Part 5 out of 9
Winds blow south, or winds blow north,
Day come white, or night come black,
Home, or rivers and mountains from home,
Singing all time, minding no time,
While we two keep together.
Till of a sudden,
May-be kill'd, unknown to her mate,
One forenoon the she-bird crouch'd not on the nest,
Nor return'd that afternoon, nor the next,
Nor ever appear'd again.
And thenceforward all summer in the sound of the sea,
And at night under the full of the moon in calmer weather,
Over the hoarse surging of the sea,
Or flitting from brier to brier by day,
I saw, I heard at intervals the remaining one, the he-bird,
The solitary guest from Alabama.
Blow! blow! blow!
Blow up sea-winds along Paumanok's shore;
I wait and I wait till you blow my mate to me.
Yes, when the stars glisten'd,
All night long on the prong of a moss-scallop'd stake,
Down almost amid the slapping waves,
Sat the lone singer wonderful causing tears.
He call'd on his mate,
He pour'd forth the meanings which I of all men know.
Yes my brother I know,
The rest might not, but I have treasur'd every note,
For more than once dimly down to the beach gliding,
Silent, avoiding the moonbeams, blending myself with the shadows,
Recalling now the obscure shapes, the echoes, the sounds and sights
after their sorts,
The white arms out in the breakers tirelessly tossing,
I, with bare feet, a child, the wind wafting my hair,
Listen'd long and long.
Listen'd to keep, to sing, now translating the notes,
Following you my brother.
Soothe! soothe! soothe!
Close on its wave soothes the wave behind,
And again another behind embracing and lapping, every one close,
But my love soothes not me, not me.
Low hangs the moon, it rose late,
It is lagging--O I think it is heavy with love, with love.
O madly the sea pushes upon the land,
With love, with love.
O night! do I not see my love fluttering out among the breakers?
What is that little black thing I see there in the white?
Loud! loud! loud!
Loud I call to you, my love!
High and clear I shoot my voice over the waves,
Surely you must know who is here, is here,
You must know who I am, my love.
What is that dusky spot in your brown yellow?
O it is the shape, the shape of my mate.'
O moon do not keep her from me any longer.
Land! land! O land!
Whichever way I turn, O I think you could give me my mate back again
if you only would,
For I am almost sure I see her dimly whichever way I look.
O rising stars!
Perhaps the one I want so much will rise, will rise with some of you.
O throat! O trembling throat!
Sound clearer through the atmosphere!
Pierce the woods, the earth,
Somewhere listening to catch you must be the one I want.
Shake out carols!
Solitary here, the night's carols!
Carols of lonesome love! death's carols!
Carols under that lagging, yellow, waning moon!
O under that moon where she droops almost down into the sea!
O reckless despairing carols.
But soft! sink low!
Soft! let me just murmur,
And do you wait a moment you husky-nois'd sea,
For somewhere I believe I heard my mate responding to me,
So faint, I must be still, be still to listen,
But not altogether still, for then she might not come immediately to me.
Hither my love!
Here I am! here!
With this just-sustain'd note I announce myself to you,
This gentle call is for you my love, for you.
Do not be decoy'd elsewhere,
That is the whistle of the wind, it is not my voice,
That is the fluttering, the fluttering of the spray,
Those are the shadows of leaves.
O darkness! O in vain!
O I am very sick and sorrowful
O brown halo in the sky near the moon, drooping upon the sea!
O troubled reflection in the sea!
O throat! O throbbing heart!
And I singing uselessly, uselessly all the night.
O past! O happy life! O songs of joy!
In the air, in the woods, over fields,
Loved! loved! loved! loved! loved!
But my mate no more, no more with me!
We two together no more.
The aria sinking,
All else continuing, the stars shining,
The winds blowing, the notes of the bird continuous echoing,
With angry moans the fierce old mother incessantly moaning,
On the sands of Paumanok's shore gray and rustling,
The yellow half-moon enlarged, sagging down, drooping, the face of
the sea almost touching,
The boy ecstatic, with his bare feet the waves, with his hair the
The love in the heart long pent, now loose, now at last tumultuously
The aria's meaning, the ears, the soul, swiftly depositing,
The strange tears down the cheeks coursing,
The colloquy there, the trio, each uttering,
The undertone, the savage old mother incessantly crying,
To the boy's soul's questions sullenly timing, some drown'd secret hissing,
To the outsetting bard.
Demon or bird! (said the boy's soul,)
Is it indeed toward your mate you sing? or is it really to me?
For I, that was a child, my tongue's use sleeping, now I have heard you,
Now in a moment I know what I am for, I awake,
And already a thousand singers, a thousand songs, clearer, louder
and more sorrowful than yours,
A thousand warbling echoes have started to life within me, never to die.
O you singer solitary, singing by yourself, projecting me,
O solitary me listening, never more shall I cease perpetuating you,
Never more shall I escape, never more the reverberations,
Never more the cries of unsatisfied love be absent from me,
Never again leave me to be the peaceful child I was before what
there in the night,
By the sea under the yellow and sagging moon,
The messenger there arous'd, the fire, the sweet hell within,
The unknown want, the destiny of me.
O give me the clue! (it lurks in the night here somewhere,)
O if I am to have so much, let me have more!
A word then, (for I will conquer it,)
The word final, superior to all,
Subtle, sent up--what is it?--I listen;
Are you whispering it, and have been all the time, you sea-waves?
Is that it from your liquid rims and wet sands?
Whereto answering, the sea,
Delaying not, hurrying not,
Whisper'd me through the night, and very plainly before daybreak,
Lisp'd to me the low and delicious word death,
And again death, death, death, death
Hissing melodious, neither like the bird nor like my arous'd child's heart,
But edging near as privately for me rustling at my feet,
Creeping thence steadily up to my ears and laving me softly all over,
Death, death, death, death, death.
Which I do not forget.
But fuse the song of my dusky demon and brother,
That he sang to me in the moonlight on Paumanok's gray beach,
With the thousand responsive songs at random,
My own songs awaked from that hour,
And with them the key, the word up from the waves,
The word of the sweetest song and all songs,
That strong and delicious word which, creeping to my feet,
(Or like some old crone rocking the cradle, swathed in sweet
garments, bending aside,)
The sea whisper'd me.
} As I Ebb'd with the Ocean of Life
As I ebb'd with the ocean of life,
As I wended the shores I know,
As I walk'd where the ripples continually wash you Paumanok,
Where they rustle up hoarse and sibilant,
Where the fierce old mother endlessly cries for her castaways,
I musing late in the autumn day, gazing off southward,
Held by this electric self out of the pride of which I utter poems,
Was seiz'd by the spirit that trails in the lines underfoot,
The rim, the sediment that stands for all the water and all the land
of the globe.
Fascinated, my eyes reverting from the south, dropt, to follow those
Chaff, straw, splinters of wood, weeds, and the sea-gluten,
Scum, scales from shining rocks, leaves of salt-lettuce, left by the tide,
Miles walking, the sound of breaking waves the other side of me,
Paumanok there and then as I thought the old thought of likenesses,
These you presented to me you fish-shaped island,
As I wended the shores I know,
As I walk'd with that electric self seeking types.
As I wend to the shores I know not,
As I list to the dirge, the voices of men and women wreck'd,
As I inhale the impalpable breezes that set in upon me,
As the ocean so mysterious rolls toward me closer and closer,
I too but signify at the utmost a little wash'd-up drift,
A few sands and dead leaves to gather,
Gather, and merge myself as part of the sands and drift.
O baffled, balk'd, bent to the very earth,
Oppress'd with myself that I have dared to open my mouth,
Aware now that amid all that blab whose echoes recoil upon me I have
not once had the least idea who or what I am,
But that before all my arrogant poems the real Me stands yet
untouch'd, untold, altogether unreach'd,
Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congratulatory signs and bows,
With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word I have written,
Pointing in silence to these songs, and then to the sand beneath.
I perceive I have not really understood any thing, not a single
object, and that no man ever can,
Nature here in sight of the sea taking advantage of me to dart upon
me and sting me,
Because I have dared to open my mouth to sing at all.
You oceans both, I close with you,
We murmur alike reproachfully rolling sands and drift, knowing not why,
These little shreds indeed standing for you and me and all.
You friable shore with trails of debris,
You fish-shaped island, I take what is underfoot,
What is yours is mine my father.
I too Paumanok,
I too have bubbled up, floated the measureless float, and been
wash'd on your shores,
I too am but a trail of drift and debris,
I too leave little wrecks upon you, you fish-shaped island.
I throw myself upon your breast my father,
I cling to you so that you cannot unloose me,
I hold you so firm till you answer me something.
Kiss me my father,
Touch me with your lips as I touch those I love,
Breathe to me while I hold you close the secret of the murmuring I envy.
Ebb, ocean of life, (the flow will return,)
Cease not your moaning you fierce old mother,
Endlessly cry for your castaways, but fear not, deny not me,
Rustle not up so hoarse and angry against my feet as I touch you or
gather from you.
I mean tenderly by you and all,
I gather for myself and for this phantom looking down where we lead,
and following me and mine.
Me and mine, loose windrows, little corpses,
Froth, snowy white, and bubbles,
(See, from my dead lips the ooze exuding at last,
See, the prismatic colors glistening and rolling,)
Tufts of straw, sands, fragments,
Buoy'd hither from many moods, one contradicting another,
From the storm, the long calm, the darkness, the swell,
Musing, pondering, a breath, a briny tear, a dab of liquid or soil,
Up just as much out of fathomless workings fermented and thrown,
A limp blossom or two, torn, just as much over waves floating,
drifted at random,
Just as much for us that sobbing dirge of Nature,
Just as much whence we come that blare of the cloud-trumpets,
We, capricious, brought hither we know not whence, spread out before you,
You up there walking or sitting,
Whoever you are, we too lie in drifts at your feet.
Tears! tears! tears!
In the night, in solitude, tears,
On the white shore dripping, dripping, suck'd in by the sand,
Tears, not a star shining, all dark and desolate,
Moist tears from the eyes of a muffled head;
O who is that ghost? that form in the dark, with tears?
What shapeless lump is that, bent, crouch'd there on the sand?
Streaming tears, sobbing tears, throes, choked with wild cries;
O storm, embodied, rising, careering with swift steps along the beach!
O wild and dismal night storm, with wind--O belching and desperate!
O shade so sedate and decorous by day, with calm countenance and
But away at night as you fly, none looking--O then the unloosen'd ocean,
Of tears! tears! tears!
} To the Man-of-War-Bird
Thou who hast slept all night upon the storm,
Waking renew'd on thy prodigious pinions,
(Burst the wild storm? above it thou ascended'st,
And rested on the sky, thy slave that cradled thee,)
Now a blue point, far, far in heaven floating,
As to the light emerging here on deck I watch thee,
(Myself a speck, a point on the world's floating vast.)
Far, far at sea,
After the night's fierce drifts have strewn the shore with wrecks,
With re-appearing day as now so happy and serene,
The rosy and elastic dawn, the flashing sun,
The limpid spread of air cerulean,
Thou also re-appearest.
Thou born to match the gale, (thou art all wings,)
To cope with heaven and earth and sea and hurricane,
Thou ship of air that never furl'st thy sails,
Days, even weeks untired and onward, through spaces, realms gyrating,
At dusk that lookist on Senegal, at morn America,
That sport'st amid the lightning-flash and thunder-cloud,
In them, in thy experiences, had'st thou my soul,
What joys! what joys were thine!
} Aboard at a Ship's Helm
Aboard at a ship's helm,
A young steersman steering with care.
Through fog on a sea-coast dolefully ringing,
An ocean-bell--O a warning bell, rock'd by the waves.
O you give good notice indeed, you bell by the sea-reefs ringing,
Ringing, ringing, to warn the ship from its wreck-place.
For as on the alert O steersman, you mind the loud admonition,
The bows turn, the freighted ship tacking speeds away under her gray sails,
The beautiful and noble ship with all her precious wealth speeds
away gayly and safe.
But O the ship, the immortal ship! O ship aboard the ship!
Ship of the body, ship of the soul, voyaging, voyaging, voyaging.
} On the Beach at Night
On the beach at night,
Stands a child with her father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky.
Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading,
Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,
Ascends large and calm the lord-star Jupiter,
And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters the Pleiades.
From the beach the child holding the hand of her father,
Those burial-clouds that lower victorious soon to devour all,
Watching, silently weeps.
Weep not, child,
Weep not, my darling,
With these kisses let me remove your tears,
The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,
They shall not long possess the sky, they devour the stars only in
Jupiter shall emerge, be patient, watch again another night, the
Pleiades shall emerge,
They are immortal, all those stars both silvery and golden shall
shine out again,
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again, they endure,
The vast immortal suns and the long-enduring pensive moons shall
Then dearest child mournest thou only for jupiter?
Considerest thou alone the burial of the stars?
Something there is,
(With my lips soothing thee, adding I whisper,
I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirection,)
Something there is more immortal even than the stars,
(Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,)
Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter
Longer than sun or any revolving satellite,
Or the radiant sisters the Pleiades.
} The World below the Brine
The world below the brine,
Forests at the bottom of the sea, the branches and leaves,
Sea-lettuce, vast lichens, strange flowers and seeds, the thick
tangle openings, and pink turf,
Different colors, pale gray and green, purple, white, and gold, the
play of light through the water,
Dumb swimmers there among the rocks, coral, gluten, grass, rushes,
and the aliment of the swimmers,
Sluggish existences grazing there suspended, or slowly crawling
close to the bottom,
The sperm-whale at the surface blowing air and spray, or disporting
with his flukes,
The leaden-eyed shark, the walrus, the turtle, the hairy
sea-leopard, and the sting-ray,
Passions there, wars, pursuits, tribes, sight in those ocean-depths,
breathing that thick-breathing air, as so many do,
The change thence to the sight here, and to the subtle air breathed
by beings like us who walk this sphere,
The change onward from ours to that of beings who walk other spheres.
} On the Beach at Night Alone
On the beach at night alone,
As the old mother sways her to and fro singing her husky song,
As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef
of the universes and of the future.
A vast similitude interlocks all,
All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets,
All distances of place however wide,
All distances of time, all inanimate forms,
All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so different, or in
All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the brutes,
All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages,
All identities that have existed or may exist on this globe, or any globe,
All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,
This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann'd,
And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them.
} Song for All Seas, All Ships
To-day a rude brief recitative,
Of ships sailing the seas, each with its special flag or ship-signal,
Of unnamed heroes in the ships--of waves spreading and spreading
far as the eye can reach,
Of dashing spray, and the winds piping and blowing,
And out of these a chant for the sailors of all nations,
Fitful, like a surge.
Of sea-captains young or old, and the mates, and of all intrepid sailors,
Of the few, very choice, taciturn, whom fate can never surprise nor
Pick'd sparingly without noise by thee old ocean, chosen by thee,
Thou sea that pickest and cullest the race in time, and unitest nations,
Suckled by thee, old husky nurse, embodying thee,
Indomitable, untamed as thee.
(Ever the heroes on water or on land, by ones or twos appearing,
Ever the stock preserv'd and never lost, though rare, enough for
Flaunt out O sea your separate flags of nations!
Flaunt out visible as ever the various ship-signals!
But do you reserve especially for yourself and for the soul of man
one flag above all the rest,
A spiritual woven signal for all nations, emblem of man elate above death,
Token of all brave captains and all intrepid sailors and mates,
And all that went down doing their duty,
Reminiscent of them, twined from all intrepid captains young or old,
A pennant universal, subtly waving all time, o'er all brave sailors,
All seas, all ships.
} Patroling Barnegat
Wild, wild the storm, and the sea high running,
Steady the roar of the gale, with incessant undertone muttering,
Shouts of demoniac laughter fitfully piercing and pealing,
Waves, air, midnight, their savagest trinity lashing,
Out in the shadows there milk-white combs careering,
On beachy slush and sand spirts of snow fierce slanting,
Where through the murk the easterly death-wind breasting,
Through cutting swirl and spray watchful and firm advancing,
(That in the distance! is that a wreck? is the red signal flaring?)
Slush and sand of the beach tireless till daylight wending,
Steadily, slowly, through hoarse roar never remitting,
Along the midnight edge by those milk-white combs careering,
A group of dim, weird forms, struggling, the night confronting,
That savage trinity warily watching.
} After the Sea-Ship
After the sea-ship, after the whistling winds,
After the white-gray sails taut to their spars and ropes,
Below, a myriad myriad waves hastening, lifting up their necks,
Tending in ceaseless flow toward the track of the ship,
Waves of the ocean bubbling and gurgling, blithely prying,
Waves, undulating waves, liquid, uneven, emulous waves,
Toward that whirling current, laughing and buoyant, with curves,
Where the great vessel sailing and tacking displaced the surface,
Larger and smaller waves in the spread of the ocean yearnfully flowing,
The wake of the sea-ship after she passes, flashing and frolicsome
under the sun,
A motley procession with many a fleck of foam and many fragments,
Following the stately and rapid ship, in the wake following.
[BOOK XX. BY THE ROADSIDE]
} A Boston Ballad 
To get betimes in Boston town I rose this morning early,
Here's a good place at the corner, I must stand and see the show.
Clear the way there Jonathan!
Way for the President's marshal--way for the government cannon!
Way for the Federal foot and dragoons, (and the apparitions
I love to look on the Stars and Stripes, I hope the fifes will play
How bright shine the cutlasses of the foremost troops!
Every man holds his revolver, marching stiff through Boston town.
A fog follows, antiques of the same come limping,
Some appear wooden-legged, and some appear bandaged and bloodless.
Why this is indeed a show--it has called the dead out of the earth!
The old graveyards of the hills have hurried to see!
Phantoms! phantoms countless by flank and rear!
Cock'd hats of mothy mould--crutches made of mist!
Arms in slings--old men leaning on young men's shoulders.
What troubles you Yankee phantoms? what is all this chattering of
Does the ague convulse your limbs? do you mistake your crutches for
firelocks and level them?
If you blind your eyes with tears you will not see the President's marshal,
If you groan such groans you might balk the government cannon.
For shame old maniacs--bring down those toss'd arms, and let your
white hair be,
Here gape your great grandsons, their wives gaze at them from the windows,
See how well dress'd, see how orderly they conduct themselves.
Worse and worse--can't you stand it? are you retreating?
Is this hour with the living too dead for you?
To your graves--back--back to the hills old limpers!
I do not think you belong here anyhow.
But there is one thing that belongs here--shall I tell you what it
is, gentlemen of Boston?
I will whisper it to the Mayor, he shall send a committee to England,
They shall get a grant from the Parliament, go with a cart to the
Dig out King George's coffin, unwrap him quick from the
graveclothes, box up his bones for a journey,
Find a swift Yankee clipper--here is freight for you, black-bellied clipper,
Up with your anchor--shake out your sails--steer straight toward
Now call for the President's marshal again, bring out the government cannon,
Fetch home the roarers from Congress, make another procession,
guard it with foot and dragoons.
This centre-piece for them;
Look, all orderly citizens--look from the windows, women!
The committee open the box, set up the regal ribs, glue those that
will not stay,
Clap the skull on top of the ribs, and clap a crown on top of the skull.
You have got your revenge, old buster--the crown is come to its own,
and more than its own.
Stick your hands in your pockets, Jonathan--you are a made man from
You are mighty cute--and here is one of your bargains.
} Europe [The 72d and 73d Years of These States]
Suddenly out of its stale and drowsy lair, the lair of slaves,
Like lightning it le'pt forth half startled at itself,
Its feet upon the ashes and the rags, its hands tight to the throats
O hope and faith!
O aching close of exiled patriots' lives!
O many a sicken'd heart!
Turn back unto this day and make yourselves afresh.
And you, paid to defile the People--you liars, mark!
Not for numberless agonies, murders, lusts,
For court thieving in its manifold mean forms, worming from his
simplicity the poor man's wages,
For many a promise sworn by royal lips and broken and laugh'd at in
Then in their power not for all these did the blows strike revenge,
or the heads of the nobles fall;
The People scorn'd the ferocity of kings.
But the sweetness of mercy brew'd bitter destruction, and the
frighten'd monarchs come back,
Each comes in state with his train, hangman, priest, tax-gatherer,
Soldier, lawyer, lord, jailer, and sycophant.
Yet behind all lowering stealing, lo, a shape,
Vague as the night, draped interminably, head, front and form, in
Whose face and eyes none may see,
Out of its robes only this, the red robes lifted by the arm,
One finger crook'd pointed high over the top, like the head of a
Meanwhile corpses lie in new-made graves, bloody corpses of young men,
The rope of the gibbet hangs heavily, the bullets of princes are
flying, the creatures of power laugh aloud,
And all these things bear fruits, and they are good.
Those corpses of young men,
Those martyrs that hang from the gibbets, those hearts pierc'd by
the gray lead,
Cold and motionless as they seem live elsewhere with unslaughter'd vitality.
They live in other young men O kings!
They live in brothers again ready to defy you,
They were purified by death, they were taught and exalted.
Not a grave of the murder'd for freedom but grows seed for freedom,
in its turn to bear seed,
Which the winds carry afar and re-sow, and the rains and the snows nourish.
Not a disembodied spirit can the weapons of tyrants let loose,
But it stalks invisibly over the earth, whispering, counseling, cautioning.
Liberty, let others despair of you--I never despair of you.
Is the house shut? is the master away?
Nevertheless, be ready, be not weary of watching,
He will soon return, his messengers come anon.
} A Hand-Mirror
Hold it up sternly--see this it sends back, (who is it? is it you?)
Outside fair costume, within ashes and filth,
No more a flashing eye, no more a sonorous voice or springy step,
Now some slave's eye, voice, hands, step,
A drunkard's breath, unwholesome eater's face, venerealee's flesh,
Lungs rotting away piecemeal, stomach sour and cankerous,
Joints rheumatic, bowels clogged with abomination,
Blood circulating dark and poisonous streams,
Words babble, hearing and touch callous,
No brain, no heart left, no magnetism of sex;
Such from one look in this looking-glass ere you go hence,
Such a result so soon--and from such a beginning!
Lover divine and perfect Comrade,
Waiting content, invisible yet, but certain,
Be thou my God.
Thou, thou, the Ideal Man,
Fair, able, beautiful, content, and loving,
Complete in body and dilate in spirit,
Be thou my God.
O Death, (for Life has served its turn,)
Opener and usher to the heavenly mansion,
Be thou my God.
Aught, aught of mightiest, best I see, conceive, or know,
(To break the stagnant tie--thee, thee to free, O soul,)
Be thou my God.
All great ideas, the races' aspirations,
All heroisms, deeds of rapt enthusiasts,
Be ye my Gods.
Or Time and Space,
Or shape of Earth divine and wondrous,
Or some fair shape I viewing, worship,
Or lustrous orb of sun or star by night,
Be ye my Gods.
Forms, qualities, lives, humanity, language, thoughts,
The ones known, and the ones unknown, the ones on the stars,
The stars themselves, some shaped, others unshaped,
Wonders as of those countries, the soil, trees, cities, inhabitants,
whatever they may be,
Splendid suns, the moons and rings, the countless combinations and effects,
Such-like, and as good as such-like, visible here or anywhere, stand
provided for a handful of space, which I extend my arm and
half enclose with my hand,
That containing the start of each and all, the virtue, the germs of all.
Of ownership--as if one fit to own things could not at pleasure enter
upon all, and incorporate them into himself or herself;
Of vista--suppose some sight in arriere through the formative chaos,
presuming the growth, fulness, life, now attain'd on the journey,
(But I see the road continued, and the journey ever continued;)
Of what was once lacking on earth, and in due time has become
supplied--and of what will yet be supplied,
Because all I see and know I believe to have its main purport in
what will yet be supplied.
} When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer
When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much
applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.
Only themselves understand themselves and the like of themselves,
As souls only understand souls.
} O Me! O Life!
O me! O life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill'd with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I,
and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the
struggle ever renew'd,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring--What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here--that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
} To a President
All you are doing and saying is to America dangled mirages,
You have not learn'd of Nature--of the politics of Nature you have
not learn'd the great amplitude, rectitude, impartiality,
You have not seen that only such as they are for these States,
And that what is less than they must sooner or later lift off from
} I Sit and Look Out
I sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all
oppression and shame,
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men at anguish with
themselves, remorseful after deeds done,
I see in low life the mother misused by her children, dying,
neglected, gaunt, desperate,
I see the wife misused by her husband, I see the treacherous seducer
of young women,
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love attempted to be
hid, I see these sights on the earth,
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny, I see martyrs and
I observe a famine at sea, I observe the sailors casting lots who
shall be kill'd to preserve the lives of the rest,
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon
laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;
All these--all the meanness and agony without end I sitting look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.
} To Rich Givers
What you give me I cheerfully accept,
A little sustenance, a hut and garden, a little money, as I
rendezvous with my poems,
A traveler's lodging and breakfast as journey through the States,--
why should I be ashamed to own such gifts? why to advertise for them?
For I myself am not one who bestows nothing upon man and woman,
For I bestow upon any man or woman the entrance to all the gifts of
} The Dalliance of the Eagles
Skirting the river road, (my forenoon walk, my rest,)
Skyward in air a sudden muffled sound, the dalliance of the eagles,
The rushing amorous contact high in space together,
The clinching interlocking claws, a living, fierce, gyrating wheel,
Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling,
In tumbling turning clustering loops, straight downward falling,
Till o'er the river pois'd, the twain yet one, a moment's lull,
A motionless still balance in the air, then parting, talons loosing,
Upward again on slow-firm pinions slanting, their separate diverse flight,
She hers, he his, pursuing.
} Roaming in Thought [After reading Hegel]
Roaming in thought over the Universe, I saw the little that is Good
steadily hastening towards immortality,
And the vast all that is call'd Evil I saw hastening to merge itself
and become lost and dead.
} A Farm Picture
Through the ample open door of the peaceful country barn,
A sunlit pasture field with cattle and horses feeding,
And haze and vista, and the far horizon fading away.
} A Child's Amaze
Silent and amazed even when a little boy,
I remember I heard the preacher every Sunday put God in his statements,
As contending against some being or influence.
} The Runner
On a flat road runs the well-train'd runner,
He is lean and sinewy with muscular legs,
He is thinly clothed, he leans forward as he runs,
With lightly closed fists and arms partially rais'd.
} Beautiful Women
Women sit or move to and fro, some old, some young,
The young are beautiful--but the old are more beautiful than the young.
} Mother and Babe
I see the sleeping babe nestling the breast of its mother,
The sleeping mother and babe--hush'd, I study them long and long.
Of obedience, faith, adhesiveness;
As I stand aloof and look there is to me something profoundly
affecting in large masses of men following the lead of those who
do not believe in men.
A mask, a perpetual natural disguiser of herself,
Concealing her face, concealing her form,
Changes and transformations every hour, every moment,
Falling upon her even when she sleeps.
Of justice--as If could be any thing but the same ample law,
expounded by natural judges and saviors,
As if it might be this thing or that thing, according to decisions.
} Gliding O'er all
Gliding o'er all, through all,
Through Nature, Time, and Space,
As a ship on the waters advancing,
The voyage of the soul--not life alone,
Death, many deaths I'll sing.
} Hast Never Come to Thee an Hour
Hast never come to thee an hour,
A sudden gleam divine, precipitating, bursting all these bubbles,
These eager business aims--books, politics, art, amours,
To utter nothingness?
Of Equality--as if it harm'd me, giving others the same chances and
rights as myself--as if it were not indispensable to my own
rights that others possess the same.
} To Old Age
I see in you the estuary that enlarges and spreads itself grandly as
it pours in the great sea.
} Locations and Times
Locations and times--what is it in me that meets them all, whenever
and wherever, and makes me at home?
Forms, colors, densities, odors--what is it in me that corresponds
A thousand perfect men and women appear,
Around each gathers a cluster of friends, and gay children and
youths, with offerings.
} To The States [To Identify the 16th, 17th, or 18th Presidentiad]
Why reclining, interrogating? why myself and all drowsing?
What deepening twilight-scum floating atop of the waters,
Who are they as bats and night-dogs askant in the capitol?
What a filthy Presidentiad! (O South, your torrid suns! O North,
your arctic freezings!)
Are those really Congressmen? are those the great Judges? is that
Then I will sleep awhile yet, for I see that these States sleep, for
(With gathering murk, with muttering thunder and lambent shoots we
all duly awake,
South, North, East, West, inland and seaboard, we will surely awake.)
[BOOK XXI. DRUM-TAPS]
} First O Songs for a Prelude
First O songs for a prelude,
Lightly strike on the stretch'd tympanum pride and joy in my city,
How she led the rest to arms, how she gave the cue,
How at once with lithe limbs unwaiting a moment she sprang,
(O superb! O Manhattan, my own, my peerless!
O strongest you in the hour of danger, in crisis! O truer than steel!)
How you sprang--how you threw off the costumes of peace with
How your soft opera-music changed, and the drum and fife were heard
in their stead,
How you led to the war, (that shall serve for our prelude, songs of
How Manhattan drum-taps led.
Forty years had I in my city seen soldiers parading,
Forty years as a pageant, till unawares the lady of this teeming and
Sleepless amid her ships, her houses, her incalculable wealth,
With her million children around her, suddenly,
At dead of night, at news from the south,
Incens'd struck with clinch'd hand the pavement.
A shock electric, the night sustain'd it,
Till with ominous hum our hive at daybreak pour'd out its myriads.
From the houses then and the workshops, and through all the doorways,
Leapt they tumultuous, and lo! Manhattan arming.
To the drum-taps prompt,
The young men falling in and arming,
The mechanics arming, (the trowel, the jack-plane, the blacksmith's
hammer, tost aside with precipitation,)
The lawyer leaving his office and arming, the judge leaving the court,
The driver deserting his wagon in the street, jumping down, throwing
the reins abruptly down on the horses' backs,
The salesman leaving the store, the boss, book-keeper, porter, all leaving;
Squads gather everywhere by common consent and arm,
The new recruits, even boys, the old men show them how to wear their
accoutrements, they buckle the straps carefully,
Outdoors arming, indoors arming, the flash of the musket-barrels,
The white tents cluster in camps, the arm'd sentries around, the
sunrise cannon and again at sunset,
Arm'd regiments arrive every day, pass through the city, and embark
from the wharves,
(How good they look as they tramp down to the river, sweaty, with
their guns on their shoulders!
How I love them! how I could hug them, with their brown faces and
their clothes and knapsacks cover'd with dust!)
The blood of the city up-arm'd! arm'd! the cry everywhere,
The flags flung out from the steeples of churches and from all the
public buildings and stores,
The tearful parting, the mother kisses her son, the son kisses his mother,
(Loth is the mother to part, yet not a word does she speak to detain him,)
The tumultuous escort, the ranks of policemen preceding, clearing the way,
The unpent enthusiasm, the wild cheers of the crowd for their favorites,
The artillery, the silent cannons bright as gold, drawn along,
rumble lightly over the stones,
(Silent cannons, soon to cease your silence,
Soon unlimber'd to begin the red business;)
All the mutter of preparation, all the determin'd arming,
The hospital service, the lint, bandages and medicines,
The women volunteering for nurses, the work begun for in earnest, no
mere parade now;
War! an arm'd race is advancing! the welcome for battle, no turning away!
War! be it weeks, months, or years, an arm'd race is advancing to
Mannahatta a-march--and it's O to sing it well!
It's O for a manly life in the camp.
And the sturdy artillery,
The guns bright as gold, the work for giants, to serve well the guns,
Unlimber them! (no more as the past forty years for salutes for
Put in something now besides powder and wadding.)
And you lady of ships, you Mannahatta,
Old matron of this proud, friendly, turbulent city,
Often in peace and wealth you were pensive or covertly frown'd amid
all your children,
But now you smile with joy exulting old Mannahatta.
} Eighteen Sixty-One
Arm'd year--year of the struggle,
No dainty rhymes or sentimental love verses for you terrible year,
Not you as some pale poetling seated at a desk lisping cadenzas piano,
But as a strong man erect, clothed in blue clothes, advancing,
carrying rifle on your shoulder,
With well-gristled body and sunburnt face and hands, with a knife in
the belt at your side,
As I heard you shouting loud, your sonorous voice ringing across the
Your masculine voice O year, as rising amid the great cities,
Amid the men of Manhattan I saw you as one of the workmen, the
dwellers in Manhattan,
Or with large steps crossing the prairies out of Illinois and Indiana,
Rapidly crossing the West with springy gait and descending the Allghanies,
Or down from the great lakes or in Pennsylvania, or on deck along
the Ohio river,
Or southward along the Tennessee or Cumberland rivers, or at
Chattanooga on the mountain top,
Saw I your gait and saw I your sinewy limbs clothed in blue, bearing
weapons, robust year,
Heard your determin'd voice launch'd forth again and again,
Year that suddenly sang by the mouths of the round-lipp'd cannon,
I repeat you, hurrying, crashing, sad, distracted year.
} Beat! Beat! Drums!
Beat! beat! drums!--blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows--through doors--burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,
Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet--no happiness must he have now with
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering
So fierce you whirr and pound you drums--so shrill you bugles blow.
Beat! beat! drums!--blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities--over the rumble of wheels in the streets;
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? no sleepers
must sleep in those beds,
No bargainers' bargains by day--no brokers or speculators--would
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums--you bugles wilder blow.
Beat! beat! drums!--blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley--stop for no expostulation,
Mind not the timid--mind not the weeper or prayer,
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man,
Let not the child's voice be heard, nor the mother's entreaties,
Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting the
So strong you thump O terrible drums--so loud you bugles blow.
} From Paumanok Starting I Fly Like a Bird
From Paumanok starting I fly like a bird,
Around and around to soar to sing the idea of all,
To the north betaking myself to sing there arctic songs,
To Kanada till I absorb Kanada in myself, to Michigan then,
To Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, to sing their songs, (they are inimitable;)
Then to Ohio and Indiana to sing theirs, to Missouri and Kansas and
Arkansas to sing theirs,
To Tennessee and Kentucky, to the Carolinas and Georgia to sing theirs,
To Texas and so along up toward California, to roam accepted everywhere;
To sing first, (to the tap of the war-drum if need be,)
The idea of all, of the Western world one and inseparable,
And then the song of each member of these States.
} Song of the Banner at Daybreak
O A new song, a free song,
Flapping, flapping, flapping, flapping, by sounds, by voices clearer,
By the wind's voice and that of the drum,
By the banner's voice and child's voice and sea's voice and father's voice,
Low on the ground and high in the air,
On the ground where father and child stand,
In the upward air where their eyes turn,
Where the banner at daybreak is flapping.
Words! book-words! what are you?
Words no more, for hearken and see,
My song is there in the open air, and I must sing,
With the banner and pennant a-flapping.
I'll weave the chord and twine in,
Man's desire and babe's desire, I'll twine them in, I'll put in life,
I'll put the bayonet's flashing point, I'll let bullets and slugs whizz,
(As one carrying a symbol and menace far into the future,
Crying with trumpet voice, Arouse and beware! Beware and arouse!)
I'll pour the verse with streams of blood, full of volition, full of joy,
Then loosen, launch forth, to go and compete,
With the banner and pennant a-flapping.
Come up here, bard, bard,
Come up here, soul, soul,
Come up here, dear little child,
To fly in the clouds and winds with me, and play with the measureless light.
Father what is that in the sky beckoning to me with long finger?
And what does it say to me all the while?
Nothing my babe you see in the sky,
And nothing at all to you it says--but look you my babe,
Look at these dazzling things in the houses, and see you the money-
And see you the vehicles preparing to crawl along the streets with goods;
These, ah these, how valued and toil'd for these!
How envied by all the earth.
Fresh and rosy red the sun is mounting high,
On floats the sea in distant blue careering through its channels,
On floats the wind over the breast of the sea setting in toward land,
The great steady wind from west or west-by-south,
Floating so buoyant with milk-white foam on the waters.
But I am not the sea nor the red sun,
I am not the wind with girlish laughter,
Not the immense wind which strengthens, not the wind which lashes,
Not the spirit that ever lashes its own body to terror and death,
But I am that which unseen comes and sings, sings, sings,
Which babbles in brooks and scoots in showers on the land,
Which the birds know in the woods mornings and evenings,
And the shore-sands know and the hissing wave, and that banner and pennant,
Aloft there flapping and flapping.
O father it is alive--it is full of people--it has children,
O now it seems to me it is talking to its children,
I hear it--it talks to me--O it is wonderful!
O it stretches--it spreads and runs so fast--O my father,
It is so broad it covers the whole sky.
Cease, cease, my foolish babe,
What you are saying is sorrowful to me, much 't displeases me;
Behold with the rest again I say, behold not banners and pennants aloft,
But the well-prepared pavements behold, and mark the solid-wall'd houses.
Banner and Pennant:
Speak to the child O bard out of Manhattan,
To our children all, or north or south of Manhattan,
Point this day, leaving all the rest, to us over all--and yet we know
For what are we, mere strips of cloth profiting nothing,
Only flapping in the wind?
I hear and see not strips of cloth alone,
I hear the tramp of armies, I hear the challenging sentry,
I hear the jubilant shouts of millions of men, I hear Liberty!
I hear the drums beat and the trumpets blowing,
I myself move abroad swift-rising flying then,
I use the wings of the land-bird and use the wings of the sea-bird,
and look down as from a height,
I do not deny the precious results of peace, I see populous cities
with wealth incalculable,
I see numberless farms, I see the farmers working in their fields or barns,
I see mechanics working, I see buildings everywhere founded, going
up, or finish'd,
I see trains of cars swiftly speeding along railroad tracks drawn by
I see the stores, depots, of Boston, Baltimore, Charleston, New Orleans,
I see far in the West the immense area of grain, I dwell awhile hovering,
I pass to the lumber forests of the North, and again to the Southern
plantation, and again to California;
Sweeping the whole I see the countless profit, the busy gatherings,
See the Identity formed out of thirty-eight spacious and haughty
States, (and many more to come,)
See forts on the shores of harbors, see ships sailing in and out;
Then over all, (aye! aye!) my little and lengthen'd pennant shaped
like a sword,
Runs swiftly up indicating war and defiance--and now the halyards
have rais'd it,
Side of my banner broad and blue, side of my starry banner,
Discarding peace over all the sea and land.
Banner and Pennant:
Yet louder, higher, stronger, bard! yet farther, wider cleave!
No longer let our children deem us riches and peace alone,
We may be terror and carnage, and are so now,
Not now are we any one of these spacious and haughty States, (nor
any five, nor ten,)
Nor market nor depot we, nor money-bank in the city,
But these and all, and the brown and spreading land, and the mines
below, are ours,
And the shores of the sea are ours, and the rivers great and small,
And the fields they moisten, and the crops and the fruits are ours,
Bays and channels and ships sailing in and out are ours--while we over all,
Over the area spread below, the three or four millions of square
miles, the capitals,
The forty millions of people,--O bard! in life and death supreme,
We, even we, henceforth flaunt out masterful, high up above,
Not for the present alone, for a thousand years chanting through you,
This song to the soul of one poor little child.
O my father I like not the houses,
They will never to me be any thing, nor do I like money,
But to mount up there I would like, O father dear, that banner I like,
That pennant I would be and must be.
Child of mine you fill me with anguish,
To be that pennant would be too fearful,
Little you know what it is this day, and after this day, forever,
It is to gain nothing, but risk and defy every thing,
Forward to stand in front of wars--and O, such wars!--what have you
to do with them?
With passions of demons, slaughter, premature death?
Demons and death then I sing,
Put in all, aye all will I, sword-shaped pennant for war,
And a pleasure new and ecstatic, and the prattled yearning of children,
Blent with the sounds of the peaceful land and the liquid wash of the sea,
And the black ships fighting on the sea envelop'd in smoke,
And the icy cool of the far, far north, with rustling cedars and pines,
And the whirr of drums and the sound of soldiers marching, and the
hot sun shining south,
And the beach-waves combing over the beach on my Eastern shore,
and my Western shore the same,
And all between those shores, and my ever running Mississippi with
bends and chutes,
And my Illinois fields, and my Kansas fields, and my fields of Missouri,
The Continent, devoting the whole identity without reserving an atom,
Pour in! whelm that which asks, which sings, with all and the yield of all,
Fusing and holding, claiming, devouring the whole,
No more with tender lip, nor musical labial sound,
But out of the night emerging for good, our voice persuasive no more,
Croaking like crows here in the wind.
My limbs, my veins dilate, my theme is clear at last,
Banner so broad advancing out of the night, I sing you haughty and resolute,
I burst through where I waited long, too long, deafen'd and blinded,
My hearing and tongue are come to me, (a little child taught me,)
I hear from above O pennant of war your ironical call and demand,
Insensate! insensate! (yet I at any rate chant you,) O banner!
Not houses of peace indeed are you, nor any nor all their
prosperity, (if need be, you shall again have every one of those
houses to destroy them,
You thought not to destroy those valuable houses, standing fast,
full of comfort, built with money,
May they stand fast, then? not an hour except you above them and all
O banner, not money so precious are you, not farm produce you, nor
the material good nutriment,
Nor excellent stores, nor landed on wharves from the ships,
Not the superb ships with sail-power or steam-power, fetching and
Nor machinery, vehicles, trade, nor revenues--but you as henceforth
I see you,
Running up out of the night, bringing your cluster of stars,
Divider of daybreak you, cutting the air, touch'd by the sun,
measuring the sky,
(Passionately seen and yearn'd for by one poor little child,
While others remain busy or smartly talking, forever teaching
O you up there! O pennant! where you undulate like a snake hissing
Out of reach, an idea only, yet furiously fought for, risking bloody
death, loved by me,
So loved--O you banner leading the day with stars brought from the night!
Valueless, object of eyes, over all and demanding all--(absolute
owner of all)--O banner and pennant!
I too leave the rest--great as it is, it is nothing--houses, machines
are nothing--I see them not,
I see but you, O warlike pennant! O banner so broad, with stripes,
sing you only,
Flapping up there in the wind.
} Rise O Days from Your Fathomless Deeps
Rise O days from your fathomless deeps, till you loftier, fiercer sweep,
Long for my soul hungering gymnastic I devour'd what the earth gave me,
Long I roam'd amid the woods of the north, long I watch'd Niagara pouring,
I travel'd the prairies over and slept on their breast, I cross'd
the Nevadas, I cross'd the plateaus,
I ascended the towering rocks along the Pacific, I sail'd out to sea,
I sail'd through the storm, I was refresh'd by the storm,
I watch'd with joy the threatening maws of the waves,
I mark'd the white combs where they career'd so high, curling over,
I heard the wind piping, I saw the black clouds,
Saw from below what arose and mounted, (O superb! O wild as my
heart, and powerful!)
Heard the continuous thunder as it bellow'd after the lightning,
Noted the slender and jagged threads of lightning as sudden and
fast amid the din they chased each other across the sky;
These, and such as these, I, elate, saw--saw with wonder, yet pensive
All the menacing might of the globe uprisen around me,
Yet there with my soul I fed, I fed content, supercilious.
'Twas well, O soul--'twas a good preparation you gave me,
Now we advance our latent and ampler hunger to fill,
Now we go forth to receive what the earth and the sea never gave us,
Not through the mighty woods we go, but through the mightier cities,
Something for us is pouring now more than Niagara pouring,
Torrents of men, (sources and rills of the Northwest are you indeed
What, to pavements and homesteads here, what were those storms of
the mountains and sea?
What, to passions I witness around me to-day? was the sea risen?
Was the wind piping the pipe of death under the black clouds?
Lo! from deeps more unfathomable, something more deadly and savage,
Manhattan rising, advancing with menacing front--Cincinnati, Chicago,
What was that swell I saw on the ocean? behold what comes here,
How it climbs with daring feet and hands--how it dashes!
How the true thunder bellows after the lightning--how bright the
flashes of lightning!
How Democracy with desperate vengeful port strides on, shown
through the dark by those flashes of lightning!
(Yet a mournful wall and low sob I fancied I heard through the dark,
In a lull of the deafening confusion.)
Thunder on! stride on, Democracy! strike with vengeful stroke!
And do you rise higher than ever yet O days, O cities!
Crash heavier, heavier yet O storms! you have done me good,
My soul prepared in the mountains absorbs your immortal strong nutriment,
Long had I walk'd my cities, my country roads through farms, only
One doubt nauseous undulating like a snake, crawl'd on the ground before me,
Continually preceding my steps, turning upon me oft, ironically hissing low;
The cities I loved so well I abandon'd and left, I sped to the
certainties suitable to me,
Hungering, hungering, hungering, for primal energies and Nature's
I refresh'd myself with it only, I could relish it only,
I waited the bursting forth of the pent fire--on the water and air
But now I no longer wait, I am fully satisfied, I am glutted,
I have witness'd the true lightning, I have witness'd my cities electric,
I have lived to behold man burst forth and warlike America rise,
Hence I will seek no more the food of the northern solitary wilds,
No more the mountains roam or sail the stormy sea.
} Virginia--The West
The noble sire fallen on evil days,
I saw with hand uplifted, menacing, brandishing,
(Memories of old in abeyance, love and faith in abeyance,)
The insane knife toward the Mother of All.
The noble son on sinewy feet advancing,
I saw, out of the land of prairies, land of Ohio's waters and of Indiana,
To the rescue the stalwart giant hurry his plenteous offspring,
Drest in blue, bearing their trusty rifles on their shoulders.
Then the Mother of All with calm voice speaking,
As to you Rebellious, (I seemed to hear her say,) why strive against
me, and why seek my life?
When you yourself forever provide to defend me?
For you provided me Washington--and now these also.
} City of Ships
City of ships!
(O the black ships! O the fierce ships!
O the beautiful sharp-bow'd steam-ships and sail-ships!)
City of the world! (for all races are here,
All the lands of the earth make contributions here;)
City of the sea! city of hurried and glittering tides!
City whose gleeful tides continually rush or recede, whirling in and
out with eddies and foam!
City of wharves and stores--city of tall facades of marble and iron!
Proud and passionate city--mettlesome, mad, extravagant city!
Spring up O city--not for peace alone, but be indeed yourself, warlike!
Fear not--submit to no models but your own O city!
Behold me--incarnate me as I have incarnated you!
I have rejected nothing you offer'd me--whom you adopted I have adopted,
Good or bad I never question you--I love all--I do not condemn any thing,
I chant and celebrate all that is yours--yet peace no more,
In peace I chanted peace, but now the drum of war is mine,
War, red war is my song through your streets, O city!
} The Centenarian's Story
[Volunteer of 1861-2, at Washington Park, Brooklyn, assisting
Give me your hand old Revolutionary,
The hill-top is nigh, but a few steps, (make room gentlemen,)
Up the path you have follow'd me well, spite of your hundred and
You can walk old man, though your eyes are almost done,
Your faculties serve you, and presently I must have them serve me.
Rest, while I tell what the crowd around us means,
On the plain below recruits are drilling and exercising,
There is the camp, one regiment departs to-morrow,
Do you hear the officers giving their orders?
Do you hear the clank of the muskets?
Why what comes over you now old man?
Why do you tremble and clutch my hand so convulsively?
The troops are but drilling, they are yet surrounded with smiles,
Around them at hand the well-drest friends and the women,
While splendid and warm the afternoon sun shines down,
Green the midsummer verdure and fresh blows the dallying breeze,
O'er proud and peaceful cities and arm of the sea between.
But drill and parade are over, they march back to quarters,
Only hear that approval of hands! hear what a clapping!
As wending the crowds now part and disperse--but we old man,
Not for nothing have I brought you hither--we must remain,
You to speak in your turn, and I to listen and tell.
When I clutch'd your hand it was not with terror,
But suddenly pouring about me here on every side,
And below there where the boys were drilling, and up the slopes they ran,
And where tents are pitch'd, and wherever you see south and south-
east and south-west,
Over hills, across lowlands, and in the skirts of woods,
And along the shores, in mire (now fill'd over) came again and
As eighty-five years agone no mere parade receiv'd with applause of friends,
But a battle which I took part in myself--aye, long ago as it is, I
took part in it,
Walking then this hilltop, this same ground.
Aye, this is the ground,
My blind eyes even as I speak behold it re-peopled from graves,
The years recede, pavements and stately houses disappear,
Rude forts appear again, the old hoop'd guns are mounted,
I see the lines of rais'd earth stretching from river to bay,
I mark the vista of waters, I mark the uplands and slopes;
Here we lay encamp'd, it was this time in summer also.
As I talk I remember all, I remember the Declaration,
It was read here, the whole army paraded, it was read to us here,
By his staff surrounded the General stood in the middle, he held up
his unsheath'd sword,
It glitter'd in the sun in full sight of the army.
Twas a bold act then--the English war-ships had just arrived,
We could watch down the lower bay where they lay at anchor,
And the transports swarming with soldiers.
A few days more and they landed, and then the battle.
Twenty thousand were brought against us,
A veteran force furnish'd with good artillery.
I tell not now the whole of the battle,
But one brigade early in the forenoon order'd forward to engage the
Of that brigade I tell, and how steadily it march'd,
And how long and well it stood confronting death.
Who do you think that was marching steadily sternly confronting death?
It was the brigade of the youngest men, two thousand strong,
Rais'd in Virginia and Maryland, and most of them known personally
to the General.
Jauntily forward they went with quick step toward Gowanus' waters,
Till of a sudden unlook'd for by defiles through the woods, gain'd at night,
The British advancing, rounding in from the east, fiercely playing
That brigade of the youngest was cut off and at the enemy's mercy.
The General watch'd them from this hill,
They made repeated desperate attempts to burst their environment,
Then drew close together, very compact, their flag flying in the middle,
But O from the hills how the cannon were thinning and thinning them!
It sickens me yet, that slaughter!
I saw the moisture gather in drops on the face of the General.
I saw how he wrung his hands in anguish.
Meanwhile the British manoeuvr'd to draw us out for a pitch'd battle,
But we dared not trust the chances of a pitch'd battle.
We fought the fight in detachments,
Sallying forth we fought at several points, but in each the luck was
Our foe advancing, steadily getting the best of it, push'd us back
to the works on this hill,
Till we turn'd menacing here, and then he left us.
That was the going out of the brigade of the youngest men, two thousand
Few return'd, nearly all remain in Brooklyn.
That and here my General's first battle,
No women looking on nor sunshine to bask in, it did not conclude
Nobody clapp'd hands here then.
But in darkness in mist on the ground under a chill rain,
Wearied that night we lay foil'd and sullen,
While scornfully laugh'd many an arrogant lord off against us encamp'd,
Quite within hearing, feasting, clinking wineglasses together over
So dull and damp and another day,
But the night of that, mist lifting, rain ceasing,
Silent as a ghost while they thought they were sure of him, my
I saw him at the river-side,
Down by the ferry lit by torches, hastening the embarcation;
My General waited till the soldiers and wounded were all pass'd over,
And then, (it was just ere sunrise,) these eyes rested on him for
the last time.
Every one else seem'd fill'd with gloom,
Many no doubt thought of capitulation.
But when my General pass'd me,
As he stood in his boat and look'd toward the coming sun,
I saw something different from capitulation.
Enough, the Centenarian's story ends,
The two, the past and present, have interchanged,
I myself as connecter, as chansonnier of a great future, am now speaking.
And is this the ground Washington trod?
And these waters I listlessly daily cross, are these the waters he cross'd,
As resolute in defeat as other generals in their proudest triumphs?
I must copy the story, and send it eastward and westward,
I must preserve that look as it beam'd on you rivers of Brooklyn.
See--as the annual round returns the phantoms return,
It is the 27th of August and the British have landed,
The battle begins and goes against us, behold through the smoke
The brigade of Virginia and Maryland have march'd forth to intercept
They are cut off, murderous artillery from the hills plays upon them,
Rank after rank falls, while over them silently droops the flag,
Baptized that day in many a young man's bloody wounds.
In death, defeat, and sisters', mothers' tears.
Ah, hills and slopes of Brooklyn! I perceive you are more valuable
than your owners supposed;
In the midst of you stands an encampment very old,
Stands forever the camp of that dead brigade.
} Cavalry Crossing a Ford
A line in long array where they wind betwixt green islands,
They take a serpentine course, their arms flash in the sun--hark to
the musical clank,
Behold the silvery river, in it the splashing horses loitering stop
Behold the brown-faced men, each group, each person a picture, the
negligent rest on the saddles,
Some emerge on the opposite bank, others are just entering the ford--while,
Scarlet and blue and snowy white,
The guidon flags flutter gayly in the wind.
} Bivouac on a Mountain Side
I see before me now a traveling army halting,
Below a fertile valley spread, with barns and the orchards of summer,
Behind, the terraced sides of a mountain, abrupt, in places rising high,
Broken, with rocks, with clinging cedars, with tall shapes dingily seen,
The numerous camp-fires scatter'd near and far, some away up on the
The shadowy forms of men and horses, looming, large-sized, flickering,
And over all the sky--the sky! far, far out of reach, studded,
breaking out, the eternal stars.
} An Army Corps on the March
With its cloud of skirmishers in advance,
With now the sound of a single shot snapping like a whip, and now an
The swarming ranks press on and on, the dense brigades press on,
Glittering dimly, toiling under the sun--the dust-cover'd men,
In columns rise and fall to the undulations of the ground,
With artillery interspers'd--the wheels rumble, the horses sweat,
As the army corps advances.
} By the Bivouac's Fitful Flame
By the bivouac's fitful flame,
A procession winding around me, solemn and sweet and slow--but
first I note,
The tents of the sleeping army, the fields' and woods' dim outline,
The darkness lit by spots of kindled fire, the silence,
Like a phantom far or near an occasional figure moving,
The shrubs and trees, (as I lift my eyes they seem to be stealthily
While wind in procession thoughts, O tender and wondrous thoughts,
Of life and death, of home and the past and loved, and of those that
are far away;
A solemn and slow procession there as I sit on the ground,
By the bivouac's fitful flame.
} Come Up from the Fields Father
Come up from the fields father, here's a letter from our Pete,
And come to the front door mother, here's a letter from thy dear son.
Lo, 'tis autumn,
Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder,
Cool and sweeten Ohio's villages with leaves fluttering in the
Where apples ripe in the orchards hang and grapes on the trellis'd vines,
(Smell you the smell of the grapes on the vines?
Smell you the buckwheat where the bees were lately buzzing?)
Above all, lo, the sky so calm, so transparent after the rain, and
with wondrous clouds,
Below too, all calm, all vital and beautiful, and the farm prospers well.
Down in the fields all prospers well,
But now from the fields come father, come at the daughter's call.
And come to the entry mother, to the front door come right away.
Fast as she can she hurries, something ominous, her steps trembling,
She does not tarry to smooth her hair nor adjust her cap.
Open the envelope quickly,
O this is not our son's writing, yet his name is sign'd,
O a strange hand writes for our dear son, O stricken mother's soul!
All swims before her eyes, flashes with black, she catches the main
Sentences broken, gunshot wound in the breast, cavalry skirmish,
taken to hospital,
At present low, but will soon be better.
Ah now the single figure to me,
Amid all teeming and wealthy Ohio with all its cities and farms,
Sickly white in the face and dull in the head, very faint,
By the jamb of a door leans.
Grieve not so, dear mother, (the just-grown daughter speaks through
The little sisters huddle around speechless and dismay'd,)
See, dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be better.
Alas poor boy, he will never be better, (nor may-be needs to be
better, that brave and simple soul,)
While they stand at home at the door he is dead already,
The only son is dead.
But the mother needs to be better,
She with thin form presently drest in black,
By day her meals untouch'd, then at night fitfully sleeping, often waking,
In the midnight waking, weeping, longing with one deep longing,
O that she might withdraw unnoticed, silent from life escape and withdraw,
To follow, to seek, to be with her dear dead son.
} Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night
Vigil strange I kept on the field one night;
When you my son and my comrade dropt at my side that day,
One look I but gave which your dear eyes return'd with a look I
shall never forget,
One touch of your hand to mine O boy, reach'd up as you lay on the ground,
Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested battle,
Till late in the night reliev'd to the place at last again I made my way,
Found you in death so cold dear comrade, found your body son of
responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
Bared your face in the starlight, curious the scene, cool blew the
Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me the
Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet there in the fragrant silent night,
But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh, long, long I gazed,
Then on the earth partially reclining sat by your side leaning my
chin in my hands,
Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with you dearest
comrade--not a tear, not a word,
Vigil of silence, love and death, vigil for you my son and my soldier,
As onward silently stars aloft, eastward new ones upward stole,
Vigil final for you brave boy, (I could not save you, swift was your death,
I faithfully loved you and cared for you living, I think we shall
surely meet again,)
Till at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the dawn appear'd,
My comrade I wrapt in his blanket, envelop'd well his form,
Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head and
carefully under feet,
And there and then and bathed by the rising sun, my son in his
grave, in his rude-dug grave I deposited,
Ending my vigil strange with that, vigil of night and battle-field dim,
Vigil for boy of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
Vigil for comrade swiftly slain, vigil I never forget, how as day
I rose from the chill ground and folded my soldier well in his blanket,
And buried him where he fell.
} A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown
A march in the ranks hard-prest, and the road unknown,
A route through a heavy wood with muffled steps in the darkness,
Our army foil'd with loss severe, and the sullen remnant retreating,
Till after midnight glimmer upon us the lights of a dim-lighted building,
We come to an open space in the woods, and halt by the dim-lighted building,
'Tis a large old church at the crossing roads, now an impromptu hospital,
Entering but for a minute I see a sight beyond all the pictures and
poems ever made,
Shadows of deepest, deepest black, just lit by moving candles and lamps,
And by one great pitchy torch stationary with wild red flame and
clouds of smoke,
By these, crowds, groups of forms vaguely I see on the floor, some
in the pews laid down,
At my feet more distinctly a soldier, a mere lad, in danger of
bleeding to death, (he is shot in the abdomen,)
I stanch the blood temporarily, (the youngster's face is white as a lily,)
Then before I depart I sweep my eyes o'er the scene fain to absorb it all,
Faces, varieties, postures beyond description, most in obscurity,
some of them dead,
Surgeons operating, attendants holding lights, the smell of ether,
odor of blood,
The crowd, O the crowd of the bloody forms, the yard outside also fill'd,
Some on the bare ground, some on planks or stretchers, some in the
An occasional scream or cry, the doctor's shouted orders or calls,
The glisten of the little steel instruments catching the glint of
These I resume as I chant, I see again the forms, I smell the odor,
Then hear outside the orders given, Fall in, my men, fall in;
But first I bend to the dying lad, his eyes open, a half-smile gives he me,
Then the eyes close, calmly close, and I speed forth to the darkness,
Resuming, marching, ever in darkness marching, on in the ranks,
The unknown road still marching.
} A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim
A sight in camp in the daybreak gray and dim,
As from my tent I emerge so early sleepless,
As slow I walk in the cool fresh air the path near by the hospital tent,
Three forms I see on stretchers lying, brought out there untended lying,
Over each the blanket spread, ample brownish woolen blanket,
Gray and heavy blanket, folding, covering all.
Curious I halt and silent stand,
Then with light fingers I from the face of the nearest the first
just lift the blanket;
Who are you elderly man so gaunt and grim, with well-gray'd hair,
and flesh all sunken about the eyes?
Who are you my dear comrade?
Then to the second I step--and who are you my child and darling?
Who are you sweet boy with cheeks yet blooming?
Then to the third--a face nor child nor old, very calm, as of
beautiful yellow-white ivory;
Young man I think I know you--I think this face is the face of the
Dead and divine and brother of all, and here again he lies.
} As Toilsome I Wander'd Virginia's Woods
As toilsome I wander'd Virginia's woods,
To the music of rustling leaves kick'd by my feet, (for 'twas autumn,)
I mark'd at the foot of a tree the grave of a soldier;
Mortally wounded he and buried on the retreat, (easily all could
The halt of a mid-day hour, when up! no time to lose--yet this sign left,
On a tablet scrawl'd and nail'd on the tree by the grave,
Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade.
Long, long I muse, then on my way go wandering,
Many a changeful season to follow, and many a scene of life,
Yet at times through changeful season and scene, abrupt, alone, or
in the crowded street,
Comes before me the unknown soldier's grave, comes the inscription
rude in Virginia's woods,
Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade.
} Not the Pilot
Not the pilot has charged himself to bring his ship into port,
though beaten back and many times baffled;
Not the pathfinder penetrating inland weary and long,
By deserts parch'd, snows chill'd, rivers wet, perseveres till he
reaches his destination,
More than I have charged myself, heeded or unheeded, to compose
march for these States,
For a battle-call, rousing to arms if need be, years, centuries hence.
} Year That Trembled and Reel'd Beneath Me
Year that trembled and reel'd beneath me!
Your summer wind was warm enough, yet the air I breathed froze me,
A thick gloom fell through the sunshine and darken'd me,
Must I change my triumphant songs? said I to myself,
Must I indeed learn to chant the cold dirges of the baffled?
And sullen hymns of defeat?
} The Wound-Dresser
An old man bending I come among new faces,
Years looking backward resuming in answer to children,
Come tell us old man, as from young men and maidens that love me,
(Arous'd and angry, I'd thought to beat the alarum, and urge relentless war,
But soon my fingers fail'd me, my face droop'd and I resign'd myself,
To sit by the wounded and soothe them, or silently watch the dead;)
Years hence of these scenes, of these furious passions, these chances,
Of unsurpass'd heroes, (was one side so brave? the other was equally brave;)
Now be witness again, paint the mightiest armies of earth,
Of those armies so rapid so wondrous what saw you to tell us?
What stays with you latest and deepest? of curious panics,
Of hard-fought engagements or sieges tremendous what deepest remains?
O maidens and young men I love and that love me,
What you ask of my days those the strangest and sudden your talking recalls,
Soldier alert I arrive after a long march cover'd with sweat and dust,
In the nick of time I come, plunge in the fight, loudly shout in the
rush of successful charge,
Enter the captur'd works--yet lo, like a swift-running river they fade,
Pass and are gone they fade--I dwell not on soldiers' perils or
(Both I remember well--many the hardships, few the joys, yet I was content.)
But in silence, in dreams' projections,
While the world of gain and appearance and mirth goes on,
So soon what is over forgotten, and waves wash the imprints off the sand,
With hinged knees returning I enter the doors, (while for you up there,
Whoever you are, follow without noise and be of strong heart.)
Bearing the bandages, water and sponge,
Straight and swift to my wounded I go,
Where they lie on the ground after the battle brought in,
Where their priceless blood reddens the grass the ground,
Or to the rows of the hospital tent, or under the roof'd hospital,
To the long rows of cots up and down each side I return,
To each and all one after another I draw near, not one do I miss,
An attendant follows holding a tray, he carries a refuse pail,
Soon to be fill'd with clotted rags and blood, emptied, and fill'd again.
I onward go, I stop,
With hinged knees and steady hand to dress wounds,
I am firm with each, the pangs are sharp yet unavoidable,
One turns to me his appealing eyes--poor boy! I never knew you,
Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that
would save you.
On, on I go, (open doors of time! open hospital doors!)
The crush'd head I dress, (poor crazed hand tear not the bandage away,)
The neck of the cavalry-man with the bullet through and through examine,
Hard the breathing rattles, quite glazed already the eye, yet life
(Come sweet death! be persuaded O beautiful death!
In mercy come quickly.)
From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand,
I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off the matter and blood,
Back on his pillow the soldier bends with curv'd neck and side falling head,
His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on the
And has not yet look'd on it.
I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep,
But a day or two more, for see the frame all wasted and sinking,
And the yellow-blue countenance see.
I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet-wound,
Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so sickening,
While the attendant stands behind aside me holding the tray and pail.
I am faithful, I do not give out,
The fractur'd thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdomen,
These and more I dress with impassive hand, (yet deep in my breast
a fire, a burning flame.)
Thus in silence in dreams' projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals,
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night, some are so young,