Verse > Anthologies > Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. > Yale Book of American Verse
Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. (1838–1915). Yale Book of American Verse.  1912.
Henry Cuyler Bunner. 1855–1896
240. Atlantic City
O CITY that is not a city, unworthy the prefix Atlantic, 
Forlornest of watering-places, and thoroughly Philadelphian! 
In thy despite I sing, with a bitter and deep detestation— 
A detestation born of a direful and dinnerless evening, 
Spent in thy precincts unhallowed—an evening I trust may recur not.         5
Never till then did I know what was meant by the word god-forsaken: 
Thou its betokening hast taught me, being the chiefest example. 
Thou art the scorned of the gods; thy sand from their sandals is shaken; 
Thee have they left in their wrath to thy uninteresting extensiveness, 
Barren and bleak and big; a wild aggregation of barracks,  10
Miscalled hotels, and of dovecotes denominate cottages; 
A confusion of ugly girls, of sand, and of health-bearing breezes, 
With one unending plank-walk for a true Philadelphia "attraction." 
City ambitiously named, why, with inducements delusive, 
Is the un-Philadelphian stranger lured to thy desert pretentious?  15
'T is not alone that thy avenues, broad and unpaved and unending, 
Re-echo yet with the obsolete music of "Pinafore," 
Whistled in various keys by the rather too numerous negro; 
'T is not alone that Propriety—Propriety too Philadelphian— 
Over thee stretches an ægis of wholly superfluous virtue;  20
That thou art utterly good; hast no single vice to redeem thee; 
'T is not alone that thou art provincial in all things, and petty; 
And that the dullness of death is gay, compared to thy dullness— 
'T is not alone for these things that my curse is to rest upon thee: 
But for a sin that crowns thee with perfect and eminent badness;  25
Sets thee alone in thy shame, the unworthiest town on the sea-coast: 
This: that thou dinest at Noon, and then in a manner barbarian, 
Soupless and wineless and coffeeless, untimely and wholly indecent— 
As is the custom, I learn, in Philadelphia proper. 
I rose and I fled from thy Supper; I said: "I will get me a Dinner!"  30
Vainly I wandered thy streets: thy eating-places ungodly 
Knew not the holiness of Dinner; in all that evening I dined not; 
But in a strange low lair, infested of native mechanics, 
Bolted a fried beefsteak for the physical need of my stomach. 
And for them that have fried that steak, in Aides' lowest back-kitchen  35
May they eternally broil, by way of a warning to others. 
During my wanderings, I met, and hailed with delight one Italian, 
A man with a name from "Pasquale"—the chap sung by Tagliapietra— 
He knew what it was to dine; he comprehended my yearnings; 
But the spell was also on him; the somnolent spell Philadelphian;  40
And his hostelry would not be open till Saturday next; and I cursed him. 
Now this is not too much to ask, God knows, that a mortal should want a 
Pint of Bordeaux to his dinner, and a small cigarette for a climax: 
But, these things being denied him, where then is your Civilization? 
O Coney Island! of old I have reviled and blasphemed thee,  45
For that thou dowsest thy glim at an hour that is un-metropolitan; 
That thy frequenters' feet turn townwards ere striketh eleven, 
When the returning cars are filled with young men and maidens, 
Most of the maidens asleep on the young men's cindery shoulders— 
Yea, but I spake as a fool, insensate, disgruntled, ungrateful:  50
Thee will I worship henceforth in appreciative humility: 
Luxurious and splendid and urban, glorious and gaslit and gracious, 
Gathering from every land thy gay and ephemeral tenantry, 
From the Greek who hails thee, "Thalatta!" to the rustic who murmurs, "My Golly!" 
From the Bowery youth who requests his sweetheart to "look at them billers!"  55
To the Gaul whom thy laughing waves almost persuade to immersion: 
O Coney Island, thou art the weary citizen's heaven— 
A heaven to dine, not die in, joyful and restful and clamful, 
Better one hour of thee than an age of Atlantic City! 

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