Book: Fragments of leaves of grass
One’s-Self I Sing
One’s-self I sing, a simple separate person,
Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse.
Of physiology from top to toe I sing,
Not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy for the Muse, I say
the Form complete is worthier far,
The Female equally with the Male I sing.
Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,
Cheerful, for freest action form’d under the laws divine,
The Modern Man I sing.
As I Ponder’d in Silence
As I ponder’d in silence,
Returning upon my poems, considering, lingering long,
A Phantom arose before me with distrustful aspect,
Terrible in beauty, age, and power,
The genius of poets of old lands,
As to me directing like flame its eyes,
With finger pointing to many immortal songs,
And menacing voice, What singest thou? it said,
Know’st thou not there is but one theme for ever-enduring bards?
And that is the theme of War, the fortune of battles,
The making of perfect soldiers.
Be it so, then I answer’d,
I too haughty Shade also sing war, and a longer and greater one than any,
Waged in my book with varying fortune, with flight, advance
and retreat, victory deferr’d and wavering,
(Yet methinks certain, or as good as certain, at the last,) the
field the world,
For life and death, for the Body and for the eternal Soul,
Lo, I too am come, chanting the chant of battles,
I above all promote brave soldiers.
In Cabin’d Ships at Sea
In cabin’d ships at sea,
The boundless blue on every side expanding,
With whistling winds and music of the waves, the large imperious waves,
Or some lone bark buoy’d on the dense marine,
Where joyous full of faith, spreading white sails,
She cleaves the ether mid the sparkle and the foam of day, or under
many a star at night,
By sailors young and old haply will I, a reminiscence of the land, be read,
In full rapport at last.
Here are our thoughts, voyagers’ thoughts,
Here not the land, firm land, alone appears, may then by them be said,
The sky o’erarches here, we feel the undulating deck beneath our feet,
We feel the long pulsation, ebb and flow of endless motion,
The tones of unseen mystery, the vague and vast suggestions of the
briny world, the liquid-flowing syllables,
The perfume, the faint creaking of the cordage, the melancholy rhythm,
The boundless vista and the horizon far and dim are all here,
And this is ocean’s poem.
Then falter not O book, fulfil your destiny,
You not a reminiscence of the land alone,
You too as a lone bark cleaving the ether, purpos’d I know not
whither, yet ever full of faith,
Consort to every ship that sails, sail you!
Bear forth to them folded my love, (dear mariners, for you I fold it
here in every leaf;)
Speed on my book! spread your white sails my little bark athwart the
Chant on, sail on, bear o’er the boundless blue from me to every sea,
This song for mariners and all their ships.
To Foreign Lands
I heard that you ask’d for something to prove this puzzle the New World,
And to define America, her athletic Democracy,
Therefore I send you my poems that you behold in them what you wanted.
To a Historian
You who celebrate bygones,
Who have explored the outward, the surfaces of the races, the life
that has exhibited itself,
Who have treated of man as the creature of politics, aggregates,
rulers and priests,
I, habitan of the Alleghanies, treating of him as he is in himself
in his own rights,
Pressing the pulse of the life that has seldom exhibited itself,
(the great pride of man in himself,)
Chanter of Personality, outlining what is yet to be,
I project the history of the future.
To Thee Old Cause
To thee old cause!
Thou peerless, passionate, good cause,
Thou stern, remorseless, sweet idea,
Deathless throughout the ages, races, lands,
After a strange sad war, great war for thee,
(I think all war through time was really fought, and ever will be
really fought, for thee,)
These chants for thee, the eternal march of thee.
(A war O soldiers not for itself alone,
Far, far more stood silently waiting behind, now to advance in this book.)
Thou orb of many orbs!
Thou seething principle! thou well-kept, latent germ! thou centre!
Around the idea of thee the war revolving,
With all its angry and vehement play of causes,
(With vast results to come for thrice a thousand years,)
These recitatives for thee,—my book and the war are one,
Merged in its spirit I and mine, as the contest hinged on thee,
As a wheel on its axis turns, this book unwitting to itself,
Around the idea of thee.
I met a seer,
Passing the hues and objects of the world,
The fields of art and learning, pleasure, sense,
To glean eidolons.
Put in thy chants said he,
No more the puzzling hour nor day, nor segments, parts, put in,
Put first before the rest as light for all and entrance-song of all,
That of eidolons.
Ever the dim beginning,
Ever the growth, the rounding of the circle,
Ever the summit and the merge at last, (to surely start again,)
Ever the mutable,
Ever materials, changing, crumbling, re-cohering,
Ever the ateliers, the factories divine,
Lo, I or you,
Or woman, man, or state, known or unknown,
We seeming solid wealth, strength, beauty build,
But really build eidolons.
The ostent evanescent,
The substance of an artist’s mood or savan’s studies long,
Or warrior’s, martyr’s, hero’s toils,
To fashion his eidolon.
Of every human life,
(The units gather’d, posted, not a thought, emotion, deed, left out,)
The whole or large or small summ’d, added up,
In its eidolon.
The old, old urge,
Based on the ancient pinnacles, lo, newer, higher pinnacles,
From science and the modern still impell’d,
The old, old urge, eidolons.
The present now and here,
America’s busy, teeming, intricate whirl,
Of aggregate and segregate for only thence releasing,
These with the past,
Of vanish’d lands, of all the reigns of kings across the sea,
Old conquerors, old campaigns, old sailors’ voyages,
Densities, growth, facades,
Strata of mountains, soils, rocks, giant trees,
Far-born, far-dying, living long, to leave,
Exalte, rapt, ecstatic,
The visible but their womb of birth,
Of orbic tendencies to shape and shape and shape,
The mighty earth-eidolon.
All space, all time,
(The stars, the terrible perturbations of the suns,
Swelling, collapsing, ending, serving their longer, shorter use,)
Fill’d with eidolons only.
The noiseless myriads,
The infinite oceans where the rivers empty,
The separate countless free identities, like eyesight,
The true realities, eidolons.
Not this the world,
Nor these the universes, they the universes,
Purport and end, ever the permanent life of life,
Beyond thy lectures learn’d professor,
Beyond thy telescope or spectroscope observer keen, beyond all mathematics,
Beyond the doctor’s surgery, anatomy, beyond the chemist with his chemistry,
The entities of entities, eidolons.
Unfix’d yet fix’d,
Ever shall be, ever have been and are,
Sweeping the present to the infinite future,
Eidolons, eidolons, eidolons.
The prophet and the bard,
Shall yet maintain themselves, in higher stages yet,
Shall mediate to the Modern, to Democracy, interpret yet to them,
God and eidolons.
And thee my soul,
Joys, ceaseless exercises, exaltations,
Thy yearning amply fed at last, prepared to meet,
Thy mates, eidolons.
Thy body permanent,
The body lurking there within thy body,
The only purport of the form thou art, the real I myself,
An image, an eidolon.
Thy very songs not in thy songs,
No special strains to sing, none for itself,
But from the whole resulting, rising at last and floating,
A round full-orb’d eidolon.
For Him I Sing
For him I sing,
I raise the present on the past,
(As some perennial tree out of its roots, the present on the past,)
With time and space I him dilate and fuse the immortal laws,
To make himself by them the law unto himself.
When I Read the Book
When I read the book, the biography famous,
And is this then (said I) what the author calls a man’s life?
And so will some one when I am dead and gone write my life?
(As if any man really knew aught of my life,
Why even I myself I often think know little or nothing of my real life,
Only a few hints, a few diffused faint clews and indirections
I seek for my own use to trace out here.)
Beginning My Studies
Beginning my studies the first step pleas’d me so much,
The mere fact consciousness, these forms, the power of motion,
The least insect or animal, the senses, eyesight, love,
The first step I say awed me and pleas’d me so much,
I have hardly gone and hardly wish’d to go any farther,
But stop and loiter all the time to sing it in ecstatic songs.
How they are provided for upon the earth, (appearing at intervals,)
How dear and dreadful they are to the earth,
How they inure to themselves as much as to any—what a paradox
appears their age,
How people respond to them, yet know them not,
How there is something relentless in their fate all times,
How all times mischoose the objects of their adulation and reward,
And how the same inexorable price must still be paid for the same
To the States
To the States or any one of them, or any city of the States, Resist
much, obey little,
Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved,
Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city of this earth, ever
afterward resumes its liberty.
On Journeys Through the States
On journeys through the States we start,
(Ay through the world, urged by these songs,
Sailing henceforth to every land, to every sea,)
We willing learners of all, teachers of all, and lovers of all.
We have watch’d the seasons dispensing themselves and passing on,
And have said, Why should not a man or woman do as much as the
seasons, and effuse as much?
We dwell a while in every city and town,
We pass through Kanada, the North-east, the vast valley of the
Mississippi, and the Southern States,
We confer on equal terms with each of the States,
We make trial of ourselves and invite men and women to hear,
We say to ourselves, Remember, fear not, be candid, promulge the
body and the soul,
Dwell a while and pass on, be copious, temperate, chaste, magnetic,
And what you effuse may then return as the seasons return,
And may be just as much as the seasons.
To a Certain Cantatrice
Here, take this gift,
I was reserving it for some hero, speaker, or general,
One who should serve the good old cause, the great idea, the
progress and freedom of the race,
Some brave confronter of despots, some daring rebel;
But I see that what I was reserving belongs to you just as much as to any.
Me imperturbe, standing at ease in Nature,
Master of all or mistress of all, aplomb in the midst of irrational things,
Imbued as they, passive, receptive, silent as they,
Finding my occupation, poverty, notoriety, foibles, crimes, less
important than I thought,
Me toward the Mexican sea, or in the Mannahatta or the Tennessee,
or far north or inland,
A river man, or a man of the woods or of any farm-life of these
States or of the coast, or the lakes or Kanada,
Me wherever my life is lived, O to be self-balanced for contingencies,
To confront night, storms, hunger, ridicule, accidents, rebuffs, as
the trees and animals do.
Thither as I look I see each result and glory retracing itself and
nestling close, always obligated,
Thither hours, months, years—thither trades, compacts,
establishments, even the most minute,
Thither every-day life, speech, utensils, politics, persons, estates;
Thither we also, I with my leaves and songs, trustful, admirant,
As a father to his father going takes his children along with him.
The Ship Starting
Lo, the unbounded sea,
On its breast a ship starting, spreading all sails, carrying even
The pennant is flying aloft as she speeds she speeds so stately—
below emulous waves press forward,
They surround the ship with shining curving motions and foam.
I Hear America Singing
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand
singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning,
or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work,
or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young
fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
What Place Is Besieged?
What place is besieged, and vainly tries to raise the siege?
Lo, I send to that place a commander, swift, brave, immortal,
And with him horse and foot, and parks of artillery,
And artillery-men, the deadliest that ever fired gun.
Still Though the One I Sing
Still though the one I sing,
(One, yet of contradictions made,) I dedicate to Nationality,
I leave in him revolt, (O latent right of insurrection! O
quenchless, indispensable fire!)
Shut Not Your Doors
Shut not your doors to me proud libraries,
For that which was lacking on all your well-fill’d shelves, yet
needed most, I bring,
Forth from the war emerging, a book I have made,
The words of my book nothing, the drift of it every thing,
A book separate, not link’d with the rest nor felt by the intellect,
But you ye untold latencies will thrill to every page.
Poets to Come
Poets to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!
Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for,
But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than
Arouse! for you must justify me.
I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future,
I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the darkness.
I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping, turns a
casual look upon you and then averts his face,
Leaving it to you to prove and define it,
Expecting the main things from you.
Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why
should you not speak to me?
And why should I not speak to you?
Thou reader throbbest life and pride and love the same as I,
Therefore for thee the following chants.
One Hour to Madness and Joy
One hour to madness and joy! O furious! O confine me not!
(What is this that frees me so in storms?
What do my shouts amid lightnings and raging winds mean?)
O to drink the mystic deliria deeper than any other man!
O savage and tender achings! (I bequeath them to you my children,
I tell them to you, for reasons, O bridegroom and bride.)
O to be yielded to you whoever you are, and you to be yielded to me
in defiance of the world!
O to return to Paradise! O bashful and feminine!
O to draw you to me, to plant on you for the first time the lips of
a determin’d man.
O the puzzle, the thrice-tied knot, the deep and dark pool, all
untied and illumin’d!
O to speed where there is space enough and air enough at last!
To be absolv’d from previous ties and conventions, I from mine and
you from yours!
To find a new unthought-of nonchalance with the best of Nature!
To have the gag remov’d from one’s mouth!
To have the feeling to-day or any day I am sufficient as I am.
O something unprov’d! something in a trance!
To escape utterly from others’ anchors and holds!
To drive free! to love free! to dash reckless and dangerous!
To court destruction with taunts, with invitations!
To ascend, to leap to the heavens of the love indicated to me!
To rise thither with my inebriate soul!
To be lost if it must be so!
To feed the remainder of life with one hour of fulness and freedom!
With one brief hour of madness and joy.
Out of the Rolling Ocean the Crowd
Out of the rolling ocean the crowd came a drop gently to me,
Whispering I love you, before long I die,
I have travel’d a long way merely to look on you to touch you,
For I could not die till I once look’d on you,
For I fear’d I might afterward lose you.
Now we have met, we have look’d, we are safe,
Return in peace to the ocean my love,
I too am part of that ocean my love, we are not so much separated,
Behold the great rondure, the cohesion of all, how perfect!
But as for me, for you, the irresistible sea is to separate us,
As for an hour carrying us diverse, yet cannot carry us diverse forever;
Be not impatient—a little space—know you I salute the air, the
ocean and the land,
Every day at sundown for your dear sake my love.
Ages and Ages Returning at Intervals
Ages and ages returning at intervals,
Undestroy’d, wandering immortal,
Lusty, phallic, with the potent original loins, perfectly sweet,
I, chanter of Adamic songs,
Through the new garden the West, the great cities calling,
Deliriate, thus prelude what is generated, offering these, offering myself,
Bathing myself, bathing my songs in Sex,
Offspring of my loins.
We Two, How Long We Were Fool’d
We two, how long we were fool’d,
Now transmuted, we swiftly escape as Nature escapes,
We are Nature, long have we been absent, but now we return,
We become plants, trunks, foliage, roots, bark,
We are bedded in the ground, we are rocks,
We are oaks, we grow in the openings side by side,
We browse, we are two among the wild herds spontaneous as any,
We are two fishes swimming in the sea together,
We are what locust blossoms are, we drop scent around lanes mornings
We are also the coarse smut of beasts, vegetables, minerals,
We are two predatory hawks, we soar above and look down,
We are two resplendent suns, we it is who balance ourselves orbic
and stellar, we are as two comets,
We prowl fang’d and four-footed in the woods, we spring on prey,
We are two clouds forenoons and afternoons driving overhead,
We are seas mingling, we are two of those cheerful waves rolling
over each other and interwetting each other,
We are what the atmosphere is, transparent, receptive, pervious, impervious,
We are snow, rain, cold, darkness, we are each product and influence
of the globe,
We have circled and circled till we have arrived home again, we two,
We have voided all but freedom and all but our own joy.
O Hymen! O Hymenee!
O hymen! O hymenee! why do you tantalize me thus?
O why sting me for a swift moment only?
Why can you not continue? O why do you now cease?
Is it because if you continued beyond the swift moment you would
soon certainly kill me?
I Am He That Aches with Love
I am he that aches with amorous love;
Does the earth gravitate? does not all matter, aching, attract all matter?
So the body of me to all I meet or know.
Native moments—when you come upon me—ah you are here now,
Give me now libidinous joys only,
Give me the drench of my passions, give me life coarse and rank,
To-day I go consort with Nature’s darlings, to-night too,
I am for those who believe in loose delights, I share the midnight
orgies of young men,
I dance with the dancers and drink with the drinkers,
The echoes ring with our indecent calls, I pick out some low person
for my dearest friend,
He shall be lawless, rude, illiterate, he shall be one condemn’d by
others for deeds done,
I will play a part no longer, why should I exile myself from my companions?
O you shunn’d persons, I at least do not shun you,
I come forthwith in your midst, I will be your poet,
I will be more to you than to any of the rest.
Once I Pass’d Through a Populous City
Once I pass’d through a populous city imprinting my brain for future
use with its shows, architecture, customs, traditions,
Yet now of all that city I remember only a woman I casually met
there who detain’d me for love of me,
Day by day and night by night we were together—all else has long
been forgotten by me,
I remember I say only that woman who passionately clung to me,
Again we wander, we love, we separate again,
Again she holds me by the hand, I must not go,
I see her close beside me with silent lips sad and tremulous.
I Heard You Solemn-Sweet Pipes of the Organ
I heard you solemn-sweet pipes of the organ as last Sunday morn I
pass’d the church,
Winds of autumn, as I walk’d the woods at dusk I heard your long-
stretch’d sighs up above so mournful,
I heard the perfect Italian tenor singing at the opera, I heard the
soprano in the midst of the quartet singing;
Heart of my love! you too I heard murmuring low through one of the
wrists around my head,
Heard the pulse of you when all was still ringing little bells last
night under my ear.
Facing West from California’s Shores
Facing west from California’s shores,
Inquiring, tireless, seeking what is yet unfound,
I, a child, very old, over waves, towards the house of maternity,
the land of migrations, look afar,
Look off the shores of my Western sea, the circle almost circled;
For starting westward from Hindustan, from the vales of Kashmere,
From Asia, from the north, from the God, the sage, and the hero,
From the south, from the flowery peninsulas and the spice islands,
Long having wander’d since, round the earth having wander’d,
Now I face home again, very pleas’d and joyous,
(But where is what I started for so long ago?
And why is it yet unfound?)
As Adam Early in the Morning
As Adam early in the morning,
Walking forth from the bower refresh’d with sleep,
Behold me where I pass, hear my voice, approach,
Touch me, touch the palm of your hand to my body as I pass,
Be not afraid of my body.
BOOK V. CALAMUS
In Paths Untrodden
In paths untrodden,
In the growth by margins of pond-waters,
Escaped from the life that exhibits itself,
From all the standards hitherto publish’d, from the pleasures,
Which too long I was offering to feed my soul,
Clear to me now standards not yet publish’d, clear to me that my soul,
That the soul of the man I speak for rejoices in comrades,
Here by myself away from the clank of the world,
Tallying and talk’d to here by tongues aromatic,
No longer abash’d, (for in this secluded spot I can respond as I
would not dare elsewhere,)
Strong upon me the life that does not exhibit itself, yet contains
all the rest,
Resolv’d to sing no songs to-day but those of manly attachment,
Projecting them along that substantial life,
Bequeathing hence types of athletic love,
Afternoon this delicious Ninth-month in my forty-first year,
I proceed for all who are or have been young men,
To tell the secret my nights and days,
To celebrate the need of comrades.
Scented Herbage of My Breast
Scented herbage of my breast,
Leaves from you I glean, I write, to be perused best afterwards,
Tomb-leaves, body-leaves growing up above me above death,
Perennial roots, tall leaves, O the winter shall not freeze you
Every year shall you bloom again, out from where you retired you
shall emerge again;
O I do not know whether many passing by will discover you or inhale
your faint odor, but I believe a few will;
O slender leaves! O blossoms of my blood! I permit you to tell in
your own way of the heart that is under you,
O I do not know what you mean there underneath yourselves, you are
You are often more bitter than I can bear, you burn and sting me,
Yet you are beautiful to me you faint tinged roots, you make me
think of death,
Death is beautiful from you, (what indeed is finally beautiful
except death and love?)
O I think it is not for life I am chanting here my chant of lovers,
I think it must be for death,
For how calm, how solemn it grows to ascend to the atmosphere of lovers,
Death or life I am then indifferent, my soul declines to prefer,
(I am not sure but the high soul of lovers welcomes death most,)
Indeed O death, I think now these leaves mean precisely the same as
Grow up taller sweet leaves that I may see! grow up out of my breast!
Spring away from the conceal’d heart there!
Do not fold yourself so in your pink-tinged roots timid leaves!
Do not remain down there so ashamed, herbage of my breast!
Come I am determin’d to unbare this broad breast of mine, I have
long enough stifled and choked;
Emblematic and capricious blades I leave you, now you serve me not,
I will say what I have to say by itself,
I will sound myself and comrades only, I will never again utter a
call only their call,
I will raise with it immortal reverberations through the States,
I will give an example to lovers to take permanent shape and will
through the States,
Through me shall the words be said to make death exhilarating,
Give me your tone therefore O death, that I may accord with it,
Give me yourself, for I see that you belong to me now above all, and
are folded inseparably together, you love and death are,
Nor will I allow you to balk me any more with what I was calling life,
For now it is convey’d to me that you are the purports essential,
That you hide in these shifting forms of life, for reasons, and that
they are mainly for you,
That you beyond them come forth to remain, the real reality,
That behind the mask of materials you patiently wait, no matter how long,
That you will one day perhaps take control of all,
That you will perhaps dissipate this entire show of appearance,
That may-be you are what it is all for, but it does not last so very long,
But you will last very long.
Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand
Whoever you are holding me now in hand,
Without one thing all will be useless,
I give you fair warning before you attempt me further,
I am not what you supposed, but far different.
Who is he that would become my follower?
Who would sign himself a candidate for my affections?
The way is suspicious, the result uncertain, perhaps destructive,
You would have to give up all else, I alone would expect to be your
sole and exclusive standard,
Your novitiate would even then be long and exhausting,
The whole past theory of your life and all conformity to the lives
around you would have to be abandon’d,
Therefore release me now before troubling yourself any further, let
go your hand from my shoulders,
Put me down and depart on your way.
Or else by stealth in some wood for trial,
Or back of a rock in the open air,
(For in any roof’d room of a house I emerge not, nor in company,
And in libraries I lie as one dumb, a gawk, or unborn, or dead,)
But just possibly with you on a high hill, first watching lest any
person for miles around approach unawares,
Or possibly with you sailing at sea, or on the beach of the sea or
some quiet island,
Here to put your lips upon mine I permit you,
With the comrade’s long-dwelling kiss or the new husband’s kiss,
For I am the new husband and I am the comrade.
Or if you will, thrusting me beneath your clothing,
Where I may feel the throbs of your heart or rest upon your hip,
Carry me when you go forth over land or sea;
For thus merely touching you is enough, is best,
And thus touching you would I silently sleep and be carried eternally.
But these leaves conning you con at peril,
For these leaves and me you will not understand,
They will elude you at first and still more afterward, I will
certainly elude you.
Even while you should think you had unquestionably caught me, behold!
Already you see I have escaped from you.
For it is not for what I have put into it that I have written this book,
Nor is it by reading it you will acquire it,
Nor do those know me best who admire me and vauntingly praise me,
Nor will the candidates for my love (unless at most a very few)
Nor will my poems do good only, they will do just as much evil,
For all is useless without that which you may guess at many times
and not hit, that which I hinted at;
Therefore release me and depart on your way.
For You, O Democracy
Come, I will make the continent indissoluble,
I will make the most splendid race the sun ever shone upon,
I will make divine magnetic lands,
With the love of comrades,
With the life-long love of comrades.
I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the rivers of America,
and along the shores of the great lakes, and all over the prairies,
I will make inseparable cities with their arms about each other’s necks,
By the love of comrades,
By the manly love of comrades.
For you these from me, O Democracy, to serve you ma femme!
For you, for you I am trilling these songs.
These I Singing in Spring
These I singing in spring collect for lovers,
(For who but I should understand lovers and all their sorrow and joy?
And who but I should be the poet of comrades?)
Collecting I traverse the garden the world, but soon I pass the gates,
Now along the pond-side, now wading in a little, fearing not the wet,
Now by the post-and-rail fences where the old stones thrown there,
pick’d from the fields, have accumulated,
(Wild-flowers and vines and weeds come up through the stones and
partly cover them, beyond these I pass,)
Far, far in the forest, or sauntering later in summer, before I
think where I go,
Solitary, smelling the earthy smell, stopping now and then in the silence,
Alone I had thought, yet soon a troop gathers around me,
Some walk by my side and some behind, and some embrace my arms or neck,
They the spirits of dear friends dead or alive, thicker they come, a
great crowd, and I in the middle,
Collecting, dispensing, singing, there I wander with them,
Plucking something for tokens, tossing toward whoever is near me,
Here, lilac, with a branch of pine,
Here, out of my pocket, some moss which I pull’d off a live-oak in
Florida as it hung trailing down,
Here, some pinks and laurel leaves, and a handful of sage,
And here what I now draw from the water, wading in the pondside,
(O here I last saw him that tenderly loves me, and returns again
never to separate from me,
And this, O this shall henceforth be the token of comrades, this
Interchange it youths with each other! let none render it back!)
And twigs of maple and a bunch of wild orange and chestnut,
And stems of currants and plum-blows, and the aromatic cedar,
These I compass’d around by a thick cloud of spirits,
Wandering, point to or touch as I pass, or throw them loosely from me,
Indicating to each one what he shall have, giving something to each;
But what I drew from the water by the pond-side, that I reserve,
I will give of it, but only to them that love as I myself am capable
Not Heaving from My Ribb’d Breast Only
Not heaving from my ribb’d breast only,
Not in sighs at night in rage dissatisfied with myself,
Not in those long-drawn, ill-supprest sighs,
Not in many an oath and promise broken,
Not in my wilful and savage soul’s volition,
Not in the subtle nourishment of the air,
Not in this beating and pounding at my temples and wrists,
Not in the curious systole and diastole within which will one day cease,
Not in many a hungry wish told to the skies only,
Not in cries, laughter, defiancies, thrown from me when alone far in
Not in husky pantings through clinch’d teeth,
Not in sounded and resounded words, chattering words, echoes, dead words,
Not in the murmurs of my dreams while I sleep,
Nor the other murmurs of these incredible dreams of every day,
Nor in the limbs and senses of my body that take you and dismiss you
Not in any or all of them O adhesiveness! O pulse of my life!
Need I that you exist and show yourself any more than in these songs.
Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances
Of the terrible doubt of appearances,
Of the uncertainty after all, that we may be deluded,
That may-be reliance and hope are but speculations after all,
That may-be identity beyond the grave is a beautiful fable only,
May-be the things I perceive, the animals, plants, men, hills,
shining and flowing waters,
The skies of day and night, colors, densities, forms, may-be these
are (as doubtless they are) only apparitions, and the real
something has yet to be known,
(How often they dart out of themselves as if to confound me and mock me!
How often I think neither I know, nor any man knows, aught of them,)
May-be seeming to me what they are (as doubtless they indeed but seem)
as from my present point of view, and might prove (as of course they
would) nought of what they appear, or nought anyhow, from entirely
changed points of view;
To me these and the like of these are curiously answer’d by my
lovers, my dear friends,
When he whom I love travels with me or sits a long while holding me
by the hand,
When the subtle air, the impalpable, the sense that words and reason
hold not, surround us and pervade us,
Then I am charged with untold and untellable wisdom, I am silent, I
require nothing further,
I cannot answer the question of appearances or that of identity
beyond the grave,
But I walk or sit indifferent, I am satisfied,
He ahold of my hand has completely satisfied me.
The Base of All Metaphysics
And now gentlemen,
A word I give to remain in your memories and minds,
As base and finale too for all metaphysics.
(So to the students the old professor,
At the close of his crowded course.)
Having studied the new and antique, the Greek and Germanic systems,
Kant having studied and stated, Fichte and Schelling and Hegel,
Stated the lore of Plato, and Socrates greater than Plato,
And greater than Socrates sought and stated, Christ divine having
I see reminiscent to-day those Greek and Germanic systems,
See the philosophies all, Christian churches and tenets see,
Yet underneath Socrates clearly see, and underneath Christ the divine I see,
The dear love of man for his comrade, the attraction of friend to friend,
Of the well-married husband and wife, of children and parents,
Of city for city and land for land.
Recorders Ages Hence
Recorders ages hence,
Come, I will take you down underneath this impassive exterior, I
will tell you what to say of me,
Publish my name and hang up my picture as that of the tenderest lover,
The friend the lover’s portrait, of whom his friend his lover was fondest,
Who was not proud of his songs, but of the measureless ocean of love
within him, and freely pour’d it forth,
Who often walk’d lonesome walks thinking of his dear friends, his lovers,
Who pensive away from one he lov’d often lay sleepless and
dissatisfied at night,
Who knew too well the sick, sick dread lest the one he lov’d might
secretly be indifferent to him,
Whose happiest days were far away through fields, in woods, on hills,
he and another wandering hand in hand, they twain apart from other men,
Who oft as he saunter’d the streets curv’d with his arm the shoulder
of his friend, while the arm of his friend rested upon him also.
When I Heard at the Close of the Day
When I heard at the close of the day how my name had been receiv’d
with plaudits in the capitol, still it was not a happy night for
me that follow’d,
And else when I carous’d, or when my plans were accomplish’d, still
I was not happy,
But the day when I rose at dawn from the bed of perfect health,
refresh’d, singing, inhaling the ripe breath of autumn,
When I saw the full moon in the west grow pale and disappear in the
When I wander’d alone over the beach, and undressing bathed,
laughing with the cool waters, and saw the sun rise,
And when I thought how my dear friend my lover was on his way
coming, O then I was happy,
O then each breath tasted sweeter, and all that day my food
nourish’d me more, and the beautiful day pass’d well,
And the next came with equal joy, and with the next at evening came
And that night while all was still I heard the waters roll slowly
continually up the shores,
I heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and sands as directed to me
whispering to congratulate me,
For the one I love most lay sleeping by me under the same cover in
the cool night,
In the stillness in the autumn moonbeams his face was inclined toward me,
And his arm lay lightly around my breast—and that night I was happy.
Are You the New Person Drawn Toward Me?
Are you the new person drawn toward me?
To begin with take warning, I am surely far different from what you suppose;
Do you suppose you will find in me your ideal?
Do you think it so easy to have me become your lover?
Do you think the friendship of me would be unalloy’d satisfaction?
Do you think I am trusty and faithful?
Do you see no further than this facade, this smooth and tolerant
manner of me?
Do you suppose yourself advancing on real ground toward a real heroic man?
Have you no thought O dreamer that it may be all maya, illusion?
Roots and Leaves Themselves Alone
Roots and leaves themselves alone are these,
Scents brought to men and women from the wild woods and pond-side,
Breast-sorrel and pinks of love, fingers that wind around tighter
Gushes from the throats of birds hid in the foliage of trees as the
sun is risen,
Breezes of land and love set from living shores to you on the living
sea, to you O sailors!
Frost-mellow’d berries and Third-month twigs offer’d fresh to young
persons wandering out in the fields when the winter breaks up,
Love-buds put before you and within you whoever you are,
Buds to be unfolded on the old terms,
If you bring the warmth of the sun to them they will open and bring
form, color, perfume, to you,
If you become the aliment and the wet they will become flowers,
fruits, tall branches and trees.
Not Heat Flames Up and Consumes
Not heat flames up and consumes,
Not sea-waves hurry in and out,
Not the air delicious and dry, the air of ripe summer, bears lightly
along white down-balls of myriads of seeds,
Waited, sailing gracefully, to drop where they may;
Not these, O none of these more than the flames of me, consuming,
burning for his love whom I love,
O none more than I hurrying in and out;
Does the tide hurry, seeking something, and never give up? O I the same,
O nor down-balls nor perfumes, nor the high rain-emitting clouds,
are borne through the open air,
Any more than my soul is borne through the open air,
Wafted in all directions O love, for friendship, for you.
Trickle drops! my blue veins leaving!
O drops of me! trickle, slow drops,
Candid from me falling, drip, bleeding drops,
From wounds made to free you whence you were prison’d,
From my face, from my forehead and lips,
From my breast, from within where I was conceal’d, press forth red
drops, confession drops,
Stain every page, stain every song I sing, every word I say, bloody drops,
Let them know your scarlet heat, let them glisten,
Saturate them with yourself all ashamed and wet,
Glow upon all I have written or shall write, bleeding drops,
Let it all be seen in your light, blushing drops.
City of Orgies
City of orgies, walks and joys,
City whom that I have lived and sung in your midst will one day make
Not the pageants of you, not your shifting tableaus, your
spectacles, repay me,
Not the interminable rows of your houses, nor the ships at the wharves,
Nor the processions in the streets, nor the bright windows with
goods in them,
Nor to converse with learn’d persons, or bear my share in the soiree
Not those, but as I pass O Manhattan, your frequent and swift flash
of eyes offering me love,
Offering response to my own—these repay me,
Lovers, continual lovers, only repay me.
Behold This Swarthy Face
Behold this swarthy face, these gray eyes,
This beard, the white wool unclipt upon my neck,
My brown hands and the silent manner of me without charm;
Yet comes one a Manhattanese and ever at parting kisses me lightly
on the lips with robust love,
And I on the crossing of the street or on the ship’s deck give a
kiss in return,
We observe that salute of American comrades land and sea,
We are those two natural and nonchalant persons.
I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing
I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing,
All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the branches,
Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous of dark green,
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself,
But I wonder’d how it could utter joyous leaves standing alone there
without its friend near, for I knew I could not,
And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it and
twined around it a little moss,
And brought it away, and I have placed it in sight in my room,
It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends,
(For I believe lately I think of little else than of them,)
Yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of manly love;
For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in Louisiana
solitary in a wide in a wide flat space,
Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a lover near,
I know very well I could not.
To a Stranger
Passing stranger! you do not know how longingly I look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, (it comes to me
as of a dream,)
I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall’d as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate,
You grew up with me, were a boy with me or a girl with me,
I ate with you and slept with you, your body has become not yours
only nor left my body mine only,
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass, you
take of my beard, breast, hands, in return,
I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you when I sit alone or
wake at night alone,
I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.
This Moment Yearning and Thoughtful
This moment yearning and thoughtful sitting alone,
It seems to me there are other men in other lands yearning and thoughtful,
It seems to me I can look over and behold them in Germany, Italy,
Or far, far away, in China, or in Russia or talking other dialects,
And it seems to me if I could know those men I should become
attached to them as I do to men in my own lands,
O I know we should be brethren and lovers,
I know I should be happy with them.
I Hear It Was Charged Against Me
I hear it was charged against me that I sought to destroy institutions,
But really I am neither for nor against institutions,
(What indeed have I in common with them? or what with the
destruction of them?)
Only I will establish in the Mannahatta and in every city of these
States inland and seaboard,
And in the fields and woods, and above every keel little or large
that dents the water,
Without edifices or rules or trustees or any argument,
The institution of the dear love of comrades.
The Prairie-Grass Dividing
The prairie-grass dividing, its special odor breathing,
I demand of it the spiritual corresponding,
Demand the most copious and close companionship of men,
Demand the blades to rise of words, acts, beings,
Those of the open atmosphere, coarse, sunlit, fresh, nutritious,
Those that go their own gait, erect, stepping with freedom and
command, leading not following,
Those with a never-quell’d audacity, those with sweet and lusty
flesh clear of taint,
Those that look carelessly in the faces of Presidents and governors,
as to say Who are you?
Those of earth-born passion, simple, never constrain’d, never obedient,
Those of inland America.
When I Peruse the Conquer’d Fame
When I peruse the conquer’d fame of heroes and the victories of
mighty generals, I do not envy the generals,
Nor the President in his Presidency, nor the rich in his great house,
But when I hear of the brotherhood of lovers, how it was with them,
How together through life, through dangers, odium, unchanging, long
Through youth and through middle and old age, how unfaltering, how
affectionate and faithful they were,
Then I am pensive—I hastily walk away fill’d with the bitterest envy.
We Two Boys Together Clinging
We two boys together clinging,
One the other never leaving,
Up and down the roads going, North and South excursions making,
Power enjoying, elbows stretching, fingers clutching,
Arm’d and fearless, eating, drinking, sleeping, loving.
No law less than ourselves owning, sailing, soldiering, thieving,
Misers, menials, priests alarming, air breathing, water drinking, on
the turf or the sea-beach dancing,
Cities wrenching, ease scorning, statutes mocking, feebleness chasing,
Fulfilling our foray.
A Promise to California
A promise to California,
Or inland to the great pastoral Plains, and on to Puget sound and Oregon;
Sojourning east a while longer, soon I travel toward you, to remain,
to teach robust American love,
For I know very well that I and robust love belong among you,
inland, and along the Western sea;
For these States tend inland and toward the Western sea, and I will also.
Here the Frailest Leaves of Me
Here the frailest leaves of me and yet my strongest lasting,
Here I shade and hide my thoughts, I myself do not expose them,
And yet they expose me more than all my other poems.
No Labor-Saving Machine
No labor-saving machine,
Nor discovery have I made,
Nor will I be able to leave behind me any wealthy bequest to found
hospital or library,
Nor reminiscence of any deed of courage for America,
Nor literary success nor intellect; nor book for the book-shelf,
But a few carols vibrating through the air I leave,
For comrades and lovers.
A glimpse through an interstice caught,
Of a crowd of workmen and drivers in a bar-room around the stove
late of a winter night, and I unremark’d seated in a corner,
Of a youth who loves me and whom I love, silently approaching and
seating himself near, that he may hold me by the hand,
A long while amid the noises of coming and going, of drinking and
oath and smutty jest,
There we two, content, happy in being together, speaking little,
perhaps not a word.
A Leaf for Hand in Hand
A leaf for hand in hand;
You natural persons old and young!
You on the Mississippi and on all the branches and bayous of
You friendly boatmen and mechanics! you roughs!
You twain! and all processions moving along the streets!
I wish to infuse myself among you till I see it common for you to
walk hand in hand.
Earth, My Likeness
Earth, my likeness,
Though you look so impassive, ample and spheric there,
I now suspect that is not all;
I now suspect there is something fierce in you eligible to burst forth,
For an athlete is enamour’d of me, and I of him,
But toward him there is something fierce and terrible in me eligible
to burst forth,
I dare not tell it in words, not even in these songs.
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.
What Think You I Take My Pen in Hand?
What think you I take my pen in hand to record?
The battle-ship, perfect-model’d, majestic, that I saw pass the
offing to-day under full sail?
The splendors of the past day? or the splendor of the night that
Or the vaunted glory and growth of the great city spread around me? —no;
But merely of two simple men I saw to-day on the pier in the midst
of the crowd, parting the parting of dear friends,
The one to remain hung on the other’s neck and passionately kiss’d him,
While the one to depart tightly prest the one to remain in his arms.
To the East and to the West
To the East and to the West,
To the man of the Seaside State and of Pennsylvania,
To the Kanadian of the north, to the Southerner I love,
These with perfect trust to depict you as myself, the germs are in all men,
I believe the main purport of these States is to found a superb
friendship, exalte, previously unknown,
Because I perceive it waits, and has been always waiting, latent in all men.
Sometimes with One I Love
Sometimes with one I love I fill myself with rage for fear I effuse
But now I think there is no unreturn’d love, the pay is certain one
way or another,
(I loved a certain person ardently and my love was not return’d,
Yet out of that I have written these songs.)
To a Western Boy
Many things to absorb I teach to help you become eleve of mine;
Yet if blood like mine circle not in your veins,
If you be not silently selected by lovers and do not silently select lovers,
Of what use is it that you seek to become eleve of mine?
Fast Anchor’d Eternal O Love!
Fast-anchor’d eternal O love! O woman I love!
O bride! O wife! more resistless than I can tell, the thought of you!
Then separate, as disembodied or another born,
Ethereal, the last athletic reality, my consolation,
I ascend, I float in the regions of your love O man,
O sharer of my roving life.
Among the Multitude
Among the men and women the multitude,
I perceive one picking me out by secret and divine signs,
Acknowledging none else, not parent, wife, husband, brother, child,
any nearer than I am,
Some are baffled, but that one is not—that one knows me.
Ah lover and perfect equal,
I meant that you should discover me so by faint indirections,
And I when I meet you mean to discover you by the like in you.
O You Whom I Often and Silently Come
O you whom I often and silently come where you are that I may be with you,
As I walk by your side or sit near, or remain in the same room with you,
Little you know the subtle electric fire that for your sake is
playing within me.
That Shadow My Likeness
That shadow my likeness that goes to and fro seeking a livelihood,
How often I find myself standing and looking at it where it flits,
How often I question and doubt whether that is really me;
But among my lovers and caroling these songs,
O I never doubt whether that is really me.
Full of Life Now
Full of life now, compact, visible,
I, forty years old the eighty-third year of the States,
To one a century hence or any number of centuries hence,
To you yet unborn these, seeking you.
When you read these I that was visible am become invisible,
Now it is you, compact, visible, realizing my poems, seeking me,
Fancying how happy you were if I could be with you and become your comrade;
Be it as if I were with you. (Be not too certain but I am now with you.)
Youth, Day, Old Age and Night
Youth, large, lusty, loving—youth full of grace, force, fascination,
Do you know that Old Age may come after you with equal grace,
Day full-blown and splendid-day of the immense sun, action,
The Night follows close with millions of suns, and sleep and
BOOK XVII. BIRDS OF PASSAGE
Song of the Universal
Come said the Muse,
Sing me a song no poet yet has chanted,
Sing me the universal.
In this broad earth of ours,
Amid the measureless grossness and the slag,
Enclosed and safe within its central heart,
Nestles the seed perfection.
By every life a share or more or less,
None born but it is born, conceal’d or unconceal’d the seed is waiting.
Lo! keen-eyed towering science,
As from tall peaks the modern overlooking,
Successive absolute fiats issuing.
Yet again, lo! the soul, above all science,
For it has history gather’d like husks around the globe,
For it the entire star-myriads roll through the sky.
In spiral routes by long detours,
(As a much-tacking ship upon the sea,)
For it the partial to the permanent flowing,
For it the real to the ideal tends.
For it the mystic evolution,
Not the right only justified, what we call evil also justified.
Forth from their masks, no matter what,
From the huge festering trunk, from craft and guile and tears,
Health to emerge and joy, joy universal.
Out of the bulk, the morbid and the shallow,
Out of the bad majority, the varied countless frauds of men and states,
Electric, antiseptic yet, cleaving, suffusing all,
Only the good is universal.
Over the mountain-growths disease and sorrow,
An uncaught bird is ever hovering, hovering,
High in the purer, happier air.
From imperfection’s murkiest cloud,
Darts always forth one ray of perfect light,
One flash of heaven’s glory.
To fashion’s, custom’s discord,
To the mad Babel-din, the deafening orgies,
Soothing each lull a strain is heard, just heard,
From some far shore the final chorus sounding.
O the blest eyes, the happy hearts,
That see, that know the guiding thread so fine,
Along the mighty labyrinth.
And thou America,
For the scheme’s culmination, its thought and its reality,
For these (not for thyself) thou hast arrived.
Thou too surroundest all,
Embracing carrying welcoming all, thou too by pathways broad and new,
To the ideal tendest.
The measure’d faiths of other lands, the grandeurs of the past,
Are not for thee, but grandeurs of thine own,
Deific faiths and amplitudes, absorbing, comprehending all,
All eligible to all.
All, all for immortality,
Love like the light silently wrapping all,
Nature’s amelioration blessing all,
The blossoms, fruits of ages, orchards divine and certain,
Forms, objects, growths, humanities, to spiritual images ripening.
Give me O God to sing that thought,
Give me, give him or her I love this quenchless faith,
In Thy ensemble, whatever else withheld withhold not from us,
Belief in plan of Thee enclosed in Time and Space,
Health, peace, salvation universal.
Is it a dream?
Nay but the lack of it the dream,
And failing it life’s lore and wealth a dream,
And all the world a dream.
Myself and Mine
Myself and mine gymnastic ever,
To stand the cold or heat, to take good aim with a gun, to sail a
boat, to manage horses, to beget superb children,
To speak readily and clearly, to feel at home among common people,
And to hold our own in terrible positions on land and sea.
Not for an embroiderer,
(There will always be plenty of embroiderers, I welcome them also,)
But for the fibre of things and for inherent men and women.
Not to chisel ornaments,
But to chisel with free stroke the heads and limbs of plenteous
supreme Gods, that the States may realize them walking and talking.
Let me have my own way,
Let others promulge the laws, I will make no account of the laws,
Let others praise eminent men and hold up peace, I hold up agitation
I praise no eminent man, I rebuke to his face the one that was
thought most worthy.
(Who are you? and what are you secretly guilty of all your life?
Will you turn aside all your life? will you grub and chatter all
And who are you, blabbing by rote, years, pages, languages, reminiscences,
Unwitting to-day that you do not know how to speak properly a single word?)
Let others finish specimens, I never finish specimens,
I start them by exhaustless laws as Nature does, fresh and modern
I give nothing as duties,
What others give as duties I give as living impulses,
(Shall I give the heart’s action as a duty?)
Let others dispose of questions, I dispose of nothing, I arouse
Who are they I see and touch, and what about them?
What about these likes of myself that draw me so close by tender
directions and indirections?
I call to the world to distrust the accounts of my friends, but
listen to my enemies, as I myself do,
I charge you forever reject those who would expound me, for I cannot
I charge that there be no theory or school founded out of me,
I charge you to leave all free, as I have left all free.
After me, vista!
O I see life is not short, but immeasurably long,
I henceforth tread the world chaste, temperate, an early riser, a
Every hour the semen of centuries, and still of centuries.
I must follow up these continual lessons of the air, water, earth,
I perceive I have no time to lose.
Year of Meteors [1859-60
Year of meteors! brooding year!
I would bind in words retrospective some of your deeds and signs,
I would sing your contest for the 19th Presidentiad,
I would sing how an old man, tall, with white hair, mounted the
scaffold in Virginia,
(I was at hand, silent I stood with teeth shut close, I watch’d,
I stood very near you old man when cool and indifferent, but trembling
with age and your unheal’d wounds you mounted the scaffold;)
I would sing in my copious song your census returns of the States,
The tables of population and products, I would sing of your ships
and their cargoes,
The proud black ships of Manhattan arriving, some fill’d with
immigrants, some from the isthmus with cargoes of gold,
Songs thereof would I sing, to all that hitherward comes would welcome give,
And you would I sing, fair stripling! welcome to you from me, young
prince of England!
(Remember you surging Manhattan’s crowds as you pass’d with your
cortege of nobles?
There in the crowds stood I, and singled you out with attachment;)
Nor forget I to sing of the wonder, the ship as she swam up my bay,
Well-shaped and stately the Great Eastern swam up my bay, she was
600 feet long,
Her moving swiftly surrounded by myriads of small craft I forget not
Nor the comet that came unannounced out of the north flaring in heaven,
Nor the strange huge meteor-procession dazzling and clear shooting
over our heads,
(A moment, a moment long it sail’d its balls of unearthly light over
Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;)
Of such, and fitful as they, I sing—with gleams from them would
gleam and patch these chants,
Your chants, O year all mottled with evil and good—year of forebodings!
Year of comets and meteors transient and strange—lo! even here one
equally transient and strange!
As I flit through you hastily, soon to fall and be gone, what is this chant,
What am I myself but one of your meteors?
Tears! tears! tears!
In the night, in solitude, tears,
On the white shore dripping, dripping, suck’d in by the sand,
Tears, not a star shining, all dark and desolate,
Moist tears from the eyes of a muffled head;
O who is that ghost? that form in the dark, with tears?
What shapeless lump is that, bent, crouch’d there on the sand?
Streaming tears, sobbing tears, throes, choked with wild cries;
O storm, embodied, rising, careering with swift steps along the beach!
O wild and dismal night storm, with wind—O belching and desperate!
O shade so sedate and decorous by day, with calm countenance and
But away at night as you fly, none looking—O then the unloosen’d ocean,
Of tears! tears! tears!
To the Man-of-War-Bird
Thou who hast slept all night upon the storm,
Waking renew’d on thy prodigious pinions,
(Burst the wild storm? above it thou ascended’st,
And rested on the sky, thy slave that cradled thee,)
Now a blue point, far, far in heaven floating,
As to the light emerging here on deck I watch thee,
(Myself a speck, a point on the world’s floating vast.)
Far, far at sea,
After the night’s fierce drifts have strewn the shore with wrecks,
With re-appearing day as now so happy and serene,
The rosy and elastic dawn, the flashing sun,
The limpid spread of air cerulean,
Thou also re-appearest.
Thou born to match the gale, (thou art all wings,)
To cope with heaven and earth and sea and hurricane,
Thou ship of air that never furl’st thy sails,
Days, even weeks untired and onward, through spaces, realms gyrating,
At dusk that lookist on Senegal, at morn America,
That sport’st amid the lightning-flash and thunder-cloud,
In them, in thy experiences, had’st thou my soul,
What joys! what joys were thine!
Aboard at a Ship’s Helm
Aboard at a ship’s helm,
A young steersman steering with care.
Through fog on a sea-coast dolefully ringing,
An ocean-bell—O a warning bell, rock’d by the waves.
O you give good notice indeed, you bell by the sea-reefs ringing,
Ringing, ringing, to warn the ship from its wreck-place.
For as on the alert O steersman, you mind the loud admonition,
The bows turn, the freighted ship tacking speeds away under her gray sails,
The beautiful and noble ship with all her precious wealth speeds
away gayly and safe.
But O the ship, the immortal ship! O ship aboard the ship!
Ship of the body, ship of the soul, voyaging, voyaging, voyaging.
On the Beach at Night
On the beach at night,
Stands a child with her father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky.
Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading,
Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,
Ascends large and calm the lord-star Jupiter,
And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters the Pleiades.
From the beach the child holding the hand of her father,
Those burial-clouds that lower victorious soon to devour all,
Watching, silently weeps.
Weep not, child,
Weep not, my darling,
With these kisses let me remove your tears,
The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,
They shall not long possess the sky, they devour the stars only in
Jupiter shall emerge, be patient, watch again another night, the
Pleiades shall emerge,
They are immortal, all those stars both silvery and golden shall
shine out again,
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again, they endure,
The vast immortal suns and the long-enduring pensive moons shall
Then dearest child mournest thou only for jupiter?
Considerest thou alone the burial of the stars?
Something there is,
(With my lips soothing thee, adding I whisper,
I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirection,)
Something there is more immortal even than the stars,
(Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,)
Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter
Longer than sun or any revolving satellite,
Or the radiant sisters the Pleiades.
The World below the Brine
The world below the brine,
Forests at the bottom of the sea, the branches and leaves,
Sea-lettuce, vast lichens, strange flowers and seeds, the thick
tangle openings, and pink turf,
Different colors, pale gray and green, purple, white, and gold, the
play of light through the water,
Dumb swimmers there among the rocks, coral, gluten, grass, rushes,
and the aliment of the swimmers,
Sluggish existences grazing there suspended, or slowly crawling
close to the bottom,
The sperm-whale at the surface blowing air and spray, or disporting
with his flukes,
The leaden-eyed shark, the walrus, the turtle, the hairy
sea-leopard, and the sting-ray,
Passions there, wars, pursuits, tribes, sight in those ocean-depths,
breathing that thick-breathing air, as so many do,
The change thence to the sight here, and to the subtle air breathed
by beings like us who walk this sphere,
The change onward from ours to that of beings who walk other spheres.
On the Beach at Night Alone
On the beach at night alone,
As the old mother sways her to and fro singing her husky song,
As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef
of the universes and of the future.
A vast similitude interlocks all,
All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets,
All distances of place however wide,
All distances of time, all inanimate forms,
All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so different, or in
All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the brutes,
All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages,
All identities that have existed or may exist on this globe, or any globe,
All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,
This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann’d,
And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them.
Song for All Seas, All Ships
To-day a rude brief recitative,
Of ships sailing the seas, each with its special flag or ship-signal,
Of unnamed heroes in the ships—of waves spreading and spreading
far as the eye can reach,
Of dashing spray, and the winds piping and blowing,
And out of these a chant for the sailors of all nations,
Fitful, like a surge.
Of sea-captains young or old, and the mates, and of all intrepid sailors,
Of the few, very choice, taciturn, whom fate can never surprise nor
Pick’d sparingly without noise by thee old ocean, chosen by thee,
Thou sea that pickest and cullest the race in time, and unitest nations,
Suckled by thee, old husky nurse, embodying thee,
Indomitable, untamed as thee.
(Ever the heroes on water or on land, by ones or twos appearing,
Ever the stock preserv’d and never lost, though rare, enough for
Flaunt out O sea your separate flags of nations!
Flaunt out visible as ever the various ship-signals!
But do you reserve especially for yourself and for the soul of man
one flag above all the rest,
A spiritual woven signal for all nations, emblem of man elate above death,
Token of all brave captains and all intrepid sailors and mates,
And all that went down doing their duty,
Reminiscent of them, twined from all intrepid captains young or old,
A pennant universal, subtly waving all time, o’er all brave sailors,
All seas, all ships.
Wild, wild the storm, and the sea high running,
Steady the roar of the gale, with incessant undertone muttering,
Shouts of demoniac laughter fitfully piercing and pealing,
Waves, air, midnight, their savagest trinity lashing,
Out in the shadows there milk-white combs careering,
On beachy slush and sand spirts of snow fierce slanting,
Where through the murk the easterly death-wind breasting,
Through cutting swirl and spray watchful and firm advancing,
(That in the distance! is that a wreck? is the red signal flaring?)
Slush and sand of the beach tireless till daylight wending,
Steadily, slowly, through hoarse roar never remitting,
Along the midnight edge by those milk-white combs careering,
A group of dim, weird forms, struggling, the night confronting,
That savage trinity warily watching.
After the Sea-Ship
After the sea-ship, after the whistling winds,
After the white-gray sails taut to their spars and ropes,
Below, a myriad myriad waves hastening, lifting up their necks,
Tending in ceaseless flow toward the track of the ship,
Waves of the ocean bubbling and gurgling, blithely prying,
Waves, undulating waves, liquid, uneven, emulous waves,
Toward that whirling current, laughing and buoyant, with curves,
Where the great vessel sailing and tacking displaced the surface,
Larger and smaller waves in the spread of the ocean yearnfully flowing,
The wake of the sea-ship after she passes, flashing and frolicsome
under the sun,
A motley procession with many a fleck of foam and many fragments,
Following the stately and rapid ship, in the wake following.
Europe [The 72d and 73d Years of These States]
Suddenly out of its stale and drowsy lair, the lair of slaves,
Like lightning it le’pt forth half startled at itself,
Its feet upon the ashes and the rags, its hands tight to the throats
O hope and faith!
O aching close of exiled patriots’ lives!
O many a sicken’d heart!
Turn back unto this day and make yourselves afresh.
And you, paid to defile the People—you liars, mark!
Not for numberless agonies, murders, lusts,
For court thieving in its manifold mean forms, worming from his
simplicity the poor man’s wages,
For many a promise sworn by royal lips and broken and laugh’d at in
Then in their power not for all these did the blows strike revenge,
or the heads of the nobles fall;
The People scorn’d the ferocity of kings.
But the sweetness of mercy brew’d bitter destruction, and the
frighten’d monarchs come back,
Each comes in state with his train, hangman, priest, tax-gatherer,
Soldier, lawyer, lord, jailer, and sycophant.
Yet behind all lowering stealing, lo, a shape,
Vague as the night, draped interminably, head, front and form, in
Whose face and eyes none may see,
Out of its robes only this, the red robes lifted by the arm,
One finger crook’d pointed high over the top, like the head of a
Meanwhile corpses lie in new-made graves, bloody corpses of young men,
The rope of the gibbet hangs heavily, the bullets of princes are
flying, the creatures of power laugh aloud,
And all these things bear fruits, and they are good.
Those corpses of young men,
Those martyrs that hang from the gibbets, those hearts pierc’d by
the gray lead,
Cold and motionless as they seem live elsewhere with unslaughter’d vitality.
They live in other young men O kings!
They live in brothers again ready to defy you,
They were purified by death, they were taught and exalted.
Not a grave of the murder’d for freedom but grows seed for freedom,
in its turn to bear seed,
Which the winds carry afar and re-sow, and the rains and the snows nourish.
Not a disembodied spirit can the weapons of tyrants let loose,
But it stalks invisibly over the earth, whispering, counseling, cautioning.
Liberty, let others despair of you—I never despair of you.
Is the house shut? is the master away?
Nevertheless, be ready, be not weary of watching,
He will soon return, his messengers come anon.
Hold it up sternly—see this it sends back, (who is it? is it you?)
Outside fair costume, within ashes and filth,
No more a flashing eye, no more a sonorous voice or springy step,
Now some slave’s eye, voice, hands, step,
A drunkard’s breath, unwholesome eater’s face, venerealee’s flesh,
Lungs rotting away piecemeal, stomach sour and cankerous,
Joints rheumatic, bowels clogged with abomination,
Blood circulating dark and poisonous streams,
Words babble, hearing and touch callous,
No brain, no heart left, no magnetism of sex;
Such from one look in this looking-glass ere you go hence,
Such a result so soon—and from such a beginning!
Lover divine and perfect Comrade,
Waiting content, invisible yet, but certain,
Be thou my God.
Thou, thou, the Ideal Man,
Fair, able, beautiful, content, and loving,
Complete in body and dilate in spirit,
Be thou my God.
O Death, (for Life has served its turn,)
Opener and usher to the heavenly mansion,
Be thou my God.
Aught, aught of mightiest, best I see, conceive, or know,
(To break the stagnant tie—thee, thee to free, O soul,)
Be thou my God.
All great ideas, the races’ aspirations,
All heroisms, deeds of rapt enthusiasts,
Be ye my Gods.
Or Time and Space,
Or shape of Earth divine and wondrous,
Or some fair shape I viewing, worship,
Or lustrous orb of sun or star by night,
Be ye my Gods.
Forms, qualities, lives, humanity, language, thoughts,
The ones known, and the ones unknown, the ones on the stars,
The stars themselves, some shaped, others unshaped,
Wonders as of those countries, the soil, trees, cities, inhabitants,
whatever they may be,
Splendid suns, the moons and rings, the countless combinations and effects,
Such-like, and as good as such-like, visible here or anywhere, stand
provided for a handful of space, which I extend my arm and
half enclose with my hand,
That containing the start of each and all, the virtue, the germs of all.
Of ownership—as if one fit to own things could not at pleasure enter
upon all, and incorporate them into himself or herself;
Of vista—suppose some sight in arriere through the formative chaos,
presuming the growth, fulness, life, now attain’d on the journey,
(But I see the road continued, and the journey ever continued;)
Of what was once lacking on earth, and in due time has become
supplied—and of what will yet be supplied,
Because all I see and know I believe to have its main purport in
what will yet be supplied.
When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer
When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much
applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
Only themselves understand themselves and the like of themselves,
As souls only understand souls.
O Me! O Life!
O me! O life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I,
and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the
struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
To a President
All you are doing and saying is to America dangled mirages,
You have not learn’d of Nature—of the politics of Nature you have
not learn’d the great amplitude, rectitude, impartiality,
You have not seen that only such as they are for these States,
And that what is less than they must sooner or later lift off from
I Sit and Look Out
I sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all
oppression and shame,
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men at anguish with
themselves, remorseful after deeds done,
I see in low life the mother misused by her children, dying,
neglected, gaunt, desperate,
I see the wife misused by her husband, I see the treacherous seducer
of young women,
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love attempted to be
hid, I see these sights on the earth,
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny, I see martyrs and
I observe a famine at sea, I observe the sailors casting lots who
shall be kill’d to preserve the lives of the rest,
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon
laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;
All these—all the meanness and agony without end I sitting look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.
To Rich Givers
What you give me I cheerfully accept,
A little sustenance, a hut and garden, a little money, as I
rendezvous with my poems,
A traveler’s lodging and breakfast as journey through the States,—
why should I be ashamed to own such gifts? why to advertise for them?
For I myself am not one who bestows nothing upon man and woman,
For I bestow upon any man or woman the entrance to all the gifts of
The Dalliance of the Eagles
Skirting the river road, (my forenoon walk, my rest,)
Skyward in air a sudden muffled sound, the dalliance of the eagles,
The rushing amorous contact high in space together,
The clinching interlocking claws, a living, fierce, gyrating wheel,
Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling,
In tumbling turning clustering loops, straight downward falling,
Till o’er the river pois’d, the twain yet one, a moment’s lull,
A motionless still balance in the air, then parting, talons loosing,
Upward again on slow-firm pinions slanting, their separate diverse flight,
She hers, he his, pursuing.
Roaming in Thought [After reading Hegel]
Roaming in thought over the Universe, I saw the little that is Good
steadily hastening towards immortality,
And the vast all that is call’d Evil I saw hastening to merge itself
and become lost and dead.
A Farm Picture
Through the ample open door of the peaceful country barn,
A sunlit pasture field with cattle and horses feeding,
And haze and vista, and the far horizon fading away.
A Child’s Amaze
Silent and amazed even when a little boy,
I remember I heard the preacher every Sunday put God in his statements,
As contending against some being or influence.
On a flat road runs the well-train’d runner,
He is lean and sinewy with muscular legs,
He is thinly clothed, he leans forward as he runs,
With lightly closed fists and arms partially rais’d.
Women sit or move to and fro, some old, some young,
The young are beautiful—but the old are more beautiful than the young.
Mother and Babe
I see the sleeping babe nestling the breast of its mother,
The sleeping mother and babe—hush’d, I study them long and long.
Of obedience, faith, adhesiveness;
As I stand aloof and look there is to me something profoundly
affecting in large masses of men following the lead of those who
do not believe in men.
A mask, a perpetual natural disguiser of herself,
Concealing her face, concealing her form,
Changes and transformations every hour, every moment,
Falling upon her even when she sleeps.
Of justice—as If could be any thing but the same ample law,
expounded by natural judges and saviors,
As if it might be this thing or that thing, according to decisions.
Gliding O’er all
Gliding o’er all, through all,
Through Nature, Time, and Space,
As a ship on the waters advancing,
The voyage of the soul—not life alone,
Death, many deaths I’ll sing.
Hast Never Come to Thee an Hour
Hast never come to thee an hour,
A sudden gleam divine, precipitating, bursting all these bubbles,
These eager business aims—books, politics, art, amours,
To utter nothingness?
Of Equality—as if it harm’d me, giving others the same chances and
rights as myself—as if it were not indispensable to my own
rights that others possess the same.
To Old Age
I see in you the estuary that enlarges and spreads itself grandly as
it pours in the great sea.
Locations and Times
Locations and times—what is it in me that meets them all, whenever
and wherever, and makes me at home?
Forms, colors, densities, odors—what is it in me that corresponds
A thousand perfect men and women appear,
Around each gathers a cluster of friends, and gay children and
youths, with offerings.
To The States [To Identify the 16th, 17th, or 18th Presidentiad]
Why reclining, interrogating? why myself and all drowsing?
What deepening twilight-scum floating atop of the waters,
Who are they as bats and night-dogs askant in the capitol?
What a filthy Presidentiad! (O South, your torrid suns! O North,
your arctic freezings!)
Are those really Congressmen? are those the great Judges? is that
Then I will sleep awhile yet, for I see that these States sleep, for
(With gathering murk, with muttering thunder and lambent shoots we
all duly awake,
South, North, East, West, inland and seaboard, we will surely awake.)
Arm’d year—year of the struggle,
No dainty rhymes or sentimental love verses for you terrible year,
Not you as some pale poetling seated at a desk lisping cadenzas piano,
But as a strong man erect, clothed in blue clothes, advancing,
carrying rifle on your shoulder,
With well-gristled body and sunburnt face and hands, with a knife in
the belt at your side,
As I heard you shouting loud, your sonorous voice ringing across the
Your masculine voice O year, as rising amid the great cities,
Amid the men of Manhattan I saw you as one of the workmen, the
dwellers in Manhattan,
Or with large steps crossing the prairies out of Illinois and Indiana,
Rapidly crossing the West with springy gait and descending the Allghanies,
Or down from the great lakes or in Pennsylvania, or on deck along
the Ohio river,
Or southward along the Tennessee or Cumberland rivers, or at
Chattanooga on the mountain top,
Saw I your gait and saw I your sinewy limbs clothed in blue, bearing
weapons, robust year,
Heard your determin’d voice launch’d forth again and again,
Year that suddenly sang by the mouths of the round-lipp’d cannon,
I repeat you, hurrying, crashing, sad, distracted year.
Beat! Beat! Drums!
Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows—through doors—burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,
Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet—no happiness must he have now with
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering
So fierce you whirr and pound you drums—so shrill you bugles blow.
Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities—over the rumble of wheels in the streets;
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? no sleepers
must sleep in those beds,
No bargainers’ bargains by day—no brokers or speculators—would
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums—you bugles wilder blow.
Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley—stop for no expostulation,
Mind not the timid—mind not the weeper or prayer,
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man,
Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties,
Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting the
So strong you thump O terrible drums—so loud you bugles blow.
From Paumanok Starting I Fly Like a Bird
From Paumanok starting I fly like a bird,
Around and around to soar to sing the idea of all,
To the north betaking myself to sing there arctic songs,
To Kanada till I absorb Kanada in myself, to Michigan then,
To Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, to sing their songs, (they are inimitable;)
Then to Ohio and Indiana to sing theirs, to Missouri and Kansas and
Arkansas to sing theirs,
To Tennessee and Kentucky, to the Carolinas and Georgia to sing theirs,
To Texas and so along up toward California, to roam accepted everywhere;
To sing first, (to the tap of the war-drum if need be,)
The idea of all, of the Western world one and inseparable,
And then the song of each member of these States.
The noble sire fallen on evil days,
I saw with hand uplifted, menacing, brandishing,
(Memories of old in abeyance, love and faith in abeyance,)
The insane knife toward the Mother of All.
The noble son on sinewy feet advancing,
I saw, out of the land of prairies, land of Ohio’s waters and of Indiana,
To the rescue the stalwart giant hurry his plenteous offspring,
Drest in blue, bearing their trusty rifles on their shoulders.
Then the Mother of All with calm voice speaking,
As to you Rebellious, (I seemed to hear her say,) why strive against
me, and why seek my life?
When you yourself forever provide to defend me?
For you provided me Washington—and now these also.
City of Ships
City of ships!
(O the black ships! O the fierce ships!
O the beautiful sharp-bow’d steam-ships and sail-ships!)
City of the world! (for all races are here,
All the lands of the earth make contributions here;)
City of the sea! city of hurried and glittering tides!
City whose gleeful tides continually rush or recede, whirling in and
out with eddies and foam!
City of wharves and stores—city of tall facades of marble and iron!
Proud and passionate city—mettlesome, mad, extravagant city!
Spring up O city—not for peace alone, but be indeed yourself, warlike!
Fear not—submit to no models but your own O city!
Behold me—incarnate me as I have incarnated you!
I have rejected nothing you offer’d me—whom you adopted I have adopted,
Good or bad I never question you—I love all—I do not condemn any thing,
I chant and celebrate all that is yours—yet peace no more,
In peace I chanted peace, but now the drum of war is mine,
War, red war is my song through your streets, O city!
Cavalry Crossing a Ford
A line in long array where they wind betwixt green islands,
They take a serpentine course, their arms flash in the sun—hark to
the musical clank,
Behold the silvery river, in it the splashing horses loitering stop
Behold the brown-faced men, each group, each person a picture, the
negligent rest on the saddles,
Some emerge on the opposite bank, others are just entering the ford—while,
Scarlet and blue and snowy white,
The guidon flags flutter gayly in the wind.
Bivouac on a Mountain Side
I see before me now a traveling army halting,
Below a fertile valley spread, with barns and the orchards of summer,
Behind, the terraced sides of a mountain, abrupt, in places rising high,
Broken, with rocks, with clinging cedars, with tall shapes dingily seen,
The numerous camp-fires scatter’d near and far, some away up on the
The shadowy forms of men and horses, looming, large-sized, flickering,
And over all the sky—the sky! far, far out of reach, studded,
breaking out, the eternal stars.
An Army Corps on the March
With its cloud of skirmishers in advance,
With now the sound of a single shot snapping like a whip, and now an
The swarming ranks press on and on, the dense brigades press on,
Glittering dimly, toiling under the sun—the dust-cover’d men,
In columns rise and fall to the undulations of the ground,
With artillery interspers’d—the wheels rumble, the horses sweat,
As the army corps advances.
By the Bivouac’s Fitful Flame
By the bivouac’s fitful flame,
A procession winding around me, solemn and sweet and slow—but
first I note,
The tents of the sleeping army, the fields’ and woods’ dim outline,
The darkness lit by spots of kindled fire, the silence,
Like a phantom far or near an occasional figure moving,
The shrubs and trees, (as I lift my eyes they seem to be stealthily
While wind in procession thoughts, O tender and wondrous thoughts,
Of life and death, of home and the past and loved, and of those that
are far away;
A solemn and slow procession there as I sit on the ground,
By the bivouac’s fitful flame.
Come Up from the Fields Father
Come up from the fields father, here’s a letter from our Pete,
And come to the front door mother, here’s a letter from thy dear son.
Lo, ’tis autumn,
Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder,
Cool and sweeten Ohio’s villages with leaves fluttering in the
Where apples ripe in the orchards hang and grapes on the trellis’d vines,
(Smell you the smell of the grapes on the vines?
Smell you the buckwheat where the bees were lately buzzing?)
Above all, lo, the sky so calm, so transparent after the rain, and
with wondrous clouds,
Below too, all calm, all vital and beautiful, and the farm prospers well.
Down in the fields all prospers well,
But now from the fields come father, come at the daughter’s call.
And come to the entry mother, to the front door come right away.
Fast as she can she hurries, something ominous, her steps trembling,
She does not tarry to smooth her hair nor adjust her cap.
Open the envelope quickly,
O this is not our son’s writing, yet his name is sign’d,
O a strange hand writes for our dear son, O stricken mother’s soul!
All swims before her eyes, flashes with black, she catches the main
Sentences broken, gunshot wound in the breast, cavalry skirmish,
taken to hospital,
At present low, but will soon be better.
Ah now the single figure to me,
Amid all teeming and wealthy Ohio with all its cities and farms,
Sickly white in the face and dull in the head, very faint,
By the jamb of a door leans.
Grieve not so, dear mother, (the just-grown daughter speaks through
The little sisters huddle around speechless and dismay’d,)
See, dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be better.
Alas poor boy, he will never be better, (nor may-be needs to be
better, that brave and simple soul,)
While they stand at home at the door he is dead already,
The only son is dead.
But the mother needs to be better,
She with thin form presently drest in black,
By day her meals untouch’d, then at night fitfully sleeping, often waking,
In the midnight waking, weeping, longing with one deep longing,
O that she might withdraw unnoticed, silent from life escape and withdraw,
To follow, to seek, to be with her dear dead son.
Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night
Vigil strange I kept on the field one night;
When you my son and my comrade dropt at my side that day,
One look I but gave which your dear eyes return’d with a look I
shall never forget,
One touch of your hand to mine O boy, reach’d up as you lay on the ground,
Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested battle,
Till late in the night reliev’d to the place at last again I made my way,
Found you in death so cold dear comrade, found your body son of
responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
Bared your face in the starlight, curious the scene, cool blew the
Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me the
Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet there in the fragrant silent night,
But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh, long, long I gazed,
Then on the earth partially reclining sat by your side leaning my
chin in my hands,
Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with you dearest
comrade—not a tear, not a word,
Vigil of silence, love and death, vigil for you my son and my soldier,
As onward silently stars aloft, eastward new ones upward stole,
Vigil final for you brave boy, (I could not save you, swift was your death,
I faithfully loved you and cared for you living, I think we shall
surely meet again,)
Till at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the dawn appear’d,
My comrade I wrapt in his blanket, envelop’d well his form,
Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head and
carefully under feet,
And there and then and bathed by the rising sun, my son in his
grave, in his rude-dug grave I deposited,
Ending my vigil strange with that, vigil of night and battle-field dim,
Vigil for boy of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
Vigil for comrade swiftly slain, vigil I never forget, how as day
I rose from the chill ground and folded my soldier well in his blanket,
And buried him where he fell.
A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown
A march in the ranks hard-prest, and the road unknown,
A route through a heavy wood with muffled steps in the darkness,
Our army foil’d with loss severe, and the sullen remnant retreating,
Till after midnight glimmer upon us the lights of a dim-lighted building,
We come to an open space in the woods, and halt by the dim-lighted building,
’Tis a large old church at the crossing roads, now an impromptu hospital,
Entering but for a minute I see a sight beyond all the pictures and
poems ever made,
Shadows of deepest, deepest black, just lit by moving candles and lamps,
And by one great pitchy torch stationary with wild red flame and
clouds of smoke,
By these, crowds, groups of forms vaguely I see on the floor, some
in the pews laid down,
At my feet more distinctly a soldier, a mere lad, in danger of
bleeding to death, (he is shot in the abdomen,)
I stanch the blood temporarily, (the youngster’s face is white as a lily,)
Then before I depart I sweep my eyes o’er the scene fain to absorb it all,
Faces, varieties, postures beyond description, most in obscurity,
some of them dead,
Surgeons operating, attendants holding lights, the smell of ether,
odor of blood,
The crowd, O the crowd of the bloody forms, the yard outside also fill’d,
Some on the bare ground, some on planks or stretchers, some in the
An occasional scream or cry, the doctor’s shouted orders or calls,
The glisten of the little steel instruments catching the glint of
These I resume as I chant, I see again the forms, I smell the odor,
Then hear outside the orders given, Fall in, my men, fall in;
But first I bend to the dying lad, his eyes open, a half-smile gives he me,
Then the eyes close, calmly close, and I speed forth to the darkness,
Resuming, marching, ever in darkness marching, on in the ranks,
The unknown road still marching.
A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim
A sight in camp in the daybreak gray and dim,
As from my tent I emerge so early sleepless,
As slow I walk in the cool fresh air the path near by the hospital tent,
Three forms I see on stretchers lying, brought out there untended lying,
Over each the blanket spread, ample brownish woolen blanket,
Gray and heavy blanket, folding, covering all.
Curious I halt and silent stand,
Then with light fingers I from the face of the nearest the first
just lift the blanket;
Who are you elderly man so gaunt and grim, with well-gray’d hair,
and flesh all sunken about the eyes?
Who are you my dear comrade?
Then to the second I step—and who are you my child and darling?
Who are you sweet boy with cheeks yet blooming?
Then to the third—a face nor child nor old, very calm, as of
beautiful yellow-white ivory;
Young man I think I know you—I think this face is the face of the
Dead and divine and brother of all, and here again he lies.
As Toilsome I Wander’d Virginia’s Woods
As toilsome I wander’d Virginia’s woods,
To the music of rustling leaves kick’d by my feet, (for ’twas autumn,)
I mark’d at the foot of a tree the grave of a soldier;
Mortally wounded he and buried on the retreat, (easily all could
The halt of a mid-day hour, when up! no time to lose—yet this sign left,
On a tablet scrawl’d and nail’d on the tree by the grave,
Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade.
Long, long I muse, then on my way go wandering,
Many a changeful season to follow, and many a scene of life,
Yet at times through changeful season and scene, abrupt, alone, or
in the crowded street,
Comes before me the unknown soldier’s grave, comes the inscription
rude in Virginia’s woods,
Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade.
Not the Pilot
Not the pilot has charged himself to bring his ship into port,
though beaten back and many times baffled;
Not the pathfinder penetrating inland weary and long,
By deserts parch’d, snows chill’d, rivers wet, perseveres till he
reaches his destination,
More than I have charged myself, heeded or unheeded, to compose
march for these States,
For a battle-call, rousing to arms if need be, years, centuries hence.
Year That Trembled and Reel’d Beneath Me
Year that trembled and reel’d beneath me!
Your summer wind was warm enough, yet the air I breathed froze me,
A thick gloom fell through the sunshine and darken’d me,
Must I change my triumphant songs? said I to myself,
Must I indeed learn to chant the cold dirges of the baffled?
And sullen hymns of defeat?
An old man bending I come among new faces,
Years looking backward resuming in answer to children,
Come tell us old man, as from young men and maidens that love me,
(Arous’d and angry, I’d thought to beat the alarum, and urge relentless war,
But soon my fingers fail’d me, my face droop’d and I resign’d myself,
To sit by the wounded and soothe them, or silently watch the dead;)
Years hence of these scenes, of these furious passions, these chances,
Of unsurpass’d heroes, (was one side so brave? the other was equally brave;)
Now be witness again, paint the mightiest armies of earth,
Of those armies so rapid so wondrous what saw you to tell us?
What stays with you latest and deepest? of curious panics,
Of hard-fought engagements or sieges tremendous what deepest remains?
O maidens and young men I love and that love me,
What you ask of my days those the strangest and sudden your talking recalls,
Soldier alert I arrive after a long march cover’d with sweat and dust,
In the nick of time I come, plunge in the fight, loudly shout in the
rush of successful charge,
Enter the captur’d works—yet lo, like a swift-running river they fade,
Pass and are gone they fade—I dwell not on soldiers’ perils or
(Both I remember well—many the hardships, few the joys, yet I was content.)
But in silence, in dreams’ projections,
While the world of gain and appearance and mirth goes on,
So soon what is over forgotten, and waves wash the imprints off the sand,
With hinged knees returning I enter the doors, (while for you up there,
Whoever you are, follow without noise and be of strong heart.)
Bearing the bandages, water and sponge,
Straight and swift to my wounded I go,
Where they lie on the ground after the battle brought in,
Where their priceless blood reddens the grass the ground,
Or to the rows of the hospital tent, or under the roof’d hospital,
To the long rows of cots up and down each side I return,
To each and all one after another I draw near, not one do I miss,
An attendant follows holding a tray, he carries a refuse pail,
Soon to be fill’d with clotted rags and blood, emptied, and fill’d again.
I onward go, I stop,
With hinged knees and steady hand to dress wounds,
I am firm with each, the pangs are sharp yet unavoidable,
One turns to me his appealing eyes—poor boy! I never knew you,
Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that
would save you.
On, on I go, (open doors of time! open hospital doors!)
The crush’d head I dress, (poor crazed hand tear not the bandage away,)
The neck of the cavalry-man with the bullet through and through examine,
Hard the breathing rattles, quite glazed already the eye, yet life
(Come sweet death! be persuaded O beautiful death!
In mercy come quickly.)
From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand,
I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off the matter and blood,
Back on his pillow the soldier bends with curv’d neck and side falling head,
His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on the
And has not yet look’d on it.
I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep,
But a day or two more, for see the frame all wasted and sinking,
And the yellow-blue countenance see.
I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet-wound,
Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so sickening,
While the attendant stands behind aside me holding the tray and pail.
I am faithful, I do not give out,
The fractur’d thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdomen,
These and more I dress with impassive hand, (yet deep in my breast
a fire, a burning flame.)
Thus in silence in dreams’ projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals,
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night, some are so young,
Some suffer so much, I recall the experience sweet and sad,
(Many a soldier’s loving arms about this neck have cross’d and rested,
Many a soldier’s kiss dwells on these bearded lips.)
Long, Too Long America
Long, too long America,
Traveling roads all even and peaceful you learn’d from joys and
But now, ah now, to learn from crises of anguish, advancing,
grappling with direst fate and recoiling not,
And now to conceive and show to the world what your children
en-masse really are,
(For who except myself has yet conceiv’d what your children en-masse
Over the Carnage Rose Prophetic a Voice
Over the carnage rose prophetic a voice,
Be not dishearten’d, affection shall solve the problems of freedom yet,
Those who love each other shall become invincible,
They shall yet make Columbia victorious.
Sons of the Mother of All, you shall yet be victorious,
You shall yet laugh to scorn the attacks of all the remainder of the earth.
No danger shall balk Columbia’s lovers,
If need be a thousand shall sternly immolate themselves for one.
One from Massachusetts shall be a Missourian’s comrade,
From Maine and from hot Carolina, and another an Oregonese, shall
be friends triune,
More precious to each other than all the riches of the earth.
To Michigan, Florida perfumes shall tenderly come,
Not the perfumes of flowers, but sweeter, and wafted beyond death.
It shall be customary in the houses and streets to see manly affection,
The most dauntless and rude shall touch face to face lightly,
The dependence of Liberty shall be lovers,
The continuance of Equality shall be comrades.
These shall tie you and band you stronger than hoops of iron,
I, ecstatic, O partners! O lands! with the love of lovers tie you.
(Were you looking to be held together by lawyers?
Or by an agreement on a paper? or by arms?
Nay, nor the world, nor any living thing, will so cohere.)
Ethiopia Saluting the Colors
Who are you dusky woman, so ancient hardly human,
With your woolly-white and turban’d head, and bare bony feet?
Why rising by the roadside here, do you the colors greet?
(’Tis while our army lines Carolina’s sands and pines,
Forth from thy hovel door thou Ethiopia com’st to me,
As under doughty Sherman I march toward the sea.)
Me master years a hundred since from my parents sunder’d,
A little child, they caught me as the savage beast is caught,
Then hither me across the sea the cruel slaver brought.
No further does she say, but lingering all the day,
Her high-borne turban’d head she wags, and rolls her darkling eye,
And courtesies to the regiments, the guidons moving by.
What is it fateful woman, so blear, hardly human?
Why wag your head with turban bound, yellow, red and green?
Are the things so strange and marvelous you see or have seen?
Not Youth Pertains to Me
Not youth pertains to me,
Nor delicatesse, I cannot beguile the time with talk,
Awkward in the parlor, neither a dancer nor elegant,
In the learn’d coterie sitting constrain’d and still, for learning
inures not to me,
Beauty, knowledge, inure not to me—yet there are two or three things
inure to me,
I have nourish’d the wounded and sooth’d many a dying soldier,
And at intervals waiting or in the midst of camp,
Composed these songs.
Race of Veterans
Race of veterans—race of victors!
Race of the soil, ready for conflict—race of the conquering march!
(No more credulity’s race, abiding-temper’d race,)
Race henceforth owning no law but the law of itself,
Race of passion and the storm.
World Take Good Notice
World take good notice, silver stars fading,
Milky hue ript, wet of white detaching,
Coals thirty-eight, baleful and burning,
Scarlet, significant, hands off warning,
Now and henceforth flaunt from these shores.
O Tan-Faced Prairie-Boy
O tan-faced prairie-boy,
Before you came to camp came many a welcome gift,
Praises and presents came and nourishing food, till at last among
You came, taciturn, with nothing to give—we but look’d on each other,
When lo! more than all the gifts of the world you gave me.
Look Down Fair Moon
Look down fair moon and bathe this scene,
Pour softly down night’s nimbus floods on faces ghastly, swollen, purple,
On the dead on their backs with arms toss’d wide,
Pour down your unstinted nimbus sacred moon.
Word over all, beautiful as the sky,
Beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must in time be
That the hands of the sisters Death and Night incessantly softly
wash again, and ever again, this solid world;
For my enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead,
I look where he lies white-faced and still in the coffin—I draw near,
Bend down and touch lightly with my lips the white face in the coffin.
How Solemn As One by One [Washington City, 1865]
How solemn as one by one,
As the ranks returning worn and sweaty, as the men file by where stand,
As the faces the masks appear, as I glance at the faces studying the masks,
(As I glance upward out of this page studying you, dear friend,
whoever you are,)
How solemn the thought of my whispering soul to each in the ranks,
and to you,
I see behind each mask that wonder a kindred soul,
O the bullet could never kill what you really are, dear friend,
Nor the bayonet stab what you really are;
The soul! yourself I see, great as any, good as the best,
Waiting secure and content, which the bullet could never kill,
Nor the bayonet stab O friend.
As I Lay with My Head in Your Lap Camerado
As I lay with my head in your lap camerado,
The confession I made I resume, what I said to you and the open air
I know I am restless and make others so,
I know my words are weapons full of danger, full of death,
For I confront peace, security, and all the settled laws, to
I am more resolute because all have denied me than I could ever have
been had all accepted me,
I heed not and have never heeded either experience, cautions,
majorities, nor ridicule,
And the threat of what is call’d hell is little or nothing to me,
And the lure of what is call’d heaven is little or nothing to me;
Dear camerado! I confess I have urged you onward with me, and still
urge you, without the least idea what is our destination,
Or whether we shall be victorious, or utterly quell’d and defeated.
Delicate cluster! flag of teeming life!
Covering all my lands—all my seashores lining!
Flag of death! (how I watch’d you through the smoke of battle pressing!
How I heard you flap and rustle, cloth defiant!)
Flag cerulean—sunny flag, with the orbs of night dappled!
Ah my silvery beauty—ah my woolly white and crimson!
Ah to sing the song of you, my matron mighty!
My sacred one, my mother.
To a Certain Civilian
Did you ask dulcet rhymes from me?
Did you seek the civilian’s peaceful and languishing rhymes?
Did you find what I sang erewhile so hard to follow?
Why I was not singing erewhile for you to follow, to understand—nor
am I now;
(I have been born of the same as the war was born,
The drum-corps’ rattle is ever to me sweet music, I love well the
With slow wail and convulsive throb leading the officer’s funeral;)
What to such as you anyhow such a poet as I? therefore leave my works,
And go lull yourself with what you can understand, and with piano-tunes,
For I lull nobody, and you will never understand me.
Lo, Victress on the Peaks
Lo, Victress on the peaks,
Where thou with mighty brow regarding the world,
(The world O Libertad, that vainly conspired against thee,)
Out of its countless beleaguering toils, after thwarting them all,
Dominant, with the dazzling sun around thee,
Flauntest now unharm’d in immortal soundness and bloom—lo, in
these hours supreme,
No poem proud, I chanting bring to thee, nor mastery’s rapturous verse,
But a cluster containing night’s darkness and blood-dripping wounds,
And psalms of the dead.
Spirit Whose Work Is Done [Washington City, 1865]
Spirit whose work is done—spirit of dreadful hours!
Ere departing fade from my eyes your forests of bayonets;
Spirit of gloomiest fears and doubts, (yet onward ever unfaltering
Spirit of many a solemn day and many a savage scene—electric spirit,
That with muttering voice through the war now closed, like a
tireless phantom flitted,
Rousing the land with breath of flame, while you beat and beat the drum,
Now as the sound of the drum, hollow and harsh to the last,
reverberates round me,
As your ranks, your immortal ranks, return, return from the battles,
As the muskets of the young men yet lean over their shoulders,
As I look on the bayonets bristling over their shoulders,
As those slanted bayonets, whole forests of them appearing in the
distance, approach and pass on, returning homeward,
Moving with steady motion, swaying to and fro to the right and left,
Evenly lightly rising and falling while the steps keep time;
Spirit of hours I knew, all hectic red one day, but pale as death next day,
Touch my mouth ere you depart, press my lips close,
Leave me your pulses of rage—bequeath them to me—fill me with
Let them scorch and blister out of my chants when you are gone,
Let them identify you to the future in these songs.
Adieu to a Soldier
Adieu O soldier,
You of the rude campaigning, (which we shared,)
The rapid march, the life of the camp,
The hot contention of opposing fronts, the long manњuvre,
Red battles with their slaughter, the stimulus, the strong terrific game,
Spell of all brave and manly hearts, the trains of time through you
and like of you all fill’d,
With war and war’s expression.
Adieu dear comrade,
Your mission is fulfill’d—but I, more warlike,
Myself and this contentious soul of mine,
Still on our own campaigning bound,
Through untried roads with ambushes opponents lined,
Through many a sharp defeat and many a crisis, often baffled,
Here marching, ever marching on, a war fight out—aye here,
To fiercer, weightier battles give expression.
Turn O Libertad
Turn O Libertad, for the war is over,
From it and all henceforth expanding, doubting no more, resolute,
sweeping the world,
Turn from lands retrospective recording proofs of the past,
From the singers that sing the trailing glories of the past,
From the chants of the feudal world, the triumphs of kings, slavery, caste,
Turn to the world, the triumphs reserv’d and to come—give up that
Leave to the singers of hitherto, give them the trailing past,
But what remains remains for singers for you—wars to come are for you,
(Lo, how the wars of the past have duly inured to you, and the wars
of the present also inure;)
Then turn, and be not alarm’d O Libertad—turn your undying face,
To where the future, greater than all the past,
Is swiftly, surely preparing for you.
To the Leaven’d Soil They Trod
To the leaven’d soil they trod calling I sing for the last,
(Forth from my tent emerging for good, loosing, untying the tent-ropes,)
In the freshness the forenoon air, in the far-stretching circuits
and vistas again to peace restored,
To the fiery fields emanative and the endless vistas beyond, to the
South and the North,
To the leaven’d soil of the general Western world to attest my songs,
To the Alleghanian hills and the tireless Mississippi,
To the rocks I calling sing, and all the trees in the woods,
To the plains of the poems of heroes, to the prairies spreading wide,
To the far-off sea and the unseen winds, and the sane impalpable air;
And responding they answer all, (but not in words,)
The average earth, the witness of war and peace, acknowledges mutely,
The prairie draws me close, as the father to bosom broad the son,
The Northern ice and rain that began me nourish me to the end,
But the hot sun of the South is to fully ripen my songs.
O Captain! My Captain!
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
Hush’d Be the Camps To-Day [May 4, 1865
Hush’d be the camps to-day,
And soldiers let us drape our war-worn weapons,
And each with musing soul retire to celebrate,
Our dear commander’s death.
No more for him life’s stormy conflicts,
Nor victory, nor defeat—no more time’s dark events,
Charging like ceaseless clouds across the sky.
But sing poet in our name,
Sing of the love we bore him—because you, dweller in camps, know it truly.
As they invault the coffin there,
Sing—as they close the doors of earth upon him—one verse,
For the heavy hearts of soldiers.
This Dust Was Once the Man
This dust was once the man,
Gentle, plain, just and resolute, under whose cautious hand,
Against the foulest crime in history known in any land or age,
Was saved the Union of these States.
Let that which stood in front go behind,
Let that which was behind advance to the front,
Let bigots, fools, unclean persons, offer new propositions,
Let the old propositions be postponed,
Let a man seek pleasure everywhere except in himself,
Let a woman seek happiness everywhere except in herself
BOOK XXIV. AUTUMN RIVULETS
As Consequent, Etc.
As consequent from store of summer rains,
Or wayward rivulets in autumn flowing,
Or many a herb-lined brook’s reticulations,
Or subterranean sea-rills making for the sea,
Songs of continued years I sing.
Life’s ever-modern rapids first, (soon, soon to blend,
With the old streams of death.)
Some threading Ohio’s farm-fields or the woods,
Some down Colorado’s canons from sources of perpetual snow,
Some half-hid in Oregon, or away southward in Texas,
Some in the north finding their way to Erie, Niagara, Ottawa,
Some to Atlantica’s bays, and so to the great salt brine.
In you whoe’er you are my book perusing,
In I myself, in all the world, these currents flowing,
All, all toward the mystic ocean tending.
Currents for starting a continent new,
Overtures sent to the solid out of the liquid,
Fusion of ocean and land, tender and pensive waves,
(Not safe and peaceful only, waves rous’d and ominous too,
Out of the depths the storm’s abysmic waves, who knows whence?
Raging over the vast, with many a broken spar and tatter’d sail.)
Or from the sea of Time, collecting vasting all, I bring,
A windrow-drift of weeds and shells.
O little shells, so curious-convolute, so limpid-cold and voiceless,
Will you not little shells to the tympans of temples held,
Murmurs and echoes still call up, eternity’s music faint and far,
Wafted inland, sent from Atlantica’s rim, strains for the soul of
Whisper’d reverberations, chords for the ear of the West joyously sounding,
Your tidings old, yet ever new and untranslatable,
Infinitesimals out of my life, and many a life,
(For not my life and years alone I give—all, all I give,)
These waifs from the deep, cast high and dry,
Wash’d on America’s shores?
Far hence amid an isle of wondrous beauty,
Crouching over a grave an ancient sorrowful mother,
Once a queen, now lean and tatter’d seated on the ground,
Her old white hair drooping dishevel’d round her shoulders,
At her feet fallen an unused royal harp,
Long silent, she too long silent, mourning her shrouded hope and heir,
Of all the earth her heart most full of sorrow because most full of love.
Yet a word ancient mother,
You need crouch there no longer on the cold ground with forehead
between your knees,
O you need not sit there veil’d in your old white hair so dishevel’d,
For know you the one you mourn is not in that grave,
It was an illusion, the son you love was not really dead,
The Lord is not dead, he is risen again young and strong in another country,
Even while you wept there by your fallen harp by the grave,
What you wept for was translated, pass’d from the grave,
The winds favor’d and the sea sail’d it,
And now with rosy and new blood,
Moves to-day in a new country.
The City Dead-House
By the city dead-house by the gate,
As idly sauntering wending my way from the clangor,
I curious pause, for lo, an outcast form, a poor dead prostitute brought,
Her corpse they deposit unclaim’d, it lies on the damp brick pavement,
The divine woman, her body, I see the body, I look on it alone,
That house once full of passion and beauty, all else I notice not,
Nor stillness so cold, nor running water from faucet, nor odors
morbific impress me,
But the house alone—that wondrous house—that delicate fair house
That immortal house more than all the rows of dwellings ever built!
Or white-domed capitol with majestic figure surmounted, or all the
old high-spired cathedrals,
That little house alone more than them all—poor, desperate house!
Fair, fearful wreck—tenement of a soul—itself a soul,
Unclaim’d, avoided house—take one breath from my tremulous lips,
Take one tear dropt aside as I go for thought of you,
Dead house of love—house of madness and sin, crumbled, crush’d,
House of life, erewhile talking and laughing—but ah, poor house,
dead even then,
Months, years, an echoing, garnish’d house—but dead, dead, dead.
Nations ten thousand years before these States, and many times ten
thousand years before these States,
Garner’d clusters of ages that men and women like us grew up and
travel’d their course and pass’d on,
What vast-built cities, what orderly republics, what pastoral tribes
What histories, rulers, heroes, perhaps transcending all others,
What laws, customs, wealth, arts, traditions,
What sort of marriage, what costumes, what physiology and phrenology,
What of liberty and slavery among them, what they thought of death
and the soul,
Who were witty and wise, who beautiful and poetic, who brutish and
Not a mark, not a record remains—and yet all remains.
O I know that those men and women were not for nothing, any more
than we are for nothing,
I know that they belong to the scheme of the world every bit as much
as we now belong to it.
Afar they stand, yet near to me they stand,
Some with oval countenances learn’d and calm,
Some naked and savage, some like huge collections of insects,
Some in tents, herdsmen, patriarchs, tribes, horsemen,
Some prowling through woods, some living peaceably on farms,
laboring, reaping, filling barns,
Some traversing paved avenues, amid temples, palaces, factories,
libraries, shows, courts, theatres, wonderful monuments.
Are those billions of men really gone?
Are those women of the old experience of the earth gone?
Do their lives, cities, arts, rest only with us?
Did they achieve nothing for good for themselves?
I believe of all those men and women that fill’d the unnamed lands,
every one exists this hour here or elsewhere, invisible to us.
In exact proportion to what he or she grew from in life, and out of
what he or she did, felt, became, loved, sinn’d, in life.
I believe that was not the end of those nations or any person of
them, any more than this shall be the end of my nation, or of me;
Of their languages, governments, marriage, literature, products,
games, wars, manners, crimes, prisons, slaves, heroes, poets,
I suspect their results curiously await in the yet unseen world,
counterparts of what accrued to them in the seen world,
I suspect I shall meet them there,
I suspect I shall there find each old particular of those unnamed lands.
Song of Prudence
Manhattan’s streets I saunter’d pondering,
On Time, Space, Reality—on such as these, and abreast with them Prudence.
The last explanation always remains to be made about prudence,
Little and large alike drop quietly aside from the prudence that
The soul is of itself,
All verges to it, all has reference to what ensues,
All that a person does, says, thinks, is of consequence,
Not a move can a man or woman make, that affects him or her in a day,
month, any part of the direct lifetime, or the hour of death,
But the same affects him or her onward afterward through the
The indirect is just as much as the direct,
The spirit receives from the body just as much as it gives to the
body, if not more.
Not one word or deed, not venereal sore, discoloration, privacy of
Putridity of gluttons or rum-drinkers, peculation, cunning,
betrayal, murder, seduction, prostitution,
But has results beyond death as really as before death.
Charity and personal force are the only investments worth any thing.
No specification is necessary, all that a male or female does, that
is vigorous, benevolent, clean, is so much profit to him or her,
In the unshakable order of the universe and through the whole scope
of it forever.
Who has been wise receives interest,
Savage, felon, President, judge, farmer, sailor, mechanic, literat,
young, old, it is the same,
The interest will come round—all will come round.
Singly, wholly, to affect now, affected their time, will forever affect,
all of the past and all of the present and all of the future,
All the brave actions of war and peace,
All help given to relatives, strangers, the poor, old, sorrowful,
young children, widows, the sick, and to shunn’d persons,
All self-denial that stood steady and aloof on wrecks, and saw
others fill the seats of the boats,
All offering of substance or life for the good old cause, or for a
friend’s sake, or opinion’s sake,
All pains of enthusiasts scoff’d at by their neighbors,
All the limitless sweet love and precious suffering of mothers,
All honest men baffled in strifes recorded or unrecorded,
All the grandeur and good of ancient nations whose fragments we inherit,
All the good of the dozens of ancient nations unknown to us by name,
All that was ever manfully begun, whether it succeeded or no,
All suggestions of the divine mind of man or the divinity of his
mouth, or the shaping of his great hands,
All that is well thought or said this day on any part of the globe,
or on any of the wandering stars, or on any of the fix’d stars,
by those there as we are here,
All that is henceforth to be thought or done by you whoever you are,
or by any one,
These inure, have inured, shall inure, to the identities from which
they sprang, or shall spring.
Did you guess any thing lived only its moment?
The world does not so exist, no parts palpable or impalpable so exist,
No consummation exists without being from some long previous
consummation, and that from some other,
Without the farthest conceivable one coming a bit nearer the
beginning than any.
Whatever satisfies souls is true;
Prudence entirely satisfies the craving and glut of souls,
Itself only finally satisfies the soul,
The soul has that measureless pride which revolts from every lesson
but its own.
Now I breathe the word of the prudence that walks abreast with time,
That answers the pride which refuses every lesson but its own.
What is prudence is indivisible,
Declines to separate one part of life from every part,
Divides not the righteous from the unrighteous or the living from the dead,
Matches every thought or act by its correlative,
Knows no possible forgiveness or deputed atonement,
Knows that the young man who composedly peril’d his life and lost it
has done exceedingly well for himself without doubt,
That he who never peril’d his life, but retains it to old age in
riches and ease, has probably achiev’d nothing for himself worth
Knows that only that person has really learn’d who has learn’d to
Who favors body and soul the same,
Who perceives the indirect assuredly following the direct,
Who in his spirit in any emergency whatever neither hurries nor
Warble for Lilac-Time
Warble me now for joy of lilac-time, (returning in reminiscence,)
Sort me O tongue and lips for Nature’s sake, souvenirs of earliest summer,
Gather the welcome signs, (as children with pebbles or stringing shells,)
Put in April and May, the hylas croaking in the ponds, the elastic air,
Bees, butterflies, the sparrow with its simple notes,
Blue-bird and darting swallow, nor forget the high-hole flashing his
The tranquil sunny haze, the clinging smoke, the vapor,
Shimmer of waters with fish in them, the cerulean above,
All that is jocund and sparkling, the brooks running,
The maple woods, the crisp February days and the sugar-making,
The robin where he hops, bright-eyed, brown-breasted,
With musical clear call at sunrise, and again at sunset,
Or flitting among the trees of the apple-orchard, building the nest
of his mate,
The melted snow of March, the willow sending forth its yellow-green sprouts,
For spring-time is here! the summer is here! and what is this in it
and from it?
Thou, soul, unloosen’d—the restlessness after I know not what;
Come, let us lag here no longer, let us be up and away!
O if one could but fly like a bird!
O to escape, to sail forth as in a ship!
To glide with thee O soul, o’er all, in all, as a ship o’er the waters;
Gathering these hints, the preludes, the blue sky, the grass, the
morning drops of dew,
The lilac-scent, the bushes with dark green heart-shaped leaves,
Wood-violets, the little delicate pale blossoms called innocence,
Samples and sorts not for themselves alone, but for their atmosphere,
To grace the bush I love—to sing with the birds,
A warble for joy of returning in reminiscence.
Out from Behind This Mask [To Confront a Portrait]
Out from behind this bending rough-cut mask,
These lights and shades, this drama of the whole,
This common curtain of the face contain’d in me for me, in you for
you, in each for each,
(Tragedies, sorrows, laughter, tears—0 heaven!
The passionate teeming plays this curtain hid!)
This glaze of God’s serenest purest sky,
This film of Satan’s seething pit,
This heart’s geography’s map, this limitless small continent, this
Out from the convolutions of this globe,
This subtler astronomic orb than sun or moon, than Jupiter, Venus, Mars,
This condensation of the universe, (nay here the only universe,
Here the idea, all in this mystic handful wrapt;)
These burin’d eyes, flashing to you to pass to future time,
To launch and spin through space revolving sideling, from these to emanate,
To you whoe’er you are—a look.
A traveler of thoughts and years, of peace and war,
Of youth long sped and middle age declining,
(As the first volume of a tale perused and laid away, and this the second,
Songs, ventures, speculations, presently to close,)
Lingering a moment here and now, to you I opposite turn,
As on the road or at some crevice door by chance, or open’d window,
Pausing, inclining, baring my head, you specially I greet,
To draw and clinch your soul for once inseparably with mine,
Then travel travel on.
Vocalism, measure, concentration, determination, and the divine
power to speak words;
Are you full-lung’d and limber-lipp’d from long trial? from vigorous
practice? from physique?
Do you move in these broad lands as broad as they?
Come duly to the divine power to speak words?
For only at last after many years, after chastity, friendship,
procreation, prudence, and nakedness,
After treading ground and breasting river and lake,
After a loosen’d throat, after absorbing eras, temperaments, races,
after knowledge, freedom, crimes,
After complete faith, after clarifyings, elevations, and removing
After these and more, it is just possible there comes to a man,
woman, the divine power to speak words;
Then toward that man or that woman swiftly hasten all—none
refuse, all attend,
Armies, ships, antiquities, libraries, paintings, machines, cities,
hate, despair, amity, pain, theft, murder, aspiration, form in
They debouch as they are wanted to march obediently through the
mouth of that man or that woman.
O what is it in me that makes me tremble so at voices?
Surely whoever speaks to me in the right voice, him or her I shall follow,
As the water follows the moon, silently, with fluid steps, anywhere
around the globe.
All waits for the right voices;
Where is the practis’d and perfect organ? where is the develop’d soul?
For I see every word utter’d thence has deeper, sweeter, new sounds,
impossible on less terms.
I see brains and lips closed, tympans and temples unstruck,
Until that comes which has the quality to strike and to unclose,
Until that comes which has the quality to bring forth what lies
slumbering forever ready in all words.
To Him That Was Crucified
My spirit to yours dear brother,
Do not mind because many sounding your name do not understand you,
I do not sound your name, but I understand you,
I specify you with joy O my comrade to salute you, and to salute
those who are with you, before and since, and those to come also,
That we all labor together transmitting the same charge and succession,
We few equals indifferent of lands, indifferent of times,
We, enclosers of all continents, all castes, allowers of all theologies,
Compassionaters, perceivers, rapport of men,
We walk silent among disputes and assertions, but reject not the
disputers nor any thing that is asserted,
We hear the bawling and din, we are reach’d at by divisions,
jealousies, recriminations on every side,
They close peremptorily upon us to surround us, my comrade,
Yet we walk unheld, free, the whole earth over, journeying up and
down till we make our ineffaceable mark upon time and the diverse eras,
Till we saturate time and eras, that the men and women of races,
ages to come, may prove brethren and lovers as we are.
You Felons on Trial in Courts
You felons on trial in courts,
You convicts in prison-cells, you sentenced assassins chain’d and
handcuff’d with iron,
Who am I too that I am not on trial or in prison?
Me ruthless and devilish as any, that my wrists are not chain’d with
iron, or my ankles with iron?
You prostitutes flaunting over the trottoirs or obscene in your rooms,
Who am I that I should call you more obscene than myself?
O culpable! I acknowledge—I expose!
(O admirers, praise not me—compliment not me—you make me wince,
I see what you do not—I know what you do not.)
Inside these breast-bones I lie smutch’d and choked,
Beneath this face that appears so impassive hell’s tides continually run,
Lusts and wickedness are acceptable to me,
I walk with delinquents with passionate love,
I feel I am of them—I belong to those convicts and prostitutes myself,
And henceforth I will not deny them—for how can I deny myself?
Laws for Creations
Laws for creations,
For strong artists and leaders, for fresh broods of teachers and
perfect literats for America,
For noble savans and coming musicians.
All must have reference to the ensemble of the world, and the
compact truth of the world,
There shall be no subject too pronounced—all works shall illustrate
the divine law of indirections.
What do you suppose creation is?
What do you suppose will satisfy the soul, except to walk free and
own no superior?
What do you suppose I would intimate to you in a hundred ways, but
that man or woman is as good as God?
And that there is no God any more divine than Yourself?
And that that is what the oldest and newest myths finally mean?
And that you or any one must approach creations through such laws?
To a Common Prostitute
Be composed—be at ease with me—I am Walt Whitman, liberal and
lusty as Nature,
Not till the sun excludes you do I exclude you,
Not till the waters refuse to glisten for you and the leaves to
rustle for you, do my words refuse to glisten and rustle for you.
My girl I appoint with you an appointment, and I charge you that you
make preparation to be worthy to meet me,
And I charge you that you be patient and perfect till I come.
Till then I salute you with a significant look that you do not forget me.
I Was Looking a Long While
I was looking a long while for Intentions,
For a clew to the history of the past for myself, and for these
chants—and now I have found it,
It is not in those paged fables in the libraries, (them I neither
accept nor reject,)
It is no more in the legends than in all else,
It is in the present—it is this earth to-day,
It is in Democracy—(the purport and aim of all the past,)
It is the life of one man or one woman to-day—the average man of to-day,
It is in languages, social customs, literatures, arts,
It is in the broad show of artificial things, ships, machinery,
politics, creeds, modern improvements, and the interchange of nations,
All for the modern—all for the average man of to-day.
Of persons arrived at high positions, ceremonies, wealth,
scholarships, and the like;
(To me all that those persons have arrived at sinks away from them,
except as it results to their bodies and souls,
So that often to me they appear gaunt and naked,
And often to me each one mocks the others, and mocks himself or herself,
And of each one the core of life, namely happiness, is full of the
rotten excrement of maggots,
And often to me those men and women pass unwittingly the true
realities of life, and go toward false realities,
And often to me they are alive after what custom has served them,
but nothing more,
And often to me they are sad, hasty, unwaked sonnambules walking the dusk.)
Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the
ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?
Sparkles from the Wheel
Where the city’s ceaseless crowd moves on the livelong day,
Withdrawn I join a group of children watching, I pause aside with them.
By the curb toward the edge of the flagging,
A knife-grinder works at his wheel sharpening a great knife,
Bending over he carefully holds it to the stone, by foot and knee,
With measur’d tread he turns rapidly, as he presses with light but
Forth issue then in copious golden jets,
Sparkles from the wheel.
The scene and all its belongings, how they seize and affect me,
The sad sharp-chinn’d old man with worn clothes and broad
shoulder-band of leather,
Myself effusing and fluid, a phantom curiously floating, now here
absorb’d and arrested,
The group, (an unminded point set in a vast surrounding,)
The attentive, quiet children, the loud, proud, restive base of the streets,
The low hoarse purr of the whirling stone, the light-press’d blade,
Diffusing, dropping, sideways-darting, in tiny showers of gold,
Sparkles from the wheel.
To a Pupil
Is reform needed? is it through you?
The greater the reform needed, the greater the Personality you need
to accomplish it.
You! do you not see how it would serve to have eyes, blood,
complexion, clean and sweet?
Do you not see how it would serve to have such a body and soul that
when you enter the crowd an atmosphere of desire and command
enters with you, and every one is impress’d with your Personality?
O the magnet! the flesh over and over!
Go, dear friend, if need be give up all else, and commence to-day to
inure yourself to pluck, reality, self-esteem, definiteness,
Rest not till you rivet and publish yourself of your own Personality.
Unfolded out of the Folds
Unfolded out of the folds of the woman man comes unfolded, and is
always to come unfolded,
Unfolded only out of the superbest woman of the earth is to come the
superbest man of the earth,
Unfolded out of the friendliest woman is to come the friendliest man,
Unfolded only out of the perfect body of a woman can a man be
form’d of perfect body,
Unfolded only out of the inimitable poems of woman can come the
poems of man, (only thence have my poems come;)
Unfolded out of the strong and arrogant woman I love, only thence
can appear the strong and arrogant man I love,
Unfolded by brawny embraces from the well-muscled woman
love, only thence come the brawny embraces of the man,
Unfolded out of the folds of the woman’s brain come all the folds
of the man’s brain, duly obedient,
Unfolded out of the justice of the woman all justice is unfolded,
Unfolded out of the sympathy of the woman is all sympathy;
A man is a great thing upon the earth and through eternity, but
every of the greatness of man is unfolded out of woman;
First the man is shaped in the woman, he can then be shaped in himself.
What Am I After All
What am I after all but a child, pleas’d with the sound of my own
name? repeating it over and over;
I stand apart to hear—it never tires me.
To you your name also;
Did you think there was nothing but two or three pronunciations in
the sound of your name?
Who includes diversity and is Nature,
Who is the amplitude of the earth, and the coarseness and sexuality of
the earth, and the great charity of the earth, and the equilibrium also,
Who has not look’d forth from the windows the eyes for nothing,
or whose brain held audience with messengers for nothing,
Who contains believers and disbelievers, who is the most majestic lover,
Who holds duly his or her triune proportion of realism,
spiritualism, and of the aesthetic or intellectual,
Who having consider’d the body finds all its organs and parts good,
Who, out of the theory of the earth and of his or her body
understands by subtle analogies all other theories,
The theory of a city, a poem, and of the large politics of these States;
Who believes not only in our globe with its sun and moon, but in
other globes with their suns and moons,
Who, constructing the house of himself or herself, not for a day
but for all time, sees races, eras, dates, generations,
The past, the future, dwelling there, like space, inseparable together.
Others May Praise What They Like
Others may praise what they like;
But I, from the banks of the running Missouri, praise nothing in art
or aught else,
Till it has well inhaled the atmosphere of this river, also the
And exudes it all again.
All submit to them where they sit, inner, secure, unapproachable to
analysis in the soul,
Not traditions, not the outer authorities are the judges,
They are the judges of outer authorities and of all traditions,
They corroborate as they go only whatever corroborates themselves,
and touches themselves;
For all that, they have it forever in themselves to corroborate far
and near without one exception.
On my Northwest coast in the midst of the night a fishermen’s group
Out on the lake that expands before them, others are spearing salmon,
The canoe, a dim shadowy thing, moves across the black water,
Bearing a torch ablaze at the prow.
O Star of France [1870-71]
O star of France,
The brightness of thy hope and strength and fame,
Like some proud ship that led the fleet so long,
Beseems to-day a wreck driven by the gale, a mastless hulk,
And ’mid its teeming madden’d half-drown’d crowds,
Nor helm nor helmsman.
Dim smitten star,
Orb not of France alone, pale symbol of my soul, its dearest hopes,
The struggle and the daring, rage divine for liberty,
Of aspirations toward the far ideal, enthusiast’s dreams of brotherhood,
Of terror to the tyrant and the priest.
Star crucified—by traitors sold,
Star panting o’er a land of death, heroic land,
Strange, passionate, mocking, frivolous land.
Miserable! yet for thy errors, vanities, sins, I will not now rebuke thee,
Thy unexampled woes and pangs have quell’d them all,
And left thee sacred.
In that amid thy many faults thou ever aimedst highly,
In that thou wouldst not really sell thyself however great the price,
In that thou surely wakedst weeping from thy drugg’d sleep,
In that alone among thy sisters thou, giantess, didst rend the ones
that shamed thee,
In that thou couldst not, wouldst not, wear the usual chains,
This cross, thy livid face, thy pierced hands and feet,
The spear thrust in thy side.
O star! O ship of France, beat back and baffled long!
Bear up O smitten orb! O ship continue on!
Sure as the ship of all, the Earth itself,
Product of deathly fire and turbulent chaos,
Forth from its spasms of fury and its poisons,
Issuing at last in perfect power and beauty,
Onward beneath the sun following its course,
So thee O ship of France!
Finish’d the days, the clouds dispel’d
The travail o’er, the long-sought extrication,
When lo! reborn, high o’er the European world,
(In gladness answering thence, as face afar to face, reflecting ours
Again thy star O France, fair lustrous star,
In heavenly peace, clearer, more bright than ever,
Shall beam immortal.
In a far-away northern county in the placid pastoral region,
Lives my farmer friend, the theme of my recitative, a famous tamer of oxen,
There they bring him the three-year-olds and the four-year-olds to
He will take the wildest steer in the world and break him and tame him,
He will go fearless without any whip where the young bullock
chafes up and down the yard,
The bullock’s head tosses restless high in the air with raging eyes,
Yet see you! how soon his rage subsides—how soon this tamer tames him;
See you! on the farms hereabout a hundred oxen young and old,
and he is the man who has tamed them,
They all know him, all are affectionate to him;
See you! some are such beautiful animals, so lofty looking;
Some are buff-color’d, some mottled, one has a white line running
along his back, some are brindled,
Some have wide flaring horns (a good sign)—see you! the bright hides,
See, the two with stars on their foreheads—see, the round bodies
and broad backs,
How straight and square they stand on their legs—what fine sagacious eyes!
How straight they watch their tamer—they wish him near them—how
they turn to look after him!
What yearning expression! how uneasy they are when he moves away from them;
Now I marvel what it can be he appears to them, (books, politics,
poems, depart—all else departs,)
I confess I envy only his fascination—my silent, illiterate friend,
Whom a hundred oxen love there in his life on farms,
In the northern county far, in the placid pastoral region.
An Old Man’s Thought of School
[For the Inauguration of a Public School, Camden, New Jersey, 1874]
An old man’s thought of school,
An old man gathering youthful memories and blooms that youth itself cannot.
Now only do I know you,
O fair auroral skies—O morning dew upon the grass!
And these I see, these sparkling eyes,
These stores of mystic meaning, these young lives,
Building, equipping like a fleet of ships, immortal ships,
Soon to sail out over the measureless seas,
On the soul’s voyage.
Only a lot of boys and girls?
Only the tiresome spelling, writing, ciphering classes?
Only a public school?
Ah more, infinitely more;
(As George Fox rais’d his warning cry, “Is it this pile of brick and
mortar, these dead floors, windows, rails, you call the church?
Why this is not the church at all—the church is living, ever living
And you America,
Cast you the real reckoning for your present?
The lights and shadows of your future, good or evil?
To girlhood, boyhood look, the teacher and the school.
Wandering at Morn
Wandering at morn,
Emerging from the night from gloomy thoughts, thee in my thoughts,
Yearning for thee harmonious Union! thee, singing bird divine!
Thee coil’d in evil times my country, with craft and black dismay,
with every meanness, treason thrust upon thee,
This common marvel I beheld—the parent thrush I watch’d feeding its young,
The singing thrush whose tones of joy and faith ecstatic,
Fail not to certify and cheer my soul.
There ponder’d, felt I,
If worms, snakes, loathsome grubs, may to sweet spiritual songs be turn’d,
If vermin so transposed, so used and bless’d may be,
Then may I trust in you, your fortunes, days, my country;
Who knows but these may be the lessons fit for you?
From these your future song may rise with joyous trills,
Destin’d to fill the world.
Italian Music in Dakota
["The Seventeenth—the finest Regimental Band I ever heard.”]
Through the soft evening air enwinding all,
Rocks, woods, fort, cannon, pacing sentries, endless wilds,
In dulcet streams, in flutes’ and cornets’ notes,
Electric, pensive, turbulent, artificial,
(Yet strangely fitting even here, meanings unknown before,
Subtler than ever, more harmony, as if born here, related here,
Not to the city’s fresco’d rooms, not to the audience of the opera house,
Sounds, echoes, wandering strains, as really here at home,
Sonnambula’s innocent love, trios with Norma’s anguish,
And thy ecstatic chorus Poliuto;)
Ray’d in the limpid yellow slanting sundown,
Music, Italian music in Dakota.
While Nature, sovereign of this gnarl’d realm,
Lurking in hidden barbaric grim recesses,
Acknowledging rapport however far remov’d,
(As some old root or soil of earth its last-born flower or fruit,)
Listens well pleas’d.
With All Thy Gifts
With all thy gifts America,
Standing secure, rapidly tending, overlooking the world,
Power, wealth, extent, vouchsafed to thee—with these and like of
these vouchsafed to thee,
What if one gift thou lackest? (the ultimate human problem never solving,)
The gift of perfect women fit for thee—what if that gift of gifts
The towering feminine of thee? the beauty, health, completion, fit for thee?
The mothers fit for thee?
In a little house keep I pictures suspended, it is not a fix’d house,
It is round, it is only a few inches from one side to the other;
Yet behold, it has room for all the shows of the world, all memories!
Here the tableaus of life, and here the groupings of death;
Here, do you know this? this is cicerone himself,
With finger rais’d he points to the prodigal pictures.
The Prairie States
A newer garden of creation, no primal solitude,
Dense, joyous, modern, populous millions, cities and farms,
With iron interlaced, composite, tied, many in one,
By all the world contributed—freedom’s and law’s and thrift’s society,
The crown and teeming paradise, so far, of time’s accumulations,
To justify the past.
Passage to India
Singing my days,
Singing the great achievements of the present,
Singing the strong light works of engineers,
Our modern wonders, (the antique ponderous Seven outvied,)
In the Old World the east the Suez canal,
The New by its mighty railroad spann’d,
The seas inlaid with eloquent gentle wires;
Yet first to sound, and ever sound, the cry with thee O soul,
The Past! the Past! the Past!
The Past—the dark unfathom’d retrospect!
The teeming gulf—the sleepers and the shadows!
The past—the infinite greatness of the past!
For what is the present after all but a growth out of the past?
(As a projectile form’d, impell’d, passing a certain line, still keeps on,
So the present, utterly form’d, impell’d by the past.)
Passage O soul to India!
Eclaircise the myths Asiatic, the primitive fables.
Not you alone proud truths of the world,
Nor you alone ye facts of modern science,
But myths and fables of eld, Asia’s, Africa’s fables,
The far-darting beams of the spirit, the unloos’d dreams,
The deep diving bibles and legends,
The daring plots of the poets, the elder religions;
O you temples fairer than lilies pour’d over by the rising sun!
O you fables spurning the known, eluding the hold of the known,
mounting to heaven!
You lofty and dazzling towers, pinnacled, red as roses, burnish’d
Towers of fables immortal fashion’d from mortal dreams!
You too I welcome and fully the same as the rest!
You too with joy I sing.
Passage to India!
Lo, soul, seest thou not God’s purpose from the first?
The earth to be spann’d, connected by network,
The races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage,
The oceans to be cross’d, the distant brought near,
The lands to be welded together.
A worship new I sing,
You captains, voyagers, explorers, yours,
You engineers, you architects, machinists, yours,
You, not for trade or transportation only,
But in God’s name, and for thy sake O soul.
Passage to India!
Lo soul for thee of tableaus twain,
I see in one the Suez canal initiated, open’d,
I see the procession of steamships, the Empress Engenie’s leading the van,
I mark from on deck the strange landscape, the pure sky, the level
sand in the distance,
I pass swiftly the picturesque groups, the workmen gather’d,
The gigantic dredging machines.
In one again, different, (yet thine, all thine, O soul, the same,)
I see over my own continent the Pacific railroad surmounting every barrier,
I see continual trains of cars winding along the Platte carrying
freight and passengers,
I hear the locomotives rushing and roaring, and the shrill steam-whistle,
I hear the echoes reverberate through the grandest scenery in the world,
I cross the Laramie plains, I note the rocks in grotesque shapes,
I see the plentiful larkspur and wild onions, the barren, colorless,
I see in glimpses afar or towering immediately above me the great
mountains, I see the Wind river and the Wahsatch mountains,
I see the Monument mountain and the Eagle’s Nest, I pass the
Promontory, I ascend the Nevadas,
I scan the noble Elk mountain and wind around its base,
I see the Humboldt range, I thread the valley and cross the river,
I see the clear waters of lake Tahoe, I see forests of majestic pines,
Or crossing the great desert, the alkaline plains, I behold
enchanting mirages of waters and meadows,
Marking through these and after all, in duplicate slender lines,
Bridging the three or four thousand miles of land travel,
Tying the Eastern to the Western sea,
The road between Europe and Asia.
(Ah Genoese thy dream! thy dream!
Centuries after thou art laid in thy grave,
The shore thou foundest verifies thy dream.)
Passage to India!
Struggles of many a captain, tales of many a sailor dead,
Over my mood stealing and spreading they come,
Like clouds and cloudlets in the unreach’d sky.
Along all history, down the slopes,
As a rivulet running, sinking now, and now again to the surface rising,
A ceaseless thought, a varied train—lo, soul, to thee, thy sight,
The plans, the voyages again, the expeditions;
Again Vasco de Gama sails forth,
Again the knowledge gain’d, the mariner’s compass,
Lands found and nations born, thou born America,
For purpose vast, man’s long probation fill’d,
Thou rondure of the world at last accomplish’d.
O vast Rondure, swimming in space,
Cover’d all over with visible power and beauty,
Alternate light and day and the teeming spiritual darkness,
Unspeakable high processions of sun and moon and countless stars above,
Below, the manifold grass and waters, animals, mountains, trees,
With inscrutable purpose, some hidden prophetic intention,
Now first it seems my thought begins to span thee.
Down from the gardens of Asia descending radiating,
Adam and Eve appear, then their myriad progeny after them,
Wandering, yearning, curious, with restless explorations,
With questionings, baffled, formless, feverish, with never-happy hearts,
With that sad incessant refrain, Wherefore unsatisfied soul? and
Whither O mocking life?
Ah who shall soothe these feverish children?
Who Justify these restless explorations?
Who speak the secret of impassive earth?
Who bind it to us? what is this separate Nature so unnatural?
What is this earth to our affections? (unloving earth, without a
throb to answer ours,
Cold earth, the place of graves.)
Yet soul be sure the first intent remains, and shall be carried out,
Perhaps even now the time has arrived.
After the seas are all cross’d, (as they seem already cross’d,)
After the great captains and engineers have accomplish’d their work,
After the noble inventors, after the scientists, the chemist, the
Finally shall come the poet worthy that name,
The true son of God shall come singing his songs.
Then not your deeds only O voyagers, O scientists and inventors,
shall be justified,
All these hearts as of fretted children shall be sooth’d,
All affection shall be fully responded to, the secret shall be told,
All these separations and gaps shall be taken up and hook’d and
The whole earth, this cold, impassive, voiceless earth, shall be
Trinitas divine shall be gloriously accomplish’d and compacted by
the true son of God, the poet,
(He shall indeed pass the straits and conquer the mountains,
He shall double the cape of Good Hope to some purpose,)
Nature and Man shall be disjoin’d and diffused no more,
The true son of God shall absolutely fuse them.
Year at whose wide-flung door I sing!
Year of the purpose accomplish’d!
Year of the marriage of continents, climates and oceans!
(No mere doge of Venice now wedding the Adriatic,)
I see O year in you the vast terraqueous globe given and giving all,
Europe to Asia, Africa join’d, and they to the New World,
The lands, geographies, dancing before you, holding a festival garland,
As brides and bridegrooms hand in hand.
Passage to India!
Cooling airs from Caucasus far, soothing cradle of man,
The river Euphrates flowing, the past lit up again.
Lo soul, the retrospect brought forward,
The old, most populous, wealthiest of earth’s lands,
The streams of the Indus and the Ganges and their many affluents,
(I my shores of America walking to-day behold, resuming all,)
The tale of Alexander on his warlike marches suddenly dying,
On one side China and on the other side Persia and Arabia,
To the south the great seas and the bay of Bengal,
The flowing literatures, tremendous epics, religions, castes,
Old occult Brahma interminably far back, the tender and junior Buddha,
Central and southern empires and all their belongings, possessors,
The wars of Tamerlane,the reign of Aurungzebe,
The traders, rulers, explorers, Moslems, Venetians, Byzantium, the
The first travelers famous yet, Marco Polo, Batouta the Moor,
Doubts to be solv’d, the map incognita, blanks to be fill’d,
The foot of man unstay’d, the hands never at rest,
Thyself O soul that will not brook a challenge.
The mediaeval navigators rise before me,
The world of 1492, with its awaken’d enterprise,
Something swelling in humanity now like the sap of the earth in spring,
The sunset splendor of chivalry declining.
And who art thou sad shade?
Gigantic, visionary, thyself a visionary,
With majestic limbs and pious beaming eyes,
Spreading around with every look of thine a golden world,
Enhuing it with gorgeous hues.
As the chief histrion,
Down to the footlights walks in some great scena,
Dominating the rest I see the Admiral himself,
(History’s type of courage, action, faith,)
Behold him sail from Palos leading his little fleet,
His voyage behold, his return, his great fame,
His misfortunes, calumniators, behold him a prisoner, chain’d,
Behold his dejection, poverty, death.
(Curious in time I stand, noting the efforts of heroes,
Is the deferment long? bitter the slander, poverty, death?
Lies the seed unreck’d for centuries in the ground? lo, to God’s due
Uprising in the night, it sprouts, blooms,
And fills the earth with use and beauty.)
Passage indeed O soul to primal thought,
Not lands and seas alone, thy own clear freshness,
The young maturity of brood and bloom,
To realms of budding bibles.
O soul, repressless, I with thee and thou with me,
Thy circumnavigation of the world begin,
Of man, the voyage of his mind’s return,
To reason’s early paradise,
Back, back to wisdom’s birth, to innocent intuitions,
Again with fair creation.
O we can wait no longer,
We too take ship O soul,
Joyous we too launch out on trackless seas,
Fearless for unknown shores on waves of ecstasy to sail,
Amid the wafting winds, (thou pressing me to thee, I thee to me, O soul,)
Caroling free, singing our song of God,
Chanting our chant of pleasant exploration.
With laugh and many a kiss,
(Let others deprecate, let others weep for sin, remorse, humiliation,)
O soul thou pleasest me, I thee.
Ah more than any priest O soul we too believe in God,
But with the mystery of God we dare not dally.
O soul thou pleasest me, I thee,
Sailing these seas or on the hills, or waking in the night,
Thoughts, silent thoughts, of Time and Space and Death, like waters flowing,
Bear me indeed as through the regions infinite,
Whose air I breathe, whose ripples hear, lave me all over,
Bathe me O God in thee, mounting to thee,
I and my soul to range in range of thee.
O Thou transcendent,
Nameless, the fibre and the breath,
Light of the light, shedding forth universes, thou centre of them,
Thou mightier centre of the true, the good, the loving,
Thou moral, spiritual fountain—affection’s source—thou reservoir,
(O pensive soul of me—O thirst unsatisfied—waitest not there?
Waitest not haply for us somewhere there the Comrade perfect?)
Thou pulse—thou motive of the stars, suns, systems,
That, circling, move in order, safe, harmonious,
Athwart the shapeless vastnesses of space,
How should I think, how breathe a single breath, how speak, if, out
I could not launch, to those, superior universes?
Swiftly I shrivel at the thought of God,
At Nature and its wonders, Time and Space and Death,
But that I, turning, call to thee O soul, thou actual Me,
And lo, thou gently masterest the orbs,
Thou matest Time, smilest content at Death,
And fillest, swellest full the vastnesses of Space.
Greater than stars or suns,
Bounding O soul thou journeyest forth;
What love than thine and ours could wider amplify?
What aspirations, wishes, outvie thine and ours O soul?
What dreams of the ideal? what plans of purity, perfection, strength?
What cheerful willingness for others’ sake to give up all?
For others’ sake to suffer all?
Reckoning ahead O soul, when thou, the time achiev’d,
The seas all cross’d, weather’d the capes, the voyage done,
Surrounded, copest, frontest God, yieldest, the aim attain’d,
As fill’d with friendship, love complete, the Elder Brother found,
The Younger melts in fondness in his arms.
Passage to more than India!
Are thy wings plumed indeed for such far flights?
O soul, voyagest thou indeed on voyages like those?
Disportest thou on waters such as those?
Soundest below the Sanscrit and the Vedas?
Then have thy bent unleash’d.
Passage to you, your shores, ye aged fierce enigmas!
Passage to you, to mastership of you, ye strangling problems!
You, strew’d with the wrecks of skeletons, that, living, never reach’d you.
Passage to more than India!
O secret of the earth and sky!
Of you O waters of the sea! O winding creeks and rivers!
Of you O woods and fields! of you strong mountains of my land!
Of you O prairies! of you gray rocks!
O morning red! O clouds! O rain and snows!
O day and night, passage to you!
O sun and moon and all you stars! Sirius and Jupiter!
Passage to you!
Passage, immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins!
Away O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovel’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?
Sail forth—steer for the deep waters only,
Reckless O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me,
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.
O my brave soul!
O farther farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!
Let the reformers descend from the stands where they are forever
bawling—let an idiot or insane person appear on each of the stands;
Let judges and criminals be transposed—let the prison-keepers be
put in prison—let those that were prisoners take the keys;
Let them that distrust birth and death lead the rest.
BOOK XXX. WHISPERS OF HEAVENLY DEATH
Darest Thou Now O Soul
Darest thou now O soul,
Walk out with me toward the unknown region,
Where neither ground is for the feet nor any path to follow?
No map there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.
I know it not O soul,
Nor dost thou, all is a blank before us,
All waits undream’d of in that region, that inaccessible land.
Till when the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds bounding us.
Then we burst forth, we float,
In Time and Space O soul, prepared for them,
Equal, equipt at last, (O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil O soul.
Whispers of Heavenly Death
Whispers of heavenly death murmur’d I hear,
Labial gossip of night, sibilant chorals,
Footsteps gently ascending, mystical breezes wafted soft and low,
Ripples of unseen rivers, tides of a current flowing, forever flowing,
(Or is it the plashing of tears? the measureless waters of human tears?)
I see, just see skyward, great cloud-masses,
Mournfully slowly they roll, silently swelling and mixing,
With at times a half-dimm’d sadden’d far-off star,
Appearing and disappearing.
(Some parturition rather, some solemn immortal birth;
On the frontiers to eyes impenetrable,
Some soul is passing over.)
Of Him I Love Day and Night
Of him I love day and night I dream’d I heard he was dead,
And I dream’d I went where they had buried him I love, but he was
not in that place,
And I dream’d I wander’d searching among burial-places to find him,
And I found that every place was a burial-place;
The houses full of life were equally full of death, (this house is now,)
The streets, the shipping, the places of amusement, the Chicago,
Boston, Philadelphia, the Mannahatta, were as full of the dead as
of the living,
And fuller, O vastly fuller of the dead than of the living;
And what I dream’d I will henceforth tell to every person and age,
And I stand henceforth bound to what I dream’d,
And now I am willing to disregard burial-places and dispense with them,
And if the memorials of the dead were put up indifferently everywhere,
even in the room where I eat or sleep, I should be satisfied,
And if the corpse of any one I love, or if my own corpse, be duly
render’d to powder and pour’d in the sea, I shall be satisfied,
Or if it be distributed to the winds I shall be satisfied.
Yet, Yet, Ye Downcast Hours
Yet, yet, ye downcast hours, I know ye also,
Weights of lead, how ye clog and cling at my ankles,
Earth to a chamber of mourning turns—I hear the o’erweening, mocking
Matter is conqueror—matter, triumphant only, continues onward.
Despairing cries float ceaselessly toward me,
The call of my nearest lover, putting forth, alarm’d, uncertain,
The sea I am quickly to sail, come tell me,
Come tell me where I am speeding, tell me my destination.
I understand your anguish, but I cannot help you,
I approach, hear, behold, the sad mouth, the look out of the eyes,
your mute inquiry,
Whither I go from the bed I recline on, come tell me,—
Old age, alarm’d, uncertain—a young woman’s voice, appealing to
me for comfort;
A young man’s voice, Shall I not escape?
As If a Phantom Caress’d Me
As if a phantom caress’d me,
I thought I was not alone walking here by the shore;
But the one I thought was with me as now I walk by the shore, the
one I loved that caress’d me,
As I lean and look through the glimmering light, that one has
And those appear that are hateful to me and mock me.
I need no assurances, I am a man who is preoccupied of his own soul;
I do not doubt that from under the feet and beside the hands and
face I am cognizant of, are now looking faces I am not cognizant
of, calm and actual faces,
I do not doubt but the majesty and beauty of the world are latent in
any iota of the world,
I do not doubt I am limitless, and that the universes are limitless,
in vain I try to think how limitless,
I do not doubt that the orbs and the systems of orbs play their
swift sports through the air on purpose, and that I shall one day
be eligible to do as much as they, and more than they,
I do not doubt that temporary affairs keep on and on millions of years,
I do not doubt interiors have their interiors, and exteriors have
their exteriors, and that the eyesight has another eyesight, and
the hearing another hearing, and the voice another voice,
I do not doubt that the passionately-wept deaths of young men are
provided for, and that the deaths of young women and the
deaths of little children are provided for,
(Did you think Life was so well provided for, and Death, the purport
of all Life, is not well provided for?)
I do not doubt that wrecks at sea, no matter what the horrors of
them, no matter whose wife, child, husband, father, lover, has
gone down, are provided for, to the minutest points,
I do not doubt that whatever can possibly happen anywhere at any
time, is provided for in the inherences of things,
I do not think Life provides for all and for Time and Space, but I
believe Heavenly Death provides for all.
Quicksand years that whirl me I know not whither,
Your schemes, politics, fail, lines give way, substances mock and elude me,
Only the theme I sing, the great and strong-possess’d soul, eludes not,
One’s-self must never give way—that is the final substance—that
out of all is sure,
Out of politics, triumphs, battles, life, what at last finally remains?
When shows break up what but One’s-Self is sure?
That Music Always Round Me
That music always round me, unceasing, unbeginning, yet long
untaught I did not hear,
But now the chorus I hear and am elated,
A tenor, strong, ascending with power and health, with glad notes of
daybreak I hear,
A soprano at intervals sailing buoyantly over the tops of immense waves,
A transparent base shuddering lusciously under and through the universe,
The triumphant tutti, the funeral wailings with sweet flutes and
violins, all these I fill myself with,
I hear not the volumes of sound merely, I am moved by the exquisite
I listen to the different voices winding in and out, striving,
contending with fiery vehemence to excel each other in emotion;
I do not think the performers know themselves—but now I think
begin to know them.
What Ship Puzzled at Sea
What ship puzzled at sea, cons for the true reckoning?
Or coming in, to avoid the bars and follow the channel a perfect
Here, sailor! here, ship! take aboard the most perfect pilot,
Whom, in a little boat, putting off and rowing, I hailing you offer.
A Noiseless Patient Spider
A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.
O Living Always, Always Dying
O living always, always dying!
O the burials of me past and present,
O me while I stride ahead, material, visible, imperious as ever;
O me, what I was for years, now dead, (I lament not, I am content;)
O to disengage myself from those corpses of me, which I turn and
look at where I cast them,
To pass on, (O living! always living!) and leave the corpses behind.
To One Shortly to Die
From all the rest I single out you, having a message for you,
You are to die—let others tell you what they please, I cannot prevaricate,
I am exact and merciless, but I love you—there is no escape for you.
Softly I lay my right hand upon you, you ’ust feel it,
I do not argue, I bend my head close and half envelop it,
I sit quietly by, I remain faithful,
I am more than nurse, more than parent or neighbor,
I absolve you from all except yourself spiritual bodily, that is
eternal, you yourself will surely escape,
The corpse you will leave will be but excrementitious.
The sun bursts through in unlooked-for directions,
Strong thoughts fill you and confidence, you smile,
You forget you are sick, as I forget you are sick,
You do not see the medicines, you do not mind the weeping friends,
I am with you,
I exclude others from you, there is nothing to be commiserated,
I do not commiserate, I congratulate you.
Night on the Prairies
Night on the prairies,
The supper is over, the fire on the ground burns low,
The wearied emigrants sleep, wrapt in their blankets;
I walk by myself—I stand and look at the stars, which I think now
never realized before.
Now I absorb immortality and peace,
I admire death and test propositions.
How plenteous! how spiritual! how resume!
The same old man and soul—the same old aspirations, and the same content.
I was thinking the day most splendid till I saw what the not-day exhibited,
I was thinking this globe enough till there sprang out so noiseless
around me myriads of other globes.
Now while the great thoughts of space and eternity fill me I will
measure myself by them,
And now touch’d with the lives of other globes arrived as far along
as those of the earth,
Or waiting to arrive, or pass’d on farther than those of the earth,
I henceforth no more ignore them than I ignore my own life,
Or the lives of the earth arrived as far as mine, or waiting to arrive.
O I see now that life cannot exhibit all to me, as the day cannot,
I see that I am to wait for what will be exhibited by death.
As I sit with others at a great feast, suddenly while the music is playing,
To my mind, (whence it comes I know not,) spectral in mist of a
wreck at sea,
Of certain ships, how they sail from port with flying streamers and
wafted kisses, and that is the last of them,
Of the solemn and murky mystery about the fate of the President,
Of the flower of the marine science of fifty generations founder’d
off the Northeast coast and going down—of the steamship Arctic
Of the veil’d tableau-women gather’d together on deck, pale, heroic,
waiting the moment that draws so close—O the moment!
A huge sob—a few bubbles—the white foam spirting up—and then the
Sinking there while the passionless wet flows on—and I now
pondering, Are those women indeed gone?
Are souls drown’d and destroy’d so?
Is only matter triumphant?
The Last Invocation
At the last, tenderly,
From the walls of the powerful fortress’d house,
From the clasp of the knitted locks, from the keep of the well-closed doors,
Let me be wafted.
Let me glide noiselessly forth;
With the key of softness unlock the locks—with a whisper,
Set ope the doors O soul.
Tenderly—be not impatient,
(Strong is your hold O mortal flesh,
Strong is your hold O love.)
As I Watch the Ploughman Ploughing
As I watch’d the ploughman ploughing,
Or the sower sowing in the fields, or the harvester harvesting,
I saw there too, O life and death, your analogies;
(Life, life is the tillage, and Death is the harvest according.)
Pensive and Faltering
Pensive and faltering,
The words the Dead I write,
For living are the Dead,
(Haply the only living, only real,
And I the apparition, I the spectre.)
A Paumanok Picture
Two boats with nets lying off the sea-beach, quite still,
Ten fishermen waiting—they discover a thick school of mossbonkers
—they drop the join’d seine-ends in the water,
The boats separate and row off, each on its rounding course to the
beach, enclosing the mossbonkers,
The net is drawn in by a windlass by those who stop ashore,
Some of the fishermen lounge in their boats, others stand
ankle-deep in the water, pois’d on strong legs,
The boats partly drawn up, the water slapping against them,
Strew’d on the sand in heaps and windrows, well out from the water,
the green-back’d spotted mossbonkers.
BOOK XXXII. FROM NOON TO STARRY NIGHT
Thou Orb Aloft Full-Dazzling
Thou orb aloft full-dazzling! thou hot October noon!
Flooding with sheeny light the gray beach sand,
The sibilant near sea with vistas far and foam,
And tawny streaks and shades and spreading blue;
O sun of noon refulgent! my special word to thee.
Hear me illustrious!
Thy lover me, for always I have loved thee,
Even as basking babe, then happy boy alone by some wood edge, thy
touching-distant beams enough,
Or man matured, or young or old, as now to thee I launch my invocation.
(Thou canst not with thy dumbness me deceive,
I know before the fitting man all Nature yields,
Though answering not in words, the skies, trees, hear his voice—and
thou O sun,
As for thy throes, thy perturbations, sudden breaks and shafts of
I understand them, I know those flames, those perturbations well.)
Thou that with fructifying heat and light,
O’er myriad farms, o’er lands and waters North and South,
O’er Mississippi’s endless course, o’er Texas’ grassy plains,
O’er all the globe that turns its face to thee shining in space,
Thou that impartially enfoldest all, not only continents, seas,
Thou that to grapes and weeds and little wild flowers givest so liberally,
Shed, shed thyself on mine and me, with but a fleeting ray out of
thy million millions,
Strike through these chants.
Nor only launch thy subtle dazzle and thy strength for these,
Prepare the later afternoon of me myself—prepare my lengthening shadows,
Prepare my starry nights.
To a Locomotive in Winter
Thee for my recitative,
Thee in the driving storm even as now, the snow, the winter-day declining,
Thee in thy panoply, thy measur’d dual throbbing and thy beat convulsive,
Thy black cylindric body, golden brass and silvery steel,
Thy ponderous side-bars, parallel and connecting rods, gyrating,
shuttling at thy sides,
Thy metrical, now swelling pant and roar, now tapering in the distance,
Thy great protruding head-light fix’d in front,
Thy long, pale, floating vapor-pennants, tinged with delicate purple,
The dense and murky clouds out-belching from thy smoke-stack,
Thy knitted frame, thy springs and valves, the tremulous twinkle of
Thy train of cars behind, obedient, merrily following,
Through gale or calm, now swift, now slack, yet steadily careering;
Type of the modern—emblem of motion and power—pulse of the continent,
For once come serve the Muse and merge in verse, even as here I see thee,
With storm and buffeting gusts of wind and falling snow,
By day thy warning ringing bell to sound its notes,
By night thy silent signal lamps to swing.
Roll through my chant with all thy lawless music, thy swinging lamps
Thy madly-whistled laughter, echoing, rumbling like an earthquake,
Law of thyself complete, thine own track firmly holding,
(No sweetness debonair of tearful harp or glib piano thine,)
Thy trills of shrieks by rocks and hills return’d,
Launch’d o’er the prairies wide, across the lakes,
To the free skies unpent and glad and strong.
O magnet-south! O glistening perfumed South! my South!
O quick mettle, rich blood, impulse and love! good and evil! O all
dear to me!
O dear to me my birth-things—all moving things and the trees where
I was born—the grains, plants, rivers,
Dear to me my own slow sluggish rivers where they flow, distant,
over flats of slivery sands or through swamps,
Dear to me the Roanoke, the Savannah, the Altamahaw, the Pedee, the
Tombigbee, the Santee, the Coosa and the Sabine,
O pensive, far away wandering, I return with my soul to haunt their
Again in Florida I float on transparent lakes, I float on the
Okeechobee, I cross the hummock-land or through pleasant openings
or dense forests,
I see the parrots in the woods, I see the papaw-tree and the
Again, sailing in my coaster on deck, I coast off Georgia, I coast
up the Carolinas,
I see where the live-oak is growing, I see where the yellow-pine,
the scented bay-tree, the lemon and orange, the cypress, the
I pass rude sea-headlands and enter Pamlico sound through an inlet,
and dart my vision inland;
O the cotton plant! the growing fields of rice, sugar, hemp!
The cactus guarded with thorns, the laurel-tree with large white flowers,
The range afar, the richness and barrenness, the old woods charged
with mistletoe and trailing moss,
The piney odor and the gloom, the awful natural stillness, (here in
these dense swamps the freebooter carries his gun, and the
fugitive has his conceal’d hut;)
O the strange fascination of these half-known half-impassable
swamps, infested by reptiles, resounding with the bellow of the
alligator, the sad noises of the night-owl and the wild-cat, and
the whirr of the rattlesnake,
The mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing all the forenoon,
singing through the moon-lit night,
The humming-bird, the wild turkey, the raccoon, the opossum;
A Kentucky corn-field, the tall, graceful, long-leav’d corn,
slender, flapping, bright green, with tassels, with beautiful
ears each well-sheath’d in its husk;
O my heart! O tender and fierce pangs, I can stand them not, I will depart;
O to be a Virginian where I grew up! O to be a Carolinian!
O longings irrepressible! O I will go back to old Tennessee and
never wander more.
I was asking for something specific and perfect for my city,
Whereupon lo! upsprang the aboriginal name.
Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid, sane, unruly,
I see that the word of my city is that word from of old,
Because I see that word nested in nests of water-bays, superb,
Rich, hemm’d thick all around with sailships and steamships, an
island sixteen miles long, solid-founded,
Numberless crowded streets, high growths of iron, slender, strong,
light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies,
Tides swift and ample, well-loved by me, toward sundown,
The flowing sea-currents, the little islands, larger adjoining
islands, the heights, the villas,
The countless masts, the white shore-steamers, the lighters, the
ferry-boats, the black sea-steamers well-model’d,
The down-town streets, the jobbers’ houses of business, the houses
of business of the ship-merchants and money-brokers, the river-streets,
Immigrants arriving, fifteen or twenty thousand in a week,
The carts hauling goods, the manly race of drivers of horses, the
The summer air, the bright sun shining, and the sailing clouds aloft,
The winter snows, the sleigh-bells, the broken ice in the river,
passing along up or down with the flood-tide or ebb-tide,
The mechanics of the city, the masters, well-form’d,
beautiful-faced, looking you straight in the eyes,
Trottoirs throng’d, vehicles, Broadway, the women, the shops and shows,
A million people—manners free and superb—open voices—hospitality—
the most courageous and friendly young men,
City of hurried and sparkling waters! city of spires and masts!
City nested in bays! my city!
All Is Truth
O me, man of slack faith so long,
Standing aloof, denying portions so long,
Only aware to-day of compact all-diffused truth,
Discovering to-day there is no lie or form of lie, and can be none,
but grows as inevitably upon itself as the truth does upon itself,
Or as any law of the earth or any natural production of the earth does.
(This is curious and may not be realized immediately, but it must be
I feel in myself that I represent falsehoods equally with the rest,
And that the universe does.)
Where has fail’d a perfect return indifferent of lies or the truth?
Is it upon the ground, or in water or fire? or in the spirit of man?
or in the meat and blood?
Meditating among liars and retreating sternly into myself, I see
that there are really no liars or lies after all,
And that nothing fails its perfect return, and that what are called
lies are perfect returns,
And that each thing exactly represents itself and what has preceded it,
And that the truth includes all, and is compact just as much as
space is compact,
And that there is no flaw or vacuum in the amount of the truth—but
that all is truth without exception;
And henceforth I will go celebrate any thing I see or am,
And sing and laugh and deny nothing.
Who has gone farthest? for I would go farther,
And who has been just? for I would be the most just person of the earth,
And who most cautious? for I would be more cautious,
And who has been happiest? O I think it is I—I think no one was
ever happier than I,
And who has lavish’d all? for I lavish constantly the best I have,
And who proudest? for I think I have reason to be the proudest son
alive—for I am the son of the brawny and tall-topt city,
And who has been bold and true? for I would be the boldest and
truest being of the universe,
And who benevolent? for I would show more benevolence than all the rest,
And who has receiv’d the love of the most friends? for I know what
it is to receive the passionate love of many friends,
And who possesses a perfect and enamour’d body? for I do not believe
any one possesses a more perfect or enamour’d body than mine,
And who thinks the amplest thoughts? for I would surround those thoughts,
And who has made hymns fit for the earth? for I am mad with
devouring ecstasy to make joyous hymns for the whole earth.
Ah Poverties, Wincings, and Sulky Retreats
Ah poverties, wincings, and sulky retreats,
Ah you foes that in conflict have overcome me,
(For what is my life or any man’s life but a conflict with foes, the
old, the incessant war?)
You degradations, you tussle with passions and appetites,
You smarts from dissatisfied friendships, (ah wounds the sharpest of all!)
You toil of painful and choked articulations, you meannesses,
You shallow tongue-talks at tables, (my tongue the shallowest of any;)
You broken resolutions, you racking angers, you smother’d ennuis!
Ah think not you finally triumph, my real self has yet to come forth,
It shall yet march forth o’ermastering, till all lies beneath me,
It shall yet stand up the soldier of ultimate victory.
Of public opinion,
Of a calm and cool fiat sooner or later, (how impassive! how certain
Of the President with pale face asking secretly to himself, What
will the people say at last?
Of the frivolous Judge—of the corrupt Congressman, Governor,
Mayor—of such as these standing helpless and exposed,
Of the mumbling and screaming priest, (soon, soon deserted,)
Of the lessening year by year of venerableness, and of the dicta of
officers, statutes, pulpits, schools,
Of the rising forever taller and stronger and broader of the
intuitions of men and women, and of Self-esteem and Personality;
Of the true New World—of the Democracies resplendent en-masse,
Of the conformity of politics, armies, navies, to them,
Of the shining sun by them—of the inherent light, greater than the rest,
Of the envelopment of all by them, and the effusion of all from them.
They shall arise in the States,
They shall report Nature, laws, physiology, and happiness,
They shall illustrate Democracy and the kosmos,
They shall be alimentive, amative, perceptive,
They shall be complete women and men, their pose brawny and supple,
their drink water, their blood clean and clear,
They shall fully enjoy materialism and the sight of products, they
shall enjoy the sight of the beef, lumber, bread-stuffs, of
Chicago the great city.
They shall train themselves to go in public to become orators and
Strong and sweet shall their tongues be, poems and materials of
poems shall come from their lives, they shall be makers and finders,
Of them and of their works shall emerge divine conveyers, to convey gospels,
Characters, events, retrospections, shall be convey’d in gospels,
trees, animals, waters, shall be convey’d,
Death, the future, the invisible faith, shall all be convey’d.
Weave in, My Hardy Life
Weave in, weave in, my hardy life,
Weave yet a soldier strong and full for great campaigns to come,
Weave in red blood, weave sinews in like ropes, the senses, sight weave in,
Weave lasting sure, weave day and night the wet, the warp, incessant
weave, tire not,
(We know not what the use O life, nor know the aim, the end, nor
really aught we know,
But know the work, the need goes on and shall go on, the
death-envelop’d march of peace as well as war goes on,)
For great campaigns of peace the same the wiry threads to weave,
We know not why or what, yet weave, forever weave.
Out of the murk of heaviest clouds,
Out of the feudal wrecks and heap’d-up skeletons of kings,
Out of that old entire European debris, the shatter’d mummeries,
Ruin’d cathedrals, crumble of palaces, tombs of priests,
Lo, Freedom’s features fresh undimm’d look forth—the same immortal
face looks forth;
(A glimpse as of thy Mother’s face Columbia,
A flash significant as of a sword,
Beaming towards thee.)
Nor think we forget thee maternal;
Lag’d’st thou so long? shall the clouds close again upon thee?
Ah, but thou hast thyself now appear’d to us—we know thee,
Thou hast given us a sure proof, the glimpse of thyself,
Thou waitest there as everywhere thy time.
By Broad Potomac’s Shore
By broad Potomac’s shore, again old tongue,
(Still uttering, still ejaculating, canst never cease this babble?)
Again old heart so gay, again to you, your sense, the full flush
Again the freshness and the odors, again Virginia’s summer sky,
pellucid blue and silver,
Again the forenoon purple of the hills,
Again the deathless grass, so noiseless soft and green,
Again the blood-red roses blooming.
Perfume this book of mine O blood-red roses!
Lave subtly with your waters every line Potomac!
Give me of you O spring, before I close, to put between its pages!
O forenoon purple of the hills, before I close, of you!
O deathless grass, of you!
From Far Dakota’s Canyons [June 25, 1876]
From far Dakota’s canyons,
Lands of the wild ravine, the dusky Sioux, the lonesome stretch, the
Haply to-day a mournful wall, haply a trumpet-note for heroes.
The Indian ambuscade, the craft, the fatal environment,
The cavalry companies fighting to the last in sternest heroism,
In the midst of their little circle, with their slaughter’d horses
The fall of Custer and all his officers and men.
Continues yet the old, old legend of our race,
The loftiest of life upheld by death,
The ancient banner perfectly maintain’d,
O lesson opportune, O how I welcome thee!
As sitting in dark days,
Lone, sulky, through the time’s thick murk looking in vain for
light, for hope,
From unsuspected parts a fierce and momentary proof,
(The sun there at the centre though conceal’d,
Electric life forever at the centre,)
Breaks forth a lightning flash.
Thou of the tawny flowing hair in battle,
I erewhile saw, with erect head, pressing ever in front, bearing a
bright sword in thy hand,
Now ending well in death the splendid fever of thy deeds,
(I bring no dirge for it or thee, I bring a glad triumphal sonnet,)
Desperate and glorious, aye in defeat most desperate, most glorious,
After thy many battles in which never yielding up a gun or a color,
Leaving behind thee a memory sweet to soldiers,
Thou yieldest up thyself.
As I Walk These Broad Majestic Days
As I walk these broad majestic days of peace,
(For the war, the struggle of blood finish’d, wherein, O terrific Ideal,
Against vast odds erewhile having gloriously won,
Now thou stridest on, yet perhaps in time toward denser wars,
Perhaps to engage in time in still more dreadful contests, dangers,
Longer campaigns and crises, labors beyond all others,)
Around me I hear that eclat of the world, politics, produce,
The announcements of recognized things, science,
The approved growth of cities and the spread of inventions.
I see the ships, (they will last a few years,)
The vast factories with their foremen and workmen,
And hear the indorsement of all, and do not object to it.
But I too announce solid things,
Science, ships, politics, cities, factories, are not nothing,
Like a grand procession to music of distant bugles pouring,
triumphantly moving, and grander heaving in sight,
They stand for realities—all is as it should be.
Then my realities;
What else is so real as mine?
Libertad and the divine average, freedom to every slave on the face
of the earth,
The rapt promises and lumine of seers, the spiritual world, these
And our visions, the visions of poets, the most solid announcements
A Clear Midnight
This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou
Night, sleep, death and the stars.
BOOK XXXIII. SONGS OF PARTING
As the Time Draws Nigh
As the time draws nigh glooming a cloud,
A dread beyond of I know not what darkens me.
I shall go forth,
I shall traverse the States awhile, but I cannot tell whither or how long,
Perhaps soon some day or night while I am singing my voice will
O book, O chants! must all then amount to but this?
Must we barely arrive at this beginning of us? —and yet it is
enough, O soul;
O soul, we have positively appear’d—that is enough.
Years of the Modern
Years of the modern! years of the unperform’d!
Your horizon rises, I see it parting away for more august dramas,
I see not America only, not only Liberty’s nation but other nations
I see tremendous entrances and exits, new combinations, the solidarity
I see that force advancing with irresistible power on the world’s stage,
(Have the old forces, the old wars, played their parts? are the acts
suitable to them closed?)
I see Freedom, completely arm’d and victorious and very haughty,
with Law on one side and Peace on the other,
A stupendous trio all issuing forth against the idea of caste;
What historic denouements are these we so rapidly approach?
I see men marching and countermarching by swift millions,
I see the frontiers and boundaries of the old aristocracies broken,
I see the landmarks of European kings removed,
I see this day the People beginning their landmarks, (all others give way;)
Never were such sharp questions ask’d as this day,
Never was average man, his soul, more energetic, more like a God,
Lo, how he urges and urges, leaving the masses no rest!
His daring foot is on land and sea everywhere, he colonizes the
Pacific, the archipelagoes,
With the steamship, the electric telegraph, the newspaper, the
wholesale engines of war,
With these and the world-spreading factories he interlinks all
geography, all lands;
What whispers are these O lands, running ahead of you, passing under
Are all nations communing? is there going to be but one heart to the globe?
Is humanity forming en-masse? for lo, tyrants tremble, crowns grow dim,
The earth, restive, confronts a new era, perhaps a general divine war,
No one knows what will happen next, such portents fill the days and nights;
Years prophetical! the space ahead as I walk, as I vainly try to
pierce it, is full of phantoms,
Unborn deeds, things soon to be, project their shapes around me,
This incredible rush and heat, this strange ecstatic fever of dreams
Your dreams O years, how they penetrate through me! (I know not
whether I sleep or wake;)
The perform’d America and Europe grow dim, retiring in shadow behind me,
The unperform’d, more gigantic than ever, advance, advance upon me.
Of these years I sing,
How they pass and have pass’d through convuls’d pains, as through
How America illustrates birth, muscular youth, the promise, the sure
fulfilment, the absolute success, despite of people—illustrates
evil as well as good,
The vehement struggle so fierce for unity in one’s-self,
How many hold despairingly yet to the models departed, caste, myths,
obedience, compulsion, and to infidelity,
How few see the arrived models, the athletes, the Western States, or
see freedom or spirituality, or hold any faith in results,
(But I see the athletes, and I see the results of the war glorious
and inevitable, and they again leading to other results.)
How the great cities appear—how the Democratic masses, turbulent,
willful, as I love them,
How the whirl, the contest, the wrestle of evil with good, the
sounding and resounding, keep on and on,
How society waits unform’d, and is for a while between things ended
and things begun,
How America is the continent of glories, and of the triumph of
freedom and of the Democracies, and of the fruits of society, and
of all that is begun,
And how the States are complete in themselves—and how all triumphs
and glories are complete in themselves, to lead onward,
And how these of mine and of the States will in their turn be
convuls’d, and serve other parturitions and transitions,
And how all people, sights, combinations, the democratic masses too,
serve—and how every fact, and war itself, with all its horrors,
And how now or at any time each serves the exquisite transition of death.
Of seeds dropping into the ground, of births,
Of the steady concentration of America, inland, upward, to
impregnable and swarming places,
Of what Indiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, and the rest, are to be,
Of what a few years will show there in Nebraska, Colorado, Nevada,
and the rest,
(Or afar, mounting the Northern Pacific to Sitka or Aliaska,)
Of what the feuillage of America is the preparation for—and of what
all sights, North, South, East and West, are,
Of this Union welded in blood, of the solemn price paid, of the
unnamed lost ever present in my mind;
Of the temporary use of materials for identity’s sake,
Of the present, passing, departing—of the growth of completer men
than any yet,
Of all sloping down there where the fresh free giver the mother, the
Of mighty inland cities yet unsurvey’d and unsuspected,
Of the new and good names, of the modern developments, of
Of a free and original life there, of simple diet and clean and
Of litheness, majestic faces, clear eyes, and perfect physique there,
Of immense spiritual results future years far West, each side of the
Of these songs, well understood there, (being made for that area,)
Of the native scorn of grossness and gain there,
(O it lurks in me night and day—what is gain after all to savageness
Song at Sunset
Splendor of ended day floating and filling me,
Hour prophetic, hour resuming the past,
Inflating my throat, you divine average,
You earth and life till the last ray gleams I sing.
Open mouth of my soul uttering gladness,
Eyes of my soul seeing perfection,
Natural life of me faithfully praising things,
Corroborating forever the triumph of things.
Illustrious every one!
Illustrious what we name space, sphere of unnumber’d spirits,
Illustrious the mystery of motion in all beings, even the tiniest insect,
Illustrious the attribute of speech, the senses, the body,
Illustrious the passing light—illustrious the pale reflection on
the new moon in the western sky,
Illustrious whatever I see or hear or touch, to the last.
Good in all,
In the satisfaction and aplomb of animals,
In the annual return of the seasons,
In the hilarity of youth,
In the strength and flush of manhood,
In the grandeur and exquisiteness of old age,
In the superb vistas of death.
Wonderful to depart!
Wonderful to be here!
The heart, to jet the all-alike and innocent blood!
To breathe the air, how delicious!
To speak—to walk—to seize something by the hand!
To prepare for sleep, for bed, to look on my rose-color’d flesh!
To be conscious of my body, so satisfied, so large!
To be this incredible God I am!
To have gone forth among other Gods, these men and women I love.
Wonderful how I celebrate you and myself
How my thoughts play subtly at the spectacles around!
How the clouds pass silently overhead!
How the earth darts on and on! and how the sun, moon, stars, dart on and on!
How the water sports and sings! (surely it is alive!)
How the trees rise and stand up, with strong trunks, with branches
(Surely there is something more in each of the trees, some living soul.)
O amazement of things—even the least particle!
O spirituality of things!
O strain musical flowing through ages and continents, now reaching
me and America!
I take your strong chords, intersperse them, and cheerfully pass
I too carol the sun, usher’d or at noon, or as now, setting,
I too throb to the brain and beauty of the earth and of all the
growths of the earth,
I too have felt the resistless call of myself.
As I steam’d down the Mississippi,
As I wander’d over the prairies,
As I have lived, as I have look’d through my windows my eyes,
As I went forth in the morning, as I beheld the light breaking in the east,
As I bathed on the beach of the Eastern Sea, and again on the beach
of the Western Sea,
As I roam’d the streets of inland Chicago, whatever streets I have roam’d,
Or cities or silent woods, or even amid the sights of war,
Wherever I have been I have charged myself with contentment and triumph.
I sing to the last the equalities modern or old,
I sing the endless finales of things,
I say Nature continues, glory continues,
I praise with electric voice,
For I do not see one imperfection in the universe,
And I do not see one cause or result lamentable at last in the universe.
O setting sun! though the time has come,
I still warble under you, if none else does, unmitigated adoration.
The business man the acquirer vast,
After assiduous years surveying results, preparing for departure,
Devises houses and lands to his children, bequeaths stocks, goods,
funds for a school or hospital,
Leaves money to certain companions to buy tokens, souvenirs of gems
But I, my life surveying, closing,
With nothing to show to devise from its idle years,
Nor houses nor lands, nor tokens of gems or gold for my friends,
Yet certain remembrances of the war for you, and after you,
And little souvenirs of camps and soldiers, with my love,
I bind together and bequeath in this bundle of songs.
Camps of Green
Nor alone those camps of white, old comrades of the wars,
When as order’d forward, after a long march,
Footsore and weary, soon as the light lessens we halt for the night,
Some of us so fatigued carrying the gun and knapsack, dropping
asleep in our tracks,
Others pitching the little tents, and the fires lit up begin to sparkle,
Outposts of pickets posted surrounding alert through the dark,
And a word provided for countersign, careful for safety,
Till to the call of the drummers at daybreak loudly beating the drums,
We rise up refresh’d, the night and sleep pass’d over, and resume our
Or proceed to battle.
Lo, the camps of the tents of green,
Which the days of peace keep filling, and the days of war keep filling,
With a mystic army, (is it too order’d forward? is it too only
Till night and sleep pass over?)
Now in those camps of green, in their tents dotting the world,
In the parents, children, husbands, wives, in them, in the old and young,
Sleeping under the sunlight, sleeping under the moonlight, content
and silent there at last,
Behold the mighty bivouac-field and waiting-camp of all,
Of the corps and generals all, and the President over the corps and
And of each of us O soldiers, and of each and all in the ranks we fought,
(There without hatred we all, all meet.)
For presently O soldiers, we too camp in our place in the
bivouac-camps of green,
But we need not provide for outposts, nor word for the countersign,
Nor drummer to beat the morning drum.
The Sobbing of the Bells [Midnight, Sept. 19-20, 1881]
The sobbing of the bells, the sudden death-news everywhere,
The slumberers rouse, the rapport of the People,
(Full well they know that message in the darkness,
Full well return, respond within their breasts, their brains, the
The passionate toll and clang—city to city, joining, sounding, passing,
Those heart-beats of a Nation in the night.
As They Draw to a Close
As they draw to a close,
Of what underlies the precedent songs—of my aims in them,
Of the seed I have sought to plant in them,
Of joy, sweet joy, through many a year, in them,
(For them, for them have I lived, in them my work is done,)
Of many an aspiration fond, of many a dream and plan;
Through Space and Time fused in a chant, and the flowing eternal identity,
To Nature encompassing these, encompassing God—to the joyous,
To the sense of Death, and accepting exulting in Death in its turn
the same as life,
The entrance of man to sing;
To compact you, ye parted, diverse lives,
To put rapport the mountains and rocks and streams,
And the winds of the north, and the forests of oak and pine,
With you O soul.
Joy, Shipmate, Joy!
Joy, shipmate, Joy!
(Pleas’d to my soul at death I cry,)
Our life is closed, our life begins,
The long, long anchorage we leave,
The ship is clear at last, she leaps!
She swiftly courses from the shore,
Joy, shipmate, joy.
The Untold Want
The untold want by life and land ne’er granted,
Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.
What are those of the known but to ascend and enter the Unknown?
And what are those of life but for Death?
These carols sung to cheer my passage through the world I see,
For completion I dedicate to the Invisible World.
Now Finale to the Shore
Now finale to the shore,
Now land and life finale and farewell,
Now Voyager depart, (much, much for thee is yet in store,)
Often enough hast thou adventur’d o’er the seas,
Cautiously cruising, studying the charts,
Duly again to port and hawser’s tie returning;
But now obey thy cherish’d secret wish,
Embrace thy friends, leave all in order,
To port and hawser’s tie no more returning,
Depart upon thy endless cruise old Sailor.
BOOK XXXIV. SANDS AT SEVENTY
My city’s fit and noble name resumed,
Choice aboriginal name, with marvellous beauty, meaning,
A rocky founded island—shores where ever gayly dash the coming,
going, hurrying sea waves.
Sea-beauty! stretch’d and basking!
One side thy inland ocean laving, broad, with copious commerce,
And one the Atlantic’s wind caressing, fierce or gentle—mighty hulls
dark-gliding in the distance.
Isle of sweet brooks of drinking-water—healthy air and soil!
Isle of the salty shore and breeze and brine!
From Montauk Point
I stand as on some mighty eagle’s beak,
Eastward the sea absorbing, viewing, (nothing but sea and sky,)
The tossing waves, the foam, the ships in the distance,
The wild unrest, the snowy, curling caps—that inbound urge and urge
Seeking the shores forever.
To Those Who’ve Fail’d
To those who’ve fail’d, in aspiration vast,
To unnam’d soldiers fallen in front on the lead,
To calm, devoted engineers—to over-ardent travelers—to pilots on
To many a lofty song and picture without recognition—I’d rear
High, high above the rest—To all cut off before their time,
Possess’d by some strange spirit of fire,
Quench’d by an early death.
A Carol Closing Sixty-Nine
A carol closing sixty-nine—a resume—a repetition,
My lines in joy and hope continuing on the same,
Of ye, O God, Life, Nature, Freedom, Poetry;
Of you, my Land—your rivers, prairies, States—you, mottled Flag I love,
Your aggregate retain’d entire—Of north, south, east and west, your
Of me myself—the jocund heart yet beating in my breast,
The body wreck’d, old, poor and paralyzed—the strange inertia
falling pall-like round me,
The burning fires down in my sluggish blood not yet extinct,
The undiminish’d faith—the groups of loving friends.
The Bravest Soldiers
Brave, brave were the soldiers (high named to-day) who lived through
But the bravest press’d to the front and fell, unnamed, unknown.
A Font of Type
This latent mine—these unlaunch’d voices—passionate powers,
Wrath, argument, or praise, or comic leer, or prayer devout,
(Not nonpareil, brevier, bourgeois, long primer merely,)
These ocean waves arousable to fury and to death,
Or sooth’d to ease and sheeny sun and sleep,
Within the pallid slivers slumbering.
As I Sit Writing Here
As I sit writing here, sick and grown old,
Not my least burden is that dulness of the years, querilities,
Ungracious glooms, aches, lethargy, constipation, whimpering ennui,
May filter in my dally songs.
My Canary Bird
Did we count great, O soul, to penetrate the themes of mighty books,
Absorbing deep and full from thoughts, plays, speculations?
But now from thee to me, caged bird, to feel thy joyous warble,
Filling the air, the lonesome room, the long forenoon,
Is it not just as great, O soul?
Queries to My Seventieth Year
Approaching, nearing, curious,
Thou dim, uncertain spectre—bringest thou life or death?
Strength, weakness, blindness, more paralysis and heavier?
Or placid skies and sun? Wilt stir the waters yet?
Or haply cut me short for good? Or leave me here as now,
Dull, parrot-like and old, with crack’d voice harping, screeching?
The Wallabout Martyrs
Greater than memory of Achilles or Ulysses,
More, more by far to thee than tomb of Alexander,
Those cart loads of old charnel ashes, scales and splints of mouldy bones,
Once living men—once resolute courage, aspiration, strength,
The stepping stones to thee to-day and here, America.
The First Dandelion
Simple and fresh and fair from winter’s close emerging,
As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been,
Forth from its sunny nook of shelter’d grass—innocent, golden, calm
as the dawn,
The spring’s first dandelion shows its trustful face.
Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair’d in the adamant of Time.
How sweet the silent backward tracings!
The wanderings as in dreams—the meditation of old times resumed
—their loves, joys, persons, voyages.
To-Day and Thee
The appointed winners in a long-stretch’d game;
The course of Time and nations—Egypt, India, Greece and Rome;
The past entire, with all its heroes, histories, arts, experiments,
Its store of songs, inventions, voyages, teachers, books,
Garner’d for now and thee—To think of it!
The heirdom all converged in thee!
After the Dazzle of Day
After the dazzle of day is gone,
Only the dark, dark night shows to my eyes the stars;
After the clangor of organ majestic, or chorus, or perfect band,
Silent, athwart my soul, moves the symphony true.
Abraham Lincoln, Born Feb. 12, 1809
To-day, from each and all, a breath of prayer—a pulse of thought,
To memory of Him—to birth of Him.
Out of May’s Shows Selected
Apple orchards, the trees all cover’d with blossoms;
Wheat fields carpeted far and near in vital emerald green;
The eternal, exhaustless freshness of each early morning;
The yellow, golden, transparent haze of the warm afternoon sun;
The aspiring lilac bushes with profuse purple or white flowers
Red Jacket (From Aloft)
Upon this scene, this show,
Yielded to-day by fashion, learning, wealth,
(Nor in caprice alone—some grains of deepest meaning,)
Haply, aloft, (who knows?) from distant sky-clouds’ blended shapes,
As some old tree, or rock or cliff, thrill’d with its soul,
Product of Nature’s sun, stars, earth direct—a towering human form,
In hunting-shirt of film, arm’d with the rifle, a half-ironical
smile curving its phantom lips,
Like one of Ossian’s ghosts looks down.
Washington’s Monument February, 1885
Ah, not this marble, dead and cold:
Far from its base and shaft expanding—the round zones circling,
Thou, Washington, art all the world’s, the continents’ entire—not
yours alone, America,
Europe’s as well, in every part, castle of lord or laborer’s cot,
Or frozen North, or sultry South—the African’s—the Arab’s in his tent,
Old Asia’s there with venerable smile, seated amid her ruins;
(Greets the antique the hero new? ’tis but the same—the heir
legitimate, continued ever,
The indomitable heart and arm—proofs of the never-broken line,
Courage, alertness, patience, faith, the same—e’en in defeat
defeated not, the same:)
Wherever sails a ship, or house is built on land, or day or night,
Through teeming cities’ streets, indoors or out, factories or farms,
Now, or to come, or past—where patriot wills existed or exist,
Wherever Freedom, pois’d by Toleration, sway’d by Law,
Stands or is rising thy true monument.
Of That Blithe Throat of Thine
Of that blithe throat of thine from arctic bleak and blank,
I’ll mind the lesson, solitary bird—let me too welcome chilling drifts,
E’en the profoundest chill, as now—a torpid pulse, a brain unnerv’d,
Old age land-lock’d within its winter bay—(cold, cold, O cold!)
These snowy hairs, my feeble arm, my frozen feet,
For them thy faith, thy rule I take, and grave it to the last;
Not summer’s zones alone—not chants of youth, or south’s warm tides alone,
But held by sluggish floes, pack’d in the northern ice, the cumulus
These with gay heart I also sing.
What hurrying human tides, or day or night!
What passions, winnings, losses, ardors, swim thy waters!
What whirls of evil, bliss and sorrow, stem thee!
What curious questioning glances—glints of love!
Leer, envy, scorn, contempt, hope, aspiration!
Thou portal—thou arena—thou of the myriad long-drawn lines and groups!
(Could but thy flagstones, curbs, facades, tell their inimitable tales;
Thy windows rich, and huge hotels—thy side-walks wide;)
Thou of the endless sliding, mincing, shuffling feet!
Thou, like the parti-colored world itself—like infinite, teeming,
Thou visor’d, vast, unspeakable show and lesson!
To Get the Final Lilt of Songs
To get the final lilt of songs,
To penetrate the inmost lore of poets—to know the mighty ones,
Job, Homer, Eschylus, Dante, Shakespere, Tennyson, Emerson;
To diagnose the shifting-delicate tints of love and pride and doubt—
to truly understand,
To encompass these, the last keen faculty and entrance-price,
Old age, and what it brings from all its past experiences.
Old Salt Kossabone
Far back, related on my mother’s side,
Old Salt Kossabone, I’ll tell you how he died:
(Had been a sailor all his life—was nearly 90—lived with his
married grandchild, Jenny;
House on a hill, with view of bay at hand, and distant cape, and
stretch to open sea;)
The last of afternoons, the evening hours, for many a year his
In his great arm chair by the window seated,
(Sometimes, indeed, through half the day,)
Watching the coming, going of the vessels, he mutters to himself—
And now the close of all:
One struggling outbound brig, one day, baffled for long—cross-tides
and much wrong going,
At last at nightfall strikes the breeze aright, her whole luck veering,
And swiftly bending round the cape, the darkness proudly entering,
cleaving, as he watches,
“She’s free—she’s on her destination"—these the last words—when
Jenny came, he sat there dead,
Dutch Kossabone, Old Salt, related on my mother’s side, far back.
The Dead Tenor
As down the stage again,
With Spanish hat and plumes, and gait inimitable,
Back from the fading lessons of the past, I’d call, I’d tell and own,
How much from thee! the revelation of the singing voice from thee!
(So firm—so liquid-soft—again that tremulous, manly timbre!
The perfect singing voice—deepest of all to me the lesson—trial
and test of all:)
How through those strains distill’d—how the rapt ears, the soul of
Fernando’s heart, Manrico’s passionate call, Ernani’s, sweet Gennaro’s,
I fold thenceforth, or seek to fold, within my chants transmuting,
Freedom’s and Love’s and Faith’s unloos’d cantabile,
(As perfume’s, color’s, sunlight’s correlation:)
From these, for these, with these, a hurried line, dead tenor,
A wafted autumn leaf, dropt in the closing grave, the shovel’d earth,
To memory of thee.
Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost,
No birth, identity, form—no object of the world.
Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing;
Appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere confuse thy brain.
Ample are time and space—ample the fields of Nature.
The body, sluggish, aged, cold—the embers left from earlier fires,
The light in the eye grown dim, shall duly flame again;
The sun now low in the west rises for mornings and for noons continual;
To frozen clods ever the spring’s invisible law returns,
With grass and flowers and summer fruits and corn.
A song, a poem of itself—the word itself a dirge,
Amid the wilds, the rocks, the storm and wintry night,
To me such misty, strange tableaux the syllables calling up;
Yonnondio—I see, far in the west or north, a limitless ravine, with
plains and mountains dark,
I see swarms of stalwart chieftains, medicine-men, and warriors,
As flitting by like clouds of ghosts, they pass and are gone in the
(Race of the woods, the landscapes free, and the falls!
No picture, poem, statement, passing them to the future:)
Yonnondio! Yonnondio!—unlimn’d they disappear;
To-day gives place, and fades—the cities, farms, factories fade;
A muffled sonorous sound, a wailing word is borne through the air
for a moment,
Then blank and gone and still, and utterly lost.
Ever the undiscouraged, resolute, struggling soul of man;
(Have former armies fail’d? then we send fresh armies—and fresh again;)
Ever the grappled mystery of all earth’s ages old or new;
Ever the eager eyes, hurrahs, the welcome-clapping hands, the loud
Ever the soul dissatisfied, curious, unconvinced at last;
Struggling to-day the same—battling the same.
My science-friend, my noblest woman-friend,
(Now buried in an English grave—and this a memory-leaf for her dear sake,)
Ended our talk—"The sum, concluding all we know of old or modern
learning, intuitions deep,
“Of all Geologies—Histories—of all Astronomy—of Evolution,
“Is, that we all are onward, onward, speeding slowly, surely bettering,
“Life, life an endless march, an endless army, (no halt, but it is
“The world, the race, the soul—in space and time the universes,
“All bound as is befitting each—all surely going somewhere.”
Small the Theme of My Chant
Small the theme of my Chant, yet the greatest—namely, One’s-Self—
a simple, separate person. That, for the use of the New World, I sing.
Man’s physiology complete, from top to toe, I sing. Not physiognomy alone,
nor brain alone, is worthy for the Muse;—I say the Form complete
is worthier far. The Female equally with the Male, I sing.
Nor cease at the theme of One’s-Self. I speak the word of the
modern, the word En-Masse.
My Days I sing, and the Lands—with interstice I knew of hapless War.
(O friend, whoe’er you are, at last arriving hither to commence, I
feel through every leaf the pressure of your hand, which I return.
And thus upon our journey, footing the road, and more than once, and
link’d together let us go.)
Old farmers, travelers, workmen (no matter how crippled or bent,)
Old sailors, out of many a perilous voyage, storm and wreck,
Old soldiers from campaigns, with all their wounds, defeats and scars;
Enough that they’ve survived at all—long life’s unflinching ones!
Forth from their struggles, trials, fights, to have emerged at all—
in that alone,
True conquerors o’er all the rest.
The United States to Old World Critics
Here first the duties of to-day, the lessons of the concrete,
Wealth, order, travel, shelter, products, plenty;
As of the building of some varied, vast, perpetual edifice,
Whence to arise inevitable in time, the towering roofs, the lamps,
The solid-planted spires tall shooting to the stars.
The Calming Thought of All
That coursing on, whate’er men’s speculations,
Amid the changing schools, theologies, philosophies,
Amid the bawling presentations new and old,
The round earth’s silent vital laws, facts, modes continue.
Thanks in Old Age
Thanks in old age—thanks ere I go,
For health, the midday sun, the impalpable air—for life, mere life,
For precious ever-lingering memories, (of you my mother dear—you,
father—you, brothers, sisters, friends,)
For all my days—not those of peace alone—the days of war the same,
For gentle words, caresses, gifts from foreign lands,
For shelter, wine and meat—for sweet appreciation,
(You distant, dim unknown—or young or old—countless, unspecified,
We never met, and neer shall meet—and yet our souls embrace, long,
close and long;)
For beings, groups, love, deeds, words, books—for colors, forms,
For all the brave strong men—devoted, hardy men—who’ve forward
sprung in freedom’s help, all years, all lands
For braver, stronger, more devoted men—(a special laurel ere I go,
to life’s war’s chosen ones,
The cannoneers of song and thought—the great artillerists—the
foremost leaders, captains of the soul:)
As soldier from an ended war return’d—As traveler out of myriads,
to the long procession retrospective,
Thanks—joyful thanks!—a soldier’s, traveler’s thanks.
Life and Death
The two old, simple problems ever intertwined,
Close home, elusive, present, baffled, grappled.
By each successive age insoluble, pass’d on,
To ours to-day—and we pass on the same.
The Voice of the Rain
And who art thou? said I to the soft-falling shower,
Which, strange to tell, gave me an answer, as here translated:
I am the Poem of Earth, said the voice of the rain,
Eternal I rise impalpable out of the land and the bottomless sea,
Upward to heaven, whence, vaguely form’d, altogether changed, and
yet the same,
I descend to lave the drouths, atomies, dust-layers of the globe,
And all that in them without me were seeds only, latent, unborn;
And forever, by day and night, I give back life to my own origin,
and make pure and beautify it;
(For song, issuing from its birth-place, after fulfilment, wandering,
Reck’d or unreck’d, duly with love returns.)
Soon Shall the Winter’s Foil Be Here
Soon shall the winter’s foil be here;
Soon shall these icy ligatures unbind and melt—A little while,
And air, soil, wave, suffused shall be in softness, bloom and
growth—a thousand forms shall rise
From these dead clods and chills as from low burial graves.
Thine eyes, ears—all thy best attributes—all that takes cognizance
of natural beauty,
Shall wake and fill. Thou shalt perceive the simple shows, the
delicate miracles of earth,
Dandelions, clover, the emerald grass, the early scents and flowers,
The arbutus under foot, the willow’s yellow-green, the blossoming
plum and cherry;
With these the robin, lark and thrush, singing their songs—the
For such the scenes the annual play brings on.
While Not the Past Forgetting
While not the past forgetting,
To-day, at least, contention sunk entire—peace, brotherhood uprisen;
For sign reciprocal our Northern, Southern hands,
Lay on the graves of all dead soldiers, North or South,
(Nor for the past alone—for meanings to the future,)
Wreaths of roses and branches of palm.
The Dying Veteran
Amid these days of order, ease, prosperity,
Amid the current songs of beauty, peace, decorum,
I cast a reminiscence—(likely ’twill offend you,
I heard it in my boyhood;)—More than a generation since,
A queer old savage man, a fighter under Washington himself,
(Large, brave, cleanly, hot-blooded, no talker, rather spiritualistic,
Had fought in the ranks—fought well—had been all through the
Lay dying—sons, daughters, church-deacons, lovingly tending him,
Sharping their sense, their ears, towards his murmuring, half-caught words:
“Let me return again to my war-days,
To the sights and scenes—to forming the line of battle,
To the scouts ahead reconnoitering,
To the cannons, the grim artillery,
To the galloping aides, carrying orders,
To the wounded, the fallen, the heat, the suspense,
The perfume strong, the smoke, the deafening noise;
Away with your life of peace!—your joys of peace!
Give me my old wild battle-life again!”
Have you learn’d lessons only of those who admired you, and were
tender with you, and stood aside for you?
Have you not learn’d great lessons from those who reject you, and
brace themselves against you? or who treat you with contempt,
or dispute the passage with you?
A Prairie Sunset
Shot gold, maroon and violet, dazzling silver, emerald, fawn,
The earth’s whole amplitude and Nature’s multiform power consign’d
for once to colors;
The light, the general air possess’d by them—colors till now unknown,
No limit, confine—not the Western sky alone—the high meridian—
North, South, all,
Pure luminous color fighting the silent shadows to the last.
Down on the ancient wharf, the sand, I sit, with a new-comer chatting:
He shipp’d as green-hand boy, and sail’d away, (took some sudden,
Since, twenty years and more have circled round and round,
While he the globe was circling round and round, —and now returns:
How changed the place—all the old land-marks gone—the parents dead;
(Yes, he comes back to lay in port for good—to settle—has a
well-fill’d purse—no spot will do but this;)
The little boat that scull’d him from the sloop, now held in leash I see,
I hear the slapping waves, the restless keel, the rocking in the sand,
I see the sailor kit, the canvas bag, the great box bound with brass,
I scan the face all berry-brown and bearded—the stout-strong frame,
Dress’d in its russet suit of good Scotch cloth:
(Then what the told-out story of those twenty years? What of the future?)
Orange Buds by Mail from Florida
A lesser proof than old Voltaire’s, yet greater,
Proof of this present time, and thee, thy broad expanse, America,
To my plain Northern hut, in outside clouds and snow,
Brought safely for a thousand miles o’er land and tide,
Some three days since on their own soil live-sprouting,
Now here their sweetness through my room unfolding,
A bunch of orange buds by mall from Florida.
The soft voluptuous opiate shades,
The sun just gone, the eager light dispell’d—(I too will soon be
A haze—nirwana—rest and night—oblivion.
You Lingering Sparse Leaves of Me
You lingering sparse leaves of me on winter-nearing boughs,
And I some well-shorn tree of field or orchard-row;
You tokens diminute and lorn—(not now the flush of May, or July
clover-bloom—no grain of August now;)
You pallid banner-staves—you pennants valueless—you overstay’d of time,
Yet my soul-dearest leaves confirming all the rest,
Not Meagre, Latent Boughs Alone
Not meagre, latent boughs alone, O songs! (scaly and bare, like
But haply for some sunny day (who knows?) some future spring, some
To verdant leaves, or sheltering shade—to nourishing fruit,
Apples and grapes—the stalwart limbs of trees emerging—the fresh,
free, open air,
And love and faith, like scented roses blooming.
The Dead Emperor
To-day, with bending head and eyes, thou, too, Columbia,
Less for the mighty crown laid low in sorrow—less for the Emperor,
Thy true condolence breathest, sendest out o’er many a salt sea mile,
Mourning a good old man—a faithful shepherd, patriot.
As the Greek’s Signal Flame
As the Greek’s signal flame, by antique records told,
Rose from the hill-top, like applause and glory,
Welcoming in fame some special veteran, hero,
With rosy tinge reddening the land he’d served,
So I aloft from Mannahatta’s ship-fringed shore,
Lift high a kindled brand for thee, Old Poet.
The Dismantled Ship
In some unused lagoon, some nameless bay,
On sluggish, lonesome waters, anchor’d near the shore,
An old, dismasted, gray and batter’d ship, disabled, done,
After free voyages to all the seas of earth, haul’d up at last and
Lies rusting, mouldering.
Now Precedent Songs, Farewell
Now precedent songs, farewell—by every name farewell,
(Trains of a staggering line in many a strange procession, waggons,
From ups and downs—with intervals—from elder years, mid-age, or youth,)
“In Cabin’d Ships, or Thee Old Cause or Poets to Come
Or Paumanok, Song of Myself, Calamus, or Adam,
Or Beat! Beat! Drums! or To the Leaven’d Soil they Trod,
Or Captain! My Captain! Kosmos, Quicksand Years, or Thoughts,
Thou Mother with thy Equal Brood,” and many, many more unspecified,
From fibre heart of mine—from throat and tongue—(My life’s hot
The personal urge and form for me—not merely paper, automatic type
Each song of mine—each utterance in the past—having its long, long
Of life or death, or soldier’s wound, of country’s loss or safety,
(O heaven! what flash and started endless train of all! compared
indeed to that!
What wretched shred e’en at the best of all!)
An Evening Lull
After a week of physical anguish,
Unrest and pain, and feverish heat,
Toward the ending day a calm and lull comes on,
Three hours of peace and soothing rest of brain.
Old Age’s Lambent Peaks
The touch of flame—the illuminating fire—the loftiest look at last,
O’er city, passion, sea—o’er prairie, mountain, wood—the earth itself,
The airy, different, changing hues of all, in failing twilight,
Objects and groups, bearings, faces, reminiscences;
The calmer sight—the golden setting, clear and broad:
So much i’ the atmosphere, the points of view, the situations whence
Bro’t out by them alone—so much (perhaps the best) unreck’d before;
The lights indeed from them—old age’s lambent peaks.
After the Supper and Talk
After the supper and talk—after the day is done,
As a friend from friends his final withdrawal prolonging,
Good-bye and Good-bye with emotional lips repeating,
(So hard for his hand to release those hands—no more will they meet,
No more for communion of sorrow and joy, of old and young,
A far-stretching journey awaits him, to return no more,)
Shunning, postponing severance—seeking to ward off the last word
ever so little,
E’en at the exit-door turning—charges superfluous calling back—
e’en as he descends the steps,
Something to eke out a minute additional—shadows of nightfall deepening,
Farewells, messages lessening—dimmer the forthgoer’s visage and form,
Soon to be lost for aye in the darkness—loth, O so loth to depart!
Garrulous to the very last.
BOOKXXXV. GOOD-BYE MY FANCY
Sail out for Good, Eidolon Yacht!
Heave the anchor short!
Raise main-sail and jib—steer forth,
O little white-hull’d sloop, now speed on really deep waters,
(I will not call it our concluding voyage,
But outset and sure entrance to the truest, best, maturest;)
Depart, depart from solid earth—no more returning to these shores,
Now on for aye our infinite free venture wending,
Spurning all yet tried ports, seas, hawsers, densities, gravitation,
Sail out for good, eidolon yacht of me!
Lingering Last Drops
And whence and why come you?
We know not whence, (was the answer,)
We only know that we drift here with the rest,
That we linger’d and lagg’d—but were wafted at last, and are now here,
To make the passing shower’s concluding drops.
Good-Bye My Fancy
Good-bye my fancy—(I had a word to say,
But ’tis not quite the time—The best of any man’s word or say,
Is when its proper place arrives—and for its meaning,
I keep mine till the last.)
On, on the Same, Ye Jocund Twain!
On, on the same, ye jocund twain!
My life and recitative, containing birth, youth, mid-age years,
Fitful as motley-tongues of flame, inseparably twined and merged in
My single soul—aims, confirmations, failures, joys—Nor single soul alone,
I chant my nation’s crucial stage, (America’s, haply humanity’s)—
the trial great, the victory great,
A strange eclaircissement of all the masses past, the eastern world,
the ancient, medieval,
Here, here from wanderings, strayings, lessons, wars, defeats—here
at the west a voice triumphant—justifying all,
A gladsome pealing cry—a song for once of utmost pride and satisfaction;
I chant from it the common bulk, the general average horde, (the
best sooner than the worst)—And now I chant old age,
(My verses, written first for forenoon life, and for the summer’s,
I pass to snow-white hairs the same, and give to pulses
winter-cool’d the same;)
As here in careless trill, I and my recitatives, with faith and love,
wafting to other work, to unknown songs, conditions,
On, on ye jocund twain! continue on the same!
MY 71st Year
After surmounting three-score and ten,
With all their chances, changes, losses, sorrows,
My parents’ deaths, the vagaries of my life, the many tearing
passions of me, the war of ’63 and ’4,
As some old broken soldier, after a long, hot, wearying march, or
haply after battle,
To-day at twilight, hobbling, answering company roll-call, Here,
with vital voice,
Reporting yet, saluting yet the Officer over all.
A vague mist hanging ’round half the pages:
(Sometimes how strange and clear to the soul,
That all these solid things are indeed but apparitions, concepts,
The Pallid Wreath
Somehow I cannot let it go yet, funeral though it is,
Let it remain back there on its nail suspended,
With pink, blue, yellow, all blanch’d, and the white now gray and ashy,
One wither’d rose put years ago for thee, dear friend;
But I do not forget thee. Hast thou then faded?
Is the odor exhaled? Are the colors, vitalities, dead?
No, while memories subtly play—the past vivid as ever;
For but last night I woke, and in that spectral ring saw thee,
Thy smile, eyes, face, calm, silent, loving as ever:
So let the wreath hang still awhile within my eye-reach,
It is not yet dead to me, nor even pallid.
An Ended Day
The soothing sanity and blitheness of completion,
The pomp and hurried contest-glare and rush are done;
Now triumph! transformation! jubilate!
Old Age’s Ship & Crafty Death’s
From east and west across the horizon’s edge,
Two mighty masterful vessels sailers steal upon us:
But we’ll make race a-time upon the seas—a battle-contest yet! bear
(Our joys of strife and derring-do to the last!)
Put on the old ship all her power to-day!
Crowd top-sail, top-gallant and royal studding-sails,
Out challenge and defiance—flags and flaunting pennants added,
As we take to the open—take to the deepest, freest waters.
To the Pending Year
Have I no weapon-word for thee—some message brief and fierce?
(Have I fought out and done indeed the battle?) Is there no shot left,
For all thy affectations, lisps, scorns, manifold silliness?
Nor for myself—my own rebellious self in thee?
Down, down, proud gorge!—though choking thee;
Thy bearded throat and high-borne forehead to the gutter;
Crouch low thy neck to eleemosynary gifts.
I doubt it not—then more, far more;
In each old song bequeath’d—in every noble page or text,
(Different—something unreck’d before—some unsuspected author,)
In every object, mountain, tree, and star—in every birth and life,
As part of each—evolv’d from each—meaning, behind the ostent,
A mystic cipher waits infolded.
Long, Long Hence
After a long, long course, hundreds of years, denials,
Accumulations, rous’d love and joy and thought,
Hopes, wishes, aspirations, ponderings, victories, myriads of readers,
Coating, compassing, covering—after ages’ and ages’ encrustations,
Then only may these songs reach fruition.
Bravo, Paris Exposition!
Add to your show, before you close it, France,
With all the rest, visible, concrete, temples, towers, goods,
machines and ores,
Our sentiment wafted from many million heart-throbs, ethereal but solid,
(We grand-sons and great-grandsons do not forget your grandsires,)
From fifty Nations and nebulous Nations, compacted, sent oversea to-day,
America’s applause, love, memories and good-will.
Over and through the burial chant,
Organ and solemn service, sermon, bending priests,
To me come interpolation sounds not in the show—plainly to me,
crowding up the aisle and from the window,
Of sudden battle’s hurry and harsh noises—war’s grim game to sight
and ear in earnest;
The scout call’d up and forward—the general mounted and his aides
around him—the new-brought word—the instantaneous order issued;
The rifle crack—the cannon thud—the rushing forth of men from their
The clank of cavalry—the strange celerity of forming ranks—the
slender bugle note;
The sound of horses’ hoofs departing—saddles, arms, accoutrements.
To the Sun-Set Breeze
Ah, whispering, something again, unseen,
Where late this heated day thou enterest at my window, door,
Thou, laving, tempering all, cool-freshing, gently vitalizing
Me, old, alone, sick, weak-down, melted-worn with sweat;
Thou, nestling, folding close and firm yet soft, companion better
than talk, book, art,
(Thou hast, O Nature! elements! utterance to my heart beyond the
rest—and this is of them,)
So sweet thy primitive taste to breathe within—thy soothing fingers
my face and hands,
Thou, messenger—magical strange bringer to body and spirit of me,
(Distances balk’d—occult medicines penetrating me from head to foot,)
I feel the sky, the prairies vast—I feel the mighty northern lakes,
I feel the ocean and the forest—somehow I feel the globe itself
swift-swimming in space;
Thou blown from lips so loved, now gone—haply from endless store,
(For thou art spiritual, Godly, most of all known to my sense,)
Minister to speak to me, here and now, what word has never told, and
Art thou not universal concrete’s distillation? Law’s, all
Astronomy’s last refinement?
Hast thou no soul? Can I not know, identify thee?
An ancient song, reciting, ending,
Once gazing toward thee, Mother of All,
Musing, seeking themes fitted for thee,
Accept me, thou saidst, the elder ballads,
And name for me before thou goest each ancient poet.
(Of many debts incalculable,
Haply our New World’s chieftest debt is to old poems.)
Ever so far back, preluding thee, America,
Old chants, Egyptian priests, and those of Ethiopia,
The Hindu epics, the Grecian, Chinese, Persian,
The Biblic books and prophets, and deep idyls of the Nazarene,
The Iliad, Odyssey, plots, doings, wanderings of Eneas,
Hesiod, Eschylus, Sophocles, Merlin, Arthur,
The Cid, Roland at Roncesvalles, the Nibelungen,
The troubadours, minstrels, minnesingers, skalds,
Chaucer, Dante, flocks of singing birds,
The Border Minstrelsy, the bye-gone ballads, feudal tales, essays, plays,
Shakespere, Schiller, Walter Scott, Tennyson,
As some vast wondrous weird dream-presences,
The great shadowy groups gathering around,
Darting their mighty masterful eyes forward at thee,
Thou! with as now thy bending neck and head, with courteous hand
and word, ascending,
Thou! pausing a moment, drooping thine eyes upon them, blent
with their music,
Well pleased, accepting all, curiously prepared for by them,
Thou enterest at thy entrance porch.
A Christmas Greeting
Welcome, Brazilian brother—thy ample place is ready;
A loving hand—a smile from the north—a sunny instant hall!
(Let the future care for itself, where it reveals its troubles,
Ours, ours the present throe, the democratic aim, the acceptance and
To thee to-day our reaching arm, our turning neck—to thee from us
the expectant eye,
Thou cluster free! thou brilliant lustrous one! thou, learning well,
The true lesson of a nation’s light in the sky,
(More shining than the Cross, more than the Crown,)
The height to be superb humanity.
Sounds of the Winter
Sounds of the winter too,
Sunshine upon the mountains—many a distant strain
From cheery railroad train—from nearer field, barn, house,
The whispering air—even the mute crops, garner’d apples, corn,
Children’s and women’s tones—rhythm of many a farmer and of flail,
An old man’s garrulous lips among the rest, Think not we give out yet,
Forth from these snowy hairs we keep up yet the lilt.
A Twilight Song
As I sit in twilight late alone by the flickering oak-flame,
Musing on long-pass’d war-scenes—of the countless buried unknown
Of the vacant names, as unindented air’s and sea’s—the unreturn’d,
The brief truce after battle, with grim burial-squads, and the
Of gather’d from dead all America, North, South, East, West, whence
they came up,
From wooded Maine, New-England’s farms, from fertile Pennsylvania,
From the measureless West, Virginia, the South, the Carolinas, Texas,
(Even here in my room-shadows and half-lights in the noiseless
Again I see the stalwart ranks on-filing, rising—I hear the
rhythmic tramp of the armies;)
You million unwrit names all, all—you dark bequest from all the war,
A special verse for you—a flash of duty long neglected—your mystic
roll strangely gather’d here,
Each name recall’d by me from out the darkness and death’s ashes,
Henceforth to be, deep, deep within my heart recording, for many
Your mystic roll entire of unknown names, or North or South,
Embalm’d with love in this twilight song.
When the Full-Grown Poet Came
When the full-grown poet came,
Out spake pleased Nature (the round impassive globe, with all its
shows of day and night,) saying, He is mine;
But out spake too the Soul of man, proud, jealous and unreconciled,
Nay he is mine alone;
—Then the full-grown poet stood between the two, and took each
by the hand;
And to-day and ever so stands, as blender, uniter, tightly holding hands,
Which he will never release until he reconciles the two,
And wholly and joyously blends them.
When his hour for death had come,
He slowly rais’d himself from the bed on the floor,
Drew on his war-dress, shirt, leggings, and girdled the belt around
Call’d for vermilion paint (his looking-glass was held before him,)
Painted half his face and neck, his wrists, and back-hands.
Put the scalp-knife carefully in his belt—then lying down, resting
Rose again, half sitting, smiled, gave in silence his extended hand
to each and all,
Sank faintly low to the floor (tightly grasping the tomahawk handle,)
Fix’d his look on wife and little children—the last:
(And here a line in memory of his name and death.)
A Persian Lesson
For his o’erarching and last lesson the greybeard sufi,
In the fresh scent of the morning in the open air,
On the slope of a teeming Persian rose-garden,
Under an ancient chestnut-tree wide spreading its branches,
Spoke to the young priests and students.
“Finally my children, to envelop each word, each part of the rest,
Allah is all, all, all—immanent in every life and object,
May-be at many and many-a-more removes—yet Allah, Allah, Allah is there.
“Has the estray wander’d far? Is the reason-why strangely hidden?
Would you sound below the restless ocean of the entire world?
Would you know the dissatisfaction? the urge and spur of every life;
The something never still’d—never entirely gone? the invisible need
of every seed?
“It is the central urge in every atom,
(Often unconscious, often evil, downfallen,)
To return to its divine source and origin, however distant,
Latent the same in subject and in object, without one exception.”
The commonplace I sing;
How cheap is health! how cheap nobility!
Abstinence, no falsehood, no gluttony, lust;
The open air I sing, freedom, toleration,
(Take here the mainest lesson—less from books—less from the schools,)
The common day and night—the common earth and waters,
Your farm—your work, trade, occupation,
The democratic wisdom underneath, like solid ground for all.
“The Rounded Catalogue Divine Complete”
The devilish and the dark, the dying and diseas’d,
The countless (nineteen-twentieths) low and evil, crude and savage,
The crazed, prisoners in jail, the horrible, rank, malignant,
Venom and filth, serpents, the ravenous sharks, liars, the dissolute;
(What is the part the wicked and the loathesome bear within earth’s
Newts, crawling things in slime and mud, poisons,
The barren soil, the evil men, the slag and hideous rot.
More experiences and sights, stranger, than you’d think for;
Times again, now mostly just after sunrise or before sunset,
Sometimes in spring, oftener in autumn, perfectly clear weather, in
Camps far or near, the crowded streets of cities and the shopfronts,
(Account for it or not—credit or not—it is all true,
And my mate there could tell you the like—we have often confab’d
People and scenes, animals, trees, colors and lines, plain as could be,
Farms and dooryards of home, paths border’d with box, lilacs in corners,
Weddings in churches, thanksgiving dinners, returns of long-absent sons,
Glum funerals, the crape-veil’d mother and the daughters,
Trials in courts, jury and judge, the accused in the box,
Contestants, battles, crowds, bridges, wharves,
Now and then mark’d faces of sorrow or joy,
(I could pick them out this moment if I saw them again,)
Show’d to me—just to the right in the sky-edge,
Or plainly there to the left on the hill-tops.
L. of G.’s Purport
Not to exclude or demarcate, or pick out evils from their formidable
masses (even to expose them,)
But add, fuse, complete, extend—and celebrate the immortal and the good.
Haughty this song, its words and scope,
To span vast realms of space and time,
Evolution—the cumulative—growths and generations.
Begun in ripen’d youth and steadily pursued,
Wandering, peering, dallying with all—war, peace, day and night
Never even for one brief hour abandoning my task,
I end it here in sickness, poverty, and old age.
I sing of life, yet mind me well of death:
To-day shadowy Death dogs my steps, my seated shape, and has for years—
Draws sometimes close to me, as face to face.
How dare one say it?
After the cycles, poems, singers, plays,
Vaunted Ionia’s, India’s—Homer, Shakspere—the long, long times’
thick dotted roads, areas,
The shining clusters and the Milky Ways of stars—Nature’s pulses reap’d,
All retrospective passions, heroes, war, love, adoration,
All ages’ plummets dropt to their utmost depths,
All human lives, throats, wishes, brains—all experiences’ utterance;
After the countless songs, or long or short, all tongues, all lands,
Still something not yet told in poesy’s voice or print—something lacking,
(Who knows? the best yet unexpress’d and lacking.)
Grand Is the Seen
Grand is the seen, the light, to me—grand are the sky and stars,
Grand is the earth, and grand are lasting time and space,
And grand their laws, so multiform, puzzling, evolutionary;
But grander far the unseen soul of me, comprehending, endowing all those,
Lighting the light, the sky and stars, delving the earth, sailing
(What were all those, indeed, without thee, unseen soul? of what
amount without thee?)
More evolutionary, vast, puzzling, O my soul!
More multiform far—more lasting thou than they.
Unseen buds, infinite, hidden well,
Under the snow and ice, under the darkness, in every square or cubic inch,
Germinal, exquisite, in delicate lace, microscopic, unborn,
Like babes in wombs, latent, folded, compact, sleeping;
Billions of billions, and trillions of trillions of them waiting,
(On earth and in the sea—the universe—the stars there in the
Urging slowly, surely forward, forming endless,
And waiting ever more, forever more behind.
Good-Bye My Fancy!
Good-bye my Fancy!
Farewell dear mate, dear love!
I’m going away, I know not where,
Or to what fortune, or whether I may ever see you again,
So Good-bye my Fancy.
Now for my last—let me look back a moment;
The slower fainter ticking of the clock is in me,
Exit, nightfall, and soon the heart-thud stopping.
Long have we lived, joy’d, caress’d together;
Delightful!—now separation—Good-bye my Fancy.
Yet let me not be too hasty,
Long indeed have we lived, slept, filter’d, become really blended
Then if we die we die together, (yes, we’ll remain one,)
If we go anywhere we’ll go together to meet what happens,
May-be we’ll be better off and blither, and learn something,
May-be it is yourself now really ushering me to the true songs, (who
May-be it is you the mortal knob really undoing, turning—so now finally,
Good-bye—and hail! my Fancy.