Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
Down Fifth Avenue
By John Curtis Underwood
 
From “War Times”

THE CROWD makes way for them.
The mob of motors—women in motors, footmen in motors, Manhattan’s transients in motors, life’s transients in motors—has cleared and disappeared.
And their mothers and their children, their wives, their lovers and friends, are lining the curb and knitting and whispering.
The flags are floating and beckoning to them, the breezes are beckoning and whispering their secrets,
That the city has hushed to hear, while trade and trivial things give place.        5
 
And through the crowd, that holds its breath too long, a restless stir like the starting of troubled breathing says,
“They are coming.” And the distant beat of feet begins to blend with the beat of laboring hearts;
And the emptiness that missed a beat in the heart of the city becomes the street of a prayer and a passion.
This is a street of mothers and their sons—for an hour in the life of Manhattan.
And today makes way for them.        10
 
The past makes way for them.
This morning’s discontent, yesterday’s greed, last year’s uncertainty, are muted and transmuted to a surging urge to victory.
Spirits that stood at Bunker Hill and Valley Forge, Ticonderoga, Yorktown, Lundy’s Lane, Fort Sumter, Appomatox, are resurrected here;
With older fathers and mothers who farmed, and pushed frontiers and homes for freedom westward steadily;
With freedom’s first grandfathers and forerunners, who grew to hold hill towers and forest fastnesses, and range the sea and all its shores and islands for the right to live for liberty.        15
And their blood beats in these boy hearts, and their hill-bred and sea-bred strength is stirring in these feet that beat their measured cadences of courage.
 
For now the tide is turning eastward at last.
And the sound of the fall of their feet on the asphalt is the sound of the march of the waves of a tide that is flooding—
Waves that marched to the western coast past forests and plains, mountains and deserts, and wrought their work in a world gone by.
And the ripple of the ranks of these regiments that march to suffer and to die, is the ripple of a great brown river in flood that forges seaward;        20
And the ripple of the light on eyes and lips that watch and work, is the swelling of a greater flood that forces them to go.
And the ripple and arrest of light on dull gun-barrels that crest their flow are runes of a ritual spelled in steel and a service enduring.
And each beat of their feet and each beat of their hearts is a word in a gospel of steel that says the nations through ruins grow one again;
When God’s drill-master War has welded nations in ranks that their children may serve Him together.
For tomorrow makes way for them.        25
 
 
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