Whitman's “City Invincible” is Camden, not Camelot

(The Shoe Shine Boy)

John George Brown (1831-1913)
[Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
“In a dream I saw a city invincible.”

The proud motto of America's poorest city, Camden, New Jersey, appears above its City Hall entrance.

Derived from Walt Whitman's I Dream'd In A Dream, the motto is somewhat ironic.

Because of rampant poverty and crime, it is only in a dream where one may hope to see Camden as an invincible city.

And because of the city's decay, one expects most people would hope to see Camden never at all.

Despite the irony, however, the choice of these words from Whitman's poem is also fitting.

Its ambiguous opening may mean this describes a dream within a dream.

Indeed, assuming this was Whitman's intent, the poet's dream represents unattainable human aspiration.

I Dream'd In A Dream

I dream'd in a dream, I saw a city invincible to the attacks
    of the whole of the rest of the earth,
I dream’d that was the new City of Friends,
Nothing was greater there than the quality of robust love—it led the rest,
It was seen every hour in the actions of the men of that city,
And in all their looks and words.

Camden, America's poorest city, fights crime, poverty
March 8, 2013

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Although Camelot may never come to Camden, her residents today hope and dream of a better future there.

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