Best Poems From
(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892)
As The Time Draws Nigh
AS the time draws nigh, glooming, a cloud,
A dread beyond, of I know not what, darkens me.
I shall go forth,
I shall traverse The States awhile--but I cannot tell whither or how
Perhaps soon, some day or night while I am singing, my voice will
O book, O chants! must all then amount to but this?
Must we barely arrive at this beginning of us?... And yet it is
enough, O soul!
O soul! we have positively appear'd--that is enough.
Read more: night poems, time poems
Prayer Of Columbus
IT was near the close of his indomitable and pious life--on his last voyage
when nearly 70 years of age--that Columbus, to save his two remaining ships
from foundering in the Caribbean Sea in a terrible storm, had to run them
ashore on the Island of Jamaica--where, laid up for a long and miserable
year--1503--he was taken very sick, had several relapses, his men revolted,
and death seem'd daily imminent; though he was eventually rescued, and sent
home to Spain to die, unrecognized, neglected and in want......It is only
ask'd, as preparation and atmosphere for the following lines, that the bare
authentic facts be recall'd and realized, and nothing contributed by the
fancy. See, the Antillean Island, with its florid skies and rich foliage
and scenery, the waves beating the solitary sands, and the hulls of the
ships in the distance. See, the figure of the great Admiral, walking the
beach, as a stage, in this sublimest tragedy--for what tragedy, what poem,
so piteous and majestic as the real scene?--and hear him uttering--as his
mystical and religious soul surely utter'd, the ideas following--perhaps,
in their equivalents, the very words.
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 can not rest, O God--I can not eat or drink or sleep,
Till I put forth myself, my prayer, once more to Thee, 10
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
Thou knowest I have not once lost nor faith nor ecstasy in Thee;
(In shackles, prison'd, in disgrace, repining not, 20
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 come 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. 30
By me, and these, the work so far accomplish'd (for what has been,
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
One effort more--my altar this bleak sand: 40
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. 50
Steersman unseen! henceforth the helms are Thine;
Take Thou command--(what to my petty skill Thy navigation?)
My hands, my limbs grow nerveless;
My brain feels rack'd, bewilder'd; Let the old timbers part--I will
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; 60
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.
Read more: work poems, beach poems, sleep poems, god poems, lost poems, home poems, poem poems, sea poems, light poems, sick poems, death poems, faith poems, life poems, smile poems, dark poems, sky poems, thanks poems, rose poems, running poems
As A Strong Bird On Pinious Free
AS a strong bird on pinions free,
Joyous, the amplest spaces heavenward cleaving,
Such be the thought I'd think to-day of thee, America,
Such be the recitative I'd bring to-day for thee.
The conceits of the poets of other lands I bring thee not,
Nor the compliments that have served their turn so long,
Nor rhyme--nor the classics--nor perfume of foreign court, or indoor
But an odor I'd bring to-day as from forests of pine in the north, in
Maine--or breath of an Illinois prairie,
With open airs of Virginia, or Georgia, or Tennessee--or from Texas
uplands, or Florida's glades,
With presentment of Yellowstone's scenes, or Yosemite; 10
And murmuring under, pervading all, I'd bring the rustling sea-sound,
That endlessly sounds from the two great seas of the world.
And for thy subtler sense, subtler refrains, O Union!
Preludes of intellect tallying these and thee--mind-formulas fitted
for thee--real, and sane, and large as these and thee;
Thou, mounting higher, diving deeper than we knew--thou
By thee Fact to be justified--blended with Thought;
Thought of Man justified--blended with God:
Through thy Idea--lo! the immortal Reality!
Through thy Reality--lo! the immortal Idea!
Brain of the New World! what a task is thine! 20
To formulate the Modern.....Out of the peerless grandeur of the
Out of Thyself--comprising Science--to recast Poems, Churches, Art,
(Recast--may-be discard them, end them--May-be their work is done--
By vision, hand, conception, on the background of the mighty past,
To limn, with absolute faith, the mighty living present.
(And yet, thou living, present brain! heir of the dead, the Old World
Thou that lay folded, like an unborn babe, within its folds so long!
Thou carefully prepared by it so long!--haply thou but unfoldest it--
only maturest it;
It to eventuate in thee--the essence of the by-gone time contain'd in
Its poems, churches, arts, unwitting to themselves, destined with
reference to thee, 30
The fruit of all the Old, ripening to-day in thee.)
Sail--sail thy best, ship of Democracy!
Of value is thy freight--'tis not the Present only,
The Past is also stored in thee!
Thou holdest not the venture of thyself alone--not of thy western
Earth's résumé entire floats on thy keel, O ship--is steadied by thy
With thee Time voyages in trust--the antecedent nations sink or swim
With all their ancient struggles, martyrs, heroes, epics, wars, thou
bear'st the other continents;
Theirs, theirs as much as thine, the destination-port triumphant:
--Steer, steer with good strong hand and wary eye, O helmsman--thou
carryest great companions, 40
Venerable, priestly Asia sails this day with thee,
And royal, feudal Europe sails with thee.
Beautiful World of new, superber Birth, that rises to my eyes,
Like a limitless golden cloud, filling the western sky;
Emblem of general Maternity, lifted above all;
Sacred shape of the bearer of daughters and sons;
Out of thy teeming womb, thy giant babes in ceaseless procession
Acceding from such gestation, taking and giving continual strength
World of the Real! world of the twain in one!
World of the Soul--born by the world of the real alone--led to
identity, body, by it alone; 50
Yet in beginning only--incalculable masses of composite, precious
By history's cycles forwarded--by every nation, language, hither
Ready, collected here--a freer, vast, electric World, to be
(The true New World--the world of orbic Science, Morals, Literatures
Thou Wonder World, yet undefined, unform'd--neither do I define thee;
How can I pierce the impenetrable blank of the future?
I feel thy ominous greatness, evil as well as good;
I watch thee, advancing, absorbing the present, transcending the
I see thy light lighting and thy shadow shadowing, as if the entire
But I do not undertake to define thee--hardly to comprehend thee; 60
I but thee name--thee prophecy--as now!
I merely thee ejaculate!
Thee in thy future;
Thee in thy only permanent life, career--thy own unloosen'd mind--thy
Thee as another equally needed sun, America--radiant, ablaze, swift-
moving, fructifying all;
Thee! risen in thy potent cheerfulness and joy--thy endless, great
(Scattering for good the cloud that hung so long--that weigh'd so
long upon the mind of man,
The doubt, suspicion, dread, of gradual, certain decadence of man;)
Thee in thy larger, saner breeds of Female, Male--thee in thy
athletes, moral, spiritual, South, North, West, East,
(To thy immortal breasts, Mother of All, thy every daughter, son,
endear'd alike, forever equal;) 70
Thee in thy own musicians, singers, artists, unborn yet, but certain;
Thee in thy moral wealth and civilization (until which thy proudest
material wealth and civilization must remain in vain;)
Thee in thy all-supplying, all-enclosing Worship--thee in no single
bible, saviour, merely,
Thy saviours countless, latent within thyself--thy bibles incessant,
within thyself, equal to any, divine as any;
Thee in an education grown of thee--in teachers, studies, students,
born of thee;
Thee in thy democratic fetes, en masse--thy high original festivals,
operas, lecturers, preachers;
Thee in thy ultimata, (the preparations only now completed--the
edifice on sure foundations tied,)
Thee in thy pinnacles, intellect, thought--thy topmost rational
joys--thy love, and godlike aspiration,
In thy resplendent coming literati--thy full-lung'd orators--thy
sacerdotal bards--kosmic savans,
These! these in thee, (certain to come,) to-day I prophecy. 80
Land tolerating all--accepting all--not for the good alone--all good
Land in the realms of God to be a realm unto thyself;
Under the rule of God to be a rule unto thyself.
(Lo! where arise three peerless stars,
To be thy natal stars, my country--Ensemble--Evolution--Freedom,
Set in the sky of Law.)
Land of unprecedented faith--God's faith!
Thy soil, thy very subsoil, all upheav'd;
The general inner earth, so long, so sedulously draped over, now and
hence for what it is, boldly laid bare,
Open'd by thee to heaven's light, for benefit or bale. 90
Not for success alone;
Not to fair-sail unintermitted always;
The storm shall dash thy face--the murk of war, and worse than war,
shall cover thee all over;
(Wert capable of war--its tug and trials? Be capable of peace, its
For the tug and mortal strain of nations come at last in peace--not
In many a smiling mask death shall approach, beguiling thee--thou in
disease shalt swelter;
The livid cancer spread its hideous claws, clinging upon thy breasts,
seeking to strike thee deep within;
Consumption of the worst--moral consumption--shall rouge thy face
But thou shalt face thy fortunes, thy diseases, and surmount them
Whatever they are to-day, and whatever through time they may be, 100
They each and all shall lift, and pass away, and cease from thee;
While thou, Time's spirals rounding--out of thyself, thyself still
Equable, natural, mystical Union thou--(the mortal with immortal
Shalt soar toward the fulfilment of the future--the spirit of the
body and the mind,
The Soul--its destinies.
The Soul, its destinies--the real real,
(Purport of all these apparitions of the real;)
In thee, America, the Soul, its destinies;
Thou globe of globes! thou wonder nebulous!
By many a throe of heat and cold convuls'd--(by these thyself
Thou mental, moral orb! thou New, indeed new, Spiritual World!
The Present holds thee not--for such vast growth as thine--for such
unparallel'd flight as thine,
The Future only holds thee, and can hold thee.
Read more: america poems, future poems, war poems, alone poems, world poems, faith poems, education poems, identity poems, peace poems, god poems, success poems, history poems, daughter poems, sky poems, freedom poems, trust poems, evil poems, birth poems, strength poems, son poems
Poets to Come
POETS to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!
Not to-day is to justify me, and answer what I am for;
But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than
Arouse! Arouse--for you must justify me--you must answer.
I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future,
I but advance a moment, only to wheel and hurry back in the darkness.
I am a man who, sauntering along, without fully stopping, turns a
casual look upon you, and then averts his face,
Leaving it to you to prove and define it,
Expecting the main things from you.
Read more: future poems