James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

August 12

Helen Hunt Jackson

By Ina D. Coolbrith (1841–1928)

  • An American writer of poems and novels. She was much interested in the Indians and was appointed special commissioner to inquire into the condition of the Mission Indians in California. She died on August 12, 1885.

  • WHAT songs found voice upon those lips,

    What magic dwelt within the pen,

    Whose music into silence slips,

    Whose spell lives not again!

    For her the clamorous to-day

    The dreamful yesterday became;

    The brands upon dead hearths that lay

    Leapt into living flame.

    Clear ring the silvery mission bells

    Their calls to vesper and to mass;

    O’er vineyard slopes, through fruited dells,

    The long processions pass;

    The pale Franciscan lifts in air

    The Cross above the kneeling throng;

    Their simple world how sweet with prayer,

    With chant and matin-song!

    There, with her dimpled lifted hands,

    Parting the mustard’s golden plumes,

    The dusky maid, Ramona, stands

    Amid the sea of blooms.

    And Alessandro, type of all

    His broken tribe, for evermore

    An exile, hears the stranger call

    Within his father’s door.

    The visions vanish and are not,

    Still are the sounds of peace and strife,—

    Passed with the earnest heart and thought

    Which lured them back to life.

    O sunset land! O land of vine!

    And rose, and bay! in silence here

    Let fall one little leaf of thine,

    With love, upon her bier.