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Poems of Joy



1 O TO make the most jubilant poems! O full of music! Full of manhood, womanhood, in- 
O full of common employments! Full of grain and  
2O for the voices of animals! O for the swiftness  
 and balance of fishes!
O for the dropping of rain-drops in a poem! O for the sunshine, and motion of waves in a poem.
3O to be on the sea! the wind, the wide waters  
O to sail in a ship under full sail at sea.
4O the joy of my spirit! It is uncaged! It darts  
 like lightning!
It is not enough to have this globe, or a certain time  
 —I will have thousands of globes, and all time.


5O the engineer's joys To go with a locomotive! To hear the hiss of steam—the merry shriek—the  
 steam-whistle—the laughing locomotive!
To push with resistless way, and speed off in the dis- 
  [ begin page 272 ]ppp.00473.272.jpg 6O the horseman's and horsewoman's joys! The saddle—the gallop—the pressure upon the seat  
 —the cool gurgling by the ears and hair.


7O the fireman's joys! I hear the alarm at dead of night, I hear bells—shouts!—I pass the crowd—I run! The sight of the flames maddens me with pleasure. 8O the joy of the strong-brawn'd fighter, towering  
 in the arena, in perfect condition, conscious of  
 power, thirsting to meet his opponent.
9O the joy of that vast elemental sympathy which  
 only the human Soul is capable of generating  
 and emitting in steady and limitless floods.


10O the mother's joys! The watching—the endurance—the precious love—  
 the anguish—the patiently yielded life.
11O the joy of increase, growth, recuperation, The joy of soothing and pacifying—the joy of con- 
 cord and harmony.
12O to go back to the place where I was born! To hear the birds sing once more! To ramble about the house and barn, and over the  
 fields, once more,
And through the orchard and along the old lanes  
 once more.


13O male and female! O the presence of women! (I swear there is nothing  
 more exquisite than the presence of women;)
  [ begin page 273 ]ppp.00473.273.jpg O for the girl, my mate! O for the happiness with  
 my mate!
O the young man as I pass! O I am sick after  
 the friendship of him who, I fear, is indifferent  
 to me.
14O the streets of cities! The flitting faces—the expressions, eyes, feet, cos- 
 tumes! O I cannot tell how welcome they are  
 to me;
O, of the men—of women toward me as I pass—The  
 memory of only one look—the boy lingering  
 and waiting.


15O to have been brought up on bays, lagoons, creeks  
 or along the coast!
O to continue and be employ'd there all my life! O the briny and damp smell—the shore—the salt  
 weeds exposed at low water,
The work of fishermen—the work of the eel-fisher  
 and clam-fisher.
16O it is I! I come with my clam-rake and spade! I come with  
 my eel-spear;
Is the tide out? I join the group of clam-diggers on  
 the flats,
I laugh and work with them—I joke at my work, like  
 a mettlesome young man.
17In winter I take my eel-basket and eel-spear and  
 travel out on foot on the ice—I have a small  
 axe to cut holes in the ice;
Behold me, well-clothed, going gaily, or returning in  
 the afternoon—my brood of tough boys accom- 
 panying me,
  [ begin page 274 ]ppp.00473.274.jpg My brood of grown and part-grown boys, who love  
 to be with no one else so well as they love to  
 be with me,
By day to work with me, and by night to sleep with  
18Or, another time, in warm weather, out in a boat, 
 to lift the lobster-pots, where they are sunk  
 with heavy stones, (I know the buoys;)
O the sweetness of the Fifth-month morning upon  
 the water, as I row, just before sunrise, toward  
 the buoys;
I pull the wicker pots up slantingly—the dark green  
 lobsters are desperate with their claws, as I  
 take them out—I insert wooden pegs in the  
 joints of their pincers,
I go to all the places, one after another, and then row  
 back to the shore,
There, in a huge kettle of boiling water, the lobsters  
 shall be boil'd till their color becomes scarlet.
19Or, another time, mackerel-taking, Voracious, mad for the hook, near the surface, they  
 seem to fill the water for miles;
Or, another time, fishing for rock-fish in Chesapeake  
 Bay—I one of the brown-faced crew;
Or, another time, trailing for blue-fish off Paumanok, 
 I stand with braced body,
My left foot is on the gunwale—my right arm throws  
 the coils of slender rope,
In sight around me the quick veering and darting of  
 fifty skiffs, my companions.


20O boating on the rivers! The voyage down the Niagara, (the St. Lawrence,)—  
 the superb scenery—the steamers,
  [ begin page 275 ]ppp.00473.275.jpg The ships sailing—the Thousand Islands—the occa- 
 sional timber-raft, and the raftsmen with long- 
 reaching sweep-oars,
The little huts on the rafts, and the stream of smoke  
 when they cook supper at evening.
21O something pernicious and dread! Something far away from a puny and pious life! Something unproved! Something in a trance! Something escaped from the anchorage, and driving  
22O to work in mines, or forging iron! Foundry casting—the foundry itself—the rude high  
 roof—the ample and shadow'd space,
The furnace—the hot liquid pour'd out and running.


23O the joys of the soldier! To feel the presence of a brave general! to feel his  
To behold his calmness! to be warm'd in the rays of  
 his smile!
To go to battle! to hear the bugles play, and the  
 drums beat!
To hear the crash of artillery! to see the glittering of  
 the bayonets and musket-barrels in the sun!
To see men fall and die and not complain! To taste the savage taste of blood! to be so devilish! To gloat so over the wounds and deaths of the enemy.


24O the whaleman's joys! O I cruise my old cruise  
I feel the ship's motion under me—I feel the Atlan- 
 tic breezes fanning me,
I hear the cry again sent down from the mast-head, 
  There she blows,
  [ begin page 276 ]ppp.00473.276.jpg Again I spring up the rigging, to look with the rest—  
 We see—we descend, wild with excitement,
I leap in the lower'd boat—We row toward our prey, 
 where he lies,
We approach, stealthy and silent—I see the moun- 
 tainous mass, lethargic, basking,
I see the harpooner standing up—I see the weapon  
 dart from his vigorous arm;
O swift, again, now, far out in the ocean, the wounded  
 whale, settling, running to windward, tows me,
Again I see him rise to breathe—We row close again, I see a lance driven through his side, press'd deep, 
 turn'd in the wound,
Again we back off—I see him settle again—the life is  
 leaving him fast,
As he rises, he spouts blood—I see him swim in circles  
 narrower and narrower, swiftly cutting the  
 water—I see him die,
He gives one convulsive leap in the centre of the cir- 
 cle, and then falls flat and still in the bloody  


25O the old manhood of me, my joy! My children and grand-children—my white hair and  
My largeness, calmness, majesty, out of the long  
 stretch of my life.
26O the ripen'd joy of womanhood! O perfect happiness at last! I am more than eighty years of age—my hair, too, is  
 pure white—I am the most venerable mother;
How clear is my mind! how all people draw nigh to  
What attractions are these, beyond any before? what  
 bloom, more than the bloom of youth?
What beauty is this that descends upon me, and rises  
 out of me?
  [ begin page 277 ]ppp.00473.277.jpg 27O the joy of my soul leaning poised on itself—re- 
 ceiving identity through materials, and loving  
 them—observing characters, and absorbing  
O my soul, vibrated back to me, from them—from  
 facts, sight, hearing, touch, my phrenology, 
 reason, articulation, comparison, memory, and  
 the like;
O the real life of my senses and flesh, transcending  
 my senses and flesh;
O my body, done with materials—my sight, done with  
 my material eyes;
O what is proved to me this day, beyond cavil, that it  
 is not my material eyes which finally see,
Nor my material body which finally loves, walks, 
 laughs, shouts, embraces, procreates.


28O the farmer's joys! Ohioan's, Illinoisian's, Wisconsinese', Kanadian's, Io- 
 wan, Kansian's, Missourian's, Oregonese' joys,
To rise at peep of day, and pass forth nimbly to work, To plow land in the fall for winter-sown crops, To plough land in the spring for maize, To train orchards—to graft the trees—to gather ap- 
 ples in the fall.
29O the pleasure with trees! The orchard—the forest—the oak, cedar, pine, pekan- 
The honey-locust, black-walnut, cottonwood, and mag- 


30O Death! O the beautiful touch of Death, soothing and be- 
 numbing a few moments, for reasons;
K2   [ begin page 278 ]ppp.00473.278.jpg O that of myself, discharging my excrementitious  
 body, to be burn'd, or render'd to powder, or  
My real body doubtless left to me for other spheres, My voided body, nothing more to me, returning to  
 the purifications, further offices, eternal uses of  
 the earth.


31O to bathe in the swimming-bath, or in a good  
 place along shore!
To splash the water! to walk ankle-deep—to race  
 naked along the shore.
32O to realize space! The plenteousness of all—that there are no bounds; To emerge, and be of the sky—of the sun and moon, 
 and the flying clouds, as one with them.


33O, while I live, to be the ruler of life—not a slave, To meet life as a powerful conquerer, No fumes—no ennui—no more complaints or scornful  
34O me repellent and ugly! To these proud laws of the air, the water, and the  
 ground, proving my interior Soul impregnable, 
 And nothing exterior shall ever take command of me.
35O to attract by more than attraction! How it is I know not—yet behold! the something  
 which obeys none of the rest,
It is offensive, never defensive—yet how magnetic it  


36O the joy of suffering! To struggle against great odds! to meet enemies un- 
  [ begin page 279 ]ppp.00473.279.jpg To be entirely alone with them! to find how much one  
 can stand!
To look strife, torture, prison, popular odium, death, 
 face to face!
To mount the scaffold! to advance to the muzzles of  
 guns with perfect nonchalance!
To be indeed a God!
37O the gleesome saunter over fields and hill-sides! The leaves and flowers of the commonest weeds—the  
 moist fresh stillness of the woods,
The exquisite smell of the earth at day-break, and all  
 through the forenoon.
38O love-branches! love-root! love-apples! O chaste and electric torrents! O mad-sweet drops. 39O the orator's joys! To inflate the chest—to roll the thunder of the voice  
 out from the ribs and throat,
To make the people rage, weep, hate, desire, with  
To lead America—to quell America with a great  
40O the joy of a manly self-hood! Personality—to be servile to none—to defer to none  
 —not to any tyrant, known or unknown,
To walk with erect carriage, a step springy and  
To look with calm gaze, or with a flashing eye, To speak with a full and sonorous voice, out of a  
 broad chest,
To confront with your personality all the other per- 
 sonalities of the earth.
41O to have my life henceforth my poem of joys! To dance, clap hands, exult, shout, skip, leap, roll on, 
 float on,
An athlete—full of rich words—full of joys.
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