a rainy day in camp

by A. M. Smith

Image: Newark Public Library

It’s a cheerless, lonesome evening,
        When the soaking, sodden ground
Will not echo to the footfall
        Of the sentinel’s dull round.

God’s blue star-spangled banner
        To-night is not unfurled,
Surely He has not deserted
        This weary, warring world.

I peer into the darkness,
        And the crowding fancies come,
The night wind blowing northward
        Carries all my heart towards home.

For I ’listed in this army,
        Not exactly to my mind,
But my country called for helpers,
        And I couldn’t stay behind.

So I’ve had a sight of drilling,
        And have roughed it many ways,
And death has nearly had me,
        Yet I think the service pays.

It’s a blessed sort of feeling,
        That though you live or die,
You have helped your grand old country,
        And fought right loyally.

But I can’t help thinking sometimes,
        When a wet day’s leisure comes,
That I hear the old home voices
        Talking louder than the drums.

And the far, familiar faces
        Peep in at the tent door,
And the little children’s footsteps
        Go pit-pat on the floor.

I can’t help thinking, some how,
        Of what the parson reads,
All about that other warfare,
        Which every true man leads.

And wife, dear-hearted creature,
        Seems saying in my ear,
“I’d rather have you in those ranks
        Than to see you brigadier.”

I call myself a brave man,
        But in my heart I lie;
For my country and her honor
        I am fiercely free to die.

But when the Lord, who gave me,
        Asks for my service here,
To fight the good fight faithfully,
        I’m slacking in the rear.

And yet I know this Captain
        All love and care to be,
He would never get impatient,
        With a weak recruit like me.

And I know He’d not forget me
        When the day of peace appears;
I should share with Him the victory
        Of all His volunteers.

And it’s kind of cheerful thinking,
        Beside the dull tent fire,
About that big promotion,
        When He says, “Come up higher.”

For I seem to see Him waiting,
        Where a gathered army meets;
A great victorious army,
        Surging up the golden streets.

And I hear Him read the roll call,
        And my heart is beating fast,
When the dear Recording Angel
        Writes down my happy name.

But the fire is dead white ashes,
        And the tent is chilling cold,
And I’m playing with the battle,
        When I have never been enrolled.

A year and a day from America’s official entry into World War I, the Newark Sunday Call published selections, “from among the best,” of “a barrage fire of verse” received from local men under arms. The editors on April 7, 1918, observed that “the great mass of verse produced since the inception of the world war is one of the most interesting phases of its development.”

Poet A. M. Smith was one of the 20,876 service members from Newark thought to have taken part in the conflict. A list of their names took seven years to compile; it was laid in a vault beneath the monument Planting the Standard of Democracy by Charles Henry Niehaus, which stands in Lincoln Park.

lullaby of avon ave.

by Amiri Baraka

Image: Anthony Alvarez via nj.com

I used to walk past Sassy’s crib
a couple times a week, when young

And each time say, “That’s
Where Sarah Vaughn lives.”

That was when Symphony Sid
used to call her, “The Divine One,”
Late nights, from hip Bird Land

Oh man, what a feeling that was
Divine & so hip & so very

The house is gone now
Symphony Sid too

As for the town, now
Sassy told us
just before she split

I’m gone, now
Send in


In 1949 Sarah Vaughan with her manager and then-husband George Treadwell bought a three-story house at 21 Avon Avenue. Her parents, Asbury and Ada Vaughan, moved from her childhood home on Brunswick Street into the two lower floors, while she and Treadwell occupied the top floor. By then, however, touring and recording kept the singer away from Newark for extended periods.

“Lullaby of Avon Ave.” appeared in the 1996 collection Funk Lore and the Summer 1996 issue of Journal of New Jersey Poets.

vernal equinox

by Hazel Crawley

Image: The Cultural Landscape Foundation

I do not think this love will last till Spring,
It was in wombs and tombs and cellars carved
And trained, like Ivy, on dank walls to cling,
Lacing two souls that had been too long starved.
Excluding air and sun and wind and rain,
Bent on destroying someone’s muttered curse,
We tightly plaited dammed-up dreams with pain
And now the ebb-tide wills us wounds to nurse.
The year’s first crocus will be our death knell;
The song of the first robin will incite
The thawing, waxing, sunlight to repel
A love that cannot turn away from night.

Poet and playwright Hazel Crawley was born in Newark and served in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II. These lines are from her 1975 collection Erratica.

in the newark library

by Louis Ginsberg

Image: Newark Public Library

Tread softly in these magic halls,–
        This Palace of Romance;
For mighty monarchs of the mind
        Gaze at your every glance.

Prophet and poet, priest and sage
        Are living here anew;
From alcove and from crowded stack
        They look again at you.

And all these voices of the past
        Are murmuring again
Their garnered wisdom of the world
        Into the ears of men.

Here Keats is watching eagerly
        Wherever Beauty gleams;
Shakspere is gazing in your heart;
        And Shelley, in your dreams.

So enter very softly here
        This Palace of Romance;
For all the monarchs of the mind
        Peer at your step and glance!

John Cotton Dana called the public library “the most democratic, universal institution ever devised,” and Newark’s library has fostered the work of countless women and men of letters, including native son Louis Ginsberg. This tribute was featured in The Attic of the Past and Other Lyrics.

the horseman washington

by Joseph Fulford Folsom

Image: Einar Einarsson Kvaran https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:JMRWashington.jpg CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9215445 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.

silence in the sky

by William Paterson

Image: Lou Shornick via Wikimedia Commons http://www.loushornick.com, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11867179
Image: Lou Shornick via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Oft as I try to wander out, among the stars on high,
I wonder more and more why reigns such silence in the sky.

The earth is moving at a pace, that would if it were free,
Within one little moment’s space, reveal Eternity,

And orbs on orbs are rolling far, beyond this mortal ken,
Whose rays of light have never reached the eyes of mortal men.

Yet not a sound in all their course, is heard of voice or air,
While silence guards the ceaseless track of nature everywhere.

If worlds on worlds their voices joined, to raise one chorus high,
It could not reach the utmost verge of silence in the sky.

But man is vain enough to think, his homeopathic skill
Can show the causes that ordain, the work of sovereign will:

Can measure suns and stars and skies, by finite rod and rule,
As if he could create anew; presumptuous mortal fool,

Be still, for God the Lord is God, and knows the reason why,
When worlds are rolling on thro’ space, there’s silence in the sky.

Albert Einstein (shown arriving at Newark Airport in 1939) settled in New Jersey thanks to the munificence of Newark entrepreneur Louis Bamberger: the Institute for Advanced Study, where Einstein worked until the end of his life, owed its existence to Bamberger’s department store fortune. Einstein was welcomed publicly to Newark for the first time on March 25, 1934, when he attended a concert at the Armory and a dinner at the Mosque Theater; both events raised funds for German scientists and others like Einstein fleeing Nazi persecution.

William Paterson, a grandson and namesake of New Jersey’s second governor, practiced law in Newark. “Silence in the Sky” comes from the 1882 volume Poems of Twin Graduates of the College of New Jersey, by William and his twin brother Stephen Van Rensselaer Paterson.


by Leonard Harmon Robbins

Image: National Archives via docsteach.org https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/wpa-federal-theater-projectactors-rehearsing-scenes-from-the-production-brother-mose-in-newark-new-jersey
Image: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library via docsteach.org

There are no friends, we often say,
        Like those dear friends we knew of yore.
Thus in our hearts we re-survey
        The path we tread no more.

And so, before the journey ends,
        We’ll take a backward look and vow
There were no friends like these good friends
        That walk beside us now.

Newspaperman Robbins made no literary claims for his poetry, which he assembled in a book called Jersey Jingles, published in Newark in 1907.