The Crooked Lake Review

Summer 2004

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The Naming of the Cities
on the Map of New York State

There are Dutchmen on the Hudson
From the Mohawk to its mouth,
There are Frenchmen up in Canada
And Germans in the South,
There are lots of Scots and Spaniards
In the wild and hilly West
But the cultivated Middle
Is the Country of the blest.
Some have opted for Oswego
With a Fervor aboriginal.
And some have cried of Catskill
With Its river and bridge'n all,
Or shuffled off to Buffalo
In search of Light and truth,
But the cities of the Middle,
They are Classical and couth.

What sort of settler
Christens his home
Ithaca, Utica,
Syracuse, Rome?
Memphis, Camillus,
Sempronius, Homer.
Can anything classical
Be a misnomer?
Grammatical gushers
In scholarly spate
Pour over the middle
Of New York State.

The cities of the Frenchmen
They are Named for saints and such
There's consonantal thunder
In the Valleys of the Dutch
There's a splendor in the Spanish,
In Cordova and Castile;
You can hear in Caledonia
The skirling and the squeal.
All along the watercourses
Fall an Amerindian music
From the shores of Canandaigua
To The borders of the Hoosic,
But the fathers of the Middle
(Or at any rate their leaders),
Were grammarians and scholars
And incorrigible readers.

Lovers of books
Were they,
Pundits of Plato,
Makers of Manlius,
Macedon, Cato,
What would I give
For a barn and a silo,
A house with an orchard
In Ovid or Milo,
Or Romulus or Ridge,
Mycenae, Minoa
Or Palatine Bridge?

There are lakes in every valley
That are Fringed about with green
Where the hills are softly folded
And The air is new and clean,
And underneath the drumlins
In the Hollows of the downs
Lie the names of ancient cities
On the Quiet little towns.
Oh, in Cicero or Pompey
I would Stroll along a path,
I'll meander through Lysander,
I will See the sights of Bath.
You may keep your sweet Schoharie,
It Reminds me of a sneeze;
But I will live in Ilion
Among the apple trees.

I'll live in Attica,
Virgil or Greece,
In the hills of Palmyra
There's plenty of peace,
No curse upon Carthage,
In Sparta no strife;
Here Hector and Romulus
Waken to life,
Here Corinth is new again,
Athens is young
And the names of old cities
Sing soft on the tongue…
(Given to Donovan Shilling years ago by a librarian.
Likely from a 19th- century poetry anthology.)
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