The poems of Edmund Clarence Stedman/Poems of Manhattan

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POEMS OF MANHATTAN


PETER STUYVESANT'S NEW YEAR'S CALL

1 Jan. A. D. 1661

Where nowadays the Battery lies,
New York had just begun,
A new-born babe, to rub its eyes,
In Sixteen Sixty-One.
They christened it Nieuw Amsterdam,
Those burghers grave and stately,
And so, with schnapps and smoke and psalm,
Lived out their lives sedately.


Two windmills topped their wooden wall,
On Stadthuys gazing down,
On fort, and cabbage-plots, and all
The quaintly gabled town;
These flapped their wings and shifted backs,
As ancient scrolls determine,
To scare the savage Hackensacks,
Paumanks, and other vermin.


At night the loyal settlers lay
Betwixt their feather-beds;
In hose and breeches walked by day,
And smoked, and wagged their heads.
No changeful fashions came from France,
The freulen to bewilder,
And cost the burgher's purse, perchance,
Its every other guilder.


In petticoats of linsey-red,
And jackets neatly kept,
The vrouws their knitting-needles sped
And deftly spun and swept.
Few modern-school flirtations there
Set wheels of scandal trundling,
But youths and maidens did their share
Of staid, old-fashioned bundling.


—The New Year opened clear and cold;
The snow, a Flemish ell
In depth, lay over Beeckman's Wold
And Wolfert's frozen well.
Each burgher shook his kitchen-doors,
Drew on his Holland leather,
Then stamped through drifts to do the chores,
Beshrewing all such weather.


But—after herring, ham, and kraut—
To all the gathered town
The Dominie preached the morning out,
In Calvinistic gown;
While tough old Peter Stuyvesant
Sat pewed in foremost station,—
The potent, sage, and valiant
Third Governor of the nation.


Prayer over, at his mansion hall,
With cake and courtly smile
He met the people, one and all,
In gubernatorial style;
Yet missed, though now the day was old,
An ancient fellow-feaster,—
Heer Govert Loockermans, that bold
Brewer and burgomeester;


Who, in his farm-house, close without
The picket's eastern end,
Sat growling at the twinge of gout
That kept him from his friend.
But Peter strapped his wooden peg,
When tea and cake were ended
(Meanwhile the sound remaining leg
Its high jack-boot defended),


A woolsey cloak about him threw,
And swore, by wind and limb,
Since Govert kept from Peter's view,
Peter would visit him;
Then sallied forth, through snow and blast,
While many a humble greeter
Stood wondering whereaway so fast
Strode bluff Hardkoppig Pieter.


Past quay and cowpath, through a lane
Of vats and mounded tans,
He puffed along, with might and main,
To Govert Loockermans;
Once there, his right of entry took,
And hailed his ancient crony:
"Myn Gód! in dese Manhattoes, Loock,
Ve gets more snow as money!"


To which, and after whiffs profound,
With doubtful wink and nod,
There came at last responsive sound:
"Yah, Peter; yah, Myn Gód!"
Then goedevrouw Marie sat her guest
Beneath the chimney-gable,
And courtesied, bustling at her best
To spread the New Year's table.


She brought the pure and genial schnapps,
That years before had come—
In the "Nieuw Nederlandts," perhaps—
To cheer the settlers' home;
The long-stemmed pipes; the fragrant roll
Of pressed and crispy Spanish;
Then placed the earthen mugs and bowl,
Nor long delayed to vanish.


Thereat, with cheery nod and wink,
And honors of the day,
The trader mixed the Governor's drink
As evening sped away.
That ancient room! I see it now:
The carven nutwood dresser;
The drawers, that many a burgher's vrouw
Begrudged their rich possessor;


The brace of high-backed leathern chairs,
Brass-nailed at every seam;
Six others, ranged in equal pairs;
The bacon hung abeam:
The chimney-front, with porcelain shelft;
The hearty wooden fire;
The picture, on the steaming delft,
Of David and Goliah.


I see the two old Dutchmen sit
Like Magog and his mate,
And hear them, when their pipes are lit,
Discuss affairs of state:
The clique that would their sway demean;
The pestilent importation
Of wooden nutmegs, from the lean
And losel Yankee nation.


But when the subtle juniper
Assumed its sure command,
They drank the buxom loves that were,—
They drank the Motherland;
They drank the famous Swedish wars,
Stout Peter's special glory,
While Govert proudly showed the scars
Of Indian contests gory.


Erelong, the berry's power awoke
Some music in their brains,
And, trumpet-like, through rolling smoke,
Rang long-forgotten strains,—
Old Flemish snatches, full of blood,
Of phantom ships and battle;
And Peter, with his leg of wood,
Made floor and casement rattle.


Then round and round the dresser pranced,
The chairs began to wheel,
And on the board the punch-bowl danced
A Netherlandish reel;
Till midnight o'er the farm-house spread
Her New-Year's skirts of sable,
And, inch by inch, each puzzled head
Dropt down upon the table.


But still to Peter, as he dreamed,
That table spread and turned;
The chimney-log blazed high, and seemed
To circle as it burned;
The town into the vision grew
From ending to beginning;
Fort, wall, and windmill met his view,
All widening and spinning.


The cowpaths, leading to the docks,
Grew broader, whirling past,
And checkered into shining blocks,—
A city fair and vast;
Stores, churches, mansions, overspread
The metamorphosed island,
While not a beaver showed his head
From Swamp to Kalchook highland.


Eftsoons the picture passed away;
Hours after, Peter woke
To see a spectral streak of day
Gleam in through fading smoke;
Still slept old Govert, snoring on
In most melodious numbers;
No dreams of Eighteen Sixty-One
Commingled with his slumbers.


But Peter, from the farm-house door,
Gazed doubtfully around,
Rejoiced to find himself once more
On sure and solid ground.
The sky was somewhat dark ahead,
Wind east, and morning lowery;
And on he pushed, a two-miles' tread,
To breakfast at his Bouwery.

1861.


FUIT ILIUM

One by one they died,—
Last of all their race;
Nothing left but pride,
Lace, and buckled hose.
Their quietus made,
On their dwelling-place
Ruthless hands are laid:
Down the old house goes!


See the ancient manse
Meet its fate at last!
Time, in his advance,
Age nor honor knows;
Axe and broadaxe fall,
Lopping off the Past:
Hit with bar and maul,
Down the old house goes!


Sevenscore years it stood:
Yes, they built it well,
Though they built of wood,
When that house arose.
For its cross-beams square
Oak and walnut fell;
Little worse for wear,
Down the old house goes!


Rending board and plank,
Men with crowbars ply,
Opening fissures dank,
Striking deadly blows.
From the gabled roof
How the shingles fly!
Keep you here aloof,—
Down the old house goes!


Holding still its place,
There the chimney stands,
Stanch from top to base,
Frowning on its foes.
Heave apart the stones,
Burst its iron bands!
How it shakes and groans!
Down the old house goes!


Round the mantel-piece
Glisten Scripture tiles;
Henceforth they shall cease
Painting Egypt's woes,
Painting David's fight,
Fair Bathsheba's smiles,
Blinded Samson's might,—
Down the old house goes!


On these oaken floors
High-shoed ladies trod;
Through those panelled doors
Trailed their furbelows:
Long their day has ceased;
Now, beneath the sod,
With the worms they feast,—
Down the old house goes!


Many a bride has stood
In yon spacious room;
Here her hand was wooed
Underneath the rose;
O'er that sill the dead
Reached the family tomb:
All, that were, have fled,—
Down the old house goes!


Once, in yonder hall,
Washington, they say,
Led the New-Year's ball,
Stateliest of beaux.
O that minuet,
Maids and matrons gay!
Are there such sights yet?
Down the old house goes.


British troopers came
Ere another year,
With their coats aflame,
Mincing on their toes;
Daughters of the house
Gave them haughty cheer,
Laughed to scorn their vows,—
Down the old house goes!


Doorway high the box
In the grass-plot spreads;
It has borne its locks
Through a thousand snows;
In an evil day,
From those garden-beds
Now 't is hacked away,—
Down the old house goes!


Lo! the sycamores,
Scathed and scrawny mates,
At the mansion doors
Shiver, full of woes;
With its life they grew,
Guarded well its gates;
Now their task is through,—
Down the old house goes!


On this honored site
Modern trade will build,—
What unseemly fright
Heaven only knows!
Something peaked and high,
Smacking of the guild:
Let us heave a sigh,—
Down the old house goes!


BOHEMIA

A PILGRIMAGE

I

When buttercups are blossoming,
The poets sang, 'tis best to wed:
So all for love we paired in Spring—
Blanche and I—ere youth had sped,
For Autumn's wealth brings Autumn's wane.
Sworn fealty to royal Art
Was ours, and doubly linked the chain,
With symbols of her high domain,
That twined us ever heart to heart;
And onward, like the Babes in the Wood,
We rambled, till before us stood
The outposts of Bohemia.


II

For, roaming blithely many a day,
Eftsoons our little hoard of gold,
Like Christian's follies, slipt away,
Unloosened from the pilgrim's hold,
But left us just as blithe and free;
Whereat our footsteps turned aside
From lord and lady of degree,
And bore us to that brave countree
Where merrily we now abide,—
That proud and humble, poor and grand,
Enchanted, golden Gypsy-Land,
The Valley of Bohemia.


III

Together from the higher clime,
By terraced cliff and copse along,
Adown the slant we stept, in time
To many another pilgrim's song,
And came where faded far away,
Each side, the kingdom's ancient wall,
From breaking into dying day;
Beyond, the magic valley lay,
With glimpse of shimmering stream and fall;
And here, between twin turrets, ran,
Built o'er with arch and barbacan,
The entrance to Bohemia.


IV

Beneath the lichened parapet
Grim-sculptured Gog and Magog bore
The Royal Arms,—Hope's Anchor, set
In azure, on a field of or,
With pendent mugs, and hands that wield
A lute and tambour, graven clear;
What seemed a poet's scroll revealed
The antique legend of the shield:
Gambrinus. Rex. helde. Wassaille. here.
Joyned. with. ye. Kinge. of. Yvetot.
O. worlde-worne. Pilgrim. passe. belowe.
To. entre. fayre. Bohemia.


V

No churlish warder barred the gate,
Nor other pass was needed there
Than equal heart for either fate,
And barren scrip, and hope to spare.
Through the gray archway, hand in hand,
We walked, beneath the rampart high,
And on within the wondrous land;
There, changed as by enchanter's wand,
My sweetheart, fairer to the eye
Than ever, moved along serene
In hood and cloak,—a gypsy queen,
Born princess of Bohemia!


VI

A fairy realm! where slope and stream,
Champaign and upland, town and grange,
Like shadowy shiftings of a dream,
Forever blend and interchange;
A magic clime! where, hour by hour,
Storm, cloud, and sunshine, fleeting by,
Commingle, and, through shine and shower,
Bright castles, lit with rainbows, tower,
Emblazoning the distant sky
With glimmering glories of a land
Far off, yet ever close at hand
As hope, in brave Bohemia.


VII

On either side the travelled way,
Encamped along the sunny downs,
The blithesome, bold Bohemians lay;
Or hid, in quaintly-gabled towns,
At smoke-stained inns of musty date,
And spider-haunted attic nooks
In empty houses of the great,
Still smacking of their ancient state,—
Strewn round with pipes and mouldy books,
And robes and buskins over-worn,
That well become the careless scorn
And freedom of Bohemia.


VIII

For, loving Beauty, and, by chance,
Too poor to make her all in all,
They spurn her half-way maintenance,
And let things mingle as they fall;
Dissevered from all other climes,
Yet compassing the whole round world,
Where'er are jests, and jousts at rhymes,
True love, and careless, jovial times,
Great souls by jilting Fortune whirled,
Men that were born before their day,
Kingly, without a realm to sway,
Yet monarchs in Bohemia;


IX

And errant wielders of the quill;
And old-world princes, strayed afar,
In threadbare exile chasing still
The glimpses of a natal star;
And Woman—taking refuge there
With woman's toil, and trust, and song,
And something of a piquant air
Defiant, as who must and dare
Steer her own shallop, right or wrong.
A certain noble nature schools,
In scorn of smaller, mincing rules,
The maidens of Bohemia.


X

But we pursued our pilgrimage
Far on, through hazy lengths of road,
Or crumbling cities gray with age;
And stayed in many a queer abode,
Days, seasons, years,—wherein were born
Of infant pilgrims, one, two, three;
And ever, though with travel worn,
Nor garnered for the morrow's morn,
We seemed a merry company,—
We, and the mates whom friendship, or
What sunshine fell within our door,
Drew to us in Bohemia.


XI

For Ambrose—priest without a cure—
Christened our babes, and drank the wine
He blessed, to make the blessing sure;
And Ralph, the limner—half-divine
The picture of my Blanche he drew,
As Saint Cecilia 'mong the caves,—
She singing; eyes a holy blue,
Upturned and rapturous; hair, in hue,
Gold rippled into amber waves.
There, too, is wayward, wild Annette,
Danseuse and warbler and grisette,
True daughter of Bohemia.


XII

But all by turns and nothing long;
And Rose, whose needle gains her bread;
And bookish Sibyl,—she whose tongue
The bees of Hybla must have fed;
And one—a poet—nowise sage
For self, but gay companion boon
And prophet of the golden age;
He joined us in our pilgrimage
Long since, one early Autumn noon
When, faint with journeying, we sate
Within a wayside hostel-gate
To rest us in Bohemia.


XIII

In rusty garb, but with an air
Of grace, that hunger could not whelm,
He told his wants, and—"Could we spare
Aught of the current of the realm—
A shilling?"—which I gave; and so
Came talk, and Blanche's kindly smile;
Whereat he felt his heart aglow,
And said: "Lo, here is silver! lo,
Mine host hath ale! and it were vile,
If so much coin were spent by me
For bread, when such good company
Is gathered in Bohemia."


XIV

Richer than Kaiser on his throne,
A royal stoup he bade them bring;
And so, with many of mine own,
His shilling vanished on the wing;
And many a skyward-floating strain
He sang, we chorusing the lay
Till all the hostel rang again;
But when the day began to wane,
Along the sequel of our way
He kept us pace; and, since that time,
We never lack for song and rhyme
To cheer us, in Bohemia.


XV

And once we stopped a twelvemonth, where
Five-score Bohemians began
Their scheme to cheapen bed and fare,
Upon a late-discovered plan;
"For see," they said, "the sum how small
By which one pilgrim's wants are met!
And if a host together fall,
What need of any cash at all?"
Though how it worked I half forget,
Yet still the same old dance and song
We found,—the kindly, blithesome throng
And joyance of Bohemia.


XVI

Thus onward through the Magic Land,
With varying chance. But once there past
A mystic shadow o'er our band,
Deeper than Want could ever cast,
For, oh, it darkened little eyes!
We saw our youngest darling die,
Then robed her in her palmer's guise,
And crossed the fair hands pilgrim-wise,
And, one by one, so tenderly,
Came Ambrose, Sibyl, Ralph, and Rose,
Strewing each sweetest flower that grows
In wildwoods of Bohemia.


XVII

But last the Poet, sorrowing, stood
Above the tiny clay, and said:
"Bright little Spirit, pure and good,
Whither so far away hast fled?
Full soon thou tryest that other sphere:
Whate'er is lacking in our lives
Thou dost attain; for Heaven is near,
Methinks, to pilgrims wandering here,
As to that one who never strives
With fortune,—has not come to know
The pride and pain that dwell so low
In valleys of Bohemia."


XVIII

He ceased, and pointed solemnly
Through western windows; and we saw
That lustrous castle of the sky
Gleam, touched with flame; and heard with awe,
About us, gentle whisperings
Of unseen watchers hovering near
Our dead, and rustling angel wings!
Now, whether this or that year brings
The valley's end, or, haply, here
Our pilgrimage for life must last,
We know not; but a sacred past
Has hallowed all Bohemia.


THE BALLAD OF LAGER BIER

In fallow college days, Tom Harland,
We both have known the ways of Yale,
And talked of many a nigh and far land,
O'er many a famous tap of ale.
There still they sing their Gaudeamus,
And see the road to glory clear;
But taps, that in our day were famous,
Have given place to Lager Bier.


Now, settled in this island-city,
We let new fashions have their weight;
Though none too lucky—more 's the pity!—
Can still beguile our humble state
By finding time to come together,
In every season of the year,
In sunny, wet, or windy weather,
And clink our mugs of Lager Bier.


On winter evenings, cold and blowing,
'T is good to order "'alf-and-'alf";
To watch the fire-lit pewter glowing,
And laugh a hearty English laugh;
Or even a sip of mountain whiskey
Can raise a hundred phantoms dear
Of days when boyish blood was frisky,
And no one heard of Lager Bier.


We've smoked in summer with Oscanyan,
Cross-legged in that defunct bazaar,
Until above our heads the banyan
Or palm-tree seemed to spread afar;
And, then and there, have drunk his sherbet,
Tinct with the roses of Cashmere:
That Orient calm! who would disturb it
With Norseland calls for Lager Bier?


There 's Paris chocolate,—nothing sweeter,
At midnight, when the dying strain,
Just warbled by La Favorita,
Still hugs the music-haunted brain;
Yet of all bibulous compoundings,
Extracts or brewings, mixed or clear,
The best, in substance and surroundings,
For frequent use, is Lager Bier.


Karl Schaeffer is a stalwart brewer,
Who has above his vaults a hall,
Where—fresh-tapped, foaming, cool, and pure—
He serves the nectar out to all.
Tom Harland, have you any money?
Why, then, we 'll leave this hemisphere,
This western land of milk and honey,
For one that flows with Lager Bier.


Go, flaxen-haired and blue-eyed maiden,
My German Hebe! hasten through
Yon smoke-cloud, and return thou laden
With bread and cheese and bier for two.
Limburger suits this bearded fellow;
His brow is high, his taste severe:
But I 'm for Schweitzer, mild and yellow,
To eat with bread and Lager Bier.


Ah, yes! the Schweitzer hath a savor
Of marjoram and mountain thyme,
An odoriferous, Alpine flavor;
You almost hear the cow-bells chime
While eating it, or, dying faintly,
The Ranz-des-vaches entrance the ear,
Until you feel quite Swiss and saintly,
Above your glass of Lager Bier.


Here comes our drink, froth-crowned and sunlit,
In goblets with high-curving arms,
Drawn from a newly opened runlet,
As bier must be, to have its charms.
This primal portion each shall swallow
At one draught, for a pioneer;
And thus a ritual usage follow
Of all who honor Lager Bier.


Glass after glass in due succession,
Till, borne through midriff, heart, and brain,
He mounts his throne and takes possession,—
The genial Spirit of the grain!
Then comes the old Berserker madness
To make each man a priest and seer,
And, with a Scandinavian gladness,
Drink deeper draughts of Lager Bier!


Go, maiden, fill again our glasses!
While, with anointed eyes, we scan
The blouse Teutonic lads and lasses,
The Saxon—Pruss—Bohemian,
The sanded floor, the cross-beamed gables,
The ancient Flemish paintings queer,
The rusty cup-stains on the tables,
The terraced kegs of Lager Bier.


And is it Göttingen, or Gotha,
Or Munich's ancient Wagner Brei,
Where each Bavarian drinks his quota,
And swings a silver tankard high?
Or some ancestral Gast-Haus lofty
In Nuremberg—of famous cheer
When Hans Sachs lived, and where, so oft, he
Sang loud the praise of Lager Bier?


For even now some curious glamour
Has brought about a misty change!
Things look, as in a moonlight dream, or
Magician's mirror, quaint and strange.
Some weird, phantasmagoric notion
Impels us backward many a year,
And far across the northern ocean,
To Fatherlands of Lager Bier.


As odd a throng I see before us
As ever haunted Brocken's height,
Carousing, with unearthly chorus,
On any wild Walpurgis-night;
I see the wondrous art-creations!
In proper guise they all appear,
And, in their due and several stations,
Unite in drinking Lager Bier.


I see in yonder nook a trio:
There's Doctor Faust, and, by his side,
Not half so love-distraught as Io,
Is gentle Margaret, heaven-eyed;
That man in black beyond the waiter—
I know him by his fiendish leer—
Is Mephistophiles, the traitor!
And how he swigs his Lager Bier!


Strange if great Goethe should have blundered,
Who says that Margaret slipt and fell
In Anno Domini Sixteen Hundred,
Or thereabout; and Faustus,—well,
We won't deplore his resurrection,
Since Margaret is with him here,
But, under her serene protection,
May boldly drink our Lager Bier.


That bare-legged gypsy, small and lithy,
Tanned like an olive by the sun,
Is little Mignon; sing us, prithee,
Kennst Du das Land, my pretty one!
Ah, no! she shakes her southern tresses,
As half in doubt and more in fear;
Perhaps the elvish creature guesses
We've had too much of Lager Bier.


There moves, full-bodiced, ripe, and human,
With merry smiles to all who come,
Karl Schaeffer's wife,—the very woman
Whom Rubens drew his Venus from!
But what a host of tricksome graces
Play round our fairy Undine here,
Who pouts at all the bearded faces,
And, laughing, brings the Lager Bier.


"Sit down, nor chase the vision farther,
You're tied to Yankee cities still!"
I hear you, but so much the rather
Should Fancy travel where she will.
Yet let the dim ideals scatter;
One puff, and lo! they disappear;
The comet, next, or some such matter,
We'll talk above our Lager Bier.


Now, then, your eyes begin to brighten,
And marvellous theories to flow;
A philosophic theme you light on,
And, spurred and booted, off you go!
If e'er—to drive Apollo's phaeton—
I need an earthly charioteer,
This tall-browed genius I will wait on,
And prime him first with Lager Bier.


But higher yet, in middle Heaven,
Your steed seems taking flight, my friend;
You read the secret of the Seven,
And on through trackless regions wend!
Don't vanish in the Milky Way, for
This afternoon you 're wanted here;
Come back! come back! and help me pay for
The bread and cheese and Lager Bier.


PAN IN WALL STREET

A. D. 1867

Just where the Treasury's marble front
Looks over Wall Street's mingled nations;
Where Jews and Gentiles most are wont
To throng for trade and last quotations;
Where, hour by hour, the rates of gold
Outrival, in the ears of people,
The quarter-chimes, serenely tolled
From Trinity's undaunted steeple,—


Even there I heard a strange, wild strain
Sound high above the modern clamor,
Above the cries of greed and gain,
The curbstone war, the auction's hammer;
And swift, on Music's misty ways,
It led, from all this strife for millions,
To ancient, sweet-do-nothing days
Among the kirtle-robed Sicilians.


And as it stilled the multitude,
And yet more joyous rose, and shriller,
I saw the minstrel, where he stood
At ease against a Doric pillar:
One hand a droning organ played,
The other held a Pan's-pipe (fashioned
Like those of old) to lips that made
The reeds give out that strain impassioned.


'T was Pan himself had wandered here
A-strolling through this sordid city,
And piping to the civic ear
The prelude of some pastoral ditty!
The demigod had crossed the seas,—
From haunts of shepherd, nymph, and satyr,
And Syracusan times,—to these
Far shores and twenty centuries later.


A ragged cap was on his head;
But—hidden thus—there was no doubting
That, all with crispy locks o'erspread,
His gnarlèd horns were somewhere sprouting;
His club-feet, cased in rusty shoes,
Were crossed, as on some frieze you see them,
And trousers, patched of divers hues,
Concealed his crooked shanks beneath them.


He filled the quivering reeds with sound,
And o'er his mouth their changes shifted,
And with his goat's-eyes looked around
Where'er the passing current drifted;
And soon, as on Trinacrian hills
The nymphs and herdsmen ran to hear him,
Even now the tradesmen from their tills,
With clerks and porters, crowded near him.


The bulls and bears together drew
From Jauncey Court and New Street Alley,
As erst, if pastorals be true,
Came beasts from every wooded valley;
The random passers stayed to list,—
A boxer Ægon, rough and merry,
A Broadway Daphnis, on his tryst
With Nais at the Brooklyn Ferry.


A one-eyed Cyclops halted long
In tattered cloak of army pattern,
And Galatea joined the throng,—
A blowsy, apple-vending slattern;
While old Silenus staggered out
From some new-fangled lunch-house handy,
And bade the piper, with a shout,
To strike up Yankee Doodle Dandy!


A newsboy and a peanut-girl
Like little Fauns began to caper:
His hair was all in tangled curl,
Her tawny legs were bare and taper;
And still the gathering larger grew,
And gave its pence and crowded nigher,
While aye the shepherd-minstrel blew
His pipe, and struck the gamut higher.


O heart of Nature, beating still
With throbs her vernal passion taught her,—
Even here, as on the vine-clad hill,
Or by the Arethusan water!
New forms may fold the speech, new lands
Arise within these ocean-portals,
But Music waves eternal wands,—
Enchantress of the souls of mortals!


So thought I,—but among us trod
A man in blue, with legal baton,
And scoffed the vagrant demigod,
And pushed him from the step I sat on.
Doubting I mused upon the cry,
"Great Pan is dead!"—and all the people
Went on their ways:—and clear and high
The quarter sounded from the steeple.


ISRAEL FREYER'S BID FOR GOLD

Friday, September 24, 1869

Zounds! how the price went flashing through
Wall street, William, Broad street, New!
All the specie in all the land
Held in one Ring by a giant hand—
For millions more it was ready to pay,
And throttle the Street on hangman's-day.
Up from the Gold Pit's nether hell,
While the innocent fountain rose and fell,
Loud and higher the bidding rose,
And the bulls, triumphant, faced their foes.
It seemed as if Satan himself were in it:
Lifting it—one per cent a minute—
Through the bellowing broker, there amid,
Who made the terrible, final bid!
High over all, and ever higher,
Was heard the voice of Israel Freyer,—
A doleful knell in the storm-swept mart,—
"Five millions more! and for any part
I'll give One Hundred and Sixty!"


Israel Freyer—the Government Jew—
Good as the best—soaked through and through
With credit gained in the year he sold
Our Treasury's precious hoard of gold;
Now through his thankless mouth rings out
The leaguers' last and cruellest shout!
Pity the shorts? Not they, indeed,
While a single rival's left to bleed!
Down come dealers in silks and hides,
Crowding the Gold Room's rounded sides,
Jostling, trampling each other's feet,
Uttering groans in the outer street;
Watching, with upturned faces pale,
The scurrying index mark its tale;
Hearing the bid of Israel Freyer,—
That ominous voice, would it never tire?
"Five millions more!—for any part,
(If it breaks your firm, if it cracks your heart,)
I'll give One Hundred and Sixty!"


One Hundred and Sixty! Can't be true!
What will the bears-at-forty do?
How will the merchants pay their dues?
How will the country stand the news?
What'll the banks—but listen! hold!
In screwing upward the price of gold
To that dangerous, last, particular peg,
They had killed their Goose with the Golden Egg!
Just there the metal came pouring out,
All ways at once, like a waterspout,
Or a rushing, gushing, yellow flood,
That drenched the bulls wherever they stood!
Small need to open the Washington main,
Their coffer-dams were burst with the strain!
It came by runners, it came by wire,
To answer the bid of Israel Freyer,
It poured in millions from every side,
And almost strangled him as he cried,—
"I'll give One Hundred and Sixty!"


Like Vulcan after Jupiter's kick,
Or the aphoristical Rocket's stick,
Down, down, down, the premium fell,
Faster than this rude rhyme can tell!
Thirty per cent the index slid,
Yet Freyer still kept making his bid,—
"One Hundred and Sixty for any part!"
—The sudden ruin had crazed his heart,
Shattered his senses, cracked his brain,
And left him crying again and again,—
Still making his bid at the market's top
(Like the Dutchman's leg that never could stop,)
"One Hundred and Sixty—Five Millions more!"
Till they dragged him, howling, off the floor.
The very last words that seller and buyer
Heard from the mouth of Israel Freyer—
A cry to remember long as they live—
Were, "I'll take Five Millions more! I'll give,—
I'll give One Hundred and Sixty!"


Suppose (to avoid the appearance of evil)
There's such a thing as a Personal Devil,
It would seem that his Highness here got hold,
For once, of a bellowing Bull in Gold!
Whether bull or bear, it would n't much matter
Should Israel Freyer keep up his clatter
On earth or under it (as, they say,
He is doomed) till the general Judgment Day,
When the Clerk, as he cites him to answer for 't,
Shall bid him keep silence in that Court!
But it matters most, as it seems to me,
That my countrymen, great and strong and free,
So marvel at fellows who seem to win,
That if even a Clown can only begin
By stealing a railroad, and use its purse
For cornering stocks and gold, or—worse—
For buying a Judge and Legislature,
And sinking still lower poor human nature,
The gaping public, whatever befall,
Will swallow him, tandem, harlots, and all!
While our rich men drivel and stand amazed
At the dust and pother his gang have raised,
And make us remember a nursery tale
Of the four-and-twenty who feared one snail.


What's bred in the bone will breed, you know;
Clowns and their trainers, high and low,
Will cut such capers, long as they dare,
While honest Poverty says its prayer.
But tell me what prayer or fast can save
Some hoary candidate for the grave,
The market's wrinkled Giant Despair,
Muttering, brooding, scheming there,—
Founding a college or building a church
Lest Heaven should leave him in the lurch!
Better come out in the rival way,
Issue your scrip in open day,
And pour your wealth in the grimy fist
Of some gross-mouthed, gambling pugilist;
Leave toil and poverty where they lie,
Pass thinkers, workers, artists, by,
Your pot-house fag from his counters bring
And make him into a Railway King!
Between such Gentiles and such Jews
Little enough one finds to choose:
Either the other will buy and use,
Eat the meat and throw him the bone,
And leave him to stand the brunt alone.


—Let the tempest come, that's gathering near,
And give us a better atmosphere!


THE OLD PICTURE-DEALER

The second landing-place. Above,
Sun-pictures for a shilling each.
Below, a haunt that Teutons love,—
Beer, smoke, and pretzels all in reach,
Between the two, a mouldy nook
Where loungers hunt for things of worth—
Engraving, curio, or book—
Here drifted from all over Earth.


Be the day's traffic more or less,
Old Brian seeks his Leyden chair
Placed in the anteroom's recess,
Our connoisseur's securest lair:
Here, turning full the burner's rays,
Holds long his treasure-trove in sight,—
Upon a painting sets his gaze
Like some devoted eremite.


The book-worms rummage as they will,
Loud roars the wonted Broadway din,
Life runs its hackneyed round,—but still
One tireless boon can Brian win,—
Can picture in this modern time
A life no more the world shall know,
And dream of Beauty at her prime
In Parma, with Correggio.


Withered the dealer's face, and old,
But wearing yet the first surprise
Of him whose eyes the light behold
Of Italy and Paradise:
Forever blest, forever young,
The rapt Madonna poises there,
Her praise by hovering cherubs sung,
Her robes by ether buoyed, not air.


See from the graybeard's meerschaum float
A cloud of incense! Day or night,
He needs must steal apart to note
Her grace, her consecrating light.
With less ecstatic worship lay,
Before his marble goddess prone,
The crippled poet, that last day
When in the Louvre he made his moan.


Warm grows the radiant masterpiece,
The sweetness of Correggio!
The visionary hues increase,
Angelic lustres come and go;
And still, as still in Parma too,—
In Rome, Bologna, Florence, all,—
Goes on the outer world's ado,
Life's transitory, harsh recall.


A real Correggio? And here!
Yes, to the one impassioned heart,
Transfiguring all, the strokes appear
That mark the perfect master's art.
You question of the proof? You owe
More faith to fact than fancy? Hush!
Look with expectant eyes, and know,
With him, the hand that held the brush!


The same wild thought that warmed from stone
The Venus of the monkish Gest,
The image of Pygmalion,
Here finds Correggio confest.
And Art requires its votary:
The Queen of Heaven herself may pine
When these quaint rooms no longer see
The one that knew her all divine.


Ah, me! ah me, for centuries veiled!
(The desolate Virgin then may say,)
Once more my rainbow tints are paled
With that unquestioning soul away—
Whose faith compelled the sun, the stars,
To yield their halos for my sake,
And saw through Time's obscuring bars
The Parmese master's glory break!

1883.


THE DIAMOND WEDDING

O Love! Love! Love! what times were those,
Long ere the age of belles and beaux
And Brussels lace and silken hose,
When, in the green Arcadian close,
You married Psyche, under the rose,
With only the grass for bedding!
Heart to heart, and hand to hand,
You followed Nature's sweet command—
Roaming lovingly through the land,
Nor sighed for a Diamond Wedding.


So have we read, in classic Ovid,
How Hero watched for her beloved,
Impassioned youth, Leander.
She was the fairest of the fair,
And wrapt him round with her golden hair,
Whenever he landed cold and bare,
With nothing to eat and nothing to wear
And wetter than any gander;
For Love was Love, and better than money;
The slyer the theft, the sweeter the honey;
And kissing was clover, all the world over,
Wherever Cupid might wander.


So thousands of years have come and gone,
And still the moon is shining on,
Still Hymen's torch is lighted;
And hitherto, in this land of the West,
Most couples in love have thought it best
To follow the ancient way of the rest,
And quietly get united.


But now, True Love, you're growing old—
Bought and sold, with silver and gold,
Like a house, or a horse and carriage!
Midnight talks,
Moonlight walks,
The glance of the eye and sweetheart sigh,
The shadowy haunts with no one by,
I do not wish to disparage;
But every kiss
Has a price for its bliss,
In the modern code of marriage;
And the compact sweet
Is not complete,
Till the high contracting parties meet
Before the altar of Mammon;
And the bride must be led to a silver bower,
Where pearls and rubies fall in a shower
That would frighten Jupiter Ammon!


I need not tell
How it befell,
(Since Jenkins has told the story
Over and over and over again,
In a style I cannot hope to attain,
And covered himself with glory!)
How it befell, one Summer's day,
The King of the Cubans strolled this way,—
King January 's his name, they say,—
And fell in love with the Princess May,
The reigning belle of Manhattan;
Nor how he began to smirk and sue,
And dress as lovers who come to woo,
Or as Max Maretzek and Jullien do,
When they sit, full-bloomed, in the ladies' view,
And flourish the wondrous baton.


He was n't one of your Polish nobles,
Whose presence their country somehow troubles,
And so our cities receive them;
Nor one of your make-believe Spanish grandees,
Who ply our daughters with lies and candies,
Until the poor girls believe them.
No, he was no such charlatan—
Count de Hoboken Flash-in-the-pan,
Full of gasconade and bravado,
But a regular, rich Don Rataplan
Santa Claus de la Muscovado
Senor Grandisimo Bastinado!
His was the rental of half Havana
And all Matanzas; and Santa Ana,
Rich as he was, could hardly hold
A candle to light the mines of gold
Our Cuban owned, choke-full of diggers;
And broad plantations, that, in round figures,
Were stocked with at least five thousand niggers!


"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may!"
The Señor swore to carry the day,
To capture the beautiful Princess May,
With his battery of treasure;
Velvet and lace she should not lack;
Tiffany, Haughwout, Ball & Black,
Genin and Stewart, his suit should back
And come and go at her pleasure;
Jet and lava—silver and gold—
Garnets—emeralds rare to behold—
Diamonds—sapphires—wealth untold
All were hers, to have and to hold;
Enough to fill a peck-measure!


He did n't bring all his forces on
At once, but like a crafty old Don,
Who many a heart had fought and won,
Kept bidding a little higher;
And every time he made his bid,
And what she said, and all they did—
'T was written down,
For the good of the town,
By Jeems, of The Daily Flyer.


A coach and horses, you 'd think, would buy
For the Don an easy victory;
But slowly our Princess yielded.
A diamond necklace caught her eye,
But a wreath of pearls first made her sigh.
She knew the worth of each maiden glance,
And, like young colts, that curvet and prance,
She led the Don a deuce of a dance,
In spite of the wealth he wielded.


She stood such a fire of silks and laces,
Jewels, and golden dressing-cases,
And ruby brooches, and jets and pearls,
That every one of her dainty curls
Brought the price of a hundred common girls;
Folks thought the lass demented!
But at last a wonderful diamond ring,
An infant Koh-i-noor, did the thing,
And, sighing with love, or something the same,
(What's in a name?)
The Princess May consented.


Ring! ring the bells, and bring
The people to see the marrying!
Let the gaunt and hungry and ragged poor
Throng round the great Cathedral door,
To wonder what all the hubbub 's for,
And sometimes stupidly wonder
At so much sunshine and brightness, which
Fall from the church upon the rich,
While the poor get all the thunder.


Ring! ring, merry bells, ring!
O fortunate few,
With letters blue,
Good for a seat and a nearer view!
Fortunate few, whom I dare not name;
Dilettanti! Crême de la creme!
We commoners stood by the street façade
And caught a glimpse of the cavalcade;
We saw the bride
In diamonded pride,
With jewelled maidens to guard her side,—
Six lustrous maidens in tarletan.
She led the van of the caravan;
Close behind her, her mother
(Dressed in gorgeous moire antique,
That told, as plainly as words could speak,
She was more antique than the other,)
Leaned on the arm of Don Rataplan
Santa Claus de la Muscovado
Señor Grandisimo Bastinado.
Happy mortal! fortunate man!
And Marquis of El Dorado!


In they swept, all riches and grace,
Silks and satins, jewels and lace;
In they swept from the dazzled sun,
And soon in the church the deed was done.
Three prelates stood on the chancel high:
A knot that gold and silver can buy
Gold and silver may yet untie,
Unless it is tightly fastened;
What 's worth doing at all 's worth doing well,
And the sale of a young Manhattan belle
Is not to be pushed or hastened;
So two Very-Reverends graced the scene,
And the tall Archbishop stood between,
By prayer and fasting chastened.
The Pope himself would have come from Rome,
But Garibaldi kept him at home.
Haply these robed prelates thought
Their words were the power that tied the knot;
But another power that love-knot tied,
And I saw the chain round the neck of the bride,—
A glistening, priceless, marvellous chain,
Coiled with diamonds again and again,
As befits a diamond wedding;
Yet still 't was a chain, and I thought she knew it,
And half-way longed for the will to undo it,
By the secret tears she was shedding.


But is n't it odd, to think whenever
We all go through that terrible River,—
Whose sluggish tide alone can sever
(The Archbishop says) the Church decree,
By floating one into Eternity
And leaving the other alive as ever,—
As each wades through that ghastly stream,
The satins that rustle and gems that gleam
Will grow pale and heavy, and sink away
To the noisome River's bottom-clay;
Then the costly bride and her maidens six
Will shiver upon the banks of the Styx,
Quite as helpless as they were born,—
Naked souls, and very forlorn;
The Princess, then, must shift for herself,
And lay her royalty on the shelf;
She, and the beautiful Empress, yonder,
Whose robes are now the wide world's wonder,
And even ourselves, and our dear little wives,
Who calico wear each morn of their lives,
And the sewing girls, and les chiffonniers,
In rags and hunger,—a gaunt array,—
And all the grooms of the caravan—
Ay, even the great Don Rataplan
Santa Claus de la Muscovado
Señor Grandisimo Bastinado—
That gold-encrusted, fortunate man!—
All will land in naked equality:
The lord of a ribboned principality
Will mourn the loss of his cordon.
Nothing to eat, and nothing to wear
Will certainly be the fashion there!
Ten to one, and I'll go it alone,
Those most used to a rag and bone,
Though here on earth they labor and groan,
Will stand it best, as they wade abreast
To the other side of Jordan.