Day leaped over the city wall With one quick, sharp imperative call,
And, at the luminous touch of him,
The glow of a myriad lamps grew dim.
Life, like a question, seemed to creep Where the shadows gathered black and deep, Till, in the hush of the morning air,
Came the sigh of a multitude hidden there. Then movement and murmur borne afar,
The grinding wheels of a hastening car,
And, sudden, the tide of humanity flowed By lane and valley, by square and road With the dogged hard inflexible tread Of men that sweat for their daily bread.
The dusty city engulfed them all That came at her fierce relentless call :
The shining engines trembled and stirred,
A thousand factories opened wide,
The lips of the lifting steam valves purred,
A thousand diligent wheels replied;
So jar and effort and clamour grew,
And toil that only the toiler knew.
The stream had slackened, but rose again Fringed with a lesser breed of men;
Narrow shouldered and pale of face, Soft-handed sons of a softened race ;
Brushed and scented and combed and pressed, Decked like the windows they daily dressed: Children, old ere their childhood came,
Bent, to some hardened master’s shame,
Robbed of the vision of childish mirth,
But wdse from the sharing of work and dearth ; Trim stenographers, salesmen, clerks, Merchants and money-lending sharks,
Y outhful lawyers with anxious looks Swinging bags and portentous books;
Last of all, in luxurious ease,
Bankers and brokers, and such as these,
In opulent motors that swiftly pass With a flash of panels and polished glass.
The reeking city had room for all Who came at her hard and dominant call,
Till the voice of her labor sounds aloud Till streets are black with a turbulent crowd; Crush and hurry and press and race Till courtesy covers her burning face:
The battle is on—with brain and will,
The battle is on for dollar bill;
The gods of the nation have turned to gold, And honor and love are bought and sold :
The gambler smiles as he juggles with fate, And the greater is he whose gain is great;
The merchant smiles o’er the counter rails At the profit he makes on his bargain sales ; The lawyer smiles, pleads a burglar off, Forecloses a mortgage—and—goes to golf; The banker smiles and the smile is wide At the figures that show on the surplus side ; Wherever the smiles may come, they still Are mostly based on the dollar bill.
The rich man wastes what the beggar needs, The miser scowls while the widow pleads,
And little children with tender feet Bodge death for pence in the roaring street.
The sun loomed large in the dusty air,
And tempered the fire of his noontide glare; The voice of the clamorous whistles spoke,
And a hundred thousand toilers broke Fiom forge and factory ; men forsook Bench and counter, column and book Till flagstones rang with the homeward tread Oi those that sweat for their daily bread.
Bent broad shoulders and tired eyes,
Blackened faces and weary hands,
Dull of hearing, but very wise To mark necessity’s stem commands:
Laborers all—but every one
Made in the image of God’s dear Son.
Silence and echoes and lines of light, Threading the quiet deserted street;
Empty buildings, and, then the height Where changeless heaven and starlight meet, The peace of darkness for laboring men,
And rest ere cometh their toil again,
For night crept over the city wall And blessed sleep enveloped them all.
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