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Books by Whitman



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SONG
OF
THE BANNER AT DAY-BREAK.

POET.

1 O A new song, a free song,
Flapping, flapping, flapping, flapping, by sounds, by
voices clearer,
By the wind's voice and that of the drum,
By the banner's voice, and child's voice, and sea's voice,
and father's voice,
Low on the ground and high in the air,
On the ground where father and child stand,
In the upward air where their eyes turn,
Where the banner at day-break is flapping.

2Words! book-words! what are you?
Words no more, for hearken and see,
My song is there in the open air—and I must sing,
With the banner and pennant a-flapping.

3I'll weave the chord and twine in,
Man's desire and babe's desire—I'll twine them in, I'll
put in life;
I'll put the bayonet's flashing point—I'll let bullets and
slugs whizz;
I'll pour the verse with streams of blood, full of volition,
full of joy;
Then loosen, launch forth, to go and compete,
With the banner and pennant a-flapping.




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BANNER AND PENNANT.

4Come up here, bard, bard;
Come up here, soul, soul;
Come up here, dear little child,
To fly in the clouds and winds with us, and play with
the measureless light.


CHILD.

5Father, what is that in the sky beckoning to me with
long finger?
And what does it say to me all the while?


FATHER.

6Nothing, my babe, you see in the sky;
And nothing at all to you it says. But look you, my
babe,
Look at these dazzling things in the houses, and see you
the money-shops opening;
And see you the vehicles preparing to crawl along the
streets with goods:
These! ah, these! how valued and toil'd for, these!
How envied by all the earth!


POET.

7Fresh and rosy red, the sun is mounting high;
On floats the sea in distant blue, careering through its
channels;
On floats the wind over the breast of the sea, setting in
toward land;
The great steady wind from west and west-by-south,
Floating so buoyant, with milk-white foam on the waters.

8But I am not the sea, nor the red sun;
I am not the wind, with girlish laughter;
Not the immense wind which strengthens—not the
wind which lashes;
Not the spirit that ever lashes its own body to terror and
death:


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But I am of that which unseen comes and sings, sings,
sings,
Which babbles in brooks and scoots in showers on the
land;
Which the birds know in the woods, mornings and
evenings,
And the shore-sands know, and the hissing wave, and
that banner and pennant,
Aloft there flapping and flapping.


CHILD.

9O father, it is alive—it is full of people—it has
children!
O now it seems to me it is talking to its children!
I hear it—it talks to me—O it is wonderful!
O it stretches—it spreads and runs so fast! O my
father,
It is so broad, it covers the whole sky!


FATHER.

10Cease, cease, my foolish babe,
What you are saying is sorrowful to me—much it dis-
pleases me;
Behold with the rest, again I say—behold not banners
and pennants aloft;
But the well-prepared pavements behold—and mark
the solid-wall'd houses.


BANNER AND PENNANT.

11Speak to the child, O bard, out of Manhattan;
Speak to our children all, or north or south of Manhat-
tan,
Where our factory-engines hum, where our miners
delve the ground,
Where our hoarse Niagara rumbles, where our prairie-
plows are plowing;
Speak, O bard! point this day, leaving all the rest, to
us over all—and yet we know not why;
For what are we, mere strips of cloth, profiting nothing,
Only flapping in the wind?




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POET.

12I hear and see not strips of cloth alone;
I hear the tramp of armies, I hear the challenging
sentry;
I hear the jubilant shouts of millions of men—I hear
LIBERTY!
I hear the drums beat, and the trumpets blowing;
I myself move abroad, swift-rising, flying then;
I use the wings of the land-bird, and use the wings of
the sea-bird, and look down as from a height;
I do not deny the precious results of peace—I see pop-
ulous cities, with wealth incalculable;
I see numberless farms—I see the farmers working in
their fields or barns;
I see mechanics working—I see buildings everywhere
founded, going up, or finish'd;
I see trains of cars swiftly speeding along railroad
tracks, drawn by the locomotives;
I see the stores, depots, of Boston, Baltimore, Charles-
ton, New Orleans;
I see far in the west the immense area of grain—I
dwell awhile, hovering;
I pass to the lumber forests of the north, and again
to the southern plantation, and again to Cali-
fornia;
Sweeping the whole, I see the countless profit, the
busy gatherings, earned wages;
See the identity formed out of thirty-six spacious and
haughty States, (and many more to come;)
See forts on the shores of harbors—see ships sailing in
and out;
Then over all, (aye! aye!) my little and lengthen'd pen-
nant shaped like a sword,
Runs swiftly up, indicating war and defiance—And now
the halyards have rais'd it,
Side of my banner broad and blue—side of my starry
banner,
Discarding peace over all the sea and land.




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BANNER AND PENNANT.

13Yet louder, higher, stronger, bard! yet farther,
wider cleave!
No longer let our children deem us riches and peace
alone;
We can be terror and carnage also, and are so now;
Not now are we one of these spacious and haughty
States, (nor any five, nor ten;)
Nor market nor depot are we, nor money-bank in the
city;
But these, and all, and the brown and spreading land,
and the mines below, are ours;
And the shores of the sea are ours, and the rivers great
and small;
And the fields they moisten are ours, and the crops and
the fruits are ours;
Bays and channels, and ships sailing in and out, are ours
—and we over all,
Over the area spread below, the three millions of square
miles—the capitals,
The thirty-five millions of people—O bard! in life and
death supreme,
We, even we, from this day flaunt out masterful, high
up above,
Not for the present alone, for a thousand years, chant-
ing through you,
This song to the soul of one poor little child.


CHILD.

14O my father, I like not the houses;
They will never to me be anything—nor do I like
money;
But to mount up there I would like, O father dear—
that banner I like;
That pennant I would be, and must be.


FATHER.

15Child of mine, you fill me with anguish;
To be that pennant would be too fearful;


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Little you know what it is this day, and henceforth
forever;
It is to gain nothing, but risk and defy everything;
Forward to stand in front of wars—and O, such wars!
—what have you to do with them?
With passions of demons, slaughter, premature death?


POET.

16Demons and death then I sing;
Put in all, aye all, will I—sword-shaped pennant for
war, and banner so broad and blue,
And a pleasure new and extatic, and the prattled yearn-
ing of children,
Blent with the sounds of the peaceful land, and the
liquid wash of the sea;
And the icy cool of the far, far north, with rustling
cedars and pines;
And the whirr of drums, and the sound of soldiers
marching, and the hot sun shining south;
And the beach-waves combing over the beach on my
eastern shore, and my western shore the same;
And all between those shores, and my ever running
Mississippi, with bends and chutes;
And my Illinois fields, and my Kansas fields, and my
fields of Missouri;
The CONTINENT—devoting the whole identity, without
reserving an atom,
Pour in! whelm that which asks, which sings, with all,
and the yield of all.


BANNER AND PENNANT.

17Aye all! for ever, for all!
From sea to sea, north and south, east and west,
Fusing and holding, claiming, devouring the whole;
No more with tender lip, nor musical labial sound,
But, out of the night emerging for good, our voice per-
suasive no more,
Croaking like crows here in the wind.




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POET.
(Finale.)

18My limbs, my veins dilate;
The blood of the world has fill'd me full—my theme is
clear at last :
—Banner so broad, advancing out of the night, I sing
you haughty and resolute;
I burst through where I waited long, too long, deafen'd
and blinded;
My sight, my hearing and tongue, are come to me, (a
little child taught me;)
I hear from above, O pennant of war, your ironical call
and demand;
Insensate! insensate! (yet I at any rate chant you,) O
banner!
Not houses of peace are you, nor any nor all their pros-
perity, (if need be, you shall have every one of
those houses to destroy them;
You thought not to destroy those valuable houses, stand-
ing fast, full of comfort, built with money;
May they stand fast, then? Not an hour, unless you,
above them and all, stand fast;)
—O banner! not money so precious are you, nor farm
produce you, nor the material good nutriment,
Nor excellent stores, nor landed on wharves from the
ships;
Not the superb ships, with sail-power or steam-power,
fetching and carrying cargoes,
Nor machinery, vehicles, trade, nor revenues,—But
you, as henceforth I see you,
Running up out of the night, bringing your cluster of
stars, (ever-enlarging stars;)
Divider of day-break you, cutting the air, touch'd by
the sun, measuring the sky,
(Passionately seen and yearn'd for by one poor little
child,
While others remain busy, or smartly talking, forever
teaching thrift, thrift;)
O you up there! O pennant! where you undulate like
a snake, hissing so curious,


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Out of reach—an idea only—yet furiously fought for,
risking bloody death—loved by me!
So loved! O you banner leading the day, with stars
brought from the night!
Valueless, object of eyes, over all and demanding all—
O banner and pennant!
I too leave the rest—great as it is, it is nothing—
houses, machines are nothing—I see them not;
I see but you, O warlike pennant! O banner so broad,
with stripes, I sing you only,
Flapping up there in the wind.


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