Published Works

Books by Whitman



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 269] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




A WORD OUT OF THE SEA.

OUT of the rocked cradle,
Out of the mocking-bird's throat, the musical shuttle,
Out of the boy's mother's womb, and from the nipples
of her breasts,
Out of the Ninth Month midnight,
Over the sterile sands, and the fields beyond, where
the child, leaving his bed, wandered alone, bare-
headed, barefoot,
Down from the showered 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,
From those beginning notes of sickness and love,
there in the transparent mist,
From the thousand responses of my heart, never to
cease,


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 270] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



From the myriad thence-aroused 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 here-
after,
Taking all hints to use them—but swiftly leaping
beyond them,
A reminiscence sing.


REMINISCENCE.

1ONCE, Paumanok,
When the snows had melted, 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, crouched on her nest,
silent, with bright eyes,
And every day I, a curious boy, never too close, never
disturbing them,
Cautiously peering, absorbing, translating.

2Shine! Shine!
Pour down your warmth, great Sun!
While we bask—we two together.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 271] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



3Two 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,
If we two but keep together.

4Till of a sudden,
May-be killed, unknown to her mate,
One forenoon the she-bird crouched not on the nest,
Nor returned that afternoon, nor the next,
Nor ever appeared again.

5And 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,
The solitary guest from Alabama.

6Blow! Blow!
Blow up sea-winds along Paumanok's shore;
I wait and I wait, till you blow my mate to me.

7Yes, when the stars glistened,
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.

8He called on his mate,
He poured forth the meanings which I, of all men,
know.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 272] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



9Yes, my brother, I know,
The rest might not—but I have treasured 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,
Listened long and long.

10Listened, to keep, to sing—now translating the
notes,
Following you, my brother.

11Soothe! 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.

12Low hangs the moon—it rose late,
O it is lagging—O I think it is heavy with love.

13O madly the sea pushes upon the land,
With love—with love.

14O night!
O do I not see my love fluttering out there among the
breakers?
What is that little black thing I see there in the
white?



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 273] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



15Loud! 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,
You must know who I am, my love.

16Low-hanging moon!
What is that dusky spot in your brown yellow?
O it is the shape of my mate!
O moon, do not keep her from me any longer.

17Land! O land!
Whichever way I turn, O I think you could give me
my mate back again, if you would,
For I am almost sure I see her dimly whichever way
I look.

18O rising stars!
Perhaps the one I want so much will rise with some
of you.

19O throat!
Sound clearer through the atmosphere!
Pierce the woods, the earth,
Somewhere listening to catch you must be the one I
want.

20Shake out, carols!
Solitary here—the night's carols!
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.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 274] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



21But soft!
Sink low — soft!
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 to listen,
But not altogether still, for then she might not come
immediately to me.

22Hither, my love!
Here I am! Here!
With this just-sustained note I announce myself to
you,
This gentle call is for you, my love.

23Do not be decoyed elsewhere!
That is the whistle of the wind—it is not my voice,
That is the fluttering of the spray,
Those are the shadows of leaves.

24O darkness! O in vain!
O I am very sick and sorrowful.

25O 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 all the night.

26Murmur! Murmur on!
O murmurs—you yourselves make me continue to
sing, I know not why.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 275] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



27O past! O joy!
In the air—in the woods—over fields,
Loved! Loved! Loved! Loved! Loved!
Loved—but no more with me,
We two together no more.

28The aria sinking,
All else continuing—the stars shining,
The winds blowing—the notes of the wondrous bird
echoing,
With angry moans the fierce old mother yet, as ever,
incessantly moaning,
On the sands of Paumanok's shore gray and rustling,
The yellow half-moon, enlarged, sagging down, droop-
ing, 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 pent, now loose, now at last
tumultuously bursting,
The aria's meaning, the ears, the Soul, swiftly depos-
iting,
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
drowned secret hissing,
To the outsetting bard of love.

29Bird! (then 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 that I have heard you,


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 276] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Now in a moment I know what I am for—I awake,
And already a thousand singers—a thousand songs,
clearer, louder, more sorrowful than yours,
A thousand warbling echoes have started to life
within me,
Never to die.

30O throes!
O you demon, singing by yourself—projecting me,
O solitary me, listening—never more shall I cease
imitating, perpetuating you,
Never more shall I escape,
Never more shall 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 dusky demon aroused—the fire, the sweet hell
within,
The unknown want, the destiny of me.

31O give me some clew!
O if I am to have so much, let me have more!
O a word! O what is my destination?
O 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!



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 277] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



32A word then, (for I will conquer it,)
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?

33Answering, the sea,
Delaying not, hurrying not,
Whispered me through the night, and very plainly
before daybreak,
Lisped to me constantly the low and delicious word
DEATH,
And again Death—ever Death, Death, Death,
Hissing melodious, neither like the bird, nor like my
aroused child's heart,
But edging near, as privately for me, rustling at
my feet,
And creeping thence steadily up to my ears,
Death, Death, Death, Death, Death.

34Which I do not forget,
But fuse the song of two together,
That was sung 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,
That strong and delicious word which, creeping to
my feet,
The sea whispered me.


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.