Wednesday, June 08, 2016

`You'll Thrill to Share Its Old Romance'

“You must come back to Cleveland, if you were Cleveland-bred,
It calls you, though your place be filled, and all your chances dead;
You must come back to Cleveland to smell its murky air,
And hear its roar, and feel its throb, and pace its streets aflare.”

That was a test, and everyone failed. Substitute “London” for “Cleveland” and you have the opening stanza of Lilian Street’s “Londoner” (Shadow and Gleam, 1895), another poem I found in The Charm of London: An Anthology (1912), edited by Alfred A. Hyatt. I’m a sucker for poems and songs (“Come Back, Paddy Reilly”) about yearning after the old sod and other things you can never have. It’s better to confine such longings to the realm of maudlin fantasy. A permanent return to my place of birth is impossible, for reasons financial, familial and world-historical. We no longer fit, my city and I. My professional skills are not needed in Cleveland. My sons were born and raised elsewhere, in New York and Texas. Cleveland, for them, is a case study in urban pathology or a punch line. I must be content with memories, old photos and conversation with family and friends. As Lilian Street puts it:

“And in its dear enchantment, if Cleveland once was yours,
You’ll thrill to share its old romance, and snatch its ancient lures.”

No comments: