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Whispers of Heavenly Death


Darest thou now O soul,
Walk out with me toward the unknown region,
Where neither ground is for the feet nor any path to follow?

No map there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that

I know it not O soul,
Nor dost thou, all is a blank before us,
All waits undream'd of in that region, that inaccessible land.

Till when the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds bounding

Then we burst forth, we float,
In Time and Space O soul, prepared for them,
Equal, equipt at last, (O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil O

1868                                                          1881


Whispers of heavenly death murmur'd I hear,
Labial gossip of night, sibilant chorals,
Footsteps gently ascending, mystical breezes wafted soft and

Ripples of unseen rivers, tides of a current flowing, forever
(Or is it the plashing of tears? the measureless waters of
    human tears?)

I see, just see skyward, great cloud-masses,
Mournfully slowly they roll, silently swelling and mixing,
With at times a half-dimm'd sadden'd far-off star,
Appearing and disappearing.

(Some parturition rather, some solemn immortal birth;
On the frontiers to eyes impenetrable,
Some soul is passing over.)

1868                                                         1871


1 Chanting the square deific, out of the One advancing, out of
    the sides,
Out of the old and new, out of the square entirely divine,
Solid, four-sided, (all the sides needed,) from this side Jehovah
    am I,
Old Brahm I, and I Saturnius am;
Not Time affects me&emdash;I am Time, old, modern as any,
Unpersuadable, relentless, executing righteous judgments,
As the Earth, the Father, the brown old Kronos, with laws,
Aged beyond computation, yet ever new, ever with those
    mighty laws rolling,
Relentless I forgive no man&emdash;whoever sins dies&emdash;I will have
    that man's life;
Therefore let none expect mercy&emdash;have the seasons, gravitation,
    the appointed days, mercy? no more have I,
But as the seasons and gravitation, and as all the appointed
    days that forgive not,
I dispense from this side judgments inexorable without the
    least remorse.

2 Consolator most mild, the promis'd one advancing,
With gentle hand extended, the mightier God am I,

Foretold by prophets and poets in their most rapt prophecies
    and poems,
From this side, lo! the Lord Christ gazes&emdash;lo! Hermes I&emdash;
    lo! mine is Hercules' face,
All sorrow, labor, suffering, I, tallying it, absorb in
Many times have I been rejected, taunted, put in prison, and
    crucified, and many times shall be again,
All the world have I given up for my dear brothers' and sisters'
    sake, for the soul's sake,
Wending my way through the homes of men, rich or poor,
    with the kiss of affection,
For I am affection, I am the cheer-bringing God, with hope
    and all-enclosing charity,
With indulgent words as to children, with fresh and sane
    words, mine only,
Young and strong I pass knowing well I am destin'd myself
    to an early death;
But my charity has no death&emdash;my wisdom dies not, neither
    early nor late,
And my sweet love bequeath'd here and elsewhere never

3 Aloof, dissatisfied, plotting revolt,
Comrade of criminals, brother of slaves,
Crafty, despised, a drudge, ignorant,
With sudra face and worn brow, black, but in the depths of
    my heart, proud as any,
Lifted now and always against whoever scorning assumes to
    rule me,
Morose, full of guile, full of reminiscences, brooding, with
    many wiles,
(Though it was thought I was baffled and dispel'd, and my
    wiles done, but that will never be,)
Defiant, I, Satan, still live, still utter words, in new lands duly
    appearing, (and old ones also,)
Permanent here from my side, warlike, equal with any, real
    as any,
Nor time nor change shall ever change me or my words.

4 Santa Spirita, breather, life,
Beyond the light, lighter than light,
Beyond the flames of hell, joyous, leaping easily above hell,
Beyond Paradise, perfumed solely with mine own perfume,
Including all life on earth, touching, including God, including
    Saviour and Satan,
Ethereal, pervading all, (for without me what were all? what
    were God?)
Essence of forms, life of the real identities, permanent, positive,
     (namely the unseen,)
Life of the great round world, the sun and stars, and of man,
     I, the general soul,
Here the square finishing, the solid, I the most solid,
Breathe my breath also through these songs.


Of him I love day and night I dream'd I heard he was dead,
And I dream'd I went where they had buried him I love, but
    he was not in that place,
And I dream'd I wander'd searching among burial-places to
    find him,
And I found that every place was a burial-place;
The houses full of life were equally full of death, (this house
    is now,)
The streets, the shipping, the places of amusement, the Chicago,
    Boston, Philadelphia, the Mannahatta, were as
    full of the dead as of the living,
And fuller, O vastly fuller of the dead than of the living;
And what I dream'd I will henceforth tell to every person and
And I stand henceforth bound to what I dream'd,
And now I am willing to disregard burial-places and
    dispense with them,
And if the memorials of the dead were put up indifferently
    everywhere, even in the room where I eat or sleep, I
    should be satisfied,

And if the corpse of any one I love, or if my own corpse,
    be duly render'd to powder and pour'd in the sea, I shall be
Or if it be distributed to the winds I shall be satisfied.

1871                                                    1871


Yet, yet, ye downcast hours, I know ye also,
Weights of lead, how ye clog and cling at my ankles,
Earth to a chamber of mourning turns&emdash;I hear the o'er
    weening, mocking voice,
Matter is conqueror&emdash;matter, triumphant only, continues
Despairing cries float ceaselessly toward me,
The call of my nearest lover, putting forth, alarm'd,
The sea I am quickly to sail, come tell me,
Come tell me where I am speeding, tell me my destination.
I understand your anguish, but I cannot help you,
I approach, hear, behold, the sad mouth, the look out of the
    eyes, your mute inquiry,
Whither I go from the bed I recline on, come tell me;
Old age, alarm'd, uncertain&emdash;a young woman's voice,
    appealing to me for comfort;
A young man's voice, Shall I not escape?

1860                                                       1871


As if a phantom caress'd me,
I thought I was not alone walking here by the shore;
But the one I thought was with me as now I walk by the
    shore, the one I loved that caress'd me,
As I lean and look through the glimmering light, that one has
    utterly disappear'd,
And those appear that are hateful to me and mock me.

1860                                                     1867


I need no assurances, I am a man who is pre-occupied of his
    own soul;
I do not doubt that from under the feet and beside the hands
    and face I am cognizant of, are now looking faces I am
    not cognizant of, calm and actual faces,
I do not doubt but the majesty and beauty of the world are
    latent in any iota of the world,
I do not doubt I am limitless, and that the universes are
    limitless, in vain I try to think how limitless,
I do not doubt that the orbs and the systems of orbs play
    their swift sports through the air on purpose, and that I
    shall one day be eligible to do as much as they, and more
    than they,
I do not doubt that temporary affairs keep on and on millions
    of years,
I do not doubt interiors have their interiors, and exteriors
    have their exteriors, and that the eyesight has another
    eyesight, and the hearing another hearing, and the voice
    another voice,
I do not doubt that the passionately-wept deaths of young
    men are provided for, and that the deaths of young
    women and the deaths of little children are provided for,
(Did you think Life was so well provided for, and Death, the
    purport of all Life, is not well provided for?)
I do not doubt that wrecks at sea, no matter what the horrors
    of them, no matter whose wife, child, husband, father,
    lover, has gone down, are provided for, to the minutest
I do not doubt that whatever can possibly happen anywhere
    at any time, is provided for in the inherences of things,
I do not think Life provides for all and for Time and Space,
    but I believe Heavenly Death provides for all.

1856                                                       1871


Quicksand years that whirl me I know not whither,
Your schemes, politics, fail, lines give way, substances mock
    and elude me,

Only the theme I sing, the great and strong-possess'd soul,
    eludes not,
One's-self must never give way&emdash;that is the final substance&emdash;
    that out of all is sure,
Out of politics, triumphs, battles, life, what at last finally
When shows break up what but One's-Self is sure?

(1861-2)                                                 1867


That music always round me, unceasing, unbeginning, yet long
    untaught I did not hear,
But now the chorus I hear and am elated,
A tenor, strong, ascending with power and health, with glad
    notes of daybreak I hear,
A soprano at intervals sailing buoyantly over the tops of
    immense waves,
A transparent base shuddering lusciously under and through
    the universe,
The triumphant tutti, the funeral wailings with sweet flutes
    and violins, all these I fill myself with,
I hear not the volumes of sound merely, I am moved by the
    exquisite meanings,
I listen to the different voices winding in and out, striving,
    contending with fiery vehemence to excel each other in
I do not think the performers know themselves&emdash;but now I
    think I begin to know them.

1860                                                    1867


What ship puzzled at sea, cons for the true reckoning?
Or coming in, to avoid the bars and follow the channel a
    perfect pilot needs?
Here, sailor! here, ship! take aboard the most perfect pilot,
Whom, in a little boat, putting off and rowing, I hailing you

1860                                                     1881


A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launched forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres
    to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my

(1862-3)                                                 1881


O living always, always dying!
O the burials of me past and present,
O me while I stride ahead, material, visible, imperious as
O me, what I was for years, now dead, (I lament not, I am
O to disengage myself from those corpses of me, which I turn
    and look at where I cast them,
To pass on, (O living! always living!) and leave the corpses

1860                                                    1867


From all the rest I single out you, having a message for you,
You are to die&emdash;let others tell you what they please, I cannot
I am exact and merciless, but I love you&emdash;there is no escape
    for you.


Softly I lay my right hand upon you, you just feel it,
I do not argue, I bend my head close and half envelop it,
I sit quietly by, I remain faithful,
I am more than nurse, more than parent or neighbor,
I absolve you from all except yourself spiritual bodily, that is
    eternal, you yourself will surely escape,
The corpse you will leave will be but excrementitious.

The sun bursts through in unlooked-for directions,
Strong thoughts fill you and confidence, you smile,
You forget you are sick, as I forget you are sick,
You do not see the medicines, you do not mind the weeping
    friends, I am with you,
I exclude others from you, there is nothing to be commiserated,
I do not commiserate, I congratulate you.

1860 1871


Night on the prairies,
The supper is over, the fire on the ground burns low,
The wearied emigrants sleep, wrapt in their blankets;
I walk by myself&emdash;I stand and look at the stars, which I think
    now I never realized before.

Now I absorb immortality and peace,
I admire death and test propositions.

How plenteous! how spiritual! how resume!
The same old man and soul&emdash;the same old aspirations, and
    the same content.

I was thinking the day most splendid till I saw what the
    notday exhibited,
I was thinking this globe enough till there sprang out so
    noiseless around me myriads of other globes.

Now while the great thoughts of space and eternity fill me I
    will measure myself by them,
And now touch'd with the lives of other globes arrived as far
    along as those of the earth,

Or waiting to arrive, or pass'd on farther than those of the
I henceforth no more ignore them than I ignore my own life,
Or the lives of the earth arrived as far as mine, or waiting to

O I see now that life cannot exhibit all to me, as the day
I see that I am to wait for what will be exhibited by death.

1860 1871


As I sit with others at a great feast, suddenly while the music
    is playing,
To my mind, (whence it comes I know not,) spectral in mist
    of a wreck at sea,
Of certain ships, how they sail from port with flying streamers
    and wafted kisses, and that is the last of them,
Of the solemn and murky mystery about the fate of the
Of the flower of the marine science of fifty generations
    founder'd off the Northeast coast and going down&emdash;of the
    steamship Arctic going down,
Of the veil'd tableau&emdash;women gather'd together on deck,
    pale, heroic, waiting the moment that draws so close&emdash;O
    the moment!
A huge sob&emdash;a few bubbles&emdash;the white foam spirting up&emdash;
    and then the women gone,
Sinking there while the passionless wet flows on&emdash;and I now
    pondering, Are those women gone?
Are souls drown'd and destroy'd so?
Is only matter triumphants?

1860 1871


At the last, tenderly,
From the walls of the powerful fortress'd house,
From the clasp of the knitted locks, from the keep of the
    well-closed doors,
Let me be wafted.


Let me glide noiselessly forth;
With the key of softness unlock the locks&emdash;with a whisper,
Set ope the doors O soul.

Tenderly&emdash;be not impatient,
(Strong is your hold O mortal flesh,
Strong is your hold O love.)

1868 1871


As I watch'd the ploughman ploughing,
Or the sower sowing in the fields, or the harvester harvesting,
I saw there too, O life and death, your analogies;
(Life, life is the tillage, Death is the harvest according.)

1871 1871


Pensive and faltering,
The words the Dead I write,
For living are the Dead,
(Haply the only living, only real,
And I the apparition, I the spectre.)

1868 1871

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