Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, BROADWAY, by WILLIAM ROSE BENET

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BROADWAY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The bed of the river is adamant and marl
Last Line: Till the soul of man be risen and his raiment rent away!
Subject(s): Rivers

The bed of the River is adamant and marl.
Deep and wide runs the River under cliffs of granite gray.
Under heights of ringing steel, with its woe and its weal,
'Twixt high beetling steeps the dark River sweeps
With its sounding, resounding chaunt of joy and sorrow,
With its dirges and its ditties of blessings and of pities,
Its medleyed many Yesterdays, its chaunt of one To-morrow,
Its song of To-morrow and To-day!

It courses through a channel that Titans must have hewn,
Its banks enormous ramparts dark and high, high and drear,
Yet sunlight strikes between them, and the boon white moon
Spills them molten silver night on night for year on year.
And piercing those ramparts are hordes on hordes of eyes
Glinting or dulling, staring bright and wise
On the faces of that River raised in joy and sorrow,
White for the yesterdays, bright for one To-morrow,
The phantom flood of faces raised to laugh or pray
From the River, the River of To-morrow and To-day,
With its burthen of the secrets of a People's joy and sorrow,
Its song of To-morrow and To-day!

Rains fall dark on that River. Snows drift white on that River;
And sunlight showers gold through all its mists and glooms forever;
And laughter aye shall ring from it, and high songs sing from it
Above the sobs and sighing, above the cursing crying
Of the multitude of voices that flood it like the faces
Upturned, upturned to the distant smoke-dimmed spaces
Of blue, of clouds and stars, in their quiet lost forever
To the swarming, surging multitude that make that mighty River
Of To-morrow and To-day
That floods upon its way
'Twixt its ramparts pierced with eyes, gleaming wise, dulling gray, --
On the deep dark flood of that straining, surging River
With its song of To-morrow and To-day!

Fabrics raised above that River, framed and girdered iron ways,
Stream with roaring traffic, coursed by steeds of steel.
Tubes beneath that River, tunnelled to amaze,
Din with dartled lightnings; and clamors clang and peal, --
Booming bells, and rippling chimes, and shouts of hurried trade, --
Wares cried along that River, and bitter bargains made!
And here a bower, there a bloom-festooned and white arcade,
Stems its fringing eddies (Oh, sickly flowers that fade!),
Draws its loitering eddies to grottoes hectic-gay
As mid-stream the turbid River still roars upon its way,
Chaunting still its joys and sorrows, its pasts and its to-morrows,
Its song of To-morrow and To-day!

What then is the song of that strange and sombre River? --
That solemn, sombre River, with reaches strangely gay,
With its sin-dark stains, and its undertone forever
Of little rippled laughters, like sun-streaks through the gray?
A song so old that its import fails and falters!
Life! -- to the faces on its flood that battle by,
To the yearning eyes of youth, bowed heads in grisly halters,
To the mother clinging white to her little household altars,
To the mirthless smiles of lips wrung dry.

"Our life is this River of Haste," the murmur thickens.
"That thrills and overpowers, that sickens as it quickens, --
Once drawn down its stream to be one to-day, forever,
With the glamour and the dolor and the wisdom of the River,
With the strange increasing changes and the chances of the River,
With the stern warrior soul and the wild surpassing laughter
Of this torrent of the multitude, whose like comes never after;
To strive and sink and drown with a People's joy and sorrow
For the medleyed, tangled Past, for the groped-for one To-morrow;
An Age's everlasting, immortal, fearful River
That rolls and roars forever,
Forever and a day,
Till the soul of Man be risen and his raiment rent away!

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