Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, PETER STUYVESANT'S NEW YEAR'S CALL, 1 JAN. 1661, by EDMUND CLARENCE STEDMAN



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PETER STUYVESANT'S NEW YEAR'S CALL, 1 JAN. 1661, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Where nowadays the battery lies
Last Line: To breakfast at his bouwery.
Subject(s): Holidays; New Year; New York City - Dutch Period; Patriotism; Stuyvesant, Peter (1610-1672); United States - Dutch Settlements


WHERE nowadays the Battery lies,
New york had just begun,
A new-born babe, to rub its eyes,
In Sixteen Sixty-One.
They christened it Nieuw Amsterdam,
Those burghers grave and stately,
And so, with schnapps and smoke and psalm,
Lived out their lives sedately.

Two windmills topped their wooden wall,
On Stadthuys gazing down,
On fort, and cabbage-plots, and all
The quaintly gabled town;
These flapped their wings and shifted backs,
As ancient scrolls determine,
To scare the savage Hackensacks,
Paumanks, and other vermin.

At night the loyal settlers lay
Betwixt their feather-beds;
In hose and breeches walked by day,
And smoked, and wagged their heads.
No changeful fashions came from France,
The freulen to bewilder,
And cost the burgher's purse, perchance,
Its every other guilder.

In petticoats of linsey-red,
And jackets neatly kept,
The vrouws their knitting-needles sped
And deftly spun and swept.
Few modern-school flirtations there
Set wheels of scandal trundling,
But youths and maidens did their share
Of staid, old-fashioned bundling.

-- The New Year opened clear and cold;
The snow, a Flemish ell
In depth, lay over Beeckman's Wold
And Wolfert's frozen well.
Each burgher shook his kitchen-doors,
Drew on his Holland leather,
Then stamped through drifts to do the chores,
Beshrewing all such weather.

But -- after herring, ham, and kraut --
To all the gathered town
The Dominie preached the morning out,
In Calvinistic gown;
While tough old Peter Stuyvesant
Sat pewed in foremost station, --
The potent, sage, and valiant
Third Governor of the nation.

Prayer over, at his mansion hall,
With cake and courtly smile,
He met the people, one and all,
In gubernatorial style;
Yet missed, though now the day was old,
An ancient fellow-feaster, --
Heer Govert Loockermans, that bold
Brewer and burgomeester;

Who, in his farmhouse, close without
The picket's eastern end,
Sat growling at the twinge of gout
That kept him from his friend.
But Peter strapped his wooden peg,
When tea and cake were ended
(Meanwhile the sound remaining leg
Its high jack-boot defended),

A woolsey cloak about him threw,
And swore, by wind and limb,
Since Govert kept from Peter's view,
Peter would visit him;
Then sallied forth, through snow and blast,
While many a humbler greeter
Stood wondering whereaway so fast
Strode bluff Hardkoppig Pieter.

Past quay and cowpath, through a lane
Of vats and mounded tans,
He puffed along, with might and main,
To Govert Loockermans;
Once there, his right of entry took,
And hailed his ancient crony:
"Myn God! in dese Manhattoes, Loock,
Ve gets more snow as money!"

To which, and after whiffs profound,
With doubtful wink and nod,
There came at last responsive sound:
"Yah, Peter; yah, Myn God!"
Then goedevrouw Marie sat her guest
Beneath the chimney-gable,
And courtesied, bustling at her best
To spread the New Year's table.

She brought the pure and genial schnapps,
That years before had come --
In the "Nieuw Nederlandts," perhaps --
To cheer the settlers' home;
The long-stemmed pipes; the fragrant roll
Of pressed and crispy Spanish;
Then placed the earthen mugs and bowl,
Nor long delayed to vanish.

Thereat, with cheery nod and wink,
And honors of the day,
The trader mixed the Governor's drink
As evening sped away.
That ancient room! I see it now:
The carven nutwood dresser;
The drawers, that many a burgher's vrouw
Begrudged their rich possessor;

The brace of high-backed leathern chairs,
Brass-nailed at every seam;
Six others, ranged in equal pairs;
The bacon hung abeam;
The chimney-front, with porcelain shelft;
The hearty wooden fire;
The picture, on the steaming delft,
Of David and Goliah.

I see the two old Dutchmen sit
Like Magog and his mate,
And hear them, when their pipes are lit,
Discuss affairs of state:
The clique that would their away demean;
The pestilent importation
Of wooden nutmegs, from the lean
And losel Yankee nation.

But when the subtle juniper
Assumed its sure command,
They drank the buxom loves that were, --
They drank the Motherland;
They drank the famous Swedish wars,
Stout Peter's special glory,
While Govert proudly showed the scars
Of Indian contests gory.

Erelong, the berry's power awoke
Some music in their brains,
And, trumpet-like, through rolling smoke,
Rang long-forgotten strains, --
Old Flemish snatches, full of blood,
Of phantom ships and battle;
And Peter, with his leg of wood,
Made floor and casement rattle.

Then round and round the dresser pranced
The chairs began to wheel,
And on the board the punch-bowl danced
A Netherlandish reel;
Till midnight o'er the farmhouse spread
Her New Year's skirts of sable,
And inch by inch, each puzzled head
Dropt down upon the table.

But still to Peter, as he dreamed,
The table spread and turned;
The chimney-log blazed high, and seemed
To circle as it burned;
The town into the vision grew
From ending to beginning;
Fort, wall, and windmill met his view,
All widening and spinning.

The cowpaths, leading to the docks,
Grew broader, whirling past,
And checkered into shining blocks, --
A city fair and vast;
Stores, churches, mansions, overspread
The metamorphosed island,
While not a beaver showed his head
From Swamp to Kalchook highland.

Eftsoons the picture passed away;
Hours after, Peter woke
To see a spectral streak of day
Gleam in through fading smoke;
Still slept old Govert, snoring on
In most melodious numbers;
No dreams of Eighteen Sixty-One
Commingled with his slumbers.

But Peter, from the farmhouse door,
Gazed doubtfully around,
Rejoiced to find himself once more
On sure and solid ground.
The sky was somewhat dark ahead,
Wind east, the morning lowery;
And on he pushed, a two-miles' tread,
To breakfast at his Bouwery.





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