Ashes of Soldiers
Ashes of soldiers South or North, As I muse retrospective murmuring a chant in thought, The war resumes, again to my sense your shapes, And again the advance of the armies.
Noiseless as mists and vapors, From their graves in the trenches ascending, From cemeteries all through Virginia and Tennessee, From every point of the compass out of the countless graves, In wafted clouds, in myriads large, or squads of twos or threes or single ones they come, And silently gather round me.
Now sound no note O trumpeters, Not at the head of my cavalry parading on spirited horses, With sabres drawn and glistening, and carbines by their thighs, (ah my brave horsemen! My handsome tan-faced horsemen! what life, what joy and pride, With all the perils were yours.)
Nor you drummers, neither at reveille at dawn, Nor the long roll alarming the camp, nor even the muffled beat for burial, Nothing from you this time O drummers bearing my warlike drums.
But aside from these and the marts of wealth and the crowded promenade, Admitting around me comrades close unseen by the rest and voiceless, The slain elate and alive again, the dust and debris alive, I chant this chant of my silent soul in the name of all dead soldiers.
Faces so pale with wondrous eyes, very dear, gather closer yet, Draw close, but speak not.
Phantoms of countless lost, Invisible to the rest henceforth become my companions, Follow me ever—desert me not while I live.
Sweet are the blooming cheeks of the living—sweet are the musical voices sounding, But sweet, ah sweet, are the dead with their silent eyes.
Dearest comrades, all is over and long gone, But love is not over—and what love, O comrades! Perfume from battle-fields rising, up from the foetor arising.
Perfume therefore my chant, O love, immortal love, Give me to bathe the memories of all dead soldiers, Shroud them, embalm them, cover them all over with tender pride.
Perfume all—make all wholesome, Make these ashes to nourish and blossom, O love, solve all, fructify all with the last chemistry.
Give me exhaustless, make me a fountain, That I exhale love from me wherever I go like a moist perennial dew, For the ashes of all dead soldiers South or North.
1 Of these years I sing, How they pass and have pass'd through convuls'd pains, as through parturitions, How America illustrates birth, muscular youth, the promise, the sure fulfilment, the absolute success, despite of people—illustrates evil as well as good, The vehement struggle so fierce for unity in one's-self, How many hold despairingly yet to the models departed, caste, myths, obedience, compulsion, and to infidelity, How few see the arrived models, the athletes, the Western States, or see freedom or spirituality, or hold any faith in results, (But I see the athletes, and I see the results of the war glorious and inevitable, and they again leading to other results.)
How the great cities appear—how the Democratic masses, turbulent, willful, as I love them, How the whirl, the contest, the wrestle of evil with good, the sounding and resounding, keep on and on, How society waits unform'd, and is for a while between things ended and things begun, How America is the continent of glories, and of the triumph of freedom and of the Democracies, and of the fruits of society, and of all that is begun, And how the States are complete in themselves—and how all triumphs and glories are complete in themselves, to lead onward, And how these of mine and of the States will in their turn be convuls'd, and serve other parturitions and transitions, And how all people, sights, combinations, the democratic masses too, serve—and how every fact, and war itself, with all its horrors, serves, And how now or at any time each serves the exquisite transition of death.
2 Of seeds dropping into the ground, of births, Of the steady concentration of America, inland, upward, to impregnable and swarming places, Of what Indiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, and the rest, are to be, Of what a few years will show there in Nebraska, Colorado, Nevada, and the rest, (Or afar, mounting the Northern Pacific to Sitka or Aliaska,) Of what the feuillage of America is the preparation for—and of what all sights, North, South, East and West, are, Of this Union welded in blood, of the solemn price paid, of the unnamed lost ever present in my mind; Of the temporary use of materials for identity's sake, Of the present, passing, departing—of the growth of completer men than any yet, Of all sloping down there where the fresh free giver the mother, the Mississippi flows, Of mighty inland cities yet unsurvey'd and unsuspected, Of the new and good names, of the modern developments, of inalienable homesteads, Of a free and original life there, of simple diet and clean and sweet blood, Of litheness, majestic faces, clear eyes, and perfect physique there, Of immense spiritual results future years far West, each side of the Anahuacs, Of these songs, well understood there, (being made for that area,) Of the native scorn of grossness and gain there, (O it lurks in me night and day—what is gain after all to savageness and freedom?)
Song at Sunset
Splendor of ended day floating and filling me, Hour prophetic, hour resuming the past, Inflating my throat, you divine average, You earth and life till the last ray gleams I sing.
Open mouth of my soul uttering gladness, Eyes of my soul seeing perfection, Natural life of me faithfully praising things, Corroborating forever the triumph of things.
Illustrious every one! Illustrious what we name space, sphere of unnumber'd spirits, Illustrious the mystery of motion in all beings, even the tiniest insect, Illustrious the attribute of speech, the senses, the body, Illustrious the passing light—illustrious the pale reflection on the new moon in the western sky, Illustrious whatever I see or hear or touch, to the last.
Good in all, In the satisfaction and aplomb of animals, In the annual return of the seasons, In the hilarity of youth, In the strength and flush of manhood, In the grandeur and exquisiteness of old age, In the superb vistas of death.
Wonderful to depart! Wonderful to be here! The heart, to jet the all-alike and innocent blood! To breathe the air, how delicious! To speak—to walk—to seize something by the hand! To prepare for sleep, for bed, to look on my rose-color'd flesh! To be conscious of my body, so satisfied, so large! To be this incredible God I am! To have gone forth among other Gods, these men and women I love.
Wonderful how I celebrate you and myself How my thoughts play subtly at the spectacles around! How the clouds pass silently overhead! How the earth darts on and on! and how the sun, moon, stars, dart on and on! How the water sports and sings! (surely it is alive!) How the trees rise and stand up, with strong trunks, with branches and leaves! (Surely there is something more in each of the trees, some living soul.)
O amazement of things—even the least particle! O spirituality of things! O strain musical flowing through ages and continents, now reaching me and America! I take your strong chords, intersperse them, and cheerfully pass them forward.
I too carol the sun, usher'd or at noon, or as now, setting, I too throb to the brain and beauty of the earth and of all the growths of the earth, I too have felt the resistless call of myself.
As I steam'd down the Mississippi, As I wander'd over the prairies, As I have lived, as I have look'd through my windows my eyes, As I went forth in the morning, as I beheld the light breaking in the east, As I bathed on the beach of the Eastern Sea, and again on the beach of the Western Sea, As I roam'd the streets of inland Chicago, whatever streets I have roam'd, Or cities or silent woods, or even amid the sights of war, Wherever I have been I have charged myself with contentment and triumph.
I sing to the last the equalities modern or old, I sing the endless finales of things, I say Nature continues, glory continues, I praise with electric voice, For I do not see one imperfection in the universe, And I do not see one cause or result lamentable at last in the universe.
O setting sun! though the time has come, I still warble under you, if none else does, unmitigated adoration.
As at Thy Portals Also Death
As at thy portals also death, Entering thy sovereign, dim, illimitable grounds, To memories of my mother, to the divine blending, maternity, To her, buried and gone, yet buried not, gone not from me, (I see again the calm benignant face fresh and beautiful still, I sit by the form in the coffin, I kiss and kiss convulsively again the sweet old lips, the cheeks, the closed eyes in the coffin;) To her, the ideal woman, practical, spiritual, of all of earth, life, love, to me the best, I grave a monumental line, before I go, amid these songs, And set a tombstone here.
The business man the acquirer vast, After assiduous years surveying results, preparing for departure, Devises houses and lands to his children, bequeaths stocks, goods, funds for a school or hospital, Leaves money to certain companions to buy tokens, souvenirs of gems and gold.
But I, my life surveying, closing, With nothing to show to devise from its idle years, Nor houses nor lands, nor tokens of gems or gold for my friends, Yet certain remembrances of the war for you, and after you, And little souvenirs of camps and soldiers, with my love, I bind together and bequeath in this bundle of songs.
Pensive on Her Dead Gazing
Pensive on her dead gazing I heard the Mother of All, Desperate on the torn bodies, on the forms covering the battlefields gazing, (As the last gun ceased, but the scent of the powder-smoke linger'd,) As she call'd to her earth with mournful voice while she stalk'd, Absorb them well O my earth, she cried, I charge you lose not my sons, lose not an atom, And you streams absorb them well, taking their dear blood, And you local spots, and you airs that swim above lightly impalpable, And all you essences of soil and growth, and you my rivers' depths, And you mountain sides, and the woods where my dear children's blood trickling redden'd, And you trees down in your roots to bequeath to all future trees, My dead absorb or South or North—my young men's bodies absorb, and their precious precious blood, Which holding in trust for me faithfully back again give me many a year hence, In unseen essence and odor of surface and grass, centuries hence, In blowing airs from the fields back again give me my darlings, give my immortal heroes, Exhale me them centuries hence, breathe me their breath, let not an atom be lost, O years and graves! O air and soil! O my dead, an aroma sweet! Exhale them perennial sweet death, years, centuries hence.
Camps of Green
Nor alone those camps of white, old comrades of the wars, When as order'd forward, after a long march, Footsore and weary, soon as the light lessens we halt for the night, Some of us so fatigued carrying the gun and knapsack, dropping asleep in our tracks, Others pitching the little tents, and the fires lit up begin to sparkle, Outposts of pickets posted surrounding alert through the dark, And a word provided for countersign, careful for safety, Till to the call of the drummers at daybreak loudly beating the drums, We rise up refresh'd, the night and sleep pass'd over, and resume our journey, Or proceed to battle.
Lo, the camps of the tents of green, Which the days of peace keep filling, and the days of war keep filling, With a mystic army, (is it too order'd forward? is it too only halting awhile, Till night and sleep pass over?)
Now in those camps of green, in their tents dotting the world, In the parents, children, husbands, wives, in them, in the old and young, Sleeping under the sunlight, sleeping under the moonlight, content and silent there at last, Behold the mighty bivouac-field and waiting-camp of all, Of the corps and generals all, and the President over the corps and generals all, And of each of us O soldiers, and of each and all in the ranks we fought, (There without hatred we all, all meet.)
For presently O soldiers, we too camp in our place in the bivouac-camps of green, But we need not provide for outposts, nor word for the countersign, Nor drummer to beat the morning drum.
The Sobbing of the Bells [Midnight, Sept. 19-20, 1881]
The sobbing of the bells, the sudden death-news everywhere, The slumberers rouse, the rapport of the People, (Full well they know that message in the darkness, Full well return, respond within their breasts, their brains, the sad reverberations,) The passionate toll and clang—city to city, joining, sounding, passing, Those heart-beats of a Nation in the night.
As They Draw to a Close
As they draw to a close, Of what underlies the precedent songs—of my aims in them, Of the seed I have sought to plant in them, Of joy, sweet joy, through many a year, in them, (For them, for them have I lived, in them my work is done,) Of many an aspiration fond, of many a dream and plan; Through Space and Time fused in a chant, and the flowing eternal identity, To Nature encompassing these, encompassing God—to the joyous, electric all, To the sense of Death, and accepting exulting in Death in its turn the same as life, The entrance of man to sing; To compact you, ye parted, diverse lives, To put rapport the mountains and rocks and streams, And the winds of the north, and the forests of oak and pine, With you O soul.
Joy, Shipmate, Joy!
Joy, shipmate, Joy! (Pleas'd to my soul at death I cry,) Our life is closed, our life begins, The long, long anchorage we leave, The ship is clear at last, she leaps! She swiftly courses from the shore, Joy, shipmate, joy.
The Untold Want
The untold want by life and land ne'er granted, Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.
What are those of the known but to ascend and enter the Unknown? And what are those of life but for Death?
These carols sung to cheer my passage through the world I see, For completion I dedicate to the Invisible World.
Now Finale to the Shore
Now finale to the shore, Now land and life finale and farewell, Now Voyager depart, (much, much for thee is yet in store,) Often enough hast thou adventur'd o'er the seas, Cautiously cruising, studying the charts, Duly again to port and hawser's tie returning; But now obey thy cherish'd secret wish, Embrace thy friends, leave all in order, To port and hawser's tie no more returning, Depart upon thy endless cruise old Sailor.
To conclude, I announce what comes after me.
I remember I said before my leaves sprang at all, I would raise my voice jocund and strong with reference to consummations.
When America does what was promis'd, When through these States walk a hundred millions of superb persons, When the rest part away for superb persons and contribute to them, When breeds of the most perfect mothers denote America, Then to me and mine our due fruition.
I have press'd through in my own right, I have sung the body and the soul, war and peace have I sung, and the songs of life and death, And the songs of birth, and shown that there are many births.
I have offer'd my style to every one, I have journey'd with confident step; While my pleasure is yet at the full I whisper So long! And take the young woman's hand and the young man's hand for the last time.
I announce natural persons to arise, I announce justice triumphant, I announce uncompromising liberty and equality, I announce the justification of candor and the justification of pride.
I announce that the identity of these States is a single identity only, I announce the Union more and more compact, indissoluble, I announce splendors and majesties to make all the previous politics of the earth insignificant.
I announce adhesiveness, I say it shall be limitless, unloosen'd, I say you shall yet find the friend you were looking for.
I announce a man or woman coming, perhaps you are the one, (So long!) I announce the great individual, fluid as Nature, chaste, affectionate, compassionate, fully arm'd.
I announce a life that shall be copious, vehement, spiritual, bold, I announce an end that shall lightly and joyfully meet its translation.
I announce myriads of youths, beautiful, gigantic, sweet-blooded, I announce a race of splendid and savage old men.
O thicker and faster—(So long!) O crowding too close upon me, I foresee too much, it means more than I thought, It appears to me I am dying.
Hasten throat and sound your last, Salute me—salute the days once more. Peal the old cry once more.
Screaming electric, the atmosphere using, At random glancing, each as I notice absorbing, Swiftly on, but a little while alighting, Curious envelop'd messages delivering, Sparkles hot, seed ethereal down in the dirt dropping, Myself unknowing, my commission obeying, to question it never daring, To ages and ages yet the growth of the seed leaving, To troops out of the war arising, they the tasks I have set promulging, To women certain whispers of myself bequeathing, their affection me more clearly explaining, To young men my problems offering—no dallier I—I the muscle of their brains trying, So I pass, a little time vocal, visible, contrary, Afterward a melodious echo, passionately bent for, (death making me really undying,) The best of me then when no longer visible, for toward that I have been incessantly preparing.
What is there more, that I lag and pause and crouch extended with unshut mouth? Is there a single final farewell? My songs cease, I abandon them, From behind the screen where I hid I advance personally solely to you.
Camerado, this is no book, Who touches this touches a man, (Is it night? are we here together alone?) It is I you hold and who holds you, I spring from the pages into your arms—decease calls me forth.
O how your fingers drowse me, Your breath falls around me like dew, your pulse lulls the tympans of my ears, I feel immerged from head to foot, Delicious, enough.
Enough O deed impromptu and secret, Enough O gliding present—enough O summ'd-up past.
Dear friend whoever you are take this kiss, I give it especially to you, do not forget me, I feel like one who has done work for the day to retire awhile, I receive now again of my many translations, from my avataras ascending, while others doubtless await me, An unknown sphere more real than I dream'd, more direct, darts awakening rays about me, So long! Remember my words, I may again return, I love you, I depart from materials, I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead.
BOOK XXXIV. SANDS AT SEVENTY
My city's fit and noble name resumed, Choice aboriginal name, with marvellous beauty, meaning, A rocky founded island—shores where ever gayly dash the coming, going, hurrying sea waves.
Sea-beauty! stretch'd and basking! One side thy inland ocean laving, broad, with copious commerce, steamers, sails, And one the Atlantic's wind caressing, fierce or gentle—mighty hulls dark-gliding in the distance. Isle of sweet brooks of drinking-water—healthy air and soil! Isle of the salty shore and breeze and brine!
From Montauk Point
I stand as on some mighty eagle's beak, Eastward the sea absorbing, viewing, (nothing but sea and sky,) The tossing waves, the foam, the ships in the distance, The wild unrest, the snowy, curling caps—that inbound urge and urge of waves, Seeking the shores forever.
To Those Who've Fail'd
To those who've fail'd, in aspiration vast, To unnam'd soldiers fallen in front on the lead, To calm, devoted engineers—to over-ardent travelers—to pilots on their ships, To many a lofty song and picture without recognition—I'd rear laurel-cover'd monument, High, high above the rest—To all cut off before their time, Possess'd by some strange spirit of fire, Quench'd by an early death.
A Carol Closing Sixty-Nine
A carol closing sixty-nine—a resume—a repetition, My lines in joy and hope continuing on the same, Of ye, O God, Life, Nature, Freedom, Poetry; Of you, my Land—your rivers, prairies, States—you, mottled Flag I love, Your aggregate retain'd entire—Of north, south, east and west, your items all; Of me myself—the jocund heart yet beating in my breast, The body wreck'd, old, poor and paralyzed—the strange inertia falling pall-like round me, The burning fires down in my sluggish blood not yet extinct, The undiminish'd faith—the groups of loving friends.
The Bravest Soldiers
Brave, brave were the soldiers (high named to-day) who lived through the fight; But the bravest press'd to the front and fell, unnamed, unknown.
A Font of Type
This latent mine—these unlaunch'd voices—passionate powers, Wrath, argument, or praise, or comic leer, or prayer devout, (Not nonpareil, brevier, bourgeois, long primer merely,) These ocean waves arousable to fury and to death, Or sooth'd to ease and sheeny sun and sleep, Within the pallid slivers slumbering.
As I Sit Writing Here
As I sit writing here, sick and grown old, Not my least burden is that dulness of the years, querilities, Ungracious glooms, aches, lethargy, constipation, whimpering ennui, May filter in my dally songs.
My Canary Bird
Did we count great, O soul, to penetrate the themes of mighty books, Absorbing deep and full from thoughts, plays, speculations? But now from thee to me, caged bird, to feel thy joyous warble, Filling the air, the lonesome room, the long forenoon, Is it not just as great, O soul?
Queries to My Seventieth Year
Approaching, nearing, curious, Thou dim, uncertain spectre—bringest thou life or death? Strength, weakness, blindness, more paralysis and heavier? Or placid skies and sun? Wilt stir the waters yet? Or haply cut me short for good? Or leave me here as now, Dull, parrot-like and old, with crack'd voice harping, screeching?
The Wallabout Martyrs
Greater than memory of Achilles or Ulysses, More, more by far to thee than tomb of Alexander, Those cart loads of old charnel ashes, scales and splints of mouldy bones, Once living men—once resolute courage, aspiration, strength, The stepping stones to thee to-day and here, America.
The First Dandelion
Simple and fresh and fair from winter's close emerging, As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been, Forth from its sunny nook of shelter'd grass—innocent, golden, calm as the dawn, The spring's first dandelion shows its trustful face.
Centre of equal daughters, equal sons, All, all alike endear'd, grown, ungrown, young or old, Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich, Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love, A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother, Chair'd in the adamant of Time.
How sweet the silent backward tracings! The wanderings as in dreams—the meditation of old times resumed —their loves, joys, persons, voyages.
To-Day and Thee
The appointed winners in a long-stretch'd game; The course of Time and nations—Egypt, India, Greece and Rome; The past entire, with all its heroes, histories, arts, experiments, Its store of songs, inventions, voyages, teachers, books, Garner'd for now and thee—To think of it! The heirdom all converged in thee!
After the Dazzle of Day
After the dazzle of day is gone, Only the dark, dark night shows to my eyes the stars; After the clangor of organ majestic, or chorus, or perfect band, Silent, athwart my soul, moves the symphony true.
Abraham Lincoln, Born Feb. 12, 1809
To-day, from each and all, a breath of prayer—a pulse of thought, To memory of Him—to birth of Him.
Out of May's Shows Selected
Apple orchards, the trees all cover'd with blossoms; Wheat fields carpeted far and near in vital emerald green; The eternal, exhaustless freshness of each early morning; The yellow, golden, transparent haze of the warm afternoon sun; The aspiring lilac bushes with profuse purple or white flowers.
Not from successful love alone, Nor wealth, nor honor'd middle age, nor victories of politics or war; But as life wanes, and all the turbulent passions calm, As gorgeous, vapory, silent hues cover the evening sky, As softness, fulness, rest, suffuse the frame, like freshier, balmier air, As the days take on a mellower light, and the apple at last hangs really finish'd and indolent-ripe on the tree, Then for the teeming quietest, happiest days of all! The brooding and blissful halcyon days!
FANCIES AT NAVESINK
[I] The Pilot in the Mist
Steaming the northern rapids—(an old St. Lawrence reminiscence, A sudden memory-flash comes back, I know not why, Here waiting for the sunrise, gazing from this hill;) Again 'tis just at morning—a heavy haze contends with daybreak, Again the trembling, laboring vessel veers me—I press through foam-dash'd rocks that almost touch me, Again I mark where aft the small thin Indian helmsman Looms in the mist, with brow elate and governing hand.
[II] Had I the Choice
Had I the choice to tally greatest bards, To limn their portraits, stately, beautiful, and emulate at will, Homer with all his wars and warriors—Hector, Achilles, Ajax, Or Shakspere's woe-entangled Hamlet, Lear, Othello—Tennyson's fair ladies, Metre or wit the best, or choice conceit to wield in perfect rhyme, delight of singers; These, these, O sea, all these I'd gladly barter, Would you the undulation of one wave, its trick to me transfer, Or breathe one breath of yours upon my verse, And leave its odor there.
[III] You Tides with Ceaseless Swell
You tides with ceaseless swell! you power that does this work! You unseen force, centripetal, centrifugal, through space's spread, Rapport of sun, moon, earth, and all the constellations, What are the messages by you from distant stars to us? what Sirius'? what Capella's? What central heart—and you the pulse—vivifies all? what boundless aggregate of all? What subtle indirection and significance in you? what clue to all in you? what fluid, vast identity, Holding the universe with all its parts as one—as sailing in a ship?
[IV] Last of Ebb, and Daylight Waning
Last of ebb, and daylight waning, Scented sea-cool landward making, smells of sedge and salt incoming, With many a half-caught voice sent up from the eddies, Many a muffled confession—many a sob and whisper'd word, As of speakers far or hid.
How they sweep down and out! how they mutter! Poets unnamed—artists greatest of any, with cherish'd lost designs, Love's unresponse—a chorus of age's complaints—hope's last words, Some suicide's despairing cry, Away to the boundless waste, and never again return.
On to oblivion then! On, on, and do your part, ye burying, ebbing tide! On for your time, ye furious debouche!
[V] And Yet Not You Alone
And yet not you alone, twilight and burying ebb, Nor you, ye lost designs alone—nor failures, aspirations; I know, divine deceitful ones, your glamour's seeming; Duly by you, from you, the tide and light again—duly the hinges turning, Duly the needed discord-parts offsetting, blending, Weaving from you, from Sleep, Night, Death itself, The rhythmus of Birth eternal.
[VI] Proudly the Flood Comes In
Proudly the flood comes in, shouting, foaming, advancing, Long it holds at the high, with bosom broad outswelling, All throbs, dilates—the farms, woods, streets of cities—workmen at work, Mainsails, topsails, jibs, appear in the offing—steamers' pennants of smoke—and under the forenoon sun, Freighted with human lives, gaily the outward bound, gaily the inward bound, Flaunting from many a spar the flag I love.
[VII] By That Long Scan of Waves
By that long scan of waves, myself call'd back, resumed upon myself, In every crest some undulating light or shade—some retrospect, Joys, travels, studies, silent panoramas—scenes ephemeral, The long past war, the battles, hospital sights, the wounded and the dead, Myself through every by-gone phase—my idle youth—old age at hand, My three-score years of life summ'd up, and more, and past, By any grand ideal tried, intentionless, the whole a nothing, And haply yet some drop within God's scheme's ensemble—some wave, or part of wave, Like one of yours, ye multitudinous ocean.
[VIII] Then Last Of All
Then last of all, caught from these shores, this hill, Of you O tides, the mystic human meaning: Only by law of you, your swell and ebb, enclosing me the same, The brain that shapes, the voice that chants this song.
Election Day, November, 1884
If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show, 'Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye limitless prairies—nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado, Nor you, Yosemite—nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing, Nor Oregon's white cones—nor Huron's belt of mighty lakes—nor Mississippi's stream: —This seething hemisphere's humanity, as now, I'd name—the still small voice vibrating—America's choosing day, (The heart of it not in the chosen—the act itself the main, the quadriennial choosing,) The stretch of North and South arous'd—sea-board and inland— Texas to Maine—the Prairie States—Vermont, Virginia, California, The final ballot-shower from East to West—the paradox and conflict, The countless snow-flakes falling—(a swordless conflict, Yet more than all Rome's wars of old, or modern Napoleon's:) the peaceful choice of all, Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross: —Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the heart pants, life glows: These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships, Swell'd Washington's, Jefferson's, Lincoln's sails.
With Husky-Haughty Lips, O Sea!
With husky-haughty lips, O sea! Where day and night I wend thy surf-beat shore, Imaging to my sense thy varied strange suggestions, (I see and plainly list thy talk and conference here,) Thy troops of white-maned racers racing to the goal, Thy ample, smiling face, dash'd with the sparkling dimples of the sun, Thy brooding scowl and murk—thy unloos'd hurricanes, Thy unsubduedness, caprices, wilfulness; Great as thou art above the rest, thy many tears—a lack from all eternity in thy content, (Naught but the greatest struggles, wrongs, defeats, could make thee greatest—no less could make thee,) Thy lonely state—something thou ever seek'st and seek'st, yet never gain'st, Surely some right withheld—some voice, in huge monotonous rage, of freedom-lover pent, Some vast heart, like a planet's, chain'd and chafing in those breakers, By lengthen'd swell, and spasm, and panting breath, And rhythmic rasping of thy sands and waves, And serpent hiss, and savage peals of laughter, And undertones of distant lion roar, (Sounding, appealing to the sky's deaf ear—but now, rapport for once, A phantom in the night thy confidant for once,) The first and last confession of the globe, Outsurging, muttering from thy soul's abysms, The tale of cosmic elemental passion, Thou tellest to a kindred soul.
Death of General Grant
As one by one withdraw the lofty actors, From that great play on history's stage eterne, That lurid, partial act of war and peace—of old and new contending, Fought out through wrath, fears, dark dismays, and many a long suspense; All past—and since, in countless graves receding, mellowing, Victor's and vanquish'd—Lincoln's and Lee's—now thou with them, Man of the mighty days—and equal to the days! Thou from the prairies!—tangled and many-vein'd and hard has been thy part, To admiration has it been enacted!
Red Jacket (From Aloft)
Upon this scene, this show, Yielded to-day by fashion, learning, wealth, (Nor in caprice alone—some grains of deepest meaning,) Haply, aloft, (who knows?) from distant sky-clouds' blended shapes, As some old tree, or rock or cliff, thrill'd with its soul, Product of Nature's sun, stars, earth direct—a towering human form, In hunting-shirt of film, arm'd with the rifle, a half-ironical smile curving its phantom lips, Like one of Ossian's ghosts looks down.
Washington's Monument February, 1885
Ah, not this marble, dead and cold: Far from its base and shaft expanding—the round zones circling, comprehending, Thou, Washington, art all the world's, the continents' entire—not yours alone, America, Europe's as well, in every part, castle of lord or laborer's cot, Or frozen North, or sultry South—the African's—the Arab's in his tent, Old Asia's there with venerable smile, seated amid her ruins; (Greets the antique the hero new? 'tis but the same—the heir legitimate, continued ever, The indomitable heart and arm—proofs of the never-broken line, Courage, alertness, patience, faith, the same—e'en in defeat defeated not, the same:) Wherever sails a ship, or house is built on land, or day or night, Through teeming cities' streets, indoors or out, factories or farms, Now, or to come, or past—where patriot wills existed or exist, Wherever Freedom, pois'd by Toleration, sway'd by Law, Stands or is rising thy true monument.
Of That Blithe Throat of Thine
Of that blithe throat of thine from arctic bleak and blank, I'll mind the lesson, solitary bird—let me too welcome chilling drifts, E'en the profoundest chill, as now—a torpid pulse, a brain unnerv'd, Old age land-lock'd within its winter bay—(cold, cold, O cold!) These snowy hairs, my feeble arm, my frozen feet, For them thy faith, thy rule I take, and grave it to the last; Not summer's zones alone—not chants of youth, or south's warm tides alone, But held by sluggish floes, pack'd in the northern ice, the cumulus of years, These with gay heart I also sing.
What hurrying human tides, or day or night! What passions, winnings, losses, ardors, swim thy waters! What whirls of evil, bliss and sorrow, stem thee! What curious questioning glances—glints of love! Leer, envy, scorn, contempt, hope, aspiration! Thou portal—thou arena—thou of the myriad long-drawn lines and groups! (Could but thy flagstones, curbs, facades, tell their inimitable tales; Thy windows rich, and huge hotels—thy side-walks wide;) Thou of the endless sliding, mincing, shuffling feet! Thou, like the parti-colored world itself—like infinite, teeming, mocking life! Thou visor'd, vast, unspeakable show and lesson!
To Get the Final Lilt of Songs
To get the final lilt of songs, To penetrate the inmost lore of poets—to know the mighty ones, Job, Homer, Eschylus, Dante, Shakespere, Tennyson, Emerson; To diagnose the shifting-delicate tints of love and pride and doubt— to truly understand, To encompass these, the last keen faculty and entrance-price, Old age, and what it brings from all its past experiences.
Old Salt Kossabone
Far back, related on my mother's side, Old Salt Kossabone, I'll tell you how he died: (Had been a sailor all his life—was nearly 90—lived with his married grandchild, Jenny; House on a hill, with view of bay at hand, and distant cape, and stretch to open sea;) The last of afternoons, the evening hours, for many a year his regular custom, In his great arm chair by the window seated, (Sometimes, indeed, through half the day,) Watching the coming, going of the vessels, he mutters to himself— And now the close of all: One struggling outbound brig, one day, baffled for long—cross-tides and much wrong going, At last at nightfall strikes the breeze aright, her whole luck veering, And swiftly bending round the cape, the darkness proudly entering, cleaving, as he watches, "She's free—she's on her destination"—these the last words—when Jenny came, he sat there dead, Dutch Kossabone, Old Salt, related on my mother's side, far back.
The Dead Tenor
As down the stage again, With Spanish hat and plumes, and gait inimitable, Back from the fading lessons of the past, I'd call, I'd tell and own, How much from thee! the revelation of the singing voice from thee! (So firm—so liquid-soft—again that tremulous, manly timbre! The perfect singing voice—deepest of all to me the lesson—trial and test of all:) How through those strains distill'd—how the rapt ears, the soul of me, absorbing Fernando's heart, Manrico's passionate call, Ernani's, sweet Gennaro's, I fold thenceforth, or seek to fold, within my chants transmuting, Freedom's and Love's and Faith's unloos'd cantabile, (As perfume's, color's, sunlight's correlation:) From these, for these, with these, a hurried line, dead tenor, A wafted autumn leaf, dropt in the closing grave, the shovel'd earth, To memory of thee.
Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost, No birth, identity, form—no object of the world. Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing; Appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere confuse thy brain. Ample are time and space—ample the fields of Nature. The body, sluggish, aged, cold—the embers left from earlier fires, The light in the eye grown dim, shall duly flame again; The sun now low in the west rises for mornings and for noons continual; To frozen clods ever the spring's invisible law returns, With grass and flowers and summer fruits and corn.
A song, a poem of itself—the word itself a dirge, Amid the wilds, the rocks, the storm and wintry night, To me such misty, strange tableaux the syllables calling up; Yonnondio—I see, far in the west or north, a limitless ravine, with plains and mountains dark, I see swarms of stalwart chieftains, medicine-men, and warriors, As flitting by like clouds of ghosts, they pass and are gone in the twilight, (Race of the woods, the landscapes free, and the falls! No picture, poem, statement, passing them to the future:) Yonnondio! Yonnondio!—unlimn'd they disappear; To-day gives place, and fades—the cities, farms, factories fade; A muffled sonorous sound, a wailing word is borne through the air for a moment, Then blank and gone and still, and utterly lost.
Ever the undiscouraged, resolute, struggling soul of man; (Have former armies fail'd? then we send fresh armies—and fresh again;) Ever the grappled mystery of all earth's ages old or new; Ever the eager eyes, hurrahs, the welcome-clapping hands, the loud applause; Ever the soul dissatisfied, curious, unconvinced at last; Struggling to-day the same—battling the same.
My science-friend, my noblest woman-friend, (Now buried in an English grave—and this a memory-leaf for her dear sake,) Ended our talk—"The sum, concluding all we know of old or modern learning, intuitions deep, "Of all Geologies—Histories—of all Astronomy—of Evolution, Metaphysics all, "Is, that we all are onward, onward, speeding slowly, surely bettering, "Life, life an endless march, an endless army, (no halt, but it is duly over,) "The world, the race, the soul—in space and time the universes, "All bound as is befitting each—all surely going somewhere."
Small the Theme of My Chant
Small the theme of my Chant, yet the greatest—namely, One's-Self— a simple, separate person. That, for the use of the New World, I sing. Man's physiology complete, from top to toe, I sing. Not physiognomy alone, nor brain alone, is worthy for the Muse;—I say the Form complete is worthier far. The Female equally with the Male, I sing. Nor cease at the theme of One's-Self. I speak the word of the modern, the word En-Masse. My Days I sing, and the Lands—with interstice I knew of hapless War. (O friend, whoe'er you are, at last arriving hither to commence, I feel through every leaf the pressure of your hand, which I return. And thus upon our journey, footing the road, and more than once, and link'd together let us go.)
Old farmers, travelers, workmen (no matter how crippled or bent,) Old sailors, out of many a perilous voyage, storm and wreck, Old soldiers from campaigns, with all their wounds, defeats and scars; Enough that they've survived at all—long life's unflinching ones! Forth from their struggles, trials, fights, to have emerged at all— in that alone, True conquerors o'er all the rest.
The United States to Old World Critics
Here first the duties of to-day, the lessons of the concrete, Wealth, order, travel, shelter, products, plenty; As of the building of some varied, vast, perpetual edifice, Whence to arise inevitable in time, the towering roofs, the lamps, The solid-planted spires tall shooting to the stars.
The Calming Thought of All
That coursing on, whate'er men's speculations, Amid the changing schools, theologies, philosophies, Amid the bawling presentations new and old, The round earth's silent vital laws, facts, modes continue.
Thanks in Old Age
Thanks in old age—thanks ere I go, For health, the midday sun, the impalpable air—for life, mere life, For precious ever-lingering memories, (of you my mother dear—you, father—you, brothers, sisters, friends,) For all my days—not those of peace alone—the days of war the same, For gentle words, caresses, gifts from foreign lands, For shelter, wine and meat—for sweet appreciation, (You distant, dim unknown—or young or old—countless, unspecified, readers belov'd, We never met, and neer shall meet—and yet our souls embrace, long, close and long;) For beings, groups, love, deeds, words, books—for colors, forms, For all the brave strong men—devoted, hardy men—who've forward sprung in freedom's help, all years, all lands For braver, stronger, more devoted men—(a special laurel ere I go, to life's war's chosen ones, The cannoneers of song and thought—the great artillerists—the foremost leaders, captains of the soul:) As soldier from an ended war return'd—As traveler out of myriads, to the long procession retrospective, Thanks—joyful thanks!—a soldier's, traveler's thanks.
Life and Death
The two old, simple problems ever intertwined, Close home, elusive, present, baffled, grappled. By each successive age insoluble, pass'd on, To ours to-day—and we pass on the same.
The Voice of the Rain
And who art thou? said I to the soft-falling shower, Which, strange to tell, gave me an answer, as here translated: I am the Poem of Earth, said the voice of the rain, Eternal I rise impalpable out of the land and the bottomless sea, Upward to heaven, whence, vaguely form'd, altogether changed, and yet the same, I descend to lave the drouths, atomies, dust-layers of the globe, And all that in them without me were seeds only, latent, unborn; And forever, by day and night, I give back life to my own origin, and make pure and beautify it; (For song, issuing from its birth-place, after fulfilment, wandering, Reck'd or unreck'd, duly with love returns.)
Soon Shall the Winter's Foil Be Here
Soon shall the winter's foil be here; Soon shall these icy ligatures unbind and melt—A little while, And air, soil, wave, suffused shall be in softness, bloom and growth—a thousand forms shall rise From these dead clods and chills as from low burial graves.
Thine eyes, ears—all thy best attributes—all that takes cognizance of natural beauty, Shall wake and fill. Thou shalt perceive the simple shows, the delicate miracles of earth, Dandelions, clover, the emerald grass, the early scents and flowers, The arbutus under foot, the willow's yellow-green, the blossoming plum and cherry; With these the robin, lark and thrush, singing their songs—the flitting bluebird; For such the scenes the annual play brings on.
While Not the Past Forgetting
While not the past forgetting, To-day, at least, contention sunk entire—peace, brotherhood uprisen; For sign reciprocal our Northern, Southern hands, Lay on the graves of all dead soldiers, North or South, (Nor for the past alone—for meanings to the future,) Wreaths of roses and branches of palm.
The Dying Veteran
Amid these days of order, ease, prosperity, Amid the current songs of beauty, peace, decorum, I cast a reminiscence—(likely 'twill offend you, I heard it in my boyhood;)—More than a generation since, A queer old savage man, a fighter under Washington himself, (Large, brave, cleanly, hot-blooded, no talker, rather spiritualistic, Had fought in the ranks—fought well—had been all through the Revolutionary war,) Lay dying—sons, daughters, church-deacons, lovingly tending him, Sharping their sense, their ears, towards his murmuring, half-caught words: "Let me return again to my war-days, To the sights and scenes—to forming the line of battle, To the scouts ahead reconnoitering, To the cannons, the grim artillery, To the galloping aides, carrying orders, To the wounded, the fallen, the heat, the suspense, The perfume strong, the smoke, the deafening noise; Away with your life of peace!—your joys of peace! Give me my old wild battle-life again!"
Have you learn'd lessons only of those who admired you, and were tender with you, and stood aside for you? Have you not learn'd great lessons from those who reject you, and brace themselves against you? or who treat you with contempt, or dispute the passage with you?
A Prairie Sunset
Shot gold, maroon and violet, dazzling silver, emerald, fawn, The earth's whole amplitude and Nature's multiform power consign'd for once to colors; The light, the general air possess'd by them—colors till now unknown, No limit, confine—not the Western sky alone—the high meridian— North, South, all, Pure luminous color fighting the silent shadows to the last.
Down on the ancient wharf, the sand, I sit, with a new-comer chatting: He shipp'd as green-hand boy, and sail'd away, (took some sudden, vehement notion;) Since, twenty years and more have circled round and round, While he the globe was circling round and round, —and now returns: How changed the place—all the old land-marks gone—the parents dead; (Yes, he comes back to lay in port for good—to settle—has a well-fill'd purse—no spot will do but this;) The little boat that scull'd him from the sloop, now held in leash I see, I hear the slapping waves, the restless keel, the rocking in the sand, I see the sailor kit, the canvas bag, the great box bound with brass, I scan the face all berry-brown and bearded—the stout-strong frame, Dress'd in its russet suit of good Scotch cloth: (Then what the told-out story of those twenty years? What of the future?)
Orange Buds by Mail from Florida
A lesser proof than old Voltaire's, yet greater, Proof of this present time, and thee, thy broad expanse, America, To my plain Northern hut, in outside clouds and snow, Brought safely for a thousand miles o'er land and tide, Some three days since on their own soil live-sprouting, Now here their sweetness through my room unfolding, A bunch of orange buds by mall from Florida.
The soft voluptuous opiate shades, The sun just gone, the eager light dispell'd—(I too will soon be gone, dispell'd,) A haze—nirwana—rest and night—oblivion.
You Lingering Sparse Leaves of Me
You lingering sparse leaves of me on winter-nearing boughs, And I some well-shorn tree of field or orchard-row; You tokens diminute and lorn—(not now the flush of May, or July clover-bloom—no grain of August now;) You pallid banner-staves—you pennants valueless—you overstay'd of time, Yet my soul-dearest leaves confirming all the rest, The faithfulest—hardiest—last.
Not Meagre, Latent Boughs Alone
Not meagre, latent boughs alone, O songs! (scaly and bare, like eagles' talons,) But haply for some sunny day (who knows?) some future spring, some summer—bursting forth, To verdant leaves, or sheltering shade—to nourishing fruit, Apples and grapes—the stalwart limbs of trees emerging—the fresh, free, open air, And love and faith, like scented roses blooming.
The Dead Emperor
To-day, with bending head and eyes, thou, too, Columbia, Less for the mighty crown laid low in sorrow—less for the Emperor, Thy true condolence breathest, sendest out o'er many a salt sea mile, Mourning a good old man—a faithful shepherd, patriot.
As the Greek's Signal Flame
As the Greek's signal flame, by antique records told, Rose from the hill-top, like applause and glory, Welcoming in fame some special veteran, hero, With rosy tinge reddening the land he'd served, So I aloft from Mannahatta's ship-fringed shore, Lift high a kindled brand for thee, Old Poet.
The Dismantled Ship
In some unused lagoon, some nameless bay, On sluggish, lonesome waters, anchor'd near the shore, An old, dismasted, gray and batter'd ship, disabled, done, After free voyages to all the seas of earth, haul'd up at last and hawser'd tight, Lies rusting, mouldering.
Now Precedent Songs, Farewell
Now precedent songs, farewell—by every name farewell, (Trains of a staggering line in many a strange procession, waggons, From ups and downs—with intervals—from elder years, mid-age, or youth,) "In Cabin'd Ships, or Thee Old Cause or Poets to Come Or Paumanok, Song of Myself, Calamus, or Adam, Or Beat! Beat! Drums! or To the Leaven'd Soil they Trod, Or Captain! My Captain! Kosmos, Quicksand Years, or Thoughts, Thou Mother with thy Equal Brood," and many, many more unspecified, From fibre heart of mine—from throat and tongue—(My life's hot pulsing blood, The personal urge and form for me—not merely paper, automatic type and ink,) Each song of mine—each utterance in the past—having its long, long history, Of life or death, or soldier's wound, of country's loss or safety, (O heaven! what flash and started endless train of all! compared indeed to that! What wretched shred e'en at the best of all!)
An Evening Lull
After a week of physical anguish, Unrest and pain, and feverish heat, Toward the ending day a calm and lull comes on, Three hours of peace and soothing rest of brain.
Old Age's Lambent Peaks
The touch of flame—the illuminating fire—the loftiest look at last, O'er city, passion, sea—o'er prairie, mountain, wood—the earth itself, The airy, different, changing hues of all, in failing twilight, Objects and groups, bearings, faces, reminiscences; The calmer sight—the golden setting, clear and broad: So much i' the atmosphere, the points of view, the situations whence we scan, Bro't out by them alone—so much (perhaps the best) unreck'd before; The lights indeed from them—old age's lambent peaks.
After the Supper and Talk
After the supper and talk—after the day is done, As a friend from friends his final withdrawal prolonging, Good-bye and Good-bye with emotional lips repeating, (So hard for his hand to release those hands—no more will they meet, No more for communion of sorrow and joy, of old and young, A far-stretching journey awaits him, to return no more,) Shunning, postponing severance—seeking to ward off the last word ever so little, E'en at the exit-door turning—charges superfluous calling back— e'en as he descends the steps, Something to eke out a minute additional—shadows of nightfall deepening, Farewells, messages lessening—dimmer the forthgoer's visage and form, Soon to be lost for aye in the darkness—loth, O so loth to depart! Garrulous to the very last.
BOOKXXXV. GOOD-BYE MY FANCY
Sail out for Good, Eidolon Yacht!
Heave the anchor short! Raise main-sail and jib—steer forth, O little white-hull'd sloop, now speed on really deep waters, (I will not call it our concluding voyage, But outset and sure entrance to the truest, best, maturest;) Depart, depart from solid earth—no more returning to these shores, Now on for aye our infinite free venture wending, Spurning all yet tried ports, seas, hawsers, densities, gravitation, Sail out for good, eidolon yacht of me!
Lingering Last Drops
And whence and why come you?
We know not whence, (was the answer,) We only know that we drift here with the rest, That we linger'd and lagg'd—but were wafted at last, and are now here, To make the passing shower's concluding drops.
Good-Bye My Fancy
Good-bye my fancy—(I had a word to say, But 'tis not quite the time—The best of any man's word or say, Is when its proper place arrives—and for its meaning, I keep mine till the last.)
On, on the Same, Ye Jocund Twain!
On, on the same, ye jocund twain! My life and recitative, containing birth, youth, mid-age years, Fitful as motley-tongues of flame, inseparably twined and merged in one—combining all, My single soul—aims, confirmations, failures, joys—Nor single soul alone, I chant my nation's crucial stage, (America's, haply humanity's)— the trial great, the victory great, A strange eclaircissement of all the masses past, the eastern world, the ancient, medieval, Here, here from wanderings, strayings, lessons, wars, defeats—here at the west a voice triumphant—justifying all, A gladsome pealing cry—a song for once of utmost pride and satisfaction; I chant from it the common bulk, the general average horde, (the best sooner than the worst)—And now I chant old age, (My verses, written first for forenoon life, and for the summer's, autumn's spread, I pass to snow-white hairs the same, and give to pulses winter-cool'd the same;) As here in careless trill, I and my recitatives, with faith and love, wafting to other work, to unknown songs, conditions, On, on ye jocund twain! continue on the same!
MY 71st Year
After surmounting three-score and ten, With all their chances, changes, losses, sorrows, My parents' deaths, the vagaries of my life, the many tearing passions of me, the war of '63 and '4, As some old broken soldier, after a long, hot, wearying march, or haply after battle, To-day at twilight, hobbling, answering company roll-call, Here, with vital voice, Reporting yet, saluting yet the Officer over all.
A vague mist hanging 'round half the pages: (Sometimes how strange and clear to the soul, That all these solid things are indeed but apparitions, concepts, non-realities.)
The Pallid Wreath
Somehow I cannot let it go yet, funeral though it is, Let it remain back there on its nail suspended, With pink, blue, yellow, all blanch'd, and the white now gray and ashy, One wither'd rose put years ago for thee, dear friend; But I do not forget thee. Hast thou then faded? Is the odor exhaled? Are the colors, vitalities, dead? No, while memories subtly play—the past vivid as ever; For but last night I woke, and in that spectral ring saw thee, Thy smile, eyes, face, calm, silent, loving as ever: So let the wreath hang still awhile within my eye-reach, It is not yet dead to me, nor even pallid.
An Ended Day
The soothing sanity and blitheness of completion, The pomp and hurried contest-glare and rush are done; Now triumph! transformation! jubilate!
Old Age's Ship & Crafty Death's
From east and west across the horizon's edge, Two mighty masterful vessels sailers steal upon us: But we'll make race a-time upon the seas—a battle-contest yet! bear lively there! (Our joys of strife and derring-do to the last!) Put on the old ship all her power to-day! Crowd top-sail, top-gallant and royal studding-sails, Out challenge and defiance—flags and flaunting pennants added, As we take to the open—take to the deepest, freest waters.
To the Pending Year
Have I no weapon-word for thee—some message brief and fierce? (Have I fought out and done indeed the battle?) Is there no shot left, For all thy affectations, lisps, scorns, manifold silliness? Nor for myself—my own rebellious self in thee?
Down, down, proud gorge!—though choking thee; Thy bearded throat and high-borne forehead to the gutter; Crouch low thy neck to eleemosynary gifts.
I doubt it not—then more, far more; In each old song bequeath'd—in every noble page or text, (Different—something unreck'd before—some unsuspected author,) In every object, mountain, tree, and star—in every birth and life, As part of each—evolv'd from each—meaning, behind the ostent, A mystic cipher waits infolded.
Long, Long Hence
After a long, long course, hundreds of years, denials, Accumulations, rous'd love and joy and thought, Hopes, wishes, aspirations, ponderings, victories, myriads of readers, Coating, compassing, covering—after ages' and ages' encrustations, Then only may these songs reach fruition.
Bravo, Paris Exposition!
Add to your show, before you close it, France, With all the rest, visible, concrete, temples, towers, goods, machines and ores, Our sentiment wafted from many million heart-throbs, ethereal but solid, (We grand-sons and great-grandsons do not forget your grandsires,) From fifty Nations and nebulous Nations, compacted, sent oversea to-day, America's applause, love, memories and good-will.
Over and through the burial chant, Organ and solemn service, sermon, bending priests, To me come interpolation sounds not in the show—plainly to me, crowding up the aisle and from the window, Of sudden battle's hurry and harsh noises—war's grim game to sight and ear in earnest; The scout call'd up and forward—the general mounted and his aides around him—the new-brought word—the instantaneous order issued; The rifle crack—the cannon thud—the rushing forth of men from their tents; The clank of cavalry—the strange celerity of forming ranks—the slender bugle note; The sound of horses' hoofs departing—saddles, arms, accoutrements.
To the Sun-Set Breeze
Ah, whispering, something again, unseen, Where late this heated day thou enterest at my window, door, Thou, laving, tempering all, cool-freshing, gently vitalizing Me, old, alone, sick, weak-down, melted-worn with sweat; Thou, nestling, folding close and firm yet soft, companion better than talk, book, art, (Thou hast, O Nature! elements! utterance to my heart beyond the rest—and this is of them,) So sweet thy primitive taste to breathe within—thy soothing fingers my face and hands, Thou, messenger—magical strange bringer to body and spirit of me, (Distances balk'd—occult medicines penetrating me from head to foot,) I feel the sky, the prairies vast—I feel the mighty northern lakes, I feel the ocean and the forest—somehow I feel the globe itself swift-swimming in space; Thou blown from lips so loved, now gone—haply from endless store, God-sent, (For thou art spiritual, Godly, most of all known to my sense,) Minister to speak to me, here and now, what word has never told, and cannot tell, Art thou not universal concrete's distillation? Law's, all Astronomy's last refinement? Hast thou no soul? Can I not know, identify thee?
An ancient song, reciting, ending, Once gazing toward thee, Mother of All, Musing, seeking themes fitted for thee, Accept me, thou saidst, the elder ballads, And name for me before thou goest each ancient poet.
(Of many debts incalculable, Haply our New World's chieftest debt is to old poems.)
Ever so far back, preluding thee, America, Old chants, Egyptian priests, and those of Ethiopia, The Hindu epics, the Grecian, Chinese, Persian, The Biblic books and prophets, and deep idyls of the Nazarene, The Iliad, Odyssey, plots, doings, wanderings of Eneas, Hesiod, Eschylus, Sophocles, Merlin, Arthur, The Cid, Roland at Roncesvalles, the Nibelungen, The troubadours, minstrels, minnesingers, skalds, Chaucer, Dante, flocks of singing birds, The Border Minstrelsy, the bye-gone ballads, feudal tales, essays, plays, Shakespere, Schiller, Walter Scott, Tennyson, As some vast wondrous weird dream-presences, The great shadowy groups gathering around, Darting their mighty masterful eyes forward at thee, Thou! with as now thy bending neck and head, with courteous hand and word, ascending, Thou! pausing a moment, drooping thine eyes upon them, blent with their music, Well pleased, accepting all, curiously prepared for by them, Thou enterest at thy entrance porch.
A Christmas Greeting
Welcome, Brazilian brother—thy ample place is ready; A loving hand—a smile from the north—a sunny instant hall! (Let the future care for itself, where it reveals its troubles, impedimentas, Ours, ours the present throe, the democratic aim, the acceptance and the faith;) To thee to-day our reaching arm, our turning neck—to thee from us the expectant eye, Thou cluster free! thou brilliant lustrous one! thou, learning well, The true lesson of a nation's light in the sky, (More shining than the Cross, more than the Crown,) The height to be superb humanity.
Sounds of the Winter
Sounds of the winter too, Sunshine upon the mountains—many a distant strain From cheery railroad train—from nearer field, barn, house, The whispering air—even the mute crops, garner'd apples, corn, Children's and women's tones—rhythm of many a farmer and of flail, An old man's garrulous lips among the rest, Think not we give out yet, Forth from these snowy hairs we keep up yet the lilt.
A Twilight Song
As I sit in twilight late alone by the flickering oak-flame, Musing on long-pass'd war-scenes—of the countless buried unknown soldiers, Of the vacant names, as unindented air's and sea's—the unreturn'd, The brief truce after battle, with grim burial-squads, and the deep-fill'd trenches Of gather'd from dead all America, North, South, East, West, whence they came up, From wooded Maine, New-England's farms, from fertile Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, From the measureless West, Virginia, the South, the Carolinas, Texas, (Even here in my room-shadows and half-lights in the noiseless flickering flames, Again I see the stalwart ranks on-filing, rising—I hear the rhythmic tramp of the armies;) You million unwrit names all, all—you dark bequest from all the war, A special verse for you—a flash of duty long neglected—your mystic roll strangely gather'd here, Each name recall'd by me from out the darkness and death's ashes, Henceforth to be, deep, deep within my heart recording, for many future year, Your mystic roll entire of unknown names, or North or South, Embalm'd with love in this twilight song.
When the Full-Grown Poet Came
When the full-grown poet came, Out spake pleased Nature (the round impassive globe, with all its shows of day and night,) saying, He is mine; But out spake too the Soul of man, proud, jealous and unreconciled, Nay he is mine alone; —Then the full-grown poet stood between the two, and took each by the hand; And to-day and ever so stands, as blender, uniter, tightly holding hands, Which he will never release until he reconciles the two, And wholly and joyously blends them.
When his hour for death had come, He slowly rais'd himself from the bed on the floor, Drew on his war-dress, shirt, leggings, and girdled the belt around his waist, Call'd for vermilion paint (his looking-glass was held before him,) Painted half his face and neck, his wrists, and back-hands. Put the scalp-knife carefully in his belt—then lying down, resting moment, Rose again, half sitting, smiled, gave in silence his extended hand to each and all, Sank faintly low to the floor (tightly grasping the tomahawk handle,) Fix'd his look on wife and little children—the last:
(And here a line in memory of his name and death.)
A Voice from Death
A voice from Death, solemn and strange, in all his sweep and power, With sudden, indescribable blow—towns drown'd—humanity by thousands slain, The vaunted work of thrift, goods, dwellings, forge, street, iron bridge, Dash'd pell-mell by the blow—yet usher'd life continuing on, (Amid the rest, amid the rushing, whirling, wild debris, A suffering woman saved—a baby safely born!)
Although I come and unannounc'd, in horror and in pang, In pouring flood and fire, and wholesale elemental crash, (this voice so solemn, strange,) I too a minister of Deity.
Yea, Death, we bow our faces, veil our eyes to thee, We mourn the old, the young untimely drawn to thee, The fair, the strong, the good, the capable, The household wreck'd, the husband and the wife, the engulfed forger in his forge, The corpses in the whelming waters and the mud, The gather'd thousands to their funeral mounds, and thousands never found or gather'd.
Then after burying, mourning the dead, (Faithful to them found or unfound, forgetting not, bearing the past, here new musing,) A day—a passing moment or an hour—America itself bends low, Silent, resign'd, submissive.
War, death, cataclysm like this, America, Take deep to thy proud prosperous heart.
E'en as I chant, lo! out of death, and out of ooze and slime, The blossoms rapidly blooming, sympathy, help, love, From West and East, from South and North and over sea, Its hot-spurr'd hearts and hands humanity to human aid moves on; And from within a thought and lesson yet.
Thou ever-darting Globe! through Space and Air! Thou waters that encompass us! Thou that in all the life and death of us, in action or in sleep! Thou laws invisible that permeate them and all, Thou that in all, and over all, and through and under all, incessant! Thou! thou! the vital, universal, giant force resistless, sleepless, calm, Holding Humanity as in thy open hand, as some ephemeral toy, How ill to e'er forget thee!
For I too have forgotten, (Wrapt in these little potencies of progress, politics, culture, wealth, inventions, civilization,) Have lost my recognition of your silent ever-swaying power, ye mighty, elemental throes, In which and upon which we float, and every one of us is buoy'd.
A Persian Lesson
For his o'erarching and last lesson the greybeard sufi, In the fresh scent of the morning in the open air, On the slope of a teeming Persian rose-garden, Under an ancient chestnut-tree wide spreading its branches, Spoke to the young priests and students.
"Finally my children, to envelop each word, each part of the rest, Allah is all, all, all—immanent in every life and object, May-be at many and many-a-more removes—yet Allah, Allah, Allah is there.
"Has the estray wander'd far? Is the reason-why strangely hidden? Would you sound below the restless ocean of the entire world? Would you know the dissatisfaction? the urge and spur of every life; The something never still'd—never entirely gone? the invisible need of every seed?
"It is the central urge in every atom, (Often unconscious, often evil, downfallen,) To return to its divine source and origin, however distant, Latent the same in subject and in object, without one exception."
The commonplace I sing; How cheap is health! how cheap nobility! Abstinence, no falsehood, no gluttony, lust; The open air I sing, freedom, toleration, (Take here the mainest lesson—less from books—less from the schools,) The common day and night—the common earth and waters, Your farm—your work, trade, occupation, The democratic wisdom underneath, like solid ground for all.
"The Rounded Catalogue Divine Complete"
The devilish and the dark, the dying and diseas'd, The countless (nineteen-twentieths) low and evil, crude and savage, The crazed, prisoners in jail, the horrible, rank, malignant, Venom and filth, serpents, the ravenous sharks, liars, the dissolute; (What is the part the wicked and the loathesome bear within earth's orbic scheme?) Newts, crawling things in slime and mud, poisons, The barren soil, the evil men, the slag and hideous rot.
More experiences and sights, stranger, than you'd think for; Times again, now mostly just after sunrise or before sunset, Sometimes in spring, oftener in autumn, perfectly clear weather, in plain sight, Camps far or near, the crowded streets of cities and the shopfronts, (Account for it or not—credit or not—it is all true, And my mate there could tell you the like—we have often confab'd about it,) People and scenes, animals, trees, colors and lines, plain as could be, Farms and dooryards of home, paths border'd with box, lilacs in corners, Weddings in churches, thanksgiving dinners, returns of long-absent sons, Glum funerals, the crape-veil'd mother and the daughters, Trials in courts, jury and judge, the accused in the box, Contestants, battles, crowds, bridges, wharves, Now and then mark'd faces of sorrow or joy, (I could pick them out this moment if I saw them again,) Show'd to me—just to the right in the sky-edge, Or plainly there to the left on the hill-tops.
L. of G.'s Purport
Not to exclude or demarcate, or pick out evils from their formidable masses (even to expose them,) But add, fuse, complete, extend—and celebrate the immortal and the good. Haughty this song, its words and scope, To span vast realms of space and time, Evolution—the cumulative—growths and generations.
Begun in ripen'd youth and steadily pursued, Wandering, peering, dallying with all—war, peace, day and night absorbing, Never even for one brief hour abandoning my task, I end it here in sickness, poverty, and old age.
I sing of life, yet mind me well of death: To-day shadowy Death dogs my steps, my seated shape, and has for years— Draws sometimes close to me, as face to face.
How dare one say it? After the cycles, poems, singers, plays, Vaunted Ionia's, India's—Homer, Shakspere—the long, long times' thick dotted roads, areas, The shining clusters and the Milky Ways of stars—Nature's pulses reap'd, All retrospective passions, heroes, war, love, adoration, All ages' plummets dropt to their utmost depths, All human lives, throats, wishes, brains—all experiences' utterance; After the countless songs, or long or short, all tongues, all lands, Still something not yet told in poesy's voice or print—something lacking, (Who knows? the best yet unexpress'd and lacking.)
Grand Is the Seen
Grand is the seen, the light, to me—grand are the sky and stars, Grand is the earth, and grand are lasting time and space, And grand their laws, so multiform, puzzling, evolutionary; But grander far the unseen soul of me, comprehending, endowing all those, Lighting the light, the sky and stars, delving the earth, sailing the sea, (What were all those, indeed, without thee, unseen soul? of what amount without thee?) More evolutionary, vast, puzzling, O my soul! More multiform far—more lasting thou than they.
Unseen buds, infinite, hidden well, Under the snow and ice, under the darkness, in every square or cubic inch, Germinal, exquisite, in delicate lace, microscopic, unborn, Like babes in wombs, latent, folded, compact, sleeping; Billions of billions, and trillions of trillions of them waiting, (On earth and in the sea—the universe—the stars there in the heavens,) Urging slowly, surely forward, forming endless, And waiting ever more, forever more behind.
Good-Bye My Fancy!
Good-bye my Fancy! Farewell dear mate, dear love! I'm going away, I know not where, Or to what fortune, or whether I may ever see you again, So Good-bye my Fancy.
Now for my last—let me look back a moment; The slower fainter ticking of the clock is in me, Exit, nightfall, and soon the heart-thud stopping.
Long have we lived, joy'd, caress'd together; Delightful!—now separation—Good-bye my Fancy.
Yet let me not be too hasty, Long indeed have we lived, slept, filter'd, become really blended into one; Then if we die we die together, (yes, we'll remain one,) If we go anywhere we'll go together to meet what happens, May-be we'll be better off and blither, and learn something, May-be it is yourself now really ushering me to the true songs, (who knows?) May-be it is you the mortal knob really undoing, turning—so now finally, Good-bye—and hail! my Fancy.