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Title: Fancies at Navesink

Date: August 1885

Publication information: The Nineteenth Century 18 (August 1885): 234-237.

Source: Our transcription is based on a digital image of an original issue.

Whitman Archive ID: per.00003




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FANCIES AT NAVESINK.1

The Pilot in the mist.

STEAMING the northern rapids—(an old St. Lawrence remi-
niscence,
A sudden memory-flash comes back, I know not why,
Here waiting for the sunrise, gazing from this hill;1)
Again 'tis just at morning—a heavy haze contends with
daybreak,
Again the trembling, laboring vessel veers me—I press
through foam-dash'd rocks that almost touch me,
Again I mark where aft the small thin Indian helmsman
Looms in the mist, with brow elate and governing hand.

Had I the choice.

Had I the choice to tally greatest bards,
To limn their portraits, stately, beautiful, and emulate at
will,
Homer with all his wars and warriors—Hector, Achilles,
Ajax,
Or Shakspere's woe-entangled Hamlet, Lear, Othello—
Tennyson's fair ladies,
Metre or wit the best, or choice conceit to wield in perfect
rhyme, delight of singers;
These, these, O sea, all these I'd gladly barter,
Would you the undulation of one wave, its trick to me
transfer,
Or breathe one breath of yours upon my verse,
And leave its odor there.

You Tides with ceaseless swell.

You tides with ceasless swell! you power that does this
work!
You unseen force, centripetal, centrifugal, through space's
spread,
Rapport of sun, moon, earth, and all the constellations!
What are the messages by you from distant stars to us?
what Sirius'? what Capella's?
What central heart—and you the pulse—vivifies all? what
boundless aggregate of all?
What subtle indirection and significance in you? what clue
to all in you? what fluid, vast identity,
Holding the universe with all its parts as one—as sailing in
a ship?

Last of Ebb, and Daylight waning.

Last of ebb, and daylight waning,
Scented sea-cool landward making, smells of sedge and salt
incoming,
With many a half-caught voice sent up from the eddies,
Many a muffled confession—many a sob and whisper'd word,
As of speakers far or hid.
How they sweep down and out! how they mutter!
Poets unnamed—artists greatest of any, with cherish'd lost
designs,
Love's unresponse—a chorus of age's complaints—hope's
last words,
Some suicide's despairing cry, Away to the boundless waste,
and never again return.
On to oblivion then!
On, on, and do your part, ye burying, ebbing tide!
On for your time, ye furious débouché!
And yet not you alone, twilight and burying ebb,
Nor you, ye lost designs alone—nor failures, aspirations;
I know, divine deceitful ones, your glamour's seeming,
Duly by you, by you alone, the tide and light again—duly
the hinges turning,
Duly the needed discord-parts offsetting, blending,
Weaving from you, from Sleep, Night, Death itself,
The rhythmus of Birth eternal.

Proudly the Flood comes in.

Proudly the flood comes in, shouting, foaming, advancing,
Long it holds at the high, with bosom broad outswelling,
All throbs, dilates—the farms, woods, streets of cities—work-
men at work,
Mainsails, topsails, jibs, appear in the offing—steamers' pen-
nantsof smoke—and under the forenoon sun,
Freighted with human lives, gaily the outward bound, gaily
the inward bound,
Flaunting from many a spar the flag I love.

By that long scan of Waves.

By that long scan of waves, myself call'd back, resumed
upon myself,
In every crest some undulating light or shade—some retro-
spect,
Joys, travels, studies, silent panoramas—scenes ephemeral,
The long past war, the battles, hospital sights, the wounded
and the dead,
Myself through every by-gone phase—my idle youth—old
age at hand,
My three-score years of life summ'd up, and more, and past,
By any grand ideal tried, intentionless, the whole a nothing,
And haply yet some drop within God's scheme's ensemble—
some wave, or part of wave,
Like one of yours, ye multitudinous ocean.

Then last of all.

Then last of all, caught from these shores, this hill,
Of you, O tides, the mystic human meaning:
Only by law of you, your swell and ebb, enclosing me the
same,
The brain that shapes, the voice that chants this song.
WALT. WHITMAN

1Navesink—a sea-side mountain, lower entrance of New-York bay.


Notes:

1. The eight poems that comprised the "Fancies at Navesink" cluster when it appeared in the Nineteenth Century were reprinted in the "Sands at Seventy" annex to Leaves of Grass (1888). [back]


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