The Poem

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

California is the daughter of a Scottish father and a Spanish and Indian mother. From her mother she has inherited a dark beauty and a passionate nature. When she is still very young, she marries a farmer named Johnny; by the time she is twenty-one, her features are already beginning to show the marks of hard work.

Johnny spends much of his time away from the farm, drinking and gambling. One evening, he brings home a splendid roan stallion he has won. It is shortly before Christmas, and California, pleased with his good fortune, decides to go in to town to buy some Christmas presents for their young daughter, Christine. Johnny delays her departure in the morning so that it is quite late before she can hitch their old mare to the buggy and set out for Monterey.

By nightfall, when she is ready to return home, a heavy rainstorm has started. The water is high when she reaches the ford, and before trying to cross in the darkness, she lashes the gifts she has bought around her body, hoping this will keep them dry. The mare refuses to cross the swollen stream and flounders back to shore. California soothes the mare and tries once more to guide her across the ford, but the animal is too frightened. Desperate, California prays for light. Suddenly, the heavens light up brilliantly and she sees in them the face of a child over whom angels are hovering. The mare, startled by the light, scrambles back to shore. Sobbing, California climbs out of the buggy, fastens the presents securely to her back, and mounts the horse. By the light of the heavens she is able to guide the mare across the stream and reach home safely.

California thinks that she hates the roan...

(The entire section is 689 words.)