Leaves of Grass (1881-82)

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TO-DAY a rude brief recitative,
Of ships sailing the seas, each with its special flag or ship-signal,

View Page 208
View Page 208

Of unnamed heroes in the ships—of waves spreading and spread-
         ing far as the eye can reach,
Of dashing spray, and the winds piping and blowing,
And out of these a chant for the sailors of all nations,
Fitful, like a surge.

Of sea-captains young or old, and the mates, and of all intrepid
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
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 preserv'd and never lost, though rare, enough for
         seed preserv'd.)

Flaunt out O sea your separate flags of nations!
Flaunt out visible as ever the various ship-signals!
But do you reserve especially for yourself and for the soul of man
         one flag above all the rest,
A spiritual woven signal for all nations, emblem of man elate above
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 captains young or old,
A pennant universal, subtly waving all time, o'er all brave sailors,
All seas, all ships.
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