Miner Rhymes from Gold Country

From the Trinity Times.

The Song of the Miner.

A PARODY – By L.F.W.

Turning all the rivers,
Working in the rills,
Tunnelling the mountains,
Sluicing off the hills;
Sweating in the sun, and
Shivering in the blast,
Mighty pleasant mode of
Living very fast!

Waiting through the summer,
Notice on a claim —
“Intend to work this ground as
Soon as it will rain.”
Building airy castles,
Filling them with gold;
Dreaming of the maidens
Known, and loved of old.

Traders shake their heads and
Grumble without reason,
Do not like to credit
‘Till the rainy season;
Tell them of our prospects,
Got a pile in view,
Found the bed rock pitching,
Gravel turning blue.

Skies begin to threaten,
Water come at last!
All the creeks and gulches
Rising very fast.
Break away the ditches,
Carry off the flume;
Too much of a good thing
Quite as bad as none!

Gentleman from Pike, thinks
There’s a “right smart” show;
Wants to make some money,
Grub is getting low.
Able-bodied Yankee
Never takes affront,
Means to make a fortune,
“Darn” him if he don’t.

Tender looking hombre
From the sunny South,
Obviously feeling
Down about the mouth,
Stranger in the country,
Stares when he is told
That his pan of mica
Will not pass for gold.

Colored population
Lucky to a man,
Putting on the airs that
Only darkies can.
Chinaman with rocker
Slowly trots along,
Muttering as he passes —
“Tax no good for John.”

Men of every nation,
Men of every shade,
Men of every station,
Men of every grade,
Entering together
In the golden race,
Pitching into nature,
Tearing up her face!

Turning all the rivers,
Working in the rills,
Tunnelling the mountains,
Sluicing off the hills,
Sweating in the sun, and
Shivering in the blast,
Mighty pleasant mode of
Living very fast!

Mountain Democrat, The (Placerville, California) Nov 29, 1856

While most of these poems are humorous, this next one is sad:

THE AGED MINER.

[In compliance with the request of a subscriber, we re-publish the following verses, contributed to the GOLDEN ERA a few years ago, by “A Mountain Bard.”]

He stood amidst the crowd,
With his visage wan and old,
With a trumpet voice and loud
He thus his story told;
“Ye miners all, ye weak and strong,
Who to these rivers swiftly throng,
Cast down your tools and fly amain,
To those at home, who cry in vain.
Give up the search, turn back I say,
And ye will bless that happy day.
Three mortal years I’ve roamed, yet look;
Can’t ye read me like a book?
I’m strapped, without a cent,
Let’s pause, my grief has found its vent.
On the hills, by the plains, they lie,
Prostrate and ill, they seek to die —
Little they reck or care for life,
To combat in a useless strife.
Hope deferred — indeed my friends —
My wife to me a letter sends —
She, trustful, hoped for happier days,
But who on earth can read God’s ways?
No more to me — two girls as fair
As the angles are, with golden hair,
They me blessed — a soothing balm
That o’er my bosom shed a calm.
I dreamed a spirit stood nigh me,
A glorious light around its brow;
Softly a voice said ‘come to me,
Where the living waters flow.'”
Thus spoke that care-worn man,
With voice so loud and clear,
The evening breeze his cheeks did fan,
The miners all did shake with fear —
Strangely sat fear upon their hearts,
Conscience loud smote in their breasts —
Guilt on their faces as each one starts,
At that old man’s behests —
They pressed around — besought his stay —
In vain, his thoughts were far away —
“My steps lie on the mountain top,
I cannot rest, I cannot stop.”
They watched him up the steep ascent,
And wondered whither he went.
News came — “beneath a stunted tree
A dead man lay” — the soul was free.

The Golden Era – May 11, 1862

I don’t know if Imogene was just a popular woman’s name that was used during this time period, but I ran across several items in The Golden Era newspaper, all humorous, in which Imogene was used.

A LETTER FROM CALIFORNIA.

BY PLUCK MARRIOT.

You needn’t expect for sometime yet
To see me come home, Imogene;
Nor need you frown and think I forget,
Nor turn to your sister, Jane and say
“How Pluck has changed since he went away
From his ‘sweet little Imogene.'”

You know I promised, when last we met
At the parlor door, Imogene,
I’d stay here a year, perhaps, and get,
What gold I could pack with a dozen men,
And come with it all back home again
To live with and wed Imogene.

But the hills are not all great lumps of gold,
As we pictured them, Imogene,
Nor do I find as we thought of old,
That all the sand in the creeks is bright,
Nor all men happy as once they might
Have lived with their dear Imogene.

My hand’s so stiff I can scarcely write
A letter to you, Imogene
For I work these days with all my might,
Yet I cannot tell as the months glide on,
How many more years I shall be gone
From my sweet little Imogene.

For the times are hard, and snows so deep,
Up here in the mines, Imogene,
And I’m often tempted to stop and weep,
For thinking how blind the future is —
But then my labor becomes a bliss
When I think of my Imogene.

Tell mother my health is very fair,
And kiss her for me, Imogene;
Don’t tell how hard winters are —
You know she’ll fret, its always her way —
But tell her I’ll surely come some day,
To live with you both, Imogene.

The Golden Era – Jun 15, 1862

LETTER FROM CARRIE.

DEAR ERA:– You can’t tell how tickled I was to see my letter printed. It looked so curious to see all I had written spelled out in types. I took it right to Uncle John and showed it to him, for he had laughed at me when I sent the letter to you and said you would only stuff it into that tall basket by your table. Well, uncle read it all over and said I might just as well have sent the kiss to you as to Cousin Charlie, as you were a better looking youth. By the way, Charlie wrote me a letter, last Tuesday, and he want me to tell you for him that you were very much mistaken in ascribing the authorship of the poetry “California” to any other person than himself. He says that he was the original author, and that he composed the verses one night when he was going after the cows. He says, moreover, that you have not printed a correct copy as he wrote it. He sends a copy that he says is all right and wants you to notify all of your readers of the fact. It runs as thus:

CALIFORNY.

Thar’s a right smart streak of timber land
That runs down to the shore,
Whar nater’s poured out everthing
That a white man wants and more.
Yes, jest actooally piled up good things over a man’s head till
He cries out, “Easy, Lord.”

In Autumn comes the honest miner down,
With every cent he’s made thoughout the year,
Straight from his far off mountain-crested home,
To spend for Concert Girls and German Lager Beer
The hard earned eagles his heart had once held dear.

We have here, too, our splendid Golden Gate;
(I spose it’s splendid, ’cause folks say it is,
But it’s really not exactly to my taste,
And I think I’ve had a fair look at its phiz
From plunger’s keel when great big storm had riz.)

Yes, here we stand beside the ragin’ main,
To guard our town from visionary foe;
We’ve got our Monitor, I reckon, where its plain
It’s safe from French or Peter Donohoe —
She fears not now the mildest storm that blows.

I was just going to apologise for not writing last week, but I see you crowded out that interesting department of “Answers to Correspondents” in last Sunday’s paper, and I wont say a word about it.

Yours, till — next week.
CARRIE

The Golden Era – Jan 24, 1864

Mining Life.

“Rural Betts,” writing from Josephine county, Oregon, to the editor of Harper’s Weekly, sends some extracts from a poem which he amused himself with writing while living alone and mining in the mountains of Southern Oregon. The following is his picture:

Back to his lonely camp at close of day
The luckless miner wends his weary way,
In pensive study where on earth to make
Another raise, a small provision stake.
Uncombed, unwashed, unshaven, and unshorn,
His clothes in strips by chaparral are torn;
Toes peeping from his boots, and battered hat,
Tired, wet, and weary as a drowned rat.
How changed from him we in the city knew,
In stove-pipe beaver and a long-tailed blue,
Cigar in mouth, and carpet-sack in hand,
By steamer bound to California land.
His store of wood collected for the night,
To dry his clothes, and cook his little bite;
A broken shovel fries his meat, and bakes
A hasty mixture of unleavened cakes;
An oyster-can for tea pot will suffice,
And pine or fur leaves Hyson’s place supplies.
His supper over, he improves a chance
To patch with flour sacks his demolished pants.
In musing mood he listens to the sound
Of night winds moaning in the woods around;
The mountain wolf or cougar’s long howl,
The shrill coyote and the hooting owl;
While as he plied his busy task, thus ran
The meditations of the lonely man.

Of which “meditations,” says the editor, we have only space to give eight concluding lines, which certainly imply that there may be disadvantages connected even with gold digging:

Poor as the Prodigal who fed with swine,
His dimes all spent in rioting and wine,
Chased by misfortune over hill and dale
Like a stray dog with a tin-pail as his tail;
Too poor to leave, and out of luck to stay,
The chance is small to ever get away;
Thus thousands live, exposed to all the ills
That luckless miners suffer in the hills.

The Golden Era – Jan 22, 1865

*****

NOTE: Most of the images are cropped from the following book:

HUNTING FOR GOLD: reminisences [sic] of personal experience and research in the early days of the Pacific coast from Alaska to Panama.                                                                    by William Downie – 1893 (Google book LINK)

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3 Responses to “Miner Rhymes from Gold Country”

  1. California Gold Poetry « YesterYear Once More Says:

    […] Miner Rhymes From the Gold Country […]

  2. j.p. hanby Says:

    Hello anyone who monitors this site. Could I have your permission to take part of the “The Aged Miner” and use it as a quote for a chapter I’m writing about gold mining?

    • oldnews Says:

      Hello, J.P.
      That poem was published in The Golden Era – May 11, 1862 so I would guess it is public domain by now? I didn’t write it, but I have no problem with you using it! Link your book once you publish. Would love to read it.

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