Leaves of Grass

Page 71 of 72

When the Full-Grown Poet Came

  When the full-grown poet came,
  Out spake pleased Nature (the round impassive globe, with all its
      shows of day and night,) saying, He is mine;
  But out spake too the Soul of man, proud, jealous and unreconciled,
      Nay he is mine alone;
  —Then the full-grown poet stood between the two, and took each
      by the hand;
  And to-day and ever so stands, as blender, uniter, tightly holding hands,
  Which he will never release until he reconciles the two,
  And wholly and joyously blends them.


  When his hour for death had come,
  He slowly rais'd himself from the bed on the floor,
  Drew on his war-dress, shirt, leggings, and girdled the belt around
      his waist,
  Call'd for vermilion paint (his looking-glass was held before him,)
  Painted half his face and neck, his wrists, and back-hands.
  Put the scalp-knife carefully in his belt—then lying down, resting
  Rose again, half sitting, smiled, gave in silence his extended hand
      to each and all,
  Sank faintly low to the floor (tightly grasping the tomahawk handle,)
  Fix'd his look on wife and little children—the last:

  (And here a line in memory of his name and death.)

A Voice from Death

  A voice from Death, solemn and strange, in all his sweep and power,
  With sudden, indescribable blow—towns drown'd—humanity by
      thousands slain,
  The vaunted work of thrift, goods, dwellings, forge, street, iron bridge,
  Dash'd pell-mell by the blow—yet usher'd life continuing on,
  (Amid the rest, amid the rushing, whirling, wild debris,
  A suffering woman saved—a baby safely born!)

  Although I come and unannounc'd, in horror and in pang,
  In pouring flood and fire, and wholesale elemental crash, (this
      voice so solemn, strange,)
  I too a minister of Deity.

  Yea, Death, we bow our faces, veil our eyes to thee,
  We mourn the old, the young untimely drawn to thee,
  The fair, the strong, the good, the capable,
  The household wreck'd, the husband and the wife, the engulfed forger
      in his forge,
  The corpses in the whelming waters and the mud,
  The gather'd thousands to their funeral mounds, and thousands never
      found or gather'd.

  Then after burying, mourning the dead,
  (Faithful to them found or unfound, forgetting not, bearing the
      past, here new musing,)
  A day—a passing moment or an hour—America itself bends low,
  Silent, resign'd, submissive.

  War, death, cataclysm like this, America,
  Take deep to thy proud prosperous heart.

  E'en as I chant, lo! out of death, and out of ooze and slime,
  The blossoms rapidly blooming, sympathy, help, love,
  From West and East, from South and North and over sea,
  Its hot-spurr'd hearts and hands humanity to human aid moves on;
  And from within a thought and lesson yet.

  Thou ever-darting Globe! through Space and Air!
  Thou waters that encompass us!
  Thou that in all the life and death of us, in action or in sleep!
  Thou laws invisible that permeate them and all,
  Thou that in all, and over all, and through and under all, incessant!
  Thou! thou! the vital, universal, giant force resistless, sleepless, calm,
  Holding Humanity as in thy open hand, as some ephemeral toy,
  How ill to e'er forget thee!

  For I too have forgotten,
  (Wrapt in these little potencies of progress, politics, culture,
      wealth, inventions, civilization,)
  Have lost my recognition of your silent ever-swaying power, ye
      mighty, elemental throes,
  In which and upon which we float, and every one of us is buoy'd.

A Persian Lesson

  For his o'erarching and last lesson the greybeard sufi,
  In the fresh scent of the morning in the open air,
  On the slope of a teeming Persian rose-garden,
  Under an ancient chestnut-tree wide spreading its branches,
  Spoke to the young priests and students.

  "Finally my children, to envelop each word, each part of the rest,
  Allah is all, all, all—immanent in every life and object,
  May-be at many and many-a-more removes—yet Allah, Allah, Allah is there.

  "Has the estray wander'd far? Is the reason-why strangely hidden?
  Would you sound below the restless ocean of the entire world?
  Would you know the dissatisfaction? the urge and spur of every life;
  The something never still'd—never entirely gone? the invisible need
      of every seed?

  "It is the central urge in every atom,
  (Often unconscious, often evil, downfallen,)
  To return to its divine source and origin, however distant,
  Latent the same in subject and in object, without one exception."

The Commonplace

  The commonplace I sing;
  How cheap is health! how cheap nobility!
  Abstinence, no falsehood, no gluttony, lust;
  The open air I sing, freedom, toleration,
  (Take here the mainest lesson—less from books—less from the schools,)
  The common day and night—the common earth and waters,
  Your farm—your work, trade, occupation,
  The democratic wisdom underneath, like solid ground for all.

"The Rounded Catalogue Divine Complete"

  The devilish and the dark, the dying and diseas'd,
  The countless (nineteen-twentieths) low and evil, crude and savage,
  The crazed, prisoners in jail, the horrible, rank, malignant,
  Venom and filth, serpents, the ravenous sharks, liars, the dissolute;
  (What is the part the wicked and the loathesome bear within earth's
      orbic scheme?)
  Newts, crawling things in slime and mud, poisons,
  The barren soil, the evil men, the slag and hideous rot.


  More experiences and sights, stranger, than you'd think for;
  Times again, now mostly just after sunrise or before sunset,
  Sometimes in spring, oftener in autumn, perfectly clear weather, in
      plain sight,
  Camps far or near, the crowded streets of cities and the shopfronts,
  (Account for it or not—credit or not—it is all true,
  And my mate there could tell you the like—we have often confab'd
      about it,)
  People and scenes, animals, trees, colors and lines, plain as could be,
  Farms and dooryards of home, paths border'd with box, lilacs in corners,
  Weddings in churches, thanksgiving dinners, returns of long-absent sons,
  Glum funerals, the crape-veil'd mother and the daughters,
  Trials in courts, jury and judge, the accused in the box,
  Contestants, battles, crowds, bridges, wharves,
  Now and then mark'd faces of sorrow or joy,
  (I could pick them out this moment if I saw them again,)
  Show'd to me—just to the right in the sky-edge,
  Or plainly there to the left on the hill-tops.

L. of G.'s Purport

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