Best Poems From
(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892)
Poems Of Joys
O TO make the most jubilant poem!
Even to set off these, and merge with these, the carols of Death.
O full of music! full of manhood, womanhood, infancy!
Full of common employments! full of grain and trees.
O for the voices of animals! O for the swiftness and balance of
O for the dropping of rain-drops in a poem!
O for the sunshine, and motion of waves in a poem.
O the joy of my spirit! it is uncaged! it darts like lightning!
It is not enough to have this globe, or a certain time--I will have
thousands of globes, and all time.
O the engineer's joys! 10
To go with a locomotive!
To hear the hiss of steam--the merry shriek--the steam-whistle--the
To push with resistless way, and speed off in the distance.
O the gleesome saunter over fields and hill-sides!
The leaves and flowers of the commonest weeds--the moist fresh
stillness of the woods,
The exquisite smell of the earth at day-break, and all through the
O the horseman's and horsewoman's joys!
The saddle--the gallop--the pressure upon the seat--the cool gurgling
by the ears and hair.
O the fireman's joys!
I hear the alarm at dead of night, 20
I hear bells--shouts!--I pass the crowd--I run!
The sight of the flames maddens me with pleasure.
O the joy of the strong-brawn'd fighter, towering in the arena, in
perfect condition, conscious of power, thirsting to meet his
O the joy of that vast elemental sympathy which only the human Soul
is capable of generating and emitting in steady and limitless
O the mother's joys!
The watching--the endurance--the precious love--the anguish--the
patiently yielded life.
O the joy of increase, growth, recuperation;
The joy of soothing and pacifying--the joy of concord and harmony.
O to go back to the place where I was born!
To hear the birds sing once more! 30
To ramble about the house and barn, and over the fields, once more,
And through the orchard and along the old lanes once more.
O male and female!
O the presence of women! (I swear there is nothing more exquisite to
me than the mere presence of women;)
O for the girl, my mate! O for the happiness with my mate!
O the young man as I pass! O I am sick after the friendship of him
who, I fear, is indifferent to me.
O the streets of cities!
The flitting faces--the expressions, eyes, feet, costumes! O I cannot
tell how welcome they are to me.
O to have been brought up on bays, lagoons, creeks, or along the
O to continue and be employ'd there all my life! 40
O the briny and damp smell--the shore--the salt weeds exposed at low
The work of fishermen--the work of the eel-fisher and clam-fisher.
O it is I!
I come with my clam-rake and spade! I come with my eel-spear;
Is the tide out? I join the group of clam-diggers on the flats,
I laugh and work with them--I joke at my work, like a mettlesome
In winter I take my eel-basket and eel-spear and travel out on foot
on the ice--I have a small axe to cut holes in the ice;
Behold me, well-clothed, going gaily, or returning in the afternoon--
my brood of tough boys accompaning me,
My brood of grown and part-grown boys, who love to be with no one
else so well as they love to be with me,
By day to work with me, and by night to sleep with me. 50
Or, another time, in warm weather, out in a boat, to lift the
lobster-pots, where they are sunk with heavy stones, (I know
O the sweetness of the Fifth-month morning upon the water, as I row,
just before sunrise, toward the buoys;
I pull the wicker pots up slantingly--the dark-green lobsters are
desperate with their claws, as I take them out--I insert wooden
pegs in the joints of their pincers,
I go to all the places, one after another, and then row back to the
There, in a huge kettle of boiling water, the lobsters shall be
boil'd till their color becomes scarlet.
Or, another time, mackerel-taking,
Voracious, mad for the hook, near the surface, they seem to fill the
water for miles:
Or, another time, fishing for rock-fish, in Chesapeake Bay--I one of
the brown-faced crew:
Or, another time, trailing for blue-fish off Paumanok, I stand with
My left foot is on the gunwale--my right arm throws the coils of
slender rope, 60
In sight around me the quick veering and darting of fifty skiffs, my
O boating on the rivers!
The voyage down the Niagara, (the St. Lawrence,)--the superb
The ships sailing--the Thousand Islands--the occasional timber-raft,
and the raftsmen with long-reaching sweep-oars,
The little huts on the rafts, and the stream of smoke when they cook
their supper at evening.
O something pernicious and dread!
Something far away from a puny and pious life!
Something unproved! Something in a trance!
Something escaped from the anchorage, and driving free.
O to work in mines, or forging iron! 70
Foundry casting--the foundry itself--the rude high roof--the ample
and shadow'd space,
The furnace--the hot liquid pour'd out and running.
O to resume the joys of the soldier:
To feel the presence of a brave general! to feel his sympathy!
To behold his calmness! to be warm'd in the rays of his smile!
To go to battle! to hear the bugles play, and the drums beat!
To hear the crash of artillery! to see the glittering of the bayonets
and musket-barrels in the sun!
To see men fall and die, and not complain!
To taste the savage taste of blood! to be so devilish!
To gloat so over the wounds and deaths of the enemy. 80
O the whaleman's joys! O I cruise my old cruise again!
I feel the ship's motion under me--I feel the Atlantic breezes
I hear the cry again sent down from the mast-head--There--she blows!
--Again I spring up the rigging, to look with the rest--We see--we
descend, wild with excitement,
I leap in the lower'd boat--We row toward our prey, where he lies,
We approach, stealthy and silent--I see the mountainous mass,
I see the harpooneer standing up--I see the weapon dart from his
O swift, again, now, far out in the ocean, the wounded whale,
settling, running to windward, tows me;
--Again I see him rise to breathe--We row close again,
I see a lance driven through his side, press'd deep, turn'd in the
Again we back off--I see him settle again--the life is leaving him
As he rises, he spouts blood--I see him swim in circles narrower and
narrower, swiftly cutting the water--I see him die;
He gives one convulsive leap in the centre of the circle, and then
falls flat and still in the bloody foam.
O the old manhood of me, my joy!
My children and grand-children--my white hair and beard,
My largeness, calmness, majesty, out of the long stretch of my life.
O the ripen'd joy of womanhood!
O perfect happiness at last!
I am more than eighty years of age--my hair, too, is pure white--I am
the most venerable mother;
How clear is my mind! how all people draw nigh to me! 100
What attractions are these, beyond any before? what bloom, more than
the bloom of youth?
What beauty is this that descends upon me, and rises out of me?
O the orator's joys!
To inflate the chest--to roll the thunder of the voice out from the
ribs and throat,
To make the people rage, weep, hate, desire, with yourself,
To lead America--to quell America with a great tongue.
O the joy of my soul leaning pois'd on itself--receiving identity
through materials, and loving them--observing characters, and
O my soul, vibrated back to me, from them--from facts, sight,
hearing, touch, my phrenology, reason, articulation,
comparison, memory, and the like;
The real life of my senses and flesh, transcending my senses and
My body, done with materials--my sight, done with my material
Proved to me this day, beyond cavil, that it is not my material
eyes which finally see,
Nor my material body which finally loves, walks, laughs, shouts,
O the farmer's joys!
Ohioan's, Illinoisian's, Wisconsinese', Kanadian's, Iowan's,
Kansian's, Missourian's, Oregonese' joys;
To rise at peep of day, and pass forth nimbly to work,
To plow land in the fall for winter-sown crops,
To plough land in the spring for maize,
To train orchards--to graft the trees--to gather apples in the fall.
O the pleasure with trees!
The orchard--the forest--the oak, cedar, pine, pekan-tree, 120
The honey-locust, black-walnut, cottonwood, and magnolia.
O Death! the voyage of Death!
The beautiful touch of Death, soothing and benumbing a few moments,
Myself, discharging my excrementitious body, to be burn'd, or
render'd to powder, or buried,
My real body doubtless left to me for other spheres,
My voided body, nothing more to me, returning to the purifications,
further offices, eternal uses of the earth.
O to bathe in the swimming-bath, or in a good place along shore!
To splash the water! to walk ankle-deep--to race naked along the
O to realize space!
The plenteousness of all--that there are no bounds; 130
To emerge, and be of the sky--of the sun and moon, and the flying
clouds, as one with them.
O the joy of a manly self-hood!
Personality--to be servile to none--to defer to none--not to any
tyrant, known or unknown,
To walk with erect carriage, a step springy and elastic,
To look with calm gaze, or with a flashing eye,
To speak with a full and sonorous voice, out of a broad chest,
To confront with your personality all the other personalities of the
Know'st thou the excellent joys of youth?
Joys of the dear companions, and of the merry word, and laughing
Joys of the glad, light-beaming day--joy of the wide-breath'd
Joy of sweet music--joy of the lighted ball-room, and the dancers?
Joy of the friendly, plenteous dinner--the strong carouse, and
Yet, O my soul supreme!
Know'st thou the joys of pensive thought?
Joys of the free and lonesome heart--the tender, gloomy heart?
Joy of the solitary walk--the spirit bowed yet proud--the suffering
and the struggle?
The agonistic throes, the extasies--joys of the solemn musings, day
Joys of the thought of Death--the great spheres Time and Space?
Prophetic joys of better, loftier love's ideals--the Divine Wife--the
sweet, eternal, perfect Comrade?
Joys all thine own, undying one--joys worthy thee, O Soul. 150
O, while I live, to be the ruler of life--not a slave,
To meet life as a powerful conqueror,
No fumes--no ennui--no more complaints, or scornful criticisms.
O me repellent and ugly!
To these proud laws of the air, the water, and the ground, proving my
interior Soul impregnable,
And nothing exterior shall ever take command of me.
O to attract by more than attraction!
How it is I know not--yet behold! the something which obeys none of
It is offensive, never defensive--yet how magnetic it draws.
O joy of suffering! 160
To struggle against great odds! to meet enemies undaunted!
To be entirely alone with them! to find how much one can stand!
To look strife, torture, prison, popular odium, death, face to face!
To mount the scaffold! to advance to the muzzles of guns with perfect
To be indeed a God!
O, to sail to sea in a ship!
To leave this steady, unendurable land!
To leave the tiresome sameness of the streets, the sidewalks and the
To leave you, O you solid motionless land, and entering a ship,
To sail, and sail, and sail! 170
O to have my life henceforth a poem of new joys!
To dance, clap hands, exult, shout, skip, leap, roll on, float on,
To be a sailor of the world, bound for all ports,
A ship itself, (see indeed these sails I spread to the sun and air,)
A swift and swelling ship, full of rich words--full of joys.
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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.
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Camps Of Green
NOT alone those camps of white, O soldiers,
When, as order'd forward, after a long march,
Footsore and weary, soon as the light lessen'd, we halted for the
Some of us so fatigued, carrying the gun and knapsack, dropping
asleep in our tracks;
Others pitching the little tents, and the fires lit up began to
Outposts of pickets posted, surrounding, alert through the dark,
And a word provided for countersign, careful for safety;
Till to the call of the drummers at daybreak loudly beating the
We rose up refresh'd, the night and sleep pass'd over, and resumed
Or proceeded to battle. 10
Lo! the camps of the tents of green,
Which the days of peace keep filling, and the days of war keep
With a mystic army, (is it too order'd forward? is it too only
Till night and sleep pass over?)
Now in those camps of green--in their tents dotting the world;
In the parents, children, husbands, wives, in them--in the old and
Sleeping under the sunlight, sleeping under the moonlight, content
and silent there at last,
Behold the mighty bivouac-field, and waiting-camp of all,
Of corps and generals all, and the President over the corps and
And of each of us, O soldiers, and of each and all in the ranks we
(There without hatred we shall all meet.)
For presently, O soldiers, we too camp in our place in the bivouac-
camps of green;
But we need not provide for outposts, nor word for the countersign,
Nor drummer to beat the morning drum.
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Once I Pass'd Through A Populous City
ONCE I pass'd through a populous city, imprinting my brain, for
future use, with its shows, architecture, customs, and
Yet now, of all that city, I remember only a woman I casually met
there, who detain'd me for love of me;
Day by day and night by night we were together,--All else has long
been forgotten by me;
I remember, I say, only that woman who passionately clung to me;
Again we wander--we love--we separate again;
Again she holds me by the hand--I must not go!
I see her close beside me, with silent lips, sad and tremulous.
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