celebration ode

by Lyman Whitney Allen

Image: Arshile Gorky via artblog
Image: Arshile Gorky via Artblog

                        I

Great City of our love and pride,
Whose centuried fame is nation-wide,
        And wider than the alien seas,
To her we cry “All hail!” and bring
Devotion’s gifts the while we swing
        Censers of burning loyalties.

She answers in the regnant mood
Of Love’s triumphant motherhood,
        As round her surge the chants and cheers
Of joyous hosts that celebrate
Her times of eld, her new estate,
        Her quarter of a thousand years.

                        II

The sun in heaven did shine
        And all the earth sang “glory.”
’Twas Beauty’s immemorial sign,
        And Nature’s annual story.
The woodland birds were all awing;
        The hills and vales were rich with bloom;
’Twas Mayday, heyday of the Spring,
        And Life’s fresh gladness and perfume.

The fairest flower that decks the earth,
        In any clime or season,
Is that of a great ideal whose worth
        Time proves at the hest of Reason.
’Twas such they brought, in those days of yore,
And planted deep on our Jersey shore,—
A strange new flower whose growth became
Love’s healing for the civic frame.

It spread and every dawn was brighter
        And every creature obeyed its thrall;
We count the others lesser, slighter—
        The Rose of Freedom is worth them all.
The bluebirds know it,
The grasses show it,
        The south winds waft it through mart and street;
All else may perish,
’Tis ours to cherish
        This Jersey blossom from Robert Treat.

                        III

Hail Robert Treat the Puritan,
And the brave thirty of his clan!
        And that far fair Elizabeth,
Whose feet were first to tread our soil,
        A Puritan maid, whose betrothal breath,
        Fragrant with legendary grace that knows not death,
Works witchery naught may e’er despoil!

Superior souls were they,
        Who, in yon earlier time
Of Oraton’s rude Indian sway,
        Began this commonwealth sublime.
They laid foundations deep and strong.
The while they built they sang that battle song
The Ironsides chanted at Naseby and Marston Moor,
And all the hosts of freedom shout it forevermore.

The eyes of later sons behold
Their father’s faith and dreams of old,
Their Puritanism clear and brave,
Love’s sterner instrument to save,
Truth’s temple built with frame august,
To keep our great committals from the dust.

                        IV

List to the stir of the minute men!
        Hark to the roll of drums
                And the tramping of arméd feet!
        Lo, the great commander comes—
                Washington, leading a great retreat!
Welcome them patriots, now as then!

What soul was his to perceive the stair
From sky down sheer to the Delaware,
And trailing pageantry of light!
What seer of the nearing Christmas night
To hear God’s bells through the wintry gloom
Toll out the foeman’s doom!

O seven-year fury of war,
        For sake of a golden dream!
No whit of Old Glory, or Stripe or Star,
Shall ever bear stain or mar,
        While men remember redemption’s stream,
And cherish the all-consuming blaze
        Of Freedom’s holy battle ire—
Those Revolutionary days
        When Jersey’s blood was fire.

                        V

O Peace, thou gentle one!
No sound of belching gun
Displays thy heavenly part;
For Beauty’s architect thou art.
Thou buildest domes of grace
        That catch and echo back
                The spirit’s joyous singing.
Thy high and sacred place
        Is where no tempest’s wrack
                Its bolts of hate are flinging.

The elements of air and earth!
        What willing slaves they fast became
To those new masters! Solid worth
        Rose from the dust to shining frame.
Th’ expulsive smithy fire,
The mill-wheel’s creaking sounds,
Stage-coach, the “Old First” spire,
        “The Hunters and the Hounds,”
The workshop, mart and school,
        And “Cockloft Hall,”
And Combs and Boyden snapping custom’s rule
        Across the knees of genius!—History’s thrall
Enwraps and brings the glow of worthy pride
To us to whom our fathers’ gifts were undenied.

                        VI

War clouds were wildly gathering.
        One rode through the City’s streets,
                Under Fate’s horoscopes.
                        Men bowed in awe as he passed—
                Lincoln, the hope of a Nation’s hopes,
                        Riding to meet the approaching blast.
O Newark, what memories spring
        Out of thy deep heart-beats!

The black storm rolled, surcharged with thunder,
While levin of hate tore the sky asunder;
The earth yawned wide and incarnadine;
Deep hells flared forth where heavens had been;
And Jersey’s soul was a sacred cup
        Filled unto the brim with patriot blood,
And offered, thank God, sublimely up
        For Freedom and Country. And thus she stood,
And thus men marched, her heroes marched—
The ebon sky with light unarched—
And thus the regiments marched, and marched away,
The regiments marched day after day,
While tears were hot upon ashen faces,
And anguish was mistress of love’s embraces.
O God! but it was terrible, terrible,—
’Twas part of a Nation’s taste of hell,
To be inspirer to oppresséd nations,
Emancipator of future generations.
O City of heroes! Thou didst thy duty well.

Beautiful days since then have been—
        Days of our golden heritage.
        Right is the warrior’s master wage;
Peace is the garden that freemen win.

                        VII

What is this with its mighty thunderings
        Shaking a city’s fundaments?
This is the voice composite of toil that springs
        Out of ten thousand fiery vents.
This is the roar of a city’s industrial life.
        Throb of her engines, whirr of her wheels,
Furnace and dynamo, traffic and artistry rife,
        Strenuous giant that rages and reels
Backward and forward with passion cyclonic strained,
        Lifting gigantic arms and hands
Glutted with products, by sweat and by sinew gained,
        Offered to native and alien lands.

Wise men who follow Love’s starry frame,
        Here in this modern age,
                See where it hovers now
Sheer over smokestack and belching of flame.
        Greet Right’s increasing wage,
                Unto his triumphs bow.

                        VIII

Queen City of Industry!
        And whence doth wisdom come?
                Never a mortal son,
                Only the Thronéd One
Is great enough for thee
        And all thy radiant future’s sum.
Thy sires immortal on heights above
        Chant Vision’s increasing strain,—
’Tis God alone has the right to reign,
Since He is the Lord of Love.

The discords of drudgery turn to the melodious measures
        That fill the machinery of toil;
Faith’s song of emancipation, time’s chiefest of treasures,
        Ascends out of life’s turmoil.
The heart of the quickening world rejoices;
        Democracy’s prophets command, “Make way!”
While Wealth and Labor, with federate voices,
        Proclaim the Earth’s New Day,
And all the hosts of service spring
        Up the steep slopes of righteousness,
        To answer Justice with loud “Yes,”
To answer Love as ’twere their King.

                        IX

Out of the marshes she proudly rises,
        Greeting her Golden Age;
Civic symbol of Art’s emprises,
        Liberty’s heritage,
Triumph of Industry, Glory of Miracle,
Facing the Future’s alluring spell.

Set all the whistles blowing!
        Set all the flags a-flying!
                Cheer her predestined majesty!
                        Chant her apocalypse!
Up to her feet the sea is flowing;
        Thousands of eager ships are lying
                Waiting her on the invaded sea.
                        Hers are the sea and the ships.
Blow, whistles blow! Wave flags unfurled!
Newark belongs to the world.

Lyman Whitney Allen was poet laureate of Newark’s 250th anniversary festivities.

The Ode was a commissioned work, delivered at the opening exercises on May 1, 1916, in the new Proctor’s Palace at 116 Market Street. Inside the cavernous theater “every seat from pit to gallery was occupied,” exulted the celebration’s official journal The Newarker, “and the boxes shone resplendent with the wealth and fashion of the State and city.”

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