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Complete Prose Works by Walt Whitman

Part 4 out of 13

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snakeroot, violets,
Solomon's seal, clematis,
sweet balm, bloodroot
mint, (great plenty,) swamp magnolia,
wild geranium, milk-weed,
wild heliotrope, wild daisy, (plenty,)
burdock, wild chrysanthemum.


The foregoing reminds me of something.

As the individualities I would mainly portray have certainly been
slighted by folks who make pictures, volumes, poems, out of them--as
a faint testimonial of my own gratitude for many hours of peace and
comfort in half-sickness, (and not by any means sure but they will
somehow get wind of the compliment,) I hereby dedicate the last half
of these Specimen Days to the

bees, glow-worms, (swarming millions
black-birds, of them indescribably
dragon-flies, strange and beautiful at night
pond-turtles, over the pond and creek,)
mulleins, tansy, peppermint, water-snakes,
moths, (great and little, some crows,
splendid fellows,) millers,
mosquitoes, cedars,
butterflies, tulip-trees, (and all other trees,)
wasps and hornets, and to the spots and memories
cat-birds, (and all other birds,) of those days, and the creek.


_April 5, 1879_.-With the return of spring to the skies, airs, waters
of the Delaware, return the sea-gulls. I never tire of watching their
broad and easy flight, in spirals, or as they oscillate with slow
unflapping wings, or look down with curved beak, or dipping to the
water after food. The crows, plenty enough all through the winter,
have vanish'd with the ice. Not one of them now to be seen. The
steamboats have again come forth--bustling up, handsome, freshly
painted, for summer work--the Columbia, the Edwin Forrest, (the
Republic not yet out,) the Reybold, Nelly White, the Twilight, the
Ariel, the Warner, the Perry, the Taggart, the Jersey Blue--even the
hulky old Trenton--not forgetting those saucy little bull-pups of the
current, the steamtugs.

But let me bunch and catalogue the affair--the river itself, all the
way from the sea--Cape island on one side and Henlopen light on the
other--up the broad bay north, and so to Philadelphia, and on further
to Trenton;--the sights I am most familiar with, (as I live a good
part of the time in Camden, I view matters from that outlook)--the
great arrogant, black, full-freighted ocean steamers, inward
or outward bound--the ample width here between the two cities,
intersected by Windmill island--an occasional man-of-war, sometimes a
foreigner, at anchor, with her guns and port-holes, and the boats,
and the brown-faced sailors, and the regular oar-strokes, and the gay
crowds of "visiting day"--the frequent large and handsome three-masted
schooners, (a favorite style of marine build, hereabout of late
years,) some of them new and very jaunty, with their white-gray sails
and yellow pine spars--the sloops dashing along in a fair wind--(I
see one now, coming up, under broad canvas, her gaff-topsail shining
in the sun, high and picturesque--what a thing of beauty amid the sky
and waters!)--the crowded wharf-slips along the city--the flags of
different nationalities, the sturdy English cross on its ground of
blood, the French tricolor, the banner of the great North German
empire, and the Italian and the Spanish colors--sometimes, of an
afternoon, the whole scene enliven'd by a fleet of yachts, in a half
calm, lazily returning from a race down at Gloucester;--the
neat, rakish, revenue steamer "Hamilton" in mid-stream, with her
perpendicular stripes flaunting aft--and, turning the eyes north, the
long ribands of fleecy-white steam, or dingy-black smoke, stretching
far, fan-shaped, slanting diagonally across from the Kensington or
Richmond shores, in the west-by-south-west wind.


Then the Camden ferry. What exhilaration, change, people, business, by
day. What soothing, silent, wondrous hours, at night, crossing on the
boat, most all to myself--pacing the deck, alone, forward or aft. What
communion with the waters, the air, the exquisite _chiaroscuro_--the
sky and stars, that speak no word, nothing to the intellect, yet so
eloquent, so communicative to the soul. And the ferry men--little they
know how much they have been to me, day and night--how many spells
of listlessness, ennui, debility, they and their hardy ways have
dispell'd. And the pilots--captains Hand, Walton, and Giberson by day,
and captain Olive at night; Eugene Crosby, with his strong young arm
so often supporting, circling, convoying me over the gaps of the
bridge, through impediments, safely aboard. Indeed all my ferry
friends--captain Frazee the superintendent, Lindell, Hiskey, Fred
Rauch, Price, Watson, and a dozen more. And the ferry itself, with its
queer scenes--sometimes children suddenly born in the waiting-houses
(an actual fact--and more than once)--sometimes a masquerade party,
going over at night, with a band of music, dancing and whirling like
mad on the broad deck, in their fantastic dresses; sometimes the
astronomer, Mr. Whitall, (who posts me up in points about the stars
by a living lesson there and then, and answering every question)
--sometimes a prolific family group, eight, nine, ten, even twelve!
(Yesterday, as I cross'd, a mother, father, and eight children,
waiting in the ferry-house, bound westward somewhere.)

I have mention'd the crows. I always watch them from the boats. They
play quite a part in the winter scenes on the river, by day. Their
black splatches are seen in relief against the snow and ice everywhere
at that season--sometimes flying and flapping--sometimes on little or
larger cakes, sailing up or down the stream. One day the river was
mostly clear--only a single long ridge of broken ice making a narrow
stripe by itself, running along down the current for over a mile,
quite rapidly. On this white stripe the crows were congregated,
hundreds of them--a funny procession--("half mourning" was the comment
of some one.)

Then the reception room, for passengers waiting--life illustrated
thoroughly. Take a March picture I jotted there two or three weeks
since. Afternoon, about 3-1/2 o'clock, it begins to snow. There has
been a matinee performance at the theater--from 4-1/2 to 5 comes a
stream of homeward bound ladies. I never knew the spacious room to
present a gayer, more lively scene--handsome, well-drest Jersey women
and girls, scores of them, streaming in for nearly an hour--the
bright eyes and glowing faces, coming in from the air--a sprinkling
of snow on bonnets or dresses as they enter--the five or ten minutes'
waiting--the chatting and laughing--(women can have capital
times among themselves, with plenty of wit, lunches, jovial
abandon)--Lizzie, the pleasant-manner'd waiting-room woman--for sound,
the bell-taps and steam-signals of the departing boats with their
rhythmic break and undertone--the domestic pictures, mothers with
bevies of daughters, (a charming sight)--children, countrymen--the
railroad men in their blue clothes and caps--all the various
characters of city and country represented or suggested. Then outside
some belated passenger frantically running, jumping after the boat.
Towards six o' clock the human stream gradually thickening--now a
pressure of vehicles, drays, piled railroad crates--now a drove of
cattle, making quite an excitement, the drovers with heavy sticks,
belaboring the steaming sides of the frighten'd brutes. Inside
the reception room, business bargains, flirting, love-making,
_eclaircissements_, proposals--pleasant, sober-faced Phil coming in
with his burden of afternoon papers--or Jo, or Charley (who jump'd
in the dock last week, and saved a stout lady from drowning,) to
replenish the stove, and clearing it with long crow-bar poker.

Besides all this "comedy human," the river affords nutriment of a
higher order. Here are some of my memoranda of the past winter, just
as pencill'd down on the spot.

_A January Night_.--Fine trips across the wide Delaware to-night. Tide
pretty high, and a strong ebb. River, a little after 8, full of
ice, mostly broken, but some large cakes making our strong-timber'd
steamboat hum and quiver as she strikes them. In the clear moonlight
they spread, strange, unearthly, silvery, faintly glistening, as far
as I can see. Bumping, trembling, sometimes hissing like a thousand
snakes, the tide-procession, as we wend with or through it, affording
a grand undertone, in keeping with the scene. Overhead, the splendor
indescribable; yet something haughty, almost supercilious, in the
night. Never did I realize more latent sentiment, almost _passion_, in
those silent interminable stars up there. One can understand, such a
night, why, from the days of the Pharaohs or Job, the dome of heaven,
sprinkled with planets, has supplied the subtlest, deepest criticism
on human pride, glory, ambition.

_Another Winter Night_.--I don't know anything more _filling_ than
to be on the wide firm deck of a powerful boat, a clear, cool,
extra-moonlight night, crushing proudly and resistlessly through this
thick, marbly, glistening ice. The whole river is now spread with it
--some immense cakes. There is such weirdness about the scene--partly
the quality of the light, with its tinge of blue, the lunar twilight
--only the large stars holding their own in the radiance of the moon.
Temperature sharp, comfortable for motion, dry, full of oxygen. But
the sense of power--the steady, scornful, imperious urge of our strong
new engine, as she ploughs her way through the big and little cakes.

_Another_.--For two hours I cross'd and recross'd, merely for
pleasure--for a still excitement. Both sky and river went through
several changes. The first for awhile held two vast fan-shaped
echelons of light clouds, through which the moon waded, now radiating,
carrying with her an aureole of tawny transparent brown, and now
flooding the whole vast with clear vapory light-green, through which,
as through an illuminated veil, she moved with measur'd womanly
motion. Then, another trip, the heavens would be absolutely clear,
and Luna in all her effulgence. The big Dipper in the north, with the
double star in the handle much plainer than common. Then the
sheeny track of light in the water, dancing and rippling. Such
transformations; such pictures and poems, inimitable.

_Another_.--I am studying the stars, under advantages, as I cross
tonight. (It is late in February, and again extra clear.) High toward
the west, the Pleiades, tremulous with delicate sparkle, in the soft
heavens,--Aldebaran, leading the V-shaped Hyades--and overhead Capella
and her kids. Most majestic of all, in full display in the high south,
Orion, vast-spread, roomy, chief historian of the stage, with his
shiny yellow rosette on his shoulder, and his three kings--and a
little to the east, Sirius, calmly arrogant, most wondrous single
star. Going late ashore, (I couldn't give up the beauty, and
soothingness of the night,) as I staid around, or slowly wander'd I
heard the echoing calls of the railroad men in the West Jersey depot
yard, shifting and switching trains, engines, etc.; amid the general
silence otherways, and something in the acoustic quality of the air,
musical, emotional effects, never thought of before. I linger'd long
and long, listening to them.

_Night of March 18, '79_.--One of the calm, pleasantly cool,
exquisitely clear and cloudless, early spring nights--the atmosphere
again that rare vitreous blue-black, welcom'd by astronomers. Just at
8, evening, the scene overhead of certainly solemnest beauty, never
surpass'd. Venus nearly down in the west, of a size and lustre as if
trying to outshow herself, before departing. Teeming, maternal orb--I
take you again to myself. I am reminded of that spring preceding
Abraham Lincoln's murder, when I, restlessly haunting the Potomac
banks, around Washington city, watch'd you, off there, aloof, moody as

As we walk'd up and down in the dark blue so mystic,
As we walk'd in silence the transparent shadowy night,
As I saw you had something to tell, as you bent to me night after
As you droop from the sky low down, as if to my side, (while the
other stars all look'd on,)
As we wander'd together the solemn night.

With departing Venus, large to the last, and shining even to the
edge of the horizon, the vast dome presents at this moment, such
a spectacle! Mercury was visible just after sunset--a rare sight.
Arcturus is now risen, just north of east. In calm glory all the stars
of Orion hold the place of honor, in meridian, to the south,--with the
Dog-star a little to the left. And now, just rising, Spica, late,
low, and slightly veil'd. Castor, Regulus and the rest, all shining
unusually clear, (no Mars or Jupiter or moon till morning.) On the
edge of the river, many lamps twinkling--with two or three huge
chimneys, a couple of miles up, belching forth molten, steady flames,
volcano-like, illuminating all around--and sometimes an electric
or calcium, its Dante-Inferno gleams, in far shafts, terrible,
ghastly-powerful. Of later May nights, crossing, I like to watch the
fishermen's little buoy-lights--so pretty, so dreamy--like corpse
candles--undulating delicate and lonesome on the surface of the
shadowy waters, floating with the current.


Winter relaxing its hold, has already allow'd us a foretaste of
spring. As I write, yesterday afternoon's softness and brightness,
(after the morning fog, which gave it a better setting, by contrast,)
show'd Chestnut street--say between Broad and Fourth--to more
advantage in its various asides, and all its stores, and gay-dress'd
crowds generally, than for three months past. I took a walk there
between one and two. Doubtless, there were plenty of hard-up folks
along the pavements, but nine-tenths of the myriad-moving human
panorama to all appearance seem'd flush, well-fed, and fully-provided.
At all events it was good to be on Chestnut street yesterday.
The peddlers on the sidewalk--("sleeve-buttons, three for five
cents")--the handsome little fellow with canary-bird whistles--the
cane men, toy men, toothpick men--the old woman squatted in a heap on
the cold stone flags, with her basket of matches, pins and
tape--the young negro mother, sitting, begging, with her two
little coffee-color'd twins on her lap--the beauty of the cramm'd
conservatory of rare flowers, flaunting reds, yellows, snowy lilies,
incredible orchids, at the Baldwin mansion near Twelfth street--
the show of fine poultry, beef, fish, at the restaurants--the china
stores, with glass and statuettes--the luscious tropical fruits--the
street cars plodding along, with their tintinnabulating bells--the
fat, cab-looking, rapidly driven one-horse vehicles of the
post-office, squeez'd full of coming or going letter-carriers, so
healthy and handsome and manly-looking, in their gray uniforms--the
costly books, pictures, curiosities, in the windows--the gigantic
policemen at most of the corners will all be readily remember'd and
recognized as features of this principal avenue of Philadelphia.
Chestnut street, I have discover'd, is not without individuality, and
its own points, even when compared with the great promenade-streets
of other cities. I have never been in Europe, but acquired years'
familiar experience with New York's, (perhaps the world's) great
thoroughfare, Broadway, and possess to some extent a personal and
saunterer's knowledge of St. Charles street in New Orleans, Tremont
street in Boston, and the broad trottoirs of Pennsylvania avenue in
Washington. Of course it is a pity that Chestnut were not two or three
times wider; but the street, any fine day, shows vividness, motion,
variety, not easily to be surpass'd. (Sparkling eyes, human faces,
magnetism, well-dress'd women, ambulating to and fro--with lots o
fine things in the windows--are they not about the same, the civilized
world over?)

How fast the flitting figures come!
The mild, the fierce, the stony face;
Some bright with thoughtless smiles--and some
Where secret tears have left their trace.

A few days ago one of the six-story clothing stores along here had the
space inside its plate-glass show-window partition'd into a little
corral, and litter'd deeply with rich clover and hay, (I could smell
the odor outside,) on which reposed two magnificent fat sheep,
full-sized but young--the handsomest creatures of the kind I ever saw.
I stop's long and long, with the crowd, to view them--one lying down
chewing the cud, and one standing up, looking out, with dense-fringed
patient eyes. Their wool, of a clear tawny color, with streaks of
glistening black--altogether a queer sight amidst that crowded
promenade of dandies, dollars and dry-goods.


_April 23._--Off to New York on a little tour and visit. Leaving the
hospitable, home-like quarters of my valued friends, Mr. and Mrs. J.
H. Johnston--took the 4 P. M. boat, bound up the Hudson, 100 miles
or so. Sunset and evening fine. Especially enjoy'd the hour after
we passed Cozzens's landing--the night lit by the crescent moon and
Venus, now swimming in tender glory, and now hid by the high rocks and
hills of the western shore, which we hugg'd close. (Where I spend the
next ten days is in Ulster county and its neighborhood, with frequent
morning and evening drives, observations of the river, and short

_April 24--Noon._--A little more and the sun would be oppressive. The
bees are out gathering their bread from willows and other trees. I
watch them returning, darting through the air or lighting on the
hives, their thighs covered with the yellow forage. A solitary robin
sings near. I sit in my shirt sleeves and gaze from an open bay-window
on the indolent scene--the thin haze, the Fishkill hills in the
distance--off on the river, a sloop with slanting mainsail, and two or
three little shad-boats. Over on the railroad opposite, long freight
trains, sometimes weighted by cylinder-tanks of petroleum, thirty,
forty, fifty cars in a string, panting and rumbling along in full
view, but the sound soften'd by distance.


_April 26_.--At sunrise, the pure clear sound of the meadow lark. An
hour later, some notes, few and simple, yet delicious and perfect,
from the bush-sparrow-towards noon the reedy trill of the robin.
To-day is the fairest, sweetest yet--penetrating warmth--a lovely
veil in the air, partly heat-vapor and partly from the turf-fires
everywhere in patches on the farms. A group of soft maples near by
silently bursts out in crimson tips, buzzing all day with busy bees.
The white sails of sloops and schooners glide up and down the river;
and long trains of cars, with ponderous roll, or faint bell notes,
almost constantly on the opposite shore. The earliest wild flowers in
the woods and fields, spicy arbutus, blue liverwort, frail anemone,
and the pretty white blossoms of the bloodroot. I launch out in slow
rambles, discovering them. As I go along the roads I like to see the
farmers' fires in patches, burning the dry brush, turf, debris. How
the smoke crawls along, flat to the ground, slanting, slowly rising,
reaching away, and at last dissipating. I like its acrid smell--whiffs
just reaching me--welcomer than French perfume.

The birds are plenty; of any sort, or of two or three sorts,
curiously, not a sign, till suddenly some warm, gushing, sunny April
(or even March) day--lo! there they are, from twig to twig, or fence
to fence, flirting, singing, some mating, preparing to build. But most
of them _en passant_--a fortnight, a month in these parts, and then
away. As in all phases, Nature keeps up her vital, copious, eternal
procession. Still, plenty of the birds hang around all or most of the
season--now their love-time, and era of nest-building. I find flying
over the river, crows, gulls and hawks. I hear the afternoon shriek of
the latter, darting about, preparing to nest. The oriole will soon
be heard here, and the twanging _meoeow_ of the cat-bird; also the
king-bird, cuckoo and the warblers. All along, there are three
peculiarly characteristic spring songs--the meadow-lark's, so sweet,
so alert and remonstrating (as if he said, "don't you see?" or, "can't
you understand?")--the cheery, mellow, human tones of the robin--(I
have been trying for years to get a brief term, or phrase, that would
identify and describe that robin call)--and the amorous whistle of the
high-hole. Insects are out plentifully at midday.

_April 29_.--As we drove lingering along the road we heard, just after
sundown, the song of the wood-thrush. We stopp'd without a word, and
listen'd long. The delicious notes--a sweet, artless, voluntary,
simple anthem, as from the flute-stops of some organ, wafted through
the twilight--echoing well to us from the perpendicular high rock,
where, in some thick young trees' recesses at the base, sat the bird
--fill'd our senses, our souls.


I found in one of my rambles up the hills a real hermit, living in a
lonesome spot, hard to get at, rocky, the view fine, with a little
patch of land two rods square. A man of youngish middle age, city born
and raised, had been to school, had travel'd in Europe and California.
I first met him once or twice on the road, and pass'd the time of day,
with some small talk; then, the third time, he ask'd me to go along
a bit and rest in his hut (an almost unprecedented compliment, as I
heard from others afterwards.) He was of Quaker stock, I think; talk'd
with ease and moderate freedom, but did not unbosom his life, or
story, or tragedy, or whatever it was.


I jot this mem, in a wild scene of woods and hills, where we have come
to visit a waterfall. I never saw finer or more copious hemlocks,
many of them large, some old and hoary. Such a sentiment to them,
secretive, shaggy--what I call weather-beaten and let-alone--a rich
underlay of ferns, yew sprouts and mosses, beginning to be spotted
with the early summer wild-flowers. Enveloping all, the monotone and
liquid gurgle from the hoarse impetuous copious fall--the greenish-
tawny, darkly transparent waters, plunging with velocity down the
rocks, with patches of milk-white foam--a stream of hurrying amber,
thirty feet wide, risen far back in the hills and woods, now rushing
with volume--every hundred rods a fall, and sometimes three or four in
that distance. A primitive forest, druidical, solitary and savage--not
ten visitors a year--broken rocks everywhere--shade overhead, thick
underfoot with leaves--a just palpable wild and delicate aroma.


As I saunter'd along the high road yesterday, I stopp'd to watch a man
near by, ploughing a rough stony field with a yoke of oxen. Usually
there is much geeing and hawing, excitement, and continual noise and
expletives, about a job of this kind. But I noticed how different, how
easy and wordless, yet firm and sufficient, the work of this young
ploughman. His name was Walter Dumont, a farmer, and son of a
farmer, working for their living. Three years ago, when the steamer
"Sunnyside" was wreck'd of a bitter icy night on the west bank
here, Walter went out in his boat--was the first man on hand with
assistance--made a way through the ice to shore, connected a line,
perform'd work of first-class readiness, daring, danger, and saved
numerous lives. Some weeks after, one evening when he was up at
Esopus, among the usual loafing crowd at the country store and
post-office, there arrived the gift of an unexpected official gold
medal for the quiet hero. The impromptu presentation was made to him
on the spot, but he blush'd, hesitated as he took it, and had nothing
to say.


It was a happy thought to build the Hudson river railroad right along
the shore. The grade is already made by nature; you are sure of
ventilation one side--and you are in nobody's way. I see, hear, the
locomotives and cars, rumbling, roaring, flaming, smoking, constantly,
away off there, night and day--less than a mile distant, and in full
view by day. I like both sight and sound. Express trains thunder and
lighten along; of freight trains, most of them very long, there cannot
be less than a hundred a day. At night far down you see the headlight
approaching, coming steadily on like a meteor. The river at night has
its special character-beauties. The shad fishermen go forth in their
boats and pay out their nets--one sitting forward, rowing, and one
standing up aft dropping it properly-marking the line with little
floats bearing candles, conveying, as they glide over the water, an
indescribable sentiment and doubled brightness. I like to watch the
tows at night, too, with their twinkling lamps, and hear the husky
panting of the steamers; or catch the sloops' and schooners' shadowy
forms, like phantoms, white, silent, indefinite, out there. Then the
Hudson of a clear moonlight night.

But there is one sight the very grandest. Sometimes in the fiercest
driving storm of wind, rain, hail or snow, a great eagle will appear
over the river, now soaring with steady and now overbended wings
--always confronting the gale, or perhaps cleaving into, or at times
literally _sitting_ upon it. It is like reading some first-class
natural tragedy or epic, or hearing martial trumpets. The splendid
bird enjoys the hubbub--is adjusted and equal to it--finishes it so
artistically. His pinions just oscillating--the position of his head
and neck--his resistless, occasionally varied flight--now a swirl,
now an upward movement--the black clouds driving--the angry wash
below--the hiss of rain, the wind's piping (perhaps the ice colliding,
grunting)--he tacking or jibing--now, as it were, for a change,
abandoning himself to the gale, moving with it with such velocity--and
now, resuming control, he comes up against it, lord of the situation
and the storm--lord, amid it, of power and savage joy.

Sometimes (as at present writing,) middle of sunny afternoon, the old
"Vanderbilt" steamer stalking ahead--I plainly hear her rhythmic,
slushing paddles--drawing by long hawsers an immense and varied
following string, ("an old sow and pigs," the river folks call it.)
First comes a big barge, with a house built on it, and spars towering
over the roof; then canal boats, a lengthen'd, clustering train,
fasten'd and link'd together--the one in the middle, with high staff,
flaunting a broad and gaudy flag--others with the almost invariable
lines of new-wash'd clothes, drying; two sloops and a schooner aside
the tow--little wind, and that adverse--with three long, dark, empty
barges bringing up the rear. People are on the boats: men lounging,
women in sun-bonnets, children, stovepipes with streaming smoke.


NEW YORK, _May 24, '79_.--Perhaps no quarters of this city (I have
return'd again for awhile,) make more brilliant, animated, crowded,
spectacular human presentations these fine May afternoons than the two
I am now going to describe from personal observation. First: that
area comprising Fourteenth street (especially the short range between
Broadway and Fifth avenue) with Union square, its adjacencies, and so
retrostretching down Broadway for half a mile. All the walks here are
wide, and the spaces ample and free--now flooded with liquid gold from
the last two hours of powerful sunshine. The whole area at 5 o'clock,
the days of my observations, must have contain'd from thirty to
forty thousand finely-dress'd people, all in motion, plenty of them
good-looking, many beautiful women, often youths and children,
the latter in groups with their nurses--the trottoirs everywhere
close-spread, thick-tangled, (yet no collision, no trouble,) with
masses of bright color, action, and tasty toilets; (surely the women
dress better than ever before, and the men do too.) As if New York
would show these afternoons what it can do in its humanity, its
choicest physique and physiognomy, and its countless prodigality of
locomotion, dry goods, glitter, magnetism, and happiness.

Second: also from 5 to 7 P.M. the stretch of Fifth avenue, all the way
from the Central Park exits at Fifty-ninth street, down to Fourteenth,
especially along the high grade by Fortieth street, and down the hill.
A Mississippi of horses and rich vehicles, not by dozens and scores,
but hundreds and thousands--the broad avenue filled and cramm'd with
them--a moving, sparkling, hurrying crush, for more than two miles.
(I wonder they don't get block'd, but I believe they never do.)
Altogether it is to me the marvel sight of New York. I like to get in
one of the Fifth avenue stages and ride up, stemming the swift-moving
procession. I doubt if London or Paris or any city in the world can
show such a carriage carnival as I have seen here five or six times
these beautiful May afternoons.


_May 16 to 22_.--I visit Central Park now almost every day, sitting, or
slowly rambling, or riding around. The whole place presents its very
best appearance this current month--the full flush of the trees, the
plentiful white and pink of the flowering shrubs, the emerald green of
the grass spreading everywhere, yellow dotted still with dandelions
--the specialty of the plentiful gray rocks, peculiar to these grounds,
cropping out, miles and miles--and over all the beauty and purity,
three days out of four, of our summer skies. As I sit, placidly, early
afternoon, off against Ninetieth street, the policeman, C. C., a
well-form'd sandy-complexion'd young fellow, comes over and stands
near me. We grow quite friendly and chatty forth-with. He is a New
Yorker born and raised, and in answer to my questions tells me about
the life of a New York Park policeman, (while he talks keeping his
eyes and ears vigilantly open, occasionally pausing and moving where
he can get full views of the vistas of the road, up and down, and the
spaces around.) The pay is $2.40 a day (seven days to a week)--the
men come on and work eight hours straight ahead, which is all that is
required of them out of the twenty-four. The position has more risks
than one might suppose--for instance if a team or horse runs away
(which happens daily) each man is expected not only to be prompt, but
to waive safety and stop wildest nag or nags--(_do it_, and don't be
thinking of your bones or face)--give the alarm-whistle too, so that
other guards may repeat, and the vehicles up and down the tracks be
warn'd. Injuries to the men are continually happening. There is much
alertness and quiet strength. (Few appreciate, I have often thought,
the Ulyssean capacity, derring do, quick readiness in emergencies,
practicality, unwitting devotion and heroism, among our American
young men and working-people--the firemen, the railroad employes, the
steamer and ferry men, the police, the conductors and drivers--the
whole splendid average of native stock, city and country.) It is good
work, though; and upon the whole, the Park force members like it.
They see life, and the excitement keeps them up. There is not so much
difficulty as might be supposed from tramps, roughs, or in keeping
people "off the grass." The worst trouble of the regular Park employe
is from malarial fever, chills, and the like.


Ten thousand vehicles careering through the Park this perfect
afternoon. Such a show! and I have seen all--watch'd it narrowly,
and at my leisure. Private barouches, cabs and coupes, some fine
horseflesh--lapdogs, footmen, fashions, foreigners, cockades on hats,
crests on panels--the full oceanic tide of New York's wealth and
"gentility." It was an impressive, rich, interminable circus on a
grand scale, full of action and color in the beauty of the day, under
the clear sun and moderate breeze. Family groups, couples, single
drivers--of course dresses generally elegant--much "style," (yet
perhaps little or nothing, even in that direction, that fully
justified itself.) Through the windows of two or three of the richest
carriages I saw faces almost corpse-like, so ashy and listless. Indeed
the whole affair exhibited less of sterling America, either in
spirit or countenance, than I had counted on from such a select
mass-spectacle. I suppose, as a proof of limitless wealth, leisure,
and the aforesaid "gentility," it was tremendous. Yet what I saw those
hours (I took two other occasions, two other afternoons to watch
the same scene,) confirms a thought that haunts me every additional
glimpse I get of our top-loftical general or rather exceptional phases
of wealth and fashion in this country--namely, that they are ill at
ease, much too conscious, cased in too many cerements, and far from
happy--that there is nothing in them which we who are poor and plain
need at all envy, and that instead of the perennial smell of the
grass and woods and shores, their typical redolence is of soaps and
essences, very rare may be, but suggesting the barber shop--something
that turns stale and musty in a few hours anyhow.

Perhaps the show on the horseback road was prettiest. Many groups
(threes a favorite number,) some couples, some singly--many
ladies--frequently horses or parties dashing along on a full run--fine
riding the rule--a few really first-class animals. As the afternoon
waned, the wheel'd carriages grew less, but the saddle-riders seemed
to increase. They linger'd long--and I saw some charming forms and


_May 25._--A three hours' bay-trip from 12 to 3 this afternoon,
accompanying "the City of Brussels" down as far as the Narrows, in
behoof of some Europe-bound friends, to give them a good send off. Our
spirited little tug, the "Seth Low," kept close to the great black
"Brussels," sometimes one side, sometimes the other, always up to
her, or even pressing ahead, (like the blooded pony accompanying the
royal elephant.) The whole affair, from the first, was an animated,
quick-passing, characteristic New York scene; the large, good-looking,
well-dress'd crowd on the wharf-end--men and women come to see their
friends depart, and bid them God-speed--the ship's sides swarming with
passengers--groups of bronze-faced sailors, with uniform' d officers
at their posts--the quiet directions, as she quickly unfastens and
moves out, prompt to a minute--the emotional faces, adieus and
fluttering handkerchiefs, and many smiles and some tears on
the wharf--the answering faces, smiles, tears and fluttering
handkerchiefs, from the ship--(what can be subtler and finer than this
play of faces on such occasions in these responding crowds?--what go
more to one's heart?)--the proud, steady, noiseless cleaving of the
grand oceaner down the bay--we speeding by her side a few miles,
and then turning, wheeling,--amid a babel of wild hurrahs, shouted
partings, ear-splitting steam whistles, kissing of hands and waving of

This departing of the big steamers, noons or afternoons--there is no
better medicine when one is listless or vapory. I am fond of going
down Wednesdays and Saturdays--their more special days--to watch them
and the crowds on the wharves, the arriving passengers, the general
bustle and activity, the eager looks from the faces, the clear-toned
voices, (a travel'd foreigner, a musician, told me the other day she
thinks an American crowd has the finest voices in the world,) the
whole look of the great, shapely black ships themselves, and their
groups and lined sides--in the setting of our bay with the blue sky
overhead. Two days after the above I saw the "Britannic," the "Donau,"
the "Helvetia" and the "Schiedam" steam out, all off for Europe--a
magnificent sight.


From 7 to 9, aboard the United States school-ship Minnesota, lying up
the North river. Captain Luce sent his gig for us about sundown,
to the foot of Twenty-third street, and receiv'd us aboard with
officer-like hospitality and sailor heartiness. There are several
hundred youths on the Minnesota to be train'd for efficiently manning
the government navy. I like the idea much; and, so far as I have seen
to-night, I like the way it is carried out on this huge vessel. Below,
on the gun-deck, were gather'd nearly a hundred of the boys, to give
us some of their singing exercises, with a melodeon accompaniment,
play'd by one of their number. They sang with a will. The best part,
however, was the sight of the young fellows themselves. I went
over among them before the singing began, and talk'd a few minutes
informally. They are from all the States; I asked for the Southerners,
but could only find one, a lad from Baltimore. In age, apparently,
they range from about fourteen years to nineteen or twenty. They are
all of American birth, and have to pass a rigid medical examination;
well-grown youths, good flesh, bright eyes, looking straight at you,
healthy, intelligent, not a slouch among them, nor a menial--in every
one the promise of a man. I have been to many public aggregations of
young and old, and of schools and colleges, in my day, but I confess I
have never been so near satisfied, so comforted, (both from the fact
of the school itself, and the splendid proof of our country,
our composite race, and the sample-promises of its good average
capacities, its future,) as in the collection from all parts of the
United States on this navy training ship. ("Are there going to be _any
men_ there?" was the dry and pregnant reply of Emerson to one who had
been crowding him with the rich material statistics and possibilities
of some western or Pacific region.)

_May 26_.--Aboard the Minnesota again. Lieut. Murphy kindly came for
me in his boat. Enjoy'd specially those brief trips to and fro--the
sailors, tann'd, strong, so bright and able-looking, pulling their
oars in long side-swing, man-of-war style, as they row'd me across. I
saw the boys in companies drilling with small arms; had a talk with
Chaplain Rawson. At 11 o'clock all of us gathered to breakfast around
a long table in the great ward room--I among the rest--a genial,
plentiful, hospitable affair every way--plenty to eat, and of the
best; became acquainted with several new officers. This second visit,
with its observations, talks, (two or three at random with the boys,)
confirm'd my first impressions.


_Aug. 4_.--Forenoon--as I sit under the willow shade, (have retreated
down in the country again,) a little bird is leisurely dousing
and flirting himself amid the brook almost within reach of me.
He evidently fears me not--takes me for some concomitant of the
neighboring earthy banks, free bushery and wild weeds. _6 p.m._--The
last three days have been perfect ones for the season, (four nights
ago copious rains, with vehement thunder and lightning.) I write this
sitting by the creek watching my two kingfishers at their sundown
sport. The strong, beautiful, joyous creatures! Their wings glisten in
the slanted sunbeams as they circle and circle around, occasionally
dipping and dashing the water, and making long stretches up and down
the creek. Wherever I go over fields, through lanes, in by-places,
blooms the white-flowering wild-carrot, its delicate pat of
snow-flakes crowning its slender stem, gracefully oscillating in the


PHILADELPHIA, _Aug. 26_.--Last night and to-night of unsurpass'd
clearness, after two days' rain; moon splendor and star splendor.
Being out toward the great Exposition building, West Philadelphia, I
saw it lit up, and thought I would go in. There was a ball, democratic
but nice; plenty of young couples waltzing and quadrilling--music by
a good string-band. To the sight and hearing of these--to moderate
strolls up and down the roomy spaces--to getting off aside, resting in
an arm-chair and looking up a long while at the grand high roof with
its graceful and multitudinous work of iron rods, angles, gray colors,
plays of light and shade, receding into dim outlines--to absorbing
(in the intervals of the string band,) some capital voluntaries
and rolling caprices from the big organ at the other end of the
building--to sighting a shadow'd figure or group or couple of lovers
every now and then passing some near or farther aisle--I abandon'd
myself for over an hour.

Returning home, riding down Market street in an open summer car,
something detain'd us between Fifteenth and Broad, and I got out to
view better the new, three-fifths-built marble edifice, the City Hall,
of magnificent proportions--a majestic and lovely show there in the
moonlight--flooded all over, facades, myriad silver-white lines and
carv'd heads and mouldings, with the soft dazzle--silent, weird,
beautiful--well, I know that never when finish'd will that magnificent
pile impress one as it impress'd me those fifteen minutes.

To-night, since, I have been long on the river. I watch the C-shaped
Northern Crown, (with the star Alshacca that blazed out so suddenly,
alarmingly, one night a few years ago.) The moon in her third quarter,
and up nearly all night. And there, as I look eastward, my long-absent
Pleiades, welcome again to sight. For an hour I enjoy the soothing
and vital scene to the low splash of waves--new stars steadily,
noiselessly rising in the east.

As I cross the Delaware, one of the deck-hands, F. R., tells me how
a woman jump'd overboard and was drown'd a couple of hours since. It
happen'd in mid-channel--she leap'd from the forward part of the
boat, which went over her. He saw her rise on the other side in the
swift running water, throw her arms and closed hands high up, (white
hands and bare forearms in the moonlight like a flash,) and then she
sank. (I found out afterwards that this young fellow had promptly
jump'd in, swam after the poor creature, and made, though
unsuccessfully, the bravest efforts to rescue her; but he didn't
mention that part at all in telling me the story.)


_Sept. 3_--Cloudy and wet, and wind due east; air without palpable
fog, but very heavy with moisture--welcome for a change. Forenoon,
crossing the Delaware, I noticed unusual numbers of swallows in
flight, circling, darting, graceful beyond description, close to the
water. Thick, around the bows of the ferry-boat as she lay tied in her
slip, they flew; and as we went out I watch'd beyond the pier-heads,
and across the broad stream, their swift-winding loop-ribands of
motion, down close to it, cutting and intersecting. Though I had seen
swallows all my life, seem'd as though I never before realized their
peculiar beauty and character in the landscape. (Some time ago, for
an hour, in a huge old country barn, watching these birds flying,
recall'd the 22d book of the Odyssey, where Ulysses slays the suitors,
bringing things to _eclaircissement_, and Minerva, swallow-bodied,
darts up through the spaces of the hall, sits high on a beam, looks
complacently on the show of slaughter, and feels in her element,
exulting, joyous.)


The following three or four months (Sept. to Dec. '79) I made quite a
western journey, fetching up at Denver, Colorado, and penetrating the
Rocky Mountain region enough to get a good notion of it all. Left West
Philadelphia after 9 o'clock one night, middle of September, in a
comfortable sleeper. Oblivious of the two or three hundred miles
across Pennsylvania; at Pittsburgh in the morning to breakfast.
Pretty good view of the city and Birmingham--fog and damp, smoke,
coke-furnaces, flames, discolor'd wooden houses, and vast collections
of coal-barges. Presently a bit of fine region, West Virginia, the
Panhandle, and crossing the river, the Ohio. By day through the latter
State--then Indiana--and so rock'd to slumber for a second night,
flying like lightning through Illinois.


What a fierce weird pleasure to lie in my berth at night in the
luxurious palace-car, drawn by the mighty Baldwin--embodying, and
filling me, too, full of the swiftest motion, and most resistless
strength! It is late, perhaps midnight or after--distances join'd like
magic--as we speed through Harrisburg, Columbus, Indianapolis.
The element of danger adds zest to it all. On we go, rumbling and
flashing, with our loud whinnies thrown out from time to time, or
trumpet-blasts, into the darkness. Passing the homes of men, the
farms, barns, cattle--the silent villages. And the car itself, the
sleeper, with curtains drawn and lights turn'd down--in the berths the
slumberers, many of them women and children--as on, on, on, we fly
like lightning through the night--how strangely sound and sweet they
sleep! (They say the French Voltaire in his time designated the grand
opera and a ship of war the most signal illustrations of the growth of
humanity's and art's advance beyond primitive barbarism. Perhaps if
the witty philosopher were here these days, and went in the same car
with perfect bedding and feed from New York to San Francisco, he would
shift his type and sample to one of our American sleepers.)


We should have made the run of 960 miles from Philadelphia to St.
Louis in thirty-six hours, but we had a collision and bad locomotive
smash about two-thirds of the way, which set us back. So merely
stopping over night that time in St. Louis, I sped on westward. As I
cross'd Missouri State the whole distance by the St. Louis and Kansas
City Northern Railroad, a fine early autumn day, I thought my eyes
had never looked on scenes of greater pastoral beauty. For over two
hundred miles successive rolling prairies, agriculturally perfect
view'd by Pennsylvania and New Jersey eyes, and dotted here and
there with fine timber. Yet fine as the land is, it isn't the finest
portion; (there is a bed of impervious clay and hard-pan beneath this
section that holds water too firmly, "drowns the land in wet weather,
and bakes it in dry," as a cynical farmer told me.) South are some
richer tracts, though perhaps the beauty-spots of the State are the
northwestern counties. Altogether, I am clear, (now, and from what
I have seen and learn'd since,) that Missouri, in climate, soil,
relative situation, wheat, grass, mines, railroads, and every
important materialistic respect, stands in the front rank of the
Union. Of Missouri averaged politically and socially I have heard all
sorts of talk, some pretty severe--but I should have no fear myself of
getting along safely and comfortably anywhere among the Missourians.
They raise a good deal of tobacco. You see at this time quantities
of the light greenish-gray leaves pulled and hanging out to dry on
temporary frameworks or rows of sticks. Looks much like the mullein
familiar to eastern eyes.


We thought of stopping in Kansas City, but when we got there we found
a train ready and a crowd of hospitable Kansians to take us on to
Lawrence, to which I proceeded. I shall not soon forget my good days
in L., in company with Judge Usher and his sons, (especially John and
Linton,) true westerners of the noblest type. Nor the similar days in
Topeka. Nor the brotherly kindness of my RR. friends there, and the
city and State officials. Lawrence and Topeka are large, bustling,
half-rural, handsome cities. I took two or three long drives about the
latter, drawn by a spirited team over smooth roads.

THE PRAIRIES (_and an Undeliver'd Speech_)

At a large popular meeting at Topeka--the Kansas State Silver Wedding,
fifteen or twenty thousand people--I had been erroneously bill'd to
deliver a poem. As I seem'd to be made much of, and wanted to be
good-natured, I hastily pencill'd out the following little speech.
Unfortunately, (or fortunately,) I had such a good time and rest, and
talk and dinner, with the U. boys, that I let the hours slip away and
didn't drive over to the meeting and speak my piece. But here it is
just the same:

"My friends, your bills announce me as giving a poem; but I have no
poem--have composed none for this occasion. And I can honestly say
I am now glad of it. Under these skies resplendent in September
beauty--amid the peculiar landscape you are used to, but which is new
to me--these interminable and stately prairies--in the freedom and
vigor and sane enthusiasm of this perfect western air and autumn
sunshine--it seems to me a poem would be almost an impertinence. But
if you care to have a word from me, I should speak it about these very
prairies; they impress me most, of all the objective shows I see or
have seen on this, my first real visit to the West. As I have roll'd
rapidly hither for more than a thousand miles, through fair Ohio,
through bread-raising Indiana and Illinois--through ample Missouri,
that contains and raises everything; as I have partially explor'd your
charming city during the last two days, and, standing on Oread hill,
by the university, have launch'd my view across broad expanses of
living green, in every direction--I have again been most impress'd,
I say, and shall remain for the rest of my life most impress'd, with
that feature of the topography of your western central world--that
vast Something, stretching out on its own unbounded scale, unconfined,
which there is in these prairies, combining the real and ideal, and
beautiful as dreams.

"I wonder indeed if the people of this continental inland West know
how much of first-class _art_ they have in these prairies--how
original and all your own--how much of the influences of a character
for your future humanity, broad, patriotic, heroic and new? how
entirely they tally on land the grandeur and superb monotony of the
skies of heaven, and the ocean with its waters? how freeing, soothing,
nourishing they are to the soul?

"Then is it not subtly they who have given us our leading modern
Americans, Lincoln and Grant?--vast-spread, average men--their
foregrounds of character altogether practical and real, yet (to those
who have eyes to see) with finest backgrounds of the ideal, towering
high as any. And do we not see, in them, foreshadowings of the future
races that shall fill these prairies?

"Not but what the Yankee and Atlantic States, and every other
part--Texas, and the States flanking the south-east and the Gulf of
Mexico--the Pacific shore empire--the Territories and Lakes, and the
Canada line (the day is not yet, but it will come, including Canada
entire)--are equally and integrally and indissolubly this Nation, the
_sine qua non_ of the human, political and commercial New World. But
this favor'd central area of (in round numbers) two thousand miles
square seems fated to be the home both of what I would call America's
distinctive ideas and distinctive realities."


The jaunt of five or six hundred miles from Topeka to Denver took me
through a variety of country, but all unmistakably prolific, western,
American, and on the largest scale. For a long distance we follow the
line of the Kansas river, (I like better the old name, Kaw,) a stretch
of very rich, dark soil, famed for its wheat, and call'd the Golden
Belt--then plains and plains, hour after hour--Ellsworth county,
the centre of the State--where I must stop a moment to tell a
characteristic story of early days--scene the very spot where I am
passing--time 1868. In a scrimmage at some public gathering in the
town, A. had shot B. quite badly, but had not kill'd him. The sober
men of Ellsworth conferr'd with one another and decided that A.
deserv'd punishment. As they wished to set a good example and
establish their reputation the reverse of a Lynching town, they open
an informal court and bring both men before them for deliberate trial.
Soon as this trial begins the wounded man is led forward to give his
testimony. Seeing his enemy in durance and unarm'd, B. walks suddenly
up in a fury and shoots A. through the head--shoots him dead. The
court is instantly adjourn'd, and its unanimous members, without a
word of debate, walk the murderer B. out, wounded as he is, and hang

In due time we reach Denver, which city I fall in love with from the
first, and have that feeling confirm'd, the longer I stay there. One
of my pleasantest days was a jaunt, via Platte canon, to Leadville.


Jottings from the Rocky Mountains, mostly pencill'd during a day's
trip over the South Park RR., returning from Leadville, and especially
the hour we were detain'd, (much to my satisfaction,) at Kenosha
summit. As afternoon advances, novelties, far-reaching splendors,
accumulate under the bright sun in this pure air. But I had better
commence with the day.

The confronting of Platte canon just at dawn, after a ten miles' ride
in early darkness on the rail from Denver--the seasonable stoppage at
the entrance of the canon, and good breakfast of eggs, trout, and nice
griddle-cakes--then as we travel on, and get well in the gorge, all
the wonders, beauty, savage power of the scene--the wild stream of
water, from sources of snows, brawling continually in sight one
side--the dazzling sun, and the morning lights on the rocks--such
turns and grades in the track, squirming around corners, or up and
down hills--far glimpses of a hundred peaks, titanic necklaces,
stretching north and south--the huge rightly-named Dome-rock--and as
we dash along, others similar, simple, monolithic, elephantine.


"I have found the law of my own poems," was the unspoken but
more-and-more decided feeling that came to me as I pass'd, hour after
hour, amid all this grim yet joyous elemental abandon--this plenitude
of material, entire absence of art, untrammel'd play of primitive
Nature--the chasm, the gorge, the crystal mountain stream, repeated
scores, hundreds of miles--the broad handling and absolute
uncrampedness--the fantastic forms, bathed in transparent browns,
faint reds and grays, towering sometimes a thousand, sometimes two
or three thousand feet high--at their tops now and then huge masses
pois'd, and mixing with the clouds, with only their outlines, hazed in
misty lilac, visible. ("In Nature's grandest shows," says an old Dutch
writer, an ecclesiastic, "amid the ocean's depth, if so might be, or
countless worlds rolling above at night, a man thinks of them, weighs
all, not for themselves or the abstract, but with reference to his own
personality, and how they may affect him or color his destinies.")


We follow the stream of amber and bronze brawling along its bed,
with its frequent cascades and snow-white foam. Through the canon we
fly--mountains not only each side, but seemingly, till we get near,
right in front of us--every rood a new view flashing, and each flash
defying description--on the almost perpendicular sides, clinging
pines, cedars, spruces, crimson sumach bushes, spots of wild
grass--but dominating all, those towering rocks, rocks, rocks, bathed
in delicate vari-colors, with the clear sky of autumn overhead. New
senses, new joys, seem develop'd. Talk as you like, a typical Rocky
Mountain canon, or a limitless sea-like stretch of the great Kansas
or Colorado plains, under favoring circumstances, tallies,
perhaps expresses, certainly awakes, those grandest and subtlest
element-emotions in the human soul, that all the marble temples
and sculptures from Phidias to Thorwaldsen--all paintings, poems,
reminiscences, or even music, probably never can.


I get out on a ten minutes' stoppage at Deer creek, to enjoy the
unequal'd combination of hill, stone and wood. As we speed again,
the yellow granite in the sunshine, with natural spires, minarets,
castellated perches far aloft--then long stretches of straight-upright
palisades, rhinoceros color--then gamboge and tinted chromos. Ever
the best of my pleasures the cool-fresh Colorado atmosphere, yet
sufficiently warm. Signs of man's restless advent and pioneerage,
hard as Nature's face is--deserted dug-outs by dozens in the
side-hills--the scantling-hut, the telegraph-pole, the smoke of some
impromptu chimney or outdoor fire--at intervals little settlements of
log-houses, or parties of surveyors or telegraph builders, with their
comfortable tents. Once, a canvas office where you could send a
message by electricity anywhere around the world! Yes, pronounc'd
signs of the man of latest dates, dauntlessly grappling with these
grisliest shows of the old kosmos. At several places steam saw-mills,
with their piles of logs and boards, and the pipes puffing.
Occasionally Platte canon expanding into a grassy flat of a few acres.
At one such place, toward the end, where we stop, and I get out to
stretch my legs, as I look skyward, or rather mountain-topward, a huge
hawk or eagle (a rare sight here) is idly soaring, balancing along the
ether, now sinking low and coming quite near, and then up again in
stately-languid circles--then higher, higher, slanting to the north,
and gradually out of sight.


I jot these lines literally at Kenosha summit, where we return,
afternoon, and take a long rest, 10,000 feet above sea-level. At
this immense height the South Park stretches fifty miles before me.
Mountainous chains and peaks in every variety of perspective, every
hue of vista, fringe the view, in nearer, or middle, or far-dim
distance, or fade on the horizon. We have now reach'd, penetrated the
Rockies, (Hayden calls it the Front Range,) for a hundred miles or
so; and though these chains spread away in every direction, specially
north and south, thousands and thousands farther, I have seen
specimens of the utmost of them, and know henceforth at least what
they are, and what they look like. Not themselves alone, for they
typify stretches and areas of half the globe--are, in fact, the
vertebrae or back-bone of our hemisphere. As the anatomists say a man
is only a spine, topp'd, footed, breasted and radiated, so the whole
Western world is, in a sense, but an expansion of these mountains. In
South America they are the Andes, in Central America and Mexico the
Cordilleras, and in our States they go under different names--in
California the Coast and Cascade ranges--thence more eastwardly the
Sierra Nevadas--but mainly and more centrally here the Rocky Mountains
proper, with many an elevation such as Lincoln's, Grey's, Harvard's,
Yale's, Long's and Pike's peaks, all over 14,000 feet high. (East, the
highest peaks of the Alleghanies, the Adirondacks, the Catskills,
and the White Mountains, range from 2000 to 5500 feet-only Mount
Washington, in the latter, 6300 feet.)


In the midst of all here, lie such beautiful contrasts as the sunken
basins of the North, Middle, and South Parks, (the latter I am now on
one side of, and overlooking,) each the size of a large, level, almost
quandrangular, grassy, western county, wall'd in by walls of hills,
and each park the source of a river. The ones I specify are the
largest in Colorado, but the whole of that State, and of Wyoming,
Utah, Nevada and western California, through their sierras and
ravines, are copiously mark'd by similar spreads and openings, many
of the small ones of paradisiac loveliness and perfection, with their
offsets of mountains, streams, atmosphere and hues beyond compare.


Talk, I say again, of going to Europe, of visiting the ruins of feudal
castles, or Coliseum remains, or kings' palaces--when you can come
_here_. The alternations one gets, too; after the Illinois and Kansas
prairies of a thousand miles--smooth and easy areas of the corn and
wheat of ten million democratic farms in the future----here start up
in every conceivable presentation of shape, these non-utilitarian
piles, coping the skies, emanating a beauty, terror, power, more than
Dante or Angelo ever knew. Yes, I think the chyle of not only poetry
and painting, but oratory, and even the metaphysics and music fit
for the New World, before being finally assimilated, need first and
feeding visits here.

_Mountain streams._--The spiritual contrast and etheriality of the
whole region consist largely to me in its never-absent peculiar
streams--the snows of inaccessible upper areas melting and running
down through the gorges continually. Nothing like the water of
pastoral plains, or creeks with wooded banks and turf, or anything of
the kind elsewhere. The shapes that element takes in the shows of the
globe cannot be fully understood by an artist until he has studied
these unique rivulets.

_Aerial effects._--But perhaps as I gaze around me the rarest sight
of all is in atmospheric hues. The prairies--as I cross'd them in my
journey hither--and these mountains and parks, seem to me to
afford new lights and shades. Everywhere the aerial gradations
and sky-effects inimitable; nowhere else such perspectives, such
transparent lilacs and grays. I can conceive of some superior
landscape painter, some fine colorist, after sketching awhile out
here, discarding all his previous work, delightful to stock exhibition
amateurs, as muddy, raw and artificial. Near one's eye ranges an
infinite variety; high up, the bare whitey-brown, above timber line;
in certain spots afar patches of snow any time of year; (no trees, no
flowers, no birds, at those chilling altitudes.) As I write I see the
Snowy Range through the blue mist, beautiful and far off, I plainly
see the patches of snow.


Through the long-lingering half-light of the most superb of evenings
we return'd to Denver, where I staid several days leisurely exploring,
receiving impressions, with which I may as well taper off this
memorandum, itemizing what I saw there. The best was the men,
three-fourths of them large, able, calm, alert, American. And cash!
why they create it here. Out in the smelting works, (the biggest and
most improv'd ones, for the precious metals, in the world,) I saw long
rows of vats, pans, cover'd by bubbling-boiling water, and fill'd with
pure silver, four or five inches thick, many thousand dollars' worth
in a pan. The foreman who was showing me shovel'd it carelessly up
with a little wooden shovel, as one might toss beans. Then large
silver bricks, worth $2000 a brick, dozens of piles, twenty in a pile.
In one place in the mountains, at a mining camp, I had a few days
before seen rough bullion on the ground in the open air, like the
confectioner's pyramids at some swell dinner in New York. (Such a
sweet morsel to roll over with a poor author's pen and ink--and
appropriate to slip in here--that the silver product of Colorado and
Utah, with the gold product of California, New Mexico, Nevada and
Dakota, foots up an addition to the world's coin of considerably over
a hundred millions every year.)

A city, this Denver, well-laid out--Laramie street, and 15th and 16th
and Champa streets, with others, particularly fine--some with tall
storehouses of stone or iron, and windows of plate-glass--all the
streets with little canals of mountain water running along the
sides--plenty of people, "business," modernness--yet not without a
certain racy wild smack, all its own. A place of fast horses, (many
mares with their colts,) and I saw lots of big greyhounds for antelope
hunting. Now and then groups of miners, some just come in, some
starting out, very picturesque.

One of the papers here interview'd me, and reported me as saying
off-hand: "I have lived in or visited all the great cities on the
Atlantic third of the republic--Boston, Brooklyn with its hills, New
Orleans, Baltimore, stately Washington, broad Philadelphia, teeming
Cincinnati and Chicago, and for thirty years in that wonder, wash'd
by hurried and glittering tides, my own New York, not only the New
World's but the world's city--but, newcomer to Denver as I am, and
threading its streets, breathing its air, warm'd by its sunshine, and
having what there is of its human as well as aerial ozone flash'd upon
me now for only three or four days, I am very much like a man feels
sometimes toward certain people he meets with, and warms to, and
hardly knows why. I, too, can hardly tell why, but as I enter'd the
city in the slight haze of a late September afternoon, and have
breath'd its air, and slept well o' nights, and have roam'd or rode
leisurely, and watch'd the comers and goers at the hotels, and
absorb'd the climatic magnetism of this curiously attractive region,
there has steadily grown upon me a feeling of affection for the spot,
which, sudden as it is, has become so definite and strong that I must
put it on record."

So much for my feeling toward the Queen city of the plains and peaks,
where she sits in her delicious rare atmosphere, over 5000 feet above
sea-level, irrigated by mountain streams, one way looking east over
the prairies for a thousand miles, and having the other, westward,
in constant view by day, draped in their violet haze, mountain tops
innumerable. Yes, I fell in love with Denver, and even felt a wish to
spend my declining and dying days there.


Leave Denver at 8 A.M. by the Rio Grande RR. going south. Mountains
constantly in sight in the apparently near distance, veil'd slightly,
but still clear and very grand--their cones, colors, sides, distinct
against the sky--hundreds, it seem'd thousands, interminable
necklaces of them, their tops and slopes hazed more or less slightly
in that blue-gray, under the autumn sun, for over a hundred miles--the
most spiritual show of objective Nature I ever beheld, or ever thought
possible. Occasionally the light strengthens, making a contrast of
yellow-tinged silver on one side, with dark and shaded gray on
the other. I took a long look at Pike's peak, and was a little
disappointed. (I suppose I had expected something stunning.) Our view
over plains to the left stretches amply, with corrals here and there,
the frequent cactus and wild sage, and herds of cattle feeding. Thus
about 120 miles to Pueblo. At that town we board the comfortable and
well-equipt Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe RR., now striking east.


I had wanted to go to the Yellowstone river region--wanted specially
to see the National Park, and the geysers and the "hoodoo" or goblin
land of that country; indeed, hesitated a little at Pueblo, the
turning point--wanted to thread the Veta pass--wanted to go over the
Santa Fe trail away southwestward to New Mexico--but turn'd and set
my face eastward--leaving behind me whetting glimpse-tastes of
southeastern Colorado, Pueblo, Bald mountain, the Spanish peaks,
Sangre de Christos, Mile-Shoe-curve (which my veteran friend on the
locomotive told me was "the boss railroad curve of the universe,")
fort Garland on the plains, Veta, and the three great peaks of the
Sierra Blancas. The Arkansas river plays quite a part in the whole
of this region--I see it, or its high-cut rocky northern shore, for
miles, and cross and recross it frequently, as it winds and squirms
like a snake. The plains vary here even more than usual--sometimes
a long sterile stretch of scores of miles--then green, fertile and
grassy, an equal length. Some very large herds of sheep. (One wants
new words in writing about these plains, and all the inland American
West--the terms, _far, large, vast_, &c., are insufficient.)


Here I must say a word about a little follower, present even now
before my eyes. I have been accompanied on my whole journey from
Barnegat to Pike's peak by a pleasant floricultural friend, or rather
millions of friends--nothing more or less than a hardy little yellow
five-petal'd September and October wild-flower, growing I think
everywhere in the middle and northern United States. I had seen it on
the Hudson and over Long Island, and along the banks of the Delaware
and through New Jersey, (as years ago up the Connecticut, and one
fall by Lake Champlain.) This trip it follow'd me regularly, with its
slender stem and eyes of gold, from Cape May to the Kaw valley, and
so through the canons and to these plains. In Missouri I saw immense
fields all bright with it. Toward western Illinois I woke up one
morning in the sleeper and the first thing when I drew the curtain of
my berth and look'd out was its pretty countenance and bending neck.

_Sept. 25th_.--Early morning--still going east after we leave
Sterling, Kansas, where I stopp'd a day and night. The sun up about
half an hour; nothing can be fresher or more beautiful than this time,
this region. I see quite a field of my yellow flower in full bloom. At
intervals dots of nice two-story houses, as we ride swiftly by. Over
the immense area, flat as a floor, visible for twenty miles in
every direction in the clear air, a prevalence of autumn-drab and
reddish-tawny herbage--sparse stacks of hay and enclosures, breaking
the landscape--as we rumble by, flocks of prairie-hens starting up.
Between Sterling and Florence a fine country. (Remembrances to E. L.,
my old-young soldier friend of war times, and his wife and boy at S.)


(_After traveling Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado_) Grand as
is the thought that doubtless the child is already born who will see
a hundred millions of people, the most prosperous and advanc'd of the
world, inhabiting these Prairies, the great Plains, and the valley of
the Mississippi, I could not help thinking it would be grander still
to see all those inimitable American areas fused in the alembic of
a perfect poem, or other esthetic work, entirely western, fresh and
limitless--altogether our own, without a trace or taste of Europe's
soil, reminiscence, technical letter or spirit. My days and nights, as
I travel here--what an exhilaration!--not the air alone, and the sense
of vastness, but every local sight and feature. Everywhere something
characteristic--the cactuses, pinks, buffalo grass, wild sage--the
receding perspective, and the far circle-line of the horizon all times
of day, especially forenoon--the clear, pure, cool, rarefied nutriment
for the lungs, previously quite unknown--the black patches and streaks
left by surface-conflagrations--the deep-plough'd furrow of the
"fire-guard"--the slanting snow-racks built all along to shield
the railroad from winter drifts--the prairie-dogs and the herds of
antelope--the curious "dry rivers"--occasionally a "dug-out" or
corral--Fort Riley and Fort Wallace--those towns of the northern
plains, (like ships on the sea,) Eagle-Tail, Coyote, Cheyenne,
Agate, Monotony, Kit Carson--with ever the ant-hill and the
buffalo-wallow--ever the herds of cattle and the cow-boys
("cow-punchers") to me a strangely interesting class, bright-eyed
as hawks, with their swarthy complexions and their broad-brimm'd
hats--apparently always on horseback, with loose arms slightly raised
and swinging as they ride.


Between Pueblo and Bent's fort, southward, in a clear afternoon
sun-spell I catch exceptionally good glimpses of the Spanish peaks.
We are in southeastern Colorado--pass immense herds of cattle as our
first-class locomotive rushes us along--two or three times crossing
the Arkansas, which we follow many miles, and of which river I get
fine views, sometimes for quite a distance, its stony, upright, not
very high, palisade banks, and then its muddy flats. We pass Fort
Lyon--lots of adobie houses--limitless pasturage, appropriately
fleck'd with those herds of cattle--in due time the declining sun in
the west--a sky of limpid pearl over all--and so evening on the great
plains. A calm, pensive, boundless landscape--the perpendicular rocks
of the north Arkansas, hued in twilight--a thin line of violet on
the southwestern horizon--the palpable coolness and slight aroma--a
belated cow-boy with some unruly member of his herd--an emigrant wagon
toiling yet a little further, the horses slow and tired--two men,
apparently father and son, jogging along on foot--and around all the
indescribable _chiaroscuro_ and sentiment, (profounder than anything
at sea,) athwart these endless wilds.


Speaking generally as to the capacity and sure future destiny of that
plain and prairie area (larger than any European kingdom) it is the
inexhaustible land of wheat, maize, wool, flax, coal, iron, beef and
pork, butter and cheese, apples and grapes--land of ten million virgin
farms--to the eye at present wild and unproductive--yet experts say
that upon it when irrigated may easily be grown enough wheat to feed
the world. Then as to scenery (giving my own thought and feeling,)
while I know the standard claim is that Yosemite, Niagara falls, the
upper Yellowstone and the like, afford the greatest natural shows, I
am not so sure but the Prairies and the Plains, while less stunning at
first sight, last longer, fill the esthetic sense fuller, precede all
the rest, and make North America's characteristic landscape.

Indeed through the whole of this journey, with all its shows and
varieties, what most impress'd me, and will longest remain with me,
are these same prairies. Day after day, and night after night, to my
eyes, to all my senses--the esthetic one most of all--they silently
and broadly unfolded. Even their simplest statistics are sublime.


The valley of the Mississippi river and its tributaries, (this stream
and its adjuncts involve a big part of the question,) comprehends more
than twelve hundred thousand square miles, the greater part prairies.
It is by far the most important stream on the globe, and would seem
to have been marked out by design, slow-flowing from north to south,
through a dozen climates, all fitted for man's healthy occupancy,
its outlet unfrozen all the year, and its line forming a safe, cheap
continental avenue for commerce and passage from the north temperate
to the torrid zone. Not even the mighty Amazon (though larger in
volume) on its line of east and west--not the Nile in Africa, nor the
Danube in Europe, nor the three great rivers of China, compare with
it. Only the Mediterranean sea has play'd some such part in history,
and all through the past, as the Mississippi is destined to play in
the future. By its demesnes, water'd and welded by its branches, the
Missouri, the Ohio, the Arkansas, the Red, the Yazoo, the St. Francis
and others, it already compacts twenty-five millions of people, not
merely the most peaceful and money-making, but the most restless and
warlike on earth. Its valley, or reach, is rapidly concentrating the
political power of the American Union. One almost thinks it _is_ the
Union--or soon will be. Take it out, with its radiations, and what
would be left? From the car windows through Indiana, Illinois,
Missouri, or stopping some days along the Topeka and Santa Fe road, in
southern Kansas, and indeed wherever I went, hundreds and thousands
of miles through this region, my eyes feasted on primitive and rich
meadows, some of them partially inhabited, but far, immensely far more
untouch'd, unbroken--and much of it more lovely and fertile in its
unplough'd innocence than the fair and valuable fields of New York's,
Pennsylvania's, Maryland's or Virginia's richest farms.


The word Prairie is French, and means literally meadow. The cosmical
analogies of our North American plains are the Steppes of Asia, the
Pampas and Llanos of South America, and perhaps the Saharas of Africa.
Some think the plains have been originally lake-beds; others attribute
the absence of forests to the fires that almost annually sweep over
them--(the cause, in vulgar estimation, of Indian summer.) The tree
question will soon become a grave one. Although the Atlantic slope,
the Rocky mountain region, and the southern portion of the Mississippi
valley, are well wooded, there are here stretches of hundreds and
thousands of miles where either not a tree grows, or often useless
destruction has prevail'd; and the matter of the cultivation and
spread of forests may well be press'd upon thinkers who look to the
coming generations of the prairie States.


Lying by one rainy day in Missouri to rest after quite a long
exploration--first trying a big volume I found there of "Milton,
Young, Gray, Beattie and Collins," but giving it up for a bad
job--enjoying however for awhile, as often before, the reading of
Walter Scott's poems, "Lay of the Last Minstrel," "Marmion," and so
on--I stopp'd and laid down the book, and ponder'd the thought of a
poetry that should in due time express and supply the teeming region I
was in the midst of, and have briefly touch'd upon. One's mind needs
but a moment's deliberation anywhere in the United States to see
clearly enough that all the prevalent book and library poets, either
as imported from Great Britain, or follow'd and _doppel-gang'd_ here,
are foreign to our States, copiously as they are read by us all. But
to fully understand not only how absolutely in opposition to our times
and lands, and how little and cramp'd, and what anachronisms and
absurdities many of their pages are, for American purposes, one must
dwell or travel awhile in Missouri, Kansas and Colorado, and get
rapport with their people and country.

Will the day ever come--no matter how long deferr'd--when those models
and lay-figures from the British islands--and even the precious
traditions of the classics--will be reminiscences, studies only? The
pure breath, primitiveness, boundless prodigality and amplitude,
strange mixture of delicacy and power, of continence, of real and
ideal, and of all original and first-class elements, of these
prairies, the Rocky mountains, and of the Mississippi and Missouri
rivers--will they ever appear in, and in some sort form a standard for
our poetry and art? (I sometimes think that even the ambition of my
friend Joaquin Miller to put them in, and illustrate them, places him
ahead of the whole crowd.)

Not long ago I was down New York bay, on a steamer, watching the
sunset over the dark green heights of Navesink, and viewing all that
inimitable spread of shore, shipping and sea, around Sandy Hook. But
an intervening week or two, and my eyes catch the shadowy outlines of
the Spanish peaks. In the more than two thousand miles between, though
of infinite and paradoxical variety, a curious and absolute fusion is
doubtless steadily annealing, compacting, identifying all. But subtler
and wider and more solid, (to produce such compaction,) than the laws
of the States, or the common ground of Congress, or the Supreme
Court, or the grim welding of our national wars, or the steel ties of
railroads, or all the kneading and fusing processes of our material
and business history, past or present, would in my opinion be a great
throbbing, vital, imaginative work, or series of works, or literature,
in constructing which the Plains, the Prairies, and the Mississippi
river, with the demesnes of its varied and ample valley, should be
the concrete background, and America's humanity, passions, struggles,
hopes, there and now--an _eclaircissement_ as it is and is to be,
on the stage of the New World, of all Time's hitherto drama of war,
romance and evolution--should furnish the lambent fire, the ideal.


Oct. 17, '79_.--To-day one of the newspapers of St. Louis prints the
following informal remarks of mine on American, especially Western
literature: "We called on Mr. Whitman yesterday and after a somewhat
desultory conversation abruptly asked him: 'Do you think we are to
have a distinctively American literature?' 'It seems to me,' said
he,'that our work at present is to lay the foundations of a great
nation in products, in agriculture, in commerce, in networks of
intercommunication, and in all that relates to the comforts of vast
masses of men and families, with freedom of speech, ecclesiasticism,
&c. These we have founded and are carrying out on a grander scale
than ever hitherto, and Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas and
Colorado, seem to me to be the seat and field of these very facts and
ideas. Materialistic prosperity in all its varied forms, with those
other points that I mentioned, intercommunication and freedom, are
first to be attended to. When those have their results and get
settled, then a literature worthy of us will begin to be defined. Our
American superiority and vitality are in the bulk of our people, not
in a gentry like the old world. The greatness of our army during the
secession war, was in the rank and file, and so with the nation. Other
lands have their vitality in a few, a class, but we have it in the
bulk of the people. Our leading men are not of much account and never
have been, but the average of the people is immense, beyond all
history. Sometimes I think in all departments, literature and art
included, that will be the way our superiority will exhibit itself. We
will not have great individuals or great leaders, but a great average
bulk, unprecedentedly great.'"


_Kansas City_.--I am not so well satisfied with what I see of the
women of the prairie cities. I am writing this where I sit leisurely
in a store in Main street, Kansas City, a streaming crowd on the
sidewalks flowing by. The ladies (and the same in Denver) are all
fashionably drest, and have the look of "gentility" in face, manner
and action, but they do _not_ have, either in physique or the
mentality appropriate to them, any high native originality of spirit
or body, (as the men certainly have, appropriate to them.) They are
"intellectual" and fashionable, but dyspeptic-looking and generally
doll-like; their ambition evidently is to copy their eastern sisters.
Something far different and in advance must appear, to tally and
complete the superb masculinity of the west, and maintain and continue


_Sept. 28, '79_.--So General Grant, after circumambiating the
world, has arrived home again, landed in San Francisco yesterday, from
the ship City of Tokio from Japan. What a man he is! what a history!
what an illustration--his life--of the capacities of that American
individuality common to us all. Cynical critics are wondering "what
the people can see in Grant" to make such a hubbub about. They aver
(and it is no doubt true) that he has hardly the average of our day's
literary and scholastic culture, and absolutely no pronounc'd genius
or conventional eminence of any sort. Correct: but he proves how
an average western farmer, mechanic, boatman, carried by tides of
circumstances, perhaps caprices, into a position of incredible
military or civic responsibilities, (history has presented none more
trying, no born monarch's, no mark more shining for attack or envy,)
may steer his way fitly and steadily through them all, carrying the
country and himself with credit year after year--command over a
million armed men--fight more than fifty pitch'd battles--rule
for eight years a land larger than all the kingdoms of Europe
combined--and then, retiring, quietly (with a cigar in his mouth) make
the promenade of the whole world, through its courts and coteries, and
kings and czars and mikados, and splendidest glitters and etiquettes,
as phlegmatically as he ever walk'd the portico of a Missouri hotel
after dinner. I say all this is what people like--and I am sure I like
it. Seems to me it transcends Plutarch. How those old Greeks, indeed,
would have seized on him! A mere plain man--no art, no poetry--only
practical sense, ability to do, or try his best to do, what
devolv'd upon him. A common trader, money-maker, tanner, farmer of
Illinois--general for the republic, in its terrific struggle with
itself, in the war of attempted secession--President following, (a
task of peace, more difficult than the war itself)--nothing heroic,
as the authorities put it--and yet the greatest hero. The gods, the
destinies, seem to have concentrated upon him.


_Sept. 30_.--I see President Hayes has come out West, passing quite
informally from point to point, with his wife and a small cortege
of big officers, receiving ovations, and making daily and sometimes
double-daily addresses to the people. To these addresses--all
impromptu, and some would call them ephemeral--I feel to devote a
memorandum. They are shrewd, good-natur'd, face-to-face speeches,
on easy topics not too deep; but they give me some revised ideas of
oratory--of a new, opportune theory and practice of that art,
quite changed from the classic rules, and adapted to our days, our
occasions, to American democracy, and to the swarming populations of
the West. I hear them criticised as wanting in dignity, but to me they
are just what they should be, considering all the circumstances, who
they come from, and who they are address'd to. Underneath, his
objects are to compact and fraternize the States, encourage their
materialistic and industrial development, soothe and expand their
self-poise, and tie all and each with resistless double ties not only
of inter-trade barter, but human comradeship.

From Kansas City I went on to St. Louis, where I remain'd nearly three
months, with my brother T.J.W., and my dear nieces.


_Oct., Nov., and Dec., '79_.--The points of St. Louis are its
position, its absolute wealth, (the long accumulations of time and
trade, solid riches, probably a higher average thereof than any city,)
the unrivall'd amplitude of its well-laid-out environage of broad
plateaus, for future expansion--and the great State of which it is the
head. It fuses northern and southern qualities, perhaps native and
foreign ones, to perfection, rendezvous the whole stretch of the
Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and its American electricity goes
well with its German phlegm. Fourth, Fifth and Third streets are
store-streets, showy, modern, metropolitan, with hurrying crowds,
vehicles, horse-cars, hubbub, plenty of people, rich goods,
plate-glass windows, iron fronts often five or six stories high. You
can purchase anything in St. Louis (in most of the big western cities
for the matter of that) just as readily and cheaply as in the Atlantic
marts. Often in going about the town you see reminders of old, even
decay'd civilization. The water of the west, in some places, is not
good, but they make it up here by plenty of very fair wine, and
inexhaustible quantities of the best beer in the world. There are
immense establishments for slaughtering beef and pork--and I saw
flocks of sheep, 5000 in a flock. (In Kansas City I had visited a
packing establishment that kills and packs an average of 2500 hogs a
day the whole year round, for export. Another in Atchison, Kansas,
same extent; others nearly equal elsewhere. And just as big ones


_Oct. 29th, 30th, and 31st_.--Wonderfully fine, with the full harvest
moon, dazzling and silvery. I have haunted the river every night
lately, where I could get a look at the bridge by moonlight. It is
indeed a structure of perfection and beauty unsurpassable, and I never
tire of it. The river at present is very low; I noticed to-day it had
much more of a blue-clear look than usual. I hear the slight ripples,
the air is fresh and cool, and the view, up or down, wonderfully
clear, in the moonlight. I am out pretty late: it is so fascinating,
dreamy. The cool night-air, all the influences, the silence, with
those far-off eternal stars, do me good. I have been quite ill of
late. And so, well-near the centre of our national demesne, these
night views of the Mississippi.


"Always, after supper, take a walk half a mile long," says an old
proverb, dryly adding, "and if convenient let it be upon your own
land." I wonder does any other nation but ours afford opportunity for
such a jaunt as this? Indeed has any previous period afforded it?
No one, I discover, begins to know the real geographic, democratic,
indissoluble American Union in the present, or suspect it in the
future, until he explores these Central States, and dwells awhile
observantly on their prairies, or amid their busy towns, and the
mighty father of waters. A ride of two or three thousand miles, "on
one's own land," with hardly a disconnection, could certainly be had
in no other place than the United States, and at no period before
this. If you want to see what the railroad is, and how civilization
and progress date from it--how it is the conqueror of crude nature,
which it turns to man's use, both on small scales and on the
largest--come hither to inland America.

I return'd home, east, Jan. 5, 1880, having travers'd, to and fro and
across, 10,000 miles and more. I soon resumed my seclusions down
in the woods, or by the creek, or gaddings about cities, and an
occasional disquisition, as will be seen following.


_Jan. 1, '80_.--In diagnosing this disease called humanity--to assume
for the nonce what seems a chief mood of the personality and writings
of my subject--I have thought that poets, somewhere or other on the
list, present the most mark'd indications. Comprehending artists in a
mass, musicians, painters, actors, and so on, and considering each and
all of them as radiations or flanges of that furious whirling wheel,
poetry, the centre and axis of the whole, where else indeed may we so
well investigate the causes, growths, tally-marks of the time--the
age's matter and malady?

By common consent there is nothing better for man or woman than a
perfect and noble life, morally without flaw, happily balanced in
activity, physically sound and pure, giving its due proportion, and no
more, to the sympathetic, the human emotional element--a life, in all
these, unhasting, unresting, untiring to the end. And yet there is
another shape of personality dearer far to the artist-sense, (which
likes the play of strongest lights and shades,) where the perfect
character, the good, the heroic, although never attain'd, is never
lost sight of, but through failures, sorrows, temporary downfalls, is
return'd to again and again, and while often violated, is passionately
adhered to as long as mind, muscles, voice, obey the power we call
volition. This sort of personality we see more or less in Burns,
Byron, Schiller, and George Sand. But we do not see it in Edgar Poe.
(All this is the result of reading at intervals the last three days a
new volume of his poems--I took it on my rambles down by the pond, and
by degrees read it all through there.) While to the character first
outlined the service Poe renders is certainly that entire contrast and
contradiction which is next best to fully exemplifying it.

Almost without the first sign of moral principle, or of the concrete
or its heroisms, or the simpler affections of the heart, Poe's verses
illustrate an intense faculty for technical and abstract beauty, with
the rhyming art to excess, an incorrigible propensity toward nocturnal
themes, a demoniac undertone behind every page--and, by final
judgment, probably belong among the electric lights of imaginative
literature, brilliant and dazzling, but with no heat. There is an
indescribable magnetism about the poet's life and reminiscences, as
well as the poems. To one who could work out their subtle retracing
and retrospect, the latter would make a close tally no doubt between
the author's birth and antecedents, his childhood and youth, his
physique, his so-call'd education, his studies and associates, the
literary and social Baltimore, Richmond, Philadelphia and New York, of
those times--not only the places and circumstances in themselves, but
often, very often, in a strange spurning of, and reaction from them

The following from a report in the Washington "Star" of November 16,
1875, may afford those who care for it something further of my point
of view toward this interesting figure and influence of our era. There
occurr'd about that date in Baltimore a public reburial of Poe's
remains, and dedication of a monument over the grave:

"Being in Washington on a visit at the time, 'the old gray' went over
to Baltimore, and though ill from paralysis, consented to hobble up
and silently take a seat on the platform, but refused to make any
speech, saying, 'I have felt a strong impulse to come over and be
here to-day myself in memory of Poe, which I have obey'd, but not the
slightest impulse to make a speech, which, my dear friends, must also
be obeyed.' In an informal circle, however, in conversation after the
ceremonies, Whitman said: 'For a long while, and until lately, I had a
distaste for Poe's writings. I wanted, and still want for poetry, the
clear sun shining, and fresh air blowing--the strength and power of
health, not of delirium, even amid the stormiest passions--with always
the background of the eternal moralities. Non-complying with these
requirements, Poe's genius has yet conquer'd a special recognition for
itself, and I too have come to fully admit it, and appreciate it and

"'In a dream I once had, I saw a vessel on the sea, at midnight, in
a storm. It was no great full-rigg'd ship, nor majestic steamer,
steering firmly through the gale, but seem'd one of those superb
little schooner yachts I had often seen lying anchor'd, rocking so
jauntily, in the waters around New York, or up Long Island sound--now
flying uncontroll'd with torn sails and broken spars through the wild
sleet and winds and waves of the night. On the deck was a slender,
slight, beautiful figure, a dim man, apparently enjoying all the
terror, the murk, and the dislocation of which he was the centre and
the victim. That figure of my lurid dream might stand for Edgar
Poe, his spirit, his fortunes, and his poems--themselves all lurid

Much more may be said, but I most desired to exploit the idea put at
the beginning. By its popular poets the calibres of an age, the weak
spots of its embankments, its sub-currents, (often more significant
than the biggest surface ones,) are unerringly indicated. The lush and
the weird that have taken such extraordinary possession of Nineteenth
century verse-lovers--what mean they? The inevitable tendency of
poetic culture to morbidity, abnormal beauty--the sickliness of all
technical thought or refinement in itself--the abnegation of the
perennial and democratic concretes at first hand, the body, the earth
and sea, sex and the like--and the substitution of something for
them at second or third hand--what bearings have they on current
pathological study?


_Feb. 11, '80_.--At a good concert to-night in the foyer of the opera
house, Philadelphia--the band a small but first-rate one. Never did
music more sink into and soothe and fill me--never so prove its
soul-rousing power, its impossibility of statement. Especially in the
rendering of one of Beethoven's master septettes by the well-chosen
and perfectly-combined instruments (violins, viola, clarionet, horn,
'cello and contrabass,) was I carried away, seeing, absorbing many
wonders. Dainty abandon, sometimes as if Nature laughing on a hillside
in the sunshine; serious and firm monotonies, as of winds; a horn
sounding through the tangle of the forest, and the dying echoes;
soothing floating of waves, but presently rising in surges,
angrily lashing, muttering, heavy; piercing peals of laughter, for
interstices; now and then weird, as Nature herself is in certain
moods--but mainly spontaneous, easy, careless--often the sentiment of
the postures of naked children playing or sleeping. It did me good
even to watch the violinists drawing their bows so masterly--every
motion a study. I allow'd myself, as I sometimes do, to wander out of
myself. The conceit came to me of a copious grove of singing birds,
and in their midst a simple harmonic duo, two human souls, steadily
asserting their own pensiveness, joyousness.


_Feb. 13_.--As I was crossing the Delaware to-day, saw a large flock
of wild geese, right overhead, not very high up, ranged in V-shape,
in relief against the noon clouds of light smoke-color. Had a capital
though momentary view of them, and then of their course on and on
southeast, till gradually fading--(my eyesight yet first rate for the
open air and its distances, but I use glasses for reading.) Queer
thoughts melted into me the two or three minutes, or less, seeing
these creatures cleaving the sky--the spacious, airy realm--even the
prevailing smoke-gray color everywhere, (no sun shining)--the
waters below--the rapid flight of the birds, appearing just for a
minute--flashing to me such a hint of the whole spread of Nature, with
her eternal unsophisticated freshness, her never-visited recesses of
sea, sky, shore--and then disappearing in the distance.


_March 8_.--I write this down in the country again, but in a new spot,
seated on a log in the woods, warm, sunny, midday. Have been loafing
here deep among the trees, shafts of tall pines, oak, hickory, with
a thick undergrowth of laurels and grapevines--the ground cover'd
everywhere by debris, dead leaves, breakage, moss--everything
solitary, ancient, grim. Paths (such as they are) leading hither and
yon--(how made I know not, for nobody seems to come here, nor man
nor cattle-kind.) Temperature to-day about 60, the wind through the
pine-tops; I sit and listen to its hoarse sighing above (and to the
_stillness_) long and long, varied by aimless rambles in the old roads
and paths, and by exercise-pulls at the young saplings, to keep my
joints from getting stiff. Blue-birds, robins, meadow-larks begin to

_Next day, 9th_.--A snowstorm in the morning, and continuing most of
the day. But I took a walk over two hours, the same woods and paths,
amid the falling flakes. No wind, yet the musical low murmur through
the pines, quite pronounced, curious, like waterfalls, now still'd,
now pouring again. All the senses, sight, sound, smell, delicately
gratified. Every snowflake lay where it fell on the evergreens,
holly-trees, laurels, &c., the multitudinous leaves and branches
piled, bulging-white, defined by edge-lines of emerald--the tall
straight columns of the plentiful bronze-topt pines--a slight resinous
odor blending with that of the snow. (For there is a scent to
everything, even the snow, if you can only detect it--no two places,
hardly any two hours, anywhere, exactly alike. How different the odor
of noon from midnight, or winter from summer, or a windy spell from a
still one.)


_May 9, Sunday_.--Visit this evening to my friends the J.'s--good
supper, to which I did justice--lively chat with Mrs. J. and I. and
J. As I sat out front on the walk afterward, in the evening air, the
church-choir and organ on the corner opposite gave Luther's hymn, _Ein
feste berg_, very finely. The air was borne by a rich contralto. For
nearly half an hour there in the dark (there was a good string of
English stanzas,) came the music, firm and unhurried, with long
pauses. The full silver star-beams of Lyra rose silently over the
church's dim roof-ridge. Vari-color'd lights from the stain'd glass
windows broke through the tree-shadows. And under all--under the
Northern Crown up there, and in the fresh breeze below, and the
_chiaroscuro_ of the night, that liquid-full contralto.


_June 4, '80_.--For really seizing a great picture or book, or piece
of music, or architecture, or grand scenery--or perhaps for the first
time even the common sunshine, or landscape, or may-be even the
mystery of identity, most curious mystery of all--there comes some
lucky five minutes of a man's life, set amid a fortuitous concurrence
of circumstances, and bringing in a brief flash the culmination of
years of reading and travel and thought. The present case about two
o'clock this afternoon, gave me Niagara, its superb severity of action
and color and majestic grouping, in one short, indescribable show.
We were very slowly crossing the Suspension bridge-not a full stop
anywhere, but next to it--the day clear, sunny, still--and I out on
the platform. The falls were in plain view about a mile off, but very
distinct, and no roar--hardly a murmur. The river tumbling green and
white, far below me; the dark high banks, the plentiful umbrage, many
bronze cedars, in shadow; and tempering and arching all the immense
materiality, a clear sky overhead, with a few white clouds, limpid,
spiritual, silent. Brief, and as quiet as brief, that picture--a
remembrance always afterwards. Such are the things, indeed, I lay away
with my life's rare and blessed bits of hours, reminiscent, past--the
wild sea-storm I once saw one winter day, off Fire island--the elder
Booth in Richard, that famous night forty years ago in the old
Bowery--or Alboni in the children's scene in Norma--or night-views,
I remember, on the field, after battles in Virginia--or the peculiar
sentiment of moonlight and stars over the great Plains, western
Kansas--or scooting up New York bay, with a stiff breeze and a good
yacht, off Navesink. With these, I say, I henceforth place that view,
that afternoon, that combination complete, that five minutes' perfect
absorption of Niagara--not the great majestic gem alone by itself, but
set complete in all its varied, full, indispensable surroundings.


To go back a little, I left Philadelphia, 9th and Green streets, at 8
o'clock P.M., June 3, on a first-class sleeper, by the Lehigh Valley
(North Pennsylvania) route, through Bethlehem, Wilkesbarre, Waverly,
and so (by Erie) on through Corning to Hornellsville, where we arrived
at 8, morning, and had a bounteous breakfast. I must say I never put
in such a good night on any railroad track--smooth, firm, the minimum
of jolting, and all the swiftness compatible with safety. So without
change to Buffalo, and thence to Clifton, where we arrived early
afternoon; then on to London, Ontario, Canada, in four more--less than
twenty-two hours altogether. I am domiciled at the hospitable house of
my friends Dr. and Mrs. Bucke, in the ample and charming garden and
lawns of the asylum.


_June 6_.--Went over to the religious services (Episcopal) main Insane
asylum, held in a lofty, good-sized hall, third story. Plain boards,
whitewash, plenty of cheap chairs, no ornament or color, yet all
scrupulously clean and sweet. Some three hundred persons present,
mostly patients. Everything, the prayers, a short sermon, the firm,
orotund voice of the minister, and most of all, beyond any portraying,
or suggesting, _that audience_, deeply impress'd me. I was furnish'd
with an arm-chair near the pulpit, and sat facing the motley, yet
perfectly well-behaved and orderly congregation. The quaint dresses
and bonnets of some of the women, several very old and gray, here and
there like the heads in old pictures. O the looks that came from those
faces! There were two or three I shall probably never forget. Nothing
at all markedly repulsive or hideous--strange enough I did not see one
such. Our common humanity, mine and yours, everywhere:

"The same old blood--the same red, running blood;"

yet behind most, an inferr'd arriere of such storms, such wrecks, such
mysteries, fires, love, wrong, greed for wealth, religious problems,
crosses--mirror'd from those crazed faces (yet now temporarily so
calm, like still waters,) all the woes and sad happenings of life and
death--now from every one the devotional element radiating--was it
not, indeed, _the peace of God that passeth all understanding_,
strange as it may sound? I can only say that I took long and searching
eyesweeps as I sat there, and it seem'd so, rousing unprecedented
thoughts, problems unanswerable. A very fair choir, and melodeon
accompaniment. They sang "Lead, kindly light," after the sermon.
Many join'd in the beautiful hymn, to which the minister read the
introductory text, _In the daytime also He led them with a cloud, and
all the night with a light of fire_. Then the words:

Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead thou me on.
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on.
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor pray'd that thou
Should'st lead me on;
I lov'd to choose and see my path; but now
Lead thou me on.
I loved the garish day, and spite of fears
Pride ruled my will; remember not past years.

A couple of days after, I went to the "Refractory building," under
special charge of Dr. Beemer, and through the wards pretty thoroughly,
both the men's and women's. I have since made many other visits of the
kind through the asylum, and around among the detach'd cottages. As
far as I could see, this is among the most advanced, perfected, and
kindly and rationally carried on, of all its kind in America. It is a
town in itself, with many buildings and a thousand inhabitants.

I learn that Canada, and especially this ample and populous province,
Ontario, has the very best and plentiest benevolent institutions in
all departments.


_June 8_.--To-day a letter from Mrs. E. S. L., Detroit, accompanied in
a little post-office roll by a rare old engraved head of Elias Hicks,
(from a portrait in oil by Henry Inman, painted for J. V. S., must
have been 60 years or more ago, in New York)--among the rest the
following excerpt about E. H. in the letter:

"I have listen'd to his preaching so often when a child, and sat with
my mother at social gatherings where he was the centre, and every one
so pleas'd and stirr'd by his conversation. I hear that you contemplate
writing or speaking about him, and I wonder'd whether you had a picture
of him. As I am the owner of two, I send you one."


In a few days I go to lake Huron, and may have something to say of
that region and people. From what I already see, I should say the
young native population of Canada was growing up, forming a hardy,
democratic, intelligent, radically sound, and just as American,
good-natured and _individualistic_ race, as the average range of best
specimens among us. As among us, too, I please myself by considering
that this element, though it may not be the majority, promises to be
the leaven which must eventually leaven the whole lump.


Some of the more liberal of the presses here are discussing the
question of a zollverein between the United States and Canada. It
is proposed to form a union for commercial purposes--to altogether
abolish the frontier tariff line, with its double sets of custom house
officials now existing between the two countries, and to agree upon
one tariff for both, the proceeds of this tariff to be divided between
the two governments on the basis of population. It is said that a
large proportion of the merchants of Canada are in favor of this
step, as they believe it would materially add to the business of the
country, by removing the restrictions that now exist on trade between
Canada and the States. Those persons who are opposed to the measure
believe that it would increase the material welfare or the country,
but it would loosen the bonds between Canada and England; and this
sentiment overrides the desire for commercial prosperity. Whether the
sentiment can continue to bear the strain put upon it is a question.
It is thought by many that commercial considerations must in the end
prevail. It seems also to be generally agreed that such a zollverein,
or common customs union, would bring practically more benefits to
the Canadian provinces than to the United States. (It seems to me a
certainty of time, sooner or later, that Canada shall form two or
three grand States, equal and independent, with the rest of the
American Union. The St. Lawrence and lakes are not for a frontier
line, but a grand interior or mid-channel.)


_August 20_.--Premising that my three or four months in Canada were
intended, among the rest, as an exploration of the line of the St.
Lawrence, from lake Superior to the sea, (the engineers here insist
upon considering it as one stream, over 2000 miles long, including
lakes and Niagara and all)--that I have only partially carried out my
programme; but for the seven or eight hundred miles so far fulfill'd,
I find that the _Canada question_ is absolutely control'd by this
vast water line, with its first-class features and points of trade,
humanity, and many more--here I am writing this nearly a thousand
miles north of my Philadelphia starting-point (by way of Montreal
and Quebec) in the midst of regions that go to a further extreme
of grimness, wildness of beauty, and a sort of still and pagan
_scaredness_, while yet Christian, inhabitable, and partially fertile,
than perhaps any other on earth. The weather remains perfect; some
might call it a little cool, but I wear my old gray overcoat and find
it just right. The days are full of sunbeams and oxygen. Most of the
forenoons and afternoons I am on the forward deck of the steamer.


Up these black waters, over a hundred miles--always strong, deep,
(hundreds of feet, sometimes thousands,) ever with high, rocky hills
for banks, green and gray--at times a little like some parts of
the Hudson, but much more pronounc'd and defiant. The hills rise
higher--keep their ranks more unbroken. The river is straighter and
of more resolute flow, and its hue, though dark as ink, exquisitely
polish'd and sheeny under the August sun. Different, indeed, this
Saguenay from all other rivers--different effects--a bolder, more
vehement play of lights and shades. Of a rare charm of singleness and
simplicity. (Like the organ-chant at midnight from the old Spanish
convent, in "Favorita"--one strain only, simple and monotonous and
unornamented--but indescribably penetrating and grand and masterful.)
Great place for echoes: while our steamer was tied at the wharf at
Tadousac (taj-oo-sac) waiting, the escape-pipe letting off steam, I
was sure I heard a band at the hotel up in the rocks--could even make
out some of the tunes. Only when our pipe stopp'd, I knew what caused
it. Then at cape Eternity and Trinity rock, the pilot with his whistle
producing similar marvellous results, echoes indescribably weird, as
we lay off in the still bay under their shadows.


But the great, haughty, silent capes themselves; I doubt if any crack
points, or hills, or historic places of note, or anything of the kind
elsewhere in the world, outvies these objects--(I write while I
am before them face to face.) They are very simple, they do not
startle--at least they did not me--but they linger in one's memory
forever. They are placed very near each other, side by side, each a
mountain rising flush out of the Saguenay. A good thrower could throw
a stone on each in passing--at least it seems so. Then they are as
distinct in form as a perfect physical man or a perfect physical
woman. Cape Eternity is bare, rising, as just said, sheer out of the
water, rugged and grim (yet with an indescribable beauty) nearly two
thousand feet high. Trinity rock, even a little higher, also rising
flush, top-rounded like a great head with close-cut verdure of hair.
I consider myself well repaid for coming my thousand miles to get the
sight and memory of the unrivall'd duo. They have stirr'd me more
profoundly than anything of the kind I have yet seen. If Europe or
Asia had them, we should certainly hear of them in all sorts of
sent-back poems, rhapsodies, &c., a dozen times a year through our
papers and magazines.


No indeed--life and travel and memory have offer'd and will preserve
to me no deeper-cut incidents, panorama, or sights to cheer my soul,
than these at Chicoutimi and Ha-ha bay, and my days and nights up and
down this fascinating savage river--the rounded mountains, some bare
and gray, some dull red, some draped close all over with matted green

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