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American Feuillage


AMERICA always! Always our own feuillage! Always Florida's green peninsula! Always the price- 
 less 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  
 Eastern 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 navigation,
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  
 continent of Democracy!
Always the prairies, pastures, forests, vast cities,  
 travelers, 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  
 increasing density there—the habitans, friendly,  
 threatening, ironical, scorning invaders;
All sights, South, North, East—all deeds, promis- 
 cuously done at all times,
  [ begin page 252 ]ppp.00473.252.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 Rappa- 
 hannock, and the valleys of the Roanoke and  
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 la- 
 bor 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,  
 beyond the floes;
White drift spooning ahead, where the ship in the  
 tempest 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;
  [ begin page 253 ]ppp.00473.253.jpg Rude boats descending the big Pedee—climbing  
 plants, parasites, with color'd flowers and ber- 
 ries, enveloping huge trees,
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—also 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  
 clearing, curing, and packing-houses;
Deep in the forest, in piney woods, turpentine drop- 
 ping 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 straw.
—In Tennessee and Kentucky, slaves busy in the  
 coalings, at the forge, by the furnace-blaze, or  
 at the corn-shucking;
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 night-fall, 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,  
 smoking and talking;
Late in the afternoon, the mocking-bird, the Ameri- 
 can 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;
J2   [ begin page 254 ]ppp.00473.254.jpg —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;
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 hemisphere—one love, one  
 Dilation or Pride;
—In arriere, the peace-talk with the Iroquois, the  
 aborigines—the calumet, the pipe of good-will  
 arbitration, and indorsement,
The sachem blowing the smoke first toward the sum  
 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 march,
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 pleased, rambling in lanes and country fields,  
 Paumanok's fields,
  [ begin page 255 ]ppp.00473.255.jpg Me, observing the spiral flight of two little yellow  
 butterflies, shuffling between each other, ascend- 
 ing high in the air;
The darting swallow, the destroyer of insects—the  
 fall traveler southward, but returning north- 
 ward early in the spring;
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, balanc- 
 ing 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 co- 
 piousness—the individuality of The States, each  
 for itself—the money-makers;
Factories, machinery, the mechanical forces—the  
 windlass, lever, pulley—All certainties,
The certainty of space, increase, freedom, futurity, In space, the sporades, the scattered 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 flap- 
 ping, with the myriads of gulls wintering along  
 the coasts of Florida—or in Louisiana, with  
 pelicans breeding,
Otherways, there, atwixt the banks of the Arkansaw,  
 the Rio Grande, the Nueces, the Brazos, the  
 Tombigbee, the Red River, the Saskatchawan,  
 or the Osage, I with the spring waters laughing  
 and skipping and running;
  [ begin page 256 ]ppp.00473.256.jpg 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 amuse- 
 ment—And I triumphantly twittering;
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 reliev'd by other sentinels—And I feeding  
 and taking turns with the rest;
In Kanadian forests, the moose, large as an ox, cor- 
 ner'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 Manna- 
 hatta 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, good and evil  
 —these me,
These affording, in all their particulars, endless  
 feuillage to me and to America, how can I do  
 less than pass the clew 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?
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