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About this Item

Title: Drum-Taps (1865)

Author(s): Walt Whitman


Whitman Archive ID: ppp.01866

Source: Transcribed from our own digital images of the original.

Contributors to digital file: Heidi R. Bean, Joshua Ware, Ashley Lawson, and Elizabeth Lorang

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ENTERED according to act of Congress, in the year 1865, by WALT WHITMAN, in the Clerk's Office of the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York.

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Drum-Taps............................................   5
Shut not your doors to me proud Libraries............   8
Cavalry crossing a ford..............................   8
Song of the Banner at Day-Break......................   9
By the bivouac's fitful flame........................   16
1861.................................................   17
From Paumanok starting I fly like a bird.............   18
Beginning my studies.................................   18
The Centenarian's Story..............................   19
Pioneers! O Pioneers!................................   25
Quicksand years that whirl me I know not whither.....   30
The Dresser..........................................   31
When I heard the learn'd Astronomer..................   34
Rise O Days from your fathomless deeps...............   35
A child's amaze......................................   37
Beat! beat! drums!.................................   38
Come up from the fields, father......................   39
City of ships........................................   41
Mother and babe......................................   41
Vigil strange I kept on the field one night...........   42
Bathed in war's perfume..............................   43
A march in the ranks hard-prest, and the road unknown   44
Long, too long, O land...............................   45
A sight in camp in the day-break grey and dim........   46
A farm picture.......................................   46
Give me the splendid silent sun......................   47
Over the carnage rose prophetic a voice..............   49
Did you ask dulcet rhymes from me?...................   50
Year of meteors......................................   51
The Torch............................................   52
Years of the unperform'd.............................   53
Year that trembled and reel'd beneath me.............   54
The Veteran's vision.................................   55
O tan-faced Prairie-boy..............................   56

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Camps of green..........................................   57
As toilsome I wander'd Virginia's woods.................   58
Hymn of dead soldiers...................................   59
The ship................................................   60
A Broadway pageant......................................   61
Flag of stars, thick-sprinkled bunting..................   65
Old Ireland.............................................   66
Look down fair moon.....................................   66
Out of the rolling ocean, the crowd.....................   67
World, take good notice.................................   67
I saw old General at bay................................   68
Others may praise what they like........................   68
Solid, ironical, rolling orb............................   68
Hush'd be the camps to-day..............................   69
Weave in, weave in, my hardy soul........................   69
Turn, O Libertad........................................   70
Bivouac on a mountain side..............................   70
Pensive on her dead gazing, I heard the mother of all...   71
Not youth pertains to me................................   72

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FIRST, O songs, for a prelude,
Lightly strike on the stretch'd tympanum, pride and joy
     in my city,

How she led the rest to arms—how she gave the cue,
How at once with lithe limbs, unwaiting a moment, she

(O superb! O Manhattan, my own, my peerless!
O strongest you in the hour of danger, in crisis! O
     truer than steel!)

How you sprang! how you threw off the costumes of
     peace with indifferent hand;

How your soft opera-music changed, and the drum and
     fife were heard in their stead;

How you led to the war, (that shall serve for our pre-
     lude songs of soldiers,)

How Manhattan drum-taps led.

Forty years had I in my city seen soldiers parading;
Forty years as a pageant—till unawares, the Lady of
     this teeming and turbulent city,

Sleepless, amid her ships, her houses, her incalculable

With her million children around her—suddenly,
At dead of night, at news from the south,
Incens'd, struck with clench'd hand the pavement.

A shock electric—the night sustain'd it;
Till with ominous hum, our hive at day-break, pour'd
     out its myriads.

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From the houses then, and the workshops, and
     through all the doorways,

Leapt they tumultuous—and lo! Manhattan arming.

To the drum-taps prompt,
The young men falling in and arming;
The mechanics arming, (the trowel, the jack-plane, the
     blacksmith's hammer, tost aside with precipi-

The lawyer leaving his office, and arming—the judge
     leaving the court;

The driver deserting his wagon in the street, jumping
     down, throwing the reins abruptly down on the
     horses' backs;

The salesman leaving the store—the boss, book-keeper,
     porter, all leaving;

Squads gathering everywhere by common consent, and

The new recruits, even boys—the old men show them
     how to wear their accoutrements—they buckle
     the straps carefully;

Outdoors arming—indoors arming—the flash of the

The white tents cluster in camps—the arm'd sentries
     around—the sunrise cannon, and again at sunset;

Arm'd regiments arrive every day, pass through the
     city, and embark from the wharves;

(How good they look, as they tramp down to the river,
     sweaty, with their guns on their shoulders!

How I love them! how I could hug them, with their
     brown faces, and their clothes and knapsacks cov-
     er'd with dust!)

The blood of the city up—arm'd! arm'd! the cry

The flags flung out from the steeples of churches, and
     from all the public buildings and stores;

The tearful parting—the mother kisses her son—the
     son kisses his mother;

(Loth is the mother to part—yet not a word does she
     speak to detain him;)

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The tumultuous escort—the ranks of policemen preceed-
     ing, clearing the way;

The unpent enthusiasm—the wild cheers of the crowd
     for their favorites;

The artillery—the silent cannons, bright as gold, drawn
     along, rumble lightly over the stones;

(Silent cannons—soon to cease your silence!
Soon, unlimber'd, to begin the red business;)
All the mutter of preparation—all the determin'd

The hospital service—the lint, bandages, and medi-

The women volunteering for nurses—the work begun
     for, in earnest—no mere parade now;

War! an arm'd race is advancing!—the welcome for
     battle—no turning away;

War! be it weeks, months, or years—an arm'd race is
     advancing to welcome it.

Mannahatta a-march!—and it's O to sing it well!
It's O for a manly life in the camp!

And the sturdy artillery!
The guns, bright as gold—the work for giants—to
     serve well the guns:

Unlimber them! no more, as the past forty years, for
     salutes for courtesies merely;

Put in something else now besides powder and wadding.

And you, Lady of Ships! you Mannahatta!
Old matron of the city! this proud, friendly, turbulent

Often in peace and wealth you were pensive, or covertly
     frown'd amid all your children;

But now you smile with joy, exulting old Mannahatta!

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SHUT not your doors to me, proud libraries,
For that which was lacking among you all, yet needed
     most, I bring;

A book I have made for your dear sake, O soldiers,
And for you, O soul of man, and you, love of comrades;
The words of my book nothing, the life of it every-

A book separate, not link'd with the rest, nor felt by
     the intellect;

But you will feel every word, O Libertad! arm'd

It shall pass by the intellect to swim the sea, the air,
With joy with you, O soul of man.


A LINE in long array, where they wind betwixt green

They take a serpentine course—their arms flash in the
     sun—Hark to the musical clank;

Behold the silvery river—in it the splashing horses,
     loitering, stop to drink;

Behold the brown-faced men—each group, each person,
     a picture—the negligent rest on the saddles;

Some emerge on the opposite bank—others are just
     entering the ford;

The guidon flags flutter gaily in the wind.

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O 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.

Words! 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.

I'll weave the chord 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;

I ll pour the verse with streams of blood, full of volition,
     full of joy;

Then loosen, launch forth, to go and compete,
With the banner and pennant a-flapping.

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


Father, what is that in the sky beckoning to me with
     long finger?

And what does it say to me all the while?


Nothing, 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!


Fresh 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 waters.

But 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

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But I am of 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

And the shore-sands know, and the hissing wave, and
     that banner and pennant,

Aloft there flapping and flapping.


O father, it is alive—it is full of people—it has

O now it seems to me it is talking to its children!
I hear it—it talks to me—O it is wonderful!
O it stretches—it spreads and runs so fast! O my

It is so broad, it covers the whole sky!


Cease, 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-prepared pavements behold—and mark
     the solid-wall'd houses.


Speak to the child, O bard, out of Manhattan;
Speak to our children all, or north or south of Manhat-

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?

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I hear and see not strips of cloth alone;
I hear 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 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 Cali-

Sweeping the whole, I see the countless profit, the
     busy gatherings, earned wages;

See the identity formed out of thirty-six 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 pen-
     nant 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.

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Yet louder, higher, stronger, bard! yet farther,
     wider cleave!

No longer let our children deem us riches and peace

We can be terror and carnage also, and are so now;
Not now are we 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 millions of square
     miles—the capitals,

The thirty-five millions of people—O bard! in life and
     death supreme,

We, even we, from this day flaunt out masterful, high
     up above,

Not for the present alone, for a thousand years, chant-
     ing through you,

This song to the soul of one poor little child.


O 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.


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

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Little you know what it is this day, and henceforth

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?


Demons 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 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.


Aye all! for ever, for all!
From sea to sea, north and south, east and west,
Fusing and holding, claiming, devouring the whole;
No more with tender lip, nor musical labial sound,
But, out of the night emerging for good, our voice per-
     suasive no more,

Croaking like crows here in the wind.

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POET. (Finale.)

My 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 are you, nor any nor all their pros-
     perity, (if need be, you shall have every one of
     those houses to destroy them;

You thought not to destroy those valuable houses, stand-
     ing fast, full of comfort, built with money;

May they stand fast, then? Not an hour, unless you,
     above them and all, stand fast;)

—O banner! not money so precious are you, nor 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

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,

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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—
     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.


By the bivouac's fitful flame,
A procession winding around me, solemn and sweet and
     slow;—but first I note,

The tents of the sleeping army, the fields' and woods'
     dim outline,

The darkness, lit spots of kindled fire—the silence;
Like a phantom far or near an occasional figure moving;
The shrubs and trees, (as I left my eyes they seem to be
     stealthily watching me;)

While wind in procession thoughts, O tender and
     wond'rous thoughts,

Of life and death—of home and the past and loved,
     and of those that are far away;

A solemn and slow procession there as I sit on the

By the bivouac's fitful flame.

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ARM'D year! year of the struggle!
No dainty rhymes or sentimental love verses for you,
     terrible year!

Not you as some pale poetling, seated at a desk, lisp-
     ing cadenzas piano;

But as a strong man, erect, clothed in blue clothes,
     advancing, carrying a rifle on your shoulder,

With well-gristled body and sunburnt face and hands—
     with a knife in the belt at your side,

As I heard you shouting loud—your sonorous voice
     ringing across the continent;

Your masculine voice, O year, as rising amid the great

Amid the men of Manhattan I saw you, as one of the
     workmen, the dwellers in Manhattan;

Or with large steps crossing the prairies out of Illinois
     and Indiana,

Rapidly crossing the West with springy gait, and de-
     scending the Alleghanies;

Or down from the great lakes, or in Pennsylvania, or on
     deck along the Ohio river;

Or southward along the Tennessee or Cumberland rivers,
     or at Chattanooga on the mountain top,

Saw I your gait and saw I your sinewy limbs, clothed
     in blue, bearing weapons, robust year;

Heard your determin'd voice, launch'd forth again and

Year that suddenly sang by the mouths of the round
     lipp'd cannon,

I repeat you, hurrying, crashing, sad, distracted year.

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FROM Paumanok starting, I fly like a bird,
Around and around to soar, to sing the idea of all;
To the north betaking myself, to sing there arctic songs,
To Kanada, 'till I absorb Kanada in myself—to Michi-
     gan then,

To Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, to sing their songs,
     (they are inimitable;)

Then to Ohio and Indiana to sing theirs—to Missouri
     and Kansas and Arkansas to sing theirs,

To Tennessee and Kentucky—to the Carolinas and
     Georgia, to sing theirs,

To Texas, and so along up toward California, to roam
     accepted everywhere;

To sing first, (to the tap of the war-drum, if need be,)
The idea of all—of the western world, one and insep-

And then the song of each member of These States.


BEGINNING my studies, the first step pleas'd me so much,
The mere fact, consciousness—these forms—the pow-
     er of motion,

The least insect or animal—the senses—eyesight;
The first step, I say, aw'd me and pleas'd me so much,
I have never gone, and never wish'd to go, any farther,
But stop and loiter all my life, to sing it in extatic songs.

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VOLUNTEER OF 1861, (At Washington Park, Brooklyn, assisting the Centenarian.)

Give me your hand, old Revolutionary;
The hill-top is nigh—but a few steps, (make room,

Up the path you have follow'd me well, spite of your
     hundred and extra years;

You can walk, old man, though your eyes are almost

Your faculties serve you, and presently I must have
     them serve me.

Rest, while I tell what the crowd around us means;
On the plain below, recruits are drilling and exercising;
There is the camp—one regiment departs to morrow;
Do you hear the officers giving the orders?
Do you hear the clank of the muskets?

Why, what comes over you now, old man?
Why do you tremble, and clutch my hand so convul-

The troops are but drilling—they are yet surrounded
     with smiles;

Around them at hand, the well drest friends and the

While splendid and warm the afternoon sun shines

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Green the midsummer verdure, and fresh blows the dal-
     lying breeze,

O'er proud and peaceful cities, and arm of the sea be-

But drill and parade are over—they march back to

Only hear that approval of hands! hear what a clap-
     ping !

As wending, the crowds now part and disperse—but
     we, old man,

Not for nothing have I brought you hither—we must

You to speak in your turn, and I to listen and tell.


When I clutch'd your hand, it was not with terror;
But suddenly, pouring about me here, on every side,
And below there where the boys were drilling, and up
     the slopes they ran,

And where tents are pitch'd, and wherever you see,
     south and south-east and south-west,

Over hills, across lowlands, and in the skirts of woods,
And along the shores, in mire (now fill'd over,) came
     again, and suddenly raged,

As eighty-five years a-gone, no mere parade receiv'd
     with applause of friends,

But a battle, which I took part in myself—aye, long ago
     as it is, I took part in it,

Walking then this hill-top, this same ground.

Aye, this is the ground;
My blind eyes, even as I speak, behold it re-peopled
     from graves:

The years recede, pavements and stately houses disap-

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Rude forts appear again, the old hoop'd guns are

I see the lines of rais'd earth stretching from river to

I mark the vista of waters, I mark the uplands and

Here we lay encamp'd—it was this time in summer also.

As I talk, I remember all—I remember the Declara-

It was read here—the whole army paraded—it was
     read to us here;

By his staff surrounded, the general stood in the mid-
     dle —he held up his unsheath'd sword,

It glitter'd in the sun in full sight of the army.

'Twas a bold act then;
The English war ships had just arrived—the king had
     sent them from over the sea;

We could watch down the lower bay where they lay at

And the transports, swarming with soldiers.

A few days more, and they landed—and then the

Twenty thousand were brought against us,
A veteran force, furnish'd with good artillery.

I tell not now the whole of the battle;
But one brigade, early in the forenoon, order'd forward
     to engage the red-coats;

Of that brigade I tell, and how steadily it march'd,
And how long and how well it stood, confronting death.

Who do you think that was, marching steadily, stern-
     ly confronting death?

It was the brigade of the youngest men, two thousand

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Rais'd in Virginia and Maryland, and many of them
     known personally to the General.

Jauntily forward they went with quick step toward
     Gowanus' waters;

Till of a sudden, unlook'd for, by defiles through the
     woods, gain'd at night,

The British advancing, wedging in from the east,
     fiercely playing their guns,

That brigade of the youngest was cut off, and at the
     enemy's mercy.

The General watch'd them from this hill;
They made repeated desperate attempts to burst their

Then drew close together, very compact, their flag
     flying in the middle;

But O from the hills how the cannon were thinning and
     thinning them!

It sickens me yet, that slaughter!
I saw the moisture gather in drops on the face of the

I saw how he wrung his hands in anguish.

Meanwhile the British maneuver'd to draw us out
     for a pitch'd battle;

But we dared not trust the chances of a pitch'd battle.

We fought the fight in detachments;
Sallying forth, we fought at several points—but in each
     the luck was against us;

Our foe advancing, steadily getting the best of it, push'd
     us back to the works on this hill;

Till we turn'd menacing, here, and then he left us.

That was the going out of the brigade of the young-
     est men, two thousand strong;

Few return'd—nearly all remain in Brooklyn.

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That, and here, my General's first battle;
No women looking on, nor sunshine to bask in—it
     did not conclude with applause;

Nobody clapp'd hands here then.

But in darkness, in mist, on the ground, under a
     chill rain,

Wearied that night we lay, foil'd and sullen;
While scornfully laugh'd many an arrogant lord, off
     against us encamp'd,

Quite within hearing, feasting, klinking wine-glasses
     together over their victory.

So, dull and damp and another day;
But the night of that, mist lifting, rain ceasing,
Silent as a ghost, while they thought they were sure of
     him, my General retreated.

I saw him at the river-side,
Down by the ferry, lit by torches, hastening the embar-

My General waited till the soldiers and wounded were
     all pass'd over;

And then, (it was just ere sunrise,) these eyes rested on
     him for the last time.

Every one else seem'd fill'd with gloom;
Many no doubt thought of capitulation.

But when my General pass'd me,
As he stood in his boat, and look'd toward the coming

I saw something different from capitulation.


Enough—the Centenarian's story ends;
The two, the past and present, have interchanged;
I myself, as connecter, as chansonnier of a great future,
     am now speaking.

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And is this the ground Washington trod?
And these waters I listlessly daily cross, are these the
     waters he cross'd,

As resolute in defeat, as other generals in their proudest

It is well—a lesson like that, always comes good;
I must copy the story, and send it eastward and west-

I must preserve that look, as it beam'd on you, rivers of

See! as the annual round returns, the phantoms

It is the 27th of August, and the British have landed;
The battle begins, and goes against us—behold! through
     the smoke Washington's face;

The brigade of Virginia and Maryland have march'd
     forth to intercept the enemy;

They are cut off—murderous artillery from the hills
     plays upon them;

Rank after rank falls, while over them silently droops
     the flag,

Baptized that day in many a young man's bloody

In death, defeat, and sisters', mothers' tears.

Ah, hills and slopes of Brooklyn! I perceive you
     are more valuable than your owners supposed;

Ah, river! henceforth you will be illumin'd to me at
     sunrise with something besides the sun.

Encampments new! in the midst of you stands an
     encampment very old;

Stands forever the camp of the dead brigade.

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COME, my tan-faced children,
Follow well in order, get your weapons ready;
Have you your pistols? have you your sharp edged

Pioneers! O pioneers!


For we cannot tarry here,
We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of

We, the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


O you youths, western youths,
So impatient, full of action, full of manly pride and

Plain I see you, western youths, see you tramping with
     the foremost,

Pioneers! O pioneers!


Have the elder races halted?
Do they droop and end their lesson, wearied, over there
     beyond the seas?

We take up the task eternal, and the burden, and the

Pioneers! O pioneers!

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All the past we leave behind;
We debouch upon a newer, mightier world, varied

Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labor and
     the march,

Pioneers! O pioneers!


We detachments steady throwing,
Down the edges, through the passes, up the mountains

Conquering, holding, daring, venturing, as we go, the
     unknown ways,

Pioneers! O pioneers!


We primeval forests felling,
We the rivers stemming, vexing we, and piercing deep
     the mines within;

We the surface broad surveying, and the virgin soil up-

Pioneers! O pioneers!


Colorado men are we,
From the peaks gigantic, from the great sierras and the
     high plateaus,

From the mine and from the gully, from the hunting
     trail we come,

Pioneers! O pioneers!


From Nebraska, from Arkansas,
Central inland race are we, from Missouri, with the con-
     tinental blood intervein'd;

All the hands of comrades clasping, all the Southern, all
     the Northern,

Pioneers! O pioneers!

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O resistless, restless race!
O beloved race in all! O my breast aches with tender
     love for all!

O I mourn and yet exult—I am rapt with love for all,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


Raise the mighty mother mistress,
Waving high the delicate mistress, over all the starry
     mistress, (bend your heads all,)

Raise the fang'd and warlike mistress, stern, impassive,
     weapon'd mistress,

Pioneers! O pioneers!


See, my children, resolute children,
By those swarms upon our rear, we must never yield or

Ages back in ghostly millions, frowning there behind us

Pioneers! O pioneers!


On and on, the compact ranks,
With accessions ever waiting, with the places of the
     dead quickly fill'd,

Through the battle, through defeat, moving yet and
     never stopping,

Pioneers! O pioneers!


O to die advancing on!
Are there some of us to droop and die? has the hour

Then upon the march we fittest die, soon and sure the
     gap is fill'd,

Pioneers! O pioneers!

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All the pulses of the world,
Falling in, they beat for us, with the western movement

Holding single or together, steady moving, to the front,
     all for us,

Pioneers! O pioneers!


Life's involv'd and varied pageants,
All the forms and shows, all the workmen at their

All the seamen and the landsmen, all the masters with
     their slaves,

Pioneers! O pioneers!


All the hapless silent lovers,
All the prisoners in the prisons, all the righteous and
     the wicked,

All the joyous, all the sorrowing, all the living, all the

Pioneers! O pioneers!


I too with my soul and body,
We, a curious trio, picking, wandering on our way,
Through these shores, amid the shadows, with the
     apparitions pressing,

Pioneers! O pioneers!


Lo! the darting bowling orb!
Lo! the brother orbs around! all the clustering suns and

All the dazzling days, all the mystic nights with dreams,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

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These are of us, they are with us,
All for primal needed work, while the followers there in
     embryo wait behind,

We to-day's procession heading, we the route for travel

Pioneers! O pioneers!


O you daughters of the west!
O you young and elder daughters! O you mothers and
     you wives!

Never must you be divided, in our ranks you move

Pioneers! O pioneers!


Minstrels latent on the prairies!
(Shrouded bards of other lands! you may sleep—you
     have done your work;)

Soon I hear you coming warbling, soon you rise and
     tramp amid us,

Pioneers! O pioneers!


Not for delectations sweet;
Not the cushion and the slipper, not the peaceful and
     the studious;

Not the riches safe and palling, not for us the tame en-

Pioneers! O pioneers!


Do the feasters gluttonous feast?
Do the corpulent sleepers sleep? have they lock'd and
     bolted doors?

Still be ours the diet hard, and the blanket on the

Pioneers! O pioneers!

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Has the night descended?
Was the road of late so toilsome? did we stop discour-
     aged, nodding on our way?

Yet a passing hour I yield you, in your tracks to pause

Pioneers! O pioneers!


Till with sound of trumpet,
Far, far off the day-break call—hark! how loud and
     clear I hear it wind;

Swift! to the head of the army!—swift! spring to
     your places,

Pioneers! O pioneers!


QUICKSAND years that whirl me I know not whither,
Your schemes, politics, fail—lines give way— substan-
     ces mock and elude me;

Only the theme I sing, the great and strong-possess'd
     soul, eludes not;

One's-self, must never give way—that is the final sub-
     tance —that out of all is sure;

Out of politics, triumphs, battles, death—what at last
     finally remains?

When shows break up, what but One's-Self is sure?

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An old man bending, I come, among new faces,
Years looking backward, resuming, in answer to chil-

Come tell us old man, as from young men and maidens
     that love me;

Years hence of these scenes, of these furious passions,
     these chances,

Of unsurpass'd heroes, (was one side so brave? the
     other was equally brave;)

Now be witness again—paint the mightiest armies of

Of those armies so rapid, so wondrous, what saw you to
     tell us?

What stays with you latest and deepest? of curious

Of hard-fought engagements, or sieges tremendous,
     what deepest remains?

O maidens and young men I love, and that love me,
What you ask of my days, those the strangest and sud-
     den your talking recals;

Soldier alert I arrive, after a long march, cover'd with
     sweat and dust;

In the nick of time I come, plunge in the fight, loudly
     shout in the rush of successful charge;

Enter the captur'd works . . . . yet lo! like a swift-
     running river, they fade;

Pass and are gone, they fade—I dwell not on soldiers'
     perils or soldiers' joys;

(Both I remember well—many the hardships, few the
     joys, yet I was content.)

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But in silence, in dream's projections,
While the world of gain and appearance and mirth goes

So soon what is over forgotten, and waves wash the
     imprints off the sand,

In nature's reverie sad, with hinged knees returning, I
     enter the doors—(while for you up there,

Whoever you are, follow me without noise, and be of
     strong heart.)

Bearing the bandages, water and sponge,
Straight and swift to my wounded I go,
Where they lie on the ground, after the battle brought

Where their priceless blood reddens the grass, the

Or to the rows of the hospital tent, or under the roof'd

To the long rows of cots, up and down, each side, I

To each and all, one after another, I draw near—not
     one do I miss;

An attendant follows, holding a tray—he carries a
     refuse pail,

Soon to be fill'd with clotted rags and blood, emptied,
     and fill'd again.

I onward go, I stop,
With hinged knees and steady hand, to dress wounds;
I am firm with each—the pangs are sharp, yet unavoid-

One turns to me his appealing eyes—(poor boy! I
     never knew you,

Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for
     you, if that would save you.)

On, on I go—(open, doors of time! open, hospital

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The crush'd head I dress, (poor crazed hand, tear not the
     bandage away;)

The neck of the cavalry-man, with the bullet through
     and through, I examine;

Hard the breathing rattles, quite glazed already the eye,
     yet life struggles hard;

(Come, sweet death! be persuaded, O beautiful death!
In mercy come quickly.)

From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand,
I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off the
     matter and blood;

Back on his pillow the soldier bends, with curv'd neck,
     and side-falling head;

His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on
     the bloody stump,

And has not yet looked on it.

I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep;
But a day or two more—for see, the frame all wasted
     and sinking,

And the yellow-blue countenance see.

I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bul-
     let wound,

Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so
     sickening, so offensive,

While the attendant stands behind aside me, holding
     the tray and pail.

I am faithful, I do not give out;
The fractur'd thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdo-

These and more I dress with impassive hand—(yet
     deep in my breast a fire, a burning flame.)

Thus in silence, in dream's projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hos-

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The hurt and the wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night—some are so

Some suffer so much—I recall the experience sweet
     and sad;

(Many a soldier's loving arms about this neck have
     cross'd and rested,

Many a soldier's kiss dwells on these bearded lips.)


WHEN I heard the learn'd astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns
     before me;

When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add,
     divide, and measure them;

When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he
     lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,

How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

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RISE, O days, from your fathomless deeps, till you loftier
     and fiercer sweep!

Long for my soul, hungering gymnastic, I devour'd
     what the earth gave me;

Long I roam'd the woods of the north—long I watch'd
     Niagara pouring;

I travel'd the prairies over, and slept on their breast—I
     cross'd the Nevadas, I cross'd the plateaus;

I ascended the towering rocks along the Pacific, I sail'd
     out to sea;

I sail'd through the storm, I was refresh'd by the storm;
I watch'd with joy the threatening maws of the waves;
I mark'd the white combs where they career'd so high,
     curling over;

I heard the wind piping, I saw the black clouds;
Saw from below what arose and mounted, (O superb! O
     wild as my heart, and powerful!)

Heard the continuous thunder, as it bellow'd after the

Noted the slender and jagged threads of lightning, as
     sudden and fast amid the din they chased each
     other across the sky;

—These, and such as these, I, elate, saw—saw with
     wonder, yet pensive and masterful;

All the menacing might of the globe uprisen around me;
Yet there with my soul I fed—I fed content, super-
     cilious .

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'Twas well, O soul! 'twas a good preparation you gave

Now we advance our latent and ampler hunger to fill;
Now we go forth to receive what the earth and the sea
     never gave us;

Not through the mighty woods we go, but through the
     mightier cities;

Something for us is pouring now, more than Niagara

Torrents of men, (sources and rills of the Northwest, are
     you indeed inexhaustible?)

What, to pavements and homesteads here—what were
     those storms of the mountains and sea?

What, to passions I witness around me to-day? Was
     the sea risen?

Was the wind piping the pipe of death under the black

Lo! from deeps more unfathomable, something more
     deadly and savage;

Manhattan, rising, advancing with menacing front—
     Cincinnati, Chicago, unchain'd;

—What was that swell I saw on the ocean? behold
     what comes here!

How it climbs with daring feet and hands! how it

How the true thunder bellows after the lightning! how
     bright the flashes of lightning!

How DEMOCRACY, with desperate vengeful port strides
     on, shown through the dark by those flashes of


Thunder on! stride on Democracy! strike with vengeful

And do you rise higher than ever yet, O days, O cities!

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Crash heavier, heavier yet, O storms! you have done
     me good;

My soul, prepared in the mountains, absorbs your im-
     mortal strong nutriment;

Long had I walk'd my cities, my country roads, through
     farms, only half satisfied;

One doubt, nauseous, undulating like a snake, crawl'd
     on the ground before me,

Continually preceding my steps, turning upon me oft,
     ironically hissing low;

—The cities I loved so well, I abandon'd and left—I
     sped to the certainties suitable to me;

Hungering, hungering, hungering, for primal energies,
     and Nature's dauntlessness,

I refresh'd myself with it only, I could relish it only;
I waited the bursting forth of the pent fire—on the
     water and air I waited long;

—But now I no longer wait—I am fully satisfied—I
     am glutted;

I have witness'd the true lighting—I have witness'd
     my cities electric;

I have lived to behold man burst forth, and warlike
     America rise;

Hence I will seek no more the food of the northern soli-
     tary wilds,

No more on the mountains roam, or sail the stormy sea.


SILENT and amazed, even when a little boy,
I remember I heard the preacher every Sunday put God
     in his statements,

As contending against some being or influence.

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BEAT! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows—through doors—burst like a
     force of ruthless men,

Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation;
Into the school where the scholar is studying:
Leave not the bridegroom quiet—no happiness must
     he have now with his bride;

Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, plowing his field or
     gathering his grain;

So fierce you whirr and pound, you drums—so shrill
     you bugles blow.


Beat! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities—over the rumble of wheels in
     the streets:

Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses?
     No sleepers must sleep in those beds;

No bargainers' bargains by day—no brokers or specu-
     lators —Would they continue?

Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt
     to sing?

Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case
     before the judge?

Then rattle quicker, heavier drums—you bugles wilder


Beat! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley—stop for no expostulation;
Mind not the timid—mind not the weeper or prayer;
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man;
Let not the child's voice be heard, nor the mother's en-

Make even the trestles to shake the dead, where they lie
     awaiting the hearses,

So strong you thump, O terrible drums—so loud
     you bugles blow.

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Come up from the fields, father, here's a letter from
     our Pete;

And come to the front door, mother—here's a letter
     from thy dear son.

Lo, 'tis autumn;
Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder,
Cool and sweeten Ohio's villages, with leaves fluttering
     in the moderate wind;

Where apples ripe in the orchards hang, and grapes on
     the trellis'd vines;

(Smell you the smell of the grapes on the vines?
Smell you the buckwheat, where the bees were lately

Above all, lo, the sky, so calm, so transparent after
     the rain, and with wondrous clouds;

Below, too, all calm, all vital and beautiful—and the
     farm prospers well.

Down in the fields all prospers well;
But now from the fields come, father—come at the
     daughter's call;

And come to the entry, mother—to the front door come,
     right away.

Fast as she can she hurries—something ominous—
     her steps trembling;

She does not tarry to smooth her white hair, nor adjust
     her cap.

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Open the envelope quickly;
O this is not our son's writing, yet his name is sign'd;
O a strange hand writes for our dear son—O stricken
     mother's soul!

All swims before her eyes—flashes with black—she
     catches the main words only;

Sentences broken—gun-shot wound in the breast, cavalry
     skirmish, taken to hospital,

At present low, but will soon be better.

Ah, now the single figure to me,
Amid all teeming and wealthy Ohio, with all its cities
     and farms,

Sickly white in the face and dull in the head, very faint,
By the jamb of a door leans.

Grieve not so, dear mother, (the just-grown daughter
     speaks through her sobs;

The little sisters huddle around, speechless and dis-

See, dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be better.

Alas, poor boy, he will never be better, (nor may-be
     needs to be better, that brave and simple soul;)

While they stand at home at the door, he is dead already;
The only son is dead.

But the mother needs to be better;
She, with thin form, presently drest in black;
By day her meals untouch'd—then at night fitfully
     sleeping, often waking,

In the midnight waking, weeping, longing with one deep

O that she might withdraw unnoticed—silent from life,
     escape and withdraw,

To follow, to seek, to be with her dear dead son.

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CITY of ships!
(O the black ships! O the fierce ships!
O the beautiful, sharp bow'd steam-ships and sail-ships!)
City of the world! (for all races are here;
All the lands of the earth make contributions here;)
City of the sea! city of hurried and glittering tides!
City whose gleeful tides continually rush or recede,
     whirling in and out, with eddies and foam!

City of wharves and stores! city of tall façades of mar-
     ble and iron!

Proud and passionate city! mettlesome, mad, extrava-
     gant city!

Spring up, O city! not for peace alone, but be indeed
     yourself, warlike!

Fear not! submit to no models but your own, O city!
Behold me! incarnate me, as I have incarnated you!
I have rejected nothing you offer'd me—whom you
     adopted, I have adopted;

Good or bad, I never question you—I love all—I do
     not condemn anything;

I chant and celebrate all that is yours—yet peace no

In peace I chanted peace, but now the drum of war is

War, red war, is my song through your streets, O city!


I SEE the sleeping babe, nestling the breast of its

The sleeping mother and babe—hush'd, I study them
     long and long.

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VIGIL strange I kept on the field one night,
When you, my son and my comrade, dropt at my side
     that day,

One look I but gave, which your dear eyes return'd,
     with a look I shall never forget;

One touch of your hand to mine, O boy, reach'd up as
     you lay on the ground;

Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested

Till late in the night reliev'd, to the place at last again I
     made my way;

Found you in death so cold, dear comrade—found your
     body, son of responding kisses, (never again on
     earth responding;)

Bared your face in the starlight—curious the scene—
     cool blew the moderate night-wind;

Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me
     the battle-field spreading;

Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet, there in the fragrant
     silent night;

But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh—Long,
     long I gazed;

Then on the earth partially reclining, sat by your side,
     leaning my chin in my hands;

Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with
     you, dearest comrade—Not a tear, not a word;

Vigil of silence, love and death—vigil for you, my son
     and my soldier,

As onward silently stars aloft, eastward new ones up-
     ward stole;

Vigil final for you, brave boy, (I could not save you,
     swift was your death,

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I faithfully loved you and cared for you living—I think
     we shall surely meet again;)

Till at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the
     dawn appear'd,

My comrade I wrapt in his blanket, envelop'd well his

Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head,
     and carefully under feet;

And there and then, and bathed by the rising sun, my
     son in his grave, in his rude-dug grave I de-

Ending my vigil strange with that—vigil of night and
     battle-field dim;

Vigil for boy of responding kisses, (never again on earth

Vigil for comrade swiftly slain—vigil I never forget,
     how as day brighten'd,

I rose from the chill ground, and folded my soldier well
     in his blanket,

And buried him where he fell.


BATHED in war's perfume—delicate flag!
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.

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A MARCH in the ranks hard-prest, and the road unknown;
A route through a heavy wood, with muffled steps in the

Our army foil'd with loss severe, and the sullen remnant

Till after midnight glimmer upon us, the lights of a
     dim-lighted building;

We come to an open space in the woods, and halt by the
     dim-lighted building;

'Tis a large old church, at the crossing roads—'tis now
     an impromptu hospital;

—Entering but for a minute, I see a sight beyond all
     the pictures and poems ever made:

Shadows of deepest, deepest black, just lit by moving
     candles and lamps,

And by one great pitchy torch, stationary, with wild red
     flame, and clouds of smoke;

By these, crowds, groups of forms, vaguely I see, on the
     floor, some in the pews laid down;

At my feet more distinctly, a soldier, a mere lad, in
     danger of bleeding to death, (he is shot in the ab-

I staunch the blood temporarily, (the youngster's face is
     white as a lily;)

Then before I depart I sweep my eyes o'er the scene,
     fain to absorb it all;

Faces, varieties, postures beyond description, most in
     obscurity, some of them dead;

Surgeons operating, attendants holding lights, the smell
     of ether, the odor of blood;

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The crowd, O the crowd of the bloody forms of soldiers
     —the yard outside also fill'd;

Some on the bare ground, some on planks or stretchers,
     some in the death-spasm sweating;

An occasional scream or cry, the doctor's shouted orders
     or calls;

The glisten of the little steel instruments catching the
     glint of the torches;

These I resume as I chant—I see again the forms, I
     smell the odor;

Then hear outside the orders given, Fall in, my men,
     Fall in;

But first I bend to the dying lad—his eyes open—a
     half-smile gives he me;

Then the eyes close, calmly close, and I speed forth to
     the darkness,

Resuming, marching, as ever in darkness marching, on
     in the ranks,

The unknown road still marching.


LONG, too long, O land,
Traveling roads all even and peaceful, you learn'd from
     joys and prosperity only;

But now, ah now, to learn from crises of anguish—ad-
     vancing, grappling with direst fate, and recoiling

And now to conceive, and show to the world, what your
     children en-masse really are;

(For who except myself has yet conceived what your
     children en-masse really are?)

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A SIGHT in camp in the day-break grey and dim,
As from my tent I emerge so early, sleepless,
As slow I walk in the cool fresh air, the path near by
     the hospital-tent,

Three forms I see on stretchers lying, brought out there,
     untended lying,

Over each the blanket spread, ample brownish woolen

Grey and heavy blanket, folding, covering all.

Curious, I halt, and silent stand;
Then with light fingers I from the face of the nearest,
     the first, just lift the blanket:

Who are you, elderly man so gaunt and grim, with
     well-grey'd hair, and flesh all sunken about the

Who are you, my dear comrade?

Then to the second I step—And who are you, my
     child and darling?

Who are you, sweet boy, with cheeks yet blooming?

Then to the third—a face nor child, nor old, very
     calm, as of beautiful yellow-white ivory:

Young man, I think I know you—I think this face of
     yours is the face of the Christ himself;

Dead and divine, and brother of all, and here again he


THROUGH the ample open door of the peaceful country

A sun-lit pasture field, with cattle and horses feeding.

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GIVE me the splendid silent sun, with all his beams full-

Give me juicy autumnal fruit, ripe and red from the

Give me a field where the unmow'd grass grows;
Give me an arbor, give me the trellis'd grape;
Give me fresh corn and wheat—give me serene-moving
     animals, teaching content;

Give me nights perfectly quiet, as on high plateaus west
     of the Mississippi, and I looking up at the stars;

Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers,
     where I can walk undisturb'd;

Give me for marriage a sweet-breath'd woman, of whom
     I should never tire;

Give me a perfect child—give me, away, aside from the
     noise of the world, a rural domestic life;

Give me to warble spontaneous songs, reliev'd, recluse
     by myself, for my own ears only;

Give me solitude—give me Nature—give me again,
     O Nature, your primal sanities!

—These, demanding to have them, (tired with ceaseless
     excitement, and rack'd by the war-strife;)

These to procure, incessantly asking, rising in cries from
     my heart,

While yet incessantly asking, still I adhere to my city;
Day upon day, and year upon year, O city, walking
     your streets,

Where you hold me enchain'd a certain time, refusing
     to give me up;

Yet giving to make me glutted, enrich'd of soul—you
     give me forever faces;

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(O I see what I sought to escape, confronting, reversing
     my cries;

I see my own soul trampling down what it ask'd for.)


Keep your splendid silent sun;
Keep your woods, O Nature, and the quiet places by
     the woods;

Keep your fields of clover and timothy, and your corn-
     fields and orchards;

Keep the blossoming buckwheat fields, where the Ninth-
     month bees hum;

Give me faces and streets! give me these phantoms in-
     cessant and endless along the trottoirs!

Give me interminable eyes! give me women! give me
     comrades and lovers by the thousand!

Let me see new ones every day! let me hold new ones
     by the hand every day!

Give me such shows! give me the streets of Manhattan!
Give me Broadway, with the soldiers marching—give
     me the sound of the trumpets and drums!

(The soldiers in companies or regiments—some, starting
     away, flush'd and reckless;

Some, their time up, returning, with thinn'd ranks—
     young, yet very old, worn, marching, noticing

—Give me the shores and the wharves heavy-fringed
     with the black ships!

O such for me! O an intense life! O full to repletion,
     and varied!

The life of the theatre, bar-room, huge hotel, for me!
The saloon of the steamer! the crowded excursion for
     me! the torch-light procession!

The dense brigade, bound for the war, with high piled
     military wagons following;

People, endless, streaming, with strong voices, passions,

Manhattan streets, with their powerful throbs, with the
     beating drums, as now;

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The endless and noisy chorus, the rustle and clank of
     muskets, (even the sight of the wounded;)

Manhattan crowds with their turbulent musical chorus
     —with varied chorus and light of the sparkling

Manhattan faces and eyes forever for me.


OVER the carnage rose prophetic a voice,
Be not dishearten'd—Affection shall solve the problems
     of Freedom yet;

Those who love each other shall become invincible—
     they shall yet make Columbia victorious.

Sons of the Mother of All! you shall yet be victo-

You shall yet laugh to scorn the attacks of all the re-
     mainder of the earth.

No danger shall balk Columbia's lovers;
If need be, a thousand shall sternly immolate themselves
     for one.

One from Massachusetts shall be a Missourian's com-

From Maine and from hot Carolina, and another an Ore-
     gonese, shall be friends triune,

More precious to each other than all the riches of the

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To Michigan, Florida perfumes shall tenderly come;
Not the perfumes of flowers, but sweeter, and wafted
     beyond death.

It shall be customary in the houses and streets to see
     manly affection;

The most dauntless and rude shall touch face to face

The dependence of Liberty shall be lovers,
The continuance of Equality shall be comrades.

These shall tie you and band you stronger than hoops
     of iron;

I, extatic, O partners! O lands! with the love of lovers
     tie you.

Were you looking to be held together by the lawyers?
Or by an agreement on a paper? or by arms?
—Nay—nor the world, nor any living thing, will so


DID YOU ask dulcet rhymes from me?
Did you find what I sang erewhile so hard to follow,
     to understand?

Why I was not singing erewhile for you to follow, to
     understand—nor am I now;

—What to such as you, anyhow, such a poet as I?
     —therefore leave my works,

And go lull yourself with what you can understand;
For I lull nobody—and you will never understand me.

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YEAR OF METEORS. (1859-60.)

YEAR of meteors! brooding year!
I would bind in words retrospective, some of your deeds
     and signs;

I would sing your contest for the 19th Presidentiad;
I would sing how an old man, tall, with white hair,
     mounted the scaffold in Virginia;

(I was at hand—silent I stood, with teeth shut close—I

I stood very near you, old man, when cool and indiffer-
     ent, but trembling with age and your unheal'd
     wounds, you mounted the scaffold;)

I would sing in my copious song your census returns of
     The States,

The tables of population and products—I would sing of
     your ships and their cargoes,

The proud black ships of Manhattan, arriving, some
     fill'd with immigrants, some from the isthmus
     with cargoes of gold;

Songs thereof would I sing—to all that hitherward
     comes would I welcome give;

And you would I sing, fair stripling! welcome to you
     from me, sweet boy of England!

Remember you surging Manhattan's crowds, as you
     passed with your cortege of nobles?

There in the crowds stood I, and singled you out with

I know not why, but I loved you…(and so go forth
     little song,

Far over sea speed like an arrow, carrying my love all

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And find in his palace the youth I love, and drop these
     lines at his feet;)

—Nor forget I to sing of the wonder, the ship as she
     swam up my bay,

Well-shaped and stately the Great Eastern swam up my
     bay, she was 600 feet long,

Her moving swiftly, surrounded by myriads of small
     craft, I forget not to sing;

Nor the comet that came unannounced, out of the north,
     flaring in heaven,

Nor the strange huge meteor procession, dazzling and
     clear, shooting over our heads,

(A moment, a moment long, it sail'd its balls of unearth-
     ly light over our heads,

Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;)
—Of such, and fitful as they, I sing—with gleams from
     them would I gleam and patch these chants;

Your chants, O year all mottled with evil and good!
     year of forebodings! year of the youth I love!

Year of comets and meteors transient and strange!—lo!
     even here, one equally transient and strange!

As I flit through you hastily, soon to fall and be gone,
     what is this book,

What am I myself but one of your meteors?


On my northwest coast in the midst of the night, a
     fishermen's group stands watching;

Out on the lake, expanding before them, others are
     spearing salmon;

The canoe, a dim and shadowy thing, moves across the
     black water,

Bearing a Torch a-blaze at the prow.

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YEARS of the unperform'd! your horizon rises—I see it
     parting away for more august dramas;

I see not America only—I see not only Liberty's nation,
     but other nations preparing;

I see tremendous entrances and exits—I see new com-
     binations —I see the solidarity of races;

I see that force advancing with irresistible power on the
     world's stage;

(Have the old forces played their parts? are the acts
     suitable to them closed?)

I see Freedom, completely arm'd, and victorious, and
     very haughty, with Law by her side, both issuing
     forth against the idea of caste;

—What historic denouements are these we so rapidly

I see men marching and countermarching by swift mil-

I see the frontiers and boundaries of the old aristocracies

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;

Lo, how he urges and urges, leaving the masses no

His daring foot is on land and sea everywhere—he col-
     onizes the Pacific, the archipelagoes;

With the steam-ship, the electric telegraph, the news-
     paper, the wholesale engines of war,

With these, and the world-spreading factories, he inter-
     links all geography, all lands;

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—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 trem-
     ble, crowns grow dim;

The earth, restive, confronts a new era, perhaps a gen-
     eral 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 vain-
     ly 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 extactic
     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, ad-
     vance upon me.


YEAR that trembled and reel'd beneath me!
Your summer wind was warm enough—yet the air I
     breathed froze me;

A thick gloom fell through the sunshine and darken'd

Must I change my triumphant songs? said I to myself;
Must I indeed learn to chant the cold dirges of the baf-
     fled ?

And sullen hymns of defeat?

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WHILE my wife at my side lies slumbering, and the wars
     are over long,

And my head on the pillow rests at home, and the mys-
     tic midnight passes,

And through the stillness, through the dark, I hear, just
     hear, the breath of my infant,

There in the room, as I wake from sleep, this vision
     presses upon me:

The engagement opens there and then, in my busy brain

The skirmishers begin—they crawl cautiously ahead—
     I hear the irregular snap! snap!

I hear the sounds of the different missiles—the short
     t-h-t! t-h-t! of the rifle balls;

I see the shells exploding, leaving small white clouds—
     I hear the great shells shrieking as they pass;

The grape, like the hum and whirr of wind through the
     trees, (quick, tumultuous, now the contest rages!)

All the scenes at the batteries themselves rise in detail
     before me again;

The crashing and smoking—the pride of the men in
     their pieces;

The chief gunner ranges and sights his piece, and selects
     a fuse of the right time;

After firing, I see him lean aside, and look eagerly off
     to note the effect;

—Elsewhere I hear the cry of a regiment charging—
     (the young colonel leads himself this time, with
     brandish'd sword;)

I see the gaps cut by the enemy's volleys, (quickly
     fill'd up—no delay;)

I breathe the suffocating smoke—then the flat clouds
     hover low, concealing all;

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Now a strange lull comes for a few seconds, not a shot
     fired on either side;

Then resumed, the chaos louder than ever, with eager
     calls, and orders of officers;

While from some distant part of the field the wind wafts
     to my ears a shout of applause, (some special

And ever the sound of the cannon, far or near, (rousing,
     even in dreams, a devilish exultation, and all the
     old mad joy, in the depths of my soul;)

And ever the hastening of infantry shifting positions—
     batteries, cavalry, moving hither and thither;

(The falling, dying, I heed not—the wounded, dripping
     and red, I heed not—some to the rear are hob-

Grime, heat, rush—aid-de-camps galloping by, or on a
     full run;

With the patter of small arms, the warning s-s-t of the
     rifles, (these in my vision I hear or see,)

And bombs bursting in air, and at night the vari-color'd


O TAN-FACED prairie-boy!
Before you came to camp, came many a welcome gift;
Praises and presents came, and nourishing food—till at
     last among the recruits,

You came, taciturn, with nothing to give—we but
     look'd on each other,

When lo! more than all the gifts of the world, you
     gave me.

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NOT alone our camps of white, O soldiers,
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 sparkle;

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 drums,

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 filling,

With a mystic army, (is it too order'd forward? is it too
     only halting 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 young,

Sleeping under the sunlight, sleeping under the moon-
     light, content and silent there at last,

Behold the mighty bivouac-field, and waiting-camp of
     us and ours and all,

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Of our 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 fight,

(There without hatred we shall 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 countersign,

Nor drummer to beat the morning drum.


AS TOILSOME I wander'd Virginia's woods,
To the music of rustling leaves, kick'd by my feet, (for
     'twas autumn,)

I mark'd at the foot of a tree the grave of a soldier;
Mortally wounded he, and buried on the retreat, (easily
     all could I understand;)

The halt of a mid-day hour, when up! no time to lose
     —yet this sign left,

On a tablet scrawl'd and nail'd on the tree by the grave,
Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade.

Long, long I muse, then on my way go wandering;
Many a changeful season to follow, and many a scene of

Yet at times through changeful season and scene, abrupt,
     alone, or in the crowded street,

Comes before me the unknown soldier's grave—comes
     the inscription rude in Virginia's woods,

Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade.

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ONE breath, O my silent soul,
A perfum'd thought—no more I ask, for the sake of all
     dead soldiers.

Buglers off in my armies!
At present I ask not you to sound;
Not at the head of my cavalry, all on their spirited

With their sabres drawn and glist'ning, and carbines
     clanking by their thighs—(ah, my brave horse-
     men !

My handsome, tan-faced horsemen! what life, what joy
     and pride,

With all the perils, were yours!)

Nor you drummers—neither at reveille, 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 crowd's hurrahs, and
     the land's congratulations,

Admitting around me comrades close, unseen by the
     the rest, and voiceless,

I chant this chant of my silent soul, in the name of all
     dead soldiers.

Faces so pale, with wondrous eyes, very dear, gather
     closer yet;

Draw close, but speak not.

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Phantoms, welcome, divine and tender!
Invisible to the rest, henceforth become my compan-

Follow me ever! desert me not, while I live.

Sweet are the blooming cheeks of the living! sweet
     are the musical voices sounding!

But sweet, ah sweet, are the dead, with their silent eyes.

Dearest comrades! all now is over;
But love is not over—and what love, O comrades!
Perfume from battle-fields rising—up from fœtor

Perfume therefore my chant, O love! immortal Love!
Give me to bathe the memories of all dead soldiers.

Perfume all! make all wholesome!
O love! O chant! solve all with the last chemistry.

Give me exhaustless—make me a fountain,
That I exhale love from me wherever I go,
For the sake of all dead soldiers.


Lo! THE unbounded sea!
On its breast a Ship, spreading all her sails—an ample
     Ship, carrying even her moonsails;

The pennant is flying aloft, as she speeds, she
     speeds so stately—below, emulous waves press

They surround the Ship, with shining curving motions,
     and foam.

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OVER sea, hither from Niphon,
Courteous, the Princes of Asia, swart-cheek'd princes,
First-comers, guests, two-sworded princes,
Lesson-giving princes, leaning back in their open ba-
     rouches, bare-headed, impassive,

This day they ride through Manhattan.

I do not know whether others behold what I behold,
In the procession, along with the Princes of Asia, the

Bringing up the rear, hovering above, around, or in the
     ranks marching;

But I will sing you a song of what I behold, Libertad.

When million-footed Manhattan, unpent, descends to
     its pavements;

When the thunder-cracking guns arouse me with the
     proud roar I love;

When the round-mouth'd guns, out of the smoke and
     smell I love, spit their salutes;

When the fire-flashing guns have fully alerted me—
     when heaven-clouds canopy my city with a
     delicate thin haze;

When, gorgeous, the countless straight stems, the for-
     ests at the wharves, thicken with colors;

When every ship, richly drest, carries her flag at the

When pennants trail, and street-festoons hang from the

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When Broadway is entirely given up to foot-passengers
     and foot-standers—when the mass is densest;

When the facades of the houses are alive with people—
     when eyes gaze, riveted, tens of thousands at a

When the guests from the islands advance—when the
     pageant moves forward, visible;

When the summons is made—when the answer that
     waited thousands of years, answers;

I too, arising, answering, descend to the pavements,
     merge with the crowd, and gaze with them.

Superb-faced Manhattan!
Comrade Americanos!—to us, then, at last, the Orient

To us, my city,
Where our tall-topt marble and iron beauties range on
     opposite sides—to walk in the space between,

To-day our Antipodes comes.

The Originatress comes,
The land of Paradise—land of the Caucasus—the nest
     of birth,

The nest of languages, the bequeather of poems, the
     race of eld,

Florid with blood, pensive, rapt with musings, hot with

Sultry with perfume, with ample and flowing garments,
With sunburnt visage, with intense soul and glittering

The race of Brahma comes!

See, my cantabile! these, and more, are flashing to us
     from the procession;

As it moves, changing, a kaleidoscope divine it moves,
     changing, before us.

Not the errand-bearing princes, nor the tann'd Japa-
     nee only;

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Lithe and silent, the Hindoo appears—the whole Asiatic
     continent itself appears—the Past, the dead,

The murky night-morning of wonder and fable, inscruta-

The envelop'd mysteries, the old and unknown hive-

The North—the sweltering South—Assyria—the
     Hebrews—the Ancient of ancients,

Vast desolated cities—the gliding Present—all of
     these, and more, are in the pageant-procession.

Geography, the world, is in it;
The Great Sea, the brood of islands, Polynesia, the coast

The coast you, henceforth, are facing—you Libertad!
     from your Western golden shores;

The countries there, with their populations—the mil-
     lions en-masse, are curiously here;

The swarming market places—the temples, with idols
     ranged along the sides, or at the end—bonze,
     brahmin, and lama;

The mandarin, farmer, merchant, mechanic, and fisher-

The singing-girl and the dancing-girl—the ecstatic
     person—the divine Buddha;

The secluded Emperors—Confucius himself—the
     great poets and heroes—the warriors, the castes,

Trooping up, crowding from all directions—from the
     Altay mountains,

From Thibet—from the four winding and far-flowing
     rivers of China,

From the Southern peninsulas, and the demi-continental
     islands—from Malaysia;

These, and whatever belongs to them, palpable, show
     forth to me, and are seiz'd by me,

And I am seiz'd by them, and friendlily held by them,
Till, as here, them all I chant, Libertad! for themselves
     and for you.

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For I too, raising my voice, join the ranks of this

I am the chanter—I chant aloud over the pageant;
I chant the world on my Western Sea;
I chant, copious, the islands beyond, thick as stars in
     the sky;

I chant the new empire, grander than any before—As
     in a vision it comes to me;

I chant America, the Mistress—I chant a greater su-

I chant, projected, a thousand blooming cities yet, in
     time, on those groups of sea-islands;

I chant my sail-ships and steam-ships threading the ar-

I chant my stars and stripes fluttering in the wind;
I chant commerce opening, the sleep of ages having
     done its work—races, reborn, refresh'd;

Lives, works, resumed—The object I know not—but
     the old, the Asiatic, resumed, as it must be,

Commencing from this day, surrounded by the world.

And you, Libertad of the world!
You shall sit in the middle, well-pois'd, thousands of

As to-day, from one side, the Princes of Asia come to

As to-morrow, from the other side, the Queen of Eng-
     land sends her eldest son to you.

The sign is reversing, the orb is enclosed,
The ring is circled, the journey is done;
The box-lid is but perceptibly open'd—nevertheless the
     perfume pours copiously out of the whole box.

Young Libertad!
With the venerable Asia, the all-mother,
Be considerate with her, now and ever, hot Libertad—
     for you are all;

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Bend your proud neck to the long-off mother, now
     sending messages over the archipelagoes to you;

Bend your proud neck low for once, young Libertad.

Were the children straying westward so long? so
     wide the tramping?

Were the precedent dim ages debouching westward
     from Paradise so long?

Were the centuries steadily footing it that way, all the
     while unknown, for you, for reasons?

They are justified—they are accomplish'd—they shall
     now be turn'd the other way also, to travel to-
     ward you thence;

They shall now also march obediently eastward, for
     your sake, Libertad.


FLAG of stars! thick-sprinkled bunting!
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 unrivall'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!

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FAR hence, amid an isle of wondrous beauty,
Crouching over a grave, an ancient sorrowful mother,
Once a queen—now lean and tatter'd, seated on the

Her old white hair drooping dishevel'd round her shoul-

At her feet fallen an unused royal harp,
Long silent—she too long silent—mourning her shroud-
     ed hope and heir;

Of all the earth her heart most full of sorrow, because
     most full of love.

Yet a word, ancient mother;
You need crouch there no longer on the cold ground,
     with forehead between your knees;

O you need not sit there, veil'd in your old white
     hair, so dishevel'd;

For know you, the one you mourn is not in that grave;
It was an illusion—the heir, the son you love, was not
     really dead;

The Lord is not dead—he is risen again, young and
     strong, in another country;

Even while you wept there by your fallen harp, by the

What you wept for, was translated, pass'd from the

The winds favor'd, and the sea sail'd it,
And now with rosy and new blood,
Moves to-day in a new country.


LOOK down, fair moon, and bathe this scene;
Pour softly down night's nimbus floods, on faces ghast-
     ly, swollen, purple;

On the dead, on their backs, with their arms toss'd wide,
Pour down your unstinted nimbus, sacred moon.

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OUT of the rolling ocean, the crowd, came a drop gently
     to me,

Whispering, I love you, before long I die,
I have travel'd a long way, merely to look on you, to touch you,
For I could not die till I once look'd on you,
For I fear'd I might afterward lose you.


(Now we have met, we have look'd, we are safe;
Return in peace to the ocean my love;
I too am part of that ocean, my love—we are not so
     much separated;

Behold the great rondure—the cohesion of all, how per-
     fect !

But as for me, for you, the irresistible sea is to separ-
     ate us,

As for an hour carrying us diverse—yet cannot carry
     us diverse for ever;

Be not impatient—a little space—know you, I salute
     the air, the ocean and the land,

Every day, at sundown, for your dear sake, my love.)


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

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I saw old General at bay;
(Old as he was, his grey eyes yet shone out in battle
     like stars;)

His small force was now completely hemmed in, in his

He call'd for volunteers to run the enemy's lines—a
     desperate emergency;

I saw a hundred and more step forth from the ranks—
     but two or three were selected;

I saw them receive their orders aside—they listen'd
     with care—the adjutant was very grave;

I saw them depart with cheerfulness, freely risking their


OTHERS may praise what they like;
But I, from the banks of the running Missouri, praise
     nothing, in art, or aught else,

Till it has breathed well the atmosphere of this river—
     also the western prairie-scent,

And fully exudes it again.


SOLID, ironical, rolling orb!
Master of all, and matter of fact!—at last I accept your

Bringing to practical, vulgar tests, of all my ideal

And of me, as lover and hero.

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A. L. BURIED APRIL 19, 1865.

HUSH'D be the camps to-day;
And, soldiers, let us drape our war-worn weapons;
And each, with musing soul retire, to celebrate,
Our dear commander's death.

No more for him life's stormy conflicts;
Nor victory, nor defeat—No more time's dark events,
Charging like ceaseless clouds across the sky.

But sing, poet, in our name;
Sing of the love we bore him—because you, dweller in
     camps, know it truly.

Sing, to the lower'd coffin there;
Sing, with the shovel'd clods that fill the grave—a

For the heavy hearts of soldiers.


WEAVE in! weave in, my hardy life!
Weave, weave a soldier strong and full, for great cam-
     paigns to come;

Weave in red blood! weave sinews in, like ropes! the
     senses, sight weave in!

Weave lasting sure! weave day and night the weft, the
     warp! incessant weave! tire not!

(We know not what the use, O life! nor know the aim,
     the end—nor really aught we know;

But know the work, the need goes on, and shall go
     on—the death-envelop'd march of peace as well
     as war, goes on;)

For great campaigns of peace the same, the wiry
     threads to weave;

We know not why or what, yet weave, forever weave.

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TURN, O Libertad, no more doubting;
Turn from lands retrospective, recording proofs of the

From the singers that sing the trailing glories of the

From the chants of the feudal world—the triumphs of
     kings, slavery, caste;

Turn to the world, the triumphs reserv'd and to come—
     give up that backward world;

Leave to the singers of hitherto—give them the trailing

But what remains, remains for singers for you—wars
     to come are for you;

(Lo! how the wars of the past have duly inured to you
     —and the wars of the present shall also inure:)

—Then turn, and be not alarm'd, O Libertad—turn
     your undying face,

To where the future, greater than all the past,
Is swiftly, surely preparing for you.


I SEE before me now, a traveling army halting;
Below, a fertile valley spread, with barns, and the orch-
     ards of summer;

Behind, the terraced sides of a mountain, abrupt in
     places, rising high;

Broken, with rocks, with clinging cedars, with tall
     shapes, dingily seen;

The numerous camp-fires scatter'd near and far, some
     away up on the mountain;

The shadowy forms of men and horses, looming, large-
     sized, flickering;

And over all, the sky—the sky! far, far out of reach,
     studded with the eternal stars.

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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 she call'd to her earth with mournful voice while she

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

And you local spots, and you airs that swim above

And all you essences of soil and growth—and you, O
     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—my young men's beautiful bodies ab-
     sorb —and their precious, precious, precious

Which holding in trust for me, faithfully back again give
     me, many a year hence,

In unseen essence and odor of surface and grass, centu-
     ries 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

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NOT youth pertains to me,
Nor delicatesse—I cannot beguile the time with talk;
Awkward in the parlor, neither a dancer nor elegant;
In the learn'd coterie sitting constrain'd and still—for
     learning inures not to me;

Beauty, knowledge, fortune, inure not to me—yet
     there are two things inure to me;

I have nourish'd the wounded, and sooth'd many a
     dying soldier;

And at intervals I have strung together a few songs,
Fit for war, and the life of the camp.


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