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Sun-Down Poem.

11 — Sun-Down Poem.

FLOOD-TIDE of the river, flow on! I watch  
 you, face to face,
Clouds of the west! sun half an hour high! I see  
 you also face to face.
Crowds of men and women attired in the usual  
 costumes, how curious you are to me!
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds  
 that cross are more curious to me than you  
And you that shall cross from shore to shore  
 years hence, are more to me, and more in my  
 meditations, than you might suppose.
The impalpable sustenance of me from all things  
 at all hours of the day,
The simple, compact, well-joined scheme—my- 
 self disintegrated, every one disintegrated,  
 yet part of the scheme,
The similitudes of the past and those of the  
  [ begin page 212 ]ppp.00237.220.jpg The glories strung like beads on my smallest  
 sights and hearings—on the walk in the  
 street, and the passage over the river,
The current rushing so swiftly, and swimming  
 with me far away,
The others that are to follow me, the ties between  
 me and them,
The certainty of others—the life, love, sight,  
 hearing of others.
Others will enter the gates of the ferry, and cross  
 from shore to shore,
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide, Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north  
 and west, and the heights of Brooklyn to the  
 south and east,
Others will see the islands large and small, Fifty years hence others will see them as they  
 cross, the sun half an hour high,
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred  
 years hence, others will see them,
Will enjoy the sun-set, the pouring in of the flood- 
 tide, the falling back to the sea of the ebb- 
It avails not, neither time or place—distance  
 avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a genera- 
 tion, or ever so many generations hence,
  [ begin page 213 ]ppp.00237.221.jpg I project myself, also I return—I am with you,  
 and know how it is.
Just as you feel when you look on the river and  
 sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was  
 one of a crowd,
Just as you are refreshed by the gladness  
 of the river, and the bright flow, I was  
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry  
 with the swift current, I stood, yet was hur- 
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships,  
 and the thick-stemmed pipes of steamboats, I  
I too many and many a time crossed the river,  
 the sun half an hour high,
I watched the December sea-gulls, I saw them  
 high in the air floating with motionless  
 wings oscillating their bodies,
I saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of  
 their bodies, and left the rest in strong  
I saw the slow-wheeling circles and the gradual  
 edging toward the south.
I too saw the reflection of the summer-sky in the  
  [ begin page 214 ]ppp.00237.222.jpg Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of  
Looked at the fine centrifugal spokes of light  
 round the shape of my head in the sun-lit  
Looked on the haze on the hills southward and  
Looked on the vapor as it flew in fleeces tinged  
 with violet,
Looked toward the lower bay to notice the arriv- 
 ing ships,
Saw their approach, saw aboard those that were  
 near me,
Saw the white sails of schooners and sloops, saw  
 the ships at anchor,
The sailors at work in the rigging or out astride  
 the spars,
The round masts, the swinging motion of the  
 hulls, the slender serpentine pennants,
The large and small steamers in motion, the pi- 
 lots in their pilot-houses,
The white wake left by the passage, the quick  
 tremulous whirl of the wheels,
The flags of all nations, the falling of them at  
The scallop-edged waves in the twilight, the  
 ladled cups, the frolicsome crests and glisten- 
  [ begin page 215 ]ppp.00237.223.jpg The stretch afar growing dimmer and dimmer, the  
 gray walls of the granite store-houses by the  
On the river the shadowy group, the big steam- 
 tug closely flanked on each side by the  
 barges—the hay-boat, the belated lighter,
On the neighboring shore the fires from the foun- 
 dry chimneys burning high and glaringly into  
 the night,
Casting their flicker of black, contrasted with wild  
 red and yellow light, over the tops of houses,  
 and down into the clefts of streets.
These and all else were to me the same as they  
 are to you,
I project myself a moment to tell you—also I  
I loved well those cities, I loved well the stately and rapid river, The men and women I saw were all near to me, Others the same—others who look back on me,  
 because I looked forward to them,
The time will come, though I stop here today and  
What is it, then, between us? What is the  
 count of the scores or hundreds of years  
 between us?
  [ begin page 216 ]ppp.00237.224.jpg Whatever it is, it avails not—distance avails not,  
 and place avails not.
I too lived, I too walked the streets of Manhattan Island, and  
 bathed in the waters around it;
I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir with- 
 in me,
In the day, among crowds of people, sometimes  
 they came upon me,
In my walks home late at night, or as I lay in my  
 bed, they came upon me.
I too had been struck from the float forever held  
 in solution,
I too had received identity by my body, That I was, I knew was of my body, and what I  
 should be, I knew I should be of my body.
It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall, The dark threw patches down upon me also, The best I had done seemed to me blank and sus- 
My great thoughts, as I supposed them, were they  
 not in reality meagre? Would not people  
 laugh at me?
It is not you alone who know what it is to be  
  [ begin page 217 ]ppp.00237.225.jpg I am he who knew what it was to be evil, I too knitted the old knot of contrariety, Blabbed, blushed, resented, lied, stole, grudged, Had guile, anger, lust, hot wishes I dared not  
Was wayward, vain, greedy, shallow, sly, a solitary  
 committer, a coward, a malignant person,
The wolf, the snake, the hog, not wanting in me, The cheating look, the frivolous word, the adul- 
 terous wish, not wanting,
Refusals, hates, postponements, meanness, lazi- 
 ness, none of these wanting.
But I was a Manhattanese, free, friendly, and  
I was called by my nighest name by clear loud  
 voices of young men as they saw me ap- 
 proaching or passing,
Felt their arms on my neck as I stood, or the neg- 
 ligent leaning of their flesh against me as I sat,
Saw many I loved in the street, or ferry-boat, or  
 public assembly, yet never told them a word,
Lived the same life with the rest, the same old  
 laughing, gnawing, sleeping,
Played the part that still looks back on the actor  
 or actress,
The same old role, the role that is what we make  
 it, as great as we like, or as small as we  
 like, or both great and small.
10   [ begin page 218 ]ppp.00237.226.jpg Closer yet I approach you, What thought you have of me, I had as much of  
 you—I laid in my stores in advance,
I considered long and seriously of you before you  
 were born.
Who was to know what should come home to me? Who knows but I am enjoying this? Who knows but I am as good as looking at you  
 now, for all you cannot see me?
It is not you alone, nor I alone, Not a few races, not a few generations, not a few  
It is that each came, or comes, or shall come,  
 from its due emission, without fail, either  
 now, or then, or henceforth.
Every thing indicates—the smallest does, and  
 the largest does,
A necessary film envelops all, and envelops the  
 soul for a proper time.
Now I am curious what sight can ever be more  
 stately and admirable to me than my mast- 
 hemm'd Manhatta, my river and sun-set, and  
 my scallop-edged waves of flood-tide, the  
 sea-gulls oscillating their bodies, the hay-boat  
 in the twilight, and the belated lighter,
  [ begin page 219 ]ppp.00237.227.jpg Curious what gods can exceed these that clasp  
 me by the hand, and with voices I love call  
 me promptly and loudly by my nighest name  
 as I approach,
Curious what is more subtle than this which ties  
 me to the woman or man that looks in my  
Which fuses me into you now, and pours my  
 meaning into you.
We understand, then, do we not? What I promised without mentioning it, have  
 you not accepted?
What the study could not teach—what the  
 preaching could not accomplish is accom- 
 plished, is it not?
What the push of reading could not start is  
 started by me personally, is it not?
Flow on, river! Flow with the flood-tide, and  
 ebb with the ebb-tide!
Frolic on, crested and scallop-edged waves! Gorgeous clouds of the sun-set, drench with your  
 splendor me, or the men and women genera- 
 tions after me!
Cross from shore to shore, countless crowds of  
Stand up, tall masts of Manahatta!—stand up,  
 beautiful hills of Brooklyn!
  [ begin page 220 ]ppp.00237.228.jpg Bully for you! you proud, friendly, free Manhat- 
Throb, baffled and curious brain! throw out ques- 
 tions and answers!
Suspend here and everywhere, eternal float of  
Blab, blush, lie, steal, you or I or any one after  
Gaze, loving and thirsting eyes, in the house or  
 street or public assembly!
Sound out, voices of young men! loudly and mu- 
 sically call me by my nighest name!
Live, old life! play the part that looks back on the  
 actor or actress!
Play the old role, the role that is great or small,  
 according as one makes it!
Consider, you who peruse me, whether I may  
 not in unknown ways be looking upon you!
Be firm, rail over the river, to support those who  
 lean idly, yet haste with the hasting cur- 
Fly on, sea-birds! fly sideways, or wheel in large  
 circles high in the air!
Receive the summer-sky, you water! faithfully  
 hold it till all downcast eyes have time to  
 take it from you!
Diverge, fine spokes of light, from the shape of  
 my head, or any one's head, in the sun-lit  
  [ begin page 221 ]ppp.00237.229.jpg Come on, ships, from the lower bay! pass up  
 or down, white-sailed schooners, sloops,  
Flaunt away, flags of all nations! be duly lowered  
 at sun-set!
Burn high your fires, foundry chimneys! cast  
 black shadows at night-fall! cast red and  
 yellow light over the tops of the houses!
Appearances, now or henceforth, indicate what  
 you are!
You necessary film, continue to envelop the  
About my body for me, and your body for you, be  
 hung our divinest aromas!
Thrive, cities! Bring your freight, bring your  
 shows, ample and sufficient rivers!
Expand, being than which none else is perhaps  
 more spiritual!
Keep your places, objects than which none else is  
 more lasting!
We descend upon you and all things, we arrest  
 you all,
We realize the soul only by you, you faithful solids  
 and fluids,
Through you color, form, location, sublimity,  
Through you every proof, comparison, and all the  
 suggestions and determinations of ourselves.
  [ begin page 222 ]ppp.00237.230.jpg You have waited, you always wait, you dumb  
 beautiful ministers! you novices!
We receive you with free sense at last, and are  
 insatiate henceforward,
Not you any more shall be able to foil us, or with- 
 hold yourselves from us,
We use you, and do not cast you aside—we  
 plant you permanently within us,
We fathom you not—we love you—there is  
 perfection in you also,
You furnish your parts toward eternity, Great or small, you furnish your parts toward the  
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