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Who are they as bats and night-dogs askant in the capitol? What a filthy Presidentiad! (O South, your torrid suns! O North, your arctic freezings!)
Are those really Congressmen? are those the great Judges? is that the President?
Then I will sleep awhile yet, for I see that these States sleep, for reasons;
(With gathering murk, with muttering thunder and lambent shoots we all duly awake,
South, North, East, West, inland and seaboard, we will surely awake.)
FIRST O SONGS FOR A PRELUDE.
FIRST O Songs for a prelude,
Lightly strike on the stretch'd tympanum pride and joy in my city, How she led the rest to arms, how she gave the cue,
How at once with lithe limbs unwaiting a moment she sprang, (O superb! O Manhattan, my own, my peerless!
O strongest you in the hour of danger, in crisis ! O truer than steel!) How you sprang how threw off the costumes of peace with indifferent hand,
your soft opera-music changed, and the drum and fife were heard in their stead,
How you led to the war, (that shall serve for our preiude, songs
How Manhattan drum-taps led.
Forty years had I in my city seen soldiers parading,
Forty years as a pageant, till unawares the lady of this teeming and turbulent city,
Sleepless amid her ships, her houses, her incalculable wealth,
At dead of night, at news from the south,
A shock electric, the night sustain'd it,
Till with ominous hum our hive at daybreak pour'd out its myriads
From the houses then and the workshops, and through all the doorways,
Leapt they tumultuous, and lo! Manhattan arming.
To the drum-taps prompt,
The young men falling in and arming,
The mechanics arming, (the trowel, the jack-plane, the blacksmith's hammer, tost aside with precipitation,)
The lawyer leaving his office and arming, the judge leaving the court,
The driver deserting his wagon in the street, jumping down, throwing the reins abruptly down on the horses' backs, The salesman leaving the store, the boss, book-keeper, porter, all leaving;
Squads gather everywhere by common consent and arm, The new recruits, even boys, the old men show them how to wear their accoutrements, they buckle the straps carefully, Outdoors arming, indoors arming, the flash of the musket-barrels, The white tents cluster in camps, the arm'd sentries around, the sunrise cannon and again at sunset,
Arm'd regiments arrive every day, pass through the city, and embark from the wharves,
(How good they look as they tramp down to the river, sweaty, with their guns on their shoulders!
How I love them! how I could hug them, with their brown faces and their clothes and knapsacks cover'd with dust !) The blood of the city uparm'd! arm'd! the cry everywhere, The flags flung out from the steeples of churches and from all the public buildings and stores,
The tearful parting, the mother kisses her son, the son kisses his
(Loth is the mother to part, yet not a word does she speak to detain him,)
The tumultuous escort, the ranks of policemen preceding, clearing
The unpent enthusiasm, the wild cheers of the crowd for their
The artillery, the silent cannons bright as gold, drawn along, rumble lightly over the stones,
(Silent cannons, soon to cease your silence,
Soon unlimber'd to begin the red business ;)
All the mutter of preparation, all the determin'd arming,
The hospital service, the lint, bandages and medicines,
The women volunteering for nurses, the work begun for in earnest, no mere parade now;
War! an arm'd race is advancing! the welcome for battle, no
turning away ;
War! be it weeks, months, or years, an arm'd race is advancing to welcome it.
Mannahatta a-march — and it's O to sing it well!
And the sturdy artillery,
The guns bright as gold, the work for giants, to serve well the guns, Unlimber them! (no more as the past forty years for salutes for courtesies merely,
Put in something now besides powder and wadding.)
And you lady of ships, you Mannahatta,
Old matron of this proud, friendly, turbulent city,
Often in peace and wealth you were pensive or covertly frown'd amid all your children,
But now you smile with joy exulting old Mannahatta.
ARM'D year-year of the struggle,
No dainty rhymes or sentimental love verses for you terrible year, Not you as some pale poetling seated at a desk lisping cadenzas
But as a strong man erect, clothed in blue clothes, advancing, carrying a rifle on your shoulder,
With well-gristled body and sunburnt face and hands, with a knife in the belt at your side,
As I heard you shouting loud, your sonorous voice ringing across the continent,
Your masculine voice O year, as rising amid the great cities, Amid the men of Manhattan I saw you as one of the workmen, the dwellers in Manhattan,
Or with large steps crossing the prairies out of Illinois and
Rapidly crossing the West with springy gait and descending the Alleghanies,
Or down from the great lakes or in Pennsylvania, or on deck along the Ohio river,
Or southward along the Tennessee or Cumberland rivers, or at Chattanooga on the mountain top,
Saw I your gait and saw I your sinewy limbs clothed in blue bearing weapons, robust year,
Heard your determin'd voice launch'd forth again and again,
BEAT! BEAT! DRUMS!
BEAT! beat! drums! blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows-through doors-burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,
Leave not the bridegroom quiet-no happiness must he have now with his bride,
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering his grain,
So fierce you whirr and pound you drums—so shrill you bugles blow.
Beat! beat! drums!
blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities over the rumble of wheels in the
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? no sleepers must sleep in those beds,
No bargainers' bargains by day-no brokers or speculators would they continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing? Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums-you bugles wilder blow.
Beat! beat! drums!-blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley-stop for no expostulation,
Mind not the timid-mind not the weeper or prayer,
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man,
Let not the child's voice be heard, nor the mother's entreaties,
Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting
So strong you thump O terrible drums
so loud you bugles blow.
FROM PAUMANOK STARTING I FLY LIKE A BIRD.
FROM Paumanok starting I fly like a bird,
Around and around to soar to sing the idea of all,
To the north betaking myself to sing there arctic songs,
To Kanada till I absorb Kanada in myself, to Michigan then,
Then to Ohio and Indiana to sing theirs, to Missouri and Kansas and Arkansas to sing theirs,
To Tennessee and Kentucky, to the Carolinas and Georgia to sing theirs,
To Texas and so along up toward California, to roam accepted everywhere;
To sing first, (to the tap of the war-drum if need be,)
The idea of all, of the Western world one and inseparable,
SONG OF THE BANNER AT DAYBREAK.
O A new song, a free song,
Flapping, flapping, flapping, flapping, by sounds, by voices clearer, By the wind's voice and that of the drum,
By the banner's voice and child's voice and sea's voice and father's
Low on the ground and high in the air,
On the ground where father and child stand,
In the upward air where their eyes turn,
Words! book-words! what are you?
Words no more, for hearken and see,
My song is there in the open air, and I must sing,
I'll weave the chord and twine in,
Man's desire and babe's desire, I'll twine them in, I'll put in life,
I'll pour the verse with streams of blood, full of volition, full of joy, Then loosen, launch forth, to go and compete,
With the banner and pennant a-flapping.
Come up here, bard, bard,