Best Poems From
(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892)
Song Of The Exposition
AFTER all, not to create only, or found only,
But to bring, perhaps from afar, what is already founded,
To give it our own identity, average, limitless, free;
To fill the gross, the torpid bulk with vital religious fire;
Not to repel or destroy, so much as accept, fuse, rehabilitate;
To obey, as well as command--to follow, more than to lead;
These also are the lessons of our New World;
--While how little the New, after all--how much the Old, Old World!
Long, long, long, has the grass been growing,
Long and long has the rain been falling, 10
Long has the globe been rolling round.
Come, Muse, migrate from Greece and Ionia;
Cross out, please, those immensely overpaid accounts,
That matter of Troy, and Achilles' wrath, and Eneas', Odysseus'
Placard "Removed" and "To Let" on the rocks of your snowy Parnassus;
Repeat at Jerusalem--place the notice high on Jaffa's gate, and on
The same on the walls of your Gothic European Cathedrals, and German,
French and Spanish Castles;
For know a better, fresher, busier sphere--a wide, untried domain
awaits, demands you.
Responsive to our summons,
Or rather to her long-nurs'd inclination, 20
Join'd with an irresistible, natural gravitation,
She comes! this famous Female--as was indeed to be expected;
(For who, so-ever youthful, 'cute and handsome, would wish to stay in
mansions such as those,
When offer'd quarters with all the modern improvements,
With all the fun that 's going--and all the best society?)
She comes! I hear the rustling of her gown;
I scent the odor of her breath's delicious fragrance;
I mark her step divine--her curious eyes a-turning, rolling,
Upon this very scene.
The Dame of Dames! can I believe, then, 30
Those ancient temples classic, and castles strong and feudalistic,
could none of them restrain her?
Nor shades of Virgil and Dante--nor myriad memories, poems, old
associations, magnetize and hold on to her?
But that she 's left them all--and here?
Yes, if you will allow me to say so,
I, my friends, if you do not, can plainly see Her,
The same Undying Soul of Earth's, activity's, beauty's, heroism's
Out from her evolutions hither come--submerged the strata of her
Hidden and cover'd by to-day's--foundation of to-day's;
Ended, deceas'd, through time, her voice by Castaly's fountain;
Silent through time the broken-lipp'd Sphynx in Egypt--silent those
century-baffling tombs; 40
Closed for aye the epics of Asia's, Europe's helmeted warriors;
Calliope's call for ever closed--Clio, Melpomene, Thalia closed and
Seal'd the stately rhythmus of Una and Oriana--ended the quest of the
Jerusalem a handful of ashes blown by the wind--extinct;
The Crusaders' streams of shadowy, midnight troops, sped with the
Amadis, Tancred, utterly gone--Charlemagne, Roland, Oliver gone,
Palmerin, ogre, departed--vanish'd the turrets that Usk reflected,
Arthur vanish'd with all his knights--Merlin and Lancelot and
Galahad--all gone--dissolv'd utterly, like an exhalation;
Pass'd! pass'd! for us, for ever pass'd! that once so mighty World--
now void, inanimate, phantom World!
Embroider'd, dazzling World! with all its gorgeous legends, myths, 50
Its kings and barons proud--its priests, and warlike lords, and
Pass'd to its charnel vault--laid on the shelf--coffin'd, with Crown
and Armor on,
Blazon'd with Shakspeare's purple page,
And dirged by Tennyson's sweet sad rhyme.
I say I see, my friends, if you do not, the Animus of all that World,
Escaped, bequeath'd, vital, fugacious as ever, leaving those dead
remains, and now this spot approaching, filling;
--And I can hear what maybe you do not--a terrible aesthetical
With howling, desperate gulp of "flower" and "bower,"
With "Sonnet to Matilda's Eyebrow" quite, quite frantic;
With gushing, sentimental reading circles turn'd to ice or stone; 60
With many a squeak, (in metre choice,) from Boston, New York,
As she, the illustrious Emigré, (having, it is true, in her day,
although the same, changed, journey'd considerable,)
Making directly for this rendezvous--vigorously clearing a path for
herself--striding through the confusion,
By thud of machinery and shrill steam-whistle undismay'd,
Bluff'd not a bit by drain-pipe, gasometers, artificial fertilizers,
Smiling and pleased, with palpable intent to stay,
She 's here, install'd amid the kitchen ware!
But hold--don't I forget my manners?
To introduce the Stranger (what else indeed have I come for?) to
In Liberty's name, welcome, Immortal! clasp hands, 70
And ever henceforth Sisters dear be both.
Fear not, O Muse! truly new ways and days receive, surround you,
(I candidly confess, a queer, queer race, of novel fashion,)
And yet the same old human race--the same within, without,
Faces and hearts the same--feelings the same--yearnings the same,
The same old love--beauty and use the same.
We do not blame thee, Elder World--nor separate ourselves from thee:
(Would the Son separate himself from the Father?)
Looking back on thee--seeing thee to thy duties, grandeurs, through
past ages bending, building,
We build to ours to-day. 80
Mightier than Egypt's tombs,
Fairer than Grecia's, Roma's temples,
Prouder than Milan's statued, spired Cathedral,
More picturesque than Rhenish castle-keeps,
We plan, even now, to raise, beyond them all,
Thy great Cathedral, sacred Industry--no tomb,
A Keep for life for practical Invention.
As in a waking vision,
E'en while I chant, I see it rise--I scan and prophesy outside and
Its manifold ensemble. 90
Around a Palace,
Loftier, fairer, ampler than any yet,
Earth's modern Wonder, History's Seven outstripping,
High rising tier on tier, with glass and iron façades.
Gladdening the sun and sky--enhued in cheerfulest hues,
Bronze, lilac, robin's-egg, marine and crimson,
Over whose golden roof shall flaunt, beneath thy banner, Freedom,
The banners of The States, the flags of every land,
A brood of lofty, fair, but lesser Palaces shall cluster.
Somewhere within the walls of all, 100
Shall all that forwards perfect human life be started,
Tried, taught, advanced, visibly exhibited.
Here shall you trace in flowing operation,
In every state of practical, busy movement,
The rills of Civilization.
Materials here, under your eye, shall change their shape, as if by
The cotton shall be pick'd almost in the very field,
Shall be dried, clean'd, ginn'd, baled, spun into thread and cloth,
You shall see hands at work at all the old processes, and all the new
You shall see the various grains, and how flour is made, and then
bread baked by the bakers; 110
You shall see the crude ores of California and Nevada passing on and
on till they become bullion;
You shall watch how the printer sets type, and learn what a composing
You shall mark, in amazement, the Hoe press whirling its cylinders,
shedding the printed leaves steady and fast:
The photograph, model, watch, pin, nail, shall be created before you.
In large calm halls, a stately Museum shall teach you the infinite,
solemn lessons of Minerals;
In another, woods, plants, Vegetation shall be illustrated--in
another Animals, animal life and development.
One stately house shall be the Music House;
Others for other Arts--Learning, the Sciences, shall all be here;
None shall be slighted--none but shall here be honor'd, help'd,
This, this and these, America, shall be your Pyramids and
Your Alexandrian Pharos, gardens of Babylon,
Your temple at Olympia.
The male and female many laboring not,
Shall ever here confront the laboring many,
With precious benefits to both--glory to all,
To thee, America--and thee, Eternal Muse.
And here shall ye inhabit, Powerful Matrons!
In your vast state, vaster than all the old;
Echoed through long, long centuries to come,
To sound of different, prouder songs, with stronger themes, 130
Practical, peaceful life--the people's life--the People themselves,
Lifted, illumin'd, bathed in peace--elate, secure in peace.
Away with themes of war! away with War itself!
Hence from my shuddering sight, to never more return, that show of
blacken'd, mutilated corpses!
That hell unpent, and raid of blood--fit for wild tigers, or for lop-
tongued wolves--not reasoning men!
And in its stead speed Industry's campaigns!
With thy undaunted armies, Engineering!
Thy pennants, Labor, loosen'd to the breeze!
Thy bugles sounding loud and clear!
Away with old romance! 140
Away with novels, plots, and plays of foreign courts!
Away with love-verses, sugar'd in rhyme--the intrigues, amours of
Fitted for only banquets of the night, where dancers to late music
The unhealthy pleasures, extravagant dissipations of the few,
With perfumes, heat and wine, beneath the dazzling chandeliers.
To you, ye Reverent, sane Sisters,
To this resplendent day, the present scene,
These eyes and ears that like some broad parterre bloom up around,
I raise a voice for far superber themes for poets and for Art,
To exalt the present and the real, 150
To teach the average man the glory of his daily walk and trade,
To sing, in songs, how exercise and chemical life are never to be
Boldly to thee, America, to-day! and thee, Immortal Muse!
To practical, manual work, for each and all--to plough, hoe, dig,
To plant and tend the tree, the berry, the vegetables, flowers,
For every man to see to it that he really do something--for every
To use the hammer, and the saw, (rip or cross-cut,)
To cultivate a turn for carpentering, plastering, painting,
To work as tailor, tailoress, nurse, hostler, porter,
To invent a little--something ingenious--to aid the washing, cooking,
And hold it no disgrace to take a hand at them themselves.
I say I bring thee, Muse, to-day and here,
All occupations, duties broad and close,
Toil, healthy toil and sweat, endless, without cessation,
The old, old general burdens, interests, joys,
The family, parentage, childhood, husband and wife,
The house-comforts--the house itself, and all its belongings,
Food and its preservations--chemistry applied to it;
Whatever forms the average, strong, complete, sweet-blooded Man or
Woman--the perfect, longeve Personality,
And helps its present life to health and happiness--and shapes its
For the eternal Real Life to come.
With latest materials, works,
Steam-power, the great Express lines, gas, petroleum,
These triumphs of our time, the Atlantic's delicate cable,
The Pacific Railroad, the Suez canal, the Mont Cenis tunnel;
Science advanced, in grandeur and reality, analyzing every thing,
This world all spann'd with iron rails--with lines of steamships
threading every sea,
Our own Rondure, the current globe I bring.
And thou, high-towering One--America!
Thy swarm of offspring towering high--yet higher thee, above all
With Victory on thy left, and at thy right hand Law;
Thou Union, holding all--fusing, absorbing, tolerating all,
Thee, ever thee, I bring.
Thou--also thou, a world!
With all thy wide geographies, manifold, different, distant,
Rounding by thee in One--one common orbic language,
One common indivisible destiny and Union.
And by the spells which ye vouchsafe,
To those, your ministers in earnest,
I here personify and call my themes, 190
To make them pass before ye.
Behold, America! (And thou, ineffable Guest and Sister!)
For thee come trooping up thy waters and thy lands:
Behold! thy fields and farms, thy far-off woods and mountains,
As in procession coming.
Behold! the sea itself!
And on its limitless, heaving breast, thy ships:
See! where their white sails, bellying in the wind, speckle the green
See! thy steamers coming and going, steaming in or out of port!
See! dusky and undulating, their long pennants of smoke! 200
Behold, in Oregon, far in the north and west,
Or in Maine, far in the north and east, thy cheerful axemen,
Wielding all day their axes!
Behold, on the lakes, thy pilots at their wheels--thy oarsmen!
Behold how the ash writhes under those muscular arms!
There by the furnace, and there by the anvil,
Behold thy sturdy blacksmiths, swinging their sledges;
Overhand so steady--overhand they turn and fall, with joyous clank,
Like a tumult of laughter.
Behold! (for still the procession moves,) 210
Behold, Mother of All, thy countless sailors, boatmen, coasters!
The myriads of thy young and old mechanics!
Mark--mark the spirit of invention everywhere--thy rapid patents,
Thy continual workshops, foundries, risen or rising;
See, from their chimneys, how the tall flame-fires stream!
Mark, thy interminable farms, North, South,
Thy wealthy Daughter-States, Eastern, and Western,
The varied products of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Georgia, Texas,
and the rest;
Thy limitless crops--grass, wheat, sugar, corn, rice, hemp, hops,
Thy barns all fill'd--thy endless freight-trains, and thy bulging
The grapes that ripen on thy vines--the apples in thy orchards,
Thy incalculable lumber, beef, pork, potatoes--thy coal--thy gold and
The inexhaustible iron in thy mines.
All thine, O sacred Union!
Ship, farm, shop, barns, factories, mines,
City and State--North, South, item and aggregate,
We dedicate, dread Mother, all to thee!
Protectress absolute, thou! Bulwark of all!
For well we know that while thou givest each and all, (generous as
Without thee, neither all nor each, nor land, home, 230
Ship, nor mine--nor any here, this day, secure,
Nor aught, nor any day secure.
And thou, thy Emblem, waving over all!
Delicate beauty! a word to thee, (it may be salutary;)
Remember, thou hast not always been, as here to-day, so comfortably
In other scenes than these have I observ'd thee, flag;
Not quite so trim and whole, and freshly blooming, in folds of
But I have seen thee, bunting, to tatters torn, upon thy splinter'd
Or clutch'd to some young color-bearer's breast, with desperate
Savagely struggled for, for life or death--fought over long, 240
'Mid cannon's thunder-crash, and many a curse, and groan and yell--
and rifle-volleys cracking sharp,
And moving masses, as wild demons surging--and lives as nothing
For thy mere remnant, grimed with dirt and smoke, and sopp'd in
For sake of that, my beauty--and that thou might'st dally, as now,
secure up there,
Many a good man have I seen go under.
Now here, and these, and hence, in peace all thine, O Flag!
And here, and hence, for thee, O universal Muse! and thou for them!
And here and hence, O Union, all the work and workmen thine!
The poets, women, sailors, soldiers, farmers, miners, students thine!
None separate from Thee--henceforth one only, we and Thou; 250
(For the blood of the children--what is it only the blood Maternal?
And lives and works--what are they all at last except the roads to
Faith and Death?)
While we rehearse our measureless wealth, it is for thee, dear
We own it all and several to-day indissoluble in Thee;
--Think not our chant, our show, merely for products gross, or
lucre--it is for Thee, the Soul, electric, spiritual!
Our farms, inventions, crops, we own in Thee! Cities and States in
Our freedom all in Thee! our very lives in Thee!
Read more: america poems, house poems, work poems, world poems, beauty poems, song poems, peace poems, mother poems, freedom poems, music poems, war poems, woman poems, identity poems, animal poems, romance poems, history poems, sea poems, wind poems, sister poems, husband poems
The Wound Dresser
AN old man bending, I come, among new faces,
Years looking backward, resuming, in answer to children,
Come tell us, old man, as from young men and maidens that love me;
(Arous'd and angry, I'd thought to beat the alarum, and urge relentless war,
but soon my fingers fail'd me, my face droop'd and I resign'd myself,
To sit by the wounded and soothe them, or silently watch the dead
Years hence of these scenes, of these furious passions, these chances,
Of unsurpass’d heroes, (was one side so brave? the other was equally brave
Now be witness again—paint the mightiest armies of earth;
Of those armies so rapid, so wondrous, what saw you to tell us?
What stays with you latest and deepest? of curious panics,
Of hard-fought engagements, or sieges tremendous, what deepest remains?
O maidens and young men I love, and that love me,
What you ask of my days, those the strangest and sudden your talking recalls;
Soldier alert I arrive, after a long march, cover’d with sweat and dust;
In the nick of time I come, plunge in the fight, loudly shout in the rush of successful charge;
Enter the captur’d works.... yet lo! like a swift-running river, they fade;
Pass and are gone, they fade—I dwell not on soldiers’ perils or soldiers’ joys;
(Both I remember well—many the hardships, few the joys, yet I was content.)
But in silence, in dreams’ projections,
While the world of gain and appearance and mirth goes on,
So soon what is over forgotten, and waves wash the imprints off the sand,
With hinged knees returning, I enter the doors—(while for you up there,
Whoever you are, follow me without noise, and be of strong heart.)
Bearing the bandages, water and sponge,
Straight and swift to my wounded I go,
Where they lie on the ground, after the battle brought in;
Where their priceless blood reddens the grass, the ground;
Or to the rows of the hospital tent, or under the roof’d hospital;
To the long rows of cots, up and down, each side, I return;
To each and all, one after another, I draw near—not one do I miss;
An attendant follows, holding a tray—he carries a refuse pail,
Soon to be fill’d with clotted rags and blood, emptied and fill’d again.
I onward go, I stop,
With hinged knees and steady hand, to dress wounds;
I am firm with each—the pangs are sharp, yet unavoidable;
One turns to me his appealing eyes—(poor boy! I never knew you,
Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that would save you.)
On, on I go!—(open doors of time! open hospital doors!)
The crush’d head I dress, (poor crazed hand, tear not the bandage away
The neck of the cavalry-man, with the bullet through and through, I examine;
Hard the breathing rattles, quite glazed already the eye, yet life struggles hard;
(Come, sweet death! be persuaded, O beautiful death!
In mercy come quickly.)
From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand,
I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off the matter and blood;
Back on his pillow the soldier bends, with curv’d neck, and side-falling head;
His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on the bloody stump,
And has not yet look’d on it.
I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep;
But a day or two more—for see, the frame all wasted already, and sinking,
And the yellow-blue countenance see.
I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet wound,
Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so sickening, so offensive,
While the attendant stands behind aside me, holding the tray and pail.
I am faithful, I do not give out;
The fractur’d thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdomen,
These and more I dress with impassive hand, (yet deep in my breast a fire, a burning flame.)
Thus in silence, in dreams’ projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals;
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night—some are so young;
Some suffer so much—I recall the experience sweet and sad;
(Many a soldier’s loving arms about this neck have cross’d and rested,
Many a soldier’s kiss dwells on these bearded lips.)
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Darest Thou Now, O Soul
DAREST thou now, O Soul,
Walk out with me toward the Unknown Region,
Where neither ground is for the feet, nor any path to follow?
No map, there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.
I know it not, O Soul;
Nor dost thou--all is a blank before us;
All waits, undream'd of, in that region--that inaccessible land.
Till, when the ties loosen, 10
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds, bound us.
Then we burst forth--we float,
In Time and Space, O Soul--prepared for them;
Equal, equipt at last--(O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil, O
Read more: joy poems, time poems
How Solemn As One By One
HOW solemn, as one by one,
As the ranks returning, all worn and sweaty--as the men file by where
As the faces, the masks appear--as I glance at the faces, studying
(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! 10
Read more: friend poems