In the cold coals of dull disappointments I grow fresh wings to soar in hope again.
From still-smoking embers of total defeats I come forth to build a new city.
I am the Phoenix— not a bird from half-forgotten legend but Everyman who loves hopes builds!
Until the night of Wednesday, July 12, 1967, it was hoped and widely believed that the civil disorders afflicting other cities would leave Newark unscathed. What Life magazine would later call “the predictable insurrection” wrought deep wounds in the fabric of the Central Ward, with a loss of lives and livelihoods out of all proportion to Newark’s size. It also impelled a reconsideration of the kind of city Newark was to be.
Artist and poet Margaret Tsuda, a recent arrival in 1967, was one of the many who stayed and joined their futures to the city’s own. Her poem appeared in the Christian Science Monitor of January 20, 1971, and in the collection Cry Love Aloud.
A sad’ning sound’s in the troubl’d air That fans the western main— Britannia mourns in fix’d despair, Her bravest heroes slain.
Her honor gone, her banners torn, And trampled in the dust; The dauntless few who brav’d her scorn Have proved their cause was just.
The din of war has died away, And foemen sheathe the sword; Columbia spurns despotic sway, She owns no foreign lord.
Thanks to our sires who nobly dar’d Oppression’s iron front, And the free rights of man declar’d, E’en in the battle’s brunt,
Who drew the sword but to oppose Stern arbitrary laws, Nor sheath’d it till fair freedom rose And crown’d the glorious cause.
Let not the aged sire bewail His son, the prop of age; He fought his country’s foes to quell And tame their vengeful rage.
Mourn not, ye weeping widow’d train, A husband’s timeless call; Freedom forbids you to complain— See! freedom decks their fall.
Mourn not, ye noble orphan band, A brave departed sire; The glory of your native land Lights up their fun’ral pyre.
Blest be the mem’ry of the brave, Who in the conflict died; Each nobly sought a freeman’s grave, When freedom was deny’d.
Oh, may the rights for which they strove Endure thro’ lasting time; May union, liberty and love Long bless this happy clime.
There’s sound of gladness and of joy, And heaven-ward pealing strains, Of praise and thanks to God on high, Who broke the despot’s chains;
Who rent their galling yoke in twain, And snapt their iron goad; Who eas’d the burden of their pain And laid aside their load:
Gave the lone orphan child a sire And calm’d the mourner’s wo; Bade desolating war expire, And peace and joy to flow.
Columbians, venerate the name, The all comprising will, Which ever was and is the same, The kind dispenser still
Of every good and every bliss Which men on earth enjoy; Almighty sov’reign of the world, Jehovah the most high.
The Camp Homestead (pictured) is considered one of Newark’s great lost landmarks. Located at the present intersection of Broad and Camp Streets, it was the dwelling of Captain Nathaniel Camp, whom legend says General George Washington charged with defending the town during a visit there in 1777. The home is thought to have stood into the 1850s.
The above verses appear in a small volume issued in Newark in 1831, called The Aspect of the Times: A Political Poem, and Other Pieces. The title work is an unapologetic denunciation of Indian land claims (a vexatious issue of the times) and of “those, who continue, without regard to honor or truth, to blast and defame the real well-wishers of the Union.” The unidentified author despaired of changing anyone’s opinion, saying, “I fear, the case is hopeless.”
It’s a cheerless, lonesome evening, When the soaking, sodden ground Will not echo to the footfall Of the sentinel’s dull round.
God’s blue star-spangled banner To-night is not unfurled, Surely He has not deserted This weary, warring world.
I peer into the darkness, And the crowding fancies come, The night wind blowing northward Carries all my heart towards home.
For I ’listed in this army, Not exactly to my mind, But my country called for helpers, And I couldn’t stay behind.
So I’ve had a sight of drilling, And have roughed it many ways, And death has nearly had me, Yet I think the service pays.
It’s a blessed sort of feeling, That though you live or die, You have helped your grand old country, And fought right loyally.
But I can’t help thinking sometimes, When a wet day’s leisure comes, That I hear the old home voices Talking louder than the drums.
And the far, familiar faces Peep in at the tent door, And the little children’s footsteps Go pit-pat on the floor.
I can’t help thinking, some how, Of what the parson reads, All about that other warfare, Which every true man leads.
And wife, dear-hearted creature, Seems saying in my ear, “I’d rather have you in those ranks Than to see you brigadier.”
I call myself a brave man, But in my heart I lie; For my country and her honor I am fiercely free to die.
But when the Lord, who gave me, Asks for my service here, To fight the good fight faithfully, I’m slacking in the rear.
And yet I know this Captain All love and care to be, He would never get impatient, With a weak recruit like me.
And I know He’d not forget me When the day of peace appears; I should share with Him the victory Of all His volunteers.
And it’s kind of cheerful thinking, Beside the dull tent fire, About that big promotion, When He says, “Come up higher.”
For I seem to see Him waiting, Where a gathered army meets; A great victorious army, Surging up the golden streets.
And I hear Him read the roll call, And my heart is beating fast, When the dear Recording Angel Writes down my happy name.
But the fire is dead white ashes, And the tent is chilling cold, And I’m playing with the battle, When I have never been enrolled.
A year and a day from America’s official entry into World War I, the Newark Sunday Call published selections, “from among the best,” of “a barrage fire of verse” received from local men under arms. The editors on April 7, 1918, observed that “the great mass of verse produced since the inception of the world war is one of the most interesting phases of its development.”
Poet A. M. Smith was one of the 20,876 service members from Newark thought to have taken part in the conflict. A list of their names took seven years to compile; it was laid in a vault beneath the monument Planting the Standard of Democracy by Charles Henry Niehaus, which stands in Lincoln Park.
I used to walk past Sassy’s crib a couple times a week, when young
And each time say, “That’s Where Sarah Vaughn lives.”
That was when Symphony Sid used to call her, “The Divine One,” Late nights, from hip Bird Land
Oh man, what a feeling that was Divine & so hip & so very beautiful.
The house is gone now Symphony Sid too
As for the town, now Sassy told us just before she split
I’m gone, now Send in
In 1949 Sarah Vaughan with her manager and then-husband George Treadwell bought a three-story house at 21 Avon Avenue. Her parents, Asbury and Ada Vaughan, moved from her childhood home on Brunswick Street into the two lower floors, while she and Treadwell occupied the top floor. By then, however, touring and recording kept the singer away from Newark for extended periods.
“Lullaby of Avon Ave.” appeared in the 1996 collection Funk Lore and the Summer 1996 issue of Journal of New Jersey Poets.
I do not think this love will last till Spring, It was in wombs and tombs and cellars carved And trained, like Ivy, on dank walls to cling, Lacing two souls that had been too long starved. Excluding air and sun and wind and rain, Bent on destroying someone’s muttered curse, We tightly plaited dammed-up dreams with pain And now the ebb-tide wills us wounds to nurse. The year’s first crocus will be our death knell; The song of the first robin will incite The thawing, waxing, sunlight to repel A love that cannot turn away from night.
Poet and playwright Hazel Crawley was born in Newark and served in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II. These lines are from her 1975 collection Erratica.