whitman

Wandering At Morn

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Wandering at morn,
Emerging from the night, from gloomy thoughts–thee in my thoughts,
Yearning for thee, harmonious Union! thee, Singing Bird divine!
Thee, seated coil’d in evil times, my Country, with craft and black
dismay–with every meanness, treason thrust upon thee;
–Wandering–this common marvel I beheld–the parent thrush I
watch’d, feeding its young,
(The singing thrush, whose tones of joy and faith ecstatic,
Fail not to certify and cheer my soul.)

There ponder’d, felt I,
If worms, snakes, loathsome grubs, may to sweet spiritual songs be
turn’d,
If vermin so transposed, so used, so bless’d may be, 10
Then may I trust in you, your fortunes, days, my country;
–Who knows that these may be the lessons fit for you?
From these your future Song may rise, with joyous trills,
Destin’d to fill the world.

– Walt Whitman

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To A Western Boy

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O Boy of the West!
To you many things to absorb, I teach, to help you become eleve of
mine:
Yet if blood like mine circle not in your veins;
If you be not silently selected by lovers, and do not silently select
lovers,
Of what use is it that you seek to become eleve of mine?

– Walt Whitman

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Longings For Home

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O magnet-south! O glistening, perfumed South! My South!
O quick mettle, rich blood, impulse, and love! Good and evil! O all dear to me!
O dear to me my birth-things—All moving things, and the trees where I was
born—the
grains,
plants, rivers;
Dear to me my own slow sluggish rivers where they flow, distant, over flats of silvery
sands,
or
through swamps;
Dear to me the Roanoke, the Savannah, the Altamahaw, the Pedee, the Tombigbee, the Santee,
the
Coosa, and the Sabine;
O pensive, far away wandering, I return with my Soul to haunt their banks again;
Again in Florida I float on transparent lakes—I float on the Okeechobee—I cross
the
hummock land, or through pleasant openings, or dense forests;
I see the parrots in the woods—I see the papaw tree and the blossoming titi;
Again, sailing in my coaster, on deck, I coast off Georgia—I coast up the Carolinas,
I see where the live-oak is growing—I see where the yellow-pine, the scented
bay-tree, the
lemon and orange, the cypress, the graceful palmetto;
I pass rude sea-headlands and enter Pamlico Sound through an inlet, and dart my vision
inland;
O the cotton plant! the growing fields of rice, sugar, hemp!
The cactus, guarded with thorns—the laurel-tree, with large white flowers;
The range afar—the richness and barrenness—the old woods charged with mistletoe
and
trailing moss,
The piney odor and the gloom—the awful natural stillness, (Here in these dense swamps
the
freebooter carries his gun, and the fugitive slave has his conceal’d hut;)
O the strange fascination of these half-known, half-impassable swamps, infested by
reptiles,
resounding with the bellow of the alligator, the sad noises of the night-owl and the
wild-cat,
and
the whirr of the rattlesnake;
The mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing all the forenoon—singing through the
moon-lit
night,
The humming-bird, the wild turkey, the raccoon, the opossum;
A Tennessee corn-field—the tall, graceful, long-leav’d corn—slender,
flapping,
bright
green with tassels—with beautiful ears, each well-sheath’d in its husk;
An Arkansas prairie—a sleeping lake, or still bayou;
O my heart! O tender and fierce pangs—I can stand them not—I will depart;
O to be a Virginian, where I grew up! O to be a Carolinian!
O longings irrepressible! O I will go back to old Tennessee, and never wander more!

 

– Walt Whitman

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The Return Of Heroes

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For the lands, and for these passionate days, and for myself,
Now I awhile return to thee, O soil of autumn fields,
Reclining on thy breast, giving myself to thee,
Answering the pulses of thy sane and equable heart,
Tuning a verse for thee.

O Earth, that hast no voice, confide to me a voice,
O harvest of my lands—O boundless Summer growths!
O lavish brown parturient earth—O infinite, teeming womb.
A song to narrate thee.

2

Ever upon this stage,
Is acted God’s calm, annual drama,
Gorgeous processions, songs of birds,
Sunrise that fullest feeds and freshens most the soul,
The heaving sea, the waves upon the shore, the musical, strong waves,
The woods, the stalwart trees, the slender, tapering trees,
The lilliput countless armies of the grass,
The heat, the showers, the measureless pasturages,
The scenery of the snows, the wind’s free orchestra,
The stretching, light-hung roof of clouds, the clear cerulean and the silvery fringes,
The high dilating stars, the placid beckoning stars,
The shows of all the varied soils, and all the growths and products,
The moving flocks and herds, the plains and emerald meadows,
The shows of all the varied lands and all the growths and products.

3

Fecund America—to-day,
Thou art all over set in births and joys!
Thou groan’st with riches! thy wealth clothes thee as a swathing garment,
Thou laughest loud with ache of great possessions,
A myriad-twining life, like interlacing vines, binds all thy vast demesne,
As some huge ship freighted to water’s edge thou ridest into port,
As rain falls from the heaven, and vapors rise from the earth, so have the precious values fallen upon thee, and risen out of thee;
Thou envy of the globe! thou miracle!
Thou, bathed, choked, swimming in plenty,
Thou lucky Mistress of the tranquil barns,
Thou Prairie Dame that sittest in the middle and lookest out upon thy world, and lookest East, and lookest West,
Dispensatress, that by a word givest a thousand miles, a million farms, and missest nothing,
Thou all-acceptress—thou hospitable, (thou only art hospitable as God is hospitable.)

4

When late I sang sad was my voice;
Sad were the shows around me with deafening noises of hatred and smoke of war;
In the midst of the conflict, the heroes, I stood,
Or pass’d with slow step through the wounded and dying.

But now I sing not War,
Nor the measur’d march of soldiers, nor the tents of camps,
Nor the regiments hastily coming up, deploying in line of battle;
No more the sad, unnatural shows of war.

Ask’d room those flush’d immortal ranks, the first forth-stepping armies?
Ask room alas the ghastly ranks—the armies dread that follow’d.

(Pass—pass, ye proud brigades, with your tramping, sinewy legs,
With your shoulders young and strong, with your knapsacks and your muskets;
How elate I stood and watch’d you, where starting off you march’d.

Pass;—then rattle drums again,
For an army heaves in sight, O another gathering army,
Swarming, trailing on the rear, O you dread accruing army,
O you regiments so piteous, with your mortal diarrhea, with your fever,
O my land’s maimed darlings, with the plenteous bloody bandage and the crutch,
Lo, your pallid army follows.)

5

But on these days of brightness,
On the far-stretching beauteous landscape, the roads and lanes, the high-piled farm-wagons, and the fruits and barns,
Should the dead intrude?

Ah the dead to me mar not, they fit well in Nature,
They fit very well in the landscape under the trees and grass,
And along the edge of the sky in the horizon’s far margin.

Nor do I forget you Departed;
Nor in winter or summer my lost ones,
But most in the open air as now when my soul is rapt and at peace, like pleasing phantoms,
Your memories rising glide silently by me.

6

I saw the day the return of the heroes;
(Yet the heroes never surpass’d shall never return,
Them that day I saw not.)

I saw the interminable corps, I saw the processions of armies,
I saw them approaching, defiling by with divisions,
Streaming northward, their work done, camping awhile in clusters of mighty camps.

No holiday soldiers—youthful, yet veterans,
Worn, swart, handsome, strong, of the stock of homestead and workshop,
Harden’d of many a long campaign and sweaty march,
Inured on many a hard-fought bloody field.

A pause—the armies wait,
A million flush’d embattled conquerors wait,
The world too waits, then soft as breaking night and sure as dawn,
They melt, they disappear.

Exult O lands! victorious lands!
Not there your victory on those red shuddering fields;
But here and hence your victory.

Melt, melt away, ye armies—disperse, ye blue-clad soldiers,
Resolve ye back again, give up for good your deadly arms,
Other the arms the fields henceforth for you, or South or North,
With saner wars, sweet wars, life-giving wars.

7

Loud O my throat, and clear O soul!
The season of thanks and the voice of full-yielding,
The chant of joy and power for boundless fertility.

All till’d and untill’d fields expand before me,
I see the true arenas of my race and land—or first or last,
Man’s innocent and strong arenas.

I see the heroes at other toils,
I see well-wielded in their hands the better weapons.

I see where the Mother of All,
With full-spanning eye gazes forth, dwells long,
And counts the varied gathering of the products.

Busy the far, the sunlit panorama,
Prairie, orchard, and yellow grain of the North,
Cotton and rice of the South and Louisianian cane,
Open unseeded fallows, rich fields of clover and timothy,
Kine and horses feeding, and droves of sheep and swine,
And many a stately river flowing and many a jocund brook,
And healthy uplands with herby-perfumed breezes,
And the good green grass, that delicate miracle the ever-recurring grass.

8

Toil on heroes! harvest the products!
Not alone on those warlike fields the Mother of All,
With dilated form and lambent eyes watch’d you.

Toil on heroes! toil well! handle the weapons well!
The Mother of All, yet here as ever she watches you.

Well-pleased America thou beholdest,
Over the fields of the West, those crawling monsters,
The human-divine inventions, the labor-saving implements;
Beholdest, moving in every direction imbued as with life the revolving hay-rakes,
The steam-power reaping-machines and the horse-power machines,
The engines, thrashers of grain, and cleaners of grain, well separating the straw, the nimble work of the patent pitchfork;
Beholdest the newer saw-mill, the southern cotton-gin, and the rice-cleanser.

Beneath thy look O Maternal,
With these and else and with their own strong hands the heroes harvest.

All gather and all harvest;
Yet but for thee O Powerful, not a scythe might swing as now in security,
Not a maize-stalk dangle as now its silken tassels in peace.

Under thee only they harvest, even but a wisp of hay under thy great face only,
Harvest the wheat of Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, every barbed spear under thee,
Harvest the maize of Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, each ear in its light-green sheath,
Gather the hay to its myriad mows in the odorous tranquil barns,
Oats to their bins, the white potato, the buckwheat of Michigan, to theirs;
Gather the cotton in Mississippi or Alabama, dig and hoard the golden the sweet potato of Georgia and the Carolinas,
Clip the wool of California or Pennsylvania,
Cut the flax in the Middle States, or hemp or tobacco in the Borders,
Pick the pea and the bean, or pull apples from the trees or bunches of grapes from the vines,
Or aught that ripens in all these States or North or South,
Under the beaming sun and under thee.

 

– Walt Whitman

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The Great City

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The place where a great city stands is not the place of stretch’d wharves, docks, manufactures, deposits of produce merely,
Nor the place of ceaseless salutes of new-comers or the anchor-lifters of the departing,
Nor the place of the tallest and costliest buildings or shops selling goods from the rest of the earth,
Nor the place of the best libraries and schools, nor the place where money is plentiest,
Nor the place of the most numerous population.

Where the city stands with the brawniest breed of orators and bards,
Where the city stands that is belov’d by these, and loves them in return and understands them,
Where no monuments exist to heroes but in the common words and deeds,
Where thrift is in its place, and prudence is in its place,
Where the men and women think lightly of the laws,
Where the slave ceases, and the master of slaves ceases,
Where the populace rise at once against the never-ending audacity of elected persons,
Where fierce men and women pour forth as the sea to the whistle of death pours its sweeping and unript waves,

Where outside authority enters always after the precedence of inside authority,
Where the citizen is always the head and ideal, and President, Mayor, Governor and what not, are agents for pay,
Where children are taught to be laws to themselves, and to depend on themselves,
Where equanimity is illustrated in affairs,
Where speculations on the soul are encouraged,
Where women walk in public processions in the streets the same as the men,
Where they enter the public assembly and take places the same as the men;
Where the city of the faithfulest friends stands,
Where the city of the cleanliness of the sexes stands,
Where the city of the healthiest fathers stands,
Where the city of the best-bodied mothers stands,
There the great city stands.

– Walt Whitman

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Broadway

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What hurrying human tides, or day or night!
What passions, winnings, losses, ardors, swim thy waters!
What whirls of evil, bliss and sorrow, stem thee!
What curious questioning glances- glints of love!
Leer, envy, scorn, contempt, hope, aspiration!
Thou portal- thou arena- thou of the myriad long-drawn lines and groups!
(Could but thy flagstones, curbs, facades, tell their inimitable tales;
Thy windows rich, and huge hotels- thy side-walks wide;)
Thou of the endless sliding, mincing, shuffling feet!
Thou, like the parti-colored world itself- like infinite, teeming,
mocking life!
Thou visor’d, vast, unspeakable show and lesson!

 

– Walt Whitman

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Washington’s Monument, February, 1885

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Ah, not this marble, dead and cold:
Far from its base and shaft expanding—the round zones circling,
comprehending,

Thou, Washington, art all the world’s, the continents’ entire—
not yours alone, America,

Europe’s as well, in every part, castle of lord or laborer’s cot,
Or frozen North, or sultry South—the African’s—the Arab’s in
his tent,

Old Asia’s there with venerable smile, seated amid her ruins;
(Greets the antique the hero new? ‘tis but the same—the heir
legitimate, continued ever,

The indomitable heart and arm—proofs of the never-broken
line,

Courage, alertness, patience, faith, the same—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—where patriot wills existed or exist,
Wherever Freedom, pois’d by Toleration, sway’d by Law,
Stands or is rising thy true monument.

– Walt Whitman

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Sea – Shore Memories

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Out of the cradle endlessly rocking,
Out of the mocking-bird’s throat, the musical shuttle,
Out of the Ninth-month midnight,
Over the sterile sands, and the fields beyond, where the child,
leaving his bed, wander’d alone, bare-headed, barefoot,
Down from the shower’d halo,
Up from the mystic play of shadows, twining and twisting as if they
were alive,
Out from the patches of briers and blackberries,
From the memories of the bird that chanted to me,
From your memories, sad brother–from the fitful risings and fallings
I heard,
From under that yellow half-moon, late-risen, and swollen as if with
tears, 10
From those beginning notes of sickness and love, there in the
transparent mist,
From the thousand responses of my heart, never to cease,
From the myriad thence-arous’d words,
From the word stronger and more delicious than any,
From such, as now they start, the scene revisiting,
As a flock, twittering, rising, or overhead passing,
Borne hither–ere all eludes me, hurriedly,
A man–yet by these tears a little boy again,
Throwing myself on the sand, confronting the waves,
I, chanter of pains and joys, uniter of here and hereafter, 20
Taking all hints to use them–but swiftly leaping beyond them,
A reminiscence sing.

Once, Paumanok,
When the snows had melted–when the lilac-scent was in the air, and
the Fifth-month grass was growing,
Up this sea-shore, in some briers,
Two guests from Alabama–two together,
And their nest, and four light-green eggs, spotted with brown,
And every day the he-bird, to and fro, near at hand,
And every day the she-bird, crouch’d on her nest, silent, with bright
eyes,
And every day I, a curious boy, never too close, never disturbing
them, 30
Cautiously peering, absorbing, translating.

Shine! shine! shine!
Pour down your warmth, great Sun!
While we bask–we two together.

Two together!
Winds blow South, or winds blow North,
Day come white, or night come black,
Home, or rivers and mountains from home,
Singing all time, minding no time,
While we two keep together. 40

Till of a sudden,
May-be kill’d, unknown to her mate,
One forenoon the she-bird crouch’d not on the nest,
Nor return’d that afternoon, nor the next,
Nor ever appear’d again.

And thenceforward, all summer, in the sound of the sea,
And at night, under the full of the moon, in calmer weather,
Over the hoarse surging of the sea,
Or flitting from brier to brier by day,
I saw, I heard at intervals, the remaining one, the he-bird, 50
The solitary guest from Alabama.

Blow! blow! blow!
Blow up, sea-winds, along Paumanok’s shore!
I wait and I wait, till you blow my mate to me.

Yes, when the stars glisten’d,
All night long, on the prong of a moss-scallop’d stake,
Down, almost amid the slapping waves,
Sat the lone singer, wonderful, causing tears.

He call’d on his mate;
He pour’d forth the meanings which I, of all men, know. 60

Yes, my brother, I know;
The rest might not–but I have treasur’d every note;
For once, and more than once, dimly, down to the beach gliding,
Silent, avoiding the moonbeams, blending myself with the shadows,
Recalling now the obscure shapes, the echoes, the sounds and sights
after their sorts,
The white arms out in the breakers tirelessly tossing,
I, with bare feet, a child, the wind wafting my hair,
Listen’d long and long.

Listen’d, to keep, to sing–now translating the notes,
Following you, my brother. 70

Soothe! soothe! soothe!
Close on its wave soothes the wave behind,
And again another behind, embracing and lapping, every one close,
But my love soothes not me, not me.

Low hangs the moon–it rose late;
O it is lagging–O I think it is heavy with love, with love.

O madly the sea pushes, pushes upon the land,
With love–with love.

O night! do I not see my love fluttering out there among the
breakers?
What is that little black thing I see there in the white? 80

Loud! loud! loud!
Loud I call to you, my love!

High and clear I shoot my voice over the waves;
Surely you must know who is here, is here;
You must know who I am, my love.

Low-hanging moon!
What is that dusky spot in your brown yellow?
O it is the shape, the shape of my mate!
O moon, do not keep her from me any longer.

Land! land! O land! 90
Whichever way I turn, O I think you could give me my mate back again,
if you only would;
For I am almost sure I see her dimly whichever way I look.

O rising stars!
Perhaps the one I want so much will rise, will rise with some of you.

O throat! O trembling throat!
Sound clearer through the atmosphere!
Pierce the woods, the earth;
Somewhere listening to catch you, must be the one I want.

Shake out, carols!
Solitary here–the night’s carols! 100
Carols of lonesome love! Death’s carols!
Carols under that lagging, yellow, waning moon!
O, under that moon, where she droops almost down into the sea!
O reckless, despairing carols.

But soft! sink low;
Soft! let me just murmur;
And do you wait a moment, you husky-noised sea;
For somewhere I believe I heard my mate responding to me,
So faint–I must be still, be still to listen;
But not altogether still, for then she might not come immediately to
me. 110

Hither, my love!
Here I am! Here!
With this just-sustain’d note I announce myself to you;
This gentle call is for you, my love, for you.

Do not be decoy’d elsewhere!
That is the whistle of the wind–it is not my voice;
That is the fluttering, the fluttering of the spray;
Those are the shadows of leaves.

O darkness! O in vain!
O I am very sick and sorrowful. 120

O brown halo in the sky, near the moon, drooping upon the sea!
O troubled reflection in the sea!
O throat! O throbbing heart!
O all–and I singing uselessly, uselessly all the night.

Yet I murmur, murmur on!
O murmurs–you yourselves make me continue to sing, I know not why.

O past! O life! O songs of joy!
In the air–in the woods–over fields;
Loved! loved! loved! loved! loved!
But my love no more, no more with me! 130
We two together no more.

The aria sinking;
All else continuing–the stars shining,
The winds blowing–the notes of the bird continuous echoing,
With angry moans the fierce old mother incessantly moaning,
On the sands of Paumanok’s shore, gray and rustling;
The yellow half-moon enlarged, sagging down, drooping, the face of
the sea almost touching;
The boy extatic–with his bare feet the waves, with his hair the
atmosphere dallying,
The love in the heart long pent, now loose, now at last tumultuously
bursting,
The aria’s meaning, the ears, the Soul, swiftly depositing, 140
The strange tears down the cheeks coursing,
The colloquy there–the trio–each uttering,
The undertone–the savage old mother, incessantly crying,
To the boy’s Soul’s questions sullenly timing–some drown’d secret
hissing,
To the outsetting bard of love.

Demon or bird! (said the boy’s soul,)
Is it indeed toward your mate you sing? or is it mostly to me?
For I, that was a child, my tongue’s use sleeping,
Now I have heard you,
Now in a moment I know what I am for–I awake, 150
And already a thousand singers–a thousand songs, clearer, louder and
more sorrowful than yours,
A thousand warbling echoes have started to life within me,
Never to die.

O you singer, solitary, singing by yourself–projecting me;
O solitary me, listening–nevermore shall I cease perpetuating you;
Never more shall I escape, never more the reverberations,
Never more the cries of unsatisfied love be absent from me,
Never again leave me to be the peaceful child I was before what
there, in the night,
By the sea, under the yellow and sagging moon,
The messenger there arous’d–the fire, the sweet hell within, 160
The unknown want, the destiny of me.

O give me the clew! (it lurks in the night here somewhere;)
O if I am to have so much, let me have more!
O a word! O what is my destination? (I fear it is henceforth chaos;)
O how joys, dreads, convolutions, human shapes, and all shapes,
spring as from graves around me!
O phantoms! you cover all the land and all the sea!
O I cannot see in the dimness whether you smile or frown upon me;
O vapor, a look, a word! O well-beloved!
O you dear women’s and men’s phantoms!

A word then, (for I will conquer it,) 170
The word final, superior to all,
Subtle, sent up–what is it?–I listen;
Are you whispering it, and have been all the time, you sea-waves?
Is that it from your liquid rims and wet sands?

Whereto answering, the sea,
Delaying not, hurrying not,
Whisper’d me through the night, and very plainly before day-break,
Lisp’d to me the low and delicious word DEATH;
And again Death–ever Death, Death, Death,
Hissing melodious, neither like the bird, nor like my arous’d child’s
heart, 180
But edging near, as privately for me, rustling at my feet,
Creeping thence steadily up to my ears, and laving me softly all
over,
Death, Death, Death, Death, Death.

Which I do not forget,
But fuse the song of my dusky demon and brother,
That he sang to me in the moonlight on Paumanok’s gray beach,
With the thousand responsive songs, at random,
My own songs, awaked from that hour;
And with them the key, the word up from the waves,
The word of the sweetest song, and all songs, 190
That strong and delicious word which, creeping to my feet,
The sea whisper’d me.

 

– Walt Whitman

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