dream pictures

by Edward S. Rankin

Image: Lee Gallery
Image: Lee Gallery

Before an open fire I dozed and dreamed;
        The light from shaded lamps was soft and low,
And in the burning coals strange pictures seemed
        To form and change and vanish in the glow.

I looked upon a range of hills, their summits tinged
        With early dawn; while at their feet the forest slept.
Beyond, a river wound, its lower reaches fringed
        With meadows green.  No sign of life I saw except
Where near a brook, within the sheltering wood,
A little group of Indian wigwams stood.

The picture changed—the sun had risen now—and where
        The deerskin wigwams once had stood a village lay.
Men stern of face and clad in sober garb were there,
        Who calmly faced the task of each recurring day.
The morning sunlight bathed in radiant flood
The rude log church, the temple of their God.

Again a change—the sun rode high—and now before
        Me lay a city stretching far and wide, and through
Its busy streets went hurrying throngs, and more and more
        It spread, until its limits passed beyond my view.
And over all the scene the purple haze
From smoking chimneys told of prosperous days.

High noon—but now the glowing coals began to fade,
        I dimly saw the hillsides clothed with homes of men,
Broad avenues, and parks where happy children played,
        While all the lowlands teemed with industry.  And then
The ashes paled, but in their dying gleams
I glimpsed the future city of our dreams.

Edward S. Rankin served the city of Newark as Chief Engineer of Sewers and Drainage from 1903 to 1945. With his consummate knowledge of the city’s topography and hydrography he produced two books, Indian Trails and City Streets (1927) and The Running Brooks, and Other Sketches of Early Newark (1930).

“Dream Pictures” was composed in 1926 for Founders’ Day, May 21, and first printed in the Newark Sunday Call on May 23.

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