George Nidiver

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George Nidiver
Unknown
This traditional ballad was included in a collection by Ralph Waldo Emerson. He introduced it as follows:

I am permitted to enrich my chapter by addition of an anecdote of pure courage from real life, as narrated in a ballad by a lady to whom all the particulars of the facts are exactly known.

Men have done brave deeds,
And bards have sung them well:
I of good George Nidiver
Now the tale will tell.
In Californian mountains
A hunter bold was he:
Keen his eye and sure his aim
As any you should see.
A little Indian boy
Followed him everywhere,
Eager to share the hunter's joy,
The hunter's meal to share.
And when the bird or deer
Fell by the hunter's skill,
The boy was always near
To help with right good will.
One day as through the cleft
Between two mountains steep,
Shut in both right and left,
Their questing way they keep,
They see two grizzly bears
With hunger fierce and fell
Rush at them unawares
Right down the narrow dell.
The boy turned round with screams,
And ran with terror wild;
One of the pair of savage beasts
Pursued the shrieking child.
The hunter raised his gun, -
He knew one charge was all, -
And through the boy's pursuing foe
He sent his only ball.
The other on George Nidiver
Came on with dreadful pace:
The hunter stood unarmed,
And met him face to face.
I say unarmed he stood.
Against those frightful paws
The rifle butt, or club of wood,
Could stand no more than straws.
George Nidiver stood still
And looked him in the face;
The wild beast stopped amazed,
Then came with slackening pace.
Still firm the hunter stood,
Although his heart beat high;
Again the creature stopped,
And gazed with wondering eye.
The hunter met his gaze,
Nor yet an inch gave way;
The bear turned slowly round,
And slowly moved away.
What thoughts were in his mind
It would be hard to spell:
What thoughts were in George Nidiver
I rather guess than tell.
But sure that rifle's aim,
Swift choice of generous part,
Showed in its passing gleam
The depths of a brave heart.
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).