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.

veteran’s song

by Frederick H. Pilch

Image: National Guard
Image: National Guard

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

For Liberty our fathers fought,
        For Liberty they died;
And when their arms had freedom wrought,
        They threw those arms aside,
And gladly seeking toils of peace
Made forests fall and farms increase.


        And proudly all their children sing
        With tones that thrill and words that ring,
        We know no Prince, we fear no King,
        But Liberty alone we sing,
                        Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
                        Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!

Equality we boldly wrote,
        And set our banners high,
And aristocracy we smote
        To brisket, hip and thigh,
Our efforts made the last slave free
And gave him Law’s Equality.


        And gladly all our people sing,
        With tones that thrill and words that ring,
        We know no Master, Prince, nor King,
        Equality of man we sing,
                        Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
                        Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!

Fraternity must yet be won,
        God make us one right soon,
While yet our journey’s scarce begun
        Toward our Nation’s noon,
Then men shall sink place, race and creed,
And loving tolerance succeed.


        And gaily shall our children sing,
        With tones that thrill and words that ring,
        We know no Prince, we fear no King
        Mankind’s Fraternity we sing,
                        Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
                        Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!

In the years leading up to the Civil War the Newark Brigade comprised a number of companies of militia. Most were known only by letters but others had more picturesque names: the Washington Erina Guard, the Newark Irish Volunteers and the Lafayette Guards, to name a few.

This tribute to veterans was included in Frederick Pilch’s Homespun Verses, published in Newark in 1882.

the dignity of labor

by Frederick H. Pilch

Image: Michael Lenson
Image: Michael Lenson

Would you see hard work with success encrowned?
With a thoughtful eye calmly look around;
Here, the busy brain and the horny hand
Bid their wondrous wares in a pageant stand,
And the maker’s thoughts higher still aspire
When the women smile and the men admire—
Work is ne’er too mean to be deftly done,—
’Tis a small reward that is lightly won.

In the blackest muck snowy lillies bloom,
And the sunrise springs from the darkest gloom;
In the grimy coal lurks the power of steam,
In the shapeless stone sleeps the sculptor’s dream,
From the dusty loom fairest fabrics come,
Fairy fancies flit through the workshop’s hum,
In the plater’s bath silv’ry sheen’s begot,
And the picture’s gloss in the varnish pot.

Labor loves its work when it works for love,
From the Tanner’s vat comes the bridal glove;
From the furnace flame comes the shining steel,
And the gleaming gold from the rouging wheel;
In the throes of toil perfect art is wrought,
Through the mire of ink flash the gems of thought.
Breath depends on bread formed of dust and leaven;
In the mint of Earth saints are coined for Heaven.

From the dust of earth God made humankind,
With the dust of earth Jesus cured the blind;
From the blended dust of the earthly mine
Men make magic work that’s almost divine.
Man, in doing work finds his true delight,
Labor speeds the day—toil brings rest at night;
When the world was formed out of darkness bleak
Great Jehovah wrought one eventful week.

For seven and a half weeks in the late summer and early fall of 1872, the Newark Industrial Exhibition showcased a bewildering array of products from astronomical clocks to saddlers’ tools, baseball bats to hat blocks, washing soap to wax fruit, tinware to underwear, all of it Newark-made. The first such exhibition held in this country, the event demonstrated not only Newark’s unparalleled manufacturing prowess but, in the words of former mayor Theodore Runyon, an “appreciation of the value and dignity of labor.”

The exhibition inspired Frederick Pilch to compose these lines, which were included in his Homespun Verses published in Newark in 1882.


by Frederick H. Pilch


In the long days pleasant gloaming,
        ‘Twixt the sun and stars,
When the soul would fain go roaming
        Free from mortal bars;
Gentle night winds stir the roses,
As the door of daylight closes
        In the Western sky;
And the shades of dusk fall thickly,
As oblivion gathers quickly
        Over men who die;
Tunefully the streamlet’s tinkle
        In the leafy grove–
Tallies with the rhythmic twinkle
        Of the orbs above.


Distant drowsy bells are telling
        Midnight on the air,
Denizens of field and dwelling
        Slumber everywhere;
Troops of shadows flee to cover,
As the smiling moon peeps over
        Each umbrageous hill;
And amid its lustrous glimmer
Dusky woodland aisles grow dimmer,
        And more silent still;
Rills and rivers smile unwrinkled
        By the slightest breeze,
While the foliage droops unsprinkled
        On the dusty trees.


Crickets chirp and birds are singing
        At the break of day,
While the lavish sun is flinging
        Streams of tints away;
Busy farmers, brown and burly,
Haste to labor, bright and early,
        Ere the day be clear;
Making hillside echoes chatter
With the loudly rattling clatter
        Of the reaping gear;
While the gleeful children ramble
        ‘Mid the orchards cool,
Or with laughter splash and gamble
        In some quiet pool.

Image: Digital Commonwealth
Image: Digital Commonwealth

In 1882 Frederick Pilch, a Newark attorney, published Homespun Verses, a compilation of mostly seasonal poetry sampled here.

lines for decoration day

by Frederick H. Pilch

Image: Jordan Allen
Image: Jordan Allen

We meet to-day to decorate
        Our soldiers’ graves with flowers,
And vow their way to emulate
        Whenever danger lowers;
We gladly call their chieftains great,
        And welcome them with cheers,
For love of all who met dread Fate
        Like Union Volunteers.

In dark morass where mosses trail,–
        By bayous lone and still,–
In mountain pass where rainbows vail
        The limpid plunging rill,–
On quagmire’s crust, or arid plain,
        Afar from human tears,
Interred by dust and leaves and rain,
        Sleep Union Volunteers.

In barren sands along the shore
        Where ocean billows beat,
In forest lands where men no more
        In awful warfare meet,
On slopes remote where battles raged
        And warriors fought their peers,
With nought to note who were engaged,–
        Lie Union Volunteers.

They loved their soil, their homes, their wives,
        Their children, sweethearts, sires;–
Their honest toil brought quiet lives,
        And moderate desires;
With high resolve they said farewell
        To all that life endears,
Determined Treason to repel
        As Union Volunteers.

The few lie here,–the many there
        Still slumber where they fell,
Roses and clover blossoms fair
        And violets mark them well:
And though so far from home they lie
        We give them smiles and tears,
And honor with both shout and sigh
        Those Union Volunteers.

But as they bravely bled and died
        In agony and pain,
We say to-day with honest pride
        They did not die in vain;
For though the thinning legions go
        Adown the slope of years,
Freedom and Unity we owe
        To Union Volunteers.

Another generation bold
        Crowds on the stage of life.
To them the war’s a story told
        Of other people’s strife;
But in their hands our flag will fly
        Above all foes and fears,
On them our Nation can rely
        For Union Volunteers.

Six Civil War regiments were formed and trained at Camp Frelinghuysen, then an open field between the Morris Canal and Roseville Avenue. The first of these, the 13th New Jersey Infantry, left Newark on August 31, 1862, fought at Antietam, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, and participated in the siege of Atlanta and the March to the Sea. The Volunteers of the 13th remained in the Union service until the war’s end.

Attorney Frederick Pilch published this poem in the 1882 compilation Homespun verses.

mary’s valentines

by Frederick H. Pilch

Image: ephemera

When the short wintry day was o’er,
A comely maiden sat before
A table, where lay spread
Three valentines, of style and hue
Quite dainty,—forth the first she drew,
And laughingly she read:
“Oh! Lady, I would be a flower,
To die in fragrance on your breast;
Or a chaste star, at midnight hour
To kiss your eyelids while you rest;
Or a soft breeze, at mid-day fair
To lift the ringlets of your hair
And whisper tender wishes there.”

‘Twas signed with a romantic name;
She knew who sent it just the same,
And fixed it in her mirror’s frame,
In future to amuse;
Then smiling sweetly, took apart
A second “herald of the heart,”
And found amid that work of art
These verses to peruse:
“Fair Damsel, would that you might need
A champion bold, or warrior true,
By brave emprize to win the meed
Of laurel wreaths, and smiles from you;
Against all comers I would stand,
Your doughty knight with sword in hand,
To do, or die, at your command.”

This was subscribed by “Roderick Dhu,”
Full well the clerkly hand she knew,
And that “a cloth-yard shaft” he drew
That ne’er was dipped in gore;—
She put this one away with care,
Then with an interested air
Took up the last epistle there,
And these lines pondered o’er:
“Dear Mary, I have loved you long,
And I will love you evermore,
My heart is stout, my arm is strong,
I am not versed in lover’s lore.
Nor flowing phrases can I bring,
But if my suit is no vain thing
I pray you wear this little ring.”

She kissed the name below,—twas “John,”
And hid it where her brooch went on,—
Or somewhere thereabout,—
The circlet fitted very well,
And in a reverie she fell,
Until the light went out.

A Newark attorney, Pilch included this poem in his volume Homespun verses, published in 1882.