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A BALLAD OF CALIFORNIA.
BY BAYARD TAYLOR.
From the doorway, Manuela, in the sheeny
Southward looks, along the valley, over leagues of gleaming corn;
Where the mountain’s misty rampart like the wall of Eden towers,
And the isles of oak are sleeping on a painted sea of flowers.
All the air is full of music, for the winter rains are o’er,
And the noisy magpies chatter from the budding sycamore;
Blithely frisk unnumbered squirrels, over all the grassy slope;
Where the airy summits brighten, nimbly leaps the antelope.
Gentle eyes of Manuela! tell me wherefore do ye rest
On the oaks’ enchanted islands and the flowery ocean’s breast?
Tell me wherefore down the valley, ye have traced the highway’s mark
Far beyond the belts of timber, to the mountain-shadows dark?
Ah, the fragrant bay may blossom, and the sprouting verdure shine
With the tears of amber dropping from the tassels of the pine.
And the morning’s breath of balsam lightly brush her sunny cheek—
Little recketh Manuela of the tales of Spring they speak.
When the Summer’s burning solstice on the mountain-harvests glowed,
She had watched a gallant horseman riding down the valley road;
Many times she saw him turning, looking back with parting thrills,
Till amid her tears she lost him, in the shadow of the hills.
Ere the cloudless moons were over, he had passed the Desert’s sand.
Crossed the rushing Colorada and the dark Apache Land,
And his laden mules were driven, when the time of rains began.
With the traders of Chihuaha, to the Fair of San Juan.
Therefore watches Manuela—therefore lightly doth she start,
When the sound of distant footsteps seems the beating of her heart;
Not a wind the green oak rustles or the redwood branches stirs,
But she hears the silver jingle of his ringing bit and spurs.
Often, out the hazy distance, come the horsemen, day by day,
But they come not as Bernardo—she can see it, far away;
Well she knows the airy gallop of his mettled alazan,
Light as any antelope upon the Hills of Gavilan.
She would know him mid a thousand, by his free and gallant air;
By the featly-knit sarape, such as wealthy traders wear;
By his broidered calzoneros and his saddle, gaily spread,
With its cantle rimmed with silver, and its horn a lion’s head.
None like he the light riata on the maddened bull can throw;
None amid the mountain-canons, track like he the stealthy doe;
And at all the Mission festals, few indeed the revelers are
Who can dance with him the jota, touch with him the gay guitar.
He has said to Manuela, and the echoes