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Songs of Parting


AS the time draws nigh glooming a cloud,
A dread beyond of I know not what darkens me.

I shall go forth,
I shall traverse the States awhile, but I cannot tell whither or
     how long,
Perhaps soon some day or night while I am singing my voice
     will suddenly cease.

O book, O chants! must all then amount to but this?
Must we barely arrive at this beginning of us?&emdash;and yet it
     is enough, O soul;
O soul, we have positively appear'd&emdash;that is enough.

1860                                                                  1871


YEARS of the modern! years of the unperform'd!
Your horizon rises, I see it parting away for more august
I see not America only, not only Liberty's nation but other
     nations preparing,
I see tremendous entrances and exits, new combinations, the
     solidarity of races,
I see that force advancing with irresistible power on the
     world's stage,
(Have the old forces, the old wars, played their parts? are the
     acts suitable to them closed?)
I see Freedom, completely arm'd and victorious and very
     haughty, with Law on one side and Peace on the other,
A stupendous trio all issuing forth against the idea of caste;

What historic denouements are these we so rapidly approach?
I see men marching and countermarching by swift millions,
I see the frontiers and boundaries of the old aristocracies
I see the landmarks of European kings removed,
I see this day the People beginning their landmarks, (all others
     give way;)
Never were such sharp questions ask'd as this day,
Never was average man, his soul, more energetic, more like a
Lo, how he urges and urges, leaving the masses no rest!
His daring foot is on land and sea everywhere, he colonizes
     the Pacific, the archipelagoes,
With the steamship, the electric telegraph, the newspaper,
     the wholesale engines of war,
With these and the world-spreading factories he interlinks all
     geography, all lands;
What whispers are these O lands, running ahead of you,
     passing under the seas?
Are all nations communing? is there going to be but one
     heart to the globe?
Is humanity forming en-masse? for lo, tyrants tremble,
     crowns grow dim,
The earth, restive, confronts a new era, perhaps a general
     divine war,
No one knows what will happen next, such portents fill the
     days and nights;
Years prophetical! the space ahead as I walk, as I vainly try
     to pierce it, is full of phantoms,
Unborn deeds, things soon to be, project their shapes around
This incredible rush and heat, this strange ecstatic fever of
     dreams O years!
Your dreams O years, how they penetrate through me! (I
     know not whether I sleep or wake;)
The perform'd America and Europe grow dim, retiring in
     shadow behind me,
The unperform'd, more gigantic than ever, advance, advance
     upon me.

1865                                                                  1881


ASHES of soldiers South or North,
As I muse retrospective murmuring a chant in thought,
The war resumes, again to my sense your shapes,
And again the advance of the armies.

Noiseless as mists and vapors,
From their graves in the trenches ascending,
From cemeteries all through Virginia and Tennessee,
From every point of the compass out of the countless graves,
In wafted clouds, in myriads large, or squads of twos or
     threes or single ones they come,
And silently gather round me.

Now sound no note O trumpeters,
Not at the head of my cavalry parading on spirited horses,
With sabres drawn and glistening, and carbines by their
     thighs, (ah my brave horsemen!
My handsome tan-faced horsemen! what life, what joy and
With all the perils were yours.)

Nor you drummers, neither at reveillé at dawn,
Nor the long roll alarming the camp, nor even the muffled
     beat for a burial,
Nothing from you this time O drummers bearing my warlil

But aside from these and the marts of wealth and the crowded
Admitting around me comrades close unseen by the rest and
The slain elate and alive again, the dust and debris alive,
I chant this chant of my silent soul in the name of all dead

Faces so pale with wondrous eyes, very dear, gather closer
Draw close, but speak not.

Phantoms of countless lost,
Invisible to the rest henceforth become my companions,
Follow me ever &emdash; desert me not while I live.

Sweet are the blooming cheeks of the living &emdash; sweet are
     the musical voices sounding,
But sweet, ah sweet, are the dead with their silent eyes.

Dearest comrades, all is over and long gone,
But love is not over &emdash; and what love, O comrades
Perfume from battle-fields rising, up from the foetor arising.

Perfume therefore my chant, O love, immortal love,
Give me to bathe the memories of all dead soldiers,
Shroud them, embalm them, cover them all over with tender

Perfume all &emdash; make all wholesome,
Make these ashes to nourish and blossom,
O love, solve all, fructify all with the last chemistry.

Give me exhaustless, make me a fountain,
That I exhale love from me wherever I go like a moist
     perennial dew,
For the ashes of all dead soldiers South or North.

1865                                                                  1881



OF these years I sing,
How they pass and have pass'd through convuls'd pains, as
     through parturitions,
How America illustrates birth, muscular youth, the promise,
     the sure fulfilment, the absolute success, despite of
     people &emdash; illustrates evil as well as good,
The vehement struggle so fierce for unity in one's -self;
How many hold despairingly yet to the models departed, caste,
     myths, obedience, compulsion, and to infidelity,
How few see the arrived models, the athletes, the Western
     States, or see freedom or spirituality, or hold any faith
     in results,

(But I see the athletes, and I see the results of the war glorious
     and inevitable, and they again leading to other results.)

How the great cities appear &emdash; how the Democratic
     masses, turbulent, wilful, as I love them,
How the whirl, the contest, the wrestle of evil with good, the
     sounding and resounding, keep on and on,
How society waits unform'd, and is for a while between things
     ended and things begun,
How America is the continent of glories, and of the triumph
     of freedom and of the Democracies, and of the fruits of
     society, and of all that is begun,
And how the States are complete in themselves &emdash;
     and how all triumphs and glories are complete in themselves,
     to lead onward,
And how these of mine and of the States will in their turn be
     convuls'd, and serve other parturitions and transitions,
And how all people, sights, combinations, the democratic
     masses too, serve &emdash; and how every fact, and war
     itself, with all its horrors, serves,
And how now or at any time each serves the exquisite
     transition of death.


Of seeds dropping into the ground, of births,
Of the steady concentration of America, inland, upward, to
     impregnable and swarming places,
Of what Indiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, and the rest, are to be,
Of what a few years will show there in Nebraska, Colorado,
     Nevada, and the rest,
(Or afar, mounting the Northern Pacific to Sitka or Aliaska,)
Of what the feuillage of America is the preparation for &emdash;
     and of what all sights, North, South, East and West, are,
Of this Union welded in blood, of the solemn price paid, of
     the unnamed lost ever present in my mind;
Of the temporary use of materials for identity's sake,
Of the present, passing, departing &emdash; of the growth
     of completer men than any yet,
Of all sloping down there where the fresh free giver the
     mother, the Mississippi flows,

Of mighty inland cities yet unsurvey'd and unsuspected,
Of the new and good names, of the modern developments,
     of inalienable homesteads,
Of a free and original life there, of simple diet and clean
     and sweet blood,
Of litheness, majestic faces, clear eyes, and perfect physique
Of immense spiritual results future years far West, each side
     of the Anahuacs,
Of these songs, well understood there, (being made for that
Of the native scorn of grossness and gain there,
(O it lurks in me night and day &emdash; what is gain after
     all to savageness and freedom?)

1860                                                                  1881


SPLENDOR of ended day floating and filling me,
Hour prophetic, hour resuming the past,
Inflating my throat, you divine average,
You earth and life till the last ray gleams I sing.

Open mouth of my soul uttering gladness,
Eyes of my soul seeing perfection,
Natural life of me faithfully praising things,
Corroborating forever the triumph of things.

Illustrious every one!
Illustrious what we name space, sphere of unnumber'd
Illustrious the mystery of motion in all beings, even the
     tiniest insect,
Illustrious the attribute of speech, the senses, the body,
Illustrious the passing light &emdash; illustrious the pale
     reflection on the new moon in the western sky,
Illustrious whatever I see or hear or touch, to the last.

Good in all,
In the satisfaction and aplomb of animals,
In the annual return of the seasons,

In the hilarity of youth,
In the strength and flush of manhood,
In the grandeur and exquisiteness of old age,
In the superb vistas of death.

Wonderful to depart!
Wonderful to be here!
The heart, to jet the all-alike and innocent blood!
To breathe the air, how delicious!
To speak &emdash; to walk &emdash; to seize something
     by the hand!
To prepare for sleep, for bed, to look on my rose-color'd
To be conscious of my body, so satisfied, so large!
To be this incredible God I am!
To have gone forth among other Gods, these men and
     women I love.

Wonderful how I celebrate you and myself!
How my thoughts play subtly at the spectacles around!
How the clouds pass silently overhead!
How the earth darts on and on! and how the sun, moon,
     stars, dart on and on!
How the water sports and sings! (surely it is alive!)
How the trees rise and stand up, with strong trunks,
     with branches and leaves!
(Surely there is something more in each of the trees, some
     living soul.)

O amazement of things &emdash; even the least particle!
O spirituality of things!
O strain musical flowing through ages and continents, now
     reaching me and America!
I take your strong chords, intersperse them, and cheerfully
     pass them forward.

I too carol the sun, usher'd or at noon, or as now, setting,
I too throb to the brain and beauty of the earth and of all
     the growths of the earth,
I too have felt the resistless call of myself.

As I steam'd down the Mississippi,
As I wander'd over the prairies,
As I have lived, as I have look'd through my windows my
As I went forth in the morning, as I beheld the light breaking
     in the east,
As I bathed on the beach of the Eastern Sea, and again on
     the beach of Western Sea,
As I roam'd the streets of inland Chicago, whatever streets
     I have roam'd,
Or cities or silent woods, or even amid the sights of war,
Wherever I have been I have charged myself with content-
     ment and triumph.

I sing to the last the equalities modern or old,
I sing the endless finalés of things,
I say Nature continues, glory continues,
I praise with electric voice,
For I do not see one imperfection in the universe,
And I do not see one cause or result lamentable at last
     in the universe.

O setting sun! though the time has come,
I still warble under you, if none else does, unmitigated

1860                                                                  1881


AS at thy portals also death,
Entering thy sovereign, dim, illimitable grounds,
To memories of my mother, to the divine blending, maternity,
To her, buried and gone, yet buried not, gone not from me,
(I see again the calm benignant face fresh and beautiful still,
I sit by the form in the coffin,
I kiss and kiss convulsively again the sweet old lips, the
     cheeks, the closed eyes in the coffin;)
To her, the ideal woman, practical, spiritual, of all of earth,
     life, love, to me the best,
I grave a monumental line, before I go, amid these songs,
And set a tombstone here.

1881                                                                  1881


THE business man the acquirer vast,
After assiduous years surveying results, preparing for
Devises houses and lands to his children, bequeaths
     stocks, goods, funds for a school or hospital,
Leaves money to certain companions to buy tokens,
     souvenirs of gems and gold.

But I, my life surveying, closing,
With nothing to show to devise from its idle years,
Nor houses nor lands, nor tokens of gems or gold for
     my friends,
Yet certain remembrances of the war for you, and after
And little souvenirs of camps and soldiers, with my love,
I bind together and bequeath in this bundle of songs.

1872                                                                  1881


PENSIVE on her dead gazing I heard the Mother of All,
Desperate on the torn bodies, on the forms covering the
     battle-fields gazing,
(As the last gun ceased, but the scent of the powder-smoke
As she call'd to her earth with mournful voice while she
Absorb them well O my earth, she cried, I charge you lose
     not my sons, lose not an atom,
And you streams absorb them well, taking their dear blood,
And you local spots, and you airs that swim above lightly
And all you essences of soil and growth, and you my rivers'
And you mountain sides, and the woods where my dear
     children's blood trickling redden'd,
And you trees down in your roots to bequeath to all future
My dead absorb or South or North &emdash; my young
     men's bodies absorb, and their precious precious blood,

Which holding in trust for me faithfully back again give me
     many a year hence,
In unseen essence and odor of surface and grass, centuries
In blowing airs from the fields back again give me my
     darlings, give my immortal heroes,
Exhale me them centuries hence, breathe me their breath, let
     not an atom be lost,
O years and graves! O air and soil! O my dead, an aroma
Exhale them perennial sweet death, years, centuries hence.

1865                                                                  1881


NOT alone those camps of white, old comrades of the wars,
When as order'd forward, after a long march,
Footsore and weary, soon as the light lessens we halt for the
Some of us so fatigued carrying the gun and knapsack, drop-
     ping asleep in our tracks,
Others pitching the little tents, and the fires lit up begin to
Outposts of pickets posted surrounding alert through the
And a word provided for countersign, careful for safety,
Till to the call of the drummers at daybreak loudly beating
     the drums,
We rise up refresh'd, the night and sleep pass'd over, and
     resume our journey,
Or proceed to battle.

Lo, the camps of the tents of green,
Which the days of peace keep filling, and the days of war
     keep filling,
With a mystic army, (is it too order'd forward? is it too
     only halting awhile,
Till night and sleep pass over?)

Now in those camps of green, in their tents dotting the world,
In the parents, children, husbands, wives, in them, in the old
     and young,

Sleeping under the sunlight, sleeping under the moonlight,
     content and silent there at last,
Behold the mighty bivouac-field and waiting-camp of all,
Of the corps and generals all, and the President over the
     corps and generals all,
And of each of us O soldiers, and of each and all in the
     ranks we fought,
(There without hatred we all, all meet.)

For presently O soldiers, we too camp in our place in
     the bivouac-camps of green,
But we need not provide for outposts, nor word for
     the counter-sign,
Nor drummer to beat the morning drum.

1865                                                                  1881


(Midnight, Sept. 19-20, 1881)

THE sobbing of the bells, the sudden death-news everywhere,
The slumberers rouse, the rapport of the People,
(Full well they know that message in the darkness,
Full well return, respond within their breasts, their brains,
     the sad reverberations,)
The passionate toll and clang &emdash; city to city, joining,
     sounding, passing,
Those heart-beats of a Nation in the night.

1881                                                                  1881


AS they draw to a close,
Of what underlies the precedent songs &emdash; of
     my aims in them,
Of the seed I have sought to plant in them,
Of joy, sweet joy, through many a year, in them,
(For them, for them have I lived, in them my work is
Of many an aspiration fond, of many a dream and plan;
Through Space and Time fused in a chant, and the
     flowing eternal identity,
To Nature encompassing these, encompassing God
     &emdash; to the joyous, electric all,
To the sense of Death, and accepting exulting in Death
     in its turn the same as life,
The entrance of man to sing;
To compact you, ye parted, diverse lives,
To put rapport the mountains and rocks and streams,
And the winds of the north, and the forests of oak and
With you O soul.

1871                                                                  1881


JOY, shipmate, joy!
(Pleas'd to my soul at death I cry,)
Our life is closed, our life begins,
The long, long anchorage we leave,
The ship is clear at last, she leaps!
She swiftly courses from the shore,
Joy, shipmate, joy!

1871                                                                  1871


THE untold want by life and land ne'er granted,
Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.

1871                                                                  1871


WHAT are those of the known but to ascend and enter the
And what are those of life but for Death?

1871                                                                  1871


THESE carols sung to cheer my passage through the world I
For completion I dedicate to the Invisible World.

1871                                                                  1871


Now finalè to the shore,
Now land and life finalè and farewell,
Now Voyager depart, (much, much for thee is yet in store,)

Often enough hast thou adventur'd o'er the seas,
Cautiously cruising, studying the charts,
Duly again to port and hawser's tie returning;
But now obey thy cherish'd secret wish,
Embrace thy friends, leave all in order,
To port and hawser's tie no more returning,
Depart upon thy endless cruise old Sailor.

1871                                                                  1871


To conclude, I announce what comes after me.

I remember I said before my leaves sprang at all,
I would raise my voice jocund and strong with reference to

When America does what was promis'd,
When through these States walk a hundred millions of superb
When the rest part away for superb persons and contribute
     to them,
When breeds of the most perfect mothers denote America,
Then to me and mine our due fruition.

I have press'd through in my own right,
I have sung the body and the soul, war and peace have I
     sung, and the songs of life and death,
And the songs of birth, and shown that there are many

I have offer'd my style to every one, I have journey'd with
     confident step;
While my pleasure is yet at the full I whisper So long!
And take the young woman's hand and the young man's
     hand for the last time.

I announce natural persons to arise,
I announce justice triumphant,
I announce uncompromising liberty and equality,
I announce the justification of candor and the justification
     of pride.

I announce that the identity of these States is a single identity
I announce the Union more and more compact, indissoluble,
I announce splendors and majesties to make all the previous
     politics of the earth insignificant.

I announce adhesiveness, I say it shall be limitless, un-
I say you shall yet find the friend you were looking for.

I announce a man or woman coming, perhaps you are the
     one, (So long!)
I announce the great individual, fluid as Nature, chaste,
     affectionate, compassionate, fully arm'd.

I announce a life that shall be copious, vehement, spiritual,
I announce an end that shall lightly and joyfully meet its

I announce myriads of youths, beautiful, gigantic, sweet-
I announce a race of splendid and savage old men.

O thicker and faster &emdash; (So long!)
O crowding too close upon me,
I foresee too much, it means more than I thought,
It appears to me I am dying.

Hasten throat and sound your last,
Salute me &emdash; salute the days once more. Peal the
     old cry once more.

Screaming electric, the atmosphere using,
At random glancing, each as I notice absorbing,
Swiftly on, but a little while alighting,
Curious envelop'd messages delivering,
Sparkles hot, seed ethereal down in the dirt dropping,
Myself unknowing, my commission obeying, to question
     it never daring,
To ages and ages yet the growth of the seed leaving,

To troops out of the war arising, they the tasks I have set
To women certain whispers of myself bequeathing, their
     affection me more clearly explaining,
To young men my problems offering &emdash; no dallier
     I &emdash; I the muscle of their brains trying,
So I pass, a little time vocal, visible, contrary,
Afterward a melodious echo, passionately bent for, (death
     making me really undying,)
The best of me then when no longer visible, for toward that
     I have been incessantly preparing.

What is there more, that I lag and pause and crouch extended
     with unshut mouth?
Is there a single final farewell?

My songs cease, I abandon them,
From behind the screen where I hid I advance personally
     solely to you.

Camerado, this is no book,
Who touches this touches a man,
(Is it night? are we here together alone?)
It is I you hold and who holds you,
I spring from the pages into your arms &emdash; decease
     calls me forth.

O how your fingers drowse me,
Your breath falls around me like dew, your pulse lulls the
     tympans of my ears,
I feel immerged from head to foot,
Delicious, enough.

Enough O deed impromptu and secret,
Enough O gliding present &emdash; enough O summ'd-
     up past.

Dear friend whoever you are take this kiss,
I give it especially to you, do not forget me,
I feel like one who has done work for the day to retire
I receive now again of my many translations, from my
     avataras ascending, while others doubtless await me,

An unknown sphere more real than I dream'd, more
     direct, darts awakening rays about me, So long!
Remember my words, I may again return,
I love you, I depart from materials,
I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead.

1860                                                                  1881

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