Leaves of Grass

Page 5 of 72

To Foreign Lands

  I heard that you ask'd for something to prove this puzzle the New World,
  And to define America, her athletic Democracy,
  Therefore I send you my poems that you behold in them what you wanted.

To a Historian

  You who celebrate bygones,
  Who have explored the outward, the surfaces of the races, the life
      that has exhibited itself,
  Who have treated of man as the creature of politics, aggregates,
      rulers and priests,
  I, habitan of the Alleghanies, treating of him as he is in himself
      in his own rights,
  Pressing the pulse of the life that has seldom exhibited itself,
      (the great pride of man in himself,)
  Chanter of Personality, outlining what is yet to be,
  I project the history of the future.

To Thee Old Cause

  To thee old cause!
  Thou peerless, passionate, good cause,
  Thou stern, remorseless, sweet idea,
  Deathless throughout the ages, races, lands,
  After a strange sad war, great war for thee,
  (I think all war through time was really fought, and ever will be
      really fought, for thee,)
  These chants for thee, the eternal march of thee.

  (A war O soldiers not for itself alone,
  Far, far more stood silently waiting behind, now to advance in this book.)

  Thou orb of many orbs!
  Thou seething principle! thou well-kept, latent germ! thou centre!
  Around the idea of thee the war revolving,
  With all its angry and vehement play of causes,
  (With vast results to come for thrice a thousand years,)
  These recitatives for thee,—my book and the war are one,
  Merged in its spirit I and mine, as the contest hinged on thee,
  As a wheel on its axis turns, this book unwitting to itself,
  Around the idea of thee.


       I met a seer,
  Passing the hues and objects of the world,
  The fields of art and learning, pleasure, sense,
       To glean eidolons.

       Put in thy chants said he,
  No more the puzzling hour nor day, nor segments, parts, put in,
  Put first before the rest as light for all and entrance-song of all,
       That of eidolons.

       Ever the dim beginning,
  Ever the growth, the rounding of the circle,
  Ever the summit and the merge at last, (to surely start again,)
       Eidolons! eidolons!

       Ever the mutable,
  Ever materials, changing, crumbling, re-cohering,
  Ever the ateliers, the factories divine,
       Issuing eidolons.

       Lo, I or you,
  Or woman, man, or state, known or unknown,
  We seeming solid wealth, strength, beauty build,
       But really build eidolons.

       The ostent evanescent,
  The substance of an artist's mood or savan's studies long,
  Or warrior's, martyr's, hero's toils,
       To fashion his eidolon.

       Of every human life,
  (The units gather'd, posted, not a thought, emotion, deed, left out,)
  The whole or large or small summ'd, added up,
       In its eidolon.

       The old, old urge,
  Based on the ancient pinnacles, lo, newer, higher pinnacles,
  From science and the modern still impell'd,
       The old, old urge, eidolons.

       The present now and here,
  America's busy, teeming, intricate whirl,
  Of aggregate and segregate for only thence releasing,
       To-day's eidolons.

       These with the past,
  Of vanish'd lands, of all the reigns of kings across the sea,
  Old conquerors, old campaigns, old sailors' voyages,
       Joining eidolons.

       Densities, growth, facades,
  Strata of mountains, soils, rocks, giant trees,
  Far-born, far-dying, living long, to leave,
       Eidolons everlasting.

       Exalte, rapt, ecstatic,
  The visible but their womb of birth,
  Of orbic tendencies to shape and shape and shape,
       The mighty earth-eidolon.

       All space, all time,
  (The stars, the terrible perturbations of the suns,
  Swelling, collapsing, ending, serving their longer, shorter use,)
       Fill'd with eidolons only.

       The noiseless myriads,
  The infinite oceans where the rivers empty,
  The separate countless free identities, like eyesight,
       The true realities, eidolons.

       Not this the world,
  Nor these the universes, they the universes,
  Purport and end, ever the permanent life of life,
       Eidolons, eidolons.

       Beyond thy lectures learn'd professor,
  Beyond thy telescope or spectroscope observer keen, beyond all mathematics,
  Beyond the doctor's surgery, anatomy, beyond the chemist with his chemistry,
       The entities of entities, eidolons.

       Unfix'd yet fix'd,
  Ever shall be, ever have been and are,
  Sweeping the present to the infinite future,
       Eidolons, eidolons, eidolons.

       The prophet and the bard,
  Shall yet maintain themselves, in higher stages yet,
  Shall mediate to the Modern, to Democracy, interpret yet to them,
       God and eidolons.

       And thee my soul,
  Joys, ceaseless exercises, exaltations,
  Thy yearning amply fed at last, prepared to meet,
       Thy mates, eidolons.

       Thy body permanent,
  The body lurking there within thy body,
  The only purport of the form thou art, the real I myself,
       An image, an eidolon.

       Thy very songs not in thy songs,
  No special strains to sing, none for itself,
  But from the whole resulting, rising at last and floating,
       A round full-orb'd eidolon.

For Him I Sing

  For him I sing,
  I raise the present on the past,
  (As some perennial tree out of its roots, the present on the past,)
  With time and space I him dilate and fuse the immortal laws,
  To make himself by them the law unto himself.

When I Read the Book

  When I read the book, the biography famous,
  And is this then (said I) what the author calls a man's life?
  And so will some one when I am dead and gone write my life?
  (As if any man really knew aught of my life,
  Why even I myself I often think know little or nothing of my real life,
  Only a few hints, a few diffused faint clews and indirections
  I seek for my own use to trace out here.)

Beginning My Studies

  Beginning my studies the first step pleas'd me so much,
  The mere fact consciousness, these forms, the power of motion,
  The least insect or animal, the senses, eyesight, love,
  The first step I say awed me and pleas'd me so much,
  I have hardly gone and hardly wish'd to go any farther,
  But stop and loiter all the time to sing it in ecstatic songs.


  How they are provided for upon the earth, (appearing at intervals,)
  How dear and dreadful they are to the earth,
  How they inure to themselves as much as to any—what a paradox
      appears their age,
  How people respond to them, yet know them not,
  How there is something relentless in their fate all times,
  How all times mischoose the objects of their adulation and reward,
  And how the same inexorable price must still be paid for the same
      great purchase.

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