"The Supreme Critic on the errors of the past and the present, and the only prophet of that which must be, is that great nature in which we rest, as the earth lies in the soft arms of the atmosphere; that Unity, that Over-soul, within which every man's particular being is contained and made one with all other."
And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God, For I who am curious about each am not curious about God, (No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and about death.)
I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least, Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.
Why should I wish to see God better than this day? I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then, In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass, I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign’d by God’s name, And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe’er I go, Others will punctually come for ever and ever.
BEAT! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow! Through the windows—through doors—burst like a ruthless force, Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation; Into the school where the scholar is studying; Leave not the bridegroom quiet—no happiness must he have now with his bride; Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, plowing his field or gathering his grain; So fierce you whirr and pound, you drums—so shrill you bugles blow.
Beat! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow! Over the traffic of cities—over the rumble of wheels in the streets: Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? No sleepers must sleep in those beds; No bargainers’ bargains by day—no brokers or speculators—Would they continue? Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing? Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge? Then rattle quicker, heavier drums—you bugles wilder blow.
Beat! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow! Make no parley—stop for no expostulation; Mind not the timid—mind not the weeper or prayer; Mind not the old man beseeching the young man; Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties; Make even the trestles to shake the dead, where they lie awaiting the hearses, So strong you thump, O terrible drums—so loud you bugles blow.
With music strong I come, with my cornets and my drums, I play not marches for accepted victors only, I play marches for conquer’d and slain persons.
Have you heard that it was good to gain the day? I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won.
I beat and pound for the dead, I blow through my embouchures my loudest and gayest for them.
Vivas to those who have fail’d! And to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea! And to those themselves who sank in the sea! And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome heroes! And the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known!
You who celebrate bygones! Who have explored the outward, the surfaces of the races—the life that has exhibited itself; Who have treated of man as the creature of politics, aggregates, rulers and priests; I, habitan of the Alleghanies, treating of him as he is in himself, in his own rights, Pressing the pulse of the life that has seldom exhibited itself, (the great pride of man in himself;) Chanter of Personality, outlining what is yet to be, I project the history of the future.
My terminus near, The clouds already closing in upon me, The voyage balk’d—the course disputed, lost, I yield my ships to Thee.
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 not part! 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; 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.
Grand is the seen, the light, to me—grand are the sky and stars, Grand is the earth, and grand are lasting time and space, And grand their laws, so multiform, puzzling, evolutionary; But grander far the unseen soul of me, comprehending, endowing all those, Lighting the light, the sky and stars, delving the earth, sailing the sea, (What were all those, indeed, without thee, unseen soul? of what amount without thee?) More evolutionary, vast, puzzling, O my soul! More multiform far—more lasting thou than they.
This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body… The poet shall not spend his time in unneeded work. He shall know that the ground is always ready ploughed and manured … others may not know it but he shall. He shall go directly to the creation. His trust shall master the trust of everything he touches … and shall master all attachment.
O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish; Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?) Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d; Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me; Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined; The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists, and identity; That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.
O Captain my Captain! our fearful trip is done; The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won; The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting, While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart! O the bleeding drops of red, Where on the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells; Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills; For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding; For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning; Here Captain! dear father! This arm beneath your head; It is some dream that on the deck, You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still; My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will; The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done; From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won; Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells! But I, with mournful tread, Walk the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead.