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About this Item

Title: A Sketch

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: October 23, 1839

Whitman Archive ID: per.00047

Source: The New World (10 December 1842): 374. Transcribed from a digital image of a micfrofilm 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 and Susan Belasco

image 1



"The trail of the serpent is at times seen in every man's path."


UPON the ocean's wave-worn shore
I marked a solitary form,
Whose brooding look, and features wore
The darkness of the coming storm?
And, from his lips, the sigh that broke,
So long within his bosom nursed,
In deep and mournful accents spoke,
Like troubled waves, that shining burst!
And as he gazed on earth and sea,
Girt with the gathering night; his soul,
Wearied and life-worn, longed to flee,
And rest within its final goal!
He thought of her whose love had beamed,
The sunlight of his ripened years;
But now her gentle memory seemed
To brim his eye with bitter tears!
"Oh! thou bless'd Spirit!" thus he sighed—
"Smile on me from thy realm of rest!
My dark and doubting spirit guide,
By conflict torn, and grief oppressed!
Teach me, in every saddening care,
To see the chastening hand of Heaven;
The soul's high culture to prepare,
Wisely and mercifully given!
"Could I this sacred solace share,
'Twould still my struggling bosom's moan;
And the deep peacefulness of prayer,
Might for thy heavy loss atone!
Earth, in its wreath of summer flowers,
And all its varied scenes of joy,
Its festal halls and echoing bowers,
No more my darkened thoughts employ.
"But here, the billow's heaving breast,
And the low thunder's knelling tone,
Speak of the wearied soul's unrest,
Its murmurings, and conflicts lone!
And yon sweet star, whose golden gleam,
Pierces the tempest's gathering gloom,
In the rich radiance of its beam,
Tells me of light beyond the tomb!"


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