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Title: The Winding-Up

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: June 22, 1841

Publication information: The Long Island Democrat 22 June 1841: [1].

Source: Our transcription is based on a photocopy of a microfilm copy of an original issue.

Whitman Archive ID: per.00044

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang and Susan Belasco


THE WINDING-UP.

BY W. WHITMAN.

Behold around us pomp and pride;
The rich, the lofty, and the gay,
Glitter before our dazzled eyes—
Live out their brief but brilliant day;
Then when the hour for fame is o'er,
Unheeded pass away.
The warrior builds a mighty name,
The object of his hopes and fears,
That future times may see it where
Her tower aspiring Glory rears,
Desist, O, Fool! think what thou'lt be
In a few fleeting years.
Beside his ponderous age worn book,
A student shades his weary brow;
He walks Philosophy's dark path—
That journey difficult and slow:
But vain in is all that teeming mind,
He, too, to earth must go.
The statesman's sleepless, plodding brain
Schemes out a nation's destiny;
His is the voice that awes the crowd,
And his, the bold, commanding eye;
But transient is his high renown—
He like the rest must die.
And beauty sweet, and all the fair,
Who sail on fortune's sunniest wave;
The poor, with him of countless gold,
Owner of all that mortals crave,
Alike are fated soon to lie
Down in the silent grave.
Children of folly here behold
How soon the fame of man is gone:
Time levels all. Trophies and names
Inscription that the proud have drawn
Surpassing strength—pillars and thrones
Sink as the waves roll on.
Nor think when you attain your wish,
Content will banish grief and care;
High though your stand—tho on your breast
The robes that pride and splendor wear,
A secret poison in the heart
Will stick and rankle there.
In night go view the solemn stars,
Ever in majesty the same—
Creation's world's; how poor must seem
The mightest honors earth can name—
And most of all this strife
After the bubble, Fame!

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