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Title: Sea Captains, Young or Old

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: April 4, 1873

Publication information: New York Daily Graphic 4 April 1873: 2.

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

Whitman Archive ID: per.00131

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, April Lambert, and Susan Belasco




image 1

SEA CAPTAINS, YOUNG OR OLD.1

To-day a rude brief recitative,
Of ships sailing the seas, each with its special flag or
ship-signal;
Of unnamed heroes in the ships—of waves spreading
and spreading, far as the eye can reach;
Of dashing spray, and the winds piping and plowing
—and out of these a chant,
Fitful, like a surge.
Of sea-captains young or old, and the mates;
Of him on the Northfleet—of the intrepid sailors of
all nations;
Of the few, very choice, taciturn, whom fate can
never surprise, nor death dismay,
Pick'd sparingly, without noise, by thee, old Ocean
—chosen by thee,
(Thou Sea, that pickest and cullest the race, in Time,
and unitest nations;)
Suckled by thee, old husky Nurse—embodying thee,
Indomitable, untamed as thee.
Ever the heroes, on water or on land, by ones or twos
appearing,
Ever the stock preserved, and never lost though
rare, (enough for seed preserved.)
Flaunt out to sea, your separate flags of nations!
Flaunt out, visible as ever, the various ship-signals;
But do thou reserve especially for thyself, O sea,
and for the soul of man, one flag above all the
rest,
A spiritual woven signal, for all nations, emblem of
man elate above death,
Token of all brave captains, and all intrepid sailors
and mates,
And all that went down doing their duty;
Reminiscent of them—twined from all intrepid cap-
tains, young or old;
A pennant universal, subtly waving, all time, o'er all
brave sailors,
All seas, all ships.
WALT WHITMAN.

Notes:

1. Reprinted as "Song for All Seas, All Ships" in Two Rivulets (1876). [back]


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