Skip to main content

American Feuillage.


AMERICA always! Always our own feuillage! Always Florida's green peninsula! Always the priceless  
 delta of Louisiana! Always the cotton-fields of  
 Alabama and Texas!
Always California's golden hills and hollows—and the  
 silver mountains of New Mexico! Always soft- 
 breath'd Cuba!
Always the vast slope drain'd by the Southern Sea—  
 inseparable with the slopes drain'd by the East- 
 ern and Western Seas;
The area the eighty-third year of These States—the  
 three and a half millions of square miles;
The eighteen thousand miles of sea-coast and bay-coast  
 on the main—the thirty thousand miles of river  
The seven millions of distinct families, and the same  
 number of dwellings—Always these, and more,  
 branching forth into numberless branches;
Always the free range and diversity! always the conti- 
 nent of Democracy!
Always the prairies, pastures, forests, vast cities, trav- 
 elers, Kanada, the snows;
Always these compact lands—lands tied at the hips  
 with the belt stringing the huge oval lakes;
Always the West, with strong native persons—the in- 
 creasing density there—the habitans, friendly,  
 threatening, ironical, scorning invaders;
All sights, South, North, East—all deeds, promiscu- 
 ously done at all times,
  [ begin page 160 ]ppp.00270.162.jpg All characters, movements, growths—a few noticed,  
 myriads unnoticed,
Through Mannahatta's streets I walking, these things  
On interior rivers, by night, in the glare of pine knots,  
 steamboats wooding up;
Sunlight by day on the valley of the Susquehanna, and  
 on the valleys of the Potomac and Rappahannock,  
 and the valleys of the Roanoke and Delaware;
In their northerly wilds, beasts of prey haunting the  
 Adirondacks, the hills—or lapping the Saginaw  
 waters to drink;
In a lonesome inlet, a sheldrake, lost from the flock,  
 sitting on the water, rocking silently;
In farmers' barns, oxen in the stable, their harvest labor  
 done—they rest standing—they are too tired;
Afar on arctic ice, the she-walrus lying drowsily, while  
 her cubs play around;
The hawk sailing where men have not yet sail'd—the  
 farthest polar sea, ripply, crystalline, open, be- 
 yond the floes;
White drift spooning ahead, where the ship in the tem- 
 pest dashes;
On solid land, what is done in cities, as the bells all  
 strike midnight together;
In primitive woods, the sounds there also sounding—  
 the howl of the wolf, the scream of the panther,  
 and the hoarse bellow of the elk;
In winter beneath the hard blue ice of Moosehead Lake  
 —in summer visible through the clear waters,  
 the great trout swimming;
In lower latitudes, in warmer air, in the Carolinas, the  
 large black buzzard floating slowly, high beyond  
 the tree tops,
Below, the red cedar, festoon'd with tylandria—the  
 pines and cypresses, growing out of the white  
 sand that spreads far and flat;
Rude boats descending the big Pedee—climbing plants,  
 parasites, with color'd flowers and berries, envel- 
 oping huge trees,
  [ begin page 161 ]ppp.00270.163.jpg The waving drapery on the live oak, trailing long and  
 low, noiselessly waved by the wind;
The camp of Georgia wagoners, just after dark—the  
 supper-fires, and the cooking and eating by  
 whites and negroes,
Thirty or forty great wagons—the mules, cattle, horses,  
 feeding from troughs,
The shadows, gleams, up under the leaves of the old  
 sycamore-trees—the flames—with the black smoke  
 from the pitch-pine, curling and rising;
Southern fishermen fishing—the sounds and inlets of  
 North Carolina's coast—the shad-fishery and the  
 herring-fishery—the large sweep-seines—the  
 windlasses on shore work'd by horses—the clear- 
 ing, curing, and packing-houses;
Deep in the forest, in piney woods, turpentine dropping  
 from the incisions in the trees—There are the  
 turpentine works,
There are the negroes at work, in good health—the  
 ground in all directions is cover'd with pine  
—In Tennessee and Kentucky, slaves busy in the coal- 
 ings, at the forge, by the furnace-blaze, or at the  
In Virginia, the planter's son returning after a long  
 absence, joyfully welcom'd and kiss'd by the aged  
 mulatto nurse;
On rivers, boatmen safely moor'd at nightfall, in their  
 boats, under shelter of high banks,
Some of the younger men dance to the sound of the  
 banjo or fiddle—others sit on the gunwale, smok- 
 ing and talking;
Late in the afternoon, the mocking-bird, the American  
 mimic, singing in the Great Dismal Swamp—  
 there are the greenish waters, the resinous odor,  
 the plenteous moss, the cypress tree, and the  
 juniper tree;
—Northward, young men of Mannahatta—the target  
 company from an excursion returning home at  
 evening—the musket-muzzles all bear bunches  
 of flowers presented by women;
  [ begin page 162 ]ppp.00270.164.jpg Children at play—or on his father's lap a young boy  
 fallen asleep, (how his lips move! how he smiles  
 in his sleep!)
The scout riding on horseback over the plains west of  
 the Mississippi—he ascends a knoll and sweeps  
 his eye around;
California life—the miner, bearded, dress'd in his rude  
 costume—the stanch California friendship—the  
 sweet air—the graves one, in passing, meets,  
 solitary, just aside the horse-path;
Down in Texas, the cotton-field, the negro-cabins—  
 drivers driving mules or oxen before rude carts—  
 cotton bales piled on banks and wharves;
Encircling all, vast-darting, up and wide, the American  
 Soul, with equal hemispheres—one Love, one  
 Dilation or Pride;
—In arriere, the peace-talk with the Iroquois, the abo- 
 rigines—the calumet, the pipe of good-will, arbi- 
 tration, and indorsement,
The sachem blowing the smoke first toward the sun and  
 then toward the earth,
The drama of the scalp-dance enacted with painted  
 faces and guttural exclamations,
The setting out of the war-party—the long and stealthy  
The single-file—the swinging hatchets—the surprise  
 and slaughter of enemies;
—All the acts, scenes, ways, persons, attitudes of These  
 States—reminiscences, all institutions,
All These States, compact—Every square mile of These  
 States, without excepting a particle—you also—  
 me also,
Me pleas'd, rambling in lanes and country fields, Pau- 
 manok's fields,
Me, observing the spiral flight of two little yellow but- 
 terflies, shuffling between each other, ascending  
 high in the air;
The darting swallow, the destroyer of insects—the fall  
 traveler southward, but returning northward  
 early in the spring;
  [ begin page 163 ]ppp.00270.165.jpg The country boy at the close of the day, driving the  
 herd of cows, and shouting to them as they loiter  
 to browse by the road-side;
The city wharf—Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore,  
 Charleston, New Orleans, San Francisco,
The departing ships, when the sailors heave at the  
—Evening—me in my room—the setting sun, The setting summer sun shining in my open window,  
 showing the swarm of flies, suspended, balancing  
 in the air in the centre of the room, darting  
 athwart, up and down, casting swift shadows in  
 specks on the opposite wall, where the shine is;
The athletic American matron speaking in public to  
 crowds of listeners;
Males, females, immigrants, combinations—the copious- 
 ness—the individuality of The States, each for  
 itself—the money-makers;
Factories, machinery, the mechanical forces—the wind- 
 lass, lever, pulley—All certainties,
The certainty of space, increase, freedom, futurity, In space, the sporades, the scatter'd islands, the stars—  
 on the firm earth, the lands, my lands;
O lands! all so dear to me—what you are, (whatever it  
 is,) I become a part of that, whatever it is;
Southward there, I screaming, with wings slow flapping,  
 with the myriads of gulls wintering along the  
 coasts of Florida—or in Louisiana, with pelicans  
Otherways, there, atwixt the banks of the Arkansaw, the  
 Rio Grande, the Nueces, the Brazos, the Tombig- 
 bee, the Red River, the Saskatchawan, or the  
 Osage, I with the spring waters laughing and  
 skipping and running;
Northward, on the sands, on some shallow bay of Pau- 
 manok, I, with parties of snowy herons wading  
 in the wet to seek worms and aquatic plants;
Retreating, triumphantly twittering, the king-bird, from  
 piercing the crow with its bill, for amusement—  
 And I triumphantly twittering;
  [ begin page 164 ]ppp.00270.166.jpg The migrating flock of wild geese alighting in autumn  
 to refresh themselves—the body of the flock feed  
 —the sentinels outside move around with erect  
 heads watching, and are from time to time re- 
 liev'd by other sentinels—And I feeding and  
 taking turns with the rest;
In Kanadian forests, the moose, large as an ox, corner'd  
 by hunters, rising desperately on his hind-feet,  
 and plunging with his fore-feet, the hoofs as  
 sharp as knives—And I, plunging at the hunters,  
 corner'd and desperate;
In the Mannahatta, streets, piers, shipping, store-houses,  
 and the countless workmen working in the shops,
And I too of the Mannahatta, singing thereof—and no  
 less in myself than the whole of the Mannahatta  
 in itself,
Singing the song of These, my ever-united lands—my  
 body no more inevitably united, part to part, and  
 made one identity, any more than my lands are  
 inevitably united, and made ONE IDENTITY;
Nativities, climates, the grass of the great Pastoral  
Cities, labors, death, animals, products, war, good and  
 evil—these me,
These affording, in all their particulars, endless feuil- 
 lage to me and to America, how can I do less  
 than pass the clue of the union of them, to afford  
 the like to you?
Whoever you are! how can I but offer you divine leaves,  
 that you also be eligible as I am?
How can I but, as here, chanting, invite you for your- 
 self to collect bouquets of the incomparable  
 feuillage of These States?
Back to top