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As I Sat Alone by Blue Ontario's Shore



1AS I sat alone, by blue Ontario's shore, As I mused of these mighty days, and of peace re- 
 turn, and the dead that return no more,
A Phantom, gigantic, superb, with stern visage, ac- 
 cost me;
Chant me a poem, it said, of the range of the high Soul  
  of Poets,
And chant of the welcome bards that breathe but my  
  native air—invoke those bards;
And chant me, before you go, the Song of the throes of  
2(Democracy—the destined conqueror—yet treacher- 
 ous lip-smiles everywhere,
And Death and infidelity at every step.)


3A nation announcing itself, I myself make the only growth by which I can be ap- 
I reject none, accept all, then reproduce all in my own  
  [ begin page 4c ]ppp.00473.438.jpg 4A breed whose proof is in time and deeds; What we are, we are—nativity is answer enough to  
We wield ourselves as a weapon is wielded, We are powerful and tremendous in ourselves, We are executive in ourselves—We are sufficient in the  
 variety of ourselves,
We are the most beautiful to ourselves, and in our- 
We stand self-pois'd, in the middle, branching thence  
 over the world;
From Missouri, Nebraska, or Kansas, laughing attacks  
 to scorn.
5Nothing is sinful to us outside of ourselves, Whatever appears, whatever does not appear, we are  
 beautiful or sinful in ourselves only.
(O mother! O sisters dear! If we are lost, no victor else has destroy'd us; It is by ourselves we go down to eternal night.)


7Have you thought there could be but a single  
There can be any number of Supremes—One does not  
 countervail another, any more than one eye- 
 sight countervails another, or one life counter- 
 vails another.
8All is eligible to all, All is for individuals—All is for you, No condition is prohibited, not God's, or any. 9All comes by the body—only health puts you rapport  
 with the universe.
10Produce great persons, the rest follows.
  [ begin page 5c ]ppp.00473.439.jpg


11America isolated I sing; I say that works made here in the spirit of other lands, 
 are so much poison to These States.
12How dare these insects assume to write poems for  
For our armies, and the offspring following the armies.
13Piety and conformity to them that like! Peace, obesity, allegiance, to them that like! I am he who tauntingly compels men, women, nations, Crying, Leap from your seats, and contend for your  
14I am he who walks the States with a barbed tongue, 
 questioning everyone I meet;
Who are you, that wanted only to be told what you  
 knew before?
Who are you, that wanted only a book to join you in  
 your nonsense?
15With pangs and cries, as thine own, O bearer of  
 many children!
This chant all wild, to a race of pride I give.)
16O lands! would you be freer than all that has ever  
 been before?
If you would be freer than all that has been before, 
 come listen to me.
17Fear grace—Fear delicatesse, Fear the mellow sweet, the sucking of honey-juice; Beware the advancing mortal ripening of nature, Beware what precedes the decay of the ruggedness of  
 states and men.
  [ begin page 6c ]ppp.00473.440.jpg


18Ages, precedents, chants, have long been accumu- 
 lating undirected materials,
America brings builders, and brings its own styles.
19The poets of Asia and Europe have done their work, 
 and pass'd to other spheres,
One work forever remains, the work of surpassing all  
 they have done.
20America, curious toward foreign characters, stands  
 by its own at all hazards,
Stands removed, spacious, composite, sound, initiates  
 the true use of precedents,
Does not repel them, or the past, or what they have  
 produced under their forms,
Takes the lesson with calmness, perceives the corpse  
 slowly borne from the house,
Perceives that it waits a little while in the door—that  
 it was fittest for its days,
That its life has descended to the stalwart and well- 
 shaped heir who approaches,
And that he shall be fittest for his days.
21Any period, one nation must lead, One land must be the promise and reliance of the  
22These States are the amplest poem, Here is not merely a nation, but a teeming nation of  
Here the doings of men correspond with the broad- 
 cast doings of the day and night,
Here is what moves in magnificent masses, careless of  
Here are the roughs, beards, friendliness, combative- 
 ness, the Soul loves,
Here the flowing trains—here the crowds, equality, 
 diversity, the Soul loves.
  [ begin page 7c ]ppp.00473.441.jpg


23Land of lands, and bards to corroborate! Of them, standing among them, one lifts to the light  
 his west-bred face,
To him the hereditary countenance bequeath'd, both  
 mother's and father's,
His first parts substances, earth, water, animals, trees, Built of the common stock, having room for far and  
Used to dispense with other lands, incarnating this  
Attracting it Body and Soul to himself, hanging on its  
 neck with incomparable love,
Plunging his semitic muscle into its merits and  
Making its cities, beginnings, events, diversities, 
 wars, vocal in him,
Making its rivers, lakes, bays, embouchure in him, Mississippi with yearly freshets and changing chutes—  
 Columbia, Niagara, Hudson, spending them- 
 selves lovingly in him,
If the Atlantic coast stretch, or the Pacific coast  
 stretch, he stretching with them north or south,
Spanning between them east and west, and touching  
 whatever is between them,
Growths growing from him to offset the growth of  
 pine, cedar, hemlock, live-oak, locust, chestnut, 
 hickory, cotton-wood, orange, magnolia,
Tangles as tangled in him as any cane-brake or  
He likening sides and peaks of mountains, forests  
 coated with northern transparent ice,
Off him pasturage sweet and natural as savanna, up- 
 land, prairie,
Through him flights, whirls, screams, answering those  
 of the fish-hawk, mocking-bird, night-heron, 
 and eagle;
His spirit surrounding his country's spirit, unclosed  
 to good and evil,
  [ begin page 8c ]ppp.00473.442.jpg Surrounding the essences of real things, old times  
 and present times,
Surrounding just found shores, islands, tribes of red  
Weather-beaten vessels, landings, settlements, embryo  
 stature and muscle,
The haughty defiance of the Year 1—war, peace, the  
 formation of the Constitution,
The separate States, the simple, elastic scheme, the  
The Union, always swarming with blatherers, and  
 always sure and impregnable,
The unsurvey'd interior, log-houses, clearings, wild  
 animals, hunters, trappers;
Surrounding the multiform agriculture, mines, tem- 
 perature, the gestation of new States,
Congress convening every Twelfth-month, the mem- 
 bers duly coming up from the uttermost parts;
Surrounding the noble character of mechanics and  
 farmers, especially the young men,
Responding their manners, speech, dress, friendships  
 —the gait they have of persons who never  
 knew how it felt to stand in the presence of  
The freshness and candor of their physiognomy, the  
 copiousness and decision of their phrenology,
The picturesque looseness of their carriage, their  
 fierceness when wrong'd,
The fluency of their speech, their delight in music, 
 their curiosity, good temper, and open-handed- 
 ness—the whole composite make,
The prevailing ardor and enterprise, the large amat- 
The perfect equality of the female with the male, the  
 fluid movement of the population,
The superior marine, free commerce, fisheries, whal- 
 ing, gold-digging,
Wharf-hemm'd cities, railroad and steamboat lines, 
 intersecting all points,
  [ begin page 9c ]ppp.00473.443.jpg Factories, mercantile life, labor-saving machinery, the  
 north-east, north-west, south-west,
Manhattan firemen, the Yankee swap, southern plan- 
 tation life,
Slavery—the murderous, treacherous conspiracy to  
 raise it upon the ruins of all the rest;
On and on to the grapple with it—Assassin! then  
 your life or ours be the stake—and respite no  


24(Lo! high toward heaven, this day, Libertad! from the conqueress' field return'd, I mark the new aureola around your head; No more of soft astral, but dazzling and fierce, With war's flames, and the lambent lightnings  
And your port immovable where you stand; With still the inextinguishable glance, and the clench'd  
 and lifted fist,
And your foot on the neck of the menacing one, the  
 scorner, utterly crush'd beneath you;
The menacing, arrogant one, that strode and advanced  
 with his senseless scorn, bearing the murderous  
Lo! the wide swelling one, the braggart, that would  
 yesterday do so much!
To-day a carrion dead and damn'd, the despised of  
 all the earth!
An offal rank, to the dunghill maggots spurn'd.)


25Others take finish, but the Republic is ever con- 
 structive, and ever keeps vista;
Others adorn the past—but you, O days of the pres- 
 ent, I adorn you!
O days of the future, I believe in you! I isolate my- 
 self for your sake;
  [ begin page 10c ]ppp.00473.444.jpg O America, because you build for mankind, I build  
 for you!
O well-beloved stone-cutters! I lead them who plan  
 with decision and science,
I lead the present with friendly hand toward the  
26Bravas to all semitic impulses sending strong child- 
 ren to the next age!
But damn that which spends itself on flaunters and  
 dalliers, with no thought of the stain, pains, 
 dismay, feebleness, it is bequeathing.


27I heard the voice arising, demanding bards; By them, all native and grand—by them only can The  
 States be fused into the compact organism of a  
28To hold men together by paper and seal, or by com- 
 pulsion, is no account,
That only holds men together which aggregates all in  
 a living principle,, as the hold of the limbs of  
 the body, or the fibres of plants.
29Of all races and eras, These States, with veins full of  
 poetical stuff, most need poets, and are to have  
 the greatest, and use them the greatest;
Their Presidents shall not be their common referee  
 so much as their poets shall.
30(Soul of love, and tongue of fire! Eye to pierce the deepest deeps, and sweep the  
—Ah, mother! prolific and full in all besides—yet  
 how long barren, barren?)
  [ begin page 7c ]ppp.00473.445.jpg


31Of mankind, the poet is the equable man, Not in him, but off from him, things are grotesque, 
 eccentric, fail of their full returns,
Nothing out of its place is good, nothing in its place  
 is bad,
He bestows on every object or quality its fit propor- 
 tion, neither more nor less,
He is the arbiter of the diverse, he is the key, He is the equalizer of his age and land, He supplies what wants supplying—he checks what  
 wants checking,
In peace, out of him speaks the spirit of peace, large, 
 rich, thrifty, building populous towns, encour- 
 aging agriculture, arts, commerce, lighting the  
 study of man, the Soul, health, immortality, 
In war, he is the best backer of the war—he fetches  
 artillery as good as the engineer's—he can  
 make every word he speaks draw blood;
The years straying toward infidelity, he withholds by  
 his steady faith,
He is no arguer, he is judgment—(Nature accepts him  
He judges not as the judge judges, but as the sun  
 falling round a helpless thing;
As he sees the farthest, he has the most faith, His thoughts are the hymns of the praise of things, In the dispute on God and eternity he is silent, He sees eternity less like a play with a prologue and  
He sees eternity in men and women—he does not see  
 men and women as dreams or dots.
32For the great Idea, the idea of perfect and free  
For that idea, the bard walks in advance, leader of  
  [ begin page 12c ]ppp.00473.446.jpg The attitude of him cheers up slaves, and horrifies  
 foreign despots.
33Without extinction is Liberty! Without retrograde  
 is Equality!
They live in the feelings of young men, and the best  
Not for nothing have the indomitable heads of the  
 earth been always ready to fall for Liberty.


34For the great Idea! For that we live, my brethren—that is the mission of  
35With their poems of stern defiance, ever ready, With songs of the rapid arming, and the march, And the flag of peace quick-folded, and the song, 
 instead, of the flag we know,
The flag of the youths and veterans—flaunting flag, Warlike flag of the great Idea.
36(Angry cloth I saw there leaping! I stand again in the leaden rain, your flapping folds  
I sing you over all, flying, beckoning through the fight  
 —O the hard-contested fight!
O the cannons ope their rosy-flashing muzzles! the  
 hurtled balls scream!
The battle-front forms amid the smoke—the volleys  
 pour incessant from the line;
Hark! the ringing word, Charge!—now the tussle, and  
 the furious maddening yells;
Now the corpses tumble curl'd upon the ground, Cold, cold in death, for precious life of you, Angry cloth I saw there leaping.)


37Are you he who would assume a place to teach here, 
 or lead here, or be a poet here?
The place is august—the terms obdurate.
  [ begin page 13c ]ppp.00473.447.jpg 38Who would assume to teach here, may well prepare  
 himself, body and mind,
He may well survey, ponder, arm, fortify, harden, 
 make lithe, himself,
He shall surely be question'd beforehand by me with  
 many and stern questions.
39Who are you, indeed, who would talk or sing to  
Have you studied out my land, its idioms and men? Have you learn'd the physiology, phrenology, politics, 
 geography, pride, freedom, friendship, of my  
 land? its substratums and objects?
Have you consider'd the organic compact of the first  
 day of the first year of the independence of  
 The States, sign'd by the Commissioners, ratified  
 by The States, and read by Washington at the  
 head of the army?
Have you possess'd yourself of the Federal Constitu- 
Do you see who have left all feudal processes and  
 poems behind them, and assumed the poems  
 and processes of Democracy?
Are you faithful to things? Do you teach as the land  
 and sea, the bodies of men, womanhood, 
 amativenesss, angers, teach?
Have you sped through fleeting customs, popularities? Can you hold your hand against all seductions, follies, 
 whirls, fierce contentions? Are you very  
 strong? Are you really of the whole people?
Are you not of some coterie? some school or mere  
Are you done with reviews and criticisms of life? 
 animating now to life itself?
Have you vivified yourself from the maternity of These  
Have you too the old, ever-fresh, forbearance and  
  [ begin page 14c ]ppp.00473.448.jpg Do you hold the like love for those hardening to  
 maturity; for the last-born? little and big? 
 and for the errant?
40What is this you bring my America? Is it uniform with my country? Is it not something that has been better told or done  
Have you not imported this, or the spirit of it, in  
 some ship?
Is it a mere tale? a rhyme? a prettiness? Has it not dangled long at the heels of the poets, 
 politicians, literats, of enemies' lands?
Does it not assume that what is notoriously gone is  
 still here?
Does it answer universal needs? Will it improve  
Can your performance face the open fields and the  
Will it absorb into me as I absorb food, air—to appear  
 again in my strength, gait, face?
Have real employments contributed to it? original  
 makers—not mere amanuenses?
Does it meet modern discoveries, calibers, facts, face  
 to face?
What does it mean to me? to American persons, pro- 
 gresses, cities? Chicago, Kanada, Arkansas? 
 the planter, Yankee, Georgian, native, immi- 
 grant, sailors, squatters, old States, new States?
Does it encompass all The States, and the unexcep- 
 tional rights of all the men and women of the  
 earth? (the genital impulse of These States;)
Does it see behind the apparent custodians, the  
 real custodians, standing, menacing, silent—the  
 mechanics, Manhattanese, western men, south- 
 erners, significant alike in their apathy, and in  
 the promptness of their love?
  [ begin page 15c ]ppp.00473.449.jpg Does it see what finally befalls, and has always finally  
 befallen, each temporizer, patcher, outsider, 
 partialist, alarmist, infidel, who has ever ask'd  
 anything of America?
What mocking and scornful negligence? The track strew'd with the dust of skeletons; By the roadside others disdainfully toss'd.


41Rhymes and rhymers pass away—poems distill'd  
 from other poems pass away,
The swarms of reflectors and the polite pass, and  
 leave ashes;
Admirers, importers, obedient persons, make but the  
 soil of literature;
America justifies itself, give it time—no disguise can  
 deceive it, or conceal from it—it is impassive  
Only toward the likes of itself will it advance to meet  
If its poets appear, it will in due time advance to meet  
 them—there is no fear of mistake,
(The proof of a poet shall be sternly deferr'd, till his  
 country absorbs him as affectionately as he has  
 absorb'd it.)
42He masters whose spirit masters—he tastes sweetest  
 who results sweetest in the long run;
The blood of the brawn beloved of time is uncon- 
In the need of poems, philosophy, politics, manners, 
 engineering, an appropriate native grand-opera, 
 shipcraft, any craft, he or she is greatest who  
 contributes the greatest original practical ex- 
43Already a nonchalant breed, silently emerging, 
 appears on the streets,
  [ begin page 16c ]ppp.00473.450.jpg People's lips salute only doers, lovers, satisfiers, 
 positive knowers;
There will shortly be no more priests—I say their  
 work is done,
Death is without emergencies here, but life is per- 
 petual emergencies here,
Are your body, days, manners, superb? after death  
 you shall be superb;
Justice, health, self-esteem, clear the way with irre- 
 sistible power;
How dare you place anything before a man?


44Fall behind me, States! A man before all—myself, typical, before all. 45Give me the pay I have served for! Give me to sing the songs of the great Idea! take all  
 the rest;
I have loved the earth, sun, animals—I have despised  
I have given alms to every one that ask'd, stood up  
 for the stupid and crazy, devoted my income  
 and labor to others,
I have hated tyrants, argued not concerning God, 
 had patience and indulgence toward the peo- 
 ple, taken off my hat to nothing known or un- 
I have gone freely with powerful uneducated persons, 
 and with the young, and with the mothers of  
I have read these leaves to myself in the open air—I  
 have tried them by trees, stars, rivers,
I have dismiss'd whatever insulted my own Soul or  
 defiled my Body,
I have claim'd nothing to myself which I have not  
 carefully claim'd for others on the same terms,
I have sped to the camps, and comrades found and  
 accepted from every State,
  [ begin page 17c ]ppp.00473.451.jpg I am willing to wait to be understood by the growth  
 of the taste of myself,
I reject none, I permit all.
46(Say, O mother! have I not to your thought been  
Have I not, through life, kept that alone before me?)


47I swear I begin to see the meaning of these things! It is not the earth, it is not America, who is so great, It is I who am great, or to be great—it is you up  
 there, or any one,
It is to walk rapidly through civilizations, govern- 
 ments, theories,
Through poems, pageants, shows, to individuals.
48Underneath all, individuals! I swear nothing is good to me now that ignores  
The American compact is altogether with individuals, The only government is that which makes minute of  
The whole theory of the universe is directed to one  
 single individual—namely, to You.
49(Mother! with subtle sense—with the naked sword  
 in your hand,
I saw you at last refuse to treat but directly with  


50Underneath all, nativity, I swear I will stand by my own nativity—pious or  
 impious, so be it;
I swear I am charm'd with nothing except nativity, Men, women, cities, nations, are only beautiful from  
  [ begin page 18c ]ppp.00473.452.jpg 51Underneath all is the need of the expression of love  
 for men and women,
I swear I have seen enough of mean and impotent  
 modes of expressing love for men and women,
After this day I take my own modes of expressing  
 love for men and women.
52I swear I will have each quality of my race in  
(Talk as you like, he only suits These States whose  
 manners favor the audacity and sublime turbu- 
 lence of The States.)
53Underneath the lessons of things, spirits, Nature, 
 governments, ownerships, I swear I perceive  
 other lessons,
Underneath all, to me is myself—to you, yourself, 
 (the same monotonous old song.)


54O I see now, flashing, that this America is only you  
 and me,
Its power, weapons, testimony, are you and me, Its crimes, lies, thefts, defections, slavery, are you  
 and me,
Its Congress is you and me—the officers, capitols, 
 armies, ships, are you and me,
Its endless gestations of new States are you and me, The war—that war so bloody and grim—the war I  
 wish to forget—was you and me,
Natural and artificial are you and me, Freedom, language, poems, employments, are you  
 and me,
Past, present, future, are you and me.


55I swear I dare not shirk any part of myself, Not any part of America, good or bad,   [ begin page 19c ]ppp.00473.453.jpg Not the promulgation of Liberty—not to cheer up  
 slaves and horrify foreign despots,
Not to build for that which builds for mankind, Not to balance ranks, complexions, creeds, and the  
Not to justify science, nor the march of equality, Nor to feed the arrogant blood of the brawn beloved  
 of time.
56I swear I am for those that have never been  
For men and women whose tempers have never been  
For those whom laws, theories, conventions, can never  
57I swear I am for those who walk abreast with the  
 whole earth!
Who inaugurate one, to inaugurate all.
58I swear I will not be outfaced by irrational things! I will penetrate what it is in them that is sarcastic  
 upon me!
I will make cities and civilizations defer to me! This is what I have learnt from America—it is the  
 amount—and it I teach again.
59(Democracy! while weapons were everywhere aim'd  
 at your breast,
I saw you serenely give birth to children—saw in  
 dreams your dilating form;
Saw you with spreading mantle covering the world.)


60I will confront these shows of the day and night! I will know if I am to be less than they! I will see if I am not as majestic as they! I will see if I am not as subtle and real as they! I will see if I am to be less generous than they!   [ begin page 20c ]ppp.00473.454.jpg 61I will see if I have no meaning, while the houses  
 and ships have meaning!
I will see if the fishes and birds are to be enough for  
 themselves, and I am not to be enough for  


62I match my spirit against yours, you orbs, growths, 
 mountains, brutes,
Copious as you are, I absorb you all in myself, and  
 become the master myself.
63America isolated, yet embodying all, what is it  
 finally except myself?
These States—what are they except myself?
64I know now why the earth is gross, tantalizing, 
 wicked—it is for my sake,
I take you to be mine, you beautiful, terrible, rude  
65(Mother! bend down, bend close to me your face! I know not what these plots and deferments are for; I know not fruition's success—but I know that through  
 war and peace your work goes on, and must  
 yet go on.)


66……Thus, by blue Ontario's shore, While the winds fann'd me, and the waves came  
 trooping toward me,
I sang with the Power's pulsations—and the charm of  
 my theme was upon me,
Till the tissues that held me, parted their ties upon  
67And I saw the free Soul of poets; The loftiest bards of past ages strode before me, Strange, large men, long unwaked, undisclosed, were  
 disclosed to me.
  [ begin page 21c ]ppp.00473.455.jpg


68O my rapt song, my charm—mock me not! Not for the bards of the past—not to invoke them  
 have I launch'd you forth,
Not to call even those lofty bards here by Ontario's  
Have I sung, so capricious and loud, my savage song.
69But, O strong soul of Poets, Bards for my own land, ere I go, I invoke. 70You Bards grand as these days so grand! Bards of the great Idea! Bards of the wondrous in- 
Bards of the marching armies—a million soldiers  
 waiting ever-ready,
Bards towering like hills—(no more these dots, these  
 pigmies, these little piping straws, these gnats, 
 that fill the hour, to pass for poets;)
Bards with songs as from burning coals, or the light- 
 ning fork'd stripes!
Ample Ohio's bards—bards for California! inland  
Bards of pride! Bards tallying the ocean's roar, and  
 the swooping eagle's scream!
You, by my charm, I invoke!
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