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The Magpie Sings the Great Depression:
Selections from DeWitt Clinton High School's Literary Magazine, 1929-1942

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America Grows

By Norman Brustein, '37
Illustrated by Teddy Shearer, '38

The Magpie, June 1937, v. 21, n. 2., p. 30.

"The silver is mine and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of Hosts"
Haggai, chap. 11 verse 8

An men's dreams be rudely shattered, like thin glass struck with a stone,
By greed and war and love of gold? We have worked hard. . .
   Centuries have toiled their weary way
   Through dusty eras of misty time. From the days
     when tyrants ruled,
   From the bloody dawn of revolution, the pioneers
     with nail hard hands
   And the statesmen with soft words
   Have pushed the frontier into
     the sea.

A country nourished on brave men's blood
Thrived on its diet and rapidly grew,
But the dream was cruelly shattered
When industry burst into revolt
And the seething land burnt in twain.
Songs of triumph and madness reigned,
Blazing fires of sweet victory
Glimmered on the Northern horizon,

   The shout of commanding bugle screamed
   Its savage joy at the taste of blood dearly gained.

   The hot blood was shed, so they said,
   To save the slaves from an awful fate;
   When victory was won, the slaves were free
   Free to starve again.

   And when this madness sank to sleep,
   A babe was born, a giant in the cradle,
   Who cheerfully fed on oil and steel
   And spat out railroads and trusts.
   The infant grew as no child has grown
   And thrived on gears and coal and wheels
   Until he held the shivering land

On the tip of his dirty fingers
And squeezed it in his oily black palm.
We worshipped the men who fed this giant,
The builders of iron and shapers of steel,
As heroes returned from far flung wars,
Bringing their loot to enrich the land.
They lapped our love with eager tongues
And carefully spun their golden webs

Of silken strength and insinuating power
To enmesh the foolish flies
And cast away the empty husks
After sucking out their money juices.
The news of prosperity reached the millions,
Of taxed and tyranny-ridden Europe.
They flocked to the gilded shores
Of what they thought was Utopia—
Food for the giant that eats the world.

Some were beginning to think their dream fulfilled
When again the tiger awoke and roared
And the dream was abruptly shattered:
Again we loved the march of men
The stiffened strides of trained machines
Again we sang the maddening songs
Of triumph and joy and reddened glory.

The sumptuous beat of martial music
A song of hatred in glorious tones, lured to a horrible
  death the men who thought they fought for Peace
"To save the world for democracy."

This time the madness did not die; its fervor waxed and
  flamed anew.
We danced and played and rowdily sang, and feasted
our surfeited eyes on the supple rhythms of
  taxi dancers.

Reason fled to another planet; a money madness seized
the nation; the idols of gold with speechless lips, with ruddy jewels
shouting their cost ruled the speculators out of their wits and led the
dance of the foolish flies into the meshes so carefully made.
The beautiful bubble suddenly burst; scattering speculators to the winds
And dark claws of sinister want slid themselves into merry lives
A ghostly hand from out of the darkness gripped the warm hearts of the
people: Fear . . . a nameless unholy fear of the future
Fear of want, fear of retribution, and the pitiful idolaters of gold
Running madly out from their holes to clasp for sure protection
The broken clay feet of their idol were crushed by the falling bust,
A sacrifice to the god they had made.

The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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