East and West Poems

A White-Pine Ballad

Bret Harte

RECENTLY with Samuel Johnson this occasion I improved,
Whereby certain gents of affluence I hear were greatly moved;
But not all of Johnson’s folly, although multiplied by nine,
Could compare with Milton Perkins, late an owner in White Pine.

Johnson’s folly—to be candid—was a wild desire to treat
Every able male white citizen he met upon the street;
And there being several thousand—but this subject why pursue?
’Tis with Perkins, and not Johnson, that to-day we have to do.

No: not wild promiscuous treating, not the winecup’s ruby flow,
But the female of his species brought the noble Perkins low.
’Twas a wild poetic fervor, and excess of sentiment,
That left the noble Perkins in a week without a cent.

“Milton Perkins,” said the Siren, “not thy wealth do I admire,
But the intellect that flashes from those eyes of opal fire;
And methinks the name thou bearest surely cannot be misplaced,
And, embrace me, Mister Perkins!” Milton Perkins her embraced.

But I grieve to state, that even then, as she was wiping dry
The tear of sensibility in Milton Perkins’ eye,
She prigged his diamond bosom-pin, and that her wipe of lace
Did seem to have of chloroform a most suspicious trace.

Enough that Milton Perkins later in the night was found
With his head in an ash-barrel, and his feet upon the ground;
And he murmured “Seraphina,” and he kissed his hand, and smiled
On a party who went through him, like an unresisting child.



Now one word to Pogonippers, ere this subject I resign,
In this tale of Milton Perkins,—late an owner in White Pine,—
You shall see that wealth and women are deceitful, just the same;
And the tear of sensibility has salted many a claim.

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