Published Works

Books by Whitman



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




DRUM-TAPS.

Aroused and angry,
I thought to beat the alarum, and urge relentless war;
But soon my fingers fail'd me, my face droop'd, and I
resign'd myself,
To sit by the wounded and soothe them, or silently watch
the dead.

DRUM-TAPS.

1

1FIRST, O songs, for a prelude,
Lightly strike on the stretch'd tympanum, pride and joy
in my city.
How she led the rest to arms—how she gave the cue,
How at once with lithe limbs, unwaiting a moment, she
sprang,
(O superb! O Manhattan, my own, my peerless!
O strongest you in the hour of danger, in crisis! O
truer than steel!)
How you sprang! how you threw off the costumes of
peace with indifferent hand;
How your soft opera-music changed, and the drum and
fife were heard in their stead;
How you led to the war, (that shall serve for our pre-
lude, songs of soldiers,)
How Manhattan drum-taps led.




- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 262] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



2

2Forty years had I in my city seen soldiers parading;
Forty years as a pageant—till unawares, the Lady of
this teeming and turbulent city,
Sleepless, amid her ships, her houses, her incalculable
wealth,
With her million children around her—suddenly,
At dead of night, at news from the south,
Incens'd, struck with clench'd hand the pavement.

3A shock electric—the night sustain'd it;
Till with ominous hum, our hive at day-break pour'd
out its myriads.

4From the houses then, and the workshops, and
through all the doorways,
Leapt they tumultuous—and lo! Manhattan arming.


3

5To the drum-taps prompt,
The young men falling in and arming;
The mechanics arming, (the trowel, the jack-plane, the
blacksmith's hammer, tost aside with precipita-
tion;)
The lawyer leaving his office, and arming—the judge
leaving the court;
The driver deserting his wagon in the street, jumping
down, throwing the reins abruptly down on the
horses' backs;
The salesman leaving the store—the boss, book-keeper,
porter, all leaving;
Squads gather everywhere by common consent, and
arm;
The new recruits, even boys—the old men show them
how to wear their accoutrements—they buckle
the straps carefully;
Outdoors arming—indoors arming—the flash of the
musket-barrels;
The white tents cluster in camps—the arm'd sentries
around—the sunrise cannon, and again at sunset;


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 263] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Arm'd regiments arrive every day, pass through the
city, and embark from the wharves;
(How good they look, as they tramp down to the river,
sweaty, with their guns on their shoulders!
How I love them! how I could hug them, with their
brown faces, and their clothes and knapsacks
cover'd with dust!)
The blood of the city up—arm'd! arm'd! the cry
everywhere;
The flags flung out from the steeples of churches, and
from all the public buildings and stores;
The tearful parting—the mother kisses her son—the
son kisses his mother;
(Loth is the mother to part—yet not a word does she
speak to detain him;)
The tumultuous escort—the ranks of policemen preced-
ing, clearing the way;
The unpent enthusiasm—the wild cheers of the crowd
for their favorites;
The artillery—the silent cannons, bright as gold, drawn
along, rumble lightly over the stones;
(Silent cannons—soon to cease your silence!
Soon, unlimber'd, to begin the red business;)
All the mutter of preparation—all the determin'd
arming;
The hospital service—the lint, bandages, and medi-
cines;
The women volunteering for nurses—the work begun
for, in earnest—no mere parade now;
War! an arm'd race is advancing!—the welcome for
battle—no turning away;
War! be it weeks, months, or years—an arm'd race is
advancing to welcome it.


4

6Mannahatta a-march!—and it's O to sing it well!
It's O for a manly life in the camp!

7And the sturdy artillery!
The guns, bright as gold—the work for giants—to serve
well the guns:


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 264] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Unlimber them! no more, as the past forty years, for
salutes for courtesies merely;
Put in something else now besides powder and wadding.


5

8And you, Lady of Ships! you Mannahatta;
Old matron of this proud, friendly, turbulent city!
Often in peace and wealth you were pensive, or covertly
frown'd amid all your children;
But now you smile with joy, exulting old Mannahatta!



1861.

ARM'D year! year of the struggle!
No dainty rhymes or sentimental love verses for you,
terrible year!
Not you as some pale poetling, seated at a desk, lisping
cadenzas piano;
But as a strong man, erect, clothed in blue clothes, ad-
vancing, carrying a rifle on your shoulder,
With well-gristled body and sunburnt face and hands
—with a knife in a belt at your side,
As I heard you shouting loud—your sonorous voice
ringing across the continent;
Your masculine voice, O year, as rising amid the great
cities,
Amid the men of Manhattan I saw you, as one of the
workmen, the dwellers in Manhattan;
Or with large steps crossing the prairies out of Illinois
and Indiana,
Rapidly crossing the West with springy gait, and de-
scending the Alleghanies;
Or down from the great lakes, or in Pennsylvania, or on
deck along the Ohio river;
Or southward along the Tennessee or Cumberland rivers,
or at Chattanooga on the mountain top,


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 265] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Saw I your gait and saw I your sinewy limbs, clothed
in blue, bearing weapons, robust year;
Heard your determin'd voice, launch'd forth again and
again;
Year that suddenly sang by the mouths of the round-
lipp'd cannon,
I repeat you, hurrying, crashing, sad, distracted year.


BEAT! BEAT! DRUMS!

1

BEAT! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows—through doors—burst like a
ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation;
Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet—no happiness must he
have now with his bride;
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, plowing his field or
gathering his grain;
So fierce you whirr and pound, you drums—so shrill you
bugles blow.


2

Beat! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities—over the rumble of wheels in
the streets:
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses?
No sleepers must sleep in those beds;
No bargainers' bargains by day—no brokers or specu-
lators—Would they continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt
to sing?
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case be-
fore the judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums—you bugles wilder
blow.
12




- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 266] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



3

Beat! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley—stop for no expostulation;
Mind not the timid—mind not the weeper or prayer;
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man;
Let not the child's voice be heard, nor the mother's en-
treaties;
Make even the trestles to shake the dead, where they
lie awaiting the hearses,
So strong you thump, O terrible drums—so loud you
bugles blow.



FROM PAUMANOK STARTING I FLY LIKE A BIRD.

FROM Paumanok starting, I fly like a bird,
Around and around to soar, to sing the idea of all;
To the north betaking myself, to sing there arctic
songs.
To Kanada, 'till I absorb Kanada in myself—to Michi-
gan then,
To Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, to sing their songs,
(they are inimitable;)
Then to Ohio and Indiana to sing theirs—to Missouri
and Kansas and Arkansas, to sing theirs,
To Tennessee and Kentucky—to the Carolinas and
Georgia, to sing theirs,
To Texas, and so along up toward California, to roam
accepted everywhere;
To sing first, (to the tap of the war-drum, if need be,)
The idea of all—of the western world, one and insepa-
rable,
And then the song of each member of These States.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 267] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




RISE, O DAYS, FROM YOUR FATHOMLESS DEEPS.

RISE, O days, from your fathomless deeps, till you
loftier, fiercer sweep!
Long for my soul, hungering gymnastic, I devour'd
what the earth gave me;
Long I roam'd the woods of the north—long I watch'd
Niagara pouring;
I travel'd the prairies over, and slept on their breast—
I cross'd the Nevadas, I cross'd the plateaus;
I ascended the towering rocks along the Pacific, I sail'd
out to sea;
I sail'd through the storm, I was refresh'd by the storm;
I watch'd with joy the threatening maws of the waves;
I mark'd the white combs where they career'd so high,
curling over;
I heard the wind piping, I saw the black clouds;
Saw from below what arose and mounted, (O superb! O
wild as my heart, and powerful!)
Heard the continuous thunder, as it bellow'd after the
lightning;
Noted the slender and jagged threads of lightning, as
sudden and fast amid the din they chased each
other across the sky;
—These, and such as these, I, elate, saw—saw with
wonder, yet pensive and masterful;
All the menacing might of the globe uprisen around
me;
Yet there with my soul I fed—I fed content, super-
cilious.


2

'Twas well, O soul! 'twas a good preparation you gave
me!
Now we advance our latent and ampler hunger to fill;
Now we go forth to receive what the earth and the sea
never gave us;
Not through the mighty woods we go, but through the
mightier cities;


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 268] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Something for us is pouring now, more than Niagara
pouring;
Torrents of men, (sources and rills of the Northwest,
are you indeed inexhaustible?)
What, to pavements and homesteads here—what were
those storms of the mountains and sea?
What, to passions I witness around me to-day? Was
the sea risen?
Was the wind piping the pipe of death under the black
clouds?
Lo! from deeps more unfathomable, something more
deadly and savage;
Manhattan, rising, advancing with menacing front—
Cincinnati, Chicago, unchain'd;
—What was that swell I saw on the ocean? behold
what comes here!
How it climbs with daring feet and hands! how it
dashes!
How the true thunder bellows after the lightning! how
bright the flashes of lightning!
How DEMOCRACY, with desperate vengeful port strides
on, shown through the dark by those flashes of
lightning!
(Yet a mournful wail and low sob I fancied I heard
through the dark,
In a lull of the deafening confusion.)


3

Thunder on! stride on, Democracy! strike with venge-
ful stroke!
And do you rise higher than ever yet, O days, O cities!
Crash heavier, heavier yet, O storms! you have done me
good;
My soul, prepared in the mountains, absorbs your im-
mortal strong nutriment;
—Long had I walk'd my cities, my country roads,
through farms, only half satisfied;
One doubt, nauseous, undulating like a snake, crawl'd
on the ground before me,


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



Continually preceding my steps, turning upon me oft,
ironically hissing low;
—The cities I loved so well, I abandon'd and left—I
sped to the certainties suitable to me;
Hungering, hungering, hungering, for primal energies,
and Nature's dauntlessness,
I refresh'd myself with it only, I could relish it only;
I waited the bursting forth of the pent fire—on the
water and air I waited long;
—But now I no longer wait—I am fully satisfied—I am
glutted;
I have witness'd the true lightning—I have witness'd
my cities electric;
I have lived to behold man burst forth, and warlike
America rise;
Hence I will seek no more the food of the northern sol-
itary wilds,
No more on the mountains roam, or sail the stormy sea.



CITY OF SHIPS.

CITY of ships!
(O the black ships! O the fierce ships!
O the beautiful, sharp bow'd steam-ships and sail-ships!)
City of the world! (for all races are here;
All the lands of the earth make contributions here;)
City of the sea! city of hurried and glittering tides!
City whose gleeful tides continually rush or recede,
whirling in and out, with eddies and foam!
City of wharves and stores! city of tall façades of mar-
ble and iron!
Proud and passionate city! mettlesome, mad, extrava-
gant city!
Spring up, O city! not for peace alone, but be indeed
yourself, warlike!
Fear not! submit to no models but your own, O city!
Behold me! incarnate me, as I have incarnated you!


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



I have rejected nothing you offer'd me—whom you
adopted, I have adopted;
Good or bad, I never question you—I love all—I do not
condemn anything;
I chant and celebrate all that is yours—yet peace no
more;
In peace I chanted peace, but now the drum of war is
mine;
War, red war, is my song through your streets, O city!


THE CENTENARIAN'S STORY.
VOLUNTEER OF 1861-2.

(At Washington Park, Brooklyn, assisting the Centenarian.)

1GIVE me your hand, old Revolutionary;
The hill-top is nigh—but a few steps, (make room, gen-
tlemen;)
Up the path you have follow'd me well, spite of your
hundred and extra years;
You can walk, old man, though your eyes are almost
done;
Your faculties serve you, and presently I must have
them serve me.

2Rest, while I tell what the crowd around us means;
On the plain below, recruits are drilling and exercising;
There is the camp—one regiment departs to-morrow;
Do you hear the officers giving the orders?
Do you hear the clank of the muskets?

3Why, what comes over you now, old man?
Why do you tremble, and clutch my hand so convul-
sively?
The troops are but drilling—they are yet surrounded
with smiles;


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



Around them, at hand, the well-drest friends, and the
women;
While splendid and warm the afternoon sun shines
down;
Green the midsummer verdure, and fresh blows the
dallying breeze,
O'er proud and peaceful cities, and arm of the sea be-
tween.

4But drill and parade are over—they march back to
quarters;
Only hear that approval of hands! hear what a clap-
ping!

5As wending, the crowds now part and disperse—but
we, old man,
Not for nothing have I brought you hither—we must
remain;
You to speak in your turn, and I to listen and tell.


THE CENTENARIAN.

6When I clutch'd your hand, it was not with terror;
But suddenly, pouring about me here, on every side,
And below there where the boys were drilling, and up
the slopes they ran,
And where tents are pitch'd, and wherever you see,
south and south-east and south-west,
Over hills, across lowlands, and in the skirts of woods,
And along the shores, in mire (now fill'd over), came
again, and suddenly raged,
As eighty-five years a-gone, no mere parade receiv'd
with applause of friends,
But a battle, which I took part in myself—aye, long ago
as it is, I took part in it,
Walking then this hill-top, this same ground.

7Aye, this is the ground;
My blind eyes, even as I speak, behold it re-peopled
from graves;


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



The years recede, pavements and stately houses disap-
pear;
Rude forts appear again, the old hoop'd guns are
mounted;
I see the lines of rais'd earth stretching from river to
bay;
I mark the vista of waters, I mark the uplands and
slopes;
Here we lay encamp'd—it was this time in summer also.

8As I talk, I remember all—I remember the Declara-
tion;
It was read here—the whole army paraded—it was
read to us here;
By his staff surrounded, the General stood in the mid-
dle—he held up his unsheath'd sword,
It glitter'd in the sun in full sight of the army.

9'Twas a bold act then;
The English war-ships had just arrived—the king had
sent them from over the sea;
We could watch down the lower bay where they lay at
anchor,
And the transports, swarming with soldiers.

10A few days more, and they landed—and then the
battle.

11Twenty thousand were brought against us,
A veteran force, furnish'd with good artillery.

12I tell not now the whole of the battle;
But one brigade, early in the forenoon, order'd forward
to engage the red-coats;
Of that brigade I tell, and how steadily it march'd,
And how long and how well it stood, confronting death.

13Who do you think that was, marching steadily, stern-
ly confronting death?
It was the brigade of the youngest men, two thousand
strong,


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



Rais'd in Virginia and Maryland, and many of them
known personally to the General.

14Jauntily forward they went with quick step toward
Gowanus' waters;
Till of a sudden, unlook'd for, by defiles through the
woods, gain'd at night,
The British advancing, wedging in from the east,
fiercely playing their guns,
That brigade of the youngest was cut off, and at the
enemy's mercy.

15The General watch'd them from this hill;
They made repeated desperate attempts to burst their
environment;
Then drew close together, very compact, their flag
flying in the middle;
But O from the hills how the cannon were thinning and
thinning them!

16It sickens me yet, that slaughter!
I saw the moisture gather in drops on the face of the
General;
I saw how he wrung his hands in anguish.

17Meanwhile the British maneuver'd to draw us out
for a pitch'd battle;
But we dared not trust the chances of a pitch'd battle.

18We fought the fight in detachments;
Sallying forth, we fought at several points—but in each
the luck was against us;
Our foe advancing, steadily getting the best of it, push'd
us back to the works on this hill;
Till we turn'd, menacing, here, and then he left us.

19That was the going out of the brigade of the young-
est men, two thousand strong;
Few return'd—nearly all remain in Brooklyn.

20That, and here, my General's first battle;


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



No women looking on, nor sunshine to bask in—it did
not conclude with applause;
Nobody clapp'd hands here then.

21But, in darkness, in mist, on the ground, under a chill
rain,
Wearied that night we lay, foil'd and sullen;
While scornfully laugh'd many an arrogant lord, off
against us encamp'd,
Quite within hearing, feasting, klinking wine-glasses
together over their victory.

22So, dull and damp, and another day;
But the night of that, mist lifting, rain ceasing,
Silent as a ghost, while they thought they were sure of
him, my General retreated.

23I saw him at the river-side,
Down by the ferry, lit by torches, hastening the embar-
cation;
My General waited till the soldiers and wounded were
all passed over;
And then, (it was just ere sunrise,) these eyes rested on
him for the last time.

24Every one else seem'd fill'd with gloom;
Many no doubt thought of capitulation.

25But when my General pass'd me,
As he stood in his boat, and look'd toward the coming
sun,
I saw something different from capitulation.


TERMINUS.

26Enough—the Centenarian's story ends;
The two, the past and present, have interchanged;
I myself, as connecter, as chansonnier of a great future,
am now speaking.



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



27And is this the ground Washington trod?
And these waters I listlessly daily cross, are these the
waters he cross'd,
As resolute in defeat, as other generals in their proudest
triumphs?

28It is well—a lesson like that, always comes good;
I must copy the story, and send it eastward and west-
ward;
I must preserve that look, as it beam'd on you, rivers
of Brooklyn.

29See! as the annual round returns, the phantoms
return;
It is the 27th of August, and the British have landed;
The battle begins, and goes against us—behold! through
the smoke, Washington's face;
The brigade of Virginia and Maryland have march'd
forth to intercept the enemy;
They are cut off—murderous artillery from the hills
plays upon them;
Rank after rank falls, while over them silently droops
the flag,
Baptized that day in many a young man's bloody
wounds,
In death, defeat, and sisters', mothers' tears.

30Ah, hills and slopes of Brooklyn! I perceive you are
more valuable than your owners supposed;
Ah, river! henceforth you will be illumin'd to me at
sunrise with something besides the sun.

31Encampments new! in the midst of you stands an
encampment very old;
Stands forever the camp of the dead brigade.




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




An Army Corps on the March.

WITH its cloud of skirmishers in advance,
With now the sound of a single shot, snapping like a
whip, and now an irregular volley,
The swarming ranks press on and on, the dense brigades
press on;
Glittering dimly, toiling under the sun—the dust-cover'd
men,
In columns rise and fall to the undulations of the
ground,
With artillery interspers'd—the wheels rumble, the
horses sweat,
As the army corps advances.


Cavalry Crossing a Ford.

A LINE in long array, where they wind betwixt green
islands;
They take a serpentine course—their arms flash in the
sun—Hark to the musical clank;
Behold the silvery river—in it the splashing horses,
loitering, stop to drink;
Behold the brown-faced men—each group, each person,
a picture—the negligent rest on the saddles;
Some emerge on the opposite bank—others are just
entering the ford—while,
Scarlet, and blue, and snowy white,
The guidon flags flutter gaily in the wind.



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




Bivouac on a Mountain Side.

I SEE before me now, a traveling army halting;
Below, a fertile valley spread, with barns, and the
orchards of summer;
Behind, the terraced sides of a mountain, abrupt in
places, rising high!
Broken, with rocks, with clinging cedars, with tall
shapes, dingily seen;
The numerous camp-fires scatter'd near and far, some
away up on the mountain;
The shadowy forms of men and horses, looming, large-
sized, flickering;
And over all, the sky—the sky! far, far out of reach,
studded, breaking out, the eternal stars.


By the Bivouac's Fitful Flame.

BY the bivouac's fitful flame,
A procession winding around me, solemn and sweet and
slow;—but first I note,
The tents of the sleeping army, the fields' and woods'
dim outline,
The darkness, lit by spots of kindled fire—the silence;
Like a phantom far or near an occasional figure moving;
The shrubs and trees, (as I left my eyes they seem to
be stealthily watching me;)
While wind in procession thoughts, O tender and
wondrous thoughts,
Of life and death—of home and the past and loved,
and of those that are far away;
A solemn and slow procession there as I sit on the
ground,
By the bivouac's fitful flame.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 278] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




Come Up from the Fields, Father.

1

1COME up from the fields, father, here's a letter from
our Pete;
And come to the front door, mother—here's a letter
from thy dear son.


2

2Lo, 'tis autumn;
Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder;
Cool and sweeten Ohio's villages, with leaves fluttering
in the moderate wind;
Where apples ripe in the orchards hang, and grapes on
the trellis'd vines;
(Smell you the smell of the grapes on the vines?
Smell you the buckwheat, where the bees were lately
buzzing?)

3Above all, lo, the sky, so calm, so transparent after
the rain, and with wondrous clouds;
Below, too, all calm, all vital and beautiful—and the
farm prospers well.


3

4Down in the fields all prospers well;
But now from the fields come, father—come at the
daughter's call;
And come to the entry, mother—to the front door come,
right away.

5Fast as she can she hurries—something ominous—
her steps trembling;
She does not tarry to smooth her hair, nor adjust her
cap;

6Open the envelope quickly;


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 279] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



O this is not our son's writing, yet his name is sign'd;
O a strange hand writes for our dear son—O stricken
mother's soul!
All swims before her eyes—flashes with black—she
catches the main words only;
Sentences broken—gun-shot wound in the breast, cavalry
skirmish, taken to hospital,
At present low, but will soon be better.


4

7Ah, now the single figure to me,
Amid all teeming and wealthy Ohio, with all its cities
and farms,
Sickly white in the face, and dull in the head, very faint,
By the jamb of a door leans.

8Grieve not so, dear mother, (the just-grown daughter
speaks through her sobs;
The little sisters huddle around, speechless and dis-
may'd;)
See, dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be better.


5

9Alas, poor boy, he will never be better, (nor may-be
needs to be better, that brave and simple soul;)
While they stand at home at the door, he is dead
already;
The only son is dead.

10But the mother needs to be better;
She, with thin form, presently drest in black;
By day her meals untouch'd—then at night fitfully
sleeping, often waking,
In the midnight waking, weeping, longing with one deep
longing,
O that she might withdraw unnoticed—silent from life,
escape and withdraw,
To follow, to seek, to be with her dear dead son.




- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 280] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




VIGIL STRANGE I KEPT ON THE FIELD ONE NIGHT.

VIGIL strange I kept on the field one night:
When you, my son and my comrade, dropt at my side
that day,
One look I but gave, which your dear eyes return'd,
with a look I shall never forget;
One touch of your hand to mine, O boy, reach'd up as
you lay on the ground;
Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested
battle;
Till late in the night reliev'd, to the place at last again I
made my way;
Found you in death so cold, dear comrade—found your
body, son of responding kisses, (never again on
earth responding;)
Bared your face in the starlight—curious the scene—
cool blew the moderate night-wind;
Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me
the battle-field spreading;
Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet, there in the fragrant
silent night;
But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh—Long,
long I gazed;
Then on the earth partially reclining, sat by your side,
leaning my chin in my hands;
Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with
you, dearest comrade—Not a tear, not a word;
Vigil of silence, love and death—vigil for you, my son
and my soldier,
As onward silently stars aloft, eastward new ones up-
ward stole;
Vigil final for you, brave boy, (I could not save you,
swift was your death,
I faithfully loved you and cared for you living—I think
we shall surely meet again;)
Till at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the
dawn appear'd,
My comrade I wrapt in his blanket, envelop'd well his
form,


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 281] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head,
and carefully under feet;
And there and then, and bathed by the rising sun, my
son in his grave, in his rude-dug grave I de-
posited;
Ending my vigil strange with that—vigil of night and
battle-field dim;
Vigil for boy of responding kisses, (never again on earth
responding;)
Vigil for comrade swiftly slain—vigil I never forget,
how as day brighten'd,
I rose from the chill ground, and folded my soldier well
in his blanket,
And buried him where he fell.


A MARCH IN THE RANKS HARD-PREST, AND
THE ROAD UNKNOWN.

A MARCH in the ranks hard-prest, and the road unknown;
A route through a heavy wood, with muffled steps in
the darkness;
Our army foil'd with loss severe, and the sullen remnant
retreating;
Till after midnight glimmer upon us, the lights of a
dim-lighted building;
We come to an open space in the woods, and halt by
the dim-lighted building;
'Tis a large old church at the crossing roads—'tis now
an impromptu hospital;
—Entering but for a minute, I see a sight beyond all
the pictures and poems ever made;
Shadows of deepest, deepest black, just lit by moving
candles and lamps,
And by one great pitchy torch, stationary, with wild red
flame, and clouds of smoke;
By these, crowds, groups of forms, vaguely I see, on the
floor, some in the pews laid down;


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 282] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



At my feet more distinctly, a soldier, a mere lad, in
danger of bleeding to death, (he is shot in the
abdomen;)
I staunch the blood temporarily, (the youngster's face
is white as a lily;)
Then before I depart I sweep my eyes o'er the scene,
fain to absorb it all;
Faces, varieties, postures beyond description, most in
obscurity, some of them dead;
Surgeons operating, attendants holding lights, the smell
of ether, the odor of blood;
The crowd, O the crowd of the bloody forms of soldiers
—the yard outside also fill'd;
Some on the bare ground, some on planks or stretchers,
some in the death-spasm sweating;
An occasional scream or cry, the doctor's shouted orders
or calls;
The glisten of the little steel instruments catching the
glint of the torches;
These I resume as I chant—I see again the forms, I
smell the odor;
Then hear outside the orders given, Fall in, my men,
Fall in;
But first I bend to the dying lad—his eyes open—a
half-smile gives he me;
Then the eyes close, calmly close, and I speed forth to
the darkness,
Resuming, marching, ever in darkness marching, on in
the ranks,
The unknown road still marching.


A SIGHT IN CAMP IN THE DAY-BREAK GREY
AND DIM.

1A SIGHT in camp in the day-break grey and dim,
As from my tent I emerge so early, sleepless,
As slow I walk in the cool fresh air, the path near by
the hospital tent,


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 283] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Three forms I see on stretchers lying, brought out
there, untended lying,
Over each the blanket spread, ample brownish woollen
blanket,
Grey and heavy blanket, folding, covering all.

2Curious, I halt, and silent stand.
Then with light fingers I from the face of the nearest,
the first, just lift the blanket:
Who are you, elderly man so gaunt and grim, with well-
grey'd hair, and flesh all sunken about the eyes?
Who are you, my dear comrade?

3Then to the second I step—And who are you, my
child and darling?
Who are you, sweet boy, with cheeks yet blooming?

4Then to the third—a face nor child, nor old, very
calm, as of beautiful yellow-white ivory;
Young man, I think I know you—I think this face of
yours is the face of the Christ himself;
Dead and divine, and brother of all, and here again he
lies.


NOT THE PILOT.

NOT the pilot has charged himself to bring his ship
into port, though beaten back, and many times
baffled;
Not the path-finder, penetrating inland, weary and
long,
By deserts parch'd, snows-chill'd, rivers wet, perseveres
till he reaches his destination,
More than I have charged myself, heeded or unheeded,
to compose a free march for These States,
To be exhilarating music to them—a battle-call, rousing
to arms, if need be—years, centuries hence.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 284] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




AS TOILSOME I WANDER'D VIRGINIA'S WOODS.

1AS TOILSOME I wander'd Virginia's woods,
To the music of rustling leaves, kick'd by my feet, (for
'twas autumn,)
I mark'd at the foot of a tree the grave of a soldier,
Mortally wounded he, and buried on the retreat, (easily
all could I understand;
The halt of a mid-day hour, when up! no time to lose
—yet this sign left,
On a tablet scrawl'd and nail'd on the tree by the grave,
Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade.

2Long, long I muse, then on my way go wandering;
Many a changeful season to follow, and many a scene
of life;
Yet at times through changeful season and scene, ab-
rupt, alone, or in the crowded street,
Comes before me the unknown soldier's grave—comes
the inscription rude in Virginia's woods,
Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade.


Year that Trembled and Reel'd Beneath Me.

YEAR that trembled and reel'd beneath me!
Your summer wind was warm enough—yet the air I
breathed froze me;
A thick gloom fell through the sunshine and darken'd
me;
Must I change my triumphant songs? said I to my-
self;
Must I indeed learn to chant the cold dirges of the baf-
fled?
And sullen hymns of defeat?



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 285] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




THE DRESSER.

1

1AN old man bending, I come, among new faces,
Years looking backward, resuming, in answer to chil-
dren,
Come tell us, old man, as from young men and maidens
that love me;
Years hence of these scenes, of these furious passions,
these chances,
Of unsurpass'd heroes, (was one side so brave? the
other was equally brave;)
Now be witness again—paint the mightiest armies of
earth;
Of those armies so rapid, so wondrous, what saw you to
tell us?
What stays with you latest and deepest? of curious
panics,
Of hard-fought engagements, or sieges tremendous,
what deepest remains?


2

2O maidens and young men I love, and that love me,
What you ask of my days, those the strangest and
sudden your talking recalls;
Soldier alert I arrive, after a long march, cover'd with
sweat and dust;
In the nick of time I come, plunge in the fight, loudly
shout in the rush of successful charge;
Enter the captur'd works….yet lo! like a swift
running river, they fade;
Pass and are gone, they fade—I dwell not on soldiers'
perils or soldiers' joys;
(Both I remember well—many the hardships, few the
joys, yet I was content.)

3But in silence, in dreams' projections,
While the world of gain and appearance and mirth goes
on,


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 286] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



So soon what is over forgotten, and waves wash the
imprints off the sand,
In nature's reverie sad, with hinged knees returning, I
enter the doors—(while for you up there,
Whoever you are, follow me without noise, and be of
strong heart.)


3

4Bearing the bandages, water and sponge,
Straight and swift to my wounded I go,
Where they lie on the ground, after the battle brought
in;
Where their priceless blood reddens the grass, the
ground;
Or to the rows of the hospital tent, or under the roof'd
hospital;
To the long rows of cots, up and down, each side, I
return;
To each and all, one after another, I draw near—not
one do I miss;
An attendant follows, holding a tray—he carries a refuse
pail,
Soon to be fill'd with clotted rags and blood, emptied,
and fill'd again.

5I onward go, I stop,
With hinged knees and steady hand, to dress wounds;
I am firm with each—the pangs are sharp, yet unavoid-
able;
One turns to me his appealing eyes—(poor boy! I
never knew you,
Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for
you, if that would save you.)


4

6On, on I go—(open, doors of time! open, hospital
doors!)
The crush'd head I dress, (poor crazed hand, tear not
the bandage away;)
The neck of the cavalry-man, with the bullet through
and through, I examine;


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 287] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Hard the breathing rattles, quite glazed already the
eye, yet life struggles hard;
(Come, sweet death! be persuaded, O beautiful death!
In mercy come quickly.)

7From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand,
I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off the
matter and blood;
Back on his pillow the soldier bends, with curv'd neck,
and side-falling head;
His eyes are closed, his face is pale, (he dares not look
on the bloody stump,
And has not yet look'd on it.)

8I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep;
But a day or two more—for see, the frame all wasted
already, and sinking,
And the yellow-blue countenance see.

9I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bul-
let wound,
Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene,
so sickening, so offensive,
While the attendant stands behind aside me, holding
the tray and pail.

10I am faithful, I do not give out;
The fractur'd thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdo-
men;
These and more I dress with impassive hand—(yet deep
in my breast a fire, a burning flame.)


5

11Thus in silence, in dreams' projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the
hospitals;
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night—some are so
young;
Some suffer so much—I recall the experience sweet and
sad;
(Many a soldier's loving arms about this neck have
cross'd and rested,
Many a soldier's kiss dwells on these bearded lips.)




- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 288] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




LONG, TOO LONG, O LAND.

LONG, too long, O land,
Traveling roads all even and peaceful, you learn'd from
joys and prosperity only;
But now, ah now, to learn from crises of anguish—ad-
vancing, grappling with direst fate, and recoiling
not;
And now to conceive, and show to the world, what your
children en-masse really are;
(For who except myself has yet conceiv'd what your
children en-masse really are?)


GIVE ME THE SPLENDID SILENT SUN.

1

GIVE me the splendid silent sun, with all his beams full-
dazzling;
Give me juicy autumnal fruit, ripe and red from the
orchard;
Give me a field where the unmow'd grass grows;
Give me an arbor, give me the trellis'd grape;
Give me fresh corn and wheat—give me serene-moving
animals, teaching content;
Give me nights perfectly quiet, as on high plateaus
west of the Mississippi, and I looking up at the
stars;
Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flow-
ers, where I can walk undisturb'd;
Give me for marriage a sweet-breath'd woman, of whom
I should never tire;
Give me a perfect child—give me, away, aside from the
noise of the world, a rural domestic life;
Give me to warble spontaneous songs, reliev'd, recluse
by myself, for my own ears only;


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 289] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Give me solitude—give me Nature—give me again, O
Nature, your primal sanities!
—These, demanding to have them, (tired with cease-
less excitement, and rack'd by the war-strife;)
These to procure, incessantly asking, rising in cries
from my heart,
While yet incessantly asking, still I adhere to my city;
Day upon day, and year upon year, O city, walking your
streets,
Where you hold me enchain'd a certain time, refusing
to give me up;
Yet giving to make me glutted, enrich'd of soul—you
give me forever faces;
(O I see what I sought to escape, confronting, reversing
my cries;
I see my own soul trampling down what it ask'd for.)


2

Keep your splendid, silent sun;
Keep your woods, O Nature, and the quiet places by
the woods;
Keep your fields of clover and timothy, and your corn-
fields and orchards;
Keep the blossoming buckwheat fields, where the Ninth-
month bees hum;
Give me faces and streets! give me these phantoms in-
cessant and endless along the trottoirs!
Give me interminable eyes! give me women! give me
comrades and lovers by the thousand!
Let me see new ones every day! let me hold new ones
by the hand every day!
Give me such shows! give me the streets of Manhat-
tan!
Give me Broadway, with the soldiers marching—give
me the sound of the trumpets and drums!
(The soldiers in companies or regiments—some, start-
ing away, flush'd and reckless;
Some, their time up, returning, with thinn'd ranks—
young, yet very old, worn, marching, noticing
nothing;)


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 290] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



—Give me the shores and the wharves heavy-fringed
with the black ships!
O such for me! O an intense life! O full to repletion,
and varied!
The life of the theatre, bar-room, huge hotel, for me!
The saloon of the steamer! the crowded excursion for
me! the torch-light procession!
The dense brigade, bound for the war, with high piled
military wagons following;
People, endless, streaming, with strong voices, passions,
pageants;
Manhattan streets, with their powerful throbs, with the
beating drums, as now;
The endless and noisy chorus, the rustle and clank of
muskets, (even the sight of the wounded;)
Manhattan crowds, with their turbulent musical chorus
—with varied chorus, and light of the sparkling
eyes;
Manhattan faces and eyes forever for me.



DIRGE FOR TWO VETERANS.

1

THE last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finish'd Sabbath,
On the pavement here—and there beyond, it is looking,
Down a new-made double grave.


2

Lo! the moon ascending!
Up from the east, the silvery round moon;
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon;
Immense and silent moon.


3

I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-key'd bugles;


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 291] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



All the channels of the city streets they're flooding,
As with voices and with tears.


4

I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring;
And every blow of the great convulsive drums,
Strikes me through and through.


5

For the son is brought with the father;
In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell;
Two veterans, son and father, dropt together,
And the double grave awaits them.


6

Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive;
And the day-light o'er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.


7

In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin'd;
('Tis some mother's large, transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.)


8

O strong dead-march, you please me!
O moon immense, with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans, passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.


9

The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music;
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.




- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 292] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




OVER THE CARNAGE ROSE PROPHETIC A VOICE.

1OVER the carnage rose prophetic a voice,
Be not dishearten'd—Affection shall solve the problems
of Freedom yet;
Those who love each other shall become invincible—
they shall yet make Columbia victorious.

2Sons of the Mother of All! you shall yet be victo-
rious!
You shall yet laugh to scorn the attacks of all the re-
mainder of the earth.

3No danger shall balk Columbia's lovers;
If need be, a thousand shall sternly immolate them-
selves for one.

4One from Massachusetts shall be a Missourian's com-
rade;
From Maine and from hot Carolina, and another, an
Oregonese, shall be friends triune,
More precious to each other than all the riches of the
earth.

5To Michigan, Florida, perfumes shall tenderly come;
Not the perfumes of flowers, but sweeter, and wafted
beyond death.

6It shall be customary in the houses and streets to see
manly affection;
The most dauntless and rude shall touch face to face
lightly;
The dependence of Liberty shall be lovers,
The continuance of Equality shall be comrades.

7These shall tie you and band you stronger than hoops
of iron;
I, extatic, O partners! O lands! with the love of lovers
tie you.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 293] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



8(Were you looking to be held together by the lawyers?
Or by an agreement on a paper? or by arms?
—Nay—nor the world, nor any living thing, will so
cohere.)


THE ARTILLERYMAN'S VISION.

WHILE my wife at my side lies slumbering, and the wars
are over long,
And my head on the pillow rests at home, and the va-
cant midnight passes,
And through the stillness, through the dark, I hear,
just hear, the breath of my infant,
There in the room, as I wake from sleep, this vision
presses upon me:
The engagement opens there and then, in fantasy unreal;
The skirmishers begin—they crawl cautiously ahead—
I hear the irregular snap! snap!
I hear the sounds of the different missiles—the short
t-h-t! t-h-t! of the rifle balls;
I see the shells exploding, leaving small white clouds—
I hear the great shells shieking as they pass;
The grape, like the hum and whirr of wind through the
trees, (quick, tumultuous, now the contest rages!)
All the scenes at the batteries themselves rise in detail
before me again;
The crashing and smoking—the pride of the men in
their pieces;
The chief gunner ranges and sights his piece, and se-
lects a fuse of the right time;
After firing, I see him lean aside, and look eagerly off
to note the effect;
—Elsewhere I hear the cry of a regiment charging—
(the young colonel leads himself this time, with
brandish'd sword;)
I see the gaps cut by the enemy's volleys, (quickly fill'd
up, no delay;)


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 294] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



I breathe the suffocating smoke—then the flat clouds
hover low, concealing all;
Now a strange lull comes for a few seconds, not a shot
fired on either side;
Then resumed, the chaos louder than ever, with eager
calls, and orders of officers;
While from some distant part of the field the wind wafts
to my ears a shout of applause, (some special
success;)
And ever the sound of the cannon, far or near, (rousing,
even in dreams, a devilish exultation, and all the
old mad joy, in the depths of my soul;)
And ever the hastening of infantry shifting positions—
batteries, cavalry, moving hither and thither;
(The falling, dying, I heed not—the wounded, dripping
and red, I heed not—some to the rear are hob-
bling;)
Grime, heat, rush—aid-de-camps galloping by, or on a
full run;
With the patter of small arms, the warning s-s-t of the
rifles, (these in my vision I hear or see,)
And bombs bursting in air, and at night the vari-
color'd rockets.


I SAW OLD GENERAL AT BAY.

I SAW old General at bay;
(Old as he was, his grey eyes yet shone out in battle
like stars;)
His small force was now completely hemm'd in, in his
works;
He call'd for volunteers to run the enemy's lines—a
desperate emergency;
I saw a hundred and more step forth from the ranks—
but two or three were selected;
I saw them receive their orders aside—they listen'd
with care—the adjutant was very grave;
I saw them depart with cheerfulness, freely risking their
lives.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 295] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




O TAN-FACED PRAIRIE-BOY.

O TAN-FACED prairie-boy!
Before you came to camp, came many a welcome gift;
Praises and presents came, and nourishing food—till at
last, among the recruits,
You came, taciturn, with nothing to give—we but look'd
on each other,
When lo! more than all the gifts of the world, you
gave me.


LOOK DOWN FAIR MOON.

LOOK down, fair moon, and bathe this scene;
Pour softly down night's nimbus floods, on faces ghast-
ly, swollen, purple;
On the dead, on their backs, with their arms toss'd
wide,
Pour down your unstinted nimbus, sacred moon.


RECONCILIATION.

WORD over all, beautiful as the sky!
Beautiful that war, and all its deeds of carnage, must
in time be utterly lost;
That the hands of the sisters Death and Night, inces-
santly softly wash again, and ever again, this
soil'd world:
…For my enemy is dead—a man divine as myself is
dead;
I look where he lies, white-faced and still, in the coffin
—I draw near;
I bend down, and touch lightly with my lips the white
face in the coffin.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 296] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




SPIRIT WHOSE WORK IS DONE.

(Washington City, 1865.)

SPIRIT whose work is done! spirit of dreadful hours!
Ere, departing, fade from my eyes your forests of bayo-
nets;
Spirit of gloomiest fears and doubts, (yet onward ever
unfaltering pressing;)
Spirit of many a solemn day, and many a savage scene!
Electric spirit!
That with muttering voice, through the war now closed,
like a tireless phantom flitted,
Rousing the land with breath of flame, while you beat
and beat the drum;
—Now, as the sound of the drum, hollow and harsh to
the last, reverberates round me;
As your ranks, your immortal ranks, return, return
from the battles;
While the muskets of the young men yet lean over their
shoulders;
While I look on the bayonets bristling over their shoul-
ders;
While those slanted bayonets, whole forests of them,
appearing in the distance, approach and pass
on, returning homeward,
Moving with steady motion, swaying to and fro, to the
right and left,
Evenly, lightly rising and falling, as the steps keep
time:
—Spirit of hours I knew, all hectic red one day, but
pale as death next day;
Touch my mouth, ere you depart—press my lips close!
Leave me your pulses of rage! bequeath them to me!
fill me with currents convulsive!
Let them scorch and blister out of my chants, when you
are gone;
Let them identify you to the future, in these songs.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 297] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




HOW SOLEMN, AS ONE BY ONE.

(Washington City, 1865.)

HOW solemn, as one by one,
As the ranks returning, all worn and sweaty—as the
men file by where I stand;
As the faces, the masks appear—as I glance at the faces,
studying the masks;
(As I glance upward out of this page, studying you,
dear friend, whoever you are;)
How solemn the thought of my whispering soul, to each
in the ranks, and to you;
I see behind each mask, that wonder, a kindred soul;
O the bullet could never kill what you really are, dear
friend,
Nor the bayonet stab what you really are:
…The soul! yourself I see, great as any, good as the
best,
Waiting, secure and content, which the bullet could
never kill,
Nor the bayonet stab, O friend!


Not Youth Pertains to Me.

NOT youth pertains to me,
Nor delicatesse—I cannot beguile the time with talk;
Awkward in the parlor, neither a dancer nor elegant;
In the learn'd coterie sitting constrain'd and still—for
learning inures not to me;
Beauty, knowledge, inure not to me—yet there are two
or three things inure to me;
I have nourish'd the wounded, and sooth'd many a
dying soldier.
And at intervals, waiting, or in the midst of camp,
Composed these songs.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 298] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




TO THE LEAVEN'D SOIL THEY TROD.

TO the leaven'd soil they trod, calling, I sing, for the
last;
(Not cities, nor man alone, nor war, nor the dead,
But forth from my tent emerging for good—loosing,
untying the tent-ropes;)
In the freshness, the forenoon air, in the far-stretching
circuits and vistas, again to peace restored,
To the fiery fields emanative, and the endless vistas
beyond—to the south and the north;
To the leaven'd soil of the general western world, to
attest my songs,
(To the average earth, the wordless earth, witness of
war and peace,)
To the Alleghanian hills, and the tireless Mississippi,
To the rocks I, calling, sing, and all the trees in the
woods,
To the plain of the poems of heroes, to the prairie
spreading wide,
To the far-off sea, and the unseen winds, and the sane
impalpable air;
…And responding, they answer all, (but not in words,)
The average earth, the witness of war and peace,
acknowledges mutely;
The prairie draws me close, as the father, to bosom
broad, the son;
The Northern ice and rain, that began me, nourish me
to the end;
But the hot sun of the South is to ripen my songs.

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.