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Ten Poems by Walt Whitman

Word count: 1041

Song Cycle by Silvan Loher (b. 1986)

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1. To you

Stranger, if you passing, meet me,
And desire to speak to me,
Why should you not speak to me?
And why should I not speak to you?

2. As if a phantom caress’d me

As if a phantom caress’d me,	 
I thought I was not alone, walking here by the shore;	 
But the one I thought was with me, as now I walk by the shore — 
    the one I loved, that caress’d me,	 
As I lean and look through the glimmering light,
that one has utterly disappear’d,	 
And those appear that are hateful to me, and mock me.

3. Aroused and angry

Aroused and angry, I 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….

4. A prairie sunset

A prairie sunset: Shot gold, maroon and violet, 
dazzling silver, emerald, fawn, 
The earth’s whole amplitude and nature’s multiform power 
consigned for once to colors; 
The light, the genial air possessed by them; 
colors till now unknown, no limit, confine; 
not the Western sky alone; the high meridian; 
North, South, all, pure luminous color 
fighting the silent shadows to the last. 

5. A clear midnight

This is thy hour, O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best,
Night, sleep, death, and the stars.

Portions of this text were used in Idyll by Frederick Delius.

6. Soon shall the winter's foil be here

Soon shall the winter's foil be here;
soon shall these icy ligatures 
unbind and melt — a little while,
and air, soil, wave, suffused shall be in softness, 
bloom and growth — a thousand forms shall rise
from these dead clods and chills 
as from low burial graves.
Thine eyes, ears — all thy best attributes — 
all that takes cognizance of natural beauty,
shall wake and fill. 
Thou shalt perceive the simple shows, 
the delicate miracles of earth,
Dandelions, clover, the emerald grass, 
the early scents and flowers,
the arbutus under foot, the willow's yellow-green, 
the blossoming plum and cherry;
with these the robin, lark and thrush, 
singing their songs — the flitting bluebird;
for such the scenes the annual play brings on.

7. Joy, Shipmate, Joy

Joy, shipmate, joy!
(Pleas'd to my soul at death I cry,)
Our life is closed, our life begins,
The long, long anchorage we leave,
The ship is clear at last, she leaps!
She swiftly courses from the shore,
Joy, shipmate, joy.

8. To The States

To The States, or any one of them,
    or any city of The States, 
    Resist much, obey little;	 
Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved;	 
Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, of this earth, 
    ever afterward resumes its liberty.

Confirmed with Whitman, Walt, Leaves of Grass, Philadelphia: David McKay, c1900.

9. Of him I love day and night

Of him I love day and night I dream'd I heard he was dead,
And I dream'd I went where they had buried him I love, but he was not in that place,
And I dream'd I wander'd searching among burial-places to find him,
And I found that every place was a burial place;
The houses full of life were equally full of death, (this house is now),
The streets, the shipping, the places of amusement,
the Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, the Manahatta, were as full of the dead as of the living,
And fuller, 0 vastly fuller of the dead than of the living;
And what I dream'd I will henceforth tell to every person and age,
And I stand henceforth bound to what I dream'd,
And now I am willing to disregard burial-places and dispense with them,
And if the memorials of the dead were put up indifferently everywhere,
even in the room where I eat or sleep, I should be satisfied,
And if the corpse of any one I love, or if my own corpse,
be duly render'd to powder and pour'd in the sea, I shall be satisfied.

10. I tramp a perpetual journey

[ ... ]
I tramp a perpetual journey, (come listen all!) My signs are a rain-proof coat, good shoes, and a staff cut from the woods, No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair, I have no chair, no church, no philosophy, I lead no man to a dinner-table, library, exchange, But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll, My left hand hooking you round the waist, My right hand pointing to landscapes of continents and the public road. Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you, You must travel it for yourself.
[ ... ]

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