February 28, 2015

HISTORICAL POEM: "THE GREAT WHITE CITY" BY LYDIA FENWICK PATTERSON CIRCA 1921

Lydia Fenwick Patterson
Lydia Fenwick Patterson 1872-1944 wrote poetry. Her writings were found in a suitcase in an attic by family members. The pages were fashioned together as scrolls using loose leaf papers and straight pins. I am publishing her poem written in 1921, and never before published until today, because it still rings true. It is relevant. The entangled arms of poverty and oppression do not discriminate, and within that grasp are people from every walk of life. I read this poem and immediately thought of Wall Street while viewing pictures of humanity sleeping on the sidewalks and in the shadows of our great cities.  Lydia was my great-great-great grandmother, and as I transcribe some of her poetry that was destined for the trash bin, the questions arise...How many other startling or important voices of our past have been lost, thrown out with the trash, dismissed as ravings, left undiscovered in attics and basements? What a pleasure to learn my grandmother wrote poetry, and to hear her speak from the grave on a topic I am so passionate about! I left this poem as I found it... In her words, and completely unedited.~Janine Pickett  



THE GREAT WHITE CITY

O'er a great white city
night dark and moonless lay
while in a brilliantly lighted hall
gathered a company proud and gay

And there was singing and dancing
and the sound of music sweet
while through the polished windows
the light shone o'er the street

And there were lovely women
all robed in silk and lace
while their hair shone with diamonds
and pearls their necks embrace

And they sat at costly tables
and they ate of costly meat
regardless of the cold and hungry ones
that wander through the street

They were served from cut glass and silver
and they drank of costly wine
such a grand, magnificent banquet
was fit for a king to dine

Tis' midnight and the feast goes on
no end when wealth and pleasure meet
until the small hours of the night
when they must fall asleep

Yes, fall asleep with dreams of ease
until the sun rises high above the trees

While out in that great white city
in the cold and desolate street
thousands are hurrying to and fro
with tired and weary feet 

And the pavement stones they echoe
with the sound of the solemn tread
of the weary struggling masses
that toil for their daily bread

And there are pale faced women
amid that motley throng
and groups of ragged children
shivering and hurrying on

On to some lonely hovel
wretched and dark and drear
famished from cold and hunger
mid plenty everywhere

There in that great white city
the fairest in all the land
where the grim spectre poverty
and wealth go hand-in-hand

Such is the scene of a city
its joys and sorrows and strife
such is a picture I've painted for you
in every walk of life

O God our all wise father
ruler of this universe
look down on thy helpless people
and remove this awful curse

Help them to fight the battle
until the victory won
when poverty shall be banished
and the laborer claims his own

When this bitter strife is ended
and the roar of battle cease
and the liberty bells are ringing
with the welcome sound of peace

Then we'll lay aside our muskets
hang the sword upon the wall
shouting in our newborn freedom
equal rights for all

Then there'll be no little children
toiling in the sweatshops gloom
and no pale and worn out women
bending all day o'er the loom

There will be no homeless wanderers
tramping through our city streets
vainly seeking food and shelter
with tired and weary feet

But there'll be smiling faces
that were wet with recent tears
from the toil and bitter struggle
that's oppressed the poor for years

For there'll be no more suffering
from poverty's blighting hand
But there'll be peace and plenty
throughout this broad fair land

For then the thieves and grafters
will beat a swift retreat
before the stroke of freedom
and poverty shall cease

And then we'll be united
and together shall join hands
man-to-man shall be a brother
as on freedoms soil we stand

Then let us join in giving
our praise to him above
for the blessings we enjoy
peace, prosperity and love. 

~Lydia Fenwick Patterson





























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