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.
 
New York Days
By William Ellery Leonard
 
’TIS something for a poet’s lip—
Our memorable comradeship.
 
The Empire City of the isle
Threw down on us her awful smile.
“My fate be on you,” said the Voice;        5
“Aspire, and if you can, rejoice …”
 
We entered, through a portico,
By ample steps that flanged below,
A dome supreme and luminous,
But housing statues not for us;        10
And sullen made o’er marble tile
Dumb exit through the brazen stile:
The college of the liberal arts
Was not the college of our hearts—
We had some other ends to win …        15
 
We saw the iron ships come in
From Brooklyn Bridge, the civic towers
That loomed too large for earth of ours,
The pits between, the smoky pall,
The stony shadows vertical        20
Aslant up many a windowed wall …
 
I’ve read that in the Middle Age,
When Dante made his pilgrimage,
Each Tuscan baron, bound to feud,
Who housed in city walls imbued        25
With blood of Ghibelline and Guelf,
Built a high watch-tower for himself,
And travellers over Alps looked down
On many a grim imperial town
That rose in rugged silhouette        30
Of parapet by parapet
Without a spire, a tree, a home—
’Twas thus with Pisa, Florence, Rome.
But here it seemed some giant broods
Had raised the bulwarks of their feuds        35
And mastered Titan altitudes!
 
We watched on slopes of Morningside
Broad Hudson wrestling with the tide,
Or from the granite balustrades
The sunset o’er the Palisades,        40
Where glowed the Cosmos in the West,
Like lightning flashes made to rest
And lie an hour manifest …
 
We passed in moonlight down the malls
Beneath the dusky citadels;        45
We wound from curve to curve in cars
On lofty girders under stars;
We drank in music-halls, aflame
With lantern green and scarlet dame;
And held, where passion most was rife,        50
 
Our fevered talk of human life …
And through the snow, the wind, the gloom,
We journeyed to each other’s room,
In those lamp-lit aërial crypts,
Piled with our books and manuscripts—        55
So far above the flash and roar
We seemed encaved forevermore
Upon some cliff or mountain shore;
We read in bardic ecstasies
Catullus or Simonides,        60
Or chanted verses of our own
In slow sonorous monotone,
That sometimes clove so true and free,
To us ’twas immortality;
We shared the agony of tears        65
Pierced by the ignominious years,
And times there were when we were three,
But late it grows and where is he?
 
And I long since was inland driven
To climb the hills of God as given,        70
While you again are by those seas
With more of vision, power, peace.
We overcame. But ’twas the press
Of no ignoble restlessness—
Outside the law yet not outside,        75
By austere issues justified,
And justified, were all else vain,
By brotherhood of song and pain.
 
 
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