Leaves of Grass

Page 32 of 72

Europe [The 72d and 73d Years of These States]

  Suddenly out of its stale and drowsy lair, the lair of slaves,
  Like lightning it le'pt forth half startled at itself,
  Its feet upon the ashes and the rags, its hands tight to the throats
      of kings.

  O hope and faith!
  O aching close of exiled patriots' lives!
  O many a sicken'd heart!
  Turn back unto this day and make yourselves afresh.

  And you, paid to defile the People—you liars, mark!
  Not for numberless agonies, murders, lusts,
  For court thieving in its manifold mean forms, worming from his
      simplicity the poor man's wages,
  For many a promise sworn by royal lips and broken and laugh'd at in
      the breaking,

  Then in their power not for all these did the blows strike revenge,
      or the heads of the nobles fall;
  The People scorn'd the ferocity of kings.

  But the sweetness of mercy brew'd bitter destruction, and the
      frighten'd monarchs come back,
  Each comes in state with his train, hangman, priest, tax-gatherer,
  Soldier, lawyer, lord, jailer, and sycophant.

  Yet behind all lowering stealing, lo, a shape,
  Vague as the night, draped interminably, head, front and form, in
      scarlet folds,
  Whose face and eyes none may see,
  Out of its robes only this, the red robes lifted by the arm,
  One finger crook'd pointed high over the top, like the head of a
      snake appears.

  Meanwhile corpses lie in new-made graves, bloody corpses of young men,
  The rope of the gibbet hangs heavily, the bullets of princes are
      flying, the creatures of power laugh aloud,
  And all these things bear fruits, and they are good.

  Those corpses of young men,
  Those martyrs that hang from the gibbets, those hearts pierc'd by
      the gray lead,
  Cold and motionless as they seem live elsewhere with unslaughter'd vitality.

  They live in other young men O kings!
  They live in brothers again ready to defy you,
  They were purified by death, they were taught and exalted.

  Not a grave of the murder'd for freedom but grows seed for freedom,
      in its turn to bear seed,
  Which the winds carry afar and re-sow, and the rains and the snows nourish.

  Not a disembodied spirit can the weapons of tyrants let loose,
  But it stalks invisibly over the earth, whispering, counseling, cautioning.
  Liberty, let others despair of you—I never despair of you.

  Is the house shut? is the master away?
  Nevertheless, be ready, be not weary of watching,
  He will soon return, his messengers come anon.

A Hand-Mirror

  Hold it up sternly—see this it sends back, (who is it? is it you?)
  Outside fair costume, within ashes and filth,
  No more a flashing eye, no more a sonorous voice or springy step,
  Now some slave's eye, voice, hands, step,
  A drunkard's breath, unwholesome eater's face, venerealee's flesh,
  Lungs rotting away piecemeal, stomach sour and cankerous,
  Joints rheumatic, bowels clogged with abomination,
  Blood circulating dark and poisonous streams,
  Words babble, hearing and touch callous,
  No brain, no heart left, no magnetism of sex;
  Such from one look in this looking-glass ere you go hence,
  Such a result so soon—and from such a beginning!


  Lover divine and perfect Comrade,
  Waiting content, invisible yet, but certain,
  Be thou my God.

  Thou, thou, the Ideal Man,
  Fair, able, beautiful, content, and loving,
  Complete in body and dilate in spirit,
  Be thou my God.

  O Death, (for Life has served its turn,)
  Opener and usher to the heavenly mansion,
  Be thou my God.

  Aught, aught of mightiest, best I see, conceive, or know,
  (To break the stagnant tie—thee, thee to free, O soul,)
  Be thou my God.

  All great ideas, the races' aspirations,
  All heroisms, deeds of rapt enthusiasts,
  Be ye my Gods.

  Or Time and Space,
  Or shape of Earth divine and wondrous,
  Or some fair shape I viewing, worship,
  Or lustrous orb of sun or star by night,
  Be ye my Gods.


  Forms, qualities, lives, humanity, language, thoughts,
  The ones known, and the ones unknown, the ones on the stars,
  The stars themselves, some shaped, others unshaped,
  Wonders as of those countries, the soil, trees, cities, inhabitants,
      whatever they may be,
  Splendid suns, the moons and rings, the countless combinations and effects,
  Such-like, and as good as such-like, visible here or anywhere, stand
      provided for a handful of space, which I extend my arm and
      half enclose with my hand,
  That containing the start of each and all, the virtue, the germs of all.


  Of ownership—as if one fit to own things could not at pleasure enter
      upon all, and incorporate them into himself or herself;
  Of vista—suppose some sight in arriere through the formative chaos,
      presuming the growth, fulness, life, now attain'd on the journey,
  (But I see the road continued, and the journey ever continued;)
  Of what was once lacking on earth, and in due time has become
      supplied—and of what will yet be supplied,
  Because all I see and know I believe to have its main purport in
      what will yet be supplied.

When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer

  When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
  When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
  When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
  When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much
      applause in the lecture-room,
  How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
  Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
  In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
  Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.


  Only themselves understand themselves and the like of themselves,
  As souls only understand souls.

O Me! O Life!

  O me! O life! of the questions of these recurring,
  Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill'd with the foolish,
  Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I,
      and who more faithless?)
  Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the
      struggle ever renew'd,
  Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see
      around me,
  Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
  The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

  That you are here—that life exists and identity,
  That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

To a President

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