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A Broadway Pageant


Over the Western sea hither from Niphon come,
Courteous, the swart-cheek'd two-sworded envoys,
Leaning back in their open barouches, bare-headed, impassive,
Ride to-day through Manhattan.
Libertad! I do not know whether others behold what I behold,
In the procession along with the nobles of Niphon, the
Bringing up the rear, hovering above, around, or in the ranks
But I will sing you a song of what I behold Libertad.
When million-footed Manhattan unpent descends to her
When the thunder-cracking guns arouse me with the proud
     roar I love,
When the round-mouth'd guns out of the smoke and smell I
    love spit their salutes,
When the fire-flashing guns have fully alerted me, and heaven
     clouds canopy my city with a delicate thin haze,
When gorgeous the countless straight stems, the forests at
     the wharves, thicken with colors,
When every ship richly drest carries her flag at the peak,
When pennants trail and street-festoons hang from the
When Broadway is entirely given up to foot-passengers and
     foot-standers, when the mass is densest,
When the facades of the houses are alive with people, when
     eyes gaze riveted tens of thousands at a time,
When the guests from the islands advance, when the pageant
     moves forward visible,
When the summons is made, when the answer that waited
     thousands of years answers,
I too arising, answering, descend to the pavements, merge
     with the crowd, and gaze with them.


Superb-faced Manhattan!
Comrade Americanos! to us, then at last the Orient comes.
To us, my city,
Where our tall-topt marble and iron beauties range on
     opposite sides, to walk in the space between,
To-day our Antipodes comes.
The Originatress comes,
The nest of languages, the bequeather of poems, the race of
Florid with blood, pensive, rapt with musings, hot with
Sultry with perfume, with ample and flowing garments,
With sunburnt visage, with intense soul and glittering eyes,
The race of Brahma comes.
See my cantabile! these and more are flashing to us from the
As it moves changing, a kaleidoscope divine it moves changing
     before us.
For not the envoys nor the tann'd Japanee from his island
Lithe and silent the Hindoo appears, the Asiatic continent
     itself appears, the past, the dead,
The murky night-morning of wonder and fable inscrutable,
The envelop'd mysteries, the old and unknown hive-bees,
The north, the sweltering south, eastern Assyria, the Hebrews,
     the ancient of ancients,
Vast desolated cities, the gliding present, all of these and
     more are in the pageant-procession.
Geography, the world, is in it,
The Great Sea, the brood of islands, Polynesia, the coast
The coast you henceforth are facing &emdash; you, Libertad! from
     your Western golden shores,
The countries there with their populations, the millions enmasse
     are curiously here,
The swarming market-places, the temples with idols ranged
     along the sides or at the end, bonze, brahmin, and llama,
Mandarin, farmer, merchant, mechanic, and fisherman,
The singing-girl and the dancing-girl, the ecstatic persons,
     the secluded emperors,
Confucius himself, the great poets and heroes, the warriors,
     the castes, all,
Trooping up, crowding from all directions, from the Altay
From Thibet, from the four winding and far-flowing rivers of
From the southern peninsulas and the demi-continental
     islands, from Malaysia,
These and whatever belongs to them palpable show forth to
     me, and are seiz'd by me,
And I am seiz'd by them, and friendlily held by them,
Till as here them all I chant, Libertad! for themselves and
     for you.

For I too raising my voice join the ranks of this pageant,
I am the chanter, I chant aloud over the pageant,
I chant the world on my Western sea,
I chant copious the islands beyond, thick as stars in the
I chant the new empire grander than any before, as in a
     vision it comes to me,
I chant America the mistress, I chant a greater supremacy,
I chant projected a thousand blooming cities yet in time on
     those groups of sea-islands,
My sail-ships and steam-ships threading the archipelagoes,
My stars and stripes fluttering in the wind,
Commerce opening, the sleep of ages having done its work,
     races reborn, refresh'd,
Lives, works resumed &emdash; the object I know not &emdash; but the old,
     the Asiatic renew'd as it must be,
Commencing from this day surrounded by the world.


And you Libertad of the world!
You shall sit in the middle well-pois'd thousands and
     thousands of years,
As to-day from one side the nobles of Asia come to you,
As to-morrow from the other side the queen of England sends
     her eldest son to you.
The sign is reversing, the orb is enclosed,
The ring is circled, the journey is done,
The box-lid is but perceptibly open'd, nevertheless the perfume
     pours copiously out of the whole box.
Young Libertad! with the venerable Asia, the all-mother,
Be considerate with her now and ever hot Libertad, for you
     are all,
Bend your proud neck to the long-off mother now sending
     messages over the archipelagoes to you,
Bend your proud neck low for once, young Libertad.
Were the children straying westward so long? so wide the
Were the precedent dim ages debouching westward from
     Paradise so long?
Were the centuries steadily footing it that way, all the while
     unknown, for you, for reasons?
They are justified, they are accomplish'd, they shall now be
     turn'd the other way also, to travel toward you thence,
They shall now also march obediently eastward for your
     sake Libertad.

(1860?)                                                         1881

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