the bard’s complaint

by Charles Mumford 

Image: Louis Ruyl via The Newarker
Image: Louis Ruyl via The Newarker

I dreamed a dream the other night
That left all others “out of sight;”
Around the Kinney building surged
A mob of wild-eyed men, who verged
On panic, if a panic grow
From masses struggling to and fro.

The mob was decorous if wild,
As cultured gentlemen, beguiled
By visions of good things, though faint,
Would keep their hunger in restraint,
Although, when appetites are keen,
And limbs are shrunk, and ribs are lean,
A well-filled board, in time of need,
Will tempt an anchorite to feed.

These men, who thus besieged the Kinney,
(All far from fat, and mostly skinny),
Though eager as a hound in leash,
Were strangely reticent of speech.
With well-groomed men they would not pass
For fashion-plates, for they, alas!
Were chiefly garbed in sombre black,
Of cut and style a decade back;
Their “pants” (those of a later pattern)
Shone like the sun (the parts they sat on),
While rusty coats and hats betrayed
The pinching of the wearers’ trade.

One thing I’ll say, and oft repeat,
These men, in dress so incomplete,
For classic nobs could not be beat
Within a league of Market Street.
Though seedy most, yet here and there
Was one who looked quite debonair;
“O-ho!” I cried to one of these,
Who sauntered ’round, quite at his ease;
“Pray tell me,” (for my sense grew hazy)
“Have all these gentlemen gone crazy?”

“O, no,” he said:  “Each one’s a poet;
(Though all their verses do not show it.)
They’re here because a dozen prizes
In brand-new bills of different sizes,
—One thousand plunks in all, I hear,
Though it does sound a little queer—
Are offered to the poets who
Can put in odes the best review
Of Newark’s glorious career
For this, her Anniversary year.
There’ll be a ton of rhymes, at least,
For gods and men a bounteous feast.”

“One thousand—what!” I shouted: “Whew!
You’re guying me; it can’t be true!
How can some humble poets hope
To get away with so much dope?”

He said (and confidential grew):
“It is the truth I’m telling you;
But bards are few of either sex
Who ever see a double X.
Do’st know why poets fare so ill,
While plodding tradesmen get their fill?”

I answered: “No; tell me.” He said:
“’Tis competition with the dead.
The heroes of the shop and plow
Have only rivals living now
To test their wits, while every man
Who wrote in verse since time began,
Is just as much alive to-day
As when he turned his toes up (say)
Some forty centuries away!
You surely know it is not so, sir,
With your shoemaker and your grocer!
Had Homer dealt in ducks and geese,
His fame long since had found surcease.
Could eggs of Virgil’s day compete
With fresh-laid eggs on Commerce Street?
Yet fresh-laid poets of today
Find ancient bards blockade their way!”

Just then the crowd thinned out; a few
Received their checks; the rest withdrew
To brush their threadbare coats anew.

A sunbeam through my window broke
And touched my eyes, and I awoke.

The Newark poetry competition of 1916 awarded prizes to only thirteen of the more than 900 poems submitted. The governing Committee of One Hundred did not, in fact, distribute checks outside its Kinney Building headquarters, but mailed them to the (female, as well as male) winning contributors.

“The Bard’s Complaint” appeared in The Newarker of September-October 1916.

newark knows how

by J. Fred Smith

Image: Digital Commonwealth
Image: Digital Commonwealth


In this glorious land of peace and plenty,
        There are cities rich in fame.
But o’er all this land there is none so grand
        As this “Wonder City” I shall name.
There they make almost all things you can mention,
Over all this world its products you will meet;
In the Garden State it’s that city great,
        That was founded by Robert Treat.


How we all love the sight of Military
        Or a stroll through Branch Brook Park,
How we love to gaze at the bright light’s rays
        Such as Broad and Market after dark.
We are proud of the statue of Abe Lincoln
As he sits upon his throne in Court House Square.
They all sing our toast clear from coast to coast
        For they all know that Newark’s there.


Newark you’re a city of perfection,
Newark for you thousands hold affection.
        Good folks are a-journeying, they come from far and wide,
        Come to celebrate the year to which we point with pride,
For twelve score years and ten you’ve led them all,
        To you they bow:
Newark you’re the pride of this great nation,
Others look at you in admiration,
        Even New York with its millions is jealously awed,
        Admits she hasn’t any traffic like Market and Broad.
This world watches ev’ry thing you do
        Because you’ve shown that Newark knows how.

J. Fred Smith published his “Souvenir Song of Newark’s 250th Anniversary Celebration,” with music by Louise M. Robrecht and arrangement by J. S. Glickman, in April 1916.

to newark!

by William J. Lampton

Image: Newark Happening
Image: Newark Happening

Hail, Newark!  Hail!
Two hundred years plus fifty
Is to you but growing time!
And you have grown!!!
How you have grown
Is wonderfully shown
In what you are to-day,
Not counting what you may
Become if but a mite
Of all your promised greatness
Is fulfilled
As it is billed
To do
For you!
Hail, Newark!  Hail!

New Jersey’s biggest and her best,
Her fairest and her liveliest,
Like wine and women,
You improve with age,
And all the ways and means
Of velvet and of jeans,
Of brain and brawn engage
To make you greater still,
Beyond the pale
Of earthly progress,
On the spirit gale
Is borne the glory cheer:
Hail, Newark!  Hail!!!!

Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines (shown above), a life-sized painted wood figure attributed to Thomas J. White, entered the collections of the Newark Museum in 1924. For decades it stood outside the Jabez Fearey cigar store on Market Street.

“Colonel Bill” Lampton (“Colonel” was an honorary title bestowed by the governor of Kentucky) published light pieces and satirical verses in various newspapers and magazines. During the 250th anniversary year his contributions graced the pages of The Newarker, whose February 1916 edition featured this bit of “humoresque versification.”

to a city sending him advertisements

by Ezra Pound


But will you do all these things?
                You, with your promises,
        You, with your claims to life,
Will you see fine things perish?
Will you always take sides with the heavy;
Will you, having got the songs you ask for,
        Choose only the worst, the coarsest?
Will you choose flattering tongues?

        Sforza . . . Baglione!
Tyrants, were flattered by one renaissance,
        And will your Demos,
Trying to match the rest, do as the rest,
The hurrying other cities,
Careless of all that’s quiet,
Seeing the flare, the glitter only?

Will you let quiet men live and contrive* among you,
        Making, this one, a fane,
        This one, a building;
Or this bedevilled, casual, sluggish fellow
Do, once in a life, the single perfect poem,
        And let him go unstoned?

Are you alone? Others make talk and chatter about their promises,
Others have fooled me when I sought the soul.
And your white slender neighbor,
                a queen of cities,
A queen ignorant, can you outstrip her;
Can you be you, say,
As Pavia’s Pavia
And not Milan swelling and being modern despite her enormous treasure?

If each Italian city is herself,
        Each with a form, light, character,
To love and hate one, and be loved and hated, never a blank, a wall, a nullity;
Can you, Newark, be thus, setting a fashion
But little known in our land? The rhetoricians
Will tell you as much. Can you achieve it?
You ask for immortality, you offer a price for it, a price, a prize, an* honour?

You ask a life, a life’s skill,
                        bent to the shackle,
                        bent to implant a soul
                in your thick* commerce?
                                Or the God’s foot
                struck on your shoulder effortless,
                being invoked, properly called, invited?
I throw down his ten words,
                        and we are immortal?

In all your hundreds of thousands who will know this;
Who will see the God’s foot, who catch the glitter,
The silvery heel of Apollo; who know the oblation
Accepted, heard in the lasting realm?

If your professors, mayors, judges . . . ? Reader, we think not . . .
Some more loud-mouthed fellow, slamming a bigger drum,
Some fellow rhyming and roaring,
        Some more obsequious back,
Will receive their purple, be the town’s bard,
Be ten days hailed as immortal,
        But you will die or live
        By the silvery heel of Apollo.

Ezra Pound was living in England in 1916 when he received a notice about the Newark poetry competition marking the city’s 250th anniversary; this was his entry. The submission did not sit well with some members of the organizing committee, who called it “a poem of violence directed at the head, heart, and hands of Newark.” Whatever the intent, this was not the first time Pound used his pen to slight the city: a year earlier he wrote in the journal Poetry that increased investment in the arts would raise property values “even in Newark, New Jersey,” that is, “if Newark were capable of producing art, literature or the drama.”

In Pound’s verses the judges detected some merit–perhaps a challenge, perhaps even a vein of sympathy–and awarded them one of the ten lesser prizes of $50. The work went with the other winners into The Newark Anniversary Poems, published in 1917. Nor was this quite the end of Newark’s dealings with Pound. Homer Pound, the poet’s father, arranged with the Newark Sunday Call for a series of articles by Ezra on literary topics. Only one, about novelist Henry James, ever appeared.

A note on the text: The poem is given above substantially as printed in 1917, but we have altered three words on the basis of manuscript images supplied by courtesy of Yale University. These are indicated by asterisks.


Image: Michael Lenson


Naiad and nymph in the forest are roaming;
Everglades echo their unearthly tread;
Weird are their songs and their forms in the gloaming;
Answering voices or shades of the dead.
Rudely the Indian ‘neath wigwam and bower
Kneels in submission to Ignorance-power.


Newark is now in the vigor of manhood.
Eye of a Mentor, and brain of a State;
Wielding a sceptre that banishes clanhood,
And makes us all kith, and akin to the great.
Rugged the heights from whose summits this hour
Ken we the vision that Knowledge is power.


        No spot to which we roam,
        Either o’er land or foam,
        Will ever be like home.
        As home is the pole
        Round which love doth roll,
        Keeping steadfast the soul.

The anniversary acrostics, by William J. Marshall, appeared in The Newarker of August 1916. Augustus Watters included the third, by an unknown author, in his small book Poems, printed in Newark in 1892.

father newark

by William L. R. Wurts

Image: Jennifer Brown/The Star-Ledger
Image: Jennifer Brown/The Star-Ledger

Swart with the grime of his crafts are the hands of him,
        Corded his muscles with energy stark;
Stately the buildings and spacious the lands of him:
        Hall, fane and factory; meadow and park.
Lofty his brow with the pride of his history,
        Kindled his eye with the light of his skill;
Genius inventive that solves every mystery;
        Courage that wins by invincible will.

Centuries two and a half has his story been–
        Years crowned with triumphs of labor and lore;
Burning undimmed has the lamp of his glory been;
        Open to all men his neighborly door.
Now he is bidding us all to rejoice with him–
        Sons of your sire, bound by filial vow,
Each of you loyally lift up your voice with him;
        Join in the slogan of Newark Knows How!

William Wurts was a musician and newspaper editor in Paterson, New Jersey. His father George Wurts, regarded as the dean of New Jersey journalists at the end of the nineteenth century, began his career as a reporter for the Newark Daily Advertiser.

“Father Newark” was published in The Newarker of May 1916.

a vision of 1916

by Joseph Fulford Folsom

Image: Louis H. Ruyl in The Newarker (1916)
Image: Louis H. Ruyl in The Newarker

The bells rang music, but the blare
Of trumpets made Four Corners sound
Like some weird throng. Such clamor there
The silent Training Place I found.

Vague shadows hung about the shrine
Long named Old Trinity. Among
The trees where bending paths entwine,
An antique figure moved along.

A Founder looked he, but he said:
“Call me the Spirit of the Town,
Among the living, not the dead,
Walk I unceasing up and down.”

“Good Spirit,” said I, “what bright cheer
To our fair city do you bring?
Spin us the vision of the seer,
Just at the New Year’s opening.”

An ember kindled in his glance,
That soon shot forth prophetic fire;
And then, with fervid utterance,
Predictive spoke the ghostly sire:

“The manes and the stars foretell
A greater Newark, till her fame
Resplendent cast a wondrous spell
On land or sea, where sounds her name!”

Amazed heard I the gracious seer,
Too good the augur seemed for true;
But when I plead again to hear
He turned, and waved his hand adieu.

The bells still carolled, and the gleam
Of lights electric kissed the snow–
“Perhaps,” mused I, “a hollow dream,
If not, let Newark prove it so.”

The decorative scheme of Newark’s 250th anniversary festivities included four plaster and wood pylons at the Four Corners, 23 feet in height, and two dozen smaller pylons spread out along Broad and Market Streets, each adorned with an instructive saying. Conceived as “things of beauty and guideposts to learning,” the pylons proved, according to newspaper reports, chiefly useful as objects for idlers to lean or smokers to strike matches on. They were removed in August 1916.

The author of the above verses, printed in The Newarker in January 1916, reported that his poem’s prophecy of “a greater Newark” figured on one of the Broad Street pylons. That stanza does not, however, appear on a list of pylon legends published in the June issue of The Newarker.