Leaves of Grass

Page 45 of 72

To a Foil'd European Revolutionaire

  Courage yet, my brother or my sister!
  Keep on—Liberty is to be subserv'd whatever occurs;
  That is nothing that is quell'd by one or two failures, or any
      number of failures,
  Or by the indifference or ingratitude of the people, or by any
  Or the show of the tushes of power, soldiers, cannon, penal statutes.

  What we believe in waits latent forever through all the continents,
  Invites no one, promises nothing, sits in calmness and light, is
      positive and composed, knows no discouragement,
  Waiting patiently, waiting its time.

  (Not songs of loyalty alone are these,
  But songs of insurrection also,
  For I am the sworn poet of every dauntless rebel the world over,
  And he going with me leaves peace and routine behind him,
  And stakes his life to be lost at any moment.)

  The battle rages with many a loud alarm and frequent advance and retreat,
  The infidel triumphs, or supposes he triumphs,
  The prison, scaffold, garrote, handcuffs, iron necklace and
      leadballs do their work,
  The named and unnamed heroes pass to other spheres,
  The great speakers and writers are exiled, they lie sick in distant lands,
  The cause is asleep, the strongest throats are choked with their own blood,
  The young men droop their eyelashes toward the ground when they meet;
  But for all this Liberty has not gone out of the place, nor the
      infidel enter'd into full possession.

  When liberty goes out of a place it is not the first to go, nor the
      second or third to go,
  It waits for all the rest to go, it is the last.

  When there are no more memories of heroes and martyrs,
  And when all life and all the souls of men and women are discharged
      from any part of the earth,
  Then only shall liberty or the idea of liberty be discharged from
      that part of the earth,
  And the infidel come into full possession.

  Then courage European revolter, revoltress!
  For till all ceases neither must you cease.

  I do not know what you are for, (I do not know what I am for myself,
      nor what any thing is for,)
  But I will search carefully for it even in being foil'd,
  In defeat, poverty, misconception, imprisonment—for they too are great.

  Did we think victory great?
  So it is—but now it seems to me, when it cannot be help'd, that
      defeat is great,
  And that death and dismay are great.

Unnamed Land

  Nations ten thousand years before these States, and many times ten
      thousand years before these States,
  Garner'd clusters of ages that men and women like us grew up and
      travel'd their course and pass'd on,
  What vast-built cities, what orderly republics, what pastoral tribes
      and nomads,
  What histories, rulers, heroes, perhaps transcending all others,
  What laws, customs, wealth, arts, traditions,
  What sort of marriage, what costumes, what physiology and phrenology,
  What of liberty and slavery among them, what they thought of death
      and the soul,
  Who were witty and wise, who beautiful and poetic, who brutish and
  Not a mark, not a record remains—and yet all remains.

  O I know that those men and women were not for nothing, any more
      than we are for nothing,
  I know that they belong to the scheme of the world every bit as much
      as we now belong to it.

  Afar they stand, yet near to me they stand,
  Some with oval countenances learn'd and calm,
  Some naked and savage, some like huge collections of insects,
  Some in tents, herdsmen, patriarchs, tribes, horsemen,
  Some prowling through woods, some living peaceably on farms,
      laboring, reaping, filling barns,
  Some traversing paved avenues, amid temples, palaces, factories,
      libraries, shows, courts, theatres, wonderful monuments.
  Are those billions of men really gone?
  Are those women of the old experience of the earth gone?
  Do their lives, cities, arts, rest only with us?
  Did they achieve nothing for good for themselves?

  I believe of all those men and women that fill'd the unnamed lands,
      every one exists this hour here or elsewhere, invisible to us.
  In exact proportion to what he or she grew from in life, and out of
      what he or she did, felt, became, loved, sinn'd, in life.

  I believe that was not the end of those nations or any person of
      them, any more than this shall be the end of my nation, or of me;
  Of their languages, governments, marriage, literature, products,
      games, wars, manners, crimes, prisons, slaves, heroes, poets,
  I suspect their results curiously await in the yet unseen world,
      counterparts of what accrued to them in the seen world,
  I suspect I shall meet them there,
  I suspect I shall there find each old particular of those unnamed lands.

Song of Prudence

  Manhattan's streets I saunter'd pondering,
  On Time, Space, Reality—on such as these, and abreast with them Prudence.

  The last explanation always remains to be made about prudence,
  Little and large alike drop quietly aside from the prudence that
      suits immortality.

  The soul is of itself,
  All verges to it, all has reference to what ensues,
  All that a person does, says, thinks, is of consequence,
  Not a move can a man or woman make, that affects him or her in a day,
      month, any part of the direct lifetime, or the hour of death,
  But the same affects him or her onward afterward through the
      indirect lifetime.

  The indirect is just as much as the direct,
  The spirit receives from the body just as much as it gives to the
      body, if not more.

  Not one word or deed, not venereal sore, discoloration, privacy of
      the onanist,
  Putridity of gluttons or rum-drinkers, peculation, cunning,
      betrayal, murder, seduction, prostitution,
  But has results beyond death as really as before death.

  Charity and personal force are the only investments worth any thing.

  No specification is necessary, all that a male or female does, that
      is vigorous, benevolent, clean, is so much profit to him or her,
  In the unshakable order of the universe and through the whole scope
      of it forever.

  Who has been wise receives interest,
  Savage, felon, President, judge, farmer, sailor, mechanic, literat,
      young, old, it is the same,
  The interest will come round—all will come round.

  Singly, wholly, to affect now, affected their time, will forever affect,
      all of the past and all of the present and all of the future,
  All the brave actions of war and peace,
  All help given to relatives, strangers, the poor, old, sorrowful,
      young children, widows, the sick, and to shunn'd persons,
  All self-denial that stood steady and aloof on wrecks, and saw
      others fill the seats of the boats,
  All offering of substance or life for the good old cause, or for a
      friend's sake, or opinion's sake,
  All pains of enthusiasts scoff'd at by their neighbors,
  All the limitless sweet love and precious suffering of mothers,
  All honest men baffled in strifes recorded or unrecorded,
  All the grandeur and good of ancient nations whose fragments we inherit,
  All the good of the dozens of ancient nations unknown to us by name,
      date, location,
  All that was ever manfully begun, whether it succeeded or no,
  All suggestions of the divine mind of man or the divinity of his
      mouth, or the shaping of his great hands,
  All that is well thought or said this day on any part of the globe,
      or on any of the wandering stars, or on any of the fix'd stars,
      by those there as we are here,
  All that is henceforth to be thought or done by you whoever you are,
      or by any one,
  These inure, have inured, shall inure, to the identities from which
      they sprang, or shall spring.

  Did you guess any thing lived only its moment?
  The world does not so exist, no parts palpable or impalpable so exist,
  No consummation exists without being from some long previous
      consummation, and that from some other,
  Without the farthest conceivable one coming a bit nearer the
      beginning than any.

  Whatever satisfies souls is true;
  Prudence entirely satisfies the craving and glut of souls,
  Itself only finally satisfies the soul,
  The soul has that measureless pride which revolts from every lesson
      but its own.

  Now I breathe the word of the prudence that walks abreast with time,
      space, reality,
  That answers the pride which refuses every lesson but its own.

  What is prudence is indivisible,
  Declines to separate one part of life from every part,
  Divides not the righteous from the unrighteous or the living from the dead,
  Matches every thought or act by its correlative,
  Knows no possible forgiveness or deputed atonement,
  Knows that the young man who composedly peril'd his life and lost it
      has done exceedingly well for himself without doubt,
  That he who never peril'd his life, but retains it to old age in
      riches and ease, has probably achiev'd nothing for himself worth
  Knows that only that person has really learn'd who has learn'd to
      prefer results,
  Who favors body and soul the same,
  Who perceives the indirect assuredly following the direct,
  Who in his spirit in any emergency whatever neither hurries nor
      avoids death.

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