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MY city's fit and noble name resumed,
Choice aboriginal name, with marvellous beauty, meaning,
A rocky founded island &emdash; shores where ever
gayly dash the coming, going, hurrying sea waves.
SEA-BEAUTY! stretch'd and basking!
One side thy inland ocean laving, broad, with copious
commerce, steamers, sails,
And one the Atlantic's wind caressing, fierce or gentle
&emdash; mighty hulls dark-gliding in the distance.
Isle of sweet brooks of drinking-water &emdash; healthy
air and soil!
Isle of the salty shore and breeze and brine!
I STAND as on some mighty eagle's beak,
Eastward the sea absorbing, viewing, (nothing but sea and
The tossing waves, the foam, the ships in the distance.
The wild unrest, the snowy, curling caps &emdash; that
inbound urge and urge of waves,
Seeking the shores forever.
To those who've fail'd, in aspiration vast,
To unnam'd soldiers fallen in front on the lead,
To calm, devoted engineers &emdash; to over-ardent
travelers &emdash; to pilots on their ships,
To many a lofty song and picture without recognition
&emdash; I'd rear a laurel-cover'd monument,
High, high above the rest &emdash; To all cut off
before their time,
Possess'd by some strange spirit of fire,
Quench'd by an early death.
A CAROL closing sixty-nine &emdash; a résumé
&emdash; a repetition,
My lines in joy and hope continuing on the same,
Of ye, O God, Life, Nature, Freedom, Poetry;
Of you, my Land &emdash; your rivers, prairies,
States &emdash; you, mottled
Flag I love,
Your aggregate retain'd entire &emdash; Of north,
south, east and west, your items all;
Of me myself &emdash; the jocund heart yet beating
in my breast,
The body wreck'd, old, poor and paralyzed &emdash;
the strange inertia falling pall-like round me,
The burning fires down in my sluggish blood not yet extinct,
The undiminish'd faith &emdash; the groups of loving friends.
BRAVE, brave were the soldiers (high named to-day) who
lived through the fight;
But the bravest press'd to the front and fell, unnamed,
THIS latent mine &emdash; these unlaunch'd voices
Wrath, argument, or praise, or comic leer, or prayer devout,
(Not nonpareil, brevier, bourgeois, long primer merely,)
These ocean waves arousable to fury and to death,
Or sooth'd to ease and sheeny sun and sleep,
Within the pallid slivers slumbering.
As I sit writing here, sick and grown old,
Not my least burden is that dulness of the years, querilities,
Ungracious glooms, aches, lethargy, constipation, whimpering
May filter in my daily songs.
DID we count great, O soul, to penetrate the themes of
Absorbing deep and full from thoughts, plays, speculations?
But now from thee to me, caged bird, to feel thy joyous
Filling the air, the lonesome room, the long forenoon,
Is it not just as great, O soul?
APPROACHING, nearing, curious,
Thou dim, uncertain spectre &emdash; bringest thou life
Strength, weakness, blindness, more paralysis and heavier?
Or placid skies and sun? Wilt stir the waters yet?
Or haply cut me short for good? Or leave me here as now,
Dull, parrot-like and old, with crack'd voice harping,
(In Brooklyn, in an old vault, mark'd by no special recognition, lie huddled at this moment the undoubtedly authentic remains of the stanchest and earliest Revolutionary patriots from the British prison ships and prisons of the times of 1776-83, in and around New York, and from all over Long Island; originally buried &emdash; many thousands of them &emdash; in trenches in the Wallabout sands.)
GREATER than memory of Achilles or Ulysses,
More, more by far to thee than tomb of Alexander,
Those cart loads of old charnel ashes, scales and splints of
Once living men &emdash; once resolute courage, aspiration,
The stepping stones to thee to-day and here, America.
SIMPLE and fresh and fair from winter's close emerging,
As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever
Forth from its sunny nook of shelter'd grass &emdash;
innocent, golden, calm as the dawn,
The spring's first dandelion shows its trustful face.
CENTRE of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear'd, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair'd in the adamant of Time.
HOW sweet the silent backward tracings!
The wanderings as in dreams &emdash; the meditation
of old times resumed &emdash; their loves, joys,
THE appointed winners in a long-stretch'd game;
The course of Time and nations &emdash; Egypt,
India, Greece and Rome;
The past entire, with all its heroes, histories, arts,
Its store of songs, inventions, voyages, teachers, books,
Garner'd for now and thee &emdash; To think of it!
The heirdom all converged in thee!
AFTER the dazzle of day is gone,
Only the dark, dark night shows to my eyes the
After the clangor of organ majestic, or chorus,
or perfect band,
Silent, athwart my soul, moves the symphony true.
(Publish'd Feb. 12, 1888)
TO-DAY, from each and all, a breath of prayer &emdash;
a pulse of thought,
To memory of Him &emdash; to birth of Him.
APPLE orchards, the trees all cover'd with blossoms;
Wheat fields carpeted far and near in vital emerald green;
The eternal, exhaustless freshness of each early morning;
The yellow, golden, transparent haze of the warm afternoon
The aspiring lilac bushes with profuse purple or white
NOT from successful love alone,
Nor wealth, nor honor'd middle age, nor victories of politics
But as life wanes, and all the turbulent passions calm,
As gorgeous, vapory, silent hues cover the evening sky,
As softness, fulness, rest, suffuse the frame, like fresher,
As the days take on a mellower light, and the apple at
last hangs really finish'd and indolent-ripe on the tree,
Then for the teeming quietest, happiest days of all!
The brooding and blissful halcyon days!
Steaming the northern rapids &emdash; (an old St.
A sudden memory-flash comes back, I know not why,
Here waiting for the sunrise, gazing from this hill;)*
Again 'tis just at morning &emdash; a heavy haze
contends with daybreak,
Again the trembling, laboring vessel veers me &emdash;
I press through foam-dash'd rocks that almost touch me,
Again I mark where aft the small thin Indian helmsman
Looms in the mist, with brow elate and governing hand.
HAD I the choice to tally greatest bards,
To limn their portraits, stately, beautiful, and emulate
Homer with all his wars and warriors &emdash; Hector,
Or Shakspere's woe-entangled Hamlet, Lear, Othello
&emdash; Tennyson's fair ladies,
Metre or wit the best, or choice conceit to wield in
perfect rhyme, delight of singers;
These, these, O sea, all these I'd gladly barter,
Would you the undulation of one wave, its trick to me
Or breathe one breath of yours upon my verse,
And leave its odor there,
YOU tides with ceaseless swell! you power that does
You unseen force, centripetal, centrifugal, through
Rapport of sun, moon, earth, and all the constellations,
What are the messages by you from distant stars to us?
what Sirius? what Capella's?
What central heart &emdash; and you the pulse &emdash;
vivifies all? what boundless aggregate of all?
What subtle indirection and significance in you? what clue
to all in you? what fluid, vast identity,
Holding the universe with all its parts as one &emdash; as
sailing in a ship?
LAST of ebb, and daylight waning,
Scented sea-cool landward making, smells of sedge
and salt incoming,
With many a half-caught voice sent up from the eddies,
Many a muffled confession &emdash; many a sob and
As of speakers far or hid.
How they sweep down and out! how they mutter!
Poets unnamed &emdash; artists greatest of any, with
cherish'd lost designs,
Love's unresponse &emdash; a chorus of age's complaints
&emdash; hope's last words,
Some suicide's despairing cry, Away to the boundless
waste, and never again return.
On to oblivion then!
On, on, and do your part, ye burying, ebbing tide!
On for your time, ye furious debouché!
AND yet not you alone, twilight and burying ebb,
Nor you, ye lost designs alone &emdash; nor failures,
I know, divine deceitful ones, your glamour's seeming;
Duly by you, from you, the tide and light again &emdash;
duly the hinges turning,
Duly the needed discord-parts offsetting, blending,
Weaving from you, from Sleep, Night, Death itself,
The rhythmus of Birth eternal.
PROUDLY the flood comes in, shouting, foaming, advancing,
Long it holds at the high, with bosom broad outswelling,
All throbs, dilates&emdash;the farms, woods, streets of cities
&emdash;workmen at work,
Mainsails, topsails, jibs, appear in the offing&emdash;steamers'
pennants of smoke&emdash;and under the forenoon sun,
Freighted with human lives, gaily the outward bound, gaily
the inward bound,
Flaunting from many a spar the flag I love.
BY that long scan of waves, myself call'd back, resumed
In every crest some undulating light or shade&emdash;
Joys, travels, studies, silent panoramas&emdash;scenes,
The long past war, the battles, hospital sights, the wounded
and the dead,
Myself through every by-gone phase&emdash;my idle
youth&emdash;old age at hand,
My three-score years of life summ'd up, and more, and past,
By any grand ideal tried, intentionless, the whole a nothing,
And haply yet some drop within God's scheme's ensemble
&emdash;some wave, or part of wave,
Like one of yours, ye multitudinous ocean.
THEN last of all, caught from these shores, this hill,
Of you O tides, the mystic human meaning:
Only by law of you, your swell and ebb, enclosing me
The brain that shapes, the voice that chants this song.
IF I should need to name, O Western World, your
powerfulest scene and show,
'Twould not be you, Niagara&emdash;nor you, ye
limitless prairies &emdash;nor your huge rifts of
Nor you, Yosemite&emdash;nor Yellowstone, with
all its spasmic geyser loops ascending to the skies,
appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon's white cones&emdash;nor Huron's belt
of mighty lakes&emdash;nor Mississippi's stream:
&emdash;This seething hemisphere's humanity, as now,
I'd name &emdash;the still small voice vibrating
&emdash;America's choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen&emdash;the act itself
the main, the quadrennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous'd&emdash;sea-
board and&emdash; inland Texas to Maine&emdash;
the Prairie States&emdash; Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West&emdash;the
paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling&emdash;(a swordless
Yet more than all Rome's wars of old, or modern
Napoleon's:) the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity&emdash;welcoming the darker
odds, the dross:
&emdash;Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify
&emdash;while the heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell'd Washington's, Jefferson's, Lincoln's sails.
WITH husky-haughty lips, O sea!
Where day and night I wend thy surf-beat shore,
Imaging to my sense thy varied strange suggestions,
(I see and plainly list thy talk and conference here,)
Thy troops of white-maned racers racing to the goal,
Thy ample, smiling face, dash'd with the sparkling
dimples of the sun,
Thy brooding scowl and murk&emdash;thy unloos'd
Thy unsubduedness, caprices, wilfulness;
Great as thou art above the rest, thy many tears&emdash;
a lack from all eternity in thy content,
(Naught but the greatest struggles, wrongs, defeats, could
make thee greatest&emdash;no less could make thee,)
Thy lonely state&emdash;something thou ever seek'st
and seek'st, yet never gain'st,
Surely some right withheld&emdash;some voice, in huge
monotonous rage, of freedom-lover pent,
Some vast heart, like a planet's, chain'd and chafing in
By lengthen'd swell, and spasm, and panting breath,
And rhythmic rasping of thy sands and waves,
And serpent hiss, and savage peals of laughter,
And undertones of distant lion roar,
(Sounding, appealing to the sky's deaf ear&emdash;but
now, rapport for once,
A phantom in the night thy confidant for once,)
The first and last confession of the globe,
Outsurging, muttering from thy soul's abysms,
The tale of cosmic elemental passion,
Thou tellest to a kindred soul.
AS one by one withdraw the lofty actors,
From that great play on history's stage eterne,
That lurid, partial act of war and peace&emdash;
of old and new contending,
Fought out through wrath, fears, dark dismays, and
many a long suspense;
All past&emdash;and since, in countless graves
Victor's and vanquish'd&emdash;Lincoln's and Lee's
&emdash;now thou, with them,
Man of the mighty days&emdash;and equal to the
Thou from the prairies!&emdash;tangled and many-
vein'd and hard has been thy part,
To admiration has it been enacted!
(Impromptu on Buffalo City's monument to, and re-burial of
the old Iroquois orator, October 9, 1884)
UPON this scene, this show,
Yielded to-day by fashion, learning, wealth,
(Nor in caprice alone&emdash;some grains
of deepest meaning,)
Haply, aloft, (who knows?) from distant sky-
clouds' blended shapes,
As some old tree, or rock or cliff, thrill'd with
Product of Nature's sun, stars, earth direct
&emdash; a towering human form,
In hunting-shirt of film, arm'd with the rifle, a
half-ironical smile curving its phantom lips,
Like one of Ossian's ghosts looks down.
AH, not this marble, dead and cold:
Far from its base and shaft expanding&emdash;
the round zones circling, comprehending,
Thou, Washington, art all the world's, the continents'
&emdash; entire not yours alone, America,
Europe's as well, in every part, castle of lord or
Or frozen North, or sultry South&emdash;the
African's &emdash;the Arab's in his tent,
Old Asia's there with venerable smile, seated amid
(Greets the antique the hero new? 'tis but the same
&emdash;the heir legitimate, continued ever,
The indomitable heart and arm&emdash;proofs of
the never-broken line,
Courage, alertness, patience, faith, the same
&emdash; e'en in defeat defeated not, the same:)
Wherever sails a ship, or house is built on land, or
day or night,
Through teeming cities' streets, indoors or out,
factories or farms,
Now, or to come, or past&emdash;where patriot
wills existed or exist,
Wherever Freedom, pois'd by Toleration, sway'd
Stands or is rising thy true monument.
(More than eighty-three degrees north&emdash;about a good day's steaming distance to the Pole by one of our fast oceaners in clear water&emdash;Greely the explorer heard the song of a single snow-bird merrily sounding over the desolation.)
OF that blithe throat of thine from arctic bleak
I'll mind the lesson, solitary bird&emdash;let me
too welcome chilling drifts,
E'en the profoundest chill, as now&emdash;a
torpid pulse, a brain unnerv'd,
Old age land-lock'd within its winter bay&emdash;
(cold, cold, O cold!)
These snowy hairs, my feeble arm, my frozen feet,
For them thy faith, thy rule I take, and grave it to
Not summer's zones alone&emdash;not chants of
youth, or south's warm tides alone,
But held by sluggish floes, pack'd in the northern
ice, the cumulus of years,
These with gay heart I also sing.
WHAT hurrying human tides, or day or night!
What passions, winnings, losses, ardors, swim
What whirls of evil, bliss and sorrow, stem thee!
What curious questioning glances&emdash;glints
Leer, envy, scorn, contempt, hope, aspiration!
Thou portal&emdash;thou arena&emdash;thou
of the myriad long-drawn lines and groups!
(Could but thy flagstones, curbs, façades, tell
their inimitable tales;
Thy windows rich, and huge hotels&emdash;
thy side-walks wide;)
Thou of the endless sliding, mincing, shuffling
Thou, like the parti-colored world itself&emdash;
like infinite, teeming, mocking life!
Thou visor'd, vast, unspeakable show and lesson!
TO get the final lilt of songs,
To penetrate the inmost lore of poets&emdash;to
know the mighty ones,
Job, Homer, Eschylus, Dante, Shakspere,
To diagnose the shifting-delicate tints of love and
pride and doubt&emdash;to truly understand,
To encompass these, the last keen faculty and
Old age, and what it brings from all its past
FAR back, related on my mother's side,
Old Salt Kossabone, I'll tell you how he died:
(Had been a sailor all his life&emdash;was nearly
90&emdash;lived with his married grandchild,
House on a hill, with view of bay at hand, and
distant cape, and stretch to open sea;
The last of afternoons, the evening hours, for many
a year his regular custom,
In his great arm chair by the window seated,
(Sometimes, indeed, through half the day,)
Watching the coming, going of the vessels, he
mutters to himself&emdash;And now the close
One struggling outbound brig, one day, baffled for
long &emdash;cross-tides and much wrong
At last at nightfall strikes the breeze aright, her
whole luck veering,
And swiftly bending round the cape, the darkness
proudly entering, cleaving, as he watches,
``She's free&emdash;she's on her destination''
&emdash;these the last words&emdash;when
Jenny came, he sat there dead,
Dutch Kossabone, Old Salt, related on my mother's
side, far back.
AS down the stage again,
With Spanish hat and plumes, and gait inimitable,
Back from the fading lessons of the past, I'd call,
I'd tell and own,
How much from thee! the revelation of the singing
voice from thee!
(So firm&emdash;so liquid soft&emdash;again
that tremulous, manly timbre!
The perfect singing voice&emdash;deepest of all
to me the lesson&emdash;trial and test of all:)
How through those strains distill'd&emdash;how
the rapt ears, the soul of me, absorbing
Fernando's heart, Manrico's passionate call,
Ernani's, sweet Gennaro's,
I fold thenceforth, or seek to fold, within my chants
Freedom's and Love's and Faith's unloos'd cantabile,
(As perfume's, color's, sunlight's correlation:)
From these, for these, with these, a hurried line,
A wafted autumn leaf, dropt in the closing grave,
the shovel'd earth,
To memory of thee.
(From a talk I had lately with a German spiritualist)
NOTHING is ever really lost, or can be lost,
No birth, identity, form&emdash;no object
of the world,
Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing;
Appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere
confuse thy brain.
Ample are time and space&emdash;ample the
fields of Nature.
The body, sluggish, aged, cold&emdash;the
embers left from earlier fires,
The light in the eye grown dim, shall duly flame
The sun now low in the west rises for mornings
and for noons continual;
To frozen clods ever the spring's invisible law
With grass and flowers and summer fruits and
(The sense of the word is lament for the aborigines. It is an
Iroquois term; and has been used for a personal name.)
A SONG, a poem of itself&emdash;the word
itself a dirge,
Amid the wilds, the rocks, the storm and wintry
To me such misty, strange tableaux the syllables
Yonnondio&emdash;I see, far in the west or
north, a limitless ravine, with plains and
I see swarms of stalwart chieftains, medicine-men,
As flitting by like clouds of ghosts, they pass and
are gone in the twilight,
(Race of the woods, the landscapes free, and the
No picture, poem, statement, passing them to the
Yonnondio! Yonnondio!&emdash;unlimn'd they
To-day gives place, and fades&emdash;the cities,
farms, factories fade;
A muffled sonorous sound, a wailing word is borne
through the air for a moment,
Then blank and gone and still, and utterly lost.
EVER the undiscouraged, resolute, struggling
soul of man;
(Have former armies fail'd? then we send fresh
armies &emdash;and fresh again;)
Ever the grappled mystery of all earth's ages old
Ever the eager eyes, hurrahs, the welcome-clapping
hands, the loud applause;
Ever the soul dissatisfied, curious, unconvinced at last;
Struggling to-day the same&emdash;battling the same.
MY science-friend, my noblest woman-friend,
(Now buried in an English grave&emdash;and
this a memory-leaf for her dear sake,)
Ended our talk&emdash;``The sum, concluding
all we know of old or modern learning,
``Of all Geologies&emdash;Histories&emdash;
of all Astronomy&emdash;of Evolution, Meta-
``Is, that we all are onward, onward, speeding
slowly, surely bettering,
``Life, life an endless march, an endless army, (no
halt, but it is duly over,)
``The world, the race, the soul&emdash;in space
and time the universes,
``All bound as is befitting each&emdash;all surely
(From the 1867 edition ``L. of G.'')
SMALL the theme of my Chant, yet the greatest
&emdash; namely, One's-Self&emdash;a
simple, separate person. That, for the use of
the New World, I sing,
Man's physiology complete, from top to toe, I
sing. Not physiognomy alone, nor brain alone,
is worthy for the Muse;&emdash;I say
the Form complete is worthier far. The Female
equally with the Male, I sing.
Nor cease at the theme of One's-Self. I speak
the word of the modern, the word En-Masse.
My Days I sing, and the Lands&emdash;with
interstice I knew of hapless War.
(O friend, whoe'er you are, at last arriving hither
to commence, I feel through every leaf the
pressure of your hand, which I return.
And thus upon our journey, footing the road, and
more than once, and link'd together let us go.)
OLD farmers, travelers, workmen (no matter how
crippled or bent,)
Old sailors, out of many a perilous voyage, storm
Old soldiers from campaigns, with all their wounds,
defeats and scars;
Enough that they've survived at all&emdash;long life's
Forth from their struggles, trials, fights, to have emerged
at all&emdash;in that alone,
True conquerors o'er all the rest.
HERE first the duties of to-day, the lessons of the
Wealth, order, travel, shelter, products, plenty;
As of the building of some varied, vast, perpetual
Whence to arise inevitable in time, the towering
roofs, the lamps,
The solid-planted spires tall shooting to the stars.
THAT coursing on, whate'er men's speculations,
Amid the changing schools, theologies, philosophies,
Amid the bawling presentations new and old,
The round earth's silent vital laws, facts, modes
THANKS in old age&emdash;thanks ere I go,
For health, the midday sun, the impalpable air
&emdash; for life, mere life,
For precious ever-lingering memories, (of you
my mother dear
&emdash;you father&emdash;you, brothers,
For all my days&emdash;not those of peace
alone&emdash; the days of war the same,
For gentle words, caresses, gifts from foreign
For shelter, wine and meat&emdash;for sweet
(You distant, dim unknown&emdash;or young
or old&emdash;countless, unspecified,
We never met, and ne'er shall meet&emdash;
and yet our souls embrace, long, close and
For beings, groups, love, deeds, words, books
&emdash; for colors, forms,
For all the brave strong men&emdash;devoted,
hardy men&emdash;who've forward sprung
in freedom's help, all years, all lands,
For braver, stronger, more devoted men&emdash;
(a special laurel ere I go, to life's war's chosen
The cannoneers of song and thought&emdash;
the great artillerists&emdash; the foremost
leaders, captains of the soul:)
As soldier from an ended war return'd&emdash;
As traveler out of myriads, to the long
Thanks&emdash;joyful thanks!&emdash;a soldier's,
THE two old, simple problems ever intertwined,
Close home, elusive, present, baffled, grappled.
By each successive age insoluble, pass'd on,
To ours to-day&emdash;and we pass on the same.
AND who art thou? said I to the soft-falling shower,
Which, strange to tell, gave me an answer, as here
I am the Poem of Earth, said the voice of the rain,
Eternal I rise impalpable out of the land and the bottom-
Upward to heaven, whence, vaguely form'd, altogether
changed, and yet the same,
I descend to lave the drouths, atomies, dust-layers of
And all that in them without me were seeds only, latent,
And forever, by day and night, I give back life to my
own origin and make pure and beautify it;
(For song, issuing from its birth-place, after fulfilment,
Reck'd or unreck'd, duly with love returns.)
SOON shall the winter's foil be here;
Soon shall these icy ligatures unbind and melt&emdash;
A little while,
And air, soil, wave, suffused shall be in softness, bloom
and growth&emdash;a thousand forms shall rise
From these dead clods and chills as from low burial graves.
Thine eyes, ears&emdash;all thy best attributes&emdash;
all that takes cognizance of natural beauty,
Shall wake and fill. Thou shalt perceive the simple shows,
the delicate miracles of earth,
Dandelions, clover, the emerald grass, the early scents and
The arbutus under foot, the willow's yellow-green, the
blossoming plum and cherry;
With these the robin, lark and thrush, singing their songs
&emdash;the flitting bluebird;
For such the scenes the annual play brings on.
(Publish'd May 30, 1888)
WHILE not the past forgetting,
To-day, at least, contention sunk entire&emdash;peace,
For sign reciprocal our Northern, Southern hands,
Lay on the graves of all dead soldiers, North or South,
(Nor for the past alone&emdash;for meanings to the
Wreaths of roses and branches of palm.
(A Long Island incident&emdash;early part of the nineteenth
AMID these days of order, ease, prosperity,
Amid the current songs of beauty, peace, decorum,
I cast a reminiscence&emdash;(likely 'twill offend you,
I heard it in my boyhood;)&emdash;More than a
A queer old savage man, a fighter under Washington
(Large, brave, cleanly, hot-blooded, no talker, rather
Had fought in the ranks&emdash;fought well&emdash;
had been all through the Revolutionary war,)
Lay dying&emdash;sons, daughters, church-deacons,
lovingly tending him,
Sharping their sense, their ears, towards his murmuring,
``Let me return again to my war-days,
To the sights and scenes&emdash;to forming the line
To the scouts ahead reconnoitering,
To the cannons, the grim artillery,
To the galloping aids, carrying orders,
To the wounded, the fallen, the heat, the suspense,
The perfume strong, the smoke, the deafening noise;
Away with your life of peace!&emdash;your joys of
Give me my old wild battle-life again!''
HAVE you learn'd lessons only of those who admired
you, and were tender with you, and stood aside for you?
Have you not learn'd great lessons from those who reject
you, and brace themselves against you? or who treat
you with contempt, or dispute the passage with you?
SHOT gold, maroon and violet, dazzling silver, emerald,
The earth's whole amplitude and Nature's multiform power
consign'd for once to colors;
The light, the general air possess'd by them&emdash;colors
till now unknown,
No limit, confine&emdash;not the Western sky alone
&emdash;the high meridian&emdash;North, South, all,
Pure luminous color fighting the silent shadows to the last.
DOWN on the ancient wharf, the sand, I sit, with a new
He shipp'd as green-hand boy, and sail'd away, (took some
sudden, vehement notion;)
Since, twenty years and more have circled round and round,
While he the globe was circling round and round,&emdash;
and now returns:
How changed the place&emdash;all the old land-marks gone
&emdash;the parents dead;
(Yes, he comes back to lay in port for good&emdash;
to settle&emdash;has a well-fill'd purse&emdash;
no spot will do but this;)
The little boat that scull'd him from the sloop, now held in
leash I see,
I hear the slapping waves, the restless keel, the rocking in
I see the sailor kit, the canvas bag, the great box bound
I scan the face all berry-brown and bearded&emdash;the
Dress'd in its russet suit of good Scotch cloth:
(Then what the told-out story of those twenty years? What
of the future?)
(Voltaire closed a famous argument by claiming that a ship of war and the grand opera were proofs enough of civilization's and France's progress, in his day.)
A LESSER proof than old Voltaire's, yet greater,
Proof of this present time, and thee, thy broad expanse,
To my plain Northern hut, in outside clouds and snow,
Brought safely for a thousand miles o'er land and tide,
Some three days since on their own soil live-sprouting,
Now here their sweetness through my room unfolding,
A bunch of orange buds by mail from Florida.
THE soft voluptuous opiate shades,
The sun just gone, the eager light dispell'd&emdash;
(I too will soon be gone, dispell'd,)
A haze&emdash;nirwana&emdash;rest and night
YOU lingering sparse leaves of me on winter-nearing
And I some well-shorn tree of field or orchard-row;
You tokens diminute and lorn&emdash;(not now
the flush of May, or July clover-bloom&emdash;no
grain of August now;)
You pallid banner-staves&emdash;you pennants value-
less&emdash;you overstay'd of time,
Yet me soul-dearest leaves confirming all the rest,
NOT meagre, latent boughs alone, O songs! (scaly
and bare, like eagles' talons,)
But haply for some sunny day (who knows?) some
future spring, some summer&emdash;bursting forth,
To verdant leaves, or sheltering shade&emdash;to
Apples and grapes&emdash;the stalwart limbs of trees
emerging&emdash; the fresh, free, open air,
And love and faith, like scented roses blooming.
(Publish'd March 10, 1888)
TO-DAY, with bending head and eyes, thou, too, Columbia,
Less for the mighty crown laid low in sorrow&emdash;less
for the Emperor,
Thy true condolence breathest, sendest out o'er many a salt
Mourning a good old man&emdash;a faithful shepherd, patriot.
(For Whittier's eightieth birthday, December 17, 1887)
AS the Greek's signal flame, by antique records told,
Rose from the hill-top, like applause and glory,
Welcoming in fame some special veteran, hero,
With rosy tinge reddening the land he'd served,
So I aloft from Mannahatta's ship-fringed shore,
Lift high a kindled brand for thee, Old Poet.
IN some unused lagoon, some nameless bay,
On sluggish, lonesome waters, anchor'd near the shore,
An old, dismasted, gray and batter'd ship, disabled, done,
After free voyages to all the seas of earth, haul'd up at last
and hawser'd tight,
Lies rusting, mouldering.
NOW precedent songs, farewell&emdash;by every
(Trains of a staggering line in many a strange procession,
From ups and downs&emdash;with intervals&emdash;
from elder years, mid-age, or youth,)
``In Cabin'd Ships'', or ``Thee Old Cause'' or ``Poets to
Or ``Paumanok'', ``Song of Myself'', ``Calamus'',
Or ``Beat! Beat! Drums!'' or ``To the Leaven'd Soil
Or ``Captain! My Captain!'' ``Kosmos'', ``Quicksand
Years'', or ``Thoughts'',
``Thou Mother with thy Equal Brood'', and many, many
From fibre heart of mine&emdash;from throat and tongue
&emdash;(My life's hot pulsing blood,
The personal urge and form for me&emdash;not merely
paper, automatic type and ink,)
Each song of mine&emdash;each utterance in the past
&emdash;having its long, long history,
Of life or death, or soldier's wound, of country's loss or
(O heaven! what flash and started endless train of all!
compared indeed to that!
What wretched shred e'en at the best of all!)
AFTER a week of physical anguish,
Unrest and pain, and feverish heat,
Toward the ending day a calm and lull comes on,
Three hours of peace and soothing rest of brain.*
THE touch of flame
&emdash;the illuminating fire&emdash;the loftiest look
O'er city, passion, sea&emdash;o'er prairie, mountain,
wood&emdash;the earth itself;
The airy, different, changing hues of all, in falling twilight,
Objects and groups, bearings, faces, reminiscences;
The calmer sight&emdash;the golden setting, clear and
So much i' the atmosphere, the points of view, the
situations whence we scan,
Bro't out by them alone&emdash;so much (perhaps the
best) unreck'd before;
The lights indeed from them&emdash;old age's lambent
AFTER the supper and talk&emdash;after the day is done,
As a friend from friends his final withdrawal prolonging,
Good-bye and Good-bye with emotional lips repeating,
(So hard for his hand to release those hands&emdash;no
more will they meet,
No more for communion of sorrow and joy, of old and
A far-stretching journey awaits him, to return no more,)
Shunning, postponing severance&emdash;seeking to ward
off the last word ever so little,
E'en at the exit-door turning&emdash;charges superfluous
calling back&emdash;e'en as he descends the steps,
Something to eke out a minute additional&emdash;
shadows of nightfall deepening,
Farewells, messages lessening&emdash;dimmer the
forthgoer's visage and form,
Soon to be lost for aye in the darkness&emdash;loth,
O so loth to depart!
Garrulous to the very last.
*Navesink &emdash; a sea-side mountain, lower entrance of New York Bay.
*The two songs on pages 476-477[``Now Precedent Songs, Farewell'' and ``an Evening Lull''] are eked out during an afternoon, June, 1888, in my seventieth year, at a critical spell of illness. Of course no reader and probably no human being at any time will ever have such phases of emotional and solemn action as these involve to me. I feel in them an end and close of all.
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