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.”

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a dream

by Elizabeth Clementine Kinney

Image: Denise Ippolito
Image: Denise Ippolito

‘Twas summer, and the spot a cool retreat–
Where curious eyes came not, nor footstep rude
Disturbed the lovers’ chosen solitude:
Beneath an oak there was a mossy seat,
Where we reclined, while birds above us wooed
Their mates in songs voluptuously sweet.
A limpid brook went murmuring by our feet,
And all conspired to urge the tender mood.
Methought I touched the streamlet with a flower,
When from its bosom sprang a fountain clear,
Falling again in the translucent shower,
Which made more green each blade of grass appear:
“This stream’s thy heart,” I said; “Love’s touch alone
Can change it to the fount which maketh green my own.”

Part of a circle of expatriate artists and writers that included fellow poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Kinney penned verses and essays from Italy for the Newark Daily Advertiser, of which her husband was the founding publisher. She returned to Newark after the Civil War.

“A Dream” is from the volume Poems, published in 1867.

ode on the opening of the newark library hall

by Elizabeth Clementine Kinney

Image Courtesy of the Newark Public Library
Image: Courtesy of the Newark Public Library

                                        Spirit of living Truth,
                                        Fresh in immortal youth,
                                Yet aged as Eternity!
                                        Come, at the fervid calls
                        Of hearts that, ever seeking after thee,
                To thy great purpose dedicate these walls:
        Come, and spread here thy broad and beaming wings,
Where, in thy name, the Muse her humble tribute brings.

                                Spirit of Art, divine!
                                This edifice shall be a shrine
                        Where thy true worshippers may kneel:
                Standing sublime in Learning’s cause,
                The impress of thy mighty laws
                        Its form majestic will reveal,
                While the same glorious Sun shall make it bright,
                Or the same Moon shall gild it with her light,
                As have for ages shed their beams upon
                The hallowed ruins of the Parthenon!
                        And Wisdom’s goddess, here shall own
                                All that approach to seek her lore,
                        No less, than where was raised the throne
                                Which first her votaries knelt before.

                        Knowledge shall here unfold
                        Her “treasures new and old;”
                Science lay open her mysterious heart,
                        That searching eyes its inmost depths may see;
                And Helicon’s pure fount its streams impart
                        To all who thirst for living poesy!
                These opening gates will languages unlock,
                        And free shall flow old Homer’s tide of song,
                As when, in ancient days, from Horeb’s rock
                        Gushed limpid waters for the eager throng.

                Britannia’s bards shall dwell
                        Beneath this classic dome,
                And visit—Fancy’s dream to tell—
                        The laborer’s humble home:
        And History’s undying page
                Here the eventful past shall state;
        Or our brief present, to a future age
                                Perchance relate:
        Toil in these cheering walls forgot,
                The weary soul refreshed shall be,
        And riches wait to bless the lot
                Of patient Industry—
Wealth, such as shaping intellect hath wrought
From the imperishable mines of Thought.

                Spirit of Eloquence, whose voice
                Made Academic groves rejoice
                        In Plato’s days of old!
                We dedicate to Thee this Hall—
                Here ever at thy trumpet-call
                        May Truth again grow bold,
                And startle Error from his secret hold.

                Spirit of Science! here inspect
                        The mysteries of Philosophy;
                Or with thy telescope direct
                        To starry wonders in the sky.
                Spirit of Music, here awake!
                        This dome with airs melodious fill,
                And every listening spirit, make
                                With rapture thrill!

                Spirit of pure Religion! deign
                        Within this temple to abide,
                For Art and Science build in vain,
                        Unless Thou o’er their work preside:
                                The crumbling touch of Time
                                Lays low the edifice sublime;
                But if Thy foot-prints there are found,
                The spot whereon it stood “is holy ground;”
                        And every tribute offered there to Thee
                                The wreck of nature shall survive,
                                And in the hearts of God and Angels live
                        Among the records of Eternity.

Newark’s first city library, numbering 1,900 books, opened in 1848 in Library Hall, a three-story building on Market Street. Until the creation forty years later of a free public library, use was limited to shareholders and paying subscribers.

These verses, read at the dedication by William C. Prime, were reread in 1899 when the cornerstone was laid for the library’s present building at 5 Washington Street. The poem was first published in the Newark Daily Advertiser of February 22, 1848.

divident hill

by Elizabeth Clementine Kinney

dividenthill
Image: Old Newark

Pause here, O Muse! that Fancy’s eye
        May trace the footprints still
Of men that, centuries gone by,
        With prayer ordained this hill;
As lifts the misty veil of years,
        Such visions here arise
As when the glorious past appears
        Before enchanted eyes.

I see, from midst the faithful few
        Whose deeds yet live sublime–
Whose guileless spirits, brave as true,
        Are models “for all time,”
A group upon this height convened–
        In solemn prayer they stand–
Men, on whose sturdy wisdom leaned
        The settlers of our land.

In mutual love the line they trace
        That will their homes divide,
And ever mark the chosen place
        That prayer hath sanctified;
And here it stands–a temple old,
        Which crumbling Time still braves;
Though ages have their cycles rolled
        Above those patriots’ graves.

As Christ transfigured on the height
        The tree beheld with awe,
And near his radiant form, in white,
        The ancient prophets saw;
So, on this summit I behold
        With beatific sight,
Once more our praying sires of old,
        As spirits clothed in light.

A halo crowns the sacred hill,
        And thence glad voices raise
A song that doth the concave fill–
        Their prayers are turned to praise!
Art may not for these saints of old
        The marble urn invent;
Yet here the Future shall behold
        Their Heaven-built monument.

Elizabeth Clementine Stedman Kinney (née Dodge) was a prolific writer of poems and essays. Her “Divident Hill” exists in manuscript among the Kinney papers at The New Jersey Historical Society, and was first printed in Proceedings commemorative of the settlement of Newark, New Jersey (1866). Part of the historic boundary between Newark and Elizabeth, Divident Hill was crowned in 1916 by the stone pavilion pictured above.