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.
 
The Knickerbocker’s Address to the Stuyvesant Pear Tree, 1647–1857 (abridged)
By Henry Webb Dunshee
 
FAM’D Relic of the Ancient Time, as on thy form I gaze,
My mind reverts to former scenes, to spirit-stirring days:
Guarding their sacred memories, as ashes in an urn,
I muse upon those good old times, and sigh for their return.
 
The scenes by which thou’rt compass’d now, have little charm for me;        5
They speak not of the ancient time, as thou, time-honoured tree;
I, therefore, close my eyes against these forms of brick and stone;
Then, boldly, to my mental eye, thou loomest up alone.
 
And far and wide, on ev’ry side, as on some knoll I stand,
I view a beautiful expanse of rich productive land,        10
Dotted or margin’d pleasantly with shady tree or grove,
Enliven’d by the songs of birds, which ’mid their branches rove.
 
From yonder dustless mansion comes its lord, whose heart is seen
Portray’d upon his countenance; of firm, majestic mien;
Laden with Nature’s precious gifts, he scans each orchard tree,        15
And slowly treads the well-worn path that leads direct to thee.
 
With joyous eye, while grateful thoughts his noble heart expand,
He looks on thee, his favourite tree, brought from the Fatherland
And lives again in former scenes, when life was in its prime,
And finds the memories of his youth still undestroy’d by time.        20
 
Anon, a group of happy youth, from school restraint set free,
Comes shouting round him merrily, in wild and joyous glee;
One, by consent, thy trunk ascends, thy burden’d boughs to shake,
While all of thy delicious fruit most eagerly partake.
 
Hoboocken now, their tutor, comes devoid of frown and rod,        25
And with the Governor reclines upon the velvet sod;
Together they enjoy the sport, again are young in heart,
Till, warn’d by day’s decline, they each for happy home depart:
 
For in a gorgeous couch the sun has calmly sunk to rest,
Behind Wiehacken’s tree-crowned hills, with gemm’d and crimson crest!        30
And night, o’er forest, glade and stream, her dusky mantel throws,
While silence, beckoning to Fatigue, invites to sweet repose.
 
Thou saw’st when the Usurper came, the nation to despoil,
Of the dominion exercised upon her rightful soil:
Thou saw’st the throng that gather’d round to carry to the grave,        35
Thy lord, the last Dutch Governor—the honest and the brave:
 
When Leisler ruled, who died by fraud—when Kidd the Rover sail’d;
And when the Negroes at the stake in direful accents wail’d;
When infant Liberty assay’d to seek her just redress,
And Zenger gain’d for aftertimes the Freedom of the Press:        40
 
When the bold Sons of Liberty the people’s cause espous’d,
Destroy’d the tea, contemned the stamps, and patriot zeal arous’d;
When Tories fled clandestinely, suspicious of the day;
And laurels crown’d the Hundred on the shores of Deutel Bay.
 
Perchance thou saw’st the patriot band, with dauntless Captain Sears,        45
Who, with his lead, triumphant rode, among the people’s cheers;
Or gav’st thy fruit to please the taste of Clinton and his corps,
Who ruled, where British power will rule triumphant never more.
 
For ’twas thy glory to behold (the conflict nobly won),
The entry of that noble band, led on by Washington;        50
When the sad sighs from Wallabout were hush’d by the applause
Which fill’d the sky above the land where triumphed Freedom’s cause.
 
Thus to thy shrine, thou ancient tree, will Knickerbockers hie;
And standing on their native soil, beneath their native sky,
In contemplative mood recall, those Names of sterling worth,        55
Through whom they trace their ancestry—the Noble Men of earth.
 
O! may thy boughs with blossoms white and living fruit be grac’d,
While Knickerbocker blood can be by Knickerbockers trac’d;
Yea, may’st thou from thy mother earth by time nor man be torn,
Till light no more shall bless the land where Liberty was born.        60
 
 
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