the keepers of the light

by Theodosia Garrison

Image: The Selvedge Yard

We are the keepers of that steadfast light
That guides a people’s course and destiny;
Not ours the skill directing over the sea
The mighty beams that blaze the path aright:
Ours but the hands that, serving, keep it bright;
The bringers of the oil, the workers we
Who day long, without pause and faithfully,
Toil that its radiance may pierce the night.

Above us are the wills that guide and turn;
It is not ours to watch nor question these:
Ours but to see each wick is trimmed and fit,
Lest on a night of storm it fails to burn
And a Great Ship goes down in awful seas.
O Keepers of the light, keep faith with it!

This sonnet of World War I, by a Newark native, was first printed in the April 1918 issue of McClure’s Magazine.

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a song of service

by Theodosia Garrison

Image: Mary L. Martin, Ltd.
Image: Mary L. Martin, Ltd.

Folly and Complacency went singing through the dark,
They paused before a window that showed a candle’s spark.
“Come forth, come forth and join us or bid us entrance win!”
“Nay, I’ve a wheel a-turning and I have wool to spin;
Unless your hands may aid me ye shall not enter in.”

Folly and Complacency went singing through the night;
They paused before a casement that showed a shining light.
“Now bid us in, old Comrade, to revel until day!”
“Nay, I’ve a sword to sharpen to keep a foe at bay;
Unless your hands may aid me I speed you on your way.”

Oh, there are swords to sharpen and there is wool to spin,
And woe betide the foolish ones who let these wastrels in!
At the cost of a dulled sword a people may be sold;
For lack of warmth a nation may perish in the cold,
And unto us the reckoning and price thereof be told.

Folly and Complacency–on our heads be the sin
If once our hands should slacken, our voices bid you in.
While there’s a sword to sharpen, while there’s a wheel to turn,
A word to say, a prayer to pray, a signal light to burn,
God give us strength and wakefulness to match the wage we earn.

This World War I-era poem was first printed in the March 1918 issue of McClure’s Magazine.

these shall prevail

by Theodosia Garrison

War laid bugle to his lips, blew one blast–and then
The seas answered him with ships, the earth with men.

Straight, Death caught his sickle up, called his reapers grim,
Famine with his empty cup came after him.

Down the stairs of Paradise hastened angels three,
Pity, and Self-Sacrifice, and Charity.

Where the curved, black sickles sweep, where pale Famine clings,
Where gaunt women watch and weep, come these of wings.

When the red wrath perisheth, when the dulled swords fail,
These three who have walked with Death–these shall prevail.

Hell bade all its millions rise; Paradise sends three;
Pity, and Self-Sacrifice, and Charity.

Image: Newark Public Library via influenzaarchive.org
Image: Newark Public Library via influenzaarchive.org

Newark’s location on the Atlantic coast and its chemical and steel industries proved crucial to U.S. mobilization in the First World War. Wartime activities also profoundly transformed the city. Gazing into the future, a leading attorney commented that women involved in Red Cross work would no longer be content “to live lives of uselessness.”

Theodosia Garrison published this poem in the February 1918 Good Housekeeping magazine.

a song of cities

by Theodosia Garrison

Image: Jerry McCrea/The Star-Ledger
Image: Jerry McCrea/The Star-Ledger

Babylon and Nineveh
Ephesus and Tyre,—
These were names to thrill us once,
Seeing, as we read,
Wall and gate and citadel,
Golden dome and spire,—
All the glory that youth sees
O’er the dust and dead.

Cities of the lordly names:
Sybaris, Damascus;
Doubtless, too, their little lads
Dreaming as we dreamed,
Visioned older cities still,
Far as ever theirs from us,
Cities that their Grandsires built
With words that glowed and gleamed.

Babylon and Nineveh,
Troy Town and Rome,
Little did we think one day,
Until we wandered far,
How dearer and more dreamed of
The city of our home,—
The commonplace, gray city
Where yet our treasures are.

Bagdad and Carthage
Sybaris, Damascus,
Babylon and Nineveh,
Troy Town and Rome:
You may hold my fancy still,
Great names and glorious;
But O, my commonplace, gray town,
‘Tis here my heart comes home.

Newark native Theodosia Garrison served as a judge of the 1916 poetry competition. The resulting volume of Newark Anniversary Poems included this contribution.

the green inn

by Theodosia Garrison 

Image: The New York Public Library
Image: The New York Public Library

I sicken of men’s company—
        The crowded tavern’s din,
Where all day long with oath and song
        Sit they who entrance win;
So come I out from noise and rout
        To rest in God’s Green Inn.

Here none may mock an empty purse
        Or ragged coat and poor,
But Silence waits within the gates,
        And Peace beside the door;
The weary guest is welcomest,
        The richest pays no score.

The roof is high and arched and blue,
        The floor is spread with pine;
On my four walls the sunlight falls
        In golden flecks and fine;
And swift and fleet, on noiseless feet
        The Four Winds bring me wine.

Upon my board they set their store—
        Great drinks mixed cunningly,
Wherein the scent of furze is blent
        With odor of the sea,
As from a cup I drink it up
        To thrill the veins of me.

It’s I will sit in God’s Green Inn
        Unvexed by man or ghost,
Yet ever fed and comforted,
        Companioned by mine host,
And watched at night by that white light
        High-swung from coast to coast.

Oh, you who in the House of Strife
        Quarrel and game and sin,
Come out and see what cheer may be
        For starveling souls and thin,
Who come at last from drought and fast
        To sit in God’s Green Inn!

A Newark-born poet, Theodosia Pickering Faulks published under the name Theodosia Garrison. “The Green Inn” first appeared in the July 1907 issue of Scribner’s Magazine.