Joseph Ignatius Constantine Clarke Poems >>
Manhattan: An Ode

Here at thy broad sea gate,
On the ultimate ocean wave,
Where millions in hope have entered in,
Joyous, elate
A home and a hearth to win;
For the promise you held and the bounty you gave,
Thou, and none other,
I call to thee, spirit; I call to thee, Mother,
America!

Spirit of the world of the West
Throned on thy lifted sierras,
Rivers the path for thy feet,
Forests of green for thy raiment,
Wide-falling cascades the film of thy veil,
Mo on- glow and star-Hash thy jewels,
Sunrise the gold of thy hair,
Sweet was thy lure and compelling.

Europe, pale, jaded, had palled us,
Asia, o ergilded, repelled us,
Africa, desert-faced, haunted us,
Thou, when in freshness of morning, hadst called us
And zvanted us,
Held us.

Over the ocean we came then,
Wondering, hoping, adoring,
Called thee our mother, kissing thy feet,
Kindling our love into flame, then,
Old worlds and old loves ignoring,
Making new bondage sweet.

Bless us to-day, O Mother.
Hark, how the bells are chiming,
How wind the horns, how cymbals clash,
And a chorus, in mighty volume timing,
To tramping beat that never lags!
Heavily booming the cannons flash,
And the air is thrilled with the snapping flags!

Where passed the grim Briton with venturing prow
In the cycles fled,
The city that stands like a fortress now,
Turreted high by the edge of the water,
America's eldest, magnificent daughter,
With garlands is twining her brow,
For joy that her laughing heart remembers
Three hundred red and gold Septembers.
To catch the glint of her proudest glance,
To hear the heartening music of her drum,
To see her banners flutter and advance,
Glad in the sunrise, let us come.

Not as came Hudson thro mists of the sea
Dipping and rolling his Dutch-built ship
Scanning the landfall with hungering eyes
And close-clenched lip,
By morning and noon,
Creeping past headland and sand-billowed dune,
Wing- weary ghost of a phantom quest,
Steering athrill but where waters led west.

Not as when taking the sweep of the bay,
Sparkling agleam in the brave Autumn weather,
Silent of man in the new dawn aquiver,
Anchored his lone ship lay.
Not as he sailed where the hills draw together
Holding his course up the broad-breasted river,
Only the dream of Beyond in his brain,
Only the seas of Cathay to attain,
On till the narrowed stream told him twas vain.
Then back as one baffled, undone,
Unknowing he d won by the gate of the sea
The throne of an empire of peoples to be.
Peace to his dream that found ghastly close
Mid the sheeted wraiths of the arctic snows!

Not as came Fulton: even he
Came brooding at the level of the sea,
Elect among the genius-brood of men,
Grandson of Ireland, son of the land of Penn,
Pale-browed, nursing a great work-day dream
Harnessing the racers of the deep to steam.

Here first his Clermont turned her paddle blades,
And so, cur flag above his craft unfurled,
He steamed beneath the Palisades,
The Father of all steam-fleets of the world.
Well may Manhattan glory in his fame,
And on her highest roster carve his name,
Yet, not as came he, let us come.

No: to the skies as on wings
Let us rise,
And come from the east with the faint red dawn.
Haven and harbor are carpets of trembling gold,
And the silver mist to the green hills clings
Till the mounting sun has the web withdrawn,
And behold,
The city lifts up to its height at last,
With frontage of hull and funnel and mast
In the day's full beam,
And over the sky-topping roofs in the blue,
Over the flags of many a hue
Are waving white pennons of steam.
We know thee, Manhattan, proud queen,
And thy wonderful mural crown,
With Liberty islanded there at thy knee,
Uplifting her welcome to those who'd be free,
And beckoning earth's trodden down.

We know how the waters divide
And unite for thy pride,
And the lofty bridges of steel stretch hands
To the burg on the height that stands
For thy wealth's overflow:
With the freighters creeping between,
And the slow, slanted sails slipping to and fro,
As the giants of ocean steam in and go forth.
We trace thy slim island reach up to the north,
Its streets in arrowy distance aloom,
Its mart, its homes, its far-off tomb;
The pleasure greens dotting thy vesture of white,
And tower and steeple like spears in the light.

Lift thee, Manhattan, no peer to thy strength,
Energy crystaled in turrets of stone,
Force chained to form thro thy breadth and thy length,
The builders Gibraltar, the fortress of trade,
Might of the mart into monument fashioned,
Mammon translated to mountain man-made,
The clouds ever nigher and nigher;
And the clang of the anvil, the steam-shriek impas sioned
Seem calling from girder and frontlet of steel
Upward thrown,
With the square-chiseled blocks,
As they build ever higher and higher,
And then, for firm planting thy heel,
They delve ever deeper to heart of the rocks.

Deep in thy vitals the dynamos whirring
Are feeding thy nerves that are wires,
Thy tunnels, thy veins,
Stretch out as the human tide swerves,
And thy hidden fires
With the breath of thy bosom stirring,
Make life in the dark for thy lightning trains.
And out of it all a new beauty arising,
The beauty of force,
Winning a triumph beyond thy devising,
Height-mad and power-glad
Pinnacled, domed, crenelated,
Masonry clambering course upon course
To a glory of skyline serrated,
Lofty and meet
For the worship of all the waves laving thy feet.
Mighty, ay mighty Manhattan,
Grown, while Time counted but three arrow flights,
From bare strand and woodland and slow rising knoll
A handful of red men encamped on thy heights
To the city of millions:
Of millions too ever the goal,
City whose riches are billions,
Whose might never fails,
Whom the nations from far off salute,
And the voice of a continent hails
On thy festival day!
While the cries of the multitude roll
In praise of thy marble-hewn body majestic,
Sing to me, queen, of thy soul.
Sing of thy spirit, thy mind.
Remembering then,
The kernel and not the rind,
The heat not the fires.

We shall not judge thee by thy tallest spires,
But by the stature of thy men;
Not thy great wealth of bales and casks and gold,
Nor mounting scales of what thou st bought or sold
Shall here suffice,
But riches thine in virtues beyond price:
Not all thy beauteous daughters costly gowned,
But of thy women chastely wived and crowned;
Not all thy gold in public service spent,
But test of equal, honest government;
Not creeds or churches, tabernacles, shrines,
But faith that lives and love that shines;
Not courts and Judges multiplied,
But Justice throned and glorified;
Thy reasons clear before the world avowed,
Not voice of easy conscience of the crowd;
Not by thy thousand colleges and schools,
But culture greater than their sums and rules;
Not by thy topmost reach of speech and song,
But by their lift to light and art that's long;
And from the mingling races in thy blood,
The wane of evil and the growth of good;
Not the high-seated but the undertrod;
The brother-love of man for man,
Ideals not ambitions in the van;
Not thy lip-worship but the immanence of God.

But we who d mete thy steps upon the heights,
And thy soul-message ask
Know well the battles that thy day's work brought,
No Greek Atlantis art thou, Plato's thought
Made sudden real:
No fair Utopia thou of mounts ideal,
Eased of thy burden and thy task,
With long surmountings in the darkness fraught.

Swift thy foundations grew, but nights of tears
And days of dark foreboding marked thy years.
Here freedom battled with the tyrant s might,
Here Washington Immortal One made fight.
Here swung the prison ships, and here the jail
Whose gallows freed the soul of Nathan Hale.

The orange flag of Holland flew
Above thee for a space.
Then England's red for decades few
Flushed crimson in thy face,
Until our arms set over thee
The flag none may displace;
That waving free shall cover thee
While lasts the human race
The flag that to the breeze we threw
When skies of hope were bare,
Its red our blood, the sky its blue,
Its stars our watchlights there.

Full oft the ocean harvests at thy doors
Sheet sodden grain upon thy threshing floors,
The sound, sweet ears with wild tares reached thee mixed,
Long-fixed beliefs came hitherward unfixed.
Long-crushed desires that freedom bids to bloom,
The yoke thrown off, for lawlessness made room.
How could it other? Shorn of lords and guides
They pressed atow rd thee over westering tides.
From lands of Czars and Princes still they come,
Some young and lusty, open-browed, and some
Oppression-stunted, famine-driven, sad.
All praying thee for welcome fair and glad
A niche, a shelter, honest toil and home,
And these thou givest, Queen beside the foam.

And stout their grateful millions stand on guard,
Their brain and muscle working thee reward
The solid Dutch, the level English strain,
The gifted French, our allies tried and true,
The German staunch, the Kelt of Ireland bold,
Italian fire and Spanish pride; the Jew
Keen-witted, dragging here no ghetto chain;
Each giving thee their lore, their art of old;
Each fired by thee with hopes and raptures new.

And Queen, thy women exquisite,
Thy clear-eyed maids, thy mothers pure
Pledge of thy greatness sweetly to endure!
By these I bless thee in thy day of joy,
Thy wide-thrown halls, thy hospitable board,
Thy heart of anxious service, and the rays
Of kindliness within thy bosom stored.