Saturday, May 02, 2009

O my darling..

“In a cavern, In a canyon, Excavating for a mine, Dwelt a miner forty-niner, And his daughter Clementine” goes the popular song. “O my darling, Clementine”.

The expression ‘forty-niner’ here refers to the band of adventurous explorers who set out in the year 1849 and braved the hardship in the wild west of America (it wasn’t part of the USA then), seeking gold, silver and other precious stuff.

The song narrates the sad story of Clementine who “drove she ducklings to the water, every morning just at nine, hit her foot against a splinter and fell into the foaming brine”

In Mark Twain’s “Roughing it”, which I happened to read recently, he narrates his experience in the American West, in which he traveled extensively in stage coaches and on horseback (this was in 1850s, before the advent of the Pacific railroad) and tried his hand at prospecting for gold and silver. From his description, one gets an idea of the ruggedness of the terrain .Only the very toughest could have survived the journey and the hostile landscape. It was a case of “hitting naïve expectations against the hard surface of reality” as Twain explains.

In one of the passages in the book, he describes the “Mono Lake” that is “two hundred feet deep and its sluggish waters are so strong with alkali that if you dip the most hopelessly soiled garment into them once or twice and wring it out, it will be found as clean as if it had been through the ablest of washerman’s hands. A white man cannot drink the water of Mono lake, for it is nearly pure lye. There are no fish in Mono Lake- no frogs, no snakes, no polliwogs, nothing. Millions of wild ducks and sea gulls swim about the surface, but no living thing exists under the surface, except a white feathery sort of worm”….

I wonder if this where poor Clementine took her ducklings to, and, sadly, drowned in the foamy brine.


Anonymous said...

Oh! I always thought forty-niner was a poetic way of saying he was forty-nine!!! :D

Raj said...

mschillpill: Now you know!

Balajisblog said...

Raj - as a trivia, did you know that the famous Hindi song " Ai Dil Mushkil jeena yahaan...Zara Hatke...etc" immortalized by Johny Walker is a straight lift from " My darling Clementine"?..Balaji