In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: Like Earth O River

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: 1848

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00106

Source: The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library. Transcribed from digital images of the original. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of manuscripts, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: These lines were probably drafted as part of the poem published as "The Mississippi at Midnight" on March 6, 1848, in the New Orleans Daily Crescent, though they were not included in the published version of the poem. A revised version of the poem, titled "Sailing the Mississippi at Midnight," was later included in Specimen Days & Collect (1882–3). Whitman left for New Orleans in February, 1848, so this manuscript was written after that date.

Related item: Draft lines on the back of this manuscript leaf also relate to the poem eventually titled "Sailing the Mississippi at Midnight." See nyp.00736.

Contributors to digital file: Brett Barney, Nicole Gray, and Chris Forster

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Like Earth O river, you offer us burial

Like Existence ^ mortal Life is your aimless hurrying on

Like Time, with a clutch remorseless, continual

That which you take is forever gone.


Unlike Time, you begin and end,

Unlike Life you've a pathway steady

Unlike Earth's are your numberless graves

Ever undug, yet ever ready.—

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