History in memory-Book Review


    Songs of California and Other Verses

    By Frederick Hastings Rindge

    Every once in awhile we run across a personal account of a family history or the history of a particular place. Usually, these are not so much the work of historians or literary writers, but the memories of someone who has lived a long life in that place and who wants to share feelings and impressions of the way things were.

    Songs of California and Other Verses is such a collection, the musings of Frederick Hastings Rindge, who completed the purchase of Rancho Malibu in 1892. Originally a Spanish Land Grant of about 13,315 acres, the property included 20 miles of coastline, canyons, streams and hillsides, all pristine.

    The verses were written by Rindge, apparently not for publication, but for his family, who found the works among his papers after he died in 1905. Some are dated in the year of his death. They reveal the writer’s philosophy, his love of nature, California and particularly Malibu. And they tell us much about the gentler times in which he lived, the strength of his Christian faith and how that affected his view of nature.

    In Poem to Laudamus Farm, he proclaims his love for the mountains, the ocean, and the sycamores of his homestead and refers to his own “happy farmer heart.”

    The North Wind describes the fierce Santa Ana winds that still plague the mountains and canyons of Malibu.

    The North Wind blows/

    The cattle seek the lee of friendly hills/

    Birds fly to shelter/ And now begins a list of human ills…

    The wild wind moans/

    the marrow dries within our drying bones…

    Wrath of the desert, hate of Mojave/

    Blown o’er the mountains and drowned in the sea….

    In contrast to the cruel Santa Anas, Rindge describes the feel of The Rain Wind. and what the wind from the ocean means to the farmer.

    List! In the stable the plow horses snort/

    Hist! The plow in the shed begins to cavort/

    Everything’s happy as it can be/

    The rain wind comes from over the sea!

    No dry year! Nor harvest slack/

    No old clothes on bending back/

    But barns all full and noth- ing drear/

    Good news ahead and nought to fear! …

    Accustomed as we are these days to dense, free verse with metaphors so obscure they are often unfathomable, Rindge’s airy, playful rhymes are as refreshing as the sea wind he describes.

    Dated March in the year of his death, To May was written for his wife, May Knight Rindge, whose photograph appears in the box on the opposite page.

    One stanza:

    The breeze stops blowing as you pass/

    To wish you well, my merry lass/

    The birdies in the garden walk/

    Cease their chatter to hear you talk./

    The blossoms bend their stems and say/

    Ever welcome, winsome May. …

    Included in this collection are several verses on a historic note: Juan Flaco’s Ride, a ballad to the brave vaquero (whose real name was John Brown) who rode 600 miles in four days from Los Angeles to San Francisco to warn of the siege of Los Angeles in 1846. As a result, troops were sent and the city secured; and Junipero Serra, who founded the first mission in San Diego, Calif. Rindge’s ode to The Cowboy is dedicat