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 Streets, 1869
(extract from The Royal Decrees of Scanderoon)
By W. O. Stoddard
 
OUR city is born of the pure, blue sea,
And girt by the waters of rivers three—
Two of them large and one of them small—
And the ocean tides, as they rise and fall,
Wash the feet of our island town,        5
Swinging and plashing up and down.
Easy it should be to keep us clean,
A city that lies such washings between;
Plenty of water and plenty of soap,
Plenty of shovels and hoes, we hope,        10
And other hose that may carry and squirt
Streams of water wherever there’s dirt;
And yet this town, that should be so clean,
Is the dirtiest city that ever was seen.
From end to end of each filthy street        15
Nothing is pure and nothing is sweet.
And the mire our rolling wheels that clogs
Is foul with the bodies of cats and dogs,
And the offal of cleaner brutes than they
Who leave our streets in so vile a way        20
In spite of all the money we pay.
For, know, oh monarch of Scanderoon,
That we, thy people, from June till June,
Pay enough, in our hard won gold,
Fairly counted and straightly told,        25
If into a sheet it was properly rolled,
To cover the pavement of stone and wood—
The pavement that is, we mean, that should
Be under the sloppy and slippery mire
Where our garments spoil and our horses tire—        30
From end to end of the city wide,
And leave an elegant fringe outside.
And the thing is a thing, oh king, that sours
On us all, to find that the city powers,
The grand magnorums who round you stand,        35
And take our money with greedy hand,
See no evil, or shame, or hurt
In leaving our streets all hid in the dirt.
 
 
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