Verse > Anthologies > Hamilton Fish Armstrong, ed. > The Book of New York Verse
Hamilton Fish Armstrong, ed.  The Book of New York Verse.  1917.
The Wall Street Pit, May, 1901
By Edwin Markham
I SEE a hell of faces surge and whirl,
Like maelstrom in the ocean—faces lean
And fleshless as the talons of a hawk—
Hot faces like the faces of the wolves
That track the traveller fleeing through the night—        5
Grim faces shrunken up and fallen in,
Deep-ploughed like weather-eaten bark of oak—
Drawn faces like the faces of the dead,
Grown suddenly old upon the brink of Earth.
Is this a whirl of madmen ravening,        10
And blowing bubbles in their merriment?
Is Babel come again with shrieking crew
To eat the dust and drink the roaring wind?
And all for what? A handful of bright sand
To buy a shroud with and a length of earth?        15
Oh, saner are the hearts on stiller ways!
Thrice happier they who, far from these wild hours,
Grow softly as the apples on a bough.
Wiser the ploughman with his scudding blade,
Turning a straight fresh furrow down a field—        20
Wiser the herdsman whistling to his heart,
In the long shadows at the break of day—
Wiser the fisherman with quiet hand,
Slanting his sail against the evening wind.
The swallow sweeps back from the south again,        25
The green of May is edging all the boughs,
The shy arbutus glimmers in the wood,
And yet this hell of faces in the town—
This storm of tongues, this whirlpool roaring on,
Surrounded by the quiet of the hills;        30
The great calm stars forever overhead,
And, under all, the silence of the dead!

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