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LEAVES OF GRASS.


A BOSTON BALLAD. (1854.)


1  To get betimes in Boston town, I rose this morning
         early;
Here's a good place at the corner—I must stand and
         see the show.

2  Clear the way there, Jonathan!
Way for the President's marshal! Way for the govern-
         ment cannon!
Way for the Federal foot and dragoons—and the appa-
         ritions copiously tumbling.

3  I love to look on the stars and stripes—I hope the
         fifes will play Yankee Doodle.

4  How bright shine the cutlasses of the foremost troops!
Every man holds his revolver, marching stiff through
         Boston town.

5  A fog follows—antiques of the same come limping,
Some appear wooden-legged, and some appear ban-
         daged and bloodless.

6  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-
         ders!

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7  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?

8  If you blind your eyes with tears, you will not see the
         President's marshal;
If you groan such groans, you might balk the govern-
         ment cannon.

9  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
         themselves.

10  Worse and worse! Can't you stand it? Are you
         retreating?
Is this hour with the living too dead for you?

11  Retreat then! Pell-mell!
To your graves! Back! back to the hills, old limpers!
I do not think you belong here, anyhow.

12  But there is one thing that belongs here—shall I tell
         you what it is, gentlemen of Boston?

13  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,
         black-bellied clipper,
Up with your anchor! shake out your sails! steer
         straight toward Boston bay.

14  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.

15  This centre-piece for them:
Look! all orderly citizens—look from the windows,
         women!

16  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.

17  You have got your revenge, old buster! The crown
         has come to its own, and more than its own.

18  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.

(1859–60.)

YEAR of meteors! brooding year!
I would bind in words retrospective some of your deeds
         and signs;
I would sing your contest for the 19th Presidentiad;.
I would sing how an old man, tall, with white hair,
         mounted the scaffold in Virginia;
(I was at hand—silent I stood, with teeth shut close—I
         watch'd;
I stood very near you, old man, when cool and 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,
11

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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
         attachment;
I know not why, but I loved you…(and so go forth
         little song,
Far over sea speed like an arrow, carrying my love all
         folded,
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?
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