As I Lay with my Head in Your Lap, Camerado
As I lay with my head in your lap camerado, The confession I made I resume, what I said to you and the open air I resume, I know I am restless and make others so, I know my words are weapons full of danger, full of death, For I confront peace, security, and all the settled laws, to unsettle them, I am more resolute because all have denied me than I could ever have been had all accepted me, I heed not and have never heeded either experience, cautions, majorities, nor ridicule, And the threat of what is call'd hell is little or nothing to me, And the lure of what is call'd heaven is little or nothing to me; Dear camerado! I confess I have urged you onward with me, and still urge you, without the least idea what is our destination, Or whether we shall be victorious, or utterly quell'd and defeated.
DELICATE cluster! flag of teeming life! Covering all my lands- all my seashores lining! Flag of death! (how I watch'd you through the smoke of battle pressing! How I heard you flap and rustle, cloth defiant!) Flag cerulean- sunny flag, with the orbs of night dappled! Ah my silvery beauty- ah my woolly white and crimson! Ah to sing the song of you, my matron mighty! My sacred one, my mother.
DID you ask dulcet rhymes from me? Did you seek the civilian's peaceful and languishing rhymes? Did you find what I sang erewhile so hard to follow? Why I was not singing erewhile for you to follow, to understand- nor am I now; (I have been born of the same as the war was born, The drum-corps' rattle is ever to me sweet music, I love well the martial dirge, With slow wail and convulsive throb leading the officer's funeral;) What to such as you anyhow such a poet as I? therefore leave my works, And go lull yourself with what you can understand, and with piano-tunes, For I lull nobody, and you will never understand me.
To a Certain Civilian
LO, Victress on the peaks, Where thou with mighty brow regarding the world, (The world O Libertad, that vainly conspired against thee,) Out of its countless beleaguering toils, after thwarting them all, 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 rapturous verse, But a cluster containing night's darkness and blood-dripping wounds, And psalms of the dead.
Lo, Victress on the Peaks
Spirit Whose Work is Done
SPIRIT whose work is done- spirit of dreadful hours! Ere departing fade from my eyes your forests of bayonets; Spirit of gloomiest fears and doubts, (yet onward ever unfaltering pressing,) Spirit of many a solemn day and many a savage scene- electric spirit, That with muttering voice through the war now closed, like a tireless phantom flitted, Rousing the land with breath of flame, while you beat and beat the drum, Now as the sound of the drum, hollow and harsh to the last, reverberates round me, As your ranks, your immortal ranks, return, return from the battles, As the muskets of the young men yet lean over their shoulders, As I look on the bayonets bristling over their shoulders, As those slanted bayonets, whole forests of them appearing in the distance, approach and pass on, returning homeward, Moving with steady motion, swaying to and fro to the right and left, Evenly lightly rising and falling while the steps keep time; Spirit of hours I knew, all hectic red one day, but pale as death next day, Touch my mouth ere you depart, press my lips close, Leave me your pulses of rage- bequeath them to me- fill me with currents convulsive, Let them scorch and blister out of my chants when you are gone, Let them identify you to the future in these songs.
(Washington City, 1865.)
ADIEU O soldier, You of the rude campaigning, (which we shared,) The rapid march, the life of the camp, The hot contention of opposing fronts, the long manoeuvre, Red battles with their slaughter, the stimulus, the strong terrific game, Spell of all brave and manly hearts, the trains of time through you and like of you all fill'd, With war and war's expression. Adieu dear comrade, Your mission is fulfill'd- but I, more warlike, Myself and this contentious soul of mine, Still on our own campaigning bound, Through untried roads with ambushes opponents lined, Through many a sharp defeat and many a crisis, often baffled, Here marching, ever marching on, a war fight out- aye here, To fiercer, weightier battles give expression.
Adieu to a Soldier
TURN O Libertad, for the war is over, From it and all henceforth expanding, doubting no more, resolute, sweeping the world, Turn from lands retrospective recording proofs of the past, From the singers that sing the trailing glories of the past, From the chants of the feudal world, the triumphs of kings, slavery, caste, Turn to the world, the triumphs reserv'd and to come- give up that backward world, Leave to the singers of hitherto, give them the trailing past, But what remains remains for singers for you-wars to come are for you, (Lo, how the wars of the past have duly inured to you, and the wars of the present also inure;) Then turn, and be not alarm'd O Libertad- turn your undying face, To where the future, greater than all the past, Is swiftly, surely preparing for you.
Turn O Libertad
To the leaven'd soil they trod calling I sing for the last, (Forth from my tent emerging for good, loosing, untying the tent-ropes,) In the freshness the forenoon air, in the far-stretching circuits and vistas again to peace restored, To the fiery fields emanative and the endless vistas beyond, to the South and the North, To the leaven'd soil of the general Western world to attest my songs, To the Alleghanian hills and the tireless Mississippi, To the rocks I calling sing, and all the trees in the woods, To the plains of the poems of heroes, to the prairies spreading wide, To the far-off sea and the unseen winds, and the sane impalpable air; And responding they answer all, (but not in words,) The average earth, the witness of war and peace, acknowledges mutely, The prairie draws me close, as the father to bosom broad the son, The Northern ice and rain that began me nourish me to the end, But the hot sun of the South is to fully ripen my songs.
To the Leaven'd Soil They Trod
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