Edmund Clarence Stedman



The Dutch Patrol

by Edmund Clarence Stedman

When Christmas-Eve is ended,
Just at the noon of night,
Rare things are seen by mortal een
That have the second sight.
In St. Mark's church-yard then
They see the shape arise
Of him who ruled Nieuw Amsterdam
And here in slumber lies.

His face, beneath the close black cap,
Has a martial look and grim;
On either side his locks fall wide
To the broad collar's rim;
His sleeves are slashed; the velvet coat
Is fashioned Hollandese
Above his fustian breeches, trimmed
With scarf-knots at the knees.

His leg of flesh is hosed in silk;
His wooden leg is bound,
As well befits a conqueror's,
With silver bands around.
He reads the lines that mark
His tablet on the wall,
Stands out beyond them all.

'T is well! he says, and sternly smiles,
They hold our memory dear;
Nor rust nor moss hath crept across;
'T will last this many a year.

Then down the path he strides,
And through the iron gate,
Where the sage Nine Men, his councillors,
Their Governor await.

Here are Van der Donck and Van Cortlandt,
A triplet more of Vans,
And Hendrick Kip of the haughty lip,
And Govert Loockermans,
Jan Jansen Dam, and Jansen,
Of whom our annals tell, --
All risen this night their lord to greet
At sound of the Christmas bell.

Nine lusty forms in linsey coats,
Puffed sleeves and ample hose!
Each burgher smokes a Flemish pipe
To warm his ancient nose;
The smoke-wreaths rise like mist,
The smokers all are mute,
Yet all, with pipes thrice waving slow,
Brave Stuyvesant salute.

Then into ranks they fall,
And step out three by three,
And he of the wooden leg and staff
In front walks solemnly.
Along their wonted course
The phantom troop patrol,
To see how fares Nieuw Amsterdam,
And what the years unroll.

Street after street and mile on mile,
From river bound to bound,
From old St. Mark's to Whitehall Point,
They foot the limits round;
From Maiden Lane to Corlaer's Hook
The Dutchmen's pypen glow,
But never a word from their lips is heard,
And none their passing know.

Ere the first streak of dawn
St. Mark's again they near,
And by a vault the Nine Men halt,
Their Governor's voice to hear.
Mynheeren, he says, ye see
Each year our borders spread!
Lo, one by one, the landmarks gone,
And marvels come instead!

Not even a windmill left,
Nor a garden-plot we knew,
And but a paling marks the spot
Where erst my pear-tree grew.
Our walks are wearier still, --
Perchance and it were best,
So little of worth is left on earth,
To break no more our rest?

Thus speaks old Petrus doubtfully
And shakes his valiant head,
When -- on the roofs a sound of hoofs,
A rattling, pattering tread!
The bells of reindeer tinkle,
The Dutchmen plainly spy
St. Nicholas, who drives his team
Across the roof-tops nigh.

Beshrew me for a craven!
Cries Petrus -- All goes well!
Our patron saint still makes his round
At sound of the Christmas bell.
So long as stanch St. Nicholas
Shall guard these houses tall,
There shall come no harm from hostile arm --
No evil chance befall!

The yongens and the meisjes
Shall have their hosen filled;
The butcher and the baker,
And every honest guild,
Shall merrily thrive and flourish;
Good-night, and be of cheer;
We may safely lay us down again
To sleep another year!

Once more the pipes are waved,
Stout Petrus gives the sign,
The misty smoke enfolds them round,
Him and his burghers nine.
All, when the cloud has lifted,
Have vanished quite away,
And the crowing cock and steeple clock
Proclaim 't is Christmas-Day.


Poems now first collected:
Copyright 1897
Houghton, Mifflin And Company
Boston And New York