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.
 
In New York
By William Vaughn Moody
 
HE plays the deuce with my writing time,
For the penny my sixth-floor neighbour throws;
He finds me proud of my pondered rhyme,
And he leaves me—well, God knows
It takes the shine from a tunester’s line        5
When a little mate of the deathless Nine
Pipes up under your nose!
 
For listen, there is his voice again,
Wistful and clear and piercing sweet.
Where did the boy find such a strain        10
To make a dead heart beat?
And how in the name of care can he bear
To jet such a fountain into the air
In this grey gulch of a street?
 
Tuscan slopes or the Piedmontese?        15
Umbria under the Apennine?
South, where the terraced lemon-trees
Round rich Sorrento shine?
Venice moon on the smooth lagoon?—
Where have I heard that aching tune,        20
That boyish throat divine?
 
Beyond my roofs and chimney pots
A rag of sunset crumbles grey;
Below, fierce radiance hangs in clots
O’er the streams that never stay.        25
Shrill and high, newsboys cry
The worst of the city’s infamy
For one more sordid day.
 
But my desire has taken sail
For lands beyond, soft-horizoned:        30
Down languorous leagues I hold the trail,
From Marmalada, steeply throned
Above high pastures washed with light,
Where dolomite by dolomite
Looms sheer and spectral-coned.        35
 
To purple vineyards looking south
On reaches of the still Tyrrhene;
Virgilian headlands, and the mouth
Of Tiber, where that ship put in
To take the dead men home to God,        40
Whereof Casella told the mode
To the great Florentine.
 
Up stairways blue with flowering weed
I climb to hill-hung Bergamo;
All day I watch the thunder breed        45
Golden above the springs of Po,
Till the voice makes sure its wavering lure,
And by Assisi’s portals pure
I stand, with heart bent low.
 
O hear, how it blooms in the blear dayfall,        50
That flower of passionate wistful song!
How it blows like a rose by the iron wall
Of the city loud and strong.
How it cries “Nay, nay” to the worldling’s way,
To the heart’s clear dream how it whispers, “Yea;        55
Time comes, though time is long.”
 
Beyond my roofs and chimney piles
Sunset crumbles, ragged, dire;
The roaring street is hung for miles
With fierce electric fire.        60
Shrill and high, newsboys cry
The gross of the planet’s destiny
Through one more sullen gyre.
 
Stolidly the town flings down
Its lust by day for its nightly lust;        65
Who does his given stint, ’tis known,
Shall have his mug and crust.—
Too base of mood, too harsh of blood,
Too stout to seize the grosser good,
Too hungry after dust!        70
 
O hark! how it blooms in the falling dark,
That flower of mystical yearning song;
Sad as a hermit thrush, as a lark
Uplifted, glad, and strong.
Heart, we have chosen the better part!        75
Save sacred love and sacred art
Nothing is good for long.
 
 
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