vernal equinox

by Hazel Crawley

Image: The Cultural Landscape Foundation

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.

in the newark library

by Louis Ginsberg
Image: Newark Public Library

Tread softly in these magic halls,–
        This Palace of Romance;
For mighty monarchs of the mind
        Gaze at your every glance.

Prophet and poet, priest and sage
        Are living here anew;
From alcove and from crowded stack
        They look again at you.

And all these voices of the past
        Are murmuring again
Their garnered wisdom of the world
        Into the ears of men.

Here Keats is watching eagerly
        Wherever Beauty gleams;
Shakspere is gazing in your heart;
        And Shelley, in your dreams.

So enter very softly here
        This Palace of Romance;
For all the monarchs of the mind
        Peer at your step and glance!

John Cotton Dana called the public library “the most democratic, universal institution ever devised,” and Newark’s library has fostered the work of countless women and men of letters, including native son Louis Ginsberg. This tribute was featured in The Attic of the Past and Other Lyrics.

the horseman washington

by Joseph Fulford Folsom

Image: Einar Einarsson Kvaran CC BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Image: Einar Einarsson Kvaran via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Today, Rhind’s masterpiece unveil’d, we feel
        A sense of olden time. Light horsemen ride
        On Jersey roads, and sleepless foemen hide
In ambush. Everywhere the flash of steel.

The age of romance backward turns again,
        The din of modern traffic dies away;
        Once more we tribute to a hero pay,
And cease awhile our wonted quest of gain.

Yon horseman in heroic bronze, who stands
        So nobly pois’d beside his pawing steed,
        Is Washington, who, in his country’s need,
Rode many weary leagues through many lands.

‘Twas chill November when, in brave retreat,
        He pass’d this ancient common long ago;
        November brings him back again, but lo,
A victor, ever rais’d above defeat!

Thus stood he by his charger when at last
        He paus’d his troops to wish a fond farewell:
        Then, homeward mounting, rode away to dwell
In peace, with all alarms of battle past.

Thus may he stand forever in our street,
        Ready to mount and ride in our defence;
        Or win us back with silent eloquence
To nobler tasks, and daily lives more sweet.

This poem’s fourth and fifth stanzas recall both the desperate early months of the American rebellion and its successful conclusion: the retreat of George Washington’s army across New Jersey with a four-day encampment in Newark in November 1776, and Washington’s farewell address to his troops in November 1783, upon resigning his command.

Clergyman and historian Joseph Fulford Folsom read these lines on November 2, 1912, at the unveiling of J. Massey Rhind’s bronze statue of a dismounted General Washington, which stands at the south end of Washington Park.

silence in the sky

by William Paterson

Image: Lou Shornick via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Image: Lou Shornick via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Oft as I try to wander out, among the stars on high,
I wonder more and more why reigns such silence in the sky.

The earth is moving at a pace, that would if it were free,
Within one little moment’s space, reveal Eternity,

And orbs on orbs are rolling far, beyond this mortal ken,
Whose rays of light have never reached the eyes of mortal men.

Yet not a sound in all their course, is heard of voice or air,
While silence guards the ceaseless track of nature everywhere.

If worlds on worlds their voices joined, to raise one chorus high,
It could not reach the utmost verge of silence in the sky.

But man is vain enough to think, his homeopathic skill
Can show the causes that ordain, the work of sovereign will:

Can measure suns and stars and skies, by finite rod and rule,
As if he could create anew; presumptuous mortal fool,

Be still, for God the Lord is God, and knows the reason why,
When worlds are rolling on thro’ space, there’s silence in the sky.

Albert Einstein (shown arriving at Newark Airport in 1939) settled in New Jersey thanks to the munificence of Newark entrepreneur Louis Bamberger: the Institute for Advanced Study, where Einstein worked until the end of his life, owed its existence to Bamberger’s department store fortune. Einstein was welcomed publicly to Newark for the first time on March 25, 1934, when he attended a concert at the Armory and a dinner at the Mosque Theater; both events raised funds for German scientists and others like Einstein fleeing Nazi persecution.

William Paterson, a grandson and namesake of New Jersey’s second governor, practiced law in Newark. “Silence in the Sky” comes from the 1882 volume Poems of Twin Graduates of the College of New Jersey, by William and his twin brother Stephen Van Rensselaer Paterson.


by Leonard Harmon Robbins

Image: National Archives via
Image: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library via

There are no friends, we often say,
        Like those dear friends we knew of yore.
Thus in our hearts we re-survey
        The path we tread no more.

And so, before the journey ends,
        We’ll take a backward look and vow
There were no friends like these good friends
        That walk beside us now.

Newspaperman Robbins made no literary claims for his poetry, which he assembled in a book called Jersey Jingles, published in Newark in 1907.

to the dying year

by Elizabeth Clementine Kinney

Image: Newark Story
Image: Newark Story

Old stricken Year! and must thou die?
Methinks I hear thy waning sigh
        Borne on the wintry blast:
My lamp burns dim, and, dim with tears,
My eyes see shadows, where appears
Thy spectre, moving toward the years
        That are forever past.

Hark! through the darkness, deep and slow,
The tongue of midnight soundeth now
        Thy knell, departing Year!
Mysteriously the numbers roll,
And echo answers from the soul,
To every melancholy toll
        That vibrates on the ear.

Hoary and lone, in childless gloom
Old Year, thou goest to the tomb
        Where all thy offspring lie:
Fair, budding Spring was first to fade,
Then Summer’s blossoms all decayed,
While lingering Autumn only staid
        Till ripened age–to die!

But I will mourn for thee, old Year!
And lay an offering on thy bier
        In flowers of poesy;
For many a gift hast thou bestowed
Of love, that fondly, brightly glowed,
Until my swelling heart o’erflowed
        With thankful ecstasy.

And if thou ever hast been stern,
‘T was only that the soul might learn
        What discipline imparts.
Thou, like a grandsire old and gray
Hast seemed to me in thy decay,
And now I see thee borne away
        As when a friend departs.

But let a blessing on me fall,
Departing Year, e’en from the pall
        That darkly covers thee;
And lest with sad remorse I grieve,
This heart would one more boon receive,–
Approving Memory to me leave
        As thy last legacy.

Printed in Elizabeth C. Kinney’s 1867 volume Poems, these verses exist in a New York Public Library manuscript where they are dated “Newark, December, 1848.”

newark’s morning song

by Leonard Harmon Robbins

Image: Charles E. Luffman via

At morn she rises early, as a busy city should
That spends the hours of daylight in the game of “Making Good.”
Across the misty meadows she watches for the sun,
For worlds of work are waiting, and there’s wonders to be done.
She takes a bit of breakfast, she dons her gingham frock,
Then sits before her keyboard, with her eyes upon the clock;
And when the hands point seven, then loud and joyfully
She plays her morning anthem on her steam calliope.

From Belleville down to Waverly, from Bloomfield to the Bay,
She fills the morn with music as her chimes and sirens play.
The piping trebles start the song, the tenors catch her air,
The altos add their mellow notes, the brassy bassos blare;
Their thousand voices blend at last in one great living chord
Of toil and usefulness and peace—a sound to please the Lord!
Listen, O music lovers; was ever heard, think ye,
A nobler tune than Newark’s on her steam calliope?

Now dawns a mighty era in the tale of her career,
Now golden comes the sunrise of a new and glorious year;
And, just as in the old days, her morning sirens call,
“Up! Rouse you up, my children! There is happiness for all!”
Yes, at this New Year’s advent her whistles fill the morn
As sound of heralds’ trumpets when a new world-king is born;
And the magic of her music shall set the thousands free
Who follow to the calling of her steam calliope!

Leonard Harmon Robbins was a contributor to the Newark Evening News, where many of his poems first appeared. The Newarker published this piece in its January 1916 edition, marking the beginning of the 250th anniversary year. It was reprinted in 1917 in The Newark Anniversary Poems.

a prayer

by Henry Lang Jenkinson

Image: Community House of Prayer
Image: Community House of Prayer

God of a Thousand Christmas Gifts,
For any hatred we have thought
And any evil we have taught
Or any misery we have wrought,
Forgive us, now.

God of a Thousand Christmas Trees,
If, thro’ the year, the wrong held sway,
And better deeds were cast away,
We pray Thee, on thy Holy Day,
Forgive us, now.

God of a Thousand Holidays,
We humbly ask that we be sent
A spirit true to good intent,
So Gifts and Goodness may be blent …
God of the Yule Tide, reign.

Henry Lang Jenkinson recruited and led a company of black volunteers from Newark in the Spanish-American War. After service in the Philippines he was engaged in various Newark businesses before joining an artist colony near Woodstock, New York, where he had a metalworking studio.

This poem appeared in The Newarker for February 1916.

santa claus’s ride

by Frederick H. Pilch

Image: Sanctuaries, Dreams, and Shadows

Stout Santa Claus cheerily cracks his whip
As he skims away o’er the hidden heather,
Fur-clad to his furthest finger tip,
He gleefully laughs at the Winter weather,
Though the wind comes cold
From the mountains bold
Like a pittance doled with a miser’s pity,
And the crusted snow
Spreads an icy glow
O’er the valley low and the sleeping city;
Yet he sings a song as he spins along
While his jingling bells gaily tinkle together,
And this is the strain of his rude refrain
Which he shouts amain in the teeth of the weather,
“Away and away, ere the dawn of day
We have visits to make many miles away,
And calls where we’ve never sent warning.
‘Tis a long year and drear since a frolic we’ve had,
So the poor and the sad shall be merry and glad
In the light of the Christmas morning.”

He rushes along over field and fen
While the snow-dust rises in shining sparkles.
And flits like a flash through glade and glen
And adown the pass where the forest darkles.
Though the country rings
With the songs he sings,
Yet Old Echo’s wings ever lag behind him,–
Like the sun’s lost star
All his lost words are
Ever following far, yet they never find him,
For he cleaves the night with the speed of light
With his tinkling bells and mellifluous laughter;
And he slaps his knee in a gush of glee
As these phrases free hasten briskly after,
“Then away like a wink, ere the moon shall sink,
We must lighten our load where the little ones think
They will watch to catch Santa Claus napping;
But my messengers’ pinions will pause as they fly,
And close up every eye, be it sleepy or spry,
Then I’ll rustle in without rapping.”

With a shout he rapidly hurries past
Where the mill-wheel rests ‘neath its icy mounting,
And the mill-wife dreams of times long past
When howling wolves were past killing or counting;
Then the silent charm
Of the quiet farm
Breaks with strange alarm at the apparition,
And the watch-dogs bay
Many miles away
As along the way sweeps the vocal vision,
And the lonely cot in the woodland lot
Seems to rattle and ring with the ghostly greeting,
While the woodman who hears to himself mutters fears
That the noises are cheers from the witches’ wild meeting,
Shouting– “Up and away, never pause to play,
We’ve so many to see ere the coming of day
With our burdens of pleasure and treasure,–
For the many we’ve goods, and for some we have gold,
And for young and for old we’ve ‘the story of old’
How He loved us all beyond measure.”

As the old chap whirls, like a wizard weird,
Over frozen fells and through leafless thickets,
The icy spears on his bushy beard
Project, when he laughs, like a row of pickets;
Soon he rumbles down
From the hill-tops crown
To the sleepy town, and comes up all standing
By a cosy cot
In a shady spot
‘Mid a meadow lot near the river landing,
Then he slings a pack on his bulky back
And springs to the roof like a frost-spangled fairy,
And descends from view down the chimney flue
With a footing true and a vision wary.
And he fills the hose till they tear at the toes,
And kisses the baby farewell ere he goes
With a bound like a ball to the shingles,
Then he quickly returns to his journey again
While he rattles amain his own song and refrain,
And he grins with delight till he tingles.

His gallant team speedily rushes about,–
And they need but a word to fly fast, or walk slowly;
Many mansions he scales on his serpentine route,
But he oftenest enters the rooms of the lowly.
For he loves to go
Where the embers glow
On a numerous row of stockings in sizes,
And his bosom swells–
As his fancy tells
All the joy that dwells in his pack of prizes:–
And the rosy flush of the morning’s blush
Just appears o’er the hills as his last visit’s over,
Then he whisks away with his empty sleigh
While a watchman astray gazes after the rover;
As his lashes crack on his homeward track,
He leaves many behind who will welcome him back,
For he numbers his lovers by legions.
And he’ll hasten here with his cargo of cheer
When he wakens once more, after sleeping a year,
In his home in the Polar Regions.

This poem comes from Frederick Pilch’s volume of Homespun Verses, printed in Newark in 1882.


by Louis Ginsberg

Image: Newark Public Library via
Image: Newark Public Library via

A barren field in the Winter,
        When the winds dart,
When chilly the driving snowflakes
        Bite and smart,
Bleak with the frost of sorrow,
        Lies my heart.

Yet in the dreary snowfall,
        Lighting the view,
And whistling with vibrant music,
        That shrills through,
Green are the glistening hemlocks,–
        My thoughts of you!

Newark-born poet Louis Ginsberg included these lines in his 1920 collection The Attic of the Past and Other Lyrics.