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Burial Poem.

32 — Burial Poem.

To think of time! to think through the retro- 
To think of today, and the ages continued hence- 
Have you guessed you yourself would not con- 
 tinue? Have you dreaded those earth- 
Have you feared the future would be nothing to  
Is today nothing? Is the beginningless past  
If the future is nothing, they are just as surely  
To think that the sun rose in the east! that men  
 and women were flexible, real, alive! that  
 every thing was alive!
To think that you and I did not see, feel, think,  
 nor bear our part!
  [ begin page 333 ]ppp.00237.341.jpg To think that we are now here, and bear our part! Not a day passes, not a minute or second, without  
 an accouchement!
Not a day passes, not a minute or second, without  
The dull nights go over, and the dull days also, The soreness of lying so much in bed goes over, The physician, after long putting off, gives the  
 silent and terrible look for an answer,
The children come hurried and weeping, and the  
 brothers and sisters are sent for,
Medicines stand unused on the shelf—the cam- 
 phor-smell has pervaded the rooms,
The faithful hand of the living does not desert the  
 hand of the dying,
The twitching lips press lightly on the forehead  
 of the dying,
The breath ceases and the pulse of the heart  
The corpse stretches on the bed, and the living  
 look upon it,
It is palpable as the living are palpable.
The living look upon the corpse with their eye- 
But without eye-sight lingers a different living,  
 and looks curiously on the corpse.
  [ begin page 334 ]ppp.00237.342.jpg To think that the rivers will come to flow, and the  
 snow fall, and fruits ripen, and act upon others  
 as upon us now—yet not act upon us!
To think of all these wonders of city and country,  
 and others taking great interest in them—and  
 we taking no interest in them!
To think how eager we are in building our houses! To think others shall be just as eager, and we  
 quite indifferent!
I see one building the house that serves him a few  
 years, or seventy or eighty years at most,
I see one building the house that serves him longer  
 than that.
Slow-moving and black lines creep over the whole  
 earth—they never cease—they are the  
 burial lines,
He that was President was buried, and he that is  
 now President shall surely be buried.
Cold dash of waves at the ferry-wharf—posh and  
 ice in the river, half-frozen mud in the streets,  
 a gray discouraged sky overhead, the short  
 last daylight of December,
A hearse and stages, other vehicles give place —  
 the funeral of an old Broadway stage-driver,  
 the cortege mostly drivers.
  [ begin page 335 ]ppp.00237.343.jpg Rapid the trot to the cemetery, duly rattles the  
 death-bell, the gate is passed, the grave is  
 halted at, the living alight, the hearse  
The coffin is lowered and settled, the whip is laid  
 on the coffin, the earth is swiftly shovelled in  
 —a minute, no one moves or speaks—it is  
He is decently put away—is there anything  
He was a good fellow, free-mouthed, quick-tem- 
 pered, not bad-looking, able to take his own  
 part, witty, sensitive to a slight, ready with  
 life or death for a friend, fond of women,  
 played some, ate hearty, drank hearty, had  
 known what it was to be flush, grew low- 
 spirited toward the last, sickened, was helped  
 by a contribution, died aged forty-one years —  
 and that was his funeral.
Thumb extended, finger uplifted, apron, cape,  
 gloves, strap, wet-weather clothes, whip care- 
 fully chosen, boss, spotter, starter, hostler,  
 somebody loafing on you, you loafing on  
 somebody, head-way, man before and man  
 behind, good day's work, bad day's work, pet  
 stock, mean stock, first out, last out, turning  
 in at night,
  [ begin page 336 ]ppp.00237.344.jpg To think that these are so much and so nigh to  
 other drivers—and he there takes no interest  
 in them!
The markets, the government, the working-man's  
 wages—to think what account they are  
 through our nights and days!
To think that other working-men will make just as  
 great account of them—yet we make little  
 or no account!
The vulgar and the refined, what you call sin and  
 what you call goodness—to think how wide  
 a difference!
To think the difference will still continue to oth- 
 ers, yet we lie beyond the difference!
To think how much pleasure there is! Have you pleasure from looking at the sky?  
 have you pleasure from poems?
Do you enjoy yourself in the city? or engaged in  
 business? or planning a nomination and elec- 
 tion? or with your wife and family?
Or with your mother and sisters? or in womanly  
 house-work? or the beautiful maternal cares?
These also flow onward to others—you and I  
 flow onward,
But in due time you and I shall take less interest  
 in them.
  [ begin page 337 ]ppp.00237.345.jpg Your farm, profits, crops—to think how engrossed  
 you are!
To think there will still be farms, profits, crops —  
 yet for you, of what avail?
What will be, will be well—for what is, is well, To take interest is well, and not to take interest  
 shall be well.
The sky continues beautiful, the pleasure of men  
 with women shall never be sated, nor the  
 pleasure of women with men, nor the pleas- 
 ure from poems,
The domestic joys, the daily house-work or busi- 
 ness, the building of houses—these are not  
 phantasms, they have weight, form, location;
Farms, profits, crops, markets, wages, government,  
 are none of them phantasms,
The difference between sin and goodness is no  
The earth is not an echo—man and his life, and  
 all the things of his life, are well-considered.
You are not thrown to the winds—you gather  
 certainly and safely around yourself,
Yourself! Yourself! Yourself, forever and ever!
It is not to diffuse you that you were born of your  
 mother and father—it is to identify you,
15   [ begin page 338 ]ppp.00237.346.jpg It is not that you should be undecided, but that  
 you should be decided;
Something long preparing and formless is arrived  
 and formed in you,
You are thenceforth secure, whatever comes or  
The threads that were spun are gathered, the weft  
 crosses the warp, the pattern is systematic.
The preparations have every one been justified, The orchestra have tuned their instruments suffi- 
 ciently, the baton has given the signal.
The guest that was coming—he waited long for  
 reasons—he is now housed,
He is one of those who are beautiful and happy —  
 he is one of those that to look upon and be  
 with is enough.
The law of the past cannot be eluded! The law of the present and future cannot be  
The law of the living cannot be eluded—it is  
The law of promotion and transformation cannot  
 be eluded!
The law of heroes and good-doers cannot be  
  [ begin page 339 ]ppp.00237.347.jpg The law of drunkards, informers, mean persons,  
 cannot be eluded!
Slow-moving and black lines go ceaselessly over  
 the earth,
Northerner goes carried, and southerner goes car- 
 ried, and they on the Atlantic side, and they  
 on the Pacific, and they between, and all  
 through the Mississippi country, and all over  
 the earth.
The great masters and kosmos are well as they  
 go—the heroes and good-doers are well,
The known leaders and inventors, and the rich  
 owners and pious and distinguished, may be  
But there is more account than that—there is  
 strict account of all.
The interminable hordes of the ignorant and  
 wicked are not nothing,
The barbarians of Africa and Asia are not nothing, The common people of Europe are not nothing —  
 the American aborigines are not nothing,
The infected in the immigrant hospital are not  
 nothing—the murderer or mean person is  
 not nothing,
The perpetual successions of shallow people are  
 not nothing as they go,
  [ begin page 340 ]ppp.00237.348.jpg The prostitute is not nothing—the mocker of re- 
 ligion is not nothing as he goes.
I shall go with the rest—we have satisfaction, I have dreamed that we are not to be changed so  
 much, nor the law of us changed,
I have dreamed that heroes and good-doers shall  
 be under the present and past law,
And that murderers, drunkards, liars, shall be  
 under the present and past law,
For I have dreamed that the law they are under  
 now is enough.
And I have dreamed that the satisfaction is not so  
 much changed, and that there is no life  
 without satisfaction;
What is the earth? what are body and soul, with- 
 out satisfaction?
I shall go with the rest, We cannot be stopped at a given point—that is  
 no satisfaction,
To show us a good thing, or a few good things,  
 for a space of time—that is no satisfaction,
We must have the indestructible breed of the best,  
 regardless of time.
If otherwise, all these things came but to ashes  
 of dung,
  [ begin page 341 ]ppp.00237.349.jpg If maggots and rats ended us, then suspicion,  
 treachery, death.
Do you suspect death? If I were to suspect  
 death, I should die now,
Do you think I could walk pleasantly and well- 
 suited toward annihilation?
Pleasantly and well-suited I walk, Whither I walk I cannot define, but I know it is  
The whole universe indicates that it is good, The past and the present indicate that it is good.
How beautiful and perfect are the animals! How  
 perfect is my soul!
How perfect the earth, and the minutest thing  
 upon it!
What is called good is perfect, and what is called  
 bad is just as perfect,
The vegetables and minerals are all perfect, and  
 the imponderable fluids are perfect;
Slowly and surely they have passed on to this,  
 and slowly and surely they yet pass on.
My soul! if I realize you, I have satisfaction, Animals and vegetables! if I realize you, I have  
Laws of the earth and air! if I realize you, I  
 have satisfaction.
  [ begin page 342 ]ppp.00237.350.jpg I cannot define my satisfaction, yet it is so, I cannot define my life, yet it is so. O I swear I think now that every thing has an  
 eternal soul!
The trees have, rooted in the ground! the weeds  
 of the sea have! the animals!
I swear I think there is nothing but immortality! That the exquisite scheme is for it, and the nebu- 
 lous float is for it, and the cohering is for it!
And all preparation is for it! and identity is for  
 it! and life and death are for it!
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