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Title: If I Should Need to Name, O Western World

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: September 7, 1871

Whitman Archive ID: per.00010

Source: Philadelphia Press 26 October 1884: 5. Our transcription is based on a digital image of a microfilm copy 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, and Susan Belasco

image 1

If I Should Need to Name, O Western World1


If I should need to name, O Western World!
your powerfulest scene to-day,
'Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye
limitless prairies—nor your huge
rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemitie, with all your spasmic
geyser-loops ascending to the skies, ap-
pearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon's white cones—nor Huron's belt
of mighty lakes—nor Mississippie's stream:
This seeting hemisphere's humanity, as now,
I'd name—the still small voice preparing—
America's choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen—the act
itself the main, the quadriennial
The stretch of North and South arous'd—
seaboard and inland—Texas to Maine,
The Prairie States—Vermont, Virginia, Cali-
fornia ,
The final ballot-shower from East to West—
the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling—(a sword-
less conflict,
Yet more than all Rome's wars of old,
or modern Napoleon's:)
Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the
darker odds, the dross, the scene's debris:
—Foams and ferments the wine? It serves to
purify—while the heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft previous
Swell'd Washington's, Jefferson's, Lincoln's
Camden, N. J., Oct. 26, 1884


1. Reprinted as "Election Day, November, 1884" in the "Sands at Seventy" annex to Leaves of Grass (1888). [back]


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