A Way to Remember: Joaquin Miller and the California Gold Rush

March 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

Faith of the Pioneer Myth: 

As California approached its 50th birthday of statehood, its most renowned “poet of the Sierras” penned what would be the motto of remembering the California Gold Rush. Published in the official pamphlet of California’s Golden Jubilee, most visitors and many of the state’s residents would be exposed to this prose. In remembering the Gold Rush, California’s residents referred to the lines in bold (below) for reflection, assistance in commemoration, and in some ways social retribution when invoked in the name of reforming California’s savage past. But more than anything else, Joaquin Miller’s words became a significant temporal linkage. Those who wanted to invoke the Pioneer Myth of California simply had to recite the few words, “The days of old, the days of gold, the days of ’49.”

{Source Transcription}

“’49.”

We have worked our claims,

We have spent our gold,

Our barks are astrand on the bars;

We are battered and old,

Yet at night we behold

Outcroppings of gold in the stars.

Chorus–

Tho’ battered and old,

Our Hearts are bold.

Yet oft do we repine

For the days of old,

For the days of gold.

For the days of forty-nine. (my emphasis)

Where the rabbits play,

Where the quail all day

Pipe on the chaparral hill;

A few more days,

And the last of us lays

His pick aside, and all is still.

Chorus–

We are wreck and stray,

We are cast away,

Poor, battered old hulks and spars;

But we hope and pray,

On the judgement day,

We shall strike it up in the stars.

Chorus–

– Joaquin Miller

Further Reading:

Posts:

Primary Sources:

References:

  • Golden Jubilee Committee. OFFICIAL SOUVENIER OF CALIFORNIA’S GOLDEN JUBILEE – HELD AT SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – BEGINNING JANUARY 24, 1898 AND ENDING JANUARY 29, 1898. CONTAINING THE PROGRAMME OF EACH DAY’S EVENTS, WITH MUCH READING MATTER OF INTEREST PERTAINING TO THE DISCOVERY OF GOLD, AND MANY ILLUSTRATIONS. San Francisco: H. S. Crocker Company, Printers, 1898.

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