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Our Old Feuillage

ALWAYS our old feuillage!
Always Florida's green peninsula&emdash;always the priceless delta
     of Louisiana&emdash;always the cotton-fields of Alabama and
Always California's golden hills and hollows, and the silver
     mountains of New Mexico&emdash;always soft-breath'd Cuba,
Always the vast slope drain'd by the Southern sea, inseparable
     with the slopes drain'd by the Eastern and Western seas,
The area the eighty-third year of these States, the three and a half
     millions of square miles,
The eighteen thousand miles of sea-coast and bay-coast on the
     main, the thirty thousand miles of river navigation,
The seven millions of distinct families and the same number of
     dwellings&emdash;always these, and more, branching forth
     into numberless branches,
Always the free range and diversity&emdash;always the continent
     of Democracy;
Always the prairies, pastures, forests, vast cities, travelers, Kanada,
     the snows;
Always these compact lands tied at the hips with the belt stringing
     the huge oval lakes;
Always the West with strong native persons, the increasing density
     there, the habitans, friendly, threatening, ironical, scorning invaders;
All sights, South, North, East&emdash;all deeds promiscuously done at
     all times,
All characters, movements, growths, a few noticed, myriads unnoticed,
Through Mannahatta's streets I walking, these things gathering,
On interior rivers by night in the glare of pine knots, steam-boats
     wooding up,
Sunlight by day on the valley of the Susquehanna, and on the
     valleys of the Potomac and Rappahannock, and the valleys of
     the Roanoke and Delaware,

In their northerly wilds beasts of prey haunting the Adirondacks
     the hills, or lapping the Saginaw waters to drink,
In a lonesome inlet a sheldrake lost from the flock, sitting on
     the water rocking silently,
In farmers' barns oxen in the stable, their harvest labor done,
     they rest standing, they are too tired,
Afar on arctic ice the she-walrus lying drowsily while her cubs
     play around,
The hawk sailing where men have not yet sail'd, the farthest polar
     sea, ripply, crystalline, open, beyond the floes,
White drift spooning ahead where the ship in the tempest dashes,
On solid land what is done in cities as the bells strike midnight
In primitive woods the sounds there also sounding, the howl of the
     wolf, the scream of the panther, and the hoarse bellow of the elk,
In winter beneath the hard blue ice of Moosehead lake, in summer
     visible through the clear waters, the great trout swimming,
In lower latitudes in warmer air in the Carolinas the large black
     buzzard floating slowly high beyond the tree tops,
Below, the red cedar festoon'd with tylandria, the pines and
     cypresses growing out of the white sand that spreads far and flat,
Rude boats descending the big Pedee, climbing plants, parasites with
     color'd flowers and berries enveloping huge trees,
The waving drapery on the live-oak trailing long and low, noiselessly
     waved by the wind,
The camp of Georgia wagoners just after dark, the supperfires and
     the cooking and eating by whites and negroes,
Thirty or forty great wagons, the mules, cattle, horses, feeding
     from troughs,
The shadows, gleams, up under the leaves of the old sycamore-trees,
     the flames with the black smoke from the pitch-pine curling and rising;
Southern fishermen fishing, the sounds and inlets of North Carolina's
     coast, the shad-fishery and the herring-fishery, the large
     sweep-seines, the windlasses on shore work'd by horses, the
     clearing, curing, and packing-houses;
Deep in the forest in piney woods turpentine dropping from the
     incisions in the trees, there are the turpentine works,
There are the negroes at work in good health, the ground in all
     directions is cover'd with pine straw;
In Tennessee and Kentucky slaves busy in the coalings, at the forge,
     by the furnace-blaze, or at the corn-shucking,
In Virginia, the planter's son returning after a long absence, joyfully
     welcom'd and kiss'd by the aged mulatto nurse,
On rivers boatmen safely moor'd at nightfall in their boats under
     shelter of high banks,
Some of the younger men dance to the sound of the banjo or fiddle,
     others sit on the gunwale smoking and talking;
Late in the afternoon the mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing
     in the Great Dismal Swamp,
There are the greenish waters, the resinous odor, the plenteous moss,
     the cypress-tree, and the juniper-tree;
Northward, young men of Mannahatta, the target company from
     an excursion returning home at evening, the musket-muzzles
     all bear bunches of flowers presented by women;
Children at play, or on his father's lap a young boy fallen asleep,
     (how his lips move! how he smiles in his sleep!)
The scout riding on horseback over the plains west of the Mississippi,
     he ascends a knoll and sweeps his eyes around;
California life, the miner, bearded, dress'd in his rude costume,
     the stanch California friendship, the sweet air, the graves one
     in passing meets solitary just aside the horse-path;
Down in Texas the cotton-field, the negro-cabins, drivers driving
     mules or oxen before rude carts, cotton bales piled on banks
     and wharves;
Encircling all, vast-darting up and wide, the American Soul,
     with equal hemispheres, one Love, one Dilation or Pride;
In arriere the peace-talk with the Iroquois the aborigines, the
     calumet, the pipe of good-will, arbitration, and indorsement,

The sachem blowing the smoke first toward the sun and then
    toward the earth,
The drama of the scalp-dance enacted with painted faces and
     guttural exclamations,
The setting out of the war-party, the long and stealthy march,
The single file, the swinging hatchets, the surprise and slaughter
     of enemies;
All the acts, scenes, ways, persons, attitudes of these States,
     reminiscences, institutions,
All these States compact, every square mile of these States
     without excepting a particle;
Me pleas'd, rambling in lanes and country fields, Paumanok's fields,
Observing the spiral flight of two little yellow butterflies shuffling
     between each other, ascending high in the air,
The darting swallow, the destroyer of insects, the fall traveler
     southward but returning northward early in the spring,
The country boy at the close of the day driving the herd of cows
     and shouting to them as they loiter to browse by the roadside,
The city wharf, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston,
     New Orleans, San Francisco,
The departing ships when the sailors heave at the capstan;
Evening&emdash;me in my room&emdash;the setting sun,
The setting summer sun shining in my open window, showing the
     swarm of flies, suspended, balancing in the air in the centre of
     the room, darting athwart, up and down, casting swift shadows,
     in specks on the opposite wall where the shine is;
The athletic American matron speaking in public to crowds of listeners,
Males, females, immigrants, combinations, the copiousness, the
     individuality of the States, each for itself&emdash;the money-makers,
Factories, machinery, the mechanical forces, the windlass, lever,
     pulley, all certainties,
The certainty of space, increase, freedom, futurity,
In space the sporades, the scatter'd islands, the stars&emdash;on the
     firm earth, the lands, my lands,

O lands! all so dear to me&emdash;what you are, (whatever it is,) I
     putting it at random in these songs, become a part of that,
     whatever it is,
Southward there, I screaming, with wings slow flapping, with the
     myriads of gulls wintering along the coasts of Florida,
Otherways there atwixt the banks of the Arkansas, the Rio Grande,
     the Nueces, the Brazos, the Tombigbee, the Red River, the
     Saskatchewan or the Osage, I with the spring waters laughing
     and skipping and running,
Northward, on the sands, on some shallow bay of Paumanok, I with
     parties of snowy herons wading in the wet to seek worms and
     aquatic plants,
Retreating, triumphantly twittering, the king-bird, from piercing the
     crow with its bill, for amusement&emdash;and I triumphantly
The migrating flock of wild geese alighting in autumn to refresh
     themselves, the body of the flock feed, the sentinels outside
     move around with erect heads watching, and are from time to time
     reliev'd by other sentinels&emdash;and I feeding and taking turns
     with the rest,
In Kanadian forests the moose, large as an ox, corner'd by hunters,
     rising desperately on his hind-feet, and plunging with his fore-feet,
     the hoofs as sharp as knives&emdash;and I, plunging at the
     hunters, corner'd and desperate,
In the Mannahatta, streets, piers, shipping, store-houses, and the
     countless workmen working in the shops,
And I too of the Mannahatta, singing thereof&emdash;and no
     less in myself than the whole of the Mannahatta in itself,
Singing the song of These, my ever-united lands&emdash;my
     body no more inevitably united, part to part, and made out
     of a thousand diverse contributions one identity, any more
     than my lands are inevitably united and made ONE IDENTITY;
Nativities, climates, the grass of the great pastoral Plains,
Cities, labors, death, animals, products, war, good and evil
     &emdash;these me,
These affording, in all their particulars, the old feuillage to me
     and to America, how can I do less than pass the clew of the
     union of them, to afford the like to you?

Whoever you are! how can I but offer you divine leaves, that you
     also be eligible as I am?
How can I but as here chanting, invite you for yourself to collect
     bouquets of the incomparable feuillage of these States?

1860                                                                  1881

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