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About this Item

Title: A Voice from Death

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: June 7, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: per.00052

Source: New York World 7 June 1889: [1]. 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 and Susan Belasco

image 1



A voice from Death, solemn and strange, in all his
sweep and power,
With sudden, indescribable blow—towns drown'd—
humanity by thousands slain,
The vaunted work of thrift, goods, dwellings, forge,
street, iron bridge,
Dash'd pell-mell by the blow—yet usher'd life con-
tinuing on,
(Amid the rest, amid the rushing, whirling, wild
A suffering woman saved—a baby safely born!)
Although I come and unannounced, in horror and in
In pouring flood and fire, and wholesale elemental
crash, (this voice so solemn, strange,)
I too a minister of Deity.
Yes, Death, we bow our faces, veil our eyes to thee,
We mourn the old, the young untimely drawn to
The fair, the strong, the good, the capable,
The household wreck'd, the husband and the wife,
the engulf'd forger in his forge,
The corpses in the whelming waters and the mud,
The gather'd thousands in their funeral mounds and
thousands never found or gather'd.
Then after burying, mourning the dead,
(Faithful to them, found or unfound, forgetting
not, bearing the past, here now musing.)
A day—a passing moment or an hour—we bow our-
selves—America itself bends low,
Silent, resign'd, submissive.
War, death, cataclysm like this, America,
Take deep to thy proud, prosperous heart.
E'en as I chant, lo! out of death, and out of ooze and
The blossoms rapidly blooming, sympathy, help,
From West and East, from South and North and over
Its hot spurr'd hearts and hands humanity to human
aid moves on;
And from within a thought and lesson yet.
Thou ever-darting globe! thou Earth and Air!
Thou waters that encompass us!
Thou that in all the life and death of us, in action or
in sleep!
Thou laws invisible that permeate them and all!
Thou that in all and over all, and through and under
all, incessant!
Thou! thou! the vital, universal, giant force resist-
less, sleepless, calm,
Holding Humanity as in thy open hand, as some
ephemeral toy,
How ill to e'er forget thee!
For I too have forgotten,
(Wrapt in these little potencies of progress, politics,
culture, wealth, inventions, civilization.)
Have lost my recognition of your silent ever-swaying
power, ye mighty, elemental throes,
In which and upon which we float, and everyone of us is buoy'd.


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