a knock on New York again

Wed Jun 30 22:00:05 UTC 1999

        A couple of months ago, I posted a paragraph from that day's New
York Times containing the slur on The Big Apple that "it'll be a nice
town, when it's finished".  I accompanied the quotation from the
Times with one with the same message from a New York newspaper of the
1820s, noting that although the Times had claimed to be quoting Will
Rogers, and a friend had told me the line was in O Henry, I could
offer nothing to bridge the 170 year gap.
        This afternoon I had the chance to spend a few minutes looking at a
marvelously attractive new book by Nancy Groce called New York: Songs
of the City, a survey of popular songs about New York, heavily
illustrated with sheet music covers and other good stuff.  It's
likely to contain riches, but at least it contains this: "Arthur
Guiterman's 1919 poem 'New York'", set to music several decades
later. As quoted, the poem reads

The city is cutting away, / The gasmen are hunting a leak, / They're
putting down asphalt today, / To change it for stone in a week. / The
builders are raising a wall, / The wreckers are tearing one
down, / Enacting a drama of all [/] our changeable, turbulent town.

For here is an edifice meant / To stand for an eon or more, / And
there's a gospeler's tent, / And there is a furniture-store. / Our
suburbs are under the plow, / Our scaffolds are raw in the sun, /
We're drunk and disorderly now, / But -- 'Twill be a great place when
it's done.  (p. 113)

        On a more recent topic: in a message earlier today I mentioned a
cartoon by James Thurber with the caption "Wait here and I'll bring
the etchings down".  It's in his collection The Thurber Carnival,
and credited there to the book Men, Women and Dogs, published in
1943.  Presumably, then, the drawing appeared in the New Yorker in
the early 1940s or late 1930s.  It's not an antedating of Barry
Popik's mid-30s source, but does demonstrate that "come up and look
at my etchings" was a current catchphrase.  (Surely it can never
have been used in the real world to lure the moth into the web?
Who has etchings?  Why not bowling trophies or stuffed moose
head?  But I suppose whatever bait serves the purpose.)  The cartoon
is as I remembered it, though my memory of the caption wasn't
entirely correct.  The new "Writings and Drawings" in the Library of
America (1996) has selections from Men, Women and dogs, but not this


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