While we rehearse our measureless wealth, it is for thee, dear Mother, We own it all and several to-day indissoluble in thee; Think not our chant, our show, merely for products gross or lucre— it is for thee, the soul in thee, electric, spiritual! Our farms, inventions, crops, we own in thee! cities and States in thee! Our freedom all in thee! our very lives in thee!
Song of the Redwood-Tree
1 A California song, A prophecy and indirection, a thought impalpable to breathe as air, A chorus of dryads, fading, departing, or hamadryads departing, A murmuring, fateful, giant voice, out of the earth and sky, Voice of a mighty dying tree in the redwood forest dense.
Farewell my brethren, Farewell O earth and sky, farewell ye neighboring waters, 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 hoarse, 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 bark, 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 consciousness, identity, 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, Shasta, Nevadas, These huge precipitous cliffs, this amplitude, these valleys, far Yosemite, 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, peacefully 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 as life,) 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 surface; 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 inure, 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, withdrawing, All their recesses of forests and mountains leaving, From the Cascade range to the Wahsatch, or Idaho far, or Utah, 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.
2 The flashing and golden pageant of California, The sudden and gorgeous drama, the sunny and ample lands, The long and varied stretch from Puget sound to Colorado south, Lands bathed in sweeter, rarer, healthier air, valleys and mountain cliffs, The fields of Nature long prepared and fallow, the silent, cyclic chemistry, The slow and steady ages plodding, the unoccupied surface ripening, the rich ores forming beneath; At last the New arriving, assuming, taking possession, A swarming and busy race settling and organizing everywhere, 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, with machinery, And wool and wheat and the grape, and diggings of yellow gold.
3 But more in you than these, lands of the Western shore, (These but the means, the implements, the standing-ground,) 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 ideal, Clearing the ground for broad humanity, the true America, heir of the past so grand, To build a grander future.
A Song for Occupations
1 A song for occupations! In the labor of engines and trades and the labor of fields I find the developments, And find the eternal meanings.
Workmen and Workwomen! Were all educations practical and ornamental well display'd out of me, what would it amount to? Were I as the head teacher, charitable proprietor, wise statesman, what would it amount to? Were I to you as the boss employing and paying you, would that satisfy you?
The learn'd, virtuous, benevolent, and the usual terms, A man like me and never the usual terms.
Neither a servant nor a master I, I take no sooner a large price than a small price, I will have my own whoever enjoys me, I will be even with you and you shall be even with me.
If you stand at work in a shop I stand as nigh as the nighest in the same shop, If you bestow gifts on your brother or dearest friend I demand as good as your brother or dearest friend, If your lover, husband, wife, is welcome by day or night, I must be personally as welcome, If you become degraded, criminal, ill, then I become so for your sake, If you remember your foolish and outlaw'd deeds, do you think I cannot remember my own foolish and outlaw'd deeds? If you carouse at the table I carouse at the opposite side of the table, If you meet some stranger in the streets and love him or her, why I often meet strangers in the street and love them.
Why what have you thought of yourself? Is it you then that thought yourself less? Is it you that thought the President greater than you? Or the rich better off than you? or the educated wiser than you?
(Because you are greasy or pimpled, or were once drunk, or a thief, Or that you are diseas'd, or rheumatic, or a prostitute, Or from frivolity or impotence, or that you are no scholar and never saw your name in print, Do you give in that you are any less immortal?)
2 Souls of men and women! it is not you I call unseen, unheard, untouchable and untouching, It is not you I go argue pro and con about, and to settle whether you are alive or no, I own publicly who you are, if nobody else owns.
Grown, half-grown and babe, of this country and every country, in-doors and out-doors, one just as much as the other, I see, And all else behind or through them.
The wife, and she is not one jot less than the husband, The daughter, and she is just as good as the son, The mother, and she is every bit as much as the father.
Offspring of ignorant and poor, boys apprenticed to trades, Young fellows working on farms and old fellows working on farms, Sailor-men, merchant-men, coasters, immigrants, All these I see, but nigher and farther the same I see, None shall escape me and none shall wish to escape me.
I bring what you much need yet always have, Not money, amours, dress, eating, erudition, but as good, I send no agent or medium, offer no representative of value, but offer the value itself.
There is something that comes to one now and perpetually, It is not what is printed, preach'd, discussed, it eludes discussion and print, It is not to be put in a book, it is not in this book, It is for you whoever you are, it is no farther from you than your hearing and sight are from you, It is hinted by nearest, commonest, readiest, it is ever provoked by them.
You may read in many languages, yet read nothing about it, You may read the President's message and read nothing about it there, Nothing in the reports from the State department or Treasury department, or in the daily papers or weekly papers, Or in the census or revenue returns, prices current, or any accounts of stock.
3 The sun and stars that float in the open air, The apple-shaped earth and we upon it, surely the drift of them is something grand, I do not know what it is except that it is grand, and that it is happiness, And that the enclosing purport of us here is not a speculation or bon-mot or reconnoissance, And that it is not something which by luck may turn out well for us, and without luck must be a failure for us, And not something which may yet be retracted in a certain contingency.
The light and shade, the curious sense of body and identity, the greed that with perfect complaisance devours all things, The endless pride and outstretching of man, unspeakable joys and sorrows, The wonder every one sees in every one else he sees, and the wonders that fill each minute of time forever, What have you reckon'd them for, camerado? Have you reckon'd them for your trade or farm-work? or for the profits of your store? Or to achieve yourself a position? or to fill a gentleman's leisure, or a lady's leisure?
Have you reckon'd that the landscape took substance and form that it might be painted in a picture? Or men and women that they might be written of, and songs sung? Or the attraction of gravity, and the great laws and harmonious combinations and the fluids of the air, as subjects for the savans? Or the brown land and the blue sea for maps and charts? Or the stars to be put in constellations and named fancy names? Or that the growth of seeds is for agricultural tables, or agriculture itself?
Old institutions, these arts, libraries, legends, collections, and the practice handed along in manufactures, will we rate them so high? Will we rate our cash and business high? I have no objection, I rate them as high as the highest—then a child born of a woman and man I rate beyond all rate.
We thought our Union grand, and our Constitution grand, I do not say they are not grand and good, for they are, I am this day just as much in love with them as you, Then I am in love with You, and with all my fellows upon the earth.
We consider bibles and religions divine—I do not say they are not divine, I say they have all grown out of you, and may grow out of you still, It is not they who give the life, it is you who give the life, Leaves are not more shed from the trees, or trees from the earth, than they are shed out of you.
4 The sum of all known reverence I add up in you whoever you are, The President is there in the White House for you, it is not you who are here for him, The Secretaries act in their bureaus for you, not you here for them, The Congress convenes every Twelfth-month for you, Laws, courts, the forming of States, the charters of cities, the going and coming of commerce and malls, are all for you.
List close my scholars dear, Doctrines, politics and civilization exurge from you, Sculpture and monuments and any thing inscribed anywhere are tallied in you, The gist of histories and statistics as far back as the records reach is in you this hour, and myths and tales the same, If you were not breathing and walking here, where would they all be? The most renown'd poems would be ashes, orations and plays would be vacuums.
All architecture is what you do to it when you look upon it, (Did you think it was in the white or gray stone? or the lines of the arches and cornices?)
All music is what awakes from you when you are reminded by the instruments, It is not the violins and the cornets, it is not the oboe nor the beating drums, nor the score of the baritone singer singing his sweet romanza, nor that of the men's chorus, nor that of the women's chorus, It is nearer and farther than they.
5 Will the whole come back then? Can each see signs of the best by a look in the looking-glass? is there nothing greater or more? Does all sit there with you, with the mystic unseen soul?
Strange and hard that paradox true I give, Objects gross and the unseen soul are one.
House-building, measuring, sawing the boards, Blacksmithing, glass-blowing, nail-making, coopering, tin-roofing, shingle-dressing, Ship-joining, dock-building, fish-curing, flagging of sidewalks by flaggers, The pump, the pile-driver, the great derrick, the coal-kiln and brickkiln, Coal-mines and all that is down there, the lamps in the darkness, echoes, songs, what meditations, what vast native thoughts looking through smutch'd faces, Iron-works, forge-fires in the mountains or by river-banks, men around feeling the melt with huge crowbars, lumps of ore, the due combining of ore, limestone, coal, The blast-furnace and the puddling-furnace, the loup-lump at the bottom of the melt at last, the rolling-mill, the stumpy bars of pig-iron, the strong clean-shaped Trail for railroads, Oil-works, silk-works, white-lead-works, the sugar-house, steam-saws, the great mills and factories, Stone-cutting, shapely trimmings for facades or window or door-lintels, the mallet, the tooth-chisel, the jib to protect the thumb, The calking-iron, the kettle of boiling vault-cement, and the fire under the kettle, The cotton-bale, the stevedore's hook, the saw and buck of the sawyer, the mould of the moulder, the working-knife of the butcher, the ice-saw, and all the work with ice, The work and tools of the rigger, grappler, sail-maker, block-maker, Goods of gutta-percha, papier-mache, colors, brushes, brush-making, glazier's implements, The veneer and glue-pot, the confectioner's ornaments, the decanter and glasses, the shears and flat-iron, The awl and knee-strap, the pint measure and quart measure, the counter and stool, the writing-pen of quill or metal, the making of all sorts of edged tools, The brewery, brewing, the malt, the vats, every thing that is done by brewers, wine-makers, vinegar-makers, Leather-dressing, coach-making, boiler-making, rope-twisting, distilling, sign-painting, lime-burning, cotton-picking, electroplating, electrotyping, stereotyping, Stave-machines, planing-machines, reaping-machines, ploughing-machines, thrashing-machines, steam wagons, The cart of the carman, the omnibus, the ponderous dray, Pyrotechny, letting off color'd fireworks at night, fancy figures and jets; Beef on the butcher's stall, the slaughter-house of the butcher, the butcher in his killing-clothes, The pens of live pork, the killing-hammer, the hog-hook, the scalder's tub, gutting, the cutter's cleaver, the packer's maul, and the plenteous winterwork of pork-packing, Flour-works, grinding of wheat, rye, maize, rice, the barrels and the half and quarter barrels, the loaded barges, the high piles on wharves and levees, The men and the work of the men on ferries, railroads, coasters, fish-boats, canals; The hourly routine of your own or any man's life, the shop, yard, store, or factory, These shows all near you by day and night—workman! whoever you are, your daily life!
In that and them the heft of the heaviest—in that and them far more than you estimated, (and far less also,) In them realities for you and me, in them poems for you and me, In them, not yourself-you and your soul enclose all things, regardless of estimation, In them the development good—in them all themes, hints, possibilities.
I do not affirm that what you see beyond is futile, I do not advise you to stop, I do not say leadings you thought great are not great, But I say that none lead to greater than these lead to.
6 Will you seek afar off? you surely come back at last, In things best known to you finding the best, or as good as the best, In folks nearest to you finding the sweetest, strongest, lovingest, Happiness, knowledge, not in another place but this place, not for another hour but this hour, Man in the first you see or touch, always in friend, brother, nighest neighbor—woman in mother, sister, wife, The popular tastes and employments taking precedence in poems or anywhere, You workwomen and workmen of these States having your own divine and strong life, And all else giving place to men and women like you. When the psalm sings instead of the singer,
When the script preaches instead of the preacher, When the pulpit descends and goes instead of the carver that carved the supporting desk, When I can touch the body of books by night or by day, and when they touch my body back again, When a university course convinces like a slumbering woman and child convince, When the minted gold in the vault smiles like the night-watchman's daughter, When warrantee deeds loafe in chairs opposite and are my friendly companions, I intend to reach them my hand, and make as much of them as I do of men and women like you.
A Song of the Rolling Earth
1 A song of the rolling earth, and of words according, Were you thinking that those were the words, those upright lines? those curves, angles, dots? No, those are not the words, the substantial words are in the ground and sea, They are in the air, they are in you.
Were you thinking that those were the words, those delicious sounds out of your friends' mouths? No, the real words are more delicious than they.
Human bodies are words, myriads of words, (In the best poems re-appears the body, man's or woman's, well-shaped, natural, gay, Every part able, active, receptive, without shame or the need of shame.)
Air, soil, water, fire—those are words, I myself am a word with them—my qualities interpenetrate with theirs—my name is nothing to them, Though it were told in the three thousand languages, what would air, soil, water, fire, know of my name?
A healthy presence, a friendly or commanding gesture, are words, sayings, meanings, The charms that go with the mere looks of some men and women, are sayings and meanings also.
The workmanship of souls is by those inaudible words of the earth, The masters know the earth's words and use them more than audible words.
Amelioration is one of the earth's words, The earth neither lags nor hastens, It has all attributes, growths, effects, latent in itself from the jump, It is not half beautiful only, defects and excrescences show just as much as perfections show.
The earth does not withhold, it is generous enough, The truths of the earth continually wait, they are not so conceal'd either, They are calm, subtle, untransmissible by print, They are imbued through all things conveying themselves willingly, Conveying a sentiment and invitation, I utter and utter, I speak not, yet if you hear me not of what avail am I to you? To bear, to better, lacking these of what avail am I?
(Accouche! accouchez! Will you rot your own fruit in yourself there? Will you squat and stifle there?)
The earth does not argue, Is not pathetic, has no arrangements, Does not scream, haste, persuade, threaten, promise, Makes no discriminations, has no conceivable failures, Closes nothing, refuses nothing, shuts none out, Of all the powers, objects, states, it notifies, shuts none out.
The earth does not exhibit itself nor refuse to exhibit itself, possesses still underneath, Underneath the ostensible sounds, the august chorus of heroes, the wail of slaves, Persuasions of lovers, curses, gasps of the dying, laughter of young people, accents of bargainers, Underneath these possessing words that never fall.
To her children the words of the eloquent dumb great mother never fail, The true words do not fail, for motion does not fail and reflection does not fall, Also the day and night do not fall, and the voyage we pursue does not fall.
Of the interminable sisters, Of the ceaseless cotillons of sisters, Of the centripetal and centrifugal sisters, the elder and younger sisters, The beautiful sister we know dances on with the rest.
With her ample back towards every beholder, With the fascinations of youth and the equal fascinations of age, Sits she whom I too love like the rest, sits undisturb'd, Holding up in her hand what has the character of a mirror, while her eyes glance back from it, Glance as she sits, inviting none, denying none, Holding a mirror day and night tirelessly before her own face.
Seen at hand or seen at a distance, Duly the twenty-four appear in public every day, Duly approach and pass with their companions or a companion, Looking from no countenances of their own, but from the countenances of those who are with them, From the countenances of children or women or the manly countenance, From the open countenances of animals or from inanimate things, From the landscape or waters or from the exquisite apparition of the sky, From our countenances, mine and yours, faithfully returning them, Every day in public appearing without fall, but never twice with the same companions.
Embracing man, embracing all, proceed the three hundred and sixty-five resistlessly round the sun; Embracing all, soothing, supporting, follow close three hundred and sixty-five offsets of the first, sure and necessary as they.
Tumbling on steadily, nothing dreading, Sunshine, storm, cold, heat, forever withstanding, passing, carrying, The soul's realization and determination still inheriting, The fluid vacuum around and ahead still entering and dividing, No balk retarding, no anchor anchoring, on no rock striking, Swift, glad, content, unbereav'd, nothing losing, Of all able and ready at any time to give strict account, The divine ship sails the divine sea.
2 Whoever you are! motion and reflection are especially for you, The divine ship sails the divine sea for you.
Whoever you are! you are he or she for whom the earth is solid and liquid, You are he or she for whom the sun and moon hang in the sky, For none more than you are the present and the past, For none more than you is immortality.
Each man to himself and each woman to herself, is the word of the past and present, and the true word of immortality; No one can acquire for another—not one, Not one can grow for another—not one.
The song is to the singer, and comes back most to him, The teaching is to the teacher, and comes back most to him, The murder is to the murderer, and comes back most to him, The theft is to the thief, and comes back most to him, The love is to the lover, and comes back most to him, The gift is to the giver, and comes back most to him—it cannot fail, The oration is to the orator, the acting is to the actor and actress not to the audience, And no man understands any greatness or goodness but his own, or the indication of his own.
3 I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall be complete, The earth remains jagged and broken only to him or her who remains jagged and broken.
I swear there is no greatness or power that does not emulate those of the earth, There can be no theory of any account unless it corroborate the theory of the earth, No politics, song, religion, behavior, or what not, is of account, unless it compare with the amplitude of the earth, Unless it face the exactness, vitality, impartiality, rectitude of the earth.
I swear I begin to see love with sweeter spasms than that which responds love, It is that which contains itself, which never invites and never refuses.
I swear I begin to see little or nothing in audible words, All merges toward the presentation of the unspoken meanings of the earth, Toward him who sings the songs of the body and of the truths of the earth, Toward him who makes the dictionaries of words that print cannot touch.
I swear I see what is better than to tell the best, It is always to leave the best untold.
When I undertake to tell the best I find I cannot, My tongue is ineffectual on its pivots, My breath will not be obedient to its organs, I become a dumb man.
The best of the earth cannot be told anyhow, all or any is best, It is not what you anticipated, it is cheaper, easier, nearer, Things are not dismiss'd from the places they held before, The earth is just as positive and direct as it was before, Facts, religions, improvements, politics, trades, are as real as before, But the soul is also real, it too is positive and direct, No reasoning, no proof has establish'd it, Undeniable growth has establish'd it.
4 These to echo the tones of souls and the phrases of souls, (If they did not echo the phrases of souls what were they then? If they had not reference to you in especial what were they then?)
I swear I will never henceforth have to do with the faith that tells the best, I will have to do only with that faith that leaves the best untold.
Say on, sayers! sing on, singers! Delve! mould! pile the words of the earth! Work on, age after age, nothing is to be lost, It may have to wait long, but it will certainly come in use, When the materials are all prepared and ready, the architects shall appear.
I swear to you the architects shall appear without fall, I swear to you they will understand you and justify you, The greatest among them shall be he who best knows you, and encloses all and is faithful to all, He and the rest shall not forget you, they shall perceive that you are not an iota less than they, You shall be fully glorified in them.
Youth, Day, Old Age and Night
Youth, large, lusty, loving—youth full of grace, force, fascination, 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.
BOOK XVII. BIRDS OF PASSAGE
Song of the Universal
1 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.
2 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 justified.
Forth from their masks, no matter what, From the huge festering trunk, from craft and guile and tears, 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.
3 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.
4 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 pathways broad and new, To the ideal tendest.
The measure'd faiths of other lands, the grandeurs of the past, Are not for thee, but grandeurs of thine own, Deific faiths and amplitudes, absorbing, comprehending all, 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 ripening.
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 from us, 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 axes? Pioneers! O pioneers!
For we cannot tarry here, We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger, 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 friendship, Plain I see you Western youths, see you tramping with the foremost, 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 lesson, 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 labor and the march, Pioneers! O pioneers!
We detachments steady throwing, Down the edges, through the passes, up the mountains steep, Conquering, holding, daring, venturing as we go the unknown ways, 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 upheaving, Pioneers! O pioneers!
Colorado men are we, From the peaks gigantic, from the great sierras and the high plateaus, 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 the Northern, 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, weapon'd mistress, Pioneers! O pioneers!
See my children, resolute children, By those swarms upon our rear we must never yield or falter, Ages back in ghostly millions frowning there behind us urging, 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 never stopping, Pioneers! O pioneers!
O to die advancing on! Are there some of us to droop and die? has the hour come? 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 beat, 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 their slaves, Pioneers! O pioneers!
All the hapless silent lovers, All the prisoners in the prisons, all the righteous and the wicked, All the joyous, all the sorrowing, all the living, all the dying, 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 apparitions pressing, Pioneers! O pioneers!
Lo, the darting bowling orb! Lo, the brother orbs around, all the clustering suns and planets, 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 clearing, Pioneers! O pioneers!
O you daughters of the West! O you young and elder daughters! O you mothers and you wives! Never must you be divided, in our ranks you move united, 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 the studious, Not the riches safe and palling, not for us the tame enjoyment, Pioneers! O pioneers!
Do the feasters gluttonous feast? Do the corpulent sleepers sleep? have they lock'd and bolted doors? Still be ours the diet hard, and the blanket on the ground, 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 oblivious, Pioneers! O pioneers!
Till with sound of trumpet, Far, far off the daybreak call—hark! how loud and clear I hear it wind, Swift! to the head of the army!—swift! spring to your places, Pioneers! O pioneers!
Whoever you are, I fear you are walking the walks of dreams, I fear these supposed realities are to melt from under your feet and hands, Even now your features, joys, speech, house, trade, manners, troubles, follies, costume, crimes, dissipate 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 to yourself, 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 yourself.
Painters have painted their swarming groups and the centre-figure of all, From the head of the centre-figure spreading a nimbus of gold-color'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, Your eyelids have been the same as closed most of the time, 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 complexion, 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, There is no virtue, no beauty in man or woman, but as good is in you, 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! These shows of the East and West are tame compared to you, 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 sufficiency, 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 provided, nothing is scanted, Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui, what you are picks its way.
France [the 18th Year of these 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 wailing, amid the roar of cannon, curses, shouts, crash of falling buildings, 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 retribution? 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 them, For I guess there is latent music yet in France, floods of it, 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 march, It reaches hither, it swells me to Joyful madness, I will run transpose it in words, to justify 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 children, To speak readily and clearly, to feel at home among common people, And to hold our own in terrible positions on land and sea.
Not for an embroiderer, (There will always be plenty of embroiderers, I welcome them also,) But for the fibre of things and for inherent men and women.
Not to chisel ornaments, But to chisel with free stroke the heads and limbs of plenteous supreme Gods, that the States may realize them walking and talking.
Let me have my own way, Let others promulge the laws, I will make no account of the laws, 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 your life? Will you turn aside all your life? will you grub and chatter all your life? And who are you, blabbing by rote, years, pages, languages, reminiscences, 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 of me, 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, water, earth, I perceive I have no time to lose.
Year of Meteors [1859-60
Year of meteors! brooding year! I would bind in words retrospective some of your deeds and signs, I would sing your contest for the 19th Presidentiad, I would sing how an old man, tall, with white hair, mounted the scaffold in Virginia, (I was at hand, silent I stood with teeth shut close, I watch'd, I stood very near you old man when cool and indifferent, but trembling with age and your unheal'd wounds you mounted the scaffold;) I would sing in my copious song your census returns of the States, The tables of population and products, I would sing of your ships and their cargoes, The proud black ships of Manhattan arriving, some fill'd with immigrants, some from the isthmus with cargoes of gold, Songs thereof would I sing, to all that hitherward comes would welcome give, And you would I sing, fair stripling! welcome to you from me, young prince of England! (Remember you surging Manhattan's crowds as you pass'd with your cortege of nobles? There in the crowds stood I, and singled you out with attachment;) Nor forget I to sing of the wonder, the ship as she swam up my bay, Well-shaped and stately the Great Eastern swam up my bay, she was 600 feet long, Her moving swiftly surrounded by myriads of small craft I forget not to sing; Nor the comet that came unannounced out of the north flaring in heaven, Nor the strange huge meteor-procession dazzling and clear shooting over our heads, (A moment, a moment long it sail'd its balls of unearthly light over our heads, Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;) Of such, and fitful as they, I sing—with gleams from them would gleam and patch these chants, Your chants, O year all mottled with evil and good—year of forebodings! Year of comets and meteors transient and strange—lo! even here one equally transient and strange! As I flit through you hastily, soon to fall and be gone, what is this chant, What am I myself but one of your meteors?
1 With antecedents, With my fathers and mothers and the accumulations of past ages, 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, With antique maritime ventures, laws, artisanship, wars and journeys, With the poet, the skald, the saga, the myth, and the oracle, 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 new continent, 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, You and me arrived—America arrived and making this year, This year! sending itself ahead countless years to come.
2 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 around us, 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 recognition.)
I respect Assyria, China, Teutonia, and the Hebrews, I adopt each theory, myth, god, and demigod, I see that the old accounts, bibles, genealogies, are true, without exception, I assert that all past days were what they must have been, And that they could no-how have been better than they were, 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.
3 In the name of these States and in your and my name, the Past, 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 great, And I know that both curiously conjoint in the present time, (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.
A Broadway Pageant
1 Over the Western sea hither from Niphon come, Courteous, the swart-cheek'd two-sworded envoys, Leaning back in their open barouches, bare-headed, impassive, Ride to-day through Manhattan.
Libertad! I do not know whether others behold what I behold, In the procession along with the nobles of Niphon, the errand-bearers, Bringing up the rear, hovering above, around, or in the ranks marching, But I will sing you a song of what I behold Libertad.
When million-footed Manhattan unpent descends to her pavements, When the thunder-cracking guns arouse me with the proud roar love, When the round-mouth'd guns out of the smoke and smell I love spit their salutes, When the fire-flashing guns have fully alerted me, and heaven-clouds canopy my city with a delicate thin haze, When gorgeous the countless straight stems, the forests at the wharves, thicken with colors, When every ship richly drest carries her flag at the peak, When pennants trail and street-festoons hang from the windows, When Broadway is entirely given up to foot-passengers and foot-standers, when the mass is densest, When the facades of the houses are alive with people, when eyes gaze riveted tens of thousands at a time, When the guests from the islands advance, when the pageant moves forward visible, When the summons is made, when the answer that waited thousands of years answers, I too arising, answering, descend to the pavements, merge with the crowd, and gaze with them.
2 Superb-faced Manhattan! Comrade Americanos! to us, then at last the Orient comes. To us, my city, Where our tall-topt marble and iron beauties range on opposite sides, to walk in the space between, To-day our Antipodes comes.
The Originatress comes, The nest of languages, the bequeather of poems, the race of eld, Florid with blood, pensive, rapt with musings, hot with passion, Sultry with perfume, with ample and flowing garments, With sunburnt visage, with intense soul and glittering eyes, The race of Brahma comes.
See my cantabile! these and more are flashing to us from the procession, As it moves changing, a kaleidoscope divine it moves changing before us.
For not the envoys nor the tann'd Japanee from his island only, Lithe and silent the Hindoo appears, the Asiatic continent itself appears, the past, the dead, The murky night-morning of wonder and fable inscrutable, The envelop'd mysteries, the old and unknown hive-bees, The north, the sweltering south, eastern Assyria, the Hebrews, the ancient of ancients, Vast desolated cities, the gliding present, all of these and more are in the pageant-procession.
Geography, the world, is in it, The Great Sea, the brood of islands, Polynesia, the coast beyond, The coast you henceforth are facing—you Libertad! from your Western golden shores, The countries there with their populations, the millions en-masse are curiously here, The swarming market-places, the temples with idols ranged along the sides or at the end, bonze, brahmin, and llama, Mandarin, farmer, merchant, mechanic, and fisherman, The singing-girl and the dancing-girl, the ecstatic persons, the secluded emperors, Confucius himself, the great poets and heroes, the warriors, the castes, all, Trooping up, crowding from all directions, from the Altay mountains, From Thibet, from the four winding and far-flowing rivers of China, From the southern peninsulas and the demi-continental islands, from Malaysia, These and whatever belongs to them palpable show forth to me, and are seiz'd by me, And I am seiz'd by them, and friendlily held by them, Till as here them all I chant, Libertad! for themselves and for you.
For I too raising my voice join the ranks of this pageant, I am the chanter, I chant aloud over the pageant, I chant the world on my Western sea, I chant copious the islands beyond, thick as stars in the sky, I chant the new empire grander than any before, as in a vision it comes to me, I chant America the mistress, I chant a greater supremacy, I chant projected a thousand blooming cities yet in time on those groups of sea-islands, My sail-ships and steam-ships threading the archipelagoes, My stars and stripes fluttering in the wind, Commerce opening, the sleep of ages having done its work, races reborn, refresh'd, Lives, works resumed—the object I know not—but the old, the Asiatic renew'd as it must be, Commencing from this day surrounded by the world.
3 And you Libertad of the world! You shall sit in the middle well-pois'd thousands and thousands of years, As to-day from one side the nobles of Asia come to you, As to-morrow from the other side the queen of England sends her eldest son to you.
The sign is reversing, the orb is enclosed, The ring is circled, the journey is done, The box-lid is but perceptibly open'd, nevertheless the perfume pours copiously out of the whole box.
Young Libertad! with the venerable Asia, the all-mother, Be considerate with her now and ever hot Libertad, for you are all, Bend your proud neck to the long-off mother now sending messages over the archipelagoes to you, Bend your proud neck low for once, young Libertad.
Here the children straying westward so long? so wide the tramping? Were the precedent dim ages debouching westward from Paradise so long? Were the centuries steadily footing it that way, all the while unknown, for you, for reasons?
They are justified, they are accomplish'd, they shall now be turn'd the other way also, to travel toward you thence, They shall now also march obediently eastward for your sake Libertad.
BOOK XIX. SEA-DRIFT
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, barefoot, 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 them, A reminiscence sing.
Once Paumanok, When the lilac-scent was in the air and Fifth-month grass was growing, Up this seashore in some briers, Two feather'd guests from Alabama, two together, And their nest, and four light-green eggs spotted with brown, 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 disturbing them, Cautiously peering, absorbing, translating.
Shine! shine! shine! Pour down your warmth, great sun.' While we bask, we two together.
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 weather, Over the hoarse surging of the sea, Or flitting from brier to brier by day, I saw, I heard at intervals the remaining one, the he-bird, 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 moonbeams, blending myself with the shadows, 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, And again another behind embracing and lapping, every one close, 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 breakers? 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.
Low-hanging moon! 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 look.
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 sea! 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 me, 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 the sea! 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 echoing, With angry moans the fierce old mother incessantly moaning, 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 tumultuously bursting, 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 to me? 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 perpetuating you, Never more shall I escape, never more the reverberations, Never more the cries of unsatisfied love be absent from me, 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 within, The unknown want, the destiny of me.
O give me the clue! (it lurks in the night here somewhere,) 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; Are you whispering it, and have been all the time, you sea-waves? 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 before daybreak, 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 gray beach, 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 feet, (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
1 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 Paumanok, Where they rustle up hoarse and sibilant, Where the fierce old mother endlessly cries for her castaways, I musing late in the autumn day, gazing off southward, Held by this electric self out of the pride of which I utter poems, 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 of likenesses, 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.
2 As I wend to the shores I know not, As I list to the dirge, the voices of men and women wreck'd, As I inhale the impalpable breezes that set in upon me, As the ocean so mysterious rolls toward me closer and closer, 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 mouth, 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, With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word I have written, Pointing in silence to these songs, and then to the sand beneath.
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.
3 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 all.
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 island.
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.
4 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 me, 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 colors glistening and rolling,) Tufts of straw, sands, fragments, Buoy'd hither from many moods, one contradicting another, 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 and thrown, 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-trumpets, 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.
Tears! tears! tears! In the night, in solitude, tears, On the white shore dripping, dripping, suck'd in by the sand, Tears, not a star shining, all dark and desolate, Moist tears from the eyes of a muffled head; O who is that ghost? that form in the dark, with tears? What shapeless lump is that, bent, crouch'd there on the sand? Streaming tears, sobbing tears, throes, choked with wild cries; O storm, embodied, rising, careering with swift steps along the beach! O wild and dismal night storm, with wind—O belching and desperate! O shade so sedate and decorous by day, with calm countenance and regulated pace, But away at night as you fly, none looking—O then the unloosen'd ocean, Of tears! tears! tears!
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 wrecks, 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 re-appearest.
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, realms gyrating, At dusk that lookist on Senegal, at morn America, That sport'st amid the lightning-flash and thunder-cloud, 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, ringing, to warn the ship from its wreck-place.
For as on the alert O steersman, you mind the loud admonition, 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 gayly and safe.
But O the ship, the immortal ship! O ship aboard the ship! Ship of the body, ship of the soul, voyaging, voyaging, voyaging.
On the Beach at Night
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 masses spreading, Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky, Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east, 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 all, 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, they endure, The vast immortal suns and the long-enduring pensive moons shall again shine.
Then 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 indirection,) Something there is more immortal even than the stars, (Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,) Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter 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 colors, 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 other spheres.
On the Beach at Night Alone
On the beach at night alone, As the old mother sways her to and fro singing her husky song, 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, planets, 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, colors, 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 enclose them.
Song for All Seas, All Ships
1 To-day a rude brief recitative, Of ships sailing the seas, each with its special flag or ship-signal, 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 intrepid sailors, Of the few, very choice, taciturn, whom fate can never surprise nor death dismay. Pick'd sparingly without noise by thee old ocean, chosen by thee, Thou sea that pickest and cullest the race in time, and unitest nations, Suckled by thee, old husky nurse, embodying thee, Indomitable, untamed as thee.
(Ever the heroes on water or on land, by ones or twos appearing, Ever the stock preserv'd and never lost, though rare, enough for seed preserv'd.)
2 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 mates, 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 brave sailors, All seas, all ships.
Wild, wild the storm, and the sea high running, Steady the roar of the gale, with incessant undertone muttering, 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 breasting, Through cutting swirl and spray watchful and firm advancing, (That in the distance! is that a wreck? is the red signal flaring?) Slush and sand of the beach tireless till daylight wending, Steadily, slowly, through hoarse roar never remitting, Along the midnight edge by those milk-white combs careering, A group of dim, weird forms, struggling, the night confronting, That savage trinity warily watching.
After the Sea-Ship
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 their necks, Tending in ceaseless flow toward the track of the ship, Waves of the ocean bubbling and gurgling, blithely prying, Waves, undulating waves, liquid, uneven, emulous waves, Toward that whirling current, laughing and buoyant, with curves, Where the great vessel sailing and tacking displaced the surface, Larger and smaller waves in the spread of the ocean yearnfully flowing, 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 many fragments, Following the stately and rapid ship, in the wake following.
BOOK XX. BY THE ROADSIDE
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 the show.
Clear the way there Jonathan! Way for the President's marshal—way for the government cannon! 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 Boston town.
A fog follows, antiques of the same come limping, Some appear wooden-legged, and some appear bandaged and bloodless.
Why this is indeed a show—it has called the dead out of the earth! 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 shoulders.
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 President's marshal, If you groan such groans you might balk the government cannon.
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 themselves.
Worse and worse—can't you stand it? are you retreating? Is this hour with the living too dead for you?
Retreat then—pell-mell! To your graves—back—back to the hills old limpers! I do not think you belong here anyhow.
But there is one thing that belongs here—shall I tell you what it is, gentlemen of Boston?
I will whisper it to the Mayor, he shall send a committee to England, 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 graveclothes, box up his bones for a journey, Find a swift Yankee clipper—here is freight for you, black-bellied clipper, Up with your anchor—shake out your sails—steer straight toward Boston bay.
Now call for the President's marshal again, bring out the government cannon, 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, women!
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.
Europe [The 72d and 73d Years of These States]
Suddenly out of its stale and drowsy lair, the lair of slaves, 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, tax-gatherer, 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 aloud, 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 unslaughter'd vitality.
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 exalted.
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 loose, But it stalks invisibly over the earth, whispering, counseling, cautioning. Liberty, let others despair of you—I never despair of you.
Is the house shut? is the master away? Nevertheless, be ready, be not weary of watching, He will soon return, his messengers come anon.
Hold it up sternly—see this it sends back, (who is it? is it you?) Outside fair costume, within ashes and filth, No more a flashing eye, no more a sonorous voice or springy step, Now some slave's eye, voice, hands, step, A drunkard's breath, unwholesome eater's face, venerealee's flesh, Lungs rotting away piecemeal, stomach sour and cankerous, Joints rheumatic, bowels clogged with abomination, Blood circulating dark and poisonous streams, Words babble, hearing and touch callous, No brain, no heart left, no magnetism of sex; Such from one look in this looking-glass ere you go hence, Such a result so soon—and from such a beginning!
Lover divine and perfect Comrade, Waiting content, invisible yet, but certain, Be thou my God.
Thou, thou, the Ideal Man, Fair, able, beautiful, content, and loving, Complete in body and dilate in spirit, Be thou my God.
O Death, (for Life has served its turn,) Opener and usher to the heavenly mansion, Be thou my God.
Aught, aught of mightiest, best I see, conceive, or know, (To break the stagnant tie—thee, thee to free, O soul,) Be thou my God.
All great ideas, the races' aspirations, All heroisms, deeds of rapt enthusiasts, Be ye my Gods.
Or Time and Space, Or shape of Earth divine and wondrous, Or some fair shape I viewing, worship, Or lustrous orb of sun or star by night, Be ye my Gods.
Forms, qualities, lives, humanity, language, thoughts, The ones known, and the ones unknown, the ones on the stars, The stars themselves, some shaped, others unshaped, Wonders as of those countries, the soil, trees, cities, inhabitants, whatever they may be, Splendid suns, the moons and rings, the countless combinations and effects, Such-like, and as good as such-like, visible here or anywhere, stand provided for a handful of space, which I extend my arm and half enclose with my hand, That containing the start of each and all, the virtue, the germs of all.
Of ownership—as if one fit to own things could not at pleasure enter upon all, and incorporate them into himself or herself; Of vista—suppose some sight in arriere through the formative chaos, presuming the growth, fulness, life, now attain'd on the journey, (But I see the road continued, and the journey ever continued;) Of what was once lacking on earth, and in due time has become supplied—and of what will yet be supplied, Because all I see and know I believe to have its main purport in what will yet be supplied.
When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer
When I heard the learn'd astronomer, When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me, 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.
Only themselves understand themselves and the like of themselves, As souls only understand souls.
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 the foolish, 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 me intertwined, The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
Answer. That you are here—that life exists and identity, That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
To a President
All you are doing and saying is to America dangled mirages, You have not learn'd of Nature—of the politics of Nature you have not learn'd the great amplitude, rectitude, impartiality, You have not seen that only such as they are for these States, And that what is less than they must sooner or later lift off from these States.
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 rest, I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon laborers, 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.
To Rich Givers
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 and woman, 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 eagles, The rushing amorous contact high in space together, The clinching interlocking claws, a living, fierce, gyrating wheel, Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling, In tumbling turning clustering loops, straight downward falling, Till o'er the river pois'd, the twain yet one, a moment's lull, A motionless still balance in the air, then parting, talons loosing, Upward again on slow-firm pinions slanting, their separate diverse flight, She hers, he his, pursuing.