Prayer of Columbus
wreck'd old man,
Thrown on this savage shore,
far from home,
Pent by the sea and dark rebellious brows,
twelve dreary months,
stiff with many toils,
sicken'd and nigh to death,
I take my way along the island's edge,
Venting a heavy heart.
I am too full of woe!
Haply I may not live another day;
I cannot rest O God,
I cannot eat or drink or sleep,
Till I put forth myself,
once more to Thee,
bathe myself once more in Thee,
commune with Thee,
Report myself once more to Thee.
Thou knowest my years entire,
My long and crowded life of active work,
not adoration merely;
Thou knowest the prayers and vigils of my youth,
Thou knowest my manhood's solemn and visionary meditations,
Thou knowest how before I commenced I devoted all to come to Thee,
Thou knowest I have in age ratified all those vows and strictly kept them,
Thou knowest I have not once lost nor faith nor ecstasy in Thee,
Accepting all from Thee,
as duly come from Thee.
All my emprises have been fill'd with Thee,
begun and carried on in thoughts of Thee,
Sailing the deep or journeying the land for Thee;
leaving results to Thee.
O I am sure they really came from Thee,
the unconquerable will,
stronger than words,
A message from the Heavens whispering to me even in sleep,
These sped me on.
By me and these the work so far accomplish'd,
By me earth's elder cloy'd and stifled lands uncloy'd,
By me the hemispheres rounded and tied,
the unknown to the known.
The end I know not,
it is all in Thee,
Or small or great I know not --haply what broad fields,
Haply the brutish measureless human undergrowth I know,
Transplanted there may rise to stature,
knowledge worthy Thee,
Haply the swords I know may there indeed be turn'd to reaping-tools,
Haply the lifeless cross I know,
Europe's dead cross,
may bud and blossom there.
One effort more,
my altar this bleak sand;
That Thou O God my life hast lighted,
With ray of light,
vouchsafed of Thee,
Light rare untellable,
lighting the very light,
Beyond all signs,
For that O God,
be it my latest word,
here on my knees,
I thank Thee.
My terminus near,
The clouds already closing in upon me,
The voyage balk'd,
the course disputed,
I yield my ships to Thee.
my limbs grow nerveless,
My brain feels rack'd,
Let the old timbers part,
I will not part,
I will cling fast to Thee,
though the waves buffet me,
Thee at least I know.
Is it the prophet's thought I speak,
or am I raving?
What do I know of life?
what of myself?
I know not even my own work past or present,
Dim ever-shifting guesses of it spread before me,
Of newer better worlds,
their mighty parturition,
And these things I see suddenly,
what mean they?
As if some miracle,
some hand divine unseal'd my eyes,
Shadowy vast shapes smile through the air and sky,
And on the distant waves sail countless ships,
And anthems in new tongues I hear saluting me.
1 I wander all night in my vision,
Stepping with light feet,
swiftly and noiselessly stepping and stopping,
Bending with open eyes over the shut eyes of sleepers,
Wandering and confused,
lost to myself,
How solemn they look there,
stretch'd and still,
How quiet they breathe,
the little children in their cradles.
The wretched features of ennuyes,
the white features of corpses,
the livid faces of drunkards,
the sick-gray faces of onanists,
The gash'd bodies on battle-fields,
the insane in their strong-door'd rooms,
the sacred idiots,
the new-born emerging from gates,
and the dying emerging from gates,
The night pervades them and infolds them.
The married couple sleep calmly in their bed,
he with his palm on the hip of the wife,
and she with her palm on the hip of the husband,
The sisters sleep lovingly side by side in their bed,
The men sleep lovingly side by side in theirs,
And the mother sleeps with her little child carefully wrapt.
The blind sleep,
and the deaf and dumb sleep,
The prisoner sleeps well in the prison,
the runaway son sleeps,
The murderer that is to be hung next day,
how does he sleep?
And the murder'd person,
how does he sleep?
The female that loves unrequited sleeps,
And the male that loves unrequited sleeps,
The head of the money-maker that plotted all day sleeps,
And the enraged and treacherous dispositions,
I stand in the dark with drooping eyes by the worst-suffering and the most restless,
I pass my hands soothingly to and fro a few inches from them,
The restless sink in their beds,
they fitfully sleep.
Now I pierce the darkness,
new beings appear,
The earth recedes from me into the night,
I saw that it was beautiful,
and I see that what is not the earth is beautiful.
I go from bedside to bedside,
I sleep close with the other sleepers each in turn,
I dream in my dream all the dreams of the other dreamers,
And I become the other dreamers.
I am a dance --play up there!
the fit is whirling me fast!
I am the ever-laughing --it is new moon and twilight,
I see the hiding of douceurs,
I see nimble ghosts whichever way look,
Cache and cache again deep in the ground and sea,
and where it is neither ground nor sea.
Well do they do their jobs those journeymen divine,
Only from me can they hide nothing,
and would not if they could,
I reckon I am their boss and they make me a pet besides,
And surround me and lead me and run ahead when I walk,
To lift their cunning covers to signify me with stretch'd arms,
and resume the way;
Onward we move,
a gay gang of blackguards!
with mirth-shouting music and wild-flapping pennants of joy!
I am the actor,
The emigrant and the exile,
the criminal that stood in the box,
He who has been famous and he who shall be famous after to-day,
the well-form'd person,
the wasted or feeble person.
I am she who adorn'd herself and folded her hair expectantly,
My truant lover has come,
and it is dark.
Double yourself and receive me darkness,
Receive me and my lover too,
he will not let me go without him.
I roll myself upon you as upon a bed,
I resign myself to the dusk.
He whom I call answers me and takes the place of my lover,
He rises with me silently from the bed.
you are gentler than my lover,
his flesh was sweaty and panting,
I feel the hot moisture yet that he left me.
My hands are spread forth,
I pass them in all directions,
I would sound up the shadowy shore to which you are journeying.
Be careful darkness!
already what was it touch'd me?
I thought my lover had gone,
else darkness and he are one,
I hear the heart-beat,
I fade away.
2 I descend my western course,
my sinews are flaccid,
Perfume and youth course through me and I am their wake.
It is my face yellow and wrinkled instead of the old woman's,
I sit low in a straw-bottom chair and carefully darn my grandson's stockings.
It is I too,
the sleepless widow looking out on the winter midnight,
I see the sparkles of starshine on the icy and pallid earth.
A shroud I see and I am the shroud,
I wrap a body and lie in the coffin,
It is dark here under ground,
it is not evil or pain here,
it is blank here,
(It seems to me that every thing in the light and air ought to be happy,
Whoever is not in his coffin and the dark grave let him know he has enough.)
3 I see a beautiful gigantic swimmer swimming naked through the eddies of the sea,
His brown hair lies close and even to his head,
he strikes out with courageous arms,
he urges himself with his legs,
I see his white body,
I see his undaunted eyes,
I hate the swift-running eddies that would dash him head-foremost on the rocks.
What are you doing you ruffianly red-trickled waves?
Will you kill the courageous giant?
will you kill him in the prime of his middle age?
Steady and long he struggles,
He is baffled,
he holds out while his strength holds out,
The slapping eddies are spotted with his blood,
they bear him away,
they roll him,
His beautiful body is borne in the circling eddies,
it is continually bruis'd on rocks,
Swiftly and ought of sight is borne the brave corpse.
4 I turn but do not extricate myself,
but with darkness yet.
The beach is cut by the razory ice-wind,
the wreck-guns sound,
The tempest lulls,
the moon comes floundering through the drifts.
I look where the ship helplessly heads end on,
I hear the burst as she strikes,
I hear the howls of dismay,
they grow fainter and fainter.
I cannot aid with my wringing fingers,
I can but rush to the surf and let it drench me and freeze upon me.
I search with the crowd,
not one of the company is wash'd to us alive,
In the morning I help pick up the dead and lay them in rows in a barn.
5 Now of the older war-days,
the defeat at Brooklyn,
Washington stands inside the lines,
he stands on the intrench'd hills amid a crowd of officers.
His face is cold and damp,
he cannot repress the weeping drops,
He lifts the glass perpetually to his eyes,
the color is blanch'd from his cheeks,
He sees the slaughter of the southern braves confided to him by their parents.
The same at last and at last when peace is declared,
He stands in the room of the old tavern,
the well-belov'd soldiers all pass through,
The officers speechless and slow draw near in their turns,
The chief encircles their necks with his arm and kisses them on the cheek,
He kisses lightly the wet cheeks one after another,
he shakes hands and bids good-by to the army.
6 Now what my mother told me one day as we sat at dinner together,
Of when she was a nearly grown girl living home with her parents on the old homestead.
A red squaw came one breakfast-time to the old homestead,
On her back she carried a bundle of rushes for rush-bottoming chairs,
half-envelop'd her face,
Her step was free and elastic,
and her voice sounded exquisitely as she spoke.
My mother look'd in delight and amazement at the stranger,
She look'd at the freshness of her tall-borne face and full and pliant limbs,
The more she look'd upon her she loved her,
Never before had she seen such wonderful beauty and purity,
She made her sit on a bench by the jamb of the fireplace,
she cook'd food for her,
She had no work to give her,
but she gave her remembrance and fondness.
The red squaw staid all the forenoon,
and toward the middle of the afternoon she went away,
O my mother was loth to have her go away,
All the week she thought of her,
she watch'd for her many a month,
She remember'd her many a winter and many a summer,
But the red squaw never came nor was heard of there again.
7 A show of the summer softness --a contact of something unseen --an amour of the light and air,
I am jealous and overwhelm'd with friendliness,
And will go gallivant with the light and air myself.
O love and summer,
you are in the dreams and in me,
Autumn and winter are in the dreams,
the farmer goes with his thrift,
The droves and crops increase,
the barns are well-fill'd.
Elements merge in the night,
ships make tacks in the dreams,
The sailor sails,
the exile returns home,
The fugitive returns unharm'd,
the immigrant is back beyond months and years,
The poor Irishman lives in the simple house of his childhood with the well known neighbors and faces,
They warmly welcome him,
he is barefoot again,
he forgets he is well off,
The Dutchman voyages home,
and the Scotchman and Welshman voyage home,
and the native of the Mediterranean voyages home,
To every port of England,
enter well-fill'd ships,
The Swiss foots it toward his hills,
the Prussian goes his way,
the Hungarian his way,
and the Pole his way,
The Swede returns,
and the Dane and Norwegian return.
The homeward bound and the outward bound,
The beautiful lost swimmer,
the female that loves unrequited,
The actor and actress,
those through with their parts and those waiting to commence,
The affectionate boy,
the husband and wife,
the nominee that is chosen and the nominee that has fail'd,
The great already known and the great any time after to-day,
The criminal that stood in the box,
the judge that sat and sentenced him,
the fluent lawyers,
The laugher and weeper,
the midnight widow,
the red squaw,
he that is wrong'd,
and every one between this and them in the dark,
I swear they are averaged now --one is no better than the other,
The night and sleep have liken'd them and restored them.
I swear they are all beautiful,
Every one that sleeps is beautiful,
every thing in the dim light is beautiful,
The wildest and bloodiest is over,
and all is peace.
Peace is always beautiful,
The myth of heaven indicates peace and night.
The myth of heaven indicates the soul,
The soul is always beautiful,
it appears more or it appears less,
it comes or it lags behind,
It comes from its embower'd garden and looks pleasantly on itself and encloses the world,
Perfect and clean the genitals previously jetting,and perfect and clean the womb cohering,
The head well-grown proportion'd and plumb,
and the bowels and joints proportion'd and plumb.
The soul is always beautiful,
The universe is duly in order,
every thing is in its place,
What has arrived is in its place and what waits shall be in its place,
The twisted skull waits,
the watery or rotten blood waits,
The child of the glutton or venerealee waits long,
and the child of the drunkard waits long,
and the drunkard himself waits long,
The sleepers that lived and died wait,
the far advanced are to go on in their turns,
and the far behind are to come on in their turns,
The diverse shall be no less diverse,
but they shall flow and unite -- they unite now.
8 The sleepers are very beautiful as they lie unclothed,
They flow hand in hand over the whole earth from east to west as they lie unclothed,
The Asiatic and African are hand in hand,
the European and American are hand in hand,
Learn'd and unlearn'd are hand in hand,
and male and female are hand in hand,
The bare arm of the girl crosses the bare breast of her lover,
they press close without lust,
his lips press her neck,
The father holds his grown or ungrown son in his arms with measureless love,
and the son holds the father in his arms with measureless love,
The white hair of the mother shines on the white wrist of the daughter,
The breath of the boy goes with the breath of the man,
friend is inarm'd by friend,
The scholar kisses the teacher and the teacher kisses the scholar,
'd made right,
The call of the slave is one with the master's call,
and the master salutes the slave,
The felon steps forth from the prison,
the insane becomes sane,
the suffering of sick persons is reliev'd,
The sweatings and fevers stop,
the throat that was unsound is sound,
the lungs of the consumptive are resumed,
the poor distress'd head is free,
The joints of the rheumatic move as smoothly as ever,
and smoother than ever,
Stiflings and passages open,
the paralyzed become supple,
The swell'd and convuls'd and congested awake to themselves in condition,
They pass the invigoration of the night and the chemistry of the night,
I too pass from the night,
I stay a while away O night,
but I return to you again and love you.
Why should I be afraid to trust myself to you?
I am not afraid,
I have been well brought forward by you,
I love the rich running day,
but I do not desert her in whom I lay so long,
I know not how I came of you and I know not where I go with you,
but I know I came well and shall go well.
I will stop only a time with the night,
and rise betimes,
I will duly pass the day O my mother,
and duly return to you.
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.
To Think of Time
1 To think of time --of all that retrospection,
To think of to-day,
and the ages continued henceforward.
Have you guess'd you yourself would not continue?
Have you dreaded these earth-beetles?
Have you fear'd the future would be nothing to you?
Is to-day nothing?
is the beginningless past nothing?
If the future is nothing they are just as surely nothing.
To think that the sun rose in the east --that men and women were flexible,
alive --that every thing was alive,
To think that you and I did not see,
nor bear our part,
To think that we are now here and bear our part.
2 Not a day passes,
not a minute or second without an accouchement,
Not a day passes,
not a minute or second without a corpse.
The dull nights go over and the dull days also,
The soreness of lying so much in bed goes over,
The physician after long putting off gives the silent and terrible look for an answer,
The children come hurried and weeping,
and the brothers and sisters are sent for,
Medicines stand unused on the shelf,
(the camphor-smell has long pervaded the rooms,) The faithful hand of the living does not desert the hand of the dying,
The twitching lips press lightly on the forehead of the dying,
The breath ceases and the pulse of the heart ceases,
The corpse stretches on the bed and the living look upon it,
It is palpable as the living are palpable.
The living look upon the corpse with their eyesight,
But without eyesight lingers a different living and looks curiously on the corpse.
3 To think the thought of death merged in the thought of materials,
To think of all these wonders of city and country,
and others taking great interest in them,
and we taking no interest in them.
To think how eager we are in building our houses,
To think others shall be just as eager,
and we quite indifferent.
(I see one building the house that serves him a few years,
or seventy or eighty years at most,
I see one building the house that serves him longer than that.)
Slow-moving and black lines creep over the whole earth --they never cease --they are the burial lines,
He that was President was buried,
and he that is now President shall surely be buried.
4 A reminiscence of the vulgar fate,
A frequent sample of the life and death of workmen,
Each after his kind.
Cold dash of waves at the ferry-wharf,
posh and ice in the river,
half-frozen mud in the streets,
A gray discouraged sky overhead,
the short last daylight of December,
A hearse and stages,
the funeral of an old Broadway stage-driver,
the cortege mostly drivers.
Steady the trot to the cemetery,
duly rattles the death-bell,
The gate is pass'd,
the new-dug grave is halted at,
the living alight,
the hearse uncloses,
The coffin is pass'd out,
lower'd and settled,
the whip is laid on the coffin,
the earth is swiftly shovel'd in,
The mound above is flatted with the spades --silence,
A minute --no one moves or speaks --it is done,
He is decently put away --is there any thing more?
He was a good fellow,
Ready with life or death for a friend,
fond of women,
Had known what it was to be flush,
grew low-spirited toward the last,
was help'd by a contribution,
aged forty-one years --and that was his funeral.
whip carefully chosen,
somebody loafing on you,
you loafing on somebody,
man before and man behind,
Good day's work,
bad day's work,
turning-in at night,
To think that these are so much and so nigh to other drivers,
and he there takes no interest in them.
5 The markets,
the working-man's wages,
to think what account they are through our nights and days,
To think that other working-men will make just as great account of them,
yet we make little or no account.
The vulgar and the refined,
what you call sin and what you call goodness,
to think how wide a difference,
To think the difference will still continue to others,
yet we lie beyond the difference.
To think how much pleasure there is,
Do you enjoy yourself in the city?
or engaged in business?
or planning a nomination and election?
or with your wife and family?
Or with your mother and sisters?
or in womanly housework?
or the beautiful maternal cares?
These also flow onward to others,
you and I flow onward,
But in due time you and I shall take less interest in them.
crops --to think how engross'd you are,
To think there will still be farms,
yet for you of what avail?
6 What will be will be well,
for what is is well,
To take interest is well,
and not to take interest shall be well.
The domestic joys,
the dally housework or business,
the building of houses,
are not phantasms,
they have weight,
are none of them phantasms,
The difference between sin and goodness is no delusion,
The earth is not an echo,
man and his life and all the things of his life are well-consider'd.
You are not thrown to the winds,
you gather certainly and safely around yourself,
for ever and ever!
7 It is not to diffuse you that you were born of your mother and father,
it is to identify you,
It is not that you should be undecided,
but that you should be decided,
Something long preparing and formless is arrived and form'd in you,
You are henceforth secure,
whatever comes or goes.
The threads that were spun are gather'd,
the wet crosses the warp,
the pattern is systematic.
The preparations have every one been justified,
The orchestra have sufficiently tuned their instruments,
the baton has given the signal.
The guest that was coming,
he waited long,
he is now housed,
He is one of those who are beautiful and happy,
he is one of those that to look upon and be with is enough.
The law of the past cannot be eluded,
The law of the present and future cannot be eluded,
The law of the living cannot be eluded,
it is eternal,
The law of promotion and transformation cannot be eluded,
The law of heroes and good-doers cannot be eluded,
The law of drunkards,
not one iota thereof can be eluded.
8 Slow moving and black lines go ceaselessly over the earth,
Northerner goes carried and Southerner goes carried,
and they on the Atlantic side and they on the Pacific,
And they between,
and all through the Mississippi country,
and all over the earth.
The great masters and kosmos are well as they go,
the heroes and good-doers are well,
The known leaders and inventors and the rich owners and pious and distinguish'd may be well,
But there is more account than that,
there is strict account of all.
The interminable hordes of the ignorant and wicked are not nothing,
The barbarians of Africa and Asia are not nothing,
The perpetual successions of shallow people are not nothing as they go.
Of and in all these things,
I have dream'd that we are not to be changed so much,
nor the law of us changed,
I have dream'd that heroes and good-doers shall be under the present and past law,
And that murderers,
shall be under the present and past law,
For I have dream'd that the law they are under now is enough.
And I have dream'd that the purpose and essence of the known life,
Is to form and decide identity for the unknown life,
If all came but to ashes of dung,
If maggots and rats ended us,
for we are betray'd,
Then indeed suspicion of death.
Do you suspect death?
if I were to suspect death I should die now,
Do you think I could walk pleasantly and well-suited toward annihilation?
Pleasantly and well-suited I walk,
Whither I walk I cannot define,
but I know it is good,
The whole universe indicates that it is good,
The past and the present indicate that it is good.
How beautiful and perfect are the animals!
How perfect the earth,
and the minutest thing upon it!
What is called good is perfect,
and what is called bad is just as perfect,
The vegetables and minerals are all perfect,
and the imponderable fluids perfect;
Slowly and surely they have pass'd on to this,
and slowly and surely they yet pass on.
9 I swear I think now that every thing without exception has an eternal soul!
The trees have,
rooted in the ground!
the weeds of the sea have!
I swear I think there is nothing but immortality!
That the exquisite scheme is for it,
and the nebulous float is for it,
and the cohering is for it!
And all preparation is for it --and identity is for it --and life and materials are altogether for it!
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 voice sounding,
nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh,
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 any bounds bounding us.
Then we burst forth,
In Time and Space O soul,
prepared for them,
equipt at last,
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,
Footsteps gently ascending,
mystical breezes wafted soft and low,
Ripples of unseen rivers,
tides of a current flowing,
(Or is it the plashing of tears?
the measureless waters of human tears?)
just see skyward,
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.)
Chanting the Square Deific
1 Chanting the square deific,
out of the One advancing,
out of the sides,
Out of the old and new,
out of the square entirely divine,
(all the sides needed,) from this side Jehovah am I,
Old Brahm I,
and I Saturnius am;
Not Time affects me --I am Time,
modern as any,
executing righteous judgments,
As the Earth,
the brown old Kronos,
Aged beyond computation,
yet never new,
ever with those mighty laws rolling,
Relentless I forgive no man --whoever sins dies --I will have that man's life;
Therefore let none expect mercy --have the seasons,
the appointed days,
no more have I,
But as the seasons and gravitation,
and as all the appointed days that forgive not,
I dispense from this side judgments inexorable without the least remorse.
2 Consolator most mild,
the promis'd one advancing,
With gentle hand extended,
the mightier God am I,
Foretold by prophets and poets in their most rapt prophecies and poems,
From this side,
the Lord Christ gazes --lo!
Hermes I --lo!
mine is Hercules' face,
absorb in myself,
Many times have I been rejected,
put in prison,
and many times shall be again,
All the world have I given up for my dear brothers' and sisters' sake,
for the soul's sake,
Wanding my way through the homes of men,
rich or poor,
with the kiss of affection,
For I am affection,
I am the cheer-bringing God,
with hope and all-enclosing charity,
With indulgent words as to children,
with fresh and sane words,
Young and strong I pass knowing well I am destin'd myself to an early death;
But my charity has no death --my wisdom dies not,
neither early nor late,
And my sweet love bequeath'd here and elsewhere never dies.
Comrade of criminals,
brother of slaves,
With sudra face and worn brow,
but in the depths of my heart,
proud as any,
Lifted now and always against whoever scorning assumes to rule me,
full of guile,
full of reminiscences,
with many wiles,
(Though it was thought I was baffled,
and my wiles done,
but that will never be,) Defiant,
still utter words,
in new lands duly appearing,
(and old ones also,) Permanent here from my side,
equal with any,
real as any,
Nor time nor change shall ever change me or my words.
4 Santa Spirita,
Beyond the light,
lighter than light,
Beyond the flames of hell,
leaping easily above hell,
perfumed solely with mine own perfume,
Including all life on earth,
including Saviour and Satan,
(for without me what were all?
what were God?) Essence of forms,
life of the real identities,
(namely the unseen,) Life of the great round world,
the sun and stars,
and of man,
the general soul,
Here the square finishing,
I the most solid,
Breathe my breath also through these songs.
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 places of amusement,
were as full of the dead as of the living,
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.
Ye Downcast Hours
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,
Matter is conqueror --matter,
Despairing cries float ceaselessly toward me,
The call of my nearest lover,
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,
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,
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 utterly disappear'd.
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,
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,
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,
lines give way,
substances mock and elude me,
Only the theme I sing,
the great and strong-possess'd soul,
One's-self must never give way --that is the final substance --that out of all is sure,
Out of politics,
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,
yet long untaught I did not hear,
But now the chorus I hear and am elated,
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 meanings,
I listen to the different voices winding in and out,
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 pilot needs?
take aboard the most perfect pilot,
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 out of itself,
Ever unreeling them,
ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you O my soul where you stand,
in measureless oceans of space,
seeking the spheres to connect them,
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,
O living always,
O the burials of me past and present,
O me while I stride ahead,
imperious as ever;
what I was for years,
(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,
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,
'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 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.
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 going down,
Of the veil'd tableau-women gather'd together on deck,
waiting the moment that draws so close --O the moment!
A huge sob --a few bubbles --the white foam spirting up --and then the women gone,
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,
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,
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,
And I the apparition,
I the spectre.)
Thou Mother with Thy Equal Brood
1 Thou Mother with thy equal brood,
Thou varied chain of different States,
yet one identity only,
A special song before I go I'd sing o'er all the rest,
I'd sow a seed for thee of endless Nationality,
I'd fashion thy ensemble including body and soul,
I'd show away ahead thy real Union,
and how it may be accomplish'd.
The paths to the house I seek to make,
But leave to those to come the house itself.
Belief I sing,
As Life and Nature are not great with reference to the present only,
But greater still from what is yet to come,
Out of that formula for thee I sing.
2 As a strong bird on pinions free,
the amplest spaces heavenward cleaving,
Such be the thought I'd think of thee America,
Such be the recitative I'd bring for thee.
The conceits of the poets of other lands I'd bring thee not,
Nor the compliments that have served their turn so long,
nor the classics,
nor perfume of foreign court or indoor library;
But an odor I'd bring as from forests of pine in Maine,
or breath of an Illinois prairie,
With open airs of Virginia or Georgia or Tennessee,
or from Texas uplands,
or Florida's glades,
Or the Saguenay's black stream,
or the wide blue spread of Huron,
With presentment of Yellowstone's scenes,
And murmuring under,
I'd bring the rustling sea-sound,
That endlessly sounds from the two Great Seas of the world.
And for thy subtler sense subtler refrains dread Mother,
Preludes of intellect tallying these and thee,
mind-formulas fitted for thee,
real and sane and large as these and thee,
diving deeper than we knew,
thou transcendental Union!
By thee fact to be justified,
blended with thought,
Thought of man justified,
blended with God,
Through thy idea,
the immortal reality!
Through thy reality,
the immortal idea!
3 Brain of the New World,
what a task is thine,
To formulate the Modern --out of the peerless grandeur of the modern,
Out of thyself,
to recast poems,
may-be discard them,
end them --maybe their work is done,
who knows?) By vision,
on the background of the mighty past,
To limn with absolute faith the mighty living present.
And yet thou living present brain,
heir of the dead,
the Old World brain,
Thou that lay folded like an unborn babe within its folds so long,
Thou carefully prepared by it so long --haply thou but unfoldest it,
only maturest it,
It to eventuate in thee --the essence of the by-gone time contain'd in thee,
unwitting to themselves,
destined with reference to thee;
Thou but the apples,
The fruit of all the Old ripening to-day in thee.
sail thy best,
ship of Democracy,
Of value is thy freight,
'tis not the Present only,
The Past is also stored in thee,
Thou holdest not the venture of thyself alone,
not of the Western continent alone,
Earth's resume entire floats on thy keel O ship,
is steadied by thy spars,
With thee Time voyages in trust,
the antecedent nations sink or swim with thee,
With all their ancient struggles,
thou bear'st the other continents,
theirs as much as thine,
the destination-port triumphant;
Steer then with good strong hand and wary eye O helmsman,
thou carriest great companions,
Venerable priestly Asia sails this day with thee,
And royal feudal Europe sails with thee.
5 Beautiful world of new superber birth that rises to my eyes,
Like a limitless golden cloud filling the westernr sky,
Emblem of general maternity lifted above all,
Sacred shape of the bearer of daughters and sons,
Out of thy teeming womb thy giant babes in ceaseless procession issuing,
Acceding from such gestation,
taking and giving continual strength and life,
World of the real --world of the twain in one,
World of the soul,
born by the world of the real alone,
led to identity,
by it alone,
Yet in beginning only,
incalculable masses of composite precious materials,
By history's cycles forwarded,
by every nation,
to be constructed here,
(The true New World,
the world of orbic science,
literatures to come,) Thou wonder world yet undefined,
neither do I define thee,
How can I pierce the impenetrable blank of the future?
I feel thy ominous greatness evil as well as good,
I watch thee advancing,
absorbing the present,
transcending the past,
I see thy light lighting,
and thy shadow shadowing,
as if the entire globe,
But I do not undertake to define thee,
hardly to comprehend thee,
I but thee name,
I merely thee ejaculate!
Thee in thy future,
Thee in thy only permanent life,
thy own unloosen'd mind,
thy soaring spirit,
Thee as another equally needed sun,
Thee risen in potent cheerfulness and joy,
in endless great hilarity,
Scattering for good the cloud that hung so long,
that weigh'd so long upon the mind of man,
certain decadence of man;
Thee in thy larger,
saner brood of female,
male --thee in thy athletes,
(To thy immortal breasts,
Mother of All,
thy every daughter,
forever equal,) Thee in thy own musicians,
Thee in thy moral wealth and civilization,
(until which thy proudest material civilization must remain in vain,) Thee in thy all-supplying,
all-enclosing worship --thee in no single bible,
Thy saviours countless,
latent within thyself,
thy bibles incessant within thyself,
equal to any,
divine as any,
(Thy soaring course thee formulating,
not in thy two great wars,
nor in thy century's visible growth,
But far more in these leaves and chants,
great Mother!) Thee in an education grown of thee,
born of thee,
Thee in thy democratic fetes en-masse,
thy high original festivals,
Thee in thy ultimate,
(the preparations only now completed,
the edifice on sure foundations tied,) Thee in thy pinnacles,
thy topmost rational joys,
thy love and godlike aspiration,
In thy resplendent coming literati,
thy full-lung'd orators,
thy sacerdotal bards,
these in thee,
(certain to come,) to-day I prophesy.
6 Land tolerating all,
not for the good alone,
all good for thee,
Land in the realms of God to be a realm unto thyself,
Under the rule of God to be a rule unto thyself.
where arise three peerless stars,
To be thy natal stars my country,
Set in the sky of Law.)
Land of unprecedented faith,
thy very subsoil,
The general inner earth so long so sedulously draped over,
now hence for what it is boldly laid bare,
Open'd by thee to heaven's light for benefit or bale.
Not for success alone,
Not to fair-sail unintermitted always,
The storm shall dash thy face,
the murk of war and worse than war shall cover thee all over,
(Wert capable of war,
its tug and trials?
be capable of peace,
For the tug and mortal strain of nations come at last in prosperous peace,
not war;) In many a smiling mask death shall approach beguiling thee,
thou in disease shalt swelter,
The livid cancer spread its hideous claws,
clinging upon thy breasts,
seeking to strike thee deep within,
Consumption of the worst,
shall rouge thy face with hectic,
But thou shalt face thy fortunes,
and surmount them all,
Whatever they are to-day and whatever through time they may be,
They each and all shall lift and pass away and cease from thee,
Time's spirals rounding,
out of thyself,
thyself still extricating,
mystical Union thou,
(the mortal with immortal blent,) Shalt soar toward the fulfilment of the future,
the spirit of the body and the mind,
the real real,
(Purport of all these apparitions of the real;) In thee America,
Thou globe of globes!
thou wonder nebulous!
By many a throe of heat and cold convuls'd,
(by these thyself solidifying,) Thou mental,
moral orb --thou New,
The Present holds thee not --for such vast growth as thine,
For such unparallel'd flight as thine,
such brood as thine,
The FUTURE only holds thee and can hold thee.
A Paumanok Picture
Two boats with nets lying off the sea-beach,
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.
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,
hear his voice --and thou O sun,
As for thy throes,
sudden breaks and shafts of flame gigantic,
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,
Thou that to grapes and weeds and little wild flowers givest so liberally,
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.
1 Sauntering the pavement or riding the country by-road,
Faces of friendship,
The spiritual-prescient face,
the always welcome common benevolent face,
The face of the singing of music,
the grand faces of natural lawyers and judges broad at the back-top,
The faces of hunters and fishers bulged at the brows,
the shaved blanch'd faces of orthodox citizens,
questioning artist's face,
The ugly face of some beautiful soul,
the handsome detested or despised face,
The sacred faces of infants,
the illuminated face of the mother of many children,
The face of an amour,
the face of veneration,
The face as of a dream,
the face of an immobile rock,
The face withdrawn of its good and bad,
a castrated face,
A wild hawk,
his wings clipp'd by the clipper,
A stallion that yielded at last to the thongs and knife of the gelder.
Sauntering the pavement thus,
or crossing the ceaseless ferry,
faces and faces and faces,
I see them and complain not,
and am content with all.
2 Do you suppose I could be content with all if I thought them their own finale?
This now is too lamentable a face for a man,
Some abject louse asking leave to be,
cringing for it,
Some milk-nosed maggot blessing what lets it wrig to its hole.
This face is a dog's snout sniffing for garbage,
Snakes nest in that mouth,
I hear the sibilant threat.
This face is a haze more chill than the arctic sea,
Its sleepy and wobbling icebergs crunch as they go.
This is a face of bitter herbs,
this an emetic,
they need no label,
And more of the drug-shelf,
This face is an epilepsy,
its wordless tongue gives out the unearthly cry,
Its veins down the neck distend,
its eyes roll till they show nothing but their whites,
Its teeth grit,
the palms of the hands are cut by the turn'd-in nails,
The man falls struggling and foaming to the ground,
while he speculates well.
This face is bitten by vermin and worms,
And this is some murderer's knife with a half-pull'd scabbard.
This face owes to the sexton his dismalest fee,
An unceasing death-bell tolls there.
3 Features of my equals would you trick me with your creas'd and cadaverous march?
you cannot trick me.
I see your rounded never-erased flow,
'neath the rims of your haggard and mean disguises.
Splay and twist as you like,
poke with the tangling fores of fishes or rats,
You'll be unmuzzled,
you certainly will.
I saw the face of the most smear'd and slobbering idiot they had at the asylum,
And I knew for my consolation what they knew not,
I knew of the agents that emptied and broke my brother,
The same wait to clear the rubbish from the fallen tenement,
And I shall look again in a score or two of ages,
And I shall meet the real landlord perfect and unharm'd,
every inch as good as myself.
4 The Lord advances,
and yet advances,
Always the shadow in front,
always the reach'd hand bringing up the laggards.
Out of this face emerge banners and horses --O superb!
I see what is coming,
I see the high pioneer-caps,
see staves of runners clearing the way,
I hear victorious drums.
This face is a life-boat,
This is the face commanding and bearded,
it asks no odds of the rest,
This face is flavor'd fruit ready for eating,
This face of a healthy honest boy is the programme of all good.
These faces bear testimony slumbering or awake,
They show their descent from the Master himself.
Off the word I have spoken I except not one --red,
are all deific,
In each house is the ovum,
it comes forth after a thousand years.
Spots or cracks at the windows do not disturb me,
Tall and sufficient stand behind and make signs to me,
I read the promise and patiently wait.
This is a full-grown lily's face,
She speaks to the limber-hipp'd man near the garden pickets,
Come here she blushingly cries,
Come nigh to me limber-hipp'd man,
Stand at my side till I lean as high as I can upon you,
Fill me with albescent honey,
bend down to me,
Rub to me with your chafing beard,
rub to my breast and shoulders.
5 The old face of the mother of many children,
I am fully content.
Lull'd and late is the smoke of the First-day morning,
It hangs low over the rows of trees by the fences,
It hangs thin by the sassafras and wild-cherry and cat-brier under them.
I saw the rich ladies in full dress at the soiree,
I heard what the singers were singing so long,
Heard who sprang in crimson youth from the white froth and the water-blue.
Behold a woman!
She looks out from her quaker cap,
her face is clearer and more beautiful than the sky.
She sits in an armchair under the shaded porch of the farmhouse,
The sun just shines on her old white head.
Her ample gown is of cream-hued linen,
Her grandsons raised the flax,
and her grand-daughters spun it with the distaff and the wheel.
The melodious character of the earth,
The finish beyond which philosophy cannot go and does not wish to go,
The justified mother of men.
The Mystic Trumpeter
some wild trumpeter,
some strange musician,
Hovering unseen in air,
vibrates capricious tunes to-night.
I hear thee trumpeter,
listening alert I catch thy notes,
whirling like a tempest round me,
now in the distance lost.
2 Come nearer bodiless one,
haply in thee resounds Some dead composer,
haply thy pensive life Was fill'd with aspirations high,
That now ecstatic ghost,
close to me bending,
thy cornet echoing,
Gives out to no one's ears but mine,
but freely gives to mine,
That I may thee translate.
3 Blow trumpeter free and clear,
I follow thee,
While at thy liquid prelude,
The fretting world,
the noisy hours of day withdraw,
A holy calm descends like dew upon me,
I walk in cool refreshing night the walks of Paradise,
I scent the grass,
the moist air and the roses;
Thy song expands my numb'd imbonded spirit,
Floating and basking upon heaven's lake.
4 Blow again trumpeter!
and for my sensuous eyes,
Bring the old pageants,
show the feudal world.
What charm thy music works!
thou makest pass before me,
Ladies and cavaliers long dead,
barons are in their castle halls,
the troubadours are singing,
Arm'd knights go forth to redress wrongs,
some in quest of the holy Graal;
I see the tournament,
I see the contestants incased in heavy armor seated on stately champing horses,
I hear the shouts,
the sounds of blows and smiting steel;
I see the Crusaders' tumultuous armies --hark,
how the cymbals clang,
where the monks walk in advance,
bearing the cross on high.
5 Blow again trumpeter!
and for thy theme,
Take now the enclosing theme of all,
the solvent and the setting,
that is pulse of all,
the sustenance and the pang,
The heart of man and woman all for love,
No other theme but love --knitting,
O how the immortal phantoms crowd around me!
I see the vast alembic ever working,
I see and know the flames that heat the world,
the beating hearts of lovers,
So blissful happy some,
and some so silent,
and nigh to death;
that is all the earth to lovers --love,
that mocks time and space,
that is day and night --love,
that is sun and moon and stars,
that is crimson,
sick with perfume,
No other words but words of love,
no other thought but love.
6 Blow again trumpeter --conjure war's alarums.
Swift to thy spell a shuddering hum like distant thunder rolls,
where the arm'd men hasten --lo,
mid the clouds of dust the glint of bayonets,
I see the grime-faced cannoneers,
I mark the rosy flash amid the smoke,
I hear the cracking of the guns;
Nor war alone --thy fearful music-song,
brings every sight of fear,
The deeds of ruthless brigands,
murder --I hear the cries for help!
I see ships foundering at sea,
I behold on deck and below deck the terrible tableaus.
7 O trumpeter,
methinks I am myself the instrument thou playest,
Thou melt'st my heart,
my brain --thou movest,
changest them at will;
And now thy sullen notes send darkness through me,
Thou takest away all cheering light,
I see the enslaved,
the opprest of the whole earth,
I feel the measureless shame and humiliation of my race,
it becomes all mine,
Mine too the revenges of humanity,
the wrongs of ages,
baffled feuds and hatreds,
Utter defeat upon me weighs --all lost --the foe victorious,
'mid the ruins Pride colossal stands unshaken to the last,
resolution to the last.)
8 Now trumpeter for thy close,
Vouchsafe a higher strain than any yet,
Sing to my soul,
renew its languishing faith and hope,
Rouse up my slow belief,
give me some vision of the future,
Give me for once its prophecy and joy.
A vigor more than earth's is in thy notes,
Marches of victory --man disenthral'd --the conqueror at last,
Hymns to the universal God from universal man --all joy!
A reborn race appears --a perfect world,
Women and men in wisdom innocence and health --all joy!
Riotous laughing bacchanals fill'd with joy!
suffering gone --the rank earth purged --nothing but joy left!
The ocean fill'd with joy --the atmosphere all joy!
joy in the ecstasy of life!
Enough to merely be!
enough to breathe!
all over joy!
To a Locomotive in Winter
Thee for my recitative,
Thee in the driving storm even as now,
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,
shuttling at thy sides,
now swelling pant and roar,
now tapering in the distance,
Thy great protruding head-light fix'd in front,
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 wheels,
Thy train of cars behind,
Through gale or calm,
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 at night,
Thy madly-whistled laughter,
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 glistening perfumed South!
O quick mettle,
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,
Dear to me my own slow sluggish rivers where they flow,
over flats of slivery sands or through swamps,
Dear to me the Roanoke,
the Coosa and the Sabine,
far away wandering,
I return with my soul to haunt their banks again,
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 blossoming titi;
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 graceful palmetto,
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,
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 American mimic,
singing all the forenoon,
singing through the moon-lit night,
the wild turkey,
A Kentucky corn-field,
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,
upsprang the aboriginal name.
Now I see what there is in a name,
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,
hemm'd thick all around with sailships and steamships,
an island sixteen miles long,
Numberless crowded streets,
high growths of iron,
splendidly uprising toward clear skies,
Tides swift and ample,
well-loved by me,
The flowing sea-currents,
the little islands,
larger adjoining islands,
The countless masts,
the white shore-steamers,
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,
fifteen or twenty thousand in a week,
The carts hauling goods,
the manly race of drivers of horses,
the brown-faced sailors,
The summer air,
the bright sun shining,
and the sailing clouds aloft,
The winter snows,
the broken ice in the river,
passing along up or down with the flood-tide or ebb-tide,
The mechanics of the city,
looking you straight in the eyes,
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!
All Is Truth
man of slack faith so long,
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 realized,
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.
A Riddle Song
That which eludes this verse and any verse,
Unheard by sharpest ear,
unform'd in clearest eye or cunningest mind,
Nor lore nor fame,
nor happiness nor wealth,
And yet the pulse of every heart and life throughout the world incessantly,
Which you and I and all pursuing ever ever miss,
Open but still a secret,
the real of the real,
vouchsafed to each,
yet never man the owner,
Which poets vainly seek to put in rhyme,
historians in prose,
Which sculptor never chisel'd yet,
nor painter painted,
Which vocalist never sung,
nor orator nor actor ever utter'd,
Invoking here and now I challenge for my song.
Behind the mountain and the wood,
Companion of the city's busiest streets,
through the assemblage,
It and its radiations constantly glide.
In looks of fair unconscious babes,
Or strangely in the coffin'd dead,
Or show of breaking dawn or stars by night,
As some dissolving delicate film of dreams,
Hiding yet lingering.
Two little breaths of words comprising it,
yet all from first to last comprised in it.
How ardently for it!
How many ships have sail'd and sunk for it!
How many travelers started from their homes and neer return'd!
How much of genius boldly staked and lost for it!
What countless stores of beauty,
ventur'd for it!
How all superbest deeds since Time began are traceable to it --and shall be to the end!
How all heroic martyrdoms to it!
justified by it,
battles of the earth!
How the bright fascinating lambent flames of it,
in every age and land,
have drawn men's eyes,
Rich as a sunset on the Norway coast,
and the cliffs,
Or midnight's silent glowing northern lights unreachable.
Haply God's riddle it,
so vague and yet so certain,
The soul for it,
and all the visible universe for it,
And heaven at last for it.
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.
and Sulky Retreats
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 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 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 certain and final!) 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,
Mayor --of such as these standing helpless and exposed,
Of the mumbling and screaming priest,
soon deserted,) Of the lessening year by year of venerableness,
and of the dicta of officers,
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,
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,
They shall illustrate Democracy and the kosmos,
They shall be alimentive,
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,
of Chicago the great city.
They shall train themselves to go in public to become orators and oratresses,
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,
shall be convey'd in gospels,
shall be convey'd,
the invisible faith,
shall all be convey'd.
My Hardy Life
my hardy life,
Weave yet a soldier strong and full for great campaigns to come,
Weave in red blood,
weave sinews in like ropes,
sight weave in,
Weave lasting sure,
weave day and night the wet,
(We know not what the use O life,
nor know the aim,
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,
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,
crumble of palaces,
tombs of priests,
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?
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,
canst never cease this babble?) Again old heart so gay,
again to you,
the full flush spring returning,
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,
O deathless grass,
From Far Dakota's Canyons [June 25,
From far Dakota's canyons,
Lands of the wild ravine,
the dusky Sioux,
the lonesome stretch,
Haply to-day a mournful wall,
haply a trumpet-note for heroes.
The Indian ambuscade,
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 for breastworks,
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,
through the time's thick murk looking in vain for light,
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,
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.
In midnight sleep of many a face of anguish,
Of the look at first of the mortally wounded,
(of that indescribable look,) Of the dead on their backs with arms extended wide,
Of scenes of Nature,
fields and mountains,
Of skies so beauteous after a storm,
and at night the moon so unearthly bright,
where we dig the trenches and gather the heaps,
Long have they pass'd,
faces and trenches and fields,
Where through the carnage I moved with a callous composure,
or away from the fallen,
Onward I sped at the time --but now of their forms at night,
flag of stars!
Long yet your road,
fateful flag --long yet your road,
and lined with bloody death,
For the prize I see at issue at last is the world,
All its ships and shores I see interwoven with your threads greedy banner;
Dream'd again the flags of kings,
highest borne to flaunt unrival'd?
O hasten flag of man --O with sure and steady step,
passing highest flags of kings,
Walk supreme to the heavens mighty symbol --run up above them all,
Flag of stars!
What Best I See in Thee [To U. S.
G. return'd from his World's Tour]
What best I see in thee,
Is not that where thou mov'st down history's great highways,
Ever undimm'd by time shoots warlike victory's dazzle,
Or that thou sat'st where Washington sat,
ruling the land in peace,
Or thou the man whom feudal Europe feted,
venerable Asia swarm'd upon,
Who walk'd with kings with even pace the round world's promenade;
But that in foreign lands,
in all thy walks with kings,
Those prairie sovereigns of the West,
all to the front,
Invisibly with thee walking with kings with even pace the round world's promenade,
Were all so justified.
Spirit That Form'd This Scene [Written in Platte Canyon,
Spirit that form'd this scene,
These tumbled rock-piles grim and red,
These reckless heaven-ambitious peaks,
this naked freshness,
These formless wild arrays,
for reasons of their own,
I know thee,
savage spirit --we have communed together,
Mine too such wild arrays,
for reasons of their own;
Wast charged against my chants they had forgotten art?
To fuse within themselves its rules precise and delicatesse?
The lyrist's measur'd beat,
the wrought-out temple's grace --column and polish'd arch forgot?
But thou that revelest here --spirit that form'd this scene,
They have remember'd thee.
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,
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,
Longer campaigns and crises,
labors beyond all others,) Around me I hear that eclat of the world,
The announcements of recognized things,
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,
are not nothing,
Like a grand procession to music of distant bugles pouring,
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 centuries-lasting songs,
And our visions,
the visions of poets,
the most solid announcements of any.
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,
pondering the themes thou lovest best,
death and the stars.
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 suddenly cease.
must all then amount to but this?
Must we barely arrive at this beginning of us?
--and yet it is enough,
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 preparing,
I see tremendous entrances and exits,
the solidarity of races,
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,
more like a God,
how he urges and urges,
leaving the masses no rest!
His daring foot is on land and sea everywhere,
he colonizes the Pacific,
With the steamship,
the electric telegraph,
the wholesale engines of war,
With these and the world-spreading factories he interlinks all geography,
What whispers are these O lands,
running ahead of you,
passing under the seas?
Are all nations communing?
is there going to be but one heart to the globe?
Is humanity forming en-masse?
crowns grow dim,
confronts a new era,
perhaps a general divine war,
No one knows what will happen next,
such portents fill the days and nights;
the space ahead as I walk,
as I vainly try to pierce it,
is full of phantoms,
things soon to be,
project their shapes around me,
This incredible rush and heat,
this strange ecstatic fever of dreams O years!
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,
more gigantic than ever,
advance upon me.
Ashes of Soldiers
Ashes of soldiers South or North,
As I muse retrospective murmuring a chant in thought,
The war resumes,
again to my sense your shapes,
And again the advance of the armies.
Noiseless as mists and vapors,
From their graves in the trenches ascending,
From cemeteries all through Virginia and Tennessee,
From every point of the compass out of the countless graves,
In wafted clouds,
in myriads large,
or squads of twos or threes or single ones they come,
And silently gather round me.
Now sound no note O trumpeters,
Not at the head of my cavalry parading on spirited horses,
With sabres drawn and glistening,
and carbines by their thighs,
(ah my brave horsemen!
My handsome tan-faced horsemen!
what joy and pride,
With all the perils were yours.)
Nor you drummers,
neither at reveille at dawn,
Nor the long roll alarming the camp,
nor even the muffled beat for burial,
Nothing from you this time O drummers bearing my warlike drums.
But aside from these and the marts of wealth and the crowded promenade,
Admitting around me comrades close unseen by the rest and voiceless,
The slain elate and alive again,
the dust and debris alive,
I chant this chant of my silent soul in the name of all dead soldiers.
Faces so pale with wondrous eyes,
gather closer yet,
but speak not.
Phantoms of countless lost,
Invisible to the rest henceforth become my companions,
Follow me ever --desert me not while I live.
Sweet are the blooming cheeks of the living --sweet are the musical voices sounding,
are the dead with their silent eyes.
all is over and long gone,
But love is not over --and what love,
Perfume from battle-fields rising,
up from the foetor arising.
Perfume therefore my chant,
Give me to bathe the memories of all dead soldiers,
cover them all over with tender pride.
Perfume all --make all wholesome,
Make these ashes to nourish and blossom,
fructify all with the last chemistry.
Give me exhaustless,
make me a fountain,
That I exhale love from me wherever I go like a moist perennial dew,
For the ashes of all dead soldiers South or North.
1 Of these years I sing,
How they pass and have pass'd through convuls'd pains,
as through parturitions,
How America illustrates birth,
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,
and to infidelity,
How few see the arrived models,
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,
as I love them,
How the whirl,
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,
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.
2 Of seeds dropping into the ground,
Of the steady concentration of America,
to impregnable and swarming places,
Of what Indiana,
and the rest,
are to be,
Of what a few years will show there in Nebraska,
and the rest,
mounting the Northern Pacific to Sitka or Aliaska,) Of what the feuillage of America is the preparation for --and of what all sights,
East and West,
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,
departing --of the growth of completer men than any yet,
Of all sloping down there where the fresh free giver the mother,
the Mississippi flows,
Of mighty inland cities yet unsurvey'd and unsuspected,
Of the new and good names,
of the modern developments,
of inalienable homesteads,
Of a free and original life there,
of simple diet and clean and sweet blood,
and perfect physique there,
Of immense spiritual results future years far West,
each side of the Anahuacs,
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 and freedom?)
Song at Sunset
Splendor of ended day floating and filling me,
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,
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!
to jet the all-alike and innocent blood!
To breathe the air,
To speak --to walk --to seize something by the hand!
To prepare for sleep,
to look on my rose-color'd flesh!
To be conscious of my body,
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,
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 and leaves!
(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,
and cheerfully pass them forward.
I too carol the sun,
usher'd or at noon,
or as now,
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,
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,
As at Thy Portals Also Death
As at thy portals also death,
Entering thy sovereign,
To memories of my mother,
to the divine blending,
buried and gone,
yet buried not,
gone not from me,
(I see again the calm benignant face fresh and beautiful still,
I sit by the form in the coffin,
I kiss and kiss convulsively again the sweet old lips,
the closed eyes in the coffin;) To her,
the ideal woman,
of all of earth,
to me the best,
I grave a monumental line,
before I go,
amid these songs,
And set a tombstone here.
The business man the acquirer vast,
After assiduous years surveying results,
preparing for departure,
Devises houses and lands to his children,
funds for a school or hospital,
Leaves money to certain companions to buy tokens,
souvenirs of gems and gold.
my life surveying,
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.
Pensive on Her Dead Gazing
Pensive on her dead gazing I heard the Mother of All,
Desperate on the torn bodies,
on the forms covering the battlefields gazing,
(As the last gun ceased,
but the scent of the powder-smoke linger'd,) As she call'd to her earth with mournful voice while she stalk'd,
Absorb them well O my earth,
I charge you lose not my sons,
lose not an atom,
And you streams absorb them well,
taking their dear blood,
And you local spots,
and you airs that swim above lightly impalpable,
And all you essences of soil and growth,
and you my rivers' depths,
And you mountain sides,
and the woods where my dear children's blood trickling redden'd,
And you trees down in your roots to bequeath to all future trees,
My dead absorb or South or North --my young men's bodies absorb,
and their precious precious blood,
Which holding in trust for me faithfully back again give me many a year hence,
In unseen essence and odor of surface and grass,
In blowing airs from the fields back again give me my darlings,
give my immortal heroes,
Exhale me them centuries hence,
breathe me their breath,
let not an atom be lost,
O years and graves!
O air and soil!
O my dead,
an aroma sweet!
Exhale them perennial sweet death,
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 journey,
Or proceed to battle.
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 halting awhile,
Till night and sleep pass over?)
Now in those camps of green,
in their tents dotting the world,
In the parents,
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 generals all,
And of each of us O soldiers,
and of each and all in the ranks we fought,
(There without hatred we all,
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,
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,
the sad reverberations,) The passionate toll and clang --city to city,
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,
through many a year,
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,
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.
(Pleas'd to my soul at death I cry,) Our life is closed,
our life begins,
long anchorage we leave,
The ship is clear at last,
She swiftly courses from the shore,
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 for thee is yet in store,) Often enough hast thou adventur'd o'er the seas,
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.
I announce what comes after me.
I remember I said before my leaves sprang at all,
I would raise my voice jocund and strong with reference to consummations.
When America does what was promis'd,
When through these States walk a hundred millions of superb persons,
When the rest part away for superb persons and contribute to them,
When breeds of the most perfect mothers denote America,
Then to me and mine our due fruition.
I have press'd through in my own right,
I have sung the body and the soul,
war and peace have I sung,
and the songs of life and death,
And the songs of birth,
and shown that there are many births.
I have offer'd my style to every one,
I have journey'd with confident step;
While my pleasure is yet at the full I whisper So long!
And take the young woman's hand and the young man's hand for the last time.
I announce natural persons to arise,
I announce justice triumphant,
I announce uncompromising liberty and equality,
I announce the justification of candor and the justification of pride.
I announce that the identity of these States is a single identity only,
I announce the Union more and more compact,
I announce splendors and majesties to make all the previous politics of the earth insignificant.
I announce adhesiveness,
I say it shall be limitless,
I say you shall yet find the friend you were looking for.
I announce a man or woman coming,
perhaps you are the one,
(So long!) I announce the great individual,
fluid as Nature,
I announce a life that shall be copious,
I announce an end that shall lightly and joyfully meet its translation.
I announce myriads of youths,
I announce a race of splendid and savage old men.
O thicker and faster --(So long!) O crowding too close upon me,
I foresee too much,
it means more than I thought,
It appears to me I am dying.
Hasten throat and sound your last,
Salute me --salute the days once more.
Peal the old cry once more.
the atmosphere using,
At random glancing,
each as I notice absorbing,
but a little while alighting,
Curious envelop'd messages delivering,
seed ethereal down in the dirt dropping,
my commission obeying,
to question it never daring,
To ages and ages yet the growth of the seed leaving,
To troops out of the war arising,
they the tasks I have set promulging,
To women certain whispers of myself bequeathing,
their affection me more clearly explaining,
To young men my problems offering --no dallier I --I the muscle of their brains trying,
So I pass,
a little time vocal,
Afterward a melodious echo,
passionately bent for,
(death making me really undying,) The best of me then when no longer visible,
for toward that I have been incessantly preparing.
What is there more,
that I lag and pause and crouch extended with unshut mouth?
Is there a single final farewell?
My songs cease,
I abandon them,
From behind the screen where I hid I advance personally solely to you.
this is no book,
Who touches this touches a man,
(Is it night?
are we here together alone?) It is I you hold and who holds you,
I spring from the pages into your arms --decease calls me forth.
O how your fingers drowse me,
Your breath falls around me like dew,
your pulse lulls the tympans of my ears,
I feel immerged from head to foot,
Enough O deed impromptu and secret,
Enough O gliding present --enough O summ'd-up past.
Dear friend whoever you are take this kiss,
I give it especially to you,
do not forget me,
I feel like one who has done work for the day to retire awhile,
I receive now again of my many translations,
from my avataras ascending,
while others doubtless await me,
An unknown sphere more real than I dream'd,
darts awakening rays about me,
Remember my words,
I may again return,
I love you,
I depart from materials,
I am as one disembodied,
SANDS AT SEVENTY
My city's fit and noble name resumed,
Choice aboriginal name,
with marvellous beauty,
A rocky founded island --shores where ever gayly dash the coming,
hurrying sea waves.
stretch'd and basking!
One side thy inland ocean laving,
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,
(nothing but sea and sky,) The tossing waves,
the ships in the distance,
The wild unrest,
curling caps --that inbound urge and urge of waves,
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,
devoted engineers --to over-ardent travelers --to pilots on their ships,
To many a lofty song and picture without recognition --I'd rear laurel-cover'd monument,
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,
my Land --your rivers,
mottled Flag I love,
Your aggregate retain'd entire --Of north,
east and west,
your items all;
Of me myself --the jocund heart yet beating in my breast,
The body wreck'd,
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 were the soldiers (high named to-day) who lived through the fight;
But the bravest press'd to the front and fell,
A Font of Type
This latent mine --these unlaunch'd voices --passionate powers,
or comic leer,
or prayer devout,
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,
May filter in my dally songs.
My Canary Bird
Did we count great,
to penetrate the themes of mighty books,
Absorbing deep and full from thoughts,
But now from thee to me,
to feel thy joyous warble,
Filling the air,
the lonesome room,
the long forenoon,
Is it not just as great,
Queries to My Seventieth Year
uncertain spectre --bringest thou life or death?
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,
parrot-like and old,
with crack'd voice harping,
The Wallabout Martyrs
Greater than memory of Achilles or Ulysses,
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,
The stepping stones to thee to-day and here,
The First Dandelion
Simple and fresh and fair from winter's close emerging,
As if no artifice of fashion,
had ever been,
Forth from its sunny nook of shelter'd grass --innocent,
calm as the dawn,
The spring's first dandelion shows its trustful face.
Centre of equal daughters,
all alike endear'd,
young or old,
Perennial with the Earth,
Law and Love,
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,
To-Day and Thee
The appointed winners in a long-stretch'd game;
The course of Time and nations --Egypt,
Greece and Rome;
The past entire,
with all its heroes,
Its store of songs,
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 perfect band,
athwart my soul,
moves the symphony true.
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
the trees all cover'd with blossoms;
Wheat fields carpeted far and near in vital emerald green;
exhaustless freshness of each early morning;
transparent haze of the warm afternoon sun;
The aspiring lilac bushes with profuse purple or white flowers.
Not from successful love alone,
nor honor'd middle age,
nor victories of politics or war;
But as life wanes,
and all the turbulent passions calm,
silent hues cover the evening sky,
suffuse the frame,
As the days take on a mellower light,
and the apple at last hangs really finish'd and indolent-ripe on the tree,
Then for the teeming quietest,
happiest days of all!
The brooding and blissful halcyon days!
FANCIES AT NAVESINK
[I] The Pilot in the Mist
Steaming the northern rapids --(an old St. Lawrence reminiscence,
A sudden memory-flash comes back,
I know not why,
Here waiting for the sunrise,
gazing from this hill;) Again
'tis just at morning --a heavy haze contends with daybreak,
Again the trembling,
laboring vessel veers me --I press through foam-dash'd rocks that almost touch me,
Again I mark where aft the small thin Indian helmsman Looms in the mist,
with brow elate and governing hand.
[II] Had I the Choice
Had I the choice to tally greatest bards,
To limn their portraits,
and emulate at will,
Homer with all his wars and warriors --Hector,
Or Shakspere's woe-entangled Hamlet,
Othello --Tennyson's fair ladies,
Metre or wit the best,
or choice conceit to wield in perfect rhyme,
delight of singers;
all these I'd gladly barter,
Would you the undulation of one wave,
its trick to me transfer,
Or breathe one breath of yours upon my verse,
And leave its odor there.
[III] You Tides with Ceaseless Swell
You tides with ceaseless swell!
you power that does this work!
You unseen force,
through space's spread,
Rapport of sun,
and all the constellations,
What are the messages by you from distant stars to us?
What central heart --and you the pulse --vivifies all?
what boundless aggregate of all?
What subtle indirection and significance in you?
what clue to all in you?
Holding the universe with all its parts as one --as sailing in a ship?
[IV] Last of Ebb,
and Daylight Waning
Last of ebb,
and daylight waning,
Scented sea-cool landward making,
smells of sedge and salt incoming,
With many a half-caught voice sent up from the eddies,
Many a muffled confession --many a sob and whisper'd word,
As of speakers far or hid.
How they sweep down and out!
how they mutter!
Poets unnamed --artists greatest of any,
with cherish'd lost designs,
Love's unresponse --a chorus of age's complaints --hope's last words,
Some suicide's despairing cry,
Away to the boundless waste,
and never again return.
On to oblivion then!
and do your part,
On for your time,
ye furious debouche!
[V] And Yet Not You Alone
And yet not you alone,
twilight and burying ebb,
ye lost designs alone --nor failures,
divine deceitful ones,
your glamour's seeming;
Duly by you,
the tide and light again --duly the hinges turning,
Duly the needed discord-parts offsetting,
Weaving from you,
The rhythmus of Birth eternal.
[VI] Proudly the Flood Comes In
Proudly the flood comes in,
Long it holds at the high,
with bosom broad outswelling,
dilates --the farms,
streets of cities --workmen at work,
appear in the offing --steamers' pennants of smoke --and under the forenoon sun,
Freighted with human lives,
gaily the outward bound,
gaily the inward bound,
Flaunting from many a spar the flag I love.
[VII] By That Long Scan of Waves
By that long scan of waves,
myself call'd back,
resumed upon myself,
In every crest some undulating light or shade --some retrospect,
silent panoramas --scenes ephemeral,
The long past war,
the wounded and the dead,
Myself through every by-gone phase --my idle youth --old age at hand,
My three-score years of life summ'd up,
By any grand ideal tried,
the whole a nothing,
And haply yet some drop within God's scheme's ensemble --some wave,
or part of wave,
Like one of yours,
ye multitudinous ocean.
[VIII] Then Last Of All
Then last of all,
caught from these shores,
Of you O tides,
the mystic human meaning: Only by law of you,
your swell and ebb,
enclosing me the same,
The brain that shapes,
the voice that chants this song.
If I should need to name,
O Western World,
your powerfulest scene and show,
'Twould not be you,
Niagara --nor you,
ye limitless prairies --nor your huge rifts of canyons,
Yosemite --nor Yellowstone,
with all its spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies,
appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon's white cones --nor Huron's belt of mighty lakes --nor Mississippi's stream: --This seething hemisphere's humanity,
I'd name --the still small voice vibrating --America's choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen --the act itself the main,
the quadriennial choosing,) The stretch of North and South arous'd --sea-board and inland -- Texas to Maine --the Prairie States --Vermont,
The final ballot-shower from East to West --the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling --(a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome's wars of old,
or modern Napoleon's:) the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity --welcoming the darker odds,
the dross: --Foams and ferments the wine?
it serves to purify --while the heart pants,
life glows: These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
With Husky-Haughty Lips,
With husky-haughty lips,
Where day and night I wend thy surf-beat shore,
Imaging to my sense thy varied strange suggestions,
(I see and plainly list thy talk and conference here,) Thy troops of white-maned racers racing to the goal,
dash'd with the sparkling dimples of the sun,
Thy brooding scowl and murk --thy unloos'd hurricanes,
Great as thou art above the rest,
thy many tears --a lack from all eternity in thy content,
(Naught but the greatest struggles,
could make thee greatest --no less could make thee,) Thy lonely state --something thou ever seek'st and seek'st,
yet never gain'st,
Surely some right withheld --some voice,
in huge monotonous rage,
of freedom-lover pent,
Some vast heart,
like a planet's,
chain'd and chafing in those breakers,
By lengthen'd swell,
and panting breath,
And rhythmic rasping of thy sands and waves,
And serpent hiss,
and savage peals of laughter,
And undertones of distant lion roar,
appealing to the sky's deaf ear --but now,
rapport for once,
A phantom in the night thy confidant for once,) The first and last confession of the globe,
muttering from thy soul's abysms,
The tale of cosmic elemental passion,
Thou tellest to a kindred soul.
Death of General Grant
As one by one withdraw the lofty actors,
From that great play on history's stage eterne,
partial act of war and peace --of old and new contending,
Fought out through wrath,
and many a long suspense;
All past --and since,
in countless graves receding,
Victor's and vanquish'd --Lincoln's and Lee's --now thou with them,
Man of the mighty days --and equal to the days!
Thou from the prairies!
--tangled and many-vein'd and hard has been thy part,
To admiration has it been enacted!
Red Jacket (From Aloft)
Upon this scene,
Yielded to-day by fashion,
(Nor in caprice alone --some grains of deepest meaning,) Haply,
(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,
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,
not this marble,
dead and cold: Far from its base and shaft expanding --the round zones circling,
art all the world's,
the continents' entire --not yours alone,
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,
The indomitable heart and arm --proofs of the never-broken line,
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,
or to come,
or past --where patriot wills existed or exist,
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,
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 of years,
These with gay heart I also sing.
What hurrying human tides,
or day or night!
swim thy waters!
What whirls of evil,
bliss and sorrow,
What curious questioning glances --glints of love!
Thou portal --thou arena --thou of the myriad long-drawn lines and groups!
(Could but thy flagstones,
tell their inimitable tales;
Thy windows rich,
and huge hotels --thy side-walks wide;) Thou of the endless sliding,
like the parti-colored world itself --like infinite,
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,
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,
and what it brings from all its past experiences.
Old Salt Kossabone
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,
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 regular custom,
In his great arm chair by the window seated,
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,
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,
as he watches,
"She's free --she's on her destination" --these the last words --when Jenny came,
he sat there dead,
related on my mother's side,
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 tell and own,
How much from thee!
the revelation of the singing voice from thee!
(So firm --so liquid-soft --again that tremulous,
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 me,
absorbing Fernando's heart,
Manrico's passionate call,
I fold thenceforth,
or seek to fold,
within my chants transmuting,
Freedom's and Love's and Faith's unloos'd cantabile,
sunlight's correlation:) From these,
a hurried line,
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,
form --no object of the world.
nor any visible thing;
Appearance must not foil,
nor shifted sphere confuse thy brain.
Ample are time and space --ample the fields of Nature.
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 poem of itself --the word itself a dirge,
Amid the wilds,
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,
As flitting by like clouds of ghosts,
they pass and are gone in the twilight,
(Race of the woods,
the landscapes free,
and the falls!
passing them to the future:) Yonnondio!
--unlimn'd they disappear;
To-day gives place,
and fades --the cities,
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,
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,
the welcome-clapping hands,
the loud applause;
Ever the soul dissatisfied,
unconvinced at last;
Struggling to-day the same --battling the same.
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,
"Of all Geologies --Histories --of all Astronomy --of Evolution,
that we all are onward,
life an endless march,
an endless army,
but it is duly over,) "The world,
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,
for the use of the New World,
Man's physiology complete,
from top to toe,
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,
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.
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.)
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,
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,
As of the building of some varied,
Whence to arise inevitable in time,
the towering roofs,
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,
Amid the bawling presentations new and old,
The round earth's silent vital laws,
Thanks in Old Age
Thanks in old age --thanks ere I go,
the midday sun,
the impalpable air --for life,
For precious ever-lingering memories,
(of you my mother dear --you,
friends,) For all my days --not those of peace alone --the days of war the same,
For gentle words,
gifts from foreign lands,
wine and meat --for sweet appreciation,
dim unknown --or young or old --countless,
We never met,
and neer shall meet --and yet our souls embrace,
close and long;) For beings,
books --for colors,
For all the brave strong men --devoted,
hardy men --who've forward sprung in freedom's help,
all lands For braver,
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!
Life and Death
The two old,
simple problems ever intertwined,
By each successive age insoluble,
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,
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,
and yet the same,
I descend to lave the drouths,
dust-layers of the globe,
And all that in them without me were seeds only,
by day and night,
I give back life to my own origin,
and make pure and beautify it;
issuing from its birth-place,
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,
suffused shall be in softness,
bloom and growth --a thousand forms shall rise From these dead clods and chills as from low burial graves.
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,
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 flitting bluebird;
For such the scenes the annual play brings on.
While Not the Past Forgetting
While not the past forgetting,
contention sunk entire --peace,
For sign reciprocal our Northern,
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,
Amid the current songs of beauty,
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,
Had fought in the ranks --fought well --had been all through the Revolutionary war,) Lay dying --sons,
lovingly tending him,
Sharping their sense,
towards his murmuring,
"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,
To the wounded,
The perfume strong,
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
maroon and violet,
The earth's whole amplitude and Nature's multiform power consign'd for once to colors;
the general air possess'd by them --colors till now unknown,
confine --not the Western sky alone --the high meridian -- North,
Pure luminous color fighting the silent shadows to the last.
Down on the ancient wharf,
with a new-comer chatting: He shipp'd as green-hand boy,
and sail'd away,
(took some sudden,
vehement notion;) 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;
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,
Proof of this present time,
thy broad expanse,
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 gone,
dispell'd,) 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,
The faithfulest --hardiest --last.
Latent Boughs Alone
latent boughs alone,
(scaly and bare,
like eagles' talons,) But haply for some sunny day (who knows?) some future spring,
some summer --bursting forth,
To verdant leaves,
or sheltering shade --to nourishing fruit,
Apples and grapes --the stalwart limbs of trees emerging --the fresh,
And love and faith,
like scented roses blooming.
The Dead Emperor
with bending head and eyes,
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,
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,
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,
The Dismantled Ship
In some unused lagoon,
some nameless bay,
anchor'd near the shore,
gray and batter'd ship,
After free voyages to all the seas of earth,
haul'd up at last and hawser'd tight,
Now Precedent Songs,
Now precedent songs,
farewell --by every name farewell,
(Trains of a staggering line in many a strange procession,
From ups and downs --with intervals --from elder years,
or youth,) "In Cabin'd Ships,
or Thee Old Cause or Poets to Come Or Paumanok,
Song of Myself,
or To the Leaven'd Soil they Trod,
Thou Mother with thy Equal Brood,"
many more unspecified,
From fibre heart of mine --from throat and tongue --(My life's hot pulsing blood,
The personal urge and form for me --not merely paper,
automatic type and ink,) Each song of mine --each utterance in the past --having its long,
Of life or death,
or soldier's wound,
of country's loss or safety,
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,
sea --o'er prairie,
wood --the earth itself,
changing hues of all,
in failing twilight,
Objects and groups,
The calmer sight --the golden setting,
clear and broad: So much i' the atmosphere,
the points of view,
the situations whence we scan,
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,
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.
GOOD-BYE MY FANCY
Sail out for Good,
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,
depart from solid earth --no more returning to these shores,
Now on for aye our infinite free venture wending,
Spurning all yet tried ports,
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,
'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 the Same,
Ye Jocund Twain!
on the same,
ye jocund twain!
My life and recitative,
Fitful as motley-tongues of flame,
inseparably twined and merged in one --combining all,
My single soul --aims,
joys --Nor single soul alone,
I chant my nation's crucial stage,
haply humanity's) -- the trial great,
the victory great,
A strange eclaircissement of all the masses past,
the eastern world,
here from wanderings,
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,
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,
on ye jocund twain!
continue on the same!
MY 71st Year
After surmounting three-score and ten,
With all their chances,
My parents' deaths,
the vagaries of my life,
the many tearing passions of me,
the war of
As some old broken soldier,
after a long,
or haply after battle,
To-day at twilight,
answering company roll-call,
with vital voice,
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,
The Pallid Wreath
Somehow I cannot let it go yet,
funeral though it is,
Let it remain back there on its nail suspended,
and the white now gray and ashy,
One wither'd rose put years ago for thee,
But I do not forget thee.
Hast thou then faded?
Is the odor exhaled?
Are the colors,
while memories subtly play --the past vivid as ever;
For but last night I woke,
and in that spectral ring saw thee,
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;
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 lively there!
(Our joys of strife and derring-do to the last!) Put on the old ship all her power to-day!
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,
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,
Nor for myself --my own rebellious self in thee?
--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,
In each old song bequeath'd --in every noble page or text,
(Different --something unreck'd before --some unsuspected author,) In every object,
and star --in every birth and life,
As part of each --evolv'd from each --meaning,
behind the ostent,
A mystic cipher waits infolded.
After a long,
hundreds of years,
rous'd love and joy and thought,
myriads of readers,
covering --after ages' and ages' encrustations,
Then only may these songs reach fruition.
Add to your show,
before you close it,
With all the rest,
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,
sent oversea to-day,
memories and good-will.
Over and through the burial chant,
Organ and solemn service,
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 tents;
The clank of cavalry --the strange celerity of forming ranks --the slender bugle note;
The sound of horses' hoofs departing --saddles,
To the Sun-Set Breeze
Where late this heated day thou enterest at my window,
gently vitalizing Me,
melted-worn with sweat;
folding close and firm yet soft,
companion better than talk,
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,
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,
most of all known to my sense,) Minister to speak to me,
here and now,
what word has never told,
and cannot tell,
Art thou not universal concrete's distillation?
all Astronomy's last refinement?
Hast thou no soul?
Can I not know,
An ancient song,
Once gazing toward thee,
Mother of All,
seeking themes fitted for thee,
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,
and those of Ethiopia,
The Hindu epics,
The Biblic books and prophets,
and deep idyls of the Nazarene,
wanderings of Eneas,
Roland at Roncesvalles,
flocks of singing birds,
The Border Minstrelsy,
the bye-gone ballads,
As some vast wondrous weird dream-presences,
The great shadowy groups gathering around,
Darting their mighty masterful eyes forward at thee,
with as now thy bending neck and head,
with courteous hand and word,
pausing a moment,
drooping thine eyes upon them,
blent with their music,
curiously prepared for by them,
Thou enterest at thy entrance porch.
A Christmas Greeting
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 the present throe,
the democratic aim,
the acceptance and the faith;) To thee to-day our reaching arm,
our turning neck --to thee from us the expectant eye,
Thou cluster free!
thou brilliant lustrous one!
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,
The whispering air --even the mute crops,
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 soldiers,
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 deep-fill'd trenches Of gather'd from dead all America,
whence they came up,
From wooded Maine,
from fertile Pennsylvania,
From the measureless West,
(Even here in my room-shadows and half-lights in the noiseless flickering flames,
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 within my heart recording,
for many future year,
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,
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,
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,
and girdled the belt around his waist,
Call'd for vermilion paint (his looking-glass was held before him,) Painted half his face and neck,
Put the scalp-knife carefully in his belt --then lying down,
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 Voice from Death
A voice from Death,
solemn and strange,
in all his sweep and power,
indescribable blow --towns drown'd --humanity by thousands slain,
The vaunted work of thrift,
Dash'd pell-mell by the blow --yet usher'd life continuing on,
(Amid the rest,
amid the rushing,
A suffering woman saved --a baby safely born!)
Although I come and unannounc'd,
in horror and in pang,
In pouring flood and fire,
and wholesale elemental crash,
(this voice so solemn,
strange,) I too a minister of Deity.
we bow our faces,
veil our eyes to thee,
We mourn the old,
the young untimely drawn to thee,
The household wreck'd,
the husband and the wife,
the engulfed forger in his forge,
The corpses in the whelming waters and the mud,
The gather'd thousands to their funeral mounds,
and thousands never found or gather'd.
Then after burying,
mourning the dead,
(Faithful to them found or unfound,
bearing the past,
here new musing,) A day --a passing moment or an hour --America itself bends low,
cataclysm like this,
Take deep to thy proud prosperous heart.
E'en as I chant,
out of death,
and out of ooze and slime,
The blossoms rapidly blooming,
From West and East,
from South and North and over sea,
Its hot-spurr'd hearts and hands humanity to human aid moves on;
And from within a thought and lesson yet.
Thou ever-darting Globe!
through Space and Air!
Thou waters that encompass us!
Thou that in all the life and death of us,
in action or in sleep!
Thou laws invisible that permeate them and all,
Thou that in all,
and over all,
and through and under all,
giant force resistless,
Holding Humanity as in thy open hand,
as some ephemeral toy,
How ill to e'er forget thee!
For I too have forgotten,
(Wrapt in these little potencies of progress,
civilization,) Have lost my recognition of your silent ever-swaying power,
In which and upon which we float,
and every one of us is buoy'd.
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 --immanent in every life and object,
May-be at many and many-a-more removes --yet 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,
downfallen,) To return to its divine source and origin,
Latent the same in subject and in object,
without one exception."
The commonplace I sing;
How cheap is health!
how cheap nobility!
The open air I sing,
(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,
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,
prisoners in jail,
Venom and filth,
the ravenous sharks,
(What is the part the wicked and the loathesome bear within earth's orbic scheme?) Newts,
crawling things in slime and mud,
The barren soil,
the evil men,
the slag and hideous rot.
More experiences and sights,
than you'd think for;
now mostly just after sunrise or before sunset,
Sometimes in spring,
oftener in autumn,
perfectly clear weather,
in plain sight,
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 about it,) People and scenes,
colors and lines,
plain as could be,
Farms and dooryards of home,
paths border'd with box,
lilacs in corners,
Weddings in churches,
returns of long-absent sons,
the crape-veil'd mother and the daughters,
Trials in courts,
jury and judge,
the accused in the box,
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,
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,
dallying with all --war,
day and night absorbing,
Never even for one brief hour abandoning my task,
I end it here in sickness,
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,
Shakspere --the long,
long times' thick dotted roads,
The shining clusters and the Milky Ways of stars --Nature's pulses reap'd,
All retrospective passions,
All ages' plummets dropt to their utmost depths,
All human lives,
brains --all experiences' utterance;
After the countless songs,
or long or short,
Still something not yet told in poesy's voice or print --something lacking,
the best yet unexpress'd and lacking.)
Grand Is the Seen
Grand is the seen,
to me --grand are the sky and stars,
Grand is the earth,
and grand are lasting time and space,
And grand their laws,
But grander far the unseen soul of me,
endowing all those,
Lighting the light,
the sky and stars,
delving the earth,
sailing the sea,
(What were all those,
of what amount without thee?) More evolutionary,
O my soul!
More multiform far --more lasting thou than they.
Under the snow and ice,
under the darkness,
in every square or cubic inch,
in delicate lace,
Like babes in wombs,
Billions of billions,
and trillions of trillions of them waiting,
(On earth and in the sea --the universe --the stars there in the heavens,) Urging slowly,
And waiting ever more,
forever more behind.
Good-Bye My Fancy!
Good-bye my Fancy!
Farewell dear mate,
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,
and soon the heart-thud stopping.
Long have we lived,
--now separation --Good-bye my Fancy.
Yet let me not be too hasty,
Long indeed have we lived,
become really blended into one;
Then if we die we die together,
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 knows?) May-be it is you the mortal knob really undoing,
turning --so now finally,
Good-bye --and hail!