San Francisco History

1906 Anniversary Poem
(contributed by Virginia Shafer)

Mrs. Eliza A. Pittsinger, poet, was born in Westhampton, Mass., on 18 March 1837. Her earlier careers included teaching and proofreader/reviewer. She eventually came to San Francisco around the time of the Civil War, and except for a period of eight years, stayed there until her passing on 22 February 1908. (1,2)
Poem of 

The Earthquake

Written on its
First Anniversary 
Eliza A. Pittsinger

Author of "The Soul Victorious"
who resides at 57½ Prospect Ave.
San Francisco

(Copyrighted [1907])

Our Recent Earthquake was the Chief
Despoiler and Ungainly Thief
 That ever wrecked a city—
It was the Great Iconoclast
Whose deadly grip and fiery blast
 Awoke the World to pity.

San Francisco, drained the cup—
But she is bravely waking up;
 In riding past the ruin
I hear the Builder's Hammer ring,
And rosy hope is on the wing,
And even the sidewalks seem to sing
 With many plans a brewing.

San Francisco, stand thou up!
As thou hast drained the fiery cup
 So shalt thou taste the glory!
Thou rollest up thy rugged sleeves,
And with a heart that seldom grieves
 Thy people tell the story!

They tell us of the raging fire,
The Earthquake and the funeral pyre,
 With no hope for the morrow—
Of countless numbers that did fall
Beneath the black and grewsome pall,
 With none to cheer their sorrow.

But God is good; He made them Homes
Amid the Temples and the Domes
 Around His Heavenly Mansion,
O, He is good, He took them in,
He lifted them above the din 
 By His Divine Compassion.

Thus passed that hopeless April day.
That most intensely thrilling day,
 That day of Death and Horror—
Thus passed the Earthquake and the Fire,
The pageant of the funeral pyre,
 As they sped into the morrow.

It was the darkest day of gloom,
It left the footprints of its doom
 Upon the sands of sorrow;
Its dawning was the black eclipse
That brought the poison to our lips
 That none of us could swallow.

It was an agonizing scene,
No other like it yet hath been 
 Along the passing ages--
It brough the old Pompeii down,
Awoke the World and made a crown
 For new Historic pages.

It was the drama of the World;
Our treasures were to ruin hurled
 Despoiled of all their glory—
Like horses wild the fires lept
The people toiled and many wept
For those who 'mid the ruins slept,
 But who shall tell the story?

Down came the buildings with a crash
And sudden as the lightning flash,
 Or Tempest on the Ocean;
Down came the palaces and domes
Entangled with the people's homes
 That were their chief devotion.

Pianos, tables, chairs and all
Sped forth to the destructive call
 Of dynamite and powder;
And others followed close and fast
Along where the pianos passed
 With crash growing loud and louder.

The din and clamor thundered on,
It seemed that everything was gone
 That made it worth living—
The dynamite had done its part,
It pierced our City's tender heart
 That was so kind in giving.

The old Pompeii's fame is gone,
She's nothing now to build upon,
 Her Laurels are not blooming—
The monster ruin is our own,
And San Francisco on her Throne
 Will set the land a booming.

Whence came it, and what was it for?
The thinkers thought it out by Law,
By Evolution and its law,
 With others 'twas a Warning—
O, did we need the Hand of God
To scourge us with His Chastening Rod
 Upon that April morning?

O, Evolution, mighty power,
If thou shouldst come some other hour
 We pray thee, hold thy horses!
If thou shouldst ever call again
We hope thy friendship to obtain
 To balance up our losses!

But whether this or that is right,
We made a most stupendous fight
 Against a Mighty Master;
Thousands of homes were soon destroyed,
And thousands of our men employed
 To check the great Disaster.

They toiled and did the best they could.
It brought them hope, it brought them good,
It brought them higher brotherhood,
 And better plans persuing;
They took their burdens in their hands,
They bore them through the burning sands
The smothered hopes and fiery brands
 Of Death, and Doom and Ruin.

In dynamite we found a cure—
Through desperate, 'twas quick and sure
 To bring the grand finale; (finally)
And when our Leaders learned the way,
And made the stubborn flames obey
 They made a mighty rally.

And here the vials filled with wrath
That had been poured upon our path
 Were suddenly depleted;
The fires were broken in their force,
They blundered, took another course
 By which they were defeated.

At last a fatal charge had riven
The battle's front, its signal given,
 Twas plain the strife was over—
I stood mid the broken glass,
I saw a tuft of withered grass
 Beside some fresh grown clover.

"The fires are out, O, give us a rest,"
At last rang through the Golden West,
 Responses came still later—
Our Faithful Leaders raised their hands,
Their burnt and blistered, weary hands,
 And thanked their Great Creator.

A ringing sound went up the hills,
And even now its memory thrills
 My soul with deep devotion;
It was the sound of joy and peace,
And never may its music cease
 So long as 'tis our portion.

We leave the Subject now to Time,
To Fate and Fame and future Time
 We leave our cups of sorrow.
We leave our ruin by the way,
And that which lies a wreck to-day
 Shall bloom again tomorrow.

Farewell to Earthquake and to fire!
Farewell to black and grewsome pyre,
 To Babel and its clamor!
Hail to our City built anew!
Hail to Her Loyal Sons, and True
 That speed the Builder's Hammer

Farewell to dangers lurking near!
A last good-bye to dread and fear,
 Good-bye to tragic story!
All hail to Life when clamors cease!
Our souls shall than be crowned with Peace,
 Our eyes behold its glory!

•     •    •    •

Amid the homes now lost and gone
That fate has placed her hands upon
Mine own was saved; I prize it more
Than ever home had I before;
Tis situated on a hill
Where all is quiet, calm and still,
 With charming scenes imblended—
It is not sumptous nor large,
But 'tis my Castle and my Charge,
My port of safety in the storm,
And blessed heaven mid the calm,

1. Frances E. Willard & Mary A. Livermore (eds.), American Women. Fifteen Hundred Biographies with over 1,400 Portraits. New York: Mast, Crowell & Kirkpatrick, rev. ed., 1897) (1893). Pages 573-574.

2. California Death Index. California Department of Public Health.


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