Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TWO CITIES, by WILLIAM ALLEN BUTLER

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TWO CITIES, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Girt with the river's silver zone
Last Line: Upon the old foundations, build!
Subject(s): Chicago Fire (1871); Cities; Corruption In Politics; New York City; Urban Life; Manhattan; New York, New York; The Big Apple


GIRT with the river's silver zone,
Her feet the ocean woos and clasps,
An empress on her island throne,
The crown she wears, the sceptre grasps.

The light that floods her face is shed
On countless roofs and thronging spires;
The cloud-wreath, hovering overhead,
Is woven from her ceaseless fires.

Her lap with wealth the wide world fills,
O'er the wide world her wealth she casts;
The forests of a thousand hills
Have grown to shape her clustered masts.

With boundless life her senses thrill,
It throbs through her resounding streets;
A mighty nation's tireless will
In all her million pulses beats.

But now, heart-sick, sore tried, and faint,
Upon her cheek the blush of shame,
She wears, within, the leprous taint
That blights and blasts her civic fame.

Yet, with firm hand, aside she tears
The folds of her imperial robe,
And, fearless, in the sunlight, dares
The festering sore to search and probe.

Plunge deeper yet the cleansing knife,
The heart still pours its vital flood,
The canker has not touched the life,
The poison is not in the blood!


Some swift enchantment surely fed
Her virgin grace, her giant might,
As on her upward way she sped,
With girded loins and footsteps light;

In living lines, her strange, new name
Carved on the inland ocean's brim,
And with her lofty beacon flame
Fringed the broad prairie's verdant rim.

Past lakes and forests, hills and plains,
She pushed her iron pathways through,
Along whose tracks the freighted trains,
Like fire-winged serpents, flashed and flew.

With the heaped grain her rafters bent,
The native sheaf her golden crest,
And through her open gates she sent
The garnered harvests of the West.

Who now shall blame the glow of pride
That kindled on her fevered face,
Restless with thought and eager-eyed,
Fit type of our impetuous race?

To-night her widowed watch she keeps;
In sackcloth, by a funeral pyre,
She sits beside the shapeless heaps
Where swept the wind-tossed waves of fire.

Not lifeless yet, though maimed and scarred;
The gulf of flame is not her grave;
Above these ruins, black and charred,
Once more the enchanter's wand shall wave.

The magic of the fearless will
That wrought and won, in earlier years,
Still weds to all her strength and skill
The patience of the pioneers.

While from all hearts and hands and homes,
From kindred hearths, from alien shores,
One world-wide benediction comes,
One tidal wave of pity pours;

Still, as of old, the furnace proves
The path divinest love has trod;
Still, in the midst, a presence moves
Whose form is like the Son of God!

So far apart, yet side by side;
Her brand of fire, our badge of shame,
Write the same doom of human pride,
Their call to duty is the same.

Though deep the vengeful firebolt cleft,
And deep the foul corruption's stain,
Courage and hope and faith are left,
Manhood and truth and right remain.

The skies are clear, the fresh winds blow,
With trumpet calls the air is filled;
Sweep off the wrecks, and far below,
Upon the old foundations, build!

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