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A Leaf of Faces



1 SAUNTERING the pavement, or riding the country by- 
 road—lo! such faces!
Faces of friendship, precision, caution, suavity, 
The spiritual prescient face—the always welcome, 
 common, benevolent face,
The face of the singing of music—the grand faces of  
 natural lawyers and judges, broad at the back- 
The faces of hunters and fishers, bulged at the brows—  
 the shaved blanch'd faces of orthodox citizens;
The pure, extravagant, yearning, questioning artist's  
The ugly face of some beautiful Soul, the handsome  
 detested or despised face;
The sacred faces of infants, the illuminated face of the  
 mother of many children;
The face of an amour, the face of veneration; The face as of a dream, the face of an immobile rock; The face withdrawn of its good and bad, a castrated  
A wild hawk, his wings clipp'd by the clipper; A stallion that yielded at last to the thongs and knife  
 of the gelder.
2Sauntering the pavement, thus, or crossing the  
 ceaseless ferry, faces, and faces, and faces:
I see them, and complain not, and am content with  
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3Do you suppose I could be content with all, if I  
 thought them their own finale?
4This now is too lamentable a face for a man; Some abject louse, asking leave to be—cringing for it; Some milk-nosed maggot, blessing what lets it wrig to  
 its hole.
5This face is a dog's snout, sniffing for garbage; Snakes nest in that mouth—I hear the sibilant threat. 6This face is a haze more chill than the arctic sea; Its sleepy and wobbling icebergs crunch as they go. 7This is a face of bitter herbs—this an emetic—they  
 need no label;
And more of the drug-shelf, laudanum, caoutchouc, or  
8This face is an epilepsy, its wordless tongue gives  
 out the unearthly cry,
Its veins down the neck distend, its eyes roll till  
 they show nothing but their whites,
Its teeth grit, the palms of the hands are cut by the  
 turn'd-in nails,
The man falls struggling and foaming to the ground  
 while he speculates well.
9This face is bitten by vermin and worms, And this is some murderer's knife with a half-pull'd  
10This face owes to the sexton his dismalest fee; An unceasing death-bell tolls there.
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11Those then are really men—the bosses and tufts of  
 the great round globe!
12Features of my equals, would you trick me with  
 your creas'd and cadaverous march?
Well, you cannot trick me.
13I see your rounded never-erased flow; I see neath the rims of your haggard and mean dis- 
14Splay and twist as you like—poke with the tangling  
 fores of fishes or rats;
You'll be unmuzzled, you certainly will.
15I saw the face of the most smear'd and slobbering  
 idiot they had at the asylum;
And I knew for my consolation what they knew not; I knew of the agents that emptied and broke my  
The same wait to clear the rubbish from the fallen  
And I shall look again in a score or two of ages, And I shall meet the real landlord, perfect and un- 
 harm, every inch as good as myself.


16The Lord advances, and yet advances; Always the shadow in front—always the reach'd hand  
 bringing up the laggards.
17Out of this face emerge banners and horses—O su- 
 perb! I see what is coming;
I see the high pioneer-caps—I see the staves of run- 
 ners clearing the way,
I hear victorious drums.
  [ begin page 210 ]ppp.00473.210.jpg 18This face is a life-boat; This is the face commanding and bearded, it asks no  
 odds of the rest;
This face is flavor'd fruit, ready for eating; This face of a healthy honest boy is the programme of  
 all good.
19These faces bear testimony slumbering or awake; They show their descent from the Master himself. 20Off the word I have spoken I except not one—red, 
 white, black, are all deific;
In each house is the ovum—it comes forth after a  
 thousand years.
21Spots or cracks at the windows do not disturb me; Tall and sufficient stand behind, and make signs to  
I read the promise, and patiently wait.
22This is a full-grown lily's face, She speaks to the limber-hipp'd man near the garden  
Come here, she blushingly cries—Come nigh to me, lim- 
 ber-hipp'd man,
Stand at my side till I lean as high as I can upon you, Fill me with albescent honey, bend down to me, Rub to me with your chafing beard, rub to my breast and  


23The old face of the mother of many children! Whist! I am fully content. 24Lull'd and late is the smoke of the First-day  
It hangs low over the rows of trees by the fences, It hangs thin by the sassafras, the wild-cherry, and  
 the cat-brier under them.
  [ begin page 211 ]ppp.00473.211.jpg 25I saw the rich ladies in full dress at the soiree, I heard what the singers were singing so long, Heard who sprang in crimson youth from the white  
 froth and the water-blue.
26Behold a woman! She looks out from her quaker cap—her face is clearer  
 and more beautiful than the sky.
27She sits in an arm-chair, under the shaded porch of  
 the farm-house,
The sun just shines on her old white head.
28Her ample gown is of cream-hued linen, Her grandsons raised the flax, and her grand-daugh- 
 ters spun it with the distaff and the wheel.
29The melodious character of the earth, The finish beyond which philosophy cannot go, and  
 does not wish to go,
The justified mother of men.
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