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About this Item

Title: O Star of France!

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: June 1871

Whitman Archive ID: per.00008

Source: Galaxy 11 (June 1871): 817. Our transcription is based on a digital image of an original issue. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the periodical poems, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, April Lambert, Heather Morton, Leslie Ianno, Ramon Guerra, and Susan Belasco

image 1




O STAR of France!
The brightness of thy fame, and strength, and joy,
Like some proud ship that led the fleet so long,
Beseems to-day a wreck, driven by the gale—a mastless hulk.
And 'mid its teeming, madden'd, half-drowned crowds,
Nor helm nor helmsman.


Dim, smitten star!
Orb not of France alone—pale symbol of my soul, its dearest hopes.
The struggle and the daring—rage divine for liberty,
Of aspirations toward the far ideal—enthusiast's dreams of brotherhood,
Of terror to the tyrant and the priest.


Star crucified! by traitors sold!
Star panting o'er a land of death—heroic land!
Strange, passionate, mocking, frivolous land.
Miserable! yet for thy errors, vanities, sins, I will not now rebuke thee;
Thy unexampled woes and pangs have quell'd them all,
And left thee sacred.
In that amid thy many faults, thou ever aimedst highly,
In that thou wouldst not really sell thyself, however great the price,
In that thou surely wakedst weeping from thy drugg'd sleep,
In that alone among thy sisters, thou, Giantess, didst rend the ones that shamed thee
In that thou couldst not, wouldst not, wear the usual chains,
This cross, thy livid face, thy pierc'd hands and feet,
The spear thrust in thy side.


O star! O ship of France, beat back and baffled long!
Bear up, O smitten orb! O ship, continue on!
Lo! as the ship of all the Earth itself,
Product of deathly fire and turbulent chaos,
Forth from its spasms of fury and its poisons,
Issuing at last in perfect power and beauty,
Onward, beneath the sun, following its course,
So thee, O ship of France!
Finished the days, the clouds dispell'd,
The travail o'er, the long-sought extrication,
When lo! reborn, high o'er the European world,
(In gladness, answering thence, as face afar to face, reflecting ours, Columbia),
Again thy star, O France—fair, lustrous star,
In heavenly peace, clearer, more bright than ever,
Shall rise immortal.


1. Collected in As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free and Other Poems (1872), reprinted in Two Rivulets (1876), and, after some revision, in Leaves of Grass (1881–82). [back]


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