Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"The Naming and Progress of Troy" by Benjamin H. Hall (1889)

The Naming and Progress of Troy.

A hardy English sailor,

        Renowned for pluck and skill,

Once wooed the favoring breezes,

        His venturous sails to fill,

Determined to discover—

        Such was his hope, at least—

By sailing to the northward,

        A passage to the East.

Upon the broad Atlantic,

        Within the Half Moon pent,v

With a twenty chosen seaman,

        A half a year he spent,

Till coating past Manhattan

        He touched that noble stream—

The queen of western waters,

        Of poets' song the theme.

He touched that beauteous river—

        The Hudson—and his fame

Shall to the distant ages

        Flow onward in that name,

And men shall thus remember

        The navigator bold,

Whose shallop on those waters

        Its canvas first unrolled.

To Amsterdam returning,

        Throughout that busy town

The story of his travels

        Revived his old renown:

And thousands home forsaking,

        In vessels good and true,

Left Netherland the ancient

        Her Netherland the new.

Fort Orange soon was builded:

        The "colonie" was formed;

And Dutchmen fresh from Holland

        Drank schnapps, and swore, and stormed:

And, all along the river,

        The red men shouted, "Come,

"We like your broad-based breeches,

        "We love your good old rum."

There was a bright-eyed trader,

        Called Brant Van Slichtenhorst,

Who never in a bargain

        Or horse-trade got the worst,

He ruled within the "colonie,"

        Was deemed a man of might,

Sagacious in the council,

        Invincible in fight.

One day in early springtime,

        Rowed in a gallant boat,

He speeded up the river,

        Clad in a gorgeous coat,

Rested at fertile Paanpaack—

        The lovely field of corn—

And treated all the Indians

        From his capacious horn.

Then from his generous pockets

        He drew of pipes enough

To furnish every Red-man

        Who wished to take a puff;

These filled he with tobacco,

        And, 'mid the fire and smoke,

The squaws were two-thirds smothered

        And straight began to choke.

Their backs he rubbed and patted

        And brought them safely through;

Meantime the horn of plenty

        He filled with schnapps anew,

And made the drink so mighty

        That every red man's nose

Looked like a conflagration

        Or blossomed like a rose.

Thus mellowed with the fluid

        The Indians found their tongue,

And soon with talkee-talkee

        The river-borders rung,

Till, moved by friendly feeling,

        They made a full release

Of Paanpaack, the fertile,

        And passed the pipe of peace.

With marks of bows and arrows,

        They duly signed the deed;

The writing was omitted

        As no one there could read.

In Killaen Van Rensselaer—

        Patroon as he was termed—

Who furnished the tobacco,

        The title was confirmed.

This clever work transacted,

        Van Slichtenhorst, the brave,

Pushed off his little dory,

        Sang out a jolly stave:

And while upon the red men

        His glowing face did beam,

Set out for grim Fort Orange

        And floated down the stream.

This was the earliest purchase

        Of any of the lands

That form the site where, proudly,

        Our Troy-fair city—stands,

And thus it duly followed

        In sixteen fifty-two

Old Paanpaack was added

        To Rensselaerwyck, the new.

The red men when recovered,

        And free from smoke and gin,

Looked at their beads and ear-rings,

        Their medals made of tin,

Grew tired of these baubles,

        Forgot the grant just made,

And stated their intention

        To drive another trade.

Anon, to Jan Barentse,

        The Poesten bowerie fair

They sold, without reserving

        The former granted share,

Including all the valley

        Between the Poesten kill

And Meadow creek, the streamlet

        That runneth down the hill.

Old Jan Barentse dying,

        His widow, fat and fair,

Found little consolation

        From wailing in the air,

And so to young Teunise

        Van Velsen, she did give

Her broken cardiac organ,

        So long as she should live.

Van Velsen, crafty fellow,

        The widow's papers took,

Surveyed her pleasant acres

        That stretched from brook to brook,

And conscious that her title

        Was not without a flaw,

He sought from Gov. Nicolls,

        By force to conquer law.

This Nicolls was the colonel,

        Who, several months before,

Had bullied Petrus Stuyvesant,

        Placed soldiers at his door,

And finally, obeying

        The orders of his king,

For Charles and merrie England

        Had made the Dutchmen sing.

Van Velsen told his story.

        His purse was full, and—well,

His case grew interesting,

        And thus it soon befell,

That all the Poesten bowerie

        To him was well confirmed

By royal letters-patent,

        As kingly grants were termed.

Van Woggelum, christened Pieter,

        Beheld this goodly plain,

And bought it of Van Velsen,

        And could not then refrain

From purchasing the valley

        That northerly extends

To where the creek Piscawen

        In tortuous courses wends.

Till seventeen hundred seven

        Van Woggelum kept the land,

Raised corn of goodly stature,

        Dug mussels in the sand:

Then Derick Vanderheyden

        The meadow bought, to till

From northerly Piscawen

        To southern Poestenkill.

That primal grant so ancient,

        Still hung as hands a cloud,

And like the threatening shadow

        The title did enshroud;

And so the honest Derick

        To Killaen's heirs applied,

To vest in him their interest

        Within the bowerie wide.

To this request they yielded,

        And made a lease in fee,

Of all their claim and interest,

        Whatever that might be;

But two fat hens or capons

        And fifteen pecks of wheat

As annual rent they gobbled,

        To make the sale complete.

Matthias Vanderheyden

        In seventeen fifty-two

Contrived a low-roofed dwelling,

        With bricks of reddish hue,

Which though decayed and battered

        For six score years and more

Stood near the street, Division—

        A few feet from the shore.

Years passed, the place grew slowly—

        Though known by many a name:

'T was Vanderheyden's Ferry,

        'T was Ashley's, all the same;

Sometimes with variation

        It passed as "Ferry Hook;"

"The Crossing" and "The Ferry"

        Were other forms it took.

The wise heads all assembled

        In seventeen eighty-nine,

Determined that the hamlet

        Should have a title fine;

That so, throughout the ages,

        In peace as well as strife,

Some brilliant designation

        Should ever give it life.

And first they took the Bible,

        And turned its pages o'er;

Read Numbers and the Chronicles,

        Did Joshua explore:

Then thumbed the leaves of Rollin,

        Josephus studied through,

And sought in Guthrie's system,

        For something that might do.

"They copied all the proper

        Names, and improper, too;

Exhausted combinations

        Till every man was blue,

Then spelled each title backward,

        In hope at last to find

Some startling appellation

        For future fame designed.

Ten hours in fruitless effort

        These grand old heroes passed,v

Till nature faint, exhausted,

        Gave signs she could not last;

The tongue of one was twisted,

        Another's neck was wry,

A third was still with lock-jaw,

        A fourth desired to die.

"Such was the fearful present;

        More dark the apparent fate,

That on their mental labors

        Seemed threateningly to wait;

When one old classic scholar

        On trembling legs arose

And drawing out his mouchoir,

        Attended to his nose.

Thus spoke he—"I remember

        When I was very young,

The story of a city

        In ancient fable sung,

That for ten years resisted

        Siege and starvation slow,

And then surrendered only

        Through treachery of the foe.

"The name of that walled city

        Was good in olden days,

But we can use it better

        By means of modern ways;

And keep it as a lesson,

        That no insidious foe

Must be allowed to enter

        And turn our weal to woe.

"For ten hours we have labored,

        And not a single name

Has yet been deemed sufficient

        To sound our local fame;

To save this noble people,

        For grief to give them joy,

Oh! call these dozen dwellings

        And five small groceries—TROY."

He said: a gleam of sunshine

        Shot from the western sky,

The river burned in crimson,

        The heavens in Tyrian dye;

The sages of the village regained,

        At once, their strength,

Shouted for rum and treacle

        And swallowed drinks of length.

Like lightning, through the hamlet

        The joyful tidings flashed,

And from that dozen houses

        Five dozen people dashed,

While from the corner groceries

        At least a dozen more

Rushed forth in wild confusion

        and through the highway tore.

The men and eke the women

        And little children too,

And pigs and dogs and horses,

        And goslings, not a few,

Joined in the general chorus,

        While, like a grand refrain,

That word of beauty—TROY—

        Rang high above the plain.

It struck the eastern hill-tops,

        And thence, in echoes clear,

Rolled grandly down the river,

        In tones that all could hear;

At Albany it awakened

        The Dutchmen from their sleep,

And with prophetic terror

        Their flesh began to creep.

But when next day a shallop

        Sailed proudly down the stream,

And brought the news that Troy

        No longer was a dream,

The streets were all deserted,

        Each true Albanian wailed,

A fast-day was appointed,

        Five sturgeon-venders failed.

In time, from this beginning

        A city fair arose,

To friends benignant, gracious,

        A terror to its foes;

Where those who bravely struggle

        Win honor and renown;

Where labor is ennobled,

        And skill obtains the crown.

A hundred years have faded

        Since that eventful day,

When this fair spot was christened

        With name so old and gray;

Yet is its title simple,

        And Tim and Pat Molloy

Have never missed the station

        With their baggage checked for Troy.

"A hundred years!" We say it,

        But who can grasp the thought?

Who measure all the meaning

        With which those words are fraught?

Who trace the various changes

        Which, as the days have flown,

Have made the time departed

        A time almost unknown?

'T is night! within the city

        Streets, shops and houses blaze

With gas, or electricity

        Of sun-like lightning rays.

Our fathers, when the day was done,

        To make a brilliant show.

Illumined with a tallow dip,

        A hundred years ago!

The good, old-fashioned tinder-box—

        A trusty friend and tried—

Was carried by our ancestors,

        With flint and wool supplied;

They'd strike and blow, and blow and strike,

        Until the fire would catch;

Oh, how they might have saved their breath

        Could they have had a match!

Hark to yon wild, unearthly shriek!

        Hark to yon whistle shrill!

A rumbling now along the plain!

        A roaring from the hill!

A mingling of unearthly sounds!

        Yet who did ever know

An engine and a train of cars

        A hundred years ago?

Why, in those days a man would mount

        His snorting courser fleet,

With saddle-bags each side of him

        A-dangling at his feet;

And twenty miles a day he'd made

        O'er corduroy and rails,

Outstripping, in his journeyings,

        The fastest two-horse mails.

The matron, when she went to church,

        High on a pillion plac'd,

Rode, with the good man perch'd before,

        Her arm around his waist;

And what a stir about the door,

        How cease'd the boys their play,

When, round the corner, hove in sight

        The deacon's one-horse shay.

And when within the sacred courts

        The congregation met,

No organ's sound assailed the ear

        Or caus'd the just to fret:

But when they prais'd, a lathy man

        Drew out his tuning-fork,

And having pitched the sacred tune

        Began the singing-work.

No heater warmed the chilly air;

        Breath gathered like a cloud;

The minister got exercise

        By praying long and loud.

The ladies, with a wholesome dread

        Of chilblain, cough and cold,

Their footstoves wisely brought to church,

        And faced the weather, bold.

One Sunday when the people came

        They saw a fearful sight—

A stove, of length portentous

        And two feet ix in height;

Six maiden ladies, instantly,

        Fell in a faint most dire,

But breathed, on finding that the stove

        Was destitute of fire.

The modern house of worship!

        How changed in each respect

From what it was in days of yore,

        No matter what the sect;

The fashion of religion now,

        The signs of joy and woe,

Would scarcely have been recognized

        A hundred years ago.

Gently an ivory knob we press,

        Join'd to a slender wire,

And ask a man in Russia

        Whether the last great fire

Damag'd the coming ice crop;

        We step across the hall,

And twenty minutes later

        He answers, "Not at all."

In former times the sun was used

        To keep this old earth warm,

To make the summer beautiful

        And lend the spring a charm:

But now his achromatic power

        Is bound by man's device,

And forced to paint us heliotypes,

        All for the lowest price.

When we were boys Hood wrote a song—

        The sad "Song of the Shirt"—

The wail of woe despairing,

        From famine, cold and dirt;

But Howe and Singer still'd that wail

        Now woman draws the seam,

And sees the steely fingers work,

        Alive, by skill and steam.

The summer sky gives tokens, sure,

        That tell the coming rain,

And long-drawn winds sweep o'er the fields

        And bend the yellow grain:

The storm impends, but ere it bursts

        In overwhelming flood,

The crop is safely harvested,

        The reaper is a Wood.

We shoe the horses of the world,

        Make steel of any length,

And bever fail to recognize

        Our Burden as our strength:

Our brand is on the nation's neck,

        "Troy" is the mark it bears,

And honored is the subject who

        The Trojan collar wears.

Art, letters, law, theology,

        Culture and taste refin'd,

Have found securest dwelling place,

        Within the modern mind;

But most of all, by active brain,

        Crowned with a fearless will,

The century past blooms radiant,

        A century of SKILL.

So standing on the threshold fast

        Of this new age sublime,

We see before us stretching out—

        Within the temple Time—

The length'ning vistas, from whose depths

        In streams of power shall flow,

The force of mind which there abides

        Veil'd in the future's glow.

Troy Daily Times. January 3, 1889: 3 cols 5-6.

Troy Daily Times. January 4, 1889: 1 cols 6-8.

January 5, 2014 was the 225th anniversary of the naming of Troy. The above poem was written for the 100th. The treatment of the Native Peoples of New York in history and in the poem: shameful. "Dirk Vanderheyden's Dream" by William E. Hagan (1890) appeared in the same paper as the above.

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