Leaves of Grass

Page 65 of 72

Abraham Lincoln, Born Feb. 12, 1809

  To-day, from each and all, a breath of prayer—a pulse of thought,
  To memory of Him—to birth of Him.

Out of May's Shows Selected

  Apple orchards, the trees all cover'd with blossoms;
  Wheat fields carpeted far and near in vital emerald green;
  The eternal, exhaustless freshness of each early morning;
  The yellow, golden, transparent haze of the warm afternoon sun;
  The aspiring lilac bushes with profuse purple or white flowers.

Halcyon Days

  Not from successful love alone,
  Nor wealth, nor honor'd middle age, nor victories of politics or war;
  But as life wanes, and all the turbulent passions calm,
  As gorgeous, vapory, silent hues cover the evening sky,
  As softness, fulness, rest, suffuse the frame, like freshier, balmier air,
  As the days take on a mellower light, and the apple at last hangs
      really finish'd and indolent-ripe on the tree,
  Then for the teeming quietest, happiest days of all!
  The brooding and blissful halcyon days!


   [I]  The Pilot in the Mist

  Steaming the northern rapids—(an old St. Lawrence reminiscence,
  A sudden memory-flash comes back, I know not why,
  Here waiting for the sunrise, gazing from this hill;)
  Again 'tis just at morning—a heavy haze contends with daybreak,
  Again the trembling, laboring vessel veers me—I press through
      foam-dash'd rocks that almost touch me,
  Again I mark where aft the small thin Indian helmsman
  Looms in the mist, with brow elate and governing hand.
  [II]  Had I the Choice

  Had I the choice to tally greatest bards,
  To limn their portraits, stately, beautiful, and emulate at will,
  Homer with all his wars and warriors—Hector, Achilles, Ajax,
  Or Shakspere's woe-entangled Hamlet, Lear, Othello—Tennyson's fair ladies,
  Metre or wit the best, or choice conceit to wield in perfect rhyme,
      delight of singers;
  These, these, O sea, all these I'd gladly barter,
  Would you the undulation of one wave, its trick to me transfer,
  Or breathe one breath of yours upon my verse,
  And leave its odor there.
  [III]  You Tides with Ceaseless Swell

  You tides with ceaseless swell! you power that does this work!
  You unseen force, centripetal, centrifugal, through space's spread,
  Rapport of sun, moon, earth, and all the constellations,
  What are the messages by you from distant stars to us? what Sirius'?
      what Capella's?
  What central heart—and you the pulse—vivifies all? what boundless
      aggregate of all?
  What subtle indirection and significance in you? what clue to all in
      you? what fluid, vast identity,
  Holding the universe with all its parts as one—as sailing in a ship?
  [IV]  Last of Ebb, and Daylight Waning

  Last of ebb, and daylight waning,
  Scented sea-cool landward making, smells of sedge and salt incoming,
  With many a half-caught voice sent up from the eddies,
  Many a muffled confession—many a sob and whisper'd word,
  As of speakers far or hid.

  How they sweep down and out! how they mutter!
  Poets unnamed—artists greatest of any, with cherish'd lost designs,
  Love's unresponse—a chorus of age's complaints—hope's last words,
  Some suicide's despairing cry, Away to the boundless waste, and
      never again return.

  On to oblivion then!
  On, on, and do your part, ye burying, ebbing tide!
  On for your time, ye furious debouche!
  [V]  And Yet Not You Alone

  And yet not you alone, twilight and burying ebb,
  Nor you, ye lost designs alone—nor failures, aspirations;
  I know, divine deceitful ones, your glamour's seeming;
  Duly by you, from you, the tide and light again—duly the hinges turning,
  Duly the needed discord-parts offsetting, blending,
  Weaving from you, from Sleep, Night, Death itself,
  The rhythmus of Birth eternal.
  [VI]  Proudly the Flood Comes In

  Proudly the flood comes in, shouting, foaming, advancing,
  Long it holds at the high, with bosom broad outswelling,
  All throbs, dilates—the farms, woods, streets of cities—workmen at work,
  Mainsails, topsails, jibs, appear in the offing—steamers' pennants
      of smoke—and under the forenoon sun,
  Freighted with human lives, gaily the outward bound, gaily the
      inward bound,
  Flaunting from many a spar the flag I love.
  [VII]  By That Long Scan of Waves

  By that long scan of waves, myself call'd back, resumed upon myself,
  In every crest some undulating light or shade—some retrospect,
  Joys, travels, studies, silent panoramas—scenes ephemeral,
  The long past war, the battles, hospital sights, the wounded and the dead,
  Myself through every by-gone phase—my idle youth—old age at hand,
  My three-score years of life summ'd up, and more, and past,
  By any grand ideal tried, intentionless, the whole a nothing,
  And haply yet some drop within God's scheme's ensemble—some
      wave, or part of wave,
  Like one of yours, ye multitudinous ocean.
  [VIII]  Then Last Of All

  Then last of all, caught from these shores, this hill,
  Of you O tides, the mystic human meaning:
  Only by law of you, your swell and ebb, enclosing me the same,
  The brain that shapes, the voice that chants this song.

Election Day, November, 1884

  If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,
  'Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye limitless prairies—nor
      your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
  Nor you, Yosemite—nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic
      geyser-loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
  Nor Oregon's white cones—nor Huron's belt of mighty lakes—nor
      Mississippi's stream:
  —This seething hemisphere's humanity, as now, I'd name—the still
      small voice vibrating—America's choosing day,
  (The heart of it not in the chosen—the act itself the main, the
      quadriennial choosing,)
  The stretch of North and South arous'd—sea-board and inland—
      Texas to Maine—the Prairie States—Vermont, Virginia, California,
  The final ballot-shower from East to West—the paradox and conflict,
  The countless snow-flakes falling—(a swordless conflict,
  Yet more than all Rome's wars of old, or modern Napoleon's:) the
      peaceful choice of all,
  Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
  —Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the heart
      pants, life glows:
  These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
  Swell'd Washington's, Jefferson's, Lincoln's sails.

With Husky-Haughty Lips, O Sea!

  With husky-haughty lips, O sea!
  Where day and night I wend thy surf-beat shore,
  Imaging to my sense thy varied strange suggestions,
  (I see and plainly list thy talk and conference here,)
  Thy troops of white-maned racers racing to the goal,
  Thy ample, smiling face, dash'd with the sparkling dimples of the sun,
  Thy brooding scowl and murk—thy unloos'd hurricanes,
  Thy unsubduedness, caprices, wilfulness;
  Great as thou art above the rest, thy many tears—a lack from all
      eternity in thy content,
  (Naught but the greatest struggles, wrongs, defeats, could make thee
      greatest—no less could make thee,)
  Thy lonely state—something thou ever seek'st and seek'st, yet
      never gain'st,
  Surely some right withheld—some voice, in huge monotonous rage, of
      freedom-lover pent,
  Some vast heart, like a planet's, chain'd and chafing in those breakers,
  By lengthen'd swell, and spasm, and panting breath,
  And rhythmic rasping of thy sands and waves,
  And serpent hiss, and savage peals of laughter,
  And undertones of distant lion roar,
  (Sounding, appealing to the sky's deaf ear—but now, rapport for once,
  A phantom in the night thy confidant for once,)
  The first and last confession of the globe,
  Outsurging, muttering from thy soul's abysms,
  The tale of cosmic elemental passion,
  Thou tellest to a kindred soul.

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