far removed (perhaps equally far removed) from
the true centre of gravity of human life.
If the tree that has ceased to ascend, and
can only grow outward, is, in spite of the
immense development of its branches, maimed
and misshapen, the same must be said of the
tree that has no branches and can do nothing
but ascend. In each case the growth is one
sided, inharmonious. The balance has been
Are we to say that the path of health and
safety is in a mean between these extremes;
that their respective influences should be allowed
to cancel one another; that our attitude towards
them should be one of colourless neutrality? No;
there is room in our life for both conceptions ;
and the soul may safely submit itself to the
influence of either, so long as it does not allow
itself to be deadened to the influence of the
other. What is needed is a larger and pro-
founder philosophy which shall reconcile these
" fell, incensed opposites " by absorbing them
into itself, which shall harmonise sympathy with
aspiration, manliness with humility, freedom
with duty, delight in the actual with love of the
ideal, naturalism with spiritualism, outward with
upward growth. Same day or other this higher
creed will disclose itself to human thought.
Meanwhile, as the soul, as the whole inner life
of man, moves forward in quest of ideal truth,
it will advance in safety so long as its right
flank is guarded by the aspiring inwardness of
mediaeval monasticism, its left by the exultant
naturalism of modern democracy. For the
present these extreme conceptions, so antago
nistic and yet so essential to one another, will
co-operate at equal distances from the Head-
Quarters of our inner life ; but as the envelop
ing movement of the soul (round the stronghold
of the Ideal) begins to declare itself, they will
tend to unite and become one.
When that happier day comes, the Poet
will be the first to welcome and proclaim it.
Indeed there is no day in the ideal future to
which his prophetic insight looks forward so
eagerly or so hopefully. The very mission of
Poetry, as Whitman himself has told us in feli
citous words, is to make peace between " out-
wardness"and "inwardness, "between "Nature"
and the "soul :"
" 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
But out spake too the Soul of man, proud, jealous, and
unreconciled, Nay, he is mine alont ;
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
Which he will never release until he reconciles the two,
And wholly and joyously blends them."
Selections from Leaves of Grass
PREFACE TO SELECTIONS
TN compiling this brief anthology, my object
has been to induce persons who may have
been repelled by Whitmans earlier and more
"characteristic" writings, to reconsider their
adverse verdict and renew their study of his
poetry. The passages that I have strung to
gether have been selected for their poetic merits
only. I do not pretend that they are " character
istic" in the sense which those who regard
" Leaves of Grass" as a literary and psycho logical
curiosity might attach to that word. But are
they the less representative of Whitmans genius
because they happen to possess poetic charm ?
One s answer to this question will depend on the
estimate that one forms of Whitman. It is
impossible to study his writings without realising
that he has a dual personality. Which self is
the trite Whitman? Is it the inspired poet,
the singer of life, of love, of death, of joy, of
cosmic sympathy, of the unattainable ideal? Or
is it the fervent democrat ; the defiant advocate
of equality, "of" animality, "of" heroic nudity ;
the deifier of the average and the actual ; the
painter of the crude, the gross, the sordid, the
grotesque ? This is a problem which each student
of Whitman must solve for himself. To me it
seems more than probable that the poet, pure and
simple, will be remembered and honoured when
the socio-political prophet has been forgotten or,
if remembered, has fallen into disesteem. And
I cannot but think that the most truly_charac-
teristic of his writings are those in which insight_
_and imagination have triumphed over_prejudic^
__and theory, with the result that beautifuL
thoughts and profound feelings have overflowed^
_into other hearts through the channel of im-
IN CABIN D SHIPS AT SEA.
IN cabin d ships at sea,
The boundless blue on every side expanding,
With whistling winds and music of the waves, the large
Or some lone bark buoy d on the dense marine,
Where joyous full of faith, spreading white sails,
She cleaves the ether mid the sparkle and the foam of
day, or under many a star at night,
By sailors young and old haply will I, a reminiscence of
the land, be read,
In full rapport at last.
Here are our thoughts, voyagers thoughts,
Here not the land, firm land, alone appears, may then by
them be said,
The sky overarches here, we feel the undulating deck beneath our
We feel the long pulsation, ebb and flow of endless motion,
The tones of unseen mystery, the vague and vast suggestions of
the bnny world, the liquid-flowing syllables,
The perfume, the faint creaking of the cordage, the melancholy
The boundless vista and the horizon far and dim are all here,
And this is ocean s poem*
Then falter not O book, fulfil your destiny,
You not a reminiscence of the land alone,
You too as a lone bark cleaving the ether, purpos d I
know not whither, yet ever full of faith,
Consort to every ship that sails, sail you !
Bear forth to them folded my love, (dear manners, for
you I fold it here in every leaf ;)
Speed on my book ! spread your white sails my little
bark athwart the imperious waves,
Chant on, sail on, bear o er the boundless blue from me
to every sea,
This song for mariners and all their ships.
FROM THE " SONG OF MYSELF."
I am he that walks with the tender and growing night,
I call to the earth and sea half-held by the night.
Press close bare-bosom d night press close magnetic
nourishing night !
Night of south winds night of the large few stars !
Still nodding night mad naked summer night.
Smile O voluptuous cool-breath d earth !
Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees !
Earth of departed sunset earth of the mountains misty-
Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon just tinged
with blue !
Earth of shine and dark mottling the tide of the river !
Earth of the limpid gray of clouds brighter and clearer
for my sake !
Far-swooping elbow d earth rich apple-blossom d earth !
Smile, for your lover comes.
Prodigal, you have given me love therefore I to you
give love !
O unspeakable passionate love.
OF THE TERRIBLE DOUBT OF
OF the terrible doubt of appearances,
Of the uncertainty after all, that we may be deluded,
That may-be reliance and hope are but speculations
That may-be identity beyond the grave is a beautiful
May-be the things I perceive, the animals, plants, men,
hills, shining and flowing waters,
The skies of day and night, colors, densities, forms,
may-be these are (as doubtless they are) only
apparitions, and the real something has yet to be
(How often they dart out of themselves as if to confound
me and mock me !
How often I think neither I know, nor any man knows,
aught of them,)
May-be seeming to me what they are (as doubtless they
indeed but seem) as from my present point of view,
and might prove (as of course they would) nought
of what they appear, or nought anyhow, from
entirely changed points of view ;
To me these and the like of these are curiously answer d
by my lovers, my dear friends,
When he whom I love travels with me or sits a long
while holding me by the hand,
When the subtle air, the impalpable, the sense that
words and reason hold not, surround us and
83 G 2
Then I am charged with untold and untellable wisdom,
I am silent, I require nothing further,
I cannot answer the question of appearances or that of
identity beyond the grave,
But I walk or sit indifferent, I am satisfied,
He ahold of my hand has completely satisfied me.
NOT HEAT FLAMES UP AND CONSUMES.
NOT heat flames up and consumes,
Not sea-waves hurry in and out,
Not the air delicious and dry, the air of ripe summer,
bears lightly along white down-balls of myriads of
Wafted, sailing gracefully, to drop where they may ;
Not these, O none of these more than the flames of me,
consuming, burning for his love whom I love,
O none more than I hurrying in and out ;
Does the tide hurry, seeking something, and never give
up ? O I the same,
O nor down-balls nor perfumes, nor the high rain-emitting
clouds, are borne through the open air,
Any more than my soul is borne through the open air,
Wafted in all directions, O love, for friendship, for you.
SOON SHALL THE WINTER S FOIL
Soon shall the winter s foil be here ;
Soon shall these icy ligatures unbind and melt A little
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
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
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.
WARBLE FOR LILAC-TIME.
WARBLE me now for joy of lilac-time, (returning in
Sort me O tongue and lips for Nature s sake, souvenirs
of earliest summer,
Gather the welcome signs, (as children with pebbles or
Put in April and May, the hylas croaking in the ponds,
the elastic air,
Bees, butterflies, the sparrow with its simple notes,
Blue-bird and darting swallow, nor forget the high-hole
flashing his golden wings,
The tranquil sunny haze, the clinging smoke, the vapor,
Shimmer of waters with fish in them, the cerulean above,
All that is jocund and sparkling, the brooks running,
The maple woods, the crisp February days and the
The robin where he hops, bright-eyed, brown-breasted,
With musical clear call at sunrise, and again at sunset,
Or flitting among the trees of the apple-orchard, building
the nest of his mate,
The melted snow of March, the willow sending forth its
For spring-time is here ! the summer is here ! and what
is this in it and from it ?
Thou, soul, unloosen d the restlessness after I know
not what ;
Come, let us lag here no longer, let us be up and away !
O if one could but fly like a bird !
O to escape, to sail forth as in a ship !
To glide with thee O soul, o er all, in all, as a ship o er
the waters ;
Gathering these hints, the preludes, the blue sky, the
grass, the morning drops of dew,
The lilac-scent, the bushes with dark green heart-shaped
Wood-violets, the little delicate pale blossoms called
Samples and sorts not for themselves alone, but for their
To grace the bush I love to sing with the birds,
A warble for joy of lilac-time, returning in reminiscence.
O MAGNET-SOUTH ! O glistening perfumed South ! my
O quick mettle, rich blood, impulse and love ! good and
evil ! O all dear to me !
O dear to me my birth-thingsall moving things and
the trees where I was born the grains, plants,
Dear to me my own slow sluggish rivers where they
flow, distant, over flats of silvery sands or through
Dear to me the Roanoke, the Savannah, the Altamahaw,
the Pedee, the Tombigbee, the Santee, the Coosa
and the Sabine,
pensive, far away wandering, I return with my soul
to haunt their banks again,
Again in Florida I float on transparent lakes, I float
on the Okeechobee, I cross the hummock-land or
through pleasant openings or dense forests,
1 see the parrots in the woods, I see the papaw-tree and
the blossoming titi ;
Again, sailing in my coaster on deck, I coast off Georgia,
I coast up the Carolinas,
I see where the live-oak is growing, I see where the
yellow-pine, the scented bay-tree, the lemon and
orange, the cypress, the graceful palmetto,
I pass rude sea-headlands and enter Pamlico sound
through an inlet, and dart my vision inland ;
O the cotton plant ! the growing fields of rice, sugar,
The cactus guarded with thorns, the laurel-tree with
large white flowers,
The range afar, the richness and barrenness, the old
woods charged with mistletoe and trailing moss,
The piney odor and the gloom, the awful natural stillness,
(here in these dense swamps the freebooter carries
his gun, and the fugitive has his conceal d hut ;)
O the strange fascination of these half-known half-
impassable swamps, infested by reptiles, resounding
with the bellow of the alligator, the sad noises of
the night-owl and the wild-cat, and the whirr of the
The mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing all the
forenoon, singing through the moon-lit night,
The humming-bird, the wild turkey, the raccoon, the
A Kentucky corn-field, the tall, graceful, long-leav d
corn, slender, flapping, bright green, with tassels,
with beautiful ears each well-sheath d in its husk ;
O my heart ! O tender and fierce pangs, I can stand
them not, I will depart ;
O to be a Virginian where I grew up ! O to be a
O longings irrepressible ! O I will go back to old
Tennessee and never wander more.
TO A LOCOMOTIVE IN WINTER.
THEE for my recitative,
Thee in the driving storm even as now, the snow, the
Thee in thy panoply, thy measur d dual throbbing and
thy beat convulsive,
Thy black cylindric body, golden brass and silvery steel,
Thy ponderous side-bars, parallel and connecting rods,
gyrating, shuttling at thy sides,
Thy metrical, now swelling pant and roar, now tapering
in the distance,
Thy great protruding head-light fix d in front,
Thy long, pale, floating vapor-pennants, tinged with
The dense and murky clouds out-belching from thy
Thy knitted frame, thy springs and valves, the tremulous
twinkle of thy wheels,
Thy train of cars behind, obedient, merrily following,
Through gale or calm, now swift, now slack, yet steadily
Type of the modern emblem of motion and power
pulse of the continent,
For once come serve the Muse and merge in verse, even
as here I see thee,
With storm and buffeting gusts of wind and falling snow,
By day thy warning ringing bell to sound its notes,
By night thy silent signal lamps to swing.
Fierce-throated beauty !
Roll through my chant with all thy lawless music, thy
swinging lamps at night,
Thy madly-whistled laughter, echoing, rumbling like an
earthquake, rousing all,
Law of thyself complete, thine own track firmly holding,
(No sweetness debonair of tearful harp or glib piano
Thy trills of shrieks by rocks and hills return d,
Launch d o er the prairies wide, across the lakes,
To the free skies unpent and glad and strong.
SPIRIT THAT FORM D THIS SCENE.
Written in Platte Canon, Colorado.
SPIRIT that form d this scene,
These tumbled rock-piles grim and red.
These reckless heaven-ambitious peaks,
These gorges, turbulent-clear streams, this naked fresh
These formless wild arrays, for reasons of their own,
I know thee, savage spirit we have communed together,
Mine too such wild arrays, for reasons of their own ;
Was t charged against my chants they had forgotten
To fuse within themselves its rules precise and
The lyrist s measur d beat, the wrought-out temple s
grace column and polish d arch forgot ?
But thou that revelest here spirit that formed this
They have remember d thee.
CAVALRY CROSSING A FORD.
A LINE in long array where they wind betwixt green
They take a serpentine course, their arms flash in the
sun hark to the musical clank,
Behold the silvery river, in it the splashing horses
loitering stop to drink,
Behold the brown-faced men, each group, each person a
picture, the negligent rest on the saddles,
Some emerge on the opposite bank, others are just
entering the ford while,
Scarlet and blue and snowy white,
The guidon flags flutter gaily in the wind.
BIVOUAC ON A MOUNTAIN SIDE.
I SEE before me now a traveling army halting,
Below a fertile valley spread, with barns and the orchards
Behind, the terraced sides of a mountain, abrupt, in
places rising high,
Broken, with rocks, with clinging cedars, with tall
shapes dingily seen,
The numerous camp-fires scattered near and far, some
away up on the mountain,
The shadowy forms of men and horses, looming, large-
And over all the sky the sky! far, far out of reach,
studded, breaking out, the eternal stars.
BY THE BIVOUAC S FITFUL FLAME.
BY the bivouac s fitful flame,
A procession winding around me, solemn and sweet and
slow but first I note
The tents of the sleeping army, the fields and woods
The darkness lit by spots of kindled fire, the silence,
Like a phantom far or near an occasional figure moving,
The shrubs and trees, (as I lift my eyes they seem to be
stealthily watching me,)
While wind in procession thoughts, O tender and
Of life and death, of home and the past and loved,
and of those that are far away ;
A solemn and slow procession there as I sit on the
By the bivouac s fitful flame.
LO, VICTRESS ON THE PEAKS.
Lo, Victress on the peaks,
Where thou with mighty brow regarding the world,
(The world O Libertad, that vainly conspired against
Out of its countless beleaguering toils, after thwarting
Dominant, with the dazzling sun around thee,
Flauntest now unharm d in immortal soundness and
bloom lo, in these hours supreme,
No poem proud, I chanting bring to thee, nor mastery s
But a cluster containing night s darkness and blood-
And psalms of the dead.
WORD over all, beautiful as the sky,
Beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must in
time be utterly lost,
That the hands of the sisters Death and Night in
cessantly softly wash again, and ever again, this
soil d world ;
For my enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead,
I look where he lies white-faced and still in the coffin
I draw near,
Bend down and touch lightly with my lips the white
face in the coffin.
WHEN LILACS LAST IN THE DOORYARD
WHEN lilacs last in the dooryard bloom d,
And the great star early droop d in the western sky in
I mourn d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning
Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.
O powerful western fallen star !
O shades of night O moody, tearful night !
O great star disappear d O the black murk that hides
the star !
O cruel hands that hold me powerless O helpless soul
of me !
O harsh surrounding cloud that will not free my soul.
In the dooryard fronting an old farmhouse near the
~f! white- washed palings,
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing, with heart-shaped
leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the
perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle and from this bush in the
With delicate-color d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves
of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break.
In the swamp in secluded recesses,
A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.
Solitary the thrush,
The hermit withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settle
Sings by himself a song.
Song of the bleeding throat,
Death s outlet song of life (for well dear brother I know,
If thou wast not granted to sing thou would st surely die.)
Over the breast of the spring, the land, amid cities,
Amid lanes and through old woods, where lately the violets
peep d from the ground, spotting the gray debris,
Amid the grass in the fields each side of the lanes, passing
the endless grass,
Passing the yellow-spear d wheat, every grain from its
shroud in the dark-brown fields uprisen,
Passing the apple-tree blows of white and pink in the
Carrying a corpse to where it shall rest in the grave,
Night and day journeys a coffin.
Coffin that passes through lanes and streets,
Through day and night with the great cloud darkening
With the pomp of the inloop d flags with the cities
draped in black,
With the show of the States themselves as of crape-
veil d women standing,
With processions long and winding and the flambeaus
of the night,
With the countless torches lit, with the silent sea of
faces and the unbared heads,
With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin, and the
With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices
rising strong and solemn,
With all the mournful voices of the dirges pour d around
The dim-lit churches and the shuddering organs where
amid these you journey,
With the tolling tolling bells perpetual clang,
Here, coffin that slowly passes,
I give you my sprig of lilac.
(Nor for you, for ore alone,
Blossoms and branches green to coffins all I bring.
For fresh as the morning, thus would I chant a song for
you, O sane and sacred death.
All over bouquets of roses,
O death, I cover you over with roses and early lilies,
But mostly and now the lilac that blooms the first,
Copious I break, I break the sprigs from the bushes,
With loaded arms I come, pouring for you,
For you and the coffins all of you, O death.)
O western orb sailing the heaven,
Now I know what you must have meant as a month
since I walk d,
As I walk d in silence the transparent shadowy night,
As I saw you had something to tell as you bent to me
night after night,
As you droop d from the sky low down as if to my side,
(while the other stars all look d on,)
As we wander d together the solemn night, (for something
I know not what kept me from sleep,)
As the night advanced, and I saw on the rim of the west
how full you were of woe,
As I stood on the rising ground in the breeze in the cool
As I watch d where you pass d and was lost in the
netherward black of the night,
As my soul in its trouble dissatisfied sank, as where you
Concluded, dropt in the night, and was gone.
Sing on there in the swamp,
singer bashful and tender, I hear your notes, I hear
1 hear, I come presently, I understand you,
But a moment I linger, for the lustrous star has detain 1 d
The star my departing comrade holds and detains me.
O how shall I warble myself for the dead one there I
And how shall I deck my song for the large sweet soul
that has gone ?
And what shall my perfume be for the grave of him I
Sea-winds blown from east and west,
Blown from the Eastern sea and blown from the Western
sea, till there on the prairies meeting,
These and with these and the breath of my chant,
I ll perfume the grave of him I love.
O what shall I hang on the chamber walls ?
And what shall the pictures be that I hang on the walls,
To adorn the burial-house of him I love ?
Pictures of growing spring and farms and homes,
With the Fourth-month eve at sundown, and the gray
smoke lucid and bright,
With floods of the yellow gold of the gorgeous, indolent,
sinking sun, burning, expanding the air,
With the fresh sweet herbage under foot, and the pale
green leaves of the trees prolific,
In the distance the flowing glaze, the breast of the river,
with a wind-dapple here and there,
With ranging hills on the banks, with many a line
against the sky, and shadows,
And the city at hand with dwellings so dense, and stacks
And all the scenes of life, and the workshops, and the
workmen homeward returning.
Lo, body and soul this land,
My own Manhattan with spires, and the sparkling and