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 cañons 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 lead-balls do their work,
The named and unnamed heroes pass to other spheres,
The great speakers and writers are exiled, they lie sick in distant lands,
The cause is asleep, the strongest throats are choked with their own blood,
The young men droop their eyelashes toward the ground when they meet;
But for all this Liberty has not gone out of the place,
nor the infidel enter'd into full possession.
When liberty goes out of a place it is not the first to go,
nor the second or third to go,
It waits for all the rest to go, it is the last.
When there are no more memories of heroes and martyrs,
And when all life and all the souls of men and women are discharged
from any part of the earth,
Then only shall liberty or the idea of liberty be 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,
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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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 lilac-time, returning in reminiscence.
Outlines for a Tomb [G. P., Buried 1870]
- 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.
- 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,
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,
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.)
- 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]
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,
a woman, the divine power to speak words;
Then toward that man or that woman swiftly hasten all—
none refuse, all attend,
Armies, ships, antiquities, libraries, paintings, machines, cities, hate,
despair, amity, pain, theft, murder, aspiration, form in close ranks,
They debouch as they are wanted to march obediently through
the mouth of that man or that woman.
- O what is it in me that makes me tremble so at voices?
Surely whoever speaks to me in the right voice, him or her I shall follow,
As the water follows the moon, silently, with fluid steps,
anywhere around the globe.
All waits for the right voices;
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 exposé!
(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 I love,
only thence come the brawny embraces of the man,
Unfolded out of the folds of the woman's brain come all the folds
of the man's brain, duly obedient,
Unfolded out of the justice of the woman all justice is unfolded,
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.
Leaves of Grass: Contents