WHISPERS OF HEAVENLY DEATH.*
BY WALT WHITMAN.
WHISPERS of heavenly death, murmur'd I hear;
Labial gossip of night—sibilant chorals;
Footsteps gently ascending—mystical breezes, wafted soft and low;
Ripples of unseen rivers—tides of current, flowing, forever flowing;
(Or is it the plashing of tears? the measureless waters of human tears?)
I see, just see, skyward, great cloud-masses;
Mournfully, slowly they roll, silently swelling and mixing;
With, at times, a half-dimm'd, sadden'd, far-off star,
Appearing and disappering.
Some parturition, rather— some solemn, immortal birth:
On the frontiers, to eyes impenetrable,
Some Soul is passing over.1
DAREST thou now, O Soul,
Walk out with me toward the Unknown Region,
Where neither ground is for the feet, nor any path to follow?
No map, there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.
I know it not, O Soul;
Nor dost thou—all is a blank before us;
All waits, undream'd of, in that region—that inaccessible land.
'Till, when the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds, bound us.
Then we burst forth—we float,
In Time and Space, O Soul—prepared for them;
Equal, equipt at last—(O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfill, O Soul.2
A NOISELESS, patient spider,
I mark'd, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
Mark'd how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,—seeking the spheres, to con-
Till the bridge you will need, be form'd—till the ductile anchor hold;
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul.3
AT the last, tenderly,
From the walls of the powerful, fortress'd house,
From the clasp of the knitted locks—from the keep of the well-closed
Let me be wafted.
Let me glide noiselessly forth;
With the key of softness unlock the locks—with a whisper,
Set ope the doors, O Soul!
Tenderly! be not impatient!
(Strong is your hold, O mortal flesh!
Strong is your hold, O love.)4
PENSIVE and faltering,
The words, the Dead, I write;
For living are the Dead;
(Haply the only living, only real,
And I the apparition—I the spectre.)5
*This Poem has been written expressly for this Magazine.—ED.
1. Retitled "Whispers of Heavenly Death" and reprinted as part of a larger cluster in Passage to India (1871). [back]
2. Retitled "Darest Thou Now O Soul" and reprinted as part of a larger cluster in Passage to India (1871). [back]
3. Retitled "A Noiseless Patient Spider" and reprinted as part of a larger cluster in Passage to India (1871). [back]
4. Retitled "The Last Invocation" and reprinted as part of a larger cluster in Passage to India (1871). [back]
5. Retitled "Pensive and Faltering" and reprinted as part of a larger cluster in Passage to India (1871). [back]