not given to guile;
Which the same not, at date, paying wages,
  Might produce in the sinful a smile.)
He remembers the ball at the Ferry,        25
  And the ride, and the gate, and the vow,
And the rose that you gave him—that very
  Same rose he is treasuring now;
(Which his blanket he’s kicked on his trunk, Miss,
  And insists on his legs being free;        30
And his language to me from his bunk, Miss,
  Is frequent and painful and free.)
He hopes you are wearing no willows,
  But are happy and gay all the while;
That he knows—(which this dodging of pillows        35
  Imparts but small ease to the style,
And the same you will pardon)—he knows, Miss,
  That, though parted by many a mile,
Yet, were he lying under the snows, Miss,
  They’d melt into tears at your smile.        40
And you’ll still think of him in your pleasures,
  In your brief twilight-dreams of the past,
In this green laurel-spray that he treasures.
  It was plucked where your parting was last.
In this specimen—but a small trifle—        45
  It will do for a pin for your shawl;
(Which the truth not to wickedly stifle,
  Was his last week’s “clean up”—and his all.)
He’s asleep—which the same might seem strange, Miss,
  Were it not that I scorn to deny        50
That I raised his last dose for a change, Miss,
  In view that his fever was high,
But he lies there quite peaceful and pensive;
  And, now, my respects, Miss, to you;
Which, my language, although comprehensive,        55
  Might seem to be freedom—it’s true.
Which I have a small favor to ask you,
  As concerns a bull-pup, which the same—
If the duty would not overtask you—
  You would please to procure for me, game,        60
And send per express to the Flat, Miss,
  Which they say York is famed for the breed,
Which though words of deceit may be that—Miss,
  I’ll trust to your taste, Miss, indeed.
P. S.—Which this same interfering        65
  In other folks’ ways I despise—
Yet, if so be I was hearing
  That it’s just empty pockets as lies
Betwixt you and Joseph—it follers
  That, having no family claims,        70
Here’s my pile—which it’s six hundred dollars,
  As is, yours, with respects,—TRUTHFUL JAMES.

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