It’s a cheerless, lonesome evening, When the soaking, sodden ground Will not echo to the footfall Of the sentinel’s dull round.
God’s blue star-spangled banner To-night is not unfurled, Surely He has not deserted This weary, warring world.
I peer into the darkness, And the crowding fancies come, The night wind blowing northward Carries all my heart towards home.
For I ’listed in this army, Not exactly to my mind, But my country called for helpers, And I couldn’t stay behind.
So I’ve had a sight of drilling, And have roughed it many ways, And death has nearly had me, Yet I think the service pays.
It’s a blessed sort of feeling, That though you live or die, You have helped your grand old country, And fought right loyally.
But I can’t help thinking sometimes, When a wet day’s leisure comes, That I hear the old home voices Talking louder than the drums.
And the far, familiar faces Peep in at the tent door, And the little children’s footsteps Go pit-pat on the floor.
I can’t help thinking, some how, Of what the parson reads, All about that other warfare, Which every true man leads.
And wife, dear-hearted creature, Seems saying in my ear, “I’d rather have you in those ranks Than to see you brigadier.”
I call myself a brave man, But in my heart I lie; For my country and her honor I am fiercely free to die.
But when the Lord, who gave me, Asks for my service here, To fight the good fight faithfully, I’m slacking in the rear.
And yet I know this Captain All love and care to be, He would never get impatient, With a weak recruit like me.
And I know He’d not forget me When the day of peace appears; I should share with Him the victory Of all His volunteers.
And it’s kind of cheerful thinking, Beside the dull tent fire, About that big promotion, When He says, “Come up higher.”
For I seem to see Him waiting, Where a gathered army meets; A great victorious army, Surging up the golden streets.
And I hear Him read the roll call, And my heart is beating fast, When the dear Recording Angel Writes down my happy name.
But the fire is dead white ashes, And the tent is chilling cold, And I’m playing with the battle, When I have never been enrolled.
A year and a day from America’s official entry into World War I, the Newark Sunday Call published selections, “from among the best,” of “a barrage fire of verse” received from local men under arms. The editors on April 7, 1918, observed that “the great mass of verse produced since the inception of the world war is one of the most interesting phases of its development.”
Poet A. M. Smith was one of the 20,876 service members from Newark thought to have taken part in the conflict. A list of their names took seven years to compile; it was laid in a vault beneath the monument Planting the Standard of Democracy by Charles Henry Niehaus, which stands in Lincoln Park.
I used to walk past Sassy’s crib a couple times a week, when young
And each time say, “That’s Where Sarah Vaughn lives.”
That was when Symphony Sid used to call her, “The Divine One,” Late nights, from hip Bird Land
Oh man, what a feeling that was Divine & so hip & so very beautiful.
The house is gone now Symphony Sid too
As for the town, now Sassy told us just before she split
I’m gone, now Send in
In 1949 Sarah Vaughan with her manager and then-husband George Treadwell bought a three-story house at 21 Avon Avenue. Her parents, Asbury and Ada Vaughan, moved from her childhood home on Brunswick Street into the two lower floors, while she and Treadwell occupied the top floor. By then, however, touring and recording kept the singer away from Newark for extended periods.
“Lullaby of Avon Ave.” appeared in the 1996 collection Funk Lore and the Summer 1996 issue of Journal of New Jersey Poets.
I do not think this love will last till Spring, It was in wombs and tombs and cellars carved And trained, like Ivy, on dank walls to cling, Lacing two souls that had been too long starved. Excluding air and sun and wind and rain, Bent on destroying someone’s muttered curse, We tightly plaited dammed-up dreams with pain And now the ebb-tide wills us wounds to nurse. The year’s first crocus will be our death knell; The song of the first robin will incite The thawing, waxing, sunlight to repel A love that cannot turn away from night.
Poet and playwright Hazel Crawley was born in Newark and served in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II. These lines are from her 1975 collection Erratica.
Tread softly in these magic halls,– This Palace of Romance; For mighty monarchs of the mind Gaze at your every glance.
Prophet and poet, priest and sage Are living here anew; From alcove and from crowded stack They look again at you.
And all these voices of the past Are murmuring again Their garnered wisdom of the world Into the ears of men.
Here Keats is watching eagerly Wherever Beauty gleams; Shakspere is gazing in your heart; And Shelley, in your dreams.
So enter very softly here This Palace of Romance; For all the monarchs of the mind Peer at your step and glance!
John Cotton Dana called the public library “the most democratic, universal institution ever devised,” and Newark’s library has fostered the work of countless women and men of letters, including native son Louis Ginsberg. This tribute was featured in The Attic of the Past and Other Lyrics.
Today, Rhind’s masterpiece unveil’d, we feel A sense of olden time. Light horsemen ride On Jersey roads, and sleepless foemen hide In ambush. Everywhere the flash of steel.
The age of romance backward turns again, The din of modern traffic dies away; Once more we tribute to a hero pay, And cease awhile our wonted quest of gain.
Yon horseman in heroic bronze, who stands So nobly pois’d beside his pawing steed, Is Washington, who, in his country’s need, Rode many weary leagues through many lands.
‘Twas chill November when, in brave retreat, He pass’d this ancient common long ago; November brings him back again, but lo, A victor, ever rais’d above defeat!
Thus stood he by his charger when at last He paus’d his troops to wish a fond farewell: Then, homeward mounting, rode away to dwell In peace, with all alarms of battle past.
Thus may he stand forever in our street, Ready to mount and ride in our defence; Or win us back with silent eloquence To nobler tasks, and daily lives more sweet.
This poem’s fourth and fifth stanzas recall the desperate early months of the American rebellion and its successful conclusion: the retreat of George Washington’s army across New Jersey, with a four-day encampment in Newark in November 1776, and Washington’s farewell address to his troops in November 1783, upon resigning his command.
Clergyman and historian Joseph Fulford Folsom read these lines on November 2, 1912, at the unveiling of J. Massey Rhind’s bronze statue of a dismounted General Washington, which stands at the south end of Washington Park.
Oft as I try to wander out, among the stars on high, I wonder more and more why reigns such silence in the sky.
The earth is moving at a pace, that would if it were free, Within one little moment’s space, reveal Eternity,
And orbs on orbs are rolling far, beyond this mortal ken, Whose rays of light have never reached the eyes of mortal men.
Yet not a sound in all their course, is heard of voice or air, While silence guards the ceaseless track of nature everywhere.
If worlds on worlds their voices joined, to raise one chorus high, It could not reach the utmost verge of silence in the sky.
But man is vain enough to think, his homeopathic skill Can show the causes that ordain, the work of sovereign will:
Can measure suns and stars and skies, by finite rod and rule, As if he could create anew; presumptuous mortal fool,
Be still, for God the Lord is God, and knows the reason why, When worlds are rolling on thro’ space, there’s silence in the sky.
Albert Einstein (shown arriving at Newark Airport in 1939) settled in New Jersey thanks to the munificence of Newark entrepreneur Louis Bamberger: the Institute for Advanced Study, where Einstein worked until the end of his life, owed its existence to Bamberger’s department store fortune. Einstein was welcomed publicly to Newark for the first time on March 25, 1934, when he attended a concert at the Armory and a dinner at the Mosque Theater; both events raised funds for German scientists and others like Einstein fleeing Nazi persecution.
William Paterson, a grandson and namesake of New Jersey’s second governor, practiced law in Newark. “Silence in the Sky” comes from the 1882 volume Poems of Twin Graduates of the College of New Jersey, by William and his twin brother Stephen Van Rensselaer Paterson.