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- Old Spookses' Pass - 4/37 -


Round spun the herd in a great black wheel, Slower an' slower--ye've seen beneath A biggish torrent a whirlpool spin, Its waters black es the face of Death? 'Pear'd sort of like that the "millin'" herd We kept by the leaders--HIM and me, Neck by neck, an' he sung a tune, About a young gal, nam'd Betsey Lee!

XLIX.

Jine in the chorus? Wal, yas, I did. He sung like a regilar mockin' bird. An' us cowboys allus sing out ef tew calm The scare, ef we can, of a runnin' herd. Slower an' slower wheel'd round the "mill"; The maddest old steer of a leader slow'd; Slower an' slower sounded the hoofs Of the hoss that HIM in front of me rode.

L.

Fainter an' fainter grow'd that thar song Of Betsey Lee an' her har of gold; Fainter an' fainter grew the sound Of the unseen hoofs on the tore-up mold. The leadin' steer, that cuss of a Joe Stopp'd an' shook off the foam an' the sweat, With a stamp and a beller--the run was done, Wus glad of it, tew, yer free tew bet!

LI.

The herd slow'd up;--an' stood in a mass Of blackness, lit by the lightnin's eye: An' the mustang cower'd es _something_ swept Clus to his wet flank in passin' by. "Good night tew ye, Pard!" "Good night," sez I, Strainin' my sight on the empty air; The har riz rustlin' up on my head, Now that I hed time tew scare.

LII.

The mustang flinch'd till his saddle girth Scrap'd on the dust of the tremblin' ground-- There cum a laugh--the crack of a whip, A whine like the cry of a well pleas'd hound, The noise of a hoss thet rear'd an' sprang At the touch of a spur--then all was still; But the sound of the thunder dyin' down On the stony breast of the highest hill!

LIII.

The herd went back to its rest an' feed, Es quiet a crowd es ever wore hide; An' them boys in camp never heerd a lisp Of the thunder an' crash of that run an' ride. An' I'll never forget, while a wild cat claws, Or a cow loves a nibble of sweet blue grass, The cur'us pardner that rode with me In the night stampede in "Old Spookses Pass!"

THE HELOT.

I.

Low the sun beat on the land, Red on vine and plain and wood; With the wine-cup in his hand, Vast the Helot herdsman stood.

II.

Quench'd the fierce Achean gaze, Dorian foemen paus'd before, Where cold Sparta snatch'd her bays At Achaea's stubborn door.

III.

Still with thews of iron bound, Vastly the Achean rose, Godward from the brazen ground, High before his Spartan foes.

IV.

Still the strength his fathers knew (Dauntless when the foe they fac'd) Vein and muscle bounded through, Tense his Helot sinews brac'd.

V.

Still the constant womb of Earth, Blindly moulded all her part; As, when to a lordly birth, Achean freemen left her heart.

VI.

Still, insensate mother, bore Goodly sons for Helot graves; Iron necks that meekly wore Sparta's yoke as Sparta's slaves.

VII.

Still, O God mock'd mother! she Smil'd upon her sons of clay: Nurs'd them on her breast and knee, Shameless in the shameful day.

VIII.

Knew not old Achea's fires Burnt no more in souls or veins-- Godlike hosts of high desires Died to clank of Spartan chains.

IX.

Low the sun beat on the land, Purple slope and olive wood; With the wine cup in his hand, Vast the Helot herdsman stood.

X.

As long, gnarl'd roots enclasp Some red boulder, fierce entwine His strong fingers, in their grasp Bowl of bright Caecuban wine.

XI.

From far Marsh of Amyclae, Sentried by lank poplars tall-- Thro' the red slant of the day, Shrill pipes did lament and call.

XII.

Pierc'd the swaying air sharp pines, Thyrsi-like, the gilded ground Clasp'd black shadows of brown vines, Swallows beat their mystic round.

XIII.

Day was at her high unrest; Fever'd with the wine of light, Loosing all her golden vest, Reel'd she towards the coming night.

XIV.

Fierce and full her pulses beat; Bacchic throbs the dry earth shook; Stirr'd the hot air wild and sweet; Madden'd ev'ry vine-dark brook.

XV.

Had a red grape never burst, All its heart of fire out; To the red vat all a thirst, To the treader's song and shout:

XVI.

Had the red grape died a grape; Nor, sleek daughter of the vine, Found her unknown soul take shape


Old Spookses' Pass - 4/37

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