Song of the Broad-Axe
3 The log at the wood-pile, the axe supported by it, The sylvan hut, the vine over the doorway, the space clear'd for garden, The irregular tapping of rain down on the leaves after the storm is lull'd, The walling and moaning at intervals, the thought of the sea, The thought of ships struck in the storm and put on their beam ends, and the cutting away of masts, The sentiment of the huge timbers of old-fashion'd houses and barns, The remember'd print or narrative, the voyage at a venture of men, families, goods, The disembarkation, the founding of a new city, The voyage of those who sought a New England and found it, the outset anywhere, The settlements of the Arkansas, Colorado, Ottawa, Willamette, The slow progress, the scant fare, the axe, rifle, saddle-bags; The beauty of all adventurous and daring persons, The beauty of wood-boys and wood-men with their clear untrimm'd faces, The beauty of independence, departure, actions that rely on themselves, The American contempt for statutes and ceremonies, the boundless impatience of restraint, The loose drift of character, the inkling through random types, the solidification; The butcher in the slaughter-house, the hands aboard schooners and sloops, the raftsman, the pioneer, Lumbermen in their winter camp, daybreak in the woods, stripes of snow on the limbs of trees, the occasional snapping, The glad clear sound of one's own voice, the merry song, the natural life of the woods, the strong day's work, The blazing fire at night, the sweet taste of supper, the talk, the bed of hemlock-boughs and the bear-skin; The house-builder at work in cities or anywhere, The preparatory jointing, squaring, sawing, mortising, The hoist-up of beams, the push of them in their places, laying them regular, Setting the studs by their tenons in the mortises according as they were prepared, The blows of mallets and hammers, the attitudes of the men, their curv'd limbs, Bending, standing, astride the beams, driving in pins, holding on by posts and braces, The hook'd arm over the plate, the other arm wielding the axe, The floor-men forcing the planks close to be nail'd, Their postures bringing their weapons downward on the bearers, The echoes resounding through the vacant building: The huge storehouse carried up in the city well under way, The six framing-men, two in the middle and two at each end, carefully bearing on their shoulders a heavy stick for a cross-beam, The crowded line of masons with trowels in their right hands rapidly laying the long side-wall, two hundred feet from front to rear, The flexible rise and fall of backs, the continual click of the trowels striking the bricks, The bricks one after another each laid so workmanlike in its place, and set with a knock of the trowel-handle, The piles of materials, the mortar on the mortar-boards, and the steady replenishing by the hod-men; Spar-makers in the spar-yard, the swarming row of well-grown apprentices, The swing of their axes on the square-hew'd log shaping it toward the shape of a mast, The brisk short crackle of the steel driven slantingly into the pine, The butter-color'd chips flying off in great flakes and slivers, The limber motion of brawny young arms and hips in easy costumes, The constructor of wharves, bridges, piers, bulk-heads, floats, stays against the sea; The city fireman, the fire that suddenly bursts forth in the close-pack'd square, The arriving engines, the hoarse shouts, the nimble stepping and daring, The strong command through the fire-trumpets, the falling in line, the rise and fall of the arms forcing the water, The slender, spasmic, blue-white jets, the bringing to bear of the hooks and ladders and their execution, The crash and cut away of connecting wood-work, or through floors if the fire smoulders under them, The crowd with their lit faces watching, the glare and dense shadows; The forger at his forge-furnace and the user of iron after him, The maker of the axe large and small, and the welder and temperer, The chooser breathing his breath on the cold steel and trying the edge with his thumb, The one who clean-shapes the handle and sets it firmly in the socket; The shadowy processions of the portraits of the past users also, The primal patient mechanics, the architects and engineers, The far-off Assyrian edifice and Mizra edifice, The Roman lictors preceding the consuls, The antique European warrior with his axe in combat, The uplifted arm, the clatter of blows on the helmeted head, The death-howl, the limpsy tumbling body, the rush of friend and foe thither, The siege of revolted lieges determin'd for liberty, The summons to surrender, the battering at castle gates, the truce and parley, The sack of an old city in its time, The bursting in of mercenaries and bigots tumultuously and disorderly, Roar, flames, blood, drunkenness, madness, Goods freely rifled from houses and temples, screams of women in the gripe of brigands, Craft and thievery of camp-followers, men running, old persons despairing, The hell of war, the cruelties of creeds, The list of all executive deeds and words just or unjust, The power of personality just or unjust.
Posted on 28/09/2014, in literature, poetry and tagged 19th Century Poetry, American literature, American poets, Daily Whitman, free verse, Leaves of Grass, literature, poems, poetry, Transcendentalists, Walt Whitman. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.