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.
 
Descriptive View of New York, 1813 (abridged)
By Thomas Eaton
 
THE LORD supreme the basis laid
For science, commerce, and for trade;
And sent a wise and chosen race,
To build and beautify the place.
Huge fabrics rising into view,        5
With shops of trade, and temples too,
Betray the enterprise and zeal
The emulous projectors feel.
On either bay a street is laid,
And commons into parks are made;        10
While num’rous shorter streets and lanes
Divide and check the bushy plains.
Anon the builder stops and views
The rising village as it grows—
The shores are fring’d with docks and slips        15
And boast their sev’ral thousand ships,
With schooners, sloops, and brigs and boats,
And ev’ry kind of thing that floats,
From ev’ry nation on the globe,
That makes a pin, a book, or robe.        20
And here the southern merchant hies,
With fancy goods the place supplies,
While Ireland her grocers sends,
With rum to treat her Yankee friends;
And England, France, and humbler Wales        25
Send here to see what trade prevails.
And try if any chance there be
To undermine our liberty.
A transatlantic pride they bring,
With follies, fashions, every thing.        30
Now leaving out the idle scene
At gov’ment-house and bowling-green,
The southern park, now batt’ry call’d,
The stone and turf with which it’s wall’d,
Its forts and guns and drinking-place—        35
To eastward Chatham street we’ll trace.
But, passing Tammany, we come
Directly to the Museum.
A stately house, completely full
Of mammoth bones, or bones of bull,        40
With birds and beasts, and min’ral ore,
And things that ne’er were known before.
It is no mark of knave or fool,
To visit oft this nat’ral school,
For good and wise men have been in,        45
And yet come out as wise again.
But longer here we may not be,
As we have other things to see;
And to observe how Chatham street
Has suffer’d from the fire of late.        50
Near sixty houses laid in dust,
And this of evils not the worst;
For families two hundred more
Were robb’d of home in one short hour.
On lofty house high mounted up,        55
E’en tiptoe on the very top,
I view the wide extended block,
Where goats and sheep commingled flock.
Broadway the first that takes the eye,
The noblest street I here espy,        60
The new-swept side-walks neat and clean,
With poplars shaded sweet and green,
And sev’ral thousand stylish folks
Are seen repassing on the walks.
Here side by side close converse hold,        65
A mincing pair, till each has told,
Perhaps, the whole she thinks or knows
About her prospects and her beaux.
And there a gentleman complete,
In fashion all, from head to feet,        70
With hugest seal and ruffles wide,
Now strutting in the height of pride,
And in his heart a want of sense,
His long-neglected judgment hence;
For so the fashion is, and he,        75
For fashion-sake, must shallow be.
For miles around we now behold
New objects, and new scenes unfold;
The num’rous steeples, tow’ring high,
Seen best from ships when passing by,        80
And next the thousand streets appear,
Some fill’d with carts and others clear,
Extending now the pow’r of sight,
We view the spreads of canvas white
Which press the oval hulks along,        85
As swift as horses, twice as strong.
With eagle-eye we now can see
Where all the public houses be:
And leaving churches unobserv’d,
And places where the devil’s serv’d,        90
We prospect have of Fed’ral Hall,
Of hotels and of taverns small!
And tow’ring high above the rest,
From Jersey bank observ’d the best,
Or when descending Hudson bold,        95
The City Hotel we behold;
And next to that Mechanic Hall,
High built, though narrow made and small;
Now Washington and Tammany
Which own’d by politicians be;        100
Commercial next, and old Tontine,
Whose earthen roofs, sun-beaten shine,
And Phœnix new, and num’rous banks,
Where wealth plays off her shaving pranks.
Now turning here and there we see        105
Where all the public auctions be;
What motley crowds assemble there;
Or loss or benefit to share—
The country folks, an honest set,
Here cheaply buy, but nothing get.        110
And there the market glutted stands
That ev’ry class of men commands,
For rich and poor commingle here,
And buy they must, or cheap or dear—
They have no choice, for all must eat,        115
And butchers always sell their meat.
Now round and round we turn to see
All kind of folks, or bond or free,
Or black, or white, or brown, or grey,
Blasphemers, or the folks that pray,        120
With carriages that go and come,
Some Quaker-like, and glit’ring some.
But weary grown, at length, of vain
Review, we straight descend again,
To where the sudden change of scene        125
Makes us forget where we have been.
 
 
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