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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Dickens in Camp
By Bret Harte (1836–1902)
 
ABOVE the pines the moon was slowly drifting,
        The river sang below;
The dim Sierras, far beyond, uplifting
        Their minarets of snow.
 
The roaring camp-fire, with rude humor, painted        5
        The ruddy tints of health
On haggard face and form that drooped and fainted
        In the fierce race for wealth;
 
Till one arose, and from his pack’s scant treasure
        A hoarded volume drew,        10
And cards were dropped from hands of listless leisure
        To hear the tale anew.
 
And then, while round them shadows gathered faster,
        And as the firelight fell,
He read aloud the book wherein the Master        15
        Had writ of “Little Nell.”
 
Perhaps ’twas boyish fancy,—for the reader
        Was youngest of them all,—
But, as he read, from clustering pine and cedar
        A silence seemed to fall;        20
 
The fir-trees, gathering closer in the shadows,
        Listened in every spray,
While the whole camp, with “Nell” on English meadows
        Wandered and lost their way.
 
And so in mountain solitudes, o’ertaken        25
        As by some spell divine,
Their cares dropped from them like the needles shaken
        From out the gusty pine.
 
Lost is that camp and wasted all its fire:
        And he who wrought that spell?        30
Ah! towering pine and stately Kentish spire,
        Ye have one tale to tell!
 
Lost is that camp; but let its fragrant story
        Blend with the breath that thrills
With hop-vine’s incense all the pensive glory        35
        That fills the Kentish hills.
 
And on that grave where English oak and holly
        And laurel wreaths entwine,
Deem it not all a too presumptuous folly,—
        This spray of Western pine!        40
 
 
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