BY ERNEST RHYS.
Walter Scott, 24 Warwick Lane Paternoster Row,
WHEN the true poet comes, how shall we know him—
By what clear token,—manners, language, dress?
Or shall a voice from Heaven speak and show him:
Him the swift healer of the Earth's distress!
Tell us that when the long-expected comes
At last, with mirth and melody and singing,
We him may greet with banners, beat of drums,
Welcome of men and maids, and joy-bells ringing;
And, for this poet of ours,
Laurels and flowers.
Thus shall ye know him—this shall be his token:
Manners like other men, an unstrange gear;
His speech not musical, but harsh and broken
Shall sound at first, each line a driven spear;
For he shall sing as in the centuries olden,
Before mankind its earliest fire forgot;
Yet whoso listens long hears music golden.
How shall ye know him? ye shall know him not
Till ended hate and scorn,
To the grave he's borne.
—RICHARD WATSON GILDER.
The Century Magazine,
"Have the elder races halted?
Do they droop and end their lesson, wearied over there
beyond the seas?
We take up the task eternal, and the burden and the
Pioneers! O Pioneers!"
LONG ago were tenderly bequeathed
by the greatest spirit who ever
moved on earth—and, may we
not say, the greatest poet?—an
obscure young man of divine
presence, whose soul was as a
clear flame of truth in a dark
and haunted night, two precepts to his disciples.
The first of the two, understood amiss, travestied
by men to inglorious ends of caste and worldly
advancement, was fatally separated from its fellow
more and more in the after theories of religion. The
second, which, in use, has been so grandly named
the Golden Rule, though always potent for love and
human fellowship, has in the perfect meaning the
Christ gave to it been often sorrowfully lost to us.
All along it has, like its fellow, been in its full purity
more of the sacred instinct of the few pure hearts
than of the many. But now, more than ever,
in the surge and fret of later time, when its need
is inestimably greater, its spirit seems often lost
and perverted, while the letter of its tradition is
being told and retold with unlimited unction. To
restore this spirit to heroic and active influence
among men were a poet's work worthy of the
highest, and it is this which is the most immediate
significance of the "task eternal, and the burden
and the lesson," which Walt Whitman has taken up,
—this, perhaps, the most dominant aspect for us in
England to-day of Walt Whitman's work as a poet.
In point of pure humanity, then, this new song
of America is most significant for us. But if stress
is laid on Leaves of Grass as a new poetry of
love and comradeship at this time of social mis-
giving, when rich and poor alike make us keenly
feel the need of the spirit of human love, the poetic
force and quality Walt Whitman brings to aid him
in his task must not be overlooked. It is not senti-
mental valley of the rose and nightingale,—no
moonlit dreamland of romance,—whence he draws
his inspiration. His poems, whatever critics may
say of their art-form and harmonies, are touched
with a wider spirit, and in their sweeping music
take in the whole scope of Time and Space open
to the modern mind. So, if the command was
laid upon Walt Whitman to sing "the life-long love
of comrades," which is the song of the new Demo-
cracy, it was his, too, to first essay the vaster
harmony still of the far-stretched universe as
modernly known. The conjunction of this greatness
of poetic vision, fearlessly equal to the far range of
later science, with the most intimate sympathy with
the individual human heart, is what makes Whitman
so powerfully suggestive to the younger minds of
to-day. In his hopeful gaze into the future, the
doubts and misgivings of the time are laid at rest;
as he sings of the new, purer Democracy, the social
distempers and miseries of this particular hour lose
their finality of woe, and are seen to be but a passing
stride in the eternal human march.
"One's-self I sing, a simple separate person,
Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse.
. . . . . . .
Of life immense in passion, pulse and power,
Cheerful, for freest action, form'd under the laws divine,
The Modern Man I sing."
The Modern Man! whom most of us are afraid to
approach in poetry, or from any high standpoint at
all,—Walt Whitman has resolutely faced him, and
sounded the hopes and fears of his potential being.
The foregoing passage from "Inscriptions," poems
introductory to the main body of the Leaves of
Grass, may be called indeed the key-note of Walt
Whitman's unusual music. Struck thus at the
outset, it will be found dominant throughout the
book; with it sounding insistently in our ears we
shall not be likely to mistake the great intention of
this new poetry.
The best way to approach a poet is through his
personality; it is only true poets who can bear to
be so approached. In attempting to get at the
bearing upon our day and generation of Walt
Whitman as a poet, we must first of all make friends
with him as a man, for soon it is found that his life
and personality are absolutely one with his poetry.
It is impossible, indeed, to thoroughly apprehend the
Leaves of Grass without knowing and being thrilled
by the magnetic individuality that informs them
throughout. And Walt Whitman has not stinted
the American people of opportunity to see and
know him familiarly; his life has been a remark-
ably open and undisguised one from the first.
Visiting him now in his quiet home in Camden,
New Jersey, one would find a white-haired vener-
able man of sixty-six, but it is the Walt Whitman of
thirty years back whom one must realise, as he
was when, in his prime of manhood and poetic
power, he began to write the Leaves of Grass:—
"I now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease no till death."
Judged by the conventional good-society standard
of appearance, it is to be feared that Walt Whit-
man would have then seemed an alarmingly
natural sort of being, just as his poetry judged
by approved rhymster's rules seems particularly
audacious. There is a description by W. D.
O'Connor, written ten years later it is true, but
which will help us to realise his presence better
perhaps than anything else. It is to be found in
O'Connor's well-known essay, "The Good Gray
"For years past thousands of people in New York, in
Brooklyn, in Boston, in New Orleans, and latterly in Wash-
ington, have seen, even as I saw two hours ago, tallying,
one might say, the streets of our American cities, and fit to
have for his background and accessories their streaming
populations and ample and rich façades, a man of striking
masculine beauty—a poet—powerful and venerable in
appearance; large, calm, superbly formed; oftenest clad in
the careless, rough, and always picturesque costume of the
common people; resembling and generally taken by
strangers for some great mechanic or stevedore, or seaman,
or grand labourer of one kind or another; and passing
slowly in this guise, with nochalant and haughty step
along the pavement, with the sunlight and shadows falling
around him. The dark sombrero he usually wear was,
when I saw him just now, the day being warm, held for the
moment in his hand; rich light an artist would have chosen
lay upon his uncovered head, majestic, large, Homeric, and
set upon his strong shoulders with the grandeur of ancient
sculpture. I marked the countenence, serene, proud, cheer-
ful, florid, grave; the brow seamed with noble wrinkles;
the features, massive and handsome, with firm blue eyes;
the eyebrows and eyelids especially showing that fulness of
arch seldom seen save in the antique busts; the flowing hair
and fleecy beard, both very grey, and tempering with a look
of age the youthful aspect of one who is but forty-five; the
simplicity and purity of his dress, cheap and plain, but
spotless, from snowy falling collar to burnished boot, and
exhaling faint fragrance; the whole form surrounded with
manliness as with a nimbus, and breathing in its perfect
health and vigour, the august charm of the strong."
This depicture of Walt Whitman is valuable as
being a direct portrayal, taken on the spot as it were,
and showing the magnetic effect of his personal
presence, affecting those who came in contact with
him to an extraordinary degree, so that indeed it
may be that they became poets in their turn,
and somewhat idealistic in their accounts. Dr.
Maurice Bucke in his vivid book upon Whitman tells
of a certain young man who went to see the poet—
being already familiar with Leaves of Grass—and
who by means of only a casual and ordinary talk
was filled with a strange physical and spiritual
exaltation, which lasted some weeks; what is
still more impressive, however, it is added that the
young fellow's whole tenour of life was altered by
this slight contact,—and that his character, outer
life, and entire spiritual being were elevated and
purified in a very remarkable way. This might seem
exaggerated, but this special amount is attested
beyond the suspicion even of exaggeration, and it
is typical, it will be found, of Walt Whitman's native
influence and stimulus throughout. We have the
direct testimony of many men of genius to prove
this. From the involuntary tribute of Abraham
Lincoln,—"Well, he looks like a Man!"—to the
more conscious homage of John Burroughs, the
poet-naturalist, whose little books of nature we have
most of us been reading lately in their charming
Edinburgh reprint, all sorts of conditions of men
indeed have given their word for him
To get at the full bearing of his life upon his
poems, however, let us return to the very begin-
ning, and trace, briefly at least, his boyhood and
youth. In his Specimen Days and Collect, an
autobiographical volume of incomparable prose-
notes, as well as in many of the poems, Walt
Whitman refers constantly to the great influence
of his early childish days in their free open-air
environment upon his mental and spiritual growth.
He was, indeed, wonderfully happy in his early
surroundings,—in his vigorous healthy parentage
and home influences. Born on Long Island, or
Paumanok, its Indian name, by which he always
calls it, in the State of New York, of a stalward
race of farmers, in 1819, the freedom of sun and
wind was his, in a wide country-side, with rising
hills around, and the sea that he has sung so
affectionately, with such deep sympathy, so that
its harmonies seem to have subtly informed his
poetry, close by. Some of the early pages in
Specimen Days give a delightful and vivid descrip-
tion of these boyish haunts, and the old home-
stead of the Whitmans and the Val Velsors
—his mother's family—as visited after more than
forty years' absence. A note by John Burroughs,
describing briefly the house where Walt Whitman
was born and bred, says:—"The Whitmans lived
in a long storey-and-a-half farm-house, hugely
timbered, which is still standing. A great smoke-
canopied kitchen, with vast hearth and chimney,
formed one end of the house, where rousing wood
fires gave both warmth and light on winter nights.
. . . I must not forget to mention that both the
families were near enough to the sea to behold it
from the high places, and to hear in still hours the
roar of the surf; the latter, after a storm, giving a
peculiar sound at night." There is a temptation
to quote a great many of Whitman's own notes
about the neighbourhood, but only a brief excerpt
or two can be given. "The spreading Hempstead
plains in the middle of the island," give us
one such note of pastoral feeling. "I have
often been out on the edges of these plains toward
sundown, and can yet recall in fancy the intermin-
able cow-processions, and hear the music of the
tin or copper bells clanking far or near, and
breathe the cool of the sweet and slightly aromatic
evening air, and note the sunset." Again and
again he touches on the sea with an affection
and a truth of description which make these
careless jottings unspeakably suggestive. "As
I write," he says in one place, "the whole exper-
ience comes back to me after the lapse of forty and
more years—the soothing rustle of the waves, and
the saline smell—boyhood's times, the clam-digging,
the creek—the perfume of the sedge meadows—
the hay-boat, and the fishing excursions;—or, of
later years, little voyages down and out New York
bay, in the pilot boats." While still a child his
father moved to Brooklyn—then a country-town,
thoroughly rural in character—"at that time broad
fields and country roads everywhere around," and
still within easy reach of the sea. Here his school-
days, and his general apprenticeship to life as
printer, journalist, magazine-writer, and so on were
mainly passed, up to his twentieth year, when he
went to New York. A strong, healthy boyhood
and youth his seems to have been throughout, out
of which the poetic and literary faculty natively
grew in a way as unlike the routine academic
tradition as well could be. Give a healthy boy
books like the Waverly Novels, and the Arabian
Nights, in such a life as this, with a suggestive suffi-
ciency of mental and physical work, and you have
given him what mere formal scholasticism will
never accomplish for him, in true poetic insight.
The next twelve years, spent variously in street
and field, in New York, Brooklyn, New Orleans,
and other cities, with long intervals always
of country life in the wide sweep of valley
and plain and seashore, during which he
sounded the teeming life of the fast-growing
United States, may be deemed, say Dr. Bucke,
the special preparation-time for the writing
of the Leaves of Grass. Although, accordingly,
one would like to comment at length upon these
years of young manhood, it is unnecessary. The
reader will find its true history and illustrations in the
poems themselves. In some respects, however,
the more detailed accounts possible in prose,
given in Specimen Days, casts valuable added light
upon this probation-time, and his great zest for
certain sides of life. His "passion for ferries," for
instance, that finds final outcome in the well-known
poem, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," has a character-
istic note. Referring to the Fulton Ferry, curiously
identified with his life in Brooklyn and New York,
he writes:—"Almost daily I crossed in the boats,
often up in the pilot-houses, where I could get a full
sweep, absorbing shows, accompaniments, surround-
ings. What oceanic currents, eddies, underneath;
the great tides of humanity also, with ever shifting
movements. Indeed, I have always had a passion
for ferries; to me they afford inimitable, streaming,
never-failing, living poems. The river and bay
scenery, all about New York island, any time of a
fine day—the hurrying, splashing seat-tides—the
changing panorama of steamers . . . the myriads
of white-sail'd schooners, sloops, skiffs, and the
marvellously beautiful yachts . . . what refresh-
ment of spirit such sights and experiences gave me
years ago, and many a time since." In the same
way are described experiences of the teeming
streets; the omnibuses, and the always typical
race, since old English coaches first ran, of drivers;
the theatres and their plays and players, and, with
special stress, the operas and famous singers, for
Whitman was always enthusiastically susceptible
to music of all kinds.
To this tumultuous wealth of experience succeeds
naturally the preparation, and then at last the
publication, of the Leaves of Grass volume, which
marks memorably the year 1855. A great deal of
the matter found in the present volume has been
added since the issue of this first edition—a thin
royal octavo, generally described as a quarto,
of ninety-four pages; but the significance of Whit-
man's departure from the old routine of poetry
was marked in it in a way that no further addition
could make more striking. It is not strange,
therefore, that the book gained scant recogni-
tion. It was not until Emerson sent to Walt
Whitman what was really his first recognition
from the literary world, the now famous letter
of greeting, that the book became at all known.
A characteristic passage or two from this letter
may be given:—"I am not blind to the worth
of the wonderful gift of Leaves of Grass. I
find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and
wisdom that America has yet contributed. . . . I
give you joy of your free and brave thought. I
have great joy in it. I find incomparable things,
said incomparably well, as they must be. I find
the courage of treatment which so delights us,
and which large perception only can inspire. . . .
I greet you at the beginning of a great career,
which yet must have had a long foreground some-
where for such a start. . . . " Of this letter, which
was published eventually in the New York Tribune,
Dr. Bucke says:—"Though it could not arrest, it
did service in partially offsetting the tide of adverse
feeling and opinion which overwhelmingly set in
against the poet and his book." And in the same
chapter he notes:—"The first reception of Leaves of
Grass by the world was in fact about as disheartening
as it could be. Of the thousand copies of this 1855
edition, some were given away, most of them were
lost, abandoned, or destroyed." Of this thousand,
however, certain of the copies had a history not
noted in this instance, but told to the present
writer by William Bell Scott, the well-known
painter and poet, who thus became the means of
introducing Walt Whitman to the English republic
of letters. The summer following the publication
of the book, that is in 1856, a man, James Grindrod
by name, arrived in Sunderland from the United
States, with a stock of American books—surplus
copies, remainders, and so on—among which
were the copies of Leaves of Grass mentioned.
These books he disposed of my a curious system of
dealing, called hand-selling, a rough and ready
sort of auction, by which an article is first put up
at a certain price and then gradually brought
down until it finds a purchaser. This unlicensed
street auctioneering most of those who are familiar
with north-country town and their market days
must have often witnessed, and in this way certain
copies of Leaves of Grass fell into the hands of
Thomas Dixon—a well-known native of Sunder-
land, to whom Ruskin wrote the famous letters
ultimately published as "Time and Tide Weare
and Tyne." Thomas Dixon in his turn sent three
of the copies thus acquired to William Bell Scott,
who at once perceiving the unique quality of the
book, sent forthwith one copy, which has become
in its way historical, to William Michael Rossetti.
For this copy gave the germinal suggestion of
W. M. Rossetti's volume of ten years later—
"Selected Poems by Walt Whitman," which
for long well serve as the only representative
of the poet in England. It is noteworthy in
relation to this episode that Mr. William Bell
Scott, who first gave greeting and encourage-
ment to another poet, of quite opposite order—a
poet of romanticism like Dante Gabriel Rossetti—
should act also as the herald of Walt Whitman—
poet above everything of the actual, and the higher
Further leaves were added to Leaves of Grass
out of the abounding experiences of the years
between 1855 and 1862, over which we must leap
hastily to the outbreak of the Civil War,—an event
of heroic importance in Whitman's life. It was a
heroic opportunity indeed, and he used it like a
hero, serving with passionate devotedness as a
nurse to the wounded. The news of his brother's
wound first called him hurriedly to the seat of
war, and thus beginning his ministry, he tended
the wounded soldiers with a love and tenderness
which with his peculiar invigorative influence
had effects sometimes almost miraculous. And
as he bore himself in this ordeal of death and
horror of blood, so he afterwards sang. No war
since rumours of war first began ever had such a
record as is to be found in his war-poems,
from the stirring "First O Songs for a Prelude," to
the final strains,—"Spirit whose work is done,"
"Adieu O Soldiers," and the beautiful last of
the series, "To the leaven'd soil they trod,"
wherein he tells with such exquisite imaginative
suggestion of untying the tent ropes for the
last time and letting the freshness of the morning
wind, sunned and scented with the restoring scent
of grass and all growing things, go blowing through,
sweeping away for ever the clinging odours of war
and death which had made the air sickly and
terrible for so long, while the eye sent its glance
with a thrill of escape to the wide, calm sweep of
hills and plains in the distant sunlight, instinct with
the sentiment of restored peace and beauty.
But at the war's end it was not the same robust,
virile man who came out of that hospital tent.
"Three unflinching years of work in that terrible
suspense and excitement changed him," says Dr.
Bucke, "from a young to an old man. Under the
constant and intense moral strain to which he
was subjected . . . he eventually broke down.
The doctors called his complaint "hospital malaria,'
and perhaps it was; but that splendid physique
was sapped by labour, watching, and still more by
the emotions, dreads, deaths, uncertainties of three
years, before it was possible for hospital malaria
or any similar cause to overcome it. This illness
(the first he ever had in his life), in the hot
summer of 1864, he never entirely recovered from
—and never will." He hardly gave himself even
time for a temporary recovery before returning to
his hospital work, between which and his occupation
as a clerk in the Government offices he divided his
time up to the war's end.
There is no need perhaps to dwell here upon the
story of his stupid dismissal from one office by a
certain benighted official because of the alleged
immorality of Leaves of Grass, though it was this
that provoked W. D. O'Connor to his remarkable,
if rather combative, manifesto on the poet's behalf,
entitled "The Good Grey Poet." This was in 1868.
It must be kept in mind, however, that this was
only an extreme instance of the social and literary
persecution which was levelled at him from the
first. "To the pure all things are pure";—it was
from this standpoint that Walt Whitman wrote.
But there were critics who, instead of meeting with
courtesy this poetic attempt to raise noble functions,
long ignobly tainted with obscenity, to their
true dignity and natural relation in the great
scheme of earth and heaven, attacked him
with incredible viciousness and rancour. As,
however, considerations of Mrs. Grundy have
caused the omission of the poems objected to in
the present volume, there is no need to dwell
further upon the matter here.
There are many delightful glimpses to be got in
John Burroughs's Notes, and in his capital little
book, Birds and Poets, as well as from other
sources quoted in the Life, of Walt Whitman's
way of life in Washington during the following
years; until 1873, in fact. In these various notes
he is seen facing life with almost the same exu-
berant vigour as in the first heat of youth, only
tempered a little by the inroads of time and the
ill-health incurred in the war. One account speaks
of his being seen daily "moving around in
the open air, especially fine mornings and evenings,
observing, listening to, or socially talking with all
sorts of people, policemen, drivers, market men,
old women, the blacks, or dignitaries." It con-
tinues:—"Altogether, perhaps, the good, grey
poet is rightly located here. Our wide spaces,
great edifices, the bredth of our landscape, the
ample vistas, the splendour of our skies, night and
day, with the national character, the memoirs of
Washington and Lincoln, and others that might be
named, make our city, above all others, the one
where he fitly belongs. Walt Whitman is now in
his fifty-second year, hearty and blooming, tall,
with his white beard and long hair. The older he
gets the more cheerful and gay hearted he grows."
In spite of light heart and cheery temper his
ill-health increased upon him, and culminated at
last in a parylitic seizure, in February 1873, from
which he had almost recovered when in May the
same year his mother died somewhat suddenly in
Camden, New Jersey, in his presence. "That
event," says his chronicler, "was a terrible blow to
him, and after the occurrence he became much
worse. He left Washington for good, and took up
his residence in Camden. . . . And now for several
years," it continues, Ihis life hung upon a thread.
Though he suffered at times severely, he never
became dejected or impatient. It was said by one
of his friends that in that combination of illness,
poverty, and old age, Walt Whitman has been
more grand than in the full vigour of his manhood.
For along with illness, pain, and the burden of
age, he soon had to bear poverty also." Of his
poverty there is no need to say more than that it
resulted from traits of generosity and kindliness
that a money-making world might call imprudence,
but that the poets have conspired in their one-sided
way to call human nature. Recovering somewhat
as time went by, so he has lived on, up to the present
day, taking still the same delight in nature and
in men, exploring the old country-sides and visiting
new ones, publishing new editions of Leaves of
Grass, and issuing, too, the special outcome of
these later years, the unique book of prose autobio-
graphical jottings already alluded to, Specimen
Days and Collect, "the brightest and halest Diary
of and Invalid," says Dr. Bucke, "ever written—a
book unique in being the expression of strength
in infirmity—the wisdom of weakness—so bright
and translucent, at once of the earth, earthly, and
spiritual as of the sky and stars. Other books of
the invalid's room require to be read with the
blind's drawn down and the priest on the threshold;
but this sick man's chamber is the lane, and by the
creek or sea-shore—always with the fresh air and
the open sky overhead."
Along with Specimen Days were written from
time to time further poems, and added to the
previous collection of Leaves of Grass. The latter
volume was also revised, and its arrangement unified,
certain of the poems which repeated what was
also given in others being left out, and the
whole re-touched and altered so as to give a certain
epic unity that was rather lacking before. This
brings us to consider the poems in themselves,
and their full bearing in life and in letters. At
once, from the first glance at Whitman's poetry,
the reader will see that it is utterly, incomparably
unlike anything our ordinary rhymesters have
accustomed us to. So apparently abrupt a depart-
ure in poetic form and diction may at first cause
a certain feeling of distrust. But looking closer,
it is soon discovered that here is not, as has been
alleged with much asseveration, the freak of a writer
trying to be eccentric at all hazards, but the genuine
outcome of a quite new and vastly extended appre-
hension of life and letters. If Walt Whitman
had merely come forward with a re-presentment of
the ordinary poetaster's topics,—rose-water agonies,
drawing-room romances, and so on, such a departure
might well be cavilled at. But here comes a poet
who has set himself resolutely to deal with the
vast developments of the Nineteenth Century, all the
teeming life and work of the Americas and of the
wider world still, under aspects startlingly different
in their scope and tremendous significance to
anything the world has known before, and we
quarrel with him, forsooth, because he has not
expressed himself in elegiacs, or the measures
of the time of Queen Elizabeth. In life, in
science, in philosophy, even in religion, let us be
liberal. But in poetry:—No! there is safety in
conservatism. This is really what it amounts to.
A briefest backward glance through the history
of letters teaches another conclusion; constantly,
it will be found, the order of poetic expression is
changing and developing. But we do not need to
make any far historical excursion for light on
the subject: the experience of almost every poet
will show us the simple rationale of the matter.
The first literary instinct of the young writer is
always to transcend the traditional means of utter-
ance; the conventional forms have lost their vital
response to the subject, he feels; they want
re-adjusting, renewing. As he goes on he reconciles
in time the new need with the old equipment,
bringing in as much fresh force and quality as his
genius and energy can satisfactorily compass.
This achievement of renovated modes of utterance
is of course largely dependent upon the new condi-
tions of life, and therefore of literary subject-matter,
amid which he is placed. But what must be
specially remarked, it is not usually from too ardent
a renascence of words and their art forms that a
writer fails in the translation of life, but usually
from his being overawed by tradition. Convention
is the curse of poetry, as it is the curse of every-
thing else, in which at a second remove the outward
show can be made to pass muster for the inward
reality. Now, the hastiest glimpse at the conditions
under which a poet who has attempted to deal with
the whole scope of the new civilisation, and with
all that it implies of new science, new philosophy,
and so on, is placed, will show at once that an order
of things so vastly different from any order of the
past must require a new poetic approach. This
new approach Walt Whitman has set himself
courageously to accomplish, and whatever exception
is taken to the details of his method, there is no
young writer, with an eye to the vast human needs
of the time, and not hopelessly encumbered with
tradition, but will feel, I am sure, that here is at
last an initiative, most powerful and intense, which
he must after this bear constantly in mind.
Poetry of the last few decades in England has
occupied itself mainly with archaic or purely ideal
subjects, with specialist experiments in psychology
and morbid anatomy, or the familiar stock material
of fantasy and sentiment. For these a certain art-
glamour, so to speak,—a certain metrical remove,
—is required as a rule, which can be best attained,
perhaps, by the fine form and dainty colour of
rhyming verse. And there will always, let us hope,
be those who will continue to supply this artistic
poetry, bringing as it does so much inestimable
enchantment to the everyday life. Up to the pre-
sent it may be that this poetry has fairly satisfied
the need of the time,—a time occupied too much
with its processes of material civilisation and
wealth-acquirement to attend very truly to the
ideal. But standing now on the verge of a
new era—an era of democratic ascendancy—it
may be well to ask ourselves, even in conserva-
tive England, whether, seeing the immense poetic
need of a time dangerously possessed of new and
tremendous forces, this poetry of archaic form and
sentiment is likely to be equal to the hour. We
want now a poetry that shall be masterfully con-
temporary, of irresistible appeal to the hearts of the
people; and this we certainly have not in England
to-day. The critic will say in reply at once, But
look at Tennyson, look at Browning! And he is
right in insisting upon their great claim. But if we
ask ourselves, What then is Tennyson's distinctive
achievement in poetry? we have to answer, The
Idylls of the King: and Browning's? The Ring
and the Book. It does not need a prophet to see
at once that there is no hope of poems like these,—
masterpieces as both of them are in quite different
ways—ever really reaching the people at all. So
with their poetry throughout; with all its human
feeling and imagination, one feels that it is
of ease and refinement. While the wider audience
of the people has been vastly increasing, it seems
as if the poets had been turning away from it more
and more since the time of Burns. It is a far cry
from Burns,—even from Wordsworth,—to Tennyson
It may seem that a dangerous comparison has
been invited in these instances, but it is one that
must be faced straightforwardly. The name of
Burns suggests a solution of the whole matter. He
at any rate sang out of an abounding sympathy with,
and knowledge of, the popular need of his day,—
"Deep in the general heart of men
His power survives."
In his songs he relied not only upon the great
elementary passions and sentiments of men for his
inspiration, but also upon the natural idiom of
speech and the music in vogue at his time. Of
course we do not say, copy the method of Burns;
but we do say, copy his literary response to life,
and his reliance upon contemporary idiom and
tune. If it be asked now, as naturally it will, if in
Walt Whitman we have a poet who has tried to do
this, the answer is unmistakable. His poetry may
not be powerful in "the general heart of men" yet,
as were the songs of Burns in his time; but we have
to remember the incalculable enlargement of life
since then, and the enormously increased difficulties
of the task, especially, as before remarked, in the
case of one who, like Walt Whitman, sets himself
to cope with the whole universal, cosmic sweep of
space and time. His is, therefore, as he has
constantly affirmed, an initiative, rather than a con-
summation in poetry. "Poets to come!" he
"Poets to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!
Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for,
But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater
than before known
Arouse! for you must justify me.
I myself but write one or two indicative words for the
I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in
Of the virtue of his work as a final accomplishment
in poetry, there would probably be no two English
readers able to agree. What it is wished to lay
stress on here, is that, as he has been the first to
attempt this great work, so his significance as a
pioneer, as an initiator, is beyond all dispute. He is
suggestive rather than completive; but his sugges-
tion is to the younger minds of to-day by far the
greatest thing that is to be found in contemporary
Thinking on this suggestion, first of all from itsLeaves of Grass. It is a substitution, it is found at
purely literary side, we are brought face to face at
once with problems of extreme difficulty, which
have been suggestively treated by William Sloane
Kennedy and other American writers recently, but
which it will be rather attempted to roughly state
than to solve here. The whole of Whitman's depart-
ure in poetry is concerned with the vexed question
of prose and verse, and the proper functions of the
two modes of expression. Absolutely stated, prose
is the equivalent of speech in all its range; verse,
of song. But it is evident at once that the matter
does not rest here. In a hundred ways needs arise
which cannot be met by a strict adherence to this
line of demarcation, as when, for instance, an
elevation of utterance is required that yet does not,
properly speaking, arise into pure song. In the
right adjustment then of the relations betwixt prose
and verse lies the difficult secret of the art of words.
Whitman noting in his literary work the restricting
effect of exact rhyme measures, sought to attain a
new poetic mode by a return to the rhythmic move-
ment of prose, with what signal result may be
seen by a sympathetic dive almost anywhere into
once, of harmony for melody; of a larger, more
epic music for the old lyric movements of poetry.
This tendency is indeed one of the time; we find
the same in music, as in Wagner, and his disciple
Dvorák,—a tendency to advance further and further
from tune towards complicate harmonic orchestral
effects. And the advance is a great one beyond a
doubt. The only danger is that in accepting
this new tendency, we may neglect the great
virtues of past modes. Always the salvation of
all art-expression lies in the perfect adjustment
of the new with the old. It is earnestly to be
desired, therefore, that the "poets to come,"
especially those of the immediate future, will be
wise enough to see this, and, taking the initiative
of Walt Whitman greatly to heart, yet have the
high artistic sanity to eschew his mannerisms and
incidental weaknesses, and follow only what is
essential and supreme in his method, reconciling it
intelligently with his noble teaching of the old
masters of song. A newer, grander harmony it
has been his to herald; but we who come of Celtic
stock feel that the older music, the old tunes of the
heart, have still a great future, and that it is in
the right adjustments of their simple music with the
new that the success of poetry as a minister of life
in the future will lie.
Thinking on Walt Whitman's initiative in the
larger sense, and turning over the Leaves of Grass
in a spirit of sympathetic response,—of response as
if to a work of nature, rather than of art,—the
consciousness of an intimate new seeing of things
there thrills one through and through. It is not
now the testament of the universal love for men
alone, which we laid stress upon earlier in these
pages, but the utterly new poetic insight into the
conditioning of human life and action. For
though Walt Whitman's deliverance has been
prepared for and precedented in philosophy, as
in Hegel, for instance, to whom he unhesi-
tatingly states his indebtedness, in poetry it is
quite new. Ideas for long the sole property
of the philosophical coteries, and moving within
the close range of academic influence, are here set
humanly free in song, emotionally related to the
common life of man. With Whitman the emotional
is all in all, and includes the intellectual, as it were;
and the reader who would understand his full
significance must bring natural and noble feeling to
the task. Given this, and his apparent confusions
and violent paradoxes assume poetic order and
stimulus. With Hegel, he is a mystic, in the
profoundest sense; but his mysticism is one that
it does not require academic equipment to master,—
it is the mysticism whose germs are to be found in
the most ignorant being who, awaking at morning,
sees that the sun is shining, and is unconsciously
"I am the poet of the Body, and I am the poet of the
The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of
hell are with me,
The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I
translate into a new tongue."
It is this new translation of the old sorrows and
shames and degradations, and their redemption as
parts of the divine order of human life, that many
critics have found so intolerable in Leaves of
Grass; but let us rather be glad for so timely
a deliverance from an old bondage. It is only
a highest imagination that can so relate and
ennoble things. The poets and so-called idealists
in art have of recent times trusted to incidental
and adventitious aids,—the aids of picturesque
associations, romance-interest, and so on, to give
their subjects poetic relation; but Walt Whit-
man has essayed to rely upon the essential
primary conditions of being and thought. From
this resolute reliance upon the unalterable basis of
the divine order he is able to face hopefully prob-
lems of this often seemingly so hopeless age,
finding under all the tumult of misery and evil the
"In this broad earth of ours,
Amid the measureless grossness and the slag,
Enclosed and safe within its central heart,
Nestles the seed perfection."
This reliance enables him to speak with superb
faith in its future of the Democracy that is so
unsettling the old feudal relations, in art as well
as in political and social life. And the poet whose
apprehension has at once so wide a scientific
extension, and such an emotional impulse, may
well find his heart large enough to embrace life's
illimitable multitudes. The idea of a great loving
confederacy of men and women, united in the
undying cause of Truth and Beauty, gives a most
noble human appeal to many of his poems. "Come,"
"Come, I will make the continent indissoluble,
I will make the most splendid race the sun ever shone
I will make the divine magnetic lands,
With the love of comrades,
With the life-long love of comrades.
I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the
rivers of America, and along the shores of the great
lakes, and all over the prairies,
I will make inseparable cities with their arms about each
By the love of comrades,
By the manly love of comrades."
"I dream'd in a dream I saw a city invincible to the
attacks of the whole rest of the earth,
I dream'd that was the new city of Friends,
Nothing was greater there than the quality of robust
love, it led the rest,
It was seen every hour in the actions of the men of that
And in all their looks and words."
It is not possible here to go much into detail in
speaking of the great wealth of poetry to be found
in Leaves of Grass. Perhaps it is best for the
uninitiated reader to begin with the "Inscriptions,"
then turn to the section called "Calamus," (Calamus
being a sort of American grass which is used here
to typify comradeship and love!) reading two or
three poems there. Proceeding then, turn to the
more simply tuneful summons of "Pioneers! O
Pioneers!" in the "Birds of Passage" series, after
which it would be an impertinence to direct further,
except perhaps to suggest a return to the beginning
of the book to read "Starting from Paumanok,"
which is a sort of overture to Whitman's after music.
By this time the reader's fate as far as Walt
Whitman's influence is concerned will be decided.
Either will have come the supreme joy of the
approach to a new poet, or the tedium of an
Many of Whitman's most characteristic poems
have necessarily been omitted from a volume like the
present, intended for an average popular English
audience—an audience which, be it confessed,
from the actual experiment of the present editor, is
apt to find much of Leaves of Grass as unintelli-
gible as Sordello, not without a certain excuse haply
in some instances. The method of selection adopted
in preparing the volume has certainly not been
scientific or very profoundly critical. The limitations
of the average run of readers have been, as far as
they could be surmised, the limitations of the book,
and upon the head of that unaccountable class, who
have in the past been guilty of not a few poets'
and prophets' maltreatment, rest any odium the
thorough-paced disciple of Walt Whitman may
attach to the present venture. For those who wish
to thoroughly apprehend the Leaves of Grass it will
be necessary, let it be said at once, to study them
in their complete forms, which is to be obtained in
the edition of Messrs. Wilson & McCormick, of
Glasgow; as also the indispensable Specimen Days
and Collect, and the Life by Dr. Maurice Bucke,
mentioned in these pages. The Specimen Days
volume also contains the famous preface to the
first edition of Leaves of Grass; a very important
commentary on the tendencies of the time,
entitled Democratic Vistas; a suggestive essay,
Poetry To-Day in America; and a lecture on
Abraham Lincoln, delivered several times in the
last few years in the United States. Dr. Bucke's
Life, which is simply invaluable as a straightfor-
wardly enthusiastic presentment of a great and
heroic nature, contains, too, W. D. O'Connor's
Good Grey Poet, and a valuable appendix of con-
temporary American notices; the Glasgow edition
having a similar list of English ones compiled by
Professor Dowden. In this English list the names
of Ruskin, Tennyson, Swinburne, Buchanan,
Symonds, and other leading poets and writers,
bear unique testimony to Whitman's influence.
At last, in thinking on all that might have been
said to aid the true apprehension of one of the few
true books that have appeared in the present
generation, these jottings of comment and sug-
gestion seem, on looking over them, more or less
futile and beyond the mark. But it would be im-
possible for any writer, and especially for a young
writer, to speak at all finally and absolutely in
dealing with a nature so unprecedented and so
powerful. All that he can hope to do is to suggest
and facilitate the means of approach. Else there is
a great temptation to dwell upon many matters left
untouched, and specially to enlarge with enthusiasm
on certain of the poetic qualities of the book. Of
Whitman's felicitous power of words at his best; of
his noble symphonic movement in such poems as
the heroic funeral-song on President Lincoln,—
"When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd"—(part
of which, be it remembered, has been set to music
by one of our leading young composers, C.
Villiers Stanford); of his subtle translation of
those glimpses of the hidden subtle essences of
Nature that the artist finds so elusive and yet so
insistent; of his original sense, too, of the inner and
outer human aspects: it were a long, startlingly
unconventional commentary that satisfactorily
expressed these and a hundred things besides.
Apart from any mere literary qualities or excel-
lences, what needs lastly to have all stress laid
upon it, is the urgent, intimate, personal influence
that Walt Whitman exerts upon those who approach
him with sympathy and healthy feeling. There are
very few books that have this fine appeal and
stimulus; but once the personal magnetism of
Walt Whitman has reached the heart, it will be
found that his is a stimulus unlike any other in
its natural power. His influence is peculiarly
individual, and therefore, from his unique way of
relating the individual to the universal, peculiarly
organic and potent for moral elevation. Add to
this, that he is passionately contemporary, dealing
always with the ordinary surroundings, facing
directly the apparently unbeautiful and unheroic
phenomena of the everyday life, and not asking his
readers away into some airy outer-where of pain-
ful return, and it will be found that the new
seeing he gives is of immediate and constant
effect, making perpetually for love and manliness
and natural life. With this seeing, indeed, the com-
monest things, the most trifling actions, become
transformed and idealised, so that a new dignity
enters unawares by the very doorway of the
commonplace, ennobling the faces and voices of
those around with a divine promise, and making
dishonour and unchivalry impossible.
It is the younger hearts who will thrill to this
new incitement,—the younger natures, who are
putting forth strenuously into the war of human
liberation. Older men and women have established
their mental and spiritual environment; they
work according to their wont. They, many of
them, look with something of derision at this san-
guine devotion to new ideals, and haply utter smiling
protests against the deceptive charms of all things
novel. But if the ideals informing Leaves of Grass
are in one sense very new, they are also very old,—
as old as the world itself. And in the same way,
although Walt Whitman is an innovator, he follows
as naturally in the literary order as did Marlowe
for instance, and after him, Shakespeare, in their
day; and is as natively related to this time. The
poet who derives in the Nineteenth Century from
the Bible, and from Homer,—appreciating such
later influences as Carlyle's in letters, Hegels' in
philosophy, J. F. Millet's in art, and Wagner's in
music, is not blind to the great teaching of the past;
and if to this he brings a later seeing all his own,
we who are young may well respond to him, too, in
turn, and advance fearlessly in the lines of his
unique initiative. To the younger hearts and
minds, then, be these Leaves of Grass, gathered and
interwoven as the emblem of a corresponding
fellowship of men and women, dedicate!
"The prairie-grass dividing, its special odour breathing,
I demand of it the spiritual corresponding.
Demand the copious and close companionship of men."
The natural life, informed with virile religious
love,—the spirit of comradeship, as opposed to
the antagonism of class with class, and nation with
nation, which has stirred men selfishly and cruelly
so long: this were the salvation, cries Walt Whit-
man, of the new Democracy, inevitably now at
hand. And with his tones of heroic incitement and
earnest remonstrance ringing in our midst, we who
are young may do much in the stress and tumult of
the advance to a new and endangered era for the
high order of love and truth and liberty, for the
divine cause of all heroes and poets.
"Years of the modern! years of the unperform'd!
Your horizon rises, I see it parting away for more
I see not America only, not only, Liberty's nation but
other nations preparing,
I see tremendous entrances and exits, new combinations,
the solidarity of races,
I see that force advancing with irresistible power on the
. . . . . . .
Your dreams, O years, how they penetrate through me!
(I know not whether I sleep or wake;)
The perform'd America and Europe grow dim, retiring
in shadow behind me,
The unperform'd, more gigantic that ever, advance,
advance upon me."
I HEARD that you ask'd for something to prove this
puzzle the New World,
And to define America, her athletic Democracy,
Therefore I send you my poems that you behold in them
what you wanted.
TO THEE OLD CAUSE.
TO thee old cause!
Thou peerless, passionate, good cause,
Thou stern, remorseless, sweet idea,
Deathless throughout the ages, races, lands,
After a strange sad war, great war for thee,
(I think all war through time was really fought, and
ever will be really fought, for thee,)
These chants for thee, the eternal march of thee.
(A war O soldiers not for itself alone,
Far, far more stood silently waiting behind, now to
advance in this book.)
Thou orb of many orbs!
Thou seething principle! thou well-kept, latent germ!
Around the idea of thee the war revolving,
With all its angry and vehement play of causes,
(With vast results to come for thrice a thousand years,)
These recitatives for thee,—my book and the war are
Merged in its spirit I and mine, as the contest hinged
As a wheel on its axis turns, this book unwitting to
Around the idea of thee.
ONE'S-SELF I SING.
ONE'S-SELF I sing, a simple separate person,
Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse.
Of physiology from top to toe I sing,
Not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy for
the Muse, I say the Form complete is worthier far,
The Female equally with the Male I sing.
Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,
Cheerful, for freest action form'd under the laws divine,
The Modern Man I sing.
AS I ponder'd in silence,
Returning upon my poems, considering, lingering long,
A Phantom arose before me with distrustful aspect,
Terrible in beauty, age, and power,
The genius of poets of old lands,
As to me directing like flame its eyes,
With finger pointing to many immortal songs,
And menacing voice, What singest thou? it said,
Know'st thou not there is but one theme for ever-enduring
And that is the theme of War, the fortune of battles,
The making of perfect soldiers.
Be it so, then I answer'd,
I too haughty Shade also sing war, and a longer and
greater one than any,
Waged in my book with varying fortune, with flight,
advance and retreat, victory deferr'd and wavering,
(Yet methinks certain, or as good as certain, at the last,)
the field the world,
For life and death, for the Body and for the eternal Soul,
Lo, I too am come, chanting the chant of battles,
I above all promote brave soldiers.
IN CABIN'D SHIPS AT SEA.
IN cabin'd ships at sea,
The boundless blue on every side expanding,
With whistling winds and music of the waves, the large
Or some lone bark buoy'd on the dense marine,
Where joyous full of faith, spreading white sails,
She cleaves the ether mid the sparkle and the foam of
day, or under many a star at night,
By sailors young and old haply will I, a reminiscence of
the land, be read,Here are our thoughts, voyagers' thoughts,
In full rapport at last.
Here not the land, firm land, alone appears, may then
by them be said,The sky o'erarches here, we feel the undulating deck
beneath our feet,
We feel the long pulsation, ebb and flow of endless
The tones of unseen mystery, the vague and vast sug-
gestions of the briny world, the liquid-flowing
The perfume, the faint creaking of the cordage, the
The boundless vista and the horizon far and dim are all
And this is ocean's poem.
Then falter not O book, fulfil your destiny,
You not a reminiscence of the land alone,
You too as a lone bark cleaving the ether, purpos'd I
know not whither, yet ever full of faith,
Consort to every ship that sails, sail you!
Bear forth to them folded my love, (dear mariners, for
you I fold it here in every leaf;)
Speed on my book! spread your white sails my little
bark athwart the imperious waves,
Chant on, sail on, bear o'er the boundless blue from me
to every sea,
This song for mariners and all their ships.
YOU who celebrate bygones,
Who have explored the outward, the surfaces of the
races, the life that has exhibited itself,
Who have treated of man as the creature of politics,
aggregates, rulers and priests,
I, habitan of the Alleghanies, treating of him as he is in
himself in his own rights,
Pressing the pulse of the life that has seldom exhibited
itself, (the great pride of man in himself,)
Chanter of Personality, outlining what is yet to be,
I project the history of the future.
WHEN I READ THE BOOK.
WHEN I read the book, the biography famous,
And is this then (said I) what the author calls a man's
life? [my life?
And so will some one when I am dead and gone write
(As if any man really knew aught of my life,
Why even I myself I often think know little or nothing
of my real life,
Only a few hints, a few diffused faint clews and
I seek for my own use to trace out here.)
BEGINNING MY STUDIES.
BEGINNING my studies the first step pleas'd me so much,
The mere fact consciousness, these forms, the power of
The least insect or animal, the senses, eyesight, love,
The first step I say awed me and pleas'd me so much,
I have hardly gone and hardly wish'd to go any farther,
But stop and loiter all the time to sing it in ecstatic
HOW they are provided for upon the earth, (appearing at
How dear and dreadful they are to the earth,
How they inure to themselves as much as to any—what
a paradox appears their age,
How people respond to them, yet know them not,
How there is something relentless in their fate all times,
How all times mischoose the objects of their adulation
And how the same inexorable price must still be paid for
the same great purchase.
ME imperturbe, standing at ease in Nature,
Master of all or mistress of all, aplomb in the midst of
Imbued as they, passive, receptive, silent as they,
Finding my occupation, poverty, notoriety, foibles,
crimes, less important than I thought,
Me toward the Mexican sea, or in the Mannahatta or
the Tennessee, or far north or inland,
A river man, or a man of the woods or of any farm-life
of these States or of the coast, or the lakes or
Me wherever my life is lived, O to be self-balanced for
To confront night, storms, hunger, ridicule, accidents,
rebuffs, as the trees and animals do.
THE SHIP STARTING.
LO, the unbounded sea,
On its breast a ship starting, spreading all sails, carrying
even her moonsails.
The pennant is flying aloft as she speeds she speeds so
stately—below emulous waves press forward,
They surround the ship with shining curving motions
I HEAR AMERICA SINGING.
I HEARAmerica singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be
blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or
leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat,
the deck-hand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the
hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in
the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young
wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of
young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
WHAT PLACE IS BESIEGED?
WHAT place is besieged, and vainly tries to raise the
Lo, I send to that place a commander, swift, brave,
And with him horse and foot, and parks of artillery,
And artillery-men, the deadliest that ever fired gun.
STILL THOUGH THE ONE I SING.
STILL though the one I sing,
(One, yet of contradictions made,) I dedicate to
I leave in him revolt, (O latent right of insurrection! O
quenchless, indispensable fire!)
SHUT not your doors to me proud libraries,
For that which was lacking on all your well-fill'd
shelves, yet needed most, I bring,
Forth from the war emerging, a book I have made,
The words of my book nothing, the drift of it every
A book separate, not link'd with the rest nor felt by the
But you ye untold latencies will thrill to every page.
POETS to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!
Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for,
But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental,
greater than before known,
Arouse! for you must justify me.
I myself but write one or two indicative words for the
I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back
in the darkness.
I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping,
turns a casual look upon you and then averts his
Leaving it to you to prove and define it,
Expecting the main things from you.
STRANGER, if you passing meet me and desire to speak
to me, why should you not speak to me?
And why should I not speak to you?
THOU reader throbbest life and pride and love the same
Therefore for thee the following chants.
STARTING from fish-shape Paumanok where I was born,
Well-begotten, and rais'd by a perfect mother,
After roaming many lands, lover of populous pavements,
Dweller in Mannahatta my city, or on southern savannas,
Or a soldier camp'd or carrying my knapsack and gun,
or a miner in California,
Or rude in my home in Dakota's woods, my diet meat,
my drink from the spring,
Or withdrawn to muse and meditate in some deep
Far from the clank of crowds intervals passing rapt and
Aware of the fresh free giver the flowing Missouri, aware
of mighty Niagara,
Aware of the buffalo herds grazing the plains, the hirsute
and strong-breasted bull,
Of earth, rocks, Fifth-month flowers experienced, stars,
rain, snow, my amaze,
Having studied the mocking-bird's tones and the flight
of the mountain-hawk,
And heard at dusk the unrivall'd one, the hermit thrush
from the swamp-cedars,
Solitary, singing in the West, I strike up for a New
Victory, union, faith, identity, time,
The indissoluble compacts, riches, mystery,
Eternal progress, the kosmos, and the modern reports.
This then is life,
Here is what has come to the surface after so many throes
How curious! how real!
Underfoot the divine soil, overhead the sun.
See revolving the globe,
The ancestor-continents away group'd together,
The present and future continents north and south, with
the isthmus between.
See, vast trackless spaces,
As in a dream they change, they swiftly fill,
Countless masses debouch upon them,
They are now cover'd with the foremost people, arts,
See, projected through time,
For me an audience interminable.
With firm and regular step they wend, they never stop,
Successions of men, Americanos, a hundred millions,
One generation playing its part and passing on,
Another generation playing its part and passing on in its
With faces turn'd sideways or backward towards me to
With eyes retrospective towards me.
Americanos! conquerors! marches humanitarian!
Foremost! century marches! Libertad! masses!
For you a programme of chants.
Chants of the prairies,
Chants of the long-running Mississippi, and down to the
Chants of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and
Chants going forth from the centre from Kansas, and
Shooting in pulses of fire ceaseless to vivify all.
Take my leaves America, take them South and take
Make welcome for them everywhere, for they are your
Surround them East and West, for they would surround
And you precedents, connect lovingly with them, for
they connect lovingly with you.
I conn'd old times,
I sat studying at the feet of the great masters,
Now if eligible O that the great masters might return
and study me.
In the name of these States shall I scorn the antique?
Why these are the children of the antique to justify it.
Dead poets, philosophs, priests,
Martyrs, artists, inventors, governments long since,
Language-shapers on other shores,
Nations once powerful, now reduced, withdrawn, or
I dare not proceed till I respectfully credit what you
have left wafted hither,
I have perused it, own it is admirable, (moving awhile
Think nothing can ever be greater, nothing can ever
deserve more than it deserves,
Regarding it all intently a long while, then dismissing it,
I stand in my place with my own day here.
Here lands female and male,
Here the heir-ship and heiress-ship of the world, here
the flame of materials,
Here spirituality the translatress, the openly-avow'd,
The ever-tending, the finalè of visible forms,
The satisfier, after due long-waiting now advancing,
Yes here comes my mistress the soul.
Forever and forever—longer than soil is brown and
solid—longer than water ebbs and flows.
I will make the poems of materials, for I think they are
to be the most spiritual poems,
And I will make the poems of my body and of mortality,
For I think I shall then supply myself with the poems
of my soul and of immortality.
I will make a song for these States that no one State
may under any circumstances be subjected to
And I will make a song that there shall be comity by
day and by night between all the States, and
between any two of them,
And I will make a song for the ears of the President,
full of weapons with menacing points,
And behind the weapons countless dissatisfied faces;
And a song make I of the One form'd out of all,
The fang'd and glittering One whose head is over all,
Resolute warlike One including and over all,
(However high the head of any else that head is over all.)
I will acknowledge contemporary lands,
I will trail the whole geography of the globe and salute
courteously every city large and small,
And employments! I will put in my poems that with
you is heroism upon land and sea,
And I will report all heroism from an American point of
I will sing the song of companionship,
I will show what alone must finally compact these,
I believe these are to found their own ideal of manly
love, indicating it in me,
I will therefore let flame from me the burning fires that
were threatening to consume me,
I will lift what has too long kept down those smoulder-
I will give them complete abandonment,
I will write the evangel-poem of comrades and of love,
For who but I should understand love with all its
sorrow and joy?
And who but I should be the poet of comrades?
I am the credulous man of qualities, ages, races,
I advance from the people in their own spirit,
Here is what sings unrestricted faith.
Omnes! omnes! let others ignore what they may,
I make the poem of evil also, I commemorate that part
I am myself just as much evil as good, and my nation
is—and I say there is in fact no evil,
(Or if there is I say it is just as important to you, to the
land or to me, as any thing else.)
I too, following many and follow'd by many, inaugurate
a religion, I descend into the arena,
(It may be I am destin'd to utter the loudest cries
there, the winner's pealing shouts,
Who knows? they may rise from me yet, and soar above
Each is not for its own sake,
I say the whole earth and all the stars in the sky are for
I say no man has ever yet been half devout enough,
None has ever yet adored or worship'd half enough,
None has begun to think how divine he himself is, and
how certain the future is.
I say that the real and permanent grandeur of these
States must be their religion,
Otherwise there is just no real and permanent grandeur;
(Nor character nor life worthy the name without religion,
Nor land nor man or woman without religion).
What are you doing young man?
Are you so earnest, so given up to literature, science, art,
These ostensible realities, politics, points?
Your ambition or business whatever it may be?
It is well—against such I say not a word, I am their
But behold! such swiftly subside, burnt up for religion's
For not all matter is fuel to heat, impalpable flame, the
essential life of the earth,
Any more than such are to religion.
What do you seek so pensive and silent?
What do you need camerado?
Dear son do you think it is love?
Listen dear son—listen America, daughter or son,
It is a painful thing to love a man or woman to excess,
and yet it satisfies, it is great,
But there is something else very great, it makes the
It, magnificent, beyond materials, with continuous hands
sweeps and provides for all.
Know you, solely to drop in the earth the germs of a
The following chants each for its kind I sing.
For you to share with me two greatnesses, and a third
one rising inclusive and more resplendent,
The greatness of Love and Democracy, and the greatness
Melange mine own, the unseen and the seen,
Mysterious ocean where the streams empty,
Prophetic spirit of materials shifting and flickering
Living beings, identities now doubtless near us in the
air that we know not of,
Contact daily and hourly that will not release me,
These selecting, these in hints demanded of me.
Not he with a daily kiss onward from childhood kissing
Has winded and twisted around me that which holds me
Any more than I am held to the heavens and all the
After what they have done to me, suggesting themes.
O such themes—equalities! O divine average!
Warblings under the sun, usher'd as now, or at noon, or
Strains musical flowing through ages, now reaching
I take to your reckless and composite chords, add to
them, and cheerfully pass them forward.
As I have walk'd in Alabama my morning walk,
I have seen where the she-bird the mocking-bird sat on
her nest in the briers hatching her brood.
I have seen the he-bird also,
I have paus'd to hear him near at hand inflating his
throat and joyfully singing.
And while I paus'd it came to me that what he really
sang for was not there only,
Nor for his mate nor himself only, nor all sent back by
But subtle, clandestine, away beyond,
A charge transmitted and gift occult for those being
Democracy! near at hand to you a throat is now inflating
itself and joyfully singing.
Ma femme! for the brood beyond us and of us,
For those who belong here and those to come,
I exultant to be ready for them will now shake out carols
stronger and haughtier than have ever yet been
heard upon earth.
I will make the songs of passion to give them their way,
And your songs outlaw'd offenders, for I scan you with
kindred eyes, and carry you with me the same as
I will make the true poem of riches,
To earn for the body and the mind whatever adheres
and goes forward and is not dropt by death;
I will effuse egotism and show it underlying all, and I
will be the bard of personality,
And I will show of male and female that either is but
the equal of the other,
And sexual organs and acts! do you concentrate in me,
for I am determin'd to tell you with courageous
clear voice to prove you illustrious,
And I will show that there is no imperfection in the
present, and can be none in the future,
And I will show that whatever happens to anybody it
may be turn'd to beautiful results,
And I will show that nothing can happen more beautiful
And I will thread a thread through my poems that time
and events are compact,
And that all the things of the universe are miracles,
each as profound as any.
I will not make poems with reference to parts,
But I will make poems, songs, thoughts, with reference
And I will not sing with reference to a day, but with
reference to all days,
And I will not make a poem nor the least part of a poem
but has reference to the soul,
Because having look'd at the objects of the universe, I
find there is no one nor any particle of one but has
reference to the soul.
Was somebody asking to see the soul?
See, your own shape and countenance, persons, sub-
stances, beasts, the trees, the running rivers, the
rocks and sands.
All hold spiritual joys and afterwards loosen them;
How can the real body ever die and be buried?
Of your real body and any man's or woman's real body,
Item for item it will elude the hands of the corpse-
cleaners and pass to fitting spheres,
Carrying what has accrued to it from the moment of
birth to the moment of death.
Not the types set up by the printer return their im-
pression, the meaning, the main concern,
Any more than a man's substance and life or a woman's
substance and life return in the body and the soul,
Indifferently before death and after death.
Behold, the body includes and is the meaning, the main
concern, and includes and is the soul;
Whoever you are, how superb and how divine is your
body, or any part of it!
Whoever you are, to you endless announcements!
Daughter of the lands did you wait for your poet?
Did you wait for one with a flowing mouth and indica-
Toward the male of the States, and toward the female
of the States,
Exulting words, words to Democracy's lands.
Interlink'd, food-yielding lands!
Land of coal and iron! land of gold! land of cotton,
Land of wheat, beef, pork! land of wool and hemp! land
of the apple and the grape!
Land of the pastoral plains, the grass-fields of the world!
land of those sweet-air'd interminable plateaus!
Land of the herd, the garden, the healthy house of
Lands where the north-west Columbia winds, and where
the south-west Colorado winds!
Land of the eastern Chesapeake! land of the Delaware!
Land of Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan!
Land of the Old Thirteen! Massachusetts land! land of
Vermont and Connecticut!
Land of the ocean shores! land of sierras and peaks!
Land of boatmen and sailors! fishermen's land!
Inextricable lands! the clutch'd together! the pas-
The side by side! the elder and younger brothers! the
The great women's land! the feminine! the experienced
sisters and the inexperienced sisters!
Far breath'd land! Arctic braced! Mexican breez'd!
the diverse! the compact!
The Pennsylvanian! the Virginian! the double Carol-
O all and each well-loved by me! my intrepid nations!
O I at any rate include you all with perfect love!
I cannot be discharged from you! not from one any
sooner than another!
O death! O for all that, I am yet of you unseen this
hour with irrepressible love,
Walking New England, a friend, a traveller,
Splashing my bare feet in the edge of the summer
ripples on Paumanok's sands,
Crossing the prairies, dwelling again in Chicago, dwell-
ing in every town,
Observing shows, births, improvements, structures, arts,
Listening to orators and oratresses in public halls,
Of and through the States as during life, each man and
woman my neighbour,
The Louisianian, the Georgian, as near to me, and I as
near to him and her,
The Mississippian and Arkansian yet with me, and I yet
with any of them,
Yet upon the plains west of the spinal river, yet in my
house of adobie,
Yet returning eastward, yet in the Seaside State or in
Yet Kanadian cheerily braving the winter, the snow and
ice welcome to me,
Yet a true son either of Maine or of the Granite State, or
the Narragansett Bay State, or the Empire State,
Yet sailing to other shores to annex the same, yet
welcoming every new brother,
Hereby applying these leaves to the new ones from the
hour they unite with the old ones,
Coming among the new ones myself to be their com-
panion and equal, coming personally to you now,
Enjoining you to acts, characters, spectacles, with me.
With me with firm holding, yet haste, haste on.
For your life adhere to me,
(I may have to be persuaded many times before I con-
sent to give myself really to you, but what of that?
Must not Nature be persuaded many times?)
No dainty dolce affettuoso I,
Bearded, sun-burnt, gray-neck'd, forbidding, I have
To be wrestled with as I pass for the solid prizes of the
For such I afford whoever can persevere to win them.
On my way a moment I pause,
Here for you! and here for America!
Still the present I raise aloft, still the future of the States
I harbinge glad and sublime,
And for the past I pronounce what the air holds of the
The red aborigines,
Leaving natural breaths, sounds of rain and winds, calls
as of birds and animals in the woods, syllabled to
us for names,
Okonee, Koosa, Ottawa, Monongahela, Sauk, Natchez,
Chattahoochee, Kaqueta, Oronoco, [Walla,
Wabash, Miami, Saginaw, Chippewa, Oshkosh, Walla-
Leaving such to the States they melt, they depart,
charging the water and the land with names.
Expanding and swift, henceforth,
Elements, breeds, adjustments, turbulent, quick and
A world primal again, vistas of glory incessant, and
A new race dominating previous ones and grander far,
with new contests,
New politics, new literatures and religions, new inven-
tions and arts.
These, my voice announcing—I will sleep no more but
You oceans that have been calm within me! how I feel
you, fathomless, stirring, preparing unprecedented
waves and storms.
See, steamers steaming through my poems,
See, in my poems immigrants continually coming and
See in arriere, the wigwam, the trail, the hunter's hut,
the flat-boat, the maize-leaf, the claim, the rude
fence, and the backwoods village,
See, on the one side the Western Sea and on the other
the Eastern Sea, how they advance and retreat upon
my poems as upon their own shores,
See, pastures and forests in my poems—see, animals wild
and tame—see, beyond the Kaw, countless herds of
buffalo feeding on short curly grass,
See, in my poems, cities, solid, vast, inland, with paved
streets, with iron and stone edifices, ceaseless
vehicles, and commerce,
See, the many-cylinder'd steam printing-press—see, the
electric telegraph stretching across the continent,
See, through Atlantica's depths pulses American Europe
reaching, pulses of Europe duly return'd,
See, the strong and quick locomotive as it departs,
panting, blowing the steam-whistle,
See, ploughmen ploughing farms—see, miners digging
mines—see, the numberless factories,
See, mechanics busy at their benches with tools—see
from among them superior judges, philosophs,
Presidents, emerge, drest in working dresses,
See, lounging through the shops and fields of the States,
me well-belov'd, close-held by day and night,
Hear the loud echoes of my songs there—read the hints
come at last.
O camerado close! O you and me at last, and us two
O a word to clear one's path ahead endlessly!
O something ecstatic and undemonstrable! O music wild!
O now I triumph—and you shall also;
O hand in hand—O wholesome pleasure—O one more
desirer and lover!
O to haste firm holding—to haste, haste on with me.
IN PATHS UNTRODDEN.
IN paths untrodden,
In the growth by margins of pond-waters,
Escaped from the life that exhibits itself,
From all the standards hitherto publish'd, from the
pleasures, profits, conformities,
Which too long I was offering to feed my soul,
Clear to me now standards not yet publish'd, clear to
me that my soul,
That the soul of the man I speak for rejoices in comrades,
Here by myself away from the clank of the world,
Tallying and talk'd to here by tongues aromatic,
No longer abash'd, (for in this secluded spot I can
respond as I would not dare elsewhere,)
Strong upon me the life that does not exhibit itself, yet
contains all the rest,
Resolv'd to sing no songs to-day but those of manly
Projecting them along that substantial life,
Bequeathing hence types of athletic love,
Afternoon this delicious Ninth-month in my forty-first
I proceed for all who are or have been young men,
To tell the secret my nights and days,
To celebrate the need of comrades.
FOR YOU O DEMOCRACY
COME, I will make the continent indissoluble,
I will make the most splendid race the sun ever shone
I will make divine magnetic lands,
With the love of comrades
With the life-long love of comrades
I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the
rivers of America, and along the shores of the great
lakes, and all over the prairies,
I will make inseparable cities with their arms about each
By the love of comrades,
By the manly love of comrades.
For you these from me, O Democracy, to serve you ma
For you, for you I am trilling these songs.
THESE I SINGING IN SPRING.
THESE I singing in spring collect for lovers,
(For who but I should understand lovers and all their
sorrow and joy?
And who but I should be the poet of comrades?)
Collecting I traverse the garden the world, but soon I
pass the gates,
Now along the pond-side, now wading in a little, fearing
not the wet,
Now by the post-and-rail fences where the old stones
thrown there, pick'd from the fields, have accumu-
(Wild flowers and vines and weeds come up through the
stones and partly cover them, beyond these I pass,)
Far, far in the forest, or sauntering later in summer,
before I think where I go,
Solitary, smelling the earthy smell, stopping now and
then in the silence,
Alone I had thought, yet soon a troop gathers around me,
Some walk by my side and some behind, and some
embrace my arms or neck,
They the spirits of dear friends dead or alive, thicker
they come, a great crowd, and I in the middle,
Collecting, dispensing, singing, there I wander with
them, [is near me,
Plucking something for tokens, tossing toward whoever
Here, lilac, with a branch of pine,
Here, out of my pocket, some moss which I pull'd off a
live-oak in Florida as it hung trailing down,
Here, some pinks and laurel leaves, and a handful of
And here what I now draw from the water, wading in
(O here I last saw him that tenderly loves me, and
returns again never to separate from me,
And this, O this shall henceforth be the token of com-
rades, this calamus-root shall,
Interchange it youths with each other! let none render
And twigs of maple and a bunch of wild orange and
And stems of currants and plum-blows, and the aromatic
These I compass'd around by a thick cloud of spirits,
Wandering, point to or touch as I pass, or throw them
loosely from me,
Indicating to each one what he shall have, giving some-
thing to each;
But what I drew from the water by the pond-side, that
I will give of it, but only to them that love as I myself
am capable of loving.
OF THE TERRIBLE DOUBT OF APPEARANCES.
OF the terrible doubt of appearances,
Of the uncertainty after all, that we may be deluded,
That may-be reliance and hope are but speculations after
That may-be identity beyond the grave is a beautiful
May-be the things I perceive, the animals, plants, men,
hills, shining and flowing waters,
The skies of day and night, colours, densities, forms,
may-be these are (as doubtless they are) only
apparitions, and the real something has yet to be
(How often they dart out of themselves as if to confound
me and mock me!
How often I think neither I know, nor any man knows,
aught of them,)
May-be seeming to me what they are (as doubtless they
indeed but seem) as from my present point of view,
and might prove (as of course they would) nought
of what they appear, or nought anyhow, from
entirely changed points of view;
To me these and the like of these are curiously answer'd
by my lovers my dear friends,
When he in whom I love travels with me or sits a long
while holding me by the hand,
When the subtle air, the impalpable, the sense that
words and reason hold not, surround us and pervade
Then I am charged with untold and untellable wisdom,
I am silent, I require nothing further,
I cannot answer the question of appearances or that of
identity beyond the grave,
But I walk or sit indifferent, I am satisfied,
He ahold of my hand has completely satisfied me.
THE BASE OF ALL METAPHYSICS.
AND now gentlemen,
A word I give to remain in your memories and minds,
As base and finalè too for all metaphysics.
(So to the students the old professor,
At the close of his crowded course.)
Having studied the new and antique, the Greek and
Germanic systems, [and Hegel,
Kant having studied and stated, Fichte and Schelling
Stated the lore of Plato, and Socrates greater than Plato,
And greater than Socrates sought and stated, Christ
divine having studied long,
I see reminiscent to-day those Greek and Germanic
See the philosophies all, Christian churches and tenets
Yet underneath Socrates clearly see, and underneath
Christ the divine I see,
The dear love of man for his comrade, the attraction of
friend to friend, [parents,
Of the well-married husband and wife, of children and
Of city for city and land for land.
RECORDERS AGES HENCE.
RECORDERS ages hence,
Come, I will take you down underneath this impassive
exterior, I will tell you what to say of me,
Publish my name and hang up my picture as that of the
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 pour'd it forth,
Who often walk'd lonesome walks thinking of his dear
friends, his lovers,
Who pensive away from one he lov'd often lay sleepless
and dissatisfied at night,
Who knew too well the sick, sick dread lest the one he
lov'd might secretly be indifferent to him,
Whose happiest days were far away through fields, in
woods, on hills, he and another wandering hand in
hand, they twain apart from other men,
Who oft as he saunter'd the streets curv'd with his arm
the shoulder of his friend, while the arm of his
friend rested upon him also.
WHEN I heard at the close of the day how my name had
been receiv'd with plaudits in the capitol, still it
was not a happy night for me that follow'd,
And else when I carous'd, or when my plans were accom-
plish'd, still I was not happy,
But the day when I rose at dawn from the bed of perfect
health, refresh'd, singing, inhaling the ripe breath
When I saw the full moon in the west grow pale and
disappear in the morning light,
When I wander'd alone over the beach, and undressing
bathed, laughing with the cool waters, and saw the
And when I thought how my dear friend my lover was
on his way coming, O then I was happy,
O then each breath tasted sweeter, and all that day my
food nourish'd me more, and the beautiful day
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 one I love most lay sleeping by me under the
same cover in the cool night,
In the stillness in the autumn moonbeams his face was
inclined toward me,
And his arm lay lightly around my breast—and that
night I was happy.
ARE you the new person drawn toward me?
To begin with take warning, I am surely far different
from what you suppose;
Do you suppose you will find in me your ideal?
Do you think it so easy to have me become your lover?
Do you think the friendship me would be unalloy'd
Do you think I am trusty and faithful?
Do you see no further than this façade, this smooth and
tolerant manner of me?
Do you suppose yourself advancing on real ground
toward a real heroic man?
Have you no thought O dreamer that it may be all
ROOTS AND LEAVES THEMSELVES ALONE.
ROOTS and leaves themselves alone are these,
Scents brought to men and women from the wild woods
Breast-sorrel and pinks of love, fingers that wind around
tighter than vines,
Gushes from the throats of birds hid in the foliage of
trees as the sun is risen,
Breezes of land and love set from living shores to you on
the living sea, to you, O sailors!
Frost-mellow'd berries and Third-month twigs offer'd
fresh to young persons wandering out in the fields
when the winter breaks up,
Love-buds put before you and within you whoever you
are,of the sun to them they will
Buds to be unfolded on the old terms,
If you bring the warmth
open and bring form, colour, perfume, to you,
If you become the aliment and the wet they will become
flowers, fruits, tall branches and trees.
I SAW IN LOUISIANA A LIVE-OAK GROWING.
I SAW in Louisiana a live-oak growing,
All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the
Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous
leaves of dark green,
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of
But I wonder'd how it could utter joyous leaves standing
alone there without its friend near, for I know I
And I broke off 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
It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear 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;
For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in
Louisiana solitary in a wide in a wide flat space,
Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a lover
I know very well I could not.
PASSING stranger! you do not know how longingly I
look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, (it
comes to me as of a dream,)
I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall'd as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate,
chaste, matured, [me,
You grew up with me, were a boy with me or a girl with
I ate with you and slept with you, your body has become
not yours only nor left my body mine only,
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we
pass, you take of my beard, breast, hands, in return,
I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you when I
sit alone or wake at night alone,
I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.
THIS MOMENT YEARNING AND THOUGHTFUL.
THIS moment yearning and thoughtful sitting alone,
It seems to me there are other men in other lands
yearning and thoughtful,
It seems to me I can look over and behold them in
Germany, Italy, France, Spain,
Or far, far away, in China, or in Russia or Japan,
talking other dialects,
And it seems to me if I could know those men I should
become attached to them as I do to men in my own
O I know we should be brethren and lovers,
I know I should be happy with them.
I HEAR it was charged against me that I sought to
But really I am neither for nor against institutions,
(What indeed have I in common with them? or what
with the destruction of them?)
Only I will establish in the Mannahatta and in every
city of these States inland and seaboard,
And in the fields and woods, and above every keel little
or large that dents the water,
Without edifices or rules or trustees or any argument,
The institution of the dear love of comrades.
THE PRAIRIE-GRASS DIVIDING.
THE prairie-grass dividing, its special odor breathing,
I demand of it the spiritual corresponding,
Demand the most copious and close companionship of
Demand the blades to rise of words, acts, beings,
Those of the open atmosphere, coarse, sunlit, fresh,
Those that go their own gait, erect, stepping with free-
dom and command, leading not following,
Those with a never-quell'd audacity, those with sweet
and lusty flesh clear of taint,
Those that look carelessly in the faces of Presidents and
governors, as to say Who are you?
Those of earth-born passion, simple, never constrain'd,
Those of inland America.
WHEN I peruse the conquer'd fame of heroes and the
victories of mighty generals, I do not envy the
Nor the President in his Presidency, nor the rich in his
But when I hear of the brotherhood of lovers, how it
was with them,
How together through life, through dangers, odium,
unchanging, long and long,
Through youth and through middle and old age, how
unfaltering, how affectionate and faithful they were,
Then I am pensive—I hastily walk away fill'd with the
NO LABOUR-SAVING MACHINE.
NO labour-saving machine,
Nor discovery have I made,
Nor will I be able to leave behind me any wealthy
bequest to found hospital or library,
Nor reminiscence of any deed of courage for America,
Nor literary success nor intellect; nor book for the book-
But a few carols vibrating through the air I leave,
For comrades and lovers.
A GLIMPSE through an interstice caught,
Of a crowd of workmen and drivers in a bar-room around
the stove late of a winter night, and I unremark'd
seated in a corner,
Of a youth who loves me and whom I love, silently
approaching and seating himself near, that he may
hold me by the hand,
A long while amid the noises of coming and going, of
drinking and oath and smutty jest,
There we two, content, happy in being together, speak-
ing little, perhaps not a word.
WHAT THINK YOU I TAKE MY PEN IN HAND?
WHAT think you I take my pen in hand to record?
The battle-ship, perfect-model'd, majestic, that I saw
pass the offing to-day under full sail?
The splendours of the past day? or the splendour of the
night that envelops me?
Or the vaunted glory and growth of the great city
spread around me?—no;
But merely of two simple men I saw to-day on the pier
in the midst of the crowd, parting the parting of
The one to remain hung on the other's neck and
passionately kiss'd him,
While the one to depart tightly prest the one to remain
in his arms.
A LEAF for hand in hand;
You natural persons old and young!
You on the Mississippi and on all the branches and bayous
of the Mississippi!
You friendly boatmen and mechanics! you roughs!
You twain! and all processions moving along the
I wish to infuse myself among you till I see it common
for you to walk hand in hand.
I DREAM'D IN A DREAM.
I DREAM'D in a dream I saw a city invincible to the
attacks of the whole of the rest of the earth,
I dream'd that was the new city of Friends,
Nothing was greater there than the quality of robust
love, it led the rest,
It was seen every hour in the actions of the men of that
And in all their looks and words.
SOMETIMES WITH ONE I LOVE.
SOMETIMES with one I love I fill myself with rage for
fear I effuse unreturn'd love,
But now I think there is no unreturn'd love, the pay is
certain one way or another,
(I loved a certain person ardently and my love was not
Yet out of that I have written these songs.)
TO the East and to the West,
To the man of the Seaside State and of Pennsylvania,
To the Kanadian of the north, to the Southerner I love,
These with perfect trust to depict you as myself, the
germs are in all men,
I believe the main purport of these States is to found a
superb friendship, exaltè, previously unknown,
Because I perceive it waits, and has been always waiting,
latent in all men.
FAST ANCHOR'D ETERNAL O LOVE!
FAST-ANCHOR'D eternal O love! O woman I love!
O bride! O wife! more resistless than I can tell, the
thought of you!
Then separate, as disembodied or another born,
Ethereal, the last athletic reality, my consolation,
I ascend, I float in the regions of your love O man,
O sharer of my roving life.
AMONG THE MULTITUDE.
AMONG the men and women the multitude,
I perceive one picking me out by secret and divine signs,
Acknowledging none else, not parent, wife, husband,
brother, child, any nearer than I am,
Some are baffled, but that one is not—that one knows
Ah lover and perfect equal,
I meant that you should discover me so by faint indirec-
And I when I meet you mean to discover you by the like
O YOU WHOM I OFTEN AND SILENTLY COME.
O YOU whom I often and silently come where 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.
FULL of life now, compact, visible,
I, forty years old the eighty-third year of the States,
To one a century hence or any number of centuries hence,
To you yet unborn these, seeking you.
When you read these I that was visible am become
Now it is you, compact, visible, realizing my poems,
Fancying how happy you were if I could be with you and
become your comrade;
Be it as if I were with you. (Be not too certain but I
am now with you.)
THAT shadow my likeness that goes to and fro seeking
a livelihood, chattering, chaffering,
How often I find myself standing and looking at it where
How often I question and doubt whether that is really
But among my lovers and caroling these songs,
O I never doubt whether that is really me.
AFOOT and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criti-
Strong and content I travel the open road.
The earth, that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.
(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,
I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me
wherever I go,
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,
I am fill'd with them, and I will fill them in return.)
You road I enter upon and look around, I believe you
are not all that is here,
I believe that much unseen is also here.
Here the profound lesson of reception, nor preference nor
The black with his woolly head, the felon, the diseas'd,
the illiterate person, are not denied;
The birth, the hasting after the physician, the beggar's
tramp, the drunkard's stagger, the laughing party
The escaped youth, the rich person's carriage, the fop,
the eloping couple,
The early market-man, the hearse, the moving of fur-
niture into the town, the return back from the town,
They pass, I also pass, any thing passes, none can be
None but are accepted, none but shall be dear to me.
You air that serves me with breath to speak!
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and
give them shape!
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides!
I believe you are latent with unseen existences, you are
so dear to me.
You flagg'd walks of the cities! you strong curbs at the
You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you
timber-lined side! you distant ships!
You rows of houses! you window-pierc'd façades! you
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron guards!
You windows whose transparent shells might expose so
You doors and ascending steps! you arches! [crossings!
You gray stones of interminable pavements! you trodden
From all that has touch'd you I believe you have im-
parted to yourselves, and now would impart the same
secretly to me,
From the living and the dead you have peopled your
impassive surfaces, and the spirits thereof would be
evident and amicable with me.
The earth expanding right hand and left hand,
The picture alive, every part in its best light,
The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping
where it is not wanted,
The cheerful voice of the public road, the gay fresh
sentiment of the road.
O highway I travel, do you say to me Do not leave me?
Do you say Venture not—if you leave me you are lost?
Do you say I am already prepared, I am well-beaten and
undenied, adhere to me?
O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you,
yet I love you,
You express me better than I can express myself,
You shall be more to me than my poem.
I think heroic deeds were all conceiv'd in the open air,
and all free poems also,
I think I could stop here myself and do miracles,
I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like,
and whoever beholds me shall like me,
I think whoever I see must be happy.
From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the
holds that would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the
south are mine.
I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness.
All seems beautiful to me,
I can repeat over to men and women You have done
such good to me I would do the same to you,
I will recruit for myself and you as I go,
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go,
I will toss a new gladness and roughness among them,
Whoever denies me it shall not trouble me,
Whoever accepts me he or she shall be blessed and shall
Now if a thousand perfect men were to appear it would
not amaze me,
Now if a thousand beautiful forms of women appear'd it
would not astonish me.
Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,
It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with
Here a great personal deed has room,
(Such a deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole race of
Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law and
mocks all authority and all argument against it.)
Here is the test of wisdom,
Wisdom is not finally tested in schools,
Wisdom cannot be pass'd from one having it to another
not having it,
Wisdom is of the soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its
own proof, [content,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities and is
Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of things,
and the excellence of things;
Something there is in the float of the sight of things
that provokes it out of the soul.
Now I re-examine philosophies and religions,
They may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not prove at
all under the spacious clouds and along the land-
scape and flowing currents.
Here is realization,
Here is a man tallied—he realizes here what he has in
The past, the future, majesty, love—if they are vacant
of you, you are vacant of them.
Only the kernel of every object nourishes;
Where is he who tears off the husks for you and me?
Where is he that undoes stratagems and envelopes for
you and me?
Here is adhesiveness, it is not previously fashion'd, it is
Do you know what it is as you pass to be loved by
Do you know the talk of those turning eye-balls?
Here is the efflux of the soul,
The efflux of the soul comes from within through
embower'd gates, ever provoking questions,
These yearnings why are they? these thoughts in the
darkness why are they?
Why are there men and women that while they are nigh
me the sunlight expands my blood?
Why when they leave me do my pennants of joy sink
flat and lank?
Why are there trees I never walk under but large and
melodious thoughts descend upon me?
(I think they hang there winter and summer on those
trees and always drop fruit as I pass;)
What is it I interchange so suddenly with strangers?
What with some driver as I ride on the seat by his side?
What with some fisherman drawing his seine by the
shore as I walk by and pause?
What gives me to be free to a woman's and man's good-
will? what gives them to be free to mine?
The efflux of the soul is happiness, here is happiness,
I think it pervades the open air, waiting at all times,
Now it flows unto us, we are rightly charged.
Here rises the fluid and attaching character,
The fluid and attaching character is the freshness and
sweetness of man and woman,
(The herbs of the morning sprout no fresher and sweeter
every day out of the roots of themselves, than it
sprouts fresh and sweet continually out of itself.)
Toward the fluid and attaching character exudes the
sweat of the love of young and old,
From it falls distill'd the charm that mocks beauty and
Toward it heaves the shuddering longing ache of contact.
Allons! whoever you are come travel with me!
Traveling with me you find what never tires.
The earth never tires,
The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first,
Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first,
Be not discouraged, keep on, there are divine things well
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful
than words can tell.
Allons! we must not stop here,
However sweet these laid-up stores, however convenient
this dwelling we cannot remain here,
However shelter'd this port and however calm these
waters we must not anchor here,
However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us we
are permitted to receive it but a little while.
Allons! the inducements shall be greater,
We will sail pathless and wild seas,
We will go where winds blow, waves dash, and the
Yankee clipper speeds by under full sail.
Allons! with power, liberty, the earth, the elements,
Health, defiance, gayety, self-esteem, curiosity;
Allons! from all formules!
From your formules, O bat-eyed and materialistic priests.
The stale cadaver blocks up the passage—the burial
waits no longer.
Allons! yet take warning!
He traveling with me needs the best blood, thews,
None may come to the trial till he or she bring courage
Come not here if you have already spent the best of
Only those may come who come in sweet and determin'd
No diseas'd person, no rum-drinker or venereal taint is
(I and mine do not convince by arguments, similes,
We convince by our presence.)
Listen! I will be honest with you,
I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new
These are the days that must happen to you:
You shall not heap up what is call'd riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or
You but arrive at the city to which you were destin'd,
you hardly settle yourself to satisfaction before you
are call'd by an irresistible call to depart,
You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mockings
of those who remain behind you,
What beckonings of love you receive you shall only
answer with passionate kisses of parting,
You shall not allow the hold of those who spread their
reach'd hands toward you.
Allons! after the great Companions, and to belong to
They too are on the road—they are the swift and majestic
men—they are the greatest women,
Enjoyers of calms of seas and storms of seas,
Sailors of many a ship, walkers of many a mile of
Habituès of many distant countries, habituès of far
Trusters of men and women, observers of cities, solitary
Pausers and contemplators of tufts, blossoms, shells of
Dancers at wedding-dances, kissers of brides, tender
helpers of children, bearers of children,
Soldiers of revolts, standers by gaping graves, lowerers-
down of coffins,
Journeyers over consecutive seasons, over the years, the
curious years each emerging from that which pre-
Journeyers as with companions, namely their own diverse
Forth-steppers from the latent unrealized baby-days,
Journeyers gaily with their own youth, journeyers with
their bearded and well-grain'd manhood,
Journeyers with their womanhood, ample, unsurpass'd,
Journeyers with their own sublime old age of manhood
Old age, calm, expanded, broad with the haughty breadth
of the universe,
Old age, flowing free with the delicious near-by freedom
Allons! to that which is endless as it was beginningless,
To undergo much, tramps of days, rests of nights,
To merge all in the travel they tend to, and the days
and nights they tend to,
Again to merge them in the start of superior journeys,
To see nothing anywhere but what you may reach it and
To conceive no time, however distant, but what you
may reach it and pass it,
To look up or down no road but it stretches and waits
for you, however long but it stretches and waits for
To see no being, not God's or any, but you also go
To see no possession but you may possess it, enjoying all
without labor or purchase, abstracting the feast yet
not abstracting one particle of it,
To take the best of the farmer's farm and the rich man's
elegant villa, and the chaste blessings of the well-
married couple, and the fruits of orchards and
flowers of gardens,
To take to your use out of the compact cities as you pass
To carry buildings and streets with you afterward where-
ever you go,
To gather the minds of men out of their brains as you
encounter them, to gather the love out of their
To take your lovers on the road with you, for all that
you leave them behind you,
To know the universe itself as a road, as many roads, as
roads for traveling souls.
All parts away for the progress of souls,
All religion, all solid things, arts, governments—all
that was or is apparent upon this globe or any globe,
falls into niches and corners before the procession
of souls along the grand roads of the universe.
Of the progress of the souls of men and women along the
grand roads of the universe, all other progress is
the needed emblem and sustenance.
Forever alive, forever forward,
Stately, solemn, sad, withdrawn, baffled, mad, turbulent,
Desperate, proud, fond, sick, accepted by men, rejected
They go! they go! I know that they go, but I know not
where they go,
But I know that they go toward the best—toward something great.
Whoever you are, come forth! or man or woman come
You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the
house, though you built it, or though it has been
built for you.
Out of the dark confinement! out from behind the
It is useless to protest, I know all and expose it.
Behold through you as bad as the rest,
Through the laughter, dancing, dining, supping, of
Inside of dresses and ornaments, inside of those wash'd
and trimm'd faces,
Behold a secret silent loathing and despair.
No husband, no wife, no friend, trusted to hear the
Another self, a duplicate of every one, skulking and
hiding it goes,
Formless and wordless through the streets of the cities,
polite and bland in the parlors,
In the cars of railroads, in steamboats, in the public
Home to the houses of men and women, at the table, in
the bed-room, everywhere,
Smartly attired, countenance smiling, form upright,
death under the breast-bones, hell under the skull-
Under the broadcloth and gloves, under the ribbons and
Keeping fair with the customs, speaking not a syllable
Speaking of any thing else, but never of itself.
Allons! through struggles and wars!
The goal that was named cannot be countermanded.
Have the past struggles succeeded?
What has succeeded? yourself? your nation? Nature?
Now understand me well—it is provided in the essence
of things that from any fruition of success, no
matter what, shall come forth something to make a
greater struggle necessary.
My call is the call of battle, I nourish active rebellion,
He going with me must go well arm'd,
He going with me goes often with spare diet, poverty,
angry enemies, desertions.
Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it
well—be not detain'd!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the
book on the shelf unopen'd!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer
plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.
Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
FLOOD-TIDE below me! I see you face to face!
Clouds of the west—sun there half-an-hour high—I see
you also face to face.
Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes,
how curious you are to me!
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross,
returning home, are more curious to me than you
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence
are more to me, and more in my meditations, than
you might suppose.
The impalpable sustenance of me from all things at all
hours of the day,
The simple, compact, well-join'd scheme, myself dis-
integrated, every one disintegrated yet part of the
The similitudes of the past and those of the future,
The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and
hearings, on the walk in the street and the passage
over the river,
The current rushing so swiftly and swimming with me
far away, [and them,
The others that are to follow me, the ties between me
The certainty of others, the life, love, sight, hearing of
Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from
shore to shore,
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide,
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and
west, and the heights of Brooklyn to the south and
Others will see the islands large and small;
Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the
sun half-an-hour high,
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years
hence, others will see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide,
the falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide.
It avails not, time nor place—distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or
ever so many generations hence, [felt,
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of
Just as you are refresh'd by the gladness of the river and
the bright flow, I was refresh'd,
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with
the swift current, I stood yet was hurried,
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and
the thick-stemm'd pipes of steamboats, I look'd.
I too many and many a time cross'd the river of old,
Watched the Twelfth-month sea-gulls, saw them high in
the air floating with motionless wings, oscillating
Saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their
bodies and left the rest in strong shadow,
Saw the slow-wheeling circles and the gradual edging
toward the south,
Saw the reflection of the summer sky in the water,
Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of beams,
Look'd at the fine centrifugal spokes of light round the
shape of my head in the sunlit water,
Look'd on the haze on the hills southward and south-
Look'd on the vapor as it flew in fleeces tinged with
Look'd toward the lower bay to notice the vessels arriving,
Saw their approach, saw aboard those that were near me,
Saw the white sails of schooners and sloops, saw the
ships at anchor,
The sailors at work in the rigging or out astride the spars,
The round masts, the swinging motion of the hulls, the
slender serpentine pennants,
The large and small steamers in motion, the pilots in
their pilot houses,
The white wake left by the passage, the quick tremulous
whirl of the wheels,
The flags of all nations, the falling of them at sunset,
The scallop-edged waves in the twilight, the ladled cups,
the frolicsome crests and glistening,
The stretch afar growing dimmer and dimmer, the gray
walls of the granite storehouses by the docks,
On the river the shadowy group, the big steam-tug
closely flank'd on each side by the barges, the hay-
boat, the belated lighter,
On the neighboring shore the fires from the foundry
chimneys burning high and glaringly into the night,
Casting their flicker of black contrasted with wild red
and yellow light over the tops of houses, and down
into the clefts of streets.
These and all else were to me the same as they are to
I loved well those cities, loved well the stately and rapid
The men and women I saw were all near to me,
Others the same—others who look back on me because I
look'd forward to them,
(The time will come, though I stop here to-day and
What is it then between us?
What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years
Whatever it is, it avails not—distance avails not, and
place avails not,
I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine,
I too walk'd the streets of Manhattan island, and bathed
in the waters around it,
I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me,
In the day among crowds of people sometimes they came
In my walks home late at night or as I lay in my bed
they came upon me,
I too had been struck from the float forever held in
I too had receiv'd identity by my body,
That I was I knew was of my body, and what I should
be I knew I should be of my body.
It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall,
The dark threw its patches down upon me also,
The best I had done seem'd to me blank and suspicious,
My great thoughts as I supposed them, were they not in
Nor is it you alone who know what it is to be evil,
I am he who knew what it was to be evil,
I too knitted the old knot of contrariety,
Blabb'd, blush'd, resented, lied, stole, grudg'd,
Had guile, anger, lust, hot wishes I dared not speak,
Was wayward, vain, greedy, shallow, sly, cowardly,
The wolf, the snake, the hog, not wanting in me.
The cheating look, the frivolous word, the adulterous
wish, not wanting,
Refusals, hates, postponements, meanness, laziness, none
of these wanting,
Was one with the rest, the days and haps of the rest,
Was call'd by my nighest name by clear loud voices of
young men as they saw me approaching or passing,
Felt their arms on my neck as I stood, or the negligent
leaning of their flesh against me as I sat,
Saw many I loved in the street or ferry-boat or public
assembly, yet never told them a word, [actress,
Play'd the part that still looks back on the actor or
Lived the same life with the rest, the same old laughing,
The same old role, the role that is what we make it, as
great as we like,
Or as small as we like, or both great and small.
Closer yet I approach you.
What thought you have of me now, I had as much of
you—I laid in my stores in advance,
I consider'd long and seriously of you before you were
Who was to know what should come home to me?
Who knows but I am enjoying this?
Who knows, for all the distance, but I am as good as
looking at you now, for all you cannot see me?
Ah, what can ever be more stately and admirable to me
than mast-hemm'd Manhattan?
River and sunset and scallop-edg'd waves of flood-tide?
The sea-gulls oscillating their bodies, the hay-boat in the
twilight, and the belated lighter?
What gods can exceed these that clasp me by the hand,
and with voices I love call me promptly and loudly
by my nighest name as I approach?
What is more subtle than this which ties me to the
woman or man that looks in my face?
Which fuses me into you now, and pours my meaning
We understand then do we not?
What I promis'd without mentioning it, have you not
What the study could not teach—what the preaching
could not accomplish is accomplish'd, is it not?
Flow on, river! flow with the flood-tide, and ebb with
Frolic on, crested and scallop-edg'd waves!
Gorgeous clouds of the sunset! drench with your splen-
dour me, or the men and women generations after
Cross from shore to shore, countless crowds of passengers!
Stand up, tall masts of Mannahatta! stand up, beautiful
hills of Brooklyn! [and answers!
Throb baffled and curious brain! throw out questions
Suspend here and everywhere, eternal float of solution!
Gaze, loving and thirsting eyes, in the house or street or
Sound out, voices of young men! loudly and musically
call me by my nighest name! [or actress!
Live, old life! play the part that looks back on the actor
Play the old role, the role that is great or small accord-
ing as one makes it!
Consider, you who peruse me, whether I may not in
unknown ways be looking upon you;
Be firm, rail over the river, to support those who lean
idly, yet haste with the hasting current;
Fly-on, sea-birds! fly sideways, or wheel in large circles
high in the air;
Receive the summer sky, you water, and faithfully hold
it till all downcast eyes have time to take it from
Diverge, fine spokes of light, from the shape of my head,
or any one's head, in the sunlit water!
Come on, ships from the lower bay! pass up or down,
white-sail'd schooners, sloops, lighters!
Flaunt away, flags of all nations! be duly lower'd at
Burn high your fires, foundry chimneys! cast black
shadows at nightfall! cast red and yellow light
over the tops of the houses!
Appearances, now or henceforth, indicate what you are,
You necessary film, continue to envelop the soul,
About my body for me, and your body for you, be hung
our divinest aromas,
Thrive, cities—bring your freight, bring your shows,
ample and sufficient rivers, [spiritual,
Expand, being than which none else is perhaps more
Keep your places, objects than which none else is more
You have waited, you always wait, you dumb, beautiful
We receive you with free sense at last, and are insatiate
Not you any more shall be able to foil us, or withhold
yourselves from us,
We use you, and do not cast you aside—we plant you
permanently within us,
We fathom you not—we love you—there is perfection
in you also,
You furnish your parts toward eternity,
Great or small, you furnish your parts toward the soul.
SONG OF THE ANSWERER.
NOW list to my morning's romanza, I tell the signs of
To the cities and farms I sing as they spread in the
sunshine before me.
A young man comes to me bearing a message from his
How shall the young man know the whether and when
of his brother?
Tell him to send me the signs.
And I stand before the young man face to face, and take
his right hand in my left hand and his left hand in
my right hand,
And I answer for his brother and for men, and I answer
for him that answers for all, and send these signs.
Him all wait for, him all yield up to, his word is decisive
Him they accept, in him lave, in him perceive themselves
as amid light,
Him they immerse and he immerses them.
Beautiful women, the haughtiest nations, laws, the
landscape, people, animals,
The profound earth and its attributes and the unquiet
ocean, (so tell I my morning's romanza,)
All enjoyments and properties and money, and
whatever money will buy,
The best farms, others toiling and planting and he
The noblest and costliest cities, others grading and
building and he domiciles there,
Nothing for any one but what is for him, near and far
are for him, the ships in the offing,
The perpetual shows and marches on land are for him if
they are for anybody.
He puts things in their attitudes,
He puts to-day out of himself with plasticity and love,
He places his own times, reminiscences, parents, brothers
and sisters, associations, employment, politics, so
that the rest never shame them afterward, nor
assume to command them.
He is the Answerer,
What can be answer'd he answers, and what cannot be
answer'd he shows how it cannot be answer'd.
A man is a summons and challenge,
(It is vain to skulk—do you hear that mocking and
laughter? do you hear the ironical echoes?)
Books, friendships, philosophers, priests, action, pleasure,
pride, beat up and down seeking to give satisfaction,
He indicates the satisfaction, and indicates them that
beat up and down also.
Whichever the sex, whatever the season or place, he may
go freshly and gently and safely by day or by night,
He has the pass-key of hearts, to him the response of the
prying of hands on the knobs.
His welcome is universal, the flow of beauty is not more
welcome or universal than he is,
The person he favours by day or sleeps with at night is
Every existence has its idiom, every thing has an idiom
He resolves all tongues into his own and bestows it upon
men, and any man translates, and any man trans-
lates himself also,
One part does not counteract another part, he is the
joiner, he sees how they join.
He says indifferently and alike How are you friend? to
the President at his levee,
And he says Good-day my brother, to Cudge that hoes in
And both understand him and know that his speech is
He walks with perfect ease in the capitol,
He walks among the Congress, and one Representative
says to another, Here is our equal appearing and
Then the mechanics take him for a mechanic,
And the soldiers suppose him to be a soldier, and the
sailors that he has follow'd the sea,
And the authors take him for an author, and the artists
for an artist,
And the labourers perceive he could labour with them and
No matter what the work is, that he is the one to follow
it or has follow'd it,
No matter what the nation, that he might find his
brothers and sisters there.
The English believe he comes of their English stock,
A Jew to the Jew he seems, a Russ to the Russ, usual
and near, removed from none.
Whoever he looks at in the traveler's coffee-house claims
The Italian or Frenchman is sure, the German is sure,
the Spaniard is sure, and the island Cuban is sure,
The engineer, the deck-hand on the great lakes, or on
the Mississippi or St. Lawrence or Sacramento, or
Hudson or Paumanok sound, claims him.
The gentleman of perfect blood acknowledges his perfect
The insulter, the prostitute, the angry person, the
beggar, see themselves in the ways of him, he
strangely transmutes them,
They are not vile any more, they hardly know them-
selves they are so grown.
The indications and tally of time,
Perfect sanity shows the master among philosophs,
Time, always without break, indicates itself in parts,
What always indicates the poet is the crowd of the
pleasant company of singers, and their words,
The words of the singers are the hours or minutes
of the light or dark, but the words of the maker of
poems are the general light and dark,
The maker of poems settles justice, reality, immortality,
His insight and power encircle things and the human
He is the glory and extract thus far of things and of the
The singers do not beget, only the Poet begets,
The singers are welcom'd, understood, appear often
enough, but rare has the day been, likewise the
spot, of the birth of the maker of poems,
(Not every century nor every five centuries has contain'd
such a day, for all its names.)
The singers of successive hours of centuries may have
ostensible names, but the name of each of them is
one of the singers,
The name of each is, eye-singer, ear-singer, head-singer,
sweet-singer, night-singer, parlour-singer, love-
singer, weird-singer, or something else.
All this time and at all times wait the words of true
The words of true poems do not merely please,
The true poets are not followers of beauty but the august
masters of beauty;
The greatness of sons is the exuding of the greatness of
mothers and fathers, [of science.
The words of true poems are the tuft and final applause
Divine instinct, breadth of vision, the law of reason,
health, rudeness of body, withdrawnness,
Gaiety, sun-tan, air-sweetness, such are some of the
words of poems.
The sailor and traveler underlie the maker of poems,
The builder, geometer, chemist, anatomist, phrenologist,
artist, all these underlie the maker of poems, the
The words of the true poems give you more than poems,
They give you to form for yourself poems, religions,
politics, war, peace, behaviour, histories, essays,
daily life, and every thing else,
They balance ranks, colours, races, creeds, and the sexes,
They do not seek beauty, they are sought,
Forever touching them or close upon them follows beauty,
longing, fain, love-sick.
They prepare for death, yet are they not the finish,
but rather the outset,
They bring none to his or her terminus or to be content
Whom they take they take into space to behold the
birth of stars, to learn one of the meanings,
To launch off with absolute faith, to sweep through the
ceaseless rings and never be quiet again.
A SONG OF JOYS.
O TO make the most jubilant song!
Full of music—full of manhood, womanhood, infancy!
Full of common employments—full of grain and trees.
O for the voices of animals—O for the swiftness and
balance of fishes!
O for the dropping of raindrops in a song!
O for the sunshine and motion of waves in a song!
O the joy of my spirit—it is uncaged—it darts like
It is not enough to have this globe or a certain time,
I will have thousands of globes and all time.
O the engineer's joys! to go with a locomotive!
To hear the hiss of steam, the merry shriek, the steam-
whistle, the laughing locomotive!
To push with resistless way and speed off in the distance.
O the gleesome saunter over fields and hillsides!
The leaves and flowers of the commonest weeds, the
moist fresh stillness of the woods,
The exquisite smell of the earth at daybreak, and all
through the forenoon.
O the horseman's and horsewoman's joys!
The saddle, the gallop, the pressure upon the seat, the
cool gurgling by the ears and hair.
O the fireman's joys!
I hear the alarm at dead of night,
I hear bells, shouts! I pass the crowd, I run!
The sight of the flames maddens me with pleasure.
O the joy of the strong-brawn'd fighter, towering in the
arena in perfect condition, conscious of power,
thirsting to meet his opponent.
O the joy of that vast elemental sympathy which only
the human soul is capable of generating and emit-
ting in steady and limitless floods.
O the mother's joys!
The watching, the endurance, the precious love, the
anguish, the patiently yielded life.
O the joy of increase, growth, recuperation,
The joy of soothing and pacifying, the joy of concord and
O to go back to the place where I was born,
To hear the birds sing once more,
To ramble about the house and barn and over the fields
And through the orchard and along the old lanes once
O to have been brought up on bays, lagoons, creeks, or
along the coast,
To continue and be employ'd there all my life,
The briny and damp smell, the shore, the salt weeds
exposed at low water,
The work of fishermen, the work of the eel-fisher and
I come with my clam-rake and spade, I come with my
Is the tide out? I join the group of clam-diggers on the flats,
I laugh and work with them, I joke at my work like a
mettlesome young man;
In winter I take my eel-basket and eel-spear and travel
out on foot on the ice—I have a small axe to cut
holes in the ice,
Behold me well-clothed going gayly or returning in the
afternoon, my brood of tough boys accompanying
My brood of grown and part-grown boys, who love to be
with no one else so well as they love to be with me,
By day to work with me, and by night to sleep with me.
Another time in warm weather out in a boat, to lift the
lobster-pots where they are sunk with heavy stones,
(I know the buoys,)
O the sweetness of the Fifth-month morning upon the
water as I row just before sunrise toward the buoys,
I pull the wicker pots up slantingly, the dark green
lobsters are desperate with their claws as I take them
out, I insert wooden pegs in the joints of their
pincers, [back to the shore,
I go to all the places one after another, and then row
There in a huge kettle of boiling water the lobsters shall
be boil'd till their colour becomes scarlet.
Another time mackerel-taking,
Voracious, mad for the hook, near the surface, they seem
to fill the water for miles;
Another time fishing for rock-fish in Chesapeake bay, I
one of the brown-faced crew;
Another time trailing for blue-fish off Paumanok, I stand
with braced body,
My left foot is on the gunwale, my right arm throws far
out the coils of slender rope,
In sight around me the quick veering and darting of
fifty skiffs, my companions.
O boating on the rivers,
The voyage down the St. Lawrence, the superb scenery,
The ships sailing, the Thousand Islands, the occasional
timber-raft and the raftsmen with long-reaching
The little huts on the rafts, and the stream of smoke
when they cook supper at evening.
(O something pernicious and dread!
Something far away from a puny and pious life!
Something unproved! something in a trance!
Something escaped from the anchorage and driving free.)
O to work in mines, or forging iron,
Foundry casting, the foundry itself, the rude high roof,
the ample and shadow'd space,
The furnace, the hot liquid pour'd out and running.
O to resume the joys of the soldier!
To feel the presence of a brave commanding officer—to
feel his sympathy!
To behold his calmness—to be warm'd in the rays of his
To go to battle—to hear the bugles play and the drums
To hear the crash of artillery—to see the glittering of
the bayonets and musket-barrels in the sun!
To see men fall and die and not complain!
To taste the savage taste of blood—to be so devilish!
To gloat so over the wounds and deaths of the enemy!
O the whaleman's joys! O I cruise my old cruise again!
I feel the ship's motion under me, I feel the Atlantic
breezes fanning me,There—she blows!
I hear the cry again sent down from the mast-head,
Again I spring up the rigging to look with the rest—we
descend, wild with excitement,
I leap in the lower'd boat, we row toward our prey where
We approach stealthy and silent, I see the mountainous
mass, lethargic, basking,
I see the harpooneer standing up, I see the weapon dart
from his vigorous arm;
O swift again far out in the ocean the wounded whale,
settling, running to windward, tows me,
Again I see him rise to breathe, we row close again,
I see a lance driven through his side, press'd deep, turn'd
in the wound,
Again we back off, I see him settle again, the life is
leaving him fast,
As he rises he spouts blood, I see him swim in circles
narrower and narrower, swiftly cutting the water—I
see him die,
He gives one convulsive leap in the centre of the circle,
and then falls flat and still in the bloody foam.
O the old manhood of me, my noblest joy of all!
My children and grandchildren, my white hair and
My largeness, calmness, majesty, out of the long stretch
of my life.
O ripen'd joy of womanhood! O happiness at last!
I am more than eighty years of age, I am the most
How clear is my mind—how all people draw nigh to me!
What attractions are these beyond any before? what
bloom more than the bloom of youth?
What beauty is this that descends upon me and rises out
O the orator's joys!
To inflate the chest, to roll the thunder of the voice out
from the ribs and throat,
To make the people rage, weep, hate, desire, with your-
To lead America—to quell America with a great tongue.
O the joy of my soul leaning pois'd on itself, receiving
identity through materials and loving them, observing
characters and absorbing them,
My soul vibrated back to me from them, from sight,
hearing, touch, reason, articulation, comparison,
memory, and the like,
The real life of my senses and flesh transcending my
senses and flesh,
My body done with materials, my sight done with my
Proved to me this day beyond cavil that it is not my
material eyes which finally see,
Nor my material body which finally loves, walks,
laughs, shouts, embraces, procreates.
O the farmer's joys!
Ohioan's, Illinoisian's, Wisconsinese', Kanadian's,
Iowan's, Kansian's, Missourian's, Oregonese' joys!
To rise at peep of day and pass forth nimbly to work,
To plough land in the fall for winter-sown crops,
To plough land in the spring for maize,
To train orchards, to graft the trees, to gather apples in
O to bathe in the swimming-bath, or in a good place
To splash the water! to walk ankle-deep, or race naked
along the shore.
O to realise space!
The plenteousness of all, that there are no bounds,
To emerge and be of the sky, of the sun and moon and
flying clouds, as one with them.
O the joy a manly self-hood!
To be servile to none, to defer to none, not to any
tyrant known or unknown,
To walk with erect carriage, a step springy and elastic,
To look with calm gaze or with a flashing eye,
To speak with a full and sonorous voice out of a broad
To confront with your personality all the other person-
alities of the earth.
Know'st thou the excellent joys of youth?
Joys of the dear companions and of the merry word and
Joy of the glad light-beaming day, joy of the wide-
Joy of sweet music, joy of the lighted ball-room and the
Joy of the plenteous dinner, strong carouse and drinking?
Yet O my soul supreme!
Know'st thou the joys of pensive thought?
Joys of the free and lonesome heart, the tender, gloomy
Joys of the solitary walk, the spirit bow'd yet proud, the
suffering and the struggle?
The agonistic throes, the ecstasies, joys of the solemn
musings day or night?
Joys of the thought of Death, the great spheres Time and
Prophetic joys of better, loftier love's ideals, the divine
wife, the sweet, eternal, perfect comrade?
Joys all thine own undying one, joys worthy thee O
O while I live to be the ruler of life, not a slave,
To meet life as a powerful conqueror,
No fumes, no ennui, no more complaints or scornful
To these proud laws of the air, the water, and the ground,
proving my interior soul impregnable,
And nothing exterior shall ever take command of me.
For not life's joys alone I sing, repeating—the joy of
The beautiful touch of Death, soothing and benumbing
a few moments, for reasons,
Myself discharging my excrementitious body to be burn'd,
or render'd to powder, or buried,
My real body doubtless left to me for other spheres,
My voided body nothing more to me, returning to the
purifications, further offices, eternal uses of the
O to attract by more than attraction!
How it is I know not—yet behold! the something which
obeys none of the rest,
It is offensive, never defensive—yet how magnetic it
O to struggle against great odds, to meet enemies
To be entirely alone with them, to find how much one
To look strife, torture, prison, popular odium, face to
To mount the scaffold, to advance to the muzzles of guns
with perfect nonchalance!
To be indeed a God!
O to sail to sea in a ship!
To leave this steady unendurable land,
To leave the tiresome sameness of the streets, the side-
walks and the houses,
To leave you O you solid motionless land, and entering
To sail and sail and sail!
O to have life henceforth a poem of new joys!
To dance, clap hands, exult, shout, skip, leap, roll on,
To be a sailor of the world bound for all ports,
A ship itself, (see indeed these sails I spread to the sun
A swift and swelling ship full of rich words, full of joys.
SONG OF THE BROAD-AXE.
WEAPON shapely, naked, wan,
Head from the mother's bowels drawn,
Wooded flesh and metal bone, limb only one and lip only
Gray-blue leaf by red-heat grown, helve produced from
a little seed sown,
Resting the grass amid and upon,
To be lean'd and to lean on.
Strong shapes and attributes of strong shapes, masculine
trades, sights and sounds.
Long varied train of an emblem, dabs of music,
Fingers of the organist skipping staccato over the keys
of the great organ.
Welcome are all earth's lands, each for its kind,
Welcome are lands of pine and oak,
Welcome are lands of the lemon and fig,
Welcome are lands of gold,
Welcome are lands of wheat and maize, welcome those
of the grape,
Welcome are lands of sugar and rice,
Welcome the cotton-lands, welcome those of the white
potato and sweet potato,
Welcome are mountains, flats, sands, forests, prairies,
Welcome the rich borders of rivers, table-lands, openings,
Welcome the measureless grazing-lands, welcome the
teeming soil of orchards, flax, honey, hemp;
Welcome just as much the other more hard-faced lands,
Lands rich as lands of gold or wheat and fruit lands,
Lands of mines, lands of the manly and rugged ores,
Lands of coal, copper, lead, tin, zinc,
Lands of iron—lands of the make of the axe.
The log at the wood-pile, the axe supported by it,
The sylvan hut, the vine over the doorway, the space
clear'd for a garden,
The irregular tapping of rain down on the leaves after
the storm is lull'd,
The walling and moaning at intervals, the thought of
The thought of ships struck in the storm and put on
their beam ends, and the cutting away of masts,
The sentiment of the huge timbers of old-fashion'd
houses and barns,
The remember'd print or narrative, the voyage at a
venture of men, families, goods,
The disembarkation, the founding of a new city,
The voyage of those who sought a New England and
found it, the outset anywhere,
The settlements of the Arkansas, Colorado, Ottawa,
The slow progress, the scant fare, the axe, rifle, saddle-
The beauty of all adventurous and daring persons,
The beauty of wood-boys and wood-men with their clear
The beauty of independence, departure, actions that rely
The American contempt for statutes and ceremonies, the
boundless impatience of restraint,
The loose drift of character, the inkling through random
types, the solidification;
The butcher in the slaughter-house, the hands aboard
schooners and sloops, the raftsman, the pioneer,
Lumbermen in their winter camp, daybreak in the woods,
stripes of snow on the limbs of trees, the occasional
The glad clear sound of one's own voice, the merry song,
the natural life of the woods, the strong day's work,
The blazing fire at night, the sweet taste of supper, the
talk, the bed of hemlock-boughs and the bear-
The house-builder at work in cities or anywhere,
The preparatory jointing, squaring, sawing, mortising,
The hoist-up of beams, the push of them in their places,
laying them regular,
Setting the studs by their tenons in the mortises accord-
ing as they were prepared,
The blows of mallets and hammers, the attitudes of the
men, their curv'd limbs,
Bending, standing, astride the beams, driving in pins,
holding on by posts and braces,
The hook'd arm over the plate, the other arm wielding
The floor-men forcing the planks close to be nail'd,
Their postures bringing their weapons downward on the
The echoes resounding through the vacant building;
The huge storehouse carried up in the city well under
The six framing-men, two in the middle and two at each
end, carefully bearing on their shoulders a heavy
stick for a cross-beam,
The crowded line of masons with trowels in their right
hands rapidly laying the long side-wall, two
hundred feet from front to rear,
The flexible rise and fall of backs, the continual click of
the trowels striking the bricks,
The bricks one after another each laid so workmanlike
in its place, and set with a knock of the trowel-
The piles of materials, the mortar on the mortar-boards,
and the steady replenishing by the hod-men;
Spar-makers in the spar-yard, the swarming row of well-
The swing of their axes on the square-hew'd log
shaping it toward the shape of a mast,
The brisk short crackle of the steel driven slantingly
into the pine,
The butter-color'd chips flying off in great flakes and
The limber motion of brawny young arms and hips in
The constructor of wharves, bridges, piers, bulk-heads,
floats, stays against the sea;
The city fireman, the fire that suddenly bursts forth in
the close-pack'd square,
The arriving engines, the hoarse shouts, the nimble
stepping and daring,
The strong command through the fire-trumpets, the
falling in line, the rise and fall of the arms forcing
The slender, spasmic, blue-white jets, the bringing to
bear of the hooks and ladders and their execution,
The crash and cut away of connecting wood-work, or
through floors if the fire smoulders under them,
The crowd with their lit faces watching, the glare and
dense shadows; [him,
The forger at his forge-furnace and the user of iron after
The maker of the axe large and small, and the welder
The chooser breathing his breath on the cold steel and
trying the edge with his thumb,
The one who clean-shapes the handle and sets it firmly
in the socket;
The shadowy processions of the portraits of the past
The primal patient mechanics, the architects and
The far-off Assyrian edifice and Mizra edifice,
The Roman lictors preceding the consuls,
The antique European warrior with his axe in combat,
The uplifted arm, the clatter of blows on the helmeted
The death-howl, the limpsy tumbling body, the rush of
friend and foe thither,
The siege of revolted lieges determin'd for liberty,
The summons to surrender, the battering at castle gates,
the truce and parley,
The sack of an old city in its time,
The bursting in of mercenaries and bigots tumultuously
Roar, flames, blood, drunkenness, madness,
Goods freely rifled from houses and temples, screams of
women in the gripe of brigands,
Craft and thievery of camp-followers, men running, old
The hell of war, the cruelties of creeds,
The list of all executive deeds and words just or unjust,
The power of personality just or unjust.
Muscle and pluck forever!
What invigorates life invigorates death,
And the dead advance as much as the living advance,
And the future is no more uncertain than the present,
For the roughness of the earth and of man encloses as
much as the delicatesse of the earth and of man,
And nothing endures but personal qualities.
What do you think endures?
Do you think a great city endures?
Or a teeming manufacturing state? or a prepared
constitution? or the best built steamships?
Or hotels of granite and iron? or any chef-d'œuvres of
engineering, forts, armaments?
Away! these are not to be cherish'd for themselves,
They fill their hour, the dancers dance, the musicians
play for them,
The show passes, all does well enough of course,
All does very well till one flash of defiance.
A great city is that which has the greatest men and
If it be a few ragged huts it is still the greatest city in
the whole world.
The place where a great city stands is not the place of
stretch'd wharves, docks, manufactures, deposits of
Nor the place of ceaseless salutes of new-comers or the
anchor-lifters of the departing,
Nor the place of the tallest and costliest buildings or
shops selling goods from the rest of the earth,
Nor the place of the best libraries and schools, nor the
place where money is plentiest,
Nor the place of the most numerous population.
Where the city stands with the brawniest breed of
orators and bards,
Where the city stands that is belov'd by these, and
loves them in return and understands them,
Where no monuments exist to heroes but in the common
words and deeds,
Where thrift is in its place, and prudence is in its place,
Where the men and women think lightly of the laws,
Where the slave ceases, and the master of slaves ceases,
Where the populace rise at once against the never-ending
audacity of elected persons,
Where fierce men and women pour forth as the sea to
the whistle of death pours its sweeping and unript
Where outside authority enters always after the pre-
cedence of inside authority,
Where the citizen is always the head and ideal, and
President, Mayor, Governor and what not, are
agents for pay,
Where children are taught to be laws to themselves, and
to depend on themselves,
Where equanimity is illustrated in affairs,
Where speculations on the soul are encouraged,
Where women walk in public processions in the streets
the same as the men,
Where they enter the public assembly and take places
the same as the men;
Where the city of the faithfulest friends stands,
Where the city of the cleanliness of the sexes stands,
Where the city of the healthiest fathers stands,
Where the city of the best-bodied mothers stands,
There the great city stands.
How beggarly appear arguments before a defiant deed!
How the floridness of the materials of cities shrivels
before a man's or woman's look!
All waits or goes by default till a strong being appears;
A strong being is the proof of the race and of the ability
of the universe,
When he or she appears materials are overaw'd,
The dispute on the soul stops,
The old customs and phrases are confronted, turn'd back,
or laid away.
What is your money-making now? what can it do now?
What is your respectability now?
What are your theology, tuition, society, traditions,
Where are your jibes of being now?
Where are your cavils about the soul now?
A sterile landscape covers the ore, there is as good as the
best for all the forbidding appearance,
There is the mine, there are the miners,
The forge-furnace is there, the melt is accomplish'd, the
hammersmen are at hand with their tongs and
What always served and always serves is at hand.
Than this nothing has better served, it has served all,
Served the fluent-tongued and subtle-sensed Greek, and
long ere the Greek, [any,
Served in building the buildings that last longer than
Served the Hebrew, the Persian, the most ancient
Served the mound-raiser on the Mississippi, served those
whose relics remain in Central America,
Served Albic temples in woods or on plains, with unhewn
pillars and the druids,
Served the artificial clefts, vast, high, silent, on the
snow-cover'd hills of Scandinavia,
Served those who time out of mind made on the granite
walls rough sketches of the sun, moon, stars, ships,
Served the paths of the irruptions of the Goths, served
the pastoral tribes and nomads,
Served the long distant Kelt, served the hardy pirates
of the Baltic,
Served before any of those the venerable and harmless
men of Ethiopia,
Served the making of helms for the galleys of pleasure,
and the making of those for war,
Served all great works on land and all great works on
For the mediæval ages and before the mediæval ages,
Served not the living only then as now, but served the
I see the European headsman,
He stands mask'd, clothed in red, with huge legs and
strong naked arms,
And leans on a ponderous axe.
(Whom have you slaughter'd lately European headsman?
Whose is that blood upon you so wet and sticky?)
I see the clear sunsets of the martyrs,
I see from the scaffolds the descending ghosts,
Ghosts of dead lords, uncrown'd ladies, impeach'd
ministers, rejected kings, [rest.
Rivals, traitors, poisoners, disgraced chieftains and the
I see those who in any land have died for the good
The seed is spare, nevertheless the crop shall never run
(Mind you O foreign kings, O priests, the crop shall
never run out.)
I see the blood wash'd entirely away from the axe,
Both blade and helve are clean,
They spirt no more the blood of European nobles, they
clasp no more the necks of queens.
I see the headsman withdraw and become useless,
I see the scaffold untrodden and mouldy, I see no longer
any axe upon it,
I see the mighty and friendly emblem of the power of
my own race, the newest, largest race.
(America! I do not vaunt my love for you,
I have what I have.)
The axe leaps!
The solid forest gives fluid utterances,
They tumble forth, they rise and form,
Hut, tent, landing, survey,
Flail, plough, pick, crowbar, spade,
Shingle, rail, prop, wainscot, lamb, lath, panel, gable,
Citadel, ceiling, saloon, academy, organ, exhibition-
Cornice, trellis, pilaster, balcony, window, turret, porch,
Hoe, rake, pitchfork, pencil, wagon, staff, saw, jack-
plane, mallet, wedge, rounce,
Chair, tub, hoop, table, wicket, vane, sash, floor,
Work-box, chest, string'd instrument, boat, frame, and
Capitols of States, and capitol of the nation of States,
Long stately rows in avenues, hospitals for orphans or
for the poor or sick,
Manhattan steamboats and clippers taking the measure
of all seas.
The shapes arise!
Shapes of the using of axes anyhow, and the users and
all that neighbors them,
Cutters down of wood and haulers of it to the Penobscot or
Dwellers in cabins among the Californian mountains or
by the little lakes, or on the Columbia,
Dwellers south on the banks of the Gila or Rio Grande,
friendly gatherings, the characters and fun,
Dwellers along the St. Lawrence, or north in Kanada, or
down by the Yellowstone, dwellers on coasts and off
Seal-fishers, whalers, arctic seamen breaking passages
through the ice.
The shapes arise!
Shapes of factories, arsenals, foundries, markets,
Shapes of the two-threaded tracks of railroads,
Shapes of the sleepers of bridges, vast frameworks, girders,
arches, [river craft,
Shapes of the fleets of barges, tows, lake and canal craft,
Ship-yards and dry-docks along the Eastern and Western
seas, and in many a bay and by-place,
The live-oak kelsons, the pine planks, the spars,
the hackmatack-roots for knees,
The ships themselves on their ways, the tiers of scaffolds,
the workmen busy outside and inside,
The tools lying around, the great auger and little auger,
the adze, bolt, line, square, gouge, and bead-plane.
The shapes arise!
The shape measur'd, saw'd, jack'd, join'd, stain'd,
The coffin-shape for the dead to lie within in his shroud,
The shape got out in posts, in the bedstead posts, in the
posts of the bride's bed,
The shape of the little trough, the shape of the rockers
beneath, the shape of the babe's cradle,
The shape of the floor-planks, the floor-planks for
The shape of the planks of the family home, the home
of the friendly parents and children,
The shape of the roof of the home of the happy young
man and woman, the roof over the well-married
young man and woman,
The roof over the supper joyously cook'd by the chaste
wife, and joyously eaten by the chaste husband,
content after his day's work.
The shapes arise!
The shape of the prisoner's place in the court-room, and
of him or her seated in the place,
The shape of the liquor-bar lean'd against by the young
rum-drinker and the old rum-drinker,
The shape of the shamed and angry stairs trod by
The shape of the sly settee, and the adulterous unwhole-
The shape of the gambling-board with its devilish
winnings and losings,
The shape of the step-ladder for the convicted and
sentenced murderer, the murderer with haggard face
and pinion'd arms,
The sheriff at hand with his deputies, the silent and
white-lipp'd crowd, the dangling of the rope.
The shapes arise!
Shapes of doors giving many exits and entrances,
The door passing the dissever'd friend flush'd and in
The door that admits good news and bad news,
The door whence the son left home confident and puff'd
The door he enter'd again from a long and scandalous
absence, diseas'd, broken down, without innocence,
Her shape arises!
She less guarded than ever, yet more guarded than ever,
The gross and soil'd she moves among do not make her
gross and soil'd,
She knows the thoughts as she passes, nothing is con-
ceal'd from her,
She is none the less considerate or friendly therefor,
She is the best belov'd, it is without exception, she has no
reason to fear and she does not fear,
Oaths, quarrels, hiccupp'd songs, smutty expressions,
are idle to her as she passes,
She is silent, she is possess'd of herself, they do not
She receives them as the laws of Nature receive them,
she is strong,
She too is a law of Nature—there is no law stronger than
The main shapes arise!
Shapes of Democracy total, result of centuries,
Shapes ever projecting other shapes,
Shapes of turbulent manly cities,
Shapes of the friends and home-givers of the whole
Shapes bracing the earth and braced with the whole
SONG OF THE REDWOOD-TREE.
A CALIFORNIA song,
A prophecy and indirection, a thought impalpable to
breathe as air,
A chorus of dryads, fading, departing, or hamadryads
A murmuring, fateful, giant voice, out of the earth and
Voice of a mighty dying tree in the redwood forest
dense.Farewell my brethren,
Farewell O earth and sky, farewell ye neighboring
My time has ended, my term has come.
Along the northern coast,
Just back from the rock-bound shore and the caves,
In the saline air from the sea in the Mendocino country,
With the surge for base and accompaniment low and
With crackling blows of axes sounding musically driven
by strong arms,
Riven deep by the sharp tongues of the axes, there in
the redwood forest dense,
I heard the might tree its death-chant chanting.
The choppers heard not, the camp shanties echoed not,
The quick-ear'd teamsters and chain and jack-screw
men heard not,
As the wood-spirits came from their haunts of a thousand
years to join the refrain,
But in my soul I plainly heard.
Murmuring out of its myriad leaves,
Down from its lofty top rising two hundred feet high,
Out of its stalwart trunk and limbs, out of its foot-thick
That chant of the seasons and time, chant not of the
past only but the future.
You untold life of me,
And all you venerable and innocent joys,
Perennial hardy life of me with joys 'mid rain and many
a summer sun,
And the white snows and night and the wild winds;
O the great patient rugged joys, my soul's strong joys
unreck'd by man,
(For know I bear the soul befitting me, I too have con-
And all the rocks and mountains have, and all the earth,)
Joys of the life befitting me and brothers mine,
Our time, our term has come.
Nor yield we mournfully majestic brothers,
We who have grandly fill'd our time;
With Nature's calm content, with tacit huge delight,
We welcome what we wrought for through the past,
And leave the field for them.
For them predicted long,
For a superber race, they too to grandly fill their time,
For them we abdicate, in them ourselves ye forest kings!
In them these skies and airs, these mountain peaks,
These huge precipitous cliffs, this amplitude, these valleys,
To be in them absorb'd, assimilated.
Then to a loftier strain,
Still prouder, more ecstatic rose the chant,
As if the heirs, the deities of the West,
Joining with master-tongue bore part.
Not wan from Asia's fetiches,
Nor red from Europe's old dynastic slaughter-house,
(Area of murder-plots of thrones, with scent left yet of
wars and scaffolds everywhere,)
But come from Nature's long and harmless throes, peace-
fully builded thence,
These virgin lands, lands of the Western shore,
To the new culminating man, to you, the empire new,
You promis'd long, we pledge, we dedicate.
You occult deep volitions,
You average spiritual manhood, purpose of all, pois'd on
yourself, giving not taking law,
You womanhood divine, mistress and source of all, whence
life and love and aught that comes from life and love,
You unseen moral essence of all the vast materials of
America, (age upon age working in death the same
You that, sometimes known, oftener unknown, really
shape and mould the New World, adjusting it to
Time and Space,
You hidden national will lying in your abysms, conceal'd
but ever alert,
You past and present purposes tenaciously pursued,
may-be unconscious of yourselves,
Unswerv'd by all the passing errors, perturbations of the
You vital, universal, deathless germs, beneath all creeds,
arts, statutes, literatures,
Here build your homes for good, establish here, these
areas entire, lands of the Western shore,
We pledge, we dedicate to you.
For man of you, your characteristic race,
Here may he hardy, sweet, gigantic grow, here tower
proportionate to Nature,
Here climb the vast pure spaces unconfined, uncheck'd by
wall or roof,
Here laugh with storm or sun, here joy, here patiently
Here heed himself, unfold himself, (not others' formulas
heed,) here fill his time,
To duly fall, to aid, unreck'd at last,
To disappear, to serve.
Thus on the northern coast,
In the echo of teamsters' calls and the clinking chains,
and the music of choppers' axes,
The falling trunk and limbs, the crash, the muffled
shriek, the groan,
Such words combined from the redwood-tree, as of
voices ecstatic, ancient and rustling,
The century-lasting, unseen dryads, singing, with-
All their recesses of forests and mountains leaving,
From the Cascade range to the Wahsatch, or Idaho far,
To the deities of the modern henceforth yielding,
The chorus and indications, the vistas of coming
humanity, the settlements, features all,
In the Mendocino woods I caught.
The flashing and golden pageant of California,
The sudden and gorgeous drama, the sunny and ample
The long and varied stretch from Puget sound to
Lands bathed in sweeter, rarer, healthier air, valleys and
The fields of Nature long prepared and fallow, the silent,
The slow and steady ages plodding, the unoccupied sur-
face ripening, the rich ores forming beneath;
At last the New arriving, assuming, taking possession,
A swarming and busy race settling and organising every-
Ships coming in from the whole round world, and going
out to the whole world,
To India and China and Australia and the thousand
island paradises of the Pacific,
Populous cities, the latest inventions, the steamers on
the rivers, the railroads, with many a thrifty farm,
And wool and wheat and the grape, and diggings of
But more in you than these, lands of the Western shore,
(These but the means, the implements, the standing-
I see in you, certain to come, the promise of thousands
of years, till now deferr'd,
Promis'd to be fulfill'd, our common kind, the race.
The new society at last, proportionate to Nature,
In man of you, more than your mountain peaks or
stalwart trees imperial,
In woman more, far more, than all your gold or vines,
or even vital air.
Fresh come, to a new world indeed, yet long prepared,
I see the genius of the modern, child of the real and
Clearing the ground for broad humanity, the true
America, heir of the past so grand,
To build a grander future.
YOUTH, large, lusty, loving—youth full of grace, force,
Do you know that Old Age may come after you with
equal grace, force, fascination?
Day full-blown and splendid—day of the immense sun,
action, ambition, laughter,
The Night follows close with millions of suns, and sleep
and restoring darkness.
SONG OF THE UNIVERSAL.
COME said the Muse,
Sing me a song no poet yet has chanted,
Sing me the universal.
In this broad earth of ours,
Amid the measureless grossness and the slag,
Enclosed and safe within its central heart,
Nestles the seed perfection.
By every life a share or more or less,
None born but it is born, conceal'd or unconceal'd the
seed is waiting.
Lo! keen-eyed towering science,
As from tall peaks the modern overlooking,
Successive absolute fiats issuing.
Yet again, lo! the soul, above all science,
For it has history gather'd like husks around the globe,
For it the entire star-myriads roll through the sky.
In spiral routes by long detours,
(As a much-tacking ship upon the sea,)
For it the partial to the permanent flowing,
For it the real to the ideal tends.
For it the mystic evolution,
Not the right only justified, what we call evil also
Forth from their masks, no matter what,
From the huge festering trunk, from craft and guile and
Health to emerge and joy, joy universal.
Out of the bulk, the morbid and the shallow,
Out of the bad majority, the varied countless frauds of
men and states,
Electric, antiseptic yet, cleaving, suffusing all,
Only the good is universal.
Over the mountain-growths disease and sorrow,
An uncaught bird is ever hovering, hovering,
High in the purer, happier air.
From imperfection's murkiest cloud,
Darts always forth one ray of perfect light,
One flash of heaven's glory.
To fashion's, custom's discord,
To the mad Babel-din, the deafening orgies,
Soothing each lull a strain is heard, just heard,
From some far shore the final chorus sounding.
O the blest eyes, the happy hearts,
That see, that know the guiding thread so fine,
Along the mighty labyrinth.
And thou America,
For the scheme's culmination, its thought and its reality,
For these (not for thyself) thou hast arrived.
Thou too surroundest all,
Embracing carrying welcoming all, thou too by path-
ways broad and new,
To the ideal tendest.
The measure'd faiths of other lands, the grandeurs of the
Are not for thee, but grandeurs of thine own,
Deific faiths and amplitudes, absorbing, comprehending
All eligible to all.
All, all for immortality,
Love like the light silently wrapping all,
Nature's amelioration blessing all,
The blossoms, fruits of ages, orchards divine and certain,
Forms, objects, growths, humanities, to spiritual images
Give me O God to sing that thought,
Give me, give him or her I love this quenchless faith,
In Thy ensemble, whatever else withheld withhold not
Belief in plan of Thee enclosed in Time and Space,
Health, peace, salvation universal.
Is it a dream?
Nay but the lack of it the dream,
And failing it life's lore and wealth a dream,
And all the world a dream.
PIONEERS! O PIONEERS!
COME my tan-faced children,
Follow well in order, get your weapons ready,
Have you your pistols? have you your sharp-edged
Pioneers! O pioneers!
For we cannot tarry here,
We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of
We the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
O you youths, Western youths,
So impatient, full of action, full of manly pride and
Plain I see you Western youths, see you tramping with
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Have the elder races halted?
Do they droop and end their lesson, wearied over there
beyond the seas?
We take up the task eternal, and the burden and the
Pioneers! O pioneers!
All the past we leave behind,
We debouch upon a newer mightier world, varied world,
Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labour
and the march,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
We detachments steady throwing,
Down the edges, through the passes, up the mountains
Conquering, holding, daring, venturing as we go the
Pioneers! O pioneers!
We primeval forests felling,
We the rivers stemming, vexing we and piercing deep
the mines within,
We the surface broad surveying, we the virgin soil
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Colorado men are we,
From the peaks gigantic, from the great sierras and the
From the mine and from the gully, from the hunting
trail we come,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
From Nebraska, from Arkansas,
Central inland race are we, from Missouri, with the
continental blood intervein'd,
All the hands of comrades clasping, all the Southern, all
Pioneers! O pioneers!
O resistless restless race!
O beloved race in all! O my breast aches with tender
love for all!
O I mourn and yet exult, I am rapt with love for all,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Raise the mighty mother mistress,
Waving high the delicate mistress, over all the starry
mistress, (bend your heads all,)
Raise the fang'd and warlike mistress, stern, impassive,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
See my children, resolute children,
By those swarms upon our rear we must never yield or
Ages back in ghostly millions frowning there behind us
Pioneers! O pioneers!
On and on the compact ranks,
With accessions ever waiting, with the places of the
dead quickly fill'd,
Through the battle, through defeat, moving yet and
Pioneers! O pioneers!
O to die advancing on!
Are there some of us to droop and die? has the hour
Then upon the march we fittest die, soon and sure the
gap is fill'd.
Pioneers! O pioneers!
All the pulses of the world,
Falling in they beat for us, with the Western movement
Holding single or together, steady moving to the front,
all for us,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Life's involv'd and varied pageants,
All the forms and shows, all the workmen at their work,
All the seamen and the landsmen, all the masters with
Pioneers! O pioneers!
All the hapless silent lovers,
All the prisoners in the prisons, all the righteous and
All the joyous, all the sorrowing, all the living, all the
Pioneers! O pioneers!
I too with my soul and body,
We, a curious trio, picking, wandering on our way,
Through these shores amid the shadows, with the
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Lo, the darting bowling orb!
Lo, the brother orbs around, all the clustering sons and
All the dazzling days, all the mystic nights with dreams,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
These are of us, they are with us,
All for primal needed work, while the followers there in
embryo wait behind,
We to-day's procession heading, we the route for travel
Pioneers! O pioneers!
O you daughters of the West!
O you young and elder daughters! O you mothers and
Never must you be divided, in our ranks you move
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Minstrels latent on the prairies!
(Shrouded bards of other lands, you may rest, you have
done your work,)
Soon I hear you coming warbling, soon you rise and
tramp amid us,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Not for delectations sweet,
Not the cushion and the slipper, not the peaceful and
Not the riches safe and palling, not for us the tame
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Do the feasters gluttonous feast?
Do the corpulent sleepers sleep? have they lock'd and
Still be ours the diet hard, and the blanket on the
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Has the night descended?
Was the road of late so toilsome? did we stop discouraged
nodding on our way?
Yet a passing hour I yield you in your tracks to pause
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Still with sound of trumpet,
Far, far off the daybreak call—hark! how loud and
clear I hear it wind, [your places,
Swift! to the head of the army!—swift! spring to
Pioneers! O pioneers!
WHOEVER you are, I fear you are walking the walks
of dreams, [your feet and hands,
I fear these supposed realities are to melt from under
Even now your features, joys, speech, house, trade,
manners, troubles, follies, costume, crimes, dis-
sipate away from you,
Your true soul and body appear before me.
They stand forth out of affairs, out of commerce, shops,
work, farms, clothes, the house, buying, selling,
eating, drinking, suffering, dying.
Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that
you be my poem,
I whisper with my lips close to your ear,
I have loved many women and men, but I love none
better than you.
O I have been dilatory and dumb,
I should have made my way straight to you long ago,
I should have blabb'd nothing but you, I should have
chanted nothing but you.
I will leave all and come and make the hymns of you,
None has understood you, but I understand you,
None has done justice to you, you have not done justice
None but has found you imperfect, I only find no
imperfection in you,
None but would subordinate you, I only am he who
will never consent to subordinate you,
I only am he who places over you no master, owner,
better, God, beyond what waits intrinsically in
Painters have painted their swarming groups and the
centre-figure of all,
From the head of the centre-figure spreading a nimbus
of gold-colour'd light,
But I paint myriads of heads, but paint no head without
its nimbus of gold-color'd light,
From my hand from the brain of every man and woman
it streams, effulgently flowing forever.
O I could sing such grandeurs and glories about you!
You have not known what you are, you have slumber'd
upon yourself all your life, [time,
Your eyelids have been the same as closed most of the
What you have done returns already in mockeries,
(Your thrift, knowledge, prayers, if they do not return
in mockeries, what is their return?)
The mockeries are not you,
Underneath them and within them I see you lurk,
I pursue you where none else has pursued you,
Silence, the desk, the flippant expression, the night, the
accustom'd routine, if these conceal you from others
or from yourself, they do not conceal you from me,
The shaved face, the unsteady eye, the impure com-
plexion, if these balk others they do not balk me,
The pert apparel, the deform'd attitude, drunkenness,
greed, premature death, all these I part aside.
There is no endowment in man or woman that is not
tallied in you, [good is in you,
There is no virtue, no beauty in man or woman, but as
No pluck, no endurance in others, but as good is in you,
No pleasure waiting for others, but an equal pleasure
waits for you.
As for me, I give nothing to any one except I give the
like carefully to you,
I sing the songs of the glory of none, not God, sooner
than I sing the songs of the glory of you.
Whoever you are! claim your own at any hazard! [you,
These shows of the East and West are tame compared to
These immense meadows, these interminable rivers, you
are immense and interminable as they,
These furies, elements, storms, motions of Nature,
throes of apparent dissolution, you are he or she
who is master or mistress over them,
Master or mistress in your own right over Nature,
elements, pain, passion, dissolution.
The hopples fall from your ankles, you find an unfailing
Old or young, male or female, rude, low, rejected by the
rest, whatever you are promulges itself,
Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are pro-
vided, nothing is scanted,
Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui,
what you are picks its way.
The 18th Year of the United States.
A GREAT year and place
A harsh discordant natal scream out-sounding, to touch
the mother's heart closer than any yet.
I walk'd the shores of my Eastern sea,
Heard over the waves the little voice,
Saw the divine infant where she woke mournfully wail-
ing, amid the roar of cannon, curses, shouts, crash of
Was not so sick from the blood in the gutters running,
nor from the single corpses, nor those in heaps, nor
those borne away in the tumbrils,
Was not so desperate at the battues of death—was not so
shock'd at the repeated fusillades of the guns.
Pale, silent, stern, what could I say to that long-accrued
Could I wish humanity different?
Could I wish the people made of wood and stone?
Or that there be no justice in destiny or time?
O Liberty! O mate for me!
Here too the blaze, the grape-shot and the axe, in
reserve, to fetch them out in case of need,
Here too, though long represt, can never be destroy'd,
Here too could rise at last murdering and ecstatic,
Here too demanding full arrears of vengeance.
Hence I sign this salute over the sea,
And I do not deny that terrible red birth and baptism,
But remember the little voice that I heard wailing, and
wait with perfect trust, no matter how long,
And from to-day sad and cogent I maintain the
bequeath'd cause, as for all lands,
And I send these words to Paris with my love,
And I guess some chansonniers there will understand
For I guess there is latent music yet in France, floods
O I hear already the bustle of instruments, they will
soon be drowning all that would interrupt them,
O I think the east wind brings a triumphal and free
It reaches hither, it swells me to joyful madness,
I will run transpose it in words, to justify it,
I will yet sing a song for you ma femme.
MYSELF AND MINE.
MYSELF and mine gymnastic ever,
To stand the cold or heat, to take good aim with a gun,
to sail a boat, to manage horses, to beget superb
To speak readily and clearly, to feel at home among
And to hold our own in terrible positions on land and
Not for an embroiderer,
(There will always be plenty of embroiderers, I welcome
But for the fibre of things and for inherent men and
Nor to chisel ornaments,
But to chisel with free stroke the heads and limbs of
plenteous supreme Gods, that the States may realise
them walking and talking.
Let me have my own way,
Let others promulge the laws, I will make no account of
Let others praise eminent men and hold up peace, I hold
up agitation and conflict,
I praise no eminent man, I rebuke to his face the one
that was thought most worthy.
(Who are you? and what are you secretly guilty of all
Will you turn aside all your life? will you grub and
chatter all your life?
And who are you, blabbing by rote, years, pages,
Unwitting to-day that you do not know how to speak
properly a single word?)
Let others finish specimens, I never finish specimens,
I start them by exhaustless laws as Nature does, fresh
and modern continually.
I give nothing as duties,
What others give as duties I give as living impulses,
(Shall I give the heart's action as a duty?)
Let others dispose of questions, I dispose of nothing, I
arouse unanswerable questions,
Who are they I see and touch, and what about them?
What about these likes of myself that draw me so close
by tender directions and indirections?
I call to the world to distrust the accounts of my friends,
but listen to my enemies, as I myself do,
I charge you forever reject those who would expound
me, for I cannot expound myself,
I charge that there be no theory or school founded out
I charge you to leave all free, as I have left all free.
After me, vista!
O I see life is not short, but immeasurably long,
I henceforth tread the world chaste, temperate, an early
riser, a steady grower,
Every hour the semen of centuries, and still of centuries.
I must follow up these continual lessons of the air,
I perceive I have no time to lose.
With my fathers and mothers and the accumulations of
With all which, had it not been, I would not now be
here, as I am,
With Egypt, India, Phenicia, Greece and Rome,
With the Kelt, the Scandinavian, the Alb and the
Saxon, [and journeys,
With antique maritime ventures, laws, artisanship, wars
With the poet, the skald, the saga, the myth, and the
With the sale of slaves, with enthusiasts, with the
troubadour, the crusader, and the monk,
With those old continents whence we have come to this
With the fading kingdoms and kings over there,
With the fading religions and priests,
With the small shores we look back to from our own
large and present shores,
With countless years drawing themselves onward and
arrived at these years, [year,
You and me arrived—America arrived and making this
This year! sending itself ahead countless years to come.
O but it is not the years—it is I, it is you,
We touch all laws and tally all antecedents,
We are the skald, the oracle, the monk and the knight,
we easily include them and more,
We stand amid time beginningless and endless, we stand
amid evil and good,
All swings around us, there is as much darkness as light,
The very sun swings itself and its system of planets
Its sun, and its again, all swing around us.
As for me, (torn, stormy, amid these vehement days,)
I have the idea of all, and am all and believe in all,
I believe materialism is true and spiritualism is true, I
reject no part.
(Have I forgotten any part? any thing in the past?
Come to me whoever and whatever, till I give you
I respect Assyria, China, Teutonia, and the Hebrews,
I adopt each theory, myth, god and demi-god,
I see that the old accounts, Bibles, genealogies, are true,
I assert that all past days were what they must have
And that they could no-how have been better than they
And that to-day is what it must be, and that America is,
And that to-day and America could no-how be better
than they are.
In the name of these States and in your and my name,
And in the name of these States and in your and my
name, the Present time.
I know that the past was great and the future will be
And I know that both curiously conjoint in the present
(For the sake of him I typify, for the common average
man's sake, your sake if you are he,)
And that where I am or you are this present day, there
is the centre of all days, all races,
And there is the meaning to us of all that has ever come
of races and days, or ever will come.
OUT OF THE CRADLE ENDLESSLY ROCKING.
OUT of the cradle endlessly rocking,
Out of the mocking-bird's throat, the musical shuttle,
Out of the Ninth-month midnight,
Over the sterile sands and the fields beyond, where the
child leaving his bed wander'd alone, bareheaded,
Down from the shower'd halo,
Up from the mystic play of shadows twining and
twisting as if they were alive,
Out from the patches of briers and blackberries,
From the memories of the bird that chanted to me,
From your memories sad brother, from the fitful risings
and fallings I heard,
From under that yellow half-moon late-risen and swollen
as if with tears,
From those beginning notes of yearning and love there
in the mist,
From the thousand responses of my heart never to cease,
From the myriad thence-arous'd words,
From the word stronger and more delicious than any,
From such as now they start the scene revisiting,
As a flock, twittering, rising, or overhead passing,
Borne hither, ere all eludes me, hurriedly,
A man, yet by these tears a little boy again,
Throwing myself on the sand, confronting the waves,
I, chanter of pains and joys, uniter of here and hereafter,
Taking all hints to use them, but swiftly leaping beyond
A reminiscence sing.
When the lilac-scent was in the air and Fifth-month
grass was growing,
Up this sea-shore in some briers,
Two feather'd guests from Alabama, two together,
And their nest, and four light-green eggs spotted with
And every day the he-bird to and fro near at hand,
And every day the she-bird crouch'd on her nest, silent,
with bright eyes,
And every day I, a curious boy, never too close, never
Cautiously peering, absorbing, translating.
Shine! shine! shine!
Pour down your warmth, great sun!
While we bask, we two together.
Winds blow south, or winds blow north,
Day come white, or night come black,
Home, or rivers and mountains from home,
Singing all time, minding no time,
While we two keep together.
Till of a sudden,
May-be kill'd, unknown to her mate,
One forenoon the she-bird crouch'd not on the nest,
Nor return'd that afternoon, nor the next,
Nor ever appear'd again.
And thenceforward all summer in the sound of the sea,
And at night under the full of the moon in calmer
Over the hoarse surging of the sea,
Or flitting from brier to brier by day, [he-bird,
I saw, I heard at intervals the remaining one, the
The solitary guest from Alabama.
Blow! blow! blow!
Blow up sea-winds along Paumanok's shore;
I wait and I wait till you blow my mate to me.
Yes, when the stars glisten'd,
All night long on the prong of a moss-scallop'd stake,
Down almost amid the slapping waves,
Sat the lone singer wonderful causing tears.
He call'd on his mate,
He pour'd forth the meanings which I of all men know.
Yes my brother I know,
The rest might not, but I have treasur'd every note,
For more than once dimly down to the beach gliding,
Silent, avoiding the moonbeam, blending myself with
Recalling now the obscure shapes, the echoes, the sounds
and sights after their sorts,
The white arms out in the breakers tirelessly tossing,
I, with bare feet, a child, the wind wafting my hair,
Listen'd long and long.
Listen'd to keep, to sing, now translating the notes,
Following you my brother.
Soothe! soothe! soothe!
Close on its wave soothes the wave behind, [one close,
And again another behind embracing and lapping, every
But my love soothes not me, not me.
Low hangs the moon, it rose late,
It is lagging—O I think it is heavy with love, with love.
O madly the sea pushes upon the land,
With love, with love.
O night! do I not see my love fluttering out among the
What is that little black thing I see there in the white?
Loud! loud! loud!
Loud I call to you, my love!
High and clear I shoot my voice over the waves,
Surely you must know who is here, is here,
You must know who I am, my love.
What is that dusky spot in your brown yellow!
O it is the shape, the shape of my mate!
O moon do not keep her from me any longer.
Land! land! O land!
Whichever way I turn, O I think you could give me my
mate back again if you only would,
For I am almost sure I see her dimly whichever way I
O rising stars!
Perhaps the one I want so much will rise, will rise with
some of you.
O throat! O trembling throat!
Sound clearer through the atmosphere!
Pierce the woods, the earth,
Somewhere listening to catch you must be the one I want.
Shake out carols!
Solitary here, the night's carols!
Carols of lonesome love! death's carols!
Carols under that lagging, yellow, waning moon!
O under that moon where she droops almost down into the
O reckless despairing carols.
But soft! sink low!
Soft! let me just murmur,
And do you wait a moment you husky-nois'd sea,
For somewhere I believe I heard my mate responding to
So faint, I must be still, be still to listen,
But not altogether still, for then she might not come
immediately to me.
Hither my love!
Here I am! here!
With this just-sustain'd note I announce myself to you,
This gentle call is for you my love, for you.
Do not be decoy'd elsewhere,
That is the whistle of the wind, it is not my voice,
That is the fluttering, the fluttering of the spray,
Those are the shadows of leaves.
O darkness! O in vain!
O I am very sick and sorrowful
O brown halo in the sky near the moon, drooping upon
O troubled reflection in the sea!
O throat! O throbbing heart!
And I singing uselessly, uselessly all the night.
O past! O happy life! O songs of joy!
In the air, in the woods, over fields,
Loved! loved! loved! loved! loved!
But my mate no more, no more with me!
We two together no more.
The aria sinking,
All else continuing, the stars shining,
The winds blowing, the notes of the bird continuous
With angry moans the fierce old mother incessantly
On the sands of Paumanok's shore gray and rustling,
The yellow half-moon enlarged, sagging down, drooping,
the face of the sea almost touching,
The boy ecstatic, with his bare feet the waves, with his
hair the atmosphere dallying,
The love in the heart long pent, now loose, now at last
The aria's meaning, the ears, the soul, swiftly depositing,
The strange tears down the cheeks coursing,
The colloquy there, the trio, each uttering,
The undertone, the savage old mother incessantly crying,
To the boy's soul's questions sullenly timing, some
drown'd secret hissing,
To the outsetting bard.
Demon or bird! (said the boy's soul,)
Is it indeed toward your mate you sing? or is it really
For I, that was a child, my tongue's use sleeping, now I
have heard you,
Now in a moment I know what I am for, I awake,
And already a thousand singers, a thousand songs,
clearer, louder and more sorrowful than yours,
A thousand warbling echoes have started to life within
me, never to die.
O you singer solitary, singing by yourself, projecting me,
O solitary me listening, never more shall I cease
Never more shall I escape, never more the reverberations,
Never more the cries of unsatisfied love be absent from
Never again leave me to be the peaceful child I was
before what there in the night,
By the sea under the yellow and sagging moon,
The messenger there arous'd, the fire, the sweet hell
The unknown want, the destiny of me.
O give me the clew! (it lurks in the night here
O if I am to have so much, let me have more!
A word then, (for I will conquer it,)
The word final, superior to all,
Subtle, sent up—what is it?—I listen; [sea-waves?
Are you whispering it, and have been all the time, you
Is that it from your liquid rims and wet sands?
Whereto answering, the sea,
Delaying not, hurrying not,
Whisper'd me through the night, and very plainly
Lisp'd to me the low and delicious word death,
And again death, death, death, death
Hissing melodious, neither like the bird nor like my
arous'd child's heart,
But edging near as privately for me rustling at my feet,
Creeping thence steadily up to my ears and laving me
softly all over,
Death, death, death, death, death.
Which I do not forget.
But fuse the song of my dusky demon and brother,
That he sang to me in the moonlight on Paumanok's
With the thousand responsive songs at random,
My own songs awaked from that hour,
And with them the key, the word up from the waves,
The word of the sweetest song and all songs,
That strong and delicious word which, creeping to my
(Or like some old crone rocking the cradle, swathed in
sweet garments, bending aside,)
The sea whisper'd me.
AS I EBB'D WITH THE OCEAN OF LIFE
As I ebb'd with the ocean of life,
As I wended the shores I know,
As I walk'd where the ripples continually wash you
Where they rustle up hoarse and sibilant,
Where the fierce old mother endlessly cries for her
I musing late in the autumn day, gazing off southward,
Held by this electric self out of the pride of which I
Was seiz'd by the spirit that trails in the lines underfoot,
The rim, the sediment that stands for all the water and
all the land of the globe.
Fascinated, my eyes reverting from the south, dropt, to
follow those slender windrows,
Chaff, straw, splinters of wood, weeds, and the sea-gluten,
Scum, scales from shining rocks, leaves of salt-lettuce,
left by the tide,
Miles walking, the sound of breaking waves the other
side of me,
Paumanok there and then as I thought the old thought
These you presented to me you fish-shaped island,
As I wended the shores I know,
As I walk'd with that electric self seeking types.
As I wend to the shores I know not,
As I list to the dirge, the voices of men and women
As I inhale the impalpable breezes that set in upon me,
As the ocean so mysterious rolls toward me closer and
I too but signify at the utmost a little wash'd-up drift,
A few sands and dead leaves to gather,
Gather, and merge myself as part of the sands and drift.
O baffled, balk'd, bent to the very earth,
Oppress'd with myself that I have dared to open my
Aware now that amid all that blab whose echoes recoil
upon me I have not once had the least idea who or
what I am,
But that before all my arrogant poems the real Me stands
yet untouch'd, untold, altogether unreach'd,
Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congratulatory
signs and bows, [have written,
With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word I
Pointing in silence to these songs, and then to the sand
I perceive I have not really understood any thing, not a
single object, and that no man ever can,
Nature here in sight of the sea taking advantage of me
to dart upon me and sting me,
Because I have dared to open my mouth to sing at all.
You oceans both, I close with you,
We murmur alike reproachfully rolling sands and drift,
knowing not why,
These little shreds indeed standing for you and me and
You friable shore with trails of debris,
You fish-shaped island, I take what is underfoot,
What is yours is mine my father.
I too Paumanok,
I too have bubbled up, floated the measureless float,
and been wash'd on your shores,
I too am but a trail of drift and debris,
I too leave little wrecks upon you, you fish-shaped
I throw myself upon your breast my father,
I cling to you so that you cannot unloose me,
I hold you so firm till you answer me something.
Kiss me my father,
Touch me with your lips as I touch those I love,
Breathe to me while I hold you close the secret of the
murmuring I envy.
Ebb, ocean of life, (the flow will return,)
Cease not your moaning you fierce old mother,
Endlessly cry for your castaways, but fear not, deny not
Rustle not up so hoarse and angry against my feet as I
touch you or gather from you.
I mean tenderly by you and all,
I gather for myself and for this phantom looking down
where we lead, and following me and mine.
Me and mine, loose windrows, little corpses,
Froth, snowy white, and bubbles,
(See, from my dead lips the ooze exuding at last,
See, the prismatic colours glistening and rolling,)
Tufts of straw, sands, fragments,
Buoy'd hither from many moods, one contradicting
From the storm, the long calm, the darkness, the swell,
Musing, pondering, a breath, a briny tear, a dab of
liquid or soil,
Up just as much out of fathomless workings fermented
A limp blossom or two, torn, just as much over waves
floating, drifted at random,
Just as much for us that sobbing dirge of Nature,
Just as much whence we come that blare of the cloud-
We, capricious, brought hither we know not whence,
spread out before you,
You up there walking or sitting,
Whoever you are, we too lie in drifts at your feet.
TO THE MAN-OF-WAR-BIRD.
THOU who hast slept all night upon the storm,
Waking renew'd on thy prodigious pinions,
(Burst the wild storm? above it thou ascended'st,
And rested on the sky, thy slave that cradled thee,)
Now a blue point, far, far in heaven floating,
As to the light emerging here on deck I watch thee,
(Myself a speck, a point on the world's floating vast.)
Far, far at sea,
After the night's fierce drifts have strewn the shore with
With re-appearing day as now so happy and serene,
The rosy and elastic dawn, the flashing sun,
The limpid spread of air cerulean,
Thou also reappearest.
Thou born to match the gale, (thou art all wings),
To cope with heaven and earth and sea and hurricane,
Thou ship of air that never furl'st thy sails,
Days, even weeks untired and onward, through spaces,
At dusk that look'st on Senegal, at morn America,
That sport'st amid the lightning-flash and thunder-
In them, in thy experiences, had'st thou my soul,
What joys! what joys were thine!
ABOARD AT A SHIP'S HELM.
ABOARD at a ship's helm,
A young steersman steering with care.
Through fog on a sea-coast dolefully ringing,
An ocean-bell—O a warning bell, rock'd by the waves.
O you give good notice indeed, you bell by the sea-reefs
Ringing, ringing, to warn the ship from its wreck-place.
For as on the alert O steersman, you mind the loud
The bows turn, the freighted ship tacking speeds away
under her gray sails,
The beautiful and noble ship with all her precious
wealth speeds away gaily and safe.
But O the ship, the immortal ship! O ship aboard the
Ship of the body, ship of the soul, voyaging, voyaging,
ON the beach at night,
Stands a child with her father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky.
Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black
Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the
Ascends large and calm the lord-star Jupiter,
And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters the Pleiades.
From the beach the child holding the hand of her father,
Those burial-clouds that lower victorious soon to devour
Watching, silently weeps.
Weep not, child,
Weep not, my darling,
With these kisses let me remove your tears,
The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,
They shall not long possess the sky, they devour the
stars only in apparition,
Jupiter shall emerge, be patient, watch again another
night, the Pleiades shall emerge,
They are immortal, all those stars both silvery and
golden shall shine out again,
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again,
The vast immortal suns and the long-enduring pensive
moons shall again shine.
The dearest child mournest thou only for Jupiter?
Considerest thou alone the burial of the stars?
Something there is,
(With my lips soothing thee, adding I whisper,
I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirec-
Something there is more immortal even than the stars,
(Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing
Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous
Longer than sun or any revolving satellite,
Or the radiant sisters the Pleiades.
THE WORLD BELOW THE BRINE.
THE world below the brine,
Forests at the bottom of the sea, the branches and leaves,
Sea-lettuce, vast lichens, strange flowers and seeds, the
thick tangle, openings, and pink turf,
Different colours, pale gray and green, purple, white,
and gold, the play of light through the water,
Dumb swimmers there among the rocks, coral, gluten,
grass, rushes, and the aliment of the swimmers,
Sluggish existences grazing there suspended, or slowly
crawling close to the bottom,
The sperm-whale at the surface blowing air and spray, or
disporting with his flukes,
The leaden-eyed shark, the walrus, the turtle, the hairy
sea-leopard, and the sting-ray,
Passions there, wars, pursuits, tribes, sight in those
ocean-depths, breathing that thick-breathing air, as
so many do,
The change thence to the sight here, and to the subtle
air breathed by beings like us who walk this sphere,
The change onward from ours to that of beings who walk
ON THE BEACH AT NIGHT ALONE.
ON the beach at night alone,
As the old mother sways her to and fro singing her
As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought
of the clef of the universes and of the future.
A vast similitude interlocks all,
All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons,
All distances of place however wide,
All distances of time, all inanimate forms,
All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so
different, or in different worlds,
All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the
fishes, the brutes,
All nations, colours, barbarisms, civilizations, languages,
All identities that have existed or may exist on this
globe, or any globe,
All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,
This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann'd,
And shall forever span them and compactly hold and
TO-DAY a rude brief recitative,
Of ships sailing the seas, each with its special flag or
Of unnamed heroes in the ships—of waves spreading and
spreading far as the eye can reach,
Of dashing spray, and the winds piping and blowing,
And out of these a chant for the sailors of all nations,
Fitful, like a surge.
Of sea-captains young or old, and the mates, and of all
Of the few, very choice, taciturn, whom fate can never
surprise nor death dismay, [by thee,
Pick'd sparingly without noise by thee old ocean, chosen
Thou sea that pickest and cullest the race in time, and
Suckled by thee, old husky nurse, embodying thee,
Indomitable, untamed as thee.
(Ever the heroes on water or on land, by ones or twos
Ever the stock preserv'd and never lost, though rare,
enough for seed preserv'd.)
Flaunt out O sea your separate flags of nations!
Flaunt out visible as ever the various ship-signals!
But do you reserve especially for yourself and for the
soul of man one flag above all the rest,
A spiritual woven signal for all nations, emblem of man
elate above death,
Token of all brave captains and all intrepid sailors and
And all that went down doing their duty,
Reminiscent of them, twined from all intrepid captains
young or old,
A pennant universal, subtly waving all time, o'er all
All seas, all ships.
WILD, wild the storm, and the sea high running,
Steady the roar of the gale, with incessant undertone
Shouts of demoniac laughter fitfully piercing and pealing,
Waves, air, midnight, their savagest trinity lashing,
Out in the shadows there milk-white combs careering,
On beachy slush and sand spirts of snow fierce slanting,
Where through the murk the easterly death-wind
Through cutting swirl and spray watchful and firm
(That in the distance! is that a wreck? is the red signal
Slush and sand of the beach tireless till daylight
Steadily, slowly, through hoarse roar never remitting,
Along the midnight edge by those milk-white combs
A group of dim, weird forms, struggling, the night
That savage trinity warily watching.
AFTER the sea-ship, after the whistling winds,
After the white-gray sails taut to their spars and ropes,
Below, a myriad myriad waves hastening, lifting up
Tending in ceaseless flow toward the track of the ship,
Waves of the ocean bubbling and gurgling, blithely
Waves, undulating waves, liquid, uneven, emulous
Toward that whirling current, laughing and buoyant,
Where the great vessel sailing and tacking displaced the
Larger and smaller waves in the spread of the ocean
The wake of the sea-ship after she passes, flashing and
frolicsome under the sun,
A motley procession with many a fleck of foam and
Following the stately and rapid ship, in the wake
A BOSTON BALLAD.
TO get betimes in Boston town I rose this morning early,
Here's a good place at the corner, I must stand and see
Clear the way there Jonathan!
Way for the President's marshal—way for the govern-
Way for the Federal foot and dragoons, (and the
apparitions 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 bandaged
Why this is indeed a show—it has called the dead out of
The old graveyards 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
What troubles you Yankee phantoms? what is all this
chattering 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 government
For shame old maniacs—bring down those toss'd arms,
and let your white hair be,
Here gape your great grandsons, 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 retreating?
Is this hour with the living too dead for you?
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 committee
They shall get a grant from the Parliament, go with a
cart to the royal vault,
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
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 is
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.
The 72nd and 73rd Years of The United States.
SUDDENLY out of its stale and drowsy lair, the lair of
Like lightning it le'pt forth half startled at itself,
Its feet upon the ashes and the rags, its hands tight to
the throats of kings.
O hope and faith!
O aching close of exiled patriots' lives!
O many a sicken'd heart!
Turn back unto this day and make yourselves afresh.
And you, paid to defile the People—you liars, mark!
Not for numberless agonies, murders, lusts,
For court thieving in its manifold mean forms, worming
from his simplicity the poor man's wages,
For many a promise sworn by royal lips and broken and
laugh'd at in the breaking,
Then in their power not for all these did the blows strike
revenge, or the heads of the nobles fall;
The People scorn'd the ferocity of kings.
But the sweetness of mercy brew'd bitter destruction,
and the frighten'd monarchs come back,
Each comes in state with his train, hangman, priest,
Soldier, lawyer, lord, jailer, and sycophant.
Yet behind all lowering stealing, lo, a shape,
Vague as the night, draped interminably, head, front
and form, in scarlet folds,
Whose face and eyes none may see,
Out of its robes only this, the red robes lifted by the arm,
One finger crook'd pointed high over the top, like the
head of a snake appears.
Meanwhile corpses lie in new-made graves, bloody
corpses of young men,
The rope of the gibbet hangs heavily, the bullets of
princes are flying, the creatures of power laugh
And all these things bear fruits, and they are good.
Those corpses of young men,
Those martyrs that hang from the gibbets, those hearts
pierc'd by the gray lead,
Cold and motionless as they seem live elsewhere with
They live in other young men O kings!
They live in brothers again ready to defy you,
They were purified by death, they were taught and
Not a grave of the murder'd for freedom but grows seed
for freedom, in its turn to bear seed,
Which the winds carry afar and re-sow, and the rains
and the snows nourish.
Not a disembodied spirit can the weapons of tyrants let
But it stalks invisibly over the earth, whispering,
Liberty, let others despair of you—I never despair of
Is the house shut? is the master away?
Nevertheless, be ready, be not weary of watching,
He will soon return, his messengers come anon.
WHEN I HEARD THE LEARN'D ASTRONOMER.
WHEN I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add,
divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured
with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.
O ME! O LIFE!
O ME! O life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill'd with
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more
foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean,
of the struggle ever renew'd,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid
crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good
amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute
I SIT AND LOOK OUT.
I SIT and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and
upon all oppression and shame,
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men at anguish
with themselves, remorseful after deeds done,
I see in low life the mother misused by her children,
dying, neglected, gaunt, desperate,
I see the wife misused by her husband, I see the
treacherous seducer of young women,
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love
attempted to be hid, I see these sights on the earth,
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny, I see
martyrs and prisoners,
I observe a famine at sea, I observe the sailors casting
lots who shall be kill'd to preserve the lives of the
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant
persons upon labourers, the poor, and upon negroes,
and the like;
All these—all the meanness and agony without end I
sitting look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.
WHAT you give me I cheerfully accept,
A little sustenance, a hut and garden, a little money, as
I rendezvous with my poems,
A traveler's lodging and breakfast as journey through
the States—why should I be ashamed to own such
gifts? why to advertise for them?
For I myself am not one who bestows nothing upon man
For I bestow upon any man or woman the entrance to
all the gifts of the universe.
THE DALLIANCE OF THE EAGLES.
SKIRTING the river road, (my forenoon walk, my rest,)
Skyward in air a sudden muffled sound, the dalliance of
The rushing amorous contact high in space together,
The clinching interlocking claws, a living, fierce,
Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight
In tumbling turning clustering loops, straight downward
Till o'er the river pois'd, the twain yet one, a moment's
A motionless still balance in the air, then parting,
Upward again on slow-firm pinions slanting, their
separate diverse flight,
She hers, he his, pursuing.
( After reading HEGEL.)
ROAMING in thought over the Universe, I saw the little
that is Good steadily hastening towards immortality,
And the vast all that is call'd Evil I saw hastening to
merge itself and become lost and dead.
A FARM PICTURE.
THROUGH the ample open door of the peaceful country
A sunlit pasture field with cattle and horses feeding,
And haze and vista, and the far horizon fading away.
A CHILD'S AMAZE.
SILENT and amazed even when a little boy,
I remember I heard the preacher every Sunday put God
in his statements,
As contending against some being or influence.
ON a flat road runs the well-train'd runner,
He is lean and sinewy with muscular legs,
He is thinly clothed, he leans forward as he runs,
With lightly closed fists and arms partially rais'd.
OF obedience, faith, adhesiveness;
As I stand aloof and look there is to me something pro-
foundly affecting in large masses of men following
the lead of those who do not believe in men.
OF Justice—as if Justice could be any thing but the
same ample law, expounded by natural judges and
As if it might be this thing or that thing, according to
GLIDING O'ER ALL.
GLIDING o'er all, through all,
Through Nature, Time, and Space,
As a ship on the waters advancing,
The voyage of the soul—not life alone,
Death, many deaths I'll sing.
HAST NEVER COME TO THEE AN HOUR.
HAST never come to thee an hour,
A sudden gleam divine, precipitating, bursting all these
bubbles, fashions, wealth?
These eager business aims—books politics, art, amours,
To utter nothingness?
WOMEN sit or move to and fro, some old, some young,
The young are beautiful—but the old are more beautiful
than the young.
MOTHER AND BABE.
I SEE the sleeping babe nestling the breast of its mother,
The sleeping mother and babe—hush'd, I study them
long and long.
OF Equality—as if it harm'd me, giving others the same
chances and rights as myself—as if it were not
indispensable to my own rights that others possess
TO OLD AGE.
I SEE in you the estuary that enlarges and spreads itself
grandly as it pours in the great sea.
FIRST O SONGS FOR A PRELUDE.
FIRST O songs for a prelude,
Lightly strike on the stretch'd tympanum pride and joy
in my city,
How she led the rest to arms, how she gave the cue,
How at once with lithe limbs unwaiting a moment she
(O superb! O Manhattan, my own, my peerless!
O strongest you in the hour of danger, in crisis! O truer
How you sprang—how you threw off the costumes of
peace with indifferent hand,
How your soft opera-music changed, and the drum and
fife were heard in their stead,
How you led to the war, (that shall serve for our prelude,
songs of soldiers,)
How Manhattan drum-taps led.
Forty years had I in my city seen soldiers parading,
Forty years as a pageant, till unawares the lady of this
teeming and turbulent city,
Sleepless amid her ships, her houses, her incalculable
With her million children around her, suddenly,
At dead of night, at news from the south,
Incens'd struck with clinch'd hand the pavement.
A shock electric, the night sustain'd it,
Till with ominous hum our hive at daybreak pour'd out
From the houses then and the workshops, and through
all the doorways,
Leapt they tumultuous, and lo! Manhattan arming.
To the drum-taps prompt,
The young men falling in and arming,
The mechanics arming, (the trowel, the jack-plane, the
blacksmith's hammer, tost aside with precipitation,)
The lawyer leaving his office and arming, the judge
leaving the court,
The driver deserting his wagon in the street, jumping
down, throwing the reins abruptly down on the
The salesman leaving the store, the boss, book-keeper,
porter, all leaving; [arm,
Squads gather everywhere by common consent and
The new recruits, even boys, the old men show them how
to wear their accoutrements, they buckle the straps
Outdoors arming, indoors arming, the flash of the
The white tents cluster in camps, the arm'd sentries
around, the sunrise cannon and again at sunset,
Arm'd regiments arrive every day, pass through the
city, and embark from the wharves,
(How good they look as they tramp down to the river,
sweaty, with their guns on their shoulders!
How I love them! how I could hug them, with their
brown faces and their clothes and knapsacks cover'd
The blood of the city up—arm'd! arm'd! the cry every-
The flags flung out from the steeples of churches and
from all the public buildings and stores,
The tearful parting, the mother kisses her son, the son
kisses his mother,
(Loth is the mother to part, yet not a word does she
speak to detain him,)
The tumultuous escort, the ranks of policemen preceding,
clearing the way,
The unpent enthusiasm, the wild cheers of the crowd
for their favourites,
The artillery, the silent cannons bright as gold, drawn
along, rumble lightly over the stones,
(Silent cannons, soon to cease your silence,
Soon unlimber'd to begin the red business;)
All the mutter of preparation, all the determin'd
The hospital service, the lint, bandages and medicines,
The women volunteering for nurses, the work begun for
in earnest, no mere parade now;
War! an arm'd race is advancing! the welcome for
battle, no turning away;
War! be it weeks, months, or years, an arm'd race is
advancing to welcome it.
Mannahatta a-march—and it's O to sing it well!
It's O for a manly life in the camp.
And the sturdy artillery,
The guns bright as gold, the work for giants, to serve
well the guns,
Unlimber them! (no more as the past forty years for
salutes for courtesies merely,
Put in something now besides powder and wadding.)
And you lady of ships, you Mannahatta,
Old matron of this proud, friendly, turbulent city,
Often in peace and wealth you were pensive or covertly
frown'd amid all your children,
But now you smile with joy exulting old Mannahatta.
ARM'D year—year of the struggle,
No dainty rhymes or sentimental love verses for you
Not you as some pale poetling seated at a desk lisping
But as a strong man erect, clothed in blue clothes,
advancing, carrying a rifle on your shoulder,
With well-gristled body and sunburnt face and hands,
with a knife in the belt at your side,
As I heard you shouting loud, your sonorous voice
ringing across the continent,
Your masculine voice O year, as rising amid the great
Amid the men of Manhattan I saw you as one of the
workmen, the dwellers in Manhattan,
Or with large steps crossing the prairies out of Illinois
Rapidly crossing the West with springy gait and
descending the Alleghanies,
Or down from the great lakes or in Pennsylvania, or on
deck along the Ohio river,
Or southward along the Tennessee or Cumberland rivers,
or at Chattanooga on the mountain top,
Saw I your gait and saw I your sinewy limbs clothed in
blue, bearing weapons, robust year,
Heard your determin'd voice launch'd forth again and
Year that suddenly sang by the mouths of the round-
I repeat you, hurrying, crashing, sad, distracted year.
BEAT! BEAT! DRUMS!
BEAT! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows—through doors—burst like a
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,
Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet—no happiness must he
have now with his bride,
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field
or gathering his grain,
So fierce you whirr and pound you drums—so shrill you
Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities—over the rumble of wheels in
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses?
no sleepers must sleep in those beds,
No bargainers' bargains by day—no brokers or specu-
lators—would they continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case
before the judge? [blow.
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums—you bugles wilder
Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley—stop for no expostulation,
Mind not the timid—mind not the weeper or prayer,
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man,
Let not the child's voice be heard, nor the mother's
Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie
awaiting the hearses,
So strong you thump O terrible drums—so loud you
FROM PAUMANOK STARTING I FLY LIKE
FROM Paumanok starting I fly like a bird,
Around and around to soar to sing the idea of all,
To the north betaking myself to sing there arctic songs,
To Kanada till I absorb Kanada in myself, to Michigan
To Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, to sing their songs,
(they are inimitable;)
Then to Ohio and Indiana to sing theirs, to Missouri and
Kansas and Arkansas to sing theirs,
To Tennessee and Kentucky, to the Carolinas and Georgia
to sing theirs,
To Texas and so along up toward California, to roam
To sing first, (to the tap of the war-drum if need be,)
The idea of all, of the Western world one and inseparable,
And then the song of each member of these States.
O a new song, a free song,
Flapping, flapping, flapping, flapping, by sounds, by
By the wind's voice and that of the drum,
By the banner's voice and child's voice and sea's voice
and father's voice,
Low on the ground and high in the air,
On the ground where father and child stand,
In the upward air where their eyes turn,
Where the banner at daybreak is flapping.
Words! book-words! what are you?
Words no more, for hearken and see,
My song is there in the open air, and I must sing,
With the banner and pennant a-flapping.
I'll weave the chord and twine in,
Man's desire and babe's desire, I'll twine them in, I'll
put in life,
I'll put the bayonet's flashing point, I'll let bullets and
(As one carrying a symbol and menace far into the
Crying with trumpet voice, Arouse and beware! Beware
I'll pour the verse with streams of blood, full of
volition, full of joy,
Then loosen, launch forth, to go and compete,
With the banner and pennant a-flapping.
Come up here, bard, bard,
Come up here, soul, soul,
Come up here, dear little child,
To fly in the clouds and winds with me, and play with
the measureless light.
Father what is that in the sky beckoning to me with
And what does it say to me all the while?
Nothing my babe you see in the sky,
And nothing at all to you it says—but look you my
Look at these dazzling things in the houses, and see you
the money shops opening,
And see you the vehicles preparing to crawl along the
streets with goods;
These, ah these, how valued and toil'd for these!
How envied by all the earth.
Fresh and rosy red the sun is mounting high,
On floats the sea in distant blue careering through its
On floats the wind over the breast of the sea setting in
The great steady wind from west or west-by-south,
Floating so buoyant with milk-white foam on the waters.
But I am not the sea nor the red sun,
I am not the wind with girlish laughter,
Not the immense wind which strengthens, not the wind
Not the spirit that ever lashes its own body to terror
But I am that which-unseen comes and sings, sings,
Which babbles in brooks and scoots in showers on the
Which the birds know in the woods mornings and
And the shore-sands know and the hissing wave, and
that banner and pennant,
Aloft there flapping and flapping.
O father it is alive—it is full of people—it has children,
O now it seems to me it is talking to its children,
I hear it—it talks to me—O it is wonderful!
O it stretches—it spreads and runs so fast—O my father,
It is so broad it covers the whole sky.
Cease, cease, my foolish babe,
What you are saying is sorrowful to me, much it
Behold with the rest again I say, behold not banners
and pennants aloft,
But the well-prepared pavements behold, and mark the
Speak to the child O bard out of Manhattan,
To our children all, or north or south of Manhattan,
Point this day, leaving all the rest, to us over all—and
yet we know not why,
For what are we, mere strips of cloth profiting nothing,
Only flapping in the wind?
I hear and see not strips of cloth alone,
I hear the tramp of armies, I hear the challenging sentry,
I hear the jubilant shouts of millions of men, I hear
I hear the drums beat and the trumpets blowing,
I myself move abroad swift-rising flying then,
I use the wings of the land-bird and use the wings of the
sea-bird, and look down as from a height,
I do not deny the precious results of peace, I see
populous cities with wealth incalculable,
I see numberless farms, I see the farmers working in
their fields or barns,
I see mechanics working, I see buildings everywhere
founded, going up, or finish'd,
I see trains of cars swiftly speeding along railroad tracks
drawn by the locomotives,
I see the stores, depôts, of Boston, Baltimore, Charleston,
I see far in the West the immense area of grain, I dwell
I pass to the lumber forests of the North, and again to
the Southern plantation, and again to California;
Sweeping the whole I see the countless profit, the busy
gatherings, earn'd wages,
See the Identity formed out of thirty-eight spacious and
haughty States, (and many more to come,)
See forts on the shores of harbours, see ships sailing in
Then over all, (aye! aye!) my little and lengthen'd
pennant shaped like a sword,
Runs swiftly up indicating war and defiance—and now
the halyards have rais'd it,
Side of my banner broad and blue, side of my starry
Discarding peace over all the sea and land.
Yet louder, higher, stronger, bard! yet farther, wider
No longer let our children deem us riches and peace
We may be terror and carnage, and are so now,
Not now are we any one of these spacious and haughty
States, (nor any five, nor ten,)
Nor market nor depôt we, nor money-bank in the city,
But these and all, and the brown and spreading land,
and the mines below, are ours,
And the shores of the sea are ours, and the rivers great
And the fields they moisten, and the crops and the
fruits are ours,
Bays and channels and ships sailing in and out are ours—
while we over all,
Over the area spread below, the three or four millions of
square miles, the capitals,
The forty millions of people,—O bard! in life and death
We, even we, henceforth flaunt out masterful, high up
Not for the present alone, for a thousand years chanting
This song to the soul of one poor little child.
O my father I like not the houses,
They will never to me be any thing, nor do I like money,
But to mount up there I would like, O father dear, that
banner I like,
That pennant I would be and must be.
Child of mine you fill me with anguish,
To be that pennant would be too fearful,
Little you know what it is this day, and after this day,
It is to gain nothing, but risk and defy every thing,
Forward to stand in front of wars—and O, such wars!—
what have you to do with them?
With passions of demons, slaughter, premature death?
Demons and death then I sing,
Put in all, aye all will I, sword-shaped pennant for war,
And a pleasure new and ecstatic, and the prattled yearn-
ing of children,
Blent with the sounds of the peaceful land and the
liquid wash of the sea,
And the black ships fighting on the sea envelop'd in
And the icy cool of the far, far north, with rustling
cedars and pines,
And the whirr of drums and the sound of soldiers
marching, and the hot sun shining south,
And the beach-waves combing over the beach on my
Eastern shore, and my Western shore the same,
And all between those shores, and my ever-running
Mississippi with bends and chutes,
And my Illinois fields, and my Kansas fields, and my
fields of Missouri,
The Continent, devoting the whole identity without
reserving an atom,
Pour in! whelm that which asks, which sings, with all
and the yield of all,
Fusing and holding, claiming, devouring the whole,
No more with tender lip, nor musical labial sound,
But out of the night emerging for good, our voice
persuasive no more,
Croaking like crows here in the wind.
My limbs, my veins dilate, my theme is clear at last,
Banner so broad advancing out of the night, I sing you
haughty and resolute,
I burst through where I waited long, too long, deafen'd
My hearing and tongue are come to me, (a little child
I hear from above O pennant of war your ironical call
and demand, [banner!
Insensate! insensate! (yet I at any rate chant you,) O
Not houses of peace indeed are you, nor any nor all
their prosperity, (if need be, you shall again have
every one of those houses to destroy them,
You thought not to destroy those valuable houses,
standing fast, full of comfort, built with money,
May they stand fast, then? not an hour except you
above them and all stand fast;)
O banner, not money so precious are you, not farm
produce you, nor the material good nutriment,
Nor excellent stores, nor landed on wharves from the
Not the superb ships with sail-power or steam-power,
fetching and carrying cargoes,
Nor machinery, vehicles, trade, nor revenues—but you
as henceforth I see you,
Running up out of the night, bringing your cluster of
stars, (ever-enlarging stars,)
Divider of daybreak you, cutting the air, touch'd by the
sun, measuring the sky,
(Passionately seen and yearn'd for by one poor little
While others remain busy or smartly talking, forever
teaching thrift, thrift;)
O you up there! O pennant! where you undulate like a
snake hissing so curious,
Out of reach, an idea only, yet furiously fought for,
risking bloody death, loved by me,
So loved—O you banner leading the day with stars
brought from the night!
Valueless, object of eyes, over all and demanding all—
(absolute owner of all)—O banner and pennant!
I too leave the rest—great as it is, it is nothing—houses,
machines are nothing—I see them not,
I see but you, O warlike pennant! O banner so broad,
with stripes, I sing you only,
Flapping up there in the wind.
RISE O days from your fathomless deeps, till you loftier,
Long for my soul hungering gymnastic I devour'd what
the earth gave me,
Long I roam'd amid the woods of the north, long I watch'd
I travell'd the prairies over and slept on their breast, I
cross'd the Nevadas, I cross'd the plateaus,
I ascended the towering rocks along the Pacific, I sail'd
out to sea, [storm,
I sail'd through the storm, I was refresh'd by the
I watch'd with joy the threatening maws of the waves,
I mark'd the white combs where they career'd so high,
I heard the wind piping, I saw the black clouds,
Saw from below what arose and mounted, (O superb!
O wild as my heart, and powerful!)
Heard the continuous thunder as it bellow'd after the
Noted the slender and jagged threads of lightning as
sudden and fast amid the din they chased each
other across the sky;
These, and such as these, I, elate, saw—saw with
wonder, yet pensive and masterful,
All the menacing might of the globe uprisen around me,
Yet there with my soul I fed, I fed content, supercilious.
'Twas well, O soul—'twas a good preparation you gave
Now we advance our latent and ampler hunger to fill,
Now we go forth to receive what the earth and the sea
never gave us,
Not through the mighty woods we go, but through the
Something for us is pouring now more than Niagara
Torrents of men, (sources and rills of the Northwest are
you indeed inexhaustible?)
What, to pavements and homesteads here, what were
those storms of the mountains and sea?
What, to passions I witness around me to-day? was the
Was the wind piping the pipe of death under the black
Lo! from deeps more unfathomable, something more
deadly and savage,
Manhattan rising, advancing with menacing front—Cin-
cinnati, Chicago, unchain'd;
What was that swell I saw on the ocean? behold what
comes here, [dashes!
How it climbs with daring feet and hands—how it
How the true thunder bellows after the lightning—how
bright the flashes of lightning!
How Democracy with desperate vengeful port strides on,
shown through the dark by those flashes of light-
(Yet a mournful wall and low sob I fancied I heard
through the dark,
In a lull of the deafening confusion.)
Thunder on! stride on, Democracy! strike with venge-
And do you rise higher than ever yet O days, O cities!
Crash heavier, heavier yet O storms! you have done me
My soul prepared in the mountains absorbs your immor-
tal strong nutriment,
Long had I walk'd my cities, my country roads through
farms, only half satisfied,
One doubt nauseous undulating like a snake, crawl'd on
the ground before me,
Continually preceding my steps, turning upon me oft,
ironically hissing low;
The cities I loved so well I abandon'd and left, I sped
to the certainties suitable to me,
Hungering, hungering, hungering, for primal energies
and Nature's dauntlessness,
I refresh'd myself with it only, I could relish it only,
I waited the bursting forth of the pent fire—on the water
and air I waited long;
But now I no longer wait, I am fully satisfied, I am
glutted, [cities electric,
I have witness'd the true lightning, I have witness'd my
I have lived to behold man burst forth and warlike
Hence I will seek no more the food of the northern
No more the mountains roam or sail the stormy sea.
THE noble sire fallen on evil days,
I saw with hand uplifted, menacing, brandishing,
(Memories of old in abeyance, love and faith in abey-
The insane knife toward the Mother of All.
The noble son on sinewy feet advancing,
I saw, out of the land of prairies, land of Ohio's waters
and of Indiana,
To the rescue the stalwart giant hurry his plenteous
Drest in blue, bearing their trusty rifles on their
Then the Mother of All with calm voice speaking,
As to you Rebellious, (I seemed to hear her say,) why
strive against me, and why seek my life?
When you yourself forever provide to defend me?
For you provided me Washington—and now these also.
CITY OF SHIPS.
CITY of ships!
(O the black ships! O the fierce ships!
O the beautiful sharp-bow'd steam-ships and sail-ships!)
City of the world! (for all races are here,
All the lands of the earth make contributions here;)
City of the sea! city of hurried and glittering tides!
City whose gleeful tides continually rush or recede,
whirling in and out with eddies and foam!
City of wharves and stores—city of tall façades of marble
Proud and passionate city—mettlesome, mad, extrava-
Spring up O city—not for peace alone, but be indeed
Fear not—submit to no models but your own, O city!
Behold me—incarnate me, as I have incarnated you!
I have rejected nothing you offer'd me—whom you
adopted I have adopted,
Good or bad I never question you—I love all—I do not
condemn any thing,
I chant and celebrate all that is yours—yet peace no
In peace I chanted peace, but now the drum of war is
War, red war is my song through your streets, O city!
CAVALRY CROSSING A FORD.
A LINE in long array where they wind betwixt green
They take a serpentine course, their arms flash in the
sun—hark to the musical clank,
Behold the silvery river, in it the splashing horses
loitering stop to drink,
Behold the brown-faced men, each group, each person,
a picture, the negligent rest on the saddles,
Some emerge on the opposite bank, others are just
entering the ford—while,
Scarlet and blue and snowy white,
The guidon flags flutter gayly in the wind.
BIVOUAC ON A MOUNTAIN SIDE.
I SEE before me now a traveling army halting,
Below a fertile valley spread, with barns and
the orchards of summer,
Behind, the terraced sides of a mountain, abrupt, in
places rising high,
Broken, with rocks, with clinging cedars, with tall
shapes dingily seen,
The numerous camp-fires scatter'd near and far, some
away up on the mountain,
The shadowy forms of men and horses, looming, large-
And over all the sky—the sky! far, far out of reach,
studded, breaking out, the eternal stars.
AN ARMY CORPS ON THE MARCH.
WITH its cloud of skirmishers in advance,
With now the sound of a single shot snapping like a
whip, and now an irregular volley,
The swarming ranks press on and on, the dense brigades
press on, [men,
Glittering dimly, toiling under the sun—the dust-cover'd
In columns rise and fall to the undulations of the
With artillery interspers'd—the wheels rumble, the
As the army corps advances.
BY THE BIVOUAC'S FITFUL FLAME.
BY the bivouac's fitful flame,
A procession winding around me, solemn and sweet and
slow—but first I note,
The tents of the sleeping army, the fields' and woods'
The darkness lit by spots of kindled fire, the silence,
Like a phantom far or near an occasional figure moving,
The shrubs and trees, (as I lift my eyes they seem to be
stealthily watching me,)
While wind in procession thoughts, O tender and
Of life and death, of home and the past and loved, and
of those that are far away;
A solemn and slow procession there as I sit on the
By the bivouac's fitful flame.
COME UP FROM THE FIELDS FATHER.
COME up from the fields father, here's a letter from our
And come to the front door mother, here's a letter from
thy dear son.
Lo, 'tis autumn,
Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder,
Cool and sweeten Ohio's villages with leaves fluttering in
the moderate wind,
Where apples ripe in the orchards hang and grapes on the
(Smell you the smell of the grapes on the vines?
Smell you the buckwheat where the bees were lately
Above all, lo, the sky so calm, so transparent after the
rain, and with wondrous clouds,
Below too, all calm, all vital and beautiful, and the
farm prospers well.
Down in the fields all prospers well,
But now from the fields come father, come at the
And come to the entry mother, to the front door come
Fast as she can she hurries, something ominous, her
steps trembling, [cap.
She does not tarry to smooth her hair nor adjust her
Open the envelope quickly,
O this is not our son's writing, yet his name is sign'd,
O a strange hand writes for our dear son, O stricken
All swims before her eyes, flashes with black, she
catches the main words only,
Sentences broken, gunshot wound in the breast, cavalry
skirmish, taken to hospital,
At present low, but will soon be better.
Ah now the single figure to me,
Amid all teeming and wealthy Ohio with all its cities
Sickly white in the face and dull in the head, very
By the jamb of a door leans.
Grieve not so, dear mother, (the just-grown daughter
speaks through her sobs,See dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be
The little sisters huddle around speechless and dismay'd,)
Alas poor boy, he will never be better, (nor may-be
needs to be better, that brave and simple soul,)
While they stand at home at the door he is dead already,
The only son is dead.
But the mother needs to be better,
She with thin form presently drest in black,
By day her meals untouch'd, then at night fitfully
sleeping, often waking,
In the midnight waking, weeping, longing with one deep
O that she might withdraw unnoticed, silent from life
escape and withdraw,
To follow, to seek, to be with her dear dead son.
VIGIL STRANGE I KEPT ON THE FIELD ONE
VIGIL strange I kept on the field one night;
When you my son and my comrade dropt at my side
One look I but gave which your dear eyes return'd with
a look I shall never forget,
One touch of your hand to mine O boy, reach'd up as you
lay on the ground,
Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested
Till late in the night reliev'd to the place at last again I
made my way,
Found you in death so cold dear comrade, found your
body son of responding kisses, (never again on earth
Bared your face in the starlight, curious the scene, cool
blew the moderate night-wind,
Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me
the battle-field spreading,
Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet there in the fragrant
But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh, long,
long I gazed,
Then on the earth partially reclining sat by your side
leaning my chin in my hands,
Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with
you dearest comrade—not a tear not a word,
Vigil of silence, love and death, vigil for you my son
and my soldier,
As onward silently stars aloft, eastward new ones up-
Vigil final for you brave boy, (I could not save you,
swift was your death,
I faithfully loved you and cared for you living, I think
we shall surely meet again,)
Till at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the
My comrade I wrapt in his blanket, envelop'd well his
Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head
and carefully under feet,
And there and then and bathed by the rising sun, my
son in his grave, in his rude-dug grave I deposited,
Ending my vigil strange with that, vigil of night and
Vigil for boy of responding kisses, (never again on earth
Vigil for comrade swiftly slain, vigil I never forget, how
I rose from the chill ground and folded my soldier well
in his blanket,
And buried him where he fell.
THE ROAD UNKNOWN.
A MARCH in the ranks hard-prest, and the road unknown,
A route through a heavy wood with muffled steps in the
Our army foil'd with loss severe, and the sullen remnant
Till after midnight glimmer upon us the lights of a dim-
We come to an open space in the woods, and halt by the
'Tis a large old church at the crossing roads, now an
Entering but for a minute I see a sight beyond all the
pictures and poems ever made,
Shadows of deepest, deepest black, just lit by moving
candles and lamps,
And by one great pitchy torch stationary with wild red
flame and clouds of smoke,
By these, crowds, groups of forms vaguely I see on the
floor, some in the pews laid down,
At my feet more distinctly a soldier, a mere lad, in
danger of bleeding to death, (he is shot in the
I stanch the blood temporarily, (the youngster's face is
white as a lily,)
Then before I depart I sweep my eyes o'er the scene fain
to absorb it all,
Faces, varieties, postures beyond description, most in
obscurity, some of them dead,
Surgeons operating, attendants holding lights, the smell
of ether, odor of blood,
The crowd, O the crowd of the bloody forms, the yard
outside also fill'd,
Some on the bare ground, some on planks or stretchers,
some in the death-spasm sweating,
An occasional scream or cry, the doctor's shouted orders
The glisten of the little steel instruments catching the
glint of the torches,
These I resume as I chant, I see again the forms, I
smell the odour, [fall in;
Then hear outside the orders given, Fall in, my men,
But first I bend to the dying lad, his eyes open, a half-
smile gives he me,
Then the eyes close, calmly close, and I speed forth to
Resuming marching, ever in darkness marching, on in
The unknown road still marching.
A SIGHT IN CAMP IN THE DAYBREAK GREY
A SIGHT in camp in the daybreak grey and dim,
As from my tent I emerge so early sleepless,
As slow I walk in the cool fresh air the path near by the
Three forms I see on stretchers lying, brought out there
Over each the blanket spread, ample brownish woollen
Gray and heavy blanket, folding, covering all.
Curious I halt and silent stand,
Then with light fingers I from the face of the nearest
the first just lift the blanket;
Who are you elderly man so gaunt and grim, with well-
gray'd hair, and flesh all sunken about the eyes?
Who are you my dear comrade?
Then to the second I step—and who are you my child
Who are you sweet boy with cheeks yet blooming?
Then to the third—a face nor child nor old, very calm,
as of beautiful yellow-white ivory;
Young man I think I know you—I think this face is
the face of the Christ himself,
Dead and divine and brother of all, and here again he
AS TOILSOME I WANDER'D VIRGINIA'S
AS toilsome I wander'd Virginia's woods,
To the music of rustling leaves kick'd by my feet, (for
I mark'd at the foot of a tree the grave of a soldier;
Mortally wounded he and buried on the retreat, (easily
all could understand,)
The halt of a mid-day hour, when up! no time to lose
—yet this sign left,Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade.
On a tablet scrawl'd and nail'd on the tree by the grave,
Long, long I muse, then on my way go wandering,
Many a changeful season to follow, and many a scene of
Yet at times through changeful season and scene,
abrupt, alone, or in the crowded street,
Comes before me the unknown soldier's grave, comes
the inscription rude in Virginia's woods,Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade.
NOT THE PILOT.
NOT the pilot has charged himself to bring his ship into
port, though beaten back and many times baffled;
Not the pathfinder penetrating inland weary and long,
By deserts parch'd, snows chill'd, rivers wet, perseveres
till he reaches his destination,
More than I have charged myself, heeded or unheeded,
to compose a march for these States,
For a battle-call, rousing to arms if need be, years,
YEAR THAT TREMBLED AND REEL'D
YEAR that trembled and reel'd beneath me!
Your summer wind was warm enough, yet the air I
breathed froze me,
A thick gloom fell through the sunshine and darken'd
Must I change my triumphant songs? said I to myself,
Must I indeed learn to chant the cold dirges of the
And sullen hymns of defeat?
AN old man bending I come among new faces,
Years looking backward resuming in answer to children,
Come tell us old man, as from young men and maidens
that love me,
(Arous'd and angry, I'd thought to beat the alarum,
and urge relentless war,
But soon my fingers fail'd me, my face droop'd and I
To sit by the wounded and soothe them, or silently
watch the dead;)
Years hence of these scenes, of these furious passions,
Of unsurpass'd heroes (was one side so brave? the other
was equally brave;)
Now be witness again, paint the mightiest armies of
Of those armies so rapid so wondrous what saw you to
tell us? [panics,
What stays with you latest and deepest? of curious
Of hard-fought engagements or sieges tremendous what
O maidens and young men I love and that love me,
What you ask of my days those the strangest and
sudden your talking recalls,
Soldier alert I arrive after a long march cover'd with
sweat and dust,
In the nick of time I come, plunge in the fight, loudly
shout in the rush of successful charge,
Enter the captur'd works—yet lo, like a swift-running
river they fade,
Pass and are gone they fade—I dwell not on soldiers'
perils or soldiers' joys,
(Both I remember well—many the hardships, few the
joys, yet I was content.)
But in silence, in dreams' projections,
While the world of gain and appearance and mirth
So soon what is over forgotten, and waves wash the
imprints off the sand,
With hinged knees returning I enter the doors (while
for you up there,
Whoever you are, follow without noise and be of strong
Bearing the bandages, water and sponge,
Straight and swift to my wounded I go,
Where they lie on the ground after the battle brought in,
Where their priceless blood reddens the grass the ground,
Or to the rows of the hospital tent, or under the roof'd
To the long rows of cots up and down each side I return,
To each and all one after another I draw near, not one
do I miss, [pail,
An attendant follows holding a tray, he carries a refuse
Soon to be fill'd with clotted rags and blood, emptied,
and fill'd again.
I onward go, I stop,
With hinged knees and steady hand to dress wounds,
I am firm with each, the pangs are sharp yet unavoidable,
One turns to me his appealing eyes—poor boy! I never
Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for
you, if that would save you.
On, on I go, (open doors of time! open hospital doors!)
The crush'd head I dress, (poor crazed hand tear not the
The neck of the cavalry-man with the bullet through
and through I examine,
Hard the breathing rattles, quite glazed already the eye,
yet life struggles hard,
(Come sweet death! be persuaded O beautiful death!
In mercy come quickly.)
From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand,
I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off the
matter and blood,
Back on his pillow the soldier bends with curv'd neck
and side-falling head,
His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on
the bloody stump,
And has not yet look'd on it.
I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep,
But a day or two more, for see the frame all wasted and
And the yellow-blue countenance see.
I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet-
Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so
sickening, so offensive,
While the attendant stands behind aside me holding the
tray and pail.
I am faithful, I do not give out,
The fractur'd thigh, the knee, the wound in the
These and more I dress with impassive hand, (yet deep
in my breast a fire, a burning flame.)
Thus in silence in dreams' projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night, some are so
Some suffer so much, I recall the experience sweet and
(Many a soldier's loving arms about this neck have
cross'd and rested,
Many a soldier's kiss dwells on these bearded lips.)
LONG, TOO LONG AMERICA.
LONG, too long America,
Travelling roads all even and peaceful you learn'd from
joys and prosperity only,
But now, ah now, to learn from crises of anguish,
advancing, grappling with direst fate and recoiling
And now to conceive and show to the world what your
children en-masse really are,
(For who except myself has yet conceiv'd what your
children en-masse really are?)
GIVE me the splendid silent sun with all his beams full-
Give me juicy autumnal fruit ripe and red from the
Give me a field where the unmow'd grass grows,
Give me an arbour, give me the trellis'd grape,
Give me fresh corn and wheat, give me serene-moving
animals teaching content,
Give me nights perfectly quiet as on high plateaus west
of the Mississippi, and I looking up at the stars,
Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers
where I can walk undisturb'd,
Give me for marriage a sweet-breath'd woman of whom
I should never tire,
Give me a perfect child, give me away aside from the
noise of the world a rural domestic life,
Give me to warble spontaneous songs recluse by myself,
for my own ears only,
Give me solitude, give me Nature, give me again O
Nature your primal sanities!
These demanding to have them, (tired with ceaseless
excitement, and rack'd by the war-strife,)
These to procure incessantly asking, rising in cries from
While yet incessantly asking still I adhere to my city,
Day upon day and year upon year O city, walking your
Where you hold me enchain'd a certain time refusing to
give me up,
Yet giving to make me glutted, enrich'd of soul, you
give me forever faces;
(O I see what I sought to escape, confronting, reversing
see my own soul trampling down what it ask'd for.)
Keep your splendid silent sun,
Keep your woods O Nature, and the quiet places by the
Keep your fields of clover and timothy, and your corn-
fields and orchards,
Keep the blossoming buckwheat fields where the Ninth-
month bees hum;
Give me faces and streets—give me these phantoms
incessant and endless along the trottoirs!
Give me interminable eyes—give me women—give me
comrades and lovers by the thousand!
Let me see new ones every day—let me hold new ones
by the hand every day!
Give me such shows—give me the streets of Manhattan!
Give me Broadway, with the soldiers marching—give
me the sound of the trumpets and drums!
(The soldiers in companies or regiments—some starting
away, flush'd and reckless,
Some, their time up, returning with thinn'd ranks,
young, yet very old, worn, marching, noticing
Give me the shores and wharves heavy-fringed with
black ships! [varied!
O such for me! O an intense life, full to repletion and
The life of the theatre, bar-room, huge hotel, for me!
The saloon of the steamer! the crowded excursion for
me! the torchlight procession!
The dense brigade bound for the war, with high piled
military wagons following;
People, endless, streaming, with strong voices, passions,
Manhattan streets with their powerful throbs, with
beating drums as now,
The endless and noisy chorus, the rustle and clank of
muskets, (even the sight of the wounded,)
Manhattan crowds, with their turbulent musical chorus!
Manhattan faces and eyes forever for me.
DIRGE FOR TWO VETERANS.
THE last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finish'd Sabbath,
On the pavement here, and there beyond it is looking,
Down a new-made double grave.
Lo, the moon ascending,
Up from the east the silvery round moon,
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon,
Immense and silent moon.
I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-key'd bugles,
All the channels of the city streets they're flooding,
As with voices and with tears.
I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring,
And every blow of the great convulsive drums,
Strikes me through and through.
For the son is brought with the father,
(In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell,
Two veterans son and father dropt together,
And the double grave awaits them.)
Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive,
And the daylight o'er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.
In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin'd,
('Tis some mother's large transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.)
O strong dead-march you please me!
O moon immense with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.
The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.
OVER THE CARNAGE ROSE PROPHETIC
OVER the carnage rose prophetic a voice,
Be not dishearten'd, affection shall solve the problems
of freedom yet,
Those who love each other shall become invincible,
They shall yet make Columbia victorious.
Sons of the Mother of All, you shall yet be victorious,
You shall yet laugh to scorn the attacks of all the
remainder of the earth.
No danger shall balk Columbia's lovers,
If need be a thousand shall sternly immolate themselves
One from Massachusetts shall be a Missourian's comrade,
From Maine and from hot Carolina, and another an
Oregonese, shall be friends triune,
More precious to each other than all the riches of the
To Michigan, Florida perfumes shall tenderly come,
Not the perfumes of flowers, but sweeter, and wafted
It shall be customary in the houses and streets to see
The most dauntless and rude shall touch face to face
The dependence of Liberty shall be lovers,
The continuance of Equality shall be comrades.
These shall tie you and band you stronger than hoops of
I, ecstatic, O partners! O lands! with the love of lovers
(Were you looking to be held together by lawyers?
Or by an agreement on a paper? or by arms?
Nay, nor the world, nor any living thing, will so cohere.)
I SAW old General at bay,
(Old as he was, his gray eyes yet shone out in battle
His small force was now completely hemm'd in, in his
He call'd for volunteers to run the enemy's lines, a
I saw a hundred and more step forth from the ranks, but
two or three were selected,
I saw them receive their orders aside, they listen'd with
care, the adjutant was very grave,
I saw them depart with cheerfulness, freely risking their
THE ARTILLERYMAN'S VISION.
WHILE my wife at my side lies slumbering, and the wars
are over long,
And my head on the pillow rests at home, and the
vacant midnight passes,
And through the stillness, through the dark, I hear,
just hear, the breath of my infant,
There in the room as I wake from sleep this vision
presses upon me;
The engagement opens there and then in fantasy unreal,
The skirmishers begin, they crawl cautiously ahead, I
hear the irregular snap! snap!
I hear the sounds of the different missiles, the short
t-h-t! t-h-t! of the rifle balls,
I see the shells exploding leaving small white clouds, I
hear the great shells shrieking as they pass,
The grape like the hum and whirr of wind through the
trees, (tumultuous now the contest rages,) [again,
All the scenes at the batteries rise in detail before me
The crashing and smoking, the pride of the men in
The chief-gunner ranges and sights his piece and selects
a fuse of the right time,
After firing I see him lean aside and look eagerly off to
note the effect;
Elsewhere I hear the cry of a regiment charging, (the
young colonel leads himself this time with bran-
I see the gaps cut by the enemy's volleys, (quickly fill'd
up, no delay,)
I breathe the suffocating smoke, then the flat clouds
hover low concealing all; [either side,
Now a strange lull for a few seconds, not a shot fired on
Then resumed the chaos louder than ever, with eager
calls and orders of officers,
While from some distant part of the field the wind
waits to my ears a shout of applause, (some special
And ever the sound of the cannon far or near, (rousing
even in dreams a devilishe xultation and all the old
mad joy in the depths of my soul,)
And ever the hastening of infantry shifting positions,
batteries, cavalry, moving hither and thither,
(The falling, dying, I heed not, the wounded dripping
and red heed not, some to the rear are hobbling,)
Grime, heat, rush, aide-de-camps galloping by or on a
With the patter of small arms, the warning s-s-t of the
rifles, (these in my vision I hear or see,)
And bombs bursting in air, and at night the vari-colour'd
WHO are you dusky woman, so ancient hardly human,
With your woolly-white and turban'd head, and bare
Why rising by the roadside here, do you the colours
('Tis while our army lines Carolina's sands and pines,
Forth from thy hovel door thou Ethiopia com'st to me,
As under doughty Sherman I march toward the sea.)
Me master years a hundred since from my parents
A little child, they caught me as the savage beast is caught,
Then hither me across the sea the cruel slaver brought.
No further does she say, but lingering all the day,
Her high-borne turban'd head she wags, and rolls her
And courtesies to the regiments, the guidons moving by.
What is it fateful woman, so blear, hardly human?
Why wag your head with turban bound, yellow, red and
Are the things so strange and marvelous you see or
NOT YOUTH PERTAINS TO ME.
NOT youth pertains to me,
Nor delicatesse, I cannot beguile the time with talk,
Awkward in the parlour, neither a dancer nor elegant,
In the learn'd coterie sitting constrain'd and still, for
learning inures not to me,
Beauty, knowledge, inure not to me—yet there are two
or three things inure to me,
I have nourish'd the wounded and sooth'd many a dying
And at intervals waiting or in the midst of camp,
Composed these songs.
RACE OF VETERANS.
RACE of veterans—race of victors!
Race of the soil, ready for conflict—race of the conquering
(No more credulity's race, abiding-temper'd race,)
Race henceforth owning no law but the law of itself,
Race of passion and the storm.
O TAN-FACED PRAIRIE-BOY.
O TAN-FACED prairie-boy,
Before you came to camp came many a welcome gift,
Praises and presents came and nourishing food, till at
last among the recruits,
You came, taciturn, with nothing to give—we but look'd
on each other,
When lo! more than all the gifts of the world you gave
LOOK down fair moon and bathe this scene,
Pour softly down night's nimbus floods on faces ghastly,
On the dead on their backs with arms toss'd wide,
Pour down your unstinted nimbus sacred moon
WORD over all, beautiful as the sky,
Beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must in
time be utterly lost,
That the hands of the sisters Death and Night
incessantly softly wash again, and ever again, this
For my enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead,
I look where he lies white-faced and still in the coffin—
I draw near,
Bend down and touch lightly with my lips the white face
in the coffin.
HOW SOLEMN AS ONE BY ONE.
( Washington City, 1865.)
HOW solemn as one by one,
AS the ranks returning worn and sweaty, as the men file
by where I stand,
As the faces the masks appear, as I glance at the faces
studying the masks,
(As I glance upward out of this page studying you, dear
friend, whoever you are,)
How solemn the thought of my whispering soul to each
in the ranks, and to you,
I see behind each mask that wonder a kindred soul,
O the bullet could never kill what you really are, dear
Nor the bayonet stab what you really are;
The soul! yourself I see, great as any, good as the best,
Waiting secure and content, which the bullet could
Nor the bayonet stab O friend.
AS I LAY WITH MY HEAD IN YOUR LAP
AS I lay with my head in your lap camerado,
The confession I made I resume, what I said to you and
the open air I resume,
I know I am restless and make others so,
I know my words are weapons full of danger, full of
For I confront peace, security, and all the settled laws,
to unsettle them,
I am more resolute because all have denied me than I
could ever have been had all accepted me,
I heed not and have never heeded either experience,
cautions, majorities, nor ridicule,
And the threat of what is call'd hell is little or nothing
And the lure of what is call'd heaven is little or nothing
Dear camerado! I confess I have urged you onward with
me, and still urge you, without the least idea what
is our destination,
Or whether we shall be victorious, or utterly quell'd and
DELICATE cluster! flag of teeming life!
Covering all my lands—all my seashores lining!
Flag of death! (how I watch'd you through the smoke
of battle pressing!
How I heard you flap and rustle, cloth defiant!)
Flag cerulean—sunny flag, with the orbs of night
Ah my silvery beauty—ah my woolly white and crimson!
Ah to sing the song of you, my matron mighty!
My sacred one, my mother.
TO A CERTAIN CIVILIAN.
DID you ask dulcet rhymes from me?
Did you seek the civilian's peaceful and languishing
Did you find what I sang erewhile so hard to follow?
Why I was not singing erewhile for you to follow, to
understand—nor am I now;
(I have been born of the same as the war was born,
The drum-corps' rattle is ever to me sweet music, I love
well the martial dirge,
With slow wail and convulsive throb leading the officer's
What to such as you anyhow such a poet as I? therefore
leave my works,
And go lull yourself with what you can understand, and
For I lull nobody, and you will never understand me.
LO, VICTRESS ON THE PEAKS.
LO, Victress on the peaks,
Where thou with mighty brow regarding the world,
(The world O Libertad, that vainly conspired against
thee,) [them all,
Out of its countless beleaguering toils, after thwarting
Dominant, with the dazzling sun around thee,
Flauntest now unharm'd in immortal soundness and
bloom—lo, in these hours supreme,
No poem proud, I chanting bring to thee, nor mastery's
rapturous verse, [dripping wounds,
But a cluster containing night's darkness and blood-
And psalms of the dead.
SPIRIT WHOSE WORK IS DONE.
( Washington City, 1865.)
SPIRIT whose work is done—spirit of dreadful hours!
Ere departing fade from my eyes your forests of bayonets;
Spirit of gloomiest fears and doubts, (yet onward ever
Spirit of many a solemn day and many a savage scene—
That with muttering voice through the war now closed,
like a tireless phantom flitted,
Rousing the land with breath of flame, while you beat
and beat the drum,
Now as the sound of the drum, hollow and harsh to the
last, reverberates round me,
As your ranks, your immortal ranks, return, return from
As the muskets of the young men yet lean over their
As I look on the bayonets bristling over their shoulders,
As those slanted bayonets, whole forests of them appear-
ing in the distance, approach and pass on, returning
Moving with steady motion, swaying to and fro to the
right and left, [time;
Evenly lightly rising and falling while the steps keep
Spirit of hours I knew, all hectic red one day, but pale
as death next day,
Touch my mouth ere you depart, press my lips close,
Leave me your pulses of rage—bequeath them to me—
fill me with currents convulsive,
Let them scorch and blister out of my chants when you
Let them identify you to the future in these songs.
ADIEU TO A SOLDIER.
ADIEU O soldier,
You of the rude campaigning, (which we shared,)
The rapid march, the life of the camp,
The hot contention of opposing fronts, the long
Red battles with their slaughter, the stimulus, the
strong terrific game,
Spell of all brave and manly hearts, the trains of time
through you and like of you all fill'd,
With war and war's expression.
Adieu dear comrade,
Your mission is fulfill'd—but I, more warlike,
Myself and this contentious soul of mine,
Still on our own campaigning bound,
Through untried roads with ambushes opponents lined,
Through many a sharp defeat and many a crisis, often
Here marching, ever marching on, a war fight out—aye
To fiercer, weightier battles give expression.
TURN O LIBERTAD.
TURN O Libertad, for the war is over,
From it and all henceforth expanding, doubting no
more, resolute, sweeping the world,
Turn from lands retrospective recording proofs of the
From the singers that sing the trailing glories of the
From the chants of the feudal world, the triumphs of
kings, slavery, caste,
Turn to the world, the triumphs reserv'd and to come—
give up that backward world,
Leave to the singers of hitherto, give them the trailing
But what remains remains for singers for you—wars to
come are for you,
(Lo, how the wars of the past have duly inured to you,
and the wars of the present also inure;)
Then turn, and be not alarm'd O Libertad—turn your
To where the future, greater than all the past,
Is swiftly, surely preparing for you.
TO THE LEAVEN'D SOIL THEY TROD.
TO the leaven'd soil they trod calling I sing for the last,
(Forth from my tent emerging for good, loosing, untying
In the freshness the forenoon air, in the far-stretching
circuits and vistas again to peace restored,
To the fiery fields emanative and the endless vistas
beyond, to the South and the North,
To the leaven'd soil of the general Western world to
attest my songs,
To the Alleghanian hills and the tireless Mississippi,
To the rocks I calling sing, and all the trees in the
woods, [spreading wide,
To the plains of the poems of heroes, to the prairies
To the far-off sea and the unseen winds, and the sane
And responding they answer all, (but not in words,)
The average earth, the witness of war and peace,
The prairie draws me close, as the father to bosom broad
the son, [to the end,
The Northern ice and rain that began me nourish me
But the hot sun of the South is to fully ripen my songs.
WHEN LILACS LAST IN THE DOORYARD
WHEN lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd,
And the great star early droop'd in the western sky in
I mourn'd, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning
Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.
O powerful western fallen star!
O shades of night—O moody, tearful night!
O great star disappear'd—O the black murk that hides
the star! [of me!
O cruel hands that hold me powerless—O helpless soul
O harsh surrounding cloud that will not free my soul.
In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped
leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the
perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle—and from this bush in the
With delicate-color'd blossoms and heart-shaped leaves
of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break.
In the swamp in secluded recesses,
A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.
Solitary the thrush,
The hermit withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settle-
Sings by himself a song.
Song of the bleeding throat,
Death's outlet song of life, (for well dear brother I know,
If thou wast not granted to sing thou would'st surely die.)
Over the breast of the spring, the land, amid cities,
Amid lanes and through old woods, where lately the
violets peep'd from the ground, spotting the gray
Amid the grass in the fields each side of the lanes,
passing the endless grass,
Passing the yellow-spear'd wheat, every grain from its
shroud in the dark-brown fields uprisen,
Passing the apple-tree blows of white and pink in the
Carrying a corpse to where it shall rest in the grave,
Night and day journeys a coffin.
Coffin that passes through lanes and streets,
Through day and night with the great cloud darkening
With the pomp of the inloop'd flags with the cities
draped in black,
With the show of the States themselves as of crape-
veil'd women standing,
With processions long and winding and the flambeaus
of the night,
With the countless torches lit, with the silent sea of
faces and the unbared heads,
With the waiting depôt, the arriving coffin, and the
With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices
rising strong and solemn,
With all the mournful voices of the dirges pour'd
around the coffin,
The dim-lit churches and the shuddering organs—where
amid these you journey,
With the tolling tolling bells' perpetual clang,
Here, coffin that slowly passes,
I give you my sprig of lilac.
(Nor for you, for one alone,
Blossoms and branches green to coffins all I bring,
For fresh as the morning, thus would I chant a song for
you O sane and sacred death.
All over bouquets of roses,
O death, I cover you over with roses and early lilies,
But mostly and now the lilac that blooms the first,
Copious I break, I break the sprigs from the bushes,
With loaded arms I come, pouring for you,
For you and the coffins all of you O death.)
O western orb sailing the heaven,
Now I know what you must have meant as a month
since I walk'd,
As I walk'd in silence the transparent shadowy night,
As I saw you had something to tell as you bent to me
night after night,
As you droop'd from the sky low down as if to my side,
(while the other stars all look'd on,)
As we wander'd together the solemn night, (for some-
thing I know not what kept me from sleep,)
As the night advanced, and I saw on the rim of the west
how full you were of woe,
As I stood on the rising ground in the breeze in the cool
As I watch'd where you pass'd and was lost in the
netherward black of the night,
As my soul in its trouble dissatisfied sank, as where you
Concluded, dropt in the night, and was gone.
Sing on there in the swamp,
O singer bashful and tender, I hear your notes, I hear
I hear, I come presently, I understand you,
But a moment I linger, for the lustrous star has detain'd
The star my departing comrade holds and detains me.
O how shall I warble myself for the dead one there I
And how shall I deck my song for the large sweet soul
that has gone?
And what shall my perfume be for the grave of him I
Sea-winds blown from east and west,
Blown from the Eastern sea and blown from the Western
sea, till there on the prairies meeting,
These and with these and the breath of my chant,
I'll perfume the grave of him I love.
O what shall I hang on the chamber walls?
And what shall the pictures be that I hang on the walls,
To adorn the burial-house of him I love?
Pictures of growing spring and farms and homes,
With the Fourth-month eve at sundown, and the gray
smoke lucid and bright,
With floods of the yellow gold of the gorgeous, indolent,
sinking sun, burning, expanding the air,
With the fresh sweet herbage under foot, and the pale
green leaves of the trees prolific,
In the distance the flowing glaze, the breast of the river,
with a wind-dapple here and there,
With ranging hills on the banks, with many a line
against the sky, and shadows,
And the city at hand with dwellings so dense, and stacks
And all the scenes of life and the workshops, and the
workmen homeward returning.
Lo, body and soul—this land,
My own Manhattan with spires, and the sparkling and
hurrying tides, and the ships,
The varied and ample land, the South and the North in
the light, Ohio's shores and flashing Missouri,
And ever the far-spreading prairies cover'd with grass
Lo, the most excellent sun so calm and haughty,
The violet and purple morn with just-felt breezes,
The gentle soft-born measureless light,
The miracle spreading bathing all, the fulfill'd noon,
The coming eve delicious, the welcome night and the
Over my cities shining all, enveloping man and land.
Sing on, sing on you gray-brown bird,
Sing from the swamps, the recesses, pour your chant from
Limitless out of the dusk, out of the cedars and pines.
Sing on dearest brother, warble your reedy song,
Loud human song, with voice of uttermost woe.
O liquid and free and tender!
O wild and loose to my soul—O wondrous singer!
You only I hear—yet the star holds me, (but will soon
Yet the lilac with mastering odour holds me.
Now while I sat in the day and look'd forth,
In the close of the day with its light and the fields of
spring, and the farmers preparing their crops,
In the large unconscious scenery of my land with its
lakes and forests,
In the heavenly aerial beauty, (after the perturb'd winds
and the storms,)
Under the arching heavens of the afternoon swift passing,
and the voices of children and women,
The many-moving sea-tides, and I saw the ships how
And the summer approaching with richness, and the
fields all busy with labour,
And the infinite separate houses, how they all went on,
each with its meals and minutia of daily usages,
And the streets how their throbbings throbb'd, and the
cities pent—lo, then and there,
Falling upon them all and among them all, enveloping
me with the rest,
Appear'd the cloud, appear'd the long black trail,
And I knew death, its thought, and the sacred knowledge
Then with the knowledge of death as walking one side
And the thought of death close-walking the other side
And I in the middle as with companions, and as holding
the hands of companions,
I fled forth to the hiding receiving night that talks not,
Down to the shores of the water, the path by the swamp
in the dimness,
To the solemn shadowy cedars and ghostly pines so still.
And the singer so shy to the rest receiv'd me,
The gray-brown bird I know receiv'd us comrades three,
And he sang the carol of death, and a verse for him I
From deep secluded recesses,
From the fragrant cedars and the ghostly pines so still,
Came the carol of the bird.
And the charm of the carol rapt me,
As I held as if by their hands my comrades in the night,
And the voice of my spirit tallied the song of the bird.
Come lovely and soothing death,
Undulate round the world, serenely arriving, arriving,
In the day, in the night, to all, to each,
Sooner or later delicate death.
Prais'd be the fathomless universe,
For life and joy, and for objects and knowledge curious,
And for love, sweet love—but praise! praise! praise!
For the sure-enwinding arms of cool-enfolding death.
Dark mother always gliding near with soft feet,
Have none chanted for thee a chant of fullest welcome?
Then I chant it for thee, I glorify thee above all,
I bring thee a song that when thou must indeed come,
Approach strong deliveress,
When it is so, when thou hast taken them I joyously sing
Lost in the loving floating ocean of thee,
Laved in the flood of thy bliss O death.
From me to thee glad serenades,
Dances for thee I propose saluting thee, adornments and
feastings for thee,
And the sights of the open landscape and the high-spread
sky are fitting,
And life and the fields, and the huge and thoughtful
The night in silence under many a star,
The ocean shore and the husky whispering wave whose
voice I know,
And the soul turning to thee O vast and well-veil'd death,
And the body gratefully nestling close to thee.
Over the tree-tops I float thee a song,
Over the rising and sinking waves, over the myriad fields
and the prairies wide,
Over the dense-pack'd cities all and the teeming wharves
I float this carol with joy, with joy to thee O death.
To the tally of my soul,
Loud and strong kept up the gray-brown bird,
With pure deliberate notes spreading filling the night.
Loud in the pines and cedars dim,
Clear in the freshness moist and the swamp-perfume,
And I with my comrades there in the night.
While my sight that was bound in my eyes unclosed,
As to long panoramas of visions.
And I saw askant the armies,
I saw as in noiseless dreams hundreds of battle-flags,
Borne through the smoke of the battles and pierced with
missiles I saw them,
And carried hither and yon through the smoke, and torn
And at last but a few shreds left on the staffs, (and all
And the staffs all splinter'd and broken.
I saw battle-corpses, myriads of them,
And the white skeletons of young men, I saw them,
I saw the debris and debris of all the slain soldiers of the
But I saw they were not as was thought,
They themselves were fully at rest, they suffer'd not,
The living remain'd and suffer'd, the mother suffer'd,
And the wife and the child and the musing comrade
And the armies that remain'd suffer'd.
Passing the visions, passing the night,
Passing, unloosing the hold of my comrades' hands,
Passing the song of the hermit bird and the tallying
song of my soul,
Victorious song, death's outlet song, yet varying ever-
As low and wailing, yet clear the notes, rising and
falling, flooding the night,
Sadly sinking and fainting, as warning and warning,
and yet again bursting with joy,
Covering the earth and filling the spread of the heaven,
As that powerful psalm in the night I heard from
Passing, I leave thee lilac with heart-shaped leaves,
I leave thee there in the dooryard, blooming, returning
I cease from my song for thee,
From my gaze on thee in the west, fronting the west,
communing with thee,
O comrade lustrous with silver face in the night.
Yet each to keep and all, retrievements out of the night,
The song, the wondrous chant of the gray-brown bird,
And the tallying chant, the echo arous'd in my soul,
With the lustrous and drooping star with the coun-
tenance full of woe,
With the holders holding my hand nearing the call of
Comrades mine and I in the midst, and their memory
ever to keep, for the dead I loved so well,
For the sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and lands—
and this for his dear sake,
Lilac and star and bird twined with the chant of my
There in the fragrant pines and the cedars dusk and
O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths—for you
the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed
and done, [won;
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
( May 4, 1865.)
HUSH'D be the camps to-day,
And soldiers let us drape our war-worn weapons,
And each with musing soul retire to celebrate,
Our dear commander's death.
No more for him life's stormy conflicts,
Nor victory, nor defeat—no more time's dark events,
Charging like ceaseless clouds across the sky.
But sing poet in our name,
Sing of the love we bore him—because you, dweller in
camps, know it truly.
As they invault the coffin there,
Sing—as they close the doors of earth upon him—one
For the heavy hearts of soldiers.
THIS DUST WAS ONCE THE MAN.
THIS dust was once the man,
Gentle, plain, just and resolute, under whose cautious
Against the foulest crime in history known in any land
Was saved the Union of these States.
BY blue Ontario's shore,
As I mused of these warlike days and of peace return'd,
and the dead that return no more,
A Phantom gigantic superb, with stern visage accosted
me,Chant me the poem, it said, that comes from the soul of
America, chant me the carol of victory,
And strike up the marches of Libertad, marches more
And sing me before you go the song of the throes of
(Democracy, the destin'd conqueror, yet treacherous
And death and infidelity at every step.)
A Nation announcing itself,
I myself make the only growth by which I can be
I reject none, accept all, then reproduce all in my own
A breed whose proof is in time and deeds,
What we are we are, nativity is answer enough to
We wield ourselves as a weapon is wielded,
We are powerful and tremendous in ourselves,
We are executive in ourselves, we are sufficient in the
variety of ourselves,
We are the most beautiful to ourselves and in ourselves,
We stand self-pois'd in the middle, branching thence
over the world,
From Missouri, Nebraska, or Kansas, laughing attacks
Nothing is sinful to us outside of ourselves,
Whatever appears, whatever does not appear, we are
beautiful or sinful in ourselves only.
(O Mother—O Sisters dear!
If we are lost, no victor else has destroy'd us,
It is by ourselves we go down to eternal night.)
Have you thought there could be but a single supreme?
There can be any number of supremes—one does not
countervail another any more than one eyesight
countervails another, or one life countervails
All is eligible to all,
All is for individuals, all is for you,
No condition is prohibited, not God's or any.
All comes by the body, only health puts you rapport
with the universe.
Produce great Persons, the rest follows.
Piety and conformity to them that like,
Peace, obesity, allegiance, to them that like,
I am he who tauntingly compels men, women, nations,
Crying, Leap from your seats and contend for your
I am he who walks the States with a barb'd tongue,
questioning every one I meet,
Who are you that wanted only to be told what you knew
Who are you that wanted only a book to join you in
(With pangs and cries as thine own O bearer of many
These clamors wild to a race of pride I give.)
O lands, would you be freer than all that has ever been
If you would be freer than all that has been before, come
listen to me.
Fear grace, elegance, civilisation, delicatesse,
Fear the mellow sweet, the sucking of honey-juice,
Beware the advancing mortal ripening of Nature,
Beware what precedes the decay of the ruggedness of
states and men.
Ages, precedents, have long been accumulating undi-
America brings builders, and brings its own styles.
The immortal poets of Asia and Europe have done their
work and pass'd to other spheres,
A work remains, the work of surpassing all they have
America, curious toward foreign characters, stands by
its own at all hazards,
Stands removed, spacious, composite, sound, initiates
the true use of precedents,
Does not repel them or the past or what they have pro-
duced under their forms,
Takes the lesson with calmness, perceives the corpse
slowly borne from the house,
Perceives that it waits a little while in the door, that it
was fittest for its days,
That its life has descended to the stalwart and well-
shaped heir who approaches,
And that he shall be fittest for his days.
Any period one nation must lead,
One land must be the promise and reliance of the future.
These States are the amplest poem,
Here is not merely a nation but a teeming Nation of
Here the doings of men correspond with the broadcast
doings of the day and night,
Here is what moves in magnificent masses careless of par-
Here are the roughs, beards, friendliness, combativeness,
the soul loves,
Here the flowing trains, here the crowds, equality,
diversity, the soul loves.
Land of lands and bards to corroborate!
Of them standing among them, one lifts to the light a
To him the hereditary countenance bequeath'd both
mother's and father's,
His first parts substances, earth, water, animals, trees,
Built of the common stock, having room for far and
Used to dispense with other lands, incarnating this land,
Attracting it body and soul to himself, hanging on its
neck with incomparable love,
Plunging his seminal muscle into its merits and demerits,
Making its cities, beginnings, events, diversities, wars,
vocal in him,
Making its rivers, lakes, bays, embouchure in him,
Mississippi with yearly freshets and changing chutes,
Columbia, Niagara, Hudson, spending themselves
lovingly in him,
If the Atlantic coast stretch or the Pacific coast stretch,
he stretching with them North or South,
Spanning between them East and West, and touching
whatever is between them,
Growths growing from him to offset the growths of pine,
cedar, hemlock, live-oak, locust, chestnut, hickory,
cottonwood, orange, magnolia,
Tangles as tangled in him as any canebrake or swamp,
He likening sides and peaks of mountains, forests coated
with northern transparent ice,
Off him pasturage sweet and natural as savanna, upland,
Through him flights, whirls, screams, answering those
of the fish-hawk, mocking-bird, night-heron, and
His spirit surrounding his country's spirit, unclosed to
good and evil,
Surrounding the essences of real things, old times and
Surrounding just found shores, islands, tribes of red
Weather-beaten vessels, landings, settlements, embryo
stature and muscle,
The haughty defiance of the Year One, war, peace, the
formation of the Constitution,
The separate States, the simple elastic scheme, the
The Union always swarming with blatherers and always
sure and impregnable,
The unsurvey'd interior, log-houses, clearings, wild
animals, hunters, trappers,
Surrounding the multiform agriculture, mines, tempera-
ture, the gestation of new States,
Congress convening every Twelfth-month, the members
duly coming up from the uttermost parts,
Surrounding the noble character of mechanics and
farmers, especially the young men,
Responding their manners, speech, dress, friendships, the
gait they have of persons who never knew how it
felt to stand in the presence of superiors,
The freshness and candor of their physiognomy, the
copiousness and decision of their phrenology,
The picturesque looseness of their carriage, their fierce-
ness when wrong'd,
The fluency of their speech, their delight in music, their
curiosity, good temper and open-handedness, the
whole composite make, [ness,
The prevailing ardor and enterprise, the large amative-
The perfect equality of the female with the male, the
fluid movement of the population
The superior marine, free commerce, fisheries, whaling,
Wharf-hemm'd cities, railroad and steamboat lines
intersecting all points,
Factories, mercantile life, labour-saving machinery, the
Northeast, Northwest, Southwest,
Manhattan firemen, the Yankee swap, southern planta-
Slavery—the murderous, treacherous conspiracy to raise
it upon the ruins of all the rest,
On and on to the grapple with it—Assassin! then your
life or ours be the stake, and respite no more.
(Lo, high toward heaven, this day,
Libertad, from the conqueress' field return'd,
I mark the new aureola around your head,
No more of soft astral, but dazzling and fierce,
With war's flames and the lambent lightnings playing,
And your port immovable where you stand,
With still the inextinguishable glance and the clinch'd
and lifted fist,
And your foot on the neck of the menacing one, the
scorner utterly crush'd beneath you,
The menacing arrogant one that strode and advanced
with his senseless scorn, bearing the murderous
The wide-swelling one, the braggart that would yester-
day do so much,
To-day a carrion dead and damn'd, the despised of all
An offal rank, to the dunghill maggots spurn'd.)
Others take finish, but the Republic is ever constructive
and ever keeps vista,
Others adorn the past, but you O days of the present, I
O days of the future I believe in you—I isolate myself
for your sake,
O America because you build for mankind I build for you,
O well-beloved stone-cutters, I lead them who plan with
decision and science,
Lead the present with friendly hand toward the future.
(Bravas to all impulses sending sane children to the
But damn that which spends itself with no thought of the
stain, pains, dismay, feebleness, it is bequeathing.)
I listened to the Phantom by Ontario's shore,
I heard the voice arising demanding bards,
By them all native and grand, by them alone can these
States be fused into the compact organism of a
To hold men together by paper and seal or by compulsion
is no account,
That only holds men together which aggregates all in a
living principle, as the hold of the limbs of the
body or the fibres of plants.
Of all races and eras these States with veins full of
poetical stuff most need poets, and are to have the
greatest, and use them the greatest,
Their Presidents shall not be their common referee so
much as their poets shall.
(Soul of love and tongue of fire!
Eye to pierce the deepest deeps and sweep the world!
Ah Mother, prolific and full in all besides, yet how long
Of these States the poet is the equable man,
Not in him but off from him things are grotesque,
eccentric, fail of their full returns,
Nothing out of its place is good, nothing in its place
He bestows on every object or quality its fit proportion,
neither more nor less,
He is the arbiter of the diverse, he is the key,
He is the equalizer of his age and land,
He supplies what wants supplying, he checks what wants
In peace out of him speaks the spirit of peace, large,
rich, thrifty, building populous towns, encouraging
agriculture, arts, commerce, lighting the study of
man, the soul, health, immortality, government,
In war he is the best backer of the war, he fetches
artillery as good as the engineer's, he can make
every word he speaks draw blood,
The years straying toward infidelity he withholds by his
He is no arguer, he is judgment, (Nature accepts him absolutely,)
He judges not as the judge judges but as the sun failing
round a helpless thing,
As he sees the farthest he has the most faith,
His thoughts are the hymns of the praise of things,
In the dispute on God and eternity he is silent,
He sees eternity less like a play with a prologue and
He sees eternity in men and women, he does not see
men and women as dreams or dots.
For the great Idea, the idea of perfect and free
For that, the bard walks in advance, leader of leaders,
The attitude of him cheers up slaves and horrifies foreign
Without extinction is Liberty, without retrograde is
They live in the feelings of young men and the best
(Not for nothing have the indomitable heads of the earth
been always ready to fall for Liberty.)
For the great Idea,
That, O my brethren, that is the mission of poets.
Songs of stern defiance ever ready,
Songs of the rapid arming and the march,
The flag of peace quick-folded, and instead the flag we
Warlike flag of the great Idea.
(Angry cloth I saw there leaping!
I stand again in leaden rain your flapping folds saluting,
I sing you over all, flying beckoning through the fight—
O the hard-contested fight!
The cannons ope their rosy-flashing muzzles—the hurtled
The battle-front forms amid the smoke—the volleys
pour incessant from the line,
Hark, the ringing word, Charge —now the tussle and the
furious maddening yells,
Now the corpses tumble curl'd upon the ground,
Cold, cold in death, for precious life of you,
Angry cloth I saw there leaping.)
Are you he who would assume a place to teach or be a
poet here in the States?
The place is august, the terms obdurate.
Who would assume to teach here may well prepare
himself body and mind, [lithe himself,
He may well survey, ponder, arm, fortify, harden, make
He shall surely be question'd beforehand by me with
many and stern questions.
Who are you indeed who would talk or sing to America?
Have you studied out the land, its idioms and men?
Have you learn'd the physiology, phrenology, politics,
geography, pride, freedom, friendship of the land?
its substratums and objects?
Have you consider'd the organic compact of the first day
of the first year of Independence, sign'd by the
Commissioners, ratified by the States, and read by
Washington at the head of the army?
Have you possess'd yourself of the Federal Constitution?
Do you see who have left all feudal processes and poems
behind them, and assumed the poems and processes
Are you faithful to things? do you teach what the land
and sea, the bodies of men, womanhood, amative-
ness, heroic angers,t each?
Have you sped through fleeting customs, popularities?
Can you hold your hand against all seductions, follies,
whirls, fierce contentions? are you very strong? are
you really of the whole People? [religion?
Are you not of some coterie? some school or mere
Are you done with reviews and criticisms of life?
animating now to life itself? [States?
Have you vivified yourself from the maternity of these
Have you too the old ever-fresh forbearance and
Do you hold the like love for those hardening to
maturity? for the last-born? little and big? and
for the errant?
What is this you bring my America?
Is it uniform with my country?
Is it not something that has been better told or done
Have you not imported this or the spirit of it in some
Is it not a mere tale? a rhyme? a prettiness?—is the
good old cause in it?
Has it not dangled long at the heels of the poets,
politicians, literats, of enemies' lands?
Does it not assume that what is notoriously gone is
Does it answer universal needs? will it improve
Does it sound with trumpet-voice the proud victory of
the Union in that secession war?
Can your performance face the open fields and the
Will it absorb into me as I absorb food, air, to appear
again in my strength, gait, face?
Have real employments contributed to it? original
makers, not mere amanuenses?
Does it meet modern discoveries, calibres, facts, face to
What does it mean to American persons, progresses,
cities? Chicago, Kanada, Arkansas?
Does it see behind the apparent custodians the real
custodians standing, menacing, silent, the me-
chanics, Manhattanese, Western men, Southerners,
significant alike in their apathy, and in the
promptness of their love?
Does it see what finally befalls, and has always finally
befallen, each temporizer, patcher, outsider, par-
tialist, alarmist, infidel, who has ever ask'd any
thing of America?
What mocking and scornful negligence?
The track strew'd with the dust of skeletons,
By the roadside others disdainfully toss'd.
Rhymes and rhymers pass away, poems distill'd from
poems pass away, [ashes,
The swarms of reflectors and the polite pass, and leave
Admirers, importers, obedient persons, make but the
soil of literature,
America justifies itself, give it time, no disguise can
deceive it or conceal from it, it is impassive enough,
Only toward the likes of itself will it advance to meet
If its poets appear it will in due time advance to meet
them, there is no fear of mistake,
(The proof of a poet shall be sternly deferr'd till his
country absorbs him as affectionately as he has
He masters whose spirit masters, he tastes sweetest who
results sweetest in the long run,
The blood of the brawn beloved of time is unconstraint;
In the need of songs, philosophy, an appropriate native
grand-opera, shipcraft, any craft,
He or she is greatest who contributes the greatest
original practical example.
Already a nonchalant breed, silently emerging, appears
on the streets,
People's lips salute only doers, lovers, satisfiers, positive
knowers, [is done,
There will shortly be no more priests, I say their work
Death is without emergencies here, but life is perpetual
Are your body, days, manners, superb? after death you
shall be superb,
Justice, health, self-esteem, clear the way with irresist-
How dare you place anything before a man?
Fall behind me States!
A man before all—myself, typical, before all.
Give me the pay I have served for,
Give me to sing the songs of the great Idea, take all the
I have loved the earth, sun, animals, I have despised
I have given aims to every one that ask'd, stood up for
the stupid and crazy, devoted my income and labour
Hated tyrants, argued not concerning God, had patience
and indulgence toward the people, taken off my
hat to nothing known or unknown,
Gone freely with powerful uneducated persons and with
the young, and with the mothers of families,
Read these leaves to myself in the open air, tried them
by trees, stars, rivers, [body,
Dismiss'd whatever insulted my own soul or defiled my
Claim'd nothing to myself which I have not carefully
claim'd for others on the same terms,
Sped to the camps, and comrades found and accepted
from every State,
(Upon this breast has many a dying soldier lean'd to
breathe his last,
This arm, this hand, this voice, have nourish'd, rais'd,
To life recalling many a prostrate form;)
I am willing to wait to be understood by the growth of
the taste of myself,
Rejecting none, permitting all.
(Say O Mother, have I not to your thought been
Have I not through life kept you and yours before me?)
I swear I begin to see the meaning of these things,
It is not the earth, it is not America who is so great,
It is I who am great or to be great, it is You up there,
or any one,
It is to walk rapidly through civilisations, governments,
Through poems, pageants, shows, to form individuals.
Underneath all, individuals,
I swear nothing is good to me now that ignores
The American compact is altogether with individuals,
The only government is that which makes minute of
The whole theory of the universe is directed unerringly
to one single individual—namely to You.
(Mother! with subtle sense severe, with the naked
sword in your hand,
I saw you at last refuse to treat but directly with
Underneath all, Nativity,
I swear I will stand by my own nativity, pious or
impious so be it;
I swear I am charm'd with nothing except nativity,
Men, women, cities, nations, are only beautiful from
Underneath all is the Expression of love for men and
(I swear I have seen enough of mean and impotent
modes of expressing love for men and women,
After this day I take my own modes of expressing love
for men and women.)
I swear I will have each quality of my race in myself,
(Talk as you like, he only suits these States whose
manners favor the audacity and sublime turbulence
of the States.)
Underneath the lessons of things, spirits, Nature,
governments, ownerships, I swear I perceive other
Underneath all to me is myself, to you yourself, (the
same monotonous old song.)
O I see flashing that this America is only you and me,
Its power, weapons, testimony, are you and me,
Its crimes, lies, thefts, defections, are you and me,
Its Congress is you and me, the officers, capitols, armies,
ships, are you and me,
Its endless gestations of new States are you and me,
The war, (that war so bloody and grim, the war I will
henceforth forget), was you and me,
Natural and artificial are you and me,
Freedom, language, poems, employments, are you and
Past, present, future, are you and me.
I dare not shirk any part of myself,
Not any part of America good or bad,
Not to build for that which builds for mankind,
Not to balance ranks, complexions, creeds, and the
Not to justify science nor the march of equality,
Nor to feed the arrogant blood of the brawn belov'd of
I am for those that have never been master'd,
For men and women whose tempers have never been
For those whom laws, theories, conventions, can never
I am for those who walk abreast with the whole earth,
Who inaugurate one to inaugurate all.
I will not be outfaced by irrational things,
I will penetrate what it is in them that is sarcastic upon
I will make cities and civilisations defer to me,
This is what I have learnt from America—it is the
amount, and it I teach again.
(Democracy, while weapons were everywhere aim'd at
I saw you serenely give birth to immortal children, saw
in dreams your dilating form,
Saw you with spreading mantle covering the world.)
I will confront these shows of the day and night,
I will know if I am to be less than they,
I will see if I am not as majestic as they,
I will see if I am not as subtle and real as they,
I will see if I am to be less generous than they,
I will see if I have no meaning, while the houses and
ships have meaning,
I will see if the fishes and birds are to be enough for
themselves, and I am not to be enough for myself.
I match my spirit against yours you orbs, growths,
Copious as you are I absorb you all in myself, and
become the master myself,
America isolated yet embodying all, what is it finally
These States, what are they except myself?
I know now why the earth is gross, tantalising, wicked,
it is for my sake,
I take you specially to be mine, you terrible, rude forms.
(Mother, bend down, bend close to me your face,
I know not what these plots and wars and deferments
I know not fruition's success, but I know that through
war and crime your work goes on, and must yet go
Thus by blue Ontario's shore,
While the winds fann'd me and the waves came trooping
I thrill'd with the power's pulsations, and the charm of
my theme was upon me,
Till the tissues that held me parted their ties upon me.
And I saw the free souls of poets,
The loftiest bards of past ages strode before me,
Strange large men, long unwaked, undisclosed, were
disclosed to me.
O my rapt verse, my call, mock me not!
Not for the bards of the past, not to invoke them have
I launch'd you forth,
Not to call even those lofty bards here by Ontario's
Have I sung so capricious and loud my savage song.
Bards for my own land only I invoke,
(For the war, the war is over, the field is clear'd,)
Till they strike up marches henceforth triumphant and
To cheer O Mother your boundless expectant soul.
Bards of the great Idea! bards of the peaceful inven-
tions! (for the war, the war is over!)
Yet bards of latent armies, a million soldiers waiting
Bards with songs as from burning coals or the lightning's
Ample Ohio's, Kanada's bards—bards of California!
inland bards—bards of the war!
You by my charm I invoke.
AS CONSEQUENT FROM STORE OF SUMMER
AS consequent from store of summer rains,
Or wayward rivulets in autumn flowing,
Or many a herb-lined brook's reticulations,
Or subterranean sea-rills making for the sea,
Songs of continued years I sing.
Life's ever-modern rapids first, (soon, soon to blend
With the old streams of death.)
Some threading Ohio's farm-fields or the woods,
Some down Colorado's cañons from sources of perpetual
Some half-hid in Oregon, or away southward in Texas,
Some in the north finding their way to Erie, Niagara,
Some to Atlantica's bays, and so to the great salt brine.
In you whoe'er you are my book perusing,
In I myself, in all the world, these currents flowing,
All, all toward the mystic ocean tending.
Currents for starting a continent new,
Overtures sent to the solid out of the liquid,
Fusion of ocean and land, tender and pensive waves,
(Not safe and peaceful only, waves rous'd and ominous
Out of the depths the storm's abysmic waves, who knows
Raging over the vast, with many a broken spar and
Or from the sea of Time, collecting vasting all, I bring
A windrow-drift of weeds and shells.
O little shells, so curious-convolute, so limpid-cold and
Will you not little shells to the tympans of temples
Murmurs and echoes still call up, eternity's music faint
Wafted inland, sent from Atlantica's rim, strains for the
soul of the prairies,
Whisper'd reverberations, chords for the ear of the West
Your tidings old, yet ever new and untranslatable,
Infinitesimals out of my life, and many a life,
(For not my life and years alone I give—all, all I give,)
These waifs from the deep, cast high and dry,
Wash'd on America's shores?
THE RETURN OF THE HEROES.
FOR the lands and for these passionate days and for
Now I awhile retire to thee O soil of autumn fields,
Reclining on thy breast, giving myself to thee,
Answering the pulses of thy sane and equable heart,
Turning a verse for thee.
O earth that hast no voice, confide to me a voice,
O harvest of my lands—O boundless summer growths,
O lavish brown parturient earth—O infinite teeming
A song to narrate thee.
Ever upon this stage,
Is acted God's calm annual drama,
Gorgeous processions, songs of birds,
Sunrise that fullest feeds and freshens most the soul,
The heaving sea, the waves upon the shore, the musical,
The woods, the stalwart trees, the slender, tapering trees,
The liliput countless armies of the grass,
The heat, the showers, the measureless pasturages,
The scenery of the snows, the winds' free orchestra,
The stretching light-hung roof of clouds, the clear
cerulean and the silvery fringes,
The high dilating stars, the placid beckoning stars,
The moving flocks and herds, the plains and emerald
The shows of all the varied lands and all the growths
Thou art all over set in births and joys!
Thou groan'st with riches, thy wealth clothes thee as a
Thou laughest loud with ache of great possessions,
A myriad-twining life like interlacing vines binds all
thy vast demesne,
As some huge ship freighted to water's edge thou ridest
As rain falls from the heaven and vapours rise from
earth, so have the precious values fallen upon thee
and risen out of thee;
Thou envy of the globe! thou miracle!
Thou, bathed, choked, swimming in plenty,
Thou lucky Mistress of the tranquil barns,
Thou Prairie Dame that sittest in the middle and lookest
out upon thy world, and lookest East and lookest
Dispensatress, that by a word givest a thousand miles,
a million farms, and missest nothing,
Thou all-acceptress—thou hospitable, (thou only art
hospitable as God is hospitable.)
When late I sang sad was my voice,
Sad were the shows around me with deafening noises of
hatred and smoke of war;
In the midst of the conflict, the heroes, I stood,
Or pass'd with slow step through the wounded and dying.
But now I sing not war,
Nor the measur'd march of soldiers, nor the tents of
Nor the regiments hastily coming up deploying in line
No more the sad, unnatural shows of war.
Ask'd room those flush'd immortal ranks, the first forth-
Ask room alas the ghastly ranks, the armies dread that
(Pass, pass, ye proud brigades, with your tramping
With your shoulders young and strong, with your knap-
sacks and your muskets;
How elate I stood and watch'd you, where starting off
Pass—then rattle drums again,
For an army heaves in sight, O another gathering army,
Swarming, trailing on the rear, O you dread accruing
O you regiments so piteous, with your mortal diarrhœa,
with your fever,
O my land's maim'd darlings, with the plenteous bloody
bandage and the crutch,
Lo, your pallid army follows.)
But on these days of brightness,
On the far-stretching beauteous landscape, the roads and
lanes the high-piled farm-wagons, and the fruits
Should the dead intrude?
Ah the dead to me mar not, they fit well in Nature,
They fit very well in the landscape under the trees and
And along the edge of the sky in the horizon's far
Nor do I forget you Departed,
Nor in winter or summer my lost ones,
But most in the open air as now when my soul is rapt
and at peace, like pleasing phantoms,
Your memories rising glide silently by me.
I saw the day the return of the heroes,
(Yet the heroes never surpass'd shall never return,
Them that day I saw not.)
I saw the interminable corps, I saw the processions of
I saw them approaching, defiling by with divisions,
Streaming northward, their work done, camping awhile
in clusters of mighty camps.
No holiday soldiers—youthful, yet veterans,
Worn, swart, handsome, strong, of the stock of home-
stead and workshop,
Harden'd of many a long campaign and sweaty march,
Inured on many a hard-fought bloody field.
A pause—the armies wait,
A million flush'd embattled conquerors wait,
The world too waits, then soft as breaking night and
sure as dawn,
They melt, they disappear.
Exult O lands! victorious lands!
Not there your victory on those red shuddering fields,
But here and hence your victory.
Melt, melt away ye armies—disperse ye blue-clad
Resolve ye back again, give up for good your deadly
Other the arms the fields henceforth for you, or South
With saner wars, sweet wars, life-giving wars.
Loud O my throat, and clear O soul!
The season of thanks and the voice of full-yielding,
The chant of joy and power for boundless fertility.
All till'd and untill'd fields expand before me,
I see the true arenas of my race, or first or last,
Man's innocent and strong arenas.
I see the heroes at other toils,
I see well-wielded in their hands the better weapons.
I see where the Mother of All,
With full-spanning eye gazes forth, dwells long,
And counts the varied gathering of the products.
Busy the far, the sunlit panorama,
Prairie, orchard, and yellow grain of the North,
Cotton and rice of the South and Louisianian cane,
Open unseeded fallows, rich fields of clover and timothy,
Kine and horses feeding, and droves of sheep and swine,
And many a stately river flowing and many a jocund
And healthy uplands with herby-perfumed breezes,
And the good green grass, that delicate miracle the
Toil on heroes! harvest the products!
Not alone on those warlike fields the Mother of All,
With dilated form and lambent eyes watch'd you.
Toil on heroes! toil well! handle the weapons well!
The Mother of All, yet here as ever she watches you.
Well-pleased America thou beholdest,
Over the fields of the West those crawling monsters,
The human-divine inventions, the labour-saving imple-
Beholdest moving in every direction imbued as with life
the revolving hay-rakes, [machines,
The steam-power reaping-machines and the horse-power
The engines, thrashers of grain and cleaners of grain,
well separating the straw, the nimble work of the
Beholdest the newer saw-mill, the southern cotton-gin,
and the rice-cleanser.
Beneath thy look O Maternal,
With these and else and with their own strong hands the
All gather and all harvest,
Yet but for thee O Powerful, not a scythe might swing
as now in security,
Not a maize-stalk dangle as now its silken tassels in
Under thee only they harvest, even but a wisp of hay
under thy great face only,
Harvest the wheat of Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, every
barbed spear under thee,
Harvest the maize of Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee,
each ear in its light-green sheath,
Gather the hay to its myriad mows in the odorous
Oats to their bins, the white potato, the buckwheat of
Michigan, to theirs;c otton in Mississippi or Alabama, dig and
hoard the golden the sweet potato of Georgia and
Clip the wool of California or Pennsylvania,
Cut the flax in the Middle States, or hemp or tobacco in
Pick the pea and the bean, or pull apples from the trees
or bunches of grapes from the vines, [South,
Or aught that ripens in all these States or North or
Under the beaming sun and under thee.
THERE WAS A CHILD WENT FORTH.
THERE was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he look'd upon, that object he
And that object became part of him for the day or a
certain part of the day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.
The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass and white and red morning-glories, and white
and red clover, and the song of the phœbe-bird,
And the Third-month lambs and the sow's pink-faint
litter, and the mare's foal and the cow's calf,
And the noisy brood of the barnyard or by the mire of
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below
there, and the beautiful curious liquid,
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads, all
became part of him.
The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month
became part of him,
Winter-grain sprouts and those of the light-yellow corn,
and the esculent roots of the garden,
And the apple-trees cover'd with blossoms and the fruit
afterward, and wood-berries, and the commonest
weeds by the road,
And the old drunkard staggering home from the out-
house of the tavern whence he had lately risen,
And the schoolmistress that pass'd on her way to the
And the friendly boys that pass'd, and the quarrelsome
And the tidy and fresh-cheek'd girls, and the barefoot
negro boy and girl,
And all the changes of city and country wherever he
His own parents, he that had father'd him and she that
had conceiv'd him in her womb and birth'd him,
They gave this child more of themselves than that,
They gave him afterward every day, they became part
The mother at home quietly placing the dishes on the
The mother with mild words, clean cap and gown, a
wholesome odour falling off her person and clothes as
she walks by,
The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, anger'd,
The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the
The family usages, the language, the company, the
furniture, the yearning and swelling heart,
Affection that will not be gainsay'd, the sense of what
is real, the thought if after all it should prove
The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-time,
the curious whether and how,
Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all flashes
Men and women crowding fast in the streets, if they are
not flashes and specks what are they?
The streets themselves and the façades of houses, and
goods in the windows,
Vehicles, teams, the heavy-plank'd wharves, the huge
crossing at the ferries,
The village on the highland seen from afar at sunset,
the river between,
Shadows, aureola and mist, the light falling on roofs and
gables of white or brown two miles off,
The schooner near by sleepily dropping down the tide,
the little boat slack-tow'd astern,
The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests,
The strata of colour'd clouds, the long bar of maroon-tint
away solitary by itself, the spread of purity it lies
The horizon's edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance of
salt marsh and shore mud,
These became part of that child who went forth every
day, and who now goes, and will always go forth
FAR hence amid an isle of wondrous beauty,
Crouching over a grave an ancient sorrowful mother,
Once a queen, now lean and tatter'd seated on the
Her old white hair drooping dishevell'd round her
At her feet fallen an unused royal harp,
Long silent, she too long silent, mourning her shrouded
hope and heir,
Of all the earth her heart most full of sorrow because
most full of love.
Yet a word ancient mother,
You need crouch there no longer on the cold ground with
forehead between your knees,
O you need not sit there veil'd in your old white hair so
For know you the one you mourn is not in that grave,
It was an illusion, the son you love was not really dead,
The Lord is not dead, he is risen again young and strong
in another country,
Even while you wept there by your fallen harp by the
What you wept for was translated, pass'd from the grave,
The winds favor'd and the sea sail'd it,
And now with rosy and new blood,
Moves to-day in a new country.
THE CITY DEAD-HOUSE.
BY the city dead-house by the gate,
As idly sauntering wending my way from the clangour,
I curious pause, for lo, an outcast form, a poor dead
Her corpse they deposit unclaim'd, it lies on the damp
brick pavement, [it alone,
The divine woman, her body, I see the body, I look on
That house once full of passion and beauty, all else I
Nor stillness so cold, nor running water from faucet, nor
odours morbific impress me,
But the house alone—that wondrous house—that delicate
fair house—that ruin!
That immortal house more than all the rows of dwellings
Or white-domed capitol with majestic figure surmounted,
or all the old high-spired cathedrals,
That little house alone more than them all—poor,
Fair, fearful wreck—tenement of a soul—itself a soul,
Unclaim'd, avoided house—take one breath from my
Take one tear dropt aside as I go for thought of you,
Dead house of love—house of madness and sin, crumbled,
House of life, erewhile talking and laughing—but ah,
poor house, dead even then,
Months, years, an echoing, garnish'd house—but dead,
SOMETHING startles me where I thought I was safest,
I withdraw from the still woods I loved,
I will not go now on the pastures to walk,
I will not strip the clothes from my body to meet my
lover the sea,
I will not touch my flesh to the earth as to other flesh to
O how can it be that the ground itself does not sicken?
How can you be alive you growths of spring?
How can you furnish health you blood of herbs, roots,
Are they not continually putting distemper'd corpses
Is not every continent work'd over and over with
Where have you disposed of their carcasses?
Those drunkards and gluttons of so many generations?
Where have you drawn off all the foul liquid and meat?
I do not see any of it upon you to-day, or perhaps I am
I will run a furrow with my plough, I will press my
spade through the sod and turn it up underneath,
I am sure I shall expose some of the foul meat.
Behold this compost! behold it well!
Perhaps every mite has once form'd part of a sick
The grass of spring covers the prairies,
The bean bursts noiselessly through the mould in the
The delicate spear of the onion pierces upward,
The apple-buds cluster together on the apple-branches,
The resurrection of the wheat appears with pale visage
out of its graves, [tree,
The tinge awakes over the willow-tree and the mulberry-
The he-birds carol mornings and evenings while the
she-birds sit on their nests,
The young of poultry break through the hatch'd eggs,
The new-born of animals appear, the calf is dropt from
the cow, the colt from the mare,
Out of its little hill faithfully rise the potato's dark
Out of its hill rises the yellow maize-stalk, the lilac's
bloom in the dooryards,
The summer growth is innocent and disdainful above all
those strata of sour dead.
That the winds are really not infectious,
That this is no cheat, this transparent green-wash of the
sea which is so amorous after me,
That it is safe to allow it to lick my naked body all
over with its tongues,
That it will not endanger me with the fevers that have
deposited themselves in it,
That all is clean forever and forever,
That the cool drink from the well tastes so good,
That blackberries are so flavorous and juicy,
That the fruits of the apple-orchard and the orange-
orchard, that melons, grapes, peaches, plums, will
none of them poison me,
That when I recline on the grass I do not catch any
Though probably every spear of grass rises out of what
was once a catching disease.
Now I am terrified at the Earth, it is that calm and
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,
It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such
endless successions of diseas'd corpses,
It distills such exquisite winds out of such infused fetor,
It renews with such unwitting looks its prodigal, annual,
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts such
leavings from them at last.
COURAGE yet, my brother or my sister!
Keep on—Liberty is to be subserv'd whatever occurs;
That is nothing that is quell'd by one or two failures, or
any number of failures,
Or by the indifference or ingratitude of the people, or by
Or the show of the tushes of power, soldiers, cannon,
What we believe in waits latent forever through all the
Invites no one, promises nothing, sits in calmness and
light, is positive and composed, knows no dis-
Waiting patiently, waiting its time.
(Not songs of loyalty alone are these,
But songs of insurrection also,
For I am the sworn poet of every dauntless rebel the
And he going with me leaves peace and routine behind
And stakes his life to be lost at any moment.)
The battle rages with many a loud alarm and frequent
advance and retreat,
The infidel triumphs, or supposes he triumphs,
The prison, scaffold, garrote, handcuffs, iron necklace
and lead-balls do their work,
The named and unnamed heroes pass to other spheres,
The great speakers and writers are exiled, they lie sick
in distant lands,
The cause is asleep, the strongest throats are choked
with their own blood,
The young men droop their eyelashes toward the ground
when they meet;
But for all this Liberty has not gone out of the place,
nor the infidel enter'd into full possession.
When liberty goes out of a place it is not the first to go,
nor the second or third to go,
It waits for all the rest to go, it is the last.
When there are no more memories of heroes and martyrs,
And when all life and all the souls of men and women
are discharged from any part of the earth,
Then only shall liberty or the idea of liberty be dis-
charged from that part of the earth,
And the infidel come into full possession.
Then courage European revolter, revoltress!
For till all ceases neither must you cease.
I do not know what you are for, (I do not know what I
am for myself, nor what any thing is for,)
But I will search carefully for it even in being foil'd,
In defeat, poverty, misconception, imprisonment—for
they too are great.
Did we think victory great?
So it is—but now it seems to me, when it cannot be
help'd, that defeat is great,
And that death and dismay are great.
NATIONS ten thousand years before these States, and
many times ten thousand years before these States,
Garner'd clusters of ages that men and women like us
grew up and travell'd their course and pass'd on,
What vast-built cities, what orderly republics, what
pastoral tribes and nomads, [others,
What histories, rulers, heroes, perhaps transcending all
What laws, customs, wealth, arts, traditions,
What sort of marriage, what costumes, what physiology
What of liberty and slavery among them, what they
thought of death and the soul,
Who were witty and wise, who beautiful and poetic, who
brutish and undevelop'd,
Not a mark, not a record remains—and yet all remains.
O I know that those men and women were not for
nothing, any more than we are for nothing,
I know that they belong to the scheme of the world every
bit as much as we now belong to it.
Afar they stand, yet near to me they stand,
Some with oval countenances learn'd and calm,
Some naked and savage, some like huge collections of
Some in tents, herdsmen, patriarchs, tribes, horsemen,
Some prowling through woods, some living peaceably on
farms, labouring, reaping, filling barns,
Some traversing paved avenues, amid temples, palaces,
factories, shows, libraries, courts, theatres, wonder-
Are those billions of men really gone? [gone?
Are those women of the old experience of the earth
Do their lives, cities, arts, rest only with us?
Did they achieve nothing for good for themselves?
I believe of all those men and women that filled the
unnamed lands, every one exists this hour here or
elsewhere, invisible to us,
In exact proportion to what he or she grew from in life,
and out of what he or she did, felt, became, loved,
sinn'd, in life.
I believe that was not the end of those nations or any
person of them, any more than this shall be the
end of my nation, or of me;
Of their languages, governments, marriage, literature,
products, games, wars, manners, crimes, prisons,
slaves, heroes, poets,
I suspect their results curiously await in the yet unseen
world, counterparts of what accrued to them in the
I suspect I shall meet them there, [unnamed lands.
I suspect I shall there find each old particular of those
SONG OF PRUDENCE.
MANHATTAN'S streets I saunter'd pondering,
On Time, Space, Reality—on such as these, and abreast
with them Prudence.
The last explanation always remains to be made about
Little and large alike drop quietly aside from the
prudence that suits immortality.
The soul is of itself,
All verges to it, all has reference to what ensues,
All that a person does, says, thinks, is of consequence,
Not a move can a man or woman make, that effects him
or her in a day, month, any part of the direct life-
time, or the hour of death,
But the same affects him or her onward afterward
through the indirect lifetime.
The indirect is just as much as the direct,
The spirit receives from the body just as much as it gives
to the body, if not more.
Not one word or deed, not venereal sore, discolouration,
privacy of the onanist,
Putridity of gluttons or rum-drinkers, peculation,
cunning, betrayal, murder, seduction, prostitution,
But has results beyond death as really as before death.
Charity and personal force are the only investments
worth any thing.
No specification is necessary, all that a male or female
does, that is vigorous, benevolent, clean, is so much
profit to him or her,
In the unshakable order of the universe and through the
whole scope of it forever.
Who has been wise receives interest,
Savage, felon, President, judge, farmer, sailor, mechanic,
literat, young, old, it is the same,
The interest will come round—all will come round.
Singly, wholly, to affect now, affected their time, will
forever affect, all of the past and all of the present
and all of the future,
All the brave actions of war and peace,
All help given to relatives, strangers, the poor, old,
sorrowful, young children, widows, the sick, and to
All self-denial that stood steady and aloof on wrecks,
and saw others fill the seats of the boats,
All offering of substance or life for the good old cause, or
for a friend's sake, or opinion's sake,
All pains of enthusiasts scoff'd at by their neighbours,
All the limitless sweet love and precious suffering of
All honest men baffled in strifes recorded or unrecorded,
All the grandeur and good of ancient nations whose
fragments we inherit,
All the good of the dozens of ancient nations unknown
to us by name, date, location, [or no,
All that was ever manfully begun, whether it succeeded
All suggestions of the divine mind of man or the divinity
of his mouth, or the shaping of his great hands,
All that is well thought or said this day on any part of
the globe, or on any of the wandering stars, or on
any of the fix'd stars, by those there as we are here,
All that is henceforth to be thought or done by you
whoever you are, or by any one,
These inure, have inured, shall inure, to the identities
from which they sprang, or shall spring.
Did you guess any thing lived only its moment?
The world does not so exist, no parts palpable or
impalpable so exist,
No consummation exists without being from some long
previous consummation, and that from some other,
Without the farthest conceivable one coming a bit
nearer the beginning than any.
Whatever satisfies souls is true;
Prudence entirely satisfies the craving and glut of souls,
Itself only finally satisfies the soul,
The soul has that measureless pride which revolts from
every lesson but its own.
Now I breathe the word of the prudence that walks
abreast with time, space, reality,
That answers the pride which refuses every lesson but
What is prudence is indivisible,
Declines to separate one part of life from every part,
Divides not the righteous from the unrighteous or the
living from the dead,
Matches every thought or act by its correlative,
Knows no possible forgiveness or deputed atonement,
Knows that the young man who composedly perill'd his
life and lost it has done exceedingly well for himself
That he who never perill'd his life, but retains it to old
age in riches and ease, has probably achiev'd nothing
for himself worth mentioning,
Knows that only that person has really learn'd who has
learn'd to prefer results,
Who favours body and soul the same,
Who perceives the indirect assuredly following the direct,
Who in his spirit in any emergency whatever neither
hurries nor avoids death.
WARBLE FOR LILAC-TIME.
WARBLE me now for joy of lilac-time, (returning in
reminiscence,) [of earliest summer,
Sort me O tongue and lips for Nature's sake, souvenirs
Gather the welcome signs, (as children with pebbles or
stringing shells,) [the elastic air,
Put in April and May, the hylas croaking in the ponds,
Bees, butterflies, the sparrow with its simple notes,
Blue-bird and darting swallow, nor forget the high-hole
flashing his golden wings, [vapour,
The tranquil sunny haze, the clinging smoke, the
Shimmer of waters with fish in them, the cerulean
All that is jocund and sparkling, the brooks running,
The maple woods, the crisp February days and the
The robin where he hops, bright-eyed, brown-breasted,
With musical clear call at sunrise, and again at sunset,
Or flitting among the trees of the apple-orchard, build-
ing the nest of his mate,
The melted snow of March, the willow sending forth its
For spring-time is here! the summer is here! and what
is this in it and from it? [not what;o 'er
Thou, soul, unloosen'd—the restlessness after I know
Come, let us lag here no longer, let us be up and away!
O if one could but fly like a bird!
O to escape, to sail forth as in a ship! [the waters;
To glide with thee O soul, o'er all, in all, as a ship
Gathering these hints, the preludes, the blue sky, the
grass, the morning drops of dew,
The lilac-scent, the bushes with dark green heart-shaped
Wood-violets, the little delicate pale blossoms called
Samples and sorts not for themselves alone, but for their
To grace the bush I love—to sing with the birds,
A warble for joy of lilac-time, returning in reminiscence.
VOCALISM, measure, concentration, determination, and
the divine power to speak words;
Are you full-lung'd and limber-lipp'd from long trial?
from vigorous practice? from physique?
Do you move in these broad lands as broad as they?
Come duly to the divine power to speak words!
For only at last after many years, after chastity, friend-
ship, procreation, prudence, and nakedness,
After treading ground and breasting river and lake,
After a loosen'd throat, after absorbing eras, tempera-
ments, races, after knowledge, freedom, crimes,
After complete faith, after clarifyings, elevations, and
After these and more, it is just possible there comes to a
man, a woman, the divine power to speak words;
Then toward that man or that woman swiftly hasten all
—none refuse, all attend,
Armies, ships, antiquities, libraries, paintings, machines,
cities, hate, despair, amity, pain, theft, murder,
aspiration, form in close ranks,
They debouch as they are wanted to march obediently
through the mouth of that man or that woman.
O what is it in me that makes me tremble so at voices?
Surely whoever speaks to me in the right voice, him or
her I shall follow,
As the water follows the moon, silently, with fluid steps,
anywhere around the globe.
All waits for the right voices; [develop'd soul?
Where is the practis'd and perfect organ? where is the
For I see every word utter'd thence has deeper, sweeter,
new sounds, impossible on less terms.
I see brains and lips closed, tympans and temples
Until that comes which has the quality to strike and to
Until that comes which has the quality to bring forth
what lies slumbering forever ready in all words.
WHY, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge
of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed
at night with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining
so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread
with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks— the motion of the
waves—the ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?
WHERE the city's ceaseless crowd moves on the livelong
Withdrawn I join a group of children watching, I pause
aside with them.
By the curb toward the edge of the flagging,
A knife-grinder works at his wheel sharpening a great
Bending over he carefully holds it to the stone, by foot
With measur'd tread he turns rapidly, as he presses with
light but firm hand,
Forth issue then in copious golden jets,
Sparkles from the wheel.
The scene and all its belongings, how they seize and
The sad sharp-chinn'd old man with worn clothes and
broad shoulder-band of leather,
Myself effusing and fluid, a phantom curiously floating,
now here absorb'd and arrested,
The group, (an unminded point set in a vast surrounding,)
The attentive, quiet children, the loud, proud, restive
base of the streets,
The low hoarse purr of the whirling stone, the light-
press'd blade, [of gold,
Diffusing, dropping, sideways-darting, in tiny showers
Sparkles from the wheel.
TO A PUPIL.
IS reform needed? is it through you?
The greater the reform needed, the greater the Person-
ality you need to accomplish it.
You! do you not see how it would serve to have eyes,
blood, complexion, clean and sweet?
Do you not see how it would serve to have such a body
and soul that when you enter the crowd an
atmosphere of desire and command enters with you,
and every one is impress'd with your Personality?
O the magnet! the flesh over and over!
Go, dear friend, if need be give up all else, and com-
mence to-day to inure yourself to pluck, reality,
self-esteem, definiteness, elevatedness,
Rest not till you rivet and publish yourself of your own
UNFOLDED OUT OF THE FOLDS.
UNFOLDED out of the folds of the woman man comes
unfolded, and is always to come unfolded,
Unfolded only out of the superbest woman of the earth
is to come the superbest man of the earth,
Unfolded out of the friendliest woman is to come the
Unfolded only out of the perfect body of a woman can a
man be form'd of perfect body,
Unfolded only out of the inimitable poems of woman
can come the poems of man, (only thence have my
Unfolded out of the strong and arrogant woman I love,
only thence can appear the strong and arrogant
man I love,
Unfolded by brawny embraces from the well-muscled
woman I love, only thence come the brawny embraces
of the man,
Unfolded out of the folds of the woman's brain come all
the folds of the man's brain, duly obedient,
Unfolded out of the justice of the woman all justice is
Unfolded out of the sympathy of the woman is all
A man is a great thing upon the earth and through
eternity, but every jot of the greatness of man is
unfolded out of woman;
First the man is shaped in the woman, he can then be
shaped in himself.
WHO includes diversity and is Nature,
Who is the amplitude of the earth, and the coarseness
and sexuality of the earth, and the great charity of
the earth, and the equilibrium also,
Who has not look'd forth from the windows the eyes
for nothing, or whose brain held audience with
messengers for nothing,
Who contains believers and disbelievers, who is the most
Who holds duly his or her triune proportion of realism,
spiritualism, and of the æsthetic or intellectual,
Who having consider'd the body finds all its organs and
Who, out of the theory of the earth and of his or her
body understands by subtle analogies all other
The theory of a city, a poem, and of the large politics of
Who believes not only in our globe with its sun and
moon, but in other globes with their suns and
Who, constructing the house of himself or herself, not
for a day but for all time, sees races, eras, dates,
The past, the future, dwelling there, like space, insepar-
WHO LEARNS MY LESSON COMPLETE?
WHO learns my lesson complete?
Boss, journeyman, apprentice, churchman and atheist,
The stupid and the wise thinker, parents and offspring,
merchant, clerk, porter and customer,
Editor, author, artist, and schoolboy—draw nigh and
It is no lesson—it lets down the bars to a good lesson,
And that to another, and every one to another still.
The great laws take and effuse without argument,
I am of the same style, for I am their friend,
I love them quits and quits, I do not halt and make
I lie abstracted and hear beautiful tales of things and
the reasons of things,
They are so beautiful I nudge myself to listen.
I cannot say to any person what I hear—I cannot say it
to myself—it is very wonderful.
It is no small matter, this round and delicious globe
moving so exactly in its orbit for ever and ever,
without one jolt or the untruth of a single second,
I do not think it was made in six days, nor in ten
thousand years, nor ten billions of years,
Nor plann'd and built one thing after another as an
architect plans and builds a house.
I do not think seventy years is the time of a man or
Nor that seventy millions of years is the time of a man
Nor that years will ever stop the existence of me, or any
Is it wonderful that I should be immortal? as every one
I know it is wonderful, but my eyesight is equally
wonderful, and how I was conceived in my mother's
womb is equally wonderful,
And pass'd from a babe in the creeping trance of a couple
of summers and winters to articulate and walk—all
this is equally wonderful.
And that my soul embraces you this hour, and we affect
each other without ever seeing each other, and never
perhaps to see each other, is every bit as wonderful.
And that I can think such thoughts as these is just as
And that I can remind you, and you think them and
know them to be true, is just as wonderful.
And that the moon spins round the earth and on with
the earth, is equally wonderful,
And that they balance themselves with the sun and
stars is equally wonderful.
ALL submit to them where they sit, inner, secure, unap-
proachable to analysis in the soul,
Not traditions, not the outer authorities are the judges,
They are the judges of outer authorities and of all
They corroborate as they go only whatever corroborates
themselves, and touches themselves;
For all that, they have it forever in themselves to corro-
borate far and near without one exception.
ON my Northwest coast in the midst of the night a
fishermen's group stands watching,
Out on the lake that expands before them, others are
The canoe, a dim shadowy thing, moves across the black
Bearing a torch ablaze at the prow.
O STAR OF FRANCE.
O STAR of France,
The brightness of thy hope and strength and fame,
Like some proud ship that led the fleet so long,
Beseems to-day a wreck driven by the gale, a mastless
And 'mid its teeming madden'd half-drown'd crowds,
Nor helm nor helmsman.
Dim smitten star,
Orb not of France alone, pale symbol of my soul, its
The struggle and the daring, rage divine for liberty,
Of aspirations toward the far ideal, enthusiast's dreams
Of terror to the tyrant and the priest.
Star crucified—by traitors sold,
Star panting o'er a land of death, heroic land,
Strange, passionate, mocking, frivolous land.
Miserable! yet for thy errors, vanities, sins, I will not
now rebuke thee,
Thy unexampled woes and pangs have quell'd them all,
And left thee sacred.
In that amid thy many faults thou ever aimedst highly,
In that thou wouldst not really sell thyself however great
In that thou surely wakedst weeping from thy drugg'd
In that alone among thy sisters thou, giantess, didst rend
the ones that shamed thee,
In that thou couldst not, wouldst not, wear the usual
This cross, thy livid face, thy pierced hands and feet,
The spear thrust in thy side.
O star! O ship of France, beat back and baffled long!
Bear up O smitten orb! O ship continue on!
Sure as the ship of all, the Earth itself,
Product of deathly fire and turbulent chaos,
Forth from its spasms of fury and its poisons,
Issuing at last in perfect power and beauty,
Onward beneath the sun following its course,
So thee O ship of France!
Finish'd the days, the clouds dispell'd
The travail o'er, the long-sought extrication,
When lo! reborn, high o'er the European world,
(In gladness answering thence, as face afar to face,
reflecting ours Columbia,)
Again thy star O France, fair lustrous star,
In heavenly peace, clearer, more bright than ever,
Shall beam immortal.
AN OLD MAN'S THOUGHT OF SCHOOL.
(For the Inauguration of a Public School, Camden, New
AN old man's thought of school,
An old man gathering youthful memories and blooms
that youth itself cannot.
Now only do I know you,
O fair auroral skies—O morning dew upon the grass!
And these I see, these sparkling eyes,
These stores of mystic meaning, these young lives,
Building, equipping like a fleet of ships, immortal ships,
Soon to sail out over the measureless seas,
On the soul's voyage.
Only a lot of boys and girls?
Only the tiresome spelling, writing, ciphering classes?
Only a public school?
Ah more, infinitely more;
(As George Fox rais'd his warning cry, "Is it this pile
of brick and mortar, these dead floors, windows,
rails, you call the church?
Why this is not the church at all—the church is living,
ever living souls.")
And you America,
Cast you the real reckoning for your present
The lights and shadows of your future, good or evil?
To girlhood, boyhood look, the teacher and the school.
IN a little house keep I pictures suspended, it is not a
fix'd house, [the other;
It is round, it is only a few inches from one side to
Yet behold, it has room for all the shows of the world,
all memories! [death;
Here the tableaus of life, and here the groupings of
Here, do you know this? this is cicerone himself,
With finger rais'd he points to the prodigal pictures.
WITH ALL THY GIFTS.
WITH all thy gifts America,
Standing secure, rapidly tending, overlooking the world,
Power, wealth, extent, vouchsafed to thee—with these
and like of these vouchsafed to thee,
What if one gift thou lackest? (the ultimate human
problem never solving,)
The gift of perfect women fit for thee—what if that gift
of gifts thou lackest?
The towering feminine of thee? the beauty, health,
completion, fit for thee?
The mothers fit for thee?
WANDERING at morn,
Emerging from the night from gloomy thoughts, thee in
my thoughts, [bird divine!
Yearning for thee harmonious Union! thee, singing
Thee coil'd in evil times my country, with craft and
black dismay, with every meanness, treason thrust
This common marvel I beheld—the parent thrush I
watch'd feeding its young,
The singing thrush whose tones of joy and faith ecstatic
Fail not to certify and cheer my soul.
There ponder'd, felt I,
If worms, snakes, loathsome grubs, may to sweet
spiritual songs be turn'd,
If vermin so transposed, so used and blessed may be,
Then may I trust in you, your fortunes, days, my
Who knows but these may be the lessons fit for you?
From these your future song may rise with joyous trills,
Destin'd to fill the world.
THE PRAIRIE STATES.
A NEWER garden of creation, no primal solitude,
Dense, joyous, modern, populous millions, cities and
With iron interlaced, composite, tied, many in one,
By all the world contributed—freedom's and law's and
thrift's society, [accumulations,
The crown and teeming paradise, so far, of time's
To justify the past.
PROUD music of the storm,
Blast that careers so free, whistling across the prairies,
Strong hum of forest tree-tops—wind of the mountains,
Personified dim shapes—you hidden orchestras,
You serenades of phantoms with instruments alert,
Blending with Nature's rhythmus all the tongues of
You chords left as by vast composers—you choruses,
You formless, free, religious dances—you from the
You undertone of rivers, roar of pouring cataracts,
You sounds from distant guns with galloping cavalry,
Echoes of camps with all the different bugle-calls,
Trooping tumultuous, filling the midnight late, bending
Entering my lonesome slumber-chamber, why have you
Come forward O my soul, and let the rest retire,
Listen, lose not, it is toward thee they tend,
Parting the midnight, entering my slumber-chamber,
For thee they sing and dance O soul.
A festival song,
The duet of the bridegroom and the bride, a marriage-
With lips of love, and hearts of lovers fill'd to the brim
The red-flush'd cheeks and perfumes, the cortege swarm-
ing full of friendly faces young and old,
To flutes' clear notes and sounding harps' cantabile.
Now loud approaching drums,
Victoria! seest thou in powder-smoke the banners torn
but flying? the rout of the baffled?
Hearest those shouts of a conquering army?
(Ah soul, the sobs of women, the wounded groaning in
The hiss and crackle of flames, the blacken'd ruins, the
embers of cities,
The dirge and desolation of mankind.)
Now airs antique and mediæval fill me,
I see and hear old harpers with their harps at Welsh
I hear the minnesingers singing their lays of love,
I hear the minstrels, gleemen, troubadours, of the
Now the great organ sounds,
Tremulous, while underneath, (as the hid footholds of
On which arising rest, and leaping forth depend,
All shapes of beauty, grace and strength, all hues we
Green blades of grass and warbling birds, children that
gambol and play, the clouds of heaven above,)
The strong base stands, and its pulsations intermits not,
Bathing, supporting, merging all the rest, maternity of
all the rest,
And with it every instrument in multitudes,
The players playing, all the world's musicians,
The solemn hymns and masses rousing adoration,
All passionate heart-chants, sorrowful appeals,
The measureless sweet vocalists of ages,
And for their solvent setting earth's own diapason,
Of winds and woods and mighty ocean waves,
A new composite orchestra, binder of years and climes,
As of the far-back days the poets tell, the Paradiso,
The straying thence, the separation long, but now the
The journey done, the journeyman come home,
And man and art with Nature fused again.
Tutti! for earth and heaven; [wand.)
(The Almighty leader now for once has signall'd with his
The manly strophe of the husbands of the world,
And all the wives responding.
The tongues of violins,
(I think O tongues ye tell this heart, that cannot tell
This brooding yearning heart, that cannot tell itself.)
Ah from a little child,
Thou knowest soul how to me all sounds became music,
My mother's voice in lullaby or hymn,
(The voice, O tender voices, memory's loving voices,
Lost miracle of all, O dearest mother's, sister's, voices;)
The rain, the growing corn, the breeze among the long-
The measur'd sea-surf beating on the sand,
The twittering bird, the hawk's sharp scream,
The wild-fowl's notes at night as flying low migrating
north or south,
The psalm in the country church or mid the clustering
trees, the open air camp-meeting,
The fiddler in the tavern, the glee, the long-strung
sailor-song, [dawn.s heep, the crowing cock at
The lowing cattle, bleating
All songs of current lands come sounding round me,
The German airs of friendship, wine and love,
Irish ballads, merry jigs and dances, English warbles,
Chansons of France, Scotch tunes, and o'er the rest,
Italia's peerless compositions.
Across the stage with pallor on her face, yet lurid
Stalks Norma brandishing the dagger in her hand.
I see poor crazed Lucia's eyes' unnatural gleam,
Her hair down her back falls loose and dishevell'd.
I see where Ernani walking the bridal garden,
Amid the scent of night-roses, radiant, holding his bride
by the hand,
Hears the infernal call, the death-pledge of the horn.
To crossing swords and gray hairs bared to heaven,
The clear electric base and baritone of the world,
The trombone duo, Libertad forever!
From Spanish chestnut trees' dense shade,
By old and heavy convent walls a wailing song,
Song of lost love, the torch of youth and life quench'd
Song of the dying swan, Fernando's heart is breaking.
Awaking from her woes at last retriev'd Amina sings,
Copious as stars and glad as morning light the torrents
of her joy.
(The teeming lady comes,
The lustrious orb, Venus contralto, the blooming mother,
Sister of loftiest gods, Alboni's self I hear.)
I hear those odes, symphonies, operas,
I hear in the William Tell the music of an arous'd and
I hear Meyerbeer's Huguenots, the Prophet, or Robert,
Gounod's Faust, or Mozart's Don Juan.
I hear the dance-music of all nations,
The waltz, some delicious measure, lapsing, bathing me
The bolero to tinkling guitars and clattering castanets.
I see religious dances old and new,
I hear the sound of the Hebrew lyre,
I see the crusaders marching bearing the cross on high,
to the martial clang of cymbals,
I hear dervishes monotonously chanting, interspers'd
with frantic shouts, as they spin around turning
always towards Mecca,
I see the rapt religious dances of the Persians and the
Again, at Eleusis, home of Ceres, I see the modern
Greeks dancing, [bodies,
I hear them clapping their hands as they bend their
I hear the metrical shuffling of their feet.
I see again the wild old Corybantian dance, the per-
formers wounding each other,
I see the Roman youth to the shrill sound of flageolets
throwing and catching their weapons,
As they fall on their knees and rise again.
I hear from the Mussulman mosque the muezzin calling,
I see the worshippers within, nor form nor sermon,
argument nor word,
But silent, strange, devout, rais'd, glowing heads,
I hear the Egyptian harp of many strings,
The primitive chants of the Nile boatmen,
The sacred imperial hymns of China,
To the delicate sounds of the king, (the stricken wood
Or to Hindu flutes and the fretting twang of the vina,
A band of bayaderes.
Now Asia, Africa leave me, Europe seizing inflates me,
To organs huge and bands I hear as from vast con-
courses of voices,
Luther's strong hymn Eine feste Burg ist unser Gott,
Rossini's Stabat Mater dolorosa,
Or floating in some high cathedral dim with gorgeous
The passionate Agnus Dei or Gloria in Excelsis.
Composers! mighty maestros!
And you, sweet singers of old lands, soprani, tenori,
To you a new bard caroling in the West,
Obeisant sends his love.
(Such led to thee O soul,
All senses, shows and objects, lead to thee,
But now it seems to me sound leads o'er all the rest.)
I hear the annual singing of the children in St. Paul's
Or, under the high roof of some colossal hall, the
symphonies, oratorios of Beethoven, Handel, or
The Creation in billows of godhood laves me.
Give me to hold all sounds (I madly struggling cry,)
Fill me with all the voices of the universe,
Endow me with their thobbings, Nature's also,
The tempests, waters, winds, operas and chants, marches
Utter, pour in, for I would take them all!
Then I woke softly,
And pausing, questioning awhile the music of my dream,
And questioning all those reminiscences, the tempest in
And all the songs of sopranos and tenors,
And those rapt oriental dances of religious fervor,
And the sweet varied instruments, and the diapason of
And all the artless plaints of love and grief and death,
I said to my silent curious soul out of the bed of the
Come, for I have found the clew I sought so long,
Let us go forth refresh'd amid the day,
Cheerfully tallying life, walking the world, the real,
Nourish'd henceforth by our celestial dream.
And I said, moreover,
Haply what thou hast heard O soul was not the sound
Nor dream of raging storm, nor sea-hawk's flapping
wings nor harsh scream,
Nor vocalism of sun-bright Italy,
Nor German organ majestic, nor vast concourse of
voices, nor layers of harmonies,
Nor strophes of husbands and wives, nor sound of march-
Nor flutes, nor harps, nor the bugle-calls of camps,
But to a new rhythmus fitted for thee,
Poems bridging the way from Life to Death, vaguely
wafted in night air, uncaught, unwritten,
Which let us go forth in the bold day and write.
PRAYER OF COLUMBUS.
A BATTER'D, wreck'd old man,
Thrown on this savage shore, far, far from home,
Pent by the sea and dark rebellious brows, twelve
Sore, stiff with many toils, sicken'd and nigh to death,
I take my way along the island's edge,
Venting a heavy heart.
I am too full of woe!
Haply I may not live another day;
I cannot rest O God, I cannot eat or drink or sleep,
Till I put forth myself, my prayer, once more to Thee,
Breathe, bathe myself once more in Thee, commune with
Report myself once more to Thee.
Thou knowest my years entire, my life,
My long and crowded life of active work, not adoration
Thou knowest the prayers and vigils of my youth,
Thou knowest my manhood's solemn and visionary
Thou knowest how before I commenced I devoted all to
come to Thee,
Thou knowest I have in age ratified all those vows and
strictly kept them,
Thou knowest I have not once lost nor faith nor ecstasy
In shackles, prison'd, in disgrace, repining not,
Accepting all from Thee, as duly come from Thee.
All my emprises have been fill'd with Thee,
My speculations, plans, begun and carried on in thoughts
Sailing the deep or journeying the land for Thee;
Intentions, purports, aspirations mine, leaving results to
O I am sure they really came from Thee,
The urge, the ardor, the unconquerable will,
The potent, felt, interior command, stronger than
A message from the Heavens whispering to me even in
These sped me on.
By me and these the work so far accomplish'd,
By me earth's elder cloy'd and stifled lands uncloy'd,
By me the hemispheres rounded and tied, the unknown
to the known.
The end I know not, it is all in Thee,
Or small or great I know not—haply what broad fields,
Haply the brutish measureless human undergrowth I
Transplanted there may rise to stature, knowledge
Haply the swords I know may there indeed be turn'd to
Haply the lifeless cross I know, Europe's dead cross,
may bud and blossom there.
One effort more, my altar this bleak sand;
That Thou O God my life hast lighted,
With ray of light, steady, ineffable, vouchsafed of
Light rare untellable, lighting the very light,
Beyond all signs, descriptions, languages;
For that O God, be it my latest word, here on my
Old, poor, and paralyzed, I thank Thee.
My terminus near,
The clouds already closing in upon me,
The voyage balk'd, the course disputed, lost,
I yield my ships to Thee.
My hands, my limbs grow nerveless,
My brain feels rack'd, bewilder'd,
Let the old timbers part, I will not part,
I will cling fast to Thee O God, though the waves
Thee, Thee at least I know.
Is it the prophet's thought I speak, or am I raving?
What do I know of life? what of myself?
I know not even my own work past or present,
Dim ever-shifting guesses of it spread before me,
Of newer better worlds, their mighty parturition,
Mocking, perplexing me.
And these things I see suddenly, what mean they?
As if some miracle, some hand divine unseal'd my eyes,
Shadowy vast shapes smile through the air and sky,
And on the distant waves sail countless ships,
And anthems in new tongues I hear saluting me.
TO THINK OF TIME.
TO think of time—of all that retrospection,
To think of to-day, and the ages continued henceforward.
Have you guess'd you yourself would not continue?
Have you dreaded these earth-beetles?
Have you fear'd the future would be nothing to you?
Is to-day nothing? is the beginningless past nothing?
If the future is nothing they are just as surely nothing.
To think that the sun rose in the east—that men and
women were flexible, real, alive—that every thing
To think that you and I did not see, feel, think, nor
bear our part,
To think that we are now here and bear our part.
Not a day passes, not a minute or second without an
Not a day passes, not a minute or second without a
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 camphor-smell
has long 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
The breath ceases and the pulse of the heart ceases,
The corpse stretches on the bed and the living look
It is palpable as the living are palpable.
The living look upon the corpse with their eyesight,
But without eyesight lingers a different living and looks
curiously on the corpse.
To think the thought of death merged in the thought of
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 quite
(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 than
Slow-moving and black lines creep over the whole earth—
they never cease—they are the burial lines,
He that was President was buried, and he that is now
President shall surely be buried.
A reminiscence of the vulgar fate,
A frequent sample of the life and death of workmen,
Each after his kind.
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
A hearse and stages, the funeral of an old Broadway
stage-driver, the cortege mostly drivers.
Steady the trot to the cemetery, duly rattles the death-
The gate is pass'd, the new-dug grave is halted at, the
living alight, the hearse uncloses,
The coffin is pass'd out, lower'd and settled, the whip is
laid on the coffin, the earth is swiftly shovell'd in,
The mound above is flatted with the spades—silence,
A minute—no one moves or speaks—it is done,
He is decently put away—is there any thing more?
He was a good fellow, free-mouth'd, quick-temper'd, not
Ready with life or death for a friend, fond of women,
gambled, ate hearty, drank hearty,
Had known what it was to be flush, grew low-spirited
toward the last, sicken'd, was help'd by a contri-
Died, aged forty-one years—and that was his funeral.
Thumb extended, finger uplifted, apron, cape, gloves,
strap, wet-weather clothes, whip carefully chosen,
Boss, spotter, starter, hostler, somebody loafing on you,
you loafing on somebody, headway, man before and
Good day's work, bad day's work, pet stock, mean stock,
first out, last out, turning-in at night,
To think that these are so much and so nigh to other
drivers, and he there takes no interest in them.
The markets, the government, the working-man's wages,
to think what account they are through our nights
To think that other working-men will make just as
great account of them, yet we make little or no
The vulgar and the refined, what you call sin and what
you call goodness, to think how wide a difference,
To think the difference will still continue to others, yet
we lie beyond the difference.
To think how much pleasure there is,
Do you enjoy yourself in the city? or engaged in busi-
ness? or planning a nomination and election? 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 flow onward,
But in due time you and I shall take less interest in
Your farm, profits, crops—to think how engross'd you
are, [you of what avail?
To think there will still be farms, profits, crops, yet for
What will be will be well, for what is is well,
To take interest is well, and not to take interest shall
The domestic joys, the dally housework or business, the
building of houses, 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 delusion,
The earth is not an echo, man and his life and all the
things of his life are well-consider'd.
You are not thrown to the winds, you gather certainly
and safely around yourself,
Yourself! yourself!. yourself, for ever and ever!
It is not to diffuse you that you were born of your
mother and father, it is to identify you,
It is not that you should be undecided, but that you
should be decided,
Something long preparing and formless is arrived and
form'd in you,
You are henceforth secure, whatever comes or goes.
The threads that were spun are gather'd, the weft
crosses the warp, the pattern is systematic.
The preparations have every one been justified,
The orchestra have sufficiently tuned their instruments,
the baton has given the signal.
The guest that was coming, he waited long, he is now
He is one of those who are beautiful and happy, he is
one of those that to look upon and be with is
The law of the past cannot be eluded,
The law of the present and future cannot be eluded,
The law of the living cannot be eluded, it is eternal,
The law of promotion and transformation cannot be
The law of heroes and good-doers cannot be eluded,
The law of drunkards, informers, mean persons, not one
iota thereof can be eluded.
Slow moving and black lines go ceaselessly over the
Northerner goes carried and Southerner goes carried, and
they on the Atlantic side and they on the Pacific,
And they between, and all through the Mississippi
country, and all over the earth.
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 distinguish'd may be well,
But there is more account than that, there is strict
account of all.
The interminable hordes of the ignorant and wicked are
The barbarians of Africa and Asia are not nothing,
The perpetual successions of shallow people are not
nothing, as they go.
Of and in all these things,
I have dream'd that we are not to be changed so much,
nor the law of us changed,
I have dream'd 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 dream'd that the law they are under now is
And I have dream'd that the purpose and essence of the
known life, the transient,
Is to form and decide identity for the unknown life,
If I came but to ashes of dung,
If maggots and rats ended us, then Alarum! for we are
Then indeed suspicion of death.
Do you suspect death? if I were to suspect death I
should die now,
Do you think I could walk pleasantly and well-suited
Pleasantly and well-suited I walk,
Whither I walk I cannot define, but I know it is good,
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 the earth, and the minutest thing upon it!
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 perfect;
Slowly and surely they have pass'd on to this, and
slowly and surely they yet pass on.
I swear I think now that every thing without exception
has an eternal soul!
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 nebulous
float is for it, and the cohering is for it!
And all preparation is for it—and identity is for it—
and life and materials are altogether for it!
DAREST THOU NOW O SOUL.
DAREST thou now O soul,
Walk out with me toward the unknown region,
Where neither ground is for the feet nor any path to
No map there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in
I know it not O soul,
Nor dost thou, all is a blank before us,
All waits undream'd of in that region, that inaccessible
Till when the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds
Then we burst forth, we float,
In Time and Space O soul, prepared for them,
Equal, equipt at last, (O joy! O fruit of all!) them to
fulfil O soul.
WHISPERS OF HEAVENLY DEATH.
WHISPERS of heavenly death murmur'd I hear,
Labial gossip of night, sibilant chorals,
Footsteps gently ascending, mystical breezes wafted soft
Ripples of unseen rivers, tides of a current flowing,
(Or is it the plashing of tears? the measureless waters of
I see, just see skyward, great cloud-masses,
Mournfully slowly they roll, silently swelling and
With at times a half-dimm'd sadden'd far-off star,
Appearing and disappearing.
(Some parturition rather, some solemn immortal birth;
On the frontiers to eyes impenetrable,
Some soul is passing over.)
YET, YET, YE DOWNCAST HOURS.
YET, yet, ye downcast hours, I know ye also,
Weights of lead, how ye clog and cling at my ankles,
Earth to a chamber of mourning turns—I hear the
o'erweening, mocking voice,Matter is conqueror— matter, triumphant only, continues
Despairing cries float ceaselessly toward me,
The call of my nearest lover, putting forth, alarm'd,
uncertain,The sea I am quickly to sail, come tell me,
Come tell me where I am speeding, tell me my destination.
I understand your anguish, but I cannot help you,
I approach, hear, behold, the sad mouth, the look out
of the eyes, your mute inquiry,Whither I go from the bed I recline on, come tell me;
Old age, alarm'd, uncertain—a young woman's voice,
appealing to me for comfort;
A young man's voice, Shall I not escape?
AS IF A PHANTOM CARESS'D ME.
AS if a phantom caress'd me,
I thought I was not alone walking here by the shore;
But the one I thought was with me as now I walk by
the shore, the one I loved that caress'd me,
As I lean and look through the glimmering light, that
one has utterly disappear'd.
And those appear that are hateful to me and mock me.
I NEED no assurances, I am a man who is preoccupied
of his own soul;
I do not doubt that from under the feet and beside the
hands and face I am cognizant of, are now looking
faces I am not cognizant of, calm and actual faces,n ot doubt but the majesty and beauty of the world
are latent in any iota of the world,
I do not doubt I am limitless, and that the universes
are limitless, in vain I try to think how limitless,
I do not doubt that the orbs and the systems of orbs
play their swift sports through the air on purpose,
and that I shall one day be eligible to do as much
as they, and more than they,
I do not doubt that temporary affairs keep on and on
millions of years,
I do not doubt interiors have their interiors, and exteriors
have their exteriors, and that the eyesight has
another eyesight, and the hearing another hearing,
and the voice another voice,
I do not doubt that the passionately-wept deaths of
young men are provided for, and that the deaths of
young women and the deaths of little children are
(Did you think Life was so well provided for, and Death,
the purport of all Life, is not well provided for?)
I do not doubt that wrecks at sea, no matter what the
horrors of them, no matter whose wife, child,
husband, father, lover, has gone down, are provided
for, to the minutest points,
I do not doubt that whatever can possibly happen any-
where at any time, is provided for in the inherences
I do not think Life provides for all and for Time and
Space, but I believe Heavenly Death provides for
QUICKSAND years that whirl me I know not whither,
Your schemes, politics, fail, lines give way, substances
mock and elude me,
Only the theme I sing, the great and strong-possess'd
soul, eludes not,
One's-self must never give way—that is the final sub-
stance—that out of all is sure,
Out of politics, triumphs, battles, life, what at last
When shows break up what but One's-Self is sure?
THE LAST INVOCATION.
AT the last, tenderly,
From the walls of the powerful fortress'd house,
From the clasp of the knitted locks, from the keep of
the well-closed doors,
Let me be wafted.
Let me glide noiselessly forth;
With the key of softness unlock the locks—with a
Set ope the doors O soul.
Tenderly—be not impatient,
(Strong is your hold O mortal flesh,
Strong is your hold O love.)
AS I WATCH'D THE PLOUGHMAN PLOUGHING.
AS I watch'd the ploughman ploughing,
Or the sower sowing in the fields, or the harvester
I saw there too, O life and death, your analogies;
(Life, life is the tillage, and Death is the harvest
AS I sit with others at a great feast, suddenly while the
music is playing,
To my mind, (whence it comes I know not,) spectral in
mist of a wreck at sea,
Of certain ships, how they sail from port with flying
streamers and wafted kisses, and that is the last of
Of the solemn and murky mystery about the fate of the
Of the flower of the marine science of fifty generations
founder'd off the Northeast coast and going down—
of the steamship Arctic going down,
Of the veil'd tableau—women gather'd together on
deck, pale, heroic, waiting the moment that draws
so close—O the moment!
A huge sob—a few bubbles—the white foam squirting
up—and then the women gone,
Sinking there while the passionless wet flows on—and I
now pondering, Are those women indeed gone?
Are souls drown'd and destroy'd so?
Is only matter triumphant?
PENSIVE AND FALTERING.
PENSIVE and faltering,
The words the Dead I write,
For living are the Dead,
(Haply the only living, only real,
And I the apparition, I the spectre.)
THOU Mother with thy equal brood,
Thou varied chain of different States, yet one identity
A special song before I go I'd sing o'er all the rest,
For thee, the future.
I'd sow a seed for thee of endless Nationality,
I'd fashion thy ensemble including body and soul,
I'd show away ahead thy real Union, and how it may be
The paths to the house I seek to make,
But leave to those to come the house itself.
Belief I sing, and preparation;
As Life and Nature are not great with reference to the
But greater still from what is yet to come,
Out of that formula for thee I sing.
As a strong bird on pinions free,
Joyous, the amplest spaces heavenward cleaving,
Such be the thought I'd think of thee America,
Such be the recitative I'd bring for thee.
The conceits of the poets of other lands I'd bring thee
Nor the compliments that have served their turn so
Nor rhyme, nor the classics, nor perfume of foreign
court or indoor library;
But an odor I'd bring as from forests of pine in Maine,
or breath of an Illinois prairie,
With open airs of Virginia or Georgia or Tennessee, or
from Texas uplands, or Florida's glades,
Or the Saguenay's black stream, or the wide blue spread
With presentment of Yellowstone's scenes, or Yosemite,
And murmuring under, pervading all, I'd bring the
That endlessly sounds from the two Great Seas of the
And for thy subtler sense subtler refrains dread Mother,
Preludes of intellect tallying these and thee, mind-
formulas fitted for thee, real and sane and large as
these and thee,
Thou! mounting higher, diving deeper than we knew,
thou transcendental Union!
By thee fact to be justified, blended with thought,
Thought of man justified, blended with God,
Through thy idea, lo, the immortal reality!
Through thy reality, lo, the immortal idea!
Brain of the New World, what a task is thine,
To formulate the Modern—out of the peerless grandeur
of the modern,
Out of thyself, comprising science, to recast poems,
(Recast, may-be discard them, end them—may-be their
work is done, who knows?)
By vision, hand, conception, on the background of the
mighty past, the dead,
To limn with absolute faith the mighty living present.
And yet thou living present brain, heir of the dead, the
Old World brain,
Thou that lay folded like an unborn babe within its
folds so long,
Thou carefully prepared by it so long—haply thou but
unfoldest it, only maturest it,
It to eventuate in thee—the essence of the by-gone time
contain'd in thee,
Its poems, churches, arts, unwitting to themselves,
destined with reference to thee;
Thou but the apples, long, long, long a-growing,
The fruit of all the Old ripening to-day in thee.
Sail, sail thy best, ship of Democracy,
Of value is thy freight, 'tis not the Present only,
The Past is also stored in thee,
Thou holdest not the venture of thyself alone, not of the
Western continent alone,
Earth's résumé entire floats on thy keel O ship, is
steadied by thy spars,
With thee Time voyages in trust, the antecedent nations
sink or swim with thee,
With all their ancient struggles, martyrs, heroes, epics,
wars, thou bear'st the other continents,
Theirs, theirs as much as thine, the destination-port
Steer then with good strong hand and wary eye O
helmsman, thou carriest great companions,
Venerable priestly Asia sails this day with thee,
And royal feudal Europe sails with thee.
Beautiful world of new superber birth that rises to my
Like a limitless golden cloud filling the western sky,
Emblem of general maternity lifted above all,
Sacred shape of the bearer of daughters and sons,
Out of thy teeming womb thy giant babes in ceaseless
Acceding from such gestation, taking and giving con-
tinual strength and life,
World of the real—world of the twain in one,
World of the soul, born by the world of the real alone,
led to identity, body, by it alone,
Yet in beginning only, incalculable masses of composite
By history's cycles forwarded, by every nation, language,
Ready, collected here, a freer, vast, electric world, to be
(The true New World, the world of orbic science, morals,
literatures to come,)
Thou wonder world yet undefined, unform'd, neither do
I define thee,
How can I pierce the impenetrable blank of the future?
I feel thy ominous greatness evil as well as good,
I watch thee advancing, absorbing the present, tran-
scending the past,
I see thy light lighting, and thy shadow shadowing, as
if the entire globe,
But I do not undertake to define thee, hardly to com-
I but thee name, thee prophesy, as now,
I merely thee ejaculate!
Thee in thy future,
Thee in thy only permanent life, career, thy own un-
loosen'd mind, thy soaring spirit,
Thee as another equally needed sun, radiant, ablaze,
swift-moving, fructifying all,
Thee risen in potent cheerfulness and joy, in endless
Scattering for good the cloud that hung so long, that
weigh'd so long upon the mind of man,
The doubt, suspicion, dread, of gradual, certain deca-
dence of man;
Thee in thy larger, saner brood of female, male—thee in
thy athletes, moral, spiritual, South, North, West,
(To thy immortal breasts, Mother of All, thy every
daughter, son, endear'd alike, forever equal,)
Thee in thy own musicians, singers, artists, unborn yet,
Thee in thy moral wealth and civilisation, (until which
thy proudest material civilisation must remain in
Thee in thy all-supplying, all-enclosing worship—thee
in no single bible, saviour, merely,
Thy saviours countless, latent within thyself, thy bibles
incessant within thyself, equal to any, divine as any,
(Thy soaring course thee formulating, not in thy two
great wars, nor in thy century's visible growth,
But far more in these leaves and chants, thy chants,
great Mother!) [students, born of thee,
Thee in an education grown of thee, in teachers, studies,
Thee in thy democratic fêtes en-masse, thy high original
festivals, operas, lecturers, preachers,
Thee in thy ultimate, (the preparations only now com-
pleted, the edifice on sure foundations tied,)
Thee in thy pinnacles, intellect, thought, thy topmost
rational joys, thy love and godlike aspiration,
In thy resplendent coming literati, thy full-lung'd
orators, thy sacerdotal bards, kosmic savans,
These! these in thee, (certain to come,) to-day I
Land tolerating all, accepting all, not for the good alone,
all good for thee,
Land in the realms of God to be a realm unto thyself,
Under the rule of God to be a rule unto thyself.
(Lo, where arise three peerless stars,
To be thy natal stars my country, Ensemble, Evolution,
Set in the sky of Law.)
Land of unprecedented faith, God's faith,
Thy soil, thy very subsoil, all upheav'd,
The general inner earth so long so sedulously draped
over, now hence for what it is boldly laid bare,
Open'd by thee to heaven's light for benefit or bale.
Not for success alone,
Not to fair-sail unintermitted always,
The storm shall dash thy face, the murk of war and
worse than war shall cover thee all over,
(Wert capable of war, its tug and trials? be capable of
peace, its trials,
For the tug and mortal strain of nations come at last in
prosperous peace, not war;)
In many a smiling mask death shall approach beguiling
thee, thou in disease shalt swelter,
The livid cancer spread its hideous claws, clinging upon
thy breasts, seeking to strike thee deep within,
Consumption of the worst, moral consumption, shall
rouge thy face with hectic,
But thou shalt face thy fortunes, thy diseases, and
surmount them all,
Whatever they are to-day and whatever through time
they may be,
They each and all shall lift and pass away and cease
While thou, Time's spirals rounding, out of thyself,
thyself still extricating, fusing,
Equable, natural, mystical Union thou, (the mortal with
Shalt soar toward the fulfilment of the future, the spirit
of the body and the mind,
The soul, its destinies.
The soul, its destinies, the real real,
(Purport of all these apparitions of the real;)
In thee America, the soul, its destinies,
Thou globe of globes! thou wonder nebulous!
By many a throe of heat and cold convuls'd, (by these
Thou mental, moral orb—thou New, indeed new,
The Present holds thee not— for such vast growth as
For such unparallel'd flight as thine, such brood as thine,
The FUTURE only holds thee and can hold thee.
THOU ORB ALOFT FULL-DAZZLING.
THOU orb aloft full-dazzling! thou hot October noon!
Flooding with sheeny light the gray beach sand,
The sibilant near sea with vistas far and foam,
And tawny streaks and shades and spreading blue;
O sun of noon refulgent! my special word to thee.
Hear me illustrious!
Thy lover me, for always I have loved thee,
Even as basking babe, then happy boy alone by some
wood edge, thy touching-distant beams enough,
Or man matured, or young or old, as now to thee I
launch my invocation.
(Thou canst not with thy dumbness me deceive,
I know before the fitting man all Nature yields,
Though answering not in words, the skies, trees, hear
his voice—and thou O sun,
As for thy throes, thy perturbations, sudden breaks and
shafts of flame gigantic,
I understand them, I know those flames, those pertur-
Thou that with fructifying heat and light,
O'er myriad farms, o'er lands and waters North and
O'er Mississippi's endless course, o'er Texas' grassy
plains, Kanada's woods,
O'er all the globe that turns its face to thee shining in
Thou that impartially infoldest all, not only continents,
Thou that to grapes and weeds and little wild flowers
givest so liberally,
Shed, shed thyself on mine and me, with but a fleeting
ray out of thy million millions,
Strike through these chants.
Nor only launch thy subtle dazzle and thy strength for
Prepare the later afternoon of me myself—prepare my
Prepare my starry nights.
O MAGNET-SOUTH! O glistening perfumed South! my
O quick mettle, rich blood, impulse and love! good and
evil! O all dear to me!
O dear to me my birth-things—all moving things and
the trees where I was born—the grains, plants,
Dear to me my own slow sluggish rivers where they
flow, distant, over flats of slivery sands or through
Dear to me the Roanoke, the Savannah, the Altamahaw,
the Pedee, the Tombigbee, the Santee, the Coosa
and the Sabine,
O pensive, far away wandering, I return with my soul to
haunt their banks again,
Again in Florida I float on transparent lakes, I float on
the Okeechobee, I cross the hummock-land or
through pleasant openings or dense forests,
I see the parrots in the woods, I see the papaw-tree and
the blossoming titi;
Again, sailing in my coaster on deck, I coast off Georgia,
I coast up the Carolinas,
I see where the live-oak is growing, I see where the
yellow-pine, the scented bay-tree, the lemon and
orange, the cypress, the graceful palmetto,
I pass rude sea-headlands and enter Pamlico sound
through an inlet, and dart my vision inland;
O the cotton plant! the growing fields of rice, sugar,
hemp! [large white flowers,
The cactus guarded with thorns, the laurel-tree with
The range afar, the richness and barrenness, the old
woods charged with mistletoe and trailing moss,
The piney odour and the gloom, the awful natural
stillness, (here in these dense swamps the freebooter
carries his gun, and the fugitive has his conceal'd
O the strange fascination of these half-known half-
impassable swamps, infested by reptiles, resounding
with the bellow of the alligator, the sad noises of
the night-owl and the wild-cat, and the whirr of the
The mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing all the
forenoon, singing through the moonlit night,
The humming-bird, the wild turkey, the raccoon, the
A Kentucky corn-field, the tall, graceful, long-leav'd
corn, slender, flapping, bright green, with tassels,
with beautiful ears each well-sheath'd in its husk;
O my heart! O tender and fierce pangs, I can stand
them not, I will depart;
O to be a Virginian where I grew up! O to be a
O longings irrepressible! O I will go back to old
Tennessee and never wander more.
I WAS asking for something specific and perfect for my
Whereupon lo! upsprang the aboriginal name.
Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid, sane,
unruly, musical, self-sufficient,
I see that the word of my city is that word from of old,
Because I see that word nested in nests of water-bays,
Rich, hemm'd thick all around with sailships and steam-
ships, an island sixteen miles long, solid-founded,
Numberless crowded streets, high growths of iron,
slender, strong, light, splendidly uprising toward
clear skies, [down,
Tides swift and ample, well-loved by me, toward sun-
The flowing sea-currents, the little islands, larger
adjoining islands, the heights, the villas,
The countless masts, the white shore-steamers, the
lighters, the ferry-boats, the black sea-steamers
The down-town streets, the jobbers' houses of business,
the houses of business of the ship-merchants and
money-brokers, the river-streets,
Immigrants arriving, fifteen or twenty thousand in a
The carts hauling goods, the manly race of drivers of
horses, the brown-faced sailors,
The summer air, the bright sun shining, and the sailing
The winter snows, the sleigh-bells, the broken ice in the
river, passing along up or down with the flood-tide
The mechanics of the city, the masters, well-form'd,
beautiful-faced, looking you straight in the eyes,
Trottoirs throng'd, vehicles, Broadway, the women, the
shops and shows,
A million people—manners free and superb—open
voices—hospitality—the most courageous and
friendly young men, [masts!
City of hurried and sparkling waters! city of spires and
City nested in bays! my city!
A RIDDLE SONG.
THAT which eludes this verse and any verse,
Unheard by sharpest ear, unform'd in clearest eye or
Nor lore nor fame, nor happiness nor wealth,
And yet the pulse of every heart and life throughout the
Which you and I and all pursuing ever ever miss,
Open but still a secret, the real of the real, an illusion,
Costless, vouchsafed to each, yet never man the owner,
Which poets vainly seek to put in rhyme, historians in
Which sculptor never chisell'd yet, nor painter painted,
Which vocalist never sung, nor orator nor actor ever
Invoking here and now I challenge for my song.
Indifferently, 'mid public, private haunts, in solitude,
Behind the mountain and the wood,
Companion of the city's busiest streets, through the
It and its radiations constantly glide.
In looks of fair unconscious babes,
Or strangely in the coffin'd dead,
Or show of breaking dawn or stars by night,
As some dissolving delicate film of dreams,
Hiding yet lingering.
Two little breaths of words comprising it,
Two words, yet all from first to last comprised in it.
How ardently for it!
How many ships have sail'd and sunk for it!
How many travellers started from their homes and ne'er
How much of genius boldly staked and lost for it!
What countless stores of beauty, love, ventur'd for it!
How all superbest deeds since Time began are traceable
to it—and shall be to the end!
How all heroic martyrdoms to it!
How, justified by it, the horrors, evils, battles of the
How the bright fascinating lambent flames of it, in every
age and land, have drawn men's eyes,
Rich as a sunset on the Norway coast, the sky, the
islands, and the cliffs,
Or midnight's silent glowing northern lights unreachable.
Haply God's riddle it, so vague and yet so certain,
The soul for it, and all the visible universe for it,
And heaven at last for it.
WHO has gone farthest? for I would go farther,
And who has been just? for I would be the most just
person of the earth,
And who most cautious? for I would be more cautious,
And who has been happiest? O I think it is I—I think
no one was ever happier than I, [best I have,
And who has lavish'd all? for I lavish constantly the
And who proudest? for I think I have reason to be the
proudest son alive—for I am the son of the brawny and
And who has been bold and true? for I would be the
boldest and truest being of the universe,
And who benevolent? for I would show more benevo-
lence than all the rest,
And who has receiv'd the love of the most friends? for
I know what it is to receive the passionate love of
And who possesses a perfect and enamour'd body? for
I do not believe any one possesses a more perfect or
enamour'd body than mine,
And who thinks the amplest thoughts? for I would
surround those thoughts,
And who has made hymns fit for the earth? for I am mad
with devouring ecstasy to make joyous hymns for
the whole earth.
IN midnight sleep of many a face of anguish,
Of the look at first of the mortally wounded, (of that
Of the dead on their backs with arms extended wide,
I dream, I dream, I dream.
Of scenes of Nature, fields and mountains,
Of skies so beauteous after a storm, and at night the
moon so unearthly bright,
Shining sweetly, shining down, where we dig the
trenches and gather the heaps,
I dream, I dream, I dream.
Long have they pass'd, faces and trenches and fields,
Where through the carnage I moved with a callous
composure, or away from the fallen,
Onward I sped at the time—but now of their forms at night,
I dream, I dream, I dream.
WHAT BEST I SEE IN THEE.
To U. S. Grant. return'd from his World's Tour.
WHAT best I see in thee,
Is not that where thou mov'st down history's great
Ever undimm'd by time shoots warlike victory's dazzle,
Or that thou sat'st where Washington sat, ruling the
land in peace,
Or thou the man whom feudal Europe feted, venerable
Asia swarm'd upon, [promenade;
Who walk'd with kings with even pace the round world's
But that in foreign lands, in all thy walks with kings,
Those prairie sovereigns of the West, Kansas, Missouri,
Ohio's, Indiana's millions, comrades, farmers, soldiers, all
to the front,
Invisibly with thee walking with kings with even pace
the round world's promenade,
Were all so justified.
THICK-SPRINKLED bunting! flag of stars!
Long yet your road, fateful flag—long yet your road, and
lined with bloody death,
For the prize I see at issue at last is the world,
All its ships and shores I see interwoven with your
threads greedy banner;
Dream'd again the flags of kings, highest borne to
O hasten flag of man—O with sure and steady step,
passing highest flags of kings,
Walk supreme to the heavens mighty symbol—run up
above them all,
Flag of stars! thick-sprinkled bunting!
AS I WALK THESE BROAD MAJESTIC DAYS.
AS I walk these broad majestic days of peace,
(For the war, the struggle of blood finish'd, wherein, O
Against vast odds erewhile having gloriously won,
Now thou stridest on, yet perhaps in time toward denser
Perhaps to engage in time in still more dreadful contests,
Longer campaigns and crises, labours beyond all others,)
Around me I hear that eclat of the world, politics,
The announcements of recognized things, science,
The approved growth of cities and the spread of inven-
I see the ships, (they will last a few years,)
The vast factories with their foremen and workmen,
And hear the indorsement of all, and do not object to it.
But I too announce solid things,
Science, ships, politics, cities, factories, are not nothing,
Like a grand procession to music of distant bugles
pouring, triumphantly moving, and grander heaving
They stand for realities—all is as it should be.
Then my realities;
What else is so real as mine?
Libertad and the divine average, freedom to every slave
on the face of the earth,
The rapt promises and luminè of seers, the spiritual
world, these centuries-lasting songs,
And our visions, the visions of poets, the most solid
announcements of any.
A CLEAR MIDNIGHT.
THIS is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the
themes thou lovest best,
Night, sleep, death and the stars.
AS THE TIME DRAWS NIGH.
AS the time draws nigh glooming a cloud,
A dread beyond of I know not what darkens me.
I shall go forth,
I shall traverse the States awhile, but I cannot tell
whither or how long,
Perhaps soon some day or night while I am singing my
voice will suddenly cease.
O book, O chants! must all then amount to but this?
Must we barely arrive at this beginning of us?—and yet
it is enough, O soul;
O soul, we have positively appear'd—that is enough.
YEARS OF THE MODERN.
YEARS of the modern! years of the unperform'd!
Your horizon rises, I see it parting away for more august
I see not America only, not only Liberty's nation but
other nations preparing,
I see tremendous entrances and exits, new combinations,
the solidarity of races,
I see that force advancing with irresistible power on the
(Have the old forces, the old wars, played their parts?
are the acts suitable to them closed?)
I see Freedom, completely arm'd and victorious and very
haughty, with Law on one side and Peace on the
A stupendous trio all issuing forth against the idea of
What historic denouements are these we so rapidly
I see men marching and countermarching by swift
I see the frontiers and boundaries of the old aristocracies
I see the landmarks of European kings removed,
I see this day the People beginning their landmarks, (all
others give way;)
Never were such sharp questions ask'd as this day,
Never was average man, his soul, more energetic, more
like a God,
Lo, how he urges and urges, leaving the masses no rest!
His daring foot is on land and sea everywhere, he
colonises the Pacific, the archipelagoes,
With the steamship, the electric telegraph, the news-
paper, the wholesale engines of war,
With these and the world-spreading factories he inter-
links all geography, all lands;
What whispers are these O lands, running ahead of you,
passing under the seas?
Are all nations communing? is there going to be but one
heart to the globe?
Is humanity forming en-masse? for lo, tyrants tremble,
crowns grow dim,
The earth, restive, confronts a new era, perhaps a general
No one knows what will happen next, such portents fill
the days and nights;
Years prophetical! the space ahead as I walk, as I
vainly try to pierce it, is full of phantoms,
Unborn deeds, things soon to be, project their shapes
around me, [of dreams O years!
This incredible rush and heat, this strange ecstatic fever
Your dreams O years, how they penetrate through me!
(I know not whether I sleep or wake;)
The perform'd America and Europe grow dim, retiring
in shadow behind me,
The unperform'd, more gigantic than ever, advance,
advance upon me.
ASHES OF SOLDIERS.
ASHES of soldiers South or North,
As I muse retrospective murmuring a chant in thought,
The war resumes, again to my sense your shapes,
And again the advance of the armies.
Noiseless as mists and vapours,
From their graves in the trenches ascending,
From cemeteries all through Virginia and Tennessee,
From every point of the compass out of the countless
In wafted clouds, in myriads large, or squads of twos or
threes or single ones they come,
And silently gather round me.
Now sound no note O trumpeters,
Not at the head of my cavalry parading on spirited
With sabres drawn and glistening, and carbines by
their thighs, (ah my brave horsemen!
My handsome tan-faced horsemen! what life, what joy
With all the perils were yours.)
Nor you drummers, neither at reveillé at dawn,
Nor the long roll alarming the camp, nor even the
muffled beat for burial,
Nothing from you this time O drummers bearing my
But aside from these and the marts of wealth and the
Admitting around me comrades close unseen by the rest
and voiceless, [alive,
The slain elate and alive again, the dust and debris
I chant this chant of my silent soul in the name of all
Faces so pale with wondrous eyes, very dear, gather
Draw close, but speak not.
Phantoms of countless lost,
Invisible to the rest henceforth become my companions,
Follow me ever—desert me not while I live.
Sweet are the blooming cheeks of the living—sweet are
the musical voices sounding,
But sweet, ah sweet, are the dead with their silent eyes.
Dearest comrades, all is over and long gone,
But love is not over—and what love, O comrades!
Perfume from battle-fields rising, up from the fœtor
Perfume therefore my chant, O love, immortal love,
Give me to bathe the memories of all dead soldiers,
Shroud them, embalm them, cover them all over with
Perfume all—make all wholesome,
Make these ashes to nourish and blossom,
O love, solve all, fructify all with the last chemistry.
Give me exhaustless, make me a fountain,
That I exhale love from me wherever I go like a moist
For the ashes of all dead soldiers South or North.
OF these years I sing,
How they pass and have pass'd through convuls'd pains,
as through parturitions,
How America illustrates birth, muscular youth, the
promise, the sure fulfilment, the absolute success,
despite of people—illustrates evil as well as good,
The vehement struggle so fierce for unity in one's-self;
How many hold despairingly yet to the models departed,
caste, myths, obedience, compulsion, and to infi-
How few see the arrived models, the athletes, the
Western States, or see freedom or spirituality, or
hold any faith in results,
(But I see the athletes, and I see the results of the war
glorious and inevitable, and they again leading to
How the great cities appear—how the Democratic
masses, turbulent, willful, as I love them,
How the whirl, the contest, the wrestle of evil with
good, the sounding and resounding, keep on and on,
How society waits unform'd, and is for a while between
things ended and things begun,
How America is the continent of glories, and of the
triumph of freedom and of the Democracies, and of
the fruits of society, and of all that is begun,
And how the States are complete in themselves,—and
how all triumphs and glories are complete in them-
selves, to lead onward,
And how these of mine and of the States will in their
turn be convuls'd, and serve other parturitions and
And how all people, sights, combinations, the demo-
cratic masses too, serve—and how every fact, and
war itself, with all its horrors, serves,
And how now or at any time each serves the exquisite
transition of death.
Of seeds dropping into the ground, of births,
Of the steady concentration of America, inland, upward,
to impregnable and swarming places,
Of what Indiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, and the rest,
are to be,
Of what a few years will show there in Nebraska,
Colorado, Nevada, and the rest,
(Or, afar, mounting the Northern Pacific to Sitka or
Of what the feuillage of America is the preparation for—
and of what all sights, North, South, East and
Of this Union welded in blood, of the solemn price paid,
of the unnamed lost ever present in my mind;
Of the temporary use of materials for identity's sake,
Of the present, passing, departing—of the growth of
completer men than any yet,
Of all sloping down there where the fresh free giver the
mother, the Mississippi flows,
Of mighty inland cities yet unsurvey'd and unsuspected,
Of the new and good names, of the modern develop-
ments, of inalienable homesteads,
Of a free and original life there, of simple diet and clean
and sweet blood,
Of litheness, majestic faces, clear eyes, and perfect
Of immense spiritual results future years far West, each
side of the Anahuacs,
Of these songs, well understood there, (being made for
Of the native scorn of grossness and gain there,
(O it lurks in me night and day—what is gain after all
to savageness and freedom?)
SONG AT SUNSET.
SPLENDOUR of ended day floating and filling me,
Hour prophetic, hour resuming the past,
Inflating my throat, you divine average,
You earth and life till the last ray gleams I sing.
Open mouth of my soul uttering gladness,
Eyes of my soul seeing perfection,
Natural life of me faithfully praising things,
Corroborating forever the triumph of things.
Illustrious every one! [spirits,
Illustrious what we name space, sphere of unnumber'd
Illustrious the mystery of motion in all beings, even
the tiniest insect,
Illustrious the attribute of speech, the senses, the body,
Illustrious the passing light—illustrious the pale reflec-
tion on the new moon in the western sky,
Illustrious whatever I see or hear or touch, to the last.
Good in all,
In the satisfaction and aplomb of animals,
In the annual return of the seasons,
In the hilarity of youth,
In the strength and flush of manhood,
In the grandeur and exquisiteness of old age,
In the superb vistas of death.
Wonderful to depart!
Wonderful to be here!
The heart, to jet the all-alike and innocent blood!
To breathe the air, how delicious!
To speak—to walk—to seize something by the hand!
To prepare for sleep, for bed, to look on my rose-colour'd
To be conscious of my body, so satisfied, so large!
To be this incredible God I am!
To have gone forth among other Gods, these men and
women I love.
Wonderful how I celebrate you and myself!
How my thoughts play subtly at the spectacles around!
How the clouds pass silently overhead!
How the earth darts on and on! and how the sun, moon,
stars, dart on and on!
How the water sports and sings! (surely it is alive!)
How the trees rise and stand up, with strong trunks,
with branches and leaves?
(Surely there is something more in each of the trees,
some living soul.)
O amazement of things—even the least particle!
O spirituality of things!
O strain musical flowing through ages and continents,
now reaching me and America!
I take your strong chords, intersperse them, and cheer-
fully pass them forward.
I too carol the sun, usher'd or at noon, or as now, setting,
I too throb to the brain and beauty of the earth and of
all the growths of the earth,
I too have felt the resistless call of myself.
As I steam'd down the Mississippi,
As I wander'd over the prairies, [my eyes,
As I have lived, as I have look'd through my windows
As I went forth in the morning, as I beheld the light
breaking in the east,
As I bathed on the beach of the Eastern Sea, and again
on the beach of the Western Sea,
As I roam'd the streets of inland Chicago, whatever
streets I have roam'd,
Or cities or silent woods, or even amid the sights of war,
Wherever I have been I have charged myself with
contentment and triumph.
I sing to the last the equalities modern or old,
I sing the endless finales of things,
I say Nature continues, glory continues,
I praise with electric voice,
For I do not see one imperfection in the universe,
And I do not see one cause or result lamentable at last
in the universe.
O setting sun! though the time has come,
I still warble under you, if none else does, unmitigated
AS AT THY PORTALS ALSO DEATH.
AS at thy portals also death,
Entering thy sovereign, dim, illimitable grounds,
To memories of my mother, to the divine blending,
To her, buried and gone, yet buried not, gone not from
(I see again the calm benignant face fresh and beautiful
I sit by the form in the coffin,
I kiss and kiss convulsively again the sweet old lips, the
cheeks, the closed eyes in the coffin;)
To her, the ideal woman, practical, spiritual, of all of
earth, life, love, to me the best,
I grave a monumental line, before I go, amid these songs,
And set a tombstone here.
THE business man the acquirer vast,
After assiduous years surveying results, preparing for
Devises houses and lands to his children, bequeaths
stocks, goods, funds for a school or hospital,
Leaves money to certain compaions to buy tokens,
souvenirs of gems and gold.
But I, my life surveying, closing,
With nothing to show to devise from its idle years,
Nor houses nor lands, nor tokens of gems or gold for my
Yet certain remembrances of the war for you, and after
And little souvenirs of camps and soldiers, with my love,
I bind together and bequeath in this bundle of songs.
PENSIVE ON HER DEAD GAZING.
PENSIVE on her dead gazing I heard the Mother of All,
Desperate on the torn bodies, on the forms covering the
(As the last gun ceased, but the scent of the powder-
As she call'd to her earth with mournful voice while she
Absorb them well O my earth, she cried, I charge you
lose not my sons, lose not an atom,
And you streams absorb them well, taking their dear
And you local spots, and you airs that swim above
And all you essences of soil and growth, and you my
And you mountain sides, and the woods where my dear
children's blood trickling redden'd,
And you trees down in your roots to bequeath to all
My dead absorb or South or North—my young men's
bodies absorb, and their precious precious blood,
Which holding in trust for me faithfully back again give
me many a year hence,
In unseen essence and odor of surface and grass,
In blowing airs from the fields back again give me my
darlings, give my immortal heroes,
Exhale me them centuries hence, breathe me their breath,
let not an atom be lost,
O years and graves! O air and soil! O my dead, an
aroma sweet!s weet death, years, centuries
Exhale them perennial
CAMPS OF GREEN.
NOT alone those camps of white, old comrades of the
When as order'd forward, after a long march,
Footsore and weary, soon as the light lessens we halt
for the night,
Some of us so fatigued carrying the gun and knapsack,
dropping asleep in our tracks,
Others pitching the little tents, and the fires lit up
begin to sparkle,
Outposts of pickets posted surrounding alert through
And a word provided for countersign, careful for safety,
Till to the call of the drummers at daybreak loudly
beating the drums,
We rise up refresh'd, the night and sleep pass'd over,
and resume our journey,
Or proceed to battle.
Lo, the camps of the tents of green,
Which the days of peace keep filling, and the days of
war keep filling,
With a mystic army, (is it too order'd forward? is it too
only halting awhile,
Till night and sleep pass over?)
Now in those camps of green, in their tents dotting the
In the parents, children, husbands, wives, in them, in the
old and young,
Sleeping under the sunlight, sleeping under the moon-
light, content and silent there at last,
Behold the mighty bivouac-field and waiting-camp of all,
Of the corps and generals all, and the President over
the corps and generals all,
And of each of us O soldiers, and of each and all in the
ranks we fought,
(There without hatred we all, all meet.)
For presently O soldiers, we too camp in our place in
the bivouac-camps of green,
But we need not provide for outposts, nor word for the
Nor drummer to beat the morning drum.
THE SOBBING OF THE BELLS.
(Midnight, Sept. 19-20, 1881.)
THE sobbing of the bells, the sudden death-news every-
The slumberers rouse, the rapport of the People,
(Full well they know that message in the darkness,
Full well return, respond within their breasts, their
brains, the sad reverberations,)
The passionate toll and clang—city to city, joining,
Those heart-beats of a Nation in the night.
AS they draw to a close, [them,
Of what underlies the precedent songs—of my aims in
Of the seed I have sought to plant in them,
Of joy, sweet joy, through many a year, in them,
(For them, for them have I lived, in them my work is
Of many an aspiration fond, of many a dream and plan;
Through Space and Time fused in a chant, and the
flowing eternal identity,
To Nature encompassing these, encompassing God—to
the joyous, electric all,
To the sense of Death, and accepting exulting in Death
in its turn the same as life,
The entrance of man to sing;
To compact you, ye parted, diverse lives,
To put rapport the mountains and rocks and streams,
And the winds of the north, and the forests of oak and
With you O soul.
JOY, SHIPMATE, JOY!
JOY, shipmate, Joy!
(Pleas'd to my soul at death I cry,)
Our life is closed, our life begins,
The long, long anchorage we leave,
The ship is clear at last, she leaps!
She swiftly courses from the shore,
Joy, shipmate, joy.
THE UNTOLD WANT.
THE untold want by life and land neer granted,
Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.
NOW finalè to the shore,
Now, land and life finalè and farewell,
Now Voyager depart, (much, much for thee is yet in
Often enough hast thou adventur'd o'er the seas,
Cautiously cruising, studying the charts,
Duly again to port and hawser's tie returning;
But now obey thy cherish'd secret wish,
Embrace thy friends, leave all in order,
To port and hawser's tie no more returning,
Depart upon thy endless cruise old Sailor.
TO conclude, I announce what comes after me.
I remember I said before my leaves sprang at all,
I would raise my voice jocund and strong with reference
When America does what was promis'd,
When through these States walk a hundred millions of
superb persons, [bute to them,
When the rest part away for superb persons and contri-
When breeds of the most perfect mothers denote America,
Then to me and mine our due fruition.
I have press'd through in my own right,
I have sung the body and the soul, war and peace have
I sung, and the songs of life and death,
And the songs of birth, and shown that there are many
I have offer'd my style to every one, I have journey'd
with confident step;
While my pleasure is yet at the full I whisper So long!
And take the young woman's hand and the young man's
hand for the last time.
I announce natural persons to arise,
I announce justice triumphant,
I announce uncompromising liberty and equality,
I announce the justification of candor and the justifica-
tion of pride.
I announce that the identity of these States is a single
I announce the Union more and more compact, indis-
I announce splendours and majesties to make all the
previous politics of the earth insignificant.
I announce adhesiveness, I say it shall be limitless,
I say you shall yet find the friend you were looking for.
I announce a man or woman coming, perhaps you are
the one, (So long!)
I announce the great individual, fluid as Nature, chaste,
affectionate, compassionate, fully arm'd.
I announce a life that shall be copious, vehement,
I announce an end that shall lightly and joyfully meet
I announce myriads of youths, beautiful, gigantic, sweet-
I announce a race of splendid and savage old men.
O thicker and faster—(So long!)
O crowding too close upon me,
I foresee too much, it means more than I thought,
It appears to me I am dying.
Hasten throat and sound your last,
Salute me—salute the days once more. Peal the old cry
Screaming electric, the atmosphere using,
At random glancing, each as I notice absorbing,
Swiftly on, but a little while alighting,
Curious envelop'd messages delivering,
Sparkles hot, seed ethereal down in the dirt dropping,
Myself unknowing, my commission obeying, to question
it never daring,
To ages and ages yet the growth of the seed leaving,
To troops out of the war arising, they the tasks I have
To women certain whispers of myself bequeathing, their
affection me more clearly explaining,
To young men my problems offering—no dallier I—I
the muscle of their brains trying,
So I pass, a little time vocal, visible, contrary,
Afterward a melodious echo, passionately bent for, (death
making me really undying,)
The best of me then when no longer visible, for toward
that I have been incessantly preparing.
What is there more, that I lag and pause and crouch
extended with unshut mouth?
Is there a single final farewell?
My songs cease, I abandon them,
From behind the screen where I hid I advance personally
solely to you.
Camerado, this is no book,
Who touches this touches a man,
(Is it night? are we here together alone?)
It is I you hold and who holds you,
I spring from the pages into your arms—decease calls
O how your fingers drowse me,
Your breath falls around me like dew, your pulse lulls
the tympans of my ears,
I feel immerged from head to foot,
Enough O deed impromptu and secret,
Enough O gliding present—enough O summ'd-up past.
Dear friend whoever you are take this kiss,
I give it especially to you, do not forget me,
I feel like one who has done work for the day to retire
I receive now again of my many translations, from my
avataras ascending, while others doubtless await me,
An unknown sphere more real than I dream'd, more
direct, darts awakening rays about me, So long!
Remember my words, I may again return,
I love you, I depart from materials,
I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead.