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As I sit with others at a great feast, suddenly while the music is playing, To my mind, (whence it comes I know not,) spectral in mist of a wreck at sea, Of certain ships, how they sail from port with flying streamers and wafted kisses, and that is the last of them, Of the solemn and murky mystery about the fate of the President, Of the flower of the marine science of fifty generations founder'd off the Northeast coast and going down—of the steamship Arctic going down, Of the veil'd tableau-women gather'd together on deck, pale, heroic, waiting the moment that draws so close—O the moment! A huge sob—a few bubbles—the white foam spirting up—and then the women gone, Sinking there while the passionless wet flows on—and I now pondering, Are those women indeed gone? Are souls drown'd and destroy'd so? Is only matter triumphant?
At the last, tenderly, From the walls of the powerful fortress'd house, From the clasp of the knitted locks, from the keep of the well-closed doors, Let me be wafted. Let me glide noiselessly forth; With the key of softness unlock the locks—with a whisper, Set ope the doors O soul. Tenderly—be not impatient, (Strong is your hold O mortal flesh, Strong is your hold O love.)
As I watch'd the ploughman ploughing, Or the sower sowing in the fields, or the harvester harvesting, I saw there too, O life and death, your analogies; (Life, life is the tillage, and Death is the harvest according.)
Pensive and faltering, The words the Dead I write, For living are the Dead, (Haply the only living, only real, And I the apparition, I the spectre.)
Thou Mother with Thy Equal Brood
1 Thou Mother with thy equal brood, Thou varied chain of different States, yet one identity only, A special song before I go I'd sing o'er all the rest, For thee, the future. I'd sow a seed for thee of endless Nationality, I'd fashion thy ensemble including body and soul, I'd show away ahead thy real Union, and how it may be accomplish'd. The paths to the house I seek to make, But leave to those to come the house itself. Belief I sing, and preparation; As Life and Nature are not great with reference to the present only, But greater still from what is yet to come, Out of that formula for thee I sing. 2 As a strong bird on pinions free, Joyous, the amplest spaces heavenward cleaving, Such be the thought I'd think of thee America, Such be the recitative I'd bring for thee. The conceits of the poets of other lands I'd bring thee not, Nor the compliments that have served their turn so long, Nor rhyme, nor the classics, nor perfume of foreign court or indoor library; But an odor I'd bring as from forests of pine in Maine, or breath of an Illinois prairie, With open airs of Virginia or Georgia or Tennessee, or from Texas uplands, or Florida's glades, Or the Saguenay's black stream, or the wide blue spread of Huron, With presentment of Yellowstone's scenes, or Yosemite, And murmuring under, pervading all, I'd bring the rustling sea-sound, That endlessly sounds from the two Great Seas of the world. And for thy subtler sense subtler refrains dread Mother, Preludes of intellect tallying these and thee, mind-formulas fitted for thee, real and sane and large as these and thee, Thou! mounting higher, diving deeper than we knew, thou transcendental Union! By thee fact to be justified, blended with thought, Thought of man justified, blended with God, Through thy idea, lo, the immortal reality! Through thy reality, lo, the immortal idea! 3 Brain of the New World, what a task is thine, To formulate the Modern—out of the peerless grandeur of the modern, Out of thyself, comprising science, to recast poems, churches, art, (Recast, may-be discard them, end them—maybe their work is done, who knows?) By vision, hand, conception, on the background of the mighty past, the dead, To limn with absolute faith the mighty living present. And yet thou living present brain, heir of the dead, the Old World brain, Thou that lay folded like an unborn babe within its folds so long, Thou carefully prepared by it so long—haply thou but unfoldest it, only maturest it, It to eventuate in thee—the essence of the by-gone time contain'd in thee, Its poems, churches, arts, unwitting to themselves, destined with reference to thee; Thou but the apples, long, long, long a-growing, The fruit of all the Old ripening to-day in thee. 4 Sail, sail thy best, ship of Democracy, Of value is thy freight, 'tis not the Present only, The Past is also stored in thee, Thou holdest not the venture of thyself alone, not of the Western continent alone, Earth's resume entire floats on thy keel O ship, is steadied by thy spars, With thee Time voyages in trust, the antecedent nations sink or swim with thee, With all their ancient struggles, martyrs, heroes, epics, wars, thou bear'st the other continents, Theirs, theirs as much as thine, the destination-port triumphant; Steer then with good strong hand and wary eye O helmsman, thou carriest great companions, Venerable priestly Asia sails this day with thee, And royal feudal Europe sails with thee. 5 Beautiful world of new superber birth that rises to my eyes, Like a limitless golden cloud filling the westernr sky, Emblem of general maternity lifted above all, Sacred shape of the bearer of daughters and sons, Out of thy teeming womb thy giant babes in ceaseless procession issuing, Acceding from such gestation, taking and giving continual strength and life, World of the real—world of the twain in one, World of the soul, born by the world of the real alone, led to identity, body, by it alone, Yet in beginning only, incalculable masses of composite precious materials, By history's cycles forwarded, by every nation, language, hither sent, Ready, collected here, a freer, vast, electric world, to be constructed here, (The true New World, the world of orbic science, morals, literatures to come,) Thou wonder world yet undefined, unform'd, neither do I define thee, How can I pierce the impenetrable blank of the future? I feel thy ominous greatness evil as well as good, I watch thee advancing, absorbing the present, transcending the past, I see thy light lighting, and thy shadow shadowing, as if the entire globe, But I do not undertake to define thee, hardly to comprehend thee, I but thee name, thee prophesy, as now, I merely thee ejaculate! Thee in thy future, Thee in thy only permanent life, career, thy own unloosen'd mind, thy soaring spirit, Thee as another equally needed sun, radiant, ablaze, swift-moving, fructifying all, Thee risen in potent cheerfulness and joy, in endless great hilarity, Scattering for good the cloud that hung so long, that weigh'd so long upon the mind of man, The doubt, suspicion, dread, of gradual, certain decadence of man; Thee in thy larger, saner brood of female, male—thee in thy athletes, moral, spiritual, South, North, West, East, (To thy immortal breasts, Mother of All, thy every daughter, son, endear'd alike, forever equal,) Thee in thy own musicians, singers, artists, unborn yet, but certain, Thee in thy moral wealth and civilization, (until which thy proudest material civilization must remain in vain,) Thee in thy all-supplying, all-enclosing worship—thee in no single bible, saviour, merely, Thy saviours countless, latent within thyself, thy bibles incessant within thyself, equal to any, divine as any, (Thy soaring course thee formulating, not in thy two great wars, nor in thy century's visible growth, But far more in these leaves and chants, thy chants, great Mother!) Thee in an education grown of thee, in teachers, studies, students, born of thee, Thee in thy democratic fetes en-masse, thy high original festivals, operas, lecturers, preachers, Thee in thy ultimate, (the preparations only now completed, the edifice on sure foundations tied,) Thee in thy pinnacles, intellect, thought, thy topmost rational joys, thy love and godlike aspiration, In thy resplendent coming literati, thy full-lung'd orators, thy sacerdotal bards, kosmic savans, These! these in thee, (certain to come,) to-day I prophesy. 6 Land tolerating all, accepting all, not for the good alone, all good for thee, Land in the realms of God to be a realm unto thyself, Under the rule of God to be a rule unto thyself. (Lo, where arise three peerless stars, To be thy natal stars my country, Ensemble, Evolution, Freedom, Set in the sky of Law.) Land of unprecedented faith, God's faith, Thy soil, thy very subsoil, all upheav'd, The general inner earth so long so sedulously draped over, now hence for what it is boldly laid bare, Open'd by thee to heaven's light for benefit or bale. Not for success alone, Not to fair-sail unintermitted always, The storm shall dash thy face, the murk of war and worse than war shall cover thee all over, (Wert capable of war, its tug and trials? be capable of peace, its trials, For the tug and mortal strain of nations come at last in prosperous peace, not war;) In many a smiling mask death shall approach beguiling thee, thou in disease shalt swelter, The livid cancer spread its hideous claws, clinging upon thy breasts, seeking to strike thee deep within, Consumption of the worst, moral consumption, shall rouge thy face with hectic, But thou shalt face thy fortunes, thy diseases, and surmount them all, Whatever they are to-day and whatever through time they may be, They each and all shall lift and pass away and cease from thee, While thou, Time's spirals rounding, out of thyself, thyself still extricating, fusing, Equable, natural, mystical Union thou, (the mortal with immortal blent,) Shalt soar toward the fulfilment of the future, the spirit of the body and the mind, The soul, its destinies. The soul, its destinies, the real real, (Purport of all these apparitions of the real;) In thee America, the soul, its destinies, Thou globe of globes! thou wonder nebulous! By many a throe of heat and cold convuls'd, (by these thyself solidifying,) Thou mental, moral orb—thou New, indeed new, Spiritual World! The Present holds thee not—for such vast growth as thine, For such unparallel'd flight as thine, such brood as thine, The FUTURE only holds thee and can hold thee.