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.

the christmas tree speaks

by George Bancroft Duren

Image: Mitsu Yasakawa/The Star-Ledger
Image: Mitsu Yasakawa/The Star-Ledger

From the silent forests
I have come to keep
Tryst with all the children
Who dreamed me in their sleep.

Trim me with your baubles,
Chains of pearl and gold,
Death has touched my needles
And I shall soon grow cold.

Pin a crown of diamonds
Upon my topmost bough
That has known no splendor
But sun and snow ’til now.

Clothe me in a raiment
Beset with bubble gems:
Loop fair strands of silver
Around my withering stems.

Deck me with these trinkets
Though they be shroud to me;
It is sweet and fitting
To die a Christmas tree.

Sweet to leave the forest,
Sweet to leave the wild,
Sweet to die if dying
Brings gladness to a child.

This offering comes from Duren’s 1926 collection Earthbound.

of timothy still

by E. Alma Flagg

Image: Jordan Allen
Image: Jordan Allen

He touched our lives with gentleness and hope,
The hope that Newark would be a better place;
He gave a model of inclusiveness,
Of knowing black and white and high and low.

The strength he had is what we must employ
In treating poverty, disease, mistrust, and hate,
The love he had we’ll nurture everywhere
To make our living worthy of his gift.

The kindness of a man as big as he
(As big of soul as he was big of frame)
Is what we must extend to each and all
While joining hands to make our forward move.

We loved him as the brother that he was,
We’ll miss him from our gatherings about;
Our city and our hearts know he was here,
And will remember in the years to come.

Timothy Still, a former Golden Gloves boxing champion, turned his commanding physical and personal presence to grassroots organizing in Newark’s Central Ward. He co-founded and led the Hayes Homes Tenants Association, and was president of the United Community Corporation, the city’s official community action agency in the mid-1960s. Upon his sudden death of a heart attack at age 48, the city observed a weeklong period of mourning. In 1970 the Schoolmen’s Club dedicated a plaque to Still’s memory in the Central Ward’s Quitman Street School; the inscription hailed him as “a shining example to light the way to a better Newark.”

Alma Flagg’s tribute is taken from her 1979 collection Lines and Colors.