Published Works

Books by Whitman

contents   |   previous   |   next

Page 51a
View Page 51a

YEAR OF METEORS.
(1859-60.)

YEAR of meteors! brooding year!
I would bind in words retrospective, some of your deeds
         and signs;
I would sing your contest for the 19th Presidentiad;
I would sing how an old man, tall, with white hair,
         mounted the scaffold in Virginia;
(I was at hand—silent I stood, with teeth shut close—I
         watch'd;
I stood very near you, old man, when cool and indiffer-
         ent, but trembling with age and your unheal'd
         wounds, you mounted the scaffold;)
I would sing in my copious song your census returns of
         The States,
The tables of population and products—I would sing of
         your ships and their cargoes,
The proud black ships of Manhattan, arriving, some
         fill'd with immigrants, some from the isthmus
         with cargoes of gold;
Songs thereof would I sing—to all that hitherward
         comes would I welcome give;
And you would I sing, fair stripling! welcome to you
         from me, sweet boy of England!
Remember you surging Manhattan's crowds, as you
         passed with your cortege of nobles?
There in the crowds stood I, and singled you out with
         attachment;
I know not why, but I loved you…(and so go forth
         little song,
Far over sea speed like an arrow, carrying my love all
         folded,

Page 52a
View Page 52a
And find in his palace the youth I love, and drop these
         lines at his feet;)
—Nor forget I to sing of the wonder, the ship as she
         swam up my bay,
Well-shaped and stately the Great Eastern swam up my
         bay, she was 600 feet long,
Her moving swiftly, surrounded by myriads of small
         craft, I forget not to sing;
Nor the comet that came unannounced, out of the north,
         flaring in heaven,
Nor the strange huge meteor procession, dazzling and
         clear, shooting over our heads,
(A moment, a moment long, it sail'd its balls of unearth-
         ly light over our heads,
Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;)
—Of such, and fitful as they, I sing—with gleams from
         them would I gleam and patch these chants;
Your chants, O year all mottled with evil and good!
         year of forebodings! year of the youth I love!
Year of comets and meteors transient and strange!—lo!
         even here, one equally transient and strange!
As I flit through you hastily, soon to fall and be gone,
         what is this book,
What am I myself but one of your meteors?
contents   |   previous   |   next

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.