Fancies at Navesink

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from Leaves of Grass: BOOK XXXIV. SANDS AT SEVENTY - by Walt Whitman.

[I] The Pilot in the Mist

  Steaming the northern rapids—(an old St. Lawrence reminiscence,
  A sudden memory-flash comes back, I know not why,
  Here waiting for the sunrise, gazing from this hill;)
  Again ’tis just at morning—a heavy haze contends with daybreak,
  Again the trembling, laboring vessel veers me—I press through
      foam-dash’d rocks that almost touch me,
  Again I mark where aft the small thin Indian helmsman
  Looms in the mist, with brow elate and governing hand.

[II] Had I the Choice

  Had I the choice to tally greatest bards,
  To limn their portraits, stately, beautiful, and emulate at will,
  Homer with all his wars and warriors—Hector, Achilles, Ajax,
  Or Shakspere’s woe-entangled Hamlet, Lear, Othello—Tennyson’s fair ladies,
  Metre or wit the best, or choice conceit to wield in perfect rhyme,
      delight of singers;
  These, these, O sea, all these I’d gladly barter,
  Would you the undulation of one wave, its trick to me transfer,
  Or breathe one breath of yours upon my verse,
  And leave its odor there.

[III] You Tides with Ceaseless Swell

  You tides with ceaseless swell! you power that does this work!
  You unseen force, centripetal, centrifugal, through space’s spread,
  Rapport of sun, moon, earth, and all the constellations,
  What are the messages by you from distant stars to us? what Sirius’?
      what Capella’s?
  What central heart—and you the pulse—vivifies all? what boundless
      aggregate of all?
  What subtle indirection and significance in you? what clue to all in
      you? what fluid, vast identity,
  Holding the universe with all its parts as one—as sailing in a ship?

[IV] Last of Ebb, and Daylight Waning

  Last of ebb, and daylight waning,
  Scented sea-cool landward making, smells of sedge and salt incoming,
  With many a half-caught voice sent up from the eddies,
  Many a muffled confession—many a sob and whisper’d word,
  As of speakers far or hid.

  How they sweep down and out! how they mutter!
  Poets unnamed—artists greatest of any, with cherish’d lost designs,
  Love’s unresponse—a chorus of age’s complaints—hope’s last words,
  Some suicide’s despairing cry, Away to the boundless waste, and
      never again return.

  On to oblivion then!
  On, on, and do your part, ye burying, ebbing tide!
  On for your time, ye furious debouche!

[V] And Yet Not You Alone

  And yet not you alone, twilight and burying ebb,
  Nor you, ye lost designs alone—nor failures, aspirations;
  I know, divine deceitful ones, your glamour’s seeming;
  Duly by you, from you, the tide and light again—duly the hinges turning,
  Duly the needed discord-parts offsetting, blending,
  Weaving from you, from Sleep, Night, Death itself,
  The rhythmus of Birth eternal.

[VI] Proudly the Flood Comes In

  Proudly the flood comes in, shouting, foaming, advancing,
  Long it holds at the high, with bosom broad outswelling,
  All throbs, dilates—the farms, woods, streets of cities—workmen at work,
  Mainsails, topsails, jibs, appear in the offing—steamers’ pennants
      of smoke—and under the forenoon sun,
  Freighted with human lives, gaily the outward bound, gaily the
      inward bound,
  Flaunting from many a spar the flag I love.

[VII] By That Long Scan of Waves

  By that long scan of waves, myself call’d back, resumed upon myself,
  In every crest some undulating light or shade—some retrospect,
  Joys, travels, studies, silent panoramas—scenes ephemeral,
  The long past war, the battles, hospital sights, the wounded and the dead,
  Myself through every by-gone phase—my idle youth—old age at hand,
  My three-score years of life summ’d up, and more, and past,
  By any grand ideal tried, intentionless, the whole a nothing,
  And haply yet some drop within God’s scheme’s ensemble—some
      wave, or part of wave,
  Like one of yours, ye multitudinous ocean.

[VIII] Then Last Of All

  Then last of all, caught from these shores, this hill,
  Of you O tides, the mystic human meaning:
  Only by law of you, your swell and ebb, enclosing me the same,
  The brain that shapes, the voice that chants this song.

 

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