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Pauses above the death-still wood–the moon;
The night-sprite, sighing, through the dim air stirs;
The clouds descend in rain;
Mourning, the wan stars wane,
Flickering like dying lamps in sepulchres!
Haggard as spectres–vision-like and dumb,
Dark with the pomp of death, and moving slow,
Towards that sad lair the pale procession come
Where the grave closes on the night below.
With dim, deep-sunken eye,
Crutched on his staff, who trembles tottering by?
As wrung from out the shattered heart, one groan
Breaks the deep hush alone!
Crushed by the iron fate, he seems to gather
All life’s last strength to stagger to the bier,
And hearken–Do these cold lips murmur “Father?”
The sharp rain, drizzling through that place of fear,
Pierces the bones gnawed fleshless by despair,
And the heart’s horror stirs the silver hair.
Fresh bleed the fiery wounds
Through all that agonizing heart undone–
Still on the voiceless lips “my Father” sounds,
And still the childless Father murmurs “Son!”
Ice-cold–ice-cold, in that white shroud he lies–
Thy sweet and golden dreams all vanished there–
The sweet and golden name of “Father” dies
Into thy curse,–ice-cold–ice-cold–he lies!
Dead, what thy life’s delight and Eden were!
Mild, as when, fresh from the arms of Aurora,
While the air like Elysium is smiling above,
Steeped in rose-breathing odors, the darling of Flora
Wantons over the blooms on his winglets of love.
So gay, o’er the meads, went his footsteps in bliss,
The silver wave mirrored the smile of his face;
Delight, like a flame, kindled up at his kiss,
And the heart of the maid was the prey of his chase.
Boldly he sprang to the strife of the world,
As a deer to the mountain-top carelessly springs;
As an eagle whose plumes to the sun are unfurled,
Swept his hope round the heaven on its limitless wings.
Proud as a war-horse that chafes at the rein,
That, kingly, exults in the storm of the brave;
That throws to the wind the wild stream of its mane,
Strode he forth by the prince and the slave!
Life like a spring day, serene and divine,
In the star of the morning went by as a trance;
His murmurs he drowned in the gold of the wine,
And his sorrows were borne on the wave of the dance.
Worlds lay concealed in the hopes of his youth!–
When once he shall ripen to manhood and fame!
Fond father exult!–In the germs of his youth
What harvests are destined for manhood and fame!
Not to be was that manhood!–The death-bell is knelling,
The hinge of the death-vault creaks harsh on the ears–
How dismal, O Death, is the place of thy dwelling!
Not to be was that manhood!–Flow on, bitter tears!
Go, beloved, thy path to the sun,
Rise, world upon world, with the perfect to rest;
Go–quaff the delight which thy spirit has won,
And escape from our grief in the Halls of the Blest.
Again (in that thought what a healing is found!)
To meet in the Eden to which thou art fled!–
Hark, the coffin sinks down with a dull, sullen sound,
And the ropes rattle over the sleep of the dead.
And we cling to each other!–O Grave, he is thine!
The eye tells the woe that is mute to the ears–
And we dare to resent what we grudge to resign,
Till the heart’s sinful murmur is choked in its tears.
Pale at its ghastly noon,
Pauses above the death-still wood–the moon!
The night-sprite, sighing, through the dim air stirs:
The clouds descend in rain;
Mourning, the wan stars wane,
Flickering like dying lamps in sepulchres.
The dull clods swell into the sullen mound;
Earth, one look yet upon the prey we gave!
The grave locks up the treasure it has found;
Higher and higher swells the sullen mound–
Never gives back the grave!
Gather with me the dark and wintry wreath;
With me engarland now
The SEPULCHRE OF TIME!
Come Moralizer to the funeral song!
I pour the dirge of the Departed Days,
For well the funeral song
Befits this solemn hour.
But hark! even now the merry bells ring round
With clamorous joy to welcome in this day,
This consecrated day,
To Mirth and Indolence.
Mortal! whilst Fortune with benignant hand
Fills to the brim thy cup of happiness,
Whilst her unclouded sun
Illumes thy summer day,
Canst thou rejoice–rejoice that Time flies fast?
That Night shall shadow soon thy summer sun?
That swift the stream of Years
Rolls to Eternity?
Hast thou known Love? does Beauty’s better sun
Cheer thy fond heart with no capricious smile,
Her eye all eloquence,
Her voice all harmony?
Oh state of happiness! hark how the gale
Moans deep and hollow o’er the leafless grove!
Winter is dark and cold–
Where now the charms of Spring?
Sayst thou that Fancy paints the future scene
In hues too sombrous? that the dark-stol’d Maid
With stern and frowning front
Appals the shuddering soul?
And would’st thou bid me court her faery form
When, as she sports her in some happier mood,
Her many-colour’d robes
Dance varying to the Sun?
Ah vainly does the Pilgrim, whose long road
Leads o’er the barren mountain’s storm-vext height,
With anxious gaze survey
The fruitful far-off vale.
Oh there are those who love the pensive song
To whom all sounds of Mirth are dissonant!
There are who at this hour
Will love to contemplate!
For hopeless Sorrow hails the lapse of Time,
Rejoicing when the fading orb of day
Is sunk again in night,
That one day more is gone.
And he who bears Affliction’s heavy load
With patient piety, well pleas’d he knows
The World a pilgrimage,
The Grave the inn of rest.
I Sing the Body Electric – by Walt Whitman
I SING the Body electric;
The armies of those I love engirth me, and I engirth them;
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the Soul.
Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves;
And if the body does not do as much as the Soul? And if the body were not the Soul, what is the Soul?
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect.
The expression of the face balks account;
But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face;
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and knees—dress does not hide him;
The strong, sweet, supple quality he has, strikes through the cotton and flannel;
The young fellow hoeing corn—the sleigh-driver guiding his six horses through the crowd,
The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite grown, lusty, good-natured, native-born, out on the vacant lot at sundown, after work,
The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love and resistance,
The march of firemen in their own costumes, the play of masculine muscle through clean-setting trowsers and waist-straps,
I know a man, a common farmer—the father of five sons;
The shape of his head, the pale yellow and white of his hair and beard, and the immeasurable meaning of his black eyes—the richness and breadth of his manners,
Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth, the atmosphere and the clouds, and what was expected of heaven or fear’d of hell, are now consumed;
As I see my soul reflected in nature; As I see through a mist, one with inexpressible completeness and beauty, See the bent head, and arms folded over the breast—the female I see.
The wildest largest passions, bliss that is utmost, sorrow that is utmost, become him well—pride is for him;
No matter who it is, it is sacred; Is it a slave? Is it one of the dull-faced immigrants just landed on the wharf?
Do you know so much yourself, that you call the slave or the dull-face ignorant?
For you only, and not for him and her?
A man’s Body at auction; I help the auctioneer—the sloven does not half know his business.
Gentlemen, look on this wonder! Whatever the bids of the bidders, they cannot be high enough for it;
In this head the all-baffling brain;
In it and below it, the makings of heroes.
Examine these limbs, red, black, or white—they are so cunning in tendon and nerve; They shall be stript, that you may see them.
Do you think they are not there because they are not express’d in parlors and lecture-rooms? This is not only one man—this is the father of those who shall be fathers in their turns; In him the start of populous states and rich republics;
A woman’s Body at auction! She too is not only herself—she is the teeming mother of mothers; She is the bearer of them that shall grow and be mates to the mothers. Have you ever loved the Body of a woman?Have you ever loved the Body of a man?
Your father—where is your father? Your mother—is she living? have you been much with her? and has she been much with you? —Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all, in all nations and times, all over the earth?
If any thing is sacred, the human body is sacred,
And the glory and sweet of a man, is the token of manhood untainted; And in man or woman, a clean, strong, firm-fibred body, is beautiful as the most beautiful face. Have you seen the fool that corrupted his own live body? or the fool that corrupted her own live body? For they do not conceal themselves, and cannot conceal themselves.
O my Body! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and women, nor the likes of the parts of you;
I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with the likes of the Soul, (and that they are the Soul I believe the likes of you shall stand or fall with my poems—and that they are poems, Man’s, woman’s, child’s, youth’s, wife’s, husband’s, mother’s, father’s, young man’s, young woman’s poems; Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears, Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eye-brows, and the waking or sleeping of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the jaw-hinges, Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition, Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the neck, neck-slue, Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoulders, and the ample side-round of the chest. Upper-arm, arm-pit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-sinews, arm-bones,
Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb, fore-finger, finger-balls, finger-joints, finger-nails, Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast, breast-bone, breast-side, Ribs, belly, back-bone, joints of the back-bone, Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward round, man-balls, man-root, Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk above,
Leg-fibres, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under leg, Ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel; All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of my or your body, or of any one’s body, male or female, The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean, The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame,
Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality, maternity, Womanhood, and all that is a woman—and the man that comes from woman, The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping, love-looks, love-perturbations and risings, The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud, Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming,
Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and tightening, The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes, The skin, the sun-burnt shade, freckles, hair, The curious sympathy one feels, when feeling with the hand the naked meat of the body, The circling rivers, the breath, and breathing it in and out,
The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward toward the knees, The thin red jellies within you, or within me—the bones, and the marrow in the bones, The exquisite realization of health; O I say, these are not the parts and poems of the Body only, but of the Soul, O I say now these are the Soul!