May 24, 2011

Upon its heights twin cities meet

After thirteen years of construction, the new bridge connecting New York City to Brooklyn was opened to the public on May 24, 1883. Among the first to use the Brooklyn Bridge, as it was named, was President Chester A. Arthur. As with many other New York landmarks, the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge was celebrated by poets, including the New Hampshire-born Edna Dean Proctor, who had served as a governess in Brooklyn for a time.

A Granite cliff on either shore:
     A highway poised in air;
Above, the wheels of traffic roar;
     Below, the fleets sail fair; —
And in and out, forevermore.
The surging tides of ocean pour,
     And past the towers the white gulls soar,

And winds the sea-clouds bear,
     O peerless this majestic street,
This road that leaps the brine!
     Upon its heights twin cities meet,
And throng its grand incline, —
To east, to west, with swiftest feet.
Though ice may crash and billows beat,
Though blinding fogs the wave may greet
     Or golden summer shine.

Sail up the Bay with morning's beam,
     Or rocky Hellgate by, —
Its columns rise, its cables gleam,
     Great tents athwart the sky!
And lone it looms, august, supreme,
When, with the splendor of a dream,
Its blazing cressets gild the stream
     Till evening shadows fly.

By Nile stand proud the pyramids,
     But they were for the dead;
The awful gloom that joy forbids,
     The mourners' silent tread,
The crypt, the coffin's stony lids, —
Sad as a soul the maze that thrids
Of dark Amenti, ere it rids
     Its way of judgment dread.

This glorious arch, these climbing towers
     Are all for life and cheer!
Part of the New World's nobler dowers;
     Hint of millennial year
That comes apace, though evil lowers, —
When loftier aims and larger powers
Will mould and deck this earth of ours,
     And heaven at length bring near!

Unmoved its cliffs shall crown the shore;
     Its arch the chasm dare;
Its network hang the blue before,
     As gossamer in air;
While in and out, forevermore.
The surging tides of ocean pour,
And past its towers the white gulls soar
     And winds the sea-clouds bear!

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