Manuscripts

"Live Oak, with Moss"

 

The following roman-numbered "fair-copy" manuscripts from the University of Virginia's Valentine-Barrett collection have come to be known by the struck-through title "Live Oak, with Moss" rather than the alternate and remaining title "Calamus-Leaves."


We provide this HTML transcription only temporarily. Eventually we will encode these pages in XML and incorporate them within our larger directory of Whitman's poetry manuscripts.




Calamus-Leaves. 
Live Oak, with Moss.
 
I. 
Not the heat flames up and consumes, 
Not the sea-waves hurry in and out, 
Not the air, delicious and dry, the air of 
          the ripe summer, bears lightly along 
          white down-balls of myriads of seeds, 
          wafted, sailing gracefully, to drop 
          where they may, 
Not these—O none of these, more than the 
          flames of me, consuming, burning for 
          his love whom I love—O none, more 
          than I,  hurrying in and out; 
Does the tide hurry, seeking something, and 
          never give up?—O I, the same, to
          seek my life-long lover; 
O nor down-balls, nor perfumes, nor the high
          rain-emitting clouds, are borne through
          the open air, more than my copious 
          soul is borne through the open air, 
          wafted in all directions, for friendship, 
          for love.—

II
I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing, 
All alone stood it, and the moss hung down 
          from the branches, 
Without any companion it grew there, 
          glistening out with joyous leaves of 
          dark green, 
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made 
          me think of myself; 
But I wondered how it could utter joyous 
          leaves, standing alone there without its 
          friend, its lover- -For I knew I could 
          not; 
And I plucked a twig with a certain number 
          of leaves upon it, and twined around it 
          a little moss, and brought it  away — 
          And I have placed it in sight in my 
          room, 

It is not needed to remind me as of my 
          friends, (for I believe lately I think of
          little else than of them,) 
Yet it remains to me a curious token - it
             makes me think of manly love,
I write          these   
          pieces and name them after it
For all that, and though the treelive oak 
          glistens there in Louisiana, solitary in a 
          wide flat space, uttering joyous leaves 
          all its life, without a friend, a lover, 
          near - I know very well I could not. 

III 
When I heard at the close of the day how I 
          had been praised in the Capitol, still it 
          was not a happy night for me that 
          followed; 
And else Nor when I caroused — Or
—Nor^when my  ^favorite plans were 
          accomplished — it was I really happy, 
          was well enoughStill I was not
          happy
But the the theat^ thatday when whenI rose at
          dawn from the bed of perfect health, 
          electric, inhaling sweet breath, 
When I saw the full moon in the west grow 
          pale and disappear in the morning 
          light, 
When I wandered alone over the beach, and 
          undressing, bathed, laughing with the 
          waters, and saw the sun rise, 

And when I thought how my friend, my lover,
         was coming, then O^ I was happy; 
O tThen eEach breath tasted sweeter—and 
          all that day my food nourished me 
          more—And the beautiful day passed 
          well, 
And the next came with equal joy—And with
          the next, at evening, came my friend, 
And that night, while all was still, I heard the 
          waters roll slowly continually up the 
          shores 
I heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and 
          sands, as directed to me, whispering, 
          to congratulate me,—For the friend I 
          love lay sleeping by my side, 
In the stillness his face was inclined towards 
          me, while the moon's clear beams 
          shone, And his arm lay lightly over my 
          breast—And that night I was happy. 

(on this leaf, beneath the paste-over, is an earlier version of the conclusion, with no strikethroughs)

And that night O you happy waters, I heard 
          you beating the shores—But my heart
          beat happier than you—for he I love is
          returned and sleeping by my side, 
And that night in the stillness his face was
          inclined toward me while the moon's
          clear beams shone, 
And his arm lay lightly over my breast—And 
          that night I was happy.


IV
This moment as I sit alone, yearning and 
          pensive, it seems to me there are other
          men, in other lands, yearning and 
          pensive. 
It seems to me I can look over and behold 
          them, in Germany, France, Spain—Or
          far away in China, ^India, or in
          Russia—talking other dialects, 
And it seems to me if I could know those 
          men better I should love them as I love
          men in my own lands; 
It seems to me they are as wise, beautiful, 
          benevolent, as any in my own lands; 
O I know think we should be brethren—I 
          knowthink I should be happy with 
          them.
V
Long I thought that knowledge alone would 
          suffice me—O if I could but obtain
          knowledge! 
Then my lands the Land of the Prairies
          engrossed me—the south savannas
             engrossed me—For them I would live
          —I would be their orator; 
Then I met the examples of old and new 
          heroes—I heard the examples of 
          warriors, sailors, and all dauntless
          persons—And it seemed to me I too
          had it in me to be as dauntless as any,
          and would be so; 
And then to finish all, it came to me to strike
          up the songs of the New World—And
          then I believed my life must be spent in
          singing; 
But now take notice, Land of the prairies,
          Land of the south savannas, Ohio's 
          land, 
Take notice, you Kanuck woods—and you, 
          Lake Huron—and all that with you roll
          toward Niagara—and you Niagara 
          also, 
And you, Californian mountains—that you
          all find some one else that he be your 
          singer of songs, 
For I can be your singer of songs no 
          longer — I have passed ahead
          I have ceased to enjoy them.
I have found him who loves me, as I him in
          perfect love, 
With the rest I dispense—I sever from all 
          that I thought would suffice me, for it 
          does not--it is now empty and 
          tasteless to me, 
I heed knowledge, and the grandeur of The 
          States, and the examples of heroes, no
          more, 
I am indifferent to my own songs—I am to
          go with him I love, and he is to go
          with me, 
It is to be enough for each of us that we are
          together—We never separate again. -
____________
VI
What think you I have taken my pen to 
          record? 
Not the battle-ship, perfect-model'd, 
          majestic, that I saw to day arrive in the
          offing, under full sail, 
Nor the splendors of the past day--nor the
          splendors of the night that envelopes 
          me—Nor the glory and growth of the
          great city spread around me, 
But the two young men I saw to-day on the
          pier, parting the parting of dear 
          friends. 
The one whoto remainedremain hung on the
          other's neck and passionately kissed 
          him—while the one who remainedto 
          depart tightly prest the one who
          remained to remain in his arms.
__________
VII
You bards of ages hence,! when you refer to 
          me, mind not so much my poems, 
Nor speak to me that I prophesied of The
          States and led them the way of their
          glories, 
But come, I will inform you who I was
          underneath that impassive exterior—
          I will tell you what to say of me,
Publish my name and hang up my picture as
          that of the tenderest lover, 
The friend, the lover's portrait, of whom his
          friend, his lover was fondest, 
Who was not proud of his songs, but of the
          measureless ocean of love within
          him—and freely poured it forth, 
Who often walked lonesome walks thinking
          of his dearest friends, his lovers, 
Who pensive, away from one he loved, often
          lay sleepless and dissatisfied at night,
Who, dreading lest the one he loved might 
          after all be indifferent to him, felt the
          sick feeling—O sick! sick! 
Whose happiest days were those, far away
          ^through fields, in woods, or on hills, he
          and another, wandering hand in hand, 
          they twain, apart from other men.
Who ever, as he sauntered the streets, 
          curved with his arm the manly shoulder
          of his friend—while the curving arm of
          his friend rested upon him also. 
_________
VIII.
                       IX.
Hours continuing long, sore and 
          heavy-hearted, 
Hours of the dusk, when I withdraw to a 
          lonesome and unfrequented spot, 
          seating myself, leaning my face in my
          hands, 
Hours sleepless, deep in the night, when I go 
          forth, speeding swiftly the country
          roads, or through the city streets, or 
          pacing miles and miles, stifling  
          plaintive cries, 
Hours discouraged, distracted, —For he, the
          one I cannot content myself 
          without—soon I saw him content
          himself without me, 
Hours when I am forgotten—(O weeks and 
          months are passing, but I believe I am 
          never to forget!) 
Sullen and suffering hours--(I am ashamed—
          but it is useless —I am what I am;)
Hours of my torment—I wonder if other men
          ever have the like out of the like
          feelings? 
Is there even one other like me—distracted
          — his friend, his lover, lost to him? 
Is he too as I am now?  Does he still rise
          in the morning, dejected, thinking who
          is lost to him? And at night, awaking,
          think who is lost? 
Does he too harbor his friendship silent and
          endless?  Harbor his anguish and
          passion? 
Does some stray reminder, or the casual
          mention of a name, bring the fit back
          upon him, taciturn and deprest? 
Does he see himself reflected in me?  In these
          hours does he see the face of his hours
          reflected?
_______
IX
I dreamed in a dream of a city where all the
          men were like brothers, 
O I saw them tenderly love each other—I 
          often saw them, in numbers, walking 
          hand in hand; 
I dreamed that was the city of robust 
          friends—Nothing was greater there
          than the quality of manly love—it led
          the rest, 
It was seen every hour in the actions of the
          men of that city, and in all their looks
          and words.—
X
O you whom I ^often and silently come where
          I you are, that I may be with you, 
As I walk by your side, or sit near, or  
          remain in the same room with you, 
Little you know the subtle electric fire that  
          for your sake is playing within me.—
XI.
Earth! My Likeness!  Though you look so
          impassive, ample and spheric there--
         —I now suspect that is not all,
I now suspect there is something terrible in
          you, ready to break forth, 
For an athlete loves me, and I him-But
          toward him there is something fierce
          and terrible in me, 
I dare not tell it in words—not even in these
          songs.  
XII
To the young man, many things to absorb, to
          engraft, to develop, I teach, that he be
          my eleve, 
But if through him speed rolls not the red 
          blood of divine friendship, hot and
          red—If he be not silently selected by
          lovers, and do not silently select
          lovers—of what use were it for him to
          seek to become eleve of mine?






 

 


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