From Noon to Starry Night - A Walt Whitman Cantata

Cantata by Russell Platt (b. 1965)

Word count: 4100

1. A Clear Midnight [sung text not yet checked]

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.

Authorship

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • CAT Catalan (Català) (Salvador Pila) , copyright © 2016, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , copyright © 2015, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • GER German (Deutsch) (Bertram Kottmann) , copyright © 2018, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

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


Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

2. Salut au Monde! (Part 1) [sung text not yet checked]

1
O take my hand, Walt Whitman!
Such gliding wonders! such sights and sounds!
Such join’d unended links, each hook’d to the next!
Each answering all—each sharing the earth with all. 
What widens within you, Walt Whitman?
What waves and soils exuding?
What climes? what persons and lands are here?
Who are the infants? some playing, some slumbering?
Who are the girls? who are the married women?
Who are the groups of old men going slowly with their arms about each other’s necks?
What rivers are these? what forests and fruits are these?
What are the mountains call’d that rise so high in the mists?
What myriads of dwellings are they, fill’d with dwellers? 

2
Within me latitude widens, longitude lengthens;
Asia, Africa, Europe, are to the east—America is provided for in the west;
Banding the bulge of the earth winds the hot equator,
Curiously north and south turn the axis-ends;
Within me is the longest day—the sun wheels in slanting rings—it does not set for months;
Stretch’d in due time within me the midnight sun just rises above the horizon, and sinks again;
Within me zones, seas, cataracts, plants, volcanoes, groups,
Malaysia, Polynesia, and the great West Indian islands. 

3
What do you hear, Walt Whitman? 
I hear the workman singing, and the farmer’s wife singing;
I hear in the distance the sounds of children, and of animals early in the day;
I hear quick rifle-cracks from the riflemen of East Tennessee and Kentucky, hunting on hills;
I hear emulous shouts of Australians, pursuing the wild horse;
I hear the Spanish dance, with castanets, in the chestnut shade, to the rebeck and guitar;
I hear continual echoes from the Thames;
I hear fierce French liberty songs;
I hear of the Italian boat-sculler the musical recitative of old poems;
I hear the Virginia plantation-chorus of negroes, of a harvest night, in the glare of pine-knots;
I hear the strong baritone of the ’long-shore-men of Mannahatta;
I hear the stevedores unlading the cargoes, and singing;
I hear the screams of the water-fowl of solitary north-west lakes;
I hear the rustling pattering of locusts, as they strike the grain and grass with the showers of their terrible clouds; I hear the Coptic refrain, toward sundown, pensively falling on the breast of the black venerable vast mother, the Nile; I hear the bugles of raft-tenders on the streams of Kanada;
I hear the chirp of the Mexican muleteer, and the bells of the mule;
I hear the Arab muezzin, calling from the top of the mosque;
I hear the Christian priests at the altars of their churches—I hear the responsive bass and soprano;
I hear the wail of utter despair of the white-hair’d Irish grandparents, when they learn the death of their grandson;
I hear the cry of the Cossack, and the sailor’s voice, putting to sea at Okotsk;
I hear the wheeze of the slave-coffle, as the slaves march on—as the husky gangs pass on by twos and threes, fasten’d together with wrist-chains and ankle-chains;
I hear the entreaties of women tied up for punishment—I hear the sibilant whisk of thongs through the air;
I hear the Hebrew reading his records and psalms;
I hear the rhythmic myths of the Greeks, and the strong legends of the Romans;
I hear the tale of the divine life and bloody death of the beautiful God—the Christ;
I hear the Hindoo teaching his favorite pupil the loves, wars, adages, transmitted safely to this day, from poets who wrote three thousand years ago.
 
4
What do you see, Walt Whitman?
Who are they you salute, and that one after another salute you? 
I see a great round wonder rolling through the air;
I see diminute farms, hamlets, ruins, grave-yards, jails, factories, palaces, hovels, huts of barbarians, tents of nomads, upon the surface;
I see the shaded part on one side, where the sleepers are sleeping—and the sun-lit part on the other side,
I see the curious silent change of the light and shade,
I see distant lands, as real and near to the inhabitants of them, as my land is to me. 
I see plenteous waters;
I see mountain peaks—I see the sierras of Andes and Alleghanies, where they range;
I see plainly the Himalayas, Chian Shahs, Altays, Ghauts;
I see the giant pinnacles of Elbruz, Kazbek, Bazardjusi,
I see the Rocky Mountains, and the Peak of Winds;
I see the Styrian Alps, and the Karnac Alps;
I see the Pyrenees, Balks, Carpathians—and to the north the Dofrafields, and off at sea Mount Hecla;
I see Vesuvius and Etna—I see the Anahuacs;
I see the Mountains of the Moon, and the Snow Mountains, and the Red Mountains of Madagascar;
I see the Vermont hills, and the long string of Cordilleras;
I see the vast deserts of Western America;
I see the Lybian, Arabian, and Asiatic deserts;
I see huge dreadful Arctic and Antarctic icebergs;
I see the superior oceans and the inferior ones—the Atlantic and Pacific, the sea of Mexico, the Brazilian sea, and the sea of Peru,
The Japan waters, those of Hindostan, the China Sea, and the Gulf of Guinea,
The spread of the Baltic, Caspian, Bothnia, the British shores, and the Bay of Biscay,
The clear-sunn’d Mediterranean, and from one to another of its islands,
The inland fresh-tasted seas of North America,
The White Sea, and the sea around Greenland. 
I behold the mariners of the world;
Some are in storms—some in the night, with the watch on the look-out;
Some drifting helplessly—some with contagious diseases. 
I behold the sail and steamships of the world, some in clusters in port, some on their voyages;
Some double the Cape of Storms—some Cape Verde,—others Cape Guardafui, Bon, or Bajadore;
Others Dondra Head—others pass the Straits of Sunda—others Cape Lopatka—others Behring’s Straits;
Others Cape Horn—others sail the Gulf of Mexico, or along Cuba or Hayti—others Hudson’s Bay or Baffin’s Bay;
Others pass the Straits of Dover—others enter the Wash—others the Firth of Solway—others round Cape Clear—others the Land’s End;
Others traverse the Zuyder Zee, or the Scheld;
Others add to the exits and entrances at Sandy Hook;
Others to the comers and goers at Gibraltar, or the Dardanelles;
Others sternly push their way through the northern winter-packs;
Others descend or ascend the Obi or the Lena;
Others the Niger or the Congo—others the Indus, the Burampooter and Cambodia;
Others wait at the wharves of Manhattan, steam’d up, ready to start;
Wait, swift and swarthy, in the ports of Australia;
Wait at Liverpool, Glasgow, Dublin, Marseilles, Lisbon, Naples, Hamburg, Bremen, Bordeaux, the Hague, Copenhagen;
Wait at Valparaiso, Rio Janeiro, Panama;
Wait at their moorings at Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, New Orleans, Galveston, San Francisco. 

5
I see the tracks of the rail-roads of the earth;
I see them welding State to State, city to city, through North America;
I see them in Great Britain, I see them in Europe;
I see them in Asia and in Africa. 
I see the electric telegraphs of the earth;
I see the filaments of the news of the wars, deaths, losses, gains, passions, of my race. 
I see the long river-stripes of the earth; 
I see where the Mississippi flows—I see where the Columbia flows;
I see the Great River and the Falls of Niagara;
I see the Amazon and the Paraguay;
I see the four great rivers of China, the Amour, the Yellow River, the Yiang-tse, and the Pearl;
I see where the Seine flows, and where the Danube, the Loire, the Rhone, and the Guadalquiver flow;
I see the windings of the Volga, the Dnieper, the Oder;
I see the Tuscan going down the Arno, and the Venetian along the Po;
I see the Greek seaman sailing out of Egina bay. 

6
I see the site of the old empire of Assyria, and that of Persia, and that of India;
I see the falling of the Ganges over the high rim of Saukara. 
I see the place of the idea of the Deity incarnated by avatars in human forms;
I see the spots of the successions of priests on the earth—oracles, sacrificers, brahmins, sabians, lamas, monks, muftis, exhorters;
I see where druids walked the groves of Mona—I see the mistletoe and vervain;
I see the temples of the deaths of the bodies of Gods—I see the old signifiers. 
I see Christ once more eating the bread of his last supper, in the midst of youths and old persons;
I see where the strong divine young man, the Hercules, toil’d faithfully and long, and then died;
I see the place of the innocent rich life and hapless fate of the beautiful nocturnal son, the full-limb’d Bacchus;
I see Kneph, blooming, drest in blue, with the crown of feathers on his head;
I see Hermes, unsuspected, dying, well-beloved, saying to the people, Do not weep for me,
This is not my true country, I have lived banish’d from my true country—I now go back there,
I return to the celestial sphere, where every one goes in his turn. 

7
I see the battle-fields of the earth—grass grows upon them, and blossoms and corn;
I see the tracks of ancient and modern expeditions. 
I see the nameless masonries, venerable messages of the unknown events, heroes, records of the earth. 
I see the places of the sagas;
I see pine-trees and fir-trees torn by northern blasts;
I see granite boulders and cliffs—I see green meadows and lakes;
I see the burial-cairns of Scandinavian warriors;
I see them raised high with stones, by the marge of restless oceans, that the dead men’s spirits, when they wearied of their quiet graves, might rise up through the mounds, and gaze on the tossing billows, and be refresh’d by storms, immensity, liberty, action.
I see the steppes of Asia;
I see the tumuli of Mongolia—I see the tents of Kalmucks and Baskirs;
I see the nomadic tribes, with herds of oxen and cows;
I see the table-lands notch’d with ravines—I see the jungles and deserts;
I see the camel, the wild steed, the bustard, the fat-tail’d sheep, the antelope, and the burrowing wolf. 
I see the high-lands of Abyssinia;
I see flocks of goats feeding, and see the fig-tree, tamarind, date,
And see fields of teff-wheat, and see the places of verdure and gold. 
I see the Brazilian vaquero;
I see the Bolivian ascending Mount Sorata;
I see the Wacho crossing the plains—I see the incomparable rider of horses with his lasso on his arm;
I see over the pampas the pursuit of wild cattle for their hides. 

8
I see little and large sea-dots, some inhabited, some uninhabited;
I see two boats with nets, lying off the shore of Paumanok, quite still;
I see ten fishermen waiting—they discover now a thick school of mossbonkers—they drop the join’d seine-ends in the water,
The boats separate—they diverge and row off, each on its rounding course to the beach, enclosing the mossbonkers;
The net is drawn in by a windlass by those who stop ashore,
Some of the fishermen lounge in their boats—others stand negligently ankle-deep in the water, pois’d on strong legs;
The boats are partly drawn up—the water slaps against them;
On the sand, in heaps and winrows, well out from the water, lie the green-back’d spotted mossbonkers. 

9
I see the despondent red man in the west, lingering about the banks of Moingo, and about Lake Pepin;
He has heard the quail and beheld the honey-bee, and sadly prepared to depart. 
I see the regions of snow and ice;
I see the sharp-eyed Samoiede and the Finn;
I see the seal-seeker in his boat, poising his lance;
I see the Siberian on his slight-built sledge, drawn by dogs;
I see the porpoise-hunters—I see the whale-crews of the South Pacific and the North Atlantic;
I see the cliffs, glaciers, torrents, valleys, of Switzerland—I mark the long winters, and the isolation. 
I see the cities of the earth, and make myself at random a part of them;
I am a real Parisian;
I am a habitan of Vienna, St. Petersburg, Berlin, Constantinople;
I am of Adelaide, Sidney, Melbourne;
I am of London, Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh, Limerick;
I am of Madrid, Cadiz, Barcelona, Oporto, Lyons, Brussels, Berne, Frankfort, Stuttgart, Turin, Florence;
I belong in Moscow, Cracow, Warsaw—or northward in Christiania or Stockholm—or in Siberian Irkutsk—or in some street in Iceland;
I descend upon all those cities, and rise from them again.
 
10
I see vapors exhaling from unexplored countries;
I see the savage types, the bow and arrow, the poison’d splint, the fetish, and the obi. 
I see African and Asiatic towns;
I see Algiers, Tripoli, Derne, Mogadore, Timbuctoo, Monrovia;
I see the swarms of Pekin, Canton, Benares, Delhi, Calcutta, Yedo;
I see the Kruman in his hut, and the Dahoman and Ashanteeman in their huts;
I see the Turk smoking opium in Aleppo;
I see the picturesque crowds at the fairs of Khiva, and those of Herat;
I see Teheran—I see Muscat and Medina, and the intervening sands—I see the caravans toiling onward;
I see Egypt and the Egyptians—I see the pyramids and obelisks;
I look on chisel’d histories, songs, philosophies, cut in slabs of sand-stone, or on granite-blocks;
I see at Memphis mummy-pits, containing mummies, embalm’d, swathed in linen cloth, lying there many centuries;
I look on the fall’n Theban, the large-ball’d eyes, the side-drooping neck, the hands folded across the breast. 
I see the menials of the earth, laboring;
I see the prisoners in the prisons;
I see the defective human bodies of the earth;
I see the blind, the deaf and dumb, idiots, hunchbacks, lunatics;
I see the pirates, thieves, betrayers, murderers, slave-makers of the earth;
I see the helpless infants, and the helpless old men and women. 
I see male and female everywhere;
I see the serene brotherhood of philosophs;
I see the constructiveness of my race;
I see the results of the perseverance and industry of my race;
I see ranks, colors, barbarisms, civilizations—I go among them—I mix indiscriminately,
And I salute all the inhabitants of the earth. 

11
You, whoever you are!
You daughter or son of England!
You of the mighty Slavic tribes and empires! you Russ in Russia!
You dim-descended, black, divine-soul’d African, large, fine-headed, nobly-form’d, superbly destin’d, on equal terms with me!
You Norwegian! Swede! Dane! Icelander! you Prussian!
You Spaniard of Spain! you Portuguese!
You Frenchwoman and Frenchman of France!
You Belge! you liberty-lover of the Netherlands!
You sturdy Austrian! you Lombard! Hun! Bohemian! farmer of Styria!
You neighbor of the Danube!
You working-man of the Rhine, the Elbe, or the Weser! you working-woman too!
You Sardinian! you Bavarian! Swabian! Saxon! Wallachian! Bulgarian!
You citizen of Prague! Roman! Neapolitan! Greek!
You lithe matador in the arena at Seville!
You mountaineer living lawlessly on the Taurus or Caucasus!
You Bokh horse-herd, watching your mares and stallions feeding!
You beautiful-bodied Persian, at full speed in the saddle, shooting arrows to the mark!
You Chinaman and Chinawoman of China! you Tartar of Tartary!
You women of the earth subordinated at your tasks!
You Jew journeying in your old age through every risk, to stand once on Syrian ground! 210
You other Jews waiting in all lands for your Messiah!
You thoughtful Armenian, pondering by some stream of the Euphrates! you peering amid the ruins of Nineveh! you ascending Mount Ararat!
You foot-worn pilgrim welcoming the far-away sparkle of the minarets of Mecca!
You sheiks along the stretch from Suez to Bab-el-mandeb, ruling your families and tribes!
You olive-grower tending your fruit on fields of Nazareth, Damascus, or Lake Tiberias!
You Thibet trader on the wide inland, or bargaining in the shops of Lassa!
You Japanese man or woman! you liver in Madagascar, Ceylon, Sumatra, Borneo!
All you continentals of Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, indifferent of place!
All you on the numberless islands of the archipelagoes of the sea!
And you of centuries hence, when you listen to me!
And you, each and everywhere, whom I specify not, but include just the same!
Health to you! Good will to you all—from me and America sent. 
Each of us inevitable;
Each of us limitless—each of us with his or her right upon the earth;
Each of us allow’d the eternal purports of the earth;
Each of us here as divinely as any is here. 

12
You Hottentot with clicking palate! You woolly-hair’d hordes!
You own’d persons, dropping sweat-drops or blood-drops!
You human forms with the fathomless ever-impressive countenances of brutes!
I dare not refuse you—the scope of the world, and of time and space, are upon me. 
You poor koboo whom the meanest of the rest look down upon, for all your glimmering language and spirituality!
You low expiring aborigines of the hills of Utah, Oregon, California!
You dwarf’d Kamtschatkan, Greenlander, Lapp!
You Austral negro, naked, red, sooty, with protrusive lip, grovelling, seeking your food!
You Caffre, Berber, Soudanese!
You haggard, uncouth, untutor’d, Bedowee!
You plague-swarms in Madras, Nankin, Kaubul, Cairo!
You bather bathing in the Ganges!
You benighted roamer of Amazonia! you Patagonian! you Fejee-man!
You peon of Mexico! you slave of Carolina, Texas, Tennessee!
I do not prefer others so very much before you either;
I do not say one word against you, away back there, where you stand;
(You will come forward in due time to my side.) 
My spirit has pass’d in compassion and determination around the whole earth;
I have look’d for equals and lovers, and found them ready for me in all lands;
I think some divine rapport has equalized me with them. 

13
O vapors! I think I have risen with you, and moved away to distant continents, and fallen down there, for reasons;
I think I have blown with you, O winds;
O waters, I have finger’d every shore with you. 
I have run through what any river or strait of the globe has run through;
I have taken my stand on the bases of peninsulas, and on the high embedded rocks, to cry thence. 
Salut au monde!
What cities the light or warmth penetrates, I penetrate those cities myself;
All islands to which birds wing their way, I wing my way myself. 
Toward all,
I raise high the perpendicular hand—I make the signal,
To remain after me in sight forever,
For all the haunts and homes of men.

Authorship

Research team for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator] , Malcolm Wren [Guest Editor]

3. Paumanok [sung text not yet checked]

Sea-beauty! stretch'd and basking!
One side thy inland ocean laving, broad, with copious commerce, steamers, sails,
And one the Atlantic's wind caressing, fierce or gentle—mighty hulls dark-gliding in the distance.
Isle of sweet brooks of drinking-water—healthy air and soil!
Isle of the salty shore and breeze and brine!

Authorship

See other settings of this text.

Researcher for this text: Malcolm Wren [Guest Editor]

4. When I Heard at the Close of the Day [sung text not yet checked]

When I heard at the close of the day how my name had been receiv'd 
  with plaudits in the capitol, still it was not a happy night for me that follow'd,
And else when I carous'd, or when my plans were accomplish'd, stil I was not happy,
But the day when I rose at dawn from the bed of perfect health, refresh'd, singing,
   inhaling the ripe breath of autumn,
When I saw the full moon in the west grow pale and disappear in the morning light,
When I wander'd alone over the beach, and undressing bathed,
  laughing with the cool waters, and saw the sun rise,
And when I thought how my dear friend my lover was on his way coming,
  O then I was happy,
O then each breath tasted sweeter, and all that day my food nourish'd me more,
  and the beautiful day pass'd well,
And the next came with equal joy, and with the next at evening came my friend,
And that night while all was still I heard the waters roll slowly
  continually up the shores,
I heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and sands as directed to me
  whispering to congratulate me,
For the one I love most lay sleeping by me under the same cover in the cool night,
In the stillness in the autumn moonbeams his face was inclined toward me,
And his arm lay lightly around my breast -- and that night I was happy.

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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

5. I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing [sung text not yet checked]

I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing,
All alone stood it, and the moss hung down from the branches;
Without any companion it grew there, uttering joyous leaves of dark green,
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself;
But I wonder'd how it could utter joyous leaves, standing alone there, 
  without its friend[, its lover]1 near -- for I knew I could not;
And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it, 
  and twined around it a little moss,
And brought it away -- and I have placed it in sight in my room;
It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends,
(For I believe lately I think of little else than of them;)
Yet it remains to me a curious token -- it makes me think of manly love;
For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in Louisiana,
  solitary, in a wide flat space,
Uttering joyous leaves all its life, without a friend, a lover, near,
I know very well I could not.

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View original text (without footnotes)
1 omitted by Rorem.

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

6. Twilight [sung text not yet checked]

The soft voluptuous opiate shades,
The sun just gone, the eager light dispell'd -- (I too will soon be
gone, dispell'd,)
A haze -- nirwana -- rest and night -- oblivion. 

Authorship

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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

7. The Dying Veteran [sung text not yet checked]

Amid these days of order, ease, prosperity,
Amid the current songs of beauty, peace, decorum,
I cast a reminiscence—(likely 'twill offend you,
I heard it in my boyhood;)—More than a generation since,
A queer old savage man, a fighter under Washington himself,
(Large, brave, cleanly, hot-blooded, no talker, rather spiritualistic,
Had fought in the ranks—fought well—had been all through the Revolutionary war,)
Lay dying—sons, daughters, church-deacons, lovingly tending him,
Sharping their sense, their ears, towards his murmuring, half-caught words:
"Let me return again to my war-days,
To the sights and scenes—to forming the line of battle,
To the scouts ahead reconnoitering,
To the cannons, the grim artillery,
To the galloping aids, carrying orders,
To the wounded, the fallen, the heat, the suspense,
The perfume strong, the smoke, the deafening noise;
Away with your life of peace!—your joys of peace!
Give me my old wild battle-life again!"

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Malcolm Wren [Guest Editor]

8. The Dismantled Ship [sung text not yet checked]

In some unused lagoon, some nameless bay,
On sluggish, lonesome waters, anchor'd near the shore,
An old, dismasted, gray and batter'd ship, disabled, done,
After free voyages to all the seas of earth, haul'd up at last and
hawser'd tight,
Lies rusting, mouldering.

Authorship

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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

9. Unseen Buds [sung text not yet checked]

Unseen buds, infinite, hidden well,
Under the snow and ice, under the darkness, in every square or cubic inch,
Germinal, exquisite, in delicate lace, microscopic, unborn,
Like babes in wombs, latent, folded, compact, sleeping;
Billions of billions, and trillions of trillions of them waiting,
(On earth and in the sea—the universe—the stars there in the heavens,)
Urging slowly, surely forward, forming endless,
And waiting ever more, forever more behind.

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Malcolm Wren [Guest Editor]

10. A Sketch (1842) [sung text not yet checked]

Upon the ocean's wave-worn shore 
I marked a solitary form, 
Whose brooding look, and features wore 
The darkness of the coming storm! 
And, from his lips, the sigh that broke, 
So long within his bosom nursed, 
In deep and mournful accents spoke, 
Like troubled waves, that shining burst! 

And as he gazed on earth and sea,
Girt with the gathering night; his soul, 
Wearied and life-worn, longed to flee, 
And rest within its final goal! 
He thought of her whose love had beamed, 
The sunlight of his ripened years;
But now her gentle memory seemed 
To brim his eye with bitter tears! 

"Oh! thou bless'd Spirit!" thus he sighed- 
"Smile on me from thy realm of rest! 
My dark and doubting spirit guide,
By conflict torn, and grief oppressed! 
Teach me, in every saddening care,
To see the chastening hand of Heaven; 
The Soul's high culture to prepare, 
Wisely and mercifully given! 

"Could I this sacred solace share,
'Twould still my struggling bosom's moan; 
And the deep peacefulness of prayer, 
Might for thy heavy loss atone! 
Earth, in its wreath of summer flowers, 
And all its varied scenes of joy, 
Its festal halls and echoing bowers,
No more my darkened thoughts employ. 

"But here, the billow's heaving breast, 
And the low thunder's knelling tone, 
Speak of the wearied soul's unrest, 
Its murmuring, and conflicts lone! 
And yon sweet star, whose golden gleam, 
Pierces the tempest's gathering gloom, 
In the rich radiance of its beam,
Tells me of light beyond the tomb!"

Authorship

Confirmed with Jerome Loving, A Newly Discovered Whitman Poem in Walt Whitman Quarterly Review Vol. 11 Nr. 3 (1994) pp.118-119


Researcher for this text: Malcolm Wren [Guest Editor]