[Edmund Clarence Stedman, born at Hartford, Connecticut, in 1833, ranks high in our present generation of poets, while as a critical essayist on modern poets and poetry he has no superior. His “Victorian Poets” and other critical essays, with his several volumes of poetry, are productions of high merit and much popularity. Though 90 not often indulging in humor, he leans strongly in that direction in the following example, which, while “caviare to the general,” will have a fine flavor for the lovers of classical literature.]
JUST where the Treasury’s marble front
Looks over Wall Street’s mingled nations,
Where Jews and Gentiles most are wont
To throng for trade and last quotations, —
Where, hour by hour, the rates of gold
Outrival, in the ears of people.
The quarter-chimes, serenely tolled
From Trinity’s undaunted steeple,—
Even there I heard a strange, wild strain
Sound high above the modern clamor,
Above the cries of greed and gain,
The curbstone war, the auction’s hammer;
And swift, on music’s misty ways,
It led, from all this strife for millions,
To ancient, sweet-do-nothing days
Among the kirtle-robed Sicilians.
And as it stilled the multitude,
And yet more joyous rose, and shriiller,
I saw the minstrel where he stood
At ease against a Doric pillar;
One hand a droning organ played,
The other held a Pan’s pipe (fashioned
Like those of old) to lips that made
The reeds give out that strain impassioned.
’Twas Pan himself that wandered here, —
A-strolling through this sordid city,
And piping to the civic ear
The prelude of some pastoral ditty!
91 The demi-god had crossed the seas —
From haunts of shepherd, nymph, and satyr,
And Syracusan times — to these
Far shores and twenty centuires later.
A ragged cap was on his head;
But — hidden thus — there was no doubting
That, all with crispy locks o’erspread,
His gnarled horns were somewhere sprouting;
His club-feet, cased in rusty shoes,
Were crossed, as on some frieze you see them,
And trousers, patched of divers hues,
Concealed his crooked shanks beneath them.
He filled the quivering reeds with sound,
And o’er his mouth their changes shifted,
And with his goat’s-eyes looked around
Where’er the passing current drifted;
And soon, as on the Trinacrian hills
The nymphs and herdsmen ran to hear him,
Even now the tradesmen from their tills,
With clerks and porters, crowded near him.
The bulls and bears together drew
From Jauncey Court and New Street Alley,
As erst, if pastorals be true,
Came beast from every wooded valley;
The random passers stayed to list, —
A boxer Ægon, rough and merry;
A Broadway Daphnis, on his tryst
With Nais at the Brooklyn Ferry:
A one-eyed Cyclops halted long
In tattered cloak of army pattern;
And Galatea joined the throng, —
A blowsy, apple-vending slattern;
92 While old Silenus staggered out
From some new-fangled lunch-house handy,
And bade the piper with a shout,
To strike up Yankee Doodle Dandy.
A newsboy and a peanut-girl
Like little fawns began to caper, —
His hair was all in tangled curl,
Her tawny legs were bare and taper;
And still the gathering larger grew,
And gave its pence and crowded nigher
While aye the shepherd-minstrel blew
His pipe, and struck the gamut higher.
O heart of Nature, beating still
With throbs her vernal passion taught her,
Even here as on the vine-clad hill
Or by the Arethusan water!
New forms may fold the speech, new lands
Arise within these ocean portals,
But music waves eternal wands,
Enchantress of the souls of mortals!
So thought I; but among us trod
A man in blue, with legal baton,
And scoffed the vagrant demi-god,
And pushed him from the steps I sat on;
Doubting, I mused upon the cry,
“Great Pan is dead!” — and all the people
Went on their ways; and clear and high
The quarter sounded from the steeple.