our theatre

by Augustus Watters

Image: Mural Locator
Image: Mural Locator

When Winter comes, with horrid roar,
        And all the trees are stark and cold,
While glorious Sol doth hide his face,
        And all the world seems growing old,
All hail! our little Thespian church,
        Where only mirth and music sound;
Where no joy-killing bell is heard,
        And every imp of gloom is drowned.

As outwardly the world grows dark,
        Within the scene doth brighter shine,
And deathless Shakespeare’s regal wit
        Still glows like immemorial wine.
Nor saint nor devil haunt this place,
        But men that thrill at others’ woe—
Mankind with blood within their veins,
        Who fain would make a heaven below.

A heaven where sense and beauty dwell,
        And poetry of form and sound—
Where all is genial, kind, and bright,
        And music sheds a glory round.
Here may poor Goldsmith oft appear,
        And Sheridan, and Bulwer too,
And all the dazzling sons of fame
        Who wrote more wisely than they knew.

Long may Bob Acres make us roar
        With cowardice sublimely quaint,
And Tony Lumpkin teach again
        How love can make a clown a saint.
And mistress Coghlan (fairest Rose)
        Enchant us with her Rosalind
A type of what sweet woman was
        Before the day when Adam sinned.

Let none to vulgar tricks descend
        To split the ears of boors and knaves,
For any acting so o’erdone
        Is far from what good breeding craves.
Men are but babes of larger growth,
        And all must end as they began;
And since ‘tis so, then let’s be sure
        Our play is such befits a man.

Park Presbyterian Church occupied West Park Street until 1872, when its building became the 1,063-seat Park Theatre. A magnet for star performers in its day (Oscar Wilde once lectured there), the theater was converted in 1889 for use as the Free Public Library, and from 1901 to 1931 housed the New Jersey Historical Society. The Prudential Tower now occupies the site.

Augustus Watters, who gave yearly public recitations from Shakespeare, dedicated these verses to the manager of the Park Theatre, Leonard Gray. They were printed in the 1882 volume Poems.


by Augustus Watters

They tell me of enchanted lands
        Where Summer reigneth ever;
Where skies divine forever shine,
        And Boreas rages never.
Where gondoliers, on silver streams,
        ‘Neath halloed arches glide,
And mirth and music flood the night
        As moonlight floods the tide.

And still I read of mystic realms
        Beyond the shore of time,
Where streets are paved with pearly gems,
        And harps forever chime.
Where sexless angels ever sing,
        In adoration deep,
And through the starry corridors
        Eternal anthems sweep.

But ah! no cloudy palaces,
        Nor Rome, nor Galilee,
Can thrill me like an Essex brook
        Or Jersey cherry-tree.
And every wilding rose whose breath
        Makes glad a Summer brake
With me hath greater power to charm
        Than Moses’ brazen snake.

On fair Passaic’s placid breast,
        That ripples toward the sea,
I’d rather glide at eventide
        Than on the Thames or Dee;
For there, in boyhood’s happy hour,
        I plunged beneath the spray,
And in the Summer’s golden light
        Washed all my sins away.

In that delightful blossom-time
        There seemed nor grief nor pain,
And ever as the Spring returns
        I think ’tis heaven again.
And though no castled crags are seen,
        Nor lordly pageants rare,
What fabled land could ever match
        Youth’s castles in the air!

The sorrow of the whip-poor-will,
        When lilies drink the dew,
To me is sweeter psalmody
        Than David ever knew.
And when the maple-trees are robed
        In Autumn’s tender mist,
Their jeweled crowns are lovelier
        Than walls of amethyst.

And when at noon the knightly elms
        Beat back the fervid heat,
And laugh to see the babies play
        About their royal feet,
I think no holy nimbus
        A Rembrandt ever paints
So sacred as the tangled gold
        Of Newark’s little saints.

When I, beneath some daisied roof,
        Unto my bed shall cling,
Methinks each Summer I shall wake
        To hear the robins sing.
And when the roguish mocking-bird
        Begins his serenade,
Old father time himself might laugh
        And fling away his blade.

Yea, though I wend from land to land,
        Or mid the planets roam,
No fairy isle, nor shining orb,
        Can be to me like home.
For that alone is paradise
        To which the heart doth cling,
And there alone, though tempests rage,
        Doth reign eternal Spring.

Image: Peter B. McCord via Newark Public Library
Image: Peter B. McCord via Newark Public Library

“Paradise” is from The New Age of Reason, published by Watters in 1893.

broad street

by Augustus Watters

Image: newarkstory http://newarkstory.com/Newark_Story/Places_photos_2.html#42
Image: Newark Story


When lilacs bloom in urban bowers,
Sweet harbingers of summer hours,
And cherry-blossoms lightly fall
Like snowflakes by the garden wall;
When robins hide in apple-trees,
And pansies nod in every breeze,
And like cathedrals, tall and grand,
Our hoary elms majestic stand,
While underneath the current flows
Of human joys and human woes,
Then seems the street a mighty stream
On which we mortals drift and dream.
Here toiled the Fathers in the fields,
Where earth her truest treasure yields,
And here the Sons, with reverent eyes,
Behold a royal harvest rise.
Yet ever, ‘neath the starry cope,
The radiant barges Love and Hope
Move side by side with Grief and Care,
And all the flotsam of Despair.
In vain the pilots seek to force
Their way against the current’s course,
And where they’re bound, or whence they came,
Nor sage, nor bard can ever name.
And none of all the fleets that glide
Along the weird and heaving tide
Turn back their prows or ever teach
What Port the later Pilgrims reach.

Frustration with Newark’s congested streets led to the opening in 1916—Newark’s 250th anniversary year—of the Public Service Terminal on Park Place, a few blocks north of Broad and Market. Linked to the terminal was the city’s earliest subway, a short trolley line segment beneath Cedar Street. The new terminal saw more than 2,500 streetcar stops per day in 1916.

Augustus Watters’ meditation on bustling Broad Street was included in The Newark Anniversary Poems, published the following year.

a winter song

by Augustus Watters

Image: Godey’s Lady’s Book

What reck we though round our lodges
        Savage storms incessant howl,
Tho’ fell winds with frantic malice
        Ever at our windows prowl.
Can we not fling to the shutters,
        And the logs in mountains heap—
Drown the tempest with our singing
        While the flames in frenzy leap!

Bellow on, relentless menials,
        Passing far your chief’s command,
Wreaking on the homeless wand’rer
        More than spite of pirate band.
Drag from out his bed the cedar,
        Snap the tossing boughs in twain;
Snow-intrenched, we still defy you,
        Laugh at all your scowling train.

’Fore the blaze we’ll crowd the closer,
        Swifter pass the cider round,
Louder raise the hearty chorus,
        Wilder let our glee resound.
Mid the clicking of our hammers,
        Crushing fast the oily nut,
We’ll forget that flowers have faded,
        Or that winds their fury glut.

If within your heart, my brother,
        Boreas plants no icy sway,
If the love we pledged each other,
        Midst the breath of balmy May,
Hath not met the fate of daisies,
        Smiling once o’er all the mead,
Gayly we may clink our glasses
        And the storm-king never heed.

“A winter storm” is included in Augustus Watters’ Poems, published in Newark (1892).