Ghosts of the West

Joaquin Miller, c. 1906, reproduction number LC-USZ62-75390. Courtesy of the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2002697540/.

Joaquin Miller, c. 1906, reproduction number LC-USZ62-75390. Courtesy of the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2002697540/.

The colorful and untraditional life of Cincinnatus Hiner Miller, better known by his pen name Joaquin Miller, began on September 8th, 1837. While it’s often difficult to tell the truth from fiction in his story, it is clear that he lived a life of adventure in the Wild West and abroad. Running away from his family’s farm in Oregon, at the age of 13 he made his way to the gold mines in California. He took particular interest in the lives of the Native Americans, living amongst a tribe as a young man in California and as rumor has it marrying a Modoc Indian woman named Paquita. In his book Joaquin Miller’s Romantic Life Amongst the Red Indians, he recounts:

“I lived with them for years. You do not see the smoke of their wigwams through the trees. They do not smite the mountain rocks for gold, nor fell the pines, nor roll up the waters and ruin them for the fishermen. All this magnificent forest is their estate. The Great Spirit made this mountain first of all, and gave it to them, they say, and they have possessed it ever since. They preserve the forest, keep out the fires, for it is the park for their deer. This narrative, while the thread of it is necessarily spun around a few years of my early life, is not of myself, but of this race of people that has lived centuries of history and never yet had a historian; that has suffered nearly four hundred years of wrong, and never yet had an advocate.”  

Joaquin Miller, December 25, 1896, reproduction number LC-USZ62-53224. Courtesy of the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2005689361/.

Joaquin Miller, December 25, 1896, reproduction number LC-USZ62-53224. Courtesy of the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2005689361/.

Miller, after his death, has been recognized as a writer on human rights and political protest as outlined in the Guilford-Kardell and McKeown “A Joaquin Miller Chronological Biography and Study Guide.” A complete list of his writings is available in their publication.

The lyrics from his poem “By The Pacific Ocean” were adapted for Pacificana, partnered with all original music and vocal arrangement by Tamara Power-Drutis and instrumental arrangement by Ian Williams.

Original Poem:

Here room and kingly silence keep
Companionship in state austere;
The dignity of death is here,
The large, lone vastness of the deep;
Here toil has pitched his camp to rest:
The west is banked against the west.

Above yon gleaming skies of gold
One lone imperial peak is seen;
While gathered at his feet in green
Ten thousand foresters are told:
And all so still! so still the air
That duty drops the web of care.

Beneath the sunset’s golden sheaves
The awful deep walks with the deep,
Where silent sea doves slip and sweep,
And commerce keeps her loom and weaves
The dead red men refuse to rest;
Their ghosts illume my lurid West.

Joaquin Miller Cottage, reproduction number LC-USZ61-1939. Courtesy of the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003653588/

Joaquin Miller Cottage, reproduction number LC-USZ61-1939. Courtesy of the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003653588/

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