Part 3 out of 5
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 pierced by the grey
Cold and motionless as they seem, live elsewhere with unslaughtered
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 murdered for freedom but grows seed for freedom, in its
turn to bear seed,
Which the winds carry afar and resow, 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, counselling,
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.
[Footnote 1: The years 1848 and 1849.]
_TO A FOILED REVOLTER OR REVOLTRESS._
Courage! my brother or my sister!
Keep on! Liberty is to be subserved, whatever occurs;
That is nothing that is quelled by one or two failures, or any number of
Or by the indifference or ingratitude of the people, or by any
Or the show of the tushes of power, soldiers, cannon, penal statutes.
What we believe in waits latent for ever through all the continents, and
all the islands and archipelagoes of the sea.
What we believe in invites no one, promises nothing, sits in calmness and
light, is positive and composed, knows no discouragement,
Waiting patiently, waiting its time.
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 anklet, 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 still, choked
with their own blood,
The young men drop their eyelashes toward the ground when they meet;
But, for all this, Liberty has not gone out of the place, nor the infidel
entered into 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 be discharged from that part of the earth,
And the infidel and the tyrant come into possession.
Then courage! 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 anything is for,)
But I will search carefully for it even in being foiled,
In defeat, poverty, imprisonment--for they too are great.
Did we think victory great?
So it is--But now it seems to me, when it cannot be helped, that defeat is
And that death and dismay are great.
First, O songs, for a prelude,
Lightly strike on the stretched 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 indifferent
How your soft opera-music changed, and the drum and fife were heard in
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,
Incensed, struck with clenched hand the pavement.
A shock electric--the night sustained it;
Till, with ominous hum, our hive at daybreak poured out its myriads.
From the houses then, and the workshops, and through all the doorways,
Leaped 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 black-smith's hammer,
tossed aside with precipitation;
The lawyer leaving his office, and arming--the judge leaving the court;
The driver deserting his waggon 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 gathering everywhere by common consent, and arming;
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 armed sentries around--the sunrise
cannon, and again at sunset;
Armed regiments arrive every day, pass through the city, and embark from
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 covered with dust!
The blood of the city up--armed! armed! 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 favourites;
The artillery--the silent cannons, bright as gold, drawn along, rumble
lightly over the stones;
Silent cannons--soon to cease your silence,
Soon, unlimbered, to begin the red business!
All the mutter of preparation--all the determined arming;
The hospital service--the lint, bandages, and medicines;
The women volunteering for nurses--the work begun for, in earnest--no mere
War! an armed race is advancing!--the welcome for battle--no turning away;
War! be it weeks, months, or years--an armed race is advancing to welcome
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 courtesies
Put in something else now besides powder and wadding.
And you, Lady of Ships! you, Mannahatta!
Old matron of the city! this proud, friendly, turbulent city!
Often in peace and wealth you were pensive, or covertly frowned amid all
But now you smile with joy, exulting old Mannahatta!
Armed 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 a
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
Or with large steps crossing the prairies out of Illinois and Indiana,
Rapidly crossing the West with springy gait, and descending the
Or down from the great lakes, or in Pennsylvania, or on deck along the Ohio
Or southward along the Tennessee or Cumberland rivers, or at Chattanooga on
Saw I your gait and saw I your sinewy limbs, clothed in blue, bearing
weapons, robust year;
Heard your determined voice, launched forth again and again;
Year that suddenly sang by the mouths of the round-lipped cannon,
I repeat you, hurrying, crashing, sad, distracted year.
Rise, O days, from your fathomless deeps, till you loftier and fiercer
Long for my soul, hungering gymnastic, I devoured what the earth gave me;
Long I roamed the woods of the North--long I watched Niagara pouring;
I travelled the prairies over, and slept on their breast--I crossed the
I crossed the plateaus;
I ascended the towering rocks along the Pacific, I sailed out to sea;
I sailed through the storm, I was refreshed by the storm;
I watched with joy the threatening maws of the waves;
I marked the white combs where they careered 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
Heard the continuous thunder, as it bellowed 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 and
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 North-west, 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
How DEMOCRACY with desperate vengeful port strides on, shown through the
dark by those flashes of lightning!
Yet a mournful wail 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 walked my cities, my country roads, through farms, only half
One doubt, nauseous, undulating like a snake, crawled on the ground before
Continually preceding my steps, turning upon me oft, ironically hissing
--The cities I loved so well I abandoned and left--I sped to the
certainties suitable to me
Hungering, hungering, hungering, for primal energies, and Nature's
I refreshed myself with it only, I could relish it only;
I waited the bursting forth of the pent fire--on the water and air I waited
--But now I no longer wait--I am fully satisfied--I am glutted;
I have witnessed the true lightning--I have witnessed 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 on the mountains roam, or sail the stormy sea.
_BEAT! BEAT! DRUMS!_
Beat! beat! drums!--Blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows--through doors--burst like a force of ruthless men,
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 his
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering his
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 they
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.
_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
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;
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.
BANNER AND PENNANT.
Come up here, bard, bard;
Come up here, soul, soul;
Come up here, dear little child,
To fly in the clouds and winds with us, and play with the measureless
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-shops
And see you the vehicles preparing to crawl along the streets with goods:
These! ah, these! how valued and toiled 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 and 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 of 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
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 it 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-walled houses.
BANNER AND PENNANT.
Speak to the child, O bard, out of Manhattan;
Speak to our children all, or north or south of Manhattan,
Where our factory-engines hum, where our miners delve the ground,
Where our hoarse Niagara rumbles, where our prairie-ploughs are ploughing;
Speak, O bard! point this day, leaving all the rest, to us over all--and
yet we know not why;
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
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
I see trains of cars swiftly speeding along railroad tracks, drawn by the
I see the stores, depots, of Boston, Baltimore, Charleston, New Orleans;
I see far in the west the immense area of grain--I dwell a while, 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, earned
See the identity formed out of thirty-six spacious and haughty States, (and
many more to come;)
See forts on the shores of harbours--see ships sailing in and out;
Then over all, (aye! aye!) my little and lengthened pennant shaped like a
Runs swiftly up, indicating war and defiance--And now the halyards have
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 can be terror and carnage also, and are so now.
Not now are we one of these spacious and haughty States, (nor any five, nor
Nor market nor depot are we, nor money-bank in the city;
But these, and all, and the brown and spreading land, and the mines below,
And the shores of the sea are ours, and the rivers great and small;
And the fields they moisten are ours, and the crops, and the fruits are
Bays and channels, and ships sailing in and out, are ours--and we over all,
Over the area spread below, the three millions of square miles--the
The thirty-five millions of people--O bard! in life and death supreme,
We, even we, from this day 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 anything--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 henceforth for ever;
It is to gain nothing, but risk and defy everything;
Forward to stand in front of wars--and O, such wars!--what have you to do
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 banner so
broad and blue,
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 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
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 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
BANNER AND PENNANT.
Aye all! for ever, for all!
From sea to sea, north and south, east and west,
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;
The blood of the world has filled me full--my theme is clear at last.
--Banner so broad, advancing out of the night, I sing you haughty and
I burst through where I waited long, too long, deafened and blinded;
My sight, my hearing and tongue, are come to me, (a little child taught
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 are you, nor any nor all their prosperity; if need be,
you shall 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, unless you, above them and all,
--O banner! not money so precious are you, nor 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 carrying
Nor machinery, vehicles, trade, nor revenues,--But you, as henceforth I see
Running up out of the night, bringing your cluster of stars, ever-enlarging
Divider of daybreak you, cutting the air, touched by the sun, measuring the
Passionately seen and yearned for by one poor little child,
While others remain busy, or smartly talking, for ever teaching thrift,
O you up there! O pennant! where you undulate like a snake, hissing so
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--O banner and
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, I sing
Flapping up there in the wind.
_THE BIVOUAC'S FLAME._
By the bivouac's fitful flame,
A procession winding around me, solemn and sweet and slow;--but first I
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
A solemn and slow procession there as I sit on the ground,
By the bivouac's fitful flame.
_BIVOUAC ON A MOUNTAIN-SIDE._
I see before me now a travelling 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 scattered 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 with the
_CITY OF SHIPS._
City of ships!
(O the black ships! O the fierce ships!
O the beautiful, sharp-bowed 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 offered me--whom you adopted, I have adopted;
Good or bad, I never question you--I love all--I do not condemn anything;
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!
_VIGIL ON THE FIELD._
VIGIL strange I kept on the field one night,
When you, my son and my comrade, dropped at my side that day.
One look I but gave, which your dear eyes returned with a look I shall
One touch of your hand to mine, O boy, reached up as you lay on the ground.
Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested battle;
Till, late in the night relieved, 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 moderate
Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me the battlefield
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
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
I faithfully loved you and cared for you living--I think we shall surely
Till at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the dawn appeared,
My comrade I wrapped in his blanket, enveloped well his form,
Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head, and carefully
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 battlefield 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.
Bathed in war's perfume--delicate flag!
O to hear you call the sailors and the soldiers! flag like a beautiful
O to hear the tramp, tramp, of a million answering men! O the ships they
arm with joy!
O to see you leap and beckon from the tall masts of ships!
O to see you peering down on the sailors on the decks!
Flag like the eyes of women.
A march in the ranks hard-pressed, and the road unknown;
A route through a heavy wood, with muffled steps in the darkness;
Our army foiled 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
'Tis a large old church, at the crossing roads--'tis now an impromptu
--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
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 staunch 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
Surgeons operating, attendants holding lights, the smell of ether, the
odour of blood;
The crowd, O the crowd of the bloody forms of soldiers--the yard outside
Some on the bare ground, some on planks or stretchers, some in the death-
An occasional scream or cry, the doctor's shouted orders or calls;
The glisten of the little steel instruments catching the glint of the
These I resume as I chant--I see again the forms, I smell the odour;
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, as ever in darkness marching, on in the ranks,
The unknown road still marching.
_A SIGHT IN CAMP._
A sight in camp in the daybreak grey 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 woollen blanket,
Grey 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-greyed 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
Young man, I think I know you--I think this face of yours is the face of
the Christ Himself;
Dead and divine and brother of all, and here again He lies.
As toilsome I wandered Virginia's woods,
To the music of rustling leaves kicked by my feet--for 'twas autumn--
I marked at the foot of a tree the grave of a soldier;
Mortally wounded he, and buried on the retreat--easily all could I
The halt of a mid-day hour--when, Up! no time to lose! Yet this sign left
On a tablet scrawled and nailed 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
Comes before me the unknown soldier's grave, comes the inscription rude in
_Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade_.
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, Years
hence) "of these scenes, of these furious passions, these chances,
Of unsurpassed 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
Soldier alert I arrive, after a long march, covered 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 captured works,...yet lo! like a swift-running river, they fade,
Pass, and are gone; they fade--I dwell not on soldiers' perils or soldiers'
(Both I remember well--many the hardships, few the joys, yet I was
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,
In nature's reverie sad, with hinged knees returning, I enter the
doors--(while for you up there, Whoever you are, follow me 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 roofed 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 filled with clotted rags and blood, emptied, and filled 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
On, on I go--(open, doors of time! open, hospital doors!)
The crushed head I dress (poor crazed hand, tear not the bandage away;)
The neck of the cavalry-man, with the bullet through and through, I
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 curved neck, and side-falling
His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on the bloody
And has not yet looked 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, so
While the attendant stands behind aside me, holding the tray and pail.
I am faithful, I do not give out;
The fractured thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdomen,
These and more I dress with impassive hand--yet deep in my breast a fire, a
Thus in silence, in dreams' projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals;
The hurt and the wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night--some are so young,
Some suffer so much--I recall the experience sweet and sad.
Many a soldier's loving arms about this neck have crossed and rested,
Many a soldier's kiss dwells on these bearded lips.
_A LETTER FROM CAMP._
"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 moderate
Where apples ripe in the orchards hang, and grapes on the trellised 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
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 white hair, nor adjust her cap.
Open the envelope quickly;
O this is not our son's writing, yet his name is signed;
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 words
Sentences broken--"_gun-shot wound in the breast, cavalry skirmish, taken
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 her
The little sisters huddle around, speechless and dismayed;
"See, dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be better."
Alas! poor boy, he will never be better, (nor maybe 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 dressed in black;
By day her meals untouched--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!
In clouds descending, in midnight sleep, of many a face in battle,
Of the look at first of the mortally wounded, of that indescribable look,
Of the dead on their backs, with arms extended wide--
I dream, I dream, I dream.
Of scenes of nature, the fields and the mountains,
Of the skies so beauteous after the storm, and at night the
moon so unearthly bright,
Shining sweetly, shining down, where we dig the trenches,
and gather the heaps--
I dream, I dream, I dream.
Long have they passed, long lapsed--faces, and trenches, and fields:
Long through the carnage I moved with a callous composure, or away from the
Onward I sped at the time. But now of their faces and forms, at night,
I dream, I dream, I dream.
_THE VETERAN'S VISION._
While my wife at my side lies slumbering, and the wars are over long,
And my head on the pillow rests at home, and the mystic midnight passes,
And through the stillness, through the dark, I hear, just hear, the breath
of my infant,
There in the room, as I wake from sleep, this vision presses upon me.
The engagement opens there and then, in my busy brain unreal;
The skirmishers begin--they crawl cautiously ahead--I hear the irregular
I hear the sound of the different missiles--the short _t-h-t! t-h-t!_ of
I see the shells exploding, leaving small white clouds--I hear the great
shells shrieking as they pass;
The grape, like the hum and whirr of wind through the trees, (quick,
tumultuous, now the contest rages!)
All the scenes at the batteries themselves rise in detail before me again;
The crashing and smoking--the pride of the men in their pieces;
The chief gunner ranges and sights his piece, and selects a fuse of the
After firing, I see him lean aside, and look eagerly off to note the
--Elsewhere I hear the cry of a regiment charging--the young colonel leads
himself this time, with brandished sword;
I see the gaps cut by the enemy's volleys, quickly filled up--no delay;
I breathe the suffocating smoke--then the flat clouds hover low, concealing
Now a strange lull comes for a few seconds, not a shot fired on either
Then resumed, the chaos louder than ever, with eager calls, and orders of
While from some distant part of the field the wind wafts to my ears a shout
of applause, (some special success;)
And ever the sound of the cannon, far or near, rousing, even in dreams, a
devilish exultation, and all the old mad joy, in the depths of my
And ever the hastening of infantry shifting positions--batteries, cavalry,
moving hither and thither;
The falling, dying, I heed not--the wounded, dripping and red, I heed not--
some to the rear are hobbling;
Grime, heat, rush--aides-de-camp galloping by, or on a full run:
With the patter of small arms, the warning _s-s-t_ of the rifles, (these in
my vision I hear or see,)
And bombs bursting in air, and at night the vari-coloured rockets.
_O TAN-FACED PRAIRIE BOY._
O tan-faced prairie boy!
Before you came to camp came many a welcome gift;
Praises and presents came, and nourishing food--till at last, among the
You came, taciturn, with nothing to give--we but looked on each other,
When lo! more than all the gifts of the world you gave me.
Give me the splendid silent sun, with all his beams full-dazzling;
Give me juicy autumnal fruit, ripe and red from the orchard;
Give me a field where the unmowed grass grows;
Give me an arbour, give me the trellised grape;
Give me fresh corn and wheat--give me serene-moving animals, teaching
Give me nights perfectly quiet, as on high plateaus west of the
Mississippi, and I looking up at the stars;
Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers, where I can walk
Give me for marriage a sweet-breathed woman, of whom I should never tire;
Give me a perfect child--give me, away, aside from the noise of the world,
a rural domestic life;
Give me to warble spontaneous songs, relieved, recluse by myself, for my
own ears only;
Give me solitude--give me Nature--give me again, O Nature, your primal
--These, demanding to have them, tired with ceaseless excitement, and
racked by the war-strife,
These to procure incessantly asking, rising in cries from my heart,
While yet incessantly asking, still I adhere to my city;
Day upon day, and year upon year, O city, walking your streets,
Where you hold me enchained a certain time, refusing to give me up,
Yet giving to make me glutted, enriched of soul--you give me for ever
O I see what I sought to escape, confronting, reversing my cries;
I see my own soul trampling down what it asked for.
Keep your splendid silent sun;
Keep your woods, O Nature, and the quiet places by the woods;
Keep your fields of clover and timothy, and your cornfields and orchards;
Keep the blossoming buckwheat fields, where the ninth-month bees hum.
Give me faces and streets! give me these phantoms incessant and endless
along the _trottoirs_!
Give me interminable eyes! give me women! give me comrades and lovers by
Let me see new ones every day! let me hold new ones by the hand every day!
Give me such shows! give me the streets of Manhattan!
Give me Broadway, with the soldiers marching--give me the sound of the
trumpets and drums!
The soldiers in companies or regiments--some starting away, flushed and
Some, their time up, returning, with thinned ranks--young, yet very old,
worn, marching, noticing nothing;
--Give me the shores and the wharves heavy-fringed with the black ships!
O such for me! O an intense life! O full to repletion, and varied!
The life of the theatre, bar-room, huge hotel, for me!
The saloon of the steamer, the crowded excursion, for me! the torchlight
The dense brigade, bound for the war, with high-piled military waggons
People, endless, streaming, with strong voices, passions, pageants;
Manhattan streets, with their powerful throbs, with the beating drums, as
The endless and noisy chorus, the rustle and clank of muskets, even the
sight of the wounded;
Manhattan crowds, with their turbulent musical chorus--with varied chorus
and light of the sparkling eyes;
Manhattan faces and eyes for ever for me!
_OVER THE CARNAGE._
Over the carnage rose prophetic a voice,--
Be not disheartened--Affection shall solve the problems of Freedom yet;
Those who love each other shall become invincible--they shall yet make
Sons of the Mother of all! you shall yet be victorious!
You shall yet laugh to scorn the attacks of all the remainder of the earth.
No danger shall baulk Columbia's lovers;
If need be, a thousand shall sternly immolate themselves for one.
One from Massachusetts shall be a Missourian's comrade;
From Maine and from hot Carolina, and another an Oregonese, shall be
More precious to each other than all the riches of the earth.
To Michigan, Florida perfumes shall tenderly come;
Not the perfumes of flowers, but sweeter, and wafted beyond death.
It shall be customary in the houses and streets to see manly affection;
The most dauntless and rude shall touch face to face lightly;
The dependence of Liberty shall be lovers,
The continuance of Equality shall be comrades.
These shall tie you and band you stronger than hoops of iron;
I, ecstatic, O partners! O lands! with the love of lovers tie you.
Were you looking to be held together by the lawyers?
Or by an agreement on a paper? or by arms?
--Nay--nor the world nor any living thing will so cohere.
_THE MOTHER OF ALL._
Pensive, on her dead gazing, I heard the Mother of all,
Desperate, on the torn bodies, on the forms covering the battlefields,
As she called to her earth with mournful voice while she stalked.
"Absorb them well, O my earth!" she cried--"I charge you, lose not my sons!
lose not an atom;
And you, streams, absorb them well, taking their dear blood;
And you local spots, and you airs that swim above lightly,
And all you essences of soil and growth--and you, O my rivers' depths;
And you mountain-sides--and the woods where my dear children's blood,
And you trees, down in your roots, to bequeath to all future trees,
My dead absorb--my young men's beautiful bodies absorb--and their precious,
precious, precious blood;
Which, holding in trust for me, faithfully back again give me, many a year
In unseen essence and odour of surface and grass, centuries hence;
In blowing airs from the fields, back again give me my darlings--give my
Exhale me them centuries hence--breathe me their breath--let not an atom be
O years and graves! O air and soil! O my dead, an aroma sweet!
Exhale them, perennial, sweet death, years, centuries hence."
_CAMPS OF GREEN._
Not alone our camps of white, O soldiers,
When, as ordered forward, after a long march,
Footsore and weary, soon as the light lessens, we halt for the night;
Some of us so fatigued, carrying the gun and knapsack, dropping asleep in
Others pitching the little tents, and the fires lit up begin to sparkle;
Outposts of pickets posted, surrounding, alert through the dark,
And a word provided for countersign, careful for safety;
Till to the call of the drummers at daybreak loudly beating the drums,
We rise up refreshed, the night and sleep passed over, and resume our
Or proceed to battle.
Lo! the camps of the tents of green,
Which the days of peace keep filling, and the days of war keep filling,
With a mystic army, (is it too ordered forward? is it too only halting a
Till night and sleep pass over?)
Now in those camps of green--in their tents dotting the world;
In the parents, children, husbands, wives, in them--in the old and young,
Sleeping under the sunlight, sleeping under the moonlight, content and
silent there at last;
Behold the mighty bivouac-field and waiting-camp of us and ours and all,
Of our corps and generals all, and the President over the corps and
And of each of us, O soldiers, and of each and all in the ranks we fight,
There without hatred we shall all meet.
For presently, O soldiers, we too camp in our place in the bivouac-camps of
But we need not provide for outposts, nor word for the countersign,
Nor drummer to beat the morning drum.
_DIRGE FOR TWO VETERANS._
The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finished Sabbath
On the pavement here--and, there beyond, it is looking
Down a new-made double grave.
Lo! the moon ascending!
Up from the east, the silvery round moon;
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon;
Immense and silent moon.
I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-keyed bugles;
All the channels of the city streets they're flooding,
As with voices and with tears.
I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring;
And every blow of the great convulsive drums
Strikes me through and through.
For the son is brought with the father;
In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell;
Two veterans, son and father, dropped together,
And the double grave awaits them.
Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive;
And the daylight o'er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.
In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumined,
'Tis some mother's large, transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.
O strong dead-march, you please me!
O moon immense, with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans, passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.
The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music;
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.
How solemn, as one by one,
As the ranks returning, all worn and sweaty--as the men file by where I
As the faces, the masks appear--as I glance at the faces, studying the
As I glance upward out of this page, studying you, dear friend, whoever you
How solemn the thought of my whispering soul, to each in the ranks, and to
I see, behind each mask, that wonder, a kindred soul.
O the bullet could never kill what you really are, dear friend,
Nor the bayonet stab what you really are.
--The soul, yourself, I see, great as any, good as the best,
Waiting secure and content,--which the bullet could never kill,
Nor the bayonet stab, O friend!
_HYMN OF DEAD SOLDIERS._
One breath, O my silent soul!
A perfumed thought--no more I ask, for the sake of all dead soldiers.
Buglers off in my armies!
At present I ask not you to sound;
Not at the head of my cavalry, all on their spirited horses,
With their sabres drawn and glistening, and carbines clanking by their
thighs--(ah, my brave horsemen! My handsome, tan-faced horsemen!
what life, what joy and pride, With all the perils, were yours!)
Nor you drummers--neither at _reveille_, at dawn,
Nor the long roll alarming the camp--nor even the muffled beat for a
Nothing from you, this time, O drummers, bearing my warlike drums.
But aside from these, and the crowd's hurrahs, and the land's
Admitting around me comrades close, unseen by the rest, and voiceless,
I chant this chant of my silent soul, in the name of all dead soldiers.
Faces so pale, with wondrous eyes, very dear, gather closer yet;
Draw close, but speak not.
Phantoms, welcome, divine and tender!
Invisible to the rest, henceforth become my companions;
Follow me ever! desert me not, while I live!
Sweet are the blooming cheeks of the living, sweet are the musical voices
But sweet, ah sweet, are the dead, with their silent eyes.
Dearest comrades! all now is over;
But love is not over--and what love, O comrades!
Perfume from battlefields rising--up from foetor arising.
Perfume therefore my chant, O love! immortal love!
Give me to bathe the memories of all dead soldiers.
Perfume all! make all wholesome!
O love! O chant! solve all with the last chemistry.
Give me exhaustless--make me a fountain,
That I exhale love from me wherever I go,
For the sake of all dead soldiers.
_SPIRIT WHOSE WORK IS DONE._
Spirit whose work is done! spirit of dreadful hours!
Ere, departing, fade from my eyes your forests of bayonets--
Spirit of gloomiest fears and doubts, yet onward ever unfaltering pressing!
Spirit of many a solemn day, and many a savage scene! Electric spirit!
That with muttering voice, through the years now closed, like a tireless
Rousing the land with breath of flame, while you beat and beat the drum;
--Now, as the sound of the drum, hollow and harsh to the last, reverberates
As your ranks, your immortal ranks, return, return from the battles;
While the muskets of the young men yet lean over their shoulders;
While I look on the bayonets bristling over their shoulders;
While those slanted bayonets, whole forests of them, appearing in the
distance, approach and pass on, returning homeward,
Moving with steady motion, swaying to and fro, to the right and left,
Evenly, lightly, rising and falling, as the steps keep time:
--Spirit of hours I knew, all hectic red one day, but pale as death next
Touch my mouth, ere you depart--press my lips close!
Leave me your pulses of rage! bequeath them to me! fill me with currents
Let them scorch and blister out of my chants, when you are gone;
Let them identify you to the future in these songs!
Word over all, beautiful as the sky!
Beautiful that war, and all its deeds of carnage, must in time be utterly
That the hands of the sisters Death and Night incessantly, softly wash
again, and ever again, this soiled world.
For my enemy is dead--a man divine as myself is dead.
I look where he lies, white-faced and still, in the coffin--I draw near;
I bend down and touch lightly with my lips the white face in the coffin.
_AFTER THE WAR._
To the leavened soil they trod, calling, I sing, for the last;
Not cities, nor man alone, nor war, nor the dead:
But forth from my tent emerging for good--loosing, untying the tent-ropes;
In the freshness, the forenoon air, in the far-stretching circuits and
vistas, again to peace restored;
To the fiery fields emanative, and the endless vistas beyond--to the south
and the north;
To the leavened soil of the general Western World, to attest my songs,
To the average earth, the wordless earth, witness of war and peace,
To the Alleghanian hills, and the tireless Mississippi,
To the rocks I, calling, sing, and all the trees in the woods,
To the plain of the poems of heroes, to the prairie spreading wide,
To the far-off sea, and the unseen winds, and the sane impalpable air.
And responding they answer all, (but not in words,)
The average earth, the witness of war and peace, acknowledges mutely;
The prairie draws me close, as the father, to bosom broad, the son:--
The Northern ice and rain, that began me, nourish me to the end;
But the hot sun of the South is to ripen my songs.
There was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he looked 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 tretching 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 barn-yard, 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 fiat heads--all became part of
The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month became part or him;
Winter-grain sprouts, and those of the light-yellow corn, and the esculent
roots of the garden,
And the apple-trees covered 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 passed on her way to the school,
And the friendly boys that passed, and the quarrelsome boys,
And the tidy and fresh-cheeked 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 fathered him, and she that had conceived him in her womb, and
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 odour
falling off her person and clothes as she walks by;
The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, angered, 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 gainsaid--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
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
Vehicles, teams, the heavy-planked wharves--the huge crossing at the
The village on the highland, seen from afar at sunset--the river between;
Shadows, aureola and mist, light falling on roofs and gables of white or
brown, three miles off;
The schooner near by, sleepily dropping down the tide--the little boat
The hurrying tumbling waves quick-broken crests slapping,
The strata of coloured 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
These became part of that child who went forth every day, and who now goes,
and will always go forth every day.
[Footnote 1: The name of "morning-glory" is given to the bindweed, or a
sort of bindweed, in America. I am not certain whether this expressive name
is used in England also.]
[Footnote 2: A dun-coloured little bird with a cheerful note, sounding like
the word Phoebe.]
_A WORD OUT OF THE SEA._
Out of the rocked cradle,
Out of the mocking-bird's throat, the musical shuttle,
Out of the Ninth-month midnight,
Over the sterile sands, and the fields beyond, where the child, leaving his
bed, wandered alone, bareheaded, barefoot,
Down from the showered halo,
Up from the mystic play of shadows, twining and twisting; as if they were
Out from the patches of briars and blackberries,
From the memories of the birds that chanted to me,
From your memories, sad brother--from the fitful risings and fallings I
From under that yellow half-moon, late-risen, and swollen as if with tears,
From those beginning notes of sickness and love, there in the transparent
From the thousand responses of my heart, never to cease,
From the myriad thence-aroused words,
From the word stronger and more delicious than any,--
From such, as now they start, the scene revisiting,
As a flock, twittering, rising, or overhead passing,
Borne hither--ere all eludes me, hurriedly,--
A man--yet by these tears a little boy again,
Throwing myself on the sand, confronting the waves,
I, chanter of pains and joys, uniter of here and hereafter,
Taking all hints to use them, but swiftly leaping beyond
A reminiscence sing.
When the snows had melted, and the Fifth-month grass
Up this sea-shore, in some briars,
Two guests from Alabama--two together,
And their nest, and four light-green eggs spotted with brown;
And every day the he-bird, to and fro, near at hand,
And every day the she-bird, crouched on her nest, silent,
with bright eyes;
And every day I, a curious boy, never too close, never
Cautiously peering, absorbing, translating.
_Shine! shine! shine!
Pour down your warmth, great Sun!
While we bask--we two together.
Winds blow South, or winds blow North,
Day come white or night come black,
Home, or rivers and mountains from home,
Singing all time, minding no time,
If we two but keep together_.
Till of a sudden,
Maybe killed, unknown to her mate,
One forenoon the she-bird crouched not on the nest,
Nor returned that afternoon, nor the next,
Nor ever appeared 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 briar to briar 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 glistened.
All night long, on the prong of a moss-scalloped stake,
Down, almost amid the slapping waves,
Sat the lone singer, wonderful, causing tears.
He called on his mate;
He poured forth the meanings which I, of all men, know.
Yes, my brother, I know;
The rest might not--but I have treasured every note;
For once, and 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
The white arms out in the breakers tirelessly tossing,
I, with bare feet, a child, the wind wafting my hair,
Listened long and long.
Listened, 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;
O it is lagging--O I think it is heavy with love, with love.
O madly the sea pushes, pushes upon the land,
With love--with love.
O night! do I not see my love fluttering out there 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-noised 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-sustained note I announce myself to you;
This gentle call is for you, my love, for you!
Do not be decoyed elsewhere!
That is the whistle of the wind--it is not my voice;
That is the fluttering, the flattering 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!
O all!--and I singing uselessly, uselessly all the night.!
Yet I murmur, murmur on!
O murmurs--you yourselves make me continue to sing, I know not why.
O past! O life! O songs of joy!
In the air--in the woods--over fields;
Loved! loved! loved! loved! loved!
But my love 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, grey and rustling;
The yellow half-moon enlarged, sagging down, drooping, the face of the sea
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 drowned secret hissing
To the outsetting bard of love.
Demon or bird! (said the boy's soul,)
Is it indeed toward your mate you sing? or is it mostly 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
By the sea, under the yellow and sagging moon,
The messenger there aroused--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!
O a word! O what is my destination? I fear it is henceforth chaos;--
O how joys, dreads, convolutions, human shapes and all shapes, spring as
from graves around me!
O phantoms! you cover all the land, and all the sea!
O I cannot see in the dimness whether you smile or frown upon me;
O vapour, a look, a word! O well-beloved!
O you dear women's and men's phantoms!
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,
Whispered me through the night, and very plainly before daybreak,
Lisped to me the low and delicious word DEATH;
And again Death--ever Death, Death, Death,
Hissing melodious, neither like the bird nor like my aroused 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 grey 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,
The Sea whispered me.
_CROSSING BROOKLYN FERRY._
Flood-tide below me! I watch you face to face;
Clouds of the west! sun there half an hour high! I see you also face to
Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how curious you are
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home,
are more curious to me than you suppose;
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are more to me,
and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.
The impalpable sustenance of me from all things, at all hours of the day;
The simple, compact, well-joined scheme--myself disintegrated, every one
disintegrated, yet part of the scheme;
The similitudes of the past, and those of the future;
The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and hearings--on the
walk in the street, and the passage over the river;
The current rushing so swiftly, and swimming with me far away;
The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them;
The certainty of others--the life, love, sight, hearing, of others.
Others will enter the gates of the ferry, and cross from shore to shore;
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide;
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and the heights
of Brooklyn to the south and east;
Others will see the islands large and small;
Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half an hour
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the falling-back
to the sea of the ebb-tide.
It avails not, neither time nor place--distance avails not;
I am with you--you men and women of a generation, or ever so many
I project myself--also I return--I am with you, and know how it is.
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt;
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd;
Just as you are refreshed by the gladness of the river and the bright flow,
I was refreshed;
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I
stood, yet was hurried;
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships, and the
thick-stemmed pipes of steamboats, I looked.
I too many and many a time crossed the river, the sun half an hour high;
I watched the twelfth-month sea-gulls--I saw them high in the air, floating
with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies,
I saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their bodies, and left the
rest in strong shadow,
I saw the slow-wheeling circles, and the gradual edging toward the south.
I too saw the reflection of the summer sky in the water,
Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of beams,
Looked at the fine centrifugal spokes of light round the shape of my head
in the sun-lit water,
Looked on the haze on the hills southward and southwestward,
Looked on the vapour as it flew in fleeces tinged with violet,
Looked toward the lower bay to notice the arriving ships,
Saw their approach, saw aboard those that were near me,
Saw the white sails of schooners and sloops, saw the ships at anchor,
The sailors at work in the rigging, or out astride the spars.
The round masts, the swinging motion of the hulls, the slender serpentine
The large and small steamers in motion, the pilots in their
The white wake left by the passage, the quick tremulous whirl of the
The flags of all nations, the falling of them at sunset,
The scallop-edged waves in the twilight, the ladled cups, the frolicsome
crests and glistening,
The stretch afar growing dimmer and dimmer, the grey walls of the granite
store-houses by the docks,
On the river the shadowy group, the big steam-tug closely flanked on each
side by the barges--the hay-boat, the belated lighter,
On the neighbouring shore, the fires from the foundry chimneys burning high
and glaringly into the night,
Casting their flicker of black, contrasted with wild red and yellow light,
over the tops of houses and down into the clefts of streets.
These, and all else, were to me the same as they are to you;
I project myself a moment to tell you--also I return.
I loved well those cities;
I loved well the stately and rapid river;
The men and women I saw were all near to me;
Others the same--others who look back on me because I looked forward to
The time will come, though I stop here to-day and to-night.
What is it, then, between us?
What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between us?
Whatever it is, it avails not--distance avails not, and place avails not.
I too lived--Brooklyn, of ample hills, was mine;
I too walked the streets of Manhattan Island, and bathed in the waters
I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me;
In the day, among crowds of people, sometimes they came upon me,
In my walks home late at night, or as I lay in my bed, they came upon me.
I too had been struck from the float for ever held in solution, I too had
received identity by my Body;
That I was, I knew, was of my body--and what I should be, I knew, I should
be of my body.
It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall,
The dark threw patches down upon me also;
The best I had done seemed to me blank and suspicious;