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Gems from Walt Whitman

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PHILDELPHIA DAVID MCKAY, PUBLISHER 23 SOUTH NINTH STREET 1889   [ begin page ]ppp_vm.00009.jpg Copyrighted, 1889, by DAVID MCKAY.
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TO WALT WHITMAN . . . . . . . . . 5
FAC-SIMILIE "OF LIFE IMMENSE" . . . . . . . . 9
GEMS FROM LEAVES OF GRASS . . . . . . . . 11
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O poet bold and free as is the land that gave thee birth! A pioneer, "immense in passion, pulse and power," Who, boldly entering nature's shrine and seeing there no wrong, Made willing haste to free the world cant-held so long. Clad in the robe of truth by strong conviction wrought, Thou wast as true to self as nature. Thy rhythm is the rhythm of the earth and sea and star, Stayed only by the hand of universal law. Thy art, indeed, knows not nor fears the world's conventional bound Which feign would limit soul divine to transcribed sound; Nor does thy thought revolve, but in the orbit free Of those who seek the whole of being. The man divine, bound to the perfect law of soul and sense. This is thy message now, thy legacy for ages hence. ELIZABETH PORTER GOULD
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WALT WHITMAN, second child of Walter Whitman and his wife, Louisa (born Van Velsor), was born May 31, 1819, at West Hills, Long Island, N. Y., where his parents continued to reside till 1823, when they removed with their family to Brooklyn. Here he attended public school till 1831, when he was engaged to tend a lawyer's office, which he subsequently left for a doctor's. He next (in 1833) entered a printing office to learn type-setting, but after some three years gave this up for school-teaching, in which he was occupied for nearly another three years. His next venture was a weekly paper, The Long Islander, which he started at Huntington, L. I. Before the close of 1840 we find him back in New York working at the press, and employed in desultory journalistic writing. In 1846 he was called to the editorial chair of The Brooklyn Eagle, a post he held for two years. In 1848 he went to New Orleans to fill a place on the editorial staff of The Crescent, but after a brief service gave this up to make a tour in the South and South-west. In 1850 he returned to his Brooklyn home and became publisher of The Freeman, but soon exchanged the pen for the carpenter's adze to engage in house-building and selling.

In 1855 his sentiments of universal brotherhood first found full public expression by the issue of his "Leaves of Grass," in the form of an unpretending little quarto volume of ninety-five pages. Next year a second edition appeared as a 16mo of 384 pages, and, in 1860, a third edition of 456 pages was issued at Boston.

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But a call to which Walt Whitman could not turn a deaf ear summoned him in 1862 to different scenes and tasks. It was the call of humanity and patriotism. He proceeded to the seat of war in the South, there to minister to the wounded and sick in the hospitals and on the fields of battle. This work of mercy he continued for three years, and on the close of the war, in 1865, was rewarded by an appointment as a Department Clerk.

In 1867 he published the fourth edition of "Leaves of Grass," including "Drum Taps," and a fifth edition in 1871. In 1873 he was struck down by paralysis in Washington, and ordered by his physicians to the Atlantic sea-coast. Before reaching this he broke down badly in Philadelphia, and went over to Camden, N. J., to take up his abode with a brother then residing there.

In 1876 appeared the sixth or Centennial Edition of "Leaves of Grass," along with a companion volume of prose and verse entitled the "Two Rivulets," and, in 1881, the seventh edition of the " Leaves" was issued by Osgood & Co., Boston.

In 1882 the poet entered into relations with his present publisher, David McKay, who had lately succeeded to the business of Rees, Welsh & Co. In this year Mr. McKay brought out for him the eighth edition of "Leaves of Grass," as also the first edition of "Specimen Days," a prose volume mainly of autobiographical sketches. In 1888, though much disabled physically, Mr. Whitman brought out a new volume of prose and verse, under the title of "November Boughs." In this present year, 1889, he completes his seventieth year, and has issued a memorial edition (limited) of his works complete in one volume. Mr. Whitman has resided for the last fifteen years in Camden, his present residence being 328 Mickle street, in that city. On May 31st his friends entertained him at a banquet on the celebration of his seventieth birthday.

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Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power Cheerful, for freest action form'd under the laws divine The Modern Man I sing Walt Whitman
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See, projected through time, For me an audience interminable. . . . . . . . . With firm and regular step they wend, they never stop, Successions of men, Americanos, a hundred millions, One generation playing its part and passing on, Another generation playing its part and passing on in its turn, With faces turn'd sideways or backward towards me to listen, With eyes retrospective towards me. Starting from Paumanok I have no mockings or arguments, I witness and wait. Song of Myself. Stanza 4.   [ begin page 12 ]ppp_vm.00019.jpg And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own, And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own. Song of Myself. Stanza 5. I do not call one greater and one smaller, That which fills its period and place is equal to any. Ibid. Stanza 44. The paths to the house I seek to make, But leave to those to come the house itself. . . . . . . . . Belief I sing, and preparation. Thou Mother with thy Equal Brood. Stanza 1. Behold, I do not give lectures or a little charity, When I give I give myself. Song of Myself. Stanza 40.   [ begin page 13 ]ppp_vm.00020.jpg The prophet and the bard, Shall yet maintain themselves, in higher stages yet, Shall mediate to the Modern, to Democracy, interpret yet to them, God and eidólons. Eidolons. Perfume this book of mine O blood-red roses! Lave subtly with your waters every line Potomac! Give me of you O spring, before I close, to put between its pages! O forenoon purple of the hills, before I close, of you! O deathless grass, of you! By Broad Potomac's Shore. O I see now that life cannot exhibit all to me, as the day cannot, I see that I am to wait for what will be exhibited by death. Night on the Prairies. Immense have been the preparations for me, Faithful and friendly the arms that have help'd me. Cycles ferried my cradle, rowing and rowing like cheerful boatman,   [ begin page 14 ]ppp_vm.00021.jpg For room to me stars kept aside in their own rings, They sent influences to look after what was to hold me. Song of Myself. Stanza 44. My feet strike an apex of the apices of the stairs, On every step bunches of ages, and larger bunches between the steps, All below duly travel'd, and still I mount and mount. Ibid. See ever so far, there is limitless space outside of that, Count ever so much, there is limitless time around that. Ibid. Stanza 45. I do not know what is untried and afterward, But I know it will in its turn prove sufficient, and cannot fail. Ibid. Stanza 43. I know I am deathless, I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter's compass. Ibid. Stana 20.   [ begin page 15 ]ppp_vm.00022.jpg And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or ten million years, I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait. Song of Myself. Stanza 20. Yet soul be sure the first intent remains, and shall be carried out. Passage to India. Stanza 5. Passage indeed O soul to primal thought, Not lands and seas alone, thy own clear freshness, The young maturity of brood and bloom, To realms of budding bibles. O soul, repressless, I with thee and thou with me, Thy circumnavigation of the world begin, Of man, the voyage of his mind's return, To reason's early paradise, Back, back to wisdom's birth, to innocent intuitions, Again with fair creation. Ibid. Stanza 7. O my brave soul! O farther farther sail!   [ begin page 16 ]ppp_vm.00023.jpg O daring joy, but safe! are they not all the seas of God? O farther, farther, farther sail Passage to India. Stanza 9. Ah more than any priest O soul we too believe in God, But with the mystery of God we dare not dally. Ibid. Stanza 8. O Thou transcendent, Nameless, the fibre and the breath, Light of the light, shedding forth universes, thou centre of them, Thou mightier centre of the true, the good, the loving, Thou moral, spiritual fountain—affection's source—thou reservoir, (O pensive soul of me—O thirst unsatisfied—waitest not there? Waitest not haply for us somewhere there the Comrade perfect?) Thou pulse—thou motive of the stars, suns, systems, That, circling, move in order, safe, harmonious, Athwart the shapeless vastnesses of space, How should I think, how breathe a single breath, how speak, if, out of myself, I could not launch, to those, superior universes? Ibid. Stanza 8.   [ begin page 17 ]ppp_vm.00024.jpg Swiftly I shrivel at the thought of God, At Nature and its wonders, Time and Space and Death, But that I, turning, call to thee O soul, thou actual Me, And lo, thou gently masterest the orbs, Thou matest Time, smilest content at Death, And fillest, swellest full the vastnesses of Space. Greater than stars or suns, Bounding O soul thou journeyest forth. Passage to India. Stanza 8. In this broad earth of ours, Amid the measureless grossness and the slag, Enclosed and safe within its central heart. Nestles the seed perfection. Song of the Universal. Stanza 1. Over the mountain-growths disease and sorrow, An uncaught bird is ever hovering, hovering, High in the purer, happier air. From imperfection's murkiest cloud Darts always forth one ray of perfect light, One flash of heaven's glory.   [ begin page 18 ]ppp_vm.00025.jpg To fashion's, custom's discord, To the mad Babel-din, the deafening orgies, Soothing each lull a strain is heard, just heard, From some far shore the final chorus sounding. O the blest eyes, the happy hearts, That see, that know the guiding thread so fine, Along the mighty labyrinth. Song of the Universal. Stanza 3. Give me to hold all sounds, (I madly struggling cry,) Fill me with all the voices of the universe, Endow me with their throbbings, Nature's also, The tempests, waters, winds, operas and chants, marches and dances, Utter, pour in, for I would take them all! Proud Music of the Storm. Stanza 5. All, all for immortality, Love like the light silently wrapping all, Nature's amelioration blessing all, The blossoms, fruits of ages, orchards divine and certain, Forms, objects, growths, humanities, to spiritual images ripening.   [ begin page 19 ]ppp_vm.00026.jpg Give me O God to sing that thought, Give me, give him or her I love this quenchless faith, In Thy ensemble, whatever else withheld withhold not from us, Belief in plan of Thee enclosed in Time and Space, Health, peace, salvation universal. Song of the Universal. Stanza 4. I swear I think there is nothing but immortality! That the exquisite scheme is for it, and the nebulous float is for it, and the cohering is for it! And all preparation is for it—and identity is for it—and life and materials are altogether for it! To Think of Time. Stanza 9. Peace is always beautiful, The myth of heaven indicates peace and night. The Sleepers. Stanza 7. Now while the great thoughts of space and eternity fill me I will measure myself by them. Night on the Prairies.   [ begin page 20 ]ppp_vm.00027.jpg


Lover divine and perfect Comrade, Waiting content, invisible yet, but certain, Be thou my God. Thou, thou, the Ideal Man, Fair, able, beautiful, content, and loving, Complete in body and dilate in spirit, Be thou my God. O Death, (for Life has served its turn,) Opener and usher to the heavenly mansion, Be thou my God. Aught, aught of mightiest, best I see, conceive, or know, (To break the stagnant tie—thee, thee to free, O soul,) Be thou my God. All great ideas, the races' aspirations, All heroisms, deeds of rapt enthusiasts, Be ye my Gods.   [ begin page 21 ]ppp_vm.00028.jpg Or Time and Space, Or shape of Earth divine and wondrous, Or some fair shape I viewing, worship, Or lustrous orb of sun or star by night, Be ye my Gods.
ahead O soul, when thou, the time achiev'd, The seas all cross'd, weather'd the capes, the voyage done, Surrounded, copest, frontest God, yieldest, the aim attain'd As fill'd with friendship, love complete, the Elder Brother found, The Younger melts in fondness in his arms. Passage to India. Stanza 8. My rendezvous is appointed, it is certain, The Lord will be there and wait till I come on perfect terms, The great Camerado, the lover tme for whom I pine will be there. Song of Myself. Stanza 45. The clock indicates the moment—but what does eternity indicate? Ibid. Stanza 44.   [ begin page 22 ]ppp_vm.00029.jpg


(After reading HEGEL.)

Roaming in thought over the Universe, I saw the little that is Good steadily hastening towards 
And the vast all that is call'd Evil I saw hastening to merge itself and become lost and dead.
I believe of all those men and women that fill'd the unnamed lands, every one exists this hour 
  here or elsewhere, invisible to us,
In exact proportion to what he or she grew from in life, and out of what he or she did, felt, 
  became, loved, sinn'd, in life.
Unnamed Lands.
Charity and personal force are the only investments worth anything. Song of Prudence.


Youth, large, lusty, loving—youth full of grace, force, fascination, Do you know that Old Age may come after you with equal grace, force, fascination? Day full-blown and splendid—day of the immense sun, action, ambition, laughter, The Night, follows close with millions of suns, and sleep and restoring darkness.
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I see in you the estuary that enlarges and spreads itself grandly as it pours in the great sea.


This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless, Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done, Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best, Night, sleep, death and the stars.
Of the interminable sisters, Of the ceaseless cotillons of sisters, Of the centripetal and centrifugal sisters, the elder and younger sisters, The beautiful sister we know dances on with the rest. Tumbling on steadily, nothing dreading, Sunshine, storm, cold, heat, forever withstanding, passing, carrying, The soul's realization and determination still inheriting, The fluid vacuum around and ahead still entering and dividing, No balk retarding, no anchor anchoring, on no rock striking, Swift, glad, content, unbereav'd, nothing losing,   [ begin page 24 ]ppp_vm.00031.jpg Of all able and ready at any time to give strict account, The divine ship sails the divine sea. Whoever you are! motion and reflection are especially for you, The divine ship sails the divine sea for you. A Song of the Rolling Earth. Why, who makes much of a miracle? As to me I know of nothing else but miracles. . . . . . . . . To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle, Every cubic inch of space is a miracle, Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same, Every foot of the interior swarms with the same. To me the sea is a continual miracle, The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the ships with men in them, What stranger miracles are there? Miracles. Sea of stretch'd ground-swells, Sea breathing broad and convulsive breaths,   [ begin page 25 ]ppp_vm.00032.jpg Sea of the brine of life and of unshovell'd yet always-ready graves, Howler and scooper of storms, capricious and dainty sea, I am integral with you, I too am of one phase and of all phases. Song of Myself. Stanza 22. Long and long has the grass been growing, Long and long has the rain been falling, Long has the globe been rolling round. Song of the Exposition. Thee for my recitative, . . . . . . . . Fierce-throated beauty! Roll through my chant with all thy lawless music, thy swinging lamps at night, Thy madly-whistled laughter, echoing, rumbling like an earthquake, rousing all, Law of thyself complete, thine own track firmly holding, (No sweetness debonair of tearful harp or glib piano thine,) Thy trills of shrieks by rocks and hills return'd, Launch'd o'er the prairies wide, across the lakes, To the free skies unpent and glad and strong. To a Locomotive in Winter.   [ begin page 26 ]ppp_vm.00033.jpg (Ah little recks the laborer, How near his work is holding him to God, The loving Laborer through space and time.) Song of the Exposition. O sight of pity, shame and dole! O fearful thought—a convict soul. . . . . . . . Convict no more, nor shame, nor dole! Depart—a God-enfranchis'd soul! The Singer in the Prison. A child said What is the Grass? fetching it to me with full hands; How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he. I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven. Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord, A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt, Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose? Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation.   [ begin page 27 ]ppp_vm.00034.jpg Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic, And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones, Growing among black folks as among white. . . . . . . . . And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves. Tenderly will I use you curling grass. . . . . . . . . The smallest sprout shows there is really no death, . . . . . . . . All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses. Song of Myself. Stanza 6. I am he that walks with the tender and growing night, I call to the earth and sea half-held by the night. Press close bare bosom'd night—press close magnetic nourishing night! Night of south winds—night of the large few stars! Still nodding night—mad naked summer night. Smile O voluptuous cool-breath'd earth! Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees! Earth of departed sunset—earth of mountains misty-topt!   [ begin page 28 ]ppp_vm.00035.jpg Earth of the virtreous pour of the full moon just tinged with blue! Earth of shine and dark mottling the tide of the river! Earth of the limpid gray of clouds brighter and clearer for my sake! Far-swooping elbow'd earth—rich apple-blossom'd earth! Smile, for your lover comes. Prodigal, you have given me love—therefore I to you give love! O unspeakable passionate love. Song of Myself. Stanza 21. The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred affections, They scorn the best I can do to relate them. Ibid. Stanza 14.   [ begin page 29 ]ppp_vm.00036.jpg


Come my tan-faced children, Follow well in order, get your weapons ready, Have you your pistols? have you your sharp-edged axes? Pioneers! O pioneers! For we cannot tarry here, We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger, We the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend, Pioneers! O pioneers! O you youths, Western youths, So impatient, full of action, full of manly pride and friendship, Plain I see you Western youths, see you tramping with the foremost, Pioneers! O pioneers! Have the elder races halted? Do they droop and end their lesson, wearied over there beyond the seas? We take up the task eternal, and the burden and the lesson. Pioneers! O pioneers!   [ begin page 30 ]ppp_vm.00037.jpg See my children, resolute children, By those swarms upon our rear we must never yield or falter, Ages back in ghostly millions frowning there behind us urging, Pioneers! O pioneers! All the pulses of the world, Falling in they beat for us, with the Western movement beat, Holding single or together, steady moving to the front, all for us, Pioneers! O pioneers! . . . . . . . . O you daughters of the West! O you younger and elder daughters! O you mothers and you wives! Never must you be divided, in our ranks you move united, Pioneers! O pioneers! . . . . . . . . Not for delectations sweet, Not the cushion and the slipper, not the peaceful and the studious, Not the riches safe and palling, not for us the tame enjoyment, Pioneers! O pioneers!   [ begin page 31 ]ppp_vm.00038.jpg


By the city dead-house by the gate, As idly sauntering wending my way from the clangor, I curious pause, for lo, an outcast form, a poor dead prostitute brought, Her corpse they deposit unclaim'd, it lies on the damp brick pavement, The divine woman, her body, I see the body, I look on it alone, That house once full of passion and beauty, all else I notice not, Nor stillness so cold, nor running water from faucet, nor odors morbific impress me, But the house alone—that wondrous house—that delicate fair house—that ruin! That immortal house more than all the rows of dwellings ever built! Or white-domed capitol with majestic figure surmounted, or all the old high-spired cathedrals, That little house alone more than them all—poor, desperate house! Fair, fearful wreck—tenement of a soul—itself a soul, Unclaim'd, avoided house—take one breath from my tremulous lips, Take one tear dropt aside as I go for thought of you, Dead house of love—house of madness and sin, crumbled, crush'd, House of life, erewhile talking and laughing—but ah, poor house, dead even then, Months, years, an echoing, garnish'd house—but dead, dead, dead.
I accept Reality and dare not question it, Materialism first and last imbuing. Song of Myself. Stanza 23.   [ begin page 32 ]ppp_vm.00039.jpg


And now gentlemen, A word I give to remain in your memories and minds, As base and finale too for all metaphysics. (So to the students the old professor, At the close of his crowded course.) Having studied the new and antique, the Greek and Germanic systems, Kant having studied and stated, Fichte and Schelling and Hegel, Stated the lore of Plato, and Socrates greater than Plato, And greater than Socrates sought and stated, Christ divine having studied long, I see reminiscent to-day those Greek and Germanic systems, See the philosophies all, Christian churches and tenets see, Yet underneath Socrates clearly see, and underneath Christ the divine I see, The dear love of man for his comrade, the attraction of friend to friend, Of the well-married husband and wife, of children and parents, Of city for city and land for land.
A great city is that which has the greatest men and women, If it be a few ragged huts it is still the greatest city in the whole world. Song of the Broad-axe.   [ begin page 33 ]ppp_vm.00040.jpg Ah from a little child, Thou knowest soul how to me all sounds became music, My mother's voice in lullaby or hymn, (The voice, O tender voices, memory's loving voices, Last miracle of all, O dearest mother's, sister's, voices;) The rain, the growing corn, the breeze among the long-leav'd corn, The measur'd sea-surf beating on the sand, The twittering bird, the hawk's sharp scream, The wild-fowl's notes at night as flying low migrating north or south, The psalm in the country church or mid the clustering trees, the open air camp-meeting, The fiddler in the tavern, the glee, the long-strung sailor-song, The lowing cattle, bleating sheep, the crowing cock at dawn. All songs of current lands come sounding round me, The German airs of friendship, wine and love, Irish ballads, merry jigs and dances, English warbles, Chansons of France, Scotch tunes, and o'er the rest, Italia's peerless compositions. Proud Music of the Storm. Strains musical flowing through ages, now reaching hither, I take to your reckless and composite chords, add to them, and cheerfully pass them forward. Starting from Paumanok.   [ begin page 34 ]ppp_vm.00041.jpg O the joy of my soul leaning pois'd on itself, receiving identity through materials and loving 
  them, observing characters and absorbing them,
My soul vibrated back to me from them, from sight, hearing, touch, reason, articulation, com- 
  parison, memory, and the like,
The real life of my senses and flesh transcending my senses and flesh, My body done with materials, my sight done with my material eyes, Proved to me this day beyond cavil that it is not my material eyes which finally see, Nor my material body which finally loves, walks, laughs, shouts, embraces, procreates. . . . . . . . . For not life's joys alone I sing, repeating—the joy of death! The beautiful touch of Death, soothing and benumbing a few moments, for reasons, Myself discharging my excrementitious body to be burn'd, or render'd to powder, or buried, My real body doubtless left to me for other spheres, My voided body nothing more to me, returning to the purifications, further offices, eternal uses 
  of the earth.
A Song of Joys.
O I see life is not short, but immeasurably long, I henceforth tread the world chaste, temperate, an early riser, a steady grower, Every hour the semen of centuries, and still of centuries. Myself and Mine.   [ begin page 35 ]ppp_vm.00042.jpg And I have dream'd that the purpose and essence of the known life, the transient, Is to form and decide identity for the unknown life, the permanent. To Think of Time. With the tolling, tolling bells' perpetual clang, Here, coffin that slowly passes, I give you my sprig of lilac. When Lilacs Last, etc.


O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done, The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won, The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting, While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring; But O heart! heart! heart! O the bleeding drops of red, Where on the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead. O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells; Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,   [ begin page 36 ]ppp_vm.00043.jpg For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding, For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning; Here Captain! dear father! This arm beneath your head! It is some dream that on the deck, You've fallen cold and dead. My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still, My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will, The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done, From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won; Exult O shores, and ring O bells! But I with mournful tread, Walk the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead.
O how shall I warble myself for the dead one there I loved? And how shall I deck my song for the large sweet soul that has gone? And what shall my perfume be for the grave of him I love? Sea-winds blown from east and west, Blown from the Eastern sea and blown from the Western sea, till there on the prairies meeting,   [ begin page 37 ]ppp_vm.00044.jpg These and with these and the breath of my chant, I'll perfume the grave of him I love. When Lilacs Last, etc. No more for him life's stormy conflicts, Nor victory, nor defeat—no more time's dark events, Charging like ceaseless clouds across the sky. Hushed be the Camps To-day. Ashes of soldiers South or North, As I muse retrospective murmuring a chant in thought, The war resumes, again to my sense your shapes, And again the advance of the armies. . . . . . . . . Phantoms of countless lost, Invisible to the rest henceforth become my companions, Follow me ever—desert me not while I live. Sweet are the blooming cheeks of the living—sweet are the musical voices sounding, But sweet, ah sweet, are the dead with their silent eyes. . . . . . . . . Perfume therefore my chant. O love, immortal love,   [ begin page 38 ]ppp_vm.00045.jpg Give me to bathe the memories of all dead soldiers, Shroud them, embalm them, cover them all over with tender pride. . . . . . . . . Give me exhaustless, make me a fountain, That I exhale love from me wherever I go like a moist perennial dew. For the ashes of all dead soldiers South or North. . . . . . . . . I chant this chant of my silent soul in the name of all dead soldiers. Ashes of Soldiers. Each is not for its own sake, I say the whole earth and all the stars in the sky are for religion's sake. I say no man has ever yet been half devout enough, None has ever yet adored or worship'd half enough, None has begun to think how divine he himself is, and how certain the future is. I say that the real and permanent grandeur of these States must be their religion, Otherwise there is no real and permanent grandeur; (Nor character nor life worthy the name without religion, Nor land nor man or woman without religion.) . . . . . . . .   [ begin page 39 ]ppp_vm.00046.jpg My comrade! For you to share with me two greatnesses, and a third one rising inclusive and more resplendent, The greatness of Love and Democracy, and the greatness of Religion. Starting from Paumanok. The greater the reform needed, the greater the Personality you need to accomplish it. To a Pupil. Produce great Persons, the rest follows. . . . . . . . . He or she is greatest who contributes the greatest original practical example. By Blue Ontario's Shore.


As at thy portals also death, Entering thy sovereign, dim, illimitable grounds, To memories of my mother, to the divine blending, maternity, To her, buried and gone, yet buried not, gone not from me, (I see again the calm benignant face fresh and beautiful still, I sit by the form in the coffin, I kiss and kiss convulsively again the sweet old lips, the cheeks, the closed eyes in the coffin;)   [ begin page 40 ]ppp_vm.00047.jpg To her, the ideal woman, practical, spiritual, of all of earth, life, love, to me the best, I grave a monumental line, before I go, amid these songs, And set a tombstone here.
Nothing is sinful to us outside of ourselves, Whatever appears, whatever does not appear, we are beautiful or sinful in ourselves only. (O Mother—O Sisters dear! If we are lost, no victor else has destroy'd us, It is by ourselves we go down to eternal night.) By Blue Ontario's Shore. This minute that comes to me over the past decillions, There is no better than it and now. Song of Myself. Stanza 22.


By the bivouac's fitful flame, A procession winding around me, solemn and sweet and slow—but first I note, The tents of the sleeping army, the fields' and woods' dim outline, The darkness lit by spots of kindled fire, the silence,   [ begin page 41 ]ppp_vm.00048.jpg Like a phantom far or near an occasional figure moving, The shrubs and trees, (as I lift my eyes they seem to be stealthily watching me,) While wind in procession thoughts, O tender and wondrous thoughts, Of life and death, of home and the past and loved, and of those that are far away; A solemn and slow procession there as I sit on the ground, By the bivouac's fitful flame.
And over all the sky—the sky! far, far out of reach, studded, breaking cut, the eternal stars. Bivouac on a Mountain Side.


Word over all, beautiful as the sky, Beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must in time be utterly lost, That the hands of the sisters Death and Night incessantly softly wash again, and ever again, 
  this soil'd world;
For my enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead, I look where he lies white-faced and still in the coffin—I draw near, Bend down and touch lightly with my lips the white face in the coffin.
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To U. S. G. return'd from his World's Tour

What best I see in thee, Is not that where thou mov'st down history's great highways, Ever undimm'd by time shoots warlike victory's dazzle, Or that thou sat'st where Washington sat, ruling the land in peace, Or thou the man whom feudal Europe feted, venerable Asia swarm'd upon, Who walk'd with kings with even pace the round world's promenade; But that in foreign lands, in all thy walks with kings, Those prairie sovereigns of the West, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio's, Indiana's millions, comrades, farmers, soldiers, all to the front, Invisibly with thee walking with kings with even pace the round world's promenade, Were all so justified.


Over the carnage rose prophetic a voice, Be not dishearten'd, affection shall solve the problems of freedom yet, Those who love each other shall become invincible, They shall yet make Columbia victorious. . . . . . . . . The dependence of Liberty shall be lovers, The continuance of Equity shall be comrades.
  [ begin page 43 ]ppp_vm.00050.jpg


Thou who hast slept all night upon the storm, Waking renew'd on thy prodigious pinions, . . . . . . . . Thou born to match the gale, (thou art all wings,) To cope with heaven and earth and sea and hurricane, Thou ship of air that never ftirl'st thy sails, Days, even weeks untired and onward, through spaces, realms gyrating, At dusk that look'st on Senegal, at morn America, That sport'st amid the lightning-flash and thunder-cloud, In them, in thy experiences, had'st thou my soul, What joys! what joys were thine!
As a strong bird on pinions free, Joycus, the amplest spaces heavenward cleaving, Such be the thought I'd think of thee America, Such be the recitative I'd bring for thee. . . . . . . . . The Present holds thee not—for such vast growth as thine, For such unparallel'd flight as thine, such brood as thine, The Future only holds thee and can hold thee. Thou Mother with thy Equal Brood.   [ begin page 44 ]ppp_vm.00051.jpg I give nothing as duties, What others give as duties I give as living impulses, (Shall I give the heart's action as a duty?) Myself and Mine. (Bravas to all impulses sending sane children to the next age! But damn that which spends itself with no thought of the stain, pains, dismay, feebleness, it is 
By Blue Ontario's Shore. Stanza 8.
If any thing is sacred the human body is sacred, And the glory and sweet of a man is the token of manhood untainted. I Sing the Body Electric. Stanza 8. I sing the body electric, I am the poet of the woman the same as the man, And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man, And I say there is nothing greater than the mother of men. Song of Myself. Stanza 21.   [ begin page 45 ]ppp_vm.00052.jpg Each of us inevitable, Each of us limitless—each of us with his or her right upon the earth, Each of us allow'd the eternal purports of the earth, Each of us here as divinely as any is here. Salut au . What behaved well in the past or behaves well to-day is not such a wonder, The wonder is always and always how there can be a mean man or an infidel. Song of Myself. Stanza 22. Ever upon this stage, Is acted God's calm annual drama, Gorgeous processions, songs of birds, Sunrise that fullest feeds and freshens most the soul, The heaving sea, the waves upon the shore, the musical, strong waves, The woods, the stalwart trees, the slender, tapering trees, The liliput countless armies of the grass, The heat, the showers, the measureless pasturages, The scenery of the snows, the winds' free orchestra, The stretching light-hung roof of clouds, the clear cerulean and the silvery fringes, The high dilating stars, the placid beckoning stars, The moving flocks and herds, the plains and emerald meadows, The shows of all the varied lands and all the growths and products. The Return of the Heroes.
  [ begin page 46 ]ppp_vm.00053.jpg I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars, And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg of the wren, And the tree-toad is a chef-d'oeuvre for the highest, And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven, And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery, And the cow crunching with depress'd head surpasses any statue, And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels. Song of Myself. Stanza 31. For the great Idea, the idea of perfect and free individuals, For that, the bard walks in advance, leader of leaders, The attitude of him cheers up slaves and horrifies foreign despots. By Blue Ontario's Shore. Stanza 10. For the great Idea, That, O my brethren, that is the mission of poets. Ibid. Stanza 11.   [ begin page 47 ]ppp_vm.00054.jpg Underneath all, individuals. By Blue Ontario's Shore. Stanza 15. (The proof of a poet shall be sternly deferr'd till his country absorbs him as affectionately as he 
  has absorb' d it.)
Ibid. Stanza 13.
Fear grace, elegance, civilization, delicatesse, Fear the mellow sweet, the sucking of honey-juice, Beware the advancing mortal ripening of Nature, Beware what precedes the decay of the ruggedness of states and men. Ibid. Stanza 4. This day before dawn I ascended a hill and look'd at the crowded heaven, And I said to my spirit When we become the enfolders of those orbs, and the pleasure and knowledge 
  of every thing in them, shall we be fill'd and satisfied then?
And my spirit said No. We but level that lift to pass and continue beyond. Song of Myself. Stanza 46.
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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 doors, 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.)
Thoughts, silent thoughts, of Time and Space and Death, like waters flowing, Bear me indeed as through the regions infinite, Whose air I breathe, whose ripples hear, lave me all over Bathe me O God in thee, mounting to thee, I and my soul to range in range of thee. Passage to India. O soul, we have positively appear'd—that is enough. As the Time Draws Nigh.   [ begin page 49 ]ppp_vm.00056.jpg To conclude, I announce what comes after me. I announce that the identity of these States is a single identity only, I announce the Union more and more compact, indissoluble, I announce splendors and majesties to make all the previous politics of the earth insignificant. I announce the great individual, fluid as Nature, chaste, affectionate, compassionate, fully arm'd. I announce a life that shall be copious, vehement, spiritual, bold, I announce an end that shall lightly and joyfully meet its translation. So Long!


Joy, shipmate, joy! (Pleas'd to my soul at death I cry,) Our life is closed, our life begins, The long, long anchorage we leave, The ship is clear at last, she leaps! She swiftly courses from the shore, Joy, shipmate, joy.
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The untold want by life and land ne'er granted, Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.
Now trumpeter for thy close, Vouchsafe a higher strain than any yet, Sing to my soul, renew its languishing faith and hope, Rouse up my slow belief, give me some vision of the future, Give me for once its prophecy and joy. O glad, exulting, culminating song! A vigor more than earth's is in thy notes, Marches of victory—man disenthral'd—the conqueror at last, Hymns to the universal God from universal man—all joy! A reborn race appears—a perfect world, all joy! Women and men in wisdom innocence and health—all joy! Riotous laughing bacchanals fill'd with joy! War, sorrow, suffering gone—the rank earth purged—nothing but joy left! The ocean fill'd with joy—the atmosphere all joy! Joy! joy! in freedom, worship, love! joy in the ecstasy of life! Enough to merely be! enough to breathe! Joy! Joy! All over joy! The Mystic Trumpeter.   [ begin page 51 ]ppp_vm.00058.jpg


What are those of the known but to ascend and enter the Unknown? And what are those of life but for Death?


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 bounding us.   [ begin page 52 ]ppp_vm.00059.jpg 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 fulfil O soul.


The soft voluptuous opiate-shades, The sun just gone, the eager light dispelled— (I too will soon be gone, dispelled.) A haze—nirvana—rest and night—oblivion.
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[ALL that he loved, hoped, or hated, hung in the balance. And the game of war was not only momentous to him in its issues; it sublimated his spirit by its heroic displays, and tortured him intimately by the spectacle of its horrors. It was a theatre, it was a place of education, it was like a season of religious revival. He watched Lincoln going daily to his work: he studied and fraternized with young soldiery passing to the front; above all, he walked the hospitals, reading the Bible; a patient, helpful, reverend man, full of kind speeches. His memoranda of this period are almost bewildering to read. From one point of view they seem those of a district visitor; from another, they look like the harmless jottings of an artist in the picturesque. More than one woman, on whom I tried the experiment, immediately claimed the writer for a fellow-woman. More than one literary purist might identify him as a shoddy newspaper correspondent without the necessary faculty of style. And yet the story touches home; and if you are of the weeping order of mankind, you will certainly find your eyes fill with tears of which you have no reason to be ashamed. There is only one way to characterize a work of this order, and that is to quote.—R. L. Stevenson, in "Familiar Studies of Men and Books."]

DECORATION DAY always brings to my mind pictures of the "hospital part of the drama of 1861-65," as portrayed by Walt Whitman in his "Specimen Days and Collect" (pp. 26-81). These become more and more vivid as the years go by, and reveal more distinctly Walt Whitman   [ begin page 54 ]ppp_vm.00061.jpghimself as the leading figure. We first see him among the camp hospitals in the Army of the Potomac in Falmouth, Va.—opposite Fredericksburg—in December, 1862, talking to soldiers who seem "most susceptible and need it," and writing their home letters, including "love-letters, very tender ones." He was then in perfect physical health, so that it was more in the"simple matter of personal presence and emanating ordinary cheer and magnetism" that he was able to help, than by "medical nursing or delicacies or gifts of money or anything else." Yet with all this physical health, he fortified himself for these visits with "previous rest, the bath, clean clothes, a good meal, and as cheerful an appearance as possible." After a few weeks' experience in Falmouth, we see him in and around Washington, daily visiting hospitals in the Patent Office, Eighth street, H street, Armory Square, and others. Through the aid of friends he is able to give money and necessities to those who need them. He is now giving pocket-diaries and lmanacs; now distributing old pictorial magazines or story papers as well as daily papers, and lending the best books from man to man. He adapts himself to each emergency, however trival. He not only washes and dresses wounds (in some cases the patient is unwilling any one else should do this), but expounds passages from the Bible, and offers prayer at the bedside. "I think I see my friends smiling at this confession," he frankly says, "but I was never more in earnest in my life."

Some of these hospital sketches reveal a wondrous tenderness and love; as, for instance, the one of the poor youth, "so handsome, athletic, with profuse beautiful shining hair," who as the poet sat looking at him while he lay asleep, "suddenly, without the least start, awakened, opened his eyes, gave me a long steady look, turning his face very slightly to gaze easier—one long, clear silent look—a slight sigh—then turned back and went into his doze again. Little he   [ begin page 55 ]ppp_vm.00062.jpgknew, poor, death-stricken boy, the heart of the stranger that hovered near." At another time, while spending an afternoon with a suffering, dying soldier, he was asked to read a chapter in the New Testament.

I asked him what I should read. He said, "Make vour own choice." I opened at the close of one of the first books of the evangelists, and read the chapter describing the latter hours of Christ and the scenes of the Crucifixion. The poor wasted young man asked me to read the following chapter also, how Christ rose again. I read very slowly, for he was feeble. It pleased him very much, yet the tears were in his eyes. He asked me if I enjoyed religion. I said, "Perhaps not, my dear, in the way you mean; and yet, may-be, it is the same thing." He said, "It is my chief reliance." He talked of death, and said he did not fear it. He behaved very manly and affectionate. The kiss I gave him as I was about leaving he returned fourfold. He died a few days later.

Does not this make more real the closing lines of that autobiographical poem, "The Wound-Dresser Many a soldier's loving arms about this neck have crossed and rested. Many a soldier's kiss dwells on these bearded lips.

The soldier being a rebel made no difference so long as he needed loving ministrations. For instance, he was tenderly soothing, in his pain a new patient in the hospital, a "very intelligent, well-bred and affectionate" young man, when all at once, turning to him suddenly, the sufferer said: "I hardly think you know who I am—I don't wish to impose upon you—I am a rebel soldier." "I did not know that," was the reply, "but it makes no difference." The poet visited him daily until he died, two weeks later. "I loved him much," he says, "and always kissed him, as he did me."

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In the hottest days of mid-summer we see this "good gray poet," with his umbrella and fan, on his walks to and from the hospitals. At one time he is carrying "several bottles of blackberry and cherry syrup, good and strong but innocent," which upon arriving among the soldiers he mingles with ice-water for a refreshing drink, and serves all around. Another hot day he is distributing personally through the wards a large quantity of ice-cream he has bought for a treat. One night after leaving the hospital at ten o'clock, where he had been on self-imposed duty for some five hours, he wandered till long after midnight around the Washington streets. The "night was sweet," he says, "very clear, sufficiently cool, a voluptuous half-moon slightly golden, the space near it of a transparent blue-gray tinge," while the "sky, the planets, the constellations—all were so bright, so calm, so expressively silent and soothing after those hospital scenes." This is in contrast to another summer night, when trying to keep cool, sitting by a wounded soldier in the hospital, he hears the home-made music of the young lady urses of the wards, as, "making a charming group, with their handsome, healthy faces, and standing up a little behind them some ten or fifteen of the convalescent soldiers," with books in their hands, they sing, accompanied by the melodeon, the old hymns, "My Days are Gliding Swiftly By," and the like. His sympathy was such that he could honestly say he received as much pleasure sitting there, while these voices "sweetly rose up to the high whitewashed wooden roof, and pleasantly the roof sent it all back," as he had received from the "best Italian compositions expressed by world-famous performers."

Other pictures linger, such as "Paying the Bounties," "The Deserters," "A Glimpse of War's Hell-Scenes." Besides intercourse with the sick soldiers, we see him having "refreshing" talks with the able-bodied ones whom he meets everywhere about the city. To him there "hangs   [ begin page 57 ]ppp_vm.00064.jpgsomething majestic about a man who has borne his part in battles, especially if he is quiet regarding it when you desire him to unbosom." He says he is "continually lost at the absence of blowing and blowers among these old-young American militaries." He finds "some man or other who has been in every battle since the war began," from whom he learns something. He doubts whether one can get a "fair idea of what this war practically is, or what genuine America is and her character," without some such experience as that which has come to him. He gives fine praise to the surgeons, nurses and soldiers—"not a bit of sentimentalism or whining have I seen about a single death-bed in hospital or on the field, but generally impassive indifference."

The memory of the soldiers' suffering never leaves him. Even while at the dance and supper-rooms for the Inauguration Ball at the Patent Office (1865), where were "beautiful women, perfumes, the violin's sweetness, the polka and the waltz," he could not help thinking of the various scenes enacted there when the crowded mass of the worst wounded of the war was brought in from Second Bull Run, Antietam and Fredericksburg; the "amputation, the blue face, the groan, the glassy eye of the dying, the clotted rag, the odor of wounds and blood and many a mother's son amid strangers passing away untended there, for the crowd was too much for nurse or surgeon." But the sight of the released prisoners of war coming up from the Southern prisons was to him worse than "any sight of battlefields or any collection of wounded, even the bloodiest." There was, as a sample, he says, "one large boat-load of several hundreds brought to Annapolis, and out of the whole number only three individuals were able to walk from the boat. The rest were carried ashore and laid down in one place or another." Can those be men," he cries in agony, "those little, livid-brown, ash-streaked, monkey-looking dwarfs? Are   [ begin page 58 ]ppp_vm.00065.jpgthey really not mummied, dwindled corpses?" As they lay there with a "horrible look in their eyes and skinny lips, often with not enough flesh on the lips to cover their teeth," he felt that no more appalling sight could be seen. But behind all these horrors of war we see the poet's faith in a Higher Power, in a sympathetic letter he wrote to the mother of a soldier whose eyes he had closed in death: "Such things are gloomy—yet there is a text—'God doeth all things well'—the meaning of which after due time appears to the soul."

According to his own testimony, during the three years Walt Whitman was in hospital, camp or field, as "sustainer of spirit and body in some degree, in time of need," he made over six hundred visits or tours, went among from 80,000 to 100,000 of the wounded and sick, and distributed as almoner for others many thousands of dollars. With dear or critical cases he generally watched all night, sometimes remaining in the hospital several nights in succession. Those three years, with all their "feverish excitements and physical deprivations and lamentable sights," gave him the "greatest privilege and satisfaction" as well as "most profound lesson of his life." They "aroused, brought out and decided undreamed depths of emotion," and gave him his "most fervent views of the true ensemble and extent of the States."

That in all his ministerings he "comprehended all, Northern and Southern, slighted none," makes this little tribute to his loving ministrations particularly appropriate whenever the North and South are joining together in commemorating the heroic dead.

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