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Title: The Errand-Bearers

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: June 27, 1860

Publication information: The New-York Times 27 June 1860: 2.

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

Whitman Archive ID: per.00154

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




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THE ERRAND-BEARERS.1

———

16TH 6TH MONTH, YEAR 84 of THE STATES.


———

1.

Over sea, hither from Niphon,
Courteous, the Princes of Asia, swart-cheeck'd
princes,
First-comers, guests, two-sworded princes,
Lesson-giving princes, leaning back in their open
barouches, bare-headed, impassive,
This day they ride through Manhattan.

2.

Libertad!
I do not know whether others behold what I be-
hold pass, in the procession, along with the
Princes of Asia, the errand-bearers,
Bringing up the rear, hovering above, around, or
in the ranks marching;
But I will sing you a song of what I behold,
Libertad.

3.

When million-footed Manhattan, unpent, de-
scends to its pavements,
When the thunder cracking guns arouse me with
the proud roar I love,
When the round-mouth'd guns, out of the smoke
and smell I love, spit their salutes,
When the fire-flashing guns have fully alerted me
—When heaven-clouds canopy my city with a
delicate thin haze,
When, gorgeous, the countless straight stems, the
forests at the wharves, thicken with colors,
When every ship is richly drest, and carrying her
flag at the peak,
When pennants trail, and festoons hang from the
windows,
When Broadway is entirely given up to foot-
passers and foot-standers—When the mass is
densest,
When the facades of the houses are alive with
people—When eyes gaze, riveted, tens of
thousands at a time,
When the guests, Asiatic, from the islands, ad-
vance—When the pageant moves forward
visible,
When the summons is made—When the answer
that waited thousands of years, answers,
I too, arising, answering, descend to the pave-
ments, merge with the crowd, and gaze with
them.

4.

Superb-faced Manhattan,
Comrade Americanos—to us, then, at last, the
orient comes.

5.

To us, my city,
Where our tall-topt marble and iron beauties
range on opposite sides—to walk in the space
between,
To-day our antipodes comes.

6.

The Originatress comes.
The land of Paradise—land of the Caucasus—
the nest of birth,
The nest of languages, the bequeather of poems—
The race of eld,
Florid with blood, pensive, rapt with musings,
hot with passion,
Sultry with perfume, with ample and flowing
garments,
With sunburnt visage, with intense soul and
glittering eyes,
The race of Brahma comes.

7.

See, my cantabile! these, and more, are flashing
to us from the procession;
As it moves, changing, a kaleidescope divine it
moves, changing, before us.

8.

Not the errand-bearing princes,
Not the tann'd Japanese only—not China only,
nor the Mongol only,
Lithe and silent, the Hindoo appears—the whole
continent appears—the past, the dead,
The murky night-morning of wonder and fable,
inscrutable,
The enveloped mysteries, the old and unknown
hive-bees,
The North—the sweltering South—Assyria—the
Hebrews—the ancient of ancients,
Vast, desolated cities—the gliding Present—All of
these, and more, are in the pageant-procession.

9.

Geography, the world, is in it,
The Great Sea, the brood of islands, Polynesia,
The coast beyond—the coast you, henceforth, are
facing—you, Libertad! from your western
golden shores,
The countries there, with their populations—the
millions en masse—are curiously here,
The multitudes are all here—they show visibly
enough to my eyes,
The swarming market-places—the temples, with
idols ranged along the sides, or at the end—
bonze, brahmin, and lama, also,
The mandarin, farmer, merchant, mechanic, and
fisherman, also,
The singing-girl and the dancing-girl—the ecsta-
tic person, absorbed,
The interminable unpitted hordes of toilsome
persons—the divine Buddha,
The secluded Emperors—Confucius himself—the
great poets and heroes—the warriors, the
castes, all,
Trooping up, crowding from all directions—from
the Altay mountains,
From Thibet—from the four winding and far-flow-
ing rivers of China,
From the southern peninsulas, and the demi-con-
tinental islands—from Malaysia,
These, and whatever belongs to them, palpable,
show forth to me, and are seized by me,
And I am seized by them, and friendlily held by
them,
Till, as here, them all I chant, Libertad! for
themselves and for you.

10.

I too, raising my voice, bear an errand,
I chant the World on my Western Sea,
I chant, copious, the islands beyond, thick as
stars in the sky,
I chant the new empire, grander than any be-
fore—As in a vision, it comes to me;
I chant America, the Mistress—I chant a greater
supremacy,
I chant, projected, a thousand blooming cities
yet, in time, on those groups of sea-islands,
I chant my sailships and steamships threading
the archipelagoes,
I chant my stars and stripes fluttering in the wind,
I chant commerce opening, the sleep of ages
having done its work—races, re-born, re-
freshed,
Lives, works resumed—The object I know not—
but the old, the Asiatic, resumed, as it
must be,
Commencing from this day, surrounded by the
world.

11.

And you, Libertad of the world!
You shall sit in the middle, thousands of years,
As to-day, from one side, the Princes of Asia
come to you,
As to-morrow, from the other side, the Queen of
England sends her eldest son to you.

12.

The sign is reversing, the orb is enclosed,
The ring is circled, the journey is done,
The box-lid is but perceptibly opened—neverthe-
less, the perfume pours copiously out of the
whole box.

13.

Young libertad!
With venerable Asia, the all-mother,
Be considerate with her, now and ever, hot Lib-
ertad—for you are all,
Bend your proud neck to the long-off mother, now
sending messages over the archipelagoes to
you, young Libertad;
—Were the children straying westward so long?
So wide the tramping?
Were the precedent dim ages debouching west-
ward from Paradise so long?
Were the centuries steadily footing it that way,
all the while, unknown, for you, for reasons?
—They are justified—they are accomplished—
They shall now be turned the other way also,
to travel toward you thence,
They shall now also march obediently eastward,
for your sake, Libertad.
WALT WHITMAN.

Notes:

1. Revised as "A Broadway Pageant (Reception Japanese Embassy, June 16, 1860)" in Drum-Taps (1865) and reprinted in Leaves of Grass (1881–82). [back]


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