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About this Item

Title: The Man-of-War Bird

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: April 1886

Whitman Archive ID: per.00017

Source: The Athenaeum 2527 (April 1876): 463. 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

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THOU who hast slept all night upon the storm,
Waking renew'd on thy prodigious pinions,
(Burst the wild storm! above it thou ascendedst,
And restedst on the sky, thy slave that cradled thee;)
Now, a blue point, far, far in heaven floating,
As, to the light emerging, here on deck I watch thee,
(Myself a speck, a point on the world's floating vast.)
Far, far at sea,
After the night's fierce drifts have strewn the shore
with wrecks,
With reappearing day, as now, so happy and serene,
The rosy and elastic dawn, the flashing sun,
The limpid spread of air cerulean,
Thou also reappearest.
Thou, born to match the gale! (thou art all wings;)
To cope with heaven and earth, and sea and hurricane;
Thou ship of air that never furl'st thy sails,
Days, even weeks, untired and onward, through
spaces,—realms gyrating.
At dusk that look'st on Senegal, at morn America,
That sport'st amid the lightning-flash and thunder-
In them—in thy experiences—hadst thou my soul,
What joys! what joys were thine!


1. Reprinted as "Thou Who Hast Slept All Night Upon the Storm" in Progress (Philadelphia), 16 November 1878 and as "To the Man-of-War-Bird" in Leaves of Grass (1881–82). [back]


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