Gold rush poetry

Saturday, August 24, 2002

By: Laura Luckasavitch
Subject: English - poems
History - Canadian and American
Grades: 7 - 10

The gold rush affected many people in many ways. Here are a few poems that tell stories about what the gold rush was like. Read these to your class, discuss the significance of the poems, and then get them to write a poem about the gold rush after doing a bit of research about the way of life back then.

The Happy Miner

I am a happy miner,
I love to sing and dance;
I wonder what my love would say
If she could see my pants.
With canvas patches on the knee,
And one upon the stern;
I'll wear them while I'm digging here,
And home when I return.

So I get in a jovial way
I spend my money free;
And I have got a-plenty,
So come drink lager beer with me!
They wish to know if I can cook,
And what I have to eat;
And tell me, should I take a cold,
Be sure to soak my feet.
But when they talk of cooking,
I'm mighty hard to beat;
I've made ten thousand loaves of bread
The Devil couldn't eat.

From The Forty-Niners by Archer Butler Hulbert


I've been to California, and I haven't got a dime,
I've lost my health, my strength, my hope, and I have lost my time.
I've only got a spade and pick and if I felt quite brave,
I'd use the two of them 'ere things to scoop me out a grave.

From Troupers of the Gold Coast by Constance Rourke

The Klondike Miner

A Klondike City mining man lay dying on the ice,
There was lack of women's nursing, for he didn't have the price,
But a comrade knelt beside him as the sun sank to repose,
To hear what he might have to say and watch him while he froze.

The dying man, he raised his head above the banks of snow,
And he said, "I've never seen it thaw when Ôtwas forty-five below;
Take a message and a token to some distant friends thereat,
For I was born at Gibbons, at Gibbons on the Platte.

"Tell my brother and companions if ever you get back East,
That this blooming Klondike country is no place for man or beast,
For the mountains are too rugged and the weather is too cold,
And the wheat fields of Nebraska yield a better grade of gold.

"Here an honest day of labour won't buy a pound of grease,
And the price of leather biscuits is sixty cents apiece;
Tell my father not to sorrow with a sorrow deep and dense,
For I would not thus have perished if I had a lick of sense,
But to keep the sorrel horses and the high-grade cattle fat
Upon the farm at Gibbons, at Gibbons on the Platte.

"I thought to make a fortune here," the dying man did say,
And then he hove a sigh or two and froze up right away;
And it took of golden shekels two hundred, yes, more than that,
To ship him back to Gibbons, to Gibbons on the Platte.

From Flying Cloud by M.C. Dean