Published Works

Books by Whitman

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page ] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




BATHED in war's perfume—delicate flag!
(Should the days needing armies, needing fleets, come
O to hear you call the sailors and the soldiers! flag like
a beautiful woman!
O to hear the tramp, tramp, of a million answering
men! O the ships they arm with joy!
O to see you leap and beckon from the tall masts of
O to see you peering down on the sailors on the decks!
Flag like the eyes of women.



DELICATE cluster! flag of teeming life!
Covering all my lands! all my sea-shores lining!
Flag of death! (how I watch'd you through the smoke
of battle pressing!
How I heard you flap and rustle, cloth defiant!)
Flag cerulean! sunny flag! with the orbs of night dap-
Ah my silvery beauty! ah my woolly white and crim-
Ah to sing the song of you, my matron mighty!
My sacred one, my mother.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 350] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




1O A new song, a free song,
Flapping, flapping, flapping, flapping, by sounds, by
voices clearer,
By the wind's voice and that of the drum,
By the banner's voice, and child's voice, and sea's voice,
and father's voice,
Low on the ground and high in the air,
On the ground where father and child stand,
In the upward air where their eyes turn,
Where the banner at day-break is flapping.

2Words! book-words! what are you?
Words no more, for hearken and see,
My song is there in the open air—and I must sing,
With the banner and pennant a-flapping.

3I'll weave the cord and twine in,
Man's desire and babe's desire—I'll twine them in, I'll
put in life;
I'll put the bayonet's flashing point—I'll let bullets and
slugs whizz;
(As one carrying a symbol and menace, far into the
Crying with trumpet voice, Arouse and beware! Beware
and arouse!)
I'll pour the verse with streams of blood, full of voli-
tion, full of joy;
Then loosen, launch forth, to go and compete,
With the banner and pennant a-flapping.


4Come up here, bard, bard;
Come up here, soul, soul;
Come up here, dear little child,
To fly in the clouds and winds with me, and play with
the measureless light.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 351] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


5Father, what is that in the sky beckoning to me with
long finger?
And what does it say to me all the while?


6Nothing, my babe, you see in the sky;
And nothing at all to you it says. But look you, my
Look at these dazzling things in the houses, and see
you the money-shops opening;
And see you the vehicles preparing to crawl along the
streets with goods:
These! ah, these! how valued and toil'd for, these!
How envied by all the earth!


7Fresh and rosy red, the sun is mounting high;
On floats the sea in distant blue, careering through its
On floats the wind over the breast of the sea, setting in
toward land;
The great steady wind from west and west-by-south,
Floating so buoyant, with milk-white foam on the

8But I am not the sea, nor the red sun;
I am not the wind with girlish laughter;
Not the immense wind which strengthens—not the wind
which lashes;
Not the spirit that ever lashes its own body to terror
and death;
But I am that which unseen comes and sings, sings,
Which babbles in brooks and scoots in showers on the
Which the birds know in the woods, mornings and

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 352] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

And the shore-sands know, and the hissing wave, and
that banner and pennant,
Aloft there flapping and flapping.


9O father, it is alive—it is full of people—it has chil-
O now it seems to me it is talking to its children!
I hear it—it talks to me—O it is wonderful!
O if stretches—it spreads and runs so fast! O my
It is so broad, it covers the whole sky!


10Cease, cease, my foolish babe,
What you are saying is sorrowful to me—much it dis-
pleases me;
Behold with the rest, again I say—behold not banners
and pennants aloft;
But the well-prepar'd pavements behold—and mark the
solid-wall'd houses.


11Speak to the child, O bard, out of Manhattan;
(The war is over—yet never over….out of it, we are
born to real life and identity;)
Speak to our children all, or north or south of Man-
Where our factory-engines hum, where our miners
delve the ground,
Where our hoarse Niagara rumbles, where our prairie-
plows are plowing;
Speak, O bard! point this day, leaving all the rest, to
us over all—and yet we know not why;
For what are we, mere strips of cloth, profiting nothing,
Only flapping in the wind?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 353] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


12I hear and see not strips of cloth alone;
I hear again the tramp of armies, I hear the challenging
I hear the jubilant shouts of millions of men—I hear
I hear the drums beat, and the trumpets yet blowing;
I myself move abroad, swift-rising, flying then;
I use the wings of the land-bird, and use the wings of
the sea-bird, and look down as from a height;
I do not deny the precious results of peace—I see pop-
ulous cities, with wealth incalculable;
I see numberless farms—I see the farmers working in
their fields or barns;
I see mechanics working—I see buildings everywhere
founded, going up, or finish'd;
I see trains of cars swiftly speeding along railroad
tracks, drawn by the locomotives;
I see the stores, depots, of Boston, Baltimore, Charles-
ton, New Orleans;
I see far in the west the immense area of grain—I
dwell awhile, hovering;
I pass to the lumber forests of the north, and again to
the southern plantation, and again to California;
Sweeping the whole, I see the countless profit, the busy
gatherings, earned wages;
See the identity formed out of thirty-eight spacious and
haughty States, (and many more to come;)
See forts on the shores of harbors—see ships sailing in
and out;
Then over all, (aye! aye!) my little and lengthen'd
pennant shaped like a sword,
Runs swiftly up, indicating war and defiance—And now
the halyards have rais'd it,
Side of my banner broad and blue—side of my starry
Discarding peace over all the sea and land.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 354] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


13Yet louder, higher, stronger, bard! yet farther, wider
No longer let our children deem us riches and peace
We may be terror and carnage, and are so now;
Not now are we any one of these spacious and haughty
States, (nor any five, nor ten;)
Nor market nor depot are we, nor money-bank in the
But these, and all, and the brown and spreading land,
and the mines below, are ours;
And the shores of the sea are ours, and the rivers great
and small;
And the fields they moisten are ours, and the crops and
the fruits are ours;
Bays and channels, and ships sailing in and out, are
ours—and we over all,
Over the area spread below, the three or four millions
of square miles—the capitals,
The forty millions of people—O bard! in life and death
We, even we, henceforth flaunt out masterful, high up
Not for the present alone, for a thousand years, chant-
ing through you,
This song to the soul of one poor little child.


14O my father, I like not the houses;
They will never to me be anything—nor do I like
But to mount up there I would like, O father dear—
that banner I like;
That pennant I would be, and must be.


15Child of mine, you fill me with anguish;
To be that pennant would be too fearful;

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 355] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Little you know what it is this day, and after this day,
It is to gain nothing, but risk and defy everything;
Forward to stand in front of wars—and O, such wars;
—what have you to do with them?
With passions of demons, slaughter, premature death?


16Demons and death then I sing;
Put in all, aye all, will I—sword-shaped pennant for
war, and banner so broad and blue,
And a pleasure new and extatic, and the prattled yearn-
ing of children,
Blent with the sounds of the peaceful land, and the
liquid wash of the sea;
And the black ships, fighting on the sea, enveloped in
And the icy cool of the far, far north, with rustling
cedars and pines;
And the whirr of drums, and the sound of soldiers
marching, and the hot sun shining south;
And the beach-waves combing over the beach on my
eastern shore, and my western shore the same;
And all between those shores, and my ever-running
Mississippi, with bends and chutes;
And my Illinois fields, and my Kansas fields, and my
fields of Missouri;
The CONTINENT—devoting the whole identity, without
reserving an atom,
Pour in! whelm that which asks, which sings, with all,
and the yield of all.


17Aye all! for ever, for all!
From sea to sea, north and south, east and west,
(The war is completed, the price is paid, the title is
settled beyond recall;)
Fusing and holding, claiming, devouring the whole;
No more with tender lip, nor musical labial sound,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 356] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

But, out of the night emerging for good, our voice per-
suasive no more,
Croaking like crows here in the wind.



18My limbs, my veins dilate;
The blood of the world has fill'd me full—my theme is
clear at last:
—Banner so broad, advancing out of the night, I sing
you haughty and resolute;
I burst through where I waited long, too long, deafen'd
and blinded;
My sight, my hearing and tongue, are come to me, (a
little child taught me;)
I hear from above, O pennant of war, your ironical call
and demand;
Insensate! insensate! (yet I at any rate chant you,) O
Not houses of peace indeed are you, nor any nor all
their prosperity, (if need be, you shall again
have every one of those houses to destroy them;
You thought not to destroy those valuable houses,
standing fast, full of comfort, built with money;
May they stand fast, then? Not an hour, except you,
above them and all, stand fast;)
—O banner! not money so precious are you, not farm
produce you, nor the material good nutriment,
Nor excellent stores, nor landed on wharves from the
Not the superb ships, with sail-power or steam-power,
fetching and carrying cargoes,
Nor machinery, vehicles, trade, nor revenues,—But
you, as henceforth I see you,
Running up out of the night, bringing your cluster of
stars, (ever-enlarging stars;)
Divider of day-break you, cutting the air, touch'd by
the sun, measuring the sky,
(Passionately seen and yearn'd for by one poor little

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 357] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

While others remain busy, or smartly talking, forever
teaching thrift, thrift;)
O you up there! O pennant! where you undulate like
a snake, hissing so curious,
Out of reach—an idea only—yet furiously fought for,
risking bloody death—loved by me!
So loved! O you banner leading the day, with stars
brought from the night!
Valueless, object of eyes, over all and demanding all—
(absolute owner of ALL)—O banner and pennant!
I too leave the rest—great as it is, it is nothing—houses,
machines are nothing—I see them not;
I see but you, O warlike pennant! O banner so broad,
with stripes, I sing you only,
Flapping up there in the wind.



(A Reminiscence of 1864.)


WHO are you, dusky woman, so ancient, hardly human,
With your woolly-white and turban'd head, and bare
bony feet?
Why, rising by the roadside here, do you the colors


('Tis while our army lines Carolina's sand and pines,
Forth from thy hovel door, thou, Ethiopia, com'st to me,
As, under doughty Sherman, I march toward the sea.)


Me, master, years a hundred, since from my parents sun-
A little child, they caught me as the savage beast is caught;
Then hither me, across the sea, the cruel slaver brought.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 358] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


No further does she say, but lingering all the day,
Her high-borne turban'd head she wags, and rolls her
darkling eye,
And curtseys to the regiments, the guidons moving by.


What is it, fateful woman—so blear, hardly human?
Why wag your head, with turban bound—yellow, red
and green?
Are the things so strange and marvelous, you see or
have seen?


Lo! Victress on the Peaks!

Lo! Victress on the peaks!
Where thou, with mighty brow, regarding the world,
(The world, O Libertad, that vainly conspired against
Out of its countless, beleaguering toils, after thwarting
them all;)
Dominant, with the dazzling sun around thee,
Flauntest now unharm'd, in immortal soundness and
bloom—lo! in these hours supreme,
No poem proud, I, chanting, bring to thee—nor mastery's
rapturous verse;
But a book, containing night's darkness, and blood-
dripping wounds,
And psalms of the dead.


World, Take Good Notice.

WORLD, take good notice, silver stars fading,
Milky hue ript, weft of white detaching,
Coals thirty-eight, baleful and burning,
Scarlet, significant, hands off warning,
Now and henceforth flaunt from these shores.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 359] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Thick-Sprinkled Bunting.

THICK-SPRINKLED bunting! Flag of stars!
Long yet your road, fateful flag!—long yet your road,
and lined with bloody death!
For the prize I see at issue, at last is the world!
All its ships and shores I see, interwoven with your
threads, greedy banner!
—Dream'd again the flags of kings, highest borne, to
flaunt unrival'd?
O hasten, flag of man! O with sure and steady step,
passing highest flags of kings,
Walk supreme to the heavens, mighty symbol—run up
above them all,
Flag of stars! thick-sprinkled bunting!


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.