For the great Idea, the idea of perfect and free individuals, For that, the bard walks in advance, leader of leaders, The attitude of him cheers up slaves and horrifies foreign despots.
Without extinction is Liberty, without retrograde is Equality, They live in the feelings of young men and the best women, (Not for nothing have the indomitable heads of the earth been always ready to fall for Liberty.)
11 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 know, 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 balls scream, 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.)
12 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, He may well survey, ponder, arm, fortify, harden, make lithe himself, 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 of Democracy? Are you faithful to things? do you teach what the land and sea, the bodies of men, womanhood, amativeness, heroic angers, teach? 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? Are you not of some coterie? some school or mere religion? Are you done with reviews and criticisms of life? animating now to life itself? Have you vivified yourself from the maternity of these States? Have you too the old ever-fresh forbearance and impartiality? 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 before? Have you not imported this or the spirit of it in some ship? 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 still here? Does it answer universal needs? will it improve manners? 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 seaside? 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 face? 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 mechanics, 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, partialist, 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.
13 Rhymes and rhymers pass away, poems distill'd from poems pass away, The swarms of reflectors and the polite pass, and leave ashes, 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 them, 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 absorb'd it.)
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, There will shortly be no more priests, I say their work is done, Death is without emergencies here, but life is perpetual emergencies here, Are your body, days, manners, superb? after death you shall be superb, Justice, health, self-esteem, clear the way with irresistible power; How dare you place any thing before a man?
14 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 rest, I have loved the earth, sun, animals, I have despised riches, I have given aims to every one that ask'd, stood up for the stupid and crazy, devoted my income and labor to others, 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, Dismiss'd whatever insulted my own soul or defiled my body, 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, restored, 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 faithful? Have I not through life kept you and yours before me?)
15 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 civilizations, governments, theories, Through poems, pageants, shows, to form individuals.
Underneath all, individuals, I swear nothing is good to me now that ignores individuals, The American compact is altogether with individuals, The only government is that which makes minute of individuals, 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 individuals.)
16 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 nativity.
Underneath all is the Expression of love for men and women, (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.) in myself,
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 lessons, Underneath all to me is myself, to you yourself, (the same monotonous old song.)
17 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 me, 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 sexes, Not to justify science nor the march of equality, Nor to feed the arrogant blood of the brawn belov'd of time.
I am for those that have never been master'd, For men and women whose tempers have never been master'd, For those whom laws, theories, conventions, can never master.
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 me, I will make cities and civilizations 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 your breast, I saw you serenely give birth to immortal children, saw in dreams your dilating form, Saw you with spreading mantle covering the world.)
18 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, mountains, brutes, Copious as you are I absorb you all in myself, and become the master myself, America isolated yet embodying all, what is it finally except myself? These States, what are they except myself?
I know now why the earth is gross, tantalizing, 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 are for, I know not fruition's success, but I know that through war and crime your work goes on, and must yet go on.)
19 Thus by blue Ontario's shore, While the winds fann'd me and the waves came trooping toward me, 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.
20 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 shores, 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 onward, To cheer O Mother your boundless expectant soul.
Bards of the great Idea! bards of the peaceful inventions! (for the war, the war is over!) Yet bards of latent armies, a million soldiers waiting ever-ready, Bards with songs as from burning coals or the lightning's fork'd stripes! Ample Ohio's, Kanada's bards—bards of California! inland bards— bards of the war! You by my charm I invoke.
Let that which stood in front go behind, Let that which was behind advance to the front, Let bigots, fools, unclean persons, offer new propositions, Let the old propositions be postponed, Let a man seek pleasure everywhere except in himself, Let a woman seek happiness everywhere except in herself
BOOK XXIV. AUTUMN RIVULETS
As Consequent, Etc.
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 canons from sources of perpetual snow, Some half-hid in Oregon, or away southward in Texas, Some in the north finding their way to Erie, Niagara, Ottawa, 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 too, Out of the depths the storm's abysmic waves, who knows whence? Raging over the vast, with many a broken spar and tatter'd sail.)
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 voiceless, Will you not little shells to the tympans of temples held, Murmurs and echoes still call up, eternity's music faint and far, Wafted inland, sent from Atlantica's rim, strains for the soul of the prairies, Whisper'd reverberations, chords for the ear of the West joyously sounding, 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
1 For the lands and for these passionate days and for myself, 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 womb, A song to narrate thee.
2 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, strong waves, 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 meadows, The shows of all the varied lands and all the growths and products.
3 Fecund America—today, Thou art all over set in births and joys! Thou groan'st with riches, thy wealth clothes thee as a swathing-garment, 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 into port, As rain falls from the heaven and vapors 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 West, 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.)
4 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 camps, Nor the regiments hastily coming up deploying in line of battle; No more the sad, unnatural shows of war.
Ask'd room those flush'd immortal ranks, the first forth-stepping armies? Ask room alas the ghastly ranks, the armies dread that follow'd.
(Pass, pass, ye proud brigades, with your tramping sinewy legs, With your shoulders young and strong, with your knapsacks and your muskets; How elate I stood and watch'd you, where starting off you march'd.
Pass—then rattle drums again, For an army heaves in sight, O another gathering army, Swarming, trailing on the rear, O you dread accruing army, O you regiments so piteous, with your mortal diarrhoea, with your fever, O my land's maim'd darlings, with the plenteous bloody bandage and the crutch, Lo, your pallid army follows.)
5 But on these days of brightness, On the far-stretching beauteous landscape, the roads and lanes the high-piled farm-wagons, and the fruits and barns, 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 grass, And along the edge of the sky in the horizon's far margin.
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.
6 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 armies, 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 homestead 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 soldiers, Resolve ye back again, give up for good your deadly arms, Other the arms the fields henceforth for you, or South or North, With saner wars, sweet wars, life-giving wars.
7 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 brook, And healthy uplands with herby-perfumed breezes, And the good green grass, that delicate miracle the ever-recurring grass.
8 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 labor-saving implements; Beholdest moving in every direction imbued as with life the revolving hay-rakes, The steam-power reaping-machines and the horse-power machines The engines, thrashers of grain and cleaners of grain, well separating the straw, the nimble work of the patent pitchfork, 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 heroes harvest.
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 peace.
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 tranquil barns, Oats to their bins, the white potato, the buckwheat of Michigan, to theirs; Gather the cotton in Mississippi or Alabama, dig and hoard the golden the sweet potato of Georgia and the Carolinas, Clip the wool of California or Pennsylvania, Cut the flax in the Middle States, or hemp or tobacco in the Borders, Pick the pea and the bean, or pull apples from the trees or bunches of grapes from the vines, Or aught that ripens in all these States or North or South, 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 became, 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 phoebe-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 the pond-side, 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 outhouse of the tavern whence he had lately risen, And the schoolmistress that pass'd on her way to the school, And the friendly boys that pass'd, and the quarrelsome boys, 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 went.
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 of him.
The mother at home quietly placing the dishes on the supper-table, The mother with mild words, clean her cap and gown, a wholesome odor falling off her person and clothes as she walks by, The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, anger'd, unjust, The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the crafty lure, 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 unreal, 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 and specks? Men and women crowding fast in the streets, if they are not flashes and specks what are they? The streets themselves and the facades 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, slapping, The strata of color'd clouds, the long bar of maroon-tint away solitary by itself, the spread of purity it lies motionless in, 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 every day.
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 ground, Her old white hair drooping dishevel'd round her shoulders, 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 dishevel'd, 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 grave, 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 clangor, I curious pause, for lo, an outcast form, a poor dead prostitute brought, Her corpse they deposit unclaim'd, it lies on the damp brick pavement, The divine woman, her body, I see the body, I look on it alone, That house once full of passion and beauty, all else I notice not, Nor stillness so cold, nor running water from faucet, nor odors 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 ever built! Or white-domed capitol with majestic figure surmounted, or all the old high-spired cathedrals, That little house alone more than them all—poor, desperate house! Fair, fearful wreck—tenement of a soul—itself a soul, Unclaim'd, avoided house—take one breath from my tremulous lips, Take one tear dropt aside as I go for thought of you, Dead house of love—house of madness and sin, crumbled, crush'd, House of life, erewhile talking and laughing—but ah, poor house, dead even then, Months, years, an echoing, garnish'd house—but dead, dead, dead.
1 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 renew me.
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, orchards, grain? Are they not continually putting distemper'd corpses within you? Is not every continent work'd over and over with sour dead?
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 deceiv'd, 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.
2 Behold this compost! behold it well! Perhaps every mite has once form'd part of a sick person—yet behold! The grass of spring covers the prairies, The bean bursts noiselessly through the mould in the garden, 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, The tinge awakes over the willow-tree and the mulberry-tree, 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 green leaves, Out of its hill rises the yellow maize-stalk, the lilacs bloom in the dooryards, The summer growth is innocent and disdainful above all those strata of sour dead.
What chemistry! 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 disease, Though probably every spear of grass rises out of what was once catching disease.
Now I am terrified at the Earth, it is that calm and patient, 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, sumptuous crops, It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts such leavings from them at last.
To a Foil'd European Revolutionaire
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 any unfaithfulness, Or the show of the tushes of power, soldiers, cannon, penal statutes.
What we believe in waits latent forever through all the continents, Invites no one, promises nothing, sits in calmness and light, is positive and composed, knows no discouragement, 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 world over, And he going with me leaves peace and routine behind him, 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 leadballs 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 discharged 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 travel'd their course and pass'd on, What vast-built cities, what orderly republics, what pastoral tribes and nomads, What histories, rulers, heroes, perhaps transcending all others, What laws, customs, wealth, arts, traditions, What sort of marriage, what costumes, what physiology and phrenology, 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 insects, Some in tents, herdsmen, patriarchs, tribes, horsemen, Some prowling through woods, some living peaceably on farms, laboring, reaping, filling barns, Some traversing paved avenues, amid temples, palaces, factories, libraries, shows, courts, theatres, wonderful monuments. Are those billions of men really gone? Are those women of the old experience of the earth gone? 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 fill'd 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 seen world, I suspect I shall meet them there, I suspect I shall there find each old particular of those unnamed lands.
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 prudence, 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 affects him or her in a day, month, any part of the direct lifetime, 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, discoloration, 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 shunn'd persons, 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 neighbors, All the limitless sweet love and precious suffering of mothers, 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, All that was ever manfully begun, whether it succeeded or no, 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 its own.
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 peril'd his life and lost it has done exceedingly well for himself without doubt, That he who never peril'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 favors 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.
The Singer in the Prison
O sight of pity, shame and dole! O fearful thought—a convict soul.
1 Rang the refrain along the hall, the prison, Rose to the roof, the vaults of heaven above, Pouring in floods of melody in tones so pensive sweet and strong the like whereof was never heard, Reaching the far-off sentry and the armed guards, who ceas'd their pacing, Making the hearer's pulses stop for ecstasy and awe.
2 The sun was low in the west one winter day, When down a narrow aisle amid the thieves and outlaws of the land, (There by the hundreds seated, sear-faced murderers, wily counterfeiters, Gather'd to Sunday church in prison walls, the keepers round, Plenteous, well-armed, watching with vigilant eyes,) Calmly a lady walk'd holding a little innocent child by either hand, Whom seating on their stools beside her on the platform, She, first preluding with the instrument a low and musical prelude, In voice surpassing all, sang forth a quaint old hymn.
A soul confined by bars and bands, Cries, help! O help! and wrings her hands, Blinded her eyes, bleeding her breast, Nor pardon finds, nor balm of rest.
Ceaseless she paces to and fro, O heart-sick days! O nights of woe! Nor hand of friend, nor loving face, Nor favor comes, nor word of grace.
It was not I that sinn'd the sin, The ruthless body dragg'd me in; Though long I strove courageously, The body was too much for me.
Dear prison'd soul bear up a space, For soon or late the certain grace; To set thee free and bear thee home, The heavenly pardoner death shall come.
Convict no more, nor shame, nor dole! Depart—a God-enfranchis'd soul!
3 The singer ceas'd, One glance swept from her clear calm eyes o'er all those upturn'd faces, Strange sea of prison faces, a thousand varied, crafty, brutal, seam'd and beauteous faces, Then rising, passing back along the narrow aisle between them, While her gown touch'd them rustling in the silence, She vanish'd with her children in the dusk.
While upon all, convicts and armed keepers ere they stirr'd, (Convict forgetting prison, keeper his loaded pistol,) A hush and pause fell down a wondrous minute, With deep half-stifled sobs and sound of bad men bow'd and moved to weeping, And youth's convulsive breathings, memories of home, The mother's voice in lullaby, the sister's care, the happy childhood, The long-pent spirit rous'd to reminiscence; A wondrous minute then—but after in the solitary night, to many, many there, Years after, even in the hour of death, the sad refrain, the tune, the voice, the words, Resumed, the large calm lady walks the narrow aisle, The wailing melody again, the singer in the prison sings,
O sight of pity, shame and dole! O fearful thought—a convict soul.
Warble for Lilac-Time
Warble me now for joy of lilac-time, (returning in reminiscence,) Sort me O tongue and lips for Nature's sake, souvenirs of earliest summer, Gather the welcome signs, (as children with pebbles or stringing shells,) Put in April and May, the hylas croaking in the ponds, the elastic air, Bees, butterflies, the sparrow with its simple notes, Blue-bird and darting swallow, nor forget the high-hole flashing his golden wings, The tranquil sunny haze, the clinging smoke, the vapor, Shimmer of waters with fish in them, the cerulean above, All that is jocund and sparkling, the brooks running, The maple woods, the crisp February days and the sugar-making, 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, building the nest of his mate, The melted snow of March, the willow sending forth its yellow-green sprouts, For spring-time is here! the summer is here! and what is this in it and from it? Thou, soul, unloosen'd—the restlessness after I know not what; 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! To glide with thee O soul, o'er all, in all, as a ship o'er the waters; 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 leaves, Wood-violets, the little delicate pale blossoms called innocence, Samples and sorts not for themselves alone, but for their atmosphere, To grace the bush I love—to sing with the birds, A warble for joy of returning in reminiscence.
Outlines for a Tomb [G. P., Buried 1870]
1 What may we chant, O thou within this tomb? What tablets, outlines, hang for thee, O millionnaire? The life thou lived'st we know not, But that thou walk'dst thy years in barter, 'mid the haunts of brokers, Nor heroism thine, nor war, nor glory.
2 Silent, my soul, With drooping lids, as waiting, ponder'd, Turning from all the samples, monuments of heroes.
While through the interior vistas, Noiseless uprose, phantasmic, (as by night Auroras of the north,) Lambent tableaus, prophetic, bodiless scenes, Spiritual projections.
In one, among the city streets a laborer's home appear'd, After his day's work done, cleanly, sweet-air'd, the gaslight burning, The carpet swept and a fire in the cheerful stove.
In one, the sacred parturition scene, A happy painless mother birth'd a perfect child.
In one, at a bounteous morning meal, Sat peaceful parents with contented sons.
In one, by twos and threes, young people, Hundreds concentring, walk'd the paths and streets and roads, Toward a tall-domed school.
In one a trio beautiful, Grandmother, loving daughter, loving daughter's daughter, sat, Chatting and sewing.
In one, along a suite of noble rooms, 'Mid plenteous books and journals, paintings on the walls, fine statuettes, Were groups of friendly journeymen, mechanics young and old, Reading, conversing.
All, all the shows of laboring life, City and country, women's, men's and children's, Their wants provided for, hued in the sun and tinged for once with joy, Marriage, the street, the factory, farm, the house-room, lodging-room, Labor and toll, the bath, gymnasium, playground, library, college, The student, boy or girl, led forward to be taught, The sick cared for, the shoeless shod, the orphan father'd and mother'd, The hungry fed, the houseless housed; (The intentions perfect and divine, The workings, details, haply human.)
3 O thou within this tomb, From thee such scenes, thou stintless, lavish giver, Tallying the gifts of earth, large as the earth, Thy name an earth, with mountains, fields and tides.
Nor by your streams alone, you rivers, By you, your banks Connecticut, By you and all your teeming life old Thames, By you Potomac laving the ground Washington trod, by you Patapsco, You Hudson, you endless Mississippi—nor you alone, But to the high seas launch, my thought, his memory.
Out from Behind This Mask [To Confront a Portrait]
1 Out from behind this bending rough-cut mask, These lights and shades, this drama of the whole, This common curtain of the face contain'd in me for me, in you for you, in each for each, (Tragedies, sorrows, laughter, tears—0 heaven! The passionate teeming plays this curtain hid!) This glaze of God's serenest purest sky, This film of Satan's seething pit, This heart's geography's map, this limitless small continent, this soundless sea; Out from the convolutions of this globe, This subtler astronomic orb than sun or moon, than Jupiter, Venus, Mars, This condensation of the universe, (nay here the only universe, Here the idea, all in this mystic handful wrapt;) These burin'd eyes, flashing to you to pass to future time, To launch and spin through space revolving sideling, from these to emanate, To you whoe'er you are—a look.
2 A traveler of thoughts and years, of peace and war, Of youth long sped and middle age declining, (As the first volume of a tale perused and laid away, and this the second, Songs, ventures, speculations, presently to close,) Lingering a moment here and now, to you I opposite turn, As on the road or at some crevice door by chance, or open'd window, Pausing, inclining, baring my head, you specially I greet, To draw and clinch your soul for once inseparably with mine, Then travel travel on.
1 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, friendship, procreation, prudence, and nakedness, After treading ground and breasting river and lake, After a loosen'd throat, after absorbing eras, temperaments, races, after knowledge, freedom, crimes, After complete faith, after clarifyings, elevations, and removing obstructions, After these and more, it is just possible there comes to a man, 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.
2 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; Where is the practis'd and perfect organ? where is the develop'd soul? 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 unstruck, Until that comes which has the quality to strike and to unclose, Until that comes which has the quality to bring forth what lies slumbering forever ready in all words.
To Him That Was Crucified
My spirit to yours dear brother, Do not mind because many sounding your name do not understand you, I do not sound your name, but I understand you, I specify you with joy O my comrade to salute you, and to salute those who are with you, before and since, and those to come also, That we all labor together transmitting the same charge and succession, We few equals indifferent of lands, indifferent of times, We, enclosers of all continents, all castes, allowers of all theologies, Compassionaters, perceivers, rapport of men, We walk silent among disputes and assertions, but reject not the disputers nor any thing that is asserted, We hear the bawling and din, we are reach'd at by divisions, jealousies, recriminations on every side, They close peremptorily upon us to surround us, my comrade, Yet we walk unheld, free, the whole earth over, journeying up and down till we make our ineffaceable mark upon time and the diverse eras, Till we saturate time and eras, that the men and women of races, ages to come, may prove brethren and lovers as we are.
You Felons on Trial in Courts
You felons on trial in courts, You convicts in prison-cells, you sentenced assassins chain'd and handcuff'd with iron, Who am I too that I am not on trial or in prison? Me ruthless and devilish as any, that my wrists are not chain'd with iron, or my ankles with iron?
You prostitutes flaunting over the trottoirs or obscene in your rooms, Who am I that I should call you more obscene than myself?
O culpable! I acknowledge—I expose! (O admirers, praise not me—compliment not me—you make me wince, I see what you do not—I know what you do not.)
Inside these breast-bones I lie smutch'd and choked, Beneath this face that appears so impassive hell's tides continually run, Lusts and wickedness are acceptable to me, I walk with delinquents with passionate love, I feel I am of them—I belong to those convicts and prostitutes myself, And henceforth I will not deny them—for how can I deny myself?
Laws for Creations
Laws for creations, For strong artists and leaders, for fresh broods of teachers and perfect literats for America, For noble savans and coming musicians. All must have reference to the ensemble of the world, and the compact truth of the world, There shall be no subject too pronounced—all works shall illustrate the divine law of indirections.
What do you suppose creation is? What do you suppose will satisfy the soul, except to walk free and own no superior? What do you suppose I would intimate to you in a hundred ways, but that man or woman is as good as God? And that there is no God any more divine than Yourself? And that that is what the oldest and newest myths finally mean? And that you or any one must approach creations through such laws?
To a Common Prostitute
Be composed—be at ease with me—I am Walt Whitman, liberal and lusty as Nature, Not till the sun excludes you do I exclude you, Not till the waters refuse to glisten for you and the leaves to rustle for you, do my words refuse to glisten and rustle for you.
My girl I appoint with you an appointment, and I charge you that you make preparation to be worthy to meet me, And I charge you that you be patient and perfect till I come.
Till then I salute you with a significant look that you do not forget me.
I Was Looking a Long While
I was looking a long while for Intentions, For a clew to the history of the past for myself, and for these chants—and now I have found it, It is not in those paged fables in the libraries, (them I neither accept nor reject,) It is no more in the legends than in all else, It is in the present—it is this earth to-day, It is in Democracy—(the purport and aim of all the past,) It is the life of one man or one woman to-day—the average man of to-day, It is in languages, social customs, literatures, arts, It is in the broad show of artificial things, ships, machinery, politics, creeds, modern improvements, and the interchange of nations, All for the modern—all for the average man of to-day.
Of persons arrived at high positions, ceremonies, wealth, scholarships, and the like; (To me all that those persons have arrived at sinks away from them, except as it results to their bodies and souls, So that often to me they appear gaunt and naked, And often to me each one mocks the others, and mocks himself or herself, And of each one the core of life, namely happiness, is full of the rotten excrement of maggots, And often to me those men and women pass unwittingly the true realities of life, and go toward false realities, And often to me they are alive after what custom has served them, but nothing more, And often to me they are sad, hasty, unwaked sonnambules walking the dusk.)
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 sky, 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 forenoon, 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 spring; 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?
Sparkles from the Wheel
Where the city's ceaseless crowd moves on the livelong day, 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 knife, Bending over he carefully holds it to the stone, by foot and knee, 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 affect me, 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, Diffusing, dropping, sideways-darting, in tiny showers of gold, Sparkles from the wheel.
To a Pupil
Is reform needed? is it through you? The greater the reform needed, the greater the Personality 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 commence to-day to inure yourself to pluck, reality, self-esteem, definiteness, elevatedness, Rest not till you rivet and publish yourself of your own Personality.
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 friendliest man, 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 poems come;) 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 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, Unfolded out of the sympathy of the woman is all sympathy; A man is a great thing upon the earth and through eternity, but every 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.
What Am I After All
What am I after all but a child, pleas'd with the sound of my own name? repeating it over and over; I stand apart to hear—it never tires me.
To you your name also; Did you think there was nothing but two or three pronunciations in the sound of your name?
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 majestic lover, Who holds duly his or her triune proportion of realism, spiritualism, and of the aesthetic or intellectual, Who having consider'd the body finds all its organs and parts good, Who, out of the theory of the earth and of his or her body understands by subtle analogies all other theories, The theory of a city, a poem, and of the large politics of these States; Who believes not only in our globe with its sun and moon, but in other globes with their suns and moons, Who, constructing the house of himself or herself, not for a day but for all time, sees races, eras, dates, generations, The past, the future, dwelling there, like space, inseparable together.
Others May Praise What They Like
Others may praise what they like; But I, from the banks of the running Missouri, praise nothing in art or aught else, Till it has well inhaled the atmosphere of this river, also the western prairie-scent, And exudes it all again.
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 commence; 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 salaams.
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 woman, Nor that seventy millions of years is the time of a man or woman, Nor that years will ever stop the existence of me, or any one else.
Is it wonderful that I should be immortal? as every one is immortal; 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 wonderful, 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, unapproachable to analysis in the soul, Not traditions, not the outer authorities are the judges, They are the judges of outer authorities and of all traditions, They corroborate as they go only whatever corroborates themselves, and touches themselves; For all that, they have it forever in themselves to corroborate 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 spearing salmon, The canoe, a dim shadowy thing, moves across the black water, Bearing a torch ablaze at the prow.
O Star of France [1870-71]
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 hulk, 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 dearest hopes, The struggle and the daring, rage divine for liberty, Of aspirations toward the far ideal, enthusiast's dreams of brotherhood, 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 the price, In that thou surely wakedst weeping from thy drugg'd sleep, 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 chains, 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 dispel'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.
In a far-away northern county in the placid pastoral region, Lives my farmer friend, the theme of my recitative, a famous tamer of oxen, There they bring him the three-year-olds and the four-year-olds to break them, He will take the wildest steer in the world and break him and tame him, He will go fearless without any whip where the young bullock chafes up and down the yard, The bullock's head tosses restless high in the air with raging eyes, Yet see you! how soon his rage subsides—how soon this tamer tames him; See you! on the farms hereabout a hundred oxen young and old, and he is the man who has tamed them, They all know him, all are affectionate to him; See you! some are such beautiful animals, so lofty looking; Some are buff-color'd, some mottled, one has a white line running along his back, some are brindled, Some have wide flaring horns (a good sign)—see you! the bright hides, See, the two with stars on their foreheads—see, the round bodies and broad backs, How straight and square they stand on their legs—what fine sagacious eyes! How straight they watch their tamer—they wish him near them—how they turn to look after him! What yearning expression! how uneasy they are when he moves away from them; Now I marvel what it can be he appears to them, (books, politics, poems, depart—all else departs,) I confess I envy only his fascination—my silent, illiterate friend, Whom a hundred oxen love there in his life on farms, In the northern county far, in the placid pastoral region.
An Old Man's Thought of School [For the Inauguration of a Public School, Camden, New Jersey, 1874]
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.
Wandering at Morn
Wandering at morn, Emerging from the night from gloomy thoughts, thee in my thoughts, Yearning for thee harmonious Union! thee, singing bird divine! Thee coil'd in evil times my country, with craft and black dismay, with every meanness, treason thrust upon thee, 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 bless'd may be, Then may I trust in you, your fortunes, days, my country; 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.
Italian Music in Dakota ["The Seventeenth—the finest Regimental Band I ever heard."]
Through the soft evening air enwinding all, Rocks, woods, fort, cannon, pacing sentries, endless wilds, In dulcet streams, in flutes' and cornets' notes, Electric, pensive, turbulent, artificial, (Yet strangely fitting even here, meanings unknown before, Subtler than ever, more harmony, as if born here, related here, Not to the city's fresco'd rooms, not to the audience of the opera house, Sounds, echoes, wandering strains, as really here at home, Sonnambula's innocent love, trios with Norma's anguish, And thy ecstatic chorus Poliuto;) Ray'd in the limpid yellow slanting sundown, Music, Italian music in Dakota.
While Nature, sovereign of this gnarl'd realm, Lurking in hidden barbaric grim recesses, Acknowledging rapport however far remov'd, (As some old root or soil of earth its last-born flower or fruit,) Listens well pleas'd.
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?
In a little house keep I pictures suspended, it is not a fix'd house, It is round, it is only a few inches from one side to the other; Yet behold, it has room for all the shows of the world, all memories! Here the tableaus of life, and here the groupings of death; Here, do you know this? this is cicerone himself, With finger rais'd he points to the prodigal pictures.
The Prairie States
A newer garden of creation, no primal solitude, Dense, joyous, modern, populous millions, cities and farms, With iron interlaced, composite, tied, many in one, By all the world contributed—freedom's and law's and thrift's society, The crown and teeming paradise, so far, of time's accumulations, To justify the past.
Proud Music of the Storm
1 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 nations; You chords left as by vast composers—you choruses, You formless, free, religious dances—you from the Orient, 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 me powerless, Entering my lonesome slumber-chamber, why have you seiz'd me?
2 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-march, With lips of love, and hearts of lovers fill'd to the brim with love, The red-flush'd cheeks and perfumes, the cortege swarming 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 agony, The hiss and crackle of flames, the blacken'd ruins, the embers of cities, The dirge and desolation of mankind.)
Now airs antique and mediaeval fill me, I see and hear old harpers with their harps at Welsh festivals, I hear the minnesingers singing their lays of love, I hear the minstrels, gleemen, troubadours, of the middle ages.
Now the great organ sounds, Tremulous, while underneath, (as the hid footholds of the earth, On which arising rest, and leaping forth depend, All shapes of beauty, grace and strength, all hues we know, 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, ten-fold renewer, As of the far-back days the poets tell, the Paradiso, The straying thence, the separation long, but now the wandering done, The journey done, the journeyman come home, And man and art with Nature fused again.
Tutti! for earth and heaven; (The Almighty leader now for once has signal'd with his wand.)
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 itself, This brooding yearning heart, that cannot tell itself.)
3 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, Last miracle of all, O dearest mother's, sister's, voices;) The rain, the growing corn, the breeze among the long-leav'd corn, 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, The lowing cattle, bleating sheep, the crowing cock at dawn.
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 passion, 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 dishevel'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 in despair, 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.)
4 I hear those odes, symphonies, operas, I hear in the William Tell the music of an arous'd and angry people, 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 in bliss, 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 Arabs, Again, at Eleusis, home of Ceres, I see the modern Greeks dancing, I hear them clapping their hands as they bend their bodies, I hear the metrical shuffling of their feet.
I see again the wild old Corybantian dance, the performers 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, ecstatic faces.
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 and stone,) Or to Hindu flutes and the fretting twang of the vina, A band of bayaderes.
5 Now Asia, Africa leave me, Europe seizing inflates me, To organs huge and bands I hear as from vast concourses 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 color'd windows, The passionate Agnus Dei or Gloria in Excelsis.
Composers! mighty maestros! And you, sweet singers of old lands, soprani, tenori, bassi! 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 cathedral, Or, under the high roof of some colossal hall, the symphonies, oratorios of Beethoven, Handel, or Haydn, 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 throbbings, Nature's also, The tempests, waters, winds, operas and chants, marches and dances, Utter, pour in, for I would take them all!
6 Then I woke softly, And pausing, questioning awhile the music of my dream, And questioning all those reminiscences, the tempest in its fury, 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 organs, And all the artless plaints of love and grief and death, I said to my silent curious soul out of the bed of the slumber-chamber, 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 of winds, 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 marching soldiers, 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.
Passage to India
1 Singing my days, Singing the great achievements of the present, Singing the strong light works of engineers, Our modern wonders, (the antique ponderous Seven outvied,) In the Old World the east the Suez canal, The New by its mighty railroad spann'd, The seas inlaid with eloquent gentle wires; Yet first to sound, and ever sound, the cry with thee O soul, The Past! the Past! the Past!
The Past—the dark unfathom'd retrospect! The teeming gulf—the sleepers and the shadows! The past—the infinite greatness of the past! For what is the present after all but a growth out of the past? (As a projectile form'd, impell'd, passing a certain line, still keeps on, So the present, utterly form'd, impell'd by the past.)
2 Passage O soul to India! Eclaircise the myths Asiatic, the primitive fables.
Not you alone proud truths of the world, Nor you alone ye facts of modern science, But myths and fables of eld, Asia's, Africa's fables, The far-darting beams of the spirit, the unloos'd dreams, The deep diving bibles and legends, The daring plots of the poets, the elder religions; O you temples fairer than lilies pour'd over by the rising sun! O you fables spurning the known, eluding the hold of the known, mounting to heaven! You lofty and dazzling towers, pinnacled, red as roses, burnish'd with gold! Towers of fables immortal fashion'd from mortal dreams! You too I welcome and fully the same as the rest! You too with joy I sing.
Passage to India! Lo, soul, seest thou not God's purpose from the first? The earth to be spann'd, connected by network, The races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage, The oceans to be cross'd, the distant brought near, The lands to be welded together.
A worship new I sing, You captains, voyagers, explorers, yours, You engineers, you architects, machinists, yours, You, not for trade or transportation only, But in God's name, and for thy sake O soul.
3 Passage to India! Lo soul for thee of tableaus twain, I see in one the Suez canal initiated, open'd, I see the procession of steamships, the Empress Engenie's leading the van, I mark from on deck the strange landscape, the pure sky, the level sand in the distance, I pass swiftly the picturesque groups, the workmen gather'd, The gigantic dredging machines.
In one again, different, (yet thine, all thine, O soul, the same,) I see over my own continent the Pacific railroad surmounting every barrier, I see continual trains of cars winding along the Platte carrying freight and passengers, I hear the locomotives rushing and roaring, and the shrill steam-whistle, I hear the echoes reverberate through the grandest scenery in the world, I cross the Laramie plains, I note the rocks in grotesque shapes, the buttes, I see the plentiful larkspur and wild onions, the barren, colorless, sage-deserts, I see in glimpses afar or towering immediately above me the great mountains, I see the Wind river and the Wahsatch mountains, I see the Monument mountain and the Eagle's Nest, I pass the Promontory, I ascend the Nevadas, I scan the noble Elk mountain and wind around its base, I see the Humboldt range, I thread the valley and cross the river, I see the clear waters of lake Tahoe, I see forests of majestic pines, Or crossing the great desert, the alkaline plains, I behold enchanting mirages of waters and meadows, Marking through these and after all, in duplicate slender lines, Bridging the three or four thousand miles of land travel, Tying the Eastern to the Western sea, The road between Europe and Asia.
(Ah Genoese thy dream! thy dream! Centuries after thou art laid in thy grave, The shore thou foundest verifies thy dream.)
4 Passage to India! Struggles of many a captain, tales of many a sailor dead, Over my mood stealing and spreading they come, Like clouds and cloudlets in the unreach'd sky.
Along all history, down the slopes, As a rivulet running, sinking now, and now again to the surface rising, A ceaseless thought, a varied train—lo, soul, to thee, thy sight, they rise, The plans, the voyages again, the expeditions; Again Vasco de Gama sails forth, Again the knowledge gain'd, the mariner's compass, Lands found and nations born, thou born America, For purpose vast, man's long probation fill'd, Thou rondure of the world at last accomplish'd.
5 O vast Rondure, swimming in space, Cover'd all over with visible power and beauty, Alternate light and day and the teeming spiritual darkness, Unspeakable high processions of sun and moon and countless stars above, Below, the manifold grass and waters, animals, mountains, trees, With inscrutable purpose, some hidden prophetic intention, Now first it seems my thought begins to span thee.
Down from the gardens of Asia descending radiating, Adam and Eve appear, then their myriad progeny after them, Wandering, yearning, curious, with restless explorations, With questionings, baffled, formless, feverish, with never-happy hearts, With that sad incessant refrain, Wherefore unsatisfied soul? and Whither O mocking life?