newark

by Minnie J. Reynolds

A hundred years he slept beside
The meadows with their salty tide;
Without, the century rushed and screamed—
But still he slept, and never dreamed.

The bees buzzed round him where he lay;
The honied scent of new-mown hay
Came wafted down the village street—
Those hundred placid years to greet.

The second laggard century crept,
Slow loitering on, and still he slept;
But in his sleep he dreamed and stirred—
And on his lips a muttered word.

Troubled, he turned; he vaguely sighed;
His eyes, half opened, saw the wide
Horizons that, beyond his ken,
Swept out into the world of men.

With shriek and shot and clangorous din
Came his third century leaping in;
He sprang to meet it with a roar—
The giant wakes, to sleep no more.

By the salt meadows there he stands,
With knotted muscles, iron hands,
And fills a thousand rushing keels,
And turns ten thousand thousand wheels.

He hurls the rushing trains afar,
He calls where distant peoples are,
And bids them work with sweating speed
His clamorous engines still to feed.

And islands in far southern seas
For him denude their tropic trees;
And in the jungle’s endless night
Toil slaves to feed the giant’s might.

His harvest field is all the earth,
Raw wealth he gleans, and gives it birth
In forms of use for all the world;
His flag of toil is never furled.

By the salt meadows there he stands,
A giant, with his iron hands
Grasping a throttle open wide—
And round him sweep horizons wide.

Image: Library of Congress
Image: Library of Congress

Minnie Reynolds was a journalist and executive secretary of the Women’s Political Union of New Jersey. From the WPU’s Newark headquarters she organized rallies and meetings in factories and neighborhoods, in advance of an October 1915 statewide referendum on the question of extending voting rights to women. New Jersey was one of four states that rejected women’s suffrage that year.

Reynolds’s “Newark” was a prizewinning entry in the 1916 poetry contest held for the city’s 250th anniversary.

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