Monthly Archives: May 2015

Daily Whitman


The Sleepers

  I see a beautiful gigantic swimmer swimming naked through the eddies
      of the sea,
  His brown hair lies close and even to his head, he strikes out with
      courageous arms, he urges himself with his legs,
  I see his white body, I see his undaunted eyes,
  I hate the swift-running eddies that would dash him head-foremost on
      the rocks.

  What are you doing you ruffianly red-trickled waves?
  Will you kill the courageous giant? will you kill him in the prime
      of his middle age?

  Steady and long he struggles,
  He is baffled, bang'd, bruis'd, he holds out while his strength
      holds out,
  The slapping eddies are spotted with his blood, they bear him away,
      they roll him, swing him, turn him,
  His beautiful body is borne in the circling eddies, it is
      continually bruis'd on rocks,
  Swiftly and ought of sight is borne the brave corpse.

Daily Whitman


The Sleepers

  I descend my western course, my sinews are flaccid,
  Perfume and youth course through me and I am their wake.

  It is my face yellow and wrinkled instead of the old woman's,
  I sit low in a straw-bottom chair and carefully darn my grandson's

  It is I too, the sleepless widow looking out on the winter midnight,
  I see the sparkles of starshine on the icy and pallid earth.

  A shroud I see and I am the shroud, I wrap a body and lie in the coffin,
  It is dark here under ground, it is not evil or pain here, it is
      blank here, for reasons.

  (It seems to me that every thing in the light and air ought to be happy,
  Whoever is not in his coffin and the dark grave let him know he has enough.)

Daily Whitman



The Sleepers

  I wander all night in my vision,
  Stepping with light feet, swiftly and noiselessly stepping and stopping,
  Bending with open eyes over the shut eyes of sleepers,
  Wandering and confused, lost to myself, ill-assorted, contradictory,
  Pausing, gazing, bending, and stopping.

  How solemn they look there, stretch'd and still,
  How quiet they breathe, the little children in their cradles.

  The wretched features of ennuyes, the white features of corpses, the
      livid faces of drunkards, the sick-gray faces of onanists,
  The gash'd bodies on battle-fields, the insane in their
      strong-door'd rooms, the sacred idiots, the new-born emerging
      from gates, and the dying emerging from gates,
  The night pervades them and infolds them.

  The married couple sleep calmly in their bed, he with his palm on
      the hip of the wife, and she with her palm on the hip of the husband,
  The sisters sleep lovingly side by side in their bed,
  The men sleep lovingly side by side in theirs,
  And the mother sleeps with her little child carefully wrapt.

  The blind sleep, and the deaf and dumb sleep,
  The prisoner sleeps well in the prison, the runaway son sleeps,
  The murderer that is to be hung next day, how does he sleep?
  And the murder'd person, how does he sleep?

  The female that loves unrequited sleeps,
  And the male that loves unrequited sleeps,
  The head of the money-maker that plotted all day sleeps,
  And the enraged and treacherous dispositions, all, all sleep.

  I stand in the dark with drooping eyes by the worst-suffering and
      the most restless,
  I pass my hands soothingly to and fro a few inches from them,
  The restless sink in their beds, they fitfully sleep.

  Now I pierce the darkness, new beings appear,
  The earth recedes from me into the night,
  I saw that it was beautiful, and I see that what is not the earth is

  I go from bedside to bedside, I sleep close with the other sleepers
      each in turn,
  I dream in my dream all the dreams of the other dreamers,
  And I become the other dreamers.

  I am a dance—play up there! the fit is whirling me fast!

  I am the ever-laughing—it is new moon and twilight,
  I see the hiding of douceurs, I see nimble ghosts whichever way look,
  Cache and cache again deep in the ground and sea, and where it is
      neither ground nor sea.

  Well do they do their jobs those journeymen divine,
  Only from me can they hide nothing, and would not if they could,
  I reckon I am their boss and they make me a pet besides,
  And surround me and lead me and run ahead when I walk,
  To lift their cunning covers to signify me with stretch'd arms, and
      resume the way;
  Onward we move, a gay gang of blackguards! with mirth-shouting
      music and wild-flapping pennants of joy!

  I am the actor, the actress, the voter, the politician,
  The emigrant and the exile, the criminal that stood in the box,
  He who has been famous and he who shall be famous after to-day,
  The stammerer, the well-form'd person, the wasted or feeble person.

  I am she who adorn'd herself and folded her hair expectantly,
  My truant lover has come, and it is dark.

  Double yourself and receive me darkness,
  Receive me and my lover too, he will not let me go without him.

  I roll myself upon you as upon a bed, I resign myself to the dusk.

  He whom I call answers me and takes the place of my lover,
  He rises with me silently from the bed.

  Darkness, you are gentler than my lover, his flesh was sweaty and panting,
  I feel the hot moisture yet that he left me.

  My hands are spread forth, I pass them in all directions,
  I would sound up the shadowy shore to which you are journeying.

  Be careful darkness! already what was it touch'd me?
  I thought my lover had gone, else darkness and he are one,
  I hear the heart-beat, I follow, I fade away.


Daily Whitman



Prayer of Columbus

  A batter'd, wreck'd old man,
  Thrown on this savage shore, far, far from home,
  Pent by the sea and dark rebellious brows, twelve dreary months,
  Sore, stiff with many toils, sicken'd and nigh to death,
  I take my way along the island's edge,
  Venting a heavy heart.

  I am too full of woe!
  Haply I may not live another day;
  I cannot rest O God, I cannot eat or drink or sleep,
  Till I put forth myself, my prayer, once more to Thee,
  Breathe, bathe myself once more in Thee, commune with Thee,
  Report myself once more to Thee.

  Thou knowest my years entire, my life,
  My long and crowded life of active work, not adoration merely;
  Thou knowest the prayers and vigils of my youth,
  Thou knowest my manhood's solemn and visionary meditations,
  Thou knowest how before I commenced I devoted all to come to Thee,
  Thou knowest I have in age ratified all those vows and strictly kept them,
  Thou knowest I have not once lost nor faith nor ecstasy in Thee,
  In shackles, prison'd, in disgrace, repining not,
  Accepting all from Thee, as duly come from Thee.

  All my emprises have been fill'd with Thee,
  My speculations, plans, begun and carried on in thoughts of Thee,
  Sailing the deep or journeying the land for Thee;
  Intentions, purports, aspirations mine, leaving results to Thee.

  O I am sure they really came from Thee,
  The urge, the ardor, the unconquerable will,
  The potent, felt, interior command, stronger than words,
  A message from the Heavens whispering to me even in sleep,
  These sped me on.

  By me and these the work so far accomplish'd,
  By me earth's elder cloy'd and stifled lands uncloy'd, unloos'd,
  By me the hemispheres rounded and tied, the unknown to the known.

  The end I know not, it is all in Thee,
  Or small or great I know not—haply what broad fields, what lands,
  Haply the brutish measureless human undergrowth I know,
  Transplanted there may rise to stature, knowledge worthy Thee,
  Haply the swords I know may there indeed be turn'd to reaping-tools,
  Haply the lifeless cross I know, Europe's dead cross, may bud and
      blossom there.

  One effort more, my altar this bleak sand;
  That Thou O God my life hast lighted,
  With ray of light, steady, ineffable, vouchsafed of Thee,
  Light rare untellable, lighting the very light,
  Beyond all signs, descriptions, languages;
  For that O God, be it my latest word, here on my knees,
  Old, poor, and paralyzed, I thank Thee.

  My terminus near,
  The clouds already closing in upon me,
  The voyage balk'd, the course disputed, lost,
  I yield my ships to Thee.

  My hands, my limbs grow nerveless,
  My brain feels rack'd, bewilder'd,
  Let the old timbers part, I will not part,
  I will cling fast to Thee, O God, though the waves buffet me,
  Thee, Thee at least I know.

  Is it the prophet's thought I speak, or am I raving?
  What do I know of life? what of myself?
  I know not even my own work past or present,
  Dim ever-shifting guesses of it spread before me,
  Of newer better worlds, their mighty parturition,
  Mocking, perplexing me.

  And these things I see suddenly, what mean they?
  As if some miracle, some hand divine unseal'd my eyes,
  Shadowy vast shapes smile through the air and sky,
  And on the distant waves sail countless ships,
  And anthems in new tongues I hear saluting me.


Daily Whitman


Passage to India

  Passage to more than India!
  Are thy wings plumed indeed for such far flights?
  O soul, voyagest thou indeed on voyages like those?
  Disportest thou on waters such as those?
  Soundest below the Sanscrit and the Vedas?
  Then have thy bent unleash'd.

  Passage to you, your shores, ye aged fierce enigmas!
  Passage to you, to mastership of you, ye strangling problems!
  You, strew'd with the wrecks of skeletons, that, living, never reach'd you.

  Passage to more than India!
  O secret of the earth and sky!
  Of you O waters of the sea! O winding creeks and rivers!
  Of you O woods and fields! of you strong mountains of my land!
  Of you O prairies! of you gray rocks!
  O morning red! O clouds! O rain and snows!
  O day and night, passage to you!
  O sun and moon and all you stars! Sirius and Jupiter!
  Passage to you!

  Passage, immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins!
  Away O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!

  Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
  Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
  Have we not grovel'd here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
  Have we not darken'd and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

  Sail forth—steer for the deep waters only,
  Reckless O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me,
  For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
  And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

  O my brave soul!
  O farther farther sail!
  O daring joy, but safe! are they not all the seas of God?
  O farther, farther, farther sail!



Daily Whitman


Passage to India

  O we can wait no longer,
  We too take ship O soul,
  Joyous we too launch out on trackless seas,
  Fearless for unknown shores on waves of ecstasy to sail,
  Amid the wafting winds, (thou pressing me to thee, I thee to me, O soul,)
  Caroling free, singing our song of God,
  Chanting our chant of pleasant exploration.

  With laugh and many a kiss,
  (Let others deprecate, let others weep for sin, remorse, humiliation,)
  O soul thou pleasest me, I thee.

  Ah more than any priest O soul we too believe in God,
  But with the mystery of God we dare not dally.

  O soul thou pleasest me, I thee,
  Sailing these seas or on the hills, or waking in the night,
  Thoughts, silent thoughts, of Time and Space and Death, like waters flowing,
  Bear me indeed as through the regions infinite,
  Whose air I breathe, whose ripples hear, lave me all over,
  Bathe me O God in thee, mounting to thee,
  I and my soul to range in range of thee.

  O Thou transcendent,
  Nameless, the fibre and the breath,
  Light of the light, shedding forth universes, thou centre of them,
  Thou mightier centre of the true, the good, the loving,
  Thou moral, spiritual fountain—affection's source—thou reservoir,
  (O pensive soul of me—O thirst unsatisfied—waitest not there?
  Waitest not haply for us somewhere there the Comrade perfect?)
  Thou pulse—thou motive of the stars, suns, systems,
  That, circling, move in order, safe, harmonious,
  Athwart the shapeless vastnesses of space,
  How should I think, how breathe a single breath, how speak, if, out
      of myself,
  I could not launch, to those, superior universes?

  Swiftly I shrivel at the thought of God,
  At Nature and its wonders, Time and Space and Death,
  But that I, turning, call to thee O soul, thou actual Me,
  And lo, thou gently masterest the orbs,
  Thou matest Time, smilest content at Death,
  And fillest, swellest full the vastnesses of Space.

  Greater than stars or suns,
  Bounding O soul thou journeyest forth;
  What love than thine and ours could wider amplify?
  What aspirations, wishes, outvie thine and ours O soul?
  What dreams of the ideal? what plans of purity, perfection, strength?
  What cheerful willingness for others' sake to give up all?
  For others' sake to suffer all?

  Reckoning ahead O soul, when thou, the time achiev'd,
  The seas all cross'd, weather'd the capes, the voyage done,
  Surrounded, copest, frontest God, yieldest, the aim attain'd,
  As fill'd with friendship, love complete, the Elder Brother found,
  The Younger melts in fondness in his arms.


Daily Whitman


Passage to India

  Passage indeed O soul to primal thought,
  Not lands and seas alone, thy own clear freshness,
  The young maturity of brood and bloom,
  To realms of budding bibles.

  O soul, repressless, I with thee and thou with me,
  Thy circumnavigation of the world begin,
  Of man, the voyage of his mind's return,
  To reason's early paradise,
  Back, back to wisdom's birth, to innocent intuitions,
  Again with fair creation.

Daily Whitman


Passage to India

  Year at whose wide-flung door I sing!
  Year of the purpose accomplish'd!
  Year of the marriage of continents, climates and oceans!
  (No mere doge of Venice now wedding the Adriatic,)
  I see O year in you the vast terraqueous globe given and giving all,
  Europe to Asia, Africa join'd, and they to the New World,
  The lands, geographies, dancing before you, holding a festival garland,
  As brides and bridegrooms hand in hand.

  Passage to India!
  Cooling airs from Caucasus far, soothing cradle of man,
  The river Euphrates flowing, the past lit up again.

  Lo soul, the retrospect brought forward,
  The old, most populous, wealthiest of earth's lands,
  The streams of the Indus and the Ganges and their many affluents,
  (I my shores of America walking to-day behold, resuming all,)
  The tale of Alexander on his warlike marches suddenly dying,
  On one side China and on the other side Persia and Arabia,
  To the south the great seas and the bay of Bengal,
  The flowing literatures, tremendous epics, religions, castes,
  Old occult Brahma interminably far back, the tender and junior Buddha,
  Central and southern empires and all their belongings, possessors,
  The wars of Tamerlane,the reign of Aurungzebe,
  The traders, rulers, explorers, Moslems, Venetians, Byzantium, the
      Arabs, Portuguese,
  The first travelers famous yet, Marco Polo, Batouta the Moor,
  Doubts to be solv'd, the map incognita, blanks to be fill'd,
  The foot of man unstay'd, the hands never at rest,
  Thyself O soul that will not brook a challenge.

  The mediaeval navigators rise before me,
  The world of 1492, with its awaken'd enterprise,
  Something swelling in humanity now like the sap of the earth in spring,
  The sunset splendor of chivalry declining.

  And who art thou sad shade?
  Gigantic, visionary, thyself a visionary,
  With majestic limbs and pious beaming eyes,
  Spreading around with every look of thine a golden world,
  Enhuing it with gorgeous hues.

  As the chief histrion,
  Down to the footlights walks in some great scena,
  Dominating the rest I see the Admiral himself,
  (History's type of courage, action, faith,)
  Behold him sail from Palos leading his little fleet,
  His voyage behold, his return, his great fame,
  His misfortunes, calumniators, behold him a prisoner, chain'd,
  Behold his dejection, poverty, death.

  (Curious in time I stand, noting the efforts of heroes,
  Is the deferment long? bitter the slander, poverty, death?
  Lies the seed unreck'd for centuries in the ground? lo, to God's due
  Uprising in the night, it sprouts, blooms,
  And fills the earth with use and beauty.)


Daily Whitman


Passage to India

  O vast Rondure, swimming in space,
  Cover'd all over with visible power and beauty,
  Alternate light and day and the teeming spiritual darkness,
  Unspeakable high processions of sun and moon and countless stars above,
  Below, the manifold grass and waters, animals, mountains, trees,
  With inscrutable purpose, some hidden prophetic intention,
  Now first it seems my thought begins to span thee.

  Down from the gardens of Asia descending radiating,
  Adam and Eve appear, then their myriad progeny after them,
  Wandering, yearning, curious, with restless explorations,
  With questionings, baffled, formless, feverish, with never-happy hearts,
  With that sad incessant refrain, Wherefore unsatisfied soul? and
      Whither O mocking life?

  Ah who shall soothe these feverish children?
  Who Justify these restless explorations?
  Who speak the secret of impassive earth?
  Who bind it to us? what is this separate Nature so unnatural?
  What is this earth to our affections? (unloving earth, without a
      throb to answer ours,
  Cold earth, the place of graves.)

  Yet soul be sure the first intent remains, and shall be carried out,
  Perhaps even now the time has arrived.

  After the seas are all cross'd, (as they seem already cross'd,)
  After the great captains and engineers have accomplish'd their work,
  After the noble inventors, after the scientists, the chemist, the
      geologist, ethnologist,
  Finally shall come the poet worthy that name,
  The true son of God shall come singing his songs.

  Then not your deeds only O voyagers, O scientists and inventors,
      shall be justified,
  All these hearts as of fretted children shall be sooth'd,
  All affection shall be fully responded to, the secret shall be told,
  All these separations and gaps shall be taken up and hook'd and
      link'd together,
  The whole earth, this cold, impassive, voiceless earth, shall be
      completely Justified,
  Trinitas divine shall be gloriously accomplish'd and compacted by
      the true son of God, the poet,
  (He shall indeed pass the straits and conquer the mountains,
  He shall double the cape of Good Hope to some purpose,)
  Nature and Man shall be disjoin'd and diffused no more,
  The true son of God shall absolutely fuse them.


Daily Whitman


Passage to India

  Passage to India!
  Struggles of many a captain, tales of many a sailor dead,
  Over my mood stealing and spreading they come,
  Like clouds and cloudlets in the unreach'd sky.

  Along all history, down the slopes,
  As a rivulet running, sinking now, and now again to the surface rising,
  A ceaseless thought, a varied train—lo, soul, to thee, thy sight,
      they rise,
  The plans, the voyages again, the expeditions;
  Again Vasco de Gama sails forth,
  Again the knowledge gain'd, the mariner's compass,
  Lands found and nations born, thou born America,
  For purpose vast, man's long probation fill'd,
  Thou rondure of the world at last accomplish'd.