newark

by Elizabeth Sewell Hill

Image via New Jersey Council for the Humanities
Image via New Jersey Council for the Humanities

                                1666

Sunset on the hills; with dark below,
The wooded slopes. The evening glow
Blinds where the river-flood runs wide,
Lifts pink and pearl from the other side;
And the woods run down to the splendid stain
Of the river-brim to live again.

One lone canoe drifts idly by
With the sure stroke sweeping back fitfully,
Presaging portents dire and black
From the tangled reaches of Hackensack.

The slopes stand bare on the darker side
Where the clearing spreads, brave, clean and wide,
And the timbers pile in close redoubt
Near where the home-lights twinkle out.

The new post held, the new vows sworn
In the old, old faith—and the town is born.

How the spirit kindles, how greatly goes
Thro’ urgent years, the Passaic knows.

                                1766

A flame thro’ the whole great countryside.
The spirit carries as the news runs wide,
Unhurried news of wind and tide—
A feathered prow passes the wharf’s long bar
Where the crowded masts of the shipping are—
Of orders coming from oversea,
Of imposts levied wrongfully,
Of tribute demanded of loyalty.

Lo, patriot, rebel and mutineer;
Muster of sloop and privateer;
And, deaf to the urge of amity,
To the arts and crafts of diplomacy,
It is “Tyranny—tyranny—tyranny!”

How the spirit blazes, how greatly goes
Thro’ troubled years, the Passaic knows;
Grappling the issue with immortal peers,
O little town of one hundred years!

                                1866

The dying roar of artillery.
A nation, torn, in her agony;
One nation, smiling in her agony.

The long grey lines have all swung south,
Worn, proud, unbroken. From river-mouth,
From inlet, from roadstead, the boats go by.
One flag flies in the freedman’s sky.
Blue lines passing, mute and worn have come
Home to the peace of the north hills—home.

The shipping crowds the lower bay.
New duties call—the greater play
Of Love’s great heart of forgivingness;
Wrongs that Right must needs redress;
And civic growth and righteousness.

How the spirit carries, how greatly go
The earnest years, we and the Passaic know;
Scanning the stars, blood of elder seers,
O city of two hundred years!

                                1916

Sheeted gas flaring down the hard-fought field,
Gouts of white lead, tuns of bursting steel,
Chaos of shells. The thunders sound
Fainter thro’ caverns deep underground
Where the trenches hold. Time’s conquests fall,
Smashed back and back with each interval.
It is hell gone mad; nor shift of grace
Rallies the hurt cry of helplessness.

Merciful seas cool the hurts that drown;
Unarmed non-combatants homeward bound,
Liner and transport going down.

And
For wanton display of efficiency,
For craven insistence of urgency,
There is “Butchery!” “Butchery!” “Butchery!”

World-thunders threaten down untrod ways,
Banners are flying thro’ anxious days.
How the years shall carry the spirit’s spell
Down abysmal years, the years will tell.

                                                                       

O city of visions memorial,
Back thro’ the years, perennial,
Or dark or light—
                        How the common tongue
Swung glib the name of Washington,
Knew Talleyrand, spoke LaFayette;
Cornwallis spits anathema yet!

The nation born, the common mass
Knew royalty, saw statesmen pass; 
Guessed trouble brewed, applauded France,
Appraised the heir of circumstance.

Now the nation grown past her infancy,
Argued of party, of polity;
Or suspicion scotched into bitter hate—
Delinquency made desperate—
Answered Lincoln and measured Lee
Where Gettysburg grappled with destiny.

You, too, have seen in a larger dawn
A world-empire wheel up San Juan,
Break into foam as the seas spurt red
Were it Sampson or Schley or Dewey led.
Now world-thunders threaten down untrod ways,
Banners are flying thro’ anxious days.

City of visions memorial,
Back thro’ the years perennial;
You who have heard with your ships at sea,
The rattle and roar of artillery;
Who have heard in the thunders, north or south,
Your heroes named by the cannon’s mouth;
Name now your glorious company,
And name the glorious company
That Peace has linked with liberty.

City of visions! What dreams shall glow,
Shall live, the Passaic may not know
Where just beyond, the future dips
To the nations’ dream-apocalypse,
O city of vision, whose spirit steers
Thro’ fifty and two hundred years!

Elizabeth Sewell Hill was a Chicago-based educator. While it is probable that “Newark” was written for the poetry competition held in 1916, any impression it made on the judges is not recorded.

Hill included the piece in her 1917 collection Western Waters, and Other Poems.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s