Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun
GIVE me the splendid silent sun with all his beams full-dazzling, Give me autumnal fruit ripe and red from the orchard, Give me a field where the unmow'd grass grows, Give me an arbor, give me the trellis'd grape, Give me fresh corn and wheat, give me serene-moving animals teaching content, Give me nights perfectly quiet as on high plateaus west of the Mississippi, and I looking up at the stars, Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturb'd, Give me for marriage a sweet-breath'd woman of whom I should never tire, Give me a perfect child, give me away aside from the noise of the world a rural domestic life, Give me to warble spontaneous songs recluse by myself, for my own ears only, Give me solitude, give me Nature, give me again O Nature your primal sanities! These demanding to have them, (tired with ceaseless excitement, and rack'd by the war-strife,) These to procure incessantly asking, rising in cries from my heart, While yet incessantly asking still I adhere to my city, Day upon day and year upon year O city, walking your streets, Where you hold me enchain'd a certain time refusing to give me up, Yet giving to make me glutted, enrich'd of soul, you give me forever faces; (O I see what I sought to escape, confronting, reversing my cries, see my own soul trampling down what it ask'd for.)
Keep your splendid silent sun, Keep your woods O Nature, and the quiet places by the woods, Keep your fields of clover and timothy, and your corn-fields and orchards, Keep the blossoming buckwheat fields where the Ninth-month bees hum; Give me faces and streets- give me these phantoms incessant and endless along the trottoirs! Give me interminable eyes- give me women- give me comrades and lovers by the thousand! Let me see new ones every day- let me hold new ones by the hand every day! Give me such shows- give me the streets of Manhattan! Give me Broadway, with the soldiers marching-give me the sound of the trumpets and drums! (The soldiers in companies or regiments- some starting away, flush'd and reckless, Some, their time up, returning with thinn'd ranks, young, yet very old, worn, marching, noticing nothing;) Give me the shores and wharves heavy-fringed with black ships! O such for me! O an intense life, full to repletion and varied! The life of the theatre, bar-room, huge hotel, for me! The saloon of the steamer! the crowded excursion for me! the torchlight procession! The dense brigade bound for the war, with high piled military wagons following; People, endless, streaming, with strong voices, passions, pageants, Manhattan streets with their powerful throbs, with beating drums as now, The endless and noisy chorus, the rustle and clank of muskets, (even the sight of the wounded,) Manhattan crowds, with their turbulent musical chorus! Manhattan faces and eyes forever for me.
THE last sunbeam Lightly falls from the finish'd Sabbath, On the pavement here, and there beyond it is looking, Down a new-made double grave. Lo, the moon ascending, Up from the east the silvery round moon, Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon, Immense and silent moon. I see a sad procession, And I hear the sound of coming full-key'd bugles, All the channels of the city streets they're flooding, As with voices and with tears. I hear the great drums pounding, And the small drums steady whirring, And every blow of the great convulsive drums, Strikes me through and through. For the son is brought with the father, (In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell, Two veterans son and father dropt together, And the double grave awaits them.) Now nearer blow the bugles, And the drums strike more convulsive, And the daylight o'er the pavement quite has faded, And the strong dead-march enwraps me. In the eastern sky up-buoying, The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin'd, ('Tis some mother's large transparent face, In heaven brighter growing.) O strong dead-march you please me! O moon immense with your silvery face you soothe me! O my soldiers twain! O my veterans passing to burial! What I have I also give you. The moon gives you light, And the bugles and the drums give you music, And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans, My heart gives you love.
Dirge for Two Veterens
OVER the carnage rose prophetic a voice, Be not dishearten'd, affection shall solve the problems of freedom yet, Those who love each other shall become invincible, They shall yet make Columbia victorious. Sons of the Mother of All, you shall yet be victorious, You shall yet laugh to scorn the attacks of all the remainder of the earth. No danger shall balk Columbia's lovers, If need be a thousand shall sternly immolate themselves for one. One from Massachusetts shall be a Missourian's comrade, From Maine and from hot Carolina, and another an Oregonese, shall be friends triune, More precious to each other than all the riches of the earth. To Michigan, Florida perfumes shall tenderly come, Not the perfumes of flowers, but sweeter, and waited beyond death. It shall be customary in the houses and streets to see manly affection, The most dauntless and rude shall touch face to face lightly, The dependence of Liberty shall be lovers, The continuance of Equality shall be comrades. These shall tie you and band you stronger than hoops of iron, I, ecstatic, O partners! O lands! with the love of lovers tie you. (Were you looking to be held together by lawyers? Or by an agreement on a paper? or by arms? Nay, nor the world, nor any living thing, will so cohere.)
Over the Carnage Rose Prophetic a Voice
I SAW old General at bay, (Old as he was, his gray eyes yet shone out in battle like stars,) His small force was now completely hemm'd in, in his works, He call'd for volunteers to run the enemy's lines, a desperate emergency, I saw a hundred and more step forth from the ranks, but two or three were selected, I saw them receive their orders aside, they listen'd with care, the adjutant was very grave, I saw them depart with cheerfulness, freely risking their lives.
I Saw Old General at Bay
WHILE my wife at my side lies slumbering, and the wars are over long, And my head on the pillow rests at home, and the vacant midnight passes, And through the stillness, through the dark, I hear, just hear, the breath of my infant, There in the room as I wake from sleep this vision presses upon me; The engagement opens there and then in fantasy unreal, The skirmishers begin, they crawl cautiously ahead, I hear the irregular snap! snap! I hear the sounds of the different missiles, the short t-h-t! t-h-t! of the rifle-balls, I see the shells exploding leaving small white clouds, I hear the great shells shrieking as they pass, The grape like the hum and whirr of wind through the trees, (tumultuous now the contest rages,) All the scenes at the batteries rise in detail before me again, The crashing and smoking, the pride of the men in their pieces, The chief-gunner ranges and sights his piece and selects a fuse of the right time, After firing I see him lean aside and look eagerly off to note the effect; Elsewhere I hear the cry of a regiment charging, (the young colonel leads himself this time with brandish'd sword,) I see the gaps cut by the enemy's volleys, (quickly fill'd up, no delay,) I breathe the suffocating smoke, then the flat clouds hover low concealing all; Now a strange lull for a few seconds, not a shot fired on either side, Then resumed the chaos louder than ever, with eager calls and orders of officers, While from some distant part of the field the wind waits to my ears a shout of applause, (some special success,) And ever the sound of the cannon far or near, (rousing even in dreams a devilish exultation and all the old mad joy in the depths of my soul,) And ever the hastening of infantry shifting positions, batteries, cavalry, moving hither and thither, (The falling, dying, I heed not, the wounded dripping and red heed not, some to the rear are hobbling,) Grime, heat, rush, aide-de-camps galloping by or on a full run, With the patter of small arms, the warning s-s-t of the rifles, (these in my vision I hear or see,) And bombs bursting in air, and at night the vari-color'd rockets.
The Artilleryman's Vision
WHO are you dusky woman, so ancient hardly human, With your woolly-white and turban'd head, and bare bony feet? Why rising by the roadside here, do you the colors greet? ('Tis while our army lines Carolina's sands and pines, Forth from thy hovel door thou Ethiopia comist to me, As under doughty Sherman I march toward the sea.) Me master years a hundred since from my parents sunder'd, A little child, they caught me as the savage beast is caught, Then hither me across the sea the cruel slaver brought. No further does she say, but lingering all the day, Her high-borne turban'd head she wags, and rolls her darkling eye, And courtesies to the regiments, the guidons moving by. What is it fateful woman, so blear, hardly human? Why wag your head with turban bound, yellow, red and green? Are the things so strange and marvelous you see or have seen?
Ethiopia Saluting the Colours
NOT youth pertains to me, Nor delicatesse, I cannot beguile the time with talk, Awkward in the parlor, neither a dancer nor elegant, In the learn'd coterie sitting constrain'd and still, for learning inures not to me, Beauty, knowledge, inure not to me-yet there are two or three things inure to me, I have nourish'd the wounded and sooth'd many a dying soldier, And at intervals waiting or in the midst of camp, Composed these songs.
Not Youth Pertains to Me
RACE of veterans- race of victors! Race of the soil, ready for conflict- race of the conquering march! (No more credulity's race, abiding-temper'd race,) Race henceforth owning no law but the law of itself, Race of passion and the storm.
Race of Veterans
WORLD take good notice, silver stars fading, Milky hue ript, wet of white detaching, Coals thirty-eight, baleful and burning, Scarlet, significant, hands off warning, Now and henceforth flaunt from these shores.
World Take Good Notice
O TAN-FACED prairie-boy, Before you came to camp came many a welcome gift, Praises and presents came and nourishing food, till at last among the recruits, You came, taciturn, with nothing to give-we but look'd on each other, When lo! more than all the gifts of the world you gave me.
O Tan-Faced Prairie-Boy
Look down fair moon and bathe this scene, Pour softly down night's nimbus floods on faces ghastly, swollen, purple, On the dead on their backs with arms toss'd wide, Pour down your unstinted nimbus sacred moon.
Look Down Fair Moon
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 incessantly softly wash again, and ever again, this solid 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.
How Solemn As One by One
HOW solemn as one by one, As the ranks returning worn and sweaty, as the men file by where stand, As the faces the masks appear, as I glance at the faces studying the masks, (As I glance upward out of this page studying you, dear friend, whoever you are,) How solemn the thought of my whispering soul to each in the ranks, and to you, I see behind each mask that wonder a kindred soul, O the bullet could never kill what you really are, dear friend, Nor the bayonet stab what you really are; The soul! yourself I see, great as any, good as the best, Waiting secure and content, which the bullet could never kill, Nor the bayonet stab, O friend.
(Washington City, 1865.)
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