To Think of Time
To think of time—of all that retrospection,
To think of to-day, and the ages continued henceforward.
Have you guess'd you yourself would not continue?
Have you dreaded these earth-beetles?
Have you fear'd the future would be nothing to you?
Is to-day nothing? is the beginningless past nothing?
If the future is nothing they are just as surely nothing.
To think that the sun rose in the east—that men and women were
flexible, real, alive—that every thing was alive,
To think that you and I did not see, feel, think, nor bear our part,
To think that we are now here and bear our part.
Not a day passes, not a minute or second without an accouchement,
Not a day passes, not a minute or second without a corpse.
The dull nights go over and the dull days also,
The soreness of lying so much in bed goes over,
The physician after long putting off gives the silent and terrible
look for an answer,
The children come hurried and weeping, and the brothers and sisters
are sent for,
Medicines stand unused on the shelf, (the camphor-smell has long
pervaded the rooms,)
The faithful hand of the living does not desert the hand of the dying,
The twitching lips press lightly on the forehead of the dying,
The breath ceases and the pulse of the heart ceases,
The corpse stretches on the bed and the living look upon it,
It is palpable as the living are palpable.
The living look upon the corpse with their eyesight,
But without eyesight lingers a different living and looks curiously
on the corpse.
To think the thought of death merged in the thought of materials,
To think of all these wonders of city and country, and others taking
great interest in them, and we taking no interest in them.
To think how eager we are in building our houses,
To think others shall be just as eager, and we quite indifferent.
(I see one building the house that serves him a few years, or
seventy or eighty years at most,
I see one building the house that serves him longer than that.)
Slow-moving and black lines creep over the whole earth—they never
cease—they are the burial lines,
He that was President was buried, and he that is now President shall
surely be buried.
A reminiscence of the vulgar fate,
A frequent sample of the life and death of workmen,
Each after his kind.
Cold dash of waves at the ferry-wharf, posh and ice in the river,
half-frozen mud in the streets,
A gray discouraged sky overhead, the short last daylight of December,
A hearse and stages, the funeral of an old Broadway stage-driver,
the cortege mostly drivers.
Steady the trot to the cemetery, duly rattles the death-bell,
The gate is pass'd, the new-dug grave is halted at, the living
alight, the hearse uncloses,
The coffin is pass'd out, lower'd and settled, the whip is laid on
the coffin, the earth is swiftly shovel'd in,
The mound above is flatted with the spades—silence,
A minute—no one moves or speaks—it is done,
He is decently put away—is there any thing more?
He was a good fellow, free-mouth'd, quick-temper'd, not bad-looking,
Ready with life or death for a friend, fond of women, gambled, ate
hearty, drank hearty,
Had known what it was to be flush, grew low-spirited toward the
last, sicken'd, was help'd by a contribution,
Died, aged forty-one years—and that was his funeral.
Thumb extended, finger uplifted, apron, cape, gloves, strap,
wet-weather clothes, whip carefully chosen,
Boss, spotter, starter, hostler, somebody loafing on you, you
loafing on somebody, headway, man before and man behind,
Good day's work, bad day's work, pet stock, mean stock, first out,
last out, turning-in at night,
To think that these are so much and so nigh to other drivers, and he
there takes no interest in them.
The markets, the government, the working-man's wages, to think what
account they are through our nights and days,
To think that other working-men will make just as great account of
them, yet we make little or no account.
The vulgar and the refined, what you call sin and what you call
goodness, to think how wide a difference,
To think the difference will still continue to others, yet we lie
beyond the difference.
To think how much pleasure there is,
Do you enjoy yourself in the city? or engaged in business? or
planning a nomination and election? or with your wife and family?
Or with your mother and sisters? or in womanly housework? or the
beautiful maternal cares?
These also flow onward to others, you and I flow onward,
But in due time you and I shall take less interest in them.
Your farm, profits, crops—to think how engross'd you are,
To think there will still be farms, profits, crops, yet for you of
What will be will be well, for what is is well,
To take interest is well, and not to take interest shall be well.
The domestic joys, the dally housework or business, the building of
houses, are not phantasms, they have weight, form, location,
Farms, profits, crops, markets, wages, government, are none of them
The difference between sin and goodness is no delusion,
The earth is not an echo, man and his life and all the things of his
life are well-consider'd.
You are not thrown to the winds, you gather certainly and safely
Yourself! yourself!. yourself, for ever and ever!
It is not to diffuse you that you were born of your mother and
father, it is to identify you,
It is not that you should be undecided, but that you should be decided,
Something long preparing and formless is arrived and form'd in you,
You are henceforth secure, whatever comes or goes.
The threads that were spun are gather'd, the wet crosses the warp,
the pattern is systematic.
The preparations have every one been justified,
The orchestra have sufficiently tuned their instruments, the baton
has given the signal.
The guest that was coming, he waited long, he is now housed,
He is one of those who are beautiful and happy, he is one of those
that to look upon and be with is enough.
The law of the past cannot be eluded,
The law of the present and future cannot be eluded,
The law of the living cannot be eluded, it is eternal,
The law of promotion and transformation cannot be eluded,
The law of heroes and good-doers cannot be eluded,
The law of drunkards, informers, mean persons, not one iota thereof
can be eluded.
Slow moving and black lines go ceaselessly over the earth,
Northerner goes carried and Southerner goes carried, and they on the
Atlantic side and they on the Pacific,
And they between, and all through the Mississippi country, and all
over the earth.
The great masters and kosmos are well as they go, the heroes and
good-doers are well,
The known leaders and inventors and the rich owners and pious and
distinguish'd may be well,
But there is more account than that, there is strict account of all.
The interminable hordes of the ignorant and wicked are not nothing,
The barbarians of Africa and Asia are not nothing,
The perpetual successions of shallow people are not nothing as they go.
Of and in all these things,
I have dream'd that we are not to be changed so much, nor the law of
I have dream'd that heroes and good-doers shall be under the present
and past law,
And that murderers, drunkards, liars, shall be under the present and
For I have dream'd that the law they are under now is enough.
And I have dream'd that the purpose and essence of the known life,
Is to form and decide identity for the unknown life, the permanent.
If all came but to ashes of dung,
If maggots and rats ended us, then Alarum! for we are betray'd,
Then indeed suspicion of death.
Do you suspect death? if I were to suspect death I should die now,
Do you think I could walk pleasantly and well-suited toward annihilation?
Pleasantly and well-suited I walk,
Whither I walk I cannot define, but I know it is good,
The whole universe indicates that it is good,
The past and the present indicate that it is good.
How beautiful and perfect are the animals!
How perfect the earth, and the minutest thing upon it!
What is called good is perfect, and what is called bad is just as perfect,
The vegetables and minerals are all perfect, and the imponderable
Slowly and surely they have pass'd on to this, and slowly and surely
they yet pass on.
I swear I think now that every thing without exception has an eternal soul!
The trees have, rooted in the ground! the weeds of the sea have! the
I swear I think there is nothing but immortality!
That the exquisite scheme is for it, and the nebulous float is for
it, and the cohering is for it!
And all preparation is for it—and identity is for it—and life and
materials are altogether for it!
Darest Thou Now O Soul
Darest thou now O soul,
Walk out with me toward the unknown region,
Where neither ground is for the feet nor any path to follow?
No map there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.
I know it not O soul,
Nor dost thou, all is a blank before us,
All waits undream'd of in that region, that inaccessible land.
Till when the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds bounding us.
Then we burst forth, we float,
In Time and Space O soul, prepared for them,
Equal, equipt at last, (O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil O soul.
Whispers of heavenly death murmur'd I hear,
Labial gossip of night, sibilant chorals,
Footsteps gently ascending, mystical breezes wafted soft and low,
Ripples of unseen rivers, tides of a current flowing, forever flowing,
(Or is it the plashing of tears? the measureless waters of human tears?)
I see, just see skyward, great cloud-masses,
Mournfully slowly they roll, silently swelling and mixing,
With at times a half-dimm'd sadden'd far-off star,
Appearing and disappearing.
(Some parturition rather, some solemn immortal birth;
On the frontiers to eyes impenetrable,
Some soul is passing over.)
Chanting the square deific, out of the One advancing, out of the sides,
Out of the old and new, out of the square entirely divine,
Solid, four-sided, (all the sides needed,) from this side Jehovah am I,
Old Brahm I, and I Saturnius am;
Not Time affects me—I am Time, old, modern as any,
Unpersuadable, relentless, executing righteous judgments,
As the Earth, the Father, the brown old Kronos, with laws,
Aged beyond computation, yet never new, ever with those mighty laws rolling,
Relentless I forgive no man—whoever sins dies—I will have that man's life;
Therefore let none expect mercy—have the seasons, gravitation, the
appointed days, mercy? no more have I,
But as the seasons and gravitation, and as all the appointed days
that forgive not,
I dispense from this side judgments inexorable without the least remorse.
Consolator most mild, the promis'd one advancing,
With gentle hand extended, the mightier God am I,
Foretold by prophets and poets in their most rapt prophecies and poems,
From this side, lo! the Lord Christ gazes—lo! Hermes I—lo! mine is
All sorrow, labor, suffering, I, tallying it, absorb in myself,
Many times have I been rejected, taunted, put in prison, and
crucified, and many times shall be again,
All the world have I given up for my dear brothers' and sisters'
sake, for the soul's sake,
Wanding my way through the homes of men, rich or poor, with the kiss
For I am affection, I am the cheer-bringing God, with hope and
With indulgent words as to children, with fresh and sane words, mine only,
Young and strong I pass knowing well I am destin'd myself to an
But my charity has no death—my wisdom dies not, neither early nor late,
And my sweet love bequeath'd here and elsewhere never dies.
Aloof, dissatisfied, plotting revolt,
Comrade of criminals, brother of slaves,
Crafty, despised, a drudge, ignorant,
With sudra face and worn brow, black, but in the depths of my heart,
proud as any,
Lifted now and always against whoever scorning assumes to rule me,
Morose, full of guile, full of reminiscences, brooding, with many wiles,
(Though it was thought I was baffled, and dispel'd, and my wiles
done, but that will never be,)
Defiant, I, Satan, still live, still utter words, in new lands duly
appearing, (and old ones also,)
Permanent here from my side, warlike, equal with any, real as any,
Nor time nor change shall ever change me or my words.
Santa Spirita, breather, life,
Beyond the light, lighter than light,
Beyond the flames of hell, joyous, leaping easily above hell,
Beyond Paradise, perfumed solely with mine own perfume,
Including all life on earth, touching, including God, including
Saviour and Satan,
Ethereal, pervading all, (for without me what were all? what were God?)
Essence of forms, life of the real identities, permanent, positive,
(namely the unseen,)
Life of the great round world, the sun and stars, and of man, I, the
Here the square finishing, the solid, I the most solid,
Breathe my breath also through these songs.
Of him I love day and night I dream'd I heard he was dead,
And I dream'd I went where they had buried him I love, but he was
not in that place,
And I dream'd I wander'd searching among burial-places to find him,
And I found that every place was a burial-place;
The houses full of life were equally full of death, (this house is now,)
The streets, the shipping, the places of amusement, the Chicago,
Boston, Philadelphia, the Mannahatta, were as full of the dead as
of the living,
And fuller, O vastly fuller of the dead than of the living;
And what I dream'd I will henceforth tell to every person and age,
And I stand henceforth bound to what I dream'd,
And now I am willing to disregard burial-places and dispense with them,
And if the memorials of the dead were put up indifferently everywhere,
even in the room where I eat or sleep, I should be satisfied,
And if the corpse of any one I love, or if my own corpse, be duly
render'd to powder and pour'd in the sea, I shall be satisfied,
Or if it be distributed to the winds I shall be satisfied.
Yet, yet, ye downcast hours, I know ye also,
Weights of lead, how ye clog and cling at my ankles,
Earth to a chamber of mourning turns—I hear the o'erweening, mocking
Matter is conqueror—matter, triumphant only, continues onward.
Despairing cries float ceaselessly toward me,
The call of my nearest lover, putting forth, alarm'd, uncertain,
The sea I am quickly to sail, come tell me,
Come tell me where I am speeding, tell me my destination.
I understand your anguish, but I cannot help you,
I approach, hear, behold, the sad mouth, the look out of the eyes,
your mute inquiry,
Whither I go from the bed I recline on, come tell me,—
Old age, alarm'd, uncertain—a young woman's voice, appealing to
me for comfort;
A young man's voice, Shall I not escape?
As if a phantom caress'd me,
I thought I was not alone walking here by the shore;
But the one I thought was with me as now I walk by the shore, the
one I loved that caress'd me,
As I lean and look through the glimmering light, that one has
And those appear that are hateful to me and mock me.
I need no assurances, I am a man who is preoccupied of his own soul;
I do not doubt that from under the feet and beside the hands and
face I am cognizant of, are now looking faces I am not cognizant
of, calm and actual faces,
I do not doubt but the majesty and beauty of the world are latent in
any iota of the world,
I do not doubt I am limitless, and that the universes are limitless,
in vain I try to think how limitless,
I do not doubt that the orbs and the systems of orbs play their
swift sports through the air on purpose, and that I shall one day
be eligible to do as much as they, and more than they,
I do not doubt that temporary affairs keep on and on millions of years,
I do not doubt interiors have their interiors, and exteriors have
their exteriors, and that the eyesight has another eyesight, and
the hearing another hearing, and the voice another voice,
I do not doubt that the passionately-wept deaths of young men are
provided for, and that the deaths of young women and the
deaths of little children are provided for,
(Did you think Life was so well provided for, and Death, the purport
of all Life, is not well provided for?)
I do not doubt that wrecks at sea, no matter what the horrors of
them, no matter whose wife, child, husband, father, lover, has
gone down, are provided for, to the minutest points,
I do not doubt that whatever can possibly happen anywhere at any
time, is provided for in the inherences of things,
I do not think Life provides for all and for Time and Space, but I
believe Heavenly Death provides for all.
Quicksand years that whirl me I know not whither,
Your schemes, politics, fail, lines give way, substances mock and elude me,
Only the theme I sing, the great and strong-possess'd soul, eludes not,
One's-self must never give way—that is the final substance—that
out of all is sure,
Out of politics, triumphs, battles, life, what at last finally remains?
When shows break up what but One's-Self is sure?
That music always round me, unceasing, unbeginning, yet long
untaught I did not hear,
But now the chorus I hear and am elated,
A tenor, strong, ascending with power and health, with glad notes of
daybreak I hear,
A soprano at intervals sailing buoyantly over the tops of immense waves,
A transparent base shuddering lusciously under and through the universe,
The triumphant tutti, the funeral wailings with sweet flutes and
violins, all these I fill myself with,
I hear not the volumes of sound merely, I am moved by the exquisite
I listen to the different voices winding in and out, striving,
contending with fiery vehemence to excel each other in emotion;
I do not think the performers know themselves—but now I think
begin to know them.
What ship puzzled at sea, cons for the true reckoning?
Or coming in, to avoid the bars and follow the channel a perfect
Here, sailor! here, ship! take aboard the most perfect pilot,
Whom, in a little boat, putting off and rowing, I hailing you offer.
A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.
O living always, always dying!
O the burials of me past and present,
O me while I stride ahead, material, visible, imperious as ever;
O me, what I was for years, now dead, (I lament not, I am content;)
O to disengage myself from those corpses of me, which I turn and
look at where I cast them,
To pass on, (O living! always living!) and leave the corpses behind.
From all the rest I single out you, having a message for you,
You are to die—let others tell you what they please, I cannot prevaricate,
I am exact and merciless, but I love you—there is no escape for you.
Softly I lay my right hand upon you, you 'ust feel it,
I do not argue, I bend my head close and half envelop it,
I sit quietly by, I remain faithful,
I am more than nurse, more than parent or neighbor,
I absolve you from all except yourself spiritual bodily, that is
eternal, you yourself will surely escape,
The corpse you will leave will be but excrementitious.
The sun bursts through in unlooked-for directions,
Strong thoughts fill you and confidence, you smile,
You forget you are sick, as I forget you are sick,
You do not see the medicines, you do not mind the weeping friends,
I am with you,
I exclude others from you, there is nothing to be commiserated,
I do not commiserate, I congratulate you.
Night on the prairies,
The supper is over, the fire on the ground burns low,
The wearied emigrants sleep, wrapt in their blankets;
I walk by myself—I stand and look at the stars, which I think now
never realized before.
Now I absorb immortality and peace,
I admire death and test propositions.
How plenteous! how spiritual! how resume!
The same old man and soul—the same old aspirations, and the same content.
I was thinking the day most splendid till I saw what the not-day exhibited,
I was thinking this globe enough till there sprang out so noiseless
around me myriads of other globes.
Now while the great thoughts of space and eternity fill me I will
measure myself by them,
And now touch'd with the lives of other globes arrived as far along
as those of the earth,
Or waiting to arrive, or pass'd on farther than those of the earth,
I henceforth no more ignore them than I ignore my own life,
Or the lives of the earth arrived as far as mine, or waiting to arrive.
O I see now that life cannot exhibit all to me, as the day cannot,
I see that I am to wait for what will be exhibited by death.
As I sit with others at a great feast, suddenly while the music is playing,
To my mind, (whence it comes I know not,) spectral in mist of a
wreck at sea,
Of certain ships, how they sail from port with flying streamers and
wafted kisses, and that is the last of them,
Of the solemn and murky mystery about the fate of the President,
Of the flower of the marine science of fifty generations founder'd
off the Northeast coast and going down—of the steamship Arctic
Of the veil'd tableau-women gather'd together on deck, pale, heroic,
waiting the moment that draws so close—O the moment!
A huge sob—a few bubbles—the white foam spirting up—and then the
Sinking there while the passionless wet flows on—and I now
pondering, Are those women indeed gone?
Are souls drown'd and destroy'd so?
Is only matter triumphant?
At the last, tenderly,
From the walls of the powerful fortress'd house,
From the clasp of the knitted locks, from the keep of the well-closed doors,
Let me be wafted.
Let me glide noiselessly forth;
With the key of softness unlock the locks—with a whisper,
Set ope the doors O soul.
Tenderly—be not impatient,
(Strong is your hold O mortal flesh,
Strong is your hold O love.)
As I watch'd the ploughman ploughing,
Or the sower sowing in the fields, or the harvester harvesting,
I saw there too, O life and death, your analogies;
(Life, life is the tillage, and Death is the harvest according.)
Pensive and faltering,
The words the Dead I write,
For living are the Dead,
(Haply the only living, only real,
And I the apparition, I the spectre.)