a vision of 1916

by Joseph Fulford Folsom

Image: Louis H. Ruyl in The Newarker (1916)
Image: Louis H. Ruyl in The Newarker

The bells rang music, but the blare
Of trumpets made Four Corners sound
Like some weird throng. Such clamor there
The silent Training Place I found.

Vague shadows hung about the shrine
Long named Old Trinity. Among
The trees where bending paths entwine,
An antique figure moved along.

A Founder looked he, but he said:
“Call me the Spirit of the Town,
Among the living, not the dead,
Walk I unceasing up and down.”

“Good Spirit,” said I, “what bright cheer
To our fair city do you bring?
Spin us the vision of the seer,
Just at the New Year’s opening.”

An ember kindled in his glance,
That soon shot forth prophetic fire;
And then, with fervid utterance,
Predictive spoke the ghostly sire:

“The manes and the stars foretell
A greater Newark, till her fame
Resplendent cast a wondrous spell
On land or sea, where sounds her name!”

Amazed heard I the gracious seer,
Too good the augur seemed for true;
But when I plead again to hear
He turned, and waved his hand adieu.

The bells still carolled, and the gleam
Of lights electric kissed the snow–
“Perhaps,” mused I, “a hollow dream,
If not, let Newark prove it so.”

The decorative scheme of Newark’s 250th anniversary festivities included four plaster and wood pylons at the Four Corners, 23 feet in height, and two dozen smaller pylons spread out along Broad and Market Streets, each adorned with an instructive saying. Conceived as “things of beauty and guideposts to learning,” the pylons proved, according to newspaper reports, chiefly useful as objects for idlers to lean or smokers to strike matches on. They were removed in August 1916.

The author of the above verses, printed in The Newarker in January 1916, reported that his poem’s prophecy of “a greater Newark” figured on one of the Broad Street pylons. That stanza does not, however, appear on a list of pylon legends published in the June issue of The Newarker.

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