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Title: Warble for Lilac-Time

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: May 1870

Publication information: Galaxy 9 (May 1870): 686.

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

Whitman Archive ID: per.00022

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




image 1

WARBLE FOR LILAC-TIME.1

———

WARBLE me now, for joy of Lilac-time,
Sort me, O tongue and lips, for Nature's sake, and sweet life's sake,
Souvenirs of earliest summer—birds' eggs, and the first berries;
Gather the welcome signs (as children, with pebbles, or stringing shells);
Put in April and May—the hylas croaking in the ponds—the elastic air,
Bees, butterflies, the sparrow with its simple notes,
Blue-bird, and darting swallow—nor forget the high-hole flashing his golden
wings,
The tranquil sunny haze, the clinging smoke, the vapor,
Spiritual, airy insects, humming on gossamer wings,
Shimmer of waters, with fish in them—the cerulean above;
All that is jocund and sparkling—the brooks running,
The maple woods, the crisp February days, and the sugar-making;
The robin, where he hops, bright-eyed, brown-breasted,
With musical clear call at sunrise, and again at sunset,
Or flitting among the trees of the apple-orchard, building the nest of his mate;
The melted snow of March—the willow sending forth its yellow-green sprouts;
—For spring-time is here! is here! and what is this in it and from it?
Thou, Soul, unloosen'd—the restlessness after I know not what;
Come! let us lag here no longer—let us be up and away!
O for another world! O if one could but fly like a bird!
O to escape—to sail forth, as in a ship!
To glide with thee, O Soul, o'er all, in all, as a ship o'er the waters!
—Gathering these hints, these preludes—the blue sky, the grass, the morning
drops of dew;
(With additional songs—every spring will I now strike up additional songs,
Nor ever again forget, these tender days, the chants of Death as well as Life;)
The lilac-scent, the bushes, and the dark-green, heart-shaped leaves,
Wood violets, the little delicate pale blossoms called innocence,
Samples and sorts not for themselves alone, but for their atmosphere,
To tally, drench'd with them, tested by them,
Cities and artificial life, and all their sights and scenes,
My mind henceforth, and all its meditations—my recitatives,
My land, my age, my race, for once to serve, in songs,
(Sprouts, tokens ever of death indeed the same as life,)
To grace the bush I love—to sing with the birds,
A warble for joy of Lilac-time.
WALT WHITMAN.

Notes:

1. Whitman revised the poem for reprinting in Passage to India (1871), in the New York Daily Grahpic (12 May 1873), in the group "Passage to India" of Leaves of Grass (1872) and Two Rivulets (1876), and in its present form in Leaves of Grass (1881–82). [back]


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