Proud Music of the Storm
by Walt Whitman.
Proud music of the storm,
Blast that careers so free, whistling across the prairies,
Strong hum of forest tree-tops—wind of the mountains,
Personified dim shapes—you hidden orchestras,
You serenades of phantoms with instruments alert,
Blending with Nature’s rhythmus all the tongues of nations;
You chords left as by vast composers—you choruses,
You formless, free, religious dances—you from the Orient,
You undertone of rivers, roar of pouring cataracts,
You sounds from distant guns with galloping cavalry,
Echoes of camps with all the different bugle-calls,
Trooping tumultuous, filling the midnight late, bending me powerless,
Entering my lonesome slumber-chamber, why have you seiz’d me?
Come forward O my soul, and let the rest retire,
Listen, lose not, it is toward thee they tend,
Parting the midnight, entering my slumber-chamber,
For thee they sing and dance O soul.
A festival song,
The duet of the bridegroom and the bride, a marriage-march,
With lips of love, and hearts of lovers fill’d to the brim with love,
The red-flush’d cheeks and perfumes, the cortege swarming full of
friendly faces young and old,
To flutes’ clear notes and sounding harps’ cantabile.
Now loud approaching drums,
Victoria! seest thou in powder-smoke the banners torn but flying?
the rout of the baffled?
Hearest those shouts of a conquering army?
(Ah soul, the sobs of women, the wounded groaning in agony,
The hiss and crackle of flames, the blacken’d ruins, the embers of cities,
The dirge and desolation of mankind.)
Now airs antique and mediaeval fill me,
I see and hear old harpers with their harps at Welsh festivals,
I hear the minnesingers singing their lays of love,
I hear the minstrels, gleemen, troubadours, of the middle ages.
Now the great organ sounds,
Tremulous, while underneath, (as the hid footholds of the earth,
On which arising rest, and leaping forth depend,
All shapes of beauty, grace and strength, all hues we know,
Green blades of grass and warbling birds, children that gambol and
play, the clouds of heaven above,)
The strong base stands, and its pulsations intermits not,
Bathing, supporting, merging all the rest, maternity of all the rest,
And with it every instrument in multitudes,
The players playing, all the world’s musicians,
The solemn hymns and masses rousing adoration,
All passionate heart-chants, sorrowful appeals,
The measureless sweet vocalists of ages,
And for their solvent setting earth’s own diapason,
Of winds and woods and mighty ocean waves,
A new composite orchestra, binder of years and climes, ten-fold renewer,
As of the far-back days the poets tell, the Paradiso,
The straying thence, the separation long, but now the wandering done,
The journey done, the journeyman come home,
And man and art with Nature fused again.
Tutti! for earth and heaven;
(The Almighty leader now for once has signal’d with his wand.)
The manly strophe of the husbands of the world,
And all the wives responding.
The tongues of violins,
(I think O tongues ye tell this heart, that cannot tell itself,
This brooding yearning heart, that cannot tell itself.)
Ah from a little child,
Thou knowest soul how to me all sounds became music,
My mother’s voice in lullaby or hymn,
(The voice, O tender voices, memory’s loving voices,
Last miracle of all, O dearest mother’s, sister’s, voices;)
The rain, the growing corn, the breeze among the long-leav’d corn,
The measur’d sea-surf beating on the sand,
The twittering bird, the hawk’s sharp scream,
The wild-fowl’s notes at night as flying low migrating north or south,
The psalm in the country church or mid the clustering trees, the
open air camp-meeting,
The fiddler in the tavern, the glee, the long-strung sailor-song,
The lowing cattle, bleating sheep, the crowing cock at dawn.
All songs of current lands come sounding round me,
The German airs of friendship, wine and love,
Irish ballads, merry jigs and dances, English warbles,
Chansons of France, Scotch tunes, and o’er the rest,
Italia’s peerless compositions.
Across the stage with pallor on her face, yet lurid passion,
Stalks Norma brandishing the dagger in her hand.
I see poor crazed Lucia’s eyes’ unnatural gleam,
Her hair down her back falls loose and dishevel’d.
I see where Ernani walking the bridal garden,
Amid the scent of night-roses, radiant, holding his bride by the hand,
Hears the infernal call, the death-pledge of the horn.
To crossing swords and gray hairs bared to heaven,
The clear electric base and baritone of the world,
The trombone duo, Libertad forever!
From Spanish chestnut trees’ dense shade,
By old and heavy convent walls a wailing song,
Song of lost love, the torch of youth and life quench’d in despair,
Song of the dying swan, Fernando’s heart is breaking.
Awaking from her woes at last retriev’d Amina sings,
Copious as stars and glad as morning light the torrents of her joy.
(The teeming lady comes,
The lustrious orb, Venus contralto, the blooming mother,
Sister of loftiest gods, Alboni’s self I hear.)
I hear those odes, symphonies, operas,
I hear in the William Tell the music of an arous’d and angry people,
I hear Meyerbeer’s Huguenots, the Prophet, or Robert,
Gounod’s Faust, or Mozart’s Don Juan.
I hear the dance-music of all nations,
The waltz, some delicious measure, lapsing, bathing me in bliss,
The bolero to tinkling guitars and clattering castanets.
I see religious dances old and new,
I hear the sound of the Hebrew lyre,
I see the crusaders marching bearing the cross on high, to the
martial clang of cymbals,
I hear dervishes monotonously chanting, interspers’d with frantic
shouts, as they spin around turning always towards Mecca,
I see the rapt religious dances of the Persians and the Arabs,
Again, at Eleusis, home of Ceres, I see the modern Greeks dancing,
I hear them clapping their hands as they bend their bodies,
I hear the metrical shuffling of their feet.
I see again the wild old Corybantian dance, the performers wounding
I see the Roman youth to the shrill sound of flageolets throwing and
catching their weapons,
As they fall on their knees and rise again.
I hear from the Mussulman mosque the muezzin calling,
I see the worshippers within, nor form nor sermon, argument nor word,
But silent, strange, devout, rais’d, glowing heads, ecstatic faces.
I hear the Egyptian harp of many strings,
The primitive chants of the Nile boatmen,
The sacred imperial hymns of China,
To the delicate sounds of the king, (the stricken wood and stone,)
Or to Hindu flutes and the fretting twang of the vina,
A band of bayaderes.
Now Asia, Africa leave me, Europe seizing inflates me,
To organs huge and bands I hear as from vast concourses of voices,
Luther’s strong hymn Eine feste Burg ist unser Gott,
Rossini’s Stabat Mater dolorosa,
Or floating in some high cathedral dim with gorgeous color’d windows,
The passionate Agnus Dei or Gloria in Excelsis.
Composers! mighty maestros!
And you, sweet singers of old lands, soprani, tenori, bassi!
To you a new bard caroling in the West,
Obeisant sends his love.
(Such led to thee O soul,
All senses, shows and objects, lead to thee,
But now it seems to me sound leads o’er all the rest.)
I hear the annual singing of the children in St. Paul’s cathedral,
Or, under the high roof of some colossal hall, the symphonies,
oratorios of Beethoven, Handel, or Haydn,
The Creation in billows of godhood laves me.
Give me to hold all sounds, (I madly struggling cry,)
Fill me with all the voices of the universe,
Endow me with their throbbings, Nature’s also,
The tempests, waters, winds, operas and chants, marches and dances,
Utter, pour in, for I would take them all!
Then I woke softly,
And pausing, questioning awhile the music of my dream,
And questioning all those reminiscences, the tempest in its fury,
And all the songs of sopranos and tenors,
And those rapt oriental dances of religious fervor,
And the sweet varied instruments, and the diapason of organs,
And all the artless plaints of love and grief and death,
I said to my silent curious soul out of the bed of the slumber-chamber,
Come, for I have found the clew I sought so long,
Let us go forth refresh’d amid the day,
Cheerfully tallying life, walking the world, the real,
Nourish’d henceforth by our celestial dream.
And I said, moreover,
Haply what thou hast heard O soul was not the sound of winds,
Nor dream of raging storm, nor sea-hawk’s flapping wings nor harsh scream,
Nor vocalism of sun-bright Italy,
Nor German organ majestic, nor vast concourse of voices, nor layers
Nor strophes of husbands and wives, nor sound of marching soldiers,
Nor flutes, nor harps, nor the bugle-calls of camps,
But to a new rhythmus fitted for thee,
Poems bridging the way from Life to Death, vaguely wafted in night
air, uncaught, unwritten,
Which let us go forth in the bold day and write.