Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
June 9
Dickens in Camp
By Francis Bret Harte (1836–1902)
(Died June 9, 1870)

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-vines 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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