Complete Poetical Works

Truthful James to the Editor

(Yreka, 1873)

Bret Harte

WHICH it is not my style
    To produce needless pain
By statements that rile
    Or that go ’gin the grain,
But here’s Captain Jack still a-livin’, and Nye has no skelp on his brain!

On that Caucasian head
    There is no crown of hair;
It has gone, it has fled!
    And Echo sez “Where?”
And I asks, “Is this Nation a White Man’s, and is generally things on the square?”

She was known in the camp
    As “Nye’s other squaw,”
And folks of that stamp
    Hez no rights in the law,
But is treacherous, sinful, and slimy, as Nye might hev well known before.

But she said that she knew
    Where the Injins was hid,
And the statement was true,
    For it seemed that she did,
Since she led William where he was covered by seventeen Modocs, and—slid!

Then they reached for his hair;
    But Nye sez, “By the law
Of nations, forbear!
    I surrenders—no more:
And I looks to be treated,—you hear me?—as a pris’ner, a pris’ner of war!”

But Captain Jack rose
    And he sez, “It’s too thin!
Such statements as those
    It’s too late to begin.
There’s a Modoc Indictment agin you, O Paleface, and you’re goin’ in!

“You stole Schonchin’s squaw
    In the year sixty-two;
It was in sixty-four
    That Long Jack you went through,
And you burned Nasty Jim’s rancheria, and his wives and his papooses too.

“This gun in my hand
    Was sold me by you
’Gainst the law of the land,
    And I grieves it is true!”
And he buried his face in his blanket and wept as he hid it from view.

But you’re tried and condemned,
    And skelping’s your doom,”
And he paused and he hemmed—
    But why this resume?
He was skelped ’gainst the custom of nations, and cut off like a rose in its bloom.

So I asks without guile,
    And I trusts not in vain,
If this is the style
    That is going to obtain—
If here’s Captain Jack still a-livin’, and Nye with no skelp on his brain?

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