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32 — Burial Poem.
To think of time! to think through the retro-
To think of today, and the ages continued hence-
Have you guessed you yourself would not con-
tinue? Have you dreaded those earth-
Have you feared the future would be nothing to
Is today nothing? Is the beginningless past
If the future is nothing, they are just as surely
To think that the sun rose in the east! that men
and women were flexible, real, alive! that
every thing was alive!
To think that you and I did not see, feel, think,
nor bear our part!
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To think that we are now here, and bear our part!
Not a day passes, not a minute or second, without
Not a day passes, not a minute or second, without
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 cam-
phor-smell has 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
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 eye-
But without eye-sight lingers a different living,
and looks curiously on the corpse.
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To think that the rivers will come to flow, and the
snow fall, and fruits ripen, and act upon others
as upon us now—yet not act upon us!
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
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
Slow-moving and black lines creep over the whole
earth—they never cease—they are the
He that was President was buried, and he that is
now President shall surely be buried.
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, other vehicles give place —
the funeral of an old Broadway stage-driver,
the cortege mostly drivers.
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Rapid the trot to the cemetery, duly rattles the
death-bell, the gate is passed, the grave is
halted at, the living alight, the hearse
The coffin is lowered and settled, the whip is laid
on the coffin, the earth is swiftly shovelled in
—a minute, no one moves or speaks—it is
He is decently put away—is there anything
He was a good fellow, free-mouthed, quick-tem-
pered, not bad-looking, able to take his own
part, witty, sensitive to a slight, ready with
life or death for a friend, fond of women,
played some, ate hearty, drank hearty, had
known what it was to be flush, grew low-
spirited toward the last, sickened, was helped
by a contribution, died aged forty-one years —
and that was his funeral.
Thumb extended, finger uplifted, apron, cape,
gloves, strap, wet-weather clothes, whip care-
fully chosen, boss, spotter, starter, hostler,
somebody loafing on you, you loafing on
somebody, head-way, man before and man
behind, good day's work, bad day's work, pet
stock, mean stock, first out, last out, turning
in at night,
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To think that these are so much and so nigh to
other drivers—and he there takes no interest
The markets, the government, 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
To think the difference will still continue to oth-
ers, yet we lie beyond the difference!
To think how much pleasure there is!
Have you pleasure from looking at the sky?
have you pleasure from poems?
Do you enjoy yourself in the city? or engaged in
business? or planning a nomination and elec-
tion? or with your wife and family?
Or with your mother and sisters? or in womanly
house-work? or the beautiful maternal cares?
These also flow onward to others—you and I
But in due time you and I shall take less interest
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Your farm, profits, crops—to think how engrossed
To think there will still be farms, profits, crops —
yet for you, of what avail?
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 sky continues beautiful, the pleasure of men
with women shall never be sated, nor the
pleasure of women with men, nor the pleas-
ure from poems,
The domestic joys, the daily house-work or busi-
ness, the building of houses—these are not
phantasms, they have weight, form, location;
Farms, profits, crops, markets, wages, government,
are none of them phantasms,
The difference between sin and goodness is no
The earth is not an echo—man and his life, and
all the things of his life, are well-considered.
You are not thrown to the winds—you gather
certainly and safely around yourself,
Yourself! Yourself! Yourself, forever and ever!
It is not to diffuse you that you were born of your
mother and father—it is to identify you,
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It is not that you should be undecided, but that
you should be decided;
Something long preparing and formless is arrived
and formed in you,
You are thenceforth secure, whatever comes or
The threads that were spun are gathered, the weft
crosses the warp, the pattern is systematic.
The preparations have every one been justified,
The orchestra have tuned their instruments suffi-
ciently, the baton has given the signal.
The guest that was coming—he waited long for
reasons—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
The law of the living cannot be eluded—it is
The law of promotion and transformation cannot
The law of heroes and good-doers cannot be
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The law of drunkards, informers, mean persons,
cannot be eluded!
Slow-moving and black lines go ceaselessly over
Northerner goes carried, and southerner goes car-
ried, and they on the Atlantic side, and they
on the Pacific, and they between, and all
through the Mississippi country, and all over
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 distinguished, may be
But there is more account than that—there is
account of all.
The interminable hordes of the ignorant and
wicked are not nothing,
The barbarians of Africa and Asia are not nothing,
The common people of Europe are not nothing —
the American aborigines are not nothing,
The infected in the immigrant hospital are not
nothing—the murderer or mean person is
The perpetual successions of shallow people are
not nothing as they go,
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The prostitute is not nothing—the mocker of re-
ligion is not nothing as he goes.
I shall go with the rest—we have satisfaction,
I have dreamed that we are not to be changed so
much, nor the law of us changed,
I have dreamed that heroes and good-doers shall
be under the present and past law,
And that murderers, drunkards, liars, shall be
under the present and past law,
For I have dreamed that the law they are under
now is enough.
And I have dreamed that the satisfaction is not so
much changed, and that there is no life
What is the earth? what are body and soul, with-
I shall go with the rest,
We cannot be stopped at a given point—that is
To show us a good thing, or a few good things,
for a space of time—that is no satisfaction,
We must have the indestructible breed of the best,
regardless of time.
If otherwise, all these things came but to ashes
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If maggots and rats ended us, then suspicion,
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
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 is my soul!
How perfect the earth, and the minutest thing
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 are perfect;
Slowly and surely they have passed on to this,
and slowly and surely they yet pass on.
My soul! if I realize you, I have satisfaction,
Animals and vegetables! if I realize you, I have
Laws of the earth and air! if I realize you, I
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I cannot define my satisfaction, yet it is so,
I cannot define my life, yet it is so.
O I swear I think now that every thing has an
The trees have, rooted in the ground! the weeds
of the sea have! the animals!
I swear I think there is nothing but immortality!
That the exquisite scheme is for it, and the nebu-
lous float is for it, and the cohering is for it!
And all preparation is for it! and identity is for
it! and life and death are for it!