FIRST O SONGS FOR A PRELUDE
FIRST O songs for a prelude,
Lightly strike on the stretch'd tympanum pride and joy in
How she led the rest to arms, how she gave the cue,
How at once with lithe limb unwaiting a moment she sprang,
(O superb! O Manhattan, my own, my peerless!
O strongest you in the hour of danger, in crisis! O truer
How you sprang--how you threw off the costumes of peace
with indifferent hand,
How your soft opera-music changed, and the drum and fife
were heard in their stead,
How you led to the war (that shall serve for our prelude
songs of soldiers),
How Manhattan drum-taps led.
Forty years had I in my city seen soldiers parading,
Forty years as a pageant, till unawares the lady of this teem-
ing and turbulent city,
Sleepless amid her ships, her houses, her incalculable wealth,
With her million children around her, suddenly,
At dead of night, at news from the south,
Incens'd struck with clinch'd hand the pavement.
A shock electric, the night sustain'd it,
Till with ominous hum our hive at daybreak pour'd out its
From the houses then and the workshops, and through all the
Leapt they tumultuous, and lo! Manhattan arming.
To the drum-taps prompt,
The young men falling in and arming,
The mechanics arming (the trowel, the jack-plane, the black-
smith's hammer, tost aside with precipitation),