I know nothing about the author, but I like this poem very much. I like its perspective and its strength. While the city boasts, "I Will," the river says, "I serve." Hope you enjoy it.
THE CHICAGO RIVER
They have bound me with bridges,
With tunnels burrowed under me!
All day and all night
Traffic roars over me,
And my uplook to the blessed sky
Is barred with girders, cables, stacks.
My banks, with docks close hedged,
Hem me in.
Through smoke and floating smudge,
The Sun looks down upon me
Like the bleared eye of an old, old man.
No outcast of the gutters
Slinks by more soiled than I,
Polluted within and without!
But on my shackled breast I bear
Corn and iron, lumber and coal.
The little children of India eat of my wheat;
My lumber shelters the stricken of Messina;
Ten million wheels are set a-whirl with my coal;
The iron that burdens me forms a ready tool,
Pit for the hand of man.
What singer can sing of me one low-keyed song?
The Hudson, the Rhine, the Danube, the Nile,
All these, all have their poets,
As beautiful women their lovers.
Fringed with vineyards and stately gardens,
Castles and temples are their jewels,
And song is theirs by right!
Soiled am I and brackish
As sweat on the brow of a workman!
But the broad ships that weight my breast
Are like iron medals with these words wrought:
Therein alone is my glory:
I serve; I serve.
--Charlton Lawrence Edholm
FROM: The Chicago Anthology: A Collection of Verse from the Work of Chicago Poets
By Charles Granger Blanden, Minna Mathison (1916)
Photo Credit: A 1906 Chicago Post Card showing the river mouth