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A song, a poem of itself—the word itself a dirge, Amid the wilds, the rocks, the storm and wintry night, To me such misty, strange tableaux the syllables calling up; Yonnondio—I see, far in the west or north, a limitless ravine, with plains and mountains dark, I see swarms of stalwart chieftains, medicine-men, and warriors, As flitting by like clouds of ghosts, they pass and are gone in the twilight, (Race of the woods, the landscapes free, and the falls! No picture, poem, statement, passing them to the future:) Yonnondio! Yonnondio!—unlimn'd they disappear; To-day gives place, and fades—the cities, farms, factories fade; A muffled sonorous sound, a wailing word is borne through the air for a moment, Then blank and gone and still, and utterly lost.
Ever the undiscouraged, resolute, struggling soul of man; (Have former armies fail'd? then we send fresh armies—and fresh again;) Ever the grappled mystery of all earth's ages old or new; Ever the eager eyes, hurrahs, the welcome-clapping hands, the loud applause; Ever the soul dissatisfied, curious, unconvinced at last; Struggling to-day the same—battling the same.
My science-friend, my noblest woman-friend, (Now buried in an English grave—and this a memory-leaf for her dear sake,) Ended our talk—"The sum, concluding all we know of old or modern learning, intuitions deep, "Of all Geologies—Histories—of all Astronomy—of Evolution, Metaphysics all, "Is, that we all are onward, onward, speeding slowly, surely bettering, "Life, life an endless march, an endless army, (no halt, but it is duly over,) "The world, the race, the soul—in space and time the universes, "All bound as is befitting each—all surely going somewhere."
Small the theme of my Chant, yet the greatest—namely, One's-Self— a simple, separate person. That, for the use of the New World, I sing. Man's physiology complete, from top to toe, I sing. Not physiognomy alone, nor brain alone, is worthy for the Muse;—I say the Form complete is worthier far. The Female equally with the Male, I sing. Nor cease at the theme of One's-Self. I speak the word of the modern, the word En-Masse. My Days I sing, and the Lands—with interstice I knew of hapless War. (O friend, whoe'er you are, at last arriving hither to commence, I feel through every leaf the pressure of your hand, which I return. And thus upon our journey, footing the road, and more than once, and link'd together let us go.)
Old farmers, travelers, workmen (no matter how crippled or bent,) Old sailors, out of many a perilous voyage, storm and wreck, Old soldiers from campaigns, with all their wounds, defeats and scars; Enough that they've survived at all—long life's unflinching ones! Forth from their struggles, trials, fights, to have emerged at all— in that alone, True conquerors o'er all the rest.
Here first the duties of to-day, the lessons of the concrete, Wealth, order, travel, shelter, products, plenty; As of the building of some varied, vast, perpetual edifice, Whence to arise inevitable in time, the towering roofs, the lamps, The solid-planted spires tall shooting to the stars.
That coursing on, whate'er men's speculations, Amid the changing schools, theologies, philosophies, Amid the bawling presentations new and old, The round earth's silent vital laws, facts, modes continue.
Thanks in old age—thanks ere I go, For health, the midday sun, the impalpable air—for life, mere life, For precious ever-lingering memories, (of you my mother dear—you, father—you, brothers, sisters, friends,) For all my days—not those of peace alone—the days of war the same, For gentle words, caresses, gifts from foreign lands, For shelter, wine and meat—for sweet appreciation, (You distant, dim unknown—or young or old—countless, unspecified, readers belov'd, We never met, and neer shall meet—and yet our souls embrace, long, close and long;) For beings, groups, love, deeds, words, books—for colors, forms, For all the brave strong men—devoted, hardy men—who've forward sprung in freedom's help, all years, all lands For braver, stronger, more devoted men—(a special laurel ere I go, to life's war's chosen ones, The cannoneers of song and thought—the great artillerists—the foremost leaders, captains of the soul:) As soldier from an ended war return'd—As traveler out of myriads, to the long procession retrospective, Thanks—joyful thanks!—a soldier's, traveler's thanks.
The two old, simple problems ever intertwined, Close home, elusive, present, baffled, grappled. By each successive age insoluble, pass'd on, To ours to-day—and we pass on the same.
And who art thou? said I to the soft-falling shower, Which, strange to tell, gave me an answer, as here translated: I am the Poem of Earth, said the voice of the rain, Eternal I rise impalpable out of the land and the bottomless sea, Upward to heaven, whence, vaguely form'd, altogether changed, and yet the same, I descend to lave the drouths, atomies, dust-layers of the globe, And all that in them without me were seeds only, latent, unborn; And forever, by day and night, I give back life to my own origin, and make pure and beautify it; (For song, issuing from its birth-place, after fulfilment, wandering, Reck'd or unreck'd, duly with love returns.)
Soon shall the winter's foil be here; Soon shall these icy ligatures unbind and melt—A little while, And air, soil, wave, suffused shall be in softness, bloom and growth—a thousand forms shall rise From these dead clods and chills as from low burial graves. Thine eyes, ears—all thy best attributes—all that takes cognizance of natural beauty, Shall wake and fill. Thou shalt perceive the simple shows, the delicate miracles of earth, Dandelions, clover, the emerald grass, the early scents and flowers, The arbutus under foot, the willow's yellow-green, the blossoming plum and cherry; With these the robin, lark and thrush, singing their songs—the flitting bluebird; For such the scenes the annual play brings on.