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by Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892)

Song of Democracy
Language: English 
An old man's thoughts of school,
An old man's gathering youthful memories and
     blooms that youth itself cannot.

Now only do I know You,
O fair auroral skies  -  O morning dew upon the grass!

And these I see, these sparkling eyes,
These stores of mystic meaning, these young lives,
Building, equipping like a fleet of ships, immortal ships,
Soon to sail out over the measureless seas,
On the soul's voyage.

Only a lot of boys and girls?
Only the tiresome spelling, writing, ciphering classes?
Only a public school?
Ah more, infinitely more.

And you America,
Cast you the real reckoning for your present?
The lights and shadows of your future, good or evil?
To girlhood, boyhood look, the teacher and the school.

Sail, Sail thy best, ship of Democracy,
Of value is thy freight, 'tis not the present only,
The Past  is also stored in thee.
Thou holdest not the venture of thyself alone,
    not of thy Western continent alone.
Earth's resume entire floats on thy keel, O ship,
    is steadied by thy spars,
With thee Time voyages in trust, the antecedent
    nations sink or swim with thee.
With all their ancient struggles, martyrs, heroes,
    epics, wars, thou bear'st the other continents,
Theirs, theirs as much as thine, the destination  -
     port triumphant;
Steer then with good strong hand and wary eye
    O helmsman, thou carriest great companions,
Venerable priestly Asia sails this day with thee,
And royal feudal Europe sails with thee.
And royal feudal Europe sails with thee.


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive):

Researcher for this text: C. Ersel King

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 36
Word count: 251