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Page 190
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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 indifferent, but
         trembling with age and your unheal'd wounds you mounted
         the scaffold;)

Page 191
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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,
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,
         young prince 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;)
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 shoot-
         ing over our heads,
(A moment, a moment long it sail'd its balls of unearthly 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 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
         chant,
What am I myself but one of your meteors?
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