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Cluster: Songs of Parting. (1891)

Table of Contents (1891–1892)

Poems in this cluster



AS the time draws nigh glooming a cloud, A dread beyond of I know not what darkens me. I shall go forth, I shall traverse the States awhile, but I cannot tell whither or how  
Perhaps soon some day or night while I am singing my voice will  
 suddenly cease.
O book, O chants! must all then amount to but this? Must we barely arrive at this beginning of us?—and yet it is  
 enough, O soul;
O soul, we have positively appear'd—that is enough.


YEARS of the modern! years of the unperform'd! Your horizon rises, I see it parting away for more august dramas, I see not America only, not only Liberty's nation but other nations  
I see tremendous entrances and exits, new combinations, the soli- 
 darity of races,
I see that force advancing with irresistible power on the world's  
(Have the old forces, the old wars, played their parts? are the  
 acts suitable to them closed?)
I see Freedom, completely arm'd and victorious and very haughty, 
 with Law on one side and Peace on the other,
A stupendous trio all issuing forth against the idea of caste; What historic denouements are these we so rapidly approach? I see men marching and countermarching by swift millions, I see the frontiers and boundaries of the old aristocracies broken, I see the landmarks of European kings removed, I see this day the People beginning their landmarks, (all others  
 give way;)
Never were such sharp questions ask'd as this day, Never was average man, his soul, more energetic, more like a God,   [ begin page 371 ]ppp.00707.379.jpg Lo, how he urges and urges, leaving the masses no rest! His daring foot is on land and sea everywhere, he colonizes the  
 Pacific, the archipelagoes,
With the steamship, the electric telegraph, the newspaper, the  
 wholesale engines of war,
With these and the world-spreading factories he interlinks all  
 geography, all lands;
What whispers are these O lands, running ahead of you, passing  
 under the seas?
Are all nations communing? is there going to be but one heart to  
 the globe?
Is humanity forming en-masse? for lo, tyrants tremble, crowns  
 grow dim,
The earth, restive, confronts a new era, perhaps a general divine war, No one knows what will happen next, such portents fill the days  
 and nights;
Years prophetical! the space ahead as I walk, as I vainly try to  
 pierce it, is full of phantoms,
Unborn deeds, things soon to be, project their shapes around me, This incredible rush and heat, this strange ecstatic fever of dreams  
 O years!
Your dreams O years, how they penetrate through me! (I know  
 not whether I sleep or wake;)
The perform'd America and Europe grow dim, retiring in shadow  
 behind me,
The unperform'd, more gigantic than ever, advance, advance upon  


ASHES of soldiers South or North, As I muse retrospective murmuring a chant in thought, The war resumes, again to my sense your shapes, And again the advance of the armies. Noiseless as mists and vapors, From their graves in the trenches ascending, From cemeteries all through Virginia and Tennessee, From every point of the compass out of the countless graves, In wafted clouds, in myriads large, or squads of twos or threes or  
 single ones they come,
And silently gather round me.
Now sound no note O trumpeters, Not at the head of my cavalry parading on spirited horses,   [ begin page 372 ]ppp.00707.380.jpg With sabres drawn and glistening, and carbines by their thighs, (ah  
 my brave horsemen!
My handsome tan-faced horsemen! what life, what joy and pride, With all the perils were yours.)
Nor you drummers, neither at reveillé at dawn, Nor the long roll alarming the camp, nor even the muffled beat  
 for a burial,
Nothing from you this time O drummers bearing my warlike drums.
But aside from these and the marts of wealth and the crowded  
Admitting around me comrades close unseen by the rest and  
The slain elate and alive again, the dust and debris alive, I chant this chant of my silent soul in the name of all dead  
Faces so pale with wondrous eyes, very dear, gather closer yet, Draw close, but speak not. Phantoms of countless lost, Invisible to the rest henceforth become my companions, Follow me ever—desert me not while I live. Sweet are the blooming cheeks of the living—sweet are the musi- 
 cal voices sounding,
But sweet, ah sweet, are the dead with their silent eyes.
Dearest comrades, all is over and long gone, But love is not over—and what love, O comrades! Perfume from battle-fields rising, up from the foetor arising. Perfume therefore my chant, O love, immortal love, Give me to bathe the memories of all dead soldiers, Shroud them, embalm them, cover them all over with tender pride. Perfume all—make all wholesome, Make these ashes to nourish and blossom, O love, solve all, fructify all with the last chemistry. Give me exhaustless, make me a fountain, That I exhale love from me wherever I go like a moist perennial  
For the ashes of all dead soldiers South or North.
  [ begin page 373 ]ppp.00707.381.jpg



OF these years I sing, How they pass and have pass'd through convuls'd pains, as through  
How America illustrates birth, muscular youth, the promise, the  
 sure fulfilment, the absolute success, despite of people—  
 illustrates evil as well as good,
The vehement struggle so fierce for unity in one's-self; How many hold despairingly yet to the models departed, caste,  
 myths, obedience, compulsion, and to infidelity,
How few see the arrived models, the athletes, the Western States,  
 or see freedom or spirituality, or hold any faith in results,
(But I see the athletes, and I see the results of the war glorious  
 and inevitable, and they again leading to other results.)
How the great cities appear—how the Democratic masses, turbu- 
 lent, wilful, as I love them,
How the whirl, the contest, the wrestle of evil with good, the  
 sounding and resounding, keep on and on,
How society waits unform'd, and is for a while between things  
 ended and things begun,
How America is the continent of glories, and of the triumph of  
 freedom and of the Democracies, and of the fruits of so- 
 ciety, and of all that is begun,
And how the States are complete in themselves—and how all  
 triumphs and glories are complete in themselves, to lead  
And how these of mine and of the States will in their turn be con- 
 vuls'd, and serve other parturitions and transitions,
And how all people, sights, combinations, the democratic masses  
 too, serve—and how every fact, and war itself, with all its  
 horrors, serves,
And how now or at any time each serves the exquisite transition  
 of death.


Of seeds dropping into the ground, of births, Of the steady concentration of America, inland, upward, to im- 
 pregnable and swarming places,
Of what Indiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, and the rest, are to be, Of what a few years will show there in Nebraska, Colorado,  
 Nevada, and the rest,
(Or afar, mounting the Northern Pacific to Sitka or Aliaska,)   [ begin page 374 ]ppp.00707.382.jpg Of what the feuillage of America is the preparation for—and of  
 what all sights, North, South, East and West, are,
Of this Union welded in blood, of the solemn price paid, of the  
 unnamed lost ever present in my mind;
Of the temporary use of materials for identity's sake, Of the present, passing, departing—of the growth of completer  
 men than any yet,
Of all sloping down there where the fresh free giver the mother,  
 the Mississippi flows,
Of mighty inland cities yet unsurvey'd and unsuspected, Of the new and good names, of the modern developments, of  
 inalienable homesteads,
Of a free and original life there, of simple diet and clean and  
 sweet blood,
Of litheness, majestic faces, clear eyes, and perfect physique there, Of immense spiritual results future years far West, each side of the  
Of these songs, well understood there, (being made for that area,) Of the native scorn of grossness and gain there, (O it lurks in me night and day—what is gain after all to savage- 
 ness and freedom?)


SPLENDOR of ended day floating and filling me, Hour prophetic, hour resuming the past, Inflating my throat, you divine average, You earth and life till the last ray gleams I sing. Open mouth of my soul uttering gladness, Eyes of my soul seeing perfection, Natural life of me faithfully praising things, Corroborating forever the triumph of things. Illustrious every one! Illustrious what we name space, sphere of unnumber'd spirits, Illustrious the mystery of motion in all beings, even the tiniest  
Illustrious the attribute of speech, the senses, the body, Illustrious the passing light—illustrious the pale reflection on the  
 new moon in the western sky,
Illustrious whatever I see or hear or touch, to the last.
Good in all, In the satisfaction and aplomb of animals,   [ begin page 375 ]ppp.00707.383.jpg In the annual return of the seasons, In the hilarity of youth, In the strength and flush of manhood, In the grandeur and exquisiteness of old age, In the superb vistas of death. Wonderful to depart! Wonderful to be here! The heart, to jet the all-alike and innocent blood! To breathe the air, how delicious! To speak—to walk—to seize something by the hand! To prepare for sleep, for bed, to look on my rose-color'd flesh! To be conscious of my body, so satisfied, so large! To be this incredible God I am! To have gone forth among other Gods, these men and women I  
Wonderful how I celebrate you and myself! How my thoughts play subtly at the spectacles around! How the clouds pass silently overhead! How the earth darts on and on! and how the sun, moon, stars, 
 dart on and on!
How the water sports and sings! (surely it is alive!) How the trees rise and stand up, with strong trunks, with branches  
 and leaves!
(Surely there is something more in each of the trees, some living  
O amazement of things—even the least particle! O spirituality of things! O strain musical flowing through ages and continents, now reaching  
 me and America!
I take your strong chords, intersperse them, and cheerfully pass  
 them forward.
I too carol the sun, usher'd or at noon, or as now, setting, I too throb to the brain and beauty of the earth and of all the  
 growths of the earth,
I too have felt the resistless call of myself.
As I steam'd down the Mississippi, As I wander'd over the prairies, As I have lived, as I have look'd through my windows my eyes, As I went forth in the morning, as I beheld the light breaking in  
 the east,
  [ begin page 376 ]ppp.00707.384.jpg As I bathed on the beach of the Eastern Sea, and again on the  
 beach of the Western Sea,
As I roam'd the streets of inland Chicago, whatever streets I have  
Or cities or silent woods, or even amid the sights of war, Wherever I have been I have charged myself with contentment  
 and triumph.
I sing to the last the equalities modern or old, I sing the endless finalés of things, I say Nature continues, glory continues, I praise with electric voice, For I do not see one imperfection in the universe, And I do not see one cause or result lamentable at last in the  
O setting sun! though the time has come, I still warble under you, if none else does, unmitigated adoration.


AS at thy portals also death, Entering thy sovereign, dim, illimitable grounds, To memories of my mother, to the divine blending, maternity, To her, buried and gone, yet buried not, gone not from me, (I see again the calm benignant face fresh and beautiful still, I sit by the form in the coffin, I kiss and kiss convulsively again the sweet old lips, the cheeks, 
 the closed eyes in the coffin;)
To her, the ideal woman, practical, spiritual, of all of earth, life, 
 love, to me the best,
I grave a monumental line, before I go, amid these songs, And set a tombstone here.


THE business man the acquirer vast, After assiduous years surveying results, preparing for departure, Devises houses and lands to his children, bequeaths stocks, goods, 
 funds for a school or hospital,
Leaves money to certain companions to buy tokens, souvenirs of  
 gems and gold.
But I, my life surveying, closing,   [ begin page 377 ]ppp.00707.385.jpg With nothing to show to devise from its idle years, Nor houses nor lands, nor tokens of gems or gold for my friends, Yet certain remembrances of the war for you, and after you, And little souvenirs of camps and soldiers, with my love, I bind together and bequeath in this bundle of songs.


PENSIVE on her dead gazing I heard the Mother of All, Desperate on the torn bodies, on the forms covering the battle- 
 fields gazing,
(As the last gun ceased, but the scent of the powder-smoke  
As she call'd to her earth with mournful voice while she stalk'd, Absorb them well O my earth, she cried, I charge you lose not  
 my sons, lose not an atom,
And you streams absorb them well, taking their dear blood, And you local spots, and you airs that swim above lightly  
And all you essences of soil and growth, and you my rivers' depths, And you mountain sides, and the woods where my dear children's  
 blood trickling redden'd,
And you trees down in your roots to bequeath to all future trees, My dead absorb or South or North—my young men's bodies  
 absorb, and their precious precious blood,
Which holding in trust for me faithfully back again give me many  
 a year hence,
In unseen essence and odor of surface and grass, centuries hence, In blowing airs from the fields back again give me my darlings, 
 give my immortal heroes,
Exhale me them centuries hence, breathe me their breath, let not  
 an atom be lost,
O years and graves! O air and soil! O my dead, an aroma sweet! Exhale them perennial sweet death, years, centuries hence.


NOT alone those camps of white, old comrades of the wars, When as order'd forward, after a long march, Footsore and weary, soon as the light lessens we halt for the night, Some of us so fatigued carrying the gun and knapsack, dropping  
 asleep in our tracks,
Others pitching the little tents, and the fires lit up begin to  
  [ begin page 378 ]ppp.00707.386.jpg Outposts of pickets posted surrounding alert through the dark, And a word provided for countersign, careful for safety, Till to the call of the drummers at daybreak loudly beating the  
We rise up refresh'd, the night and sleep pass'd over, and resume  
 our journey,
Or proceed to battle.
Lo, the camps of the tents of green, Which the days of peace keep filling, and the days of war keep  
With a mystic army, (is it too order'd forward? is it too only halt  
 ing awhile,
Till night and sleep pass over?)
Now in those camps of green, in their tents dotting the world, In the parents, children, husbands, wives, in them, in the old and  
Sleeping under the sunlight, sleeping under the moonlight, content  
 and silent there at last,
Behold the mighty bivouac-field and waiting-camp of all, Of the corps and generals all, and the President over the corps  
 and generals all,
And of each of us O soldiers, and of each and all in the ranks we  
(There without hatred we all, all meet.)
For presently O soldiers, we too camp in our place in the bivouac- 
 camps of green,
But we need not provide for outposts, nor word for the counter- 
Nor drummer to beat the morning drum.


(Midnight, Sept. 19-20, 1881.)

THE sobbing of the bells, the sudden death-news everywhere, The slumberers rouse, the rapport of the People, (Full well they know that message in the darkness, Full well return, respond within their breasts, their brains, the sad  
The passionate toll and clang—city to city, joining, sounding, 
Those heart-beats of a Nation in the night.
  [ begin page 379 ]ppp.00707.387.jpg


AS they draw to a close, Of what underlies the precedent songs—of my aims in them, Of the seed I have sought to plant in them, Of joy, sweet joy, through many a year, in them, (For them, for them have I lived, in them my work is done,) Of many an aspiration fond, of many a dream and plan; Through Space and Time fused in a chant, and the flowing eternal  
To Nature encompassing these, encompassing God—to the joy- 
 ous, electric all,
To the sense of Death, and accepting exulting in Death in its  
 turn the same as life,
The entrance of man to sing; To compact you, ye parted, diverse lives, To put rapport the mountains and rocks and streams, And the winds of the north, and the forests of oak and pine, With you O soul.


JOY, shipmate, joy! (Pleas'd to my soul at death I cry,) Our life is closed, our life begins, The long, long anchorage we leave, The ship is clear at last, she leaps! She swiftly courses from the shore, Joy, shipmate, joy.


THE untold want by life and land ne'er granted, Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.


WHAT are those of the known but to ascend and enter the  
And what are those of life but for Death?


THESE carols sung to cheer my passage through the world I see, For completion I dedicate to the Invisible World.
  [ begin page 380 ]ppp.00707.388.jpg


NOW finalè to the shore, Now land and life finalè and farewell, Now Voyager depart, (much, much for thee is yet in store,) Often enough hast thou adventur'd o'er the seas, Cautiously cruising, studying the charts, Duly again to port and hawser's tie returning; But now obey thy cherish'd secret wish, Embrace thy friends, leave all in order, To port and hawser's tie no more returning, Depart upon thy endless cruise old Sailor.


TO conclude, I announce what comes after me. I remember I said before my leaves sprang at all, I would raise my voice jocund and strong with reference to con- 
When America does what was promis'd, When through these States walk a hundred millions of superb  
When the rest part away for superb persons and contribute to them, When breeds of the most perfect mothers denote America, Then to me and mine our due fruition.
I have press'd through in my own right, I have sung the body and the soul, war and peace have I sung, 
 and the songs of life and death,
And the songs of birth, and shown that there are many births.
I have offer'd my style to every one, I have journey'd with confi- 
 dent step;
While my pleasure is yet at the full I whisper So long! And take the young woman's hand and the young man's hand for  
 the last time.
I announce natural persons to arise, I announce justice triumphant, I announce uncompromising liberty and equality, I announce the justification of candor and the justification of  
  [ begin page 381 ]ppp.00707.389.jpg I announce that the identity of these States is a single identity  
I announce the Union more and more compact, indissoluble, I announce splendors and majesties to make all the previous poli- 
 tics of the earth insignificant.
I announce adhesiveness, I say it shall be limitless, unloosen'd, I say you shall yet find the friend you were looking for. I announce a man or woman coming, perhaps you are the one, 
  (So long!)
I announce the great individual, fluid as Nature, chaste, affection- 
 ate, compassionate, fully arm'd.
I announce a life that shall be copious, vehement, spiritual, bold, I announce an end that shall lightly and joyfully meet its transla- 
I announce myriads of youths, beautiful, gigantic, sweet-blooded, I announce a race of splendid and savage old men. O thicker and faster—(So long!) O crowding too close upon me, I foresee too much, it means more than I thought, It appears to me I am dying. Hasten throat and sound your last, Salute me—salute the days once more. Peal the old cry once  
Screaming electric, the atmosphere using, At random glancing, each as I notice absorbing, Swiftly on, but a little while alighting, Curious envelop'd messages delivering, Sparkles hot, seed ethereal down in the dirt dropping, Myself unknowing, my commission obeying, to question it never  
To ages and ages yet the growth of the seed leaving, To troops out of the war arising, they the tasks I have set promul- 
To women certain whispers of myself bequeathing, their affection  
 me more clearly explaining,
To young men my problems offering—no dallier I—I the mus-  
 cle of their brains trying,
So I pass, a little time vocal, visible, contrary,   [ begin page 382 ]ppp.00707.390.jpg Afterward a melodious echo, passionately bent for, (death making  
 me really undying,)
The best of me then when no longer visible, for toward that I have  
 been incessantly preparing.
What is there more, that I lag and pause and crouch extended  
 with unshut mouth?
Is there a single final farewell?
My songs cease, I abandon them, From behind the screen where I hid I advance personally solely  
 to you.
Camerado, this is no book, Who touches this touches a man, (Is it night? are we here together alone?) It is I you hold and who holds you, I spring from the pages into your arms—decease calls me forth. O how your fingers drowse me, Your breath falls around me like dew, your pulse lulls the tympans  
 of my ears,
I feel immerged from head to foot, Delicious, enough.
Enough O deed impromptu and secret, Enough O gliding present—enough O summ'd-up past. Dear friend whoever you are take this kiss, I give it especially to you, do not forget me, I feel like one who has done work for the day to retire awhile, I receive now again of my many translations, from my avataras as- 
 cending, while others doubtless await me,
An unknown sphere more real than I dream'd, more direct, darts  
 awakening rays about me, So long!
Remember my words, I may again return, I love you, I depart from materials, I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead.

Table of Contents (1891–1892)

Poems in this cluster

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