In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: Occasional Pieces of Poetry

Creators: Walt Whitman, John G. C. Brainard, Unknown

Annotation Date: Undated, probably 1880s

Base Document Citation: John G. C. Brainard, Occasional Pieces of Poetry (New York, 1825).

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03449

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Rare Books and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Transcribed from our digital image of the original. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the marginalia and annotations, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial Note: For an analysis and dating of Whitman's notes in this volume see Nicole Gray, "Walt Whitman's Marginalia as Occasional Practice," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 107.4 (2013): 467–494.

Contributors to digital file: Nicole Gray, Lauren Grewe, Ty Alyea, and Matt Cohen


Whitman's Hand | Highlighting | Paste-on | Erasure | Overwrite

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Walt Whitman



Some said, "John, print it;" others said, "Not so;"—
Some said, "It might do good;" others said, "No."

Bunyan's Apology.

Clayton & Van Norden, Printers.

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Subject for Poem— ? or set of Sonnet-like sections Sorrowful & clouded. Old ages of eminences




Labitur et labetur.


THE thoughts are strange that crowd into my brain,
While I look upward to thee. It would seem
As if GOD pour'd thee from his "hollow hand,"
And hung his bow upon thine awful front;
And spoke in that loud voice, which seem'd to him
Who dwelt in Patmos for his Saviour's sake,
"The sound of many waters;" and had bade
Thy flood to chronicle the ages back,
And notch His cent'ries in the eternal rocks.

Deep calleth unto deep. And what are we,
That hear the question of that voice sublime?

The Voice

Oh! what are all the notes that ever rung
From war's vain trumpet, by thy thundering side!
Yea, what is all the riot man can make
In his short life, to thy unceasing roar!

poem on—(as—the invisible demon of Socrates—& the voices of Joan of

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Arc. (vol 2. p.71 H. of E.)


the doctor departed, and has never been heard of since. It was supposed that he took the carbuncle with him. Thus far was authentic. A little girl, who had anxiously noticed the course of the traveller's inquiries, sung for his further edification the following ballad:

SEE you upon the lonely moor,
A crazy building rise?
No hand dares venture to open the door—
No footstep treads its dangerous floor—
No eye in its secrets pries.

Now why is each crevice stopp'd so tight?
Say, why the bolted door?
Why glimmers at midnight the forge's light—
All day is the anvil at rest, but at night
The flames of the furnace roar?

Is it to arm the horse's heel,
That the midnight anvil rings?
Is it to mould the ploughshare's steel,
Or is it to guard the wagon's wheel,
That the smith's sledge-hammer swings?

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The iron is bent, and the crucible stands
With alchymy boiling up;
Its contents were mix'd by unknown hands,
And no mortal fire e'er kindled the brands,
That heated that corner'd cup.

O'er Moodus river a light has glanc'd,
On Moodus hills it shone;
On the granite rocks the rays have danc'd,
And upward those creeping lights advanc'd,
Till they met on the highest stone.

O that is the very wizard place,
And now is the wizard hour,
By the light that was conjur'd up to trace,
Ere the star that falls can run its race,
The seat of the earthquake's power.

By that unearthly light, I see
A figure strange alone—
With magic circlet on his knee,
And deck'd with Satan's symbols, he
Seeks for the hidden stone.

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imprison'd & prostrated all the time

Now upward goes that gray old man,
With mattock, bar and spade—
The summit is gain'd, and the toil began,
And deep by the rock where the wild lights ran,
The magic trench is made.

Loud and yet louder was the groan
That sounded wide and far;
And deep and hollow was the moan,
That roll'd around the bedded stone,
Where the workman plied his bar.

Then upward stream'd the brilliant's light,
It stream'd o'er crag and stone:—
Dim look'd the stars, and the moon, that night;
But when morning came in her glory bright,
The man and the jewel were gone.

But wo to the bark in which he flew
From Moodus' rocky shore;
Wo to the Captain, and wo to the crew,
That ever the breath of life they drew,
When that dreadful freight they bore.

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"November Boughs" & the portraits


His native breezes never more shall sigh;
On his lone grave the careless step shall tread,
And pestilential vapours soon shall dry
Each shrub that buds around—each flow'r that blushes nigh.

Let Genius, poising on her full-fledg'd wing,
Fill the charm'd air with thy deserved praise:
Of war, and blood, and carnage let her sing,
Of victory and glory!—let her gaze
On the dark smoke that shrouds the cannon's blaze,
On the red foam that crests the bloody billow;
Then mourn the sad close of thy shorten'd days—
Place on thy country's brow the weeping willow,
And plant the laurels thick around thy last cold pillow.

No sparks of Grecian fire to me belong:
Alike uncouth the poet and the lay;
Unskill'd to turn the mighty tide of song,
He floats along the current as he may,
The humble tribute of a tear to pay.
Another hand may choose another theme,
May sing of Nelson's last and brightest day,
Of Wolfe's unequall'd and unrivall'd fame,
The wave of Trafalgar—the field of Abraham:

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Washington toward conclusion —a genial friend to whom some of the foregoing remonstrates

'Why condemn says to me —Seams to me, yo


Written for February 22d, 1822.


"Hic cinis—ubique fama."


Even sSupposing all these your

BEHOLD the moss'd corner-stone dropp'd from the wall,
points well taken.
And gaze on its date, but remember its fall,
And hope that some hand may replace it;
Think not of its pride when with pomp it was laid,
But weep for the ruin its absence has made,
And the lapse of the years that efface it.

Mourn WASHINGTON'S death, when ye think of his birth,
And far from your thoughts be the lightness of mirth,
And far from your cheek be its smile.

Why not condemn Wash? At least why should he not express himself, just

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To-day he was born—'twas a loan—not a gift:
The dust of his body is all that is left,
To hallow his funeral pile.

Flow gently, Potomac! thou washest away
The sands where he trod, and the turf where he lay,
When youth brush'd his cheek with her wing;
Breathe softly, ye wild winds, that circle around
That dearest, and purest, and holiest ground,
Ever press'd by the footprints of Spring.

Each breeze be a sigh, and each dewdrop a tear,
Each wave be a whispering monitor near,
To remind the sad shore of his story;
And darker, and softer, and sadder the gloom
Of that evergreen mourner that bends o'er the tomb,
Where WASHINGTON sleeps in his glory.
Great GOD! when the spirit of freedom shall fail,
And the sons of the pilgrims, in sorrow, bewail
Their religion and liberty gone;
Oh! send back a form that shall stand as he stood,
Unsubdu'd by the tempest, unmov'd by the flood;
And to THEE be the glory alone.

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as he has—and—


ON Thursday, the 21st of February, 1823, in the middle of the day, as the mail stage from Hartford to New-Haven, with three passengers, was crossing the bridge at the foot of the hill near Durham, the bridge was carried away by the ice, and the stage was precipitated down a chasm of twenty feet. Two of the passengers were drowned: one of them had been long from home, and was on his way to see his friends. This occurrence is mentioned as explanatory of the following lines.

"How slow we drive! but yet the hour will come,
When friends shall greet me with affection's kiss;
When, seated at my boyhood's happy home,
I shall enjoy a mild, contented bliss,
Not often met with in a world like this!
Then I shall see that brother, youngest born,
I used to play with in my sportiveness;
And, from a mother's holiest look, shall learn
A parent's thanks to God, for a lov'd son's return.

"And there is one, who, with a downcast eye,
Will be the last to welcome me; but yet
My memory tells me of a parting sigh,
And of a lid with tears of sorrow wet,

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Anna virumque cano.

THE sun look'd bright upon the morning tide:
Light play'd the breeze along the whispering shore,
And the blue billow arch'd its head of pride,
As 'gainst the rock its frothy front it bore;
The clear bright dew fled hastily before
The morning's sun, and glitter'd in his rays;
Aloft the early lark was seen to soar,
And cheerful nature glorified the ways
Of God, and mutely sang her joyous notes of praise.

The freshening breeze, the sporting wave.
Their own impartial greeting gave
To Christian and to Turk;
But both prepared to break the charm
Of peace, with war's confused alarm—
And ready each, for combat warm,
Commenc'd the bloody work.

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AH! who can imagine what plague and what bothers
He feels, who sits down to write verses for others!
His pen must be mended, his inkstand be ready,
His paper laid square, and his intellects steady;
And then for a subject—No, that's not the way,
For genuine poets don't care what they say,
But how they shall say it. So now for a measure,
That's suited alike to your taste and my leisure.
For instance, if you were a matron of eighty,
The verse should be dignified, solemn, and weighty;
And luckless the scribbler who had not the tact,
To make every line a sheer matter of fact.
Or if you were a stiff, worn-out spinster, too gouty
To make a good sylph, and too sour for a beauty;
Too old for a flirt, and too young to confess it;
To good to complain of 't, and too bad to bless it;
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And I have seen
Yon foundering vessel, when with crowded sail,
With smoking bulwarks, and with blazing sides,
Sporting away the foam before her prow,
And heaving down her side to the brave chase,
She seem'd to share the glories of the bold!
But now, with flagging canvass, lazily
She moves; and stumbling on the rock, she sinks,
As broken hearted as that faithful steed,
That lost his rider, and laid down, and died.

body & spirit




"Ibis et redibis nunquam peribis in bello."—Oracle.


fuller &

I SEEK not the grove where the wood-robins whistle,
Where the light sparrows sport, and the linnets pair;


I seek not the bower where the ring-doves nestle,
For none but the maid and her lover are there.

* Com. PORTER's vessel.


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And if death's dark mist shall his eye bedim,
And they plunge him beneath the fathomless wave,
A wild note shall sing his requiem.
And a white wing flap o'er his early grave.

The dismantled Ship


In some unused lagoon


some nameless bay

SOLEMN he pac'd upon that schooner's deck,
And mutter'd of his hardships:—"I have been
Where the wild will of Mississippi's tide
Has dash'd me on the sawyer;—I have sail'd
In the thick night, along the wave-wash'd edge
Of ice, in acres, by the pitiless coast
Of Labrador; and I have scrap'd my keel
O'er coral rocks in Madagascar seas—

On sluggish waters calm

* The Bridgeport paper of March, 1823, said: "Arrived, schooner Fame, from Charleston, via New-London. While at anchor in that harbour, during the rain storm on Thursday evening last, the Fame was run foul of by the wreck of the Methodist Meeting-House from Norwich, which was carried away in the late freshet."


muddy, ^ anchor'd near the shore, An old disabled ship gray and batter'd ship dismasted, broken

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After her free voyages to se all the seas of earth ^ the hulk of her haul'd up ^ at last & hawser'd tight,


And often in my cold and midnight watch,
Have heard the warning voice of the lee shore
Speaking in breakers! Ay, and I have seen
The whale and sword-fish fight beneath my bows;
And when they made the deep boil like a pot,
Have swung into its vortex; and I know
To cord my vessel with a sailor's skill,
And brave such dangers with a sailor's heart;
—But never yet upon the stormy wave,
Or where the river mixes with the main,
Or in the chafing anchorage of the bay,
In all my rough experience of harm,
Met I—a Methodist meeting-house!

* * * * * * * *

Lies anchor'd rusting mouldering . there there

Cat-head, or beam, or davit has it none,
Starboard nor larboard, gunwale, stem nor stern!
It comes in such a "questionable shape,"
I cannot even speak it! Up jib, Josey,
And make for Bridgeport! There, where Stratford Point,
Long Beach, Fairweather Island, and the buoy,
Are safe from such encounters, we'll protest!
And Yankee legends long shall tell the tale,

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Of all the Geologies,—of all
Astronomy—of Evolution, Meta
physics all,
Is, that we are bounding onward, onward, speeding
slowly, surely bettering,
Life, life an endless march


an endless army, (no halt, but it is duly over,)

How many now are dead to me
That live to others yet!
How many are alive to me
Who crumble in their graves, nor see
That sick'ning, sinking look which we
Till dead can ne'er forget.

Beyond the blue seas, far away,
Most wretchedly alone,
One died in prison—far away,
Where stone on stone shut out the day,
And never hope, or comfort's ray
In his lone dungeon shone.

Dead to the world, alive to me;
Though months and years have pass'd,
In a lone hour, his sigh to me
Comes like the hum of some wild bee,
And then his form and face I see
As when I saw him last.

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The world, the race, the soul, the universes, All onward ^ wisely bound ^ as is befitting them— —all surely going somewhere.


And one with a bright lip, and cheek,
And eye, is dead to me.
How pale the bloom of his smooth cheek!
His lip was cold—it would not speak;
His heart was dead, for it did not break;
And his eye, for it did not see.

Then for the living be the tomb,
And for the dead the smile;
Engrave oblivion on the tomb
Of pulseless life and deadly bloom—
Dim is such glare: but bright the gloom
Around the funeral pile.


There's beauty in the deep:
The wave is bluer than the sky;
And though the lights shine bright on high,
More softly do the sea-gems glow
That sparkle in the depths below;
The rainbow's tints are only made
When on the waters they are laid,


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