Verse > Anthologies > Hamilton Fish Armstrong, ed. > The Book of New York Verse
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Hamilton Fish Armstrong, ed.  The Book of New York Verse.  1917.
 
Peter Stuyvesant’s New Year’s Call
By Edmund Clarence Stedman
 
1 Jan. A. C. 1661.

WHERE nowadays the Battery lies,
  New York had just begun,
A new-born babe, to rub its eyes,
  In Sixteen Sixty-One.
They christen’d it Nieuw Amsterdam,        5
  Those burghers grave and stately,
And so, with schnapps and smoke and psalm,
  Lived out their lives sedately.
 
Two windmills topp’d their wooden wall,
  On Stadthuys gazing down,        10
On fort, and cabbage-plots, and all
  The quaintly-gabled town;
These flapp’d their wings and shifted backs,
  As ancient scrolls determine,
To scare the savage Hackensacks,        15
  Paumanks, and other vermin.
 
At night the loyal settlers lay
  Betwixt their feather-beds;
In hose and breeches walk’d by day,
  And smoked, and wagg’d their heads;        20
No changeful fashions came from France,
  The vrouwleins to bewilder;
No broad-brimm’d burgher spent for pants
  His every other guilder.
 
In petticoats of linsey-red,        25
  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,        30
But youths and maidens did their share
  Of staid, old-fashion’d bundling.
 
—The New Year opened clear and cold;
  The snow, a Flemish ell
In depth, lay over Beeckman’s Wold        35
  And Wolfert’s frozen well;
Each burgher shook his kitchen doors,
  Drew on his Holland leather,
Then stamp’d thro’ drifts to do the chores,
  Beshrewing all such weather.        40
 
But—after herring, ham, and kraut—
  To all the gather’d town
The Dominie preach’d the morning out,
  In Calvinistic gown;
While tough old Peter Stuyvesant        45
  Sat pew’d in foremost station;
The potent, sage, and valiant
  Third Governor of the nation.
 
Prayer over, at his mansion hall,
  With cake and courtly smile,        50
He met the people, one and all,
  In gubernatorial style;
Yet miss’d, though now the day was old,
  An ancient fellow-feaster:
Heer Govert Loockermans, that bold        55
  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.        60
But Peter strapp’d 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,        65
  And swore, by wind and limb,
Since Govert kept from Peter’s view,
  Peter would visit him;
Then sallied forth, thro’ snow and blast,
  While many a humble greeter        70
Stood wondering whereaway so fast
  Strode bluff Hardkoppig Pieter.
 
Past quay and cowpath, through a lane
  Of vats and mounded tans,
He puff’d along, with might and main,        75
  To Govert Loockermans;
Once there, his right of entry took,
  And hail’d his ancient crony:
“Myn Gott! in dese Manhattoes, Loock,
  Ve gets more snow as money!”        80
 
To which, till after whirls profound,
  The other answer’d not;
At last there came responsive sound:
  “Yah, Peter: yah, Myn Gott!”
Then goedevrouw Marie sat her guest        85
  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—        90
In the Nieuw Nederlandts, perhaps—
  To cheer the settlers’ home;
The long-stemm’d pipes; the fragrant roll
  Of press’d and crispy Spanish;
Then placed the earthen mugs and bowl,        95
  Nor long delay’d to vanish.
 
Thereat, with cheery nod and wink,
  And honours of the day,
The trader mix’d the Governor’s drink
  As evening sped away.        100
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-back’d, leathern chairs,        105
  Brass-nail’d at every seam;
Six others, ranged in equal pairs;
  The bacon hung a-beam;
The chimney-front, with porcelain shelf;
  The hearty wooden fire;        110
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,        115
  Discuss affairs of state;
The clique that would their sway demean;
  The pestilent importation
Of wooden nutmegs, from the lean
  And losel Yankee nation.        120
 
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,        125
  Stout Peter’s special glory,
While Govert proudly show’d the scars
  Of Indian contests gory.
 
Ere long, the berry’s power awoke
  Some music in their brains,        130
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,        135
  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;        140
Till midnight o’er the farmhouse 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 dream’d,        145
  That table spread and turn’d;
The chimney-log blazed high, and seem’d
  To circle as it burn’d;
The town into the vision grew
  From ending to beginning;        150
Fort, wall, and windmill met his view,
  All widening and spinning.
 
The cowpaths, leading to the docks,
  Grew broader, whirling past,
And checker’d into shining blocks        155
  A city fair and vast;
Stores, churches, mansions, overspread
  The metamorphosed island,
While not a beaver show’d his head
  From Swamp to Kalchhook highland.        160
 
Eftsoons the picture pass’d away;
  Hours after, Peter woke
To see a spectral streak of day
  Gleam in thro’ fading smoke;
Still slept old Govert, snoring on        165
  In most melodious numbers;
No dreams of Eighteen Sixty-One
  Commingled with his slumbers.
 
But Peter, from the farmhouse-door,
  Gazed doubtfully around,        170
Rejoiced to find himself once more
  On sure and solid ground.
The sky was somewhat dark ahead:
  Wind East, and morning lowery:
But on he push’d, a two-miles’ tread,        175
  To breakfast at his Bouwery.
 
 
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