Elegy in a Railroad Station

2012 June 11
by Brandon Sargent
Elegy in a Railroad Station
(Broad Street, Philadelphia, obiit 1952)

I’ve always been in love with railroad stations:
By no means least of man’s superb creations.
Particularly I rate high
Old London termini
Liverpool Street (cathedral of catarrh)
Where antique bathtubs in the cellar are;
And you may know
Altars of the great gods To and Fro
At Paddington, Euston, King’s Cross, Gare du Nord,
La Salle Street in Chicago, Windsor Montreal,
The Lackawana on Hoboken shore,
The B & O beloved Mount Royal, Baltimore.
Even little Roslyn, on fish-shaped Paumanok,
Where the Long Island falters, still in hock —
Too many I love, to list, but of them all
None ever gave me quite such sublimation
As Broad Street Station.
Maybe tops of all I rank it
Because it was there, by jeepers,
Walt climbed aboard the Pullman Palace Sleepers
And tucked his noble beard outside the blanket.

I repeat your glory, Broad Street Station!
The proper shrine, the true Main Line,
Of Immortality the Intimation;
Such offsteam blowing,
Such bells, and hells of coming and going,
Suburban cowcatchers’ dainty snouts,
Beautiful barytone All abooaard shouts,
Drive wheels and firebox glowing.
Nothing was so holy as the local to Paoli
(15 and 45) when were youngalive
For Wynnewood, Ardmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr
Or anywhere along the P.R.R.
Then as child, boy, student, family man,
We were too self-occupied to scan
That gigantic arch of joys and pains
When trains were really trains.

There beneath tall wheels, fierce jets of stream,
We guessed the bulk and power of a dream;
To shorten space and anguish to appease
The engine rests at crouch and purrs at ease.
People cry God bless you’s and So long’s,
Gates contract or widen like lazy-tongs—
Goodbye, Goodbye! No wonder I
Preserve in pure imagination
My memory of Broad Street Station.

-Christopher Morley

Comments are closed.