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Title: The Man-of-War Bird

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: April 1886

Publication information: The Athenaeum 2527 (April 1876): 463.

Source: Our transcription is based on a digital image of an original issue.

Whitman Archive ID: per.00017

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, April Lambert, Heather Morton, Leslie Ianno, Ramon Guerra, and Susan Belasco




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THE MAN-OF-WAR BIRD.1

THOU who hast slept all night upon the storm,
Waking renew'd on thy prodigious pinions,
(Burst the wild storm! above it thou ascendedst,
And restedst on the sky, thy slave that cradled thee;)
Now, a blue point, far, far in heaven floating,
As, to the light emerging, here on deck I watch thee,
(Myself a speck, a point on the world's floating vast.)
Far, far at sea,
After the night's fierce drifts have strewn the shore
with wrecks,
With reappearing day, as now, so happy and serene,
The rosy and elastic dawn, the flashing sun,
The limpid spread of air cerulean,
Thou also reappearest.
Thou, born to match the gale! (thou art all wings;)
To cope with heaven and earth, and sea and hurricane;
Thou ship of air that never furl'st thy sails,
Days, even weeks, untired and onward, through
spaces,—realms gyrating.
At dusk that look'st on Senegal, at morn America,
That sport'st amid the lightning-flash and thunder-
cloud!
In them—in thy experiences—hadst thou my soul,
What joys! what joys were thine!
WALT WHITMAN.

Notes:

1. Reprinted as "Thou Who Hast Slept All Night Upon the Storm" in Progress (Philadelphia), 16 November 1878 and as "To the Man-of-War-Bird" in Leaves of Grass (1881–82). [back]


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