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BY R. L. SANDWICK.
Principal Monterey Schools. Read by Miss Flora Conover at McKinley memorial services held in Assembly Hall, Pacific Grove, Cal., September 19, 1901. President McKinley spoke here with great feeling to the G. A. R. June last.
A people mourns. A doleful bell
Find sad relief.
He stood among us. Dignity
A pameless grace
Beamed from his wide brow, halo-like,
A nation mourns.-- The bounteous hand
Columbia mourns.- The mighty heart
Within the grave.
And yet we know he worthy went,
It was his due.
His honors ripe upon his head,
It was God's will.
And in this spot beside the bay,
Shall in his gracious likeness grow.
On the Heights back of Oakland, Cal.
From "American Authors and Their Homes,”
By FRANCIS WHITING HALSEY, Literary Editor New York Times. To see a poet near at hand, to see him in his own home, is generally matter for disillusion. One recalls that amusing confession by Howells of his first meeting with Charles Warren Stoddard and his deep disappointment that the author of "Chumming With a Savage” should have been so different from his ideal. Even Tennyson, when he growled over Max Müller's mutton chops, showed the feet of clay.
But one who sees Joaquin Miller, the Poet of the Sierras, in his own home on the heights back of Oakland, need not fear any disappointment; for Joaquin is a living embodiment of his poetry. Absolutely unlike, in his work, any other poet of his day and generation, he is equally unlike his brethren in his personal traits and in his home. For years that home, overlooking the Golden Gate, had been his dream, and even as far back as twenty years ago, when he was the literary lion of London for a season and was the favorite of Tennyson, Browning, Rossetti, Swinburne, and William Morris,
, he saw as in a vision the place he was to create for a hermitage:
With a slight poetic license this will serve as an accurate description of the Heights, Joaquin Miller's home, which is about eight miles back of the little village of Fruitvale, a suburb of Oakland. It is reached by the electric cars and a stiff walk of a mile and a half up a winding foot-hill road, much of the way under the pleasant shade of eucalyptus and acacia trees. Before one is the first high ridge of hills, which forms the base of a spur of the coast range of mountains. At every turn of the road superb glimpses of Oakland and of San Francisco Bay are caught, framed in the vivid green foliage of the Australian gum-trees.
When at last the crown of the hill is reached and one stands before the poet's home, a splendid prospect is unrolled, such as may be seen from only a few of the great mountains of California. The elevation is only a few hundred feet, but the spot commands an enormous range. All around are rolling hills, flanked by tawny mountains, fading into the purple blue of the distant horizon, crowned by Mount Diablo. Below and on clear days, seemingly only a gunshot away, are Oakland and Alameda and the green marshes and lagoons that form the crescent shore of San Francisco Bay. For fifty miles the eye takes in the superb sweep of this incomparable bay, and then it rests with delight on the distant city of San Francisco, piled high on its hundred hills, its windows flashing back the brilliant sunshine. Beyond, to the right, one looks thru the nearly clasped arms of leaden-colored land thru the famous Golden Gate -out to the deep, blue Pacific, which has never lost its mystery since Balboa first beheld it,
Silent upon a peak in Darien."
The contour of hills is such that one seems cut off from the world and left to the fellowship of mountain, sea, and sky. Turning, however, from this great panorama, the poet's home is seen. It consists of several small houses, half hidden among trees and vines and flanked by winding, treeshaded paths, walled up with stones, which reach clear to the summit of the little hills behind. Entering the gateway, one passes over a little bridge which spans a ditch of clear, running water and comes to the poet's own house, a Gothic cottage, with small porch and wide-open door.
A little way up the steep billside are three other houses, all half concealed in a maze of roses, passion flowers, acacia, climbing ivy, cedar, spruce, pine, and eucalyptus. Regular thickets are here of the Cherokee rose and tangles of La France and other beautiful roses, with the varied greens of the cedar, the olive, and the pine. When Henry Irving and Ellen Terry visited Miller about four years ago, the pathway from the road to the house over which the famous actors walked was covered with the choicest of roses. Thru all this shrubbery run ditches with life-giving water, that water which, with the California sunshine, like that of Palestine, makes a desert blossom as the rose.
Miller did not have the desert to transform, but he did have a high, dry, rocky hillside. He has converted it into a little paradise of rich blooms and sweet odors. Welcome as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land is the sight of this flower-garden, set in the brown bosom of the hills. More than a dozen springs have been developed, and by means of pipes and ditches the poet has fountains and fish-ponds at his very door.
It was a hot afternoon when the writer climbed the road to the Heights, and, entering the Gothic cottage, found the poet enjoying the coolness of an adjoining room, upon the roof of which an artificial shower was descending The poet was seated on a pallet in the corner. In his usual afternoon garb, he was as picturesque as his surroundings.
Imagine a man of tall, athletic build, with fine, dome-shaped brow; long, tawny hair streaked with gray; a tangle of yellow mustache and beard; a strong, large nose, sunburned like his cheeks, and clear, flashing, gray.blue eyes that look out from under heavy, bushy eyebrows with the quickness and the eagerness of a boy's. Something there is of the scout and the plainsman in the eyes, face, and movements. He looks as one fancies Kit Carson looked when he guided Frémont the Pathfinder thru the hostile Indian country out to the Western sea. Miller was dressed in a corduroy coat, trousers in boots, pongee shirt, with loose Japanese silk neck-scarf, and broad sombrero. The whole appearance of the man suggested his revolt against any restraint of costume, just as his talk suggests his warfare on conventionality and his delight in what is free and spontaneous in nature and life.
The poet's workroom is the main apartment of the Gothic cottage. The sun streams in thru the open door. The walls are ceiled with the California redwood, upstained and without touch of shellac or oil. On the bare floor are a few fine skins, and on the bed in the corner are other robes.
The remainder of the furniture consists of a bureau, with a wide-open top drawer, mainly used as a receptacle for "copy," and a couple of chairs. On the walls are many photographs of famous men — Tennyson, Browning, Morris, Sir Walter Besant, Garibaldi, Napoleon, and many others, with some ideal heads from the English weekly papers. On the bureau is a glass with some beautiful roses.
Miller works wholly in bed. When he wakes in the morning he has his coffee. Then he makes a bolster of his pillows, gets out a large manila pad, and goes to work. He usually writes in pencil, in big hieroglyphics, which only those trained to the peculiarities of his penmanship can decipher. These sheets are afterwards typewritten. He waits for this transcript before making any corrections. As a rule, he works steadily till noon. Then he dresses, bas lunch with his family, and devotes the remainder of the day to labor or recreation out of doors.
With Miller the gift of song came by nature; it has never been developed by art. The lyric faculty, which one of our best critics declares that he has in greater measure than any American poet except Poe, he uses with the same freedom that a great singer uses his voice. Words come to him without effort, and language becomes plastic under his hand as it has only been in this age under the hands of Tennyson and Swinburne.
His best work breathes his love for the mountains and the forests of the Sierras, the home of his boy hood; and these songs, which make the exiled Californian homesick, were written while he was in Europe. In him also is a great longing to reproduce the splendid courage and the spiritual power of the early navigators — Magellan, Drake, Vancouver, Hawkins, and all that poble crew — half adventurers and half pirates-who solved the mystery of the unknown Pacific. He believes that bere is the field for the future poet and romance writer, rather than in the past of the Old World, which has been dug over until all its freshness is gone.
Joaquin does not care to talk of the work he has done. He looks forward to greater and finer work in the future. His noblest poems bave been written within five years. One is on the death of Tennyson, the other on Columbus. Either would serve to assure fame for a poet. On returning from Alaska two years ago he long felt the physical effects of the enormous strain of life under the Arctic Circle, but his mind eventually became clearer and stronger, and his impressions took shape.
When he talks of the scenery of the Far North his eye lights up with enthusiasm. “My old loyalty to the Sierras,” he says, “is gone. Those Northern mountains dwarf our Shasta and our Yosemite. No words can describe their grandeur ; it weigbs on the soul. Clothed in perpetual snow, with great sabre gashes down their sides, they give one the impression of a tremendous force which menaces man and makes all his work seem pany and contemptible. The world has no scenery like that which meets the traveler on the way to the Klondike. Then, too, the coloring of the mountains, the effects of the midnight sun on fields of ice and snow, the long arctic night - these are things which would make the greatest artist in words realize how poor, is his skill.” Joaquin puts his impressions of the Yukon country and his experiences as a prospector on the Klondike into a lecture, which he has delivered thruout the East.
After this talk we went out and strolled up the hill to look over the poet's possessions. In the nearest cottage was his favorite daughter, Miss Maud Miller. Farther up the hill, in the best sheltered spot, is the prettiest cottage — the home of the poet's mother. He calls her "My Queen," and for her everyone else must give way.
This love and reverence for his mother reveals Miller's best traits - the tenderness of his nature and the kindness which has survived many harsh experiences. Tho over eighty, the old lady is still bright in mind and active in body. She takes a keen interest in current affairs, and talks well. In her pleasant reception-room is the art treasure of the Heights - a superb portrait of John C. Frémont, painted by Jewett in 1852. It shows the fine eyes of the Pathfinder, with the curve of the eyebrow that betokens courage and will, and it seems to me to reveal more of the real character of the man than any other picture. It was painted on a tablecloth of one of the Panama steamers, and its genuineness is fully attested.
Everyone on the Heights bas a separate dwelling-place where privacy may be enjoyed. Joaquin believes in personal seclusion. He thinks that the world loses much from its tendency to gregariousness. He believes that a man should not be too familiar even with the members of his own family, and that there are times when solitude is a necessity. His system may seem odd, but it has much to recommend it.
Over beyond Miller's cottage is a trout-pond filled with pretty fish, and farther up the hill a Doric gateway which leads to the higher paths. Joaquin has demonstrated on this steep hillside how many beautiful walks one may make by planting a few trees. The lower sides of the paths are walled up with stone, and are thus protected from washing by heavy rains. Far up on the summit of the hill is a solid stone mausoleum or funeral pyre, eight feet high, ten feet long, and ten feet broad It is made of black flint rock, and will endure for ages. The poet has left instructions that his body sball be cremated upon it, and the ashes flung to the four winds of heaven. Near at hand is a huge bowlder on which is graven, “To the Unknown." Upon the summit of another hill is a pyramidal pile of rocks dedicated to Browning, while not far away the poet hopes to erect a monument to Frémont, by the side of a huge bowlder which marks the site of the Pathfinder's camp when he passed over these hills in 1843.
Returning from the summit, one is impressed more strongly than before