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Longings for Home


O MAGNET-SOUTH! O glistening, perfumed South! My  
O quick mettle, rich blood, impulse, and love! Good  
 and evil! O all dear to me!
O dear to me my birth-things—All moving things,  
 and the trees where I was born—the grains,  
 plants, rivers;
Dear to me my own slow sluggish rivers where they  
 flow, distant, over flats of silvery sands, or  
 through swamps,
Dear to me the Roanoke, the Savannah, the Altama- 
 haw, the Pedee, the Tombigbee, the Santee, the  
 Coosa, and the Sabine;
O pensive, far away wandering, I return with my Soul  
 to haunt their banks again,
Again in Florida I float on transparent lakes—I float  
 on the Okeechobee—I cross the hummock land,  
 or through pleasant openings, or dense forests,
I see the parrots in the woods—I see the papaw tree  
 and the blossoming titi;
Again, sailing in my coaster, on deck, I coast off  
 Georgia—I coast up the Carolinas,
I see where the live-oak is growing—I see where the  
 yellow-pine, the scented bay-tree, the lemon and  
 orange, the cypress, the graceful palmetto;
I pass rude sea-headlands and enter Pamlico Sound  
 through an inlet, and dart my vision inland,
33*   [ begin page 390 ]ppp.01500.398.jpg O the cotton plant! the growing fields of rice, sugar,  
The cactus, guarded with thorns—the laurel-tree,  
 with large white flowers,
The range afar—the richness and barrenness—the  
 old woods charged with mistletoe and trailing  
The piney odor and the gloom—the awful natural  
 stillness, (Here in these dense swamps the free-  
 booter carries his gun, and the fugitive slave has  
 his concealed hut;)
O the strange fascination of these half-known, half-  
 impassable swamps, infested by reptiles, resound- 
 ing with the bellow of the alligator, the sad noises  
 of the night-owl and the wild-cat, and the whirr  
 of the rattlesnake;
The mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing all  
 the forenoon—singing through the moon-lit  
The humming-bird, the wild-turkey, the raccoon, the  
A Tennessee corn-field—the tall, graceful, long-leaved  
 corn—slender, flapping, bright green, with tas- 
 sels—with beautiful ears, each well-sheathed in  
 its husk,
An Arkansas prairie—a sleeping lake, or still bayou; O my heart! O tender and fierce pangs—I can stand  
 them not—I will depart;
O to be a Virginian, where I grew up! O to be a  
O longings irrepressible! O I will go back to old Ten- 
 nessee, and never wander more!
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