Hamilton Fish Armstrong.

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Ribbons woven by Lyons men;
Fancy fans, with flower and feather,
Lavishly piled in heaps together;
What can compare with sights so rare,
Save the Paris booth in Vanity Fair !

But the world turns over and over again,
With cloud and sunshine, wind and rain,

Love and envy and rancour,
At last It has come ! the crowning night ;

The Prince's Ball 175

The ultimatum of all delight ;
The hour, when even an anchorite

May be pardoned for weighing anchor,
Hoisting sails, and bearing away
To the rendezvous in Prince's Bay,

For which thousands vainly hanker;
(You see it is not the Committee's fault
That Smith or Jones isn't worth his salt

Or wasn't born a banker.)

It has come at last ! How bright the sight
Of a Grand- Academy gala-night !
The blaze of the whirling calcium rays
Lightens the spacious entrance-ways,
Flashing on up-turned, glaring faces
Of thousands thronging about the squares :
Thousands, to whom your jewels and laces
Are things for which nobody this night cares.
For a sight of the Prince the people crowd;
To your simple hearts should be allowed
A sight of the Prince, poor people ! since
He came to visit us one and all,
Asked or not asked to go to the Ball !
Scores of policemen will never convince
The crowd that it oughtn't to see the Prince.

Up to the porch the carriages rumble,

By yellow-plushes attended;
No wonder the labouring-men feel humble,

In the presence of scenes so splendid !

Never before, never before,
Such diamonds and dresses entered that door;

Into the radiance we glide,

As a bayou-voyager follows the tide,

176 The Prince's Ball

From mangrove shadows and fallen trees,

To the silvery sheen of moonlit seas;

Into the glare of countless lights,

And the wedding of sweetest sounds and sights;

Where gilded walls and tapestried halls,

Repeat the Music's dying falls,

And flowers of multitudinous hues,

Their blended, odorous breaths diffuse,

But through the glamour we move along

To glance at the guests that with us throng,

And study the queer variety
It takes to fashion that paradox-
ical edifice, built on golden "rocks,"

Entitled "Our Best Society."

Enough, you say, of polemical rhyme;
And the ladies whisper, 'tis fully time

For the Prince to make his appearance;
"He's coming!" "He isn't!" "Yes, that is he";
And better for him, to be seen and to see,
If the flower of our aristocracy

Would give him a better clearance.
But as Albert Edward, young and fair,
Stood on the canopied dais-stair,
And looked, from the circle crowding there,
To the length and breadth of the outer scene,
Perhaps he thought of his mother, the Queen;
(Long may her empery be serene!)
But what were his thoughts I can never tell,
For sharply, as belle was jostling belle
Each making a Flora-Temple "burst, "
For the honour of dancing beside him first
The staging before him fell in with a crash,

The Prince's Ball 177

And fifty young ladies, as quick as a flash,
vSank down in a kind of ethereal hash,
As dainty a dish as a Prince could wish ;

But he passed to the supper-pavilion,
And we saw him no more, till they mended the floor,

And opened the primal cotillion.
There, gracefully dancing with Mrs. Morgan,

He had quite forgotten his thoughts, I suppose,

Just as hearers a sermon forget, at its close-
When the "Jubilate" is played on the organ;

Whatever his fancies were, nobody knows.

Now, how strange the feeling that comes to one,

When the royal Show is almost done,

When the gas for hours has dazzled the eye,

And the air grows dense as the flowers die!

How strange to go out, from the crowded rout,

To the open street, where to all is given

A sight of the clear and infinite Heaven,

Out into the cool October night,

Where, in place of that garish inner light,

Are all those silvery cressets, fed

With rays from God's own glory shed.

Ah ! if one now might only flee

Across that measureless, lucid sea,

To lustres O, how pure and far!

What, from the spirit's chosen star,

Would all this glittering turmoil seem,

Save the fantasy of an earthly dream?

And even the Man who lives in the Moon
(You'd reach him a million times as soon!)
Who, day after day, sees the whole round world
Like a map to his curious gaze unfurled

1 78 The Prince's Ball

Would perceive no increase in the polarized ray
Thrown off from this part of our sphere,

Though the roof of the Opera House were away,
And the lights that illuminate each tier

And all the lamps that make Paris, they say,

And London, as cheerful by night as by day,

With all in New York, together were burning;

To the Man in the Moon they'd be past all discern-

So there's one man, at least, will know nothing at

Of the splendour and fame of The Prince's Ball !


First songs for a prelude,

Lightly strike on the stretch'd tympanum pride and

joy in my city,

How she led the rest to arms, how she gave the cue,
How at once with lithe limbs unwaiting a moment she


(O superb ! O Manhattan, my own, my peerless !
O strongest you in the hour of danger, in crisis! O

truer than steel !)
How you sprang how you threw off the costumes of

peace with indifferent hand,
How your soft opera-music changed, and the drum

and fife were heard in their stead,
How you led to the war, (that shall serve for our

prelude, songs of soldiers,)
How Manhattan drum-taps led.

Forty years had I in my city seen soldiers parading,
Forty years as a pageant, till unawares the lady of this

teeming and turbulent city,
Sleepless amid her ships, her houses, her incalculable


With her million children around her, suddenly,


i8o First O Songs for a Prelude

At dead of night, at news from the south,
Incens'd struck with clinch'd hand the pavement.

A shock electric, the night sustain'd it,

Till with ominous hum our hive at daybreak pour'd

out its myriads.
From the houses then and the workshops, and through

all the doorways,
Leapt they tumultuous, and lo ! Manhattan arming.

To the drum-taps prompt,

The young men falling in and arming,

The mechanics arming (the trowel, the jack-plane, the

blacksmith's hammer, tost aside with precipi-
The lawyer leaving his office and arming, the judge

leaving the court,
The driver deserting his wagon in the street, jumping

down, throwing the reins abruptly down on the

horses' backs,
The salesman leaving the store, the boss, book-keeper,

porter, all leaving;
Squads gather everywhere by common consent and

The new recruits, even boys, the old men show them

how to wear their accoutrements, they buckle

the straps carefully,
Outdoors arming, indoors arming, the flash of the

musket barrels,

The white tents cluster in camps, the arm'd sen-
tries around, the sunrise cannon and again at

Arm'd regiments arrive every day, pass through the

city, and embark from the wharves,







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First O Songs for a Prelude 181

(How good they look as they tramp down to the river,

sweaty, with their guns on their shoulders!
How I love them! how I could hug them, with their

brown faces and their clothes and knapsacks

cover'd with dust!)
The blood of the city up arm'd! arm'd! the cry

The flags flung out from the steeples of churches and

from all the public buildings and stores,
The tearful parting, the mother kisses her son, the

son kisses his mother,
(Loth is the mother to part, yet not a word does she

speak to detain him,)

The tumultuous escort, the ranks of policemen pre-
ceding, clearing the way,
The unpent enthusiasm, the wild cheers of the crowd

for their favourites,
The artillery, the silent cannons bright as gold, drawn

along, rumble lightly over the stones,
(Silent cannons, soon to cease your silence,
Soon unlimber'd to begin the red business;)
All the mutter of preparation, all the determin'd


The hospital service, the lint, bandages and medicines,
The women volunteering for nurses, the work begun

for in earnest, no mere parade now;
War! an arm'd race is advancing! the welcome for

battle, no turning away;
War! be it weeks, months, or years, an arm'd race is

advancing to welcome it.

Mannahatta a-march and it's O to sing it well!
It's O for a manly life in the camp.

1 82 First O Songs for a Prelude

And the sturdy artillery,

The guns bright as gold, the work for giants, to serve

well the guns,
Unlimber them ! (no more as the past forty years for

salutes for courtesies merely,
Put in something now besides powder and wadding).

And you lady of ships, you Mannahatta,

Old matron of this proud, friendly turbulent city,

Often in peace and wealth you were pensive or covertly

frown'd amid all your children,

But now you smile with joy exulting old Manna-


Here they come! 'tis the Twelfth, you know,-

The colonel is just at hand;
The ranks close up, to the measured flow

Of music cheery and grand.
Glitter on glitter, row by row,
The steady bayonets, on they go

For God and the Right to stand;
Another thousand to front the foe !
And to die if it must be even so

For the dear old fatherland !

trusty and true! gay warm heart!

manly and earnest brow !
Here, in the hurrying street, we part

To meet ah! when and how?
ready and staunch! who, at war's alarm,
On lonely hill-side and mountain-farm

Have left the axe and the plough !
That every tear were a holy charm,
To guard, with honour, some head from harm,

And to quit some generous vow!
For, of valiant heart and of sturdy arm

Was never more need than now.


1 84 The March of the Regiment

Ay! 'tis at hand! foul lips, be dumb!
Our Armageddon is yet to come!
But cheery bugle and angry drum,

With volleyed rattle and roar,
And cannon thunder-throb, shall be drowned
That day in a grander, stormier sound;

The Land, from mountain to shore,
Hurling shackle and scourge and stake
Back to their Lender of pit and lake;

('Twas Tophet leased them of yore),
O mighty heart! thou wast long to wake.
'Tis thine, to-morrow, to win or break

In a deadlier close once more,
If but for the dear and glorious sake

Of those who have gone before.

O Fair and Faithful ! that, sun by sun,
Slept on the field, or lost or won,
Children dear of the Holy One!

Rest in your wintry sod.
Rest, your noble devoir is done,
Done and forever! Ours, to-day,
The dreary drift and the frozen clay

By trampling armies trod;
The smoky shroud of the War-Simoom,
The maddened crime at bay with her Doom,

And fighting it, clod by clod.
O Calm and Glory! beyond the gloom,
Above the bayonets bend and bloom

The lilies and palms of God.


That passed down Broadway singing the Refrain:
"For God and Our Country, We Are Marching Along"


Marching along ! marching to the war

I saw them as they passed, a thousand men or more;

Their bayonets were gleaming in the sun's burning

For God and their Country, they were marching to

the fight,

Marching along marching along
"For God and our Country, we are marching along."

I could not see their banners, for my eyes grew

I but thought of my country, and sublime grew their


Till my soul echoed back, oh! again and again,
The song of the battle! the soldiers' refrain

Marching along marching along
"For God and our Country, we are marching along.

I have bowed to the song, when love was the theme;
I have listened to the chime, when fame was the
dream ;


1 86 To the Tenth Legion

Not the psalmodies of life, nor the cadences of art,
Were so grand to my ear, or so dear to my heart-
Marching along marching along
"For God and our Country, we are marching along."

Loud blew the bugle God keep them where they

For the hearts that are waiting, for the firesides

at home
Loud blew the bugle and they answered in their

For God and our Country, we are marching to the


Marching along marching along
"For God and our Country, we are marching along."

Marching along marching along
Brave were their hearts, and brave was their song.
Oh, I know there are leaves on the old bay-tree,
That are growing for their brows, in the land of the


Marching along marching along
"For God and their Country, they were marching


July, 1863. In the University Tower


Is it the wind, the many-tongued, the weird

That cries in sharp distress about the eaves?
Is it the wind whose gathering shout is heard

With voice of peoples myriad like the leaves?
Is it the wind? Fly to the casement, quick,
And when the roar comes thick
Fling wide the sash,
Await the crash !

Nothing. Some various solitary cries,

Some sauntering woman's short hard laugh,
Or honester, a dog's bark these arise

From lamplit street up to this free flagstaff.
Nothing remains of that low threatening sound ;
The wind raves not the eaves around . . .
Clasp casement to,
You heard not true.

Hark there again ! a roar that holds a shriek !

But not without, no, from below it comes:
What pulses up from solid earth to wreak

A vengeful word on towers and lofty domes?


i88 The Draft Riot

What angry "booming doth the trembling ear,
Glued to the stone wall, hear

So deep, no air

Its weight can bear?

Grieve! "Pis the voice of ignorance and vice,
The rage of slaves who fancy they are free,
Men who would keep men slaves at any price,

Too blind their own black manacles to see.
Grieve! 'Tis that grisly spectre with a torch,
Riot that bloodies every porch,
Hurls justice down
And burns the town.

Hanging a Negro at Clarkson Street. The Draft Riots

From Harper's Weekly, August i, 1863


"Dans un grenier qu'on est bien a vingt ans. " BERANGER.


Here is the street the house is standing yet !

Four stories up the little window gleams.
The basement still announces "Rooms to Let";

Through the wide door the dusty sunlight streams.
But how the place has changed! Across the way

A tenement its swarming bulk uprears
'Twas here I weathered it for many a day,

With Youth and Hope for friends, at Twenty

A small hall-room! I seek it half by stealth

Who cares ? the world may know it if it will !
The worst is told. I had stout heart, good health,

A modest clerkship, wants more modest still;
Companions too, (I had companions then !)

What room in all my "up-town palace" hears
Such peals of mirth as yonder little den

When I and Youth kept house, at Twenty Years !

'Twas here I brought my bride. In that dim place
The too brief summer of our joy first smiled.

Which of your carpet-knights, my queenly Grace,
To such a lot will woo your mother's child?


190 Le Grenier

Just Powers ! how dared we to be gay and glad,
To face the world, un vexed by cramping fears?

Rash ? reckless ? We were mad ! how nobly mad
With the brave wine of Love and Twenty Years !

Once, as we listened at the window there,

In the warm sunlight of an April day,
A sound of loyal thunder filled the air

The Massachusetts Sixth marched down Broad-
O gallant hearts and times! drum and fife!

In '62 I joined the volunteers.
Poor wounded soldier, lonely waiting wife,

We learned what glory meant, at Twenty Years !

It's time to go. The place looks chill and drear.

Fate ! were it lot of mine to overlive
But half the happy days I've counted here,

I'd give what have I that I woul i not give?
Again to struggle on, to breast the tide,

To know the worst of Fortune's frowns and fears,
Brave heart within, my darling at my side,

And all the world to win, at Twenty Years!


He lieth low whose constant art
For years the daily feasts purveyed

Of wayfarers from every mart,
The Paladins of every trade.

And yet to-night gay music stirs

The halls he strolled through yestere'en,

And mantles high the wine that spurs
The revellers by him unseen.

Le Roi est mort ! ViveleRoi!

One leader drops, another comes;
On flows the dance, a stream of joy

Staccatoed by the muffled drums

That soon for us shall mark the tread
Of mourning friends and chanting priests.

Ah! there are other banquets spread
Than Siro's memorable feasts.



O glorious Brown ! thou medley strange

Of church-yard, ball-room, saint, and sinner;
Flying by morn through Fashion's range,

And burying mortals after dinner
Walking one day with invitations,
Passing the next at consecrations,
Tossing the sod at eve on coffins,
With one hand drying tears of orphans
And one unclasping ball-room carriage,
Or cutting plum-cake up at marriage
Dusting by day the pew and missal
Sounding by night the ball-room whistle-
Admitted free through Fashion's wicket,
And skilled at psalms, at punch, at cricket;
Relate by what mysterious art
Thou canst so well fulfil thy part
And how, thus sorely tasked each week,
Thou look'st so happy, fat and sleek.
Repeat to us the prittle-prattle
About thine ears must daily rattle,
When marching round through Fashion's quarters
Thou'rt questioned oft by Eve's fair daughters,
And tell us why seek up, seek down,


Brown, of Grace Church 193

O'er all the earth, there's but one Brown-
One man alone whom church and state
At once consent to consecrate,
With license boundless to combine
The pew, the ball, the hearse, the wine!


The great Moguls of Gotham ! their proud purses
Grow with the rich man's spoil and poor man's

curses ;

With a firm grasp on ev'ry pocket, they
Build fanes for which the servile people pay.
The Rich and Poor they plunder as they will
The more the people howl the more they steal ;
Millions on millions to their minions fling,
And make all rich who battle for the Ring.
As on a foe upon New York they forage,
Whose people stand it patiently with courage.
Meanwhile the City debt by millions grows,
And what it is no human being knows,
Nor will, till Tweed lets Connolly declare
The mighty load the patient people bear.
The money which at Albany does work
Comes from the tax-afflicted of New York;
The feather ravished from that well-plucked mart,
Wings the sharp arrow to her bleeding heart !
A bold Triumvirate now masters all,
Chief consuls, Sweeney, Tweed, and Oakey Hall,
The World's Emporium, soon to be,
Sleeps in the throttles of this ruthless Three.



Our city is born of the pure, blue sea,
And girt by the waters of rivers three-
Two of them large and one of them small
And the ocean tides, as they rise and fall,
Wash the feet of our island town,
Swinging and plashing up and down.
Easy it should be to keep us clean,
A city that lies such washings between;
Plenty of water and plenty of soap,
Plenty of shovels and hoes, we hope,
And other hose that may carry and squirt
Streams of water wherever there's dirt;
And yet this town, that should be so clean,
Is the dirtiest city that ever was seen.
From end to end of each filthy street
Nothing is pure and nothing is sweet.
And the mire our rolling wheels that clogs
Is foul with the bodies of cats and dogs,
And the offal of cleaner brutes than they
Who leave our streets in so vile a way
In spite of all the money we pay.
For, know, oh monarch of Scanderoon,
That we, thy people, from June till June,
Pay enough, in our hard won gold,

196 The Streets

Fairly counted and straightly told,

If into a sheet it was properly rolled,

To cover the pavement of stone and wood

The pavement that is, we mean, that should

Be under the sloppy and slippery mire

Where our garments spoil and our horses tire-

From end to end of the city wide,

And leave an elegant fringe outside.

And the thing is a thing, oh king, that sours

On us all, to find that the city powers,

The grand magnorums who round you stand,

And take our money with greedy hand,

See no evil, or shame, or hurt

In leaving our streets all hid in the dirt.


The city slowly wakes:

Her every chimney makes
Offering of smoke against the cool white skies.

Slowly the morning shakes

The lingering shadowy flakes
Of night from doors and windows, from the city's eyes.

A breath through heaven goes:

Leaves of the pale sweet rose
Are strewn along the clouds of upper air.

Healer of ancient woes,

The palm of dawn bestows
Peace on the feverish brow, comfort on grim despair.

Now the celestial fire

Fingers the sunken spire,
Crocket by crocket swiftly creepeth down;

Brushes the maze of wire,

Dewy, electric lyre,
And with a silent hymn one moment fills the town.

A sound of pattering hoofs
Above the emergent roofs
And anxious bleatings tell the passing herd;


198 Dawn in the City

Scared by the piteous droves
A shoal of skurrying doves
Veering, around the island of the church has whirred.

Soon through the smoky haze

The park begins to raise
Its outlines clearer into day lit prose;

Ever with fresh amaze

The sleepless fountains praise
Morn that has gilt the city as it gilds the rose.

High in the clear air

The smoke now builds a stair
Leading to realms no wing of bird has found;

Things are more foul, more fair;

A distant clock somewhere

Strikes, and the dreamer starts at clear reverberant

Farther the tide of dark

Drains from each square and park;
Here is a city fresh and new-create,

Wondrous as though the ark

Should once again disbark
On a remoulded world its safe and joyous freight.

Ebbs all the dark, and now

Life eddies to and fro
By pier and alley, street and avenue:

The myriads stir below,

As hives of coral grow
Vaulted above, like them with a fresh sea of blue.


At the Unveiling of his Statue, 1877


Among their graven shapes to whom

Thy civic wreaths belong,
O city of his love, make room

For one whose gift was song.

In common ways, with common men,

He served his race and time
As well as if his clerkly pen

Had never danced to rhyme.

He toiled and sang ; and year by year
Men found their homes more sweet,

And through a tenderer atmosphere
Looked down the brick-walled street.

The Greek's wild onset Wall Street knew;

The Red King walked Broadway;
And Alnwick Castle's roses blew

From Palisades to Bay.

Fair City by the Sea! upraise
His veil with reverent hands;

And mingle with thy own the praise
And pride of other lands.

200 Fitz-Greene Halleck

O, stately stand thy palace walls,
Thy tall ships ride the seas ;

To-day thy poet's name recalls
A prouder thought than these.

Not less thy pulse of trade shall beat,
Not less thy tall fleets swim,

That shaded square and dusty street
Are classic ground through him.

New hands the wires of song may sweep,
New voices challenge fame;

But let no moss of years o'ercreep
The lines of Halleck 's name.


The Spring has grown to Summer;

The sun is fierce and high;
The city shrinks and withers

Beneath a burning sky.
Ailanthus trees are fragrant,

And thicker shadows cast,
While berry-girls, with voices shrill,

And watering-carts go past.

In offices like ovens

We sit without our coats;
Our cuffs are moist and shapeless,

No collars bind our throats.
We carry huge umbrellas

On Broad Street and on Wall,
Oh, how thermometers go up!

And, oh, how stocks do fall!

The nights are full of music,

Melodious Teuton troops
Beguile us, calmly smoking,

On balconies and stoops.
With eyes half-shut and dreamy,

We watch the fire-flies' spark,
And image far-off faces,

As day dies into dark.
20 1

202 The " Stay at Home's " Plaint

The avenue is lonely,

The houses choked with dust ;
The shutters, barred and bolted,

The bell-knobs all a-rust.
No blossom-like spring dresses,

No faces young and fair,
From "Dickels" to "The Brunswick,"

No promenader there.

The girls we used to walk with

Are far away, alas!
The feet that kissed its pavement

Are deep in country grass.
Along the scented hedge-rows,

Among the green old trees,
Are blooming city faces

'Neath rosy-lined pongees.

They're cottaging at Newport;

They're bathing at Cape May;
In Saratoga's ball-rooms

They dance the hours away.
Their voices through the quiet

Of haunted Catskill break ;
Or rouse those dreamy dryads,

The nymphs of Echo Lake.

The hands we've led through Germans,

1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryHamilton Fish ArmstrongThe book of New York verse → online text (page 8 of 16)