Best Poems From
(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892)
What Weeping Face
WHAT weeping face is that looking from the window?
Why does it stream those sorrowful tears?
Is it for some burial place, vast and dry?
Is it to wet the soil of graves?
Who Learns My Lesson Complete?
WHO learns my lesson complete?
Boss, journeyman, apprentice--churchman and atheist,
The stupid and the wise thinker--parents and offspring--merchant,
clerk, porter and customer,
Editor, author, artist, and schoolboy--Draw nigh and commence;
It is no lesson--it lets down the bars to a good lesson,
And that to another, and every one to another still.
The great laws take and effuse without argument;
I am of the same style, for I am their friend,
I love them quits and quits--I do not halt, and make salaams.
I lie abstracted, and hear beautiful tales of things, and the reasons
of things; 10
They are so beautiful, I nudge myself to listen.
I cannot say to any person what I hear--I cannot say it to myself--it
is very wonderful.
It is no small matter, this round and delicious globe, moving so
exactly in its orbit forever and ever, without one jolt, or the
untruth of a single second;
I do not think it was made in six days, nor in ten thousand years,
nor ten billions of years,
Nor plann'd and built one thing after another, as an architect plans
and builds a house.
I do not think seventy years is the time of a man or woman,
Nor that seventy millions of years is the time of a man or woman,
Nor that years will ever stop the existence of me, or any one else.
Is it wonderful that I should be immortal? as every one is immortal;
I know it is wonderful, but my eyesight is equally wonderful, and how
I was conceived in my mother's womb is equally wonderful; 20
And pass'd from a babe, in the creeping trance of a couple of summers
and winters, to articulate and walk--All this is equally
And that my Soul embraces you this hour, and we affect each other
without ever seeing each other, and never perhaps to see each
other, is every bit as wonderful.
And that I can think such thoughts as these, is just as wonderful;
And that I can remind you, and you think them, and know them to be
true, is just as wonderful.
And that the moon spins round the earth, and on with the earth, is
And that they balance themselves with the sun and stars, is equally
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Years Of The Modern
YEARS of the modern! years of the unperform'd!
Your horizon rises--I see it parting away for more august dramas;
I see not America only--I see not only Liberty's nation, but other
I see tremendous entrances and exits--I see new combinations--I see
the solidarity of races;
I see that force advancing with irresistible power on the world's
(Have the old forces, the old wars, played their parts? are the acts
suitable to them closed?)
I see Freedom, completely arm'd, and victorious, and very haughty,
with Law on one side, and Peace on the other,
A stupendous Trio, all issuing forth against the idea of caste;
--What historic denouements are these we so rapidly approach?
I see men marching and countermarching by swift millions; 10
I see the frontiers and boundaries of the old aristocracies broken;
I see the landmarks of European kings removed;
I see this day the People beginning their landmarks, (all others give
--Never were such sharp questions ask'd as this day;
Never was average man, his soul, more energetic, more like a God;
Lo! how he urges and urges, leaving the masses no rest;
His daring foot is on land and sea everywhere--he colonizes the
Pacific, the archipelagoes;
With the steam-ship, the electric telegraph, the newspaper, the
wholesale engines of war,
With these, and the world-spreading factories, he interlinks all
geography, all lands;
--What whispers are these, O lands, running ahead of you, passing
under the seas? 20
Are all nations communing? is there going to be but one heart to the
Is humanity forming, en-masse?--for lo! tyrants tremble, crowns grow
The earth, restive, confronts a new era, perhaps a general divine
No one knows what will happen next--such portents fill the days and
Years prophetical! the space ahead as I walk, as I vainly try to
pierce it, is full of phantoms;
Unborn deeds, things soon to be, project their shapes around me;
This incredible rush and heat--this strange extatic fever of dreams,
Your dreams, O year, how they penetrate through me! (I know not
whether I sleep or wake!)
The perform'd America and Europe grow dim, retiring in shadow behind
The unperform'd, more gigantic than ever, advance, advance upon
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Now List To My Morning's Romanza
NOW list to my morning's romanza--I tell the signs of the Answerer;
To the cities and farms I sing, as they spread in the sunshine before
A young man comes to me bearing a message from his brother;
How shall the young man know the whether and when of his brother?
Tell him to send me the signs.
And I stand before the young man face to face, and take his right
hand in my left hand, and his left hand in my right hand,
And I answer for his brother, and for men, and I answer for him that
answers for all, and send these signs.
Him all wait for--him all yield up to--his word is decisive and
Him they accept, in him lave, in him perceive themselves, as amid
Him they immerse, and he immerses them. 10
Beautiful women, the haughtiest nations, laws, the landscape, people,
The profound earth and its attributes, and the unquiet ocean, (so
tell I my morning's romanza;)
All enjoyments and properties, and money, and whatever money will
The best farms--others toiling and planting, and he unavoidably
The noblest and costliest cities--others grading and building, and he
Nothing for any one, but what is for him--near and far are for him,
the ships in the offing,
The perpetual shows and marches on land, are for him, if they are for
He puts things in their attitudes;
He puts to-day out of himself, with plasticity and love;
He places his own city, times, reminiscences, parents, brothers and
sisters, associations, employment, politics, so that the rest
never shame them afterward, nor assume to command them. 20
He is the answerer:
What can be answer'd he answers--and what cannot be answer'd, he
shows how it cannot be answer'd.
A man is a summons and challenge;
(It is vain to skulk--Do you hear that mocking and laughter? Do you
hear the ironical echoes?)
Books, friendships, philosophers, priests, action, pleasure, pride,
beat up and down, seeking to give satisfaction;
He indicates the satisfaction, and indicates them that beat up and
Whichever the sex, whatever the season or place, he may go freshly
and gently and safely, by day or by night;
He has the pass-key of hearts--to him the response of the prying of
hands on the knobs.
His welcome is universal--the flow of beauty is not more welcome or
universal than he is;
The person he favors by day, or sleeps with at night, is blessed. 30
Every existence has its idiom--everything has an idiom and tongue;
He resolves all tongues into his own, and bestows it upon men, and
any man translates, and any man translates himself also;
One part does not counteract another part--he is the joiner--he sees
how they join.
He says indifferently and alike, How are you, friend? to the
President at his levee,
And he says, Good-day, my brother! to Cudge that hoes in the sugar-
And both understand him, and know that his speech is right.
He walks with perfect ease in the Capitol,
He walks among the Congress, and one Representative says to another,
Here is our equal, appearing and new.
Then the mechanics take him for a mechanic,
And the soldiers suppose him to be a soldier, and the sailors that he
has follow'd the sea, 40
And the authors take him for an author, and the artists for an
And the laborers perceive he could labor with them and love them;
No matter what the work is, that he is the one to follow it, or has
No matter what the nation, that he might find his brothers and
The English believe he comes of their English stock,
A Jew to the Jew he seems--a Russ to the Russ--usual and near,
removed from none.
Whoever he looks at in the traveler's coffee-house claims him,
The Italian or Frenchman is sure, and the German is sure, and the
Spaniard is sure, and the island Cuban is sure;
The engineer, the deck-hand on the great lakes, or on the
Mississippi, or St. Lawrence, or Sacramento, or Hudson, or
Paumanok Sound, claims him.
The gentleman of perfect blood acknowledges his perfect blood; 50
The insulter, the prostitute, the angry person, the beggar, see
themselves in the ways of him--he strangely transmutes them,
They are not vile any more--they hardly know themselves, they are so
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