the horseman washington

by Joseph Fulford Folsom

Image: Einar Einarsson Kvaran CC BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Image: Einar Einarsson Kvaran via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Today, Rhind’s masterpiece unveil’d, we feel
        A sense of olden time. Light horsemen ride
        On Jersey roads, and sleepless foemen hide
In ambush. Everywhere the flash of steel.

The age of romance backward turns again,
        The din of modern traffic dies away;
        Once more we tribute to a hero pay,
And cease awhile our wonted quest of gain.

Yon horseman in heroic bronze, who stands
        So nobly pois’d beside his pawing steed,
        Is Washington, who, in his country’s need,
Rode many weary leagues through many lands.

‘Twas chill November when, in brave retreat,
        He pass’d this ancient common long ago;
        November brings him back again, but lo,
A victor, ever rais’d above defeat!

Thus stood he by his charger when at last
        He paus’d his troops to wish a fond farewell:
        Then, homeward mounting, rode away to dwell
In peace, with all alarms of battle past.

Thus may he stand forever in our street,
        Ready to mount and ride in our defence;
        Or win us back with silent eloquence
To nobler tasks, and daily lives more sweet.

This poem’s fourth and fifth stanzas recall both the desperate early months of the American rebellion and its successful conclusion: the retreat of George Washington’s army across New Jersey with a four-day encampment in Newark in November 1776, and Washington’s farewell address to his troops in November 1783, upon resigning his command.

Clergyman and historian Joseph Fulford Folsom read these lines on November 2, 1912, at the unveiling of J. Massey Rhind’s bronze statue of a dismounted General Washington, which stands at the south end of Washington Park.

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.


by Joseph Fulford Folsom

War of America

An Interpretation of Gutzon Borglum’s “Wars of America”

Fanfare and lights! Make way the master-play
        Of these United States, redeemed and free!
Up patriots! Hurrah the brave array
        And pageant of the soul of history!

Sheer supermen these captains in the van,
        Phalanxed as some steep avalanche at pause,
A moment poised in raptured gaze they scan
        The radiant future of their holy cause.

Afar the fabled peaks delectable they catch,
        Eternity is mirrored in their eyes,
Beyond the rough and mist-bound path they watch
        Entranced the new Democracy arise.

Stern pioneers of liberty they stand,
        Like giant demi-gods who strove of old,
Or mated with the daughters of the land
        To multiply a brood of heroes bold.

Behind them rolls such human tidal wave
        As never since the first moon lit the night
Swept over land or sea, a host that gave
        Its sacred all a sacrifice to right.

O force invincible! O soldiers bluff!
        O men and women of the rank and file,
Grim servitors who tarry by the stuff,
        Your parts we hail with high acclaim the while.

Some San Juan hill they seem to scale again,
        Or Lookout’s terraced slope. And by their side
The horses of the Shenandoah strain,
        With conscious comradeship–pathetic pride.

To hold the blood-wet mount of high resolve
        The toilers sweat, the women bear and rear,
Upon the unarmed grand reserve devolve
        The burdens of the home, the toil, the tear.

O height! eternal as man’s long ascent,
        You call to us like that in Galilee,
Where Jesus, Moses and Elias spent
        One night in brotherhood and prophecy.

Tongue-tied awhile we watch the action flow,
        And then the pent emotion breaks and cries:
“Speak! prologue, from the wings, and let us know
        What this foregathered pantomime implies.

“We want the secret word, the master’s key,
        To make this thrilling drama free for all,
One name to character the mystery,
        Before the cast go off and curtains fall.”

With clay-stained palms upraised the sculptor speaks:
        “The task of visioned hours at last is done;
From out my hands this art to freedom breaks,
        To be interpreted through time alone.”

Yet more he spoke: “The word you ask was seen
        At Trenton, and at Chateau Thierry fight,
As always in the victories between–
        It speaks forever in the bronze–Good night!”

“Wars of America,” the last and grandest of Gutzon Borglum’s four sculptures for Newark, was part of a bequest from furniture store magnate Amos Hoagland Van Horn, a Civil War veteran who died in 1908. The colossal bronze includes figures of officers and foot soldiers, family members, a Red Cross nurse, a conscientious objector and two horses.

“Courage” was read at the monument’s unveiling in Military Park on May 31, 1926.

military park

by Joseph Fulford Folsom

ESS Newark
Image: Playle’s Auctions

Old drilling-green! you register
The city life. You are the glass
Reflecting what it thinks and feels,
The stage on which its actions run,
Its face on which emotions play,
You screen the laughing comedy
That comes and goes with every hour;
You set the scene for tragedies
That reel out endlessly their pain.

War’s atmosphere was early blown
Across your velvet lawn. The tramp
Of rough-shod feet crushed down the grass
When rumors of the savage foe
Alarmed. You saw the Jersey Blue,
And later welcomed Washington,
Close followed by the British troops,
And every war of free America
In some way touched your sacred soil.

Your tempting shadows know the tale
The lover stammers like a prayer,
And beads with fervent kisses laid
Upon the lips of his fair shrine;
And not Old Trinity itself,
That nearby lifts its graceful spire
Among the trees, more zeal inspires,
For love is like in aisle or green,
With one Great Lover over all.

The brush of tripping baby feet
You feel—as ocean feels the kiss
Of rippling zephyrs on its face—
You nourish them on your full breast
With light and air—kind nature’s food.
You give the tired mother rest,
And for the jaded clerk at noon
You make a land of dreams to prop
His crumbling hope of better days.

You know the secrets of the clan
That sit and drone the hours away–
The disappointed and the broke,
The down-and-outer and the bum—
The living tragedies that run
Along with gay prosperity—
You know it all, old drilling-ground!—
You register the city’s soul,
And we unmoved look on the show.

The Newark Sunday Call carried this poem in its August 10, 1919, edition.

a city on a hill

by Joseph Fulford Folsom

Newark! to-day begins thy lamp to shine
With power high to flash the distant peaks
With messages of hope.  Thy gladness speaks,
And lo! a nation’s soul is knit with thine:

A city on a hill thou art, a shrine
Of homing pilgrims, who afar the streaks
Of thy new dawn behold—a dawn that breaks
Prophetic of a day without decline:

Ah! may that gleam forever love reveal,
That in the common heart lives warm and pure,
And spends itself for all humanity;
And may the dawning of a nobler weal
Of spirit beauty, and of goodness, lure
Our souls to light and civic sanity.

A writer of historical pieces, a clergyman, and the recording secretary and librarian of the New Jersey Historical Society, Folsom published this sonnet in the March 1916 issue of The Newarker.

the unfinished work

by Joseph Fulford Folsom

The crowd was gone, and to the side
        Of Borglum’s Lincoln, deep in awe,
I crept. It seem’d a mighty tide
        Within those aching eyes I saw.

“Great heart,” I said, “why grieve alway?
        The battle’s ended, and the shout
Shall ring forever and a day,—
        Why sorrow yet, or darkly doubt?”

“Freedom,” I plead, “so nobly won
        For all mankind, and equal right,
Shall with the ages travel on
        Till time shall cease, and day be night.”

No answer—then; but up the slope,
        With broken gait, and hands in clench,
A toiler came, bereft of hope,
        And sank beside him on the bench.

Image: The Star-Ledger
Image: Newark Public Library via The Star-Ledger

Joseph Fulford Folsom was a Presbyterian pastor and local historian, as well as a poet. He wrote a regular column on historical matters for the Newark Evening News, signing himself The Lorist. His poem on the Lincoln statue was included in the 1912 volume The Newark Lincoln.