our nameless heroes

by William J. Fielding

On the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration
of Newark, N. J., 1666-1916

I sing not of the honored names so favored with acclaim,
But pay my humble tribute to the heroes without fame.
The plain and unassuming folk who shared the burdened life
Amid the virgin wilderness and elemental strife;
The pioneers who felled the trees and tilled the broken soil,
And paved the way for future growth by hardship, pain and toil!
My homage goes to such as these, unhonored and unsung,
Who made the primal sacrifice when Newark’s days were young.

I speak a friendly word for them whose labors are unknown,
Whom fickle fame has never kindly recognition shown;
The rank and file of sturdy men, and women by their side,
Who braved the hidden dangers here as settlers to abide;
The strugglers of the early years who broke the rugged ground
And passed from spheres of usefulness to graves all unrenowned.
To these forgotten, nameless ones, and those who followed them,
Into the Great Obscurity, I sing this requiem!

And so on down the steady line since that eventful morn,
When out of human labor pains our civic life was born,
I hail the toilers in the fields and at the handy trades,
And those who’ve done the drudgery that custom says degrades;
The workers of the stoic strain who bore the greatest load,
Who kept the wheels of progress rolling o’er the time-marked road;
The builders of a sturdy past that stood for future fame,
The men who gave their sweated flesh and died obscure in name.

A bitter foe of every war to conquer or despoil,
A hater of the heartless fiend who would the world embroil,
I lay a fitting laurel wreath upon the common grave—
On Mother Earth—in recognition of the nameless brave
Who fought on bloody battlefields to set a people free,
And gave their lives to move the cause of human liberty.
Custom lauds the honored names. I eulogize no less
The heroes who so coldly rest in blank forgottenness.

I pay a solemn tribute to the hero host unnamed,
The army of constructiveness that industry has claimed;
The soldiers of production in the factory, shop and mill,
Whose workmanship has made the name of Newark speak their skill.
To the victims and the martyrs, I add my special meed—
To those who have been sacrificed for avarice and greed—
The children, men, and women who have perished at their work,
And the toilers who’ve been stricken in holocausts or murk.

Let none forget the commonplace—the widows worn with care,
Who’ve battled singlehanded with the demon of despair;
The orphans and the helpless ones who’ve braved the ways unknown
And faced the struggles of the world, unguided and alone.
Let’s not forget the multitude that suffered through the years,
Whose nights of silent anguish have been bathed in bitter tears—
Heroic souls of motherhood whose love has lit the way
In treading the unbeaten paths to seek the Better Day.

I find a word of favor for the heroes seldom named—
The firemen who risk their lives in danger-traps enflamed;
The officers, on busy streets where traffic most congests,
Whose deeds in face of jeopardy their bravery attests.
So, come, salute the legions here, and those of other days,
Who’ve added to our wide renown and reaped no words of praise;
And let us, as an echo of this late Historic Fête,
Give honor to the Nameless Heroes ere it is too late!

Image: Gasser via Newark Story
Image: Henry Gasser via Newark Story

William J. Fielding was an activist, editor and author. From 1915 to 1918 he edited The Newark Leader, the weekly paper of the local Socialist Party.

This song of Newark’s unsung was included in Fielding’s Pebbles from Parnassus, comprising rhymes of revolt and flitting fancies (1917).

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