Leaves of Grass

Page 43 of 72

  (Mother, bend down, bend close to me your face,
  I know not what these plots and wars and deferments are for,
  I know not fruition's success, but I know that through war and crime
      your work goes on, and must yet go on.)

  Thus by blue Ontario's shore,
  While the winds fann'd me and the waves came trooping toward me,
  I thrill'd with the power's pulsations, and the charm of my theme
      was upon me,
  Till the tissues that held me parted their ties upon me.

  And I saw the free souls of poets,
  The loftiest bards of past ages strode before me,
  Strange large men, long unwaked, undisclosed, were disclosed to me.

  O my rapt verse, my call, mock me not!
  Not for the bards of the past, not to invoke them have I launch'd
      you forth,
  Not to call even those lofty bards here by Ontario's shores,
  Have I sung so capricious and loud my savage song.

  Bards for my own land only I invoke,
  (For the war the war is over, the field is clear'd,)
  Till they strike up marches henceforth triumphant and onward,
  To cheer O Mother your boundless expectant soul.

  Bards of the great Idea! bards of the peaceful inventions! (for the
      war, the war is over!)
  Yet bards of latent armies, a million soldiers waiting ever-ready,
  Bards with songs as from burning coals or the lightning's fork'd stripes!
  Ample Ohio's, Kanada's bards—bards of California! inland bards—
      bards of the war!
  You by my charm I invoke.


  Let that which stood in front go behind,
  Let that which was behind advance to the front,
  Let bigots, fools, unclean persons, offer new propositions,
  Let the old propositions be postponed,
  Let a man seek pleasure everywhere except in himself,
  Let a woman seek happiness everywhere except in herself


As Consequent, Etc.

  As consequent from store of summer rains,
  Or wayward rivulets in autumn flowing,
  Or many a herb-lined brook's reticulations,
  Or subterranean sea-rills making for the sea,
  Songs of continued years I sing.

  Life's ever-modern rapids first, (soon, soon to blend,
  With the old streams of death.)

  Some threading Ohio's farm-fields or the woods,
  Some down Colorado's canons from sources of perpetual snow,
  Some half-hid in Oregon, or away southward in Texas,
  Some in the north finding their way to Erie, Niagara, Ottawa,
  Some to Atlantica's bays, and so to the great salt brine.

  In you whoe'er you are my book perusing,
  In I myself, in all the world, these currents flowing,
  All, all toward the mystic ocean tending.

  Currents for starting a continent new,
  Overtures sent to the solid out of the liquid,
  Fusion of ocean and land, tender and pensive waves,
  (Not safe and peaceful only, waves rous'd and ominous too,
  Out of the depths the storm's abysmic waves, who knows whence?
  Raging over the vast, with many a broken spar and tatter'd sail.)

  Or from the sea of Time, collecting vasting all, I bring,
  A windrow-drift of weeds and shells.

  O little shells, so curious-convolute, so limpid-cold and voiceless,
  Will you not little shells to the tympans of temples held,
  Murmurs and echoes still call up, eternity's music faint and far,
  Wafted inland, sent from Atlantica's rim, strains for the soul of
      the prairies,
  Whisper'd reverberations, chords for the ear of the West joyously sounding,
  Your tidings old, yet ever new and untranslatable,
  Infinitesimals out of my life, and many a life,
  (For not my life and years alone I give—all, all I give,)
  These waifs from the deep, cast high and dry,
  Wash'd on America's shores?

The Return of the Heroes

  For the lands and for these passionate days and for myself,
  Now I awhile retire to thee O soil of autumn fields,
  Reclining on thy breast, giving myself to thee,
  Answering the pulses of thy sane and equable heart,
  Turning a verse for thee.

  O earth that hast no voice, confide to me a voice,
  O harvest of my lands—O boundless summer growths,
  O lavish brown parturient earth—O infinite teeming womb,
  A song to narrate thee.

  Ever upon this stage,
  Is acted God's calm annual drama,
  Gorgeous processions, songs of birds,
  Sunrise that fullest feeds and freshens most the soul,
  The heaving sea, the waves upon the shore, the musical, strong waves,
  The woods, the stalwart trees, the slender, tapering trees,
  The liliput countless armies of the grass,
  The heat, the showers, the measureless pasturages,
  The scenery of the snows, the winds' free orchestra,
  The stretching light-hung roof of clouds, the clear cerulean and the
      silvery fringes,
  The high-dilating stars, the placid beckoning stars,
  The moving flocks and herds, the plains and emerald meadows,
  The shows of all the varied lands and all the growths and products.

  Fecund America—today,
  Thou art all over set in births and joys!
  Thou groan'st with riches, thy wealth clothes thee as a swathing-garment,
  Thou laughest loud with ache of great possessions,
  A myriad-twining life like interlacing vines binds all thy vast demesne,
  As some huge ship freighted to water's edge thou ridest into port,
  As rain falls from the heaven and vapors rise from earth, so have
      the precious values fallen upon thee and risen out of thee;
  Thou envy of the globe! thou miracle!
  Thou, bathed, choked, swimming in plenty,
  Thou lucky Mistress of the tranquil barns,
  Thou Prairie Dame that sittest in the middle and lookest out upon
      thy world, and lookest East and lookest West,
  Dispensatress, that by a word givest a thousand miles, a million
      farms, and missest nothing,
  Thou all-acceptress—thou hospitable, (thou only art hospitable as
      God is hospitable.)

  When late I sang sad was my voice,
  Sad were the shows around me with deafening noises of hatred and
      smoke of war;
  In the midst of the conflict, the heroes, I stood,
  Or pass'd with slow step through the wounded and dying.

  But now I sing not war,
  Nor the measur'd march of soldiers, nor the tents of camps,
  Nor the regiments hastily coming up deploying in line of battle;
  No more the sad, unnatural shows of war.

  Ask'd room those flush'd immortal ranks, the first forth-stepping armies?
  Ask room alas the ghastly ranks, the armies dread that follow'd.

  (Pass, pass, ye proud brigades, with your tramping sinewy legs,
  With your shoulders young and strong, with your knapsacks and your muskets;
  How elate I stood and watch'd you, where starting off you march'd.

  Pass—then rattle drums again,
  For an army heaves in sight, O another gathering army,
  Swarming, trailing on the rear, O you dread accruing army,
  O you regiments so piteous, with your mortal diarrhoea, with your fever,
  O my land's maim'd darlings, with the plenteous bloody bandage and
      the crutch,
  Lo, your pallid army follows.)

  But on these days of brightness,
  On the far-stretching beauteous landscape, the roads and lanes the
      high-piled farm-wagons, and the fruits and barns,
  Should the dead intrude?

  Ah the dead to me mar not, they fit well in Nature,
  They fit very well in the landscape under the trees and grass,
  And along the edge of the sky in the horizon's far margin.

  Nor do I forget you Departed,
  Nor in winter or summer my lost ones,
  But most in the open air as now when my soul is rapt and at peace,
      like pleasing phantoms,
  Your memories rising glide silently by me.

  I saw the day the return of the heroes,
  (Yet the heroes never surpass'd shall never return,
  Them that day I saw not.)

  I saw the interminable corps, I saw the processions of armies,
  I saw them approaching, defiling by with divisions,
  Streaming northward, their work done, camping awhile in clusters of
      mighty camps.

  No holiday soldiers—youthful, yet veterans,
  Worn, swart, handsome, strong, of the stock of homestead and workshop,
  Harden'd of many a long campaign and sweaty march,
  Inured on many a hard-fought bloody field.

  A pause—the armies wait,
  A million flush'd embattled conquerors wait,
  The world too waits, then soft as breaking night and sure as dawn,
  They melt, they disappear.

  Exult O lands! victorious lands!
  Not there your victory on those red shuddering fields,
  But here and hence your victory.

  Melt, melt away ye armies—disperse ye blue-clad soldiers,
  Resolve ye back again, give up for good your deadly arms,
  Other the arms the fields henceforth for you, or South or North,
  With saner wars, sweet wars, life-giving wars.

  Loud O my throat, and clear O soul!
  The season of thanks and the voice of full-yielding,
  The chant of joy and power for boundless fertility.

  All till'd and untill'd fields expand before me,
  I see the true arenas of my race, or first or last,
  Man's innocent and strong arenas.

  I see the heroes at other toils,
  I see well-wielded in their hands the better weapons.

  I see where the Mother of All,
  With full-spanning eye gazes forth, dwells long,
  And counts the varied gathering of the products.

  Busy the far, the sunlit panorama,
  Prairie, orchard, and yellow grain of the North,
  Cotton and rice of the South and Louisianian cane,
  Open unseeded fallows, rich fields of clover and timothy,
  Kine and horses feeding, and droves of sheep and swine,
  And many a stately river flowing and many a jocund brook,
  And healthy uplands with herby-perfumed breezes,
  And the good green grass, that delicate miracle the ever-recurring grass.

  Toil on heroes! harvest the products!
  Not alone on those warlike fields the Mother of All,
  With dilated form and lambent eyes watch'd you.

  Toil on heroes! toil well! handle the weapons well!
  The Mother of All, yet here as ever she watches you.

  Well-pleased America thou beholdest,
  Over the fields of the West those crawling monsters,
  The human-divine inventions, the labor-saving implements;
  Beholdest moving in every direction imbued as with life the
      revolving hay-rakes,
  The steam-power reaping-machines and the horse-power machines
  The engines, thrashers of grain and cleaners of grain, well
      separating the straw, the nimble work of the patent pitchfork,
  Beholdest the newer saw-mill, the southern cotton-gin, and the

  Beneath thy look O Maternal,
  With these and else and with their own strong hands the heroes harvest.

  All gather and all harvest,
  Yet but for thee O Powerful, not a scythe might swing as now in security,
  Not a maize-stalk dangle as now its silken tassels in peace.

  Under thee only they harvest, even but a wisp of hay under thy great
      face only,
  Harvest the wheat of Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, every barbed spear
      under thee,
  Harvest the maize of Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, each ear in its
      light-green sheath,
  Gather the hay to its myriad mows in the odorous tranquil barns,
  Oats to their bins, the white potato, the buckwheat of Michigan, to theirs;
  Gather the cotton in Mississippi or Alabama, dig and hoard the
      golden the sweet potato of Georgia and the Carolinas,
  Clip the wool of California or Pennsylvania,
  Cut the flax in the Middle States, or hemp or tobacco in the Borders,
  Pick the pea and the bean, or pull apples from the trees or bunches
      of grapes from the vines,
  Or aught that ripens in all these States or North or South,
  Under the beaming sun and under thee.

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