ode on the opening of the newark library hall

by Elizabeth Clementine Kinney

Image Courtesy of the Newark Public Library
Image: Courtesy of the Newark Public Library

                                        Spirit of living Truth,
                                        Fresh in immortal youth,
                                Yet aged as Eternity!
                                        Come, at the fervid calls
                        Of hearts that, ever seeking after thee,
                To thy great purpose dedicate these walls:
        Come, and spread here thy broad and beaming wings,
Where, in thy name, the Muse her humble tribute brings.

                                Spirit of Art, divine!
                                This edifice shall be a shrine
                        Where thy true worshippers may kneel:
                Standing sublime in Learning’s cause,
                The impress of thy mighty laws
                        Its form majestic will reveal,
                While the same glorious Sun shall make it bright,
                Or the same Moon shall gild it with her light,
                As have for ages shed their beams upon
                The hallowed ruins of the Parthenon!
                        And Wisdom’s goddess, here shall own
                                All that approach to seek her lore,
                        No less, than where was raised the throne
                                Which first her votaries knelt before.

                        Knowledge shall here unfold
                        Her “treasures new and old;”
                Science lay open her mysterious heart,
                        That searching eyes its inmost depths may see;
                And Helicon’s pure fount its streams impart
                        To all who thirst for living poesy!
                These opening gates will languages unlock,
                        And free shall flow old Homer’s tide of song,
                As when, in ancient days, from Horeb’s rock
                        Gushed limpid waters for the eager throng.

                Britannia’s bards shall dwell
                        Beneath this classic dome,
                And visit—Fancy’s dream to tell—
                        The laborer’s humble home:
        And History’s undying page
                Here the eventful past shall state;
        Or our brief present, to a future age
                                Perchance relate:
        Toil in these cheering walls forgot,
                The weary soul refreshed shall be,
        And riches wait to bless the lot
                Of patient Industry—
Wealth, such as shaping intellect hath wrought
From the imperishable mines of Thought.

                Spirit of Eloquence, whose voice
                Made Academic groves rejoice
                        In Plato’s days of old!
                We dedicate to Thee this Hall—
                Here ever at thy trumpet-call
                        May Truth again grow bold,
                And startle Error from his secret hold.

                Spirit of Science! here inspect
                        The mysteries of Philosophy;
                Or with thy telescope direct
                        To starry wonders in the sky.
                Spirit of Music, here awake!
                        This dome with airs melodious fill,
                And every listening spirit, make
                                With rapture thrill!

                Spirit of pure Religion! deign
                        Within this temple to abide,
                For Art and Science build in vain,
                        Unless Thou o’er their work preside:
                                The crumbling touch of Time
                                Lays low the edifice sublime;
                But if Thy foot-prints there are found,
                The spot whereon it stood “is holy ground;”
                        And every tribute offered there to Thee
                                The wreck of nature shall survive,
                                And in the hearts of God and Angels live
                        Among the records of Eternity.

Newark’s first city library, numbering 1,900 books, opened in 1848 in Library Hall, a three-story building on Market Street. Until the creation forty years later of a free public library, use was limited to shareholders and paying subscribers.

These verses, read at the dedication by William C. Prime, were reread in 1899 when the cornerstone was laid for the library’s present building at 5 Washington Street. The poem was first published in the Newark Daily Advertiser of February 22, 1848.

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