The Cool, Grey City of Love
(San Francisco)

by George Sterling (1869–1926)

    Tho I die on a distant strand,
    And they give me a grave in that land,
Yet carry me back to my own city!
Carry me back to her grace and pity!
    For I think I could not rest
    Afar from her mighty breast.
    She is fairer than others are
        Whom they sing the beauty of.
    Her heart is a song and a star—
        My cool, grey city of love.

    Tho they tear the rose from her brow,
    To her is ever my vow;
Ever to her I give my duty—
First in rapture and first in beauty,
    Wayward, passionate, brave,
    Glad of the life God gave.
    The sea-winds are her kiss,
        And the sea-gull is her dove;
    Cleanly and strong she is—
        My cool, grey city of love.

    The winds of the Future wait
    At the iron walls of her Gate,
And the western ocean breaks in thunder,
And the western stars go slowly under,
    And her gaze is ever West
    In the dream of her young unrest.
    Her sea is a voice that calls,
        And her star a voice above,
    And her wind a voice on her walls—
        My cool, grey city of love.

    Tho they stay her feet at the dance,
    In her is the far romance.
Under the rain of winter falling,
Vine and rose will await recalling.
    Tho the dark be cold and blind,
    Yet her sea-fog’s touch is kind,
    And her mightier caress
        Is joy and the pain thereof;
    And great is thy tenderness,
        O cool, grey city of love!

The Bulletin, Volume 131, Number 56, page 12 (San Francisco:  11 December 1920).

Two years after his death (by suicide) in 1926, a glade in a park on Russian Hill was dedicated in Sterling’s honor.  The final six lines of “The Cool, Grey City of Love” are engraved on a tablet in George Sterling Glade, below the Alice Marble Courts on Greenwich Street at Hyde Street.  From Hyde Street, walk downhill (west) along Greenwich Street past the tennis courts to find the glade.  Look to your right and you will see the tablet.

It is noteworthy that this poem appeared on the same page as the obituary of Mr. Raphael Weill (1837–1920), a merchant and philanthropist, whom the newspaper eulogized as “lover and beloved of all mankind” for whom “love was the reflex of his nature.”  Sterling had previously dedicated “Three Sonnets on Oblivion” to Mr. Weill in A Wine of Wizardry and Other Poems (San Francisco:  A. M. Robertson 1909).

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