Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Bowling Green

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Middle States: New York, the City, N. Y.

The Bowling Green

By Thomas Gold Appleton (1812–1884)

IS this the Bowling Green? I should not know it,

So disarrayed, defaced, and gone to seed,

Like some un-Pegasused and prosy poet,

Whose Helicon is now the bowl and weed;

Its Green, if grass, does not precisely show it,

So changed to worse from that once lovely mead.

Not Time has done it only, Desecration

Has with corrosive finger touched the place;

The iron fence, its once proud decoration,

The street, the mansions round, share the disgrace,—

Now but the stepping-stone of every nation,

The point of fusion for the human race.

The houses once, long since, in evening’s glory

Shone with a tranquil beauty; and on stoops

Maidens would listen while the old, old story

Beguiled the twilight; and broad-skirted groups

Displayed their sabres moderately gory,

Displacing with good Dutch the Indians’ whoops.

And in my own day, later, I remember

Those pleasant houses and their pleasant hosts,

Where gleamed like topaz in the dying ember

The old Madeira (then we drank to toasts).

Ah me! that June of life is now December,

And all those smiling figures, are but ghosts.

Yon dingy alien, limping from his steamer;

The colorless, abandoned look of all;

The broken flags, the fountain’s silvery tremor;

The homes for aye disprivacied, and the wall

Cuirassed in gilded sign-boards,—pain the dreamer,

And all his blissful memories appall.

Ah! ’t was a dear old town, that lost Manhattan,

With its green shores, whose islands still had trees;

And round them gleamed the sun-touched bay like satin,

When the sun sank, and shut its wings the breeze.

Oh! why was it obliged to grow and fatten?

Those modest days in worth outvalued these.

The visitor, I may say without flattery,

Finds few, if any, ports to match the view

(When the wind’s up, the walk is slightly spattery)

Of bustling, white-winged craft and laughing blue,

Which fixes him enchanted on the Battery,—

So full of life, forever fresh and new.

If, as a boy I did, I make my haunt in

Dear Castle Garden, soon I find a check

In two policemen, who, my courage daunting,

Stand sentinels beside that piteous wreck,

And point to signs; I read, Für Emigranten,

And just beyond I see an emptying deck.

In the far future, haply, the town completed,

That foreign wave no more shall strike the shore,

And the boys then shall frolic there as we did,

And maidens flower-like bloom beside the door,

And happy people shall behold repeated

Such a Manhattan as we loved of yore.