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The Errand-Bearers





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


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, 


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 
When Broadway is entirely given up to foot- 
  passers and foot-standers—When the mass is 
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 
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 


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


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


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 
With sunburnt visage, with intense soul and 
  glittering eyes,
The race of Brahma comes.


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.


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, 
The enveloped mysteries, the old and unknown 
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.


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 
Till, as here, them all I chant, Libertad! for 
  themselves and for you.


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 
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- 
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 


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.


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.


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.


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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