Books by Whitman
LEAVES OF GRASS.
A BOSTON BALLAD. (1854.)
To get betimes in Boston town, I rose this morning|
|Here's a good place at the corner—I must stand and|
see the show.
Clear the way there, Jonathan!|
|Way for the President's marshal! Way for the govern- |
|Way for the Federal foot and dragoons—and the appa-|
ritions copiously tumbling.
I love to look on the stars and stripes—I hope the|
fifes will play Yankee Doodle.
How bright shine the cutlasses of the foremost troops!|
|Every man holds his revolver, marching stiff through|
A fog follows—antiques of the same come limping,|
|Some appear wooden-legged, and some appear ban-|
daged and bloodless.
Why this is indeed a show! It has called the dead out|
of the earth!
|The old grave-yards of the hills have hurried to see!|
|Phantoms! phantoms countless by flank and rear!|
|Cock'd hats of mothy mould! crutches made of mist!|
|Arms in slings! old men leaning on young men's shoul- |
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What troubles you, Yankee phantoms? What is all|
this clattering of bare gums?
|Does the ague convulse your limbs? Do you mistake|
your crutches for firelocks, and level them?
If you blind your eyes with tears, you will not see the|
|If you groan such groans, you might balk the govern- |
For shame old maniacs! Bring down those toss'd|
arms, and let your white hair be;
|Here gape your great grand-sons—their wives gaze at|
them from the windows,
|See how well dress'd—see how orderly they conduct|
Worse and worse! Can't you stand it? Are you|
|Is this hour with the living too dead for you?|
Retreat then! Pell-mell!|
|To your graves! Back! back to the hills, old limpers!|
|I do not think you belong here, anyhow.|
But there is one thing that belongs here—shall I tell|
you what it is, gentlemen of Boston?
I will whisper it to the Mayor—he shall send a com- |
mittee to England;
|They shall get a grant from the Parliament, go with a|
cart to the royal vault—haste!
|Dig out King George's coffin, unwrap him quick from|
the grave-clothes, box up his bones for a journey;
|Find a swift Yankee clipper—here is freight for you,|
|Up with your anchor! shake out your sails! steer|
straight toward Boston bay.
Now call for the President's marshal again, bring out|
the government cannon,
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|Fetch home the roarers from Congress, make another|
procession, guard it with foot and dragoons.
This centre-piece for them:|
|Look! all orderly citizens—look from the windows,|
The committee open the box, set up the regal ribs,|
glue those that will not stay,
|Clap the skull on top of the ribs, and clap a crown on|
top of the skull.
You have got your revenge, old buster! The crown|
has come to its own, and more than its own.
Stick your hands in your pockets, Jonathan—you are|
a made man from this day;
|You are mighty cute—and here is one of your bargains.|
YEAR OF METEORS.
|YEAR of meteors! brooding year!|
|I would bind in words retrospective some of your deeds|
|I would sing your contest for the 19th Presidentiad;.|
|I would sing how an old man, tall, with white hair,|
mounted the scaffold in Virginia;
|(I was at hand—silent I stood, with teeth shut close—I|
|I stood very near you, old man, when cool and indiffer-|
ent, but trembling with age and your unheal'd
wounds, you mounted the scaffold;)
|—I would sing in my copious song your census returns|
of The States,
|The tables of population and products—I would sing of|
your ships and their cargoes,
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|The proud black ships of Manhattan, arriving, some|
fill'd with immigrants, some from the isthmus
with cargoes of gold;
|Songs thereof would I sing—to all that hitherward|
comes would I welcome give;
|And you would I sing, fair stripling! welcome to you|
from me, sweet boy of England!
|Remember you surging Manhattan's crowds, as you|
pass'd with your cortege of nobles?
|There in the crowds stood I, and singled you out with|
|I know not why, but I loved you…(and so go forth|
|Far over sea speed like an arrow, carrying my love all|
|And find in his palace the youth I love, and drop these|
lines at his feet;)
|—Nor forget I to sing of the wonder, the ship as she|
swam up my bay,
|Well-shaped and stately the Great Eastern swam up my|
bay, she was 600 feet long,
|Her, moving swiftly, surrounded by myriads of small|
craft, I forget not to sing;
|—Nor the comet that came unannounced, out of the|
north, flaring in heaven;
|Nor the strange huge meteor procession, dazzling and|
clear, shooting over our heads,
|(A moment, a moment long, it sail'd its balls of un-|
earthly light over our heads,
|Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;)|
|—Of such, and fitful as they, I sing—with gleams from|
them would I gleam and patch these chants;
|Your chants, O year, all mottled with evil and good!|
year of forebodings! year of the youth I love!
|Year of comets and meteors transient and strange!—lo!|
even here, one equally transient and strange!
|As I flit through you hastily, soon to fall and be gone,|
what is this book,
|What am I myself but one of your meteors?|