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HEAVE the anchor short!
Raise main-sail and jib&emdash;steer forth,
O little white-hull'd sloop, now speed on really deep
(I will not call it our concluding voyage,
But outset and sure entrance to the truest, best,
Depart, depart from solid earth&emdash;no more
returning to these shores,
Now on for aye our infinite free venture wending,
Spurning all yet tried ports, seas, hawsers, densities,
Sail out for good, eidólon yacht of me!
AND whence and why come you?
We know not whence, (was the answer,)
We only know that we drift here with the rest,
That we linger'd and lagg'd&emdash;but were wafted
at last, and are now here,
To make the passing shower's concluding drops,
my fancy&emdash;(I had a word to say,
But 'tis not quite the time&emdash;The best of any
man's word or say,
Is when its proper place arrives&emdash;and for its
I keep mine till the last.)
ON, on the same, ye jocund twain!
My life and recitative, containing birth, youth, mid-age
Fitful as motley-tongues of flame, inseparably twined
and merged in one&emdash;combining all,
My single soul&emdash;aims, confirmations, failures,
joys&emdash;Nor single soul alone,
I chant my nation's crucial stage, (America's, haply
humanity's) &emdash;the trial great, the victory great,
A strange eclaircissement of all the masses past, the
eastern world, the ancient, medieval,
Here, here from wanderings, strayings, lessons, wars,
defeats &emdash;here at the west a voice triumphant
A gladsome pealing cry&emdash;a song for once of utmost
pride and satisfaction;
I chant from it the common bulk, the general average horde,
(the best no sooner than the worst)&emdash;And now
I chant old age,
(My verses, written first for forenoon life, and for the
summer's, autumn's spread,
I pass to snow-white hairs the same, and give to pulses
winter-cool'd the same;)
As here in careless trill, I and my recitatives, with faith
Wafting to other work, to unknown songs, conditions,
On, on, ye jocund twain! continue on the same!
AFTER surmounting three-score and ten,
With all their chances, changes, losses, sorrows,
My parents' deaths, the vagaries of my life, the many tearing
passions of me, the war of '63 and '4,
As some old broken soldier, after a long, hot, wearying
march, or haply after battle,
To-day at twilight, hobbling, answering company roll-call,
Here, with vital voice,
Reporting yet, saluting yet the Officer over all.
A VAGUE mist hanging 'round half the pages:
(Sometimes how strange and clear to the soul,
That all these solid things are indeed but apparitions, concepts,
SOMEHOW I cannot let it go yet, funeral though it is,
Let it remain back there on its nail suspended,
With pink, blue, yellow, all blanch'd, and the white now gray
One wither'd rose put years ago for thee, dear friend;
But I do not forget thee. Hast thou then faded?
Is the odor exhaled? Are the colors, vitalities, dead?
No, while memories subtly play &emdash; the past vivid as ever;
For but last night I woke, and in that spectral ring saw
Thy smile, eyes, face, calm, silent, loving as ever;
So let the wreath hang still awhile within my eye-reach,
It is not yet dead to me, nor even pallid.
THE soothing sanity and blitheness of completion,
The pomp and hurried contest-glare and rush are done;
Now triumph! transformation! jubilate!*
FROM cast and west across the horizon's edge,
Two mighty masterful vessels sailers steal upon us:
But we'll make race a-time upon the seas &emdash; a battle-contest
yet! bear lively there!
(Our joys of strife and derring-do to the last!)
Put on the old ship all her power to-day!
Crowd top-sail, top-gallant and royal studding-sails,
Out challenge and defiance &emdash; flags and flaunting pennants
As we take to the open! take to the deepest, freest waters.
HAVE I no weapon-word for thee &emdash; some message brief
(Have I fought out and done indeed the battle?) Is there no
For all thy affectations, lisps, scorns, manifold silliness?
Nor for myself &emdash; my own rebellious self in thee?
Down, down, proud gorge! &emdash; though choking thee;
Thy bearded throat and high-borne forehead to the gutter;
Crouch low thy neck to eleemosynary gifts.
I DOUBT it not &emdash; then more, far more;
In each old song bequeath'd &emdash; in every noble page or text,
(Different &emdash; something unreck'd before &emdash; some unsuspected
In every object , mountain, tree, and star &emdash; in every birth and
As part of each &emdash; evolv'd from each &emdash; meaning, behind the
A mystic cipher waits infolded.
AFTER a long, long course, hundreds of years, denials,
Accumulations, rous'd love and joy and thought,
Hopes, wishes, aspirations, ponderings, victories, myriads of
Coating, compassing, covering &emdash; after ages' and ages'
Then only may these songs reach fruition.
ADD to your show, before you close it, France,
With all the rest, visible, concrete, temples, towers, goods,
machines and ores,
Our sentiment wafted from many million heart-throbs,
ethereal but solid,
(We grand-sons and great-grand-sons do not forget your
From fifty Nations and nebulous Nations, compacted, sent
America's applause, love, memories and good-will.
(General Philip Sheridan was buried at the Cathedral, Washington, D.C., August, 1888, with all the pomp, music, and ceremonies of the Roman Catholic service.)
OVER and through the burial chant,
Organ and solemn service, sermon, bending priests,
To me come interpolation sounds not in the show &emdash; plainly
to me, crowding up the aisle and from the window,
Of sudden battle's hurry and harsh noises &emdash; war's grim game
to sight and ear in earnest;
The scout call'd up and forward &emdash; the general mounted and
his aids around him &emdash; the new-brought word &emdash; the
instantaneous order issued;
The rifle crack &emdash; the cannon thud &emdash; the rushing forth of men
from their tents;
The clank of cavalry &emdash; the strange celerity of forming ranks
&emdash; the slender bugle note;
The sound of horses' hoofs departing &emdash; saddles, arms,
* NOTE. &emdash; CAMDEN. N.J., August 7, 1888. &emdash; Walt Whitman asks the New York Herald "to add his tribute to Sheridan":
"In the grand constellation of five or six names. under Lincoln's Presidency, that history will bear for ages in her firmament as marking the last life-throbs of secession, and beaming on its dying gasps, Sheridan's will be bright. One consideration rising out of the now dead soldier's example as it passes my mind, is worth taking notice of. If the war had continued any long time these States, in my opinion, would have shown and proved the most conclusive military talents ever evinced by any nation on earth. That they possess'd a rank and file ahead of all other known in points of quality and limitlessness of number are easily admitted. But we have, too, the eligibility of organizing, handling and officering equal to the other. These two, with modern arms, transportation and inventive American genius, would make the United States with earnestness, not only able to stand the whole world, but conquer that world united against us."
AH, whispering, something again, unseen,
Where late this heated day thou enterest at my window, door,
Thou, laving, tempering all, cool-freshing, gently vitalizing
Me, old, alone, sick, weak-down, melted-worn with sweat;
Thou, nestling, folding close and firm yet soft, companion
better than talk, book, art,
(Thou hast, O Nature! elements! utterance to my heart beyond
the rest &emdash; and this is of them,)
So sweet thy primitive taste to breathe within &emdash; thy soothing
fingers on my face and hands,
Thou, messenger-magical strange bringer to body and spirit
(Distances balk'd &emdash; occult medicines penetrating me from head
I feel the sky, the prairies vast &emdash; I feel the mighty northern
I feel the ocean and the forest &emdash; somehow I feel the globe
itself swift-swimming in space;
Thou blown from lips so loved, now gone &emdash; haply from endless
(For thou art spiritual, Godly, most of all known to my
Minister to speak to me, here and now, what word has never
told, and cannot tell,
Art thou not universal concrete's distillation? Law's, all
Astronomy's last refinement?
Hast thou no soul? Can I not know, identify thee?
AN ancient song, reciting, ending,
Once gazing toward thee, Mother of All,
Musing, seeking themes fitted for thee,
Accept for me, thou saidst, the elder ballads,
And name for me before thou goest each ancient poet.
(Of many debts incalculable,
Haply our New World's chiefest debt is to old poems.)
Ever so far back, preluding thee, America,
Old chants, Egyptian priests, and those of Ethiopia,
The Hindu epics, the Grecian, Chinese, Persian,
The Biblic books and prophets, and deep idyls of the Nazarene,
The Iliad, Odyssey, plots, doings, wanderings of Eneas,
Hesiod, Eschylus, Sophocles, Merlin, Arthur,
The Cid, Roland at Roncesvalles, the Nibelungen,
The troubadours, minstrels, minnesingers, skalds,
Chaucer, Dante, flocks of singing birds,
The Border Minstrelsy, the bye-gone ballads, feudal tales,
Shakspere, Schiller, Walter Scott, Tennyson,
As some vast wondrous weird dream-presences,
The great shadowy groups gathering around,
Darting their mighty masterful eyes forward at thee,
Thou! with as now thy bending neck and head, with
courteous hand and word, ascending,
Thou! pausing a moment, drooping thine eyes upon them,
blent with their music,
Well pleased, accepting all, curiously prepared for by them,
Thou enterest at thy entrance porch.
(From a Nothern Star-Group to a Southern, 1889-90)
WELCOME, Brazilian brother &emdash; thy ample place is
A loving hand &emdash; a smile from the north &emdash; a sunny instant hail!
(Let the future care for itself, where it reveals its troubles,
Ours, ours the present throe, the democratic aim, the
acceptance and the faith;)
To thee to-day our reaching arm, our turning neck &emdash; to thee
from us the expectant eye,
Thou cluster free! thou brilliant lustrous one! thou, learning
The true lesson of a nation's light in the sky,
(More shining than the Cross, more than the Crown,)
The height to be superb humanity.
SOUNDS of the winter too,
Sunshine upon the mountains &emdash; many a distant strain
From cheery railroad train &emdash; from nearer field, barn, house,
The whispering air &emdash; even the mute crops, garner'd apples,
Children's and women's tones &emdash; rhythm of many a farmer
and of flail,
An old man's garrulous lips among the rest, Think not we
give out yet,
Forth from these snowy hairs we keep up yet the lilt.
AS I sit in twilight late alone by the flickering oak-flame,
Musing on long-pass'd war-scenes &emdash; of the countless buried
Of the vacant names, as unindented air's and sea's &emdash; the
The brief truce after battle, with grim burial-squads, and the deep-fill'd trenches
Of gather'd dead from all America, North, South, East, West,
whence they came up,
From wooded Maine, New-England's farms, from fertile
Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio,
From the measureless West, Virginia, the South, the
(Even here in my room-shadows and half-lights in the noiseless
Again I see the stalwart ranks on-filing, rising &emdash; I hear the
rhythmic tramp of the armies;)
You million unwrit names all, all &emdash; you dark bequest from all
A special verse for you &emdash; a flash of duty long neglected &emdash; your
mystic roll strangely gather'd here,
Each name recall'd by me from out the darkness and death's
Henceforth to be, deep, deep within my heart recording, for
many a future year,
Your mystic roll entire of unknown names, or North or
Embalm'd with love in this twilight song.
WHEN the full-grown poet came,
Out spake pleased Nature (the round impassive globe, with
all its shows of day and night,) saying, He is mine;
But out spake too the Soul of man, proud, jealous and
unreconciled, Nay, he is mine alone;
&emdash; Then the full-grown poet stood between the two, and took
each by the hand;
And to-day and ever so stands, as blender, uniter, tightly
Which he will never release until he reconciles the two,
And wholly and joyously blends them.
(When I was nearly grown to manhood in Brooklyn, New York (middle of 1838), I met one of the return'd U.S. Marines from Fort Moultrie, S. C., and had long talks with him &emdash; learn'd the occurrence below described &emdash; death of Osceola. The latter was a young, brave, leading Seminole, in the Florida war of that time &emdash; was surrender'd to our troops, imprison'd, and literally died of "a broken heart", at Fort Moultrie. He sicken'd of his confinement &emdash; the doctor and officers made every allowance and kindness possible for him; then the close.)
WHEN his hour for death had come,
He slowly rais'd himself from the bed on the floor,
Drew on his war-dress, shirt, leggings, and girdled the belt
around his waist,
Call'd for vermilion paint (his looking-glass was held before
Painted half his face and neck, his wrists, and back-hands,
Put the scalp-knife carefully in his belt &emdash; then lying down,
resting a moment,
Rose again, half sitting, smiled, gave in silence his extended
hand to each and all,
Sank faintly low to the floor (tightly grasping the tomahawk
Fix'd his look on wife and little children &emdash; the last:
(And here a line in memory of his name and death.)
(The Johnstown, Penn., cataclysm, May 31, 1889)
A VOICE from Death, solemn and strange, in all his sweep and
With sudden, indescribable blow &emdash; towns drown'd &emdash; humanity
by thousands slain,
The vaunted work of thrift, goods, dwellings, forge, street,
Dash'd pell-mell by the blow &emdash; yet usher'd life continuing on,
(Amid the rest, amid the rushing, whirling, wild debris,
A suffering woman saved &emdash; a baby safely born!)
Although I come and unannounc'd, in horror and in pang,
In pouring flood and fire, and wholesale elemental crash,
(this voice so solemn, strange,)
I too a minister of Deity.
Yea, Death, we bow our faces, veil our eyes to thee,
We mourn the old, the young untimely drawn to thee,
The fair, the strong, the good, the capable,
The household wreck'd, the husband and the wife, the engulf'd
forger in his forge,
The corpses in the whelming waters and the mud,
The gather'd thousands to their funeral mounds, and thousands
never found or gather'd.
Then after burying, mourning the dead,
(Faithful to them found or unfound, forgetting not, bearing
the past, here new musing,)
A day &emdash; a passing moment or an hour &emdash; America itself bends
Silent, resign'd, submissive.
War, death, cataclysm like this, America,
Take deep to thy proud prosperous heart.
E'en as I chant, Io! out of death, and out of ooze and slime,
The blossoms rapidly blooming, sympathy, help, love,
From West and East, from South and North and over sea,
Its hot-spurr'd hearts and hands humanity to human aid
And from within a thought and lesson yet.
Thou ever-darting Globe! through Space and Air!
Thou waters that encompass us!
Thou that in all the life and death of us, in action or in sleep!
Thou laws invisible that permeate them and all,
Thou that in all, and over all, and through and under all,
Thou! thou! the vital, universal, giant force resistless,
Holding Humanity as in thy open hand, as some ephemeral
How ill to e'er forget thee!
For I too have forgotten,
(Wrapt in these little potencies of progress, politics, culture,
wealth, inventions, civilization,)
Have lost my recognition of your silent ever-swaying power, ye
mighty, elemental throes,
In which and upon which we float, and every one of us is
FOR his o'erarching and last lesson the greybeard sufi,
In the fresh scent of the morning in the open air,
On the slope of a teeming Persian rose-garden,
Under the ancient chestnut-tree wide spreading its branches,
Spoke to the young priests and students.
Finally my children, to envelop each word, each part of the
Allah is all, all, all &emdash; is immanent in every life and object,
May-be at many and many-a-more removes &emdash; yet Allah,
Allah, Allah is there.
"Has the estray wander'd far? Is the reason-why strangely
Would you sound below the restless ocean of the entire world?
Would you know the dissatisfaction? the urge and spur of
The something never still'd &emdash; never entirely gone? the invisible
need of every seed?
"It is the central urge in every atom,
(Often unconscious, often evil, downfallen,)
To return to its divine source and origin, however distant,
Latent the same in subject and in object, without one
THE commonplace I sing;
How cheap is health! how cheap nobility!
Abstinence, no falsehood, no gluttony, lust;
The open air I sing, freedom, toleration,
(Take here the mainest lesson &emdash; less from books &emdash; less from
The common day and night &emdash; the common earth and waters,
Your farm &emdash; your work, trade, occupation,
The democratic wisdom underneath, like solid ground for all.
"THE ROUNDED CATALOGUE DIVINE COMPLETE"
(Sunday_ _ _. _ Went this forenoon to church. A college professor, Rev. Dr._, gave us a fine sermon, during which I caught the above words; but the minister included in his "rounded catalogue" letter and spirit, only the esthetic things, and entirely ignored what I name in the following:)
THE devilish and the dark, the dying and diseas'd,
The countless (nineteen-twentieths) low and evil, crude and
The crazed, prisoners in jail, the horrible, rank,
Venom and filth, serpents, the ravenous sharks, liars, the
(What is the part the wicked and the loathsome bear within
earth's orbic scheme?)
Newts, crawling things in slime and mud, poisons,
The barren soil, the evil men, the slag and hideous rot.
(Noted verbatim after a supper-talk out doors in Nevada with
two old miners)
MORE experiences and sights, stranger, than you'd think
Times again, now mostly just after sunrise or before
Sometimes in spring, oftener in autumn, perfectly clear
weather, in plain sight,
Camps far or near, the crowded streets of cities and the
(Account for it or not &emdash; credit or not &emdash; it is all true,
And my mate there could tell you the like &emdash; we have often
confab'd about it,)
People and scenes, animals, trees, colors and lines, plain as
Farms and dooryards of home, paths border'd with box,
lilacs in corners,
Weddings in churches, thanksgiving dinners, returns of long-
Glum funerals, the crape-veil'd mother and the daughters,
Trials in courts, jury, and judge, the accused in the box,
Contestants, battles, crowds, bridges, wharves,
Now and then mark'd faces of sorrow or joy,
(I could pick them out this moment if I saw them again,)
Show'd to me just aloft to the right in the sky-edge,
Or plainly there to the left on the hill-tops.
NTO to exclude or demarcate, or pick out evils from their
formidable masses (even to expose them,)
But add, fuse, complete, extend &emdash; and celebrate the immortal
and the good.
Haughty this song, its words and scope,
To span vast realms of space and time,
Evolution &emdash; the cumulative &emdash; growths and generations.
Begun in ripen'd youth and steadily pursued,
Wandering, peering, dallying with all &emdash; war, peace, day and
Never even for one brief hour abandoning my task,
I end it here in sickness, poverty, and old age.
I sing of life, yet mind me well of death:
To-day shadowy Death dogs my steps, my seated shape, and
has for years &emdash;
Draws sometimes close to me, as face to face.
HOW dare one say it?
After the cycles, poems, singers, plays,
Vaunted Ionia's, India's &emdash; Homer, Shakspere &emdash; the long, long
times, thick dotted roads, areas,
The shining clusters and the Milky Ways of stars &emdash; Nature's
All retrospective passions, heroes, war, love, adoration,
All ages' plummets dropt to their utmost depths,
All human lives, throats, wishes, brains &emdash; all experiences'
After the countless songs, or long or short, all tongues, all
Still something not yet told in poesy's voice or print &emdash;
(Who knows? the best yet unexpress'd and lacking.)
GRAND is the seen, the light, to me &emdash; grand are the
Grand is the earth, and grand are lasting time and space,
And grand their laws, so multiform, puzzling, evolutionary;
But grander far the unseen soul of me, comprehending, endowing
Lighting the light, the sky and stars, delving the earth, sailing
(What were all those, indeed, without thee, unseen soul? of
what amount without thee?)
More evolutionary, vast, puzzling, O my soul!
More multiform far &emdash; more lasting thou than they.
UNSEEN buds, infinite, hidden well,
Under the snow and ice, under the darkness, in every square
or cubic inch,
Germinal, exquisite, in delicate lace, microscopic, unborn,
Like babes in wombs, latent, folded, compact, sleeping;
Billions of billions, and trillions of trillions of them waiting,
(On earth and in the sea &emdash; the universe &emdash; the stars there in the
Urging slowly, surely forward, forming endless,
And waiting ever more, forever more behind.
GOOD-BYE my Fancy!
Farewell dear mate, dear love!
I'm going away, I know not where,
Or to what fortune, or whether I may ever see you again,
So Good-bye my Fancy.
Now for my last &emdash; let me look back a moment;
The slower fainter ticking of the clock is in me,
Exit, nightfall, and soon the heart-thud stopping.
Long have we lived, joy'd, caress'd together;
Delightful! &emdash; now separation &emdash; Good-bye my Fancy.
Yet let me not be too hasty,
Long indeed have we lived, slept, filter'd, become really
blended into one;
Then if we die we die together, (yes, we'll remain one,)
If we go anywhere we'll go together to meet what happens,
May-be we'll be better off and blither, and learn something,
May-be it is yourself now really ushering me to the true songs,
May-be it is you the mortal knob really undoing, turning &emdash;
so now finally,
Good-bye &emdash; and hail! my Fancy.
*Behind a Good-bye there lurks much of the salutation of another beginning&emdash;to me, Development, Continuity, Immortality, Transformation, are the chiefest life-meanings of Nature and Humanity, and are the sine qua non of all facts, and each fact.
Why do folks dwell so fondly on the last words, advice, appearance, of the departing? Those last words are not samples of the best, which involve vitality at its full, and balance, and perfect control and scope. But they are valuable beyond measure to confirm and endorse the varied train, facts, theories and faith of the whole preceding life.
*NOTE. &emdash; Summer country life. &emdash; Several years. &emdash; In my rambles and explorations I found a woody place near the creek, where for some reason the birds in happy mood seem'd to resort in unusual numbers. Especially at the beginning of the day, and again at the ending, I was sure to get there the most copious bird-concerts. I repair'd there frequently at sunrise &emdash; and also at sunset, or just before. . . . Once the question arose in me: Which is the best singing, the first or the latter-most? The first always exhilarated, and perhaps seem'd more joyous and stronger; but I always felt the sunset or late afternoon sounds more penetrating and sweeter &emdash; seem'd to touch the soul &emdash; often the evening thrushes, two or three of them, responding and perhaps blending. Though I miss'd some of the mornings, I found myself getting to be quite strictly punctual at the evening utterances.
ANOTHER NOTE. &emdash;"He went out with the tide and the sunset," was a phrase I heard from a surgeon describing an old sailor's death under peculiarly gentle conditions.
During the Secession War, 1863 and '4, visiting the Army Hospitals around Washington, I form'd the habit, and continued it to the end, whenever the ebb or flood tide began the latter part of the day, of punctually visiting those at that time populous wards of suffering men. Somehow (or I thought so) the effect of the hour was palpable. The badly wounded would get some ease, and would like to talk a little, or be talk'd to. Intellectual and emotional natures would be at their best: Deaths were always easier; medicines seem'd to have better effect when given then, and a lulling atmosphere would pervade the wards.
Similar influences, similar circumstances and hours, day-close, after great battles, even with all their horrors. I had more than once the same experience on the fields cover'd with fallen or dead.
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