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Title: Complete Prose Works - Specimen Days and Collect, November Boughs and Goodbye My Fancy
Author: Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892
Language: English
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Specimen Days and Collect, November Boughs and Good Bye My Fancy

By Walt Whitman



  A Happy Hour's Command
  Answer to an Insisting Friend
  Genealogy--Van Velsor and Whitman
  The Old Whitman and Van Velsor Cemeteries
  The Maternal Homestead
  Two Old Family Interiors
  Paumanok, and my Life on it as Child and Young Man
  My First Reading--Lafayette
  Printing Office--Old Brooklyn
  My Passion for Ferries
  Broadway Sights
  Omnibus Jaunts and Drivers
  Plays and Operas too
  Through Eight Years
  Sources of Character--Results--1860
  Opening of the Secession War
  National Uprising and Volunteering
  Contemptuous Feeling
  Battle of Bull Run, July, 1861
  The Stupor Passes--Something Else Begins
  Down at the Front
  After First Fredericksburg
  Back to Washington
  Fifty Hours Left Wounded on the Field
  Hospital Scenes and Persons
  Patent-Office Hospital
  The White House by Moonlight
  An Army Hospital Ward
  A Connecticut Case
  Two Brooklyn Boys
  A Secesh Brave
  The Wounded from Chancellorsville
  A Night Battle over a Week Since
  Unnamed Remains the Bravest Soldier
  Some Specimen Cases
  My Preparations for Visits
  Ambulance Processions
  Bad Wounds--the Young
  The Most Inspiriting of all War's Shows
  Battle of Gettysburg
  A Cavalry Camp
  A New York Soldier
  Home-Made Music
  Abraham Lincoln
  Heated Term
  Soldiers and Talks
  Death of a Wisconsin Officer
  Hospitals Ensemble
  A Silent Night Ramble
  Spiritual Characters among the Soldiers
  Cattle Droves about Washington
  Hospital Perplexity
  Down at the Front
  Paying the Bounties
  Rumors, Changes, Etc.
  Summer of 1864
  A New Army Organization fit for America
  Death of a Hero
  Hospital Scenes--Incidents
  A Yankee Soldier
  Union Prisoners South
  A Glimpse of War's Hell-Scenes
  Items from My Note Books
  A Case from Second Bull Run
  Army Surgeons--Aid Deficiencies
  The Blue Everywhere
  A Model Hospital
  Boys in the Army
  Burial of a Lady Nurse
  Female Nurses for Soldiers
  Southern Escapees
  The Capitol by Gas-Light
  The Inauguration
  Attitude of Foreign Governments During the War
  The Weather--Does it Sympathize with These Times?
  Inauguration Ball
  Scene at the Capitol
  A Yankee Antique
  Wounds and Diseases
  Death of President Lincoln
  Sherman's Army Jubilation--its Sudden Stoppage
  No Good Portrait of Lincoln
  Releas'd Union Prisoners from South
  Death of a Pennsylvania Soldier
  The Armies Returning
  The Grand Review
  Western Soldiers
  A Soldier on Lincoln
  Two Brothers, one South, one North
  Some Sad Cases Yet
  Calhoun's Real Monument
  Hospitals Closing
  Typical Soldiers
  Three Years Summ'd up
  The Million Dead, too, Summ'd up
  The Real War will never get in the Books
  An Interregnum Paragraph
  New Themes Enter'd Upon
  Entering a Long Farm-Lane
  To the Spring and Brook
  An Early Summer Reveille
  Birds Migrating at Midnight
  Summer Sights and Indolences
  Sundown Perfume--Quail-Notes--the Hermit Thrush
  A July Afternoon by the Pond
  Locusts and Katy-Dids
  The Lesson of a Tree
  Autumn Side-Bits
  The Sky--Days and Nights--Happiness
  Colors--A Contrast
  November 8, '76
  Crows and Crows
  A Winter-Day on the Sea-Beach
  Sea-Shore Fancies
  In Memory of Thomas Paine
  A Two Hours' Ice-Sail
  Spring Overtures--Recreations
  One of the Human Kinks
  An Afternoon Scene
  The Gates Opening
  The Common Earth, the Soil
  Birds and Birds and Birds
  Full-Starr'd Nights
  Mulleins and Mulleins
  Distant Sounds
  A Sun-Bath--Nakedness
  The Oaks and I
  A Quintette
  The First Frost--Mems
  Three Young Men's Deaths
  February Days
  A Meadow Lark
  Sundown Lights
  Thoughts Under an Oak--A Dream
  Clover and Hay Perfume
  An Unknown
  Bird Whistling
  Three of Us
  Death of William Cullen Bryant
  Jaunt up the Hudson
  Happiness and Raspberries
  A Specimen Tramp Family
  Manhattan from the Bay
  Human and Heroic New York
  Hours for the Soul
  Straw-Color'd and other Psyches
  A Night Remembrance
  Wild Flowers
  A Civility Too Long Neglected
  Delaware River--Days and Nights
  Scenes on Ferry and River--Last Winter's Nights
  The First Spring Day on Chestnut Street
  Up the Hudson to Ulster County
  Days at J.B.'s--Turf Fires--Spring Songs
  Meeting a Hermit
  An Ulster County Waterfall
  Walter Dumont and his Medal
  Hudson River Sights
  Two City Areas Certain Hours
  Central Park Walks and Talks
  A Fine Afternoon, 4 to 6
  Departing of the Big Steamers
  Two Hours on the Minnesota
  Mature Summer Days and Night
  Exposition Building--New City Hall--River-Trip
  Swallows on the River
  Begin a Long Jaunt West
  In the Sleeper
  Missouri State
  Lawrence and Topeka, Kansas
  The Prairies--(and an Undeliver'd Speech)
  On to Denver--A Frontier Incident
  An Hour on Kenosha Summit
  An Egotistical "Find"
  New Scenes--New Joys
  Steam-Power, Telegraphs, Etc.
  America's Back-Bone
  The Parks
  Art Features
  Denver Impressions
  I Turn South and then East Again
  Unfulfill'd Wants--the Arkansas River
  A Silent Little Follower--the Coreopsis
  The Prairies and Great Plains in Poetry
  The Spanish Peaks--Evening on the Plains
  America's Characteristic Landscape
  Earth's Most Important Stream
  Prairie Analogies--the Tree Question
  Mississippi Valley Literature
  An Interviewer's Item
  The Women of the West
  The Silent General
  President Hayes's Speeches
  St. Louis Memoranda
  Nights on the Mississippi
  Upon our Own Land
  Edgar Poe's Significance
  Beethoven's Septette
  A Hint of Wild Nature
  Loafing in the Woods
  A Contralto Voice
  Seeing Niagara to Advantage
  Jaunting to Canada
  Sunday with the Insane
  Reminiscence of Elias Hicks
  Grand Native Growth
  A Zollverein between the U. S. and Canada
  The St. Lawrence Line
  The Savage Saguenay
  Capes Eternity and Trinity
  Chicoutimi, and Ha-ha Bay
  The Inhabitants--Good Living
  Cedar-Plums Like--Names
  Death of Thomas Carlyle
  Carlyle from American Points of View
  A Couple of Old Friends--A Coleridge Bit
  A Week's Visit to Boston
  The Boston of To-Day
  My Tribute to Four Poets
  Millet's Pictures--Last Items
  Birds--and a Caution
  Samples of my Common-Place Book
  My Native Sand and Salt Once More
  Hot Weather New York
  "Ouster's Last Rally"
  Some Old Acquaintances--Memories
  A Discovery of Old Age
  A Visit, at the Last, to R. W. Emerson
  Other Concord Notations
  Boston Common--More of Emerson
  An Ossianic Night--Dearest Friends
  Only a New Ferry Boat
  Death of Longfellow
  Starting Newspapers
  The Great Unrest of which We are Part
  By Emerson's Grave
  At Present Writing--Personal
  After Trying a Certain Book
  Final Confessions--Literary Tests
  Nature and Democracy--Morality






  Preface, 1855, to first issue of "Leaves of Grass"
  Preface, 1872, to "As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free"
  Preface, 1876, to L. of G. and "Two Rivulets"






  Nationality (and Yet)
  Emerson's Books (the Shadows of Them)
  Ventures, on an Old Theme
  British Literature
  Darwinism (then Furthermore)
  The Tramp and Strike Questions
  Democracy in the New World
  Foundation Stages--then Others
  General Suffrage, Elections, Etc.
  Who Gets the Plunder?
  Friendship (the Real Article)
  Lacks and Wants Yet
  Rulers Strictly Out of the Masses
  Monuments--the Past and Present
  Little or Nothing New After All
  A Lincoln Reminiscence
  Book-Classes-America's Literature
  Our Real Culmination
  An American Problem
  The Last Collective Compaction


  Dough Face Song
  Death in the School-Room
  One Wicked Impulse
  The Last Loyalist
  Wild Frank's Return
  The Boy Lover
  The Child and the Profligate
  Lingave's Temptation
  Little Jane
  Dumb Kate
  Talk to an Art Union
  Wounded in the House of Friends
  Sailing the Mississippi at Midnight


OUR EMINENT VISITORS, Past, Present and Future











  Negro Slaves in New York
  Canada Nights
  Country Days and Nights
  Central Park Notes
  Plate Glass Notes


  Washington Street Scenes
  The 195th Pennsylvania
  Left-hand Writing by Soldiers
  Central Virginia in '64
  Paying the First Color'd Troops




  Preface to Reader in British Islands
  Additional Note, 1887
  Preface to English Edition "Democratic Vistas"




  Attorney General's Office, 1865
  A Glint Inside of Abraham Lincoln's Cabinet Appointments
  Note to a Friend
  Written Impromptu in an Album
  The Place Gratitude fills in a Fine Character


ELIAS HICKS, Notes (such as they are)

  George Fox and Shakspere




  Ship Ahoy
  For Queen Victoria's Birthday





  The Perfect Human Voice
  Shakspere for America
  "Unassailed Renown"
  Inscription for a Little Book on Giordano Bruno
  Health (Old Style)
  As in a Swoon
  L. of G.
  After the Argument
  For Us Two, Reader Dear


  A World's Show
  New York--the Bay--the Old Name
  A Sick Spell
  To be Present Only
  "Intestinal Agitation"
  "Walt Whitman's Last 'Public'"
  Ingersoll's Speech
  Feeling Fairly
  Old Brooklyn Days
  Two Questions
  Preface to a Volume
  An Engineer's Obituary
  Old Actors, Singers, Shows, Etc., in New York
  Some Personal and Old Age Jottings
  Out in the Open Again
  America's Bulk Average
  Last Saved Items




_Down in the Woods, July 2d, 1882_.-If I do it at all I must delay no
longer. Incongruous and full of skips and jumps as is that huddle of
diary-jottings, war-memoranda of 1862-'65, Nature-notes of 1877-'81,
with Western and Canadian observations afterwards, all bundled up and
tied by a big string, the resolution and indeed mandate comes to me this
day, this hour,--(and what a day! What an hour just passing! the luxury
of riant grass and blowing breeze, with all the shows of sun and sky and
perfect temperature, never before so filling me, body and soul),--to
go home, untie the bundle, reel out diary-scraps and memoranda, just as
they are, large or small, one after another, into print-pages,[1]
and let the melange's lackings and wants of connection take care of
themselves. It will illustrate one phase of humanity anyhow; how few of
life's days and hours (and they not by relative value or proportion, but
by chance) are ever noted. Probably another point, too, how we give long
preparations for some object, planning and delving and fashioning, and
then, when the actual hour for doing arrives, find ourselves still quite
unprepared, and tumble the thing together, letting hurry and crudeness
tell the story better than fine work. At any rate I obey my happy
hour's command, which seems curiously imperative. May be, if I don't
do anything else, I shall send out the most wayward, spontaneous,
fragmentary book ever printed.


[1] The pages from 1 to 15 are nearly verbatim an off-hand letter of
mine in January, 1882, to an insisting friend. Following, I give some
gloomy experiences. The war of attempted secession has, of course, been
the distinguishing event of my time. I commenced at the close of 1862,
and continued steadily through '63, '64 and '65, to visit the sick
and wounded of the army, both on the field and in the hospitals in and
around Washington city. From the first I kept little note-books
for impromptu jottings in pencil to refresh my memory of names and
circumstances, and what was specially wanted, &c. In these, I brief'd
cases, persons, sights, occurrences in camp, by the bed-side, and
not seldom by the corpses of the dead. Some were scratch'd down from
narratives I heard and itemized while watching, or waiting, or tending
somebody amid those scenes. I have dozens of such little note-books
left, forming a special history of those years, for myself alone, full
of associations never to be possibly said or sung. I wish I could convey
to the reader the associations that attach to these soil'd and creas'd
livraisons, each composed of a sheet or two of paper, folded small to
carry in the pocket, and fasten'd with a pin. I leave them just as I
threw them by after the war, blotch'd here and there with more than one
blood-stain, hurriedly written, sometimes at the clinique, not seldom
amid the excitement of uncertainty, or defeat, or of action, or getting
ready for it, or a march. Most of the pages from 20 to 75 are verbatim
copies of those lurid and blood-smuch'd little notebooks.

Very different are most of the memoranda that follow. Some time after
the war ended I had a paralytic stroke, which prostrated me for several
years. In 1876 I began to get over the worst of it. From this date,
portions of several seasons, especially summers, I spent at a secluded
haunt down in Camden county, New Jersey--Timber creek, quite a little
river (it enters from the great Delaware, twelve miles away)--with
primitive solitudes, winding stream, recluse and woody banks,
sweet-feeding springs, and all the charms that birds, grass,
wild-flowers, rabbits and squirrels, old oaks, walnut trees, &c., can
bring. Through these times, and on these spots, the diary from page 76
onward was mostly written.

The COLLECT afterwards gathers up the odds and ends of whatever pieces
I can now lay hands on, written at various times past, and swoops all
together like fish in a net.

I suppose I publish and leave the whole gathering, first, from that
eternal tendency to perpetuate and preserve which is behind all Nature,
authors included; second, to symbolize two or three specimen interiors,
personal and other, out of the myriads of my time, the middle range of
the Nineteenth century in the New World; a strange, unloosen'd, wondrous
time. But the book is probably without any definite purpose that can be
told in a statement.


You ask for items, details of my early life--of genealogy and
parentage, particularly of the women of my ancestry, and of its far-back
Netherlands stock on the maternal side--of the region where I was
born and raised, and my mother and father before me, and theirs before
them--with a word about Brooklyn and New York cities, the times I lived
there as lad and young man. You say you want to get at these details
mainly as the go-befores and embryons of "Leaves of Grass." Very good;
you shall have at least some specimens of them all. I have often thought
of the meaning of such things--that one can only encompass and complete
matters of that kind by 'exploring behind, perhaps very far behind,
themselves directly, and so into their genesis, antecedents, and
cumulative stages. Then as luck would have it, I lately whiled away the
tedium of a week's half-sickness and confinement, by collating these
very items for another (yet unfulfilled, probably abandon'd,) purpose;
and if you will be satisfied with them, authentic in date-occurrence and
fact simply, and told my own way, garrulous-like, here they are. I shall
not hesitate to make extracts, for I catch at anything to save labor;
but those will be the best versions of what I want to convey.


The later years of the last century found the Van Velsor family, my
mother's side, living on their own farm at Cold Spring, Long Island, New
York State, near the eastern edge of Queen's county, about a mile from
the harbor.[2] My father's side--probably the fifth generation from the
first English arrivals in New England--were at the same time farmers
on their own land--(and a fine domain it was, 500 acres, all good soil,
gently sloping east and south, about one-tenth woods, plenty of grand
old trees,) two or three miles off, at West Hills, Suffolk county. The
Whitman name in the Eastern States, and so branch and South, starts
undoubtedly from one John Whitman, born 1602, in Old England, where he
grew up, married, and his eldest son was born in 1629. He came over in
the "True Love" in 1640 to America, and lived in Weymouth, Mass., which
place became the mother-hive of the New-Englanders of the name; he died
in 1692. His brother, Rev. Zechariah Whitman, also came over in the
"True Love," either at that time or soon after, and lived at Milford,
Conn. A son of this Zechariah, named Joseph, migrated to Huntington,
Long Island, and permanently settled there. Savage's "Genealogical
Dictionary" (vol. iv, p. 524) gets the Whitman family establish'd at
Huntington, per this Joseph, before 1664. It is quite certain that from
that beginning, and from Joseph, the West Hill Whitmans, and all others
in Suffolk county, have since radiated, myself among the number. John
and Zechariah both went to England and back again divers times; they
had large families, and several of their children were born in the old
country. We hear of the father of John and Zechariah, Abijah Whitman,
who goes over into the 1500's, but we know little about him, except that
he also was for some time in America.

These old pedigree-reminiscences come up to me vividly from a visit I
made not long since (in my 63d year) to West Hills, and to the burial
grounds of my ancestry, both sides. I extract from notes of that visit,
written there and then:


[2] Long Island was settled first on the west end by the Dutch from
Holland, then on the east end by the English--the dividing line of the
two nationalities being a little west of Huntington where my father's
folks lived, and where I was born.


_July 29, 1881_.--After more than forty years' absence, (except a brief
visit, to take my father there once more, two years before he died,)
went down Long Island on a week' s jaunt to the place where I was born,
thirty miles from New York city. Rode around the old familiar spots,
viewing and pondering and dwelling long upon them, every-thing coming
back to me. Went to the old Whitman homestead on the upland and took a
view eastward, inclining south, over the broad and beautiful farm lands
of my grandfather (1780,) and my father. There was the new house (1810,)
the big oak a hundred and fifty or two hundred years old; there
the well, the sloping kitchen-garden, and a little way off even the
well-kept remains of the dwelling of my great-grandfather (1750-'60)
still standing, with its mighty timbers and low ceilings. Near by, a
stately grove of tall, vigorous black-walnuts, beautiful, Apollo-like,
the sons or grandsons, no doubt, of black-walnuts during or before 1776.
On the other side of the road spread the famous apple orchard, over
twenty acres, the trees planted by hands long mouldering in the grave
(my uncle Jesse's,) but quite many of them evidently capable of throwing
out their annual blossoms and fruit yet.

I now write these lines seated on an old grave (doubtless of a century
since at least) on the burial hill of the Whitmans of many generations.
Fifty or more graves are quite plainly traceable, and as many more
decay'd out of all form--depress'd mounds, crumbled and broken stones,
cover'd with moss--the gray and sterile hill, the clumps of chestnuts
outside, the silence, just varied by the soughing wind. There is
always the deepest eloquence of sermon or poem in any of these ancient
graveyards of which Long Island has so many; so what must this one have
been to me? My whole family history, with its succession of links,
from the first settlement down to date, told here--three centuries
concentrate on this sterile acre.

The next day, July 30, I devoted to the maternal locality, and if
possible was still more penetrated and impress'd. I write this paragraph
on the burial hul of the Van Velsors, near Cold Spring, the most
significant depository of the dead that could be imagin'd, without the
slightest help from art, but far ahead of it, soil sterile, a mostly
bare plateau-flat of half an acre, the top of a hill, brush and well
grown trees and dense woods bordering all around, very primi-tive,
secluded, no visitors, no road (you cannot drive here, you have to bring
the dead on foot, and follow on foot.) Two or three-score graves quite
plain; as many more almost rubb'd out. My grandfather Cornelius and my
grandmother Amy (Naomi) and numerous relatives nearer or remoter, on
my mother's side, lie buried here. The scene as I stood or sat, the
delicate and wild odor of the woods, a slightly drizzling rain, the
emotional atmosphere of the place, and the inferr'd reminiscences, were
fitting accompaniments.


I went down from this ancient grave place eighty or ninety rods to the
site of the Van Velsor homestead, where my mother was born (1795,)
and where every spot had been familiar to me as a child and youth
(1825-'40.) Then stood there a long rambling, dark-gray, shingle-sided
house, with sheds, pens, a great barn, and much open road-space. Now of
all those not a vestige left; all had been pull'd down, erased, and the
plough and harrow pass'd over foundations, road-spaces and everything,
for many summers; fenced in at present, and grain and clover growing
like any other fine fields. Only a big hole from the cellar, with some
little heaps of broken stone, green with grass and weeds, identified
the place. Even the copious old brook and spring seem'd to have mostly
dwindled away. The whole scene, with what it arous'd, memories of
my young days there half a century ago, the vast kitchen and ample
fireplace and the sitting-room adjoining, the plain furniture, the
meals, the house full of merry people, my grandmother Amy's sweet old
face in its Quaker cap, my grandfather "the Major," jovial, red, stout,
with sonorous voice and characteristic physiognomy, with the actual
sights themselves, made the most pronounc'd half-day's experience of my
whole jaunt.

For there with all those wooded, hilly, healthy surroundings, my dearest
mother, Louisa Van Velsor, grew up--(her mother, Amy Williams, of the
Friends' or Quakers' denomination--the Williams family, seven sisters
and one brother--the father and brother sailors, both of whom met their
deaths at sea.) The Van Velsor people were noted for fine horses, which
the men bred and train'd from blooded stock. My mother, as a young
woman, was a daily and daring rider. As to the head of the family
himself, the old race of the Netherlands, so deeply grafted on Manhattan
island and in Kings and Queens counties, never yielded a more mark'd and
full Americanized specimen than Major Cornelius Van Velsor.


Of the domestic and inside life of the middle of Long Island, at and
just before that time, here are two samples:

"The Whitmans, at the beginning of the present century, lived in a long
story-and-a-half farm-house, hugely timber'd, which is still standing.
A great smoke-canopied kitchen, with vast hearth and chimney, form'd one
end of the house. The existence of slavery in New York at that time, and
the possession by the family of some twelve or fifteen slaves, house and
field servants, gave things quite a patriarchial look. The very young
darkies could be seen, a swarm of them, toward sundown, in this kitchen,
squatted in a circle on the floor, eating their supper of Indian pudding
and milk. In the house, and in food and furniture, all was rude, but
substantial. No carpets or stoves were known, and no coffee, and tea or
sugar only for the women. Rousing wood fires gave both warmth and light
on winter nights. Pork, poultry, beef, and all the ordinary vegetables
and grains were plentiful. Cider was the men's common drink, and used at
meals. The clothes were mainly homespun. Journeys were made by both men
and women on horseback. Both sexes labor'd with their own hands-the men
on the farm--the women in the house and around it. Books were scarce.
The annual copy of the almanac was a treat, and was pored over through
the long winter evenings. I must not forget to mention that both these
families were near enough to the sea to behold it from the high places,
and to hear in still hours the roar of the surf; the latter, after
a storm, giving a peculiar sound at night. Then all hands, male and
female, went down frequently on beach and bathing parties, and the men
on practical expeditions for cutting salt hay, and for clamming and
fishing."--_John Burroughs's_ NOTES.

"The ancestors of Walt Whitman, on both the paternal and maternal
sides, kept a good table, sustained the hospitalities, decorums, and an
excellent social reputation in the county, and they were often of mark'd
individuality. If space permitted, I should consider some of the men
worthy special description; and still more some of the women. His
great-grandmother on the paternal side, for instance, was a large
swarthy woman, who lived to a very old age. She smoked tobacco, rode on
horseback like a man, managed the most vicious horse, and, becoming
a widow in later life, went forth every day over her farm-lands,
frequently in the saddle, directing the labor of her slaves, in
language in which, on exciting occasions, oaths were not spared. The
two immediate grandmothers were, in the best sense, superior women. The
maternal one (Amy Williams before marriage) was a Friend, or Quakeress,
of sweet, sensible character, house-wifely proclivities, and deeply
intuitive and spiritual. The other (Hannah Brush,) was an equally noble,
perhaps stronger character, lived to be very old, had quite a family of
sons, was a natural lady, was in early life a school-mistress, and had
great solidity of mind. W. W. himself makes much of the women of his
ancestry."--_The Same_.

Out from these arrieres of persons and scenes, I was born May 31,
1819. And now to dwell awhile on the locality itself--as the successive
growth-stages of my infancy, childhood, youth and manhood were all
pass'd on Long Island, which I sometimes feel as if I had incorporated.
I roam'd, as boy and man, and have lived in nearly all parts, from
Brooklyn to Montauk point.


Worth fully and particularly investigating indeed this Paumanok, (to
give the spot its aboriginal name[3],) stretching east through Kings,
Queens and Suffolk counties, 120 miles altogether--on the north Long
Island sound, a beautiful, varied and picturesque series of inlets,
"necks" and sea-like expansions, for a hundred miles to Orient point.
On the ocean side the great south bay dotted with countless hummocks,
mostly small, some quite large, occasionally long bars of sand out two
hundred rods to a mile-and-a-half from the shore. While now and then,
as at Rockaway and far east along the Hamptons, the beach makes right
on the island, the sea dashing up without intervention. Several
light-houses on the shores east; a long history of wrecks tragedies,
some even of late years. As a youngster, I was in the atmosphere and
traditions of many of these wrecks--of one or two almost an observer.
Off Hempstead beach for example, was the loss of the ship "Mexico" in
1840, (alluded to in "the Sleepers" in L. of G.) And at Hampton, some
years later, the destruction of the brig "Elizabeth," a fearful affair,
in one of the worst winter gales, where Margaret Fuller went down, with
her husband and child.

Inside the outer bars or beach this south bay is everywhere
comparatively shallow; of cold winters all thick ice on the surface.
As a boy I often went forth with a chum or two, on those frozen fields,
with hand-sled, axe and eel-spear, after messes of eels. We would cut
holes in the ice, sometimes striking quite an eel-bonanza, and filling
our baskets with great, fat, sweet, white-meated fellows. The scenes,
the ice, drawing the hand-sled, cutting holes, spearing the eels, &c.,
were of course just such fun as is dearest to boyhood. The shores of
this bay, winter and summer, and my doings there in early life, are
woven all through L. of G. One sport I was very fond of was to go on
a bay-party in summer to gather sea-gull's eggs. (The gulls lay two or
three eggs, more than half the size of hen's eggs, right on the sand,
and leave the sun's heat to hatch them.)

The eastern end of Long Island, the Peconic bay region, I knew quite
well too--sail'd more than once around Shelter island, and down to
Montauk--spent many an hour on Turtle hill by the old light-house, on
the extreme point, looking out over the ceaseless roll of the Atlantic.
I used to like to go down there and fraternize with the blue-fishers,
or the annual squads of sea-bass takers. Sometimes, along Montauk
peninsula, (it is some 15 miles long, and good grazing,) met the
strange, unkempt, half-barbarous herdsmen, at that time living there
entirely aloof from society or civilization, in charge, on those rich
pasturages, of vast droves of horses, kine or sheep, own'd by farmers
of the eastern towns. Sometimes, too, the few remaining Indians, or
half-breeds, at that period left on Montauk peninsula, but now I believe
altogether extinct.

More in the middle of the island were the spreading Hempstead plains,
then (1830-'40) quite prairie-like, open, uninhabited, rather sterile,
cover'd with kill-calf and huckleberry bushes, yet plenty of fair
pasture for the cattle, mostly milch-cows, who fed there by hundreds,
even thousands, and at evening, (the plains too were own'd by the towns,
and this was the use of them in common,) might be seen taking their way
home, branching off regularly in the right places. I have often been out
on the edges of these plains toward sundown, and can yet recall in
fancy the interminable cow-processions, and hear the music of the tin or
copper bells clanking far or near, and breathe the cool of the sweet and
slightly aromatic evening air, and note the sunset.

Through the same region of the island, but further east, extended wide
central tracts of pine and scrub-oak, (charcoal was largely made here,)
monotonous and sterile. But many a good day or half-day did I have,
wandering through those solitary crossroads, inhaling the peculiar
and wild aroma. Here, and all along the island and its shores, I spent
intervals many years, all seasons, sometimes riding, sometimes boating,
but generally afoot, (I was always then a good walker,) absorbing
fields, shores, marine incidents, characters, the bay-men, farmers,
pilots-always had a plentiful acquaintance with the latter, and with
fishermen--went every summer on sailing trips--always liked the bare
sea-beach, south side, and have some of my happiest hours on it to this

As I write, the whole experience comes back to me after the lapse of
forty and more years--the soothing rustle of the waves, and the saline
smell--boyhood's times, the clam-digging, bare-foot, and with trowsers
roll'd up--hauling down the creek--the perfume of the sedge-meadows--the
hay-boat, and the chowder and fishing excursions;--or, of later years,
little voyages down and out New York bay, in the pilot boats. Those same
later years, also, while living in Brooklyn, (1836-'50) I went regularly
every week in the mild seasons down to Coney Island, at that time a
long, bare unfrequented shore, which I had all to myself, and where I
loved, after bathing, to race up and down the hard sand, and declaim
Homer or Shakspere to the surf and sea gulls by the hour. But I am
getting ahead too rapidly, and must keep more in my traces.


[3] "Paumanok, (or Paumanake, or Paumanack, the Indian name of Long
Island,) over a hundred miles long; shaped like a fish--plenty of sea
shore, sandy, stormy, uninviting, the horizon boundless, the air too
strong for invalids, the bays a wonderful resort for aquatic birds,
the south-side meadows cover'd with salt hay, the soil of the island
generally tough, but good for the locust-tree, the apple orchard, and
the blackberry, and with numberless springs of the sweetest water in the
world. Years ago, among the bay-men--a strong, wild race, now extinct,
or rather entirely changed--a native of Long Island was called a
_Paumanacker_, or _Creole-'Paumanacker_."--_John Burroughs_.


From 1824 to '28 our family lived in Brooklyn in Front, Cranberry and
Johnson streets. In the latter my father built a nice house for a home,
and afterwards another in Tillary street. We occupied them, one after
the other, but they were mortgaged, and we lost them. I yet remember
Lafayette's visit.[4] Most of these years I went to the public schools.
It must have been about 1829 or '30 that I went with my father and
mother to hear Elias Hicks preach in a ball-room on Brooklyn heights. At
about the same time employ'd as a boy in an office, lawyers', father and
two sons, Clarke's, Fulton street, near Orange. I had a nice desk and
window-nook to myself; Edward C. kindly help'd me at my handwriting
and composition, and, (the signal event of my life up to that time,)
subscribed for me to a big circulating library. For a time I now revel'd
in romance-reading of all kinds; first, the "Arabian Nights," all
the volumes, an amazing treat. Then, with sorties in very many other
directions, took in Walter Scott's novels, one after another, and his
poetry, (and continue to enjoy novels and poetry to this day.)


[4] "On the visit of General Lafayette to this country, in 1824, he came
over to Brooklyn in state, and rode through the city. The children of
the schools turn'd out to join in the welcome. An edifice for a free
public library for youths was just then commencing, and Lafayette
consented to stop on his way and lay the corner-stone. Numerous children
arriving on the ground, where a huge irregular excavation for the
building was already dug, surrounded with heaps of rough stone, several
gentlemen assisted in lifting the children to safe or convenient
spots to see the ceremony. Among the rest, Lafayette, also helping the
children, took up the five-year-old Walt Whitman, and pressing the child
a moment to his breast, and giving him a kiss, handed him down to a safe
spot in the excavation."--John Burroughs.


After about two years went to work in a weekly newspaper and printing
office, to learn the trade. The paper was the "Long Island Patriot,"
owned by S. E. Clements, who was also postmaster. An old printer in
the office, William Hartshorne, a revolutionary character, who had seen
Washington, was a special friend of mine, and I had many a talk with him
about long past times. The apprentices, including myself, boarded with
his grand-daughter. I used occasionally to go out riding with the boss,
who was very kind to us boys; Sundays he took us all to a great old
rough, fortress-looking stone church, on Joralemon street, near where
the Brooklyn city hall now is--(at that time broad fields and country
roads everywhere around.[5]) Afterward I work'd on the "Long Island
Star," Alden Spooner's paper. My father all these years pursuing his
trade as carpenter and builder, with varying fortune. There was a
growing family of children--eight of us--my brother Jesse the oldest,
myself the second, my dear sisters Mary and Hannah Louisa, my brothers
Andrew, George, Thomas Jefferson, and then my youngest brother, Edward,
born 1835, and always badly crippled, as I am myself of late years.


[5] Of the Brooklyn of that time (1830-40) hardly anything remains,
except the lines of the old streets. The population was then between ten
and twelve thousand. For a mile Fulton street was lined with magnificent
elm trees. The character of the place was thoroughly rural. As a sample
of comparative values, it may be mention'd that twenty-five acres in
what is now the most costly part of the city, bounded by Flatbush and
Fulton avenues, were then bought by Mr Parmentier, a French _emigré_,
for $4000. Who remembers the old places as they were? Who remembers the
old citizens of that time? Among the former were Smith & Wood's, Coe
Downing's, and other public houses at the ferry, the old Ferry itself,
Love lane, the Heights as then, the Wallabout with the wooden bridge,
and the road out beyond Fulton street to the old toll-gate. Among the
latter were the majestic and genial General Jeremiah Johnson, with
others, Gabriel Furman, Rev. E. M. Johnson, Alden Spooner, Mr.
Pierrepont, Mr. Joralemon, Samuel Willoughby, Jonathan Trotter, George
Hall, Cyrus P. Smith, N. B. Morse, John Dikeman, Adrian Hegeman, William
Udall, and old Mr. Duflon, with his military garden.


I develop'd (1833-4-5) into a healthy, strong youth (grew too fast,
though, was nearly as big as a man at 15 or 16.) Our family at this
period moved back to the country, my dear mother very ill for a long
time, but recover'd. All these years I was down Long Island more or less
every summer, now east, now west, sometimes months at a stretch. At
16, 17, and so on, was fond of debating societies, and had an active
membership with them, off and on, in Brooklyn and one or two country
towns on the island. A most omnivorous novel-reader, these and later
years, devour'd everything I could get. Fond of the theatre, also, in
New York, went whenever I could--sometimes witnessing fine performances.

1836-7, work'd as compositor in printing offices in New York city. Then,
when little more than 18, and for a while afterwards, went to teaching
country schools down in Queens and Suffolk counties, Long Island, and
"boarded round." (This latter I consider one of my best experiences and
deepest lessons in human nature behind the scenes and in the masses.)
In '39, '40, I started and publish'd a weekly paper in my native town,
Huntington. Then returning to New York city and Brooklyn, work'd on as
printer and writer, mostly prose, but an occasional shy at "poetry".


Living in Brooklyn or New York city from this time forward, my life,
then, and still more the following years, was curiously identified with
Fulton ferry, already becoming the greatest of its sort in the world
for general importance, volume, variety, rapidity, and picturesqueness.
Almost daily, later, ('50 to '60,) I cross'd on the boats, often up
in the pilot-houses where I could get a full sweep, absorbing
shows, accompaniments, surroundings. What oceanic currents, eddies,
underneath--the great tides of humanity also, with ever-shifting
movements. Indeed, I have always had a passion for ferries; to me they
afford inimitable, streaming, never-failing, living poems. The river
and bay scenery, all about New York island, any time of a fine day--the
hurrying, splashing sea-tides--the changing panorama of steamers, all
sizes, often a string of big ones outward bound to distant ports--the
myriads of white-sail'd schooners, sloops, skiffs, and the marvellously
beautiful yachts--the majestic sound boats as they rounded the Battery
and came along towards 5, afternoon, eastward bound--the prospect off
towards Staten Island, or down the Narrows, or the other way up the
Hudson--what refreshment of spirit such sights and experiences gave me
years ago (and many a time since.) My old pilot friends, the Balsirs,
Johnny Cole, Ira Smith, William White, and my young ferry friend, Tom
Gere--how well I remember them all.


Besides Fulton ferry, off and on for years, I knew and frequented
Broadway--that noted avenue of New York's crowded and mixed humanity,
and of so many notables. Here I saw, during those times, Andrew Jackson,
Webster, Clay, Seward, Martin Van Buren, filibuster Walker, Kossuth,
Fitz Greene Halleck, Bryant, the Prince of Wales, Charles Dickens, the
first Japanese ambassadors, and lots of other celebrities of the time.
Always something novel or inspiriting; yet mostly to me the hurrying and
vast amplitude of those never-ending human currents. I remember seeing
James Fenimore Cooper in a court-room in Chambers street, back of the
city hall, where he was carrying on a law case--(I think it was a charge
of libel he had brought against some one.) I also remember seeing Edgar
A. Poe, and having a short interview with him, (it must have been in
1845 or '6,) in his office, second story of a corner building, (Duane
or Pearl street.) He was editor and owner or part owner of "the Broadway
Journal." The visit was about a piece of mine he had publish'd. Poe was
very cordial, in a quiet way, appear'd well in person, dress, &c. I
have a distinct and pleasing remembrance of his looks, voice, manner and
matter; very kindly and human, but subdued, perhaps a little jaded. For
another of my reminiscences, here on the west side, just below Houston
street, I once saw (it must have been about 1832, of a sharp, bright
January day) a bent, feeble but stout-built very old man, bearded,
swathed in rich furs, with a great ermine cap on his head, led and
assisted, almost carried, down the steps of his high front stoop (a
dozen friends and servants, emulous, carefully holding, guiding him) and
then lifted and tuck'd in a gorgeous sleigh, envelop'd in other furs,
for a ride. The sleigh was drawn by as fine a team of horses as I ever
saw. (You needn't think all the best animals are brought up nowadays;
never was such horseflesh as fifty years ago on Long Island, or south,
or in New York city; folks look'd for spirit and mettle in a nag, not
tame speed merely.) Well, I, a boy of perhaps 13 or 14, stopp'd and
gazed long at the spectacle of that fur-swathed old man, surrounded by
friends and servants, and the careful seating of him in the sleigh. I
remember the spirited, champing horses, the driver with his whip, and a
fellow-driver by his side, for extra prudence. The old man, the subject
of so much attention, I can almost see now. It was John Jacob Astor.

The years 1846, '47, and there along, see me still in New York City,
working as writer and printer, having my usual good health, and a good
time generally.


One phase of those days must by no means go unrecorded--namely, the
Broadway omnibuses, with their drivers.

The vehicles still (I write this paragraph in 1881) give a portion
of the character of Broadway--the Fifth avenue, Madison avenue, and
Twenty-third street lines yet running. But the flush days of the old
Broadway stages, characteristic and copious, are over. The Yellow-birds,
the Red-birds, the original Broadway, the Fourth avenue, the
Knickerbocker, and a dozen others of twenty or thirty years ago, are all
gone. And the men specially identified with them, and giving vitality
and meaning to them--the drivers--a strange, natural, quick-eyed and
wondrous race--(not only Rabelais and Cervantes would have gloated upon
them, but Homer and Shakspere would)--how well I remember them, and
must here give a word about them. How many hours, forenoons and
afternoons--how many exhilarating night-times I have had--perhaps June
or July, in cooler air-riding the whole length of Broadway, listening
to some yarn, (and the most vivid yarns ever spun, and the rarest
mimicry)--or perhaps I declaiming some stormy passage from Julius Caesar
or Richard, (you could roar as loudly as you chose in that heavy, dense,
uninterrupted street-bass.) Yes, I knew all the drivers then, Broadway
Jack, Dressmaker, Balky Bill, George Storms, Old Elephant, his brother
Young Elephant (who came afterward,) Tippy, Pop Rice, Big Frank,
Yellow Joe, Pete Callahan, Patsey Dee, and dozens more; for there were
hundreds. They had immense qualities, largely animal--eating, drinking;
women--great personal pride, in their way--perhaps a few slouches here
and there, but I should have trusted the general run of them, in their
simple good-will and honor, under all circumstances. Not only for
comradeship, and sometimes affection--great studies I found them also.
(I suppose the critics will laugh heartily, but the influence of those
Broadway omnibus jaunts and drivers and declamations and escapades
undoubtedly enter'd into the gestation of "Leaves of Grass.")


And certain actors and singers, had a good deal to do with the business.
All through these years, off and on, I frequented the old Park, the
Bowery, Broadway and Chatham-square theatres, and the Italian operas
at Chambers-street, Astor-place or the Battery--many seasons was on
the free list, writing for papers even as quite a youth. The old Park
theatre--what names, reminiscences, the words bring back! Placide,
Clarke, Mrs. Vernon, Fisher, Clara F., Mrs. Wood, Mrs. Seguin,
Ellen Tree, Hackett, the younger Kean, Macready, Mrs. Richardson,
Rice--singers, tragedians, comedians. What perfect acting! Henry Placide
in "Napoleon's Old Guard" or "Grandfather Whitehead,"--or "the Provoked
Husband" of Gibber, with Fanny Kemble as Lady Townley--or Sheridan
Knowles in his own "Virginius"--or inimitable Power in "Born to Good
Luck." These, and many more, the years of youth and onward. Fanny
Kemble--name to conjure up great mimic scenes withal--perhaps the
greatest. I remember well her rendering of Bianca in "Fazio," and
Marianna in "the Wife." Nothing finer did ever stage exhibit--the
veterans of all nations said so, and my boyish heart and head felt it in
every minute cell. The lady was just matured, strong, better than merely
beautiful, born from the footlights, had had three years' practice in
London and through the British towns, and then she came to give America
that young maturity and roseate power in all their noon, or rather
forenoon, flush. It was my good luck to see her nearly every night she
play'd at the old Park--certainly in all her principal characters. I
heard, these years, well render'd, all the Italian and other operas
in vogue, "Sonnambula," "the Puritans," "Der Freischutz," "Huguenots,"
"Fille d'Regiment," "Faust," "Etoile du Nord," "Poliuto," and others.
Verdi's "Ernani," "Rigoletto," and "Trovatore," with Donnizetti's
"Lucia" or "Favorita" or "Lucrezia," and Auber's "Massaniello," or
Rossini's "William Tell" and "Gazza Ladra," were among my special
enjoyments. I heard Alboni every time she sang in New York and
vicinity--also Grisi, the tenor Mario, and the baritone Badiali, the
finest in the world.

This musical passion follow'd my theatrical one. As a boy or young man
I had seen, (reading them carefully the day beforehand,) quite all
Shakspere's acting dramas, play'd wonderfully well. Even yet I cannot
conceive anything finer than old Booth in "Richard Third," or "Lear,"
(I don't know which was best,) or Iago, (or Pescara, or Sir Giles
Overreach, to go outside of Shakspere)--or Tom Hamblin in "Macbeth"--or
old Clarke, either as the ghost in "Hamlet," or as Prospero in "the
Tempest," with Mrs. Austin as Ariel, and Peter Richings as Caliban. Then
other dramas, and fine players in them, Forrest as Metamora or Damon or
Brutus--John R. Scott as Tom Cringle or Rolla--or Charlotte Cushman's
Lady Gay Spanker in "London Assurance." Then of some years later, at
Castle Garden, Battery, I yet recall the splendid seasons of the Havana
musical troupe under Maretzek--the fine band, the cool sea-breezes,
the unsurpass'd vocalism--Steffan'one, Bosio, Truffi, Marini in "Marino
Faliero," "Don Pasquale," or "Favorita." No better playing or singing
ever in New York. It was here too I afterward heard Jenny Lind. (The
Battery--its past associations--what tales those old trees and walks and
sea-walls could tell!)


In 1848, '49, I was occupied as editor of the "daily Eagle" newspaper,
in Brooklyn. The latter year went off on a leisurely journey and working
expedition (my brother Jeff with me) through all the middle States, and
down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Lived awhile in New Orleans, and
work'd there on the editorial staff of "daily Crescent" newspaper. After
a time plodded back northward, up the Mississippi, and around to, and by
way of the great lakes, Michigan, Huron, and Erie, to Niagara falls and
lower Canada, finally returning through central New York and down the
Hudson; traveling altogether probably 8,000 miles this trip, to and fro.
'51, '53, occupied in house-building in Brooklyn. (For a little of
the first part of that time in printing a daily and weekly paper,
"the Freeman.") '55, lost my dear father this year by death. Commenced
putting "Leaves of Grass" to press for good, at the job printing office
of my friends, the brothers Rome, in Brooklyn, after many MS. doings
and undoings--(I had great trouble in leaving out the stock "poetical"
touches, but succeeded at last.) I am now (1856-'7) passing through my
37th year.


To sum up the foregoing from the outset (and, of course, far, far more
unrecorded,) I estimate three leading sources and formative stamps to
my own character, now solidified for good or bad, and its subsequent
literary and other outgrowth--the maternal nativity-stock brought
hither from far-away Netherlands, for one, (doubtless the best)--the
subterranean tenacity and central bony structure (obstinacy, wilfulness)
which I get from my paternal English elements, for another--and the
combination of my Long Island birth-spot, sea-shores, childhood's
scenes, absorptions, with teeming Brooklyn and New York--with, I
suppose, my experiences afterward in the secession outbreak, for the

For, in 1862, startled by news that my brother George, an officer in
the 51st New York volunteers, had been seriously wounded (first
Fredericksburg battle, December 13th,) I hurriedly went down to the
field of war in Virginia. But I must go back a little.


News of the attack on fort Sumter and _the flag_ at Charleston harbor,
S. C., was receiv'd in New York city late at night (13th April, 1861,)
and was immediately sent out in extras of the newspapers. I had been to
the opera in Fourteenth street that night, and after the performance was
walking down Broadway toward twelve o'clock, on my way to Brooklyn,
when I heard in the distance the loud cries of the newsboys, who came
presently tearing and yelling up the street, rushing from side to side
even more furiously than usual. I bought an extra and cross'd to the
Metropolitan hotel (Niblo's) where the great lamps were still brightly
blazing, and, with a crowd of others, who gather'd impromptu, read the
news, which was evidently authentic. For the benefit of some who had no
papers, one of us read the telegram aloud, while all listen'd silently
and attentively. No remark was made by any of the crowd, which had
increas'd to thirty or forty, but all stood a minute or two, I remember,
before they dispers'd. I can almost see them there now, under the lamps
at midnight again.


I have said somewhere that the three Presidentiads preceding 1861 show'd
how the weakness and wickedness of rulers are just as eligible here in
America under republican, as in Europe under dynastic influences. But
what can I say of that prompt and splendid wrestling with secession
slavery, the arch-enemy personified, the instant he unmistakably show'd
his face? The volcanic upheaval of the nation, after that firing on
the flag at Charleston, proved for certain something which had been
previously in great doubt, and at once substantially settled the
question of disunion. In my judgment it will remain as the grandest and
most encouraging spectacle yet vouchsafed in any age, old or new,
to political progress and democracy. It was not for what came to the
surface merely--though that was important--but what it indicated
below, which was of eternal importance. Down in the abysms of New World
humanity there had form'd and harden'd a primal hardpan of national
Union will, determin'd and in the majority, refusing to be tamper'd with
or argued against, confronting all emergencies, and capable at any time
of bursting all surface bonds, and breaking out like an earthquake. It
is, indeed, the best lesson of the century, or of America, and it is
a mighty privilege to have been part of it. (Two great spectacles,
immortal proofs of democracy, unequall'd in all the history of the past,
are furnish'd by the secession war--one at the beginning, the other at
its close. Those are, the general, voluntary, arm'd upheaval, and the
peaceful and harmonious disbanding of the armies in the summer of 1865.)


Even after the bombardment of Sumter, however, the gravity of the
revolt, and the power and will of the slave States for a strong and
continued military resistance to national authority, were not at all
realized at the North, except by a few. Nine-tenths of the people of
the free States look'd upon the rebellion, as started in South Carolina,
from a feeling one-half of contempt, and the other half composed of
anger and incredulity. It was not thought it would be join'd in by
Virginia, North Carolina, or Georgia. A great and cautious national
official predicted that it would blow over "in sixty days," and folks
generally believ'd the prediction. I remember talking about it on a
Fulton ferry-boat with the Brooklyn mayor, who said he only "hoped the
Southern fire-eaters would commit some overt act of resistance, as they
would then be at once so effectually squelch'd, we would never hear of
secession again--but he was afraid they never would have the pluck to
really do anything."

I remember, too, that a couple of companies of the Thirteenth Brooklyn,
who rendezvou'd at the city armory, and started thence as thirty days'
men, were all provided with pieces of rope, conspicuously tied to their
musket-barrels, with which to bring back each man a prisoner from the
audacious South, to be led in a noose, on our men's early and triumphant


All this sort of feeling was destin'd to be arrested and revers'd by a
terrible shock--the battle of first Bull Run--certainly, as we now know
it, one of the most singular fights on record. (All battles, and their
results, are far more matters of accident than is generally thought; but
this was throughout a casualty, a chance. Each side supposed it had won,
till the last moment. One had, in point of fact, just the same right
to be routed as the other. By a fiction, or series of fictions, the
national forces at the last moment exploded in a panic and fled from the
field.) The defeated troops commenced pouring into Washington over the
Long Bridge at daylight on Monday, 22d--day drizzling all through with
rain. The Saturday and Sunday of the battle (20th, 21st,) had been
parch'd and hot to an extreme--the dust, the grime and smoke, in layers,
sweated in, follow'd by other layers again sweated in, absorb'd by those
excited souls--their clothes all saturated with the clay-powder filling
the air--stirr'd up everywhere on the dry roads and trodden fields by
the regiments, swarming wagons, artillery, &c.--all the men with this
coating of murk and sweat and rain, now recoiling back, pouring over the
Long Bridge--a horrible march of twenty miles, returning to Washington
baffed, humiliated, panic-struck. Where are the vaunts, and the proud
boasts with which you went forth? Where are your banners, and your bands
of music, and your ropes to bring back your prisoners? Well, there isn't
a band playing--and there isn't a flag but clings ashamed and lank to
its staff.

The sun rises, but shines not. The men appear, at first sparsely and
shame-faced enough, then thicker, in the streets of Washington--appear
in Pennsylvania avenue, and on the steps and basement entrances. They
come along in disorderly mobs, some in squads, stragglers, companies.
Occasionally, a rare regiment, in perfect order, with its officers (some
gaps, dead, the true braves,) marching in silence, with lowering faces,
stern, weary to sinking, all black and dirty, but every man with his
musket, and stepping alive; but these are the exceptions. Sidewalks
of Pennsylvania avenue, Fourteenth street, &c., crowded, jamm'd with
citizens, darkies, clerks, everybody, lookers-on; women in the windows,
curious expressions from faces, as those swarms of dirt-cover'd return'd
soldiers there (will they never end?) move by; but nothing said, no
comments; (half our lookers-on secesh of the most venomous kind--they
say nothing; but the devil snickers in their faces.) During the
forenoon Washington gets all over motley with these defeated
soldiers--queer-looking objects, strange eyes and faces, drench'd (the
steady rain drizzles on all day) and fearfully worn, hungry, haggard,
blister'd in the feet. Good people (but not over-many of them either,)
hurry up something for their grub. They put wash-kettles on the fire,
for soup, for coffee. They set tables on the side-walks--wagon-loads
of bread are purchas'd, swiftly cut in stout chunks. Here are two aged
ladies, beautiful, the first in the city for culture and charm, they
stand with store of eating and drink at an improvis'd table of rough
plank, and give food, and have the store replenished from their house
every half-hour all that day; and there in the rain they stand, active,
silent, white-hair'd, and give food, though the tears stream down their
cheeks, almost without intermission, the whole time. Amid the deep
excitement, crowds and motion, and desperate eagerness, it seems strange
to see many, very many, of the soldiers sleeping--in the midst of all,
sleeping sound. They drop down anywhere, on the steps of houses, up
close by the basements or fences, on the sidewalk, aside on some vacant
lot, and deeply sleep. A poor 17 or 18 year old boy lies there, on the
stoop of a grand house; he sleeps so calmly, so profoundly. Some clutch
their muskets firmly even in sleep. Some in squads; comrades, brothers,
close together--and on them, as they lay, sulkily drips the rain.

As afternoon pass'd, and evening came, the streets, the bar-rooms, knots
everywhere, listeners, questioners, terrible yarns, bugaboo, mask'd
batteries, our regiment all cut up, &c.--stories and story-tellers,
windy, bragging, vain centres of street-crowds. Resolution, manliness,
seem to have abandon'd Washington. The principal hotel, Willard's, is
full of shoulder-straps--thick, crush'd, creeping with shoulder-straps.
(I see them, and must have a word with them. There you are,
shoulder-straps!--but where are your companies? where are your men?
Incompetents! never tell me of chances of battle, of getting stray'd,
and the like. I think this is your work, this retreat, after all. Sneak,
blow, put on airs there in Willard's sumptuous parlors and bar-rooms, or
anywhere--no explanation shall save you. Bull Run is your work; had you
been half or one-tenth worthy your men, this would never have happen'd.)

Meantime, in Washington, among the great persons and their entourage, a
mixture of awful consternation, uncertainty, rage, shame, helplessness,
and stupefying disappointment. The worst is not only imminent, but
already here. In a few hours--perhaps before the next meal--the secesh
generals, with their victorious hordes, will be upon us. The dream of
humanity, the vaunted Union we thought so strong, so impregnable--lo!
it seems already smash'd like a china plate. One bitter, bitter
hour--perhaps proud America will never again know such an hour. She must
pack and fly--no time to spare. Those white palaces--the dome-crown'd
capitol there on the hill, so stately over the trees--shall they be
left--or destroy'd first? For it is certain that the talk among certain
of the magnates and officers and clerks and officials everywhere, for
twenty-four hours in and around Washington after Bull Run, was loud
and undisguised for yielding out and out, and substituting the southern
rule, and Lincoln promptly abdicating and departing. If the secesh
officers and forces had immediately follow'd, and by a bold Napoleonic
movement had enter'd Washington the first day, (or even the second,)
they could have had things their own way, and a powerful faction north
to back them. One of our returning colonels express'd in public that
night, amid a swarm of officers and gentlemen in a crowded room, the
opinion that it was useless to fight, that the southerners had made
their title clear, and that the best course for the national government
to pursue was to desist from any further attempt at stopping them, and
admit them again to the lead, on the best terms they were willing to
grant. Not a voice was rais'd against this judgment, amid that large
crowd of officers and gentlemen. (The fact is, the hour was one of the
three or four of those crises we had then and afterward, during the
fluctuations of four years, when human eyes appear'd at least just as
likely to see the last breath of the Union as to see it continue.)


But the hour, the day, the night pass'd, and whatever returns, an
hour, a day, a night like that can never again return. The President,
recovering himself, begins that very night--sternly, rapidly sets about
the task of reorganizing his forces, and placing himself in positions
for future and surer work. If there were nothing else of Abraham Lincoln
for history to stamp him with, it is enough to send him with his wreath
to the memory of all future time, that he endured that hour, that day,
bitterer than gall--indeed a crucifixion day--that it did not conquer
him--that he unflinchingly stemm'd it, and resolv'd to lift himself and
the Union out of it.

Then the great New York papers at once appear'd, (commencing that
evening, and following it up the next morning, and incessantly through
many days afterwards,) with leaders that rang out over the land with
the loudest, most reverberating ring of clearest bugles, full
of encouragement, hope, inspiration, unfaltering defiance; Those
magnificent editorials! they never flagg'd for a fortnight. The "Herald"
commenced them--I remember the articles well. The "Tribune" was equally
cogent and inspiriting--and the "Times," "Evening Post," and other
principal papers, were not a whit behind. They came in good time,
for they were needed. For in the humiliation of Bull Run, the popular
feeling north, from its extreme of superciliousness, recoil'd to the
depth of gloom and apprehension.

(Of all the days of the war, there are two especially I can never
forget. Those were the day following the news, in New York and Brooklyn,
of that first Bull Run defeat, and the day of Abraham Lincoln's death.
I was home in Brooklyn on both occasions. The day of the murder we heard
the news very early in the morning. Mother prepared breakfast--and
other meals afterward--as usual; but not a mouthful was eaten all day by
either of us. We each drank half a cup of coffee; that was all. Little
was said. We got every newspaper morning and evening, and the frequent
extras of that period, and pass'd them silently to each other.)


FALMOUTH, VA., _opposite Fredericksburgh, December 21, 1862_.--Begin my
visits among the camp hospitals in the army of the Potomac. Spend a
good part of the day in a large brick mansion on the banks of the
Rappahannock, used as a hospital since the battle--seems to have
receiv'd only the worst cases. Out doors, at the foot of a tree, within
ten yards of the front of the house, I notice a heap of amputated feet,
legs, arms, hands, &c., a full load for a one-horse cart. Several dead
bodies lie near, each cover'd with its brown woolen blanket. In the
door-yard, towards the river, are fresh graves, mostly of officers,
their names on pieces of arrel-staves or broken boards, stuck in the
dirt. (Most of these bodies were subsequently taken up and transported
north to their friends.) The large mansion is quite crowded upstairs
and down, everything impromptu, no system, all bad enough, but I have
no doubt the best that can be done; all the wounds pretty bad, some
frightful, the men in their old clothes, unclean and bloody. Some of
the wounded are rebel soldiers and officers, prisoners. One, a
Mississippian, a captain, hit badly in leg, I talk'd with some time; he
ask'd me for papers, which I gave him. (I saw him three months afterward
in Washington, with his leg amputated, doing well.) I went through the
rooms, downstairs and up. Some of the men were dying. I had nothing to
give at that visit, but wrote a few letters to folks home, mothers, &c.
Also talk'd to three or four, who seem'd most susceptible to it, and
needing it.


_December 23 to 31_.--The results of the late battle are exhibited
everywhere about here in thousands of cases, (hundreds die every day,)
in the camp, brigade, and division hospitals. These are merely tents,
and sometimes very poor ones, the wounded lying on the ground, lucky if
their blankets are spread on layers of pine or hemlock twigs, or small
leaves. No cots; seldom even a mattress. It is pretty cold. The ground
is frozen hard, and there is occasional snow. I go around from one case
to another. I do not see that I do much good to these wounded and dying;
but I cannot leave them. Once in a while some youngster holds on to me
convulsively, and I do what I can for him; at any rate, stop with him
and sit near him for hours, if he wishes it.

Besides the hospitals, I also go occasionally on long tours through the
camps, talking with the men, &c. Sometimes at night among the groups
around the fires, in their shebang enclosures of bushes. These are
curious shows, full of characters and groups. I soon get acquainted
anywhere in camp, with officers or men, and am always well used.
Sometimes I go down on picket with the regiments I know best. As to
rations, the army here at present seems to be tolerably well supplied,
and the men have enough, such as it is, mainly salt pork and hard tack.
Most of the regiments lodge in the flimsy little shelter-tents. A few
have built themselves huts of logs and mud, with fire-places.


_January, '63_.--Left camp at Falmouth, with some wounded, a few days
since, and came here by Aquia creek railroad, and so on government
steamer up the Potomac. Many wounded were with us on the cars and boat.
The cars were just common platform ones. The railroad journey of ten or
twelve miles was made mostly before sunrise. The soldiers guarding the
road came out from their tents or shebangs of bushes with rumpled hair
and half-awake look. Those on duty were walking their posts, some on
banks over us, others down far below the level of the track. I saw
large cavalry camps off the road. At Aquia creek landing were numbers
of wounded going north. While I waited some three hours, I went around
among them. Several wanted word sent home to parents, brothers, wives,
&c., which I did for them, (by mail the next day from Washington.) On
the boat I had my hands full. One poor fellow died going up.

I am now remaining in and around Washington, daily visiting the
hospitals. Am much in Patent-office, Eighth street, H street,
Armory-square, and others. Am now able to do a little good, having
money, (as almoner of others home,) and getting experience. To-day,
Sunday afternoon and till nine in the evening, visited Campbell
hospital; attended specially to one case in ward I, very sick with
pleurisy and typhoid fever, young man, farmer's son, D. F. Russell,
company E, 60th New York, downhearted and feeble; a long time before he
would take any interest; wrote a letter home to his mother, in Malone,
Franklin county, N. Y., at his request; gave him some fruit and one
or two other gifts; envelop'd and directed his letter, &c. Then went
thoroughly through ward 6, observ'd every case in the ward, without, I
think, missing one; gave perhaps from twenty to thirty persons, each one
some little gift, such as oranges, apples, sweet crackers, figs, &c.

_Thursday, Jan. 21._--Devoted the main part of the day to Armory-square
hospital; went pretty thoroughly through wards F, G, H, and I; some
fifty cases in each ward. In ward F supplied the men throughout with
writing paper and stamp'd envelope each; distributed in small portions,
to proper subjects, a large jar of first-rate preserv'd berries, which
had been donated to me by a lady--her own cooking. Found several cases
I thought good subjects for small sums of money, which I furnish'd. (The
wounded men often come up broke, and it helps their spirits to have
even the small sum I give them.) My paper and envelopes all gone, but
distributed a good lot of amusing reading matter; also, as I thought
judicious, tobacco, oranges, apples, &c. Interesting cases in ward I;
Charles Miller, bed 19, company D, 53d Pennsylvania, is only 16 years
of age, very bright, courageous boy, left leg amputated below the knee;
next bed to him, another young lad very sick; gave each appropriate
gifts. In the bed above, also, amputation of the left leg; gave him a
little jar of raspberries; bed J, this ward, gave a small sum; also to
a soldier on crutches, sitting on his bed near.... (I am more and more
surprised at the very great proportion of youngsters from fifteen to
twenty-one in the army. I afterwards found a still greater proportion
among the southerners.)

Evening, same day, went to see D. F. R., before alluded to; found him
remarkably changed for the better; up and dress'd--quite a triumph; he
afterwards got well, and went back to his regiment.

Distributed in the wards a quantity of note-paper, and forty or fifty
stamp'd envelopes, of which I had recruited my stock, and the men were
much in need.


Here is a case of a soldier I found among the crowded cots in the
Patent-office. He likes to have some one to talk to, and we will listen
to him. He got badly hit in his leg and side at Fredericksburgh that
eventful Saturday, 13th of December. He lay the succeeding two days and
nights helpless on the field, between the city and those grim terraces
of batteries; his company and regiment had been compell'd to leave him
to his fate. To make matters worse, it happen'd he lay with his head
slightly down hill, and could not help himself. At the end of some fifty
hours he was brought off, with other wounded, under a flag of truce. I
ask him how the rebels treated him as he lay during those two days and
nights within reach of them--whether they came to him--whether they
abused him? He answers that several of the rebels, soldiers and
others, came to him at one time and another. A couple of them, who
were together, spoke roughly and sarcastically, but nothing worse. One
middle-aged man, however, who seem'd to be moving around the field,
among the dead and wounded, for benevolent purposes, came to him in
a way he will never forget; treated our soldier kindly, bound up his
wounds, cheer'd him, gave him a couple of biscuits and a drink of
whiskey and water; asked him if he could eat some beef. This good
secesh, however, did not change our soldier's position, for it might
have caused the blood to burst from the wounds, clotted and stagnated.
Our soldier is from Pennsylvania; has had a pretty severe time; the
wounds proved to be bad ones. But he retains a good heart, and is at
present on the gain. (It is not uncommon for the men to remain on the
field this way, one, two, or even four or five days.)


_Letter Writing_.--When eligible, I encourage the men to write, and
myself, when called upon, write all sorts of letters for them (including
love letters, very tender ones.) Almost as I reel off these memoranda, I
write for a new patient to his wife. M. de F., of the 17th Connecticut,
company H, has just come up (February 17th) from Windmill point, and is
received in ward H, Armory-square. He is an intelligent looking man, has
a foreign accent, black-eyed and hair'd, a Hebraic appearance. Wants a
telegraphic message sent to his wife, New Canaan, Conn. I agree to send
the message--but to make things sure I also sit down and write the wife
a letter, and despatch it to the post-office immediately, as he fears
she will come on, and he does not wish her to, as he will surely get

_Saturday, January 30th._--Afternoon, visited Campbell hospital. Scene
of cleaning up the ward, and giving the men all clean clothes--through
the ward (6) the patients dressing or being dress'd--the naked upper
half of the bodies--the good-humor and fun--the shirts, drawers, sheets
of beds, &c., and the general fixing up for Sunday. Gave J. L. 50 cents.

_Wednesday, February 4th._--Visited Armory-square hospital, went pretty
thoroughly through wards E and D. Supplied paper and envelopes to all
who wish'd--as usual, found plenty of men who needed those articles.
Wrote letters. Saw and talk'd with two or three members of the Brooklyn
14th regt. A poor fellow in ward D, with a fearful wound in a fearful
condition, was having some loose splinters of bone taken from the
neighborhood of the wound. The operation was long, and one of great
pain--yet, after it was well commenced, the soldier bore it in silence.
He sat up, propp'd--was much wasted--had lain a long time quiet in one
position (not for days only but weeks,) a bloodless, brown-skinn'd face,
with eyes full of determination--belong'd to a New York regiment. There
was an unusual cluster of surgeons, medical cadets, nurses, &c., around
his bed--I thought the whole thing was done with tenderness, and done
well. In one case, the wife sat by the side of her husband, his sickness
typhoid fever, pretty bad. In another, by the side of her son, a
mother--she told me she had seven children, and this was the youngest.
(A fine, kind, healthy, gentle mother, good-looking, not very old, with
a cap on her head, and dress'd like home--what a charm it gave to the
whole ward.) I liked the woman nurse in ward E--I noticed how she sat
a long time by a poor fellow who just had, that morning, in addition to
his other sickness, bad hemorrhage--she gently assisted him, reliev'd
him of the blood, holding a cloth to his mouth, as he coughed it up--he
was so weak he could only just turn his head over on the pillow.

One young New York man, with a bright, handsome face, had been lying
several months from a most disagreeable wound, receiv'd at Bull Run. A
bullet had shot him right through the bladder, hitting him front, low in
the belly, and coming out back. He had suffer'd much--the water came out
of the wound, by slow but steady quantities, for many weeks--so that
he lay almost constantly in a sort of puddle--and there were other
disagreeable circumstances. He was of good heart, however. At present
comparatively comfortable, had a bad throat, was delighted with a stick
of horehound candy I gave him, with one or two other trifles.


_February 23._--I must not let the great hospital at the Patent-office
pass away without some mention. A few weeks ago the vast area of the
second story of that noblest of Washington buildings was crowded close
with rows of sick, badly wounded and dying soldiers. They were placed in
three very large apartments. I went there many times. It was a strange,
solemn, and, with all its features of suffering and death, a sort
of fascinating sight. I go sometimes at night to soothe and relieve
particular cases. Two of the immense apartments are fill'd with high and
ponderous glass cases, crowded with models in miniature of every kind of
utensil, machine or invention, it ever enter'd into the mind of man to
conceive; and with curiosities and foreign presents. Between these cases
are lateral openings, perhaps eight feet wide and quite deep, and in
these were placed the sick, besides a great long double row of them
up and down through the middle of the hall. Many of them were very bad
cases, wounds and amputations. Then there was a gallery running above
the hall in which there were beds also. It was, indeed, a curious scene,
especially at night when lit up. The glass cases, the beds, the forms
lying there, the gallery above, and the marble pavement under
foot--the suffering, and the fortitude to bear it in various
degrees--occasionally, from some, the groan that could not be
repress'd--sometimes a poor fellow dying, with emaciated face and glassy
eye, the nurse by his side, the doctor also there, but no friend, no
relative--such were the sights but lately in the Patent-office. (The
wounded have since been removed from there, and it is now vacant again.)


_February 24th._--A spell of fine soft weather. I wander about a good
deal, sometimes at night under the moon. Tonight took a long look at
the President's house. The white portico--the palace-like, tall,
round columns, spotless as snow--the walls also--the tender and
soft moonlight, flooding the pale marble, and making peculiar faint
languishing shades, not shadows--everywhere a soft transparent
hazy, thin, blue moon-lace, hanging in the air--the brilliant and
extra-plentiful clusters of gas, on and around the façade, columns,
portico, &c.--everything so white, so marbly pure and dazzling, yet
soft--the White House of future poems, and of dreams and dramas, there
in the soft and copious moon--the gorgeous front, in the trees, under
the lustrous flooding moon, full of realty, full of illusion--the forms
of the trees, leafless, silent, in trunk and myriad--angles of branches,
under the stars and sky--the White House of the land, and of beauty and
night--sentries at the gates, and by the portico, silent, pacing there
in blue overcoats--stopping you not at all, but eyeing you with sharp
eyes, whichever way you move.


Let me specialize a visit I made to the collection of barrack-like
one-story edifices, Campbell hospital, out on the flats, at the end
of the then horse railway route, on Seventh street. There is a long
building appropriated to each ward. Let us go into ward 6. It contains,
to-day, I should judge, eighty or a hundred patients, half sick, half
wounded. The edifice is nothing but boards, well whitewash'd inside, and
the usual slender-framed iron bedsteads, narrow and plain. You walk down
the central passage, with a row on either side, their feet towards you,
and their heads to the wall. There are fires in large stoves, and the
prevailing white of the walls is reliev'd by some ornaments, stars,
circles, &c., made of evergreens. The view of the whole edifice and
occupants can be taken at once, for there is no partition. You may hear
groans or other sounds of unendurable suffering from two or three of
the cots, but in the main there is quiet--almost a painful absence of
demonstration; but the pallid face, the dull'd eye, and the moisture
of the lip, are demonstration enough. Most of these sick or hurt are
evidently young fellows from the country, farmers' sons, and such like.
Look at the fine large frames, the bright and broad countenances, and
the many yet lingering proofs of strong constitution and physique. Look
at the patient and mute manner of our American wounded as they lie in
such a sad collection; representatives from all New England, and from
New York, and New Jersey, and Pennsylvania--indeed from all the States
and all the cities--largely from the west. Most of them are entirely
without friends or acquaintances here--no familiar face, and hardly a
word of judicious sympathy or cheer, through their sometimes long and
tedious sickness, or the pangs of aggravated wounds.


This young man in bed 25 is H. D. B. of the 27th Connecticut, company
B. His folks live at Northford, near New Haven. Though not more than
twenty-one, or thereabouts, he has knock'd much around the world, on sea
and land, and has seen some fighting on both. When I first saw him he
was very sick, with no appetite. He declined offers of money--said
he did not need anything. As I was quite anxious to do something,
he confess'd that he had a hankering for a good home-made rice
pudding--thought he could relish it better than anything. At this
time his stomach was very weak. (The doctor, whom I consulted, said
nourishment would do him more good than anything; but things in the
hospital, though better than usual, revolted him.) I soon procured B.
his rice pudding. A Washington lady, (Mrs. O'C.), hearing his wish,
made the pudding herself, and I took it up to him the next day. He
subsequently told me he lived upon it for three or four days. This B. is
a good sample of the American eastern young man--the typical Yankee.
I took a fancy to him, and gave him a nice pipe for a keepsake. He
receiv'd afterwards a box of things from home, and nothing would do but
I must take dinner with him, which I did, and a very good one it was.


Here in this same ward are two young men from Brooklyn, members of the
51st New York. I had known both the two as young lads at home, so they
seem near to me. One of them, J. L., lies there with an amputated
arm, the stump healing pretty well. (I saw him lying on the ground at
Fredericksburgh last December, all bloody, just after the arm was taken
off. He was very phlegmatic about it, munching away at a cracker in the
remaining hand--made no fuss.) He will recover, and thinks and talks yet
of meeting Johnny Rebs.


The grand soldiers are not comprised in those of one side, any more
than the other. Here is a sample of an unknown southerner, a lad
of seventeen. At the War department, a few days ago, I witness'd a
presentation of captured flags to the Secretary. Among others a soldier
named Gant, of the 104th Ohio volunteers, presented a rebel battle-flag,
which one of the officers stated to me was borne to the mouth of our
cannon and planted there by a boy but seventeen years of age, who
actually endeavor'd to stop the muzzle of the gun with fence-rails. He
was kill'd in the effort, and the flag-staff was sever'd by a shot from
one of our men.


_May '63_.--As I write this, the wounded have begun to arrive from
Hooker's command from bloody Chancellorsville. I was down among the
first arrivals. The men in charge told me the bad cases were yet to
come. If that is so I pity them, for these are bad enough. You ought to
see the scene of the wounded arriving at the landing here at the foot of
Sixth street, at night. Two boat loads came about half-past seven last
night. A little after eight it rain'd a long and violent shower. The
pale, helpless soldiers had been debark'd, and lay around on the wharf
and neighborhood anywhere. The rain was, probably, grateful to them;
at any rate they were exposed to it. The few torches light up the
spectacle. All around--on the wharf, on the ground, out on side
places--the men are lying on blankets, old quilts, &c., with bloody rags
bound round heads, arms, and legs. The attendants are few, and at
night few outsiders also--only a few hard-work'd transportation men
and drivers. (The wounded are getting to be common, and people grow
callous.) The men, whatever their condition, lie there, and patiently
wait till their turn comes to be taken up. Near by, the ambulances are
now arriving in clusters, and one after another is call'd to back up
and take its load. Extreme cases are sent off on stretchers. The men
generally make little or no ado, whatever their sufferings. A few groans
that cannot be suppress'd, and occasionally a scream of pain as they
lift a man into the ambulance. To-day, as I write, hundreds more are
expected, and to-morrow and the next day more, and so on for many days.
Quite often they arrive at the rate of 1000 a day.


_May 12_.--There was part of the late battle at Chancellorsville,
(second Fredericksburgh,) a little over a week ago, Saturday, Saturday
night and Sunday, under Gen. Joe Hooker, I would like to give just a
glimpse of--(a moment's look in a terrible storm at sea--of which a few
suggestions are enough, and full details impossible.) The fighting had
been very hot during the day, and after an intermission the latter part,
was resumed at night, and kept up with furious energy till 3 o'clock in
the morning. That afternoon (Saturday) an attack sudden and strong by
Stonewall Jackson had gain'd a great advantage to the southern army, and
broken our lines, entering us like a wedge, and leaving things in that
position at dark. But Hooker at 11 at night made a desperate push, drove
the secesh forces back, restored his original lines, and resumed his
plans. This night scrimmage was very exciting, and afforded countless
strange and fearful pictures. The fighting had been general both at
Chancellorsville and northeast at Fredericksburgh. (We hear of some poor
fighting, episodes, skedaddling on our part. I think not of it. I
think of the fierce bravery, the general rule.) One corps, the 6th,
Sedgewick's, fights four dashing and bloody battles in thirty-six hours,
retreating in great jeopardy, losing largely but maintaining itself,
fighting with the sternest desperation under all circumstances, getting
over the Rappahannock only by the skin of its teeth, yet getting over.
It lost many, many brave men, yet it took vengeance, ample vengeance.

But it was the tug of Saturday evening, and through the night and Sunday
morning, I wanted to make a special note of. It was largely in the
woods, and quite a general engagement. The night was very pleasant, at
times the moon shining out full and clear, all Nature so calm in itself,
the early summer grass so rich, and foliage of the trees--yet there the
battle raging, and many good fellows lying helpless, with new accessions
to them, and every minute amid the rattle of muskets and crash of
cannon, (for there was an artillery contest too,) the red life-blood
oozing out from heads or trunks or limbs upon that green and dew-cool
grass. Patches of the woods take fire, and several of the wounded,
unable to move, are consumed--quite large spaces are swept over, burning
the dead also--some of the men have their hair and beards singed--some,
burns on their faces and hands--others holes burnt in their clothing.
The flashes of fire from the cannon, the quick flaring flames and smoke,
and the immense roar--the musketry so general, the light nearly bright
enough for each side to see the other--the crashing, tramping of
men--the yelling--close quarters--we hear the secesh yells--our men
cheer loudly back, especially if Hooker is in sight--hand to hand
conflicts, each side stands up to it, brave, determin'd as demons, they
often charge upon us--a thousand deeds are done worth to write newer
greater poems on--and still the woods on fire--still many are not only
scorch'd--too many, unable to move, are burned to death.

Then the camps of the wounded--O heavens, what scene is this?--is this
indeed _humanity_--these butchers' shambles? There are several of them.
There they lie, in the largest, in an open space in the woods, from 200
to 300 poor fellows--the groans and screams--the odor of blood,
mixed with the fresh scent of the night, the grass, the trees--that
slaughter-house! O well is it their mothers, their sisters cannot see
them--cannot conceive, and never conceiv'd, these things. One man is
shot by a shell, both in the arm and leg--both are amputated--there
lie the rejected members. Some have their legs blown off--some bullets
through the breast--some indescribably horrid wounds in the face
or head, all mutilated, sickening, torn, gouged out--some in the
abdomen--some mere boys--many rebels, badly hurt--they take their
regular turns with the rest, just the same as any--the surgeons use
them just the same. Such is the camp of the wounded--such a fragment, a
reflection afar off of the bloody scene--while all over the clear, large
moon comes out at times softly, quietly shining. Amid the woods,
that scene of flitting souls--amid the crack and crash and yelling
sounds--the impalpable perfume of the woods--and yet the pungent,
stifling smoke--the radiance of the moon, looking from heaven at
intervals so placid--the sky so heavenly the clear-obscure up there,
those buoyant upper oceans--a few large placid stars beyond, coming
silently and languidly out, and then disappearing--the melancholy,
draperied night above, around. And there, upon the roads, the fields,
and in those woods, that contest, never one more desperate in any age or
land--both parties now in force--masses--no fancy battle, no semi-play,
but fierce and savage demons fighting there--courage and scorn of death
the rule, exceptions almost none.

What history, I say, can ever give--for who can know--the mad,
determin'd tussle of the armies, in all their separate large and little
squads--as this--each steep'd from crown to toe in desperate, mortal
purports? Who know the conflict, hand-to-hand--the many conflicts in
the dark, those shadowy-tangled, flashing moonbeam'd woods--the
writhing groups and squads--the cries, the din, the cracking guns and
pistols--the distant cannon--the cheers and calls and threats and
awful music of the oaths--the indescribable mix--the officers'
orders, persuasions, encouragements--the devils fully rous'd in human
hearts--the strong shout, _Charge, men, charge_--the flash of the naked
sword, and rolling flame and smoke? And still the broken, clear and
clouded heaven--and still again the moonlight pouring silvery soft its
radiant patches over all. Who paint the scene, the sudden partial panic
of the afternoon, at dusk? Who paint the irrepressible advance of the
second division of the Third corps, under Hooker himself, suddenly
order'd up--those rapid-filing phantoms through the woods? Who show what
moves there in the shadows, fluid and firm--to save, (and it did save,)
the army's name, perhaps the nation? as there the veterans hold the
field. (Brave Berry falls not yet--but death has mark'd him--soon he


Of scenes like these, I say, who writes--whoe'er can write the story? Of
many a score--aye, thousands, north and south, of unwrit heroes, unknown
heroisms, incredible, impromptu, first-class desperations--who tells?
No history ever--no poem sings, no music sounds, those bravest men of
all--those deeds. No formal general's report, nor book in the library,
norcolumn in the paper, embalms the bravest, north or south, east or
west. Unnamed, unknown, remain, and still remain, the bravest soldiers.
Our manliest--our boys--our hardy darlings; no picture gives them.
Likely, the typic one of them (standing, no doubt, for hundreds,
thousands,) crawls aside to some bush-clump, or ferny tuft, on receiving
his death-shot--there sheltering a little while, soaking roots, grass
and soil, with red blood--the battle advances, retreats, flits from the
scene, sweeps by--and there, haply with pain and suffering (yet less,
far less, than is supposed,) the last lethargy winds like a serpent
round him--the eyes glaze in death----none recks--perhaps the
burial-squads, in truce, a week afterwards, search not the secluded
spot--and there, at last, the Bravest Soldier crumbles in mother earth,
unburied and unknown.


_June 18th_.--In one of the hospitals I find Thomas Haley, company M,
4th New York cavalry--a regular Irish boy, a fine specimen of youthful
physical manliness--shot through the lungs--inevitably dying--came
over to this country from Ireland to enlist--has not a single friend or
acquaintance here--is sleeping soundly at this moment, (but it is the
sleep of death)--has a bullet-hole straight through the lung. I saw Tom
when first brought here, three days since, and didn't suppose he could
live twelve hours--(yet he looks well enough in the face to a casual
observer.) He lies there with his frame exposed above the waist, all
naked, for coolness, a fine built man, the tan not yet bleach'd from his
cheeks and neck. It is useless to talk to him, as with his sad hurt, and
the stimulants they give him, and the utter strangeness of every object,
face, furniture, &c., the poor fellow, even when awake, is like some
frighten'd, shy animal. Much of the time he sleeps, or half sleeps.
(Sometimes I thought he knew more than he show'd.) I often come and sit
by him in perfect silence; he will breathe for ten minutes as softly and
evenly as a young babe asleep. Poor youth, so handsome, athletic, with
profuse beautiful shining hair. One time as I sat looking at him while
he lay asleep, he suddenly, without the least start, awaken'd, open'd
his eyes, gave me a long steady look, turning his face very slightly to
gaze easier--one long, clear, silent look--a slight sigh--then turn'd
back and went into his doze again. Little he knew, poor death-stricken
boy, the heart of the stranger that hover'd near.

_W.H.E., Co. F, 2nd N.Y._--His disease is pneumonia. He lay sick at
the wretched hospital below Aquia creek, for seven or eight days before
brought here. He was detail'd from his regiment to go there and help
as nurse, but was soon taken down himself. Is an elderly, sallow-faced,
rather gaunt, gray-hair'd man, a widower, with children. He express'd a
great desire for good, strong green tea. An excellent lady, Mrs. W.,
of Washington, soon sent him a package; also a small sum of money. The
doctor said give him the tea at pleasure; it lay on the table by his
side, and he used it every day. He slept a great deal; could not talk
much, as he grew deaf. Occupied bed 15, ward I, Armory. (The same lady
above, Mrs. W., sent the men a large package of tobacco.)

J. G. lies in bed 52, ward I; is of company B, 7th Pennsylvania. I
gave him a small sum of money, some tobacco, and envelopes. To a man
adjoining also gave twenty-five cents; he flush'd in the face when I
offer'd it--refused at first, but as I found he had not a cent, and was
very fond of having the daily papers to read, I prest it on him. He was
evidently very grateful, but said little.

J.T.L., of company F, 9th New Hampshire, lies in bed 37, ward I. Is
very fond of tobacco. I furnish him some; also with a little money. Has
gangrene of the feet; a pretty bad case; will surely have to lose three
toes. Is a regular specimen of an old-fashion'd, rude, hearty, New
England countryman, impressing me with his likeness to that celebrated
singed cat, who was better than she look'd.

Bed 3, ward E, Armory, has a great hankering for pickles, something
pungent. After consulting the doctor, I gave him a small bottle of
horse-radish; also some apples; also a book. Some of the nurses
are excellent. The woman-nurse in this ward I like very much. (Mrs.
Wright--a year afterwards I found her in Mansion house hospital,
Alexandria--she is a perfect nurse.)

In one bed a young man, Marcus Small, company K, 7th Maine--sick with
dysentery and typhoid fever--pretty critical case--I talk with him
often--he thinks he will die--looks like it indeed. I write a letter for
him home to East Livermore, Maine--I let him talk to me a little,
but not much, advise him to keep very quiet--do most of the talking
myself--stay quite a while with him, as he holds on to my hand--talk
to him in a cheering, but slow, low and measured manner--talk about his
furlough, and going home as soon as he is able to travel.

Thomas Lindly, 1st Pennsylvania cavalry, shot very badly through the
foot--poor young man, he suffers horridly, has to be constantly dosed
with morphine, his face ashy and glazed, bright young eyes--I give him
a large handsome apple, lay it in sight, tell him to have it roasted
in the morning, as he generally feels easier then, and can eat a little
breakfast. I write two letters for him.

Opposite, an old Quaker lady sits by the side of her son, Amer Moore,
2d U. S. artillery--shot in the head two weeks since, very low, quite
rational--from hips down paralyzed--he will surely die. I speak a very
few words to him every day and evening--he answers pleasantly--wants
nothing--(he told me soon after he came about his home affairs,
his mother had been an invalid, and he fear'd to let her know his
condition.) He died soon after she came.


In my visits to the hospitals I found it was in the simple matter of
personal presence, and emanating ordinary cheer and magnetism, that I
succeeded and help'd more than by medical nursing, or delicacies,
or gifts of money, or anything else. During the war I possess'd the
perfection of physical health. My habit, when practicable, was to
prepare for starting out on one of those daily or nightly tours of from
a couple to four or five hours, by fortifying myself with previous rest,
the bath, clean clothes, a good meal, and as cheerful an appearance as


_June 23, Sundown._--As I sit writing this paragraph I see a train of
about thirty huge four-horse wagons, used as ambulances, fill'd with
wounded, passing up Fourteenth street, on their way, probably, to
Columbian, Carver, and Mount Pleasant hospitals. This is the way the men
come in now, seldom in small numbers, but almost always in these long,
sad processions. Through the past winter, while our army lay opposite
Fredericksburg, the like strings of ambulances were of frequent
occurrence along Seventh street, passing slowly up from the steamboat
wharf, with loads from Aquia creek.


The soldiers are nearly all young men, and far more American than is
generally supposed--I should say nine-tenths are native-born. Among
the arrivals from Chancellorsville I find a large proportion of Ohio,
Indiana, and Illinois men. As usual, there are all sorts of wounds. Some
of the men fearfully burnt from the explosions of artillery caissons.
One ward has a long row of officers, some with ugly hurts. Yesterday was
perhaps worse than usual. Amputations are going on--the attendants are
dressing wounds. As you pass by, you must be on your guard where
you look. I saw the other day a gentlemen, a visitor apparently from
curiosity, in one of the wards, stop and turn a moment to look at an
awful wound they were probing. He turn'd pale, and in a moment more he
had fainted away and fallen to the floor.


_June 29._--Just before sundown this evening a very large cavalry force
went by--a fine sight. The men evidently had seen service. First came a
mounted band of sixteen bugles, drums and cymbals, playing wild martial
tunes--made my heart jump. Then the principal officers, then company
after company, with their officers at their heads, making of course the
main part of the cavalcade; then a long train of men with led horses,
lots of mounted negroes with special horses--and a long string of
baggage-wagons, each drawn by four horses--and then a motley rear guard.

It was a pronouncedly warlike and gay show; the sabres clank'd, the men
look'd young and healthy and strong; the electric tramping of so many
horses on the hard road, and the gallant bearing, fine seat, and bright
faced appearance of a thousand and more handsome young American men,
were so good to see. An hour later another troop went by, smaller in
numbers, perhaps three hundred men. They too look'd like serviceable
men, campaigners used to field and fight.

_July 3_.--This forenoon, for more than an hour, again long strings
of cavalry, several regiments, very fine men and horses, four or five
abreast. I saw them in Fourteenth street, coming in town from north.
Several hundred extra horses, some of the mares with colts, trotting
along. (Appear'd to be a number of prisoners too.) How inspiriting
always the cavalry regiments. Our men are generally well mounted, feel
good, are young, gay on the saddle, their blankets in a roll behind
them, their sabres clanking at their sides. This noise and movement
and the tramp of many horses' hoofs has a curious effect upon one. The
bugles play--presently you hear them afar off, deaden'd, mix'd with
other noises. Then just as they had all pass'd, a string of ambulances
commenc'd from the other way, moving up Fourteenth street north, slowly
wending along, bearing a large lot of wounded to the hospitals.


_July 4th_.--The weather to-day, upon the whole, is very fine, warm,
but from a smart rain last night, fresh enough, and no dust, which is
a great relief for this city. I saw the parade about noon, Pennsylvania
avenue, from Fifteenth street down toward the capitol. There were three
regiments of infantry, (I suppose the ones doing patrol duty here,) two
or three societies of Odd Fellows, a lot of children in barouches, and
a squad of policemen. (A useless imposition upon the soldiers--they have
work enough on their backs without piling the like of this.)

As I went down the Avenue, saw a big flaring placard on the bulletin
board of a newspaper office, announcing "Glorious Victory for the Union
Army!" Meade had fought Lee at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, yesterday and
day before, and repuls'd him most signally, taken 3,000 prisoners, &c.
(I afterwards saw Meade's despatch, very modest, and a sort of order of
the day from the President himself, quite religious, giving thanks to
the Supreme, and calling on the people to do the same.)

I walk'd on to Armory hospital--took along with me several bottles of
blackberry and cherry syrup, good and strong, but innocent. Went through
several of the wards, announc'd to the soldiers the news from Meade,
and gave them all a good drink of the syrups with ice water, quite
refreshing--prepar'd it all myself, and serv'd it around. Meanwhile the
Washington bells are ringing their sun-down peals for Fourth of July,
and the usual fusilades of boys' pistols, crackers, and guns.


I am writing this, nearly sundown, watching a cavalry company (acting
Signal service,) just come in through a shower, making their night's
camp ready on some broad, vacant ground, a sort of hill, in full view
opposite my window. There are the men in their yellow-striped jackets.
All are dismounted; the freed horses stand with drooping heads and wet
sides; they are to be led off presently in groups, to water. The little
wall-tents and shelter tents spring up quickly. I see the fires already
blazing, and pots and kettles over them. Some among the men are driving
in tent-poles, wielding their axes with strong, slow blows. I see great
huddles of horses, bundles of hay, groups of men (some with unbuckled
sabres yet on their sides,) a few officers, piles of wood, the flames
of the fires, saddles, harness, &c. The smoke streams upward, additional
men arrive and dismount--some drive in stakes, and tie their horses to
them; some go with buckets for water, some are chopping wood, and so on.

_July 6th_.--A steady rain, dark and thick and warm. A train of six-mule
wagons has just pass'd bearing pontoons, great square-end flatboats, and
the heavy planking for overlaying them. We hear that the Potomac above
here is flooded, and are wondering whether Lee will be able to get back
across again, or whether Meade will indeed break him to pieces. The
cavalry camp on the hill is a ceaseless field of observation for me.
This forenoon there stand the horses, tether'd together, dripping,
steaming, chewing their hay. The men emerge from their tents, dripping
also. The fires are half quench'd.

_July 10th_.--Still the camp opposite--perhaps fifty or sixty tents.
Some of the men are cleaning their sabres (pleasant to-day,) some
brushing boots, some laying off, reading, writing--some cooking, some
sleeping. On long temporary cross-sticks back of the tents are cavalry
accoutrements--blankets and overcoats are hung out to air--there are the
squads of horses tether'd, feeding, continually stamping and whisking
their tails to keep off flies. I sit long in my third story window and
look at the scene--a hundred little things going on--peculiar objects
connected with the camp that could not be described, any one of them
justly, without much minute drawing and coloring in words.


This afternoon, July 22d, I have spent a long time with Oscar F. Wilber,
company G, 154th New York, low with chronic diarrhoea, and a bad
wound also. He asked me to read him a chapter in the New Testament.
I complied, and ask'd him what I should read. He said, "Make your
own choice." I open'd at the close of one of the first books of the
evangelists, and read the chapters describing the latter hours of
Christ, and the scenes at the crucifixion. The poor, wasted young man
ask'd me to read the following chapter also, how Christ rose again. I
read very slowly, for Oscar was feeble. It pleased him very much, yet
the tears were in his eyes. He ask'd me if I enjoy'd religion. I said,
"Perhaps not, my dear, in the way you mean, and yet, may-be, it is the
same thing." He said, "It is my chief reliance." He talk'd of death, and
said he did not fear it. I said, "Why, Oscar, don't you think you will
get well?" He said, "I may, but it is not probable." He spoke calmly
of his condition. The wound was very bad, it discharg'd much. Then the
diarrhoea had prostrated him, and I felt that he was even then the same
as dying. He behaved very manly and affectionate. The kiss I gave him
as I was about leaving he return'd fourfold. He gave me his mother's
address, Mrs. Sally D. Wilber, Alleghany pest-office, Cattaraugus
county, N. Y. I had several such interviews with him. He died a few days
after the one just described.


_August 8th_.--To-night, as I was trying to keep cool, sitting by a
wounded soldier in Armory-square, I was attracted by some pleasant
singing in an adjoining ward. As my soldier was asleep, I left him, and
entering the ward where the music was, I walk'd halfway down and took a
seat by the cot of a young Brooklyn friend, S. R., badly wounded in the
hand at Chancellorsville, and who has suffer'd much, but at that moment
in the evening was wide awake and comparatively easy. He had turn'd
over on his left side to get a better view of the singers, but the
mosquito-curtains of the adjoining cots obstructed the sight. I stept
round and loop'd them all up, so that he had a clear show, and then sat
down again by him, and look'd and listen'd. The principal singer was a
young lady-nurse of one of the wards, accompanying on a melodeon, and
join'd by the lady-nurses of other wards. They sat there, making a
charming group, with their handsome, healthy faces, and standing up
a little behind them were some ten or fifteen of the convalescent
soldiers, young men, nurses, &c., with books in their hands, singing.
Of course it was not such a performance as the great soloists at the
New York opera house take a hand in, yet I am not sure but I receiv'd as
much pleasure under the circumstances, sitting there, as I have had from
the best Italian compositions, express'd by world-famous performers.
The men lying up and down the hospital, in their cots, (some badly
wounded--some never to rise thence,) the cots themselves, with their
drapery of white curtains, and the shadows down the lower and upper
parts of the ward; then the silence of the men, and the attitudes they
took--the whole was a sight to look around upon again and again. And
there sweetly rose those voices up to the high, whitewash'd wooden roof,
and pleasantly the roof sent it all back again. They sang very well,
mostly quaint old songs and declamatory hymns, to fitting tunes. Here,
for instance:

    My days are swiftly gliding by, and I a pilgrim stranger,
    Would not detain them as they fly, those hours of toil and danger;
    For O we stand on Jordan's strand, our friends are passing over,
    And just before, the shining shore we may almost discover.
    We'll gird our loins my brethren dear, our distant home discerning,
    Our absent Lord has left us word, let every lamp be burning,
    For O we stand on Jordan's strand, our friends are passing over,
    And just before, the shining shore we may almost discover.


_August 12th_.--I see the President almost every day, as I happen to
live where he passes to or from his lodgings out of town. He never
sleeps at the White House during the hot season, but has quarters at a
healthy location some three miles north of the city, the Soldiers' home,
a United States military establishment. I saw him this morning about 8
1/2 coming in to business, riding on Vermont avenue, near L street. He
always has a company of twenty-five or thirty cavalry, with sabres drawn
and held upright over their shoulders. They say this guard was against
his personal wish, but he let his counselors have their way. The party
makes no great show in uniform or horses. Mr. Lincoln on the saddle
generally rides a good-sized, easy-going gray horse, is dress'd in plain
black, somewhat rusty and dusty, wears a black stiff hat, and looks
about as ordinary in attire, &c., as the commonest man. A lieutenant,
with yellow straps, rides at his left, and following behind, two by
two, come the cavalry men, in their yellow-striped jackets. They are
generally going at a slow trot, as that is the pace set them by the one
they wait upon. The sabres and accoutrements clank, and the entirely
unornamental _cortège_ as it trots towards Lafayette square arouses
no sensation, only some curious stranger stops and gazes. I see very
plainly ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S dark brown face, with the deep-cut lines, the
eyes, always to me with a deep latent sadness in the expression. We
have got so that we exchange bows, and very cordial ones. Sometimes
the President goes and comes in an open barouche. The cavalry always
accompany him, with drawn sabres. Often I notice as he goes out
evenings--and sometimes in the morning, when he returns early--he turns
off and halts at the large and handsome residence of the Secretary of
War, on K street, and holds conference there. If in his barouche, I can
see from my window he does not alight, but sits in his vehicle, and Mr.
Stanton comes out to attend him. Sometimes one of his sons, a boy of ten
or twelve, accompanies him, riding at his right on a pony. Earlier in
the summer I occasionally saw the President and his wife, toward the
latter part of the afternoon, out in a barouche, on a pleasure ride
through the city. Mrs. Lincoln was dress'd in complete black, with a
long crape veil. The equipage is of the plainest kind, only two horses,
and they nothing extra. They pass'd me once very close, and I saw the
President in the face fully, as they were moving slowly, and his look,
though abstracted, happen'd to be directed steadily in my eye. He bow'd
and smiled, but far beneath his smile I noticed well the expression I
have alluded to. None of the artists or pictures has caught the deep,
though subtle and indirect expression of this man's face. There is
something else there. One of the great portrait painters of two or three
centuries ago is needed.


There has lately been much suffering here from heat; we have had it upon
us now eleven days. I go around with an umbrella and a fan. I saw two
cases of sun-stroke yesterday, one in Pennsylvania avenue, and another
in Seventh street. The City railroad company loses some horses every
day. Yet Washington is having a livelier August, and is probably putting
in a more energetic and satisfactory summer, than ever before during its
existence. There is probably more human electricity, more population to
make it, more business, more light-heartedness, than ever before.
The armies that swiftly circumambiated from Fredericksburgh--march'd,
struggled, fought, had out their mighty clinch and hurl at
Gettysburg--wheel'd, circumambiated again, return'd to their ways,
touching us not, either at their going or coming. And Washington feels
that she has pass'd the worst; perhaps feels that she is henceforth
mistress. So here she sits with her surrounding hills spotted with guns,
and is conscious of a character and identity different from what it
was five or six short weeks ago, and very considerably pleasanter and


Soldiers, soldiers, soldiers, you meet everywhere about the city,
often superb-looking men, though invalids dress'd in worn uniforms, and
carrying canes or crutches. I often have talks with them, occasionally
quite long and interesting. One, for instance, will have been all
through the peninsula under McClellan--narrates to me the fights, the
marches, the strange, quick changes of that eventful campaign, and
gives glimpses of many things untold in any official reports or books or
journals. These, indeed, are the things that are genuine and precious.
The man was there, has been out two years, has been through a dozen
fights, the superfluous flesh of talking is long work'd off him, and he
gives me little but the hard meat and sinew. I find it refreshing, these
hardy, bright, intuitive, American young men, (experienc'd soldiers with
all their youth.) The vocal play and significance moves one more than
books. Then there hangs something majestic about a man who has borne his
part in battles, especially if he is very quiet regarding it when you
desire him to unbosom. I am continually lost at the absence of blowing
and blowers among these old-young American militaires. I have found some
man or other who has been in every battle since the war began, and have
talk'd with them about each one in every part of the United States, and
many of the engagements on the rivers and harbors too. I find men
here from every State in the Union, without exception. (There are more
Southerners, especially border State men, in the Union army than is
generally supposed. [A]) I now doubt whether one can get a fair idea
of what this war practically is, or what genuine America is, and her
character, without some such experience as this I am having.


Another characteristic scene of that dark and bloody 1863, from notes of
my visit to Armory-square hospital, one hot but pleasant summer day. In
ward H we approach the cot of a young lieutenant of one of the Wisconsin
regiments. Tread the bare board floor lightly here, for the pain and
panting of death are in this cot. I saw the lieutenant when he was first
brought here from Chancellorsville, and have been with him occasionally
from day to day and night to night. He had been getting along pretty
well till night before last, when a sudden hemorrhage that could not be
stopt came upon him, and to-day it still continues at intervals. Notice
that water-pail by the side of the bed, with a quantity of blood and
bloody pieces of muslin, nearly full; that tells the story. The poor
young man is struggling painfully for breath, his great dark eyes with
a glaze already upon them, and the choking faint but audible in his
throat. An attendant sits by him, and will not leave him till the last;
yet little or nothing can be done. He will die here in an hour or two,
without the presence of kith or kin. Meantime the ordinary chat and
business of[6] the ward a little way off goes on indifferently. Some
of the inmates are laughing and joking, others are playing checkers or
cards, others are reading, &c.

I have noticed through most of the hospitals that as long as there
is any chance for a man, no matter how bad he may be, the surgeon and
nurses work hard, sometimes with curious tenacity, for his life, doing
everything, and keeping somebody by him to execute the doctor's orders,
and minister to him every minute night and day. See that screen there.
As you advance through the dusk of early candle-light, a nurse will step
forth on tip-toe, and silently but imperiously forbid you to make any
noise, or perhaps to come near at all. Some soldier's life is flickering
there, suspended between recovery and death. Perhaps at this moment the
exhausted frame has just fallen into a light sleep that a step might
shake. You must retire. The neighboring patients must move in their
stocking feet. I have been several times struck with such mark'd
efforts--everything bent to save a life from the very grip of the
destroyer. But when that grip is once firmly fix'd, leaving no hope or
chance at all, the surgeon abandons the patient. If it is a case
where stimulus is any relief, the nurse gives milk-punch or brandy, or
whatever is wanted, _ad libitum_. There is no fuss made. Not a bit
of sentimentalism or whining have I seen about a single death-bed in
hospital or on the field, but generally impassive indifference. All is
over, as far as any efforts can avail; it is useless to expend emotions
or labors. While there is a prospect they strive hard--at least most
surgeons do; but death certain and evident, they yield the field.


[6]MR. GARFIELD (_In the House of Representatives, April 15,'79_.) "Do
gentlemen know that (leaving out all the border States) there were fifty
regiments and seven companies of white men in our army fighting for the
Union from the States that went into rebellion? Do they know that from
the single State of Kentucky more Union soldiers fought under our flag
than Napoleon took into the battle of Waterloo? more than Wellington
took with all the allied armies against Napoleon? Do they remember that
186,000 color'd men fought under our flag against the rebellion and for
the Union, and that of that number 90,000 were from the States which
went into rebellion?"


_Aug., Sept., and Oct., '63._--I am in the habit of going to all, and
to Fairfax seminary, Alexandria, and over Long bridge to the great
Convalescent camp. The journals publish a regular directory of them--a
long list. As a specimen of almost any one of the larger of these
hospitals, fancy to yourself a space of three to twenty acres of ground,
on which are group'd ten or twelve very large wooden barracks, with,
perhaps, a dozen or twenty, and sometimes more than that number, small
buildings, capable altogether of accommodating from five hundred to a
thousand or fifteen hundred persons. Sometimes these wooden barracks or
wards, each of them perhaps from a hundred to a hundred and fifty feet
long, are rang'd in a straight row, evenly fronting the street; others
are plann'd so as to form an immense V; and others again are ranged
around a hollow square. They make altogether a huge cluster, with the
additional tents, extra wards for contagious diseases, guard-houses,
sutler's stores, chaplain's house; in the middle will probably be an
edifice devoted to the offices of the surgeon in charge and the ward
surgeons, principal attaches, clerks, &c. The wards are either letter'd
alphabetically, ward G, ward K, or else numerically, 1, 2, 3, &c. Each
has its ward surgeon and corps of nurses. Of course, there is, in the
aggregate, quite a muster of employes, and over all the surgeon in
charge. Here in Washington, when these army hospitals are all fill'd,
(as they have been already several times,) they contain a population
more numerous in itself than the whole of the Washington of ten or
fifteen years ago. Within sight of the capitol, as I write, are some
thirty or forty such collections, at times holding from fifty to seventy
thousand men. Looking from any eminence and studying the topography in
my rambles, I use them as landmarks. Through the rich August verdure
of the trees, see that white group of buildings off yonder in the
outskirts; then another cluster half a mile to the left of the first;
then another a mile to the right, and another a mile beyond, and still
another between us and the first. Indeed, we can hardly look in any
direction but these clusters are dotting the landscape and environs.
That little town, as you might suppose it, off there on the brow of a
hill, is indeed a town, but of wounds, sickness, and death. It is Finley
hospital, northeast of the city, on Kendall green, as it used to be
call'd. That other is Campbell hospital. Both are large establishments.
I have known these two alone to have from two thousand to twenty-five
hundred inmates. Then there is Carver hospital, larger still, a wall'd
and military city regularly laid out, and guarded by squads of sentries.
Again, off east, Lincoln hospital, a still larger one; and half a mile
further Emory hospital. Still sweeping the eye around down the river
toward Alexandria, we see, to the right, the locality where the
Convalescent camp stands, with its five, eight, or sometimes ten
thousand inmates. Even all these are but a portion. The Harewood, Mount
Pleasant, Armory-square, Judiciary hospitals, are some of the rest, and
all large collections.


_October 20th_.--To-night, after leaving the hospital at 10 o'clock, (I
had been on self-imposed duty some five hours, pretty closely confined,)
I wander'd a long time around Washington. The night was sweet, very
clear, sufficiently cool, a voluptuous halfmoon, slightly golden, the
space near it of a transparent blue-gray tinge. I walk'd up Pennsylvania
avenue, and then to Seventh street, and a long while around the
Patent-office. Somehow it look'd rebukefully strong, majestic, there in
the delicate moonlight. The sky, the planets, the constellations all
so bright, so calm, so expressively silent, so soothing, after those
hospital scenes. I wander'd to and fro till the moist moon set, long
after midnight.


Every now and then, in hospital or camp, there are beings I
meet--specimens of unworldliness, disinterestedness, and animal purity
and heroism--perhaps some unconscious Indianian, or from Ohio or
Tennessee--on whose birth the calmness of heaven seems to have
descended, and whose gradual growing up, whatever the circumstances of
work-life or change, or hardship, or small or no education that attended
it, the power of a strange spiritual sweetness, fibre and inward health,
have also attended. Something veil'd and abstracted is often a part of
the manners of these beings. I have met them, I say, not seldom in the
army, in camp, and in the hospitals. The Western regiments contain many
of them. They are often young men, obeying the events and occasions
about them, marching, soldiering, righting, foraging, cooking, working
on farms or at some trade before the war--unaware of their own nature,
(as to that, who is aware of his own nature?) their companions only
understanding that they are different from the rest, more silent,
"something odd about them," and apt to go off and meditate and muse in


Among other sights are immense droves of cattle with their drivers,
passing through the streets of the city. Some of the men have a way
of leading the cattle by a peculiar call, a wild, pensive hoot, quite
musical, prolong'd, indescribable, sounding something between the cooing
of a pigeon and the hoot of an owl. I like to stand and look at the
sight of one of these immense droves--a little way off--(as the dust
is great.) There are always men on horseback, cracking their whips
and shouting--the cattle low--some obstinate ox or steer attempts to
escape--then a lively scene--the mounted men, always excellent riders
and on good horses, dash after the recusant, and wheel and turn--a
dozen mounted drovers, their great slouch'd, broad-brim'd hats, very
picturesque--another dozen on foot--everybody cover'd with dust--long
goads in their hands--an immense drove of perhaps 1000 cattle--the
shouting, hooting, movement, &c.


To add to other troubles, amid the confusion of this great army of sick,
it is almost impossible for a stranger to find any friend or relative,
unless he has the patient's specific address to start upon. Besides the
directory printed in the newspapers here, there are one or two general
directories of the hospitals kept at provost's head-quarters, but they
are nothing like complete; they are never up to date, and, as things
are, with the daily streams of coming and going and changing, cannot
be. I have known cases, for instance such as a farmer coming here from
northern New York to find a wounded brother, faithfully hunting round
for a week, and then compell'd to leave and go home without getting any
trace of him. When he got home he found a letter from the brother giving
the right address.


CULPEPPER, VA., _Feb. '64._--Here I am FRONT pretty well down toward the
extreme front. Three or four days ago General S., who is now in chief
command, (I believe Meade is absent, sick,) moved a strong force
southward from camp as if intending business. They went to the Rapidan;
there has since been some manoeuvering and a little fighting, but
nothing of consequence. The telegraphic accounts given Monday morning
last, make entirely too much of it, I should say. What General S.
intended we here know not, but we trust in that competent commander. We
were somewhat excited, (but not so very much either,) on Sunday, during
the day and night, as orders were sent out to pack up and harness, and
be ready to evacuate, to fall back towards Washington. But I was very
sleepy and went to bed. Some tremendous shouts arousing me during the
night, I went forth and found it was from the men above mention'd, who
were returning. I talk'd with some of the men; as usual I found them
full of gayety, endurance, and many fine little outshows, the signs of
the most excellent good manliness of the world. It was a curious
sight to see those shadowy columns moving through the night. I stood
unobserv'd in the darkness and watch'd them long. The mud was very
deep. The men had their usual burdens, overcoats, knapsacks, guns and
blankets. Along and along they filed by me, with often a laugh, a song,
a cheerful word, but never once a murmur. It may have been odd, but I
never before so realized the majesty and reality of the American people
_en masse_. It fell upon me like a great awe. The strong ranks moved
neither fast nor slow. They had march'd seven or eight miles already
through the slipping unctuous mud. The brave First corps stopt here.
The equally brave Third corps moved on to Brandy station. The famous
Brooklyn 14th are here, guarding the town. You see their red legs
actively moving everywhere. Then they have a theatre of their own here.
They give musical performances, nearly everything done capitally. Of
course the audience is a jam. It is good sport to attend one of these
entertainments of the 14th. I like to look around at the soldiers, and
the general collection in front of the curtain, more than the scene on
the stage.


One of the things to note here now is the arrival of the paymaster with
his strong box, and the payment of bounties to veterans re-enlisting.
Major H. is here to-day, with a small mountain of greenbacks, rejoicing
the hearts of the 2d division of the First corps. In the midst of a
rickety shanty, behind a little table, sit the major and clerk Eldridge,
with the rolls before them, and much moneys. A re-enlisted man gets in
cash about $200 down, (and heavy instalments following, as the pay-days
arrive, one after another.) The show of the men crowding around is quite
exhilarating; I like to stand and look. They feel elated, their pockets
full, and the ensuing furlough, the visit home. It is a scene of
sparkling eyes and flush'd cheeks. The soldier has many gloomy and harsh
experiences, and this makes up for some of them. Major H. is order'd to
pay first all the re-enlisted men of the First corps their bounties and
back pay, and then the rest. You hear the peculiar sound of the rustling
of the new and crisp greenbacks by the hour, through the nimble fingers
of the major and my friend clerk E.


About the excitement of Sunday, and the orders to be ready to start,
I have heard since that the said orders came from some cautious minor
commander, and that the high principalities knew not and thought not of
any such move; which is likely. The rumor and fear here intimated a long
circuit by Lee, and flank attack on our right. But I cast my eyes at the
mud, which was then at its deepest and palmiest condition, and retired
composedly to rest. Still it is about time for Culpepper to have a
change. Authorities have chased each other here like clouds in a stormy
sky. Before the first Bull Run this was the rendezvous and camp of
instruction of the secession troops. I am stopping at the house of a
lady who has witness'd all the eventful changes of the war, along this
route of contending armies. She is a widow, with a family of young
children, and lives here with her sister in a large handsome house. A
number of army officers board with them.


Dilapidated, fenceless, and trodden with war as Virginia is, wherever
I move across her surface, I find myself rous'd to surprise and
admiration. What capacity for products, improvements, human life,
nourishment and expansion. Everywhere that I have been in the Old
Dominion, (the subtle mockery of that title now!) such thoughts have
fill'd me. The soil is yet far above the average of any of the northern
States. And how full of breadth the scenery, everywhere distant
mountains, everywhere convenient rivers. Even yet prodigal in forest
woods, and surely eligible for all the fruits, orchards, and flowers.
The skies and atmosphere most luscious, as I feel certain, from more
than a year's residence in the State, and movements hither and yon. I
should say very healthy, as a general thing. Then a rich and elastic
quality, by night and by day. The sun rejoices in his strength, dazzling
and burning, and yet, to me, never unpleasantly weakening. It is not the
panting tropical heat, but invigorates. The north tempers it. The nights
are often unsurpassable. Last evening (Feb. 8,) I saw the first of the
new moon, the outlined old moon clear along with it; the sky and air
so clear, such transparent hues of color, it seem'd to me I had never
really seen the new moon before. It was the thinnest cut crescent
possible. It hung delicate just above the sulky shadow of the Blue
mountains. Ah, if it might prove an omen and good prophecy for this
unhappy State.


I am back again in Washington, on my regular daily and nightly rounds.
Of course there are many specialties. Dotting a ward here and there are
always cases of poor fellows, long-suffering under obstinate wounds,
or weak and dishearten'd from typhoid fever, or the like; mark'd cases,
needing special and sympathetic nourishment. These I sit down and either
talk to, or silently cheer them up. They always like it hugely, (and so
do I.) Each case has its peculiarities, and needs some new adaptation. I
have learnt to thus conform--learnt a good deal of hospital wisdom.
Some of the poor young chaps, away from home for the first time in their
lives, hunger and thirst for affection; this is sometimes the only thing
that will reach their condition. The men like to have a pencil, and
something to write in. I have given them cheap pocket-diaries, and
almanacs for 1864, interleav'd with blank paper. For reading I generally
have some old pictorial magazines or story papers--they are always
acceptable. Also the morning or evening papers of the day. The best
books I do not give, but lend to read through the wards, and then take
them to others, and so on; they are very punctual about returning the
books. In these wards, or on the field, as I thus continue to go round,
I have come to adapt myself to each emergency, after its kind or call,
however trivial, however solemn, every one justified and made real
under its circumstances--not only visits and cheering talk and little
gifts--not only washing and dressing wounds, (I have some cases where
the patient is unwilling any one should do this but me)--but passages
from the Bible, expounding them, prayer at the bedside, explanations of
doctrine, &c. (I think I see my friends smiling at this confession, but
I was never more in earnest in my life.) In camp and everywhere, I was
in the habit of reading or giving recitations to the men. They were very
fond of it, and liked declamatory poetical pieces. We would gather in
a large group by ourselves, after supper, and spend the time in such
readings, or in talking, and occasionally by an amusing game called the
game of twenty questions.


It is plain to me out of the events of the war, north and south, and out
of all considerations, that the current military theory, practice, rules
and organization, (adopted from Europe from the feudal institutes, with,
of course, the "modern improvements," largely from the French,) though
tacitly follow'd, and believ'd in by the officers generally, are not at
all consonant with the United States, nor our people, nor our days. What
it will be I know not--but I know that as entire an abnegation of the
present military system, and the naval too, and a building up from
radically different root-bases and centres appropriate to us, must
eventually result, as that our political system has resulted and become
establish'd, different from feudal Europe, and built up on itself from
original, perennial, democratic premises. We have undoubtedly in the
United States the greatest military power--an exhaustless, intelligent,
brave and reliable rank and file--in the world, any land, perhaps all
lands. The problem is to organize this in the manner fully appropriate
to it, to the principles of the republic, and to get the best service
out of it. In the present struggle, as already seen and review'd,
probably three-fourths of the losses, men, lives, &c., have been sheer
superfluity, extravagance, waste.


I wonder if I could ever convey to another--to you, for instance, reader
dear--the tender and terrible realities of such cases, (many, many
happen'd,) as the one I am now going to mention. Stewart C. Glover,
company E, 5th Wisconsin--was wounded May 5, in one of those fierce
tussles of the Wilderness-died May 21--aged about 20. He was a small
and beardless young man--a splendid soldier--in fact almost an ideal
American, of his age. He had serv'd nearly three years, and would have
been entitled to his discharge in a few days. He was in Hancock's corps.
The fighting had about ceas'd for the day, and the general commanding
the brigade rode by and call'd for volunteers to bring in the wounded.
Glover responded among the first--went out gayly--but while in the act
of bearing in a wounded sergeant to our lines, was shot in the knee by
a rebel sharpshooter; consequence, amputation and death. He had resided
with his father, John Glover, an aged and feeble man, in Batavia,
Genesee county, N. Y., but was at school in Wisconsin, after the war
broke out, and there enlisted--soon took to soldier-life, liked it,
was very manly, was belov'd by officers and comrades. He kept a little
diary, like so many of the soldiers. On the day of his death he wrote
the following in it, _to-day the doctor says I must die--all is over
with me--ah, so young to die_. On another blank leaf he pencill'd to his
brother, _dear brother Thomas, I have been brave but wicked--pray for


It is Sunday afternoon, middle of summer, hot and oppressive, and very
silent through the ward. I am taking care of a critical case, now lying
in a half lethargy. Near where I sit is a suffering rebel, from the
8th Louisiana; his name is Irving. He has been here a long time, badly
wounded, and lately had his leg amputated; it is not doing very well.
Right opposite me is a sick soldier-boy, laid down with his clothes on,
sleeping, looking much wasted, his pallid face on his arm. I see by the
yellow trimming on his jacket that he is a cavalry boy. I step softly
over and find by his card that he is named William Cone, of the 1st
Maine cavalry, and his folks live in Skowhegan.

_Ice Cream Treat_.--One hot day toward the middle of June, I gave the
inmates of Carver hospital a general ice cream treat, purchasing a large
quantity, and, under convoy of the doctor or head nurse, going
around personally through the wards to see to its distribution. _An
Incident_.--In one of the rights before Atlanta, a rebel soldier, of
large size, evidently a young man, was mortally wounded top of the head,
so that the brains partially exuded. He lived three days, lying on
his back on the spot where he first dropt. He dug with his heel in the
ground during that time a hole big enough to put in a couple of
ordinary knapsacks. He just lay there in the open air, and with little
intermission kept his heel going night and day. Some of our soldiers
then moved him to a house, but he died in a few minutes.

_Another_.--After the battles at Columbia, Tennessee, where we repuls'd
about a score of vehement rebel charges, they left a great many wounded
on the ground, mostly within our range. Whenever any of these wounded
attempted to move away by any means, generally by crawling off, our men
without exception brought them down by a bullet. They let none crawl
away, no matter what his condition.


As I turn'd off the Avenue one cool October evening into Thirteenth
street, a soldier with knapsack and overcoat stood at the corner
inquiring his way. I found he wanted to go part of the road in my
direction, so we walk'd on together. We soon fell into conversation. He
was small and not very young, and a tough little fellow, as I judged in
the evening light, catching glimpses by the lamps we pass'd. His answers
were short, but clear. His name was Charles Carroll; he belong'd to
one of the Massachusetts regiments, and was born in or near Lynn. His
parents were living, but were very old. There were four sons, and all
had enlisted. Two had died of starvation and misery in the prison at
Andersonville, and one had been kill'd in the west. He only was left.
He was now going home, and by the way he talk'd I inferr'd that his time
was nearly out. He made great calculations on being with his parents to
comfort them the rest of their days.


Michael Stansbury, 48 years of age, a seafaring man, a southerner by
birth and raising, formerly captain of U. S. light ship Long Shoal,
station'd at Long Shoal point, Pamlico sound--though a southerner, a
firm Union man--was captur'd Feb. 17, 1863, and has been nearly two
years in the Confederate prisons; was at one time order'd releas'd by
Governor Vance, but a rebel officer re-arrested him; then sent on to
Richmond for exchange--but instead of being exchanged was sent down
(as a southern citizen, not a soldier,) to Salisbury, N. C., where he
remain'd until lately, when he escap'd among the exchang'd by assuming
the name of a dead soldier, and coming up via Wilmington with the rest.
Was about sixteen months in Salisbury.

Subsequent to October, '64, there were about 11,000 Union prisoners in
the stockade; about 100 of them southern unionists, 200 U. S. deserters.
During the past winter 1500 of the prisoners, to save their lives,
join'd the confederacy, on condition of being assign'd merely to guard
duty. Out of the 11,000 not more than 2500 came out; 500 of these were
pitiable, helpless wretches--the rest were in a condition to travel.
There were often 60 dead bodies to be buried in the morning; the daily
average would be about 40. The regular food was a meal of corn, the cob
and husk ground together, and sometimes once a week a ration of sorghum
molasses. A diminutive ration of meat might possibly come once a month,
not oftener. In the stockade, containing the 11,000 men, there was a
partial show of tents, not enough for 2000. A large proportion of the
men lived in holes in the ground, in the utmost wretchedness. Some froze
to death, others had their hands and feet frozen. The rebel guards would
occasionally, and on the least pretence, fire into the prison from mere
demonism and wantonness. All the horrors that can be named, starvation,
lassitude, filth, vermin, despair, swift loss of self-respect, idiocy,
insanity, and frequent murder, were there. Stansbury has a wife and
child living in Newbern--has written to them from here--is in the U. S.
light-house employ still--(had been home to Newbern to see his family,
and on his return to the ship was captured in his boat.) Has seen men
brought there to Salisbury as hearty as you ever see in your life--in
a few weeks completely dead gone, much of it from thinking on their
condition--hope all gone. Has himself a hard, sad, strangely deaden'd
kind of look, as of one chill' d for years in the cold and dark, where
his good manly nature had no room to exercise itself.


_Oct. 24_.--Saw a large squad of our own deserters (over 300) surrounded
with a cordon of arm'd guards, marching along Pennsylvania avenue. The
most motley collection I ever saw, all sorts of rig, all sorts of hats
and caps, many fine-looking young fellows, some of them shame-faced,
some sickly, most of them dirty, shirts very dirty and long worn, &c.
They tramp'd along without order, a huge huddling mass, not in ranks. I
saw some of the spectators laughing, but I felt like anything else but
laughing. These deserters are far more numerous than would be thought.
Almost every day I see squads of them, sometimes two or three at a time,
with a small guard; sometimes ten or twelve, under a larger one. (I
hear that desertions from the army now in the field have often averaged
10,000 a month. One of the commonest sights in Washington is a squad of


In one of the late movements of our troops in the valley, (near
Upperville, I think,) a strong force of Moseby's mounted guerillas
attack'd a train of wounded, and the guard of cavalry convoying them.
The ambulances contain'd about 60 wounded, quite a number of them
officers of rank. The rebels were in strength, and the capture of
the train and its partial guard after a short snap was effectually
accomplish'd. No sooner had our men surrender'd, the rebels instantly
commenced robbing the train and murdering their prisoners, even the
wounded. Here is the scene, or a sample of it, ten minutes after.
Among the wounded officers in the ambulances were one, a lieutenant of
regulars, and another of higher rank. These two were dragg'd out on
the ground on their backs, and were now surrounded by the guerillas,
a demoniac crowd, each member of which was stabbing them in different
parts of their bodies. One of the officers had his feet pinn'd firmly
to the ground by bayonets stuck through them and thrust into the ground.
These two officers, as afterwards found on examination, had receiv'd
about twenty such thrusts, some of them through the mouth, face, &c. The
wounded had all been dragg'd (to give a better chance also for plunder,)
out of their wagons; some had been effectually dispatch'd, and their
bodies were lying there lifeless and bloody. Others, not yet dead,
but horribly mutilated, were moaning or groaning. Of our men who
surrender'd, most had been thus maim'd or slaughter'd.

At this instant a force of our cavalry, who had been following the
train at some interval, charged suddenly upon the secesh captors, who
proceeded at once to make the best escape they could. Most of them got
away, but we gobbled two officers and seventeen men, in the very acts
just described. The sight was one which admitted of little discussion,
as may be imagined. The seventeen captur'd men and two officers were put
under guard for the night, but it was decided there and then that they
should die. The next morning the two officers were taken in the
town, separate places, put in the centre of the street, and shot. The
seventeen men were taken to an open ground, a little one side. They
were placed in a hollow square, half-encompass'd by two of our cavalry
regiments, one of which regiments had three days before found the bloody
corpses of three of their men hamstrung and hung up by the heels to
limbs of trees by Moseby's guerillas, and the other had not long before
had twelve men, after surrendering, shot and then hung by the neck to
limbs of trees, and jeering inscriptions pinn'd to the breast of one of
the corpses, who had been a sergeant. Those three, and those twelve, had
been found, I say, by these environing regiments. Now, with revolvers,
they form'd the grim cordon of the seventeen prisoners. The latter were
placed in the midst of the hollow square, unfasten'd, and the ironical
remark made to them that they were now to be given "a chance for
themselves." A few ran for it. But what use? From every side the deadly
pills came. In a few minutes the seventeen corpses strew'd the hollow
square. I was curious to know whether some of the Union soldiers, some
few, (some one or two at least of the youngsters,) did not abstain from
shooting on the helpless men. Not one. There was no exultation, very
little said, almost nothing, yet every man there contributed his shot.

Multiply the above by scores, aye hundreds--verify it in all the forms
that different circumstances, individuals, places, could afford--light
it with every lurid passion, the wolf's, the lion's lapping thirst for
blood--the passionate, boiling volcanoes of human revenge for comrades,
brothers slain--with the light of burning farms, and heaps of smutting,
smouldering black embers--and in the human heart everywhere black, worse
embers--and you have an inkling of this war.


As a very large proportion of the wounded came up from the front without
a cent of money in their pockets, I soon discover'd that it was about
the best thing I could do to raise their spirits, and show them that
somebody cared for them, and practically felt a fatherly or brotherly
interest in them, to give them small sums in such cases, using tact and
discretion about it. I am regularly supplied with funds for this purpose
by good women and men in Boston, Salem, Providence, Brooklyn, and
New York. I provide myself with a quantity of bright new ten-cent and
five-cent bills, and, when I think it incumbent, I give 25 or 30
cents, or perhaps 50 cents, and occasionally a still larger sum to some
particular case. As I have started this subject, I take opportunity to
ventilate the financial question. My supplies, altogether voluntary,
mostly confidential, often seeming quite Providential, were numerous
and varied. For instance, there were two distant and wealthy ladies,
sisters, who sent regularly, for two years, quite heavy sums, enjoining
that their names should be kept secret. The same delicacy was indeed a
frequent condition. From several I had _carte blanche_. Many were entire
strangers. From these sources, during from two to three years, in the
manner described, in the hospitals, I bestowed, as almoner for others,
many, many thousands of dollars. I learn'd one thing conclusively--that
beneath all the ostensible greed and heartlessness of our times there
is no end to the generous benevolence of men and women in the United
States, when once sure of their object. Another thing became clear to
me--while _cash_ is not amiss to bring up the rear, tact and magnetic
sympathy and unction are, and ever will be, sovereign still.


Some of the half-eras'd, and not over-legible when made, memoranda of
things wanted by one patient or another, will convey quite a fair idea.
D. S. G., bed 52, wants a good book; has a sore, weak throat; would like
some horehound candy; is from New Jersey, 28th regiment. C. H. L., 145th
Pennsylvania, lies in bed 6, with jaundice and erysipelas; also wounded;
stomach easily nauseated; bring him some oranges, also a little tart
jelly; hearty, full-blooded young fellow--(he got better in a few days,
and is now home on a furlough.) J. H. G., bed 24, wants an undershirt,
drawers, and socks; has not had a change for quite a while; is evidently
a neat, clean boy from New England--(I supplied him; also with a comb,
tooth-brush, and some soap and towels; I noticed afterward he was the
cleanest of the whole ward.) Mrs. G., lady-nurse, ward F, wants a bottle
of brandy--has two patients imperatively requiring stimulus--low with
wounds and exhaustion. (I supplied her with a bottle of first-rate
brandy from the Christian commission rooms.)


Well, Poor John Mahay is dead. He died yesterday. His was a painful and
long-lingering case (see p. 24 _ante_.) I have been with him at times
for the past fifteen months. He belonged to company A, 101st New York,
and was shot through the lower region of the abdomen at second Bull Run,
August, '62. One scene at his bedside will suffice for the agonies of
nearly two years. The bladder had been perforated by a bullet going
entirely through him. Not long since I sat a good part of the morning by
his bedside, ward E, Armory square. The water ran out of his eyes from
the intense pain, and the muscles of his face were distorted, but he
utter'd nothing except a low groan now and then. Hot moist cloths were
applied, and reliev'd him somewhat. Poor Mahay, a mere boy in age, but
old in misfortune. He never knew the love of parents, was placed in
infancy in one of the New York charitable institutions, and subsequently
bound out to a tyrannical master in Sullivan county, (the scars of whose
cowhide and club remain'd yet on his back.) His wound here was a most
disagreeable one, for he was a gentle, cleanly, and affectionate boy.
He found friends in his hospital life, and, indeed, was a universal
favorite. He had quite a funeral ceremony.


I must bear my most emphatic testimony to the zeal, manliness, and
professional spirit and capacity, generally prevailing among the
surgeons, many of them young men, in the hospitals and the army. I will
not say much about the exceptions, for they are few; (but I have met
some of those few, and very incompetent and airish they were.) I never
ceas'd to find the best men, and the hardest and most disinterested
workers, among the surgeons in the hospitals. They are full of genius,
too. I have seen many hundreds of them and this is my testimony. There
are, however, serious deficiencies, wastes, sad want of system, in the
commissions, contributions, and in all the voluntary, and a great part
of the governmental nursing, edibles, medicines, stores, &c. (I do not
say surgical attendance, because the surgeons cannot do more than human
endurance permits.) Whatever puffing accounts there may be in the papers
of the North, this is the actual fact. No thorough previous preparation,
no system, no foresight, no genius. Always plenty of stores, no doubt,
but never where they are needed, and never the proper application.
Of all harrowing experiences, none is greater than that of the days
following a heavy battle. Scores, hundreds of the noblest men on earth,
uncomplaining, lie helpless, mangled, faint, alone, and so bleed to
death, or die from exhaustion, either actually untouch'd at all, or
merely the laying of them down and leaving them, when there ought to be
means provided to save them.


This city, its suburbs, the capitol, the front of the White House, the
places of amusement, the Avenue, and all the main streets, swarm with
soldiers this winter, more than ever before. Some are out from the
hospitals, some from the neighboring camps, &c. One source or another,
they pour plenteously, and make, I should say, the mark'd feature in the
human movement and costume-appearance of our national city. Their blue
pants and overcoats are everywhere. The clump of crutches is heard up
the stairs of the paymasters' offices, and there are characteristic
groups around the doors of the same, often waiting long and wearily
in the cold. Toward the latter part of the afternoon, you see the
furlough'd men, sometimes singly, sometimes in small squads, making
their way to the Baltimore depot. At all times, except early in the
morning, the patrol detachments are moving around, especially during the
earlier hours of evening, examining passes, and arresting all soldiers
without them. They do not question the one-legged, or men badly disabled
or main'd, but all others are stopt. They also go around evenings
through the auditoriums of the theatres, and make officers and all show
their passes, or other authority, for being there.


_Sunday, January 29th, 1865_.--Have been in Armory-square this
afternoon. The wards are very comfortable, new floors and plaster walls,
and models of neatness. I am not sure but this is a model hospital after
all, in important respects. I found several sad cases of old lingering
wounds. One Delaware soldier, William H. Millis, from Bridgeville, whom
I had been with after the battles of the Wilderness, last May, where he
receiv'd a very bad wound in the chest, with another in the left arm,
and whose case was serious (pneumonia had set in) all last June and
July, I now find well enough to do light duty. For three weeks at the
time mention'd he just hovered between life and death.


As I walk'd home about sunset, I saw in Fourteenth street a very young
soldier, thinly clad, standing near the house I was about to enter. I
stopt a moment in front of the door and call'd him to me. I knew that an
old Tennessee regiment, and also an Indiana regiment, were temporarily
stopping in new barracks, near Fourteenth street. This boy I found
belonged to the Tennessee regiment. But I could hardly believe he
carried a musket. He was but 15 years old, yet had been twelve months a
soldier, and had borne his part in several battles, even historic
ones. I ask'd him if he did not suffer from the cold, and if he had
no overcoat. No, he did not suffer from cold, and had no overcoat, but
could draw one whenever he wish'd. His father was dead, and his mother
living in some part of East Tennessee; all the men were from that
part of the country. The next forenoon I saw the Tennessee and Indiana
regiments marching down the Avenue. My boy was with the former, stepping
along with the rest. There were many other boys no older. I stood and
watch'd them as they tramp'd along with slow, strong, heavy, regular
steps. There did not appear to be a man over 30 years of age, and a
large proportion were from 15 to perhaps 22 or 23. They had all the look
of veterans, worn, stain'd, impassive, and a certain unbent, lounging
gait, carrying in addition to their regular arms and knapsacks,
frequently a frying-pan, broom, &c. They were all of pleasant
physiognomy; no refinement, nor blanch'd with intellect, but as my eye
pick'd them, moving along, rank by rank, there did not seem to be a
single repulsive, brutal or markedly stupid face among them.


Here is an incident just occurr'd in one of the hospitals. A lady named
Miss or Mrs. Billings, who has long been a practical friend of soldiers,
and nurse in the army, and had become attached to it in a way that no
one can realize but him or her who has had experience, was taken sick,
early this winter, linger'd some time, and finally died in the hospital.
It was her request that she should be buried among the soldiers, and
after the military method. This request was fully carried out. Her
coffin was carried to the grave by soldiers, with the usual escort,
buried, and a salute fired over the grave. This was at Annapolis a few
days since.


There are many women in one position or another, among the hospitals,
mostly as nurses here in Washington, and among the military stations;
quite a number of them young ladies acting as volunteers. They are a
help in certain ways, and deserve to be mention'd with respect. Then
it remains to be distinctly said that few or no young ladies, under the
irresistible conventions of society, answer the practical requirements
of nurses for soldiers. Middle-aged or healthy and good condition'd
elderly women, mothers of children, are always best. Many of the wounded
must be handled. A hundred things which cannot be gainsay'd, must occur
and must be done. The presence of a good middle-aged or elderly woman,
the magnetic touch of hands, the expressive features of the mother, the
silent soothing of her presence, her words, her knowledge and privileges
arrived at only through having had children, are precious and final
qualifications. It is a natural faculty that is required; it is not
merely having a genteel young woman at a table in a ward. One of the
finest nurses I met was a red-faced illiterate old Irish woman; I have
seen her take the poor wasted naked boys so tenderly up in her arms.
There are plenty of excellent clean old black women that would make
tip-top nurses.


_Feb. 23, '65_.--I saw a large procession of young men from the rebel
army, (deserters they are call'd, but the usual meaning of the word does
not apply to them,) passing the Avenue to-day. There were nearly 200,
come up yesterday by boat from James river. I stood and watch'd them
as they shuffled along, in a slow, tired, worn sort of way; a large
proportion of light-hair'd, blonde, light gray-eyed young men among
them. Their costumes had a dirt-stain'd uniformity; most had been
originally gray; some had articles of our uniform, pants on one, vest
or coat on another; I think they were mostly Georgia and North Carolina
boys. They excited little or no attention. As I stood quite close to
them, several good looking enough youths, (but O what a tale of misery
their appearance told,) nodded or just spoke to me, without doubt
divining pity and fatherliness out of my face, for my heart was full
enough of it. Several of the couples trudg'd along with their arms about
each other, some probably brothers, as if they were afraid they might
somehow get separated. They nearly all look'd what one might call
simple, yet intelligent, too. Some had pieces of old carpet, some
blankets, and others old bags around their shoulders. Some of them here
and there had fine faces, still it was a procession of misery. The two
hundred had with them about half a dozen arm'd guards. Along this week
I saw some such procession, more or less in numbers, every day, as they
were brought up by the boat. The government does what it can for them,
and sends them north and west.

_Feb. 27_.--Some three or four hundred more escapees from the
confederate army came up on the boat. As the day has been very pleasant
indeed, (after a long spell of bad weather,) I have been wandering
around a good deal, without any other object than to be out-doors and
enjoy it; have met these escaped men in all directions. Their apparel is
the same ragged, long-worn motley as before described. I talk'd with a
number of the men. Some are quite bright and stylish, for all their poor
clothes--walking with an air, wearing their old head-coverings on one
side, quite saucily. I find the old, unquestionable proofs, as all
along the past four years, of the unscrupulous tyranny exercised by the
secession government in conscripting the common people by absolute force
everywhere, and paying no attention whatever to the men's time being
up--keeping them in military service just the same. One gigantic young
fellow, a Georgian, at least six feet three inches high, broad-sized in
proportion, attired in the dirtiest, drab, well smear'd rags, tied
with strings, his trousers at the knees all strips and streamers, was
complacently standing eating some bread and meat. He appear'd contented
enough. Then a few minutes after I saw him slowly walking along. It was
plain he did not take anything to heart.

_Feb. 28._--As I pass'd the military headquarters of the city, not far
from the President's house, I stopt to interview some of the crowd of
escapees who were lounging there. In appearance they were the same as
previously mention'd. Two of them, one about 17, and the other perhaps
25 or '6, I talk'd with some time. They were from North Carolina, born
and rais'd there, and had folks there. The elder had been in the rebel
service four years. He was first conscripted for two years. He was then
kept arbitrarily in the ranks. This is the case with a large proportion
of the secession army. There was nothing downcast in these young
men's manners; the younger had been soldiering about a year; he was
conscripted; there were six brothers (all the boys of the family) in
the army, part of them as conscripts, part as volunteers; three had been
kill'd; one had escaped about four months ago, and now this one had got
away; he was a pleasant and well-talking lad, with the peculiar North
Carolina idiom (not at all disagreeable to my ears.) He and the elder
one were of the same company, and escaped together--and wish'd to remain
together. They thought of getting transportation away to Missouri, and
working there; but were not sure it was judicious. I advised them rather
to go to some of the directly northern States, and get farm work for the
present. The younger had made six dollars on the boat, with some tobacco
he brought; he had three and a half left. The elder had nothing; I
gave him a trifle. Soon after, met John Wormley, 9th Alabama, a West
Tennessee rais' d boy, parents both dead--had the look of one for a long
time on short allowance--said very little--chew'd tobacco at a fearful
rate, spitting in proportion--large clear dark-brown eyes, very
fine--didn't know what to make of me--told me at last he wanted much
to get some clean underclothes, and a pair of decent pants. Didn't care
about coat or hat fixings. Wanted a chance to wash himself well, and
put on the underclothes. I had the very great pleasure of helping him to
accomplish all those wholesome designs.

_March 1st_.--Plenty more butternut or clay-color'd escapees every
day. About 160 came in to-day, a large portion South Carolinians. They
generally take the oath of allegiance, and are sent north, west, or
extreme south-west if they wish. Several of them told me that the
desertions in their army, of men going home, leave or no leave, are far
more numerous than their desertions to our side. I saw a very forlorn
looking squad of about a hundred, late this afternoon, on their way to
the Baltimore depot.


To-night I have been wandering awhile in the capitol, which is all lit
up. The illuminated rotunda looks fine. I like to stand aside and look a
long, long while, up at the dome; it comforts me somehow. The House and
Senate were both in session till very late. I look'd in upon them, but
only a few moments; they were hard at work on tax and appropriation
bills. I wander'd through the long and rich corridors and apartments
under the Senate; an old habit of mine, former winters, and now more
satisfaction than ever. Not many persons down there, occasionally a
flitting figure in the distance.


_March 4th._--The President very quietly rode down to the capitol in his
own carriage, by himself, on a sharp trot, about noon, either because
he wish'd to be on hand to sign bills, or to get rid of marching in line
with the absurd procession, the muslin temple of liberty and pasteboard
monitor. I saw him on his return, at three o'clock, after the
performance was over. He was in his plain two-horse barouche, and look'd
very much worn and tired; the lines, indeed, of vast responsibilities,
intricate questions, and demands of life and death, cut deeper than ever
upon his dark brown face; yet all the old goodness, tenderness, sadness,
and canny shrewdness, underneath the furrows. (I never see that man
without feeling that he is one to become personally attach'd to, for his
combination of purest, heartiest tenderness, and native western form of
manliness.) By his side sat his little boy, of ten years. There were no
soldiers, only a lot of civilians on horseback, with huge yellow scarfs
over their shoulders, riding around the carriage. (At the inauguration
four years ago, he rode down and back again surrounded by a dense
mass of arm'd cavalrymen eight deep, with drawn sabres; and there were
sharpshooters station'd at every corner on the route.) I ought to make
mention of the closing levee of Saturday night last. Never before was
such a compact jam in front of the White House--all the grounds fill'd,
and away out to the spacious sidewalks. I was there, as I took a
notion to go--was in the rush inside with the crowd--surged along the
passage-ways, the blue and other rooms, and through the great east room.
Crowds of country people, some very funny. Fine music from the Marine
band, off in a side place. I saw Mr. Lincoln, drest all in black, with
white kid gloves and a claw-hammer coat, receiving, as in duty bound,
shaking hands, looking very disconsolate, and as if he would give
anything to be somewhere else.


Looking over my scraps, I find I wrote the following during 1864. The
happening to our America, abroad as well as at home, these years, is
indeed most strange. The democratic republic has paid her today the
terrible and resplendent compliment of the united wish of all the
nations of the world that her union should be broken, her future
cut off, and that she should be compell'd to descend to the level
of kingdoms and empires ordinarily great. There is certainly not one
government in Europe but is now watching the war in this country, with
the ardent prayer that the United States may be effectually split,
crippled, and dismember'd by it. There is not one but would help toward
that dismemberment, if it dared. I say such is the ardent wish to-day of
England and of France, as governments, and of all the nations of Europe,
as governments. I think indeed it is to-day the real, heartfelt wish
of all the nations of the world, with the single exception of
Mexico--Mexico, the only one to whom we have ever really done wrong,
and now the only one who prays for us and for our triumph, with genuine
prayer. Is it not indeed strange? America, made up of all, cheerfully
from the beginning opening her arms to all, the result and justifier of
all, of Britain, Germany, France and Spain--all here--the accepter, the
friend, hope, last resource and general house of all--she who has
harm'd none, but been bounteous to so many, to millions, the mother of
strangers and exiles, all nations--should now, I say, be paid this dread
compliment of general governmental fear and hatred. Are we indignant?
alarm'd? Do we feel jeopardized? No; help'd, braced, concentrated,
rather. We are all too prone to wander from ourselves, to affect Europe,
and watch her frowns and smiles. We need this hot lesson of general
hatred, and henceforth must never forget it. Never again will we trust
the moral sense nor abstract friendliness of a single _government_ of
the old world.


Whether the rains, the heat and cold, and what underlies them all,
are affected with what affects man in masses, and follow his play of
passionate action, strain'd stronger than usual, and on a larger scale
than usual--whether this, or no, it is certain that there is now, and
has been for twenty months or more, on this American continent north,
many a remarkable, many an unprecedented expression of the subtile world
of air above us and around us. There, since this war, and the wide and
deep national agitation, strange analogies, different combinations, a
different sunlight, or absence of it; different products even out of the
ground. After every great battle, a great storm. Even civic events the
same. On Saturday last, a forenoon like whirling demons, dark, with
slanting rain, full of rage; and then the afternoon, so calm, so bathed
with flooding splendor from heaven's most excellent sun, with atmosphere
of sweetness; so clear, it show'd the stars, long long before they were
due. As the President came out on the capitol portico, a curious little
white cloud, the only one in that part of the sky, appear'd like a
hovering bird, right over him.

Indeed, the heavens, the elements, all the meteorological influences,
have run riot for weeks past. Such caprices, abruptest alternation of
frowns and beauty, I never knew. It is a common remark that (as last
summer was different in its spells of intense heat from any preceding
it,) the winter just completed has been without parallel. It has
remain'd so down to the hour I am writing. Much of the daytime of the
past month was sulky, with leaden heaviness, fog, interstices of bitter
cold, and some insane storms. But there have been samples of another
description. Nor earth nor sky ever knew spectacles of superber beauty
than some of the nights lately here. The western star, Venus, in the
earlier hours of evening, has never been so large, so clear; it seems
as if it told something, as if it held rapport indulgent with humanity,
with us Americans. Five or six nights since, it hung close by the moon,
then a little past its first quarter. The star was wonderful, the moon
like a young mother. The sky, dark blue, the transparent night, the
planets, the moderate west wind, the elastic temperature, the miracle of
that great star, and the young and swelling moon swimming in the west,
suffused the soul. Then I heard, slow and clear, the deliberate notes of
a bugle come up out of the silence, sounding so good through the night's
mystery, no hurry, but firm and faithful, floating along, rising,
falling leisurely, with here and there a long-drawn note; the bugle,
well play'd, sounding tattoo, in one of the army hospitals near here,
where the wounded (some of them personally so dear to me,) are lying
in their cots, and many a sick boy come down to the war from Illinois,
Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the rest.


_March 6_.--I have been up to look at the dance and supper-rooms,
for the inauguration ball at the Patent office; and I could not help
thinking, what a different scene they presented to my view a while
since, fill'd with a crowded mass of the worst wounded of the war,
brought in from second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburgh.
To-night, beautiful women, perfumes, the violin's sweetness, the polka
and the waltz; then the amputation, the blue face, the groan, the glassy
eye of the dying, the clotted rag, the odor of wounds and blood, and
many a mother's son amid strangers, passing away untended there, (for
the crowd of the badly hurt was great, and much for nurse to do, and
much for surgeon.)


I must mention a strange scene at the capitol, the hall of
Representatives, the morning of Saturday last, (March 4th.) The day just
dawn'd, but in half-darkness, everything dim, leaden, and soaking. In
that dim light, the members nervous from long drawn duty, exhausted,
some asleep, and many half asleep. The gas-light, mix'd with the
dingy day-break, produced an unearthly effect. The poor little sleepy,
stumbling pages, the smell of the hall, the members with heads leaning
on their desks, the sounds of the voices speaking, with unusual
intonations--the general moral atmosphere also of the close of this
important session--the strong hope that the war is approaching its
close--the tantalizing dread lest the hope may be a false one--the
grandeur of the hall itself, with its effect of vast shadows up toward
the panels and spaces over the galleries--all made a mark'd combination.

In the midst of this, with the suddenness of a thunderbolt, burst one of
the most angry and crashing storms of rain and hail ever heard. It
beat like a deluge on the heavy glass roof of the hall, and the wind
literally howl'd and roar'd. For a moment, (and no wonder,) the nervous
and sleeping Representatives were thrown into confusion. The slumberers
awaked with fear, some started for the doors, some look'd up with
blanch'd cheeks and lips to the roof, and the little pages began to cry;
it was a scene. But it was over almost as soon as the drowsied men were
actually awake. They recover'd themselves; the storm raged on, beating,
dashing, and with loud noises at times. But the House went ahead with
its business then, I think, as calmly and with as much deliberation as
at any time in its career. Perhaps the shock did it good. (One is not
without impression, after all, amid these members of Congress, of both
the Houses, that if the flat routine of their duties should ever be
broken in upon by some great emergency involving real danger, and
calling for first-class personal qualities, those qualities would be
found generally forthcoming, and from men not now credited with them.)


_March 27, 1865_.--Sergeant Calvin F. Harlowe, company C, 29th
Massachusetts, 3d brigade, 1st division, Ninth corps--a mark'd sample
of heroism and death, (some may say bravado, but I say heroism, of
grandest, oldest order)--in the late attack by the rebel troops, and
temporary capture by them, of fort Steadman, at night. The fort was
surprised at dead of night. Suddenly awaken'd from their sleep, and
rushing from their tents, Harlowe, with others, found himself in the
hands of the secesh--they demanded his surrender--he answer'd, _Never
while I live_. (Of course it was useless. The others surrender'd; the
odds were too great.) Again he was ask'd to yield, this time by a rebel
captain. Though surrounded, and quite calm, he again refused, call'd
sternly to his comrades to fight on, and himself attempted to do so.
The rebel captain then shot him--but at the same instant he shot the
captain. Both fell together mortally wounded. Harlowe died almost
instantly. The rebels were driven out in a very short time. The body
was buried next day, but soon taken up and sent home, (Plymouth county,
Mass.) Harlowe was only 22 years of age--was a tall, slim, dark-hair'd,
blue-eyed young man--had come out originally with the 29th; and that
is the way he met his death, after four years' campaign. He was in the
Seven Days fight before Richmond, in second Bull Run, Antietam, first
Fredericksburgh, Vicksburgh, Jackson, Wilderness, and the campaigns
following--was as good a soldier as ever wore the blue, and every old
officer in the regiment will bear that testimony. Though so young, and
in a common rank, he had a spirit as resolute and brave as any hero
in the books, ancient or modern--It was too great to say the words "I
surrender"--and so he died. (When I think of such things, knowing them
well, all the vast and complicated events of the war, on which history
dwells and makes its volumes, fall aside, and for the moment at any rate
I see nothing but young Calvin Harlowe's figure in the night, disdaining
to surrender.)


The war is over, but the hospitals are fuller than ever, from former and
current cases. A large' majority of the wounds are in the arms and legs.
But there is every kind of wound, in every part of the body. I should
say of the sick, from my observation, that the prevailing maladies
are typhoid fever and the camp fevers generally, diarrhoea, catarrhal
affections and bronchitis, rheumatism and pneumonia. These forms of
sickness lead; all the rest follow. There are twice as many sick as
there are wounded. The deaths range from seven to ten per cent, of those
under treatment.[7]


[7] In the U. S. Surgeon-General's office since, there is a formal
record and treatment of 153, 142 cases of wounds by government surgeons.
What must have been the number unofficial, indirect--to say nothing of
the Southern armies?


_April 16, '65_.--I find in my notes of the time, this passage on the
death of Abraham Lincoln: He leaves for America's history and biography,
so far, not only its most dramatic reminiscence--he leaves, in my
opinion, the greatest, best, most characteristic, artistic, moral
personality. Not but that he had faults, and show'd them in the
Presidency; but honesty, goodness, shrewdness, conscience, and (a new
virtue, unknown to other lands, and hardly yet really known here, but
the foundation and tie of all, as the future will grandly develop,)
UNIONISM, in its truest and amplest sense, form'd the hard-pan of his
character. These he seal'd with his life. The tragic splendor of his
death, purging, illuminating all, throws round his form, his head, an
aureole that will remain and will grow brighter through time, while
history lives, and love of country lasts. By many has this Union been
help'd; but if one name, one man, must be pick'd out, he, most of all,
is the conservator of it, to the future. He was assassinated--but the
Union is not assassinated--_ça ira_! One falls and another falls. The
soldier drops, sinks like a wave--but the ranks of the ocean
eternally press on. Death does its work, obliterates a hundred, a
thousand--President, general, captain, private,--but the Nation is


When Sherman's armies, (long after they left Atlanta,) were marching
through Southand North Carolina--after leaving Savannah, the news of
Lee's capitulation having been receiv'd--the men never mov'd a mile
without from some part of the line sending up continued, inspiriting
shouts. At intervals all day long sounded out the wild music of those
peculiar army cries. They would be commenc'd by one regiment or brigade,
immediately taken up by others, and at length whole corps and armies
would join in these wild triumphant choruses. It was one of the
characteristic expressions of the western troops, and became a habit,
serving as a relief and outlet to the men--a vent for their feelings of
victory, returning peace, &c. Morning, noon, and afternoon, spontaneous,
for occasion or without occasion, these huge, strange cries, differing
from any other, echoing through the open air for many a mile, expressing
youth, joy, wildness, irrepressible strength, and the ideas of advance
and conquest, sounded along the swamps and uplands of the South,
floating to the skies. ("There never were men that kept in better
spirits in danger or defeat--what then could they do in victory?"--said
one of the 15th corps to me, afterwards.) This exuberance continued till
the armies arrived at Raleigh. There the news of the President's murder
was receiv'd. Then no more shouts or yells, for a week. All the marching
was comparatively muffled. It was very significant--hardly a loud word
or laugh in many of the regiments. A hush and silence pervaded all.


Probably the reader has seen physiognomies (often old farmers,
sea-captains, and such) that, behind their homeliness, or even ugliness,
held superior points so subtle, yet so palpable, making the real life
of their faces almost as impossible to depict as a wild perfume or
fruit-taste, or a passionate tone of the living voice--and such was
Lincoln's face, the peculiar color, the lines of it, the eyes, mouth,
expression. Of technical beauty it had nothing--but to the eye of a
great artist it furnished a rare study, a feast and fascination. The
current portraits are all failures--most of them caricatures.


The releas'd prisoners of war are now coming up from the southern
prisons. I have seen a number of them. The sight is worse than any sight
of battle-fields, or any collection of wounded, even the bloodiest.
There was, (as a sample,) one large boat load, of several hundreds,
brought about the 25th, to Annapolis; and out of the whole number only
three individuals were able to walk from the boat. The rest were carried
ashore and laid down in one place or another. Can those be _men_--those
little livid brown, ash-streak'd, monkey-looking dwarfs?--are they
really not mummied, dwindled corpses? They lay there, most of them,
quite still, but with a horrible look in their eyes and skinny lips
(often with not enough flesh on the lips to cover their teeth.) Probably
no more appalling sight was ever seen on this earth. (There are deeds,
crimes, that may be forgiven; but this is not among them. It steeps its
perpetrators in blackest, escapeless, endless damnation. Over 50,000
have been compell' d to die the death of starvation--reader, did
you ever try to realize what _starvation_ actually is?--in those
prisons--and in a land of plenty.) An indescribable meanness, tyranny,
aggravating course of insults, almost incredible--was evidently the rule
of treatment through all the southern military prisons. The dead there
are not to be pitied as much as some of the living that come from
there--if they can be call' d living--many of them are mentally
imbecile, and will never recuperate.[8]


PRISONS," _published serially in the Toledo "Blade" in 1879, and
afterwards in book form_.

"There is a deep fascination in the subject of Andersonville--for that
Golgotha, in which lie the whitening bones of 13,000 gallant young
men, represents the dearest and costliest sacrifice of the war for the
preservation of our national unity. It is a type, too, of its class. Its
more than hundred hecatombs of dead represent several times that number
of their brethren, for whom the prison gates of Belle Isle, Danville,
Salisbury, Florence, Columbia, and Cahaba open'd only in eternity. There
are few families in the North who have not at least one dear relative or
friend among these 60,000 whose sad fortune it was to end their service
for the Union by lying down and dying for it in a southern prison pen.
The manner of their death, the horrors that cluster'd thickly around
every moment of their existence, the loyal, unfaltering steadfastness
with which they endured all that fate had brought them, has never been
adequately told. It was not with them as with their comrades in the
field, whose every act was perform'd in the presence of those whose duty
it was to observe such matters and report them to the world. Hidden from
the view of their friends in the north by the impenetrable veil
which the military operations of the rebels drew around the so-called
confederacy, the people knew next to nothing of their career or their
sufferings. Thousands died there less heeded even than the hundreds
who perish'd on the battlefield. Grant did not lose as many men kill'd
outright, in the terrible campaign from the Wilderness to the James
river--43 days of desperate fighting--as died in July and August at
Andersonville. Nearly twice as many died in that prison as fell from the
day that Grant cross'd the Rapidan, till he settled down in the trenches
before Petersburg. More than four times as many Union dead lie under
the solemn soughing pines about that forlorn little village in southern
Georgia, than mark the course of Sherman from Chattanooga to Atlanta.
The nation stands aghast at the expenditure of life which attended the
two bloody campaigns of 1864, which virtually crush'd the confederacy,
but no one remembers that more Union soldiers died in the rear of the
rebel lines than were kill'd in the front of them. The great military
events which stamp'd out the rebellion drew attention away from the sad
drama which starvation and disease play'd in those gloomy pens in the
far recesses of sombre southern forests."

_From a letter of "Johnny Bouquet," in N. Y. "Tribune," March 27, '81._

"I visited at Salisbury, N. C., the prison pen or the site of it, from
which nearly 11,000 victims of southern politicians were buried, being
confined in a pen without shelter, exposed to all the elements could do,
to all the disease herding animals together could create, and to all
the starvation and cruelty an incompetent and intense caitiff government
could accomplish. From the conversation and almost from the recollection
of the northern people this place has dropp' d, but not so in the gossip
of the Salisbury people, nearly all of whom say that the half was
never told; that such was the nature of habitual outrage here that when
Federal prisoners escaped the townspeople harbor'd them in their barns,
afraid the vengeance of God would fall on them, to deliver even their
enemies back to such cruelty. Said one old man at the Boyden House, who
join'd in the conversation one evening: 'There were often men buried out
of that prison pen still alive. I have the testimony of a surgeon that
he had seen them pull'd out of the dead cart with their eyes open and
taking notice, but too weak to lift a finger. There was not the least
excuse for such treatment, as the confederate government had seized
every sawmill in the region, and could just as well have put up shelter
for these prisoners as not, wood being plentiful here. It will be hard
to make any honest man in Salisbury say that there was the slightest
necessity for those prisoners having to live in old tents, caves
and holes half-full of water. Representations were made to the Davis
government against the officers in charge of it, but no attention
was paid to them. Promotion was the punishment for cruelty there. The
inmates were skeletons. Hell could have no terrors for any man who died
there, except the inhuman keepers.'"


_Frank H. Irwin, company E, 93rd Pennsylvania--died May 1, '65--My
letter to his mother_--Dear madam: No doubt you and Frank's friends have
heard the sad fact of his death in hospital here, through his uncle,
or the lady from Baltimore, who took his things. (I have not seen them,
only heard of them visiting Frank.) I will write you a few lines--as
a casual friend that sat by his death-bed. Your son, corporal Frank H.
Irwin, was wounded near fort Fisher, Virginia, March 25th, 1865--the
wound was in the left knee, pretty bad. He was sent up to Washington,
was receiv'd in ward C, Armory-square hospital, March 28th--the wound
became worse, and on the 4th of April the leg was amputated a little
above the knee--the operation was perform' d by Dr. Bliss, one of the
best surgeons in the army--he did the whole operation himself--there was
a good deal of bad matter gather'd--the bullet was found in the knee.
For a couple of weeks afterwards he was doing pretty well. I visited
and sat by him frequently, as he was fond of having me. The last ten or
twelve days of April I saw that his case was critical. He previously had
some fever, with cold spells. The last week in April he was much of
the time flighty--but always mild and gentle. He died first of May. The
actual cause of death was pyaemia, (the absorption of the matter in the
system instead of its discharge.) Frank, as far as I saw, had everything
requisite in surgical treatment, nursing, &c. He had watches much of the
time. He was so good and well-behaved and affectionate, I myself liked
him very much. I was in the habit of coming in afternoons and sitting by
him, and soothing him, and he liked to have me--liked to put his arm out
and lay his hand on my knee--would keep it so a long while. Toward the
last he was more restless and flighty at night--often fancied himself
with his regiment--by his talk sometimes seem'd as if his feelings
were hurt by being blamed by his officers for something he was entirely
innocent of--said, "I never in my life was thought capable of such a
thing, and never was." At other times he would fancy himself talking as
it seem'd to children or such like, his relatives I suppose, and giving
them good advice; would talk to them a long while. All the time he was
out of his head not one single bad word or idea escaped him. It was
remark'd that many a man's conversation in his senses was not half as
good as Frank's delirium. He seem'd quite willing to die--he had become
very weak and had suffer'd a good deal, and was perfectly resign'd, poor
boy. I do not know his past life, but I feel as if it must have
been good. At any rate what I saw of him here, under the most trying
circumstances, with a painful wound, and among strangers, I can say
that he behaved so brave, so composed, and so sweet and affectionate,
it could not be surpass'd. And now like many other noble and good men,
after serving his country as a soldier, he has yielded up his young life
at the very outset in her service. Such things are gloomy--yet there
is a text, "God doeth all things well"--the meaning of which, after due
time, appears to the soul.

I thought perhaps a few words, though from a stranger, about your son,
from one who was with him at the last, might be worth while--for I loved
the young man, though I but saw him immediately to lose him. I am merely
a friend visiting the hospitals occasionally to cheer the wounded and

W. W.


_May 7_.--Sunday.--To-day as I was walking a mile or two south of
Alexandria, I fell in with several large squads of the returning Western
army, (Sherman's men as they call'd themselves) about a thousand in all,
the largest portion of them half sick, some convalescents, on their way
to a hospital camp. These fragmentary excerpts, with the unmistakable
Western physiognomy and idioms, crawling along slowly--after a great
campaign, blown this way, as it were, out of their latitude--I mark'd
with curiosity, and talk'd with off and on for over an hour. Here and
there was one very sick; but all were able to walk, except some of
the last, who had given out, and were seated on the ground, faint and
despondent. These I tried to cheer, told them the camp they were to
reach was only a little way further over the hill, and so got them up
and started, accompanying some of the worst a little way, and helping
them, or putting them under the support of stronger comrades.

_May 21_.--Saw General Sheridan and his cavalry to-day; a strong,
attractive sight; the men were mostly young, (a few middle-aged,)
superb-looking fellows, brown, spare, keen, with well-worn clothing,
many with pieces of water-proof cloth around their shoulders, hanging
down. They dash'd along pretty fast, in wide close ranks, all spatter'd
with mud; no holiday soldiers; brigade after brigade. I could have
watch'd for a week. Sheridan stood on a balcony, under a big tree,
coolly smoking a cigar. His looks and manner impress'd me favorably.

_May 22_.--Have been taking a walk along Pennsylvania avenue and Seventh
street north. The city is full of soldiers, running around loose.
Officers everywhere, of all grades. All have the weatherbeaten look of
practical service. It is a sight I never tire of. All the armies are
now here (or portions of them,) for to-morrow's review. You see them
swarming like bees everywhere.


For two days now the broad spaces of Pennsylvania avenue along to
Treasury hill, and so by detour around to the President's house, and so
up to Georgetown, and across the aqueduct bridge, have been alive with a
magnificent sight, the returning armies. In their wide ranks stretching
clear across the Avenue, I watch them march or ride along, at a brisk
pace, through two whole days--infantry, cavalry, artillery--some 200,000
men. Some days afterwards one or two other corps; and then, still
afterwards, a good part of Sherman's immense army, brought up from
Charleston, Savannah, &c.


_May 26-7_.--The streets, the public buildings and grounds of
Washington, still swarm with soldiers from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio,
Missouri, Iowa, and all the Western States. I am continually meeting and
talking with them. They often speak to me first, and always show great
sociability, and glad to have a good interchange of chat. These Western
soldiers are more slow in their movements, and in their intellectual
quality also; have no extreme alertness. They are larger in size, have a
more serious physiognomy, are continually looking at you as they pass in
the street. They are largely animal, and handsomely so. During the war
I have been at times with the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Seventeenth, and
Twentieth Corps. I always feel drawn toward the men, and like their
personal contact when we are crowded close together, as frequently these
days in the street-cars. They all think the world of General Sherman;
call him "old Bill," or sometimes "uncle Billy."


_May 28_.--As I sat by the bedside of a sick Michigan soldier in
hospital to-day, a convalescent from the adjoining bed rose and came to
me, and presently we began talking. He was a middleaged man, belonged
to the 2d Virginia regiment, but lived in Racine, Ohio, and had a family
there. He spoke of President Lincoln, and said: "The war is over, and
many are lost. And now we have lost the best, the fairest, the truest
man in America. Take him altogether, he was the best man this country
ever produced. It was quite a while I thought very different; but some
time before the murder, that's the way I have seen it." There was deep
earnestness in the soldier. (I found upon further talk he had known Mr.
Lincoln personally, and quite closely, years before.) He was a veteran;
was now in the fifth year of his service; was a cavalry man, and had
been in a good deal of hard fighting.


_May 28-9_.--I staid to-night a long time by the bedside of a new
patient, a young Baltimorean, aged about 19 years, W. S. P., (2d
Maryland, southern,) very feeble, right leg amputated, can't sleep
hardly at all--has taken a great deal of morphine, which, as usual,
is costing more than it comes to. Evidently very intelligent and well
bred--very affectionate--held on to my hand, and put it by his face, not
willing to let me leave. As I was lingering, soothing him in his pain,
he says to me suddenly, "I hardly think you know who I am--I don't wish
to impose upon you--I am a rebel soldier." I said I did not know that,
but it made no difference. Visiting him daily for about two weeks after
that, while he lived, (death had mark'd him, and he was quite alone,) I
loved him much, always kiss'd him, and he did me. In an adjoining ward
I found his brother, an officer of rank, a Union soldier, a brave and
religious man, (Col. Clifton K. Prentiss, sixth Maryland infantry,
Sixth corps, wounded in one of the engagements at Petersburgh, April
2--linger'd, suffer'd much, died in Brooklyn, Aug. 20, '65). It was
in the same battle both were hit. One was a strong Unionist, the other
Secesh; both fought on their respective sides, both badly wounded, and
both brought together here after a separation of four years. Each died
for his cause.


_May 31_.--James H. Williams, aged 21, 3d Virginia cavalry.-About as
mark'd a case of a strong man brought low by a complication of diseases,
(laryngitis, fever, debility and diarrhoea,) as I have ever seen--has
superb physique, remains swarthy yet, and flushed and red with fever-is
altogether flighty--flesh of his great breast and arms tremulous, and
pulse pounding away with treble quickness--lies a good deal of the time
in a partial sleep, but with low muttering and groans--a sleep in which
there is no rest. Powerful as he is, and so young, he will not be able
to stand many more days of the strain and sapping heat of yesterday and
to-day. His throat is in a bad way, tongue and lips parch'd. When I ask
him how he feels, he is able just to articulate, "I feel pretty bad
yet, old man," and looks at me with his great bright eyes. Father, John
Williams, Millensport, Ohio.

_June 9-10_.--I have been sitting late to-night by the bedside of a
wounded captain, a special friend of mine, lying with a painful fracture
of left leg in one of the hospitals, in a large ward partially vacant.
The lights were put out, all but a little candle, far from where I
sat. The full moon shone in through the windows, making long, slanting
silvery patches on the floor. All was still, my friend too was silent,
but could not sleep; so I sat there by him, slowly wafting the fan, and
occupied with the musings that arose out of the scene, the long shadowy
ward, the beautiful ghostly moonlight on the floor, the white beds, here
and there an occupant with huddled form, the bed-clothes thrown off. The
hospitals have a number of cases of sun-stroke and exhaustion by heat,
from the late reviews. There are many such from the Sixth corps, from
the hot parade of day before yesterday. (Some of these shows cost the
lives of scores of men.)

_Sunday, Sep. 10_.--Visited Douglas and Stanton hospitals. They are
quite full. Many of the cases are bad ones, lingering wounds, and old
sickness. There is a more than usual look of despair on the countenances
of many of the men; hope has left them. I went through the wards,
talking as usual. There are several here from the confederate army whom
I had seen in other hospitals, and they recognized me. Two were in a
dying condition.


In one of the hospital tents for special cases, as I sat to-day tending
a new amputation, I heard a couple of neighboring soldiers talking to
each other from their cots. One down with fever, but improving, had come
up belated from Charleston not long before. The other was what we now
call an "old veteran," (_i.e._, he was a Connecticut youth, probably of
less than the age of twenty-five years, the four last of which he had
spent in active service in the war in all parts of the country.) The two
were chatting of one thing and another. The fever soldier spoke of John
C. Calhoun's monument, which he had seen, and was describing it. The
veteran said: "I have seen Calhoun's monument. That you saw is not the
real monument. But I have seen it. It is the desolated, ruined south;
nearly the whole generation of young men between seventeen and
thirty destroyed or maim'd; all the old families used up--the rich
impoverish'd, the plantations cover'd with weeds, the slaves unloos'd
and become the masters, and the name of southerner blacken'd with every
shame--all that is Calhoun's real monument."


_October 3_.--There are two army hospitals now remaining. I went to the
largest of these (Douglas) and spent the afternoon and evening. There
are many sad cases, old wounds, incurable sickness, and some of the
wounded from the March and April battles before Richmond. Few realize
how sharp and bloody those closing battles were. Our men exposed
themselves more than usual; press'd ahead without urging. Then the
southerners fought with extra desperation. Both sides knew that with the
successful chasing of the rebel cabal from Richmond, and the occupation
of that city by the national troops, the game was up. The dead and
wounded were unusually many. Of the wounded the last lingering driblets
have been brought to hospital here. I find many rebel wounded here, and
have been extra busy to-day 'tending to the worst cases of them with the

_Oct., Nov. and Dec., '65--Sundays_--Every Sunday of these months
visited Harewood hospital out in the woods, pleasant and recluse, some
two and a half or three miles north of the capitol. The situation is
healthy, with broken ground, grassy slopes and patches of oak woods, the
trees large and fine. It was one of the most extensive of the hospitals,
now reduced to four or five partially occupied wards, the numerous
others being vacant. In November, this became the last military hospital
kept up by the government, all the others being closed. Cases of the
worst and most incurable wounds, obstinate illness, and of poor fellows
who have no homes to go to, are found here.

_Dec. 10--Sunday_--Again spending a good part of the day at Harewood.
I write this about an hour before sundown. I have walk'd out for a few
minutes to the edge of the woods to soothe myself with the hour and
scene. It is a glorious, warm, golden-sunny, still afternoon. The only
noise is from a crowd of cawing crows, on some trees three hundred
yards distant. Clusters of gnats swimming and dancing in the air in all
directions. The oak leaves are thick under the bare trees, and give a
strong and delicious perfume. Inside the wards everything is gloomy.
Death is there. As I enter'd, I was confronted by it the first thing;
a corpse of a poor soldier, just dead, of typhoid fever. The attendants
had just straighten'd the limbs, put coppers on the eyes, and were
laying it out.

_The roads_--A great recreation, the past three years, has been in
taking long walks out from Washington, five, seven, perhaps ten miles
and back; generally with my friend Peter Doyle, who is as fond of it as
I am. Fine moonlight nights, over the perfect military roads, hard
and smooth--or Sundays--we had these delightful walks, never to be
forgotten. The roads connecting Washington and the numerous forts around
the city, made one useful result, at any rate, out of the war.


Even the typical soldiers I have been personally intimate with,--it
seems to me if I were to make a list of them it would be like a city
directory. Some few only have I mention'd in the foregoing pages--most
are dead--a few yet living. There is Reuben Farwell, of Michigan,
(little "Mitch;") Benton H. Wilson, color-bearer, 185th New York; Wm.
Stansberry; Manvill Winterstein, Ohio; Bethuel Smith; Capt. Simms, of
51st New York, (kill'd at Petersburgh mine explosion,) Capt. Sam. Pooley
and Lieut. Fred. McReady, same reg't. Also, same reg't., my brother,
George W. Whitman--in active service all through, four years,
re-enlisting twice--was promoted, step by step, (several times
immediately after battles,) lieutenant, captain, major and lieut.
colonel--was in the actions at Roanoke, Newbern, 2d Bull Run, Chantilly,
South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburgh, Vicksburgh, Jackson, the
bloody conflicts of the Wilderness, and at Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor,
and afterwards around Petersburgh; at one of these latter was taken
prisoner, and pass'd four or five months in secesh military prisons,
narrowly escaping with life, from a severe fever, from starvation and
half-nakedness in the winter. (What a history that 51st New York had!
Went out early--march'd, fought everywhere--was in storms at sea, nearly
wreck'd--storm'd forts--tramp'd hither and yon in Virginia,
night and day, summer of '62--afterwards Kentucky and
Mississippi--re-enlisted--was in all the engagements and campaigns, as
above.) I strengthen and comfort myself much with the certainty that
the capacity for just such regiments, (hundreds, thousands of them) is
inexhaustible in the United States, and that there isn't a county nor a
township in the republic--nor a street in any city--but could turn out,
and, on occasion, would turn out, lots of just such typical soldiers,
whenever wanted.


As I have look'd over the proof-sheets of the preceding pages, I have
once or twice fear'd that my diary would prove, at best, but a batch of
convulsively written reminiscences. Well, be it so.

They are but parts of the actual distraction, heat, smoke and excitement
of those times. The war itself, with the temper of society preceding it,
can indeed be best described by that very word _convulsiveness_.


During those three years in hospital, camp or field, I made over six
hundred visits or tours, and went, as I estimate, counting all, among
from eighty thousand to a hundred thousand of the wounded and sick,
as sustainer of spirit and body in some degree, in time of need. These
visits varied from an hour or two, to all day or night; for with dear
or critical cases I generally watch'd all night. Sometimes I took up my
quarters in the hospital, and slept or watch'd there several nights
in succession. Those three years I consider the greatest privilege
and satisfaction, (with all their feverish excitements and physical
deprivations and lamentable sights,) and, of course, the most profound
lesson of my life. I can say that in my ministerings I comprehended
all, whoever came in my way, northern or southern, and slighted none. It
arous'd and brought out and decided undream'd-of depths of emotion. It
has given me my most fervent views of the true _ensemble_ and extent of
the States. While I was with wounded and sick in thousands of cases from
the New England States, and from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania,
and from Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and all the
Western States, I was with more or less from all the States, North
and South, without exception. I was with many from the border States,
especially from Maryland and Virginia, and found, during those lurid
years 1862-63, far more Union southerners, especially Tennesseans, than
is supposed. I was with many rebel officers and men among our wounded,
and gave them always what I had, and tried to cheer them the same as
any. I was among the army teamsters considerably, and, indeed, always
found myself drawn to them. Among the black soldiers, wounded or sick,
and in the contraband camps, I also took my way whenever in their
neighborhood, and did what I could for them.


The dead in this war--there they lie, strewing the fields and woods and
valleys and battle-fields of the south--Virginia, the Peninsula--Malvern
hill and Fair Oaks--the banks of the Chickahominy--the terraces of
Fredericksburgh--Antietam bridge--the grisly ravines of Manassas--the
bloody promenade of the Wilderness--the varieties of the _strayed_ dead,
(the estimate of the War department is 25,000 national soldiers kill'd
in battle and never buried at all, 5,000 drown'd--15,000 inhumed
by strangers, or on the march in haste, in hitherto unfound
localities--2,000 graves cover'd by sand and mud by Mississippi
freshets, 3,000 carried away by caving-in of banks, &c.,)--Gettysburgh,
the West, Southwest--Vicksburgh--Chattanooga--the trenches of
Petersburgh--the numberless battles, camps, hospitals everywhere--the
crop reap'd by the mighty reapers, typhoid, dysentery,
inflammations--and blackest and loathesomest of all, the dead and living
burial-pits, the prison-pens of Andersonville, Salisbury, Belle-Isle,
&c., (not Dante's pictured hell and all its woes, its degradations,
filthy torments, excell'd those prisons)--the dead, the dead, the
dead--_our_ dead--or South or North, ours all, (all, all, all,
finally dear to me)--or East or West--Atlantic coast or Mississippi
valley--somewhere they crawl'd to die, alone, in bushes, low gullies,
or on the sides of hills--(there, in secluded spots, their skeletons,
bleach'd bones, tufts of hair, buttons, fragments of clothing, are
occasionally found yet)--our young men once so handsome and so joyous,
taken from us--the son from the mother, the husband from the wife,
the dear friend from the dear friend--the clusters of camp graves, in
Georgia, the Carolinas, and in Tennessee--the single graves left in
the woods or by the roadside, (hundreds, thousands, obliterated)--the
corpses floated down the rivers, and caught and lodged, (dozens, scores,
floated down the upper Potomac, after the cavalry engagements, the
pursuit of Lee, following Gettysburgh)--some lie at the bottom of the
sea--the general million, and the special cemeteries in almost all the
States--the infinite dead--(the land entire saturated, perfumed with
their impalpable ashes' exhalation in Nature's chemistry distill'd, and
shall be so forever, in every future grain of wheat and ear of corn, and
every flower that grows, and every breath we draw)--not only Northern
dead leavening Southern soil--thousands, aye tens of thousands, of
Southerners, crumble to-day in Northern earth.

And everywhere among these countless graves--everywhere in the many
soldier Cemeteries of the Nation, (there are now, I believe, over
seventy of them)--as at the time in the vast trenches, the depositories
of slain, Northern and Southern, after the great battles--not only where
the scathing trail passed those years, but radiating since in all
the peaceful quarters of the land--we see, and ages yet may see, on
monuments and gravestones, singly or in masses, to thousands or tens of
thousands, the significant word UNKNOWN.

(In some of the cemeteries nearly all the dead are unknown. At
Salisbury, N. C., for instance, the known are only 85, while the unknown
are 12,027, and 11,700 of these are buried in trenches. A national
monument has been put up here, by order of Congress, to mark the
spot--but what visible, material monument can ever fittingly commemorate
that spot?)


And so good-bye to the war. I know not how it may have been, or may be,
to others--to me the main interest I found, (and still, on recollection,
find,) in the rank and file of the armies, both sides, and in those
specimens amid the hospitals, and even the dead on the field. To me the
points illustrating the latent personal character and eligibilities
of these States, in the two or three millions of American young
and middle-aged men, North and South, embodied in those armies--and
especially the one-third or one-fourth of their number, stricken by
wounds or disease at some time in the course of the contest--were of
more significance even than the political interests involved. (As so
much of a race depends on how it faces death, and how it stands personal
anguish and sickness. As, in the glints of emotions under emergencies,
and the indirect traits and asides in Plutarch, we get far profounder
clues to the antique world than all its more formal history.)

Future years will never know the seething hell and the black infernal
background of countless minor scenes and interiors, (not the official
surface-courteousness of the Generals, not the few great battles) of the
Secession war; and it is best they should not--the real war will never
get in the books. In the mushy influences of current times, too, the
fervid atmosphere and typical events of those years are in danger of
being totally forgotten. I have at night watch'd by the side of a sick
man in the hospital, one who could not live many hours. I have seen his
eyes flash and burn as he raised himself and recurr'd to the cruelties
on his surrender'd brother, and mutilations of the corpse afterward.
(See in the preceding pages, the incident at Upperville--the seventeen
kill'd as in the description, were left there on the ground. After they
dropt dead, no one touch'd them--all were made sure of, however. The
carcasses were left for the citizens to bury or not, as they chose.)

Such was the war. It was not a quadrille in a ball-room. Its interior
history will not only never be written--its practicality, minutia; of
deeds and passions, will never be even suggested. The actual soldier
of 1862-'65, North and South, with all his ways, his incredible
dauntlessness, habits, practices, tastes, language, his fierce
friendship, his appetite, rankness, his superb strength and animality,
lawless gait, and a hundred unnamed lights and shades of camp, I say,
will never be written--perhaps must not and should not be.

The preceding notes may furnish a few stray glimpses into that life, and
into those lurid interiors, never to be fully convey'd to the future.
The hospital part of the drama from '61 to '65, deserves indeed to
be recorded. Of that many-threaded drama, with its sudden and strange
surprises, its confounding of prophecies, its moments of despair, the
dread of foreign interference, the interminable campaigns, the bloody
battles, the mighty and cumbrous and green armies, the drafts and
bounties--the immense money expenditure, like a heavy-pouring constant
rain--with, over the whole land, the last three years of the struggle,
an unending, universal mourning-wail of women, parents, orphans--the
marrow of the tragedy concentrated in those Army Hospitals--(it seem'd
sometimes as if the whole interest of the land, North and South, was
one vast central hospital, and all the rest of the affair but
flanges)--those forming the untold and unwritten history of the
war--infinitely greater (like life's) than the few scraps and
distortions that are ever told or written. Think how much, and
of importance, will be--how much, civic and military, has already
been--buried in the grave, in eternal darkness.


Several years now elapse before I resume my diary. I continued at
Washington working in the Attorney-General's department through '66 and
'67, and some time afterward. In February '73 I was stricken down by
paralysis, gave up my desk, and migrated to Camden, New Jersey, where
I lived during '74 and '75, quite unwell--but after that began to grow
better; commenc'd going for weeks at a time, even for months, down in
the country, to a charmingly recluse and rural spot along Timber creek,
twelve or thirteen miles from where it enters the Delaware river.
Domicil'd at the farm-house of my friends, the Staffords, near by, I
lived half the time along this creek and its adjacent fields and lanes.
And it is to my life here that I, perhaps, owe partial recovery (a
sort of second wind, or semi-renewal of the lease of life) from the
prostration of 1874-'75. If the notes of that outdoor life could only
prove as glowing to you, reader dear, as the experience itself was to
me. Doubtless in the course of the following, the fact of invalidism
will crop out, (I call myself _a half-Paralytic_ these days, and
reverently bless the Lord it is no worse,) between some of the
lines--but I get my share of fun and healthy hours, and shall try to
indicate them. (The trick is, I find, to tone your wants and tastes low
down enough, and make much of negatives, and of mere daylight and the


_1876, '77_.--I find the woods in mid-May and early June my best places
for composition.[9] Seated on logs or stumps there, or resting on rails,
nearly all the following memoranda have been jotted down. Wherever I go,
indeed, winter or summer, city or country, alone at home or traveling, I
must take notes--(the ruling passion strong in age and disablement, and
even the approach of--but I must not say it yet.) Then underneath the
following excerpta--crossing the _t's_ and dotting the _i's_ of certain
moderate movements of late years--I am fain to fancy the foundations
of quite a lesson learn'd. After you have exhausted what there is in
business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on--have found that none
of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear--what remains? Nature
remains; to bring out from their torpid recesses, the affinities of
a man or woman with the open air, the trees, fields, the changes of
seasons--the sun by day and the stars of heaven by night. We will begin
from these convictions. Literature flies so high and is so hotly spiced,
that our notes may seem hardly more than breaths of common air, or
draughts of water to drink. But that is part of our lesson.

Dear, soothing, healthy, restoration-hours--after three confining years
of paralysis--after the long strain of the war, and its wounds and


[9] Without apology for the abrupt change of field and atmosphere--after
what I have put in the preceding fifty or sixty pages--temporary
episodes, thank heaven!--I restore my book to the bracing and buoyant
equilibrium of concrete outdoor Nature, the only permanent reliance for
sanity of book or human life.

Who knows, (I have it in my fancy, my ambition,) but the pages now
ensuing may carry ray of sun, or smell of grass or corn, or call of
bird, or gleam of stars by night, or snow-flakes falling fresh
and mystic, to denizen of heated city house, or tired workman or
workwoman?--or may-be in sick-room or prison--to serve as cooling
breeze, or Nature's aroma, to some fever'd mouth or latent pulse.


As every man has his hobby-liking, mine is for a real farm-lane fenced
by old chestnut-rails gray-green with dabs of moss and lichen, copious
weeds and briers growing in spots athwart the heaps of stray-pick' d
stones at the fence bases--irregular paths worn between, and horse and
cow tracks--all characteristic accompaniments marking and scenting
the neighborhood in their seasons--apple-tree blossoms in forward
April--pigs, poultry, a field of August buckwheat, and in another the
long flapping tassels of maize--and so to the pond, the expansion of
the creek, the secluded-beautiful, with young and old trees, and such
recesses and vistas.


So, still sauntering on, to the spring under the willows--musical as
soft clinking glasses-pouring a sizeable stream, thick as my neck, pure
and clear, out from its vent where the bank arches over like a
great brown shaggy eyebrow or mouth-roof--gurgling, gurgling
ceaselessly--meaning, saying something, of course (if one could only
translate it)--always gurgling there, the whole year through--never
giving out--oceans of mint, blackberries in summer--choice of light and
shade--just the place for my July sun-baths and water-baths too--but
mainly the inimitable soft sound-gurgles of it, as I sit there hot
afternoons. How they and all grow into me, day after day--everything in
keeping--the wild, just-palpable perfume, and the dappled leaf-shadows,
and all the natural-medicinal, elemental-moral influences of the spot.

Babble on, O brook, with that utterance of thine! I too will express
what I have gather'd in my days and progress, native, subterranean,
past--and now thee. Spin and wind thy way--I with thee, a little while,
at any rate. As I haunt thee so often, season by season, thou knowest,
reckest not me, (yet why be so certain? who can tell?)--but I will learn
from thee, and dwell on thee--receive, copy, print from thee.


Away then to loosen, to unstring the divine bow, so tense, so long.
Away, from curtain, carpet, sofa, book--from "society"--from city house,
street, and modern improvements and luxuries--away to the primitive
winding, aforementioned wooded creek, with its untrimm'd bushes and
turfy banks--away from ligatures, tight boots, buttons, and the whole
cast-iron civilized life--from entourage of artificial store, machine,
studio, office, parlor--from tailordom and fashion's clothes--from any
clothes, perhaps, for the nonce, the summer heats advancing, there in
those watery, shaded solitudes. Away, thou soul, (let me pick thee
out singly, reader dear, and talk in perfect freedom, negligently,
confidentially,) for one day and night at least, returning to the
naked source-life of us all--to the breast of the great silent savage
all-acceptive Mother. Alas! how many of us are so sodden--how many have
wander'd so far away, that return is almost impossible.

But to my jottings, taking them as they come, from the heap, without
particular selection. There is little consecutiveness in dates. They run
any time within nearly five or six years. Each was carelessly pencilled
in the open air, at the time and place. The printers will learn this
to some vexation perhaps, as much of their copy is from those
hastily-written first notes.


Did you ever chance to hear the midnight flight of birds passing through
the air and darkness overhead, in countless armies, changing their early
or late summer habitat? It is something not to be forgotten. A friend
called me up just after 12 last night to mark the peculiar noise of
unusually immense flocks migrating north (rather late this year.) In
the silence, shadow and delicious odor of the hour, (the natural perfume
belonging to the night alone,) I thought it rare music. You could _hear_
the characteristic motion--once or twice "the rush of mighty wings,"
but often a velvety rustle, long drawn out--sometimes quite near--with
continual calls and chirps, and some song-notes. It all lasted from 12
till after 3. Once in a while the species was plainly distinguishable;
I could make out the bobolink, tanager, Wilson's thrush, white-crown'd
sparrow, and occasionally from high in the air came the notes of the


May-month--month of swarming, singing, mating birds--the bumble-bee
month--month of the flowering lilac-(and then my own birth-month.) As
I jot this paragraph, I am out just after sunrise, and down towards the
creek. The lights, perfumes, melodies--the blue birds, grass birds
and robins, in every direction--the noisy, vocal, natural concert. For
undertones, a neighboring wood-pecker tapping his tree, and the distant
clarion of chanticleer. Then the fresh-earth smells--the colors, the
delicate drabs and thin blues of the perspective. The bright green of
the grass has receiv'd an added tinge from the last two days' mildness
and moisture. How the sun silently mounts in the broad clear sky, on
his day's journey! How the warm beams bathe all, and come streaming
kissingly and almost hot on my face.

A while since the croaking of the pond-frogs and the first white of
the dog-wood blossoms. Now the golden dandelions in endless profusion,
spotting the ground everywhere. The white cherry and pear-blows--the
wild violets, with their blue eyes looking up and saluting my feet, as
I saunter the wood-edge--the rosy blush of budding apple-trees--the
light-clear emerald hue of the wheat-fields--the darker green of the
rye--a warm elasticity pervading the air--the cedar-bushes profusely
deck'd with their little brown apples--the summer fully awakening--the
convocation of black birds, garrulous flocks of them, gathering on some
tree, and making the hour and place noisy as I sit near.

_Later._--Nature marches in procession, in sections, like the corps of
an army. All have done much for me, and still do. But for the last two
days it has been the great wild bee, the humble-bee, or "bumble," as the
children call him. As I walk, or hobble, from the farm-house down to the
creek, I traverse the before-mention'd lane, fenced by old rails, with
many splits, splinters, breaks, holes, &c., the choice habitat of those
crooning, hairy insects. Up and down and by and between these rails,
they swarm and dart and fly in countless myriads. As I wend slowly
along, I am often accompanied with a moving cloud of them. They play a
leading part in my morning, midday or sunset rambles, and often dominate
the landscape in a way I never before thought of--fill the long lane,
not by scores or hundreds only, but by thousands. Large and vivacious
and swift, with wonderful momentum and a loud swelling, perpetual hum,
varied now and then by something almost like a shriek, they dart to and
fro, in rapid flashes, chasing each other, and (little things as they
are,) conveying to me a new and pronounc'd sense of strength, beauty,
vitality and movement. Are they in their mating season? or what is the
meaning of this plenitude, swiftness, eagerness, display? As I walk'd, I
thought I was follow'd by a particular swarm, but upon observation I saw
that it was a rapid succession of changing swarms, one after another.

As I write, I am seated under a big wild-cherry tree--the warm day
temper'd by partial clouds and a fresh breeze, neither too heavy nor
light--and here I sit long and long, envelop'd in the deep musical
drone of these bees, flitting, balancing, darting to and fro about me
by hundreds--big fellows with light yellow jackets, great glistening
swelling bodies, stumpy heads and gauzy wings--humming their perpetual
rich mellow boom. (Is there not a hint in it for a musical composition,
of which it should be the back-ground? some bumble-bee symphony?) How
it all nourishes, lulls me, in the way most needed; the open air, the
rye-fields, the apple orchards. The last two days have been faultless
in sun, breeze, temperature and everything; never two more perfect days,
and I have enjoy'd them wonderfully. My health is somewhat better, and
my spirit at peace. (Yet the anniversary of the saddest loss and sorrow
of my life is close at hand.)

Another jotting, another perfect day: forenoon, from 7 to 9, two
hours envelop'd in sound of bumble-bees and bird-music. Down in the
apple-trees and in a neighboring cedar were three or four russet-back'd
thrushes, each singing his best, and roulading in ways I never heard
surpass'd. Two hours I abandon myself to hearing them, and indolently
absorbing the scene. Almost every bird I notice has a special time in
the year--sometimes limited to a few days--when it sings its best; and
now is the period of these russet-backs. Meanwhile, up and down the
lane, the darting, droning, musical bumble-bees. A great swarm again for
my entourage as I return home, moving along with me as before.

As I write this, two or three weeks later, I am sitting near the brook
under a tulip tree, 70 feet high, thick with the fresh verdure of its
young maturity--a beautiful object--every branch, every leaf perfect.
From top to bottom, seeking the sweet juice in the blossoms, it swarms
with myriads of these wild bees, whose loud and steady humming makes an
undertone to the whole, and to my mood and the hour. All of which I
will bring to a close by extracting the following verses from Henry A.
Beers's little volume:

    As I lay yonder in tall grass
    A drunken bumble-bee went past

    Delirious with honey toddy.
    The golden sash about his body
    Scarce kept it in his swollen belly
    Distent with honeysuckle jelly.
    Rose liquor and the sweet-pea wine
    Had fill' d his soul with song divine;
    Deep had he drunk the warm night through,
    His hairy thighs were wet with dew.
    Full many an antic he had play'd
    While the world went round through sleep and shade.
    Oft had he lit with thirsty lip
    Some flower-cup's nectar'd sweets to sip,
    When on smooth petals he would slip,
    Or over tangled stamens trip,
    And headlong in the pollen roll'd,
    Crawl out quite dusted o'er with gold;
    Or else his heavy feet would stumble
    Against some bud, and down he'd tumble
    Amongst the grass; there lie and grumble
    In low, soft bass--poor maudlin bumble!


As I journey'd to-day in a light wagon ten or twelve miles through the
country, nothing pleas'd me more, in their homely beauty and novelty (I
had either never seen the little things to such advantage, or had
never noticed them before) than that peculiar fruit, with its profuse
clear-yellow dangles of inch-long silk or yarn, in boundless profusion
spotting the dark green cedar bushes--contrasting well with their bronze
tufts--the flossy shreds covering the knobs all over, like a shock of
wild hair on elfin pates. On my ramble afterward down by the creek I
pluck'd one from its bush, and shall keep it. These cedar-apples last
only a little while however, and soon crumble and fade.


_June 10th_.--As I write, 5-1/2 P.M., here by the creek, nothing can
exceed the quiet splendor and freshness around me. We had a heavy
shower, with brief thunder and lightning, in the middle of the day; and
since, overhead, one of those not uncommon yet indescribable skies
(in quality, not details or forms) of limpid blue, with rolling
silver-fringed clouds, and a pure-dazzling sun. For underlay, trees
in fulness of tender foliage--liquid, reedy, long-drawn notes of
birds--based by the fretful mewing of a querulous cat-bird, and the
pleasant chippering-shriek of two kingfishers. I have been watching the
latter the last half hour, on their regular evening frolic over and in
the stream; evidently a spree of the liveliest kind. They pursue each
other, whirling and wheeling around, with many a jocund downward dip,
splashing the spray in jets of diamonds--and then off they swoop, with
slanting wings and graceful flight, sometimes so near me I can plainly
see their dark-gray feather-bodies and milk-white necks.


_June 19th, 4 to 6-1/2, P.M._--Sitting alone by the creek--solitude
here, but the scene bright and vivid enough--the sun shining, and quite
a fresh wind blowing (some heavy showers last night,) the grass and
trees looking their best--the clare-obscure of different greens,
shadows, half-shadows, and the dappling glimpses of the water, through
recesses--the wild flageolet-note of a quail near by--the just-heard
fretting of some hylas down there in the pond--crows cawing in the
distance--a drove of young hogs rooting in soft ground near the oak
under which I sit--some come sniffing near me, and then scamper away,
with grunts. And still the clear notes of the quail--the quiver of
leaf-shadows over the paper as I write--the sky aloft, with white
clouds, and the sun well declining to the west--the swift darting
of many sand-swallows coming and going, their holes in a neighboring
marl-bank--the odor of the cedar and oak, so palpable, as evening
approaches--perfume, color, the bronze-and-gold of nearly ripen'd
wheat--clover-fields, with honey-scent--the well-up maize, with long and
rustling leaves--the great patches of thriving potatoes, dusky green,
fleck'd all over with white blossoms--the old, warty, venerable oak
above me--and ever, mix'd with the dual notes of the quail, the soughing
of the wind through some near-by pines.

As I rise for return, I linger long to a delicious song-epilogue (is
it the hermit-thrush?) from some bushy recess off there in the swamp,
repeated leisurely and pensively over and over again. This, to the
circle-gambols of the swallows flying by dozens in concentric rings in
the last rays of sunset, like flashes of some airy wheel.


The fervent heat, but so much more endurable in this pure air--the
white and pink pond-blossoms, with great heart-shaped leaves; the glassy
waters of the creek, the banks, with dense bushery, and the picturesque
beeches and shade and turf; the tremulous, reedy call of some bird
from recesses, breaking the warm, indolent, half-voluptuous silence; an
occasional wasp, hornet, honey-bee or bumble (they hover near my hands
or face, yet annoy me not, nor I them, as they appear to examine, find
nothing, and away they go)--the vast space of the sky overhead so clear,
and the buzzard up there sailing his slow whirl in majestic spirals
and discs; just over the surface of the pond, two large slate-color'd
dragon-flies, with wings of lace, circling and darting and occasionally
balancing themselves quite still, their wings quivering all the time,
(are they not showing off for my amusement?)--the pond itself, with
the sword-shaped calamus; the water snakes--occasionally a flitting
blackbird, with red dabs on his shoulders, as he darts slantingly
by--the sounds that bring out the solitude, warmth, light and shade--the
quawk of some pond duck--(the crickets and grasshoppers are mute in
the noon heat, but I hear the song of the first cicadas;)--then at some
distance the rattle and whirr of a reaping machine as the horses draw
it on a rapid walk through a rye field on the opposite side of the
creek--(what was the yellow or light-brown bird, large as a young hen,
with short neck and long-stretch'd legs I just saw, in flapping and
awkward flight over there through the trees?)--the prevailing delicate,
yet palpable, spicy, grassy, clovery perfume to my nostrils; and over
all, encircling all, to my sight and soul, the free space of the
sky, transparent and blue--and hovering there in the west, a mass of
white-gray fleecy clouds the sailors call "shoals of mackerel"--the sky,
with silver swirls like locks of toss'd hair, spreading, expanding--a
vast voiceless, formless simulacrum--yet may-be the most real reality
and formulator of everything--who knows?


_Aug. 22_.--Reedy monotones of locust, or sounds of katydid--I hear the
latter at night, and the other both day and night. I thought the morning
and evening warble of birds delightful; but I find I can listen to these
strange insects with just as much pleasure. A single locust is now heard
near noon from a tree two hundred feet off, as I write--a long whirring,
continued, quite loud noise graded in distinct whirls, or swinging
circles, increasing in strength and rapidity up to a certain point, and
then a fluttering, quietly tapering fall. Each strain is continued
from one to two minutes. The locust-song is very appropriate to the
scene--gushes, has meaning, is masculine, is like some fine old wine,
not sweet, but far better than sweet.

But the katydid--how shall I describe its piquant utterances? One sings
from a willow-tree just outside my open bedroom window, twenty yards
distant; every clear night for a fortnight past has sooth'd me to sleep.
I rode through a piece of woods for a hundred rods the other evening,
and heard the katydids by myriads--very curious for once; but I like
better my single neighbor on the tree. Let me say more about the song of
the locust, even to repetition; a long, chromatic, tremulous crescendo,
like a brass disk whirling round and round, emitting wave after wave
of notes, beginning with a certain moderate beat or measure, rapidly
increasing in speed and emphasis, reaching a point of great energy and
significance, and then quickly and gracefully dropping down and out. Not
the melody of the singing-bird--far from it; the common musician might
think without melody, but surely having to the finer ear a harmony of
its own; monotonous--but what a swing there is in that brassy drone,
round and round, cymballine--or like the whirling of brass quoits.


_Sept. 1_.--I should not take either the biggest or the most picturesque
tree to illustrate it. Here is one of my favorites now before me, a fine
yellow poplar, quite straight, perhaps 90 feet high, and four thick
at the butt. How strong, vital, enduring! how dumbly eloquent! What
suggestions of imperturbability and _being_, as against the human
trait of mere _seeming_. Then the qualities, almost emotional, palpably
artistic, heroic, of a tree; so innocent and harmless, yet so savage. It
_is_, yet says nothing. How it rebukes by its tough and equable serenity
all weathers, this gusty-temper'd little whiffet, man, that runs indoors
at a mite of rain or snow. Science (or rather half-way science) scoffs
at reminiscence of dryad and hamadryad, and of trees speaking. But,
if they don't, they do as well as most speaking, writing, poetry,
sermons--or rather they do a great deal better. I should say indeed that
those old dryad-reminiscences are quite as true as any, and profounder
than most reminiscences we get. ("Cut this out," as the quack mediciners
say, and keep by you.) Go and sit in a grove or woods, with one or more
of those voiceless companions, and read the foregoing, and think.

One lesson from affiliating a tree--perhaps the greatest moral lesson
anyhow from earth, rocks, animals, is that same lesson of inherency, of
_what is_, without the least regard to what the looker-on (the critic)
supposes or says, or whether he likes or dislikes. What worse--what more
general malady pervades each and all of us, our literature, education,
attitude toward each other, (even toward ourselves,) than a morbid
trouble about _seems_, (generally temporarily seems too,) and no trouble
at all, or hardly any, about the sane, slow-growing, perennial, real
parts of character, books, friendship, marriage--humanity's invisible
foundations and hold-together? (As the all-basis, the nerve, the
great-sympathetic, the plenum within humanity, giving stamp to
everything, is necessarily invisible.)

_Aug. 4, 6 P.M._--Lights and shades and rare effects on tree-foliage and
grass--transparent greens, grays, &c., all in sunset pomp and dazzle.
The clear beams are now thrown in many new places, on the quilted,
seam'd, bronze-drab, lower tree-trunks, shadow'd except at this
hour--now flooding their young and old columnar ruggedness with strong
light, unfolding to my sense new amazing features of silent, shaggy
charm, the solid bark, the expression of harmless impassiveness, with
many a bulge and gnarl unreck'd before. In the revealings of such light,
such exceptional hour, such mood, one does not wonder at the old story
fables, (indeed, why fables?) of people falling into love-sickness with
trees, seiz'd extatic with the mystic realism of the resistless silent
strength in them--_strength_, which after all is perhaps the last,
completest, highest beauty.

_Trees I am familiar with here_.

   Oaks, (many kinds--one sturdy                       Willows.
     old fellow, vital, green, bushy,                  Catalpas.
     five feet thick at the butt, I sit                Persimmons.
     under every day,)                                 Mountain-ash.
   Cedars plenty.                                      Hickories.
   Tulip trees, (_Liriodendron,_) is of                Maples, many kinds.
     the magnolia family--I have                       Locusts.
     seen it in Michigan and southern                  Birches.
     Illinois, 140 feet high and                       Dogwood.
     8 feet thick at the butt [A]; does                Pine.
     not transplant well; best rais'd                  the Elm.
     from seeds--(the lumbermen                        Chesnut.
     call it yellow poplar.)                           Linden.
   Sycamores.                                          Aspen.
   Gum trees, both sweet and sour.                     Spruce.
   Beeches.                                            Hornbeam.
   Black-walnuts.                                      Laurel.
   Sassafras.                                          Holly.


_Sept. 20_.--Under an old black oak, glossy and green, exhaling
aroma--amid a grove the Albic druids might have chosen--envelop'd in
the warmth and light of the noonday sun, and swarms[10] of flitting
insects--with the harsh cawing of many crows a hundred rods away--here
I sit in solitude, absorbing, enjoying all. The corn, stack'd in its
cone-shaped stacks, russet-color'd and sere--a large field spotted thick
with scarlet-gold pumpkins--an adjoining one of cabbages, showing
well in their green and pearl, mottled by much light and shade--melon
patches, with their bulging ovals, and great silver-streak'd, ruffled,
broad-edged leaves--and many an autumn sight and sound beside--the
distant scream of a flock of guinea-hens--and pour'd over all the
September breeze, with pensive cadence through the tree tops.

_Another Day_.--The ground in all directions strew'd with _débris_ from
a storm. Timber creek, as I slowly pace its banks, has ebb'd low, and
shows reaction from the turbulent swell of the late equinoctial. As I
look around, I take account of stock--weeds and shrubs, knolls, paths,
occasional stumps, some with smooth'd tops, (several I use as seats
of rest, from place to place, and from one I am now jotting these
lines,)--frequent wild-flowers, little white, star-shaped things, or the
cardinal red of the lobelia, or the cherry-ball seeds of the perennial
rose, or the many-threaded vines winding up and around trunks of trees.

_Oct. 1, 2 and 3_.--Down every day in the solitude of the creek. A
serene autumn sun and westerly breeze to-day (3d) as I sit here, the
water surface prettily moving in wind-ripples before me. On a stout old
beech at the edge, decayed and slanting, almost fallen to the stream,
yet with life and leaves in its mossy limbs, a gray squirrel, exploring,
runs up and down, flirts his tail, leaps to the ground, sits on his
haunches upright as he sees me, (a Darwinian hint?) and then races up
the tree again.

_Oct. 4_.--Cloudy and coolish; signs of incipient winter. Yet pleasant
here, the leaves thick-falling, the ground brown with them already; rich
coloring, yellows of all hues, pale and dark-green, shades from lightest
to richest red--all set in and toned down by the prevailing brown of
the earth and gray of the sky. So, winter is coming; and I yet in my
sickness. I sit here amid all these fair sights and vital influences,
and abandon myself to that thought, with its wandering trains of


[10] There is a tulip poplar within sight of Woodstown, which is twenty
feet around, three feet from the ground, four feet across about eighteen
feet up the trunk, which is broken off about three or four feet higher
up. On the south side an arm has shot out from which rise two stems,
each to about ninety-one or ninety-two feet from the ground. Twenty-five
(or more) years since the cavity in the butt was large enough for,
and nine men at one time, ate dinner therein. It is supposed twelve to
fifteen men could now, at one time, stand within its trunk. The severe
winds of 1877 and 1878 did not seem to damage it, and the two stems send
out yearly many blossoms, scenting the air immediately about it with
their sweet perfume. It is entirely unprotected by other trees, on a
hill.--_Woodstown, N. J., "Register," April 15, '79_.


_Oct. 20_.--A clear, crispy day--dry and breezy air, full of oxygen.
Out of the sane, silent, beauteous miracles that envelope and fuse
me--trees, water, grass, sunlight, and early frost--the one I am looking
at most to-day is the sky. It has that delicate, transparent blue,
peculiar to autumn, and the only clouds are little or larger white
ones, giving their still and spiritual motion to the great concave. All
through the earlier day (say from 7 to 11) it keeps a pure, yet vivid
blue. But as noon approaches the color gets lighter, quite gray for two
or three hours--then still paler for a spell, till sun-down--which last
I watch dazzling through the interstices of a knoll of big trees--darts
of fire and a gorgeous show of light-yellow, liver-color and red, with a
vast silver glaze askant on the water--the transparent shadows, shafts,
sparkle, and vivid colors beyond all the paintings ever made.

I don't know what or how, but it seems to me mostly owing to these
skies, (every now and then I think, while I have of course seen them
every day of my life, I never really saw the skies before,) have had
this autumn some wondrously contented hours--may I not say perfectly
happy ones? As I have read, Byron just before his death told a friend
that he had known but three happy hours during his whole existence. Then
there is the old German legend of the king's bell, to the same point.
While I was out there by the wood, that beautiful sunset through the
trees, I thought of Byron's and the bell story, and the notion started
in me that I was having a happy hour. (Though perhaps my best moments
I never jot down; when they come I cannot afford to break the charm by
inditing memoranda. I just abandon myself to the mood, and let it float
on, carrying me in its placid extasy.)

What is happiness, anyhow? Is this one of its hours, or the like
of it?--so impalpable--a mere breath, an evanescent tinge? I am not
sure--so let me give myself the benefit of the doubt. Hast Thou,
pellucid, in Thy azure depths, medicine for case like mine? (Ah, the
physical shatter and troubled spirit of me the last three years.) And
dost Thou subtly mystically now drip it through the air invisibly upon

_Night of Oct. 28._--The heavens unusually transparent--the stars out by
myriads--the great path of the Milky Way, with its branch, only seen
of very clear nights--Jupiter, setting in the west, looks like a huge
hap-hazard splash, and has a little star for companion.

    Clothed in his white garments,
    Into the round and clear arena slowly entered the brahmin,
    Holding a little child by the hand,
    Like the moon with the planet Jupiter in a cloudless night-sky.

    _Old Hindu Poem._

_Early in November._--At its farther end the lane already described
opens into a broad grassy upland field of over twenty acres, slightly
sloping to the south. Here I am accustom'd to walk for sky views and
effects, either morning or sundown. To-day from this field my soul is
calm'd and expanded beyond description, the whole forenoon by the clear
blue arching over all, cloudless, nothing particular, only sky and
daylight. Their soothing accompaniments, autumn leaves, the cool dry
air, the faint aroma--crows cawing in the distance--two great buzzards
wheeling gracefully and slowly far up there--the occasional murmur of
the wind, sometimes quite gently, then threatening through the trees--a
gang of farm-laborers loading cornstalks in a field in sight, and the
patient horses waiting.


Such a play of colors and lights, different seasons, different hours of
the day--the lines of the far horizon where the faint-tinged edge of the
landscape loses itself in the sky. As I slowly hobble up the lane toward
day-close, an incomparable sunset shooting in molten sapphire and gold,
shaft after shaft, through the ranks of the long-leaved corn, between me
and the west. _Another day_--The rich dark green of the tulip-trees and
the oaks, the gray of the swamp-willows, the dull hues of the sycamores
and black-walnuts, the emerald of the cedars (after rain,) and the light
yellow of the beeches.


The forenoon leaden and cloudy, not cold or wet, but indicating both.
As I hobble down here and sit by the silent pond, how different from the
excitement amid which, in the cities, millions of people are now waiting
news of yesterday's Presidential election, or receiving and discussing
the result--in this secluded place uncared-for, unknown.


_Nov. 14_.--As I sit here by the creek, resting after my walk, a warm
languor bathes me from the sun. No sound but a cawing of crows, and no
motion but their black flying figures from over-head, reflected in the
mirror of the pond below. Indeed a principal feature of the scene to-day
is these crows, their incessant cawing, far or near, and their countless
flocks and processions moving from place to place, and at times almost
darkening the air with their myriads. As I sit a moment writing this
by the bank, I see the black, clear-cut reflection of them far below,
flying through the watery looking-glass, by ones, twos, or long
strings. All last night I heard the noises from their great roost in a
neighboring wood.


One bright December mid-day lately I spent down on the New Jersey
sea-shore, reaching it by a little more than an hour's railroad trip
over the old Camden and Atlantic. I had started betimes, fortified by
nice strong coffee and a good breakfast (cook'd by the hands I love, my
dear sister Lou's--how much better it makes the victuals taste, and
then assimilate, strengthen you, perhaps make the whole day comfortable
afterwards.) Five or six miles at the last, our track enter'd a broad
region of salt grass meadows, intersected by lagoons, and cut up
everywhere by watery runs. The sedgy perfume, delightful to my nostrils,
reminded me of "the mash" and south bay of my native island. I could
have journey'd contentedly till night through these flat and odorous
sea-prairies. From half-past 11 till 2 I was nearly all the time along
the beach, or in sight of the ocean, listening to its hoarse murmur, and
inhaling the bracing and welcome breezes. First, a rapid five-mile drive
over the hard sand--our carriage wheels hardly made dents in it. Then
after dinner (as there were nearly two hours to spare) I walk'd off in
another direction, (hardly met or saw a person,) and taking possession
of what appear'd to have been the reception-room of an old bath-house
range, had a broad expanse of view all to myself--quaint, refreshing,
unimpeded--a dry area of sedge and Indian grass immediately before and
around me--space, simple, unornamented space. Distant vessels, and the
far-off, just visible trailing smoke of an inward bound steamer; more
plainly, ships, brigs, schooners, in sight, most of them with every sail
set to the firm and steady wind.

The attractions, fascinations there are in sea and shore! How one dwells
on their simplicity, even vacuity! What is it in us, arous'd by those
indirections and directions? That spread of waves and gray-white beach,
salt, monotonous, senseless--such an entire absence of art, books, talk,
elegance--so indescribably comforting, even this winter day--grim,
yet so delicate-looking, so spiritual--striking emotional, impalpable
depths, subtler than all the poems, paintings, music, I have ever read,
seen, heard. (Yet let me be fair, perhaps it is because I have read
those poems and heard that music.)


Even as a boy, I had the fancy, the wish, to write a piece, perhaps
a poem, about the sea-shore--that suggesting, dividing line, contact,
junction, the solid marrying the liquid--that curious, lurking
something, (as doubtless every objective form finally becomes to the
subjective spirit,) which means far more than its mere first sight,
grand as that is--blending the real and ideal, and each made portion
of the other. Hours, days, in my Long Island youth and early manhood,
I haunted the shores of Rockaway or Coney island, or away east to the
Hamptons or Montauk. Once, at the latter place, (by the old lighthouse,
nothing but sea-tossings in sight in every direction as far as the eye
could reach,) I remember well, I felt that I must one day write a book
expressing this liquid, mystic theme. Afterward, I recollect, how it
came to me that instead of any special lyrical or epical or literary
attempt, the sea-shore should be an invisible _influence_, a pervading
gauge and tally for me, in my composition. (Let me give a hint here to
young writers. I am not sure but I have unwittingly follow'd out the
same rule with other powers besides sea and shores--avoiding them,
in the way of any dead set at poetizing them, as too big for formal
handling--quite satisfied if I could indirectly show that we have met
and fused, even if only once, but enough--that we have really absorb'd
each other and understand each other.)

There is a dream, a picture, that for years at intervals, (sometimes
quite long ones, but surely again, in time,) has come noiselessly up
before me, and I really believe, fiction as it is, has enter'd largely
into my practical life--certainly into my writings, and shaped and
color'd them. It is nothing more or less than a stretch of interminable
white-brown sand, hard and smooth and broad, with the ocean perpetually,
grandly, rolling in upon it, with slow-measured sweep, with rustle and
hiss and foam, and many a thump as of low bass drums. This scene, this
picture, I say, has risen before me at times for years. Sometimes I wake
at night and can hear and see it plainly.


_Spoken at Lincoln Hall, Philadelphia, Sunday, Jan. 28, '77, for 140th
anniversary of T. P.'s birthday._

Some thirty-five years ago, in New York city, at Tammany hall, of
which place I was then a frequenter, I happen'd to become quite well
acquainted with Thomas Paine's perhaps most intimate chum, and certainly
his later years' very frequent companion, a remarkably fine old man,
Col. Fellows, who may yet be remember'd by some stray relics of that
period and spot. If you will allow me, I will first give a description
of the Colonel himself. He was tall, of military bearing, aged about 78,
I should think, hair white as snow, clean-shaved on the face, dress'd
very neatly, a tail-coat of blue cloth with metal buttons, buff vest,
pantaloons of drab color, and his neck, breast and wrists showing the
whitest of linen. Under all circumstances, fine manners; a good but not
profuse talker, his wits still fully about him, balanced and live
and undimm'd as ever. He kept pretty fair health, though so old. For
employment--for he was poor--he had a post as constable of some of the
upper courts. I used to think him very picturesque on the fringe of a
crowd holding a tall staff, with his erect form, and his superb, bare,
thick-hair'd, closely-cropt white head. The judges and young lawyers,
with whom he was ever a favorite, and the subject of respect, used to
call him Aristides. It was the general opinion among them that if manly
rectitude and the instincts of absolute justice remain'd vital anywhere
about New York City Hall, or Tammany, they were to be found in Col.
Fellows. He liked young men, and enjoy'd to leisurely talk with them
over a social glass of toddy, after his day's work, (he on these
occasions never drank but one glass,) and it was at reiterated meetings
of this kind in old Tammany's back parlor of those days, that he told
me much about Thomas Paine. At one of our interviews he gave me a minute
account of Paine's sickness and death. In short, from those talks, I
was and am satisfied that my old friend, with his mark'd advantages, had
mentally, morally and emotionally gauged the author of "Common Sense,"
and besides giving me a good portrait of his appearance and manners, had
taken the true measure of his interior character.

Paine's practical demeanor, and much of his theoretical belief, was a
mixture of the French and English schools of a century ago, and the best
of both. Like most old-fashion'd people, he drank a glass or two every
day, but was no tippler, nor intemperate, let alone being a drunkard.
He lived simply and economically, but quite well--was always cheery and
courteous, perhaps occasionally a little blunt, having very positive
opinions upon politics, religion, and so forth. That he labor'd well and
wisely for the States in the trying period of their parturition, and in
the seeds of their character, there seems to me no question. I dare
not say how much of what our Union is owning and enjoying to-day--its
independence--its ardent belief in, and substantial practice of
radical human rights--and the severance of its government from all
ecclesiastical and superstitious dominion--I dare not say how much of
all this is owing to Thomas Paine, but I am inclined to think a good
portion of it decidedly is.

But I was not going either into an analysis or eulogium of the man.
I wanted to carry you back a generation or two, and give you by
indirection a moment's glance--and also to ventilate a very earnest and
I believe authentic opinion, nay conviction, of that time, the fruit
of the interviews I have mention'd, and of questioning and
cross-questioning, clench'd by my best information since, that Thomas
Paine had a noble personality, as exhibited in presence, face, voice,
dress, manner, and what may be call'd his atmosphere and magnetism,
especially the later years of his life. I am sure of it. Of the foul and
foolish fictions yet told about the circumstances of his decease, the
absolute fact is that as he lived a good life, after its kind, he died
calmly and philosophically, as became him. He served the embryo Union
with most precious service--a service that every man, woman and child
in our thirty-eight States is to some extent receiving the benefit of
to-day--and I for one here cheerfully, reverently throw my pebble on the
cairn of his memory. As we all know, the season demands--or rather, will
it ever be out of season?--that America learn to better dwell on her
choicest possession, the legacy of her good and faithful men--that she
well preserve their fame, if unquestion'd--or, if need be, that she fail
not to dissipate what clouds have intruded on that fame, and burnish it
newer, truer and brighter, continually.


_Feb. 3, '77_--From 4 to 6 P. M. crossing the Delaware, (back again at
my Camden home,) unable to make our landing, through the ice; our boat
stanch and strong and skilfully piloted, but old and sulky, and poorly
minding her helm. (_Power_, so important in poetry and war, is also
first point of all in a winter steamboat, with long stretches of
ice-packs to tackle.) For over two hours we bump'd and beat about,
the invisible ebb, sluggish but irresistible, often carrying us long
distances against our will. In the first tinge of dusk, as I look'd
around, I thought there could not be presented a more chilling, arctic,
grim-extended, depressing scene. Everything was yet plainly visible; for
miles north and south, ice, ice, ice, mostly broken, but some big
cakes, and no clear water in sight. The shores, piers, surfaces,
roofs, shipping, mantled with snow. A faint winter vapor hung a fitting
accompaniment around and over the endless whitish spread, and gave it
just a tinge of steel and brown.

_Feb. 6_.--As I cross home in the 6 P. M. boat again, the transparent
shadows are filled everywhere with leisurely falling, slightly slanting,
curiously sparse but very large, flakes of snow. On the shores, near and
far, the glow of just-lit gas-clusters at intervals. The ice, sometimes
in hummocks, sometimes floating fields, through which our boat goes
crunching. The light permeated by that peculiar evening haze, right
after sunset, which sometimes renders quite distant objects so


_Feb. 10_.--The first chirping, almost singing, of a bird to-day. Then
I noticed a couple of honey-bees spirting and humming about the open
window in the sun.

_Feb. 11_.--In the soft rose and pale gold of the declining light, this
beautiful evening, I heard the first hum and preparation of awakening
spring--very faint--whether in the earth or roots, or starting of
insects, I know not--but it was audible, as I lean'd on a rail (I am
down in my country quarters awhile,) and look'd long at the western
horizon. Turning to the east, Sirius, as the shadows deepen'd, came
forth in dazzling splendor. And great Orion; and a little to the
north-east the big Dipper, standing on end.

_Feb. 20_.--A solitary and pleasant sundown hour at the pond, exercising
arms, chest, my whole body, by a tough oak sapling thick as my wrist,
twelve feet high--pulling and pushing, inspiring the good air. After
I wrestle with the tree awhile, I can feel its young sap and virtue
welling up out of the ground and tingling through me from crown to toe,
like health's wine. Then for addition and variety I launch forth in my
vocalism; shout declamatory pieces, sentiments, sorrow, anger, &c., from
the stock poets or plays--or inflate my lungs and sing the wild tunes
and refrains I heard of the blacks down south, or patriotic songs I
learn'd in the army. I make the echoes ring, I tell you! As the twilight
fell, in a pause of these ebullitions, an owl somewhere the other side
of the creek sounded _too-oo-oo-oo-oo_, soft and pensive (and I fancied
a little sarcastic) repeated four or five times. Either to applaud the
negro songs--or perhaps an ironical comment on the sorrow, anger, or
style of the stock poets.


How is it that in all the serenity and lonesomeness of solitude, away
off here amid the hush of the forest, alone, or as I have found in
prairie wilds, or mountain stillness, one is never entirely without the
instinct of looking around, (I never am, and others tell me the same of
themselves, confidentially,) for somebody to appear, or start up out
of the earth, or from behind some tree or rock? Is it a lingering,
inherited remains of man's primitive wariness, from the wild animals? or
from his savage ancestry far back? It is not at all nervousness or fear.
Seems as if something unknown were possibly lurking in those bushes, or
solitary places. Nay, it is quite certain there is--some vital unseen


_Feb. 22_.--Last night and to-day rainy and thick, till mid-afternoon,
when the wind chopp'd round, the clouds swiftly drew off like curtains,
the clear appear'd, and with it the fairest, grandest, most wondrous
rainbow I ever saw, all complete, very vivid at its earth-ends,
spreading vast effusions of illuminated haze, violet, yellow,
drab-green, in all directions overhead, through which the sun beam'd--an
indescribable utterance of color and light, so gorgeous yet so soft,
such as I had never witness'd before. Then its continuance: a full hour
pass'd before the last of those earth-ends disappear'd. The sky behind
was all spread in translucent blue, with many little white clouds and
edges. To these a sunset, filling, dominating the esthetic and soul
senses, sumptuously, tenderly, full. I end this note by the pond,
just light enough to see, through the evening shadows, the western
reflections in its water-mirror surface, with inverted figures of trees.
I hear now and then the _flup_ of a pike leaping out, and rippling the


_April 6_.--Palpable spring indeed, or the indications of it. I am
sitting in bright sunshine, at the edge of the creek, the surface just
rippled by the wind. All is solitude, morning freshness, negligence.
For companions my two kingfishers sailing, winding, darting, dipping,
sometimes capriciously separate, then flying together. I hear their
guttural twittering again and again; for awhile nothing but that
peculiar sound. As noon approaches other birds warm up. The reedy notes
of the robin, and a musical passage of two parts, one a clear delicious
gurgle, with several other birds I cannot place. To which is join'd,
(yes, I just hear it,) one low purr at intervals from some impatient
hylas at the pond-edge. The sibilant murmur of a pretty stiff breeze
now and then through the trees. Then a poor little dead leaf, long
frost-bound, whirls from somewhere up aloft in one wild escaped
freedom-spree in space and sunlight, and then dashes down to the waters,
which hold it closely and soon drown it out of sight. The bushes and
trees are yet bare, but the beeches have their wrinkled yellow leaves of
last season's foliage largely left, frequent cedars and pines yet green,
and the grass not without proofs of coming fullness. And over all a
wonderfully fine dome of clear blue, the play of light coming and going,
and great fleeces of white clouds swimming so silently.


The soil, too--let others pen-and-ink the sea, the air, (as I sometimes
try)--but now I feel to choose the common soil for theme--naught else.
The brown soil here, (just between winter-close and opening spring
and vegetation)--the rain-shower at night, and the fresh smell next
morning--the red worms wriggling out of the ground--the dead leaves,
the incipient grass, and the latent life underneath--the effort to start
something--already in shelter'd spots some little flowers--the distant
emerald show of winter wheat and the rye-fields--the yet naked trees,
with clear insterstices, giving prospects hidden in summer--the tough
fallow and the plow-team, and the stout boy whistling to his horses for
encouragement--and there the dark fat earth in long slanting stripes


_A little later--bright weather_.--An unusual melodiousness, these days,
(last of April and first of May) from the blackbirds; indeed all sorts
of birds, darting, whistling, hopping or perch'd on trees. Never before
have I seen, heard, or been in the midst of, and got so flooded and
saturated with them and their performances, as this current month. Such
oceans, such successions of them. Let me make a list of those I find

Black birds (plenty,) Meadow-larks (plenty,) Ring doves, Cat-birds
(plenty,) Owls, Cuckoos, Woodpeckers, Pond snipes (plenty,) King-birds,
Cheewinks, Crows (plenty,) Quawks, Wrens, Ground robins, Kingfishers,
Ravens, Quails, Gray snipes, Turkey-buzzards, Eagles, Hen-hawks,
High-holes, Yellow birds, Herons, Thrushes, Tits, Reed birds,

Early came the

Blue birds, Meadow-lark, Killdeer, White-bellied swallow, Plover,
Sandpiper, Robin, Wilson's thrush, Woodcock, Flicker.


_May 2l_.--Back in Camden. Again commencing one of those unusually
transparent, full-starr'd, blue-black nights, as if to show that however
lush and pompous the day may be, there is something left in the
not-day that can outvie it. The rarest, finest sample of long-drawn-out
clear-obscure, from sundown to 9 o'clock. I went down to the Delaware,
and cross'd and cross'd. Venus like blazing silver well up in the west.
The large pale thin crescent of the new moon, half an hour high, sinking
languidly under a bar-sinister of cloud, and then emerging. Arcturus
right overhead. A faint fragrant sea-odor wafted up from the south.
The gloaming, the temper'd coolness, with every feature of the scene,
indescribably soothing and tonic--one of those hours that give hints to
the soul, impossible to put in a statement. (Ah, where would be any food
for spirituality without night and the stars?) The vacant spaciousness
of the air, and the veil'd blue of the heavens, seem'd miracles enough.

As the night advanc'd it changed its spirit and garments to ampler
stateliness. I was almost conscious of a definite presence, Nature
silently near. The great constellation of the Water-Serpent stretch'd
its coils over more than half the heavens. The Swan with outspread wings
was flying down the Milky Way. The northern Crown, the Eagle, Lyra, all
up there in their places. From the whole dome shot down points of light,
rapport with me, through the clear blue-black. All the usual sense of
motion, all animal life, seem'd discarded, seem'd a fiction; a curious
power, like the placid rest of Egyptian gods, took possession, none
the less potent for being impalpable. Earlier I had seen many bats,
balancing in the luminous twilight, darting their black forms hither
and yon over the river; but now they altogether disappear'd. The evening
star and the moon had gone. Alertness and peace lay camly couching
together through the fluid universal shadows.

_Aug. 26_.--Bright has the day been, and my spirits an equal _forzando_.
Then comes the night, different, inexpressibly pensive, with its
own tender and temper'd splendor. Venus lingers in the west with a
voluptuous dazzle unshown hitherto this summer. Mars rises early, and
the red sulky moon, two days past her full; Jupiter at night's meridian,
and the long curling-slanted Scorpion stretching full view in the south,
Aretus-neck'd. Mars walks the heavens lord-paramount now; all through
this month I go out after supper and watch for him; sometimes getting
up at midnight to take another look at his unparallel'd lustre. (I see
lately an astronomer has made out through the new Washington telescope
that Mars has certainly one moon, perhaps two.) Pale and distant, but
near in the heavens, Saturn precedes him.


Large, placid mulleins, as summer advances, velvety in texture, of a
light greenish-drab color, growing everywhere in the fields--at first
earth's big rosettes in their broad-leav'd low cluster-plants, eight,
ten, twenty leaves to a plant--plentiful on the fallow twenty-acre
lot, at the end of the lane, and especially by the ridge-sides of the
fences--then close to the ground, but soon springing up--leaves as broad
as my hand, and the lower ones twice as long--so fresh and dewy in the
morning--stalks now four or five, even seven or eight feet high. The
farmers, I find, think the mullein a mean unworthy weed, but I have
grown to a fondness for it. Every object has its lesson, enclosing
the suggestion of everything else--and lately I sometimes think all is
concentrated for me in these hardy, yellow-flower'd weeds. As I come
down the lane early in the morning, I pause before their soft wool-like
fleece and stem and broad leaves, glittering with countless diamonds.
Annually for three summers now, they and I have silently return'd
together; at such long intervals I stand or sit among them,
musing--and woven with the rest, of so many hours and moods of partial
rehabilitation--of my sane or sick spirit, here as near at peace as it
can be.


The axe of the wood-cutter, the measured thud of a single
threshing-flail, the crowing of chanticleer in the barn-yard, (with
invariable responses from other barn-yards,) and the lowing of
cattle--but most of all, or far or near, the wind--through the high
tree-tops, or through low bushes, laving one's face and hands so gently,
this balmy-bright noon, the coolest for a long time, (Sept. 2)--I will
not call it _sighing_, for to me it is always a firm, sane, cheery
expression, through a monotone, giving many varieties, or swift or slow,
or dense or delicate. The wind in the patch of pine woods off there--how
sibilant. Or at sea, I can imagine it this moment, tossing the waves,
with spirits of foam flying far, and the free whistle, and the scent
of the salt--and that vast paradox somehow with all its action and
restlessness conveying a sense of eternal rest.

_Other adjuncts._--But the sun and the moon here and these times. As
never more wonderful by day, the gorgeous orb imperial, so vast,
so ardently, lovingly hot--so never a more glorious moon of nights,
especially the last three or four. The great planets too--Mars never
before so flaming bright, so flashing-large, with slight yellow tinge,
(the astronomers say--is it true?--nearer to us than any time the past
century)--and well up, lord Jupiter, (a little while since close by
the moon)--and in the west, after the sun sinks, voluptuous Venus, now
languid and shorn of her beams, as if from some divine excess.


_Sunday, Aug. 27_.--Another day quite free from mark'd prostration
and pain. It seems indeed as if peace and nutriment from heaven subtly
filter into me as I slowly hobble down these country lanes and across
fields, in the good air--as I sit here in solitude with Nature--open,
voiceless, mystic, far removed, yet palpable, eloquent Nature. I
merge myself in the scene, in the perfect day. Hovering over the clear
brook-water, I am sooth'd by its soft gurgle in one place, and
the hoarser murmurs of its three-foot fall in another. Come, ye
disconsolate, in whom any latent eligibility is left--come get the sure
virtues of creek-shore, and wood and field. Two months (July and August,
'77,) have I absorb'd them, and they begin to make a new man of me.
Every day, seclusion--every day at least two or three hours of freedom,
bathing, no talk, no bonds, no dress, no books, no _manners_.

Shall I tell you, reader, to what I attribute my already much-restored
health? That I have been almost two years, off and on, without drugs and
medicines, and daily in the open air. Last summer I found a particularly
secluded little dell off one side by my creek, originally a large
dug-out marl-pit, now abandon'd, fill'd, with bushes, trees, grass, a
group of willows, a straggling bank, and a spring of delicious water
running right through the middle of it, with two or three little
cascades. Here I retreated every hot day, and follow it up this summer.
Here I realize the meaning of that old fellow who said he was seldom
less alone than when alone. Never before did I get so close to Nature;
never before did she come so close to me. By old habit, I pencill'd down
from time to time, almost automatically, moods, sights, hours, tints and
outlines, on the spot. Let me specially record the satisfaction of
this current forenoon, so serene and primitive, so conventionally
exceptional, natural.

An hour or so after breakfast I wended my way down to the recesses of
the aforesaid dell, which I and certain thrushes, cat-birds, &c.,
had all to ourselves. A light south-west wind was blowing through the
tree-tops. It was just the place and time for my Adamic air-bath and
flesh-brushing from head to foot. So hanging clothes on a rail near by,
keeping old broadbrim straw on head and easy shoes on feet, havn't I had
a good time the last two hours! First with the stiff-elastic bristles
rasping arms, breast, sides, till they turn'd scarlet--then partially
bathing in the clear waters of the running brook--taking everything very
leisurely, with many rests and pauses--stepping about barefooted every
few minutes now and then in some neighboring black ooze, for unctuous
mud-bath to my feet--a brief second and third rinsing in the crystal
running waters--rubbing with the fragrant towel--slow negligent
promenades on the turf up and down in the sun, varied with occasional
rests, and further frictions of the bristle-brush--sometimes carrying
my portable chair with me from place to place, as my range is quite
extensive here, nearly a hundred rods, feeling quite secure from
intrusion, (and that indeed I am not at all nervous about, if it
accidentally happens.)

As I walk'd slowly over the grass, the sun shone out enough to show the
shadow moving with me. Somehow I seem'd to get identity with each and
every thing around me, in its condition. Nature was naked, and I was
also. It was too lazy, soothing, and joyous-equable to speculate
about. Yet I might have thought somehow in this vein: Perhaps the inner
never-lost rapport we hold with earth, light, air, trees, &c., is not to
be realized through eyes and mind only, but through the whole corporeal
body, which I will not have blinded or bandaged any more than the eyes.
Sweet, sane, still Nakedness in Nature!--ah if poor, sick, prurient
humanity in cities might really know you once more! Is not nakedness
then indecent? No, not inherently. It is your thought, your
sophistication, your tear, your respectability, that is indecent. There
come moods when these clothes of ours are not only too irksome to wear,
but are themselves indecent. Perhaps indeed he or she to whom the free
exhilarating extasy of nakedness in Nature has never been eligible (and
how many thousands there are!) has not really known what purity is--nor
what faith or art or health really is. (Probably the whole curriculum
of first-class philosophy, beauty, heroism, form, illustrated by the
old Hellenic race--the highest height and deepest depth known to
civilization in those departments--came from their natural and religious
idea of Nakedness.)

Many such hours, from time to time, the last two summers--I attribute my
partial rehabilitation largely to them. Some good people may think it a
feeble or half-crack'd way of spending one's time and thinking. May-be
it is.


_Sept. 5, '77._--I write this, 11 A.M., shelter'd under a dense oak
by the bank, where I have taken refuge from a sudden rain. I came down
here, (we had sulky drizzles all the morning, but an hour ago a lull,)
for the before-mention'd daily and simple exercise I am fond of--to
pull on that young hickory sapling out there--to sway and yield to its
tough-limber upright stem--haply to get into my old sinews some of
its elastic fibre and clear sap. I stand on the turf and take these
health-pulls moderately and at intervals for nearly an hour, inhaling
great draughts of fresh air. Wandering by the creek, I have three or
four naturally favorable spots where I rest--besides a chair I lug with
me and use for more deliberate occasions. At other spots convenient I
have selected, besides the hickory just named, strong and limber boughs
of beech or holly, in easy-reaching distance, for my natural gymnasia,
for arms, chest, trunk-muscles. I can soon feel the sap and sinew rising
through me, like mercury to heat. I hold on boughs or slender trees
caressingly there in the sun and shade, wrestle with their innocent
stalwartness--and _know_ the virtue thereof passes from them into me.
(Or may-be we interchange--may-be the trees are more aware of it all
than I ever thought.)

But now pleasantly imprison'd here under the big oak--the rain dripping,
and the sky cover'd with leaden clouds--nothing but the pond on one
side, and the other a spread of grass, spotted with the milky blossoms
of the wild carrot--the sound of an axe wielded at some distant
wood-pile--yet in this dull scene, (as most folks would call it,) why am
I so (almost) happy here and alone? Why would any intrusion, even from
people I like, spoil the charm? But am I alone? Doubtless there comes a
time--perhaps it has come to me--when one feels through his whole being,
and pronouncedly the emotional part, that identity between himself
subjectively and Nature objectively which Schelling and Fichte are so
fond of pressing. How it is I know not, but I often realize a presence
here--in clear moods I am certain of it, and neither chemistry nor
reasoning nor esthetics will give the least explanation. All the past
two summers it has been strengthening and nourishing my sick body and
soul, as never before. Thanks, invisible physician, for thy silent
delicious medicine, thy day and night, thy waters and thy airs, the
banks, the grass, the trees, and e'en the weeds!


While I have been kept by the rain under the shelter of my great oak,
(perfectly dry and comfortable, to the rattle of the drops all around,)
I have pencill'd off the mood of the hour in a little quintette, which I
will give you:

    At vacancy with Nature,
    Acceptive and at ease,
    Distilling the present hour,
    Whatever, wherever it is,
    And over the past, oblivion.

Can you get hold of it, reader dear? and how do you like it anyhow?


Where I was stopping I saw the first palpable frost, on my sunrise walk,
October 6; all over the yet-green spread a light blue-gray veil, giving
a new show to the entire landscape. I had but little time to notice it,
for the sun rose cloudless and mellow-warm, and as I returned along the
lane it had turn'd to glittering patches of wet. As I walk I notice
the bursting pods of wild-cotton, (Indian hemp they call it here,) with
flossy-silky contents, and dark red-brown seeds--a startled rabbit--I
pull a handful of the balsamic life-ever-lasting and stuff it down in my
trowsers-pocket for scent.


_December 20_.--Somehow I got thinking to-day of young men's deaths--not
at all sadly or sentimentally, but gravely, realistically, perhaps a
little artistically. Let me give the following three cases from budgets
of personal memoranda, which I have been turning over, alone in my room,
and resuming and dwelling on, this rainy afternoon. Who is there to whom
the theme does not come home? Then I don't know how it may be to
others, but to me not only is there nothing gloomy or depressing in such
cases--on the contrary, as reminiscences, I find them soothing, bracing,

ERASTUS HASKELL.--[I just transcribe verbatim from a letter written by
myself in one of the army hospitals, 16 years ago, during the secession
war.] _Washington, July 28, 1863._--Dear M.,--I am writing this in the
hospital, sitting by the side of a soldier, I do not expect to last many
hours. His fate has been a hard one--he seems to be only about 19 or
20--Erastus Haskell, company K, 141st N. Y.--has been out about a year,
and sick or half-sick more than half that time--has been down on the
peninsula--was detail'd to go in the band as fifer-boy. While sick, the
surgeon told him to keep up with the rest--(probably work'd and march'd
too long.) He is a shy, and seems to me a very sensible boy--has fine
manners--never complains--was sick down on the peninsula in an old
storehouse--typhoid fever. The first week this July was brought up
here--journey very bad, no accommodations, no nourishment, nothing
but hard jolting, and exposure enough to make a well man sick; (these
fearful journeys do the job for many)--arrived here July 11th--a silent
dark-skinn'd Spanish-looking youth, with large very dark blue eyes,
peculiar looking. Doctor F. here made light of his sickness--said he
would recover soon, etc.; but I thought very different, and told F.
so repeatedly; (I came near quarreling with him about it from the
first)--but he laugh'd, and would not listen to me. About four days ago,
I told Doctor he would in my opinion lose the boy without doubt--but F.
again laugh'd at me. The next day he changed his opinion--brought the
head surgeon of the post--he said the boy would probably die, but they
would make a hard fight for him.

The last two days he has been lying panting for breath--a pitiful
sight. I have been with him some every day or night since he arrived. He
suffers a great deal with the heat--says little or nothing--is flighty
the last three days, at times--knows me always, however--calls me
"Walter"--(sometimes calls the name over and over and over again,
musingly, abstractedly, to himself.) His father lives at Breesport,
Chemung county, N. Y., is a mechanic with large family--is a steady,
religious man; his mother too is living. I have written to them, and
shall write again to-day--Erastus has not receiv'd a word from home for

As I sit here writing to you, M., I wish you could see the whole scene.
This young man lies within reach of me, flat on his back, his hands
clasp'd across his breast, his thick black hair cut close; he is dozing,
breathing hard, every breath a spasm--it looks so cruel. He is a noble
youngster,--I consider him past all hope. Often there is no one with him
for a long while. I am here as much as possible.

WILLIAM ALCOTT, fireman. _Camden, Nov., 1874_.--Last Monday afternoon
his widow, mother, relatives, mates of the fire department, and his
other friends, (I was one, only lately it is true, but our love grew
fast and close, the days and nights of those eight weeks by the chair
of rapid decline, and the bed of death,) gather'd to the funeral of
this young man, who had grown up, and was well-known here. With nothing
special, perhaps, to record, I would give a word or two to his memory.
He seem'd to me not an inappropriate specimen in character and elements,
of that bulk of the average good American race that ebbs and flows
perennially beneath this scum of eructations on the surface. Always very
quiet in manner, neat in person and dress, good temper'd--punctual and
industrious at his work, till he could work no longer--he just lived his
steady, square, unobtrusive life, in its own humble sphere, doubtless
unconscious of itself. (Though I think there were currents of emotion
and intellect undevelop'd beneath, far deeper than his acquaintances
ever suspected--or than he himself ever did.) He was no talker. His
troubles, when he had any, he kept to himself. As there was nothing
querulous about him in life, he made no complaints during his last
sickness. He was one of those persons that while his associates never
thought of attributing any particular talent or grace to him, yet all
insensibly, really, liked Billy Alcott.

I, too, loved him. At last, after being with him quite a good
deal--after hours and days of panting for breath, much of the time
unconscious, (for though the consumption that had been lurking in his
system, once thoroughly started, made rapid progress, there was still
great vitality in him, and indeed for four or five days he lay
dying, before the close,) late on Wednesday night, Nov. 4th, where we
surrounded his bed in silence, there came a lull--a longer drawn breath,
a pause, a faint sigh--another--a weaker breath, another sigh--a pause
again and just a tremble--and the face of the poor wasted young man (he
was just 26,) fell gently over, in death, on my hand, on the pillow.

CHARLES CASWELL.--[I extract the following, verbatim, from a letter
to me dated September 29, from my friend John Burroughs, at
Esopus-on-Hudson, New York State.] S. was away when your picture came,
attending his sick brother, Charles--who has since died--an event that
has sadden'd me much. Charlie was younger than S., and a most attractive
young fellow. He work'd at my father's and had done so for two years.
He was about the best specimen of a young country farm-hand I ever knew.
You would have loved him. He was like one of your poems. With his
great strength, his blond hair, his cheerfulness and contentment, his
universal good will, and his silent manly ways, he was a youth hard to
match. He was murder'd by an old doctor. He had typhoid fever, and the
old fool bled him twice. He lived to wear out the fever, but had not
strength to rally. He was out of his head nearly all the time. In the
morning, as he died in the afternoon, S. was standing over him, when
Charlie put up his arms around S.'s neck, and pull'd his face down and
kiss'd him. S. said he knew then the end was near. (S. stuck to him day
and night to the last.) When I was home in August, Charlie was cradling
on the hill, and it was a picture to see him walk through the grain. All
work seem'd play to him. He had no vices, any more than Nature has, and
was belov'd by all who knew him.

I have written thus to you about him, for such young men belong to
you; he was of your kind. I wish you could have known him. He had the
sweetness of a child, and the strength and courage and readiness of a
young Viking. His mother and father are poor; they have a rough, hard
farm. His mother works in the field with her husband when the work
presses. She has had twelve children.


_February 7, 1878_.--Glistening sun today, with slight haze, warm
enough, and yet tart, as I sit here in the open air, down in my country
retreat, under an old cedar. For two hours I have been idly wandering
around the woods and pond, lugging my chair, picking out choice spots to
sit awhile--then up and slowly on again. All is peace here. Of course,
none of the summer noises or vitality; to-day hardly even the winter
ones. I amuse myself by exercising my voice in recitations, and in
ringing the changes on all the vocal and alphabetical sounds. Not even
an echo; only the cawing of a solitary crow, flying at some distance.
The pond is one bright, flat spread, without a ripple--a vast Claude
Lorraine glass, in which I study the sky, the light, the leafless trees,
and an occasional crow, with flapping wings, flying overhead. The brown
fields have a few white patches of snow left.

_Feb. 9_.--After an hour's ramble, now retreating, resting, sitting
close by the pond, in a warm nook, writing this, shelter'd from the
breeze, just before noon. The _emotional_ aspects and influences of
Nature! I, too, like the rest, feel these modern tendencies (from all
the prevailing intellections, literature and poems,) to turn everything
to pathos, ennui, morbidity, dissatisfaction, death. Yet how clear it is
to me that those are not the born results, influences of Nature at all,
but of one's own distorted, sick or silly soul. Here, amid this wild,
free scene, how healthy, how joyous, how clean and vigorous and sweet!

_Mid-afternoon_.--One of my nooks is south of the barn, and here I am
sitting now, on a log, still basking in the sun, shielded from the wind.
Near me are the cattle, feeding on corn-stalks. Occasionally a cow or
the young bull (how handsome and bold he is!) scratches and munches
the far end of the log on which I sit. The fresh milky odor is quite
perceptible, also the perfume of hay from the barn. The perpetual rustle
of dry corn-stalks, the low sough of the wind round the barn gables, the
grunting of pigs, the distant whistle of a locomotive, and occasional
crowing of chanticleers, are the sounds.

_Feb. 19._--Cold and sharp last night--clear and not much wind--the full
moon shining, and a fine spread of constellations and little and big
stars--Sirius very bright, rising early, preceded by many-orb'd Orion,
glittering, vast, sworded, and chasing with his dog. The earth hard
frozen, and a stiff glare of ice over the pond. Attracted by the calm
splendor of the night, I attempted a short walk, but was driven back
by the cold. Too severe for me also at 9 o'clock, when I came out this
morning, so I turn'd back again. But now, near noon, I have walk'd
down the lane, basking all the way in the sun (this farm has a pleasant
southerly exposure,) and here I am, seated under the lee of a bank,
close by the water. There are bluebirds already flying about, and I
hear much chirping and twittering and two or three real songs, sustain'd
quite awhile, in the mid-day brilliance and warmth. (There! that is a
true carol, coming out boldly and repeatedly, as if the singer meant
it.) Then as the noon strengthens, the reedy trill of the robin--to my
ear the most cheering of bird-notes. At intervals, like bars and breaks
(out of the low murmur that in any scene, however quiet, is never
entirely absent to a delicate ear,) the occasional crunch and cracking
of the ice-glare congeal'd over the creek, as it gives way to the
sunbeams--sometimes with low sigh--sometimes with indignant, obstinate
tug and snort.

(Robert Burns says in one of his letters: "There is scarcely any earthly
object gives me more--I do not know if I should call it pleasure--but
something which exalts me--something which enraptures me--than to walk
in the shelter' d side of a wood in a cloudy winter day, and hear the
stormy wind howling among the trees, and raving over the plain. It is
my best season of devotion." Some of his most characteristic poems were
composed in such scenes and seasons.)


_March 16_.--Fine, clear, dazzling morning, the sun an hour high, the
air just tart enough. What a stamp in advance my whole day receives
from the song of that meadow lark perch'd on a fence-stake twenty rods
distant! Two or three liquid-simple notes, repeated at intervals,
full of careless happiness and hope. With its peculiar shimmering slow
progress and rapid-noiseless action of the wings, it flies on a way,
lights on another stake, and so on to another, shimmering and singing
many minutes.


_May 6, 5 P. M._--This is the hour for strange effects in light and
shade-enough to make a colorist go delirious--long spokes of molten
silver sent horizontally through the trees (now in their brightest
tenderest green,) each leaf and branch of endless foliage a lit-up
miracle, then lying all prone on the youthful-ripe, interminable grass,
and giving the blades not only aggregate but individual splendor, in
ways unknown to any other hour. I have particular spots where I get
these effects in their perfection. One broad splash lies on the
water, with many a rippling twinkle, offset by the rapidly deepening
black-green murky-transparent shadows behind, and at intervals all along
the banks. These, with great shafts of horizontal fire thrown among the
trees and along the grass as the sun lowers, give effects more and more
peculiar, more and more superb, unearthly, rich and dazzling.


_June 2_.--This is the fourth day of a dark northeast storm, wind and
rain. Day before yesterday was my birthday. I have now enter'd on
my 60th year. Every day of the storm, protected by overshoes and a
waterproof blanket, I regularly come down to the pond, and ensconce
myself under the lee of the great oak; I am here now writing these
lines. The dark smoke-color'd clouds roll in furious silence athwart the
sky; the soft green leaves dangle all around me; the wind steadily keeps
up its hoarse, soothing music over my head--Nature's mighty whisper.
Seated here in solitude I have been musing over my life--connecting
events, dates, as links of a chain, neither sadly nor cheerily, but
somehow, to-day here under the oak, in the rain, in an unusually
matter-of-fact spirit.

But my great oak--sturdy, vital, green-five feet thick at the butt. I
sit a great deal near or under him. Then the tulip tree near by--the
Apollo of the woods--tall and graceful, yet robust and sinewy,
inimitable in hang of foliage and throwing-out of limb; as if the
beauteous, vital, leafy creature could walk, if it only would. (I had
a sort of dream-trance the other day, in which I saw my favorite trees
step out and promenade up, down and around, very curiously--with a
whisper from one, leaning down as he pass'd me, _We do all this on the
present occasion, exceptionally, just for you_.)


_July 3d, 4th, 5th._--Clear, hot, favorable weather--has been a good
summer--the growth of clover and grass now generally mow'd. The familiar
delicious perfume fills the barns and lanes. As you go along you see the
fields of grayish white slightly tinged with yellow, the loosely stack'd
grain, the slow-moving wagons passing, and farmers in the fields with
stout boys pitching and loading the sheaves. The corn is about beginning
to tassel. All over the middle and southern states the spear-shaped
battalia, multitudinous, curving, flaunting--long, glossy, dark-green
plumes for the great horseman, earth. I hear the cheery notes of my old
acquaintance Tommy quail; but too late for the whip-poor-will, (though
I heard one solitary lingerer night before last.) I watch the broad
majestic flight of a turkey-buzzard, sometimes high up, sometimes low
enough to see the lines of his form, even his spread quills, in relief
against the sky. Once or twice lately I have seen an eagle here at early
candle-light flying low.


_June 15_.--To-day I noticed a new large bird, size of a nearly grown
hen--a haughty, white-bodied dark-wing'd hawk--I suppose a hawk from his
bill and general look--only he had a clear, loud, quite musical, sort of
bell-like call, which he repeated again and again, at intervals, from a
lofty dead tree-top, overhanging the water. Sat there a long time, and I
on the opposite bank watching him. Then he darted down, skimming pretty
close to the stream--rose slowly, a magnificent sight, and sail'd with
steady wide-spread wings, no flapping at all, up and down the pond
two or three times, near me, in circles in clear sight, as if for my
delectation. Once he came quite close over my head; I saw plainly his
hook'd bill and hard restless eyes.


How much music (wild, simple, savage, doubtless, but so tart-sweet,)
there is in mere whistling. It is four-fifths of the utterance of birds.
There are all sorts and styles. For the last half-hour, now, while I
have been sitting here, some feather'd fellow away off in the bushes has
been repeating over and over again what I may call a kind of throbbing
whistle. And now a bird about the robin size has just appear'd, all
mulberry red, flitting among the bushes--head, wings, body, deep red,
not very bright--no song, as I have heard. _4. o'clock_: There is a real
concert going on around me--a dozen different birds pitching in with
a will. There have been occasional rains, and the growths all show its
vivifying influences. As I finish this, seated on a log close by the
pond-edge, much chirping and trilling in the distance, and a feather'd
recluse in the woods near by is singing deliciously--not many notes,
but full of music of almost human sympathy--continuing for a long, long


_Aug. 22_.--Not a human being, and hardly the evidence of one, in
sight. After my brief semi-daily bath, I sit here for a bit, the
brook musically brawling, to the chromatic tones of a fretful cat-bird
somewhere off in the bushes. On my walk hither two hours since, through
fields and the old lane, I stopt to view, now the sky, now the mile-off
woods on the hill, and now the apple orchards. What a contrast from
New York's or Philadelphia's streets! Everywhere great patches of
dingy-blossom'd horse-mint wafting a spicy odor through the air,
(especially evenings.) Everywhere the flowering boneset, and the
rose-bloom of the wild bean.


_July 14_.--My two kingfishers still haunt the pond. In the bright sun
and breeze and perfect temperature of to-day, noon, I am sitting here
by one of the gurgling brooks, dipping a French water-pen in the limpid
crystal, and using it to write these lines, again watching the feather'd
twain, as they fly and sport athwart the water, so close, almost
touching into its surface. Indeed there seem to be three of us. For
nearly an hour I indolently look and join them while they dart and turn
and take their airy gambols, sometimes far up the creek disappearing for
a few moments, and then surely returning again, and performing most
of their flight within sight of me, as if they knew I appreciated and
absorb'd their vitality, spirituality, faithfulness, and the rapid,
vanishing, delicate lines of moving yet quiet electricity they draw for
me across the spread of the grass, the trees, and the blue sky. While
the brook babbles, babbles, and the shadows of the boughs dapple in the
sunshine around me, and the cool west-by-nor'-west wind faintly soughs
in the thick bushes and tree tops.

Among the objects of beauty and interest now beginning to appear quite
plentifully in this secluded spot, I notice the humming-bird, the
dragon-fly with its wings of slate-color'd guaze, and many varieties of
beautiful and plain butterflies, idly flapping among the plants and wild
posies. The mullein has shot up out of its nest of broad leaves, to a
tall stalk towering sometimes five or six feet high, now studded
with knobs of golden blossoms. The milk-weed, (I see a great gorgeous
creature of gamboge and black lighting on one as I write,) is in flower,
with its delicate red fringe; and there are profuse clusters of a
feathery blossom waving in the wind on taper stems. I see lots of these
and much else in every direction, as I saunter or sit. For the last half
hour a bird has persistently kept up a simple, sweet, melodious song,
from the bushes. (I have a positive conviction that some of these birds
sing, and others fly and flirt about here for my special benefit.)


_New York City_.--Came on from West Philadelphia, June 13, in the 2 P.
M. train to Jersey City, and so across and to my friends, Mr. and Mrs.
J. H. J., and their large house, large family (and large hearts,)
amid which I feel at home, at peace--away up on Fifth avenue, near
Eighty-sixth street, quiet, breezy, overlooking the dense woody
fringe of the park--plenty of space and sky, birds chirping, and air
comparatively fresh and odorless. Two hours before starting, saw the
announcement of William Cullen Bryant's funeral, and felt a strong
desire to attend. I had known Mr. Bryant over thirty years ago, and he
had been markedly kind to me. Off and on, along that time for years as
they pass'd, we met and chatted together. I thought him very sociable in
his way, and a man to become attach'd to. We were both walkers, and when
I work'd in Brooklyn he several times came over, middle of afternoons,
and we took rambles miles long, till dark, out towards Bedford or
Flatbush, in company. On these occasions he gave me clear accounts
of scenes in Europe--the cities, looks, architecture, art, especially
Italy--where he had travel'd a good deal.

_June 14.--The Funeral_.--And so the good, stainless, noble old citizen
and poet lies in the closed coffin there--and this is his funeral. A
solemn, impressive, simple scene, to spirit and senses. The remarkable
gathering of gray heads, celebrities--the finely render'd anthem, and
other music--the church, dim even now at approaching noon, in its light
from the mellow-stain'd windows-the pronounc'd eulogy on the bard who
loved Nature so fondly, and sung so well her shows and seasons--ending
with these appropriate well-known lines:

    I gazed upon the glorious sky,
      And the green mountains round,
    And thought that when I came to lie
      At rest within the ground,
    'Twere pleasant that in flowery June,
    When brooks send up a joyous tune,
      And groves a cheerful sound,
    The sexton's hand, my grave to make,
    The rich green mountain turf should break.


_June 20th_.--On the "Mary Powell," enjoy'd everything beyond precedent.
The delicious tender summer day, just warm enough--the constantly
changing but ever beautiful panorama on both sides of the river--(went
up near a hundred miles)--the high straight walls of the stony
Palisades--beautiful Yonkers, and beautiful Irvington--the never-ending
hills, mostly in rounded lines, swathed with verdure,--the distant
turns, like great shoulders in blue veils--the frequent gray and
brown of the tall-rising rocks--the river itself, now narrowing, now
expanding--the white sails of the many sloops, yachts, &c., some near,
some in the distance--the rapid succession of handsome villages and
cities, (our boat is a swift traveler, and makes few stops)--the
Race--picturesque West Point, and indeed all along--the costly and often
turreted mansions forever showing in some cheery light color, through
the woods--make up the scene.


_June 21_.--Here I am, on the west bank of the Hudson, 80 miles
north of New York, near Esopus, at the handsome, roomy,
honeysuckle-and-rose-enbower'd cottage of John Burroughs. The place,
the perfect June days and nights, (leaning toward crisp and cool,)
the hospitality of J. and Mrs. B., the air, the fruit, (especially my
favorite dish, currants and raspberries, mixed, sugar'd, fresh and ripe
from the bushes--I pick 'em myself)--the room I occupy at night, the
perfect bed, the window giving an ample view of the Hudson and the
opposite shores, so wonderful toward sunset, and the rolling music
of the RR. trains, far over there--the peaceful rest--the early
Venus-heralded dawn--the noiseless splash of sunrise, the light and
warmth indescribably glorious, in which, (soon as the sun is well up,)
I have a capital rubbing and rasping with the flesh-brush--with an extra
scour on the back by Al. J., who is here with us--all inspiriting my
invalid frame with new life, for the day. Then, after some whiffs
of morning air, the delicious coffee of Mrs. B., with the cream,
strawberries, and many substantials, for breakfast.


_June 22_.--This afternoon we went out (J. B., Al. and I) on quite a
drive around the country. The scenery, the perpetual stone fences,
(some venerable old fellows, dark-spotted with lichens)--the many
fine locust-trees--the runs of brawling water, often over descents of
rock--these, and lots else. It is lucky the roads are first-rate here,
(as they are,) for it is up or down hill everywhere, and sometimes steep
enough. B. has a tip-top horse, strong, young, and both gentle and
fast. There is a great deal of waste land and hills on the river edge
of Ulster county, with a wonderful luxuriance of wild flowers and
bushes--and it seems to me I never saw more vitality of trees--eloquent
hemlocks, plenty of locusts and fine maples, and the balm of Gilead,
giving out aroma. In the fields and along the road-sides unusual crops
of the tall-stemm'd wild daisy, white as milk and yellow as gold.

We pass'd quite a number of tramps, singly or in couples--one squad, a
family in a rickety one-horse wagon, with some baskets evidently their
work and trade--the man seated on a low board, in front, driving--the
gauntish woman by his side, with a baby well bundled in her arms, its
little red feet and lower legs sticking out right towards us as we
pass'd--and in the wagon behind, we saw two (or three) crouching little
children. It was a queer, taking, rather sad picture. If I had been
alone and on foot, I should have stopp'd and held confab. But on our
return nearly two hours afterward, we found them a ways further along
the same road, in a lonesome open spot, haul'd aside, unhitch'd, and
evidently going to camp for the night. The freed horse was not far off,
quietly cropping the grass. The man was busy at the wagon, the boy had
gather'd some dry wood, and was making a fire--and as we went a little
further we met the woman afoot. I could not see her face, in its
great sun-bonnet, but somehow her figure and gait told misery, terror,
destitution. She had the rag-bundled, half-starv'd infant still in
her arms, and in her hands held two or three baskets, which she had
evidently taken to the next house for sale. A little barefoot five-year
old girl-child, with fine eyes, trotted behind her, clutching her gown.
We stopp'd, asking about the baskets, which we bought. As we paid the
money, she kept her face hidden in the recesses of her bonnet. Then as
we started, and stopp'd again, Al., (whose sympathies were evidently
arous'd,) went back to the camping group to get another basket. He
caught a look of her face, and talk'd with her a little. Eyes, voice and
manner were those of a corpse, animated by electricity. She was quite
young--the man she was traveling with, middle-aged. Poor woman--what
story was it, out of her fortunes, to account for that inexpressibly
scared way, those glassy eyes, and that hollow voice?


_June 25_.--Returned to New York last night. Out to-day on the waters
for a sail in the wide bay, southeast of Staten island--a rough, tossing
ride, and a free sight--the long stretch of Sandy Hook, the highlands
of Navesink, and the many vessels outward and inward bound. We came up
through the midst of all, in the full sun. I especially enjoy'd the last
hour or two. A moderate sea-breeze had set in; yet over the city, and
the waters adjacent, was a thin haze, concealing nothing, only adding to
the beauty. From my point of view, as I write amid the soft breeze, with
a sea-temperature, surely nothing on earth of its kind can go beyond
this show. To the left the North river with its far vista--nearer, three
or four war-ships, anchor'd peacefully--the Jersey side, the banks of
Weehawken, the Palisades, and the gradually receding blue, lost in the
distance--to the right the East river--the mast-hemm'd shores--the grand
obelisk-like towers of the bridge, one on either side, in haze,
yet plainly defin'd, giant brothers twain, throwing free graceful
interlinking loops high across the tumbled tumultuous current
below--(the tide is just changing to its ebb)--the broad water-spread
everywhere crowded--no, not crowded, but thick as stars in the sky--with
all sorts and sizes of sail and steam vessels, plying ferry-boats,
arriving and departing coasters, great ocean Dons, iron-black, modern,
magnificent in size and power, fill'd with their incalculable value of
human life and precious merchandise--with here and there, above all,
those daring, careening things of grace and wonder, those white and
shaded swift-darting fish-birds, (I wonder if shore or sea elsewhere
can outvie them,) ever with their slanting spars, and fierce, pure,
hawk-like beauty and motion--first-class New York sloop or schooner
yachts, sailing, this fine day, the free sea in a good wind. And
rising out of the midst, tall-topt, ship-hemm'd, modern, American,
yet strangely oriental, V-shaped Manhattan, with its compact mass, its
spires, its cloud-touching edifices group'd at the centre--the green of
the trees, and all the white, brown and gray of the architecture well
blended, as I see it, under a miracle of limpid sky, delicious light of
heaven above, and June haze on the surface below.


The general subjective view of New York and Brooklyn--(will not the
time hasten when the two shall be municipally united in one, and named
Manhattan?)--what I may call the human interior and exterior of these
great seething oceanic populations, as I get it in this visit, is to
me best of all. After an absence of many years, (I went away at the
outbreak of the secession war, and have never been back to stay since,)
again I resume with curiosity the crowds, the streets, I knew so
well, Broadway, the ferries, the west side of the city, democratic
Bowery--human appearances and manners as seen in all these, and along
the wharves, and in the perpetual travel of the horse-cars, or the
crowded excursion steamers, or in Wall and Nassau streets by day--in the
places of amusement at night--bubbling and whirling and moving like
its own environment of waters--endless humanity in all phases--Brooklyn
also--taken in for the last three weeks. No need to specify
minutely--enough to say that (making all allowances for the shadows
and side-streaks of a million-headed-city) the brief total of the
impressions, the human qualities, of these vast cities, is to me
comforting, even heroic, beyond statement. Alertness, generally fine
physique, clear eyes that look straight at you, a singular combination
of reticence and self-possession, with good nature and friendliness--a
prevailing range of according manners, taste and intellect, surely
beyond any elsewhere upon earth--and a palpable outcropping of that
personal comradeship I look forward to as the subtlest, strongest future
hold of this many-item'd Union--are not only constantly visible here
in these mighty channels of men, but they form the rule and average.
To-day, I should say--defiant of cynics and pessimists, and with a full
knowledge of all their exceptions--an appreciative and perceptive study
of the current humanity of New York gives the directest proof yet
of successful Democracy, and of the solution of that paradox, the
eligibility of the free and fully developed individual with the
paramount aggregate. In old age, lame and sick, pondering for years on
many a doubt and danger for this republic of ours--fully aware of all
that can be said on the other side--I find in this visit to New York,
and the daily contact and rapport with its myriad people, on the scale
of the oceans and tides, the best, most effective medicine my soul has
yet partaken--the grandest physical habitat and surroundings of land and
water the globe affords--namely, Manhattan island and Brooklyn, which
the future shall join in one city--city of superb democracy, amid superb


_July 22d, 1878_.--Living down in the country again. A wonderful
conjunction of all that goes to make those sometime miracle-hours after
sunset--so near and yet so far. Perfect, or nearly perfect days, I
notice, are not so very uncommon; but the combinations that make perfect
nights are few, even in a life time. We have one of those perfections
to-night. Sunset left things pretty clear; the larger stars were visible
soon as the shades allow'd. A while after 8, three or four great black
clouds suddenly rose, seemingly from different points, and sweeping
with broad swirls of wind but no thunder, underspread the orbs from
view everywhere, and indicated a violent heatstorm. But without storm,
clouds, blackness and all, sped and vanish'd as suddenly as they had
risen; and from a little after 9 till 11 the atmosphere and the whole
show above were in that state of exceptional clearness and glory just
alluded to. In the northwest turned the Great Dipper with its pointers
round the Cynosure. A little south of east the constellation of the
Scorpion was fully up, with red Antares glowing in its neck; while
dominating, majestic Jupiter swam, an hour and a half risen, in the
east--(no moon till after 11.) A large part of the sky seem'd just
laid in great splashes of phosphorus. You could look deeper in, farther
through, than usual; the orbs thick as heads of wheat in a field. Not
that there was any special brilliancy either--nothing near as sharp as
I have seen of keen winter nights, but a curious general luminousness
throughout to sight, sense, and soul. The latter had much to do with it.
(I am convinced there are hours of Nature, especially of the atmosphere,
mornings and evenings, address'd to the soul. Night transcends, for that
purpose, what the proudest day can do.) Now, indeed, if never before,
the heavens declared the glory of God. It was to the full sky of the
Bible, of Arabia, of the prophets, and of the oldest poems. There,
in abstraction and stillness, (I had gone off by myself to absorb the
scene, to have the spell unbroken,) the copiousness, the removedness,
vitality, loose-clear-crowdedness, of that stellar concave spreading
overhead, softly absorb'd into me, rising so free, interminably high,
stretching east, west, north, south--and I, though but a point in the
centre below, embodying all.

As if for the first time, indeed, creation noiselessly sank into and
through me its placid and untellable lesson, beyond--O, so infinitely
beyond!--anything from art, books, sermons, or from science, old or new.
The spirit's hour--religion's hour--the visible suggestion of God in
space and time--now once definitely indicated, if never again. The
untold pointed at--the heavens all paved with it. The Milky Way, as if
some superhuman symphony, some ode of universal vagueness, disdaining
syllable and sound--a flashing glance of Deity, address'd to the soul.
All silently--the indescribable night and stars--far off and silently.

THE DAWN.--_July 23_.--This morning, between one and two hours before
sunrise, a spectacle wrought on the same background, yet of quite
different beauty and meaning. The moon well up in the heavens, and past
her half, is shining brightly--the air and sky of that cynical-clear,
Minerva-like quality, virgin cool--not the weight of sentiment or
mystery, or passion's ecstasy indefinable--not the religious sense,
the varied All, distill'd and sublimated into one, of the night just
described. Every star now clear-cut, showing for just what it is, there
in the colorless ether. The character of the heralded morning, ineffably
sweet and fresh and limpid, but for the esthetic sense alone, and for
purity without sentiment. I have itemized the night--but dare I attempt
the cloudless dawn? (What subtle tie is this between one's soul and the
break of day? Alike, and yet no two nights or morning shows ever exactly
alike.) Preceded by an immense star, almost unearthly in its effusion
of white splendor, with two or three long unequal spoke-rays of diamond
radiance, shedding down through the fresh morning air below--an hour of
this, and then the sunrise.

THE EAST.--What a subject for a poem! Indeed, where else a more
pregnant, more splendid one? Where one more idealistic-real, more
subtle, more sensuous-delicate? The East, answering all lands, all
ages, peoples; touching all senses, here, immediate, now--and yet so
indescribably far off--such retrospect! The East--long-stretching--so
losing itself--the orient, the gardens of Asia, the womb of history
and song--forth-issuing all those strange, dim cavalcades--Florid
with blood, pensive, rapt with musings, hot with passion. Sultry with
perfume, with ample and flowing garment. With sunburnt visage, intense
soul and glittering eyes. Always the East--old, how incalculably old!
And yet here the same--ours yet, fresh as a rose, to every morning,
every life, to-day--and always will be.

_Sept. 17_. Another presentation--same theme--just before sunrise again,
(a favorite hour with me.) The clear gray sky, a faint glow in the
dull liver-color of the east, the cool fresh odor and the moisture--the
cattle and horses off there grazing in the fields--the star Venus again,
two hours high. For sounds, the chirping of crickets in the grass, the
clarion of chanticleer, and the distant cawing of an early crow. Quietly
over the dense fringe of cedars and pines rises that dazzling, red,
transparent disk of flame, and the low sheets of white vapor roll and
roll into dissolution.

THE MOON.--_May 18_.--I went to bed early last night, but found myself
waked shortly after 12, and, turning awhile, sleepless and mentally
feverish, I rose, dress'd myself, sallied forth and walk'd down the
lane. The full moon, some three or four hours up--a sprinkle of light
and less-light clouds just lazily moving--Jupiter an hour high in the
east, and here and there throughout the heavens a random star appearing
and disappearing. So beautifully veiled and varied--the air, with that
early-summer perfume, not at all damp or raw--at times Luna languidly
emerging in richest brightness for minutes, and then partially envelop'd
again. Far off a poor whip-poor-will plied his notes incessantly. It was
that silent time between 1 and 3.

The rare nocturnal scene, how soon it sooth'd and pacified me! Is there
not something about the moon, some relation or reminder, which no poem
or literature has yet caught? (In very old and primitive ballads I have
come across lines or asides that suggest it.) After a while the clouds
mostly clear'd, and as the moon swam on, she carried, shimmering and
shifting, delicate color-effects of pellucid green and tawny vapor. Let
me conclude this part with an extract, (some writer in the "Tribune,"
May 16, 1878):

  No one ever gets tired of the moon. Goddess that she is by dower of
  her eternal beauty, she is a true woman by her tact--knows the charm
  of being seldom seen, of coming by surprise and staying but a little
  while; never wears the same dress two nights running, nor all night
  the same way; commends herself to the matter-of-fact people by her
  usefulness, and makes her uselessness adored by poets, artists, and
  all lovers in all lands; lends herself to every symbolism and to
  every emblem; is Diana's bow and Venus's mirror and Mary's throne;
  is a sickle, a scarf, an eyebrow, his face or her face, and look'd
  at by her or by him; is the madman's hell, the poet's heaven, the
  baby's toy, the philosopher's study; and while her admirers follow
  her footsteps, and hang on her lovely looks, she knows how to keep
  her woman's secret--her other side--unguess'd and unguessable.

_Furthermore. February 19, 1880_.--Just before 10 P.M. cold and entirely
clear again, the show overhead, bearing southwest, of wonderful and
crowded magnificence. The moon in her third quarter--the clusters of
the Hyades and Pleiades, with the planet Mars between--in full crossing
sprawl in the sky the great Egyptian X, (Sirius, Procyon, and the main
stars in the constellations of the Ship, the Dove, and of Orion;) just
north of east Bootes, and in his knee Arcturus, an hour high, mounting
the heaven, ambitiously large and sparkling, as if he meant to challenge
with Sirius the stellar supremacy.

With the sentiment of the stars and moon such nights I get all the
free margins and indefiniteness of music or poetry, fused in geometry's
utmost exactness.


_Aug. 4_.--A pretty sight! Where I sit in the shade--a warm day, the sun
shining from cloudless skies, the forenoon well advanc'd--I look over
a ten-acre field of luxuriant clover-hay, (the second crop)--the
livid-ripe red blossoms and dabs of August brown thickly spotting
the prevailing dark-green. Over all flutter myriads of light-yellow
butterflies, mostly skimming along the surface, dipping and oscillating,
giving a curious animation to the scene. The beautiful, spiritual
insects! straw-color'd Psyches! Occasionally one of them leaves his
mates, and mounts, perhaps spirally, perhaps in a straight line in the
air, fluttering up, up, till literally out of sight. In the lane as I
came along just now I noticed one spot, ten feet square or so, where
more than a hundred had collected, holding a revel, a gyration-dance, or
butterfly good-time, winding and circling, down and across, but always
keeping within the limits. The little creatures have come out all of a
sudden the last few days, and are now very plentiful. As I sit outdoors,
or walk, I hardly look around without somewhere seeing two (always two)
fluttering through the air in amorous dalliance. Then their inimitable
color, their fragility, peculiar motion--and that strange, frequent
way of one leaving the crowd and mounting up, up in the free ether, and
apparently never returning. As I look over the field, these yellow-wings
everywhere mildly sparkling, many snowy blossoms of the wild carrot
gracefully bending on their tall and taper stems--while for sounds, the
distant guttural screech of a flock of guinea-hens comes shrilly yet
somehow musically to my ears. And now a faint growl of heat-thunder in
the north--and ever the low rising and falling wind-purr from the tops
of the maples and willows.

_Aug. 20_.--Butterflies and butterflies, (taking the place of the
bumble-bees of three months since, who have quite disappear'd,) continue
to flit to and fro, all sorts, white, yellow, brown, purple--now and
then some gorgeous fellow flashing lazily by on wings like artists'
palettes dabb'd with every color. Over the breast of the pond I notice
many white ones, crossing, pursuing their idle capricious flight. Near
where I sit grows a tall-stemm'd weed topt with a profusion of rich
scarlet blossoms, on which the snowy insects alight and dally, sometimes
four or five of them at a time. By-and-by a humming-bird visits
the same, and I watch him coming and going, daintily balancing and
shimmering about. These white butterflies give new beautiful contrasts
to the pure greens of the August foliage, (we have had some copious
rains lately,) and over the glistening bronze of the pond-surface. You
can tame even such insects; I have one big and handsome moth down here,
knows and comes to me, likes me to hold him up on my extended hand.

_Another Day, later_.--A grand twelve-acre field of ripe cabbages with
their prevailing hue of malachite green, and floating-flying over and
among them in all directions myriads of these same white butterflies. As
I came up the lane to-day I saw a living globe of the same, two or three
feet in diameter, many scores cluster'd together and rolling along
in the air, adhering to their ball-shape, six or eight feet above the


_Aug. 23, 9-10 A.M._--I sit by the pond, everything quiet, the broad
polish'd surface spread before me--the blue of the heavens and the
white clouds reflected from it--and flitting across, now and then, the
reflection of some flying bird. Last night I was down here with a friend
till after midnight; everything a miracle of splendor--the glory of the
stars, and the completely rounded moon--the passing clouds, silver and
luminous-tawny--now and then masses of vapory illuminated scud--and
silently by my side my dear friend. The shades of the trees, and patches
of moonlight on the grass--the softly blowing breeze, and just-palpable
odor of the neighboring ripening corn--the indolent and spiritual night,
inexpressibly rich, tender, suggestive--something altogether to filter
through one's soul, and nourish and feed and soothe the memory long


This has been and is yet a great season for wild flowers; oceans of them
line the roads through the woods, border the edges of the water-runlets,
grow all along the old fences, and are scatter'd in profusion over the
fields. An eight-petal'd blossom of gold-yellow, clear and bright, with
a brown tuft in the middle, nearly as large as a silver half-dollar, is
very common; yesterday on a long drive I noticed it thickly lining the
borders of the brooks everywhere. Then there is a beautiful weed cover'd
with blue flowers, (the blue of the old Chinese teacups treasur'd by our
grand-aunts,) I am continually stopping to admire--a little larger than
a dime, and very plentiful. White, however, is the prevailing color. The
wild carrot I have spoken of; also the fragrant life-everlasting. But
there are all hues and beauties, especially on the frequent tracts of
half-opened scrub-oak and dwarf cedar hereabout--wild asters of all
colors. Notwithstanding the frost-touch the hardy little chaps maintain
themselves in all their bloom. The tree-leaves, too, some of them are
beginning to turn yellow or drab or dull green. The deep wine-color of
the sumachs and gum-treesis already visible, and the straw-color of the
dog-wood and beech. Let me give the names of some of these perennial
blossoms and friendly weeds I have made acquaintance with hereabout one
season or another in my walks:

Wild azalea, dandelions wild honeysuckle, yarrow, wild roses, coreopsis,
golden rod, wild pea, larkspur, woodbine, early crocus, elderberry,
sweet flag, (great patches of it,) poke-weed, creeper, trumpet-flower,
sun-flower, scented marjoram, chamomile, snakeroot, violets, Solomon's
seal, clematis, sweet balm, bloodroot mint, (great plenty,) swamp
magnolia, wild geranium, milk-weed, wild heliotrope, wild daisy,
(plenty,) burdock, wild chrysanthemum.


The foregoing reminds me of something.

As the individualities I would mainly portray have certainly been
slighted by folks who make pictures, volumes, poems, out of them--as
a faint testimonial of my own gratitude for many hours of peace and
comfort in half-sickness, (and not by any means sure but they will
somehow get wind of the compliment,) I hereby dedicate the last half of
these Specimen Days to the

  bees,                                     glow-worms, (swarming millions
  black-birds,                                of them indescribably
  dragon-flies,                               strange and beautiful at night
  pond-turtles,                               over the pond and creek,)
  mulleins, tansy, peppermint,              water-snakes,
  moths, (great and little, some            crows,
          splendid fellows,)                millers,
  mosquitoes,                               cedars,
  butterflies,                              tulip-trees, (and all other trees,)
  wasps and hornets,                          and to the spots and memories
  cat-birds, (and all other birds,)           of those days, and the creek.


_April 5, 1879_.-With the return of spring to the skies, airs, waters of
the Delaware, return the sea-gulls. I never tire of watching their broad
and easy flight, in spirals, or as they oscillate with slow unflapping
wings, or look down with curved beak, or dipping to the water after
food. The crows, plenty enough all through the winter, have vanish'd
with the ice. Not one of them now to be seen. The steamboats have again
come forth--bustling up, handsome, freshly painted, for summer work--the
Columbia, the Edwin Forrest, (the Republic not yet out,) the Reybold,
Nelly White, the Twilight, the Ariel, the Warner, the Perry, the
Taggart, the Jersey Blue--even the hulky old Trenton--not forgetting
those saucy little bull-pups of the current, the steamtugs.

But let me bunch and catalogue the affair--the river itself, all the
way from the sea--Cape island on one side and Henlopen light on the
other--up the broad bay north, and so to Philadelphia, and on further to
Trenton;--the sights I am most familiar with, (as I live a good part
of the time in Camden, I view matters from that outlook)--the great
arrogant, black, full-freighted ocean steamers, inward or outward
bound--the ample width here between the two cities, intersected by
Windmill island--an occasional man-of-war, sometimes a foreigner, at
anchor, with her guns and port-holes, and the boats, and the brown-faced
sailors, and the regular oar-strokes, and the gay crowds of "visiting
day"--the frequent large and handsome three-masted schooners, (a
favorite style of marine build, hereabout of late years,) some of
them new and very jaunty, with their white-gray sails and yellow pine
spars--the sloops dashing along in a fair wind--(I see one now, coming
up, under broad canvas, her gaff-topsail shining in the sun, high and
picturesque--what a thing of beauty amid the sky and waters!)--the
crowded wharf-slips along the city--the flags of different
nationalities, the sturdy English cross on its ground of blood, the
French tricolor, the banner of the great North German empire, and the
Italian and the Spanish colors--sometimes, of an afternoon, the whole
scene enliven'd by a fleet of yachts, in a half calm, lazily returning
from a race down at Gloucester;--the neat, rakish, revenue steamer
"Hamilton" in mid-stream, with her perpendicular stripes flaunting
aft--and, turning the eyes north, the long ribands of fleecy-white
steam, or dingy-black smoke, stretching far, fan-shaped, slanting
diagonally across from the Kensington or Richmond shores, in the
west-by-south-west wind.


Then the Camden ferry. What exhilaration, change, people, business, by
day. What soothing, silent, wondrous hours, at night, crossing on the
boat, most all to myself--pacing the deck, alone, forward or aft. What
communion with the waters, the air, the exquisite _chiaroscuro_--the
sky and stars, that speak no word, nothing to the intellect, yet so
eloquent, so communicative to the soul. And the ferry men--little they
know how much they have been to me, day and night--how many spells of
listlessness, ennui, debility, they and their hardy ways have dispell'd.
And the pilots--captains Hand, Walton, and Giberson by day, and captain
Olive at night; Eugene Crosby, with his strong young arm so often
supporting, circling, convoying me over the gaps of the bridge, through
impediments, safely aboard. Indeed all my ferry friends--captain Frazee
the superintendent, Lindell, Hiskey, Fred Rauch, Price, Watson, and
a dozen more. And the ferry itself, with its queer scenes--sometimes
children suddenly born in the waiting-houses (an actual fact--and more
than once)--sometimes a masquerade party, going over at night, with a
band of music, dancing and whirling like mad on the broad deck, in their
fantastic dresses; sometimes the astronomer, Mr. Whitall, (who posts
me up in points about the stars by a living lesson there and then, and
answering every question)--sometimes a prolific family group, eight,
nine, ten, even twelve! (Yesterday, as I cross'd, a mother, father, and
eight children, waiting in the ferry-house, bound westward somewhere.)

I have mention'd the crows. I always watch them from the boats. They
play quite a part in the winter scenes on the river, by day. Their black
splatches are seen in relief against the snow and ice everywhere at that
season--sometimes flying and flapping--sometimes on little or larger
cakes, sailing up or down the stream. One day the river was mostly
clear--only a single long ridge of broken ice making a narrow stripe by
itself, running along down the current for over a mile, quite rapidly.
On this white stripe the crows were congregated, hundreds of them--a
funny procession--("half mourning" was the comment of some one.)

Then the reception room, for passengers waiting--life illustrated
thoroughly. Take a March picture I jotted there two or three weeks
since. Afternoon, about 3-1/2 o'clock, it begins to snow. There has been
a matinee performance at the theater--from 4-1/2 to 5 comes a stream
of homeward bound ladies. I never knew the spacious room to present a
gayer, more lively scene--handsome, well-drest Jersey women and girls,
scores of them, streaming in for nearly an hour--the bright eyes and
glowing faces, coming in from the air--a sprinkling of snow on bonnets
or dresses as they enter--the five or ten minutes' waiting--the chatting
and laughing--(women can have capital times among themselves, with
plenty of wit, lunches, jovial abandon)--Lizzie, the pleasant-manner'd
waiting-room woman--for sound, the bell-taps and steam-signals of the
departing boats with their rhythmic break and undertone--the
domestic pictures, mothers with bevies of daughters, (a charming
sight)--children, countrymen--the railroad men in their blue clothes
and caps--all the various characters of city and country represented
or suggested. Then outside some belated passenger frantically running,
jumping after the boat. Towards six o' clock the human stream
gradually thickening--now a pressure of vehicles, drays, piled railroad
crates--now a drove of cattle, making quite an excitement, the drovers
with heavy sticks, belaboring the steaming sides of the frighten'd
brutes. Inside the reception room, business bargains, flirting,
love-making, _eclaircissements_, proposals--pleasant, sober-faced Phil
coming in with his burden of afternoon papers--or Jo, or Charley (who
jump'd in the dock last week, and saved a stout lady from drowning,) to
replenish the stove, and clearing it with long crow-bar poker.

Besides all this "comedy human," the river affords nutriment of a
higher order. Here are some of my memoranda of the past winter, just as
pencill'd down on the spot.

_A January Night_.--Fine trips across the wide Delaware to-night. Tide
pretty high, and a strong ebb. River, a little after 8, full of ice,
mostly broken, but some large cakes making our strong-timber'd steamboat
hum and quiver as she strikes them. In the clear moonlight they spread,
strange, unearthly, silvery, faintly glistening, as far as I can see.
Bumping, trembling, sometimes hissing like a thousand snakes, the
tide-procession, as we wend with or through it, affording a grand
undertone, in keeping with the scene. Overhead, the splendor
indescribable; yet something haughty, almost supercilious, in the night.
Never did I realize more latent sentiment, almost _passion_, in those
silent interminable stars up there. One can understand, such a night,
why, from the days of the Pharaohs or Job, the dome of heaven, sprinkled
with planets, has supplied the subtlest, deepest criticism on human
pride, glory, ambition.

_Another Winter Night_.--I don't know anything more _filling_ than to be
on the wide firm deck of a powerful boat, a clear, cool, extra-moonlight
night, crushing proudly and resistlessly through this thick, marbly,
glistening ice. The whole river is now spread with it--some immense
cakes. There is such weirdness about the scene--partly the quality of
the light, with its tinge of blue, the lunar twilight--only the large
stars holding their own in the radiance of the moon. Temperature sharp,
comfortable for motion, dry, full of oxygen. But the sense of power--the
steady, scornful, imperious urge of our strong new engine, as she
ploughs her way through the big and little cakes.

_Another_.--For two hours I cross'd and recross'd, merely for
pleasure--for a still excitement. Both sky and river went through
several changes. The first for awhile held two vast fan-shaped echelons
of light clouds, through which the moon waded, now radiating, carrying
with her an aureole of tawny transparent brown, and now flooding the
whole vast with clear vapory light-green, through which, as through an
illuminated veil, she moved with measur'd womanly motion. Then, another
trip, the heavens would be absolutely clear, and Luna in all her
effulgence. The big Dipper in the north, with the double star in the
handle much plainer than common. Then the sheeny track of light in the
water, dancing and rippling. Such transformations; such pictures and
poems, inimitable.

_Another_.--I am studying the stars, under advantages, as I cross
tonight. (It is late in February, and again extra clear.) High toward
the west, the Pleiades, tremulous with delicate sparkle, in the soft
heavens,--Aldebaran, leading the V-shaped Hyades--and overhead Capella
and her kids. Most majestic of all, in full display in the high south,
Orion, vast-spread, roomy, chief historian of the stage, with his shiny
yellow rosette on his shoulder, and his three kings--and a little to
the east, Sirius, calmly arrogant, most wondrous single star. Going late
ashore, (I couldn't give up the beauty, and soothingness of the night,)
as I staid around, or slowly wander'd I heard the echoing calls of
the railroad men in the West Jersey depot yard, shifting and switching
trains, engines, etc.; amid the general silence otherways, and something
in the acoustic quality of the air, musical, emotional effects, never
thought of before. I linger'd long and long, listening to them.

_Night of March 18, '79_.--One of the calm, pleasantly cool, exquisitely
clear and cloudless, early spring nights--the atmosphere again that rare
vitreous blue-black, welcom'd by astronomers. Just at 8, evening, the
scene overhead of certainly solemnest beauty, never surpass'd. Venus
nearly down in the west, of a size and lustre as if trying to outshow
herself, before departing. Teeming, maternal orb--I take you again to
myself. I am reminded of that spring preceding Abraham Lincoln's murder,
when I, restlessly haunting the Potomac banks, around Washington city,
watch'd you, off there, aloof, moody as myself:

    As we walk'd up and down in the dark blue so mystic,
    As we walk'd in silence the transparent shadowy night,
    As I saw you had something to tell, as you bent to me night after
    As you droop from the sky low down, as if to my side, (while the
      other stars all look'd on,)
    As we wander'd together the solemn night.

With departing Venus, large to the last, and shining even to the edge
of the horizon, the vast dome presents at this moment, such a spectacle!
Mercury was visible just after sunset--a rare sight. Arcturus is now
risen, just north of east. In calm glory all the stars of Orion hold the
place of honor, in meridian, to the south,--with the Dog-star a little
to the left. And now, just rising, Spica, late, low, and slightly
veil'd. Castor, Regulus and the rest, all shining unusually clear, (no
Mars or Jupiter or moon till morning.) On the edge of the river, many
lamps twinkling--with two or three huge chimneys, a couple of miles up,
belching forth molten, steady flames, volcano-like, illuminating all
around--and sometimes an electric or calcium, its Dante-Inferno
gleams, in far shafts, terrible, ghastly-powerful. Of later May nights,
crossing, I like to watch the fishermen's little buoy-lights--so pretty,
so dreamy--like corpse candles--undulating delicate and lonesome on the
surface of the shadowy waters, floating with the current.


Winter relaxing its hold, has already allow'd us a foretaste of spring.
As I write, yesterday afternoon's softness and brightness, (after
the morning fog, which gave it a better setting, by contrast,) show'd
Chestnut street--say between Broad and Fourth--to more advantage in its
various asides, and all its stores, and gay-dress'd crowds generally,
than for three months past. I took a walk there between one and two.
Doubtless, there were plenty of hard-up folks along the pavements, but
nine-tenths of the myriad-moving human panorama to all appearance seem'd
flush, well-fed, and fully-provided. At all events it was good
to be on Chestnut street yesterday. The peddlers on the
sidewalk--("sleeve-buttons, three for five cents")--the handsome little
fellow with canary-bird whistles--the cane men, toy men, toothpick
men--the old woman squatted in a heap on the cold stone flags, with
her basket of matches, pins and tape--the young negro mother, sitting,
begging, with her two little coffee-color'd twins on her lap--the beauty
of the cramm'd conservatory of rare flowers, flaunting reds, yellows,
snowy lilies, incredible orchids, at the Baldwin mansion near Twelfth
street--the show of fine poultry, beef, fish, at the restaurants--the
china stores, with glass and statuettes--the luscious tropical
fruits--the street cars plodding along, with their tintinnabulating
bells--the fat, cab-looking, rapidly driven one-horse vehicles of
the post-office, squeez'd full of coming or going letter-carriers, so
healthy and handsome and manly-looking, in their gray uniforms--the
costly books, pictures, curiosities, in the windows--the gigantic
policemen at most of the corners will all be readily remember'd and
recognized as features of this principal avenue of Philadelphia.
Chestnut street, I have discover'd, is not without individuality, and
its own points, even when compared with the great promenade-streets of
other cities. I have never been in Europe, but acquired years' familiar
experience with New York's, (perhaps the world's) great thoroughfare,
Broadway, and possess to some extent a personal and saunterer's
knowledge of St. Charles street in New Orleans, Tremont street in
Boston, and the broad trottoirs of Pennsylvania avenue in Washington. Of
course it is a pity that Chestnut were not two or three times wider; but
the street, any fine day, shows vividness, motion, variety, not easily
to be surpass'd. (Sparkling eyes, human faces, magnetism, well-dress'd
women, ambulating to and fro--with lots o fine things in the
windows--are they not about the same, the civilized world over?)

    How fast the flitting figures come!
        The mild, the fierce, the stony face;
    Some bright with thoughtless smiles--and some
        Where secret tears have left their trace.

A few days ago one of the six-story clothing stores along here had
the space inside its plate-glass show-window partition'd into a little
corral, and litter'd deeply with rich clover and hay, (I could smell the
odor outside,) on which reposed two magnificent fat sheep, full-sized
but young--the handsomest creatures of the kind I ever saw. I stop's
long and long, with the crowd, to view them--one lying down chewing the
cud, and one standing up, looking out, with dense-fringed patient
eyes. Their wool, of a clear tawny color, with streaks of glistening
black--altogether a queer sight amidst that crowded promenade of
dandies, dollars and dry-goods.


_April 23._--Off to New York on a little tour and visit. Leaving the
hospitable, home-like quarters of my valued friends, Mr. and Mrs. J. H.
Johnston--took the 4 P. M. boat, bound up the Hudson, 100 miles or so.
Sunset and evening fine. Especially enjoy'd the hour after we passed
Cozzens's landing--the night lit by the crescent moon and Venus, now
swimming in tender glory, and now hid by the high rocks and hills of the
western shore, which we hugg'd close. (Where I spend the next ten days
is in Ulster county and its neighborhood, with frequent morning and
evening drives, observations of the river, and short rambles.)

_April 24--Noon._--A little more and the sun would be oppressive. The
bees are out gathering their bread from willows and other trees. I watch
them returning, darting through the air or lighting on the hives, their
thighs covered with the yellow forage. A solitary robin sings near. I
sit in my shirt sleeves and gaze from an open bay-window on the indolent
scene--the thin haze, the Fishkill hills in the distance--off on
the river, a sloop with slanting mainsail, and two or three little
shad-boats. Over on the railroad opposite, long freight trains,
sometimes weighted by cylinder-tanks of petroleum, thirty, forty, fifty
cars in a string, panting and rumbling along in full view, but the sound
soften'd by distance.


_April 26_.--At sunrise, the pure clear sound of the meadow lark. An
hour later, some notes, few and simple, yet delicious and perfect, from
the bush-sparrow-towards noon the reedy trill of the robin. To-day is
the fairest, sweetest yet--penetrating warmth--a lovely veil in the air,
partly heat-vapor and partly from the turf-fires everywhere in patches
on the farms. A group of soft maples near by silently bursts out in
crimson tips, buzzing all day with busy bees. The white sails of sloops
and schooners glide up and down the river; and long trains of cars, with
ponderous roll, or faint bell notes, almost constantly on the opposite
shore. The earliest wild flowers in the woods and fields, spicy arbutus,
blue liverwort, frail anemone, and the pretty white blossoms of the
bloodroot. I launch out in slow rambles, discovering them. As I go along
the roads I like to see the farmers' fires in patches, burning the dry
brush, turf, debris. How the smoke crawls along, flat to the ground,
slanting, slowly rising, reaching away, and at last dissipating. I like
its acrid smell--whiffs just reaching me--welcomer than French perfume.

The birds are plenty; of any sort, or of two or three sorts, curiously,
not a sign, till suddenly some warm, gushing, sunny April (or even
March) day--lo! there they are, from twig to twig, or fence to fence,
flirting, singing, some mating, preparing to build. But most of them _en
passant_--a fortnight, a month in these parts, and then away. As in all
phases, Nature keeps up her vital, copious, eternal procession. Still,
plenty of the birds hang around all or most of the season--now their
love-time, and era of nest-building. I find flying over the river,
crows, gulls and hawks. I hear the afternoon shriek of the latter,
darting about, preparing to nest. The oriole will soon be heard here,
and the twanging _meoeow_ of the cat-bird; also the king-bird, cuckoo
and the warblers. All along, there are three peculiarly characteristic
spring songs--the meadow-lark's, so sweet, so alert and remonstrating
(as if he said, "don't you see?" or, "can't you understand?")--the
cheery, mellow, human tones of the robin--(I have been trying for years
to get a brief term, or phrase, that would identify and describe that
robin call)--and the amorous whistle of the high-hole. Insects are out
plentifully at midday.

_April 29_.--As we drove lingering along the road we heard, just after
sundown, the song of the wood-thrush. We stopp'd without a word, and
listen'd long. The delicious notes--a sweet, artless, voluntary, simple
anthem, as from the flute-stops of some organ, wafted through the
twilight--echoing well to us from the perpendicular high rock, where, in
some thick young trees' recesses at the base, sat the bird--fill'd our
senses, our souls.


I found in one of my rambles up the hills a real hermit, living in a
lonesome spot, hard to get at, rocky, the view fine, with a little patch
of land two rods square. A man of youngish middle age, city born and
raised, had been to school, had travel'd in Europe and California. I
first met him once or twice on the road, and pass'd the time of day,
with some small talk; then, the third time, he ask'd me to go along a
bit and rest in his hut (an almost unprecedented compliment, as I heard
from others afterwards.) He was of Quaker stock, I think; talk'd with
ease and moderate freedom, but did not unbosom his life, or story, or
tragedy, or whatever it was.


I jot this mem, in a wild scene of woods and hills, where we have come
to visit a waterfall. I never saw finer or more copious hemlocks, many
of them large, some old and hoary. Such a sentiment to them, secretive,
shaggy--what I call weather-beaten and let-alone--a rich underlay of
ferns, yew sprouts and mosses, beginning to be spotted with the early
summer wild-flowers. Enveloping all, the monotone and liquid gurgle
from the hoarse impetuous copious fall--the greenish-tawny, darkly
transparent waters, plunging with velocity down the rocks, with patches
of milk-white foam--a stream of hurrying amber, thirty feet wide, risen
far back in the hills and woods, now rushing with volume--every hundred
rods a fall, and sometimes three or four in that distance. A primitive
forest, druidical, solitary and savage--not ten visitors a year--broken
rocks everywhere--shade overhead, thick underfoot with leaves--a just
palpable wild and delicate aroma.


As I saunter'd along the high road yesterday, I stopp'd to watch a man
near by, ploughing a rough stony field with a yoke of oxen. Usually
there is much geeing and hawing, excitement, and continual noise and
expletives, about a job of this kind. But I noticed how different,
how easy and wordless, yet firm and sufficient, the work of this young
ploughman. His name was Walter Dumont, a farmer, and son of a farmer,
working for their living. Three years ago, when the steamer "Sunnyside"
was wreck'd of a bitter icy night on the west bank here, Walter went
out in his boat--was the first man on hand with assistance--made a
way through the ice to shore, connected a line, perform'd work of
first-class readiness, daring, danger, and saved numerous lives. Some
weeks after, one evening when he was up at Esopus, among the usual
loafing crowd at the country store and post-office, there arrived
the gift of an unexpected official gold medal for the quiet hero. The
impromptu presentation was made to him on the spot, but he blush'd,
hesitated as he took it, and had nothing to say.


It was a happy thought to build the Hudson river railroad right
along the shore. The grade is already made by nature; you are sure of
ventilation one side--and you are in nobody's way. I see, hear, the
locomotives and cars, rumbling, roaring, flaming, smoking, constantly,
away off there, night and day--less than a mile distant, and in full
view by day. I like both sight and sound. Express trains thunder and
lighten along; of freight trains, most of them very long, there cannot
be less than a hundred a day. At night far down you see the headlight
approaching, coming steadily on like a meteor. The river at night has
its special character-beauties. The shad fishermen go forth in their
boats and pay out their nets--one sitting forward, rowing, and one
standing up aft dropping it properly-marking the line with little
floats bearing candles, conveying, as they glide over the water, an
indescribable sentiment and doubled brightness. I like to watch the tows
at night, too, with their twinkling lamps, and hear the husky panting
of the steamers; or catch the sloops' and schooners' shadowy forms, like
phantoms, white, silent, indefinite, out there. Then the Hudson of a
clear moonlight night.

But there is one sight the very grandest. Sometimes in the fiercest
driving storm of wind, rain, hail or snow, a great eagle will appear
over the river, now soaring with steady and now overbended wings--always
confronting the gale, or perhaps cleaving into, or at times literally
_sitting_ upon it. It is like reading some first-class natural tragedy
or epic, or hearing martial trumpets. The splendid bird enjoys the
hubbub--is adjusted and equal to it--finishes it so artistically.
His pinions just oscillating--the position of his head and neck--his
resistless, occasionally varied flight--now a swirl, now an upward
movement--the black clouds driving--the angry wash below--the hiss
of rain, the wind's piping (perhaps the ice colliding, grunting)--he
tacking or jibing--now, as it were, for a change, abandoning himself to
the gale, moving with it with such velocity--and now, resuming control,
he comes up against it, lord of the situation and the storm--lord, amid
it, of power and savage joy.

Sometimes (as at present writing,) middle of sunny afternoon, the
old "Vanderbilt" steamer stalking ahead--I plainly hear her rhythmic,
slushing paddles--drawing by long hawsers an immense and varied
following string, ("an old sow and pigs," the river folks call it.)
First comes a big barge, with a house built on it, and spars towering
over the roof; then canal boats, a lengthen'd, clustering train,
fasten'd and link'd together--the one in the middle, with high staff,
flaunting a broad and gaudy flag--others with the almost invariable
lines of new-wash'd clothes, drying; two sloops and a schooner aside the
tow--little wind, and that adverse--with three long, dark, empty barges
bringing up the rear. People are on the boats: men lounging, women in
sun-bonnets, children, stovepipes with streaming smoke.


NEW YORK, _May 24, '79_.--Perhaps no quarters of this city (I have
return'd again for awhile,) make more brilliant, animated, crowded,
spectacular human presentations these fine May afternoons than the two
I am now going to describe from personal observation. First: that
area comprising Fourteenth street (especially the short range between
Broadway and Fifth avenue) with Union square, its adjacencies, and so
retrostretching down Broadway for half a mile. All the walks here are
wide, and the spaces ample and free--now flooded with liquid gold from
the last two hours of powerful sunshine. The whole area at 5 o'clock,
the days of my observations, must have contain'd from thirty to
forty thousand finely-dress'd people, all in motion, plenty of them
good-looking, many beautiful women, often youths and children,
the latter in groups with their nurses--the trottoirs everywhere
close-spread, thick-tangled, (yet no collision, no trouble,) with masses
of bright color, action, and tasty toilets; (surely the women dress
better than ever before, and the men do too.) As if New York would show
these afternoons what it can do in its humanity, its choicest physique
and physiognomy, and its countless prodigality of locomotion, dry goods,
glitter, magnetism, and happiness.

Second: also from 5 to 7 P.M. the stretch of Fifth avenue, all the way
from the Central Park exits at Fifty-ninth street, down to Fourteenth,
especially along the high grade by Fortieth street, and down the hill.
A Mississippi of horses and rich vehicles, not by dozens and scores, but
hundreds and thousands--the broad avenue filled and cramm'd with them--a
moving, sparkling, hurrying crush, for more than two miles. (I wonder
they don't get block'd, but I believe they never do.) Altogether it is
to me the marvel sight of New York. I like to get in one of the Fifth
avenue stages and ride up, stemming the swift-moving procession. I doubt
if London or Paris or any city in the world can show such a carriage
carnival as I have seen here five or six times these beautiful May


_May 16 to 22_.--I visit Central Park now almost every day, sitting,
or slowly rambling, or riding around. The whole place presents its very
best appearance this current month--the full flush of the trees, the
plentiful white and pink of the flowering shrubs, the emerald green of
the grass spreading everywhere, yellow dotted still with dandelions--the
specialty of the plentiful gray rocks, peculiar to these grounds,
cropping out, miles and miles--and over all the beauty and purity,
three days out of four, of our summer skies. As I sit, placidly,
early afternoon, off against Ninetieth street, the policeman, C. C., a
well-form'd sandy-complexion'd young fellow, comes over and stands near
me. We grow quite friendly and chatty forth-with. He is a New Yorker
born and raised, and in answer to my questions tells me about the life
of a New York Park policeman, (while he talks keeping his eyes and ears
vigilantly open, occasionally pausing and moving where he can get full
views of the vistas of the road, up and down, and the spaces around.)
The pay is $2.40 a day (seven days to a week)--the men come on and work
eight hours straight ahead, which is all that is required of them out of
the twenty-four. The position has more risks than one might suppose--for
instance if a team or horse runs away (which happens daily) each man is
expected not only to be prompt, but to waive safety and stop wildest nag
or nags--(_do it_, and don't be thinking of your bones or face)--give
the alarm-whistle too, so that other guards may repeat, and the vehicles
up and down the tracks be warn'd. Injuries to the men are continually
happening. There is much alertness and quiet strength. (Few appreciate,
I have often thought, the Ulyssean capacity, derring do, quick readiness
in emergencies, practicality, unwitting devotion and heroism, among
our American young men and working-people--the firemen, the railroad
employes, the steamer and ferry men, the police, the conductors and
drivers--the whole splendid average of native stock, city and country.)
It is good work, though; and upon the whole, the Park force members like
it. They see life, and the excitement keeps them up. There is not so
much difficulty as might be supposed from tramps, roughs, or in keeping
people "off the grass." The worst trouble of the regular Park employé is
from malarial fever, chills, and the like.


Ten thousand vehicles careering through the Park this perfect afternoon.
Such a show! and I have seen all--watch'd it narrowly, and at
my leisure. Private barouches, cabs and coupés, some fine
horseflesh--lapdogs, footmen, fashions, foreigners, cockades on hats,
crests on panels--the full oceanic tide of New York's wealth and
"gentility." It was an impressive, rich, interminable circus on a grand
scale, full of action and color in the beauty of the day, under
the clear sun and moderate breeze. Family groups, couples, single
drivers--of course dresses generally elegant--much "style," (yet perhaps
little or nothing, even in that direction, that fully justified itself.)
Through the windows of two or three of the richest carriages I saw
faces almost corpse-like, so ashy and listless. Indeed the whole affair
exhibited less of sterling America, either in spirit or countenance,
than I had counted on from such a select mass-spectacle. I suppose, as
a proof of limitless wealth, leisure, and the aforesaid "gentility," it
was tremendous. Yet what I saw those hours (I took two other occasions,
two other afternoons to watch the same scene,) confirms a thought that
haunts me every additional glimpse I get of our top-loftical general or
rather exceptional phases of wealth and fashion in this country--namely,
that they are ill at ease, much too conscious, cased in too many
cerements, and far from happy--that there is nothing in them which
we who are poor and plain need at all envy, and that instead of the
perennial smell of the grass and woods and shores, their typical
redolence is of soaps and essences, very rare may be, but suggesting the
barber shop--something that turns stale and musty in a few hours anyhow.

Perhaps the show on the horseback road was prettiest. Many groups
(threes a favorite number,) some couples, some singly--many
ladies--frequently horses or parties dashing along on a full run--fine
riding the rule--a few really first-class animals. As the afternoon
waned, the wheel'd carriages grew less, but the saddle-riders seemed to
increase. They linger'd long--and I saw some charming forms and faces.


_May 25._--A three hours' bay-trip from 12 to 3 this afternoon,
accompanying "the City of Brussels" down as far as the Narrows, in
behoof of some Europe-bound friends, to give them a good send off.
Our spirited little tug, the "Seth Low," kept close to the great black
"Brussels," sometimes one side, sometimes the other, always up to her,
or even pressing ahead, (like the blooded pony accompanying the
royal elephant.) The whole affair, from the first, was an animated,
quick-passing, characteristic New York scene; the large, good-looking,
well-dress'd crowd on the wharf-end--men and women come to see their
friends depart, and bid them God-speed--the ship's sides swarming with
passengers--groups of bronze-faced sailors, with uniform' d officers at
their posts--the quiet directions, as she quickly unfastens and moves
out, prompt to a minute--the emotional faces, adieus and fluttering
handkerchiefs, and many smiles and some tears on the wharf--the
answering faces, smiles, tears and fluttering handkerchiefs, from the
ship--(what can be subtler and finer than this play of faces on
such occasions in these responding crowds?--what go more to one's
heart?)--the proud, steady, noiseless cleaving of the grand oceaner
down the bay--we speeding by her side a few miles, and then turning,
wheeling,--amid a babel of wild hurrahs, shouted partings, ear-splitting
steam whistles, kissing of hands and waving of handkerchiefs.

This departing of the big steamers, noons or afternoons--there is no
better medicine when one is listless or vapory. I am fond of going down
Wednesdays and Saturdays--their more special days--to watch them and the
crowds on the wharves, the arriving passengers, the general bustle and
activity, the eager looks from the faces, the clear-toned voices, (a
travel'd foreigner, a musician, told me the other day she thinks an
American crowd has the finest voices in the world,) the whole look of
the great, shapely black ships themselves, and their groups and lined
sides--in the setting of our bay with the blue sky overhead. Two days
after the above I saw the "Britannic," the "Donau," the "Helvetia" and
the "Schiedam" steam out, all off for Europe--a magnificent sight.


From 7 to 9, aboard the United States school-ship Minnesota, lying up
the North river. Captain Luce sent his gig for us about sundown, to the
foot of Twenty-third street, and receiv'd us aboard with officer-like
hospitality and sailor heartiness. There are several hundred youths on
the Minnesota to be train'd for efficiently manning the government navy.
I like the idea much; and, so far as I have seen to-night, I like the
way it is carried out on this huge vessel. Below, on the gun-deck, were
gather'd nearly a hundred of the boys, to give us some of their singing
exercises, with a melodeon accompaniment, play'd by one of their number.
They sang with a will. The best part, however, was the sight of the
young fellows themselves. I went over among them before the singing
began, and talk'd a few minutes informally. They are from all the
States; I asked for the Southerners, but could only find one, a lad from
Baltimore. In age, apparently, they range from about fourteen years to
nineteen or twenty. They are all of American birth, and have to pass a
rigid medical examination; well-grown youths, good flesh, bright eyes,
looking straight at you, healthy, intelligent, not a slouch among them,
nor a menial--in every one the promise of a man. I have been to many
public aggregations of young and old, and of schools and colleges, in
my day, but I confess I have never been so near satisfied, so comforted,
(both from the fact of the school itself, and the splendid proof of our
country, our composite race, and the sample-promises of its good average
capacities, its future,) as in the collection from all parts of the
United States on this navy training ship. ("Are there going to be _any
men_ there?" was the dry and pregnant reply of Emerson to one who had
been crowding him with the rich material statistics and possibilities of
some western or Pacific region.)

_May 26_.--Aboard the Minnesota again. Lieut. Murphy kindly came for
me in his boat. Enjoy'd specially those brief trips to and fro--the
sailors, tann'd, strong, so bright and able-looking, pulling their oars
in long side-swing, man-of-war style, as they row'd me across. I saw
the boys in companies drilling with small arms; had a talk with Chaplain
Rawson. At 11 o'clock all of us gathered to breakfast around a long
table in the great ward room--I among the rest--a genial, plentiful,
hospitable affair every way--plenty to eat, and of the best; became
acquainted with several new officers. This second visit, with its
observations, talks, (two or three at random with the boys,) confirm'd
my first impressions.


_Aug. 4_.--Forenoon--as I sit under the willow shade, (have retreated
down in the country again,) a little bird is leisurely dousing and
flirting himself amid the brook almost within reach of me. He evidently
fears me not--takes me for some concomitant of the neighboring earthy
banks, free bushery and wild weeds. _6 p.m._--The last three days have
been perfect ones for the season, (four nights ago copious rains, with
vehement thunder and lightning.) I write this sitting by the creek
watching my two kingfishers at their sundown sport. The strong,
beautiful, joyous creatures! Their wings glisten in the slanted sunbeams
as they circle and circle around, occasionally dipping and dashing the
water, and making long stretches up and down the creek. Wherever I go
over fields, through lanes, in by-places, blooms the white-flowering
wild-carrot, its delicate pat of snow-flakes crowning its slender stem,
gracefully oscillating in the breeze,


PHILADELPHIA, _Aug. 26_.--Last night and to-night of unsurpass'd
clearness, after two days' rain; moon splendor and star splendor. Being
out toward the great Exposition building, West Philadelphia, I saw it
lit up, and thought I would go in. There was a ball, democratic but
nice; plenty of young couples waltzing and quadrilling--music by a good
string-band. To the sight and hearing of these--to moderate strolls up
and down the roomy spaces--to getting off aside, resting in an arm-chair
and looking up a long while at the grand high roof with its graceful and
multitudinous work of iron rods, angles, gray colors, plays of light and
shade, receding into dim outlines--to absorbing (in the intervals of the
string band,) some capital voluntaries and rolling caprices from the big
organ at the other end of the building--to sighting a shadow'd figure
or group or couple of lovers every now and then passing some near or
farther aisle--I abandon'd myself for over an hour.

Returning home, riding down Market street in an open summer car,
something detain'd us between Fifteenth and Broad, and I got out to view
better the new, three-fifths-built marble edifice, the City Hall,
of magnificent proportions--a majestic and lovely show there in the
moonlight--flooded all over, facades, myriad silver-white lines and
carv'd heads and mouldings, with the soft dazzle--silent, weird,
beautiful--well, I know that never when finish'd will that magnificent
pile impress one as it impress'd me those fifteen minutes.

To-night, since, I have been long on the river. I watch the C-shaped
Northern Crown, (with the star Alshacca that blazed out so suddenly,
alarmingly, one night a few years ago.) The moon in her third quarter,
and up nearly all night. And there, as I look eastward, my long-absent
Pleiades, welcome again to sight. For an hour I enjoy the soothing and
vital scene to the low splash of waves--new stars steadily, noiselessly
rising in the east.

As I cross the Delaware, one of the deck-hands, F. R., tells me how
a woman jump'd overboard and was drown'd a couple of hours since. It
happen'd in mid-channel--she leap'd from the forward part of the boat,
which went over her. He saw her rise on the other side in the swift
running water, throw her arms and closed hands high up, (white hands
and bare forearms in the moonlight like a flash,) and then she sank. (I
found out afterwards that this young fellow had promptly jump'd in, swam
after the poor creature, and made, though unsuccessfully, the bravest
efforts to rescue her; but he didn't mention that part at all in telling
me the story.)


_Sept. 3_--Cloudy and wet, and wind due east; air without palpable fog,
but very heavy with moisture--welcome for a change. Forenoon, crossing
the Delaware, I noticed unusual numbers of swallows in flight, circling,
darting, graceful beyond description, close to the water. Thick, around
the bows of the ferry-boat as she lay tied in her slip, they flew; and
as we went out I watch'd beyond the pier-heads, and across the broad
stream, their swift-winding loop-ribands of motion, down close to it,
cutting and intersecting. Though I had seen swallows all my life, seem'd
as though I never before realized their peculiar beauty and character in
the landscape. (Some time ago, for an hour, in a huge old country barn,
watching these birds flying, recall'd the 22d book of the Odyssey, where
Ulysses slays the suitors, bringing things to _eclaircissement_, and
Minerva, swallow-bodied, darts up through the spaces of the hall, sits
high on a beam, looks complacently on the show of slaughter, and feels
in her element, exulting, joyous.)


The following three or four months (Sept. to Dec. '79) I made quite a
western journey, fetching up at Denver, Colorado, and penetrating the
Rocky Mountain region enough to get a good notion of it all. Left
West Philadelphia after 9 o'clock one night, middle of September, in a
comfortable sleeper. Oblivious of the two or three hundred miles across
Pennsylvania; at Pittsburgh in the morning to breakfast. Pretty good
view of the city and Birmingham--fog and damp, smoke, coke-furnaces,
flames, discolor'd wooden houses, and vast collections of coal-barges.
Presently a bit of fine region, West Virginia, the Panhandle, and
crossing the river, the Ohio. By day through the latter State--then
Indiana--and so rock'd to slumber for a second night, flying like
lightning through Illinois.


What a fierce weird pleasure to lie in my berth at night in the
luxurious palace-car, drawn by the mighty Baldwin--embodying, and
filling me, too, full of the swiftest motion, and most resistless
strength! It is late, perhaps midnight or after--distances join'd like
magic--as we speed through Harrisburg, Columbus, Indianapolis. The
element of danger adds zest to it all. On we go, rumbling and flashing,
with our loud whinnies thrown out from time to time, or trumpet-blasts,
into the darkness. Passing the homes of men, the farms, barns,
cattle--the silent villages. And the car itself, the sleeper, with
curtains drawn and lights turn'd down--in the berths the slumberers,
many of them women and children--as on, on, on, we fly like lightning
through the night--how strangely sound and sweet they sleep! (They say
the French Voltaire in his time designated the grand opera and a ship of
war the most signal illustrations of the growth of humanity's and art's
advance beyond primitive barbarism. Perhaps if the witty philosopher
were here these days, and went in the same car with perfect bedding and
feed from New York to San Francisco, he would shift his type and sample
to one of our American sleepers.)


We should have made the run of 960 miles from Philadelphia to St. Louis
in thirty-six hours, but we had a collision and bad locomotive smash
about two-thirds of the way, which set us back. So merely stopping over
night that time in St. Louis, I sped on westward. As I cross'd Missouri
State the whole distance by the St. Louis and Kansas City Northern
Railroad, a fine early autumn day, I thought my eyes had never looked on
scenes of greater pastoral beauty. For over two hundred miles successive
rolling prairies, agriculturally perfect view'd by Pennsylvania and New
Jersey eyes, and dotted here and there with fine timber. Yet fine as the
land is, it isn't the finest portion; (there is a bed of impervious clay
and hard-pan beneath this section that holds water too firmly, "drowns
the land in wet weather, and bakes it in dry," as a cynical farmer told
me.) South are some richer tracts, though perhaps the beauty-spots of
the State are the northwestern counties. Altogether, I am clear, (now,
and from what I have seen and learn'd since,) that Missouri, in climate,
soil, relative situation, wheat, grass, mines, railroads, and every
important materialistic respect, stands in the front rank of the Union.
Of Missouri averaged politically and socially I have heard all sorts of
talk, some pretty severe--but I should have no fear myself of getting
along safely and comfortably anywhere among the Missourians. They raise
a good deal of tobacco. You see at this time quantities of the light
greenish-gray leaves pulled and hanging out to dry on temporary
frameworks or rows of sticks. Looks much like the mullein familiar to
eastern eyes.


We thought of stopping in Kansas City, but when we got there we found
a train ready and a crowd of hospitable Kansians to take us on to
Lawrence, to which I proceeded. I shall not soon forget my good days
in L., in company with Judge Usher and his sons, (especially John and
Linton,) true westerners of the noblest type. Nor the similar days in
Topeka. Nor the brotherly kindness of my RR. friends there, and the
city and State officials. Lawrence and Topeka are large, bustling,
half-rural, handsome cities. I took two or three long drives about the
latter, drawn by a spirited team over smooth roads.

THE PRAIRIES (_and an Undeliver'd Speech_)

At a large popular meeting at Topeka--the Kansas State Silver Wedding,
fifteen or twenty thousand people--I had been erroneously bill'd
to deliver a poem. As I seem'd to be made much of, and wanted to be
good-natured, I hastily pencill'd out the following little speech.
Unfortunately, (or fortunately,) I had such a good time and rest, and
talk and dinner, with the U. boys, that I let the hours slip away and
didn't drive over to the meeting and speak my piece. But here it is just
the same:

"My friends, your bills announce me as giving a poem; but I have no
poem--have composed none for this occasion. And I can honestly say I am
now glad of it. Under these skies resplendent in September beauty--amid
the peculiar landscape you are used to, but which is new to me--these
interminable and stately prairies--in the freedom and vigor and sane
enthusiasm of this perfect western air and autumn sunshine--it seems
to me a poem would be almost an impertinence. But if you care to have a
word from me, I should speak it about these very prairies; they impress
me most, of all the objective shows I see or have seen on this, my first
real visit to the West. As I have roll'd rapidly hither for more than
a thousand miles, through fair Ohio, through bread-raising Indiana and
Illinois--through ample Missouri, that contains and raises everything;
as I have partially explor'd your charming city during the last two
days, and, standing on Oread hill, by the university, have launch'd my
view across broad expanses of living green, in every direction--I have
again been most impress'd, I say, and shall remain for the rest of my
life most impress'd, with that feature of the topography of your western
central world--that vast Something, stretching out on its own unbounded
scale, unconfined, which there is in these prairies, combining the real
and ideal, and beautiful as dreams.

"I wonder indeed if the people of this continental inland West know how
much of first-class _art_ they have in these prairies--how original and
all your own--how much of the influences of a character for your future
humanity, broad, patriotic, heroic and new? how entirely they tally on
land the grandeur and superb monotony of the skies of heaven, and the
ocean with its waters? how freeing, soothing, nourishing they are to the

"Then is it not subtly they who have given us our leading modern
Americans, Lincoln and Grant?--vast-spread, average men--their
foregrounds of character altogether practical and real, yet (to those
who have eyes to see) with finest backgrounds of the ideal, towering
high as any. And do we not see, in them, foreshadowings of the future
races that shall fill these prairies?

"Not but what the Yankee and Atlantic States, and every other
part--Texas, and the States flanking the south-east and the Gulf of
Mexico--the Pacific shore empire--the Territories and Lakes, and the
Canada line (the day is not yet, but it will come, including Canada
entire)--are equally and integrally and indissolubly this Nation, the
_sine qua non_ of the human, political and commercial New World. But
this favor'd central area of (in round numbers) two thousand miles
square seems fated to be the home both of what I would call America's
distinctive ideas and distinctive realities."


The jaunt of five or six hundred miles from Topeka to Denver took me
through a variety of country, but all unmistakably prolific, western,
American, and on the largest scale. For a long distance we follow the
line of the Kansas river, (I like better the old name, Kaw,) a stretch
of very rich, dark soil, famed for its wheat, and call'd the Golden
Belt--then plains and plains, hour after hour--Ellsworth county, the
centre of the State--where I must stop a moment to tell a characteristic
story of early days--scene the very spot where I am passing--time 1868.
In a scrimmage at some public gathering in the town, A. had shot
B. quite badly, but had not kill'd him. The sober men of Ellsworth
conferr'd with one another and decided that A. deserv'd punishment. As
they wished to set a good example and establish their reputation the
reverse of a Lynching town, they open an informal court and bring both
men before them for deliberate trial. Soon as this trial begins the
wounded man is led forward to give his testimony. Seeing his enemy
in durance and unarm'd, B. walks suddenly up in a fury and shoots A.
through the head--shoots him dead. The court is instantly adjourn'd, and
its unanimous members, without a word of debate, walk the murderer B.
out, wounded as he is, and hang him.

In due time we reach Denver, which city I fall in love with from the
first, and have that feeling confirm'd, the longer I stay there. One of
my pleasantest days was a jaunt, via Platte cañon, to Leadville.


Jottings from the Rocky Mountains, mostly pencill'd during a day's trip
over the South Park RR., returning from Leadville, and especially the
hour we were detain'd, (much to my satisfaction,) at Kenosha summit. As
afternoon advances, novelties, far-reaching splendors, accumulate under
the bright sun in this pure air. But I had better commence with the day.

The confronting of Platte cañon just at dawn, after a ten miles' ride in
early darkness on the rail from Denver--the seasonable stoppage at
the entrance of the cañon, and good breakfast of eggs, trout, and nice
griddle-cakes--then as we travel on, and get well in the gorge, all the
wonders, beauty, savage power of the scene--the wild stream of water,
from sources of snows, brawling continually in sight one side--the
dazzling sun, and the morning lights on the rocks--such turns and
grades in the track, squirming around corners, or up and down hills--far
glimpses of a hundred peaks, titanic necklaces, stretching north and
south--the huge rightly-named Dome-rock--and as we dash along, others
similar, simple, monolithic, elephantine.


"I have found the law of my own poems," was the unspoken but
more-and-more decided feeling that came to me as I pass'd, hour after
hour, amid all this grim yet joyous elemental abandon--this plenitude
of material, entire absence of art, untrammel'd play of primitive
Nature--the chasm, the gorge, the crystal mountain stream,
repeated scores, hundreds of miles--the broad handling and absolute
uncrampedness--the fantastic forms, bathed in transparent browns, faint
reds and grays, towering sometimes a thousand, sometimes two or three
thousand feet high--at their tops now and then huge masses pois'd, and
mixing with the clouds, with only their outlines, hazed in misty lilac,
visible. ("In Nature's grandest shows," says an old Dutch writer, an
ecclesiastic, "amid the ocean's depth, if so might be, or countless
worlds rolling above at night, a man thinks of them, weighs all, not for
themselves or the abstract, but with reference to his own personality,
and how they may affect him or color his destinies.")


We follow the stream of amber and bronze brawling along its bed,
with its frequent cascades and snow-white foam. Through the cañon we
fly--mountains not only each side, but seemingly, till we get near,
right in front of us--every rood a new view flashing, and each flash
defying description--on the almost perpendicular sides, clinging
pines, cedars, spruces, crimson sumach bushes, spots of wild grass--but
dominating all, those towering rocks, rocks, rocks, bathed in delicate
vari-colors, with the clear sky of autumn overhead. New senses, new
joys, seem develop'd. Talk as you like, a typical Rocky Mountain cañon,
or a limitless sea-like stretch of the great Kansas or Colorado plains,
under favoring circumstances, tallies, perhaps expresses, certainly
awakes, those grandest and subtlest element-emotions in the human
soul, that all the marble temples and sculptures from Phidias to
Thorwaldsen--all paintings, poems, reminiscences, or even music,
probably never can.


I get out on a ten minutes' stoppage at Deer creek, to enjoy the
unequal'd combination of hill, stone and wood. As we speed again,
the yellow granite in the sunshine, with natural spires, minarets,
castellated perches far aloft--then long stretches of straight-upright
palisades, rhinoceros color--then gamboge and tinted chromos. Ever
the best of my pleasures the cool-fresh Colorado atmosphere, yet
sufficiently warm. Signs of man's restless advent and pioneerage, hard
as Nature's face is--deserted dug-outs by dozens in the side-hills--the
scantling-hut, the telegraph-pole, the smoke of some impromptu chimney
or outdoor fire--at intervals little settlements of log-houses, or
parties of surveyors or telegraph builders, with their comfortable
tents. Once, a canvas office where you could send a message by
electricity anywhere around the world! Yes, pronounc'd signs of the man
of latest dates, dauntlessly grappling with these grisliest shows of the
old kosmos. At several places steam saw-mills, with their piles of logs
and boards, and the pipes puffing. Occasionally Platte cañon expanding
into a grassy flat of a few acres. At one such place, toward the end,
where we stop, and I get out to stretch my legs, as I look skyward, or
rather mountain-topward, a huge hawk or eagle (a rare sight here) is
idly soaring, balancing along the ether, now sinking low and coming
quite near, and then up again in stately-languid circles--then higher,
higher, slanting to the north, and gradually out of sight.


I jot these lines literally at Kenosha summit, where we return,
afternoon, and take a long rest, 10,000 feet above sea-level. At
this immense height the South Park stretches fifty miles before me.
Mountainous chains and peaks in every variety of perspective, every hue
of vista, fringe the view, in nearer, or middle, or far-dim distance,
or fade on the horizon. We have now reach'd, penetrated the Rockies,
(Hayden calls it the Front Range,) for a hundred miles or so; and though
these chains spread away in every direction, specially north and south,
thousands and thousands farther, I have seen specimens of the utmost
of them, and know henceforth at least what they are, and what they look
like. Not themselves alone, for they typify stretches and areas of half
the globe--are, in fact, the vertebrae or back-bone of our hemisphere.
As the anatomists say a man is only a spine, topp'd, footed, breasted
and radiated, so the whole Western world is, in a sense, but an
expansion of these mountains. In South America they are the Andes, in
Central America and Mexico the Cordilleras, and in our States they
go under different names--in California the Coast and Cascade
ranges--thence more eastwardly the Sierra Nevadas--but mainly and more
centrally here the Rocky Mountains proper, with many an elevation such
as Lincoln's, Grey's, Harvard's, Yale's, Long's and Pike's peaks, all
over 14,000 feet high. (East, the highest peaks of the Alleghanies, the
Adirondacks, the Catskills, and the White Mountains, range from 2000 to
5500 feet-only Mount Washington, in the latter, 6300 feet.)


In the midst of all here, lie such beautiful contrasts as the sunken
basins of the North, Middle, and South Parks, (the latter I am now on
one side of, and overlooking,) each the size of a large, level, almost
quandrangular, grassy, western county, wall'd in by walls of hills, and
each park the source of a river. The ones I specify are the largest in
Colorado, but the whole of that State, and of Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and
western California, through their sierras and ravines, are copiously
mark'd by similar spreads and openings, many of the small ones of
paradisiac loveliness and perfection, with their offsets of mountains,
streams, atmosphere and hues beyond compare.


Talk, I say again, of going to Europe, of visiting the ruins of feudal
castles, or Coliseum remains, or kings' palaces--when you can come
_here_. The alternations one gets, too; after the Illinois and Kansas
prairies of a thousand miles--smooth and easy areas of the corn and
wheat of ten million democratic farms in the future----here start up in
every conceivable presentation of shape, these non-utilitarian piles,
coping the skies, emanating a beauty, terror, power, more than Dante
or Angelo ever knew. Yes, I think the chyle of not only poetry and
painting, but oratory, and even the metaphysics and music fit for the
New World, before being finally assimilated, need first and feeding
visits here.

_Mountain streams._--The spiritual contrast and etheriality of the whole
region consist largely to me in its never-absent peculiar streams--the
snows of inaccessible upper areas melting and running down through the
gorges continually. Nothing like the water of pastoral plains, or creeks
with wooded banks and turf, or anything of the kind elsewhere. The
shapes that element takes in the shows of the globe cannot be fully
understood by an artist until he has studied these unique rivulets.

_Aerial effects._--But perhaps as I gaze around me the rarest sight
of all is in atmospheric hues. The prairies--as I cross'd them in my
journey hither--and these mountains and parks, seem to me to afford
new lights and shades. Everywhere the aerial gradations and sky-effects
inimitable; nowhere else such perspectives, such transparent lilacs
and grays. I can conceive of some superior landscape painter, some fine
colorist, after sketching awhile out here, discarding all his previous
work, delightful to stock exhibition amateurs, as muddy, raw and
artificial. Near one's eye ranges an infinite variety; high up, the bare
whitey-brown, above timber line; in certain spots afar patches of snow
any time of year; (no trees, no flowers, no birds, at those chilling
altitudes.) As I write I see the Snowy Range through the blue mist,
beautiful and far off, I plainly see the patches of snow.


Through the long-lingering half-light of the most superb of evenings
we return'd to Denver, where I staid several days leisurely exploring,
receiving impressions, with which I may as well taper off this
memorandum, itemizing what I saw there. The best was the men,
three-fourths of them large, able, calm, alert, American. And cash! why
they create it here. Out in the smelting works, (the biggest and most
improv'd ones, for the precious metals, in the world,) I saw long rows
of vats, pans, cover'd by bubbling-boiling water, and fill'd with pure
silver, four or five inches thick, many thousand dollars' worth in a
pan. The foreman who was showing me shovel'd it carelessly up with a
little wooden shovel, as one might toss beans. Then large silver bricks,
worth $2000 a brick, dozens of piles, twenty in a pile. In one place
in the mountains, at a mining camp, I had a few days before seen rough
bullion on the ground in the open air, like the confectioner's pyramids
at some swell dinner in New York. (Such a sweet morsel to roll over with
a poor author's pen and ink--and appropriate to slip in here--that
the silver product of Colorado and Utah, with the gold product of
California, New Mexico, Nevada and Dakota, foots up an addition to the
world's coin of considerably over a hundred millions every year.)

A city, this Denver, well-laid out--Laramie street, and 15th and 16th
and Champa streets, with others, particularly fine--some with tall
storehouses of stone or iron, and windows of plate-glass--all the
streets with little canals of mountain water running along the
sides--plenty of people, "business," modernness--yet not without a
certain racy wild smack, all its own. A place of fast horses, (many
mares with their colts,) and I saw lots of big greyhounds for antelope
hunting. Now and then groups of miners, some just come in, some starting
out, very picturesque.

One of the papers here interview'd me, and reported me as saying
off-hand: "I have lived in or visited all the great cities on the
Atlantic third of the republic--Boston, Brooklyn with its hills, New
Orleans, Baltimore, stately Washington, broad Philadelphia, teeming
Cincinnati and Chicago, and for thirty years in that wonder, wash'd by
hurried and glittering tides, my own New York, not only the New World's
but the world's city--but, newcomer to Denver as I am, and threading
its streets, breathing its air, warm'd by its sunshine, and having what
there is of its human as well as aerial ozone flash'd upon me now for
only three or four days, I am very much like a man feels sometimes
toward certain people he meets with, and warms to, and hardly knows why.
I, too, can hardly tell why, but as I enter'd the city in the slight
haze of a late September afternoon, and have breath'd its air, and
slept well o' nights, and have roam'd or rode leisurely, and watch'd the
comers and goers at the hotels, and absorb'd the climatic magnetism of
this curiously attractive region, there has steadily grown upon me a
feeling of affection for the spot, which, sudden as it is, has become so
definite and strong that I must put it on record."

So much for my feeling toward the Queen city of the plains and peaks,
where she sits in her delicious rare atmosphere, over 5000 feet above
sea-level, irrigated by mountain streams, one way looking east over
the prairies for a thousand miles, and having the other, westward,
in constant view by day, draped in their violet haze, mountain tops
innumerable. Yes, I fell in love with Denver, and even felt a wish to
spend my declining and dying days there.


Leave Denver at 8 A.M. by the Rio Grande RR. going south. Mountains
constantly in sight in the apparently near distance, veil'd slightly,
but still clear and very grand--their cones, colors, sides, distinct
against the sky--hundreds, it seem'd thousands, interminable necklaces
of them, their tops and slopes hazed more or less slightly in that
blue-gray, under the autumn sun, for over a hundred miles--the most
spiritual show of objective Nature I ever beheld, or ever thought
possible. Occasionally the light strengthens, making a contrast of
yellow-tinged silver on one side, with dark and shaded gray on the
other. I took a long look at Pike's peak, and was a little disappointed.
(I suppose I had expected something stunning.) Our view over plains
to the left stretches amply, with corrals here and there, the frequent
cactus and wild sage, and herds of cattle feeding. Thus about 120
miles to Pueblo. At that town we board the comfortable and well-equipt
Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe RR., now striking east.


I had wanted to go to the Yellowstone river region--wanted specially to
see the National Park, and the geysers and the "hoodoo" or goblin land
of that country; indeed, hesitated a little at Pueblo, the turning
point--wanted to thread the Veta pass--wanted to go over the Santa
Fe trail away southwestward to New Mexico--but turn'd and set my face
eastward--leaving behind me whetting glimpse-tastes of southeastern
Colorado, Pueblo, Bald mountain, the Spanish peaks, Sangre de Christos,
Mile-Shoe-curve (which my veteran friend on the locomotive told me was
"the boss railroad curve of the universe,") fort Garland on the plains,
Veta, and the three great peaks of the Sierra Blancas. The Arkansas
river plays quite a part in the whole of this region--I see it, or
its high-cut rocky northern shore, for miles, and cross and recross it
frequently, as it winds and squirms like a snake. The plains vary here
even more than usual--sometimes a long sterile stretch of scores of
miles--then green, fertile and grassy, an equal length. Some very large
herds of sheep. (One wants new words in writing about these plains, and
all the inland American West--the terms, _far, large, vast_, &c., are


Here I must say a word about a little follower, present even now before
my eyes. I have been accompanied on my whole journey from Barnegat to
Pike's peak by a pleasant floricultural friend, or rather millions of
friends--nothing more or less than a hardy little yellow five-petal'd
September and October wild-flower, growing I think everywhere in the
middle and northern United States. I had seen it on the Hudson and over
Long Island, and along the banks of the Delaware and through New Jersey,
(as years ago up the Connecticut, and one fall by Lake Champlain.) This
trip it follow'd me regularly, with its slender stem and eyes of gold,
from Cape May to the Kaw valley, and so through the cañons and to these
plains. In Missouri I saw immense fields all bright with it. Toward
western Illinois I woke up one morning in the sleeper and the first
thing when I drew the curtain of my berth and look'd out was its pretty
countenance and bending neck.

_Sept. 25th_.--Early morning--still going east after we leave Sterling,
Kansas, where I stopp'd a day and night. The sun up about half an hour;
nothing can be fresher or more beautiful than this time, this region. I
see quite a field of my yellow flower in full bloom. At intervals dots
of nice two-story houses, as we ride swiftly by. Over the immense area,
flat as a floor, visible for twenty miles in every direction in the
clear air, a prevalence of autumn-drab and reddish-tawny herbage--sparse
stacks of hay and enclosures, breaking the landscape--as we rumble by,
flocks of prairie-hens starting up. Between Sterling and Florence a
fine country. (Remembrances to E. L., my old-young soldier friend of war
times, and his wife and boy at S.)


(_After traveling Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado_) Grand as
is the thought that doubtless the child is already born who will see
a hundred millions of people, the most prosperous and advanc'd of the
world, inhabiting these Prairies, the great Plains, and the valley of
the Mississippi, I could not help thinking it would be grander still
to see all those inimitable American areas fused in the alembic of
a perfect poem, or other esthetic work, entirely western, fresh and
limitless--altogether our own, without a trace or taste of Europe's
soil, reminiscence, technical letter or spirit. My days and nights, as I
travel here--what an exhilaration!--not the air alone, and the sense
of vastness, but every local sight and feature. Everywhere something
characteristic--the cactuses, pinks, buffalo grass, wild sage--the
receding perspective, and the far circle-line of the horizon all times
of day, especially forenoon--the clear, pure, cool, rarefied nutriment
for the lungs, previously quite unknown--the black patches and streaks
left by surface-conflagrations--the deep-plough'd furrow of the
"fire-guard"--the slanting snow-racks built all along to shield
the railroad from winter drifts--the prairie-dogs and the herds
of antelope--the curious "dry rivers"--occasionally a "dug-out" or
corral--Fort Riley and Fort Wallace--those towns of the northern plains,
(like ships on the sea,) Eagle-Tail, Coyoté, Cheyenne, Agate, Monotony,
Kit Carson--with ever the ant-hill and the buffalo-wallow--ever the
herds of cattle and the cow-boys ("cow-punchers") to me a strangely
interesting class, bright-eyed as hawks, with their swarthy complexions
and their broad-brimm'd hats--apparently always on horseback, with loose
arms slightly raised and swinging as they ride.


Between Pueblo and Bent's fort, southward, in a clear afternoon
sun-spell I catch exceptionally good glimpses of the Spanish peaks.
We are in southeastern Colorado--pass immense herds of cattle as our
first-class locomotive rushes us along--two or three times crossing
the Arkansas, which we follow many miles, and of which river I get fine
views, sometimes for quite a distance, its stony, upright, not very
high, palisade banks, and then its muddy flats. We pass Fort Lyon--lots
of adobie houses--limitless pasturage, appropriately fleck'd with those
herds of cattle--in due time the declining sun in the west--a sky of
limpid pearl over all--and so evening on the great plains. A calm,
pensive, boundless landscape--the perpendicular rocks of the north
Arkansas, hued in twilight--a thin line of violet on the southwestern
horizon--the palpable coolness and slight aroma--a belated cow-boy with
some unruly member of his herd--an emigrant wagon toiling yet a little
further, the horses slow and tired--two men, apparently father and son,
jogging along on foot--and around all the indescribable _chiaroscuro_
and sentiment, (profounder than anything at sea,) athwart these endless


Speaking generally as to the capacity and sure future destiny of that
plain and prairie area (larger than any European kingdom) it is the
inexhaustible land of wheat, maize, wool, flax, coal, iron, beef and
pork, butter and cheese, apples and grapes--land of ten million virgin
farms--to the eye at present wild and unproductive--yet experts say
that upon it when irrigated may easily be grown enough wheat to feed the
world. Then as to scenery (giving my own thought and feeling,) while
I know the standard claim is that Yosemite, Niagara falls, the upper
Yellowstone and the like, afford the greatest natural shows, I am not
so sure but the Prairies and the Plains, while less stunning at first
sight, last longer, fill the esthetic sense fuller, precede all the
rest, and make North America's characteristic landscape.

Indeed through the whole of this journey, with all its shows and
varieties, what most impress'd me, and will longest remain with me, are
these same prairies. Day after day, and night after night, to my eyes,
to all my senses--the esthetic one most of all--they silently and
broadly unfolded. Even their simplest statistics are sublime.


The valley of the Mississippi river and its tributaries, (this stream
and its adjuncts involve a big part of the question,) comprehends more
than twelve hundred thousand square miles, the greater part prairies. It
is by far the most important stream on the globe, and would seem to have
been marked out by design, slow-flowing from north to south, through
a dozen climates, all fitted for man's healthy occupancy, its outlet
unfrozen all the year, and its line forming a safe, cheap continental
avenue for commerce and passage from the north temperate to the torrid
zone. Not even the mighty Amazon (though larger in volume) on its line
of east and west--not the Nile in Africa, nor the Danube in Europe, nor
the three great rivers of China, compare with it. Only the Mediterranean
sea has play'd some such part in history, and all through the past,
as the Mississippi is destined to play in the future. By its demesnes,
water'd and welded by its branches, the Missouri, the Ohio, the
Arkansas, the Red, the Yazoo, the St. Francis and others, it already
compacts twenty-five millions of people, not merely the most peaceful
and money-making, but the most restless and warlike on earth. Its
valley, or reach, is rapidly concentrating the political power of the
American Union. One almost thinks it _is_ the Union--or soon will be.
Take it out, with its radiations, and what would be left? From the car
windows through Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, or stopping some days along
the Topeka and Santa Fe road, in southern Kansas, and indeed wherever
I went, hundreds and thousands of miles through this region, my eyes
feasted on primitive and rich meadows, some of them partially inhabited,
but far, immensely far more untouch'd, unbroken--and much of it more
lovely and fertile in its unplough'd innocence than the fair and
valuable fields of New York's, Pennsylvania's, Maryland's or Virginia's
richest farms.


The word Prairie is French, and means literally meadow. The cosmical
analogies of our North American plains are the Steppes of Asia, the
Pampas and Llanos of South America, and perhaps the Saharas of Africa.
Some think the plains have been originally lake-beds; others attribute
the absence of forests to the fires that almost annually sweep over
them--(the cause, in vulgar estimation, of Indian summer.) The tree
question will soon become a grave one. Although the Atlantic slope,
the Rocky mountain region, and the southern portion of the Mississippi
valley, are well wooded, there are here stretches of hundreds and
thousands of miles where either not a tree grows, or often useless
destruction has prevail'd; and the matter of the cultivation and spread
of forests may well be press'd upon thinkers who look to the coming
generations of the prairie States.


Lying by one rainy day in Missouri to rest after quite a long
exploration--first trying a big volume I found there of "Milton, Young,
Gray, Beattie and Collins," but giving it up for a bad job--enjoying
however for awhile, as often before, the reading of Walter Scott's
poems, "Lay of the Last Minstrel," "Marmion," and so on--I stopp'd and
laid down the book, and ponder'd the thought of a poetry that should in
due time express and supply the teeming region I was in the midst
of, and have briefly touch'd upon. One's mind needs but a moment's
deliberation anywhere in the United States to see clearly enough that
all the prevalent book and library poets, either as imported from
Great Britain, or follow'd and _doppel-gang'd_ here, are foreign to our
States, copiously as they are read by us all. But to fully understand
not only how absolutely in opposition to our times and lands, and how
little and cramp'd, and what anachronisms and absurdities many of their
pages are, for American purposes, one must dwell or travel awhile in
Missouri, Kansas and Colorado, and get rapport with their people and

Will the day ever come--no matter how long deferr'd--when those
models and lay-figures from the British islands--and even the precious
traditions of the classics--will be reminiscences, studies only? The
pure breath, primitiveness, boundless prodigality and amplitude, strange
mixture of delicacy and power, of continence, of real and ideal, and
of all original and first-class elements, of these prairies, the Rocky
mountains, and of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers--will they ever
appear in, and in some sort form a standard for our poetry and art? (I
sometimes think that even the ambition of my friend Joaquin Miller to
put them in, and illustrate them, places him ahead of the whole crowd.)

Not long ago I was down New York bay, on a steamer, watching the sunset
over the dark green heights of Navesink, and viewing all that inimitable
spread of shore, shipping and sea, around Sandy Hook. But an intervening
week or two, and my eyes catch the shadowy outlines of the Spanish
peaks. In the more than two thousand miles between, though of infinite
and paradoxical variety, a curious and absolute fusion is doubtless
steadily annealing, compacting, identifying all. But subtler and wider
and more solid, (to produce such compaction,) than the laws of the
States, or the common ground of Congress, or the Supreme Court, or the
grim welding of our national wars, or the steel ties of railroads,
or all the kneading and fusing processes of our material and business
history, past or present, would in my opinion be a great throbbing,
vital, imaginative work, or series of works, or literature, in
constructing which the Plains, the Prairies, and the Mississippi river,
with the demesnes of its varied and ample valley, should be the concrete
background, and America's humanity, passions, struggles, hopes, there
and now--an _eclaircissement_ as it is and is to be, on the stage of
the New World, of all Time's hitherto drama of war, romance and
evolution--should furnish the lambent fire, the ideal.


_Oct. 17, '79_.--To-day one of the newspapers of St. Louis prints the
following informal remarks of mine on American, especially Western
literature: "We called on Mr. Whitman yesterday and after a somewhat
desultory conversation abruptly asked him: 'Do you think we are to have
a distinctively American literature?' 'It seems to me,' said he,'that
our work at present is to lay the foundations of a great nation
in products, in agriculture, in commerce, in networks of
intercommunication, and in all that relates to the comforts of vast
masses of men and families, with freedom of speech, ecclesiasticism, &c.
These we have founded and are carrying out on a grander scale than ever
hitherto, and Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado,
seem to me to be the seat and field of these very facts and ideas.
Materialistic prosperity in all its varied forms, with those other
points that I mentioned, intercommunication and freedom, are first to
be attended to. When those have their results and get settled, then
a literature worthy of us will begin to be defined. Our American
superiority and vitality are in the bulk of our people, not in a gentry
like the old world. The greatness of our army during the secession war,
was in the rank and file, and so with the nation. Other lands have their
vitality in a few, a class, but we have it in the bulk of the people.
Our leading men are not of much account and never have been, but the
average of the people is immense, beyond all history. Sometimes I think
in all departments, literature and art included, that will be the way
our superiority will exhibit itself. We will not have great individuals
or great leaders, but a great average bulk, unprecedentedly great.'"


_Kansas City_.--I am not so well satisfied with what I see of the women
of the prairie cities. I am writing this where I sit leisurely in a
store in Main street, Kansas City, a streaming crowd on the sidewalks
flowing by. The ladies (and the same in Denver) are all fashionably
drest, and have the look of "gentility" in face, manner and action, but
they do _not_ have, either in physique or the mentality appropriate
to them, any high native originality of spirit or body, (as the men
certainly have, appropriate to them.) They are "intellectual" and
fashionable, but dyspeptic-looking and generally doll-like; their
ambition evidently is to copy their eastern sisters. Something far
different and in advance must appear, to tally and complete the superb
masculinity of the west, and maintain and continue it.


_Sept. 28, '79_.--So General Grant, after circumambiating the world,
has arrived home again, landed in San Francisco yesterday, from the
ship City of Tokio from Japan. What a man he is! what a history! what an
illustration--his life--of the capacities of that American individuality
common to us all. Cynical critics are wondering "what the people can
see in Grant" to make such a hubbub about. They aver (and it is no
doubt true) that he has hardly the average of our day's literary and
scholastic culture, and absolutely no pronounc'd genius or conventional
eminence of any sort. Correct: but he proves how an average western
farmer, mechanic, boatman, carried by tides of circumstances,
perhaps caprices, into a position of incredible military or civic
responsibilities, (history has presented none more trying, no born
monarch's, no mark more shining for attack or envy,) may steer his way
fitly and steadily through them all, carrying the country and himself
with credit year after year--command over a million armed men--fight
more than fifty pitch'd battles--rule for eight years a land larger than
all the kingdoms of Europe combined--and then, retiring, quietly (with
a cigar in his mouth) make the promenade of the whole world, through its
courts and coteries, and kings and czars and mikados, and splendidest
glitters and etiquettes, as phlegmatically as he ever walk'd the
portico of a Missouri hotel after dinner. I say all this is what people
like--and I am sure I like it. Seems to me it transcends Plutarch. How
those old Greeks, indeed, would have seized on him! A mere plain man--no
art, no poetry--only practical sense, ability to do, or try his best to
do, what devolv'd upon him. A common trader, money-maker, tanner, farmer
of Illinois--general for the republic, in its terrific struggle with
itself, in the war of attempted secession--President following, (a task
of peace, more difficult than the war itself)--nothing heroic, as the
authorities put it--and yet the greatest hero. The gods, the destinies,
seem to have concentrated upon him.


_Sept. 30_.--I see President Hayes has come out West, passing quite
informally from point to point, with his wife and a small cortege of
big officers, receiving ovations, and making daily and sometimes
double-daily addresses to the people. To these addresses--all impromptu,
and some would call them ephemeral--I feel to devote a memorandum. They
are shrewd, good-natur'd, face-to-face speeches, on easy topics not
too deep; but they give me some revised ideas of oratory--of a new,
opportune theory and practice of that art, quite changed from the
classic rules, and adapted to our days, our occasions, to American
democracy, and to the swarming populations of the West. I hear them
criticised as wanting in dignity, but to me they are just what they
should be, considering all the circumstances, who they come from, and
who they are address'd to. Underneath, his objects are to compact and
fraternize the States, encourage their materialistic and industrial
development, soothe and expand their self-poise, and tie all and each
with resistless double ties not only of inter-trade barter, but human

From Kansas City I went on to St. Louis, where I remain'd nearly three
months, with my brother T.J.W., and my dear nieces.


_Oct., Nov., and Dec., '79_.--The points of St. Louis are its position,
its absolute wealth, (the long accumulations of time and trade, solid
riches, probably a higher average thereof than any city,) the unrivall'd
amplitude of its well-laid-out environage of broad plateaus, for
future expansion--and the great State of which it is the head. It fuses
northern and southern qualities, perhaps native and foreign ones, to
perfection, rendezvous the whole stretch of the Mississippi and Missouri
rivers, and its American electricity goes well with its German phlegm.
Fourth, Fifth and Third streets are store-streets, showy, modern,
metropolitan, with hurrying crowds, vehicles, horse-cars, hubbub, plenty
of people, rich goods, plate-glass windows, iron fronts often five or
six stories high. You can purchase anything in St. Louis (in most of the
big western cities for the matter of that) just as readily and cheaply
as in the Atlantic marts. Often in going about the town you see
reminders of old, even decay'd civilization. The water of the west, in
some places, is not good, but they make it up here by plenty of very
fair wine, and inexhaustible quantities of the best beer in the world.
There are immense establishments for slaughtering beef and pork--and I
saw flocks of sheep, 5000 in a flock. (In Kansas City I had visited a
packing establishment that kills and packs an average of 2500 hogs a
day the whole year round, for export. Another in Atchison, Kansas, same
extent; others nearly equal elsewhere. And just as big ones here.)


_Oct. 29th, 30th, and 31st_.--Wonderfully fine, with the full harvest
moon, dazzling and silvery. I have haunted the river every night lately,
where I could get a look at the bridge by moonlight. It is indeed a
structure of perfection and beauty unsurpassable, and I never tire of
it. The river at present is very low; I noticed to-day it had much more
of a blue-clear look than usual. I hear the slight ripples, the air
is fresh and cool, and the view, up or down, wonderfully clear, in the
moonlight. I am out pretty late: it is so fascinating, dreamy. The cool
night-air, all the influences, the silence, with those far-off eternal
stars, do me good. I have been quite ill of late. And so, well-near the
centre of our national demesne, these night views of the Mississippi.


"Always, after supper, take a walk half a mile long," says an old
proverb, dryly adding, "and if convenient let it be upon your own land."
I wonder does any other nation but ours afford opportunity for such a
jaunt as this? Indeed has any previous period afforded it? No one, I
discover, begins to know the real geographic, democratic, indissoluble
American Union in the present, or suspect it in the future, until he
explores these Central States, and dwells awhile observantly on their
prairies, or amid their busy towns, and the mighty father of waters. A
ride of two or three thousand miles, "on one's own land," with hardly a
disconnection, could certainly be had in no other place than the United
States, and at no period before this. If you want to see what the
railroad is, and how civilization and progress date from it--how it
is the conqueror of crude nature, which it turns to man's use, both on
small scales and on the largest--come hither to inland America.

I return'd home, east, Jan. 5, 1880, having travers'd, to and fro and
across, 10,000 miles and more. I soon resumed my seclusions down in
the woods, or by the creek, or gaddings about cities, and an occasional
disquisition, as will be seen following.


_Jan. 1, '80_.--In diagnosing this disease called humanity--to assume
for the nonce what seems a chief mood of the personality and writings of
my subject--I have thought that poets, somewhere or other on the list,
present the most mark'd indications. Comprehending artists in a mass,
musicians, painters, actors, and so on, and considering each and all of
them as radiations or flanges of that furious whirling wheel, poetry,
the centre and axis of the whole, where else indeed may we so well
investigate the causes, growths, tally-marks of the time--the age's
matter and malady?

By common consent there is nothing better for man or woman than a
perfect and noble life, morally without flaw, happily balanced in
activity, physically sound and pure, giving its due proportion, and no
more, to the sympathetic, the human emotional element--a life, in all
these, unhasting, unresting, untiring to the end. And yet there is
another shape of personality dearer far to the artist-sense, (which
likes the play of strongest lights and shades,) where the perfect
character, the good, the heroic, although never attain'd, is never
lost sight of, but through failures, sorrows, temporary downfalls, is
return'd to again and again, and while often violated, is passionately
adhered to as long as mind, muscles, voice, obey the power we call
volition. This sort of personality we see more or less in Burns, Byron,
Schiller, and George Sand. But we do not see it in Edgar Poe. (All this
is the result of reading at intervals the last three days a new volume
of his poems--I took it on my rambles down by the pond, and by degrees
read it all through there.) While to the character first outlined the
service Poe renders is certainly that entire contrast and contradiction
which is next best to fully exemplifying it.

Almost without the first sign of moral principle, or of the concrete
or its heroisms, or the simpler affections of the heart, Poe's verses
illustrate an intense faculty for technical and abstract beauty, with
the rhyming art to excess, an incorrigible propensity toward nocturnal
themes, a demoniac undertone behind every page--and, by final judgment,
probably belong among the electric lights of imaginative literature,
brilliant and dazzling, but with no heat. There is an indescribable
magnetism about the poet's life and reminiscences, as well as the poems.
To one who could work out their subtle retracing and retrospect, the
latter would make a close tally no doubt between the author's birth
and antecedents, his childhood and youth, his physique, his so-call'd
education, his studies and associates, the literary and social
Baltimore, Richmond, Philadelphia and New York, of those times--not only
the places and circumstances in themselves, but often, very often, in a
strange spurning of, and reaction from them all.

The following from a report in the Washington "Star" of November 16,
1875, may afford those who care for it something further of my point
of view toward this interesting figure and influence of our era.
There occurr'd about that date in Baltimore a public reburial of Poe's
remains, and dedication of a monument over the grave:

"Being in Washington on a visit at the time, 'the old gray' went over
to Baltimore, and though ill from paralysis, consented to hobble up and
silently take a seat on the platform, but refused to make any speech,
saying, 'I have felt a strong impulse to come over and be here to-day
myself in memory of Poe, which I have obey'd, but not the slightest
impulse to make a speech, which, my dear friends, must also be obeyed.'
In an informal circle, however, in conversation after the ceremonies,
Whitman said: 'For a long while, and until lately, I had a distaste
for Poe's writings. I wanted, and still want for poetry, the clear sun
shining, and fresh air blowing--the strength and power of health, not of
delirium, even amid the stormiest passions--with always the background
of the eternal moralities. Non-complying with these requirements, Poe's
genius has yet conquer'd a special recognition for itself, and I too
have come to fully admit it, and appreciate it and him.

"'In a dream I once had, I saw a vessel on the sea, at midnight, in a
storm. It was no great full-rigg'd ship, nor majestic steamer, steering
firmly through the gale, but seem'd one of those superb little schooner
yachts I had often seen lying anchor'd, rocking so jauntily, in the
waters around New York, or up Long Island sound--now flying uncontroll'd
with torn sails and broken spars through the wild sleet and winds and
waves of the night. On the deck was a slender, slight, beautiful
figure, a dim man, apparently enjoying all the terror, the murk, and the
dislocation of which he was the centre and the victim. That figure of my
lurid dream might stand for Edgar Poe, his spirit, his fortunes, and his
poems--themselves all lurid dreams.'"

Much more may be said, but I most desired to exploit the idea put at the
beginning. By its popular poets the calibres of an age, the weak spots
of its embankments, its sub-currents, (often more significant than the
biggest surface ones,) are unerringly indicated. The lush and the weird
that have taken such extraordinary possession of Nineteenth century
verse-lovers--what mean they? The inevitable tendency of poetic culture
to morbidity, abnormal beauty--the sickliness of all technical thought
or refinement in itself--the abnegation of the perennial and democratic
concretes at first hand, the body, the earth and sea, sex and the
like--and the substitution of something for them at second or third
hand--what bearings have they on current pathological study?


_Feb. 11, '80_.--At a good concert to-night in the foyer of the opera
house, Philadelphia--the band a small but first-rate one. Never
did music more sink into and soothe and fill me--never so prove its
soul-rousing power, its impossibility of statement. Especially in the
rendering of one of Beethoven's master septettes by the well-chosen and
perfectly-combined instruments (violins, viola, clarionet, horn, 'cello
and contrabass,) was I carried away, seeing, absorbing many wonders.
Dainty abandon, sometimes as if Nature laughing on a hillside in the
sunshine; serious and firm monotonies, as of winds; a horn sounding
through the tangle of the forest, and the dying echoes; soothing
floating of waves, but presently rising in surges, angrily lashing,
muttering, heavy; piercing peals of laughter, for interstices; now
and then weird, as Nature herself is in certain moods--but mainly
spontaneous, easy, careless--often the sentiment of the postures of
naked children playing or sleeping. It did me good even to watch the
violinists drawing their bows so masterly--every motion a study. I
allow'd myself, as I sometimes do, to wander out of myself. The conceit
came to me of a copious grove of singing birds, and in their midst
a simple harmonic duo, two human souls, steadily asserting their own
pensiveness, joyousness.


_Feb. 13_.--As I was crossing the Delaware to-day, saw a large flock
of wild geese, right overhead, not very high up, ranged in V-shape,
in relief against the noon clouds of light smoke-color. Had a capital
though momentary view of them, and then of their course on and on
southeast, till gradually fading--(my eyesight yet first rate for
the open air and its distances, but I use glasses for reading.) Queer
thoughts melted into me the two or three minutes, or less, seeing
these creatures cleaving the sky--the spacious, airy realm--even the
prevailing smoke-gray color everywhere, (no sun shining)--the
waters below--the rapid flight of the birds, appearing just for a
minute--flashing to me such a hint of the whole spread of Nature, with
her eternal unsophisticated freshness, her never-visited recesses of
sea, sky, shore--and then disappearing in the distance.


_March 8_.--I write this down in the country again, but in a new spot,
seated on a log in the woods, warm, sunny, midday. Have been loafing
here deep among the trees, shafts of tall pines, oak, hickory, with
a thick undergrowth of laurels and grapevines--the ground cover'd
everywhere by debris, dead leaves, breakage, moss--everything solitary,
ancient, grim. Paths (such as they are) leading hither and yon--(how
made I know not, for nobody seems to come here, nor man nor
cattle-kind.) Temperature to-day about 60, the wind through the
pine-tops; I sit and listen to its hoarse sighing above (and to the
_stillness_) long and long, varied by aimless rambles in the old roads
and paths, and by exercise-pulls at the young saplings, to keep my
joints from getting stiff. Blue-birds, robins, meadow-larks begin to

_Next day, 9th_.--A snowstorm in the morning, and continuing most of the
day. But I took a walk over two hours, the same woods and paths, amid
the falling flakes. No wind, yet the musical low murmur through the
pines, quite pronounced, curious, like waterfalls, now still'd,
now pouring again. All the senses, sight, sound, smell, delicately
gratified. Every snowflake lay where it fell on the evergreens,
holly-trees, laurels, &c., the multitudinous leaves and branches piled,
bulging-white, defined by edge-lines of emerald--the tall straight
columns of the plentiful bronze-topt pines--a slight resinous odor
blending with that of the snow. (For there is a scent to everything,
even the snow, if you can only detect it--no two places, hardly any
two hours, anywhere, exactly alike. How different the odor of noon from
midnight, or winter from summer, or a windy spell from a still one.)


_May 9, Sunday_.--Visit this evening to my friends the J.'s--good
supper, to which I did justice--lively chat with Mrs. J. and I. and
J. As I sat out front on the walk afterward, in the evening air, the
church-choir and organ on the corner opposite gave Luther's hymn, _Ein
feste berg_, very finely. The air was borne by a rich contralto. For
nearly half an hour there in the dark (there was a good string of
English stanzas,) came the music, firm and unhurried, with long pauses.
The full silver star-beams of Lyra rose silently over the church's dim
roof-ridge. Vari-color'd lights from the stain'd glass windows broke
through the tree-shadows. And under all--under the Northern Crown up
there, and in the fresh breeze below, and the _chiaroscuro_ of the
night, that liquid-full contralto.


_June 4, '80_.--For really seizing a great picture or book, or piece of
music, or architecture, or grand scenery--or perhaps for the first time
even the common sunshine, or landscape, or may-be even the mystery
of identity, most curious mystery of all--there comes some lucky
five minutes of a man's life, set amid a fortuitous concurrence of
circumstances, and bringing in a brief flash the culmination of years of
reading and travel and thought. The present case about two o'clock this
afternoon, gave me Niagara, its superb severity of action and color and
majestic grouping, in one short, indescribable show. We were very slowly
crossing the Suspension bridge-not a full stop anywhere, but next to
it--the day clear, sunny, still--and I out on the platform. The
falls were in plain view about a mile off, but very distinct, and no
roar--hardly a murmur. The river tumbling green and white, far below
me; the dark high banks, the plentiful umbrage, many bronze cedars, in
shadow; and tempering and arching all the immense materiality, a clear
sky overhead, with a few white clouds, limpid, spiritual, silent. Brief,
and as quiet as brief, that picture--a remembrance always afterwards.
Such are the things, indeed, I lay away with my life's rare and blessed
bits of hours, reminiscent, past--the wild sea-storm I once saw one
winter day, off Fire island--the elder Booth in Richard, that famous
night forty years ago in the old Bowery--or Alboni in the children's
scene in Norma--or night-views, I remember, on the field, after battles
in Virginia--or the peculiar sentiment of moonlight and stars over the
great Plains, western Kansas--or scooting up New York bay, with a stiff
breeze and a good yacht, off Navesink. With these, I say, I henceforth
place that view, that afternoon, that combination complete, that five
minutes' perfect absorption of Niagara--not the great majestic gem
alone by itself, but set complete in all its varied, full, indispensable


To go back a little, I left Philadelphia, 9th and Green streets, at 8
o'clock P.M., June 3, on a first-class sleeper, by the Lehigh Valley
(North Pennsylvania) route, through Bethlehem, Wilkesbarre, Waverly, and
so (by Erie) on through Corning to Hornellsville, where we arrived at 8,
morning, and had a bounteous breakfast. I must say I never put in such a
good night on any railroad track--smooth, firm, the minimum of jolting,
and all the swiftness compatible with safety. So without change to
Buffalo, and thence to Clifton, where we arrived early afternoon; then
on to London, Ontario, Canada, in four more--less than twenty-two hours
altogether. I am domiciled at the hospitable house of my friends Dr. and
Mrs. Bucke, in the ample and charming garden and lawns of the asylum.


_June 6_.--Went over to the religious services (Episcopal) main Insane
asylum, held in a lofty, good-sized hall, third story. Plain boards,
whitewash, plenty of cheap chairs, no ornament or color, yet all
scrupulously clean and sweet. Some three hundred persons present, mostly
patients. Everything, the prayers, a short sermon, the firm, orotund
voice of the minister, and most of all, beyond any portraying, or
suggesting, _that audience_, deeply impress'd me. I was furnish'd with
an arm-chair near the pulpit, and sat facing the motley, yet perfectly
well-behaved and orderly congregation. The quaint dresses and bonnets
of some of the women, several very old and gray, here and there like
the heads in old pictures. O the looks that came from those faces! There
were two or three I shall probably never forget. Nothing at all markedly
repulsive or hideous--strange enough I did not see one such. Our common
humanity, mine and yours, everywhere:

    "The same old blood--the same red, running blood;"

yet behind most, an inferr'd arriere of such storms, such wrecks, such
mysteries, fires, love, wrong, greed for wealth, religious problems,
crosses--mirror'd from those crazed faces (yet now temporarily so
calm, like still waters,) all the woes and sad happenings of life and
death--now from every one the devotional element radiating--was it not,
indeed, _the peace of God that passeth all understanding_, strange as it
may sound? I can only say that I took long and searching eyesweeps as
I sat there, and it seem'd so, rousing unprecedented thoughts, problems
unanswerable. A very fair choir, and melodeon accompaniment. They sang
"Lead, kindly light," after the sermon. Many join'd in the beautiful
hymn, to which the minister read the introductory text, _In the daytime
also He led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire_.
Then the words:

    Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom,
             Lead thou me on.
    The night is dark, and I am far from home;
             Lead thou me on.
    Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
    The distant scene; one step enough for me.

    I was not ever thus, nor pray'd that thou
             Should'st lead me on;
    I lov'd to choose and see my path; but now
             Lead thou me on.
    I loved the garish day, and spite of fears
    Pride ruled my will; remember not past years.

A couple of days after, I went to the "Refractory building," under
special charge of Dr. Beemer, and through the wards pretty thoroughly,
both the men's and women's. I have since made many other visits of the
kind through the asylum, and around among the detach'd cottages. As far
as I could see, this is among the most advanced, perfected, and kindly
and rationally carried on, of all its kind in America. It is a town in
itself, with many buildings and a thousand inhabitants.

I learn that Canada, and especially this ample and populous province,
Ontario, has the very best and plentiest benevolent institutions in all


_June 8_.--To-day a letter from Mrs. E. S. L., Detroit, accompanied in
a little post-office roll by a rare old engraved head of Elias Hicks,
(from a portrait in oil by Henry Inman, painted for J. V. S., must have
been 60 years or more ago, in New York)--among the rest the following
excerpt about E. H. in the letter:

  "I have listen'd to his preaching so often when a child, and sat with
  my mother at social gatherings where he was the centre, and every one
  so pleas'd and stirr'd by his conversation. I hear that you contemplate
  writing or speaking about him, and I wonder'd whether you had a picture
  of him. As I am the owner of two, I send you one."


In a few days I go to lake Huron, and may have something to say of
that region and people. From what I already see, I should say the young
native population of Canada was growing up, forming a hardy, democratic,
intelligent, radically sound, and just as American, good-natured and
_individualistic_ race, as the average range of best specimens among
us. As among us, too, I please myself by considering that this element,
though it may not be the majority, promises to be the leaven which must
eventually leaven the whole lump.


Some of the more liberal of the presses here are discussing the question
of a zollverein between the United States and Canada. It is proposed to
form a union for commercial purposes--to altogether abolish the frontier
tariff line, with its double sets of custom house officials now existing
between the two countries, and to agree upon one tariff for both, the
proceeds of this tariff to be divided between the two governments on the
basis of population. It is said that a large proportion of the merchants
of Canada are in favor of this step, as they believe it would materially
add to the business of the country, by removing the restrictions that
now exist on trade between Canada and the States. Those persons who
are opposed to the measure believe that it would increase the material
welfare or the country, but it would loosen the bonds between Canada
and England; and this sentiment overrides the desire for commercial
prosperity. Whether the sentiment can continue to bear the strain
put upon it is a question. It is thought by many that commercial
considerations must in the end prevail. It seems also to be generally
agreed that such a zollverein, or common customs union, would bring
practically more benefits to the Canadian provinces than to the United
States. (It seems to me a certainty of time, sooner or later, that
Canada shall form two or three grand States, equal and independent, with
the rest of the American Union. The St. Lawrence and lakes are not for a
frontier line, but a grand interior or mid-channel.)


_August 20_.--Premising that my three or four months in Canada were
intended, among the rest, as an exploration of the line of the St.
Lawrence, from lake Superior to the sea, (the engineers here insist upon
considering it as one stream, over 2000 miles long, including lakes and
Niagara and all)--that I have only partially carried out my programme;
but for the seven or eight hundred miles so far fulfill'd, I find that
the _Canada question_ is absolutely control'd by this vast water line,
with its first-class features and points of trade, humanity, and
many more--here I am writing this nearly a thousand miles north of my
Philadelphia starting-point (by way of Montreal and Quebec) in the midst
of regions that go to a further extreme of grimness, wildness of
beauty, and a sort of still and pagan _scaredness_, while yet Christian,
inhabitable, and partially fertile, than perhaps any other on earth. The
weather remains perfect; some might call it a little cool, but I wear my
old gray overcoat and find it just right. The days are full of sunbeams
and oxygen. Most of the forenoons and afternoons I am on the forward
deck of the steamer.


Up these black waters, over a hundred miles--always strong, deep,
(hundreds of feet, sometimes thousands,) ever with high, rocky hills for
banks, green and gray--at times a little like some parts of the Hudson,
but much more pronounc'd and defiant. The hills rise higher--keep their
ranks more unbroken. The river is straighter and of more resolute flow,
and its hue, though dark as ink, exquisitely polish'd and sheeny
under the August sun. Different, indeed, this Saguenay from all other
rivers--different effects--a bolder, more vehement play of lights
and shades. Of a rare charm of singleness and simplicity. (Like the
organ-chant at midnight from the old Spanish convent, in "Favorita"--one
strain only, simple and monotonous and unornamented--but indescribably
penetrating and grand and masterful.) Great place for echoes: while
our steamer was tied at the wharf at Tadousac (taj-oo-sac) waiting, the
escape-pipe letting off steam, I was sure I heard a band at the hotel up
in the rocks--could even make out some of the tunes. Only when our pipe
stopp'd, I knew what caused it. Then at cape Eternity and Trinity rock,
the pilot with his whistle producing similar marvellous results, echoes
indescribably weird, as we lay off in the still bay under their shadows.


But the great, haughty, silent capes themselves; I doubt if any crack
points, or hills, or historic places of note, or anything of the kind
elsewhere in the world, outvies these objects--(I write while I am
before them face to face.) They are very simple, they do not startle--at
least they did not me--but they linger in one's memory forever. They are
placed very near each other, side by side, each a mountain rising flush
out of the Saguenay. A good thrower could throw a stone on each in
passing--at least it seems so. Then they are as distinct in form as a
perfect physical man or a perfect physical woman. Cape Eternity is bare,
rising, as just said, sheer out of the water, rugged and grim (yet with
an indescribable beauty) nearly two thousand feet high. Trinity rock,
even a little higher, also rising flush, top-rounded like a great head
with close-cut verdure of hair. I consider myself well repaid for coming
my thousand miles to get the sight and memory of the unrivall'd duo.
They have stirr'd me more profoundly than anything of the kind I have
yet seen. If Europe or Asia had them, we should certainly hear of them
in all sorts of sent-back poems, rhapsodies, &c., a dozen times a year
through our papers and magazines.


No indeed--life and travel and memory have offer'd and will preserve to
me no deeper-cut incidents, panorama, or sights to cheer my soul, than
these at Chicoutimi and Ha-ha bay, and my days and nights up and down
this fascinating savage river--the rounded mountains, some bare and
gray, some dull red, some draped close all over with matted green
verdure or vines--the ample, calm, eternal rocks everywhere--the long
streaks of motley foam, a milk-white curd on the glistening breast of
the stream--the little two-masted schooner, dingy yellow, with patch'd
sails, set wing-and-wing, nearing us, coming saucily up the water with a
couple of swarthy, black-hair'd men aboard--the strong shades falling on
the light gray or yellow outlines of the hills all through the forenoon,
as we steam within gunshot of them--while ever the pure and delicate
sky spreads over all. And the splendid sunsets, and the sights of
evening--the same old stars, (relatively a little different, I see, so
far north) Arcturus and Lyra, and the Eagle, and great Jupiter like
a silver globe, and the constellation of the Scorpion. Then northern
lights nearly every night.


Grim and rocky and black-water'd as the demesne hereabout is, however,
you must not think genial humanity, and comfort, and good-living are not
to be met. Before I began this memorandum I made a first-rate breakfast
of sea-trout, finishing off with wild raspberries. I find smiles and
courtesy everywhere--physiognomies in general curiously like those in
the United States--(I was astonish'd to find the same resemblance all
through the province of Quebec.) In general the inhabitants of this
rugged country (Charlevoix, Chicoutimi and Tadousac counties, and lake
St. John region) a simple, hardy population, lumbering, trapping furs,
boating, fishing, berry-picking and a little farming. I was watching a
group of young boatmen eating their early dinner--nothing but an immense
loaf of bread, had apparently been the size of a bushel measure, from
which they cut chunks with a jack-knife. Must be a tremendous winter
country this, when the solid frost and ice fully set in.

CEDAR-PLUMS LIKE-NAMES (_Back again in Camden and down in Jersey_)

One time I thought of naming this collection "Cedar-Plums Like" (which I
still fancy wouldn't have been a bad name nor inappropriate.) A melange
of loafing, looking, hobbling, sitting, traveling--a little thinking
thrown in for salt, but very little--not only summer but all
seasons--not only days but nights--some literary meditations--books,
authors examined, Carlyle, Poe, Emerson tried, (always under my
cedar-tree, in the open air, and never in the library)--mostly the
scenes everybody sees, but some of my own caprices, meditations,
egotism--truly an open air and mainly summer formation--singly, or in
clusters--wild and free and somewhat acrid--indeed more like cedar-plums
than you might guess at first glance.

But do you know what they are? (To city man, or some sweet parlor lady,
I now talk.) As you go along roads, or barrens, or across country,
anywhere through these States, middle, eastern, western, or southern,
you will see, certain seasons of the year, the thick woolly tufts of
the cedar mottled with bunches of china-blue berries, about as big as
fox-grapes. But first a special word for the tree itself: everybody
knows that the cedar is a healthy, cheap, democratic wood, streak'd red
and white--an evergreen--that it is not a _cultivated_ tree--that it
keeps away moths--that it grows inland or seaboard, all climates, hot
or cold, any soil--in fact rather prefers sand and bleak side
spots--content if the plough, the fertilizer and the trimming-axe, will
but keep away and let it alone. After a long rain, when everything looks
bright, often have I stopt in my wood-saunters, south or north, or far
west, to take in its dusky green, wash'd clean and sweet, and speck'd
copiously with its fruit of clear, hardy blue. The wood of the cedar
is of use--but what profit on earth are those sprigs of acrid plums?
A question impossible to answer satisfactorily. True, some of the herb
doctors give them for stomachic affections, but the remedy is as bad as
the disease. Then in my rambles down in Camden county I once found an
old crazy woman gathering the clusters with zeal and joy. She show'd,
as I was told afterward, a sort of infatuation for them, and every year
placed and kept profuse bunches high and low about her room. They had a
strange charm on her uneasy head, and effected docility and peace. (She
was harmless, and lived near by with her well-off married daughter.)
Whether there is any connection between those bunches, and being out of
one's wits, I cannot say, but I myself entertain a weakness for them.
Indeed, I love the cedar, anyhow--its naked ruggedness, its just
palpable odor, (so different from the perfumer's best,) its silence,
its equable acceptance of winter's cold and summer's heat, of rain or
drouth--its shelter to me from those, at times--its associations--(well,
I never could explain _why_ I love anybody, or anything.) The service I
now specially owe to the cedar is, while I cast around for a name for my
proposed collection, hesitating, puzzled--after rejecting a long, long
string, I lift my eyes, and lo! the very term I want. At any rate, I go
no further--I tire in the search. I take what some invisible kind spirit
has put before me. Besides, who shall say there is not affinity enough
between (at least the bundle of sticks that produced) many of these
pieces, or granulations, and those blue berries? their uselessness
growing wild--a certain aroma of Nature I would so like to have in
my pages--the thin soil whence they come--their content in being let
alone--their stolid and deaf repugnance to answering questions, (this
latter the nearest, dearest trait affinity of all.)

Then reader dear, in conclusion, as to the point of the name for the
present collection, let us be satisfied to _have_ a name--something to
identify and bind it together, to concrete all its vegetable, mineral,
personal memoranda, abrupt raids of criticism, crude gossip of
philosophy, varied sands and clumps--without bothering ourselves because
certain pages do not present themselves to you or me as coming under
their own name with entire fitness or amiability. (It is a profound,
vexatious never-explicable matter--this of names. I have been exercised
deeply about it my whole life.[11])

After all of which the name "Cedar-Plums Like" got its nose put out of
joint; but I cannot afford to throw away what I pencill'd down the
lane there, under the shelter of my old friend, one warm October noon.
Besides, it wouldn't be civil to the cedar tree.


[11] In the pocket of my receptacle-book I find a list of suggested and
rejected names for this volume, or parts of it--such as the following:

              _As the wild bee hums in May,
              & August mulleins grow,
              & Winter snow-flakes fall,
              & stars in the sky roll round._

             _Away from Books--away from Art,
             Now for the Day and Night--the lessons done,
             Now for the Sun and Stars._

    _Notes of a Half-Paralytic,         As Voices in the Dusk, from
    Week in and Week out,               Speakers far or hid,
    Embers of Ending Days,              Autochthons....Embryons,
    Ducks and Drakes,                   Wing-and-Wing,
    Flood Tide and Ebb,                 Notes and Recalles.
    Gossip at Early Candle-light,       Only Mulleins and Bumble-Bees,
    Echoes and Escapades,               Pond-Babble....Tête-a-Têtes,
    Such as I....Evening Dews,          Echoes of a Life in the 19th
    Notes and Writing a Book,             Century in the New World,
    Far and Near at 63,                 Flanges of Fifty Years,
    Drifts and Cumulus,                 Abandons....Hurry Notes,
    Maize-Tassels....Kindlings,         A Life-Mosaic....Native Moments,
    Fore and Aft....Vestibules,         Types and Semi-Tones,
    Scintilla at 60 and after,          Oddments....Sand-Drifts,
    Sands on the Shores of 64,          Again and Again._


_Feb. 10, '81_.--And so the flame of the lamp, after long wasting and
flickering, has gone out entirely.

As a representative author, a literary figure, no man else will bequeath
to the future more significant hints of our stormy era, its fierce
paradoxes, its din, and its struggling parturition periods, than
Carlyle. He belongs to our own branch of the stock too; neither Latin
nor Greek, but altogether Gothic. Rugged, mountainous, volcanic, he
was himself more a French revolution than any of his volumes. In some
respects, so far in the Nineteenth century, the best equipt, keenest
mind, even from the college point of view, of all Britain; only he had
an ailing body. Dyspepsia is to be traced in every page, and now and
then fills the page. One may include among the lessons of his life--even
though that life stretch'd to amazing length--how behind the tally of
genius and morals stands the stomach, and gives a sort of casting vote.

Two conflicting agonistic elements seem to have contended in the
man, sometimes pulling him different ways like wild horses. He was a
cautious, conservative Scotchman, fully aware what a foetid gas-bag
much of modern radicalism is; but then his great heart demanded reform,
demanded change--often terribly at odds with his scornful brain. No
author ever put so much wailing and despair into his books, sometimes
palpable, oftener latent. He reminds me of that passage in Young's poems
where as death presses closer and closer for his prey, the soul rushes
hither and thither, appealing, shrieking, berating, to escape the
general doom.

Of short-comings, even positive blur-spots, from an American point of
view, he had serious share.

Not for his merely literary merit, (though that was great)--not as
"maker of books," but as launching into the self-complacent atmosphere
of our days a rasping, questioning, dislocating agitation and shock, is
Carlyle's final value. It is time the English-speaking peoples had some
true idea about the verteber of genius, namely power. As if they must
always have it cut and bias'd to the fashion, like a lady's cloak! What
a needed service he performs! How he shakes our comfortable reading
circles with a touch of the old Hebraic anger and prophecy--and indeed
it is just the same. Not Isaiah himself more scornful, more threatening:
"The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under
feet: And the glorious beauty which is on the head of the fat valley
shall be a fading flower." (The word prophecy is much misused; it seems
narrow'd to prediction merely. That is not the main sense of the Hebrew
word translated "prophet;" it means one whose mind bubbles up and pours
forth as a fountain, from inner, divine spontaneities revealing God.
Prediction is a very minor part of prophecy. The great matter is to
reveal and outpour the God-like suggestions pressing for birth in the
soul. This is briefly the doctrine of the Friends or Quakers.)

Then the simplicity and amid ostensible frailty the towering strength
of this man--a hardy oak knot, you could never wear out--an old
farmer dress'd in brown clothes, and not handsome--his very foibles
fascinating. Who cares that he wrote about Dr. Francia, and "Shooting
Niagara"--and "the Nigger Question,"--and didn't at all admire our
United States? (I doubt if he ever thought or said half as bad words
about us as we deserve.) How he splashes like leviathan in the seas of
modern literature and politics! Doubtless, respecting the latter, one
needs first to realize, from actual observation, the squalor, vice and
doggedness ingrain'd in the bulk-population of the British islands, with
the red tape, the fatuity, the flunkeyism everywhere, to understand the
last meaning in his pages. Accordingly, though he was no chartist or
radical, I consider Carlyle's by far the most indignant comment or
protest anent the fruits of feudalism to-day in Great Britain--the
increasing poverty and degradation of the homeless, landless twenty
millions, while a few thousands, or rather a few hundreds, possess the
entire soil, the money, and the fat berths. Trade and shipping, and
clubs and culture, and prestige, and guns, and a fine select class of
gentry and aristocracy, with every modern improvement, cannot begin to
salve or defend such stupendous hoggishness.

The way to test how much he has left his country were to consider,
or try to consider, for a moment, the array of British thought, the
resultant _ensemble_ of the last fifty years, as existing to-day, _but
with Carlyle left out_. It would be like an army with no artillery. The
show were still a gay and rich one--Byron, Scott, Tennyson, and many
more--horsemen and rapid infantry, and banners flying--but the last
heavy roar so dear to the ear of the train'd soldier, and that settles
fate and victory, would be lacking.

For the last three years we in America have had transmitted glimpses of
a thin-bodied, lonesome, wifeless, childless, very old man, lying on
a sofa, kept out of bed by indomitable will, but, of late, never well
enough to take the open air. I have noted this news from time to time
in brief descriptions in the papers. A week ago I read such an item just
before I started out for my customary evening stroll between eight
and nine. In the fine cold night, unusually clear, (Feb. 5, '81,) as
I walk'd some open grounds adjacent, the condition of Carlyle, and his
approaching--perhaps even then actual--death, filled me with thoughts
eluding statement, and curiously blending with the scene. The planet
Venus, an hour high in the west, with all her volume and lustre
recover'd, (she has been shorn and languid for nearly a year,) including
an additional sentiment I never noticed before--not merely voluptuous,
Paphian, steeping, fascinating--now with calm commanding seriousness and
hauteur--the Milo Venus now. Upward to the zenith, Jupiter, Saturn, and
the moon past her quarter, trailing in procession, with the Pleiades
following, and the constellation Taurus, and red Aldebaran. Not a cloud
in heaven. Orion strode through the southeast, with his glittering
belt--and a trifle below hung the sun of the night, Sirius. Every star
dilated, more vitreous, nearer than usual. Not as in some clear nights
when the larger stars entirely outshine the rest. Every little star or
cluster just as distinctly visible, and just as nigh. Berenice's hair
showing every gem, and new ones. To the northeast and north the Sickle,
the Goat and kids, Cassiopeia, Castor and Pollux, and the two Dippers.
While through the whole of this silent indescribable show, inclosing
and bathing my whole receptivity, ran the thought of Carlyle dying. (To
soothe and spiritualize, and, as far as may be, solve the mysteries of
death and genius, consider them under the stars at midnight.)

And now that he has gone hence, can it be that Thomas Carlyle, soon to
chemically dissolve in ashes and by winds, remains an identity still?
In ways perhaps eluding all the statements, lore and speculations of ten
thousand years--eluding all possible statements to mortal sense--does he
yet exist, a definite, vital being, a spirit, an individual--perhaps
now wafted in space among those stellar systems, which, suggestive and
limitless as they are, merely edge more limitless, far more suggestive
systems? I have no doubt of it. In silence, of a fine night, such
questions are answer'd to the soul, the best answers that can be given.
With me, too, when depress'd by some specially sad event, or tearing
problem, I wait till I go out under the stars for the last voiceless


_Later Thoughts and Jottings_

There is surely at present an inexplicable _rapport_ (all the more
piquant from its contradictoriness) between that deceas'd author and our
United States of America--no matter whether it lasts or not[13] As we
Westerners assume definite shape, and result in formations and fruitage
unknown before, it is curious with what a new sense our eyes turn to
representative outgrowths of crises and personages in the Old World.
Beyond question, since Carlyle's death, and the publication of Froude's
memoirs, not only the interest in his books, but every personal bit
regarding the famous Scotchman--his dyspepsia, his buffetings, his
parentage, his paragon of a wife, his career in Edinburgh, in the
lonesome nest on Craigenputtock moor, and then so many years in
London--is probably wider and livelier to-day in this country than
in his own land. Whether I succeed or no, I, too, reaching across the
Atlantic and taking the man's dark fortune-telling of humanity and
politics, would offset it all, (such is the fancy that comes to me,)
by a far more profound horoscope-casting of those themes--G. F.

First, about a chance, a never-fulfill'd vacuity of this pale cast of
thought--this British Hamlet from Cheyne row, more puzzling than the
Danish one, with his contrivances for settling the broken and spavin'd
joints of the world's government, especially its democratic dislocation.
Carlyle's grim fate was cast to live and dwell in, and largely embody,
the parturition agony and qualms of the old order, amid crowded
accumulations of ghastly morbidity, giving birth to the new.

But conceive of him (or his parents before him) coming to America,
recuperated by the cheering realities and activity of our people and
country--growing up and delving face-to-face resolutely among us here,
especially at the West--inhaling and exhaling our limitless air and
eligibilities--devoting his mind to the theories and developments
of this Republic amid its practical facts as exemplified in Kansas,
Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, or Louisiana. I say _facts_, and
face-to-face confrontings--so different from books, and all those
quiddities and mere reports in the libraries, upon which the man (it
was wittily said of him at the age of thirty, that there was no one in
Scotland who had glean'd so much and seen so little,) almost wholly fed,
and which even his sturdy and vital mind but reflected at best.

Something of the sort narrowly escaped happening. In 1835, after more
than a dozen years of trial and non-success, the author of "Sartor
Resartus" removing to London, very poor, a confirmed hypochondriac,
"Sartor" universally scoffed at, no literary prospects ahead,
deliberately settled on one last casting throw of the literary
dice--resolv'd to compose and launch forth a book on the subject of
_the French Revolution_--and if that won no higher guerdon or prize than
hitherto, to sternly abandon the trade of author forever, and emigrate
for good to America. But the venture turn'd out a lucky one, and there
was no emigration.

Carlyle's work in the sphere of literature as he commenced and carried
it out, is the same in one or two leading respects that Immanuel
Kant's was in speculative philosophy. But the Scotchman had none of the
stomachic phlegm and never-perturb'd placidity of the Konigsberg sage,
and did not, like the latter, understand his own limits, and stop when
he got to the end of them. He clears away jungle and poisonvines and
underbrush--at any rate hacks valiantly at them, smiting hip and thigh.
Kant did the like in his sphere, and it was all he profess'd to do;
his labors have left the ground fully prepared ever since--and greater
service was probably never perform'd by mortal man. But the pang and
hiatus of Carlyle seem to me to consist in the evidence everywhere that
amid a whirl of fog and fury and cross-purposes, he firmly believ'd he
had a clue to the medication of the world's ills, and that his bounden
mission was to exploit it.[15]

There were two anchors, or sheet-anchors, for steadying, as a last
resort, the Carlylean ship. One will be specified presently. The other,
perhaps the main, was only to be found in some mark'd form of personal
force, an extreme degree of competent urge and will, a man or men "born
to command." Probably there ran through every vein and current of the
Scotchman's blood something that warm'd up to this kind of trait and
character above aught else in the world, and which makes him in my
opinion the chief celebrater and promulger of it in literature--more
than Plutarch, more than Shakspere. The great masses of humanity stand
for nothing--at least nothing but nebulous raw material; only the big
planets and shining suns for him. To ideas almost invariably languid or
cold, a number-one forceful personality was sure to rouse his eulogistic
passion and savage joy. In such case, even the standard of duty
hereinafter rais'd, was to be instantly lower'd and vail'd. All that
is comprehended under the terms republicanism and democracy were
distasteful to him from the first, and as he grew older they became
hateful and contemptible. For an undoubtedly candid and penetrating
faculty such as his, the bearings he persistently ignored were
marvellous. For instance, the promise, nay certainty of the democratic
principle, to each and every State of the current world, not so much
of helping it to perfect legislators and executives, but as the only
effectual method for surely, however slowly, training people on a large
scale toward voluntarily ruling and managing themselves (the ultimate
aim of political and all other development)--to gradually reduce the
fact of _governing_ to its minimum, and to subject all its staffs
and their doings to the telescopes and microscopes of committees and
parties--and greatest of all, to afford (not stagnation and obedient
content, which went well enough with the feudalism and ecclesiasticism
of the antique and medieval world, but) a vast and sane and recurrent
ebb and tide action for those floods of the great deep that have
henceforth palpably burst forever their old bounds--seem never to have
enter'd Carlyle's thought. It was splendid how he refus'd any compromise
to the last. He was curiously antique. In that harsh, picturesque, most
potent voice and figure, one seems to be carried back from the present
of the British islands more than two thousand years, to the range
between Jerusalem and Tarsus. His fullest best biographer justly says of

He was a teacher and a prophet, in the Jewish sense of the word. The
prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah have become a part of the permanent
spiritual inheritance of mankind, because events proved that they had
interpreted correctly the sign of their own times, and their prophecies
were fulfill'd. Carlyle, like them, believ'd that he had a special
message to deliver to the present age. Whether he was correct in that
belief, and whether his message was a true message, remains to be seen.
He has told us that our most cherish'd ideas of political liberty, with
their kindred corollaries, are mere illusions, and that the progress
which has seem'd to go along with them is a progress towards anarchy
and social dissolution. If he was wrong, he has misused his powers. The
principles of his teachings are false. He has offer'd himself as a guide
upon a road of which he had no knowledge; and his own desire for himself
would be the speediest oblivion both of his person and his works. If, on
the other hand, he has been right; if, like his great predecessors,
he has read truly the tendencies of this modern age of ours, and his
teaching is authenticated by facts, then Carlyle, too, will take his
place among the inspired seers.

To which I add an amendment that under no circumstances, and no matter
how completely time and events disprove his lurid vaticinations, should
the English-speaking world forget this man, nor fail to hold in honor
his unsurpass'd conscience, his unique method, and his honest fame.
Never were convictions more earnest and genuine. Never was there less
of a flunkey or temporizer. Never had political progressivism a foe it
could more heartily respect.

The second main point of Carlyle's utterance was the idea of _duty being
done_. (It is simply a new codicil--if it be particularly new, which
is by no means certain--on the time-honor'd bequest of dynasticism,
the mould-eaten rules of legitimacy and kings.) He seems to have been
impatient sometimes to madness when reminded by persons who thought
at least as deeply as himself, that this formula, though precious, is
rather a vague one, and that there are many other considerations to a
philosophical estimate of each and every department either.

Altogether, I don't know anything more amazing than these persistent
strides and throbbings so far through our Nineteenth century of
perhaps its biggest, sharpest, and most erudite brain, in defiance
and discontent with everything; contemptuously ignoring, (either from
constitutional inaptitude, ignorance itself, or more likely because he
demanded a definite cure-all here and now,) the only solace and solvent
to be had.

There is, apart from mere intellect, in the make-up of every superior
human identity, (in its moral completeness, considered as _ensemble_,
not for that moral alone, but for the whole being, including physique,)
a wondrous something that realizes without argument, frequently without
what is called education, (though I think it the goal and apex of all
education deserving the name)--an intuition of the absolute balance, in
time and space, of the whole of this multifarious, mad chaos of fraud,
frivolity, hoggishness--this revel of fools, and incredible make-believe
and general unsettledness, we call _the world_; a soul-sight of that
divine clue and unseen thread which holds the whole congeries of
things, all history and time, and all events, however trivial, however
momentous, like a leash'd dog in the hand of the hunter. Such soul-sight
and root-centre for the mind--mere optimism explains only the surface
or fringe of it--Carlyle was mostly, perhaps entirely without. He seems
instead to have been haunted in the play of his mental action by a
spectre, never entirely laid from first to last, (Greek scholars,
I believe, find the same mocking and fantastic apparition attending
Aristophanes, his comedies,)--the spectre of world-destruction.

How largest triumph or failure in human life, in war or peace, may
depend on some little hidden centrality, hardly more than a drop of
blood, a pulse-beat, or a breath of air! It is certain that all these
weighty matters, democracy in America, Carlyleism, and the temperament
for deepest political or literary exploration, turn on a simple point in
speculative philosophy.

The most profound theme that can occupy the mind of man--the problem
on whose solution science, art, the bases and pursuits of nations, and
everything else, including intelligent human happiness, (here to-day,
1882, New York, Texas, California, the same as all times, all lands,)
subtly and finally resting, depends for competent outset and argument,
is doubtless involved in the query: What is the fusing explanation and
tie--what the relation between the (radical, democratic) Me, the human
identity of understanding, emotions, spirit, &c., on the one side, of
and with the (conservative) Not Me, the whole of the material objective
universe and laws, with what is behind them in time and space, on the
other side? Immanuel Kant, though he explain'd or partially explain'd,
as may be said, the laws of the human understanding, left this question
an open one. Schelling's answer, or suggestion of answer, is (and very
valuable and important, as far as it goes,) that the same general and
particular intelligence, passion, even the standards of right and wrong,
which exist in a conscious and formulated state in man, exist in an
unconscious state, or in perceptible analogies, throughout the entire
universe of external Nature, in all its objects large or small, and all
its movements and processes--thus making the impalpable human mind,
and concrete nature, notwithstanding their duality and separation,
convertible, and in centrality and essence one. But G. F. Hegel's fuller
statement of the matter probably remains the last best word that has
been said upon it, up to date. Substantially adopting the scheme just
epitomized, he so carries it out and fortifies it and merges everything
in it, with certain serious gaps now for the first time fill'd, that it
becomes a coherent metaphysical system, and substantial answer (as far
as there can be any answer) to the foregoing question--a system which,
while I distinctly admit that the brain of the future may add to,
revise, and even entirely reconstruct, at any rate beams forth
to-day, in its entirety, illuminating the thought of the universe, and
satisfying the mystery thereof to the human mind, with a more consoling
scientific assurance than any yet.

According to Hegel the whole earth, (an old nucleus-thought, as in the
Vedas, and no doubt before, but never hitherto brought so absolutely to
the front, fully surcharged with modern scientism and facts, and made
the sole entrance to each and all,) with its infinite variety, the
past, the surroundings of to-day, or what may happen in the future,
the contrarieties of material with spiritual, and of natural with
artificial, are all, to the eye of the _ensemblist_, but necessary sides
and unfoldings, different steps or links, in the endless process
of Creative thought, which, amid numberless apparent failures and
contradictions, is held together by central and never-broken unity--not
contradictions or failures at all, but radiations of one consistent
and eternal purpose; the whole mass of everything steadily, unerringly
tending and flowing toward the permanent _utile_ and _morale_, as rivers
to oceans. As life is the whole law and incessant effort of the visible
universe, and death only the other or invisible side of the same, so the
_utile_, so truth, so health are the continuous-immutable laws of the
moral universe, and vice and disease, with all their perturbations, are
but transient, even if ever so prevalent expressions.

To politics throughout, Hegel applies the like catholic standard and
faith. Not any one party, or any one form of government, is absolutely
and exclusively true. Truth consists in the just relations of objects to
each other. A majority or democracy may rule as outrageously and do as
great harm as an oligarchy or despotism--though far less likely to
do so. But the great evil is either a violation of the relations just
referr'd to, or of the moral law. The specious, the unjust, the cruel,
and what is called the unnatural, though not only permitted but in a
certain sense, (like shade to light,) inevitable in the divine scheme,
are by the whole constitution of that scheme, partial, inconsistent,
temporary, and though having ever so great an ostensible majority, are
certainly destin'd to failures, after causing great suffering.

Theology, Hegel translates into science.[16] All apparent contradictions
in the statement of the Deific nature by different ages, nations,
churches, points of view, are but fractional and imperfect expressions
of one essential unity, from which they all proceed--crude endeavors or
distorted parts, to be regarded both as distinct and united. In short
(to put it in our own form, or summing up,) that thinker or analyzer
or overlooker who by an inscrutable combination of train'd wisdom and
natural intuition most fully accepts in perfect faith the moral unity
and sanity of the creative scheme, in history, science, and all life
and time, present and future, is both the truest cosmical devotee or
religioso, and the profoundest philosopher. While he who, by the spell
of himself and his circumstance, sees darkness and despair in the sum
of the workings of God's providence, and who, in that, denies or
prevaricates, is, no matter how much piety plays on his lips, the most
radical sinner and infidel.

I am the more assured in recounting Hegel a little freely here,[17] not
only for offsetting the Carlylean letter and spirit-cutting it out
all and several from the very roots, and below the roots--but to
counterpoise, since the late death and deserv'd apotheosis of Darwin,
the tenets of the evolutionists. Unspeakably precious as those are to
biology, and henceforth indispensable to a right aim and estimate in
study, they neither comprise or explain everything--and the last word or
whisper still remains to be breathed, after the utmost of those
claims, floating high and forever above them all, and above technical
metaphysics. While the contributions which German Kant and Fichte and
Schelling and Hegel have bequeath'd to humanity--and which English
Darwin has also in his field--are indispensable to the erudition of
America's future, I should say that in all of them, and the best of
them, when compared with the lightning flashes and flights of the old
prophets and _exaltés_, the spiritual poets and poetry of all lands,
(as in the Hebrew Bible,) there seems to be, nay certainly is, something
lacking--something cold, a failure to satisfy the deepest emotions
of the soul--a want of living glow, fondness, warmth, which the old
_exaltés_ and poets supply, and which the keenest modern philosophers so
far do not.

Upon the whole, and for our purposes, this man's name certainly belongs
on the list with the just-specified, first-class moral physicians of
our current era--and with Emerson and two or three others--though
his prescription is drastic, and perhaps destructive, while theirs is
assimilating, normal and tonic. Feudal at the core, and mental offspring
and radiation of feudalism as are his books, they afford ever-valuable
lessons and affinities to democratic America. Nations or individuals, we
surely learn deepest from unlikeness, from a sincere opponent, from the
light thrown even scornfully on dangerous spots and liabilities. (Michel
Angelo invoked heaven's special protection against his friends and
affectionate flatterers; palpable foes he could manage for himself.) In
many particulars Carlyle was indeed, as Froude terms him, one of those
far-off Hebraic utterers, a new Micah or Habbakuk. His words at times
bubble forth with abysmic inspiration. Always precious, such men; as
precious now as any time. His rude, rasping, taunting, contradictory
tones--what ones are more wanted amid the supple, polish'd,
money--worshipping, Jesus-and-Judas-equalizing, suffrage-sovereignty
echoes of current America? He has lit up our Nineteenth century with the
light of a powerful, penetrating, and perfectly honest intellect of
the first class, turn'd on British and European politics, social life,
literature, and representative personages--thoroughly dissatisfied with
all, and mercilessly exposing the illness of all. But while he announces
the malady, and scolds and raves about it, he himself, born and bred in
the same atmosphere, is a mark'd illustration of it.


[13] It will be difficult for the future--judging by his books, personal
dissympathies, &c.,--to account for the deep hold this author has taken
on the present age, and the way he has color'd its method and thought.
I am certainly at a loss to account for it all as affecting myself.
But there could be no view, or even partial picture, of the middle and
latter part of our Nineteenth century, that did not markedly include
Thomas Carlyle. In his case (as so many others, literary productions,
works of art, personal identities, events,) there has been an impalpable
something more effective than the palpable. Then I find no better text,
(it is always important to have a definite, special, even oppositional,
living man to start from,) for sending out certain speculations
and comparisons for home use. Let us see what they amount to--those
reactionary doctrines, fears, scornful analyses of democracy--even from
the most erudite and sincere mind of Europe.

[14] Not the least mentionable part of the case, (a streak, it may
be, of that humor with which history and fate love to contrast their
gravity,) is that although neither of my great authorities during their
lives consider'd the United States worthy of serious mention, all the
principal works of both might not inappropriately be this day collected
and bound up under the conspicuous title: _Speculations for the use of
North America, and Democracy there with the relations of the same to
Metaphysics, including Lessons and Warnings (encouragements too, and of
the vastest,) from the Old World to the New._

[15] I hope I shall not myself fall into the error I charge upon him, of
prescribing a specific for indispensable evils. My utmost pretension is
probably but to offset that old claim of the exclusively curative power
of first-class individual men, as leaders and rulers, by the claims,
and general movement and result, of ideas. Something of the latter kind
seems to me the distinctive theory of America, of democracy, and of the
modern--or rather, I should say, it _is_ democracy, and _is_ the modern.

[16] I am much indebted to J. Gostick's abstract.

[17] I have deliberately repeated it all, not only in offset to Carlyle'
s everlurking pessimism and world-decadence, but as presenting the most
thoroughly _American points of view_ I know. In my opinion the above
formulas of Hegel are an essential and crowning justification of New
World democracy in the creative realms of time and space. There is that
about them which only the vastness, the multiplicity and the vitality
of America would seem able to comprehend, to give scope and illustration
to, or to be fit for, or even originate. It is strange to me that they
were born in Germany, or in the old world at all. While a Carlyle, I
should say, is quite the legitimate European product to be expected.


_Latter April_.--Have run down in my country haunt for a couple of days,
and am spending them by the pond. I had already discover'd my kingfisher
here (but only one--the mate not here yet.) This fine bright morning,
down by the creek, he has come out for a spree, circling, flirting,
chirping at a round rate. While I am writing these lines he is
disporting himself in scoots and rings over the wider parts of the pond,
into whose surface he dashes, once or twice making a loud _souse_--the
spray flying in the sun--beautiful! I see his white and dark-gray
plumage and peculiar shape plainly, as he has deign'd to come very near
me. The noble, graceful bird! Now he is sitting on the limb of an old
tree, high up, bending over the water--seems to be looking at me while I
memorandize. I almost fancy he knows me. _Three days later._--My second
kingfisher is here with his (or her) mate. I saw the two together flying
and whirling around. I had heard, in the distance, what I thought was
the clear rasping staccato of the birds several times already--but I
couldn't be sure the notes came from both until I saw them together.
To-day at noon they appear'd, but apparently either on business, or for
a little limited exercise only. No wild frolic now, full of free fun and
motion, up and down for an hour. Doubtless, now they have cares, duties,
incubation responsibilities. The frolics are deferr'd till summer-close.

I don't know as I can finish to-day's memorandum better than with
Coleridge's lines, curiously appropriate in more ways than one:

    All Nature seems at work--slugs leave their lair,
    The bees are stirring--birds are on the wing,
    And winter, slumbering in the open air,
    Wears on his smiling face a dream of spring;
    And I, the while, the sole unbusy thing,
    Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.


_May 1, '81._--Seems as if all the ways and means of American
travel to-day had been settled, not only with reference to speed and
directness, but for the comfort of women, children, invalids, and old
fellows like me. I went on by a through train that runs daily from
Washington to the Yankee metropolis without change. You get in a
sleeping-car soon after dark in Philadelphia, and after ruminating an
hour or two, have your bed made up if you like, draw the curtains,
and go to sleep in it--fly on through Jersey to New York--hear in your
half-slumbers a dull jolting and bumping sound or two--are unconsciously
toted from Jersey City by a midnight steamer around the Battery and
under the big bridge to the track of the New Haven road--resume your
flight eastward, and early the next morning you wake up in Boston. All
of which was my experience. I wanted to go to the Revere house. A tall
unknown gentleman, (a fellow-passenger on his way to Newport he told
me, I had just chatted a few moments before with him,) assisted me out
through the depot crowd, procured a hack, put me in it with my traveling
bag, saying smilingly and quietly, "Now I want you to let this be _my_
ride," paid the driver, and before I could remonstrate bow'd himself

The occasion of my jaunt, I suppose I had better say here, was for a
public reading of "the death of Abraham Lincoln" essay, on the sixteenth
anniversary of that tragedy; which reading duly came off, night of
April 15. Then I linger'd a week in Boston--felt pretty well (the mood
propitious, my paralysis lull'd)--went around everywhere, and saw all
that was to be seen, especially human beings. Boston's immense material
growth--commerce, finance, commission stores, the plethora of goods, the
crowded streets and sidewalks--made of course the first surprising show.
In my trip out West, last year, I thought the wand of future prosperity,
future empire, must soon surely be wielded by St. Louis, Chicago,
beautiful Denver, perhaps San Francisco; but I see the said wand
stretch'd out just as decidedly in Boston, with just as much certainty
of staying; evidences of copious capital--indeed no centre of the New
World ahead of it, (half the big railroads in the West are built with
Yankees' money, and they take the dividends.) Old Boston with its zigzag
streets and multitudinous angles, (crush up a sheet of letter-paper
in your hand, throw it down, stamp it flat, and that is a map of old
Boston)--new Boston with its miles upon miles of large and costly
houses--Beacon street, Commonwealth avenue, and a hundred others. But
the best new departures and expansions of Boston, and of all the cities
of New England, are in another direction.


In the letters we get from Dr. Schliemann (interesting but fishy) about
his excavations there in the far-off Homeric area, I notice cities,
ruins, &c., as he digs them out of their graves, are certain to be in
layers--that is to say, upon the foundation of an old concern, very
far down indeed, is always another city or set of ruins, and upon
that another superadded--and sometimes upon that still another--each
representing either a long or rapid stage of growth and development,
different from its predecessor, but unerringly growing out of and
resting on it. In the moral, emotional, heroic, and human growths, (the
main of a race in my opinion,) something of this kind has certainly
taken place in Boston. The New England metropolis of to-day may
be described as sunny, (there is something else that makes warmth,
mastering even winds and meteorologies, though those are not to be
sneez'd at,) joyous, receptive, full of ardor, sparkle, a certain
element of yearning, magnificently tolerant, yet not to be fool'd; fond
of good eating and drinking--costly in costume as its purse can buy;
and all through its best average of houses, streets, people, that
subtle something (generally thought to be climate, but it is not--it is
something indefinable in the _race_, the turn of its development) which
effuses behind the whirl of animation, study, business, a happy and
joyous public spirit, as distinguish'd from a sluggish and saturnine
one. Makes me think of the glints we get (as in Symonds's books) of the
jolly old Greek cities. Indeed there is a good deal of the Hellenic in
B., and the people are getting handsomer too--padded out, with freer
motions, and with color in their faces. I never saw (although this is
not Greek) so many _fine-looking gray-hair'd women_. At my lecture
I caught myself pausing more than once to look at them, plentiful
everywhere through the audience--healthy and wifely and motherly, and
wonderfully charming and beautiful--I think such as no time or land but
ours could show.


_April 16_.--A short but pleasant visit to Longfellow. I am not one
of the calling kind, but as the author of "Evangeline" kindly took the
trouble to come and see me three years ago in Camden, where I was ill,
I felt not only the impulse of my own pleasure on that occasion, but a
duty. He was the only particular eminence I called on in Boston, and I
shall not soon forget his lit-up face and glowing warmth and courtesy,
in the modes of what is called the old school.

And now just here I feel the impulse to interpolate something about the
mighty four who stamp this first American century with its birthmarks of
poetic literature. In a late magazine one of my reviewers, who ought
to know better, speaks of my "attitude of contempt and scorn and
intolerance" toward the leading poets--of my "deriding" them, and
preaching their "uselessness." If anybody cares to know what I
think--and have long thought and avow'd--about them, I am entirely
willing to propound. I can't imagine any better luck befalling these
States for a poetical beginning and initiation than has come from
Emerson, Longfellow, Bryant, and Whittier. Emerson, to me, stands
unmistakably at the head, but for the others I am at a loss where to
give any precedence. Each illustrious, each rounded, each distinctive.
Emerson for his sweet, vital-tasting melody, rhym'd philosophy, and
poems as amber-clear as the honey of the wild bee he loves to sing.
Longfellow for rich color, graceful forms and incidents--all that makes
life beautiful and love refined--competing with the singers of Europe
on their own ground, and, with one exception, better and finer work than
that of any of them. Bryant pulsing the first interior verse-throbs of a
mighty world--bard of the river and the wood, ever conveying a taste of
open air, with scents as from hayfields, grapes, birch-borders--always
lurkingly fond of threnodies--beginning and ending his long career with
chants of death, with here and there through all, poems, or passages
of poems, touching the highest universal truths, enthusiasms,
duties--morals as grim and eternal, if not as stormy and fateful, as
anything in Eschylus. While in Whittier, with his special themes--(his
outcropping love of heroism and war, for all his Quakerdom, his verses
at times like the measur'd step of Cromwell's old veterans)--in Whittier
lives the zeal, the moral energy, that founded New England--the splendid
rectitude and ardor of Luther, Milton, George Fox--I must not, dare not,
say the wilfulness and narrowness--though doubtless the world needs
now, and always will need, almost above all, just such narrowness and


_April 18_.--Went out three or four miles to the house of Quincy Shaw,
to see a collection of J. F. Millet's pictures. Two rapt hours. Never
before have I been so penetrated by this kind of expression. I stood
long and long before "the Sower." I believe what the picture-men
designate "the first Sower," as the artist executed a second copy, and
a third, and, some think, improved in each. But I doubt it. There is
something in this that could hardly be caught again--a sublime murkiness
and original pent fury. Besides this masterpiece, there were many
others, (I shall never forget the simple evening scene, "Watering the
Cow,") all inimitable, all perfect as pictures, works of mere art; and
then it seem'd to me, with that last impalpable ethic purpose from the
artist (most likely unconscious to himself) which I am always looking
for. To me all of them told the full story of what went before and
necessitated the great French revolution--the long precedent crushing
of the masses of a heroic people into the earth, in abject poverty,
hunger--every right denied, humanity attempted to be put back for
generations--yet Nature's force, titanic here, the stronger and hardier
for that repression--waiting terribly to break forth, revengeful--the
pressure on the dykes, and the bursting at last--the storming of the
Bastile--the execution of the king and queen--the tempest of massacres
and blood. Yet who can wonder?

    Could we wish humanity different?
    Could we wish the people made of wood or stone?
    Or that there be no justice in destiny or time?

The true France, base of all the rest, is certainly in these pictures. I
comprehend "Field-People Reposing," "the Diggers," and "the Angelus"
in this opinion. Some folks always think of the French as a small race,
five or five and a half feet high, and ever frivolous and smirking.
Nothing of the sort. The bulk of the personnel of France, before the
revolution, was large-sized, serious, industrious as now, and simple.
The revolution and Napoleon's wars dwarf'd the standard of human size,
but it will come up again. If for nothing else, I should dwell on my
brief Boston visit for opening to me the new world of Millet's pictures.
Will America ever have such an artist out of her own gestation, body,

_Sunday, April 17._--An hour and a half, late this afternoon, in silence
and half light, in the great nave of Memorial hall, Cambridge, the walls
thickly cover'd with mural tablets, bearing the names of students and
graduates of the university who fell in the secession war.

_April 23._--It was well I got away in fair order, for if I had staid
another week I should have been killed with kindness, and with eating
and drinking.


_May 14._--Home again; down temporarily in the Jersey woods. Between 8
and 9 A.M. a full concert of birds, from different quarters, in keeping
with the fresh scent, the peace, the naturalness all around me. I am
lately noticing the russet-back, size of the robin or a trifle less,
light breast and shoulders, with irregular dark stripes--tail long--sits
hunch'd up by the hour these days, top of a tall bush, or some tree,
singing blithely. I often get near and listen, as he seems tame; I like
to watch the working of his bill and throat, the quaint sidle of his
body, and flex of his long tail. I hear the woodpecker, and night and
early morning the shuttle of the whip-poor-will--noons, the gurgle of
thrush delicious, and _meo-o-ow_ of the cat-bird. Many I cannot name;
but I do not very particularly seek information. (You must not know too
much, or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers
and water-craft; a certain free margin, and even vagueness--perhaps
ignorance, credulity--helps your enjoyment of these things, and of the
sentiment of feather'd, wooded, river, or marine Nature generally. I
repeat it--don't want to know too exactly, or the reasons why. My own
notes have been written off-hand in the latitude of middle New Jersey.
Though they describe what I saw--what appear'd to me--I dare say the
expert ornithologist, botanist or entomologist will detect more than one
slip in them.)


I ought not to offer a record of these days, interests, recuperations,
without including a certain old, well-thumb'd common-place book,[18]
filled with favorite excerpts, I carried in my pocket for three summers,
and absorb'd over and over again, when the mood invited. I find so much
in having a poem or fine suggestion sink into me (a little then goes a
great ways) prepar'd by these vacant-sane and natural influences.


[18] _Samples of my common-place book down at the creek:_

I have--says old Pindar--many swift arrows in my quiver which speak to
the wise, though they need an interpreter to the thoughtless. Such a man
as it takes ages to make, and ages to understand. _H. D. Thoreau._

If you hate a man, don't kill him, but let him live.--_Buddhistic._
Famous swords are made of refuse scraps, thought worthless.

Poetry is the only verity--the expression of a sound mind speaking after
the ideal--and not after the apparent.--_Emerson_.

The form of oath among the Shoshone Indians is, "The earth hears me. The
sun hears me. Shall I lie?"

The true test of civilization is not the census, nor the size of
cities, nor the crops--no, but the kind of a man the country turns

    The whole wide ether is the eagle's sway:
    The whole earth is a brave man's fatherland.--_Euripides_.

    Spices crush'd, their pungence yield,
      Trodden scents their sweets respire;
    Would you have its strength reveal'd?
      Cast the incense in the fire.

Matthew Arnold speaks of "the huge Mississippi of falsehood called

    The wind blows north, the wind blows south,
        The wind blows east and west;
    No matter how the free wind blows,
         Some ship will find it best.

Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you, and
be silent.--_Epictetus_.

Victor Hugo makes a donkey meditate and apostrophize thus:

    My brother, man, if you would know the truth,
    We both are by the same dull walls shut in;
    The gate is massive and the dungeon strong.
    But you look through the key-hole out beyond,
    And call this knowledge; yet have not at hand
    The key wherein to turn the fatal lock.

"William Cullen Bryant surprised me once," relates a writer in a
New York paper, "by saying that prose was the natural language of
composition, and he wonder'd how anybody came to write poetry."

    Farewell! I did not know thy worth;
        But thou art gone, and now 'tis prized:
    So angels walk'd unknown on earth,
        But when they flew were recognized.--_Hood_.

John Burroughs, writing of Thoreau, says: "He improves with age--in fact
requires age to take off a little of his asperity, and fully ripen him.
The world likes a good hater and refuser almost as well as it likes a
good lover and accepter--only it likes him farther off."

_Louise Michel at the burial of Blanqui, (1881.)_

Blanqui drill'd his body to subjection to his grand conscience and his
noble passions, and commencing as a young man, broke with all that is
sybaritish in modern civilization. Without the power to sacrifice self,
great ideas will never bear fruit.

    Out of the leaping furnace flame
    A mass of molten silver came;
    Then, beaten into pieces three,
    Went forth to meet its destiny.
    The first a crucifix was made,
    Within a soldier's knapsack laid;
    The second was a locket fair,
    Where a mother kept her dead child's hair;
    The third--a bangle, bright and warm,
    Around a faithless woman's arm.

    A mighty pain to love it is,
    And'tis a pain that pain to miss;
    But of all pain the greatest pain,
    It is to love, but love in vain.

_Maurice F. Egan on De Guerin._

    A pagan heart, a Christian soul had he,
      He followed Christ, yet for dead Pan he sigh'd,
      Till earth and heaven met within his breast:
    As if Theocritus in Sicily
      Had come upon the Figure crucified,
      And lost his gods in deep, Christ-given rest.

    And if I pray, the only prayer
      That moves my lips for me,
    Is, leave the mind that now I bear,
      And give me Liberty.--_Emily Bronte._

    I travel on not knowing,
      I would not if I might;
    I would rather walk with God in the dark,
      Than go alone in the light;
    I would rather walk with Him by faith
      Than pick my way by sight


_July 25, '81.--Far Rockaway, L. I._--A good day here, on a jaunt,
amid the sand and salt, a steady breeze setting in from the sea, the sun
shining, the sedge-odor, the noise of the surf, a mixture of hissing and
booming, the milk-white crest curling. I had a leisurely bath and naked
ramble as of old, on the warm-gray shore-sands, my companions off in a
oat in deeper water--(I shouting to them Jupiter's menaces against the
gods, from Pope's Homer) _July 28--to Long Branch_--8-1/2 A.M., on the
steamer "Plymouth Rock," foot of 23d street, New York, for Long
Branch. Another fine day, fine sights, the shores, the shipping and
bay--everything comforting to the body and spirit of me. (I find the
human and objective atmosphere of New York city and Brooklyn more
affiliative to me than any other.) _An hour later_--Still on the
steamer, now sniffing the salt very plainly--the long pulsating _swash_
as our boat steams seaward--the hills of Navesink and many passing
vessels--the air the best part of all. At Long Branch the bulk of the
day, stopt at a good hotel, took all very leisurely, had an excellent
dinner, and then drove for over two hours about the place, especially
Ocean avenue, the finest drive one can imagine, seven or eight miles
right along the beach. In all directions costly villas, palaces,
millionaires--(but few among them I opine like my friend George W.
Childs, whose personal integrity, generosity, unaffected simplicity, go
beyond all worldly wealth.)


_August_.--In the big city awhile. Even the height of the dog-days,
there is a good deal of fun about New York, if you only avoid fluster,
and take all the buoyant wholesomeness that offers. More comfort, too,
than most folks think. A middle-aged man, with plenty of money in his
pocket, tells me that he has been off for a month to all the swell
places, has disburs'd a small fortune, has been hot and out of kilter
everywhere, and has return' d home and lived in New York city the last
two weeks quite contented and happy. People forget when it is hot here,
it is generally hotter still in other places.

New York is so situated, with the great ozonic brine on both sides, it
comprises the most favorable health-chances in the world. (If only the
suffocating crowding of some of its tenement houses could be broken
up.) I find I never sufficiently realized how beautiful are the upper
two-thirds of Manhattan island. I am stopping at Mott Haven, and have
been familiar now for ten days with the region above One-hundredth
street, and along the Harlem river and Washington heights. Am dwelling a
few days with my friends Mr. and Mrs. J. H. J., and a merry houseful of
young ladies. Am putting the last touches on the printer's copy of my
new volume of "Leaves of Grass"--the completed book at last. Work at it
two or three hours, and then go down and loaf along the Harlem river;
have just had a good spell of this recreation. The sun sufficiently
veil'd, a soft south breeze, the river full of small or large shells
(light taper boats) darting up and down, some singly, now and then
long ones with six or eight young fellows practicing--very inspiriting
sights. Two fine yachts lie anchor'd off the shore. I linger long,
enjoying the sundown, the glow, the streak'd sky, the heights,
distances, shadows. _Aug. 10._--As I haltingly ramble an hour or two
this forenoon by the more secluded parts of the shore, or sit under
an old cedar half way up the hill, the city near in view, many young
parties gather to bathe or swim, squads of boys, generally twos or
threes, some larger ones, along the sand-bottom, or off an old pier
close by. A peculiar and pretty carnival--at its height a hundred lads
or young men, very democratic, but all decent behaving. The laughter,
voices, calls, re-responses--the springing and diving of the bathers
from the great string-piece of the decay'd pier, where climb or stand
long ranks of them, naked, rose-color'd, with movements, postures ahead
of any sculpture. To all this, the sun, so bright, the dark-green shadow
of the hills the other side, the amber-rolling waves, changing as the
tide comes in to a trans-parent tea-color--the frequent splash of the
playful boys, sousing--the glittering drops sparkling, and the good
western breeze blowing.


Went to-day to see this just-finish'd painting by John Mulvany, who
has been out in far Dakota, on the spot, at the forts, and among the
frontiersmen, soldiers and Indians, for the last two years, on purpose
to sketch it in from reality, or the best that could be got of it. Sat
for over an hour before the picture, completely absorb'd in the first
view. A vast canvas, I should say twenty or twenty-two feet by twelve,
all crowded, and yet not crowded, conveying such a vivid play of color,
it takes a little time to get used to it. There are no tricks; there
is no throwing of shades in masses; it is all at first painfully real,
overwhelming, needs good nerves to look at it. Forty or fifty figures,
perhaps more, in full finish and detail in the mid-ground, with three
times that number, or more, through the rest--swarms upon swarms of
savage Sioux, in their war-bonnets, frantic, mostly on ponies, driving
through the background, through the smoke, like a hurricane of demons.
A dozen of the figures are wonderful. Altogether a western, autochthonic
phase of America, the frontiers, culminating, typical, deadly, heroic to
the uttermost--nothing in the books like it, nothing in Homer, nothing
in Shakspere; more grim and sublime than either, all native, all our
own, and all a fact. A great lot of muscular, tan-faced men, brought
to bay under terrible circumstances--death ahold of them, yet every man
undaunted, not one losing his head, wringing out every cent of the pay
before they sell their lives. Custer (his hair cut short stands in
the middle), with dilated eye and extended arm, aiming a huge cavalry
pistol. Captain Cook is there, partially wounded, blood on the
white handkerchief around his head, aiming his carbine coolly, half
kneeling--(his body was afterwards found close by Custer's.) The
slaughter'd or half-slaughter'd horses, for breastworks, make a peculiar
feature. Two dead Indians, herculean, lie in the foreground, clutching
their Winchester rifles, very characteristic. The many soldiers, their
faces and attitudes, the carbines, the broad-brimm'd western hats, the
powder-smoke in puffs, the dying horses with their rolling eyes
almost human in their agony, the clouds of war-bonneted Sioux in the
background, the figures of Custer and Cook--with indeed the whole scene,
dreadful, yet with an attraction and beauty that will remain in my
memory. With all its color and fierce action, a certain Greek continence
pervades it. A sunny sky and clear light envelop all. There is an
almost entire absence of the stock traits of European war pictures. The
physiognomy of the work is realistic and Western. I only saw it for an
hour or so; but it needs to be seen many times--needs to be studied over
and over again. I could look on such a work at brief intervals all
my life without tiring; it is very tonic to me; then it has an ethic
purpose below all, as all great art must have. The artist said the
sending of the picture abroad, probably to London, had been talk'd of.
I advised him if it went abroad to take it to Paris. I think they might
appreciate it there--nay, they certainly would. Then I would like to
show Messieur Crapeau that some things can be done in America as well as


_Aug. 16._--"Chalk a big mark for today," was one of the sayings of an
old sportsman-friend of mine, when he had had unusually good luck--come
home thoroughly tired, but with satisfactory results of fish or birds.

Well, to-day might warrant such a mark for me. Everything propitious
from the start. An hour's fresh stimulation, coming down ten miles of
Manhattan island by railroad and 8 o'clock stage. Then an excellent
breakfast at Pfaff's restaurant, 24th street. Our host himself, an old
friend of mine, quickly appear'd on the scene to welcome me and bring
up the news, and, first opening a big fat bottle of the best wine in
the cellar, talk about ante-bellum times, '59 and '60, and the jovial
suppers at his then Broadway place, near Bleecker street. Ah, the
friends and names and frequenters, those times, that place. Most are
dead--Ada Clare, Wilkins, Daisy Sheppard, O'Brien, Henry Clapp, Stanley,
Mullin, Wood, Brougham, Arnold--all gone. And there Pfaff and I, sitting
opposite each other at the little table, gave a remembrance to them in a
style they would have themselves fully confirm'd, namely, big, brimming,
fill'd-up champagne-glasses, drain'd in abstracted silence, very
leisurely, to the last drop. (Pfaff is a generous German _restaurateur_,
silent, stout, jolly, and I should say the best selecter of champagne in


Perhaps the best is always cumulative. One's eating and drinking one
wants fresh, and for the nonce, right off, and have done with it--but I
would not give a straw for that person or poem, or friend, or city,
or work of art, that was not more grateful the second time than the
first--and more still the third. Nay, I do not believe any grandest
eligibility ever comes forth at first. In my own experience, (persons,
poems, places, characters,) I discover the best hardly ever at first,
(no absolute rule about it, however,) sometimes suddenly bursting
forth, or stealthily opening to me, perhaps after years of unwitting
familiarity, unappreciation, usage.


_Concord, Mass._--Out here on a visit--elastic, mellow, Indian-summery
weather. Came to-day from Boston, (a pleasant ride of 40 minutes by
steam, through Somerville, Belmont, Waltham, Stony Brook, and other
lively towns,) convoy'd by my friend F. B. Sanborn, and to his ample
house, and the kindness and hospitality of Mrs. S. and their fine
family. Am writing this under the shade of some old hickories and elms,
just after 4 P.M., on the porch, within a stone's throw of the Concord
river. Off against me, across stream, on a meadow and side-hill,
haymakers are gathering and wagoning-in probably their second or third
crop. The spread of emerald-green and brown, the knolls, the score or
two of little haycocks dotting the meadow, the loaded-up wagons, the
patient horses, the slow-strong action of the men and pitchforks--all in
the just-waning afternoon, with patches of yellow sun-sheen, mottled
by long shadows--a cricket shrilly chirping, herald of the dusk--a boat
with two figures noiselessly gliding along the little river, passing
under the stone bridge-arch--the slight settling haze of aerial
moisture, the sky and the peacefulness expanding in all directions and
overhead--fill and soothe me.

_Same Evening._--Never had I a better piece of luck befall me: a long
and blessed evening with Emerson, in a way I couldn't have wish'd better
or different. For nearly two hours he has been placidly sitting where
I could see his face in the best light, near me. Mrs. S.'s back-parlor
well fill'd with people, neighbors, many fresh and charming faces,
women, mostly young, but some old. My friend A. B. Alcott and his
daughter Louisa were there early. A good deal of talk, the subject Henry
Thoreau--some new glints of his life and fortunes, with letters to and
from him--one of the best by Margaret Fuller, others by Horace Greeley,
Channing, &c.--one from Thoreau himself, most quaint and interesting.
(No doubt I seem'd very stupid to the roomful of company, taking hardly
any part in the conversation; but I had "my own pail to milk in," as the
Swiss proverb puts it.) My seat and the relative arrangement were such
that, without being rude, or anything of the kind, I could just look
squarely at E., which I did a good part of the two hours. On entering,
he had spoken very briefly and politely to several of the company,
then settled himself in his chair, a trifle push'd back, and, though a
listener and apparently an alert one, remain'd silent through the whole
talk and discussion. A lady friend quietly took a seat next him, to
give special attention. A good color in his face, eyes clear, with the
well-known expression of sweetness, and the old clear-peering aspect
quite the same.

_Next Day_.--Several hours at E.'s house, and dinner there. An
old familiar house, (he has been in it thirty-five years,) with
surroundings, furnishment, roominess, and plain elegance and fullness,
signifying democratic ease, sufficient opulence, and an admirable
old-fashioned simplicity--modern luxury, with its mere sumptuousness and
affectation, either touch'd lightly upon or ignored altogether. Dinner
the same. Of course the best of the occasion (Sunday, September 18,
'81) was the sight of E. himself. As just said, a healthy color in the
cheeks, and good light in the eyes, cheery expression, and just the
amount of talking that best suited, namely, a word or short phrase only
where needed, and almost always with a smile. Besides Emerson himself,
Mrs. E., with their daughter Ellen, the son Edward and his wife, with
my friend F. S. and Mrs. S., and others, relatives and intimates. Mrs.
Emerson, resuming the subject of the evening before, (I sat next to
her,) gave me further and fuller information about Thoreau, who, years
ago, during Mr. E.'s absence in Europe, had lived for some time in the
family, by invitation.


Though the evening at Mr. and Mrs. Sanborn's, and the memorable family
dinner at Mr. and Mrs. Emerson's, have most pleasantly and permanently
fill'd my memory, I must not slight other notations of Concord. I went
to the old Manse, walk'd through the ancient garden, enter'd the rooms,
noted the quaintness, the unkempt grass and bushes, the little panes in
the windows, the low ceilings, the spicy smell, the creepers embowering
the light. Went to the Concord battle ground, which is close by, scann'd
French's statue, "the Minute Man," read Emerson's poetic inscription on
the base, linger'd a long while on the bridge, and stopp'd by the grave
of the unnamed British soldiers buried there the day after the fight
in April, '75. Then riding on, (thanks to my friend Miss M. and her
spirited white ponies, she driving them,) a half hour at Hawthorne's and
Thoreau's graves. I got out and went up of course on foot, and stood a
long while and ponder'd. They lie close together in a pleasant wooded
spot well up the cemetery hill, "Sleepy Hollow." The flat surface of the
first was densely cover'd by myrtle, with a border of arbor-vitae,
and the other had a brown headstone, moderately elaborate, with
inscriptions. By Henry's side lies his brother John, of whom much
was expected, but he died young. Then to Walden pond, that beautiful
embower'd sheet of water, and spent over an hour there. On the spot in
the woods where Thoreau had his solitary house is now quite a cairn of
stones, to mark the place; I too carried one and deposited on the heap.
As we drove back, saw the "School of Philosophy," but it was shut up,
and I would not have it open'd for me. Near by stopp'd at the house
of W.T. Harris, the Hegelian, who came out, and we had a pleasant chat
while I sat in the wagon. I shall not soon forget those Concord drives,
and especially that charming Sunday forenoon one with my friend Miss M.,
and the white ponies.


_Oct. 10-13._--I spend a good deal of time on the Common, these
delicious days and nights--every mid-day from 11.30 to about 1--and
almost every sunset another hour. I know all the big trees, especially
the old elms along Tremont and Beacon streets, and have come to a
sociable silent understanding with most of them, in the sunlit air, (yet
crispy-cool enough,) as I saunter along the wide unpaved walks. Up
and down this breadth by Beacon street, between these same old elms,
I walk'd for two hours, of a bright sharp February mid-day twenty-one
years ago, with Emerson, then in his prime, keen, physically and
morally magnetic, arm'd at every point, and when he chose, wielding the
emotional just as well as the intellectual. During those two hours
he was the talker and I the listener. It was an argument-statement,
reconnoitring, review, attack, and pressing home, (like an army corps in
order, artillery, cavalry, infantry,) of all that could be said against
that part (and a main part) in the construction of my poems, "Children
of Adam." More precious than gold to me that dissertion--it afforded
me, ever after, this strange and paradoxical lesson; each point of E.'s
statement was unanswerable, no judge's charge ever more complete or
convincing, I could never hear the points better put--and then I felt
down in my soul the clear and unmistakable conviction to disobey all,
and pursue my own way. "What have you to say then to such things?" said
E., pausing in conclusion. "Only that while I can't answer them at all,
I feel more settled than ever to adhere to my own theory, and exemplify
it," was my candid response. Whereupon we went and had a good dinner
at the American House. And thenceforward I never waver'd or was touch'd
with qualms, (as I confess I had been two or three times before.)


_Nov., '81_.--Again back in Camden. As I cross the Delaware in long trips
tonight, between 9 and 11, the scene overhead is a peculiar one--swift
sheets of flitting vapor-gauze, follow'd by dense clouds throwing an
inky pall on everything. Then a spell of that transparent steel-gray
black sky I have noticed under similar circumstances, on which the moon
would beam for a few moments with calm lustre, throwing down a broad
dazzle of highway on the waters; then the mists careering again. All
silently, yet driven as if by the furies they sweep along, sometimes
quite thin, sometimes thicker--a real Ossianic night--amid the
whirl, absent or dead friends, the old, the past, somehow tenderly
suggested--while the Gael-strains chant themselves from the mists--"Be
thy soul blest, O Carril! in the midst of thy eddying winds. O that thou
wouldst come to my hall when I am alone by night! And thou dost come,
my friend. I hear often thy light hand on my harp, when it hangs on the
distant wall, and the feeble sound touches my ear. Why dost thou not
speak to me in my grief, and tell me when I shall behold my friends? But
thou passest away in thy murmuring blast; the wind whistles through the
gray hairs of Ossian."

But most of all, those changes of moon and sheets of hurrying vapor and
black clouds, with the sense of rapid action in weird silence, recall
the far-back Erse belief that such above were the preparations for
receiving the wraiths of just-slain warriors--["We sat that night in
Selma, round the strength of the shell. The wind was abroad in the oaks.
The spirit of the mountain roar'd. The blast came rustling through the
hall, and gently touch'd my harp. The sound was mournful and low, like
the song of the tomb. Fingal heard it the first. The crowded sighs of
his bosom rose. Some of my heroes are low, said the gray-hair'd king
of Morven. I hear the sound of death on the harp. Ossian, touch the
trembling string. Bid the sorrow rise, that their spirits may fly with
joy to Morven's woody hills. I touch'd the harp before the king; the
sound was mournful and low. Bend forward from your clouds, I said,
ghosts of my fathers! bend. Lay by the red terror of your course.
Receive the falling chief; whether he comes from a distant land, or
rises from the rolling sea. Let his robe of mist be near; his spear that
is form'd of a cloud. Place a half-extinguish'd meteor by his side, in
the form of a hero's sword. And oh! let his countenance be lovely, that
his friends may delight in his presence. Bend from your clouds, I said,
ghosts of my fathers, bend. Such was my song in Selma, to the lightly
trembling harp."]

How or why I know not, just at the moment, but I too muse and think of
my best friends in their distant homes--of William O'Connor, of
Maurice Bucke, of John Burroughs, and of Mrs. Gilchrist--friends of my
soul--stanchest friends of my other soul, my poems.


_Jan. 12, '82_.--Such a show as the Delaware presented an hour before
sundown yesterday evening, all along between Philadelphia and Camden,
is worth weaving into an item. It was full tide, a fair breeze from the
southwest, the water of a pale tawny color, and just enough motion to
make things frolicsome and lively. Add to these an approaching sunset
of unusual splendor, a broad tumble of clouds, with much golden haze and
profusion of beaming shaft and dazzle. In the midst of all, in the clear
drab of the afternoon light, there steam'd up the river the large,
new boat, "the Wenonah," as pretty an object as you could wish to see,
lightly and swiftly skimming along, all trim and white, cover'd with
flags, transparent red and blue, streaming out in the breeze. Only a new
ferry-boat, and yet in its fitness comparable with the prettiest product
of Nature's cunning, and rivaling it. High up in the transparent ether
gracefully balanced and circled four or five great sea hawks, while here
below, amid the pomp and picturesqueness of sky and river, swam this
creation of artificial beauty and motion and power, in its way no less


_Camden, April, '82_.--I have just return'd from an old forest haunt,
where I love to go occasionally away from parlors, pavements, and the
newspapers and magazines--and where, of a clear forenoon, deep in the
shade of pines and cedars and a tangle of old laurel-trees and vines,
the news of Longfellow's death first reach'd me. For want of anything
better, let me lightly twine a sprig of the sweet ground-ivy trailing so
plentifully through the dead leaves at my feet, with reflections of that
half hour alone, there in the silence, and lay it as my contribution on
the dead bard's grave.

Longfellow in his voluminous works seems to me not only to be eminent
in the style and forms of poetical expression that mark the present age,
(an idiosyncrasy, almost a sickness, of verbal melody,) but to bring
what is always dearest as poetry to the general human heart and taste,
and probably must be so in the nature of things. He is certainly the
sort of bard and counteractant most needed for our materialistic,
self-assertive, money-worshipping, Anglo-Saxon races, and especially for
the present age in America--an age tyrannically regulated with reference
to the manufacturer, the merchant, the financier, the politician and
the day workman--for whom and among whom he comes as the poet of melody,
courtesy, deference--poet of the mellow twilight of the past in
Italy, Germany, Spain, and in Northern Europe--poet of all sympathetic
gentleness--and universal poet of women and young people. I should have
to think long if I were ask'd to name the man who has done more, and in
more valuable directions, for America.

I doubt if there ever was before such a fine intuitive judge and
selecter of poems. His translations of many German and Scandinavian
pieces are said to be better than the vernaculars. He does not urge or
lash. His influence is like good drink or air. He is not tepid either,
but always vital, with flavor, motion, grace. He strikes a splendid
average, and does not sing exceptional passions, or humanity's jagged
escapades. He is not revolutionary, brings nothing offensive or new,
does not deal hard blows. On the contrary, his songs soothe and heal, or
if they excite, it is a healthy and agreeable excitement. His very
anger is gentle, is at second hand, (as in the "Quadroon Girl" and the

There is no undue element of pensiveness in Longfellow's strains. Even
in the early translation, the Manrique, the movement is as of strong
and steady wind or tide, holding up and buoying. Death is not avoided
through his many themes, but there is something almost winning in his
original verses and renderings on that dread subject--as, closing "the
Happiest Land" dispute,

    And then the landlord's daughter
      Up to heaven rais'd her hand,
    And said, "Ye may no more contend,
      There lies the happiest land."

To the ungracious complaint-charge of his want of racy nativity and
special originality, I shall only say that America and the world may
well be reverently thankful--can never be thankful enough--for any such
singing-bird vouchsafed out of the centuries, without asking that the
notes be different from those of other songsters; adding what I have
heard Longfellow himself say, that ere the New World can be worthily
original, and announce herself and her own heroes, she must be well
saturated with the originality of others, and respectfully consider the
heroes that lived before Agamemnon.


_Reminiscences (From the "Camden Courier")_. As I sat taking my evening
sail across the Delaware in the staunch ferry-boat "Beverly," a night or
two ago, I was join'd by two young reporter friends. "I have a message
for you," said one of them; "the C. folks told me to say they would like
a piece sign'd by your name, to go in their first number. Can you do
it for them?" "I guess so," said I; "what might it be about?" "Well,
anything on newspapers, or perhaps what you've done yourself, starting
them." And off the boys went, for we had reach'd the Philadelphia side.
The hour was fine and mild, the bright half-moon shining; Venus, with
excess of splendor, just setting in the west, and the great Scorpion
rearing its length more than half up in the southeast. As I cross'd
leisurely for an hour in the pleasant night-scene, my young friend's
words brought up quite a string of reminiscences.

I commenced when I was but a boy of eleven or twelve writing sentimental
bits for the old "Long Island Patriot," in Brooklyn; this was about
1832. Soon after, I had a piece or two in George P. Morris's then
celebrated and fashionable "Mirror," of New York city. I remember
with what half-suppress'd excitement I used to watch for the big, fat,
red-faced, slow-moving, very old English carrier who distributed the
"Mirror" in Brooklyn; and when I got one, opening and cutting the leaves
with trembling fingers. How it made my heart double-beat to see _my
piece_ on the pretty white paper, in nice type.

My first real venture was the "Long Islander," in my own beautiful
town of Huntington, in 1839. I was about twenty years old. I had been
teaching country school for two or three years in various parts of
Suffolk and Queens counties, but liked printing; had been at it while
a lad, learn'd the trade of compositor, and was encouraged to start a
paper in the region where I was born. I went to New York, bought a press
and types, hired some little help, but did most of the work myself,
including the press-work. Everything seem'd turning out well; (only
my own restlessness prevented me gradually establishing a permanent
property there.) I bought a good horse, and every week went all round
the country serving my papers, devoting one day and night to it. I never
had happier jaunts--going over to south side, to Babylon, down the south
road, across to Smithtown and Comac, and back home. The experiences of
those jaunts, the dear old-fashion'd farmers and their wives, the stops
by the hay-fields, the hospitality, nice dinners, occasional evenings,
the girls, the rides through the brush, come up in my memory to this

I next went to the "Aurora" daily in New York city--a sort of free
lance. Also wrote regularly for the "Tattler," an evening paper. With
these and a little outside work I was occupied off and on, until I
went to edit the "Brooklyn Eagle," where for two years I had one of the
pleasantest sits of my life--a good owner, good pay, and easy work and
hours. The troubles in the Democratic party broke forth about those
times (1848-'49) and I split off with the radicals, which led to rows
with the boss and "the party," and I lost my place.

Being now out of a job, I was offer'd impromptu, (it happen'd between
the acts one night in the lobby of the old Broadway theatre near Pearl
street, New York city,) a good chance to go down to New Orleans on the
staff of the "Crescent," a daily to be started there with plenty of
capital behind it. One of the owners, who was north buying material,
met me walking in the lobby, and though that was our first acquaintance,
after fifteen minutes' talk (and a drink) we made a formal bargain, and
he paid me two hundred dollars down to bind the contract and bear my
expenses to New Orleans. I started two days afterwards; had a good
leisurely time, as the paper wasn't to be out in three weeks. I enjoy'd
my journey and Louisiana life much. Returning to Brooklyn a year or two
afterward I started the "Freeman," first as a weekly, then daily. Pretty
soon the secession war broke out, and I, too, got drawn in the current
southward, and spent the following three years there, (as memorandized

Besides starting them as aforementioned, I have had to do, one time or
another, during my life, with a long list of papers, at divers places,
sometimes under queer circumstances. During the war, the hospitals at
Washington, among other means of amusement, printed a little sheet among
themselves, surrounded by wounds and death, the "Armory Square Gazette,"
to which I contributed. The same long afterward, casually, to a paper--I
think it was call'd the "Jimplecute"--out in Colorado where I stopp'd at
the time. When I was in Quebec province, in Canada, in 1880, I went into
the queerest little old French printing-office near Tadousac. It was far
more primitive and ancient than my Camden friend William Kurtz's place
up on Federal street. I remember, as a youngster, several characteristic
old printers of a kind hard to be seen these days.


My thoughts went floating on vast and mystic currents as I sat to-day in
solitude and half-shade by the creek--returning mainly to two principal
centres. One of my cherish'd themes for a never-achiev'd poem has been
the two impetuses of man and the universe--in the latter, creation's
incessant unrest,[19] exfoliation, (Darwin's evolution, I suppose.)
Indeed, what is Nature but change, in all its visible, and still
more its invisible processes? Or what is humanity in its faith, love,
heroism, poetry, even morals, but _emotion_?


[19] "Fifty thousand years ago the constellation of the Great Bear or
Dipper was a starry cross; a hundred thousand years hence the imaginary
Dipper will be upside down, and the stars which form the bowl and handle
will have changed places. The misty nebulae are moving, and besides
are whirling around in great spirals, some one way, some another. Every
molecule of matter in the whole universe is swinging to and fro; every
particle of ether which fills space is in jelly-like vibration. Light
is one kind of motion, heat another, electricity another, magnetism
another, sound another. Every human sense is the result of motion; every
perception, every thought is but motion of the molecules of the brain
translated by that incomprehensible thing we call mind. The processes
of growth, of existence, of decay, whether in worlds, or in the minutest
organisms, are but motion."


_May 6, '82._--We stand by Emerson's new-made grave without
sadness--indeed a solemn joy and faith, almost hauteur--our soul-benison
no mere

    "Warrior, rest, thy task is done,"

for one beyond the warriors of the world lies surely symboll'd here.
A just man, poised on himself, all-loving, all-inclosing, and sane and
clear as the sun. Nor does it seem so much Emerson himself we are here
to honor--it is conscience, simplicity, culture, humanity's attributes
at their best, yet applicable if need be to average affairs, and
eligible to all. So used are we to suppose a heroic death can only
come from out of battle or storm, or mighty personal contest, or amid
dramatic incidents or danger, (have we not been taught so for ages by
all the plays and poems?) that few even of those who most sympathizingly
mourn Emerson's late departure will fully appreciate the ripen'd
grandeur of that event, with its play of calm and fitness, like evening
light on the sea.

How I shall henceforth dwell on the blessed hours when, not long since,
I saw that benignant face, the clear eyes, the silently smiling mouth,
the form yet upright in its great age--to the very last, with so much
spring and cheeriness, and such an absence of decrepitude, that even the
term _venerable_ hardly seem'd fitting.

Perhaps the life now rounded and completed in its mortal development,
and which nothing can change or harm more, has its most illustrious
halo, not in its splendid intellectual or esthetic products, but as
forming in its entirety one of the few (alas! how few!) perfect and
flawless excuses for being, of the entire literary class.

We can say, as Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, It is not we who come to
consecrate the dead--we reverently come to receive, if so it may be,
some consecration to ourselves and daily work from him.


_A letter to a German friend--extract_

_May 31, '82._--"From to-day I enter upon my 64th year. The paralysis
that first affected me nearly ten years ago, has since remain'd, with
varying course--seems to have settled quietly down, and will probably
continue. I easily tire, am very clumsy, cannot walk far; but my spirits
are first-rate. I go around in public almost every day--now and then
take long trips, by railroad or boat, hundreds of miles--live largely
in the open air--am sunburnt and stout, (weigh 190)--keep up my activity
and interest in life, people, progress, and the questions of the day.
About two-thirds of the time I am quite comfortable. What mentality
I ever had remains entirely unaffected; though physically I am a
half-paralytic, and likely to be so, long as I live. But the principal
object of my life seems to have been accomplish'd--I have the most
devoted and ardent of friends, and affectionate relatives--and of
enemies I really make no account."


I tried to read a beautifully printed and scholarly volume on "the
Theory of Poetry," received by mail this morning from England--but gave
it up at last for a bad job. Here are some capricious pencillings that
follow'd, as I find them in my notes:

In youth and maturity Poems are charged with sunshine and varied pomp of
day; but as the soul more and more takes precedence, (the sensuous still
included,) the Dusk becomes the poet's atmosphere. I too have sought,
and ever seek, the brilliant sun, and make my songs according. But as I
grow old, the half-lights of evening are far more to me.

The play of Imagination, with the sensuous objects of Nature for symbols
and Faith--with Love and Pride as the unseen impetus and moving-power of
all, make up the curious chess-game of a poem.

Common teachers or critics are always asking "What does it mean?"
Symphony of fine musician, or sunset, or sea-waves rolling up the
beach--what do they mean? Undoubtedly in the most subtle-elusive sense
they mean something--as love does, and religion does, and the best
poem;--but who shall fathom and define those meanings? (I do not intend
this as a warrant for wildness and frantic escapades--but to justify the
soul's frequent joy in what cannot be defined to the intellectual part,
or to calculation.)

At its best, poetic lore is like what may be heard of conversation in
the dusk, from speakers far or hid, of which we get only a few broken
murmurs. What is not gather'd is far more--perhaps the main thing.

Grandest poetic passages are only to be taken at free removes, as we
sometimes look for stars at night, not by gazing directly toward them,
but off one side.

(_To a poetic student and friend._)--I only seek to put you in rapport.
Your own brain, heart, evolution, must not only understand the matter,
but largely supply it.


So draw near their end these garrulous notes. There have doubtless
occurr'd some repetitions, technical errors in the consecutiveness of
dates, in the minutiae of botanical, astronomical, &c., exactness,
and perhaps elsewhere;--for in gathering up, writing, peremptorily
dispatching copy, this hot weather, (last of July and through August,
'82,) and delaying not the printers, I have had to hurry along, no time
to spare. But in the deepest veracity of all--in reflections of objects,
scenes, Nature's outpourings, to my senses and receptivity, as they
seem'd to me--in the work of giving those who care for it, some
authentic glints, specimen-days of my life--and in the _bona fide_
spirit and relations, from author to reader, on all the subjects
design'd, and as far as they go, I feel to make unmitigated claims.

The synopsis of my early life, Long Island, New York city, and so forth,
and the diary-jottings in the Secession war, tell their own story. My
plan in starting what constitutes most of the middle of the book, was
originally for hints and data of a Nature-poem that should carry one's
experiences a few hours, commencing at noon-flush, and so through
the after-part of the day--I suppose led to such idea by my own
life-afternoon now arrived. But I soon found I could move at more ease,
by giving the narrative at first hand. (Then there is a humiliating
lesson one learns, in serene hours, of a fine day or night. Nature seems
to look on all fixed-up poetry and art as something almost impertinent.)

Thus I went on, years following, various seasons and areas, spinning
forth my thought beneath the night and stars, (or as I was confined to
my room by half-sickness,) or at midday looking out upon the sea, or far
north steaming over the Saguenay's black breast, jotting all down in the
loosest sort of chronological order, and here printing from my
impromptu notes, hardly even the seasons group'd together, or anything
corrected--so afraid of dropping what smack of outdoors or sun or
starlight might cling to the lines, I dared not try to meddle with or
smooth them. Every now and then, (not often, but for a foil,) I carried
a book in my pocket--or perhaps tore out from some broken or cheap
edition a bunch of loose leaves; most always had something of the sort
ready, but only took it out when the mood demanded. In that way, utterly
out of reach of literary conventions, I re-read many authors.

I cannot divest my appetite of literature, yet I find myself eventually
trying it all by Nature--_first premises_ many call it, but really the
crowning results of all, laws, tallies and proofs. (Has it never occur'd
to any one how the last deciding tests applicable to a book are
entirely outside of technical and grammatical ones, and that any truly
first-class production has little or nothing to do with the rules and
calibres of ordinary critics? or the bloodless chalk of Allibone's
Dictionary? I have fancied the ocean and the daylight, the mountain
and the forest, putting their spirit in a judgment on our books. I have
fancied some disembodied human soul giving its verdict.)


Democracy most of all affiliates with the open air, is sunny and hardy
and sane only with Nature--just as much as Art is. Something is required
to temper both--to check them, restrain them from excess, morbidity. I
have wanted, before departure, to bear special testimony to a very old
lesson and requisite. American Democracy, in its myriad personalities,
in factories, work-shops, stores, offices--through the dense streets and
houses of cities, and all their manifold sophisticated life--must either
be fibred, vitalized, by regular contact with out-door light and air and
growths, farm-scenes, animals, fields, trees, birds, sun-warmth and free
skies, or it will certainly dwindle and pale. We cannot have grand races
of mechanics, work people, and commonalty, (the only specific purpose
of America,) on any less terms. I conceive of no flourishing and heroic
elements of Democracy in the United States, or of Democracy maintaining
itself at all, without the Nature-element forming a main part--to be
its health-element and beauty-element--to really underlie the whole
politics, sanity, religion and art of the New World.

Finally, the morality: "Virtue," said Marcus Aurelius, "what is it,
only a living and enthusiastic sympathy with Nature?" Perhaps indeed the
efforts of the true poets, founders, religions, literatures, all ages,
have been, and ever will be, our time and times to come, essentially the
same--to bring people back from their persistent strayings and sickly
abstractions, to the costless average, divine, original concrete.



Though the ensuing COLLECT and preceding SPECIMEN DAYS are both largely
from memoranda already existing, the hurried peremptory needs of copy
for the printers, already referr'd to--(the musicians' story of a
composer up in a garret rushing the middle body and last of his score
together, while the fiddlers are playing the first parts down in the
concert-room)--of this haste, while quite willing to get the consequent
stimulus of life and motion, I am sure there must have resulted sundry
technical errors. If any are too glaring they will be corrected in a
future edition.

A special word about PIECES IN EARLY YOUTH at the end. On jaunts over
Long Island, as boy and young fellow, nearly half a century ago, I heard
of, or came across in my own experience, characters, true occurrences,
incidents, which I tried my 'prentice hand at recording--(I was
then quite an "abolitionist" and advocate of the "temperance" and
"anti-capital-punishment" causes)--and publish'd during occasional
visits to New York city. A majority of the sketches appear'd first in
the "Democratic Review," others in the "Columbian Magazine," or the
"American Review," of that period. My serious wish were to have all
those crude and boyish pieces quietly dropp'd in oblivion--but to avoid
the annoyance of their surreptitious issue, (as lately announced, from
outsiders,) I have, with some qualms, tack'd them on here. _A Dough-Face
Song_ came out first in the "Evening Post"--_Blood-Money_, and _Wounded
in the House of Friends_, in the "Tribune."

_Poetry To-day in America_, &c., first appear'd (under the name of "_The
Poetry of the Future_,") in "The North American Review" for February,
1881. _A Memorandum at a Venture_, in same periodical, some time

Several of the convalescent out-door scenes and literary items,
preceding, originally appear'd in the fortnightly "Critic," of New York.


As the greatest lessons of Nature through the universe are perhaps the
lessons of variety and freedom, the same present the greatest lessons
also in New World politics and progress. If a man were ask'd, for
instance, the distinctive points contrasting modern European and
American political and other life with the old Asiatic cultus, as
lingering-bequeath'd yet in China and Turkey, he might find the amount
of them in John Stuart Mill's profound essay on Liberty in the future,
where he demands two main constituents, or sub-strata, for a truly grand
nationality--1st, a large variety of character--and 2d, full play
for human nature to expand itself in numberless and even conflicting
directions--(seems to be for general humanity much like the influences
that make up, in their limitless field, that perennial health-action of
the air we call the weather--an infinite number of currents and forces,
and contributions, and temperatures, and cross-purposes, whose ceaseless
play of counterpart upon counterpart brings constant restoration and
vitality.) With this thought--and not for itself alone, but all it
necessitates, and draws after it--let me begin my speculations.

America, filling the present with greatest deeds and problems,
cheerfully accepting the past, including feudalism, (as, indeed, the
present is but the legitimate birth of the past, including feudalism,)
counts, as I reckon, for her justification and success, (for who, as
yet, dare claim success?) almost entirely on the future. Nor is that
hope unwarranted. To-day, ahead, though dimly yet, we see, in vistas, a
copious, sane, gigantic offspring. For our New World I consider far less
important for what it has done, or what it is, than for results to come.
Sole among nationalities, these States have assumed the task to put in
forms of lasting power and practicality, on areas of amplitude rivaling
the operations of the physical kosmos, the moral political speculations
of ages, long, long deferr'd, the democratic republican principle, and
the theory of development and perfection by voluntary standards, and
self-reliance. Who else, indeed, except the United States, in history,
so far, have accepted in unwitting faith, and, as we now see, stand, act
upon, and go security for, these things? But preluding no longer, let
me strike the key-note of the following strain. First premising that,
though the passages of it have been written at widely different
times, (it is, in fact, a collection of memoranda, perhaps for future
designers, comprehenders,) and though it may be open to the charge of
one part contradicting another--for there are opposite sides to the
great question of democracy, as to every great question--I feel the
parts harmoniously blended in my own realization and convictions, and
present them to be read only in such oneness, each page and each claim
and assertion modified and temper'd by the others. Bear in mind, too,
that they are not the result of studying up in political economy, but of
the ordinary sense, observing, wandering among men, these States, these
stirring years of war and peace. I will not gloss over the appaling
dangers of universal suffrage in the United States. In fact, it is to
admit and face these dangers I am writing. To him or her within whose
thought rages the battle, advancing, retreating, between democracy's
convictions, aspirations, and the people's crudeness, vice, caprices, I
mainly write this essay. I shall use the words America and democracy as
convertible terms. Not an ordinary one is the issue. The United States
are destined either to surmount the gorgeous history of feudalism, or
else prove the most tremendous failure of time. Not the least doubtful
am I on any prospects of their material success. The triumphant future
of their business, geographic and productive departments, on larger
scales and in more varieties than ever, is certain. In those respects
the republic must soon (if she does not already) outstrip all examples
hitherto afforded, and dominate the world.[20]

Admitting all this, with the priceless value of our political
institutions, general suffrage, (and fully acknowledging the latest,
widest opening of the doors,) I say that, far deeper than these, what
finally and only is to make of our western world a nationality superior
to any hither known, and out-topping the past, must be vigorous,
yet unsuspected Literatures, perfect personalities and sociologies,
original, transcendental, and expressing (what, in highest sense, are
not yet express'd at all,) democracy and the modern. With these, and
out of these, I promulge new races of Teachers, and of perfect Women,
indispensable to endow the birth-stock of a New World. For feudalism,
caste, the ecclesiastic traditions, though palpably retreating from
political institutions, still hold essentially, by their spirit, even in
this country, entire possession of the more important fields, indeed the
very subsoil, of education, and of social standards and literature.

I say that democracy can never prove itself beyond cavil, until it
founds and luxuriantly grows its own forms of art, poems, schools,
theology, displacing all that exists, or that has been produced anywhere
in the past, under opposite influences. It is curious to me that
while so many voices, pens, minds, in the press, lecture-rooms, in our
Congress, &c., are discussing intellectual topics, pecuniary dangers,
legislative problems, the suffrage, tariff and labor questions, and the
various business and benevolent needs of America, with propositions,
remedies, often worth deep attention, there is one need, a hiatus the
profoundest, that no eye seems to perceive, no voice to state. Our
fundamental want to-day in the United States, with closest, amplest
reference to present conditions, and to the future, is of a class,
and the clear idea of a class, of native authors, literatuses, far
different, far higher in grade than any yet known, sacerdotal, modern,
fit to cope with our occasions, lands, permeating the whole mass of
American mentality, taste, belief, breathing into it a new breath of
life, giving it decision, affecting politics far more than the popular
superficial suffrage, with results inside and underneath the elections
of Presidents or Congresses--radiating, begetting appropriate teachers,
schools, manners, and, as its grandest result, accomplishing, (what
neither the schools nor the churches and their clergy have hitherto
accomplish'd, and without which this nation will no more stand,
permanently, soundly, than a house will stand without a substratum,) a
religious and moral character beneath the political and productive
and intellectual bases of the States. For know you not, dear, earnest
reader, that the people of our land may all read and write, and may
all possess the right to vote--and yet the main things may be entirely
lacking?--(and this to suggest them.)

View'd, to-day, from a point of view sufficiently over-arching,
the problem of humanity all over the civilized world is social and
religious, and is to be finally met and treated by literature. The
priest departs, the divine literatus comes. Never was anything more
wanted than, to-day, and here in the States, the poet of the modern is
wanted, or the great literatus of the modern. At all times, perhaps, the
central point in any nation, and that whence it is itself really sway'd
the most, and whence it sways others, is its national literature,
especially its archetypal poems. Above all previous lands, a great
original literature is surely to become the justification and reliance,
(in some respects the sole reliance,) of American democracy.

Few are aware how the great literature penetrates all, gives hue to
all, shapes aggregates and individuals, and, after subtle ways, with
irresistible power, constructs, sustains, demolishes at will. Why tower,
in reminiscence, above all the nations of the earth, two special lands,
petty in themselves, yet inexpressibly gigantic, beautiful, columnar?
Immortal Judah lives, and Greece immortal lives, in a couple of poems.

Nearer than this. It is not generally realized, but it is true, as
the genius of Greece, and all the sociology, personality, politics
and religion of those wonderful states, resided in their literature
or esthetics, that what was afterwards the main support of European
chivalry, the feudal, ecclesiastical, dynastic world over there--forming
its osseous structure, holding it together for hundreds, thousands
of years, preserving its flesh and bloom, giving it form, decision,
rounding it out, and so saturating it in the conscious and unconscious
blood, breed, belief, and intuitions of men, that it still prevails
powerful to this day, in defiance of the mighty changes of time--was its
literature, permeating to the very marrow, especially that major part,
its enchanting songs, ballads, and poems.[21]

To the ostent of the senses and eyes, I know, the influences which
stamp the world's history are wars, uprisings or downfalls of dynasties,
changeful movements of trade, important inventions, navigation, military
or civil governments, advent of powerful personalities, conquerors,
etc.. These of course play their part; yet, it may be, a single new
thought, imagination, abstract principle, even literary style, fit for
the time, put in shape by some great literatus, and projected among
mankind, may duly cause changes, growths, removals, greater than the
longest and bloodiest war, or the most stupendous merely political,
dynastic, or commercial overturn.

In short, as, though it may not be realized, it is strictly true, that
a few first-class poets, philosophs, and authors, have substantially
settled and given status to the entire religion, education, law,
sociology, &c., of the hitherto civilized world, by tinging and often
creating the atmospheres out of which they have arisen, such also
must stamp, and more than ever stamp, the interior and real democratic
construction of this American continent, to-day, and days to come.
Remember also this fact of difference, that, while through the antique
and through the mediaeval ages, highest thoughts and ideals realized
themselves, and their expression made its way by other arts, as much
as, or even more than by, technical literature, (not open to the mass of
persons, or even to the majority of eminent persons,) such literature in
our day and for current purposes, is not only more eligible than all
the other arts put together, but has become the only general means of
morally influencing the world. Painting, sculpture, and the dramatic
theatre, it would seem, no longer play an indispensable or even
important part in the workings and mediumship of intellect, utility, or
even high esthetics. Architecture remains, doubtless with capacities,
and a real future. Then music, the combiner, nothing more spiritual,
nothing more sensuous, a god, yet completely human, advances, prevails,
holds highest place; supplying in certain wants and quarters what
nothing else could supply. Yet in the civilization of to-day it is
undeniable that, over all the arts, literature dominates, serves beyond
all--shapes the character of church and school--or, at any rate, is
capable of doing so. Including the literature of science, its scope is
indeed unparallel'd.

Before proceeding further, it were perhaps well to discriminate on
certain points. Literature tills its crops in many fields, and some
may flourish, while others lag. What I say in these Vistas has its main
bearing on imaginative literature, especially poetry, the stock of all.
In the department of science, and the specialty of journalism, there
appear, in these States, promises, perhaps fulfilments, of highest
earnestness, reality, and life, These, of course, are modern. But in
the region of imaginative, spinal and essential attributes, something
equivalent to creation is, for our age and lands, imperatively demanded.
For not only is it not enough that the new blood, new frame of
democracy shall be vivified and held together merely by political means,
superficial suffrage, legislation, &c., but it is clear to me that,
unless it goes deeper, gets at least as firm and as warm a hold in
men's hearts, emotions and belief, as, in their days, feudalism or
ecclesiasticism, and inaugurates its own perennial sources, welling from
the centre forever, its strength will be defective, its growth doubtful,
and its main charm wanting. I suggest, therefore, the possibility,
should some two or three really original American poets, (perhaps
artists or lecturers,) arise, mounting the horizon like planets, stars
of the first magnitude, that, from their eminence, fusing contributions,
races, far localities, &c., together, they would give more compaction
and more moral identity, (the quality to-day most needed,) to these
States, than all its Constitutions, legislative and judicial ties, and
all its hitherto political, warlike, or materialistic experiences. As,
for instance, there could hardly happen anything that would more serve
the States, with all their variety of origins, their diverse climes,
cities, standards, &c., than possessing an aggregate of heroes,
characters, exploits, sufferings, prosperity or misfortune, glory or
disgrace, common to all, typical of all--no less, but even greater would
it be to possess the aggregation of a cluster of mighty poets, artists,
teachers, fit for us, national expressers, comprehending and effusing
for the men and women of the States, what is universal, native, common
to all, inland and seaboard, northern and southern. The historians say
of ancient Greece, with her ever-jealous autonomies, cities, and states,
that the only positive unity she ever own'd or receiv'd, was the sad
unity of a common subjection, at the last, to foreign conquerors.
Subjection, aggregation of that sort, is impossible to America; but
the fear of conflicting and irreconcilable interiors, and the lack of
a common skeleton, knitting all close, continually haunts me. Or, if it
does not, nothing is plainer than the need, a long period to come, of
a fusion of the States into the only reliable identity, the moral
and artistic one. For, I say, the true nationality of the States, the
genuine union, when we come to a moral crisis, is, and is to be, after
all, neither the written law, nor, (as is generally supposed,) either
self-interest, or common pecuniary or material objects--but the fervid
and tremendous IDEA, melting everything else with resistless heat,
and solving all lesser and definite distinctions in vast, indefinite,
spiritual, emotional power.

It may be claim'd, (and I admit the weight of the claim,) that common
and general worldly prosperity, and a populace well-to-do, and with all
life's material comforts, is the main thing, and is enough. It may be
argued that our republic is, in performance, really enacting to-day the
grandest arts, poems, &c., by beating up the wilderness into fertile
farms, and in her railroads, ships, machinery, &c. And it may be ask'd,
Are these not better, indeed, for America, than any utterances even of
greatest rhapsode, artist, or literatus?

I too hail those achievements with pride and joy: then answer that
the soul of man will not with such only--nay, not with such at all--be
finally satisfied; but needs what, (standing on these and on all things,
as the feet stand on the ground,) is address'd to the loftiest, to
itself alone.

Out of such considerations, such truths, arises for treatment in
these Vistas the important question of character, of an American
stock-personality, with literatures and arts for outlets and
return-expressions, and, of course, to correspond, within outlines
common to all. To these, the main affair, the thinkers of the United
States, in general so acute, have either given feeblest attention, or
have remain'd, and remain, in a state of somnolence.

For my part, I would alarm and caution even the political and business
reader, and to the utmost extent, against the prevailing delusion
that the establishment of free political institutions, and plentiful
intellectual smartness, with general good order, physical plenty,
industry, &c., (desirable and precious advantages as they all are,) do,
of themselves, determine and yield to our experiment of democracy the
fruitage of success. With such advantages at present fully, or almost
fully, possess'd--the Union just issued, victorious, from the struggle
with the only foes it need ever fear, (namely, those within itself,
the interior ones,) and with unprecedented materialistic
advancement--society, in these States, is canker'd, crude,
superstitious, and rotten. Political, or law-made society is, and
private, or voluntary society, is also. In any vigor, the element of
the moral conscience, the most important, the verteber to State or man,
seems to me either entirely lacking, or seriously enfeebled or ungrown.

I say we had best look our times and lands searchingly in the face, like
a physician diagnosing some deep disease. Never was there, perhaps,
more hollowness at heart than at present, and here in the United States.
Genuine belief seems to have left us. The underlying principles of the
States are not honestly believ'd in, (for all this hectic glow, and
these melo-dramatic screamings,) nor is humanity itself believ'd in.
What penetrating eye does not everywhere see through the mask? The
spectacle is appaling. We live in an atmosphere of hypocrisy throughout.
The men believe not in the women, nor the women in the men. A scornful
superciliousness rules in literature. The aim of all the _littérateurs_
is to find something to make fun of. A lot of churches, sects, &c., the
most dismal phantasms I know, usurp the name of religion. Conversation
is a mass of badinage. From deceit in the spirit, the mother of all
false deeds, the offspring is already incalculable. An acute and candid
person, in the revenue department in Washington, who is led by the
course of his employment to regularly visit the cities, north, south
and west, to investigate frauds, has talk'd much with me about his
discoveries. The depravity of the business classes of our country is
not less than has been supposed, but infinitely greater. The official
services of America, national, state, and municipal, in all their
branches and departments, except the judiciary, are saturated in
corruption, bribery, falsehood, mal-administration; and the judiciary
is tainted. The great cities reek with respectable as much as
non-respectable robbery and scoundrelism. In fashionable life,
flippancy, tepid amours, weak infidelism, small aims, or no aims at
all, only to kill time. In business, (this all-devouring modern word,
business,) the one sole object is, by any means, pecuniary gain. The
magician's serpent in the fable ate up all the other serpents; and
money-making is our magician's serpent, remaining today sole master of
the field. The best class we show, is but a mob of fashionably dress'd
speculators and vulgarians. True, indeed, behind this fantastic farce,
enacted on the visible stage of society, solid things and stupendous
labors are to be discover'd, existing crudely and going on in the
background, to advance and tell themselves in time. Yet the truths are
none the less terrible. I say that our New World democracy, however
great a success in uplifting the masses out of their sloughs, in
materialistic development, products, and in a certain highly-deceptive
superficial popular intellectuality, is, so far, an almost complete
failure in its social aspects, and in really grand religious, moral,
literary, and esthetic results. In vain do we march with unprecedented
strides to empire so colossal, outvying the antique, beyond Alexander's,
beyond the proudest sway of Rome. In vain have we annex'd Texas,
California, Alaska, and reach north for Canada and south for Cuba. It
is as if we were somehow being endow'd with a vast and more and more
thoroughly-appointed body, and then left with little or no soul.

Let me illustrate further, as I write, with current observations,
localities, &c. The subject is important, and will bear repetition.
After an absence, I am now again (September, 1870) in New York city and
Brooklyn, on a few weeks' vacation. The splendor, picturesqueness,
and oceanic amplitude and rush of these great cities, the unsurpass'd
situation, rivers and bay, sparkling sea-tides, costly and lofty new
buildings, façades of marble and iron, of original grandeur and elegance
of design, with the masses of gay color, the preponderance of white
and blue, the flags flying, the endless ships, the tumultuous streets,
Broadway, the heavy, low, musical roar, hardly ever intermitted, even
at night; the jobbers' houses, the rich shops, the wharves, the great
Central Park, and the Brooklyn Park of hills, (as I wander among
them this beautiful fall weather, musing, watching, absorbing)--the
assemblages of the citizens in their groups, conversations, trades,
evening amusements, or along the by-quarters--these, I say, and the like
of these, completely satisfy my senses of power, fulness, motion, &c.,
and give me, through such senses and appetites, and through my esthetic
conscience, a continued exaltation and absolute fulfilment. Always and
more and more, as I cross the East and North rivers, the ferries, or
with the pilots in their pilot-houses, or pass an hour in Wall street,
or the gold exchange, I realize, (if we must admit such partialisms,)
that not Nature alone is great in her fields of freedom and the open
air, in her storms, the shows of night and day, the mountains, forests,
seas--but in the artificial, the work of man too is equally great--in
this profusion of teeming humanity--in these ingenuities, streets,
goods, houses, ships--these hurrying, feverish, electric crowds of men,
their complicated business genius, (not least among the geniuses,) and
all this mighty, many-threaded wealth and industry concentrated here.

But sternly discarding, shutting our eyes to the glow and grandeur of
the general superficial effect, coming down to what is of the only real
importance, Personalities, and examining minutely, we question, we ask,
Are there, indeed, _men_ here worthy the name? Are there athletes? Are
there perfect women, to match the generous material luxuriance? Is there
a pervading atmosphere of beautiful manners? Are there crops of fine
youths, and majestic old persons? Are there arts worthy freedom and a
rich people? Is there a great moral and religious civilization--the
only justification of a great material one? Confess that to severe eyes,
using the moral microscope upon humanity, a sort of dry and flat Sahara
appears, these cities, crowded with petty grotesques, malformations,
phantoms, playing meaningless antics.

Confess that everywhere, in shop, street, church, theatre, bar-room,
official chair, are pervading flippancy and vulgarity, low cunning,
infidelity--everywhere the youth puny, impudent, foppish, prematurely
ripe--everywhere an abnormal libidinousness, unhealthy forms, male,
female, painted, padded, dyed, chignon'd, muddy complexions, bad blood,
the capacity for good motherhood deceasing or deceas'd, shallow
notions of beauty, with a range of manners, or rather lack of manners,
(considering the advantages enjoy'd,) probably the meanest to be seen in
the world.[22]

Of all this, and these lamentable conditions, to breathe into them
the breath recuperative of sane and heroic life, I say a new founded
literature, not merely to copy and reflect existing surfaces, or pander
to what is called taste--not only to amuse, pass away time, celebrate
the beautiful, the refined, the past, or exhibit technical, rhythmic,
or grammatical dexterity--but a literature underlying life, religious,
consistent with science, handling the elements and forces with competent
power, teaching and training men--and, as perhaps the most precious
of its results, achieving the entire redemption of woman out of these
incredible holds and webs of silliness, millinery, and every kind of
dyspeptic depletion--and thus insuring to the States a strong and sweet
Female Race, a race of perfect Mothers--is what is needed.

And now, in the full conception of these facts and points, and all that
they infer, pro and con--with yet unshaken faith in the elements of the
American masses, the composites, of both sexes, and even consider'd as
individuals--and ever recognizing in them the broadest bases of the
best literary and esthetic appreciation--I proceed with my speculations,

First, let us see what we can make out of a brief, general, sentimental
consideration of political democracy, and whence it has arisen, with
regard to some of its current features, as an aggregate, and as the
basic structure of our future literature and authorship. We shall, it is
true, quickly and continually find the origin-idea of the singleness of
man, individualism, asserting itself, and cropping forth, even from the
opposite ideas. But the mass, or lump character, for imperative reasons,
is to be ever carefully weigh'd, borne in mind, and provided for. Only
from it, and from its proper regulation and potency, comes the other,
comes the chance of individualism. The two are contradictory, but our
task is to reconcile them.[23]

The political history of the past may be summ'd up as having grown out
of what underlies the words, order, safety, caste, and especially out of
the need of some prompt deciding authority, and of cohesion at all cost.
Leaping time, we come to the period within the memory of people
now living, when, as from some lair where they had slumber'd long,
accumulating wrath, sprang up and are yet active, (1790, and on eyen to
the present, 1870,) those noisy eructations, destructive iconoclasms, a
fierce sense of wrongs, amid which moves the form, well known in modern
history, in the old world, stain'd with much blood, and mark'd by savage
reactionary clamors and demands. These bear, mostly, as on one inclosing
point of need.

For after the rest is said--after the many time-honor'd and really true
things for subordination, experience, rights of property, &c., have
been listen'd to and acquiesced in--after the valuable and well-settled
statement of our duties and relations in society is thoroughly conn'd
over and exhausted--it remains to bring forward and modify everything
else with the idea of that Something a man is, (last precious
consolation of the drudging poor,) standing apart from all else, divine
in his own right, and a woman in hers, sole and untouchable by any
canons of authority, or any rule derived from precedent, state-safety,
the acts of legislatures, or even from what is called religion, modesty,
or art. The radiation of this truth is the key of the most significant
doings of our immediately preceding three centuries, and has been the
political genesis and life of America. Advancing visibly, it still more
advances invisibly. Underneath the fluctuations of the expressions of
society, as well as the movements of the politics of the leading nations
of the world, we see steadily pressing ahead and strengthening itself,
even in the midst of immense tendencies toward aggregation, this image
of completeness in separatism, of individual personal dignity, of a
single person, either male or female, characterized in the main, not
from extrinsic acquirements or position, but in the pride of himself or
herself alone; and, as an eventual conclusion and summing up, (or else
the entire scheme of things is aimless, a cheat, a crash,) the simple
idea that the last, best dependence is to be upon humanity itself, and
its own inherent, normal, fullgrown qualities, without any superstitious
support whatever. This idea of perfect individualism it is indeed that
deepest tinges and gives character to the idea of the aggregate. For it
is mainly or altogether to serve independent separatism that we favor a
strong generalization, consolidation. As it is to give the best vitality
and freedom to the rights of the States, (every bit as important as the
right of nationality, the union,) that we insist on the identity of the
Union at all hazards.

The purpose of democracy--supplanting old belief in the necessary
absoluteness of establish'd dynastic rulership, temporal,
ecclesiastical, and scholastic, as furnishing the only security against
chaos, crime, and ignorance--is, through many transmigrations, and amid
endless ridicules, arguments, and ostensible failures, to illustrate,
at all hazards, this doctrine or theory that man, properly train'd in
sanest, highest freedom, may and must become a law, and series of laws,
unto himself, surrounding and providing for, not only his own personal
control, but all his relations to other individuals, and to the State;
and that, while other theories, as in the past histories of nations,
have proved wise enough, and indispensable perhaps for their conditions,
_this,_ as matters now stand in our civilized world, is the only scheme
worth working from, as warranting results like those of Nature's laws,
reliable, when once establish'd, to carry on themselves.

The argument of the matter is extensive, and, we admit, by no means all
on one side. What we shall offer will be far, far from sufficient. But
while leaving unsaid much that should properly even prepare the way
for the treatment of this many-sided question of political liberty,
equality, or republicanism--leaving the whole history and consideration
of the feudal plan and its products, embodying humanity, its politics
and civilization, through the retrospect of past time, (which plan
and products, indeed, make up all of the past, and a large part of the
present)--leaving unanswer'd, at least by any specific and local answer,
many a well-wrought argument and instance, and many a conscientious
declamatory cry and warning--as, very lately, from an eminent and
venerable person abroad[24]--things, problems, full of doubt, dread,
suspense, (not new to me, but old occupiers of many an anxious hour in
city's din, or night's silence,) we still may give a page or so, whose
drift is opportune. Time alone can finally answer these things. But as
a substitute in passing, let us, even if fragmentarily, throw forth a
short direct or indirect suggestion of the premises of that other plan,
in the new spirit, under the new forms, started here in our America.

As to the political section of Democracy, which introduces and breaks
ground for further and vaster sections, few probably are the minds, even
in these republican States, that fully comprehend the aptness of that
which we inherit from the lips of Abraham Lincoln; a formula whose
verbal shape is homely wit, but whose scope includes both the totality
and all minutiae of the lesson.

The People! Like our huge earth itself, which, to ordinary scansion,
is full of vulgar contradictions and offence, man, viewed in the lump,
displeases, and is a constant puzzle and affront to the merely educated
classes. The rare, cosmical, artist-mind, lit with the Infinite, alone
confronts his manifold and oceanic qualities--but taste, intelligence
and culture, (so-called,) have been against the masses, and remain so.
There is plenty of glamour about the most damnable crimes and hoggish
meannesses, special and general, of the feudal and dynastic world
over there, with its _personnel_ of lords and queens and courts, so
well-dress'd and so handsome. But the People are ungrammatical, untidy,
and their sins gaunt and ill-bred.

Literature, strictly consider'd, has never recognized the People,
and, whatever may be said, does not to-day. Speaking generally, the
tendencies of literature, as hitherto pursued, have been to make mostly
critical and querulous men. It seems as if, so far, there were some
natural repugnance between a literary and professional life, and the
rude rank spirit of the democracies. There is, in later literature, a
treatment of benevolence, a charity business, rife enough it is
true; but I know nothing more rare, even in this country, than a fit
scientific estimate and reverent appreciation of the People--of their
measureless wealth of latent power and capacity, their vast, artistic
contrasts of lights and shades--with, in America, their entire
reliability in emergencies, and a certain breadth of historic grandeur,
of peace or war, far surpassing all the vaunted samples of book-heroes,
or any _haut ton_ coteries, in all the records of the world.

The movements of the late secession war, and their results, to any sense
that studies well and comprehends them, show that popular democracy,
whatever its faults and dangers, practically justifies itself beyond the
proudest claims and wildest hopes of its enthusiasts. Probably no future
age can know, but I well know, how the gist of this fiercest and most
resolute of the world's war-like contentions resided exclusively in the
unnamed, unknown rank and file; and how the brunt of its labor of death
was, to all essential purposes, volunteer'd. The People, of their own
choice, fighting, dying for their own idea, insolently attack'd by the
secession-slave-power, and its very existence imperil'd. Descending
to detail, entering any of the armies, and mixing with the private
soldiers, we see and have seen august spectacles. We have seen the
alacrity with which the American-born populace, the peaceablest and most
good-natured race in the world, and the most personally independent
and intelligent, and the least fitted to submit to the irksomeness and
exasperation of regimental discipline, sprang, at the first tap of the
drum, to arms--not for gain, nor even glory, nor to repel invasion--but
for an emblem, a mere abstraction--for the life, _the safety of the
flag_. We have seen the unequal'd docility and obedience of these
soldiers. We have seen them tried long and long by hopelessness,
mismanagement, and by defeat; have seen the incredible slaughter toward
or through which the armies (as at first Fredericksburg, and afterward
at the Wilderness,) still unhesitatingly obey'd orders to advance. We
have seen them in trench, or crouching behind breastwork, or tramping
in deep mud, or amid pouring rain or thick-falling snow, or under forced
marches in hottest summer (as on the road to get to Gettysburg)--vast
suffocating swarms, divisions, corps, with every single man so grimed
and black with sweat and dust, his own mother would not have known
him--his clothes all dirty, stain'd and torn, with sour, accumulated
sweat for perfume--many a comrade, perhaps a brother, sun-struck,
staggering out, dying, by the roadside, of exhaustion--yet the great
bulk bearing steadily on, cheery enough, hollow-bellied from hunger, but
sinewy with unconquerable resolution.

We have seen this race proved by wholesale by drearier, yet more fearful
tests--the wound, the amputation, the shatter'd face or limb, the
slow hot fever, long impatient anchorage in bed, and all the forms of
maiming, operation and disease. Alas! America have we seen, though only
in her early youth, already to hospital brought. There have we watch'd
these soldiers, many of them only boys in years--mark'd their decorum,
their religious nature and fortitude, and their sweet affection.
Wholesale, truly. For at the front, and through the camps, in countless
tents, stood the regimental, brigade and division hospitals; while
everywhere amid the land, in or near cities, rose clusters of huge,
white-wash'd, crowded, one-story wooden barracks; and there ruled agony
with bitter scourge, yet seldom brought a cry; and there stalk'd death
by day and night along the narrow aisles between the rows of cots, or
by the blankets on the ground, and touch'd lightly many a poor sufferer,
often with blessed, welcome touch.

I know not whether I shall be understood, but I realize that it is
finally from what I learn'd personally mixing in such scenes that I am
now penning these pages. One night in the gloomiest period of the war,
in the Patent-office hospital in Washington city, as I stood by
the bedside of a Pennsylvania soldier, who lay, conscious of quick
approaching death, yet perfectly calm, and with noble, spiritual manner,
the veteran surgeon, turning aside, said to me, that though he had
witness'd many, many deaths of soldiers, and had been a worker at Bull
Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, &c., he had not seen yet the first case
of man or boy that met the approach of dissolution with cowardly qualms
or terror. My own observation fully bears out the remark.

What have we here, if not, towering above all talk and argument,
the plentifully-supplied, last-needed proof of democracy, in its
personalities? Curiously enough, too, the proof on this point comes,
I should say, every bit as much from the south, as from the north.
Although I have spoken only of the latter, yet I deliberately include
all. Grand, common stock! to me the accomplish'd and convincing growth,
prophetic of the future; proof undeniable to sharpest sense, of perfect
beauty, tenderness and pluck, that never feudal lord, nor Greek, nor
Roman breed, yet rival'd. Let no tongue ever speak in disparagement of
the American races, north or south, to one who has been through the war
in the great army hospitals.

Meantime, general humanity, (for to that we return, as, for our
purposes, what it really is, to bear in mind,) has always, in every
department, been full of perverse maleficence, and is so yet. In
downcast hours the soul thinks it always will be--but soon recovers
from such sickly moods. I myself see clearly enough the crude, defective
streaks in all the strata of the common people; the specimens and vast
collections of the ignorant, the credulous, the unfit and uncouth, the
incapable, and the very low and poor. The eminent person just mention'd
sneeringly asks whether we expect to elevate and improve a nation's
politics by absorbing such morbid collections and qualities therein. The
point is a formidable one, and there will doubtless always be numbers of
solid and reflective citizens who will never get over it. Our answer
is general, and is involved in the scope and letter of this essay.
We believe the ulterior object of political and all other government,
(having, of course, provided for the police, the safety of life,
property, and for the basic statute and common law, and their
administration, always first in order,) to be among the rest, not
merely to rule, to repress disorder, &c., but to develop, to open up to
cultivation, to encourage the possibilities of all beneficent and manly
outcroppage, and of that aspiration for independence, and the pride and
self-respect latent in all characters. (Or, if there be exceptions, we
cannot, fixing our eyes on them alone, make theirs the rule for all.)

I say the mission of government, henceforth, in civilized lands, is not
repression alone, and not Authority alone, not even of law, nor by that
favorite standard of the eminent writer, the rule of the best men, the
born heroes and captains of the race, (as if such ever, or one time out
of a hundred, get into the big places, elective or dynastic)--but higher
than the highest arbitrary rule, to train communities through all their
grades, beginning with individuals and ending there again, to rule
themselves. What Christ appear'd for in the moral-spiritual field for
human-kind, namely, that in respect to the absolute soul, there is
in the possession of such by each single individual, something so
transcendent, so incapable of gradations, (like life,) that, to that
extent, it places all beings on a common level, utterly regardless
of the distinctions of intellect, virtue, station, or any height or
lowliness whatever--is tallied in like manner, in this other field, by
democracy's rule that men, the nation, as a common aggregate of living
identities, affording in each a separate and complete subject for
freedom, worldly thrift and happiness, and for a fair chance for growth,
and for protection in citizenship, &c., must, to the political extent
of the suffrage or vote, if no further, be placed, in each and in the
whole, on one broad, primary, universal, common platform.

The purpose is not altogether direct; perhaps it is more indirect. For
it is not that democracy is of exhaustive account, in itself. Perhaps,
indeed, it is, (like Nature,) of no account in itself. It is that, as
we see, it is the best, perhaps only, fit and full means, formulater,
general caller-forth, trainer, for the million, not for grand material
personalities only, but for immortal souls. To be a voter with the
rest is not so much; and this, like every institute, will have its

But to become an enfranchised man, and now, impediments removed,
to stand and start without humiliation, and equal with the rest; to
commence, or have the road clear'd to commence, the grand experiment of
development, whose end, (perhaps requiring several generations,) may
be the forming of a full-grown man or woman--that _is_ something. To
ballast the State is also secured, and in our times is to be secured, in
no other way.

We do not, (at any rate I do not,) put it either on the ground that
the People, the masses, even the best of them, are, in their latent or
exhibited qualities, essentially sensible and good--nor on the ground of
their rights; but that good or bad, rights or no rights, the democratic
formula is the only safe and preservative one for coming times. We endow
the masses with the suffrage for their own sake, no doubt; then, perhaps
still more, from another point of view, for community's sake. Leaving
the rest to the sentimentalists, we present freedom as sufficient in
its scientific aspect, cold as ice, reasoning, deductive, clear and
passionless as crystal.

Democracy too is law, and of the strictest, amplest kind. Many suppose,
(and often in its own ranks the error,) that it means a throwing aside
of law, and running riot. But, briefly, it is the superior law, not
alone that of physical force, the body, which, adding to, it supersedes
with that of the spirit. Law is the unshakable order of the universe
forever; and the law over all, and law of laws, is the law of
successions; that of the superior law, in time, gradually supplanting
and overwhelming the inferior one. (While, for myself, I would
cheerfully agree--first covenanting that the formative tendencies shall
be administer'd in favor, or at least not against it, and that this
reservation be closely construed--that until the individual or community
show due signs, or be so minor and fractional as not to endanger
the State, the condition of authoritative tutelage may continue, and
self-government must abide its time.) Nor is the esthetic point, always
an important one, without fascination for highest aiming souls. The
common ambition strains for elevations, to become some privileged
exclusive. The master sees greatness and health in being part of the
mass; nothing will do as well as common ground. Would you have in
yourself the divine, vast, general law? Then merge yourself in it.

And, topping democracy, this most alluring record, that it alone can
bind, and ever seeks to bind, all nations, all men, of however various
and distant lands, into a brotherhood, a family. It is the old, yet
ever-modern dream of earth, out of her eldest and her youngest, her
fond philosophers and poets. Not that half only, individualism, which
isolates. There is another half, which is adhesiveness or love, that
fuses, ties and aggregates, making the races comrades, and fraternizing
all. Both are to be vitalized by religion, (sole worthiest elevator of
man or State,) breathing into the proud, material tissues, the breath
of life. For I say at the core of democracy, finally, is the religious
element. All the religions, old and new, are there. Nor may the scheme
step forth, clothed in resplendent beauty and command, till these,
bearing the best, the latest fruit, the spiritual, shall fully appear.

A portion of our pages we might indite with reference toward Europe,
especially the British part of it, more than our own land, perhaps not
absolutely needed for the home reader. But the whole question hangs
together, and fastens and links all peoples. The liberalist of to-day
has this advantage over antique or mediaeval times, that his doctrine
seeks not only to individualize but to universalize. The great word
Solidarity has arisen. Of all dangers to a nation, as things exist in
our day, there can be no greater one than having certain portions of
the people set off from the rest by a line drawn--they not privileged
as others, but degraded, humiliated, made of no account. Much quackery
teems, of course, even on democracy's side, yet does not really affect
the orbic quality of the matter. To work in, if we may so term it, and
justify God, his divine aggregate, the People, (or, the veritable horn'd
and sharp-tail'd Devil, _his_ aggregate, if there be who convulsively
insist upon it)--this, I say, is what democracy is for; and this is what
our America means, and is doing--may I not say, has done? If not, she
means nothing more, and does nothing more, than any other land. And as,
by virtue of its kosmical, antiseptic power, Nature's stomach is fully
strong enough not only to digest the morbific matter always presented,
not to be turn'd aside, and perhaps, indeed, intuitively gravitating
thither--but even to change such contributions into nutriment for
highest use and life--so American democracy's. That is the lesson we,
these days, send over to European lands by every western breeze.

And, truly, whatever may be said in the way of abstract argument, for
or against the theory of a wider democratizing of institutions in any
civilized country, much trouble might well be saved to all European
lands by recognizing this palpable fact, (for a palpable fact it is,)
that some form of such democratizing is about the only resource now
left. _That_, or chronic dissatisfaction continued, mutterings which
grow annually louder and louder, till, in due course, and pretty swiftly
in most cases, the inevitable crisis, crash, dynastic ruin. Anything
worthy to be call'd statesmanship in the Old World, I should say, among
the advanced students, adepts, or men of any brains, does not debate
to-day whether to hold on, attempting to lean back and monarchize, or
to look forward and democratize--but _how_, and in what degree and part,
most prudently to democratize.

The eager and often inconsiderate appeals of reformers and
revolutionists are indispensable, to counterbalance the inertness and
fossilism making so large a part of human institutions. The latter will
always take care of themselves--the danger being that they rapidly tend
to ossify us. The former is to be treated with indulgence, and even with
respect. As circulation to air, so is agitation and a plentiful degree
of speculative license to political and moral sanity. Indirectly, but
surely, goodness, virtue, law, (of the very best,) follow freedom.
These, to democracy, are what the keel is to the ship, or saltness to
the ocean.

The true gravitation-hold of liberalism in the United States will be
a more universal ownership of property, general homesteads, general
comfort--a vast, intertwining reticulation of wealth. As the human
frame, or, indeed, any object in this manifold universe, is best kept
together by the simple miracle of its own cohesion, and the necessity,
exercise and profit thereof, so a great and varied nationality,
occupying millions of square miles, were firmest held and knit by the
principle of the safety and endurance of the aggregate of its middling
property owners. So that, from another point of view, ungracious as it
may sound, and a paradox after what we have been saying, democracy looks
with suspicious, ill-satisfied eye upon the very poor, the ignorant, and
on those out of business. She asks for men and women with occupations,
well-off, owners of houses and acres, and with cash in the bank--and
with some cravings for literature, too; and must have them, and hastens
to make them. Luckily, the seed is already well-sown, and has taken
ineradicable root.[25]

Huge and mighty are our days, our republican lands--and most in their
rapid shiftings, their changes, all in the interest of the cause. As I
write this particular passage, (November, 1868,) the din of disputation
rages around me. Acrid the temper of the parties, vital the pending
questions. Congress convenes; the President sends his message;
reconstruction is still in abeyance; the nomination and the contest
for the twenty-first Presidentiad draw close, with loudest threat and
bustle. Of these, and all the like of these, the eventuations I know
not; but well I know that behind them, and whatever their eventuations,
the vital things remain safe and certain, and all the needed work goes
on. Time, with soon or later superciliousness, disposes of Presidents,
Congressmen, party platforms, and such. Anon, it clears the stage of
each and any mortal shred that thinks itself so potent to its day; and
at and after which, (with precious, golden exceptions once or twice in
a century,) all that relates to sir potency is flung to moulder in
a burial-vault, and no one bothers himself the least bit about it
afterward. But the People ever remain, tendencies continue, and all the
idiocratic transfers in unbroken chain go on.

In a few years the dominion-heart of America will be far inland, toward
the west. Our future national capital may not be where the present one
is. It is possible, nay likely, that in less than fifty years, it will
migrate a thousand or two miles, will be re-founded, and every thing
belonging to it made on a different plan, original, far more superb. The
main social, political, spine-character of the States will probably run
along the Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi rivers, and west and north
of them, including Canada. Those regions, with the group of powerful
brothers toward the Pacific, (destined to the mastership of that sea and
its countless paradises of islands,) will compact and settle the traits
of America, with all the old retain'd, but more expanded, grafted on
newer, hardier, purely native stock. A giant growth, composite from
the rest, getting their contribution, absorbing it, to make it more
illustrious. From the north, intellect, the sun of things, also the idea
of unswayable justice, anchor amid the last, the wildest tempests.
From the south the living soul, the animus of good and bad, haughtily
admitting no demonstration but its own. While from the west itself
comes solid personality, with blood and brawn, and the deep quality of
all-accepting fusion.

Political democracy, as it exists and practically works in America,
with all its threatening evils, supplies a training-school for making
first-class men. It is life's gymnasium, not of good only, but of
all. We try often, though we fall back often. A brave delight, fit for
freedom's athletes, fills these arenas, and fully satisfies, out of the
action in them, irrespective of success. Whatever we do not attain, we
at any rate attain the experiences of the fight, the hardening of the
strong campaign, and throb with currents of attempt at least. Time is
ample. Let the victors come after us. Not for nothing does evil play
its part among us. Judging from the main portions of the history of the
world, so far, justice is always in jeopardy, peace walks amid hourly
pitfalls, and of slavery, misery, meanness, the craft of tyrants and the
credulity of the populace, in some of their protean forms, no voice can
at any time say, They are not. The clouds break a little, and the sun
shines out--but soon and certain the lowering darkness falls again, as
if to last forever. Yet is there an immortal courage and prophecy
in every sane soul that cannot, must not, under any circumstances,
capitulate. _Vive_, the attack--the perennial assault! _Vive_, the
unpopular cause--the spirit that audaciously aims--the never-abandon'd
efforts, pursued the same amid opposing proofs and precedents.

Once, before the war, (alas! I dare not say how many times the mood has
come!) I, too, was fill'd with doubt and gloom. A foreigner, an acute
and good man, had impressively said to me, that day--putting in form,
indeed, my own observations: "I have travel'd much in the United States,
and watch'd their politicians, and listen'd to the speeches of the
candidates, and read the journals, and gone into the public houses, and
heard the unguarded talk of men. And I have found your vaunted America
honeycomb'd from top to toe with infidelism, even to itself and its own
programme. I have mark'd the brazen hell-faces of secession and slavery
gazing defiantly from all the windows and doorways. I have everywhere
found, primarily, thieves and scalliwags arranging the nominations to
offices, and sometimes filling the offices themselves. I have found the
north just as full of bad stuff as the south. Of the holders of public
office in the Nation or the States or their municipalities, I have found
that not one in a hundred has been chosen by any spontaneous selection
of the outsiders, the people, but all have been nominated and put
through by little or large caucuses of the politicians, and have got
in by corrupt rings and electioneering, not capacity or desert. I have
noticed how the millions of sturdy farmers and mechanics are thus the
helpless supple-jacks of comparatively few politicians. And I have
noticed more and more, the alarming spectacle of parties usurping the
government, and openly and shamelessly wielding it for party purposes."

Sad, serious, deep truths. Yet are there other, still deeper, amply
confronting, dominating truths. Over those politicians and great and
little rings, and over all their insolence and wiles, and over the
powerfulest parties, looms a power, too sluggish maybe, but ever holding
decisions and decrees in hand, ready, with stern process, to execute
them as soon as plainly needed--and at times, indeed, summarily crushing
to atoms the mightiest parties, even in the hour of their pride.

In saner hours far different are the amounts of these things from what,
at first sight, they appear. Though it is no doubt important who
is elected governor, mayor, or legislator, (and full of dismay when
incompetent or vile ones get elected, as they sometimes do,) there are
other, quieter contingencies, infinitely more important. Shams, &c.,
will always be the show, like ocean's scum; enough, if waters deep and
clear make up the rest. Enough, that while the piled embroider'd shoddy
gaud and fraud spreads to the superficial eye, the hidden warp and weft
are genuine, and will wear forever. Enough, in short, that the race,
the land which could raise such as the late rebellion, could also put it
down. The average man of a land at last only is important. He, in these
States, remains immortal owner and boss, deriving good uses, somehow,
out of any sort of servant in office, even the basest; (certain
universal requisites, and their settled regularity and protection, being
first secured,) a nation like ours, in a sort of geological formation
state, trying continually new experiments, choosing new delegations,
is not served by the best men only, but sometimes more by those that
provoke it--by the combats they arouse. Thus national rage, fury,
discussions, &c., better than content. Thus, also, the warning signals,
invaluable for after times.

What is more dramatic than the spectacle we have seen repeated, and
doubtless long shall see--the popular judgment taking the successful
candidates on trial in the offices--standing off, as it were, and
observing them and their doings for a while, and always giving, finally,
the fit, exactly due reward? I think, after all, the sublimest part of
political history, and its culmination, is currently issuing from
the American people. I know nothing grander, better exercise, better
digestion, more positive proof of the past, the triumphant result of
faith in human-kind, than a well-contested American national election.

Then still the thought returns, (like the thread-passage in overtures,)
giving the key and echo to these pages. When I pass to and fro,
different latitudes, different seasons, beholding the crowds of the
great cities, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Chicago, St.
Louis, San Francisco, New Orleans, Baltimore--when I mix with these
interminable swarms of alert, turbulent, good-natured, independent
citizens, mechanics, clerks, young persons--at the idea of this mass
of men, so fresh and free, so loving and so proud, a singular awe falls
upon me. I feel, with dejection and amazement, that among our geniuses
and talented writers or speakers, few or none have yet really spoken to
this people, created a single image-making work for them, or absorb'd
the central spirit and the idiosyncrasies which are theirs--and
which, thus, in highest ranges, so far remain entirely uncelebrated,

Dominion strong is the body's; dominion stronger is the mind's. What
has fill'd, and fills to-day our intellect, our fancy, furnishing the
standards therein, is yet foreign. The great poems, Shakspere included,
are poisonous to the idea of the pride and dignity of the common people,
the life-blood of democracy. The models of our literature, as we get
it from other lands, ultra-marine, have had their birth in courts, and
bask'd and grown in castle sunshine; all smells of princes' favors. Of
workers of a certain sort, we have, indeed, plenty, contributing after
their kind; many elegant, many learn'd, all complacent. But touch'd by
the national test, or tried by the standards of democratic personality,
they wither to ashes. I say I have not seen a single writer, artist,
lecturer, or what-not, that has confronted the voiceless but ever erect
and active, pervading, underlying will and typic aspiration of the
land, in a spirit kindred to itself. Do you call those genteel little
creatures American poets? Do you term that perpetual, pistareen,
paste-pot work, American art, American drama, taste, verse? I think I
hear, echoed as from some mountain-top afar in the west, the scornful
laugh of the Genius of these States.

Democracy, in silence, biding its time, ponders its own ideals, not of
literature and art only--not of men only, but of women. The idea of the
women of America, (extricated from this daze, this fossil and unhealthy
air which hangs about the word _lady_,) develop'd, raised to become the
robust equals, workers, and, it may be, even practical and political
deciders with the men--greater than man, we may admit, through their
divine maternity, always their towering, emblematical attribute--but
great, at any rate, as man, in all departments; or, rather, capable of
being so, soon as they realize it, and can bring themselves to give up
toys and fictions, and launch forth, as men do, amid real, independent,
stormy life.

Then, as towards our thought's finalé, (and, in that, overarching the
true scholar's lesson,) we have to say there can be no complete or
epical presentation of democracy in the aggregate, or anything like it,
at this day, because its doctrines will only be effectually incarnated
in any one branch, when, in all, their spirit is at the root and centre.
Far, far, indeed, stretch, in distance, our Vistas! How much is still
to be disentangled, freed! How long it takes to make this American world
see that it is, in itself, the final authority and reliance!

Did you, too, O friend, suppose democracy was only for elections, for
politics, and for a party name? I say democracy is only of use there
that it may pass on and come to its flower and fruits in manners, in
the highest forms of interaction between men, and their beliefs--in
religion, literature, colleges, and schools--democracy in all public and
private life, and in the army and navy.[26] I have intimated that, as a
paramount scheme, it has yet few or no full realizers and believers.
I do not see, either, that it owes any serious thanks to noted
propagandists or champions, or has been essentially help'd, though often
harm'd, by them. It has been and is carried on by all the moral forces,
and by trade, finance, machinery, intercommunications, and, in fact,
by all the developments of history, and can no more be stopp'd than the
tides, or the earth in its orbit. Doubtless, also, it resides, crude and
latent, well down in the hearts of the fair average of the American-born
people, mainly in the agricultural regions. But it is not yet, there or
anywhere, the fully-receiv'd, the fervid, the absolute faith.

I submit, therefore, that the fruition of democracy, on aught like a
grand scale, resides altogether in the future. As, under any profound
and comprehensive view of the gorgeous-composite feudal world, we see
in it, through the long ages and cycles of ages, the results of a deep,
integral, human and divine principle, or fountain, from which issued
laws, ecclesia, manners, institutes, costumes, personalities, poems,
(hitherto unequall'd,) faithfully partaking of their source, and
indeed only arising either to betoken it, or to furnish parts of that
varied-flowing display, whose centre was one and absolute--so, long
ages hence, shall the due historian or critic make at least an equal
retrospect, an equal history for the democratic principle. It too must
be adorn'd, credited with its results--then, when it, with imperial
power, through amplest time, has dominated mankind--has been the source
and test of all the moral, esthetic, social, political, and religious
expressions and institutes of the civilized world--has begotten them
in spirit and in form, and has carried them to its own unprecedented
heights--has had, (it is possible,) monastics and ascetics, more
numerous, more devout than the monks and priests of all previous
creeds--has sway'd the ages with a breadth and rectitude tallying
Nature's own--has fashion'd, systematized, and triumphantly finish'd and
carried out, in its own interest, and with unparallel'd success, a new
earth and a new man.

Thus we presume to write, as it were, upon things that exist not, and
travel by maps yet unmade, and a blank. But the throes of birth are
upon us; and we have something of this advantage in seasons of strong
formations, doubts, suspense--for then the afflatus of such themes haply
may fall upon us, more or less; and then, hot from surrounding war and
revolution, our speech, though without polish'd coherence, and a failure
by the standard called criticism, comes forth, real at least as the

And may-be we, these days, have, too, our own reward--(for there are yet
some, in all lands, worthy to be so encouraged.) Though not for us the
joy of entering at the last the conquer'd city--not ours the chance ever
to see with our own eyes the peerless power and splendid _eclat_ of
the democratic principle, arriv'd at meridian, filling the world with
effulgence and majesty far beyond those of past history's kings, or
all dynastic sway--there is yet, to whoever is eligible among us, the
prophetic vision, the joy of being toss'd in the brave turmoil of these
times--the promulgation and the path, obedient, lowly reverent to the
voice, the gesture of the god, or holy ghost, which others see not, hear
not--with the proud consciousness that amid whatever clouds, seductions,
or heart-wearying postponements, we have never deserted, never
despair'd, never abandon'd the faith.

So much contributed, to be conn'd well, to help prepare and brace our
edifice, our plann'd Idea--we still proceed to give it in another of its
aspects--perhaps the main, the high façade of all. For to democracy,
the leveler, the unyielding principle of the average, is surely join'd
another principle, equally unyielding, closely tracking the first,
indispensable to it, opposite, (as the sexes are opposite,) and whose
existence, confronting and ever modifying the other, often clashing,
paradoxical, yet neither of highest avail without the other,
plainly supplies to these grand cosmic politics of ours, and to the
launch'd-forth mortal dangers of republicanism, to-day or any day, the
counterpart and offset whereby Nature restrains the deadly original
relentlessness of all her first-class laws. This second principle is
individuality, the pride and centripetal isolation of a human being in
himself--identity--personalism. Whatever the name, its acceptance and
thorough infusion through the organizations of political commonalty now
shooting Aurora-like about the world, are of utmost importance, as the
principle itself is needed for very life's sake. It forms, in a sort,
or is to form, the compensating balance-wheel of the successful working
machinery of aggregate America.

And, if we think of it, what does civilization itself rest upon--and
what object has it, with its religions, arts, schools, &c., but rich,
luxuriant, varied personalism? To that, all bends; and it is because
toward such result democracy alone, on anything like Nature's scale,
breaks up the limitless fallows of humankind, and plants the seed, and
gives fair play, that its claims now precede the rest. The literature,
songs, esthetics, &c., of a country are of importance principally
because they furnish the materials and suggestions of personality
for the women and men of that country, and enforce them in a thousand
effective ways.[27] As the topmost claim of a strong consolidating
of the nationality of these States, is, that only by such powerful
compaction can the separate States secure that full and free swing
within their spheres, which is becoming to them, each after its kind,
so will individuality, with unimpeded branchings, flourish best under
imperial republican forms.

Assuming Democracy to be at present in its embryo condition, and that
the only large and satisfactory justification of it resides in the
future, mainly through the copious production of perfect characters
among the people, and through the advent of a sane and pervading
religiousness, it is with regard to the atmosphere and spaciousness
fit for such characters, and of certain nutriment and cartoon-draftings
proper for them, and indicating them for New-World purposes, that
I continue the present statement--an exploration, as of new ground,
wherein, like other primitive surveyors, I must do the best I can,
leaving it to those who come after me to do much better. (The service,
in fact, if any, must be to break a sort of first path or track, no
matter how rude and ungeometrical.)

We have frequently printed the word Democracy. Yet I cannot too often
repeat that it is a word the real gist of which still sleeps, quite
unawaken'd, notwithstanding the resonance and the many angry tempests
out of which its syllables have come, from pen or tongue. It is a great
word, whose history, I suppose, remains unwritten, because that history
has yet to be enacted. It is, in some sort, younger brother of another
great and often-used word, Nature, whose history also waits unwritten.
As I perceive, the tendencies of our day, in the States, (and I entirely
respect them,) are toward those vast and sweeping movements, influences,
moral and physical, of humanity, now and always current over the planet,
on the scale of the impulses of the elements. Then it is also good to
reduce the whole matter to the consideration of a single self, a man, a
woman, on permanent grounds. Even for the treatment of the universal, in
politics, metaphysics, or anything, sooner or later we come down to one
single, solitary soul.

There is, in sanest hours, a consciousness, a thought that rises,
independent, lifted out from all else, calm, like the stars, shining
eternal. This is the thought of identity--yours for you, whoever
you are, as mine for me. Miracle of miracles, beyond statement, most
spiritual and vaguest of earth's dreams, yet hardest basic fact, and
only entrance to all facts. In such devout hours, in the midst of the
significant wonders of heaven and earth, (significant only because of
the Me in the centre,) creeds, conventions, fall away and become of no
account before this simple idea. Under the luminousness of real vision,
it alone takes possession, takes value. Like the shadowy dwarf in the
fable, 'once liberated and look'd upon, it expands over the whole earth,
and spreads to the roof of heaven.

The quality of BEING, in the object's self, according to its own central
idea and purpose, and of growing therefrom and thereto--not criticism by
other standards, and adjustments thereto--is the lesson of Nature.
True, the full man wisely gathers, culls, absorbs; but if, engaged
disproportionately in that, he slights or overlays the precious
idiocrasy and special nativity and intention that he is, the man's self,
the main thing, is a failure, however wide his general cultivation.
Thus, in our times, refinement and delicatesse are not only attended
to sufficiently, but threaten to eat us up, like a cancer. Already, the
democratic genius watches, ill-pleased, these tendencies. Provision for
a little healthy rudeness, savage virtue, justification of what one has
in one's self, whatever it is, is demanded. Negative qualities, even
deficiencies, would be a relief. Singleness and normal simplicity
and separation, amid this more and more complex, more and more
artificialized state of society--how pensively we yearn for them! how we
would welcome their return!

In some such direction, then--at any rate enough to preserve the
balance--we feel called upon to throw what weight we can, not for
absolute reasons, but current ones. To prune, gather, trim, conform, and
ever cram and stuff, and be genteel and proper, is the pressure of our
days. While aware that much can be said even in behalf of all this,
we perceive that we have not now to consider the question of what
is demanded to serve a half-starved and barbarous nation, or set of
nations, but what is most applicable, most pertinent, for numerous
congeries of conventional, over-corpulent societies, already becoming
stifled and rotten with flatulent, infidelistic literature, and polite
conformity and art. In addition to establish'd sciences, we suggest a
science as it were of healthy average personalism, on original-universal
grounds, the object of which should be to raise up and supply through
the States a copious race of superb American men and women, cheerful,
religious, ahead of any yet known.

America has yet morally and artistically originated nothing. She seems
singularly unaware that the models of persons, books, manners, &c.,
appropriate for former conditions and for European lands, are but exiles
and exotics here. No current of her life, as shown on the surfaces of
what is authoritatively called her society, accepts or runs into social
or esthetic democracy; but all the currents set squarely against it.
Never, in the Old World, was thoroughly upholster'd exterior appearance
and show, mental and other, built entirely on the idea of caste, and on
the sufficiency of mere outside acquisition--never were glibness, verbal
intellect, more the test, the emulation--more loftily elevated as head
and sample--than they are on the surface of our republican States this
day. The writers of a time hint the mottoes of its gods. The word of the
modern, say these voices, is the word Culture.

We find ourselves abruptly in close quarters with the enemy. This word
Culture, or what it has come to represent, involves, by contrast, our
whole theme, and has been, indeed, the spur, urging us to engagement.
Certain questions arise. As now taught, accepted and carried out, are
not the processes of culture rapidly creating a class of supercilious
infidels, who believe in nothing? Shall a man lose himself in countless
masses of adjustments, and be so shaped with reference to this, that,
and the other, that the simply good and healthy and brave parts of him
are reduced and clipp'd away, like the bordering of box in a garden? You
can cultivate corn and roses and orchards--but who shall cultivate the
mountain peaks, the ocean, and the tumbling gorgeousness of the clouds?
Lastly--is the readily-given reply that culture only seeks to help,
systematize, and put in attitude, the elements of fertility and power, a
conclusive reply?

I do not so much object to the name, or word, but I should certainly
insist, for the purposes of these States, on a radical change of
category, in the distribution of precedence. I should demand a programme
of culture, drawn out, not for a single class alone, or for the parlors
or lecture-rooms, but with an eye to practical life, the west, the
working-men, the facts of farms and jack-planes and engineers, and of
the broad range of the women also of the middle and working strata,
and with reference to the perfect equality of women, and of a grand and
powerful motherhood. I should demand of this programme or theory a scope
generous enough to include the widest human area. It must have for its
spinal meaning the formation of a typical personality of character,
eligible to the uses of the high average of men--and _not_ restricted
by conditions ineligible to the masses. The best culture will always be
that of the manly and courageous instincts, and loving perceptions, and
of self-respect--aiming to form, over this continent, an idiocrasy
of universalism, which, true child of America, will bring joy to its
mother, returning to her in her own spirit, recruiting myriads of
offspring, able, natural, perceptive, tolerant, devout believers in
her, America, and with some definite instinct why and for what she has
arisen, most vast, most formidable of historic births, and is, now and
here, with wonderful step, journeying through Time.

The problem, as it seems to me, presented to the New World, is,
under permanent law and order, and after preserving cohesion,
(ensemble-individuality,) at all hazards, to vitalize man's free play of
special Personalism, recognizing in it something that calls ever more
to be consider'd, fed, and adopted as the substratum for the best
that belongs to us, (government indeed is for it,) including the new
esthetics of our future.

To formulate beyond this present vagueness--to help line and put
before us the species, or a specimen of the species, of the democratic
ethnology of the future, is a work toward which the genius of our land,
with peculiar encouragement, invites her well-wishers. Already certain
limnings, more or less grotesque, more or less fading and watery, have
appear'd. We too, (repressing doubts and qualms,) will try our hand.

Attempting, then, however crudely, a basic model or portrait of
personality for general use for the manliness of the States, (and
doubtless that is most useful which is most simple and comprehensive
for all, and toned low enough,) we should prepare the canvas well
beforehand. Parentage must consider itself in advance. (Will the time
hasten when fatherhood and motherhood shall become a science--and the
noblest science?) To our model, a clear-blooded, strong-fibred
physique, is indispensable; the questions of food, drink, air, exercise,
assimilation, digestion, can never be intermitted. Out of these we
descry a well-begotten selfhood--in youth, fresh, ardent, emotional,
aspiring, full of adventure; at maturity, brave, perceptive, under
control, neither too talkative nor too reticent, neither flippant nor
sombre; of the bodily figure, the movements easy, the complexion showing
the best blood, somewhat flush'd, breast expanded, an erect attitude,
a voice whose sound outvies music, eyes of calm and steady gaze, yet
capable also of flashing--and a general presence that holds its own
in the company of the highest. (For it is native personality, and that
alone, that endows a man to stand before presidents or generals, or in
any distinguish'd collection, with _aplomb_--and _not_ culture, or any
knowledge or intellect whatever.) With regard to the mental-educational
part of our model, enlargement of intellect, stores of cephalic
knowledge, &c., the concentration thitherward of all the customs of our
age, especially in America, is so overweening, and provides so fully
for that part, that, important and necessary as it is, it really needs
nothing from us here--except, indeed, a phrase of warning and restraint.
Manners, costumes, too, though important, we need not dwell upon here.
Like beauty, grace of motion, &c., they are results. Causes, original
things, being attended to, the right manners unerringly follow. Much
is said, among artists, of "the grand style," as if it were a thing by
itself. When a man, artist or whoever, has health, pride, acuteness,
noble aspirations, he has the motive-elements of the grandest style. The
rest is but manipulation, (yet that is no small matter.)

Leaving still unspecified several sterling parts of any model fit for
the future personality of America, I must not fail, again and ever,
to pronounce myself on one, probably the least attended to in modern
times--a hiatus, indeed, threatening its gloomiest consequences after
us. I mean the simple, unsophisticated Conscience, the primary moral
element. If I were asked to specify in what quarter lie the grounds of
darkest dread, respecting the America of our hopes, I should have to
point to this particular. I should demand the invariable application to
individuality, this day and any day, of that old, ever-true plumb-rule
of persons, eras, nations. Our triumphant modern civilizee, with his
all-schooling and his wondrous appliances, will still show himself but
an amputation while this deficiency remains. Beyond, (assuming a more
hopeful tone,) the vertebration of the manly and womanly personalism
of our western world, can only be, and is, indeed, to be, (I hope,) its
all-penetrating Religiousness.

The ripeness of Religion is doubtless to be looked for in this field of
individuality, and is a result that no organization or church can
ever achieve. As history is poorly retain'd by what the technists call
history, and is not given out from their pages, except the learner
has in himself the sense of the well-wrapt, never yet written, perhaps
impossible to be written, history--so Religion, although casually
arrested, and, after a fashion, preserv'd in the churches and creeds,
does not depend at all upon them, but is a part of the identified
soul, which, when greatest, knows not bibles in the old way, but in new
ways--the identified soul, which can really confront Religion when it
extricates itself entirely from the churches, and not before.

Personalism fuses this, and favors it. I should say, indeed, that only
in the perfect uncontamination and solitariness of individuality may the
spirituality of religion positively come forth at all. Only here, and on
such terms, the meditation, the devout ecstasy, the soaring flight.
Only here, communion with the mysteries, the eternal problems, whence?
whither? Alone, and identity, and the mood--and the soul emerges, and
all statements, churches, sermons, melt away like vapors. Alone,
and silent thought and awe, and aspiration--and then the interior
consciousness, like a hitherto unseen inscription, in magic ink, beams
out its wondrous lines to the sense. Bibles may convey, and priests
expound, but it is exclusively for the noiseless operation of one's
isolated Self, to enter the pure ether of veneration, reach the divine
levels, and commune with the unutterable.

To practically enter into politics is an important part of American
personalism. To every young man, north and south, earnestly studying
these things, I should here, as an offset to what I have said in former
pages, now also say, that may be to views of very largest scope, after
all, perhaps the political, (perhaps the literary and sociological,)
America goes best about its development its own way--sometimes, to
temporary sight, appaling enough. It is the fashion among dillettants
and fops (perhaps I myself am not guiltless,) to decry the whole
formulation of the active politics of America, as beyond redemption, and
to be carefully kept away from. See you that you do not fall into
this error. America, it may be, is doing very well upon the whole,
notwithstanding these antics of the parties and their leaders, these
half-brain'd nominees, the many ignorant ballots, and many elected
failures and blatherers. It is the dillettants, and all who shirk their
duty, who are not doing well. As for you, I advise you to enter more
strongly yet into politics. I advise every young man to do so. Always
inform yourself; always do the best you can; always vote. Disengage
yourself from parties. They have been useful, and to some extent remain
so; but the floating, uncommitted electors, farmers, clerks, mechanics,
the masters of parties--watching aloof, inclining victory this side
or that side--such are the ones most needed, present and future. For
America, if eligible at all to downfall and ruin, is eligible within
herself, not without; for I see clearly that the combined foreign world
could not beat her down. But these savage, wolfish parties alarm me.
Owning no law but their own will, more and more combative, less and less
tolerant of the idea of ensemble and of equal brotherhood, the perfect
equality of the States, the ever-overarching American ideas, it behooves
you to convey yourself implicitly to no party, nor submit blindly to
their dictators, but steadily hold yourself judge and master over all of

So much, (hastily toss'd together, and leaving far more unsaid,) for
an ideal, or intimations of an ideal, toward American manhood. But the
other sex, in our land, requires at least a basis of suggestion.

I have seen a young American woman, one of a large family of daughters,
who, some years since, migrated from her meagre country home to one of
the northern cities, to gain her own support. She soon became an expert
seamstress, but finding the employment too confining for health and
comfort, she went boldly to work for others, to house-keep, cook, clean,
&c. After trying several places, she fell upon one where she was suited.
She has told me that she finds nothing degrading in her position; it is
not inconsistent with personal dignity, self-respect, and the respect of
others. She confers benefits and receives them. She has good health; her
presence itself is healthy and bracing; her character is unstain'd; she
has made herself understood, and preserves her independence, and has
been able to help her parents, and educate and get places for her
sisters; and her course of life is not without opportunities for mental
improvement, and of much quiet, uncosting happiness and love.

I have seen another woman who, from taste and necessity conjoin'd, has
gone into practical affairs, carries on a mechanical business, partly
works at it herself, dashes out more and more into real hardy life, is
not abash'd by the coarseness of the contact, knows how to be firm
and silent at the same time, holds her own with unvarying coolness and
decorum, and will compare, any day, with superior carpenters, farmers,
and even boatmen and drivers. For all that, she has not lost the charm
of the womanly nature, but preserves and bears it fully, though through
such rugged presentation.

Then there is the wife of a mechanic, mother of two children, a woman of
merely passable English education, but of fine wit, with all her
sex's grace and intuitions, who exhibits, indeed, such a noble female
personality, that I am fain to record it here. Never abnegating her own
proper independence, but always genially preserving it, and what
belongs to it--cooking, washing, child-nursing, house-tending--she
beams sunshine out of all these duties, and makes them illustrious.
Physiologically sweet and sound, loving work, practical, she yet knows
that there are intervals, however few, devoted to recreation, music,
leisure, hospitality--and affords such intervals. Whatever she does,
and wherever she is, that charm, that indescribable perfume of genuine
womanhood attends her, goes with her, exhales from her, which belongs of
right to all the sex, and is, or ought to be, the invariable atmosphere
and common aureola of old as well as young.

My dear mother once described to me a resplendent person, down on Long
Island, whom she knew in early days. She was known by the name of the
Peacemaker. She was well toward eighty years old, of happy and sunny
temperament, had always lived on a farm, and was very neighborly,
sensible and discreet, an invariable and welcom'd favorite, especially
with young married women. She had numerous children and grandchildren.
She was uneducated, but possess'd a native dignity. She had come to be a
tacitly agreed upon domestic regulator, judge, settler of difficulties,
shepherdess, and reconciler in the land. She was a sight to draw near
and look upon, with her large figure, her profuse snow-white hair,
(uncoil'd by any head-dress or cap,) dark eyes, clear complexion, sweet
breath, and peculiar personal magnetism.

The foregoing portraits, I admit, are frightfully out of line from these
imported models of womanly personality--the stock feminine characters of
the current novelists, or of the foreign court poems, (Ophelias, Enids,
princesses, or ladies of one thing or another,) which fill the envying
dreams of so many poor girls, and are accepted by our men, too, as
supreme ideals of feminine excellence to be sought after. But I present
mine just for a change.

Then there are mutterings, (we will not now stop to heed them here, but
they must be heeded,) of something more revolutionary. The day is coming
when the deep questions of woman's entrance amid the arenas of practical
life, politics, the suffrage, &c., will not only be argued all around
us, but may be put to decision, and real experiment.

Of course, in these States, for both man and woman, we must entirely
recast the types of highest personality from what the oriental, feudal,
ecclesiastical worlds bequeath us, and which yet possess the imaginative
and esthetic fields of the United States, pictorial and melodramatic,
not without use as studies, but making sad work, and forming a strange
anachronism upon the scenes and exigencies around us. Of course, the old
undying elements remain. The task is, to successfully adjust them to new
combinations, our own days. Nor is this so incredible. I can conceive a
community, to-day and here, in which, on a sufficient scale, the
perfect personalities, without noise meet; say in some pleasant western
settlement or town, where a couple of hundred best men and women, of
ordinary worldly status, have by luck been drawn together, with nothing
extra of genius or wealth, but virtuous, chaste, industrious, cheerful,
resolute, friendly and devout. I can conceive such a community organized
in running order, powers judiciously delegated--farming, building,
trade, courts, mails, schools, elections, all attended to; and then the
rest of life, the main thing, freely branching and blossoming in each
individual, and bearing golden fruit. I can see there, in every young
and old man, after his kind, and in every woman after hers, a true
personality, develop'd, exercised proportionately in body, mind,
and spirit. I can imagine this case as one not necessarily rare or
difficult, but in buoyant accordance with the municipal and general
requirements of our times. And I can realize in it the culmination
of something better than any stereotyped _eclat_ of history or poems.
Perhaps, unsung, undramatized, unput in essays or biographies--perhaps
even some such community already exists, in Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, or
somewhere, practically fulfilling itself, and thus outvying, in cheapest
vulgar life, all that has been hitherto shown in best ideal pictures.

In short, and to sum up, America, betaking herself to formative
action, (as it is about time for more solid achievement, and less
windy promise,) must, for her purposes, cease to recognize a theory of
character grown of feudal aristocracies, or form'd by merely literary
standards, or from any ultramarine, full-dress formulas of culture,
polish, caste, &c., and must sternly promulgate her own new standard,
yet old enough, and accepting the old, the perennial elements, and
combining them into groups, unities, appropriate to the modern, the
democratic, the west, and to the practical occasions and needs of our
own cities, and of the agricultural regions. Ever the most precious in
the common. Ever the fresh breeze of field, or hill, or lake, is
more than any palpitation of fans, though of ivory, and redolent with
perfume; and the air is more than the costliest perfumes.

And now, for fear of mistake, we may not intermit to beg our absolution
from all that genuinely is, or goes along with, even Culture. Pardon us,
venerable shade! if we have seem'd to speak lightly of your office. The
whole civilization of the earth, we know, is yours, with all the glory
and the light thereof. It is, indeed, in your own spirit, and seeking to
tally the loftiest teachings of it, that we aim these poor utterances.
For you, too, mighty minister! know that there is something greater than
you, namely, the fresh, eternal qualities of Being. From them, and by
them, as you, at your best, we too evoke the last, the needed help, to
vitalize our country and our days. Thus we pronounce not so much against
the principle of culture; we only supervise it, and promulge along with
it, as deep, perhaps a deeper, principle. As we have shown the New World
including in itself the all-leveling aggregate of democracy, we show
it also including the all-varied, all-permitting, all-free theorem of
individuality, and erecting therefor a lofty and hitherto unoccupied
framework or platform, broad enough for all, eligible to every farmer
and mechanic--to the female equally with the male--a towering selfhood,
not physically perfect only--not satisfied with the mere mind's and
learning's stores, but religious, possessing the idea of the infinite,
(rudder and compass sure amid this troublous voyage, o'er darkest,
wildest wave, through stormiest wind, of man's or nation's
progress)--realizing, above the rest, that known humanity, in deepest
sense, is fair adhesion to itself, for purposes beyond--and that,
finally, the personality of mortal life is most important with reference
to the immortal, the unknown, the spiritual, the only permanently real,
which as the ocean waits for and receives the rivers, waits for us each
and all.

Much is there, yet, demanding line and outline in our Vistas, not only
on these topics, but others quite unwritten. Indeed, we could talk the
matter, and expand it, through lifetime. But it is necessary to return
to our original premises. In view of them, we have again pointedly
to confess that all the objective grandeurs of the world, for highest
purposes, yield themselves up, and depend on mentality alone. Here, and
here only, all balances, all rests. For the mind, which alone builds
the permanent edifice, haughtily builds it to itself. By it, with
what follows it, are convey'd to mortal sense the culminations of
the materialistic, the known, and a prophecy of the unknown. To
take expression, to incarnate, to endow a literature with grand and
archetypal models--to fill with pride and love the utmost capacity, and
to achieve spiritual meanings, and suggest the future--these, and these
only, satisfy the soul. We must not say one word against real materials;
but the wise know that they do not become real till touched by emotions,
the mind. Did we call the latter imponderable? Ah, let us rather
proclaim that the slightest song-tune, the countless ephemera of
passions arous'd by orators and tale-tellers, are more dense, more
weighty than the engines there in the great factories, or the granite
blocks in their foundations.

Approaching thus the momentous spaces, and considering with reference to
a new and greater personalism, the needs and possibilities of American
imaginative literature, through the medium-light of what we have already
broach'd, it will at once be appreciated that a vast gulf of difference
separates the present accepted condition of these spaces, inclusive of
what is floating in them, from any condition adjusted to, or fit for,
the world, the America, there sought to be indicated, and the copious
races of complete men and women, along these Vistas crudely outlined.
It is, in some sort, no less a difference than lies between that
long-continued nebular state and vagueness of the astronomical worlds,
compared with the subsequent state, the definitely-form'd worlds
themselves, duly compacted, clustering in systems, hung up there,
chandeliers of the universe, beholding and mutually lit by each other's
lights, serving for ground of all substantial foothold, all vulgar
uses--yet serving still more as an undying chain and echelon of
spiritual proofs and shows. A boundless field to fill! A new creation,
with needed orbic works launch'd forth, to revolve in free and lawful
circuits--to move, self-poised, through the ether, and shine like
heaven's own suns! With such, and nothing less, we suggest that New
World literature, fit to rise upon, cohere, and signalize in time, these

What, however, do we more definitely mean by New World literature? Are
we not doing well enough here already? Are not the United States this
day busily using, working, more printer's type, more presses, than any
other country? uttering and absorbing more publications than any other?
Do not our publishers fatten quicker and deeper? (helping themselves,
under shelter of a delusive and sneaking law, or rather absence of law,
to most of their forage, poetical, pictorial, historical, romantic,
even comic, without money and without price--and fiercely resisting
the timidest proposal to pay for it.) Many will come under this
delusion--but my purpose is to dispel it. I say that a nation may
hold and circulate rivers and oceans of very readable print, journals,
magazines, novels, library-books, "poetry," &c.--such as the States
to-day possess and circulate--of unquestionable aid and value--hundreds
of new volumes annually composed and brought out here, respectable
enough, indeed unsurpass'd in smartness and erudition--with
further hundreds, or rather millions, (as by free forage or theft
aforemention'd,) also thrown into the market--and yet, all the while,
the said nation, land, strictly speaking, may possess no literature at

Repeating our inquiry, what, then, do we mean by real literature?
especially the democratic literature of the future? Hard questions to
meet. The clues are inferential, and turn us to the past. At best, we
can only offer suggestions, comparisons, circuits.

It must still be reiterated, as, for the purpose of these memoranda, the
deep lesson of history and time, that all else in the contributions of
a nation or age, through its politics, materials, heroic personalities,
military eclat, &c., remains crude, and defers, in any close and
thorough-going estimate, until vitalized by national, original
archetypes in literature. They only put the nation in form, finally tell
anything--prove, complete anything--perpetuate anything. Without doubt,
some of the richest and most powerful and populous communities of the
antique world, and some of the grandest personalities and events, have,
to after and present times, left themselves entirely unbequeath'd.
Doubtless, greater than any that have come down to us, were among those
lands, heroisms, persons, that have not come down to us at all, even
by name, date, or location. Others have arrived safely, as from voyages
over wide, century-stretching seas. The little ships, the miracles that
have buoy'd them, and by incredible chances safely convey'd them, (or
the best of them, their meaning and essence,) overlong wastes, darkness,
lethargy, ignorance, &c., have been a few inscriptions--a few immortal
compositions, small in size, yet compassing what measureless values of
reminiscence, contemporary portraitures, manners, idioms and beliefs,
with deepest inference, hint and thought, to tie and touch forever the
old, new body, and the old, new soul! These! and still these! bearing
the freight so dear--dearer than pride--dearer than love. All the best
experience of humanity, folded, saved, freighted to us here. Some of
these tiny ships we call Old and New Testament, Homer, Eschylus, Plato,
Juvenal, &c. Precious minims! I think, if we were forced to choose,
rather than have you, and the likes of you, and what belongs to, and has
grown of you, blotted out and gone, we could better afford, appaling as
that would be, to lose all actual ships, this day fasten'd by wharf,
or floating on wave, and see them, with all their cargoes, scuttled and
sent to the bottom.

Gather'd by geniuses of city, race or age, and put by them in highest
of art's forms, namely, the literary form, the peculiar combinations
and the outshows of that city, age, or race, its particular modes of the
universal attributes and passions, its faiths, heroes, lovers and gods,
wars, traditions, struggles, crimes, emotions, joys, (or the subtle
spirit of these,) having been pass'd on to us to illumine our own
selfhood, and its experiences--what they supply, indispensable and
highest, if taken away, nothing else in all the world's boundless
store-houses could make up to us, or ever again return.

For us, along the great highways of time, those monuments stand--those
forms of majesty and beauty. For us those beacons burn through all the
nights. Unknown Egyptians, graving hieroglyphs; Hindus, with hymn and
apothegm and endless epic; Hebrew prophet, with spirituality, as in
flashes of lightning, conscience like red-hot iron, plaintive songs and
screams of vengeance for tyrannies and enslavement; Christ, with bent
head, brooding love and peace, like a dove; Greek, creating eternal
shapes of physical and esthetic proportion; Roman, lord of satire, the
sword, and the codex;--of the figures, some far off and veil'd, others
nearer and visible; Dante, stalking with lean form, nothing but fibre,
not a grain of superfluous flesh; Angelo, and the great painters,
architects, musicians; rich Shakspere, luxuriant as the sun, artist and
singer of feudalism in its sunset, with all the gorgeous colors, owner
thereof, and using them at will; and so to such as German Kant and
Hegel, where they, though near us, leaping over the ages, sit again,
impassive, imperturbable, like the Egyptian gods. Of these, and the like
of these, is it too much, indeed, to return to our favorite figure,
and view them as orbs and systems of orbs, moving in free paths in the
spaces of that other heaven, the kosmic intellect, the soul?

Ye powerful and resplendent ones! ye were, in your atmospheres, grown
not for America, but rather for her foes, the feudal and the old--while
our genius is democratic and modern. Yet could ye, indeed, but breathe
your breath of life into our New World's nostrils--not to enslave us, as
now, but, for our needs, to breed a spirit like your own--perhaps, (dare
we to say it?) to dominate, even destroy, what you yourselves have left!
On your plane, and no less, but even higher and wider, must we mete
and measure for to-day and here. I demand races of orbic bards, with
unconditional uncompromising sway. Come forth, sweet democratic despots
of the west!

By points like these we, in reflection, token what we mean by any land's
or people's genuine literature. And thus compared and tested, judging
amid the influence of loftiest products only, what do our current
copious fields of print, covering in manifold forms, the United States,
better, for an analogy, present, than, as in certain regions of the sea,
those spreading, undulating masses of squid, through which the whale
swimming, with head half out, feeds?

Not but that doubtless our current so-called literature, (like an
endless supply of small coin,) performs a certain service, and may-be,
too, the service needed for the time, (the preparation-service, as
children learn to spell.) Everybody reads, and truly nearly everybody
writes, either books, or for the magazines or journals. The matter has
magnitude, too, after a sort. But is it really advancing? or, has it
advanced for a long while? There is something impressive about the huge
editions of the dailies and weeklies, the mountain-stacks of white
paper piled in the press-vaults, and the proud, crashing, ten-cylinder
presses, which I can stand and watch any time by the half hour. Then,
(though the States in the field of imagination present not a single
first-class work, not a single great literatus,) the main objects,
to amuse, to titillate, to pass away time, to circulate the news, and
rumors of news, to rhyme and read rhyme, are yet attain'd, and on
a scale of infinity. To-day, in books, in the rivalry of writers,
especially novelists, success, (so-call'd,) is for him or her who
strikes the mean flat average, the sensational appetite for stimulus,
incident, persiflage, &c., and depicts, to the common calibre, sensual,
exterior life. To such, or the luckiest of them, as we see, the
audiences are limitless and profitable; but they cease presently. While
this day, or any day, to workmen portraying interior or spiritual life,
the audiences were limited, and often laggard--but they last forever.

Compared with the past, our modern science soars, and our journals
serve--but ideal and even ordinary romantic literature, does not,
I think, substantially advance. Behold the prolific brood of the
contemporary novel, magazine-tale, theatre-play, &c. The same endless
thread of tangled and superlative love-story, inherited, apparently from
the Amadises and Palmerins of the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries over
there in Europe. The costumes and associations brought down to date, the
seasoning hotter and more varied, the dragons and ogres left out--but
the _thing_, I should say, has not advanced--is just as sensational,
just as strain'd--remains about the same, nor more, nor less.

What is the reason our time, our lands, that we see no fresh local
courage, sanity, of our own--the Mississippi, stalwart Western men,
real mental and physical facts, Southerners, &c., in the body of our
literature? especially the poetic part of it. But always, instead, a
parcel of dandies and ennuyees, dapper little gentlemen from abroad, who
flood us with their thin sentiment of parlors, parasols, piano-songs,
tinkling rhymes, the five-hundredth importation--or whimpering and
crying about something, chasing one aborted conceit after another,
and forever occupied in dyspeptic amours with dyspeptic women. While,
current and novel, the grandest events and revolutions and stormiest
passions of history, are crossing to-day with unparallel'd rapidity and
magnificence over the stages of our own and all the continents, offering
new materials, opening new vistas, with largest needs, inviting the
daring launching forth of conceptions in literature, inspired by them,
soaring in highest regions, serving art in its highest (which is only
the other name for serving God, and serving humanity,) where is the man
of letters, where is the book, with any nobler aim than to follow in the
old track, repeat what has been said before--and, as its utmost triumph,
sell well, and be erudite or elegant?

Mark the roads, the processes, through which these States have arrived,
standing easy, henceforth ever-equal, ever-compact in their range
to-day. European adventures? the most antique? Asiatic or African? old
history--miracles--romances? Rather our own unquestion'd facts. They
hasten, incredible, blazing bright as fire. From the deeds and days of
Columbus down to the present, and including the present--and especially
the late secession war--when I con them, I feel, every leaf, like
stopping to see if I have not made a mistake, and fall'n on the splendid
figments of some dream. But it is no dream. We stand, live, move, in
the huge flow of our age s materialism--in its spirituality. We have had
founded for us the most positive of lands. The founders have pass'd to
other spheres--but what are these terrible duties they have left us?

Their politics the United States have, in my opinion, with all their
faults, already substantially establish'd, for good, on their own
native, sound, long-vista'd principles, never to be overturn'd, offering
a sure basis for all the rest. With that, their future religious forms
sociology, literature, teachers, schools, costumes, &c., are of course
to make a compact whole, uniform, on tallying principles. For how can
we remain, divided, contradicting ourselves, this way?[28] I say we can
only attain harmony and stability by consulting ensemble and the ethic
purports, and faithfully building upon them. For the New World, indeed,
after two grand stages of preparation-strata, I perceive that now a
third stage, being ready for, (and without which the other two were
useless,) with unmistakable signs appears. The First stage was the
planning and putting on record the political foundation rights of
immense masses of people--indeed all people--in the organization of
republican National, State, and municipal governments, all constructed
with reference to each, and each to all. This is the American programme,
not for classes, but for universal man, and is embodied in the compacts
of the Declaration of Independence, and, as it began and has now
grown, with its amendments, the Federal Constitution--and in the State
governments, with all their interiors, and with general suffrage; those
having the sense not only of what is in themselves, but that their
certain several things started, planted, hundreds of others in the same
direction duly arise and follow. The Second stage relates to material
prosperity, wealth, produce, labor-saving machines, iron, cotton, local,
State and continental railways, intercommunication and trade with all
lands, steamships, mining, general employment, organization of great
cities, cheap appliances for comfort, numberless technical schools,
books, newspapers, a currency for money circulation, &c. The
Third stage, rising out of the previous ones, to make them and
all illustrious, I, now, for one, promulge, announcing a native
expression-spirit, getting into form, adult, and through mentality, for
these States, self-contain'd, different from others, more expansive,
more rich and free, to be evidenced by original authors and poets
to come, by American personalities, plenty of them, male and female,
traversing the States, none excepted--and by native superber
tableaux and growths of language, songs, operas, orations, lectures,
architecture--and by a sublime and serious Religious Democracy sternly
taking command, dissolving the old, sloughing off surfaces, and from
its own interior and vital principles, reconstructing, democratizing

For America, type of progress, and of essential faith in man, above
all his errors and wickedness--few suspect how deep, how deep it really
strikes. The world evidently supposes, and we have evidently supposed
so too, that the States are merely to achieve the equal franchise, an
elective government--to inaugurate the respectability of labor, and
become a nation of practical operatives, law-abiding, orderly and well
off. Yes, those are indeed parts of the task of America; but they
not only do not exhaust the progressive conception, but rather arise,
teeming with it, as the mediums of deeper, higher progress. Daughter of
a physical revolution--mother of the true revolutions, which are of
the interior life, and of the arts. For so long as the spirit is not
changed, any change of appearance is of no avail.

The old men, I remember as a boy, were always talking of American
independence. What is independence? Freedom from all laws or bonds
except those of one's own being, control'd by the universal ones. To
lands, to man, to woman, what is there at last to each, but the inherent
soul, nativity, idiocrasy, free, highest-poised, soaring its own flight,
following out itself?

At present, these States, in their theology and social standards, (of
greater importance than their political institutions,) are entirely held
possession of by foreign lands. We see the sons and daughters of the
New World, ignorant of its genius, not yet inaugurating the native, the
universal, and the near, still importing the distant, the partial, and
the dead. We see London, Paris, Italy--not original, superb, as where
they belong--but second-hand here, where they do not belong. We see the
shreds of Hebrews, Romans, Greeks; but where, on her own soil, do we
see, in any faithful, highest, proud expression, America herself? I
sometimes question whether she has a corner in her own house.

Not but that in one sense, and a very grand one, good theology, good
art, or good literature, has certain features shared in common. The
combination fraternizes, ties the races--is, in many particulars, under
laws applicable indifferently to all, irrespective of climate or
date, and, from whatever source, appeals to emotions, pride, love,
spirituality, common to human kind. Nevertheless, they touch a man
closest, (perhaps only actually touch him,) even in these, in their
expression through autochthonic lights and shades, flavors, fondnesses,
aversions, specific incidents, illustrations, out of his own
nationality, geography, surroundings, antecedents, &c. The spirit and
the form are one, and depend far more on association, identity and
place, than is supposed. Subtly interwoven with the materiality
and personality of a land, a race--Teuton, Turk, Californian, or
what-not--there is always something--I can hardly tell what it
is--history but describes the results of it--it is the same as the
untellable look of some human faces. Nature, too, in her stolid forms,
is full of it--but to most it is there a secret. This something is
rooted in the invisible roots, the profoundest meanings of that place,
race, or nationality; and to absorb and again effuse it, uttering words
and products as from its midst, and carrying it into highest regions,
is the work, or a main part of the work, of any country's true author,
poet, historian, lecturer, and perhaps even priest and philosoph. Here,
and here only, are the foundations for our really valuable and permanent
verse, drama, &c.

But at present, (judged by any higher scale than that which finds the
chief ends of existence to be to feverishly make money during one-half
of it, and by some "amusement," or perhaps foreign travel, flippantly
kill time, the other half,) and consider'd with reference to purposes
of patriotism, health, a noble personality, religion, and the democratic
adjustments, all these swarms of poems, literary magazines, dramatic
plays, resultant so far from American intellect, and the formation of
our best ideas, are useless and a mockery. They strengthen and nourish
no one, express nothing characteristic, give decision and purpose to no
one, and suffice only the lowest level of vacant minds.

Of what is called the drama, or dramatic presentation in the United
States, as now put forth at the theatres, I should say it deserves to
be treated with the same gravity, and on a par with the questions
of ornamental confectionery at public dinners, or the arrangement of
curtains and hangings in a ball-room--nor more, nor less. Of the other,
I will not insult the reader's intelligence, (once really entering into
the atmosphere of these Vistas,) by supposing it necessary to show,
in detail, why the copious dribble, either of our little or well-known
rhymesters, does not fulfil, in any respect, the needs and august
occasions of this land. America demands a poetry that is bold, modern,
and all-surrounding and kosmical, as she is herself. It must in no
respect ignore science or the modern, but inspire itself with science
and the modern. It must bend its vision toward the future, more than
the past. Like America, it must extricate itself from even the greatest
models of the past, and, while courteous to them, must have entire faith
in itself, and the products of its own democratic spirit only. Like her,
it must place in the van, and hold up at all hazards, the banner of
the divine pride of man in himself, (the radical foundation of the new
religion.) Long enough have the People been listening to poems in which
common humanity, deferential, bends low, humiliated, acknowledging
superiors. But America listens to no such poems. Erect, inflated, and
fully self-esteeming be the chant; and then America will listen with
pleased ears.

Nor may the genuine gold, the gems, when brought to light at last, be
probably usher'd forth from any of the quarters currently counted on.
To-day, doubtless, the infant genius of American poetic expression,
(eluding those highly-refined imported and gilt-edged themes,
and sentimental and butterfly flights, pleasant to orthodox
publishers--causing tender spasms in the coteries, and warranted not to
chafe the sensitive cuticle of the most exquisitely artificial gossamer
delicacy,) lies sleeping far away, happily unrecognized and uninjur'd by
the coteries, the art-writers, the talkers and critics of the saloons,
or the lecturers in the colleges--lies sleeping, aside, unrecking
itself, in some western idiom, or native Michigan or Tennessee repartee,
or stumpspeech--or in Kentucky or Georgia, or the Carolinas--or in some
slang or local song or allusion of the Manhattan, Boston, Philadelphia
or Baltimore mechanic--or up in the Maine woods--or off in the hut of
the California miner, or crossing the Rocky mountains, or along
the Pacific railroad--or on the breasts of the young farmers of
the northwest, or Canada, or boatmen of the lakes. Rude and coarse
nursing-beds, these; but only from such beginnings and stocks,
indigenous here, may haply arrive, be grafted, and sprout, in time,
flowers of genuine American aroma, and fruits truly and fully our own.

I say it were a standing disgrace to these States--I say it were a
disgrace to any nation, distinguish'd above others by the variety and
vastness of its territories, its materials, its inventive activity,
and the splendid practicality of its people, not to rise and soar above
others also in its original styles in literature and art, and its
own supply of intellectual and esthetic masterpieces, archetypal, and
consistent with itself. I know not a land except ours that has not, to
some extent, however small, made its title clear. The Scotch have their
born ballads, subtly expressing their past and present, and expressing
character. The Irish have theirs. England, Italy, France, Spain, theirs.
What has America? With exhaustless mines of the richest ore of epic,
lyric, tale, tune, picture, etc., in the Four Years' War; with, indeed,
I sometimes think, the richest masses of material ever afforded a
nation, more variegated, and on a larger scale--the first sign of
proportionate, native, imaginative Soul, and first-class works to match,
is, (I cannot too often repeat,) so far wanting.

Long ere the second centennial arrives, there will be some forty to
fifty great States, among them Canada and Cuba. When the present century
closes, our population will be sixty or seventy millions. The Pacific
will be ours, and the Atlantic mainly ours. There will be daily electric
communication with every part of the globe. What an age! What a land!
Where, elsewhere, one so great? The individuality of one nation must
then, as always, lead the world. Can there be any doubt who the leader
ought to be? Bear in mind, though, that nothing less than the mightiest
original non-subordinated SOUL has ever really, gloriously led, or ever
can lead. (This Soul--its other name, in these Vistas, is LITERATURE.)

In fond fancy leaping those hundred years ahead, let us survey America's
works, poems, philosophies, fulfilling prophecies, and giving form and
decision to best ideals. Much that is now undream'd of, we might then
perhaps see establish'd, luxuriantly cropping forth, richness, vigor of
letters and of artistic expression, in whose products character will be
a main requirement, and not merely erudition or elegance.

Intense and loving comradeship, the personal and passionate attachment
of man to man--which, hard to define, underlies the lessons and ideals
of the profound saviours of every land and age, and which seems to
promise, when thoroughly develop'd, cultivated and recognized in manners
and literature, the most substantial hope and safety of the future of
these States, will then be fully express'd.[29]

A strong fibred joyousness and faith, and the sense of health _al
fresco_, may well enter into the preparation of future noble American
authorship. Part of the test of a great literatus shall be the absence
in him of the idea of the covert, the lurid, the maleficent, the devil,
the grim estimates inherited from the Puritans, hell, natural depravity,
and the like. The great literatus will be known, among the rest, by his
cheerful simplicity, his adherence to natural standards, his limitless
faith in God, his reverence, and by the absence in him of doubt, ennui,
burlesque, persiflage, or any strain'd and temporary fashion.

Nor must I fail, again and yet again, to clinch, reiterate more plainly
still, (O that indeed such survey as we fancy, may show in time this
part completed also!) the lofty aim, surely the proudest and the purest,
in whose service the future literatus, of whatever field, may gladly
labor. As we have intimated, offsetting the material civilization of our
race, our nationality, its wealth, territories, factories, population,
products, trade, and military and naval strength, and breathing breath
of life into all these, and more, must be its moral civilization--the
formulation, expression, and aidancy whereof, is the very highest height
of literature. The climax of this loftiest range of civilization, rising
above all the gorgeous shows and results of wealth, intellect, power,
and art, as such--above even theology and religious fervor--is to be its
development, from the eternal bases, and the fit expression, of absolute
Conscience, moral soundness, Justice. Even in religious fervor there
is a touch of animal heat. But moral conscientiousness, crystalline,
without flaw, not Godlike only, entirely human, awes and enchants
forever. Great is emotional love, even in the order of the rational
universe. But, if we must make gradations, I am clear there is something
greater. Power, love, veneration, products, genius, esthetics, tried by
subtlest comparisons, analyses, and in serenest moods, somewhere fail,
somehow become vain. Then noiseless, withflowing steps, the lord,
the sun, the last ideal comes. By the names right, justice, truth, we
suggest, but do not describe it. To the world of men it remains a
dream, an idea as they call it. But no dream is it to the wise--but the
proudest, almost only solid, lasting thing of all. Its analogy in the
material universe is what holds together this world, and every object
upon it, and carries its dynamics on forever sure and safe. Its lack,
and the persistent shirking of it, as in life, sociology, literature,
politics, business, and even sermonizing, these times, or any times,
still leaves the abysm, the mortal flaw and smutch, mocking civilization
to-day, with all its unquestion'd triumphs, and all the civilization so
far known.[30]

Present literature, while magnificently fulfilling certain popular
demands, with plenteous knowledge and verbal smartness, is profoundly
sophisticated, insane, and its very joy is morbid. It needs tally and
express Nature, and the spirit of Nature, and to know and obey the
standards. I say the question of Nature, largely consider'd, involves
the questions of the esthetic, the emotional, and the religious--and
involves happiness. A fitly born and bred race, growing up in right
conditions of out-door as much as in-door harmony, activity and
development, would probably, from and in those conditions, find it
enough merely _to live_--and would, in their relations to the sky, air,
water, trees, &c., and to the countless common shows, and in the fact of
life itself, discover and achieve happiness--with Being suffused night
and day by wholesome extasy, surpassing all the pleasures that wealth,
amusement, and even gratified intellect, erudition, or the sense of art,
can give.

In the prophetic literature of these States, (the reader of my
speculations will miss their principal stress unless he allows well for
the point that a new Literature, perhaps a new Metaphysics, certainly a
new Poetry, are to be, in my opinion, the only sure and worthy supports
and expressions of the American Democracy,) Nature, true Nature, and
the true idea of Nature, long absent, must, above all, become fully
restored, enlarged, and must furnish the pervading atmosphere to poems,
and the test of all high literary and esthetic compositions. I do not
mean the smooth walks, trimm'd hedges, poseys and nightingales of the
English poets, but the whole orb, with its geologic history, the kosmos,
carrying fire and snow, that rolls through the illimitable areas, light
as a feather, though weighing billions of tons. Furthermore, as by
what we now partially call Nature is intended, at most, only what is
entertainable by the physical conscience, the sense of matter, and
of good animal health--on these it must be distinctly accumulated,
incorporated, that man, comprehending these, has, in towering
superaddition, the moral and spiritual consciences, indicating his
destination beyond the ostensible, the mortal.

To the heights of such estimate of Nature indeed ascending, we proceed
to make observations for our Vistas, breathing rarest air. What is
I believe called Idealism seems to me to suggest, (guarding against
extravagance, and ever modified even by its opposite,) the course
of inquiry and desert of favor for our New World metaphysics, their
foundation of and in literature, giving hue to all.[31]

The elevating and etherealizing ideas of the unknown and of unreality
must be brought forward with authority, as they are the legitimate heirs
of the known, and of reality, and at least as great as their parents.
Fearless of scoffing, and of the ostent, let us take our stand,
our ground, and never desert it, to confront the growing excess and
arrogance of realism. To the cry, now victorious--the cry of sense,
science, flesh, incomes, farms, merchandise, logic, intellect,
demonstrations, solid perpetuities, buildings of brick and iron, or
even the facts of the shows of trees, earth, rocks, &c., fear not, my
brethren, my sisters, to sound out with equally determin'd voice,
that conviction brooding within the recesses of every envision'd
soul--illusions! apparitions! figments all! True, we must not condemn
the show, neither absolutely deny it, for the indispensability of its
meanings; but how clearly we see that, migrate in soul to what we can
already conceive of superior and spiritual points of view, and, palpable
as it seems under present relations, it all and several might, nay
certainly would, fall apart and vanish.

I hail with joy the oceanic, variegated, intense practical energy, the
demand for facts, even the business materialism of the current age,
our States. But we to the age or land in which these things, movements,
stopping at themselves, do not tend to ideas. As fuel to flame, and
flame to the heavens, so must wealth, science, materialism--even this
democracy of which we make so much--unerringly feed the highest mind,
the soul. Infinitude the flight: fathomless the mystery. Man, so
diminutive, dilates beyond the sensible universe, competes with,
outcopes space and time, meditating even one great idea. Thus, and
thus only, does a human being, his spirit, ascend above, and justify,
objective Nature, which, probably nothing in itself, is incredibly and
divinely serviceable, indispensable, real, here. And as the purport
of objective Nature is doubtless folded, hidden, somewhere here--as
somewhere here is what this globe and its manifold forms, and the light
of day, and night's darkness, and life itself, with all its experiences,
are for--it is here the great literature, especially verse, must get its
inspiration and throbbing blood. Then may we attain to a poetry worthy
the immortal soul of man, and widen, while absorbing materials, and,
in their own sense, the shows of Nature, will, above all, have, both
directly and indirectly, a freeing, fluidizing, expanding, religious
character, exulting with science, fructifying the moral elements, and
stimulating aspirations, and meditations on the unknown.

The process, so far, is indirect and peculiar, and though it may be
suggested, cannot be defined. Observing, rapport, and with intuition,
the shows and forms presented by Nature, the sensuous luxuriance, the
beautiful in living men and women, the actual play of passions, in
history and life--and, above all, from those developments either in
Nature or human personality in which power, (dearest of all to the sense
of the artist,) transacts itself-out of these, and seizing what is in
them, the poet, the esthetic worker in any field, by the divine magic
of his genius, projects them, their analogies, by curious removes,
indirections, in literature and art. (No useless attempt to repeat
the material creation, by daguerreotyping the exact likeness by mortal
mental means.) This is the image-making faculty, coping with material
creation, and rivaling, almost triumphing over it. This alone, when
all the other parts of a specimen of literature or art are ready and
waiting, can breathe into it the breath of life, and endow it with

"The true question to ask," says the librarian of Congress in a paper
read before the Social Science Convention at New York, October, 1869,
"The true question to ask respecting a book, is, _has it help'd any
human soul?_" This is the hint, statement, not only of the great
literatus, his book, but of every great artist. It may be that all works
of art are to be first tried by their art qualities, their image-forming
talent, and their dramatic, pictorial, plot-constructing, euphonious and
other talents. Then, whenever claiming to be first-class works, they are
to be strictly and sternly tried by their foundation in, and radiation,
in the highest sense, and always indirectly, of the ethic principles,
and eligibility to free, arouse, dilate.

As, within the purposes of the Kosmos, and vivifying all meteorology,
and all the congeries of the mineral, vegetable and animal worlds--all
the physical growth and development of man, and all the history of the
race in politics, religions, wars, &c., there is a moral purpose, a
visible or invisible intention, certainly underlying all--its results
and proof needing to be patiently waited for--needing intuition,
faith, idiosyncrasy, to its realization, which many, and especially
the intellectual, do not have--so in the product, or congeries of
the product, of the greatest literatus. This is the last, profoundest
measure and test of a first-class literary or esthetic achievement, and
when understood and put in force must fain, I say, lead to works, books,
nobler than any hitherto known. Lo! Nature, (the only complete, actual
poem,) existing calmly in the divine scheme, containing all, content,
careless of the criticisms of a day, or these endless and wordy
chatterers. And lo! to the consciousness of the soul, the permanent
identity, the thought, the something, before which the magnitude even
of democracy, art, literature, &c., dwindles, becomes partial,
measurable--something that fully satisfies, (which those do not.) That
something is the All, and the idea of All, with the accompanying idea
of eternity, and of itself, the soul, buoyant, indestructible, sailing
space forever, visiting every region, as a ship the sea. And again lo!
the pulsations in all matter, all spirit, throbbing forever--the eternal
beats, eternal systole and diastole of life in things--wherefrom I feel
and know that death is not the ending, as was thought, but rather the
real beginning--and that nothing ever is or can be lost, nor ever die,
nor soul, nor matter.

In the future of these States must arise poets immenser far, and make
great poems of death. The poems of life are great, but there must be the
poems of the purports of life, not only in itself, but beyond itself.
I have eulogized Homer, the sacred bards of Jewry, Eschylus, Juvenal,
Shakspere, &c., and acknowledged their inestimable value. But,
(with perhaps the exception, in some, not all respects, of the
second-mention'd,) I say there must, for future and democratic purposes,
appear poets, (dare I to say so?) of higher class even than any of
those--poets not only possess'd of the religious fire and abandon of
Isaiah, luxuriant in the epic talent of Homer, or for proud characters
as in Shakspere, but consistent with the Hegelian formulas, and
consistent with modern science. America needs, and the world needs, a
class of bards who will, now and ever, so link and tally the rational
physical being of man, with the ensembles of time and space, and with
this vast and multiform show, Nature, surrounding him, ever tantalizing
him, equally a part, and yet not a part of him, as to essentially
harmonize, satisfy, and put at rest. Faith, very old, now scared away
by science, must be restored, brought back by the same power that caused
her departure--restored with new sway, deeper, wider, higher than ever.
Surely, this universal ennui, this coward fear, this shuddering at
death, these low, degrading views, are not always to rule the spirit
pervading future society, as it has the past, and does the present. What
the Roman Lucretius sought most nobly, yet all too blindly, negatively
to do for his age and its successors, must be done positively by some
great coming literatus, especially poet, who, while remaining fully
poet, will absorb whatever science indicates, with spiritualism, and
out of them, and out of his own genius, will compose the great poem
of death. Then will man indeed confront Nature, and confront time and
space, both with science, and _con amore_, and take his right place,
prepared for life, master of fortune and misfortune. And then that which
was long wanted will be supplied, and the ship that had it not before in
all her voyages, will have an anchor.

There are still other standards, suggestions, for products of high
literatuses. That which really balances and conserves the social and
political world is not so much legislation, police, treaties, and dread
of punishment, as the latent eternal intuitional sense, in humanity,
of fairness, manliness, decorum, &c. Indeed, this perennial regulation,
control, and oversight, by self-suppliance, is _sine qua non_ to
democracy; and a highest widest aim of democratic literature may well
be to bring forth, cultivate, brace, and strengthen this sense, in
individuals and society. A strong mastership of the general inferior
self by the superior self, is to be aided, secured, indirectly, but
surely, by the literatus, in his works, shaping, for individual or
aggregate democracy, a great passionate body, in and along with which
goes a great masterful spirit.

And still, providing for contingencies, I fain confront the fact, the
need of powerful native philosophs and orators and bards, these States,
as rallying points to come, in times of danger, and to fend off ruin
and defection. For history is long, long, long. Shift and turn the
combinations of the statement as we may, the problem of the future
of America is in certain respects as dark as it is vast. Pride,
competition, segregation, vicious wilfulness, and license beyond
example, brood already upon us. Unwieldy and immense, who shall hold in
behemoth? who bridle leviathan? Flaunt it as we choose, athwart and
over the roads of our progress loom huge uncertainty, and dreadful,
threatening gloom. It is useless to deny it: Democracy grows rankly up
the thickest, noxious, deadliest plants and fruits of all--brings worse
and worse invaders--needs newer, larger, stronger, keener compensations
and compellers.

Our lands, embracing so much, (embracing indeed the whole, rejecting
none,) hold in their breast that flame also, capable of consuming
themselves, consuming us all. Short as the span of our national life has
been, already have death and downfall crowded close upon us--and will
again crowd close, no doubt, even if warded off. Ages to come may never
know, but I know, how narrowly during the late secession war--and more
than once, and more than twice or thrice--our Nationality, (wherein
bound up, as in a ship in a storm, depended, and yet depend, all our
best life, all hope, all value,) just grazed, just by a hair escaped
destruction. Alas! to think of them! the agony and bloody sweat of
certain of those hours! those cruel, sharp, suspended crises!

Even to-day, amid these whirls, incredible flippancy, and blind fury of
parties, infidelity, entire lack of first-class captains and leaders,
added to the plentiful meanness and vulgarity of the ostensible
masses--that problem, the labor question, beginning to open like a
yawning gulf, rapidly widening every year--what prospect have we? We
sail a dangerous sea of seething currents, cross and under-currents,
vortices--all so dark, untried--and whither shall we turn? It seems
as if the Almighty had spread before this nation charts of imperial
destinies, dazzling as the sun, yet with many a deep intestine
difficulty, and human aggregate of cankerous imperfection-saying, lo!
the roads, the only plans of development, long and varied with all
terrible balks and ebullitions. You said in your soul, I will be empire
of empires, overshadowing all else, past and present, putting
the history of Old-World dynasties, conquests behind me, as of no
account--making a new history, a history of democracy, making old
history a dwarf--I alone inaugurating largeness, culminating time. If
these, O lands of America, are indeed the prizes, the determinations of
your soul, be it so. But behold the cost, and already specimens of the
cost. Thought you greatness was to ripen for you like a pear? If you
would have greatness, know that you must conquer it through ages,
centuries--must pay for it with a proportionate price. For you too, as
for all lands, the struggle, the traitor, the wily person in office,
scrofulous wealth, the surfeit of prosperity, the demonism of greed,
the hell of passion, the decay of faith, the long postponement, the
fossil-like lethargy, the ceaseless need of revolutions, prophets,
thunder-storms, deaths, births, new projections and invigorations of
ideas and men.

Yet I have dream'd, merged in that hidden-tangled problem of our fate,
whose long unraveling stretches mysteriously through time--dream'd out,
portray'd, hinted already--a little or a larger band--a band of brave
and true, unprecedented yet--arm'd and equipt at every point--the
members separated, it may be, by different dates and States, or south,
or north, or east, or west--Pacific, Atlantic, Southern, Canadian--a
year, a century here, and other centuries there--but always one, compact
in soul, conscience-conserving, God-inculcating, inspirid achievers, not
only in literature, the greatest art, but achievers in all art--a new,
undying order, dynasty, from age to age transmitted--a band, a class,
at least as fit to cope with current years, our dangers, needs, as those
who, for their times, so long, so well, in armor or in cowl, upheld
and made illustrious, that far-back feudal, priestly world. To offset
chivalry, indeed, those vanish'd countless knights, old altars, abbeys,
priests, ages and strings of ages, a knightlier and more sacred cause
to-day demands, and shall supply, in a New World, to larger, grander
work, more than the counterpart and tally of them.

Arrived now, definitely, at an apex for these Vistas, I confess that
the promulgation and belief in such a class or institution--a new and
greater literatus order--its possibility, (nay certainty,) underlies
these entire speculations--and that the rest, the other parts, as
superstructures, are all founded upon it. It really seems to me the
condition, not only of our future national and democratic development,
but of our perpetuation. In the highly artificial and materialistic
bases of modern civilization, with the corresponding arrangements and
methods of living, the force-infusion of intellect alone, the depraving
influences of riches just as much as poverty, the absence of all high
ideals in character--with the long series of tendencies, shapings, which
few are strong enough to resist, and which now seem, with steam-engine
speed, to be everywhere turning out the generations of humanity like
uniform iron castings--all of which, as compared with the feudal ages,
we can yet do nothing better than accept, make the best of, and even
welcome, upon the whole, for their oceanic practical grandeur, and their
restless wholesale kneading of the masses--I say of all this tremendous
and dominant play of solely materialistic bearings upon current life in
the United States, with the results as already seen, accumulating, and
reaching far into the future, that they must either be confronted and
met by at least an equally subtle and tremendous force-infusion for
purposes of spiritualization, for the pure conscience, for genuine
esthetics, and for absolute and primal manliness and womanliness--or
else our modern civilization, with all its improvements, is in vain,
and we are on the road to a destiny, a status, equivalent, in its real
world, to that of the fabled damned.

Prospecting thus the coming unsped days, and that new order in
them--marking the endless train of exercise, development, unwind, in
nation as in man, which life is for--we see, fore-indicated, amid these
prospects and hopes, new law-forces of spoken and written language--not
merely the pedagogue-forms, correct, regular, familiar with precedents,
made for matters of outside propriety, fine words, thoughts definitely
told out--but a language fann'd by the breath of Nature, which leaps
overhead, cares mostly for impetus and effects, and for what it plants
and invigorates to grow--tallies life and character, and seldomer tells
a thing than suggests or necessitates it. In fact, a new theory of
literary composition for imaginative works of the very first class, and
especially for highest poems, is the sole course open to these States.
Books are to be call'd for, and supplied, on the assumption that the
process of reading is not a half-sleep, but, in highest sense, an
exercise, a gymnast's struggle; that the reader is to do something for
himself, must be on the alert, must himself or herself construct indeed
the poem, argument, history, metaphysical essay--the text furnishing the
hints, the clue, the start or frame-work. Not the book needs so much
to be the complete thing, but the reader of the book does. That were
to make a nation of supple and athletic minds, well-train'd, intuitive,
used to depend on themselves, and not on a few coteries of writers.

Investigating here, we see, not that it is a little thing we have, in
having the bequeath'd libraries, countless shelves of volumes, records,
etc.; yet how serious the danger, depending entirely on them, of the
bloodless vein, the nerveless arm, the false application, at second or
third hand. We see that the real interest of this people of ours in the
theology, history, poetry, politics, and personal models of the past,
(the British islands, for instance, and indeed all the past,) is not
necessarily to mould ourselves or our literature upon them, but to
attain fuller, more definite comparisons, warnings, and the insight to
ourselves, our own present, and our own far grander, different, future
history, religion, social customs, &c. We see that almost everything
that has been written, sung, or stated, of old, with reference to
humanity under the feudal and oriental institutes, religions, and
for other lands, needs to be re-written, re-sung, re-stated, in terms
consistent with the institution of these States, and to come in range
and obedient uniformity with them.

We see, as in the universes of the material kosmos, after
meteorological, vegetable, and animal cycles, man at last arises, born
through them, to prove them, concentrate them, to turn upon them with
wonder and love--to command them, adorn them, and carry them upward
into superior realms--so, out of the series of the preceding social and
political universes, now arise these States. We see that while many were
supposing things establish'd and completed, really the grandest things
always remain; and discover that the work of the New World is not ended,
but only fairly begun.

We see our land, America, her literature, esthetics, &c., as,
substantially, the getting in form, or effusement and statement, of
deepest basic elements and loftiest final meanings, of history and
man--and the portrayal, (under the eternal laws and conditions of
beauty,) of our own physiognomy, the subjective tie and expression of
the objective, as from our own combination, continuation, and points of
view--and the deposit and record of the national mentality, character,
appeals, heroism, wars, and even liberties--where these, and
all, culminate in native literary and artistic formulation, to be
perpetuated; and not having which native, first-class formulation, she
will flounder about, and her other, however imposing, eminent greatness,
prove merely a passing gleam; but truly having which, she will
understand herself, live nobly, nobly contribute, emanate, and,
swinging, poised safely on herself, illumin'd and illuming, become a
full-form'd world, and divine Mother not only of material but spiritual
worlds, in ceaseless succession through time--the main thing being the
average, the bodily, the concrete, the democratic, the popular, on which
all the superstructures of the future are to permanently rest.


[20] "From a territorial area of less than nine hundred thousand
square miles, the Union has expanded into over four millions and
a half--fifteen times larger than that of Great Britain and France
combined--with a shore-line, including Alaska, equal to the entire
circumference of the earth, and with a domain within these lines far
wider than that of the Romans in their proudest days of conquest and
renown. With a river, lake, and coastwise commerce estimated at over two
thousand millions of dollars per year; with a railway traffic of four to
six thousand millions per year, and the annual domestic exchanges of the
country running up to nearly ten thousand millions per year; with over
two thousand millions of dollars invested in manufacturing, mechanical,
and mining industry; with over five hundred millions of acres of land
in actual occupancy, valued, with their appurtenances, at over seven
thousand millions of dollars, and producing annually crops valued at
over three thousand millions of dollars; with a realm which, if the
density of Belgium's population were possible, would be vast enough to
include all the present inhabitants of the world; and with equal rights
guaranteed to even the poorest and humblest of our forty millions of
people--we can, with a manly pride akin to that which distinguish'd the
palmiest days of Rome, claim," &c., &c., &c.--_Vice-President Colfax's
Speech, July 4, 1870_.

LATER--_London "Times," (Weekly,) June 23, '82_.

"The wonderful wealth-producing power of the United States defies and
sets at naught the grave drawbacks of a mischievous protective tariff,
and has already obliterated, almost wholly, the traces of the greatest
of modern civil wars. What is especially remarkable in the present
development of American energy and success is its wide and equable
distribution. North and south, east and west, on the shores of the
Atlantic and the Pacific, along the chain of the great lakes, in the
valley of the Mississippi, and on the coasts of the gulf of Mexico,
the creation of wealth and the increase of population are signally
exhibited. It is quite true, as has been shown by the recent
apportionment of population in the House of Representatives, that some
sections of the Union have advanced, relatively to the rest, in an
extraordinary and unexpected degree. But this does not imply that the
States which have gain'd no additional representatives or have actually
lost some have been stationary or have receded. The fact is that the
present tide of prosperity has risen so high that it has overflow' d all
barriers, and has fill'd up the back-waters, and establish'd something
like an approach to uniform success."

[21] See, for hereditaments, specimens, Walter Scott's Border
Minstrelsy, Percy's collection, Ellis's early English Metrical
Romances, the European continental poems of Walter of Aquitania, and the
Nibelungen, of pagan stock, but monkish-feudal redaction; the history of
the Troubadours, by Fauriel; even the far-back cumbrous old Hindu epics,
as indicating the Asian eggs out of which European chivalry was hatch'd;
Ticknor's chapters on the Cid, and on the Spanish poems and poets of
Calderon's time. Then always, and, of course, as the superbest poetic
culmination-expression of feudalism, the Shaksperean dramas, in
the attitudes, dialogue, characters, &c., of the princes, lords and
gentlemen, the pervading atmosphere, the implied and express'd standard
of manners, the high port and proud stomach, the regal embroidery of
style, &c.

[22] Of these rapidly-sketch'd hiatuses, the two which seem to me most
serious are, for one, the condition, absence, or perhaps the singular
abeyance, of moral conscientious fibre all through American society;
and, for another, the appaling depletion of women in their powers of
sane athletic maternity, their crowning attribute, and ever making the
woman, in loftiest spheres, superior to the man.

I have sometimes thought, indeed, that the sole avenue and means of a
reconstructed sociology depended, primarily, on a new birth, elevation,
expansion, invigoration of woman, affording, for races to come, (as the
conditions that antedate birth are indispensable,) a perfect motherhood.
Great, great, indeed, far greater than they know, is the sphere of
women. But doubtless the question of such new sociology all goes
together, includes many varied and complex influences and premises, and
the man as well as the woman, and the woman as well as the man.

[23] The question hinted here is one which time only can answer. Must
not the virtue of modern Individualism, continually enlarging, usurping
all, seriously affect, perhaps keep down entirely, in America, the like
of the ancient virtue of Patriotism, the fervid and absorbing love of
general country? I have no doubt myself that the two will merge, and
will mutually profit and brace each other, and that from them a greater
product, a third, will arise. But I feel that at present they and their
oppositions form a serious problem and paradox in the United States.

[24] "SHOOTING NIAGARA."--I was at first roused to much anger and
abuse by this essay from Mr. Carlyle, so insulting to the theory of
America--but happening to think afterwards how I had more than once been
in the like mood, during which his essay was evidently cast, and seen
persons and things in the same light, (indeed some might say there are
signs of the same feeling in these Vistas)--I have since read it again,
not only as a study, expressing as it does certain judgments from the
highest feudal point of view, but have read it with respect as coming
from an earnest soul, and as contributing certain sharp-cutting metallic
grains, which, if not gold or silver, may be good, hard, honest iron.

[25] For fear of mistake, I may as well distinctly specify, as
cheerfully included in the model and standard of these Vistas,
a practical, stirring, worldly, money-making, even materialistic
character. It is undeniable that our farms, stores, offices, dry-goods,
coal and groceries, enginery, cash-accounts, trades, earnings, markets,
&c., should be attended to in earnest, and actively pursued, just as
if they had a real and permanent existence. I perceive clearly that the
extreme business energy, and this almost maniacal appetite for wealth
prevalent in the United States, are parts of amelioration and progress,
indispensably needed to prepare the very results I demand. My theory
includes riches, and the getting of riches, and the amplest products,
power, activity, inventions, movements, &c. Upon them, as upon
substrata, I raise the edifice design'd in these Vistas.

[26] The whole present system of the officering and personnel of the
army and navy of these States, and the spirit and letter of their
trebly-aristocratic rules and regulations, is a monstrous exotic, a
nuisance and revolt, and belong here just as much as orders of nobility,
or the Pope's council of cardinals. I say if the present theory of
our army and navy is sensible and true, then the rest of America is an
unmitigated fraud.

[27] A: After the rest is satiated, all interest culminates in the field
of persons, and never flags there. Accordingly in this field have the
great poets and literatuses signally toil'd. They too, in all ages, all
lands, have been creators, fashioning, making types of men and women,
as Adam and Eve are made in the divine fable. Behold, shaped, bred by
orientalism, feudalism, through their long growth and culmination, and
breeding back in return--(when shall we have an equal series, typical of
democracy?)--behold, commencing in primal Asia, (apparently formulated,
in what beginning we know, in the gods of the mythologies, and coming
down thence,) a few samples out of the countless product, bequeath'd to
the moderns, bequeath'd to America as studies. For the men, Yudishtura,
Rama, Arjuna, Solomon, most of the Old and New Testament characters;
Achilles, Ulysses, Theseus, Prometheus, Hercules, Aeneas, Plutarch's
heroes; the Merlin of Celtic bards; the Cid, Arthur and his knights,
Siegfried and Hagen in the Nibelungen; Roland and Oliver; Roustam in
the Shah-Nemah; and so on to Milton's Satan, Cervantes' Don Quixote,
Shakspere's Hamlet, Richard II., Lear, Marc Antony, &c., and the modern
Faust. These, I say, are models, combined, adjusted to other standards
than America's, but of priceless value to her and hers.

Among women, the goddesses of the Egyptian, Indian and Greek
mythologies, certain Bible characters, especially the Holy Mother;
Cleopatra, Penelope; the portraits of Brunhelde and Chriemhilde in the
Nibelungen; Oriana, Una, &c.; the modern Consuelo, Walter Scott's Jeanie
and Effie Deans, &c., &c. (Yet woman portray'd or outlin'd at her best,
or as perfect human mother, does not hitherto, it seems to me, fully
appear in literature.)

[28] Note, to-day, an instructive, curious spectacle and conflict.
Science, (twin in its fields, of Democracy in its)--Science, testing
absolutely all thoughts, all works, has already burst well upon the
world--a sun, mounting, most illuminating, most glorious--surely never
again to set. But against it, deeply entrench'd, holding possession, yet
remains, (not only through the churches and schools, but by imaginative
literature, and unregenerate poetry,) the fossil theology of
the mythic-materialistic, superstitious, untaught and credulous,
fable-loving, primitive ages of humanity.

[29] It is to the development, identification, and general prevalence
of that fervid comradeship, (the adhesive love, at least rivaling the
amative love hitherto possessing imaginative literature, if not going
beyond it,) that I look for the counterbalance and offset of
our materialistic and vulgar American democracy, and for the
spiritualization thereof. Many will say it is a dream, and will not
follow my inferences: but I confidently expect a time when there will
be seen, running like a half-hid warp through all the myriad audible and
visible worldly interests of America, threads of manly friendship, fond
and loving, pure and sweet, strong and life-long, carried to degrees
hitherto unknown--not only giving tone to individual character, and
making it unprecedently emotional, muscular, heroic, and refined, but
having the deepest relations to general politics. I say democracy infers
such loving comradeship, as its most inevitable twin or counterpart,
without which it will be incomplete, in vain, and incapable of
perpetuating itself.

[30] I am reminded as I write that out of this very conscience, or idea
of conscience, of intense moral right, and in its name and strain'd
construction, the worst fanaticisms, wars, persecutions, murders, &c.,
have yet, in all lands, in the past, been broach'd, and have come to
their devilish fruition. Much is to be said--but I may say here, and
in response, that side by side with the unflagging stimulation of the
elements of religion and conscience must henceforth move with
equal sway, science, absolute reason, and the general proportionate
development of the whole man. These scientific facts, deductions, are
divine too--precious counted parts of moral civilization, and, with
physical health, indispensable to it, to prevent fanaticism. For
abstract religion, I perceive, is easily led astray, ever credulous, and
is capable of devouring, remorseless, like fire and flame. Conscience,
too, isolated from all else, and from the emotional nature, may but
attain the beauty and purity of glacial, snowy ice. We want, for these
States, for the general character, a cheerful, religious fervor, endued
with the ever-present modifications of the human emotions, friendship,
benevolence, with a fair field for scientific inquiry, the right of
individual judgment, and always the cooling influences of material

[31] The culmination and fruit of literary artistic expression, and
its final fields of pleasure for the human soul, are in metaphysics,
including the mysteries of the spiritual world, the soul itself, and the
question of the immortal continuation of our identity. In all ages, the
mind of man has brought up here--and always will. Here, at least, of
whatever race or era, we stand on common ground. Applause, too, is
unanimous, antique or modern. Those authors who work well in this
field--though their reward, instead of a handsome percentage, or
royalty, may be but simply the laurel-crown of the victors in the great
Olympic games--will be dearest to humanity, and their works, however
esthetically defective, will be treasur'd forever. The altitude of
literature and poetry has always been religion--and always will be. The
Indian Vedas, the Naçkas of Zoroaster, the Tal mud of the Jews, the Old
Testament, the Gospel of Christ and his disciples, Plato's works, the
Koran of Mohammed, the Edda of Snorro, and so on toward our own day, to
Swedenborg, and to the invaluable contributions of Leibnitz, Kant and
Hegel--these, with such poems only in which, (while singing well
of persons and events, of the passions of man, and the shows of the
material universe,) the religious tone, the consciousness of mystery,
the recognition of the future, of the unknown, of Deity over and under
all, and of the divine purpose, are never absent, but indirectly give
tone to all--exhibit literature's real heights and elevations, towering
up like the great mountains of the earth.

Standing on this ground--the last, the highest, only permanent
ground--and sternly criticising, from it, all works, either of the
literary, or any art, we have peremptorily to dismiss every pretensive
production, however fine its esthetic or intellectual points, which
violates or ignores, or even does not celebrate, the central divine
idea of All, suffusing universe, of eternal trains of purpose, in
the development, by however slow degrees, of the physical, moral, and
spiritual kosmos. I say he has studied, meditated to no profit,
whatever may be his mere erudition, who has not absorbed this simple
consciousness and faith. It is not entirely new--but it is for Democracy
to elaborate it, and look to build upon and expand from it, with
uncompromising reliance. Above the doors of teaching the inscription is
to appear, Though little or nothing can be absolutely known, perceiv'd,
except from a point of view which is evanescent, yet we know at least
one permanency, that Time and Space, in the will of God, furnish
successive chains, completions of material births and beginnings,
solve all discrepancies, fears and doubts, and eventually fulfil
happiness--and that the prophecy of those births, namely spiritual
results, throws the true arch over all teaching, all science. The local
considerations of sin, disease, deformity, ignorance, death, &c., and
their measurement by the superficial mind, and ordinary legislation and
theology, are to be met by science, boldly accepting, promulging this
faith, and planting the seeds of superber laws--of the explication of
the physical universe through the spiritual--and clearing the way for a
religion, sweet and unimpugnable alike to little child or great savan.


_Not the whole matter, but some side facts worth conning to-day and any

I consider the war of attempted secession, 1860-'65, not as a struggle
of two distinct and separate peoples, but a conflict (often happening,
and very fierce) between the passions and paradoxes of one and the same
identity--perhaps the only terms on which that identity could really
become fused, homogeneous and lasting. The origin and conditions out
of which it arose, are full of lessons, full of warnings yet to the
Republic--and always will be. The underlying and principal of those
origins are yet singularly ignored. The Northern States were really
just as responsible for that war, (in its precedents, foundations,
instigations,) as the South. Let me try to give my view. From the age of
21 to 40, (1840-'60,) I was interested in the political movements of the
land, not so much as a participant, but as an observer, and a regular
voter at the elections. I think I was conversant with the springs of
action, and their workings, not only in New York city and Brooklyn,
but understood them in the whole country, as I had made leisurely tours
through all the middle States, and partially through the western and
southern, and down to New Orleans, in which city I resided for some
time. (I was there at the close of the Mexican war--saw and talk'd with
General Taylor, and the other generals and officers, who were feted and
detain'd several days on their return victorious from that expedition.)

Of course many and very contradictory things, specialties, developments,
constitutional views, &c., went to make up the origin of the war--but
the most significant general fact can be best indicated and stated as
follows: For twenty-five years previous to the outbreak, the controling
"Democratic" nominating conventions of our Republic--starting from their
primaries in wards or districts, and so expanding to counties,
powerful cities, States, and to the great Presidential nominating
conventions--were getting to represent and be composed of more and more
putrid and dangerous materials. Let me give a schedule, or list, of
one of these representative conventions for a long time before, and
inclusive of, that which nominated Buchanan. (Remember they had come to
be the fountains and tissues of the American body politic, forming, as
it were, the whole blood, legislation, office-holding, &c.) One of these
conventions, from 1840 to '60, exhibited a spectacle such as could
never be seen except in our own age and in these States. The members who
composed it were, seven-eighths of them, the meanest kind of bawling and
blowing office-holders, office-seekers, pimps, malignants, conspirators,
murderers, fancy-men, custom-house clerks, contractors, kept-editors,
spaniels well-train'd to carry and fetch, jobbers, infidels,
disunionists, terrorists, mail-riflers, slave-catchers, pushers of
slavery, creatures of the President, creatures of would-be Presidents,
spies, bribers, compromisers, lobbyers, sponges, ruin'd sports,
expell'd gamblers, policy-backers, monte-dealers, duellists, carriers
of conceal'd weapons, deaf men, pimpled men, scarr'd inside with vile
disease, gaudy outside with gold chains made from the people's money
and harlots' money twisted together; crawling, serpentine men, the lousy
combings and born freedom-sellers of the earth. And whence came they?
From back-yards and bar-rooms; from out of the custom-houses, marshals'
offices, post-offices, and gambling-hells; from the President's house,
the jail, the station-house; from unnamed by-places, where devilish
disunion was hatch'd at midnight; from political hearses, and from the
coffins inside, and from the shrouds inside of the coffins; from the
tumors and abscesses of the land; from the skeletons and skulls in the
vaults of the federal almshouses; and from the running sores of the
great cities. Such, I say, form'd, or absolutely controll'd the forming
of, the entire personnel, the atmosphere, nutriment and chyle, of our
municipal, State, and National politics--substantially permeating,
handling, deciding, and wielding everything--legislation, nominations,
elections, "public sentiment," &c.--while the great masses of the
people, farmers, mechanics, and traders, were helpless in their gripe.
These conditions were mostly prevalent in the north and west, and
especially in New York and Philadelphia cities; and the southern
leaders, (bad enough, but of a far higher order,) struck hands and
affiliated with, and used them. Is it strange that a thunder-storm
follow'd such morbid and stifling cloud-strata?

I say then, that what, as just outlined, heralded, and made the ground
ready for secession revolt, ought to be held up, through all the future,
as the most instructive lesson in American political history--the most
significant warning and beacon-light to coming generations. I say
that the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth terms of the American
Presidency have shown that the villainy and shallowness of rulers
(back'd by the machinery of great parties) are just as eligible to these
States as to any foreign despotism, kingdom, or empire--there is not a
bit of difference. History is to record those three Presidentiads, and
especially the administrations of Fillmore and Buchanan, as so far our
topmost warning and shame. Never were publicly display'd more deform'd,
mediocre, snivelling, unreliable, false-hearted men. Never were these
States so insulted, and attempted to be betray'd. All the main purposes
for which the government was establish'd were openly denied. The
perfect equality of slavery with freedom was flauntingly preach'd in the
north--nay, the superiority of slavery. The slave trade was proposed
to be renew'd. Everywhere frowns and misunderstandings--everywhere
exasperations and humiliations. (The slavery contest is settled--and the
war is long over--yet do not those putrid conditions, too many of them,
still exist? still result in diseases, fevers, wounds--not of war and
army hospitals--but the wounds and diseases of peace?)

Out of those generic influences, mainly in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio,
&c., arose the attempt at disunion. To philosophical examination,
the malignant fever of that war shows its embryonic sources, and
the original nourishment of its life and growth, in the north. I say
secession, below the surface, originated and was brought to maturity
in the free States. I allude to the score of years preceding 1860. My
deliberate opinion is now, that if at the opening of the contest
the abstract duality-question of _slavery and quiet_ could have been
submitted to a direct popular vote, as against their opposite, they
would have triumphantly carried the day in a majority of the northern
States--in the large cities, leading off with New York and Philadelphia,
by tremendous majorities. The events of '61 amazed everybody north and
south, and burst all prophecies and calculations like bubbles. But even
then, and during the whole war, the stern fact remains that (not only
did the north put it down, but) _the secession cause had numerically
just as many sympathizers in the free as in the rebel States_.

As to slavery, abstractly and practically, (its idea, and the
determination to establish and expand it, especially in the new
territories, the future America,) it is too common, I repeat, to
identify it exclusively with the south. In fact down to the opening of
the war, the whole country had about an equal hand in it. The north had
at least been just as guilty, if not more guilty; and the east and west
had. The former Presidents and Congresses had been guilty--the governors
and legislatures of every northern State had been guilty, and the mayors
of New York and other northern cities had all been guilty--their hands
were all stain'd. And as the conflict took decided shape, it is hard
to tell which class, the leading southern or northern disunionists,
was more stunn'd and disappointed at the non-action of the free-State
secession element, so largely existing and counted on by those leaders,
both sections.

So much for that point, and for the north. As to the inception and
direct instigation of the war, in the south itself, I shall not attempt
interiors or complications. Behind all, the idea that it was from
a resolute and arrogant determination on the part of the extreme
slaveholders, the Calhounites, to carry the States-rights' portion
of the constitutional compact to its farthest verge, and nationalize
slavery, or else disrupt the Union, and found a new empire, with slavery
for its corner-stone, was and is undoubtedly the true theory. (If
successful, this attempt might--I am not sure, but it might--have
destroy'd not only our American republic, in anything like first-class
proportions, in itself and its prestige, but for ages at least, the
cause of Liberty and Equality everywhere--and would have been the
greatest triumph of reaction, and the severest blow to political and
every other freedom, possible to conceive. Its worst result would have
inured to the southern States themselves.) That our national democratic
experiment, principle, and machinery, could triumphantly sustain such a
shock, and that the Constitution could weather it, like a ship a storm,
and come out of it as sound and whole as before, is by far the most
signal proof yet of the stability of that experiment, Democracy, and of
those principles, and that Constitution.

Of the war itself, we know in the ostent what has been done. The numbers
of the dead and wounded can be told or approximated, the debt posted and
put on record, the material events narrated, &c. Meantime, elections go
on, laws are pass'd, political parties struggle, issue their platforms,
&c., just the same as before. But immensest results, not only in
politics, but in literature, poems, and sociology, are doubtless waiting
yet unform'd in the future. How long they will wait I cannot tell.
The pageant of history's retrospect shows us, ages since, all Europe
marching on the crusades, those arm'd uprisings of the people, stirr'd
by a mere idea, to grandest attempt--and, when once baffled in it,
returning, at intervals, twice, thrice, and again. An unsurpass'd series
of revolutionary events, influences. Yet it took over two hundred years
for the seeds of the crusades to germinate, before beginning even to
sprout. Two hundred years they lay, sleeping, not dead, but dormant in
the ground. Then, out of them, unerringly, arts, travel, navigation,
politics, literature, freedom, the spirit of adventure, inquiry, all
arose, grew, and steadily sped on to what we see at present. Far
back there, that huge agitation-struggle of the crusades stands,
as undoubtedly the embryo, the start, of the high preeminence of
experiment, civilization and enterprise which the European nations have
since sustain'd, and of which these States are the heirs.

Another illustration--(history is full of them, although the war itself,
the victory of the Union, and the relations of our equal States, present
features of which there are no precedents in the past.) The conquest of
England eight centuries ago, by the Franco-Normans--the obliteration of
the old, (in many respects so needing obliteration)--the Domesday Book,
and the repartition of the land--the old impedimenta removed, even by
blood and ruthless violence, and a new, progressive genesis establish'd,
new seeds sown--time has proved plain enough that, bitter as they
were, all these were the most salutary series of revolutions that could
possibly have happen'd. Out of them, and by them mainly, have come,
out of Albic, Roman and Saxon England--and without them could not have
come--not only the England of the 500 years down to the present, and of
the present--but these States. Nor, except for that terrible dislocation
and overturn, would these States, as they are, exist to-day.

It is certain to me that the United States, by virtue of that war and
its results, and through that and them only, are now ready to enter, and
must certainly enter, upon their genuine career in history, as no more
torn and divided in their spinal requisites, but a great homogeneous
Nation--free States all--a moral and political unity in variety, such
as Nature shows in her grandest physical works, and as much greater than
any mere work of Nature, as the moral and political, the work of man,
his mind, his soul, are, in their loftiest sense, greater than the
merely physical. Out of that war not only has the nationality of the
States escaped from being strangled, but more than any of the rest, and,
in my opinion, more than the north itself, the vital heart and breath of
the south have escaped as from the pressure of a general nightmare,
and are henceforth to enter on a life, development, and active freedom,
whose realities are certain in the future, notwithstanding all the
southern vexations of the hour--a development which could not possibly
have been achiev'd on any less terms, or by any other means than that
grim lesson, or something equivalent to it. And I predict that the south
is yet to outstrip the north.


PREFACE, 1855 To first issue of Leaves of Grass. _Brooklyn, N.Y._

America does not repel the past, or what the past has produced under
its forms, or amid other politics, or the idea of castes, or the old
religions--accepts the lesson with calmness--is not impatient because
the slough still sticks to opinions and manners in literature, while the
life which served its requirements has passed into the new life of the
new forms--perceives that the corpse is slowly borne from the eating and
sleeping rooms of the house--perceives that it waits a little while
in the door--that it was fittest for its days--that its action has
descended to the stalwart and well-shaped heir who approaches--and that
he shall be fittest for his days.

The Americans of all nations at any time upon the earth, have
probably the fullest poetical nature. The United States themselves are
essentially the greatest poem. In the history of the earth hitherto,
the largest and most stirring appear tame and orderly to their ampler
largeness and stir. Here at last is something in the doings of man that
corresponds with the broadcast doings of the day and night. Here
is action untied from strings, necessarily blind to particulars and
details, magnificently moving in masses. Here is the hospitality which
for ever indicates heroes. Here the performance, disdaining the trivial,
unapproach'd in the tremendous audacity of its crowds and groupings, and
the push of its perspective, spreads with crampless and flowing breadth,
and showers its prolific and splendid extravagance. One sees it must
indeed own the riches of the summer and winter, and need never be
bankrupt while corn grows from the ground, or the orchards drop apples,
or the bays contain fish, or men beget children upon women.

Other states indicate themselves in their deputies--but the genius of
the United States is not best or most in its executives or legislatures,
nor in its ambassadors or authors, or colleges or churches or parlors,
nor even in its newspapers or inventors--but always most in the common
people, south, north, west, east, in all its States, through all its
mighty amplitude. The largeness of the nation, however, were monstrous
without a corresponding largeness and generosity of the spirit of the
citizen. Not swarming states, nor streets and steamships, nor prosperous
business, nor farms, nor capital, nor learning, may suffice for the
ideal of man--nor suffice the poet. No reminiscences may suffice
either. A live nation can always cut a deep mark, and can have the best
authority the cheapest--namely, from its own soul. This is the sum of
the profitable uses of individuals or states, and of present action and
grandeur, and of the subjects of poets. (As if it were necessary to
trot back generation after generation to the eastern records! As if the
beauty and sacredness of the demonstrable must fall behind that of the
mythical! As if men do not make their mark out of any times! As if the
opening of the western continent by discovery, and what has transpired
in North and South America, were less than the small theatre of the
antique, or the aimless sleep-walking of the middle ages!) The pride of
the United States leaves the wealth and finesse of the cities, and all
returns of commerce and agriculture, and all the magnitude of geography
or shows of exterior victory, to enjoy the sight and realization of
full-sized men, or one full-sized man unconquerable and simple. The
American poets are to enclose old and new, for America is the race of
races. The expression of the American poet is to be transcendent and
new. It is to be indirect, and not direct or descriptive or epic. Its
quality goes through these to much more. Let the age and wars of other
nations be chanted, and their eras and characters be illustrated, and
that finish the verse. Not so the great psalm of the republic. Here
the theme is creative, and has vista. Whatever stagnates in the flat
of custom or obedience or legislation, the great poet never stagnates.
Obedience does not master him, he masters it. High up out of reach
he stands, turning a concentrated light--he turns the pivot with
his finger--he baffles the swiftest runners as he stands, and easily
overtakes and envelopes them. The time straying toward infidelity and
confections and persiflage he withholds by steady faith. Faith is the
antiseptic of the soul--it pervades the common people and preserves
them--they never give up believing and expecting and trusting. There
is that indescribable freshness and unconsciousness about an illiterate
person, that humbles and mocks the power of the noblest expressive
genius. The poet sees for a certainty how one not a great artist may be
just as sacred and perfect as the greatest artist.

The power to destroy or remould is freely used by the greatest poet, but
seldom the power of attack. What is past is past. If he does not expose
superior models, and prove himself by every step he takes, he is not
what is wanted. The presence of the great poet conquers--not parleying,
or struggling, or any prepared attempts. Now he has passed that way, see
after him! There is not left any vestige of despair, or misanthropy, or
cunning, or exclusiveness, or the ignominy of a nativity or color, or
delusion of hell or the necessity of hell--and no man thenceforward
shall be degraded for ignorance or weakness or sin. The greatest poet
hardly knows pettiness or triviality. If he breathes into anything that
was before thought small, it dilates with the grandeur and life of the
universe. He is a seer--he is individual--he is complete in himself--the
others are as good as he, only he sees it, and they do not. He is
not one of the chorus--he does not stop for any regulation--he is the
president of regulation. What the eyesight does to the rest, he does
to the rest. Who knows the curious mystery of the eyesight? The other
senses corroborate themselves, but this is removed from any proof but
its own, and foreruns the identities of the spiritual world. A
single glance of it mocks all the investigations of man, and all
the instruments and books of the earth, and all reasoning. What
is marvellous? what is unlikely? what is impossible or baseless or
vague--after you have once just open'd the space of a peach-pit, and
given audience to far and near, and to the sunset, and had all things
enter with electric swiftness, softly and duly, without confusion or
jostling or jam?

The land and sea, the animals, fishes and birds, the sky of heaven and
the orbs, the forests, mountains and rivers, are not small themes--but
folks expect of the poet to indicate more than the beauty and dignity
which always attach to dumb real objects--they expect him to indicate
the path between reality and their souls. Men and women perceive the
beauty well enough--probably as well as he. The passionate tenacity of
hunters, woodmen, early risers, cultivators of gardens and orchards and
fields, the love of healthy women for the manly form, seafaring persons,
drivers of horses, the passion for light and the open air, all is an old
varied sign of the unfailing perception of beauty, and of a residence
of the poetic in out-door people. They can never be assisted by poets
to perceive--some may, but they never can. The poetic quality is not
marshal'd in rhyme or uniformity, or abstract addresses to things, nor
in melancholy complaints or good precepts, but is the life of these
and much else, and is in the soul. The profit of rhyme is that it drops
seeds of a sweeter and more luxuriant rhyme, and of uniformity that it
conveys itself into its own roots in the ground out of sight. The rhyme
and uniformity of perfect poems show the free growth of metrical laws,
and bud from them as unerringly and loosely as lilacs and roses on a
bush, and take shapes as compact as the shapes of chestnuts and oranges,
and melons and pears, and shed the perfume impalpable to form. The
fluency and ornaments of the finest poems or music or orations or
recitations, are not independent but dependent. All beauty comes
from beautiful blood and a beautiful brain. If the greatnesses are
in conjunction in a man or woman, it is enough--the fact will prevail
through the universe; but the gaggery and gilt of a million years will
not prevail. Who troubles himself about his ornaments or fluency is
lost. This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals,
despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the
stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants,
argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the
people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or
number of men--go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the
young, and with the mothers of families--re-examine all you have been
told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults
your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the
richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its
lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion
and joint of your body. The poet shall not spend his time in unneeded
work. He shall know that the ground is already plough'd and manured;
others may not know it, but he shall. He shall go directly to the
creation. His trust shall master the trust of everything he touches--and
shall master all attachment.

The known universe has one complete lover, and that is the greatest
poet. He consumes an eternal passion, and is indifferent which chance
happens, and which possible contingency of fortune or misfortune, and
persuades daily and hourly his delicious pay. What balks or breaks
others is fuel for his burning progress to contact and amorous joy.
Other proportions of the reception of pleasure dwindle to nothing to his
proportions. All expected from heaven or from the highest, he is rapport
with in the sight of the daybreak, or the scenes of the winter woods,
or the presence of children playing, or with his arm round the neck of a
man or woman. His love above all love has leisure and expanse--he leaves
room ahead of himself. He is no irresolute or suspicious lover--he is
sure--he scorns intervals. His experience and the showers and thrills
are not for nothing. Nothing can jar him--suffering and darkness
cannot--death and fear cannot. To him complaint and jealousy and envy
are corpses buried and rotten in the earth--he saw them buried. The
sea is not surer of the shore, or the shore of the sea, than he is the
fruition of his love, and of all perfection and beauty.

The fruition of beauty is no chance of miss or hit--it is as inevitable
as life--it is exact and plumb as gravitation. From the eyesight
proceeds another eyesight, and from the hearing proceeds another
hearing, and from the voice proceeds another voice, eternally curious of
the harmony of things with man. These understand the law of perfection
in masses and floods--that it is profuse and impartial--that there is
not a minute of the light or dark, nor an acre of the earth and sea,
without it--nor any direction of the sky, nor any trade or employment,
nor any turn of events. This is the reason that about the proper
expression of beauty there is precision and balance. One part does not
need to be thrust above another. The best singer is not the one who has
the most lithe and powerful organ. The pleasure of poems is not in them
that take the handsomest measure and sound.

Without effort, and without exposing in the least how it is done, the
greatest poet brings the spirit of any or all events and passions and
scenes and persons, some more and some less, to bear on your individual
character as you hear or read. To do this well is to compete with the
laws that pursue and follow Time. What is the purpose must surely be
there, and the clue of it must be there--and the faintest indication is
the indication of the best, and then becomes the clearest indication.
Past and present and future are not disjoin'd but join'd. The greatest
poet forms the consistence of what is to be, from what has been and is.
He drags the dead out of their coffins and stands them again on their
feet. He says to the past, Rise and walk before me that I may realize
you. He learns the lesson--he places himself where the future becomes
present. The greatest poet does not only dazzle his rays over character
and scenes and passions--he finally ascends, and finishes all--he
exhibits the pinnacles that no man can tell what they are for, or
what is beyond--he glows a moment on the extremest verge. He is most
wonderful in his last half-hidden smile or frown; by that flash of the
moment of parting the one that sees it shall be encouraged or terrified
afterward for many years. The greatest poet does not moralize or make
applications of morals--he knows the soul. The soul has that measureless
pride which consists in never acknowledging any lessons or deductions
but its own. But it has sympathy as measureless as its pride, and
the one balances the other, and neither can stretch too far while it
stretches in company with the other. The inmost secrets of art sleep
with the twain. The greatest poet has lain close betwixt both, and they
are vital in his style and thoughts.

The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of
letters, is simplicity. Nothing is better than simplicity--nothing can
make up for excess, or for the lack of definiteness. To carry on the
heave of impulse and pierce intellectual depths and give all subjects
their articulations, are powers neither common nor very uncommon. But
to speak in literature with the perfect rectitude and insouciance of
the movements of animals, and the unimpeachableness of the sentiment of
trees in the woods and grass by the roadside, is the flawless triumph
of art. If you have look'd on him who has achiev'd it you have look'd
on one of the masters of the artists of all nations and times. You
shall not contemplate the flight of the gray gull over the bay, or the
mettlesome action of the blood horse, or the tall leaning of sunflowers
on their stalk, or the appearance of the sun journeying through heaven,
or the appearance of the moon afterward, with any more satisfaction than
you shall contemplate him. The great poet has less a mark'd style,
and is more the channel of thoughts and things without increase or
diminution, and is the free channel of himself. He swears to his art, I
will not be meddlesome, I will not have in my writing any elegance, or
effect, or originality, to hang in the way between me and the rest like
curtains. I will have nothing hang in the way, not the richest curtains.
What I tell I tell for precisely what it is. Let who may exalt or
startle or fascinate or soothe, I will have purposes as health or heat
or snow has, and be as regardless of observation. What I experience or
portray shall go from my composition without a shred of my composition.
You shall stand by my side and look in the mirror with me.

The old red blood and stainless gentility of great poets will be proved
by their unconstraint. A heroic person walks at his ease through and
out of that custom or precedent or authority that suits him not. Of the
traits of the brotherhood of first-class writers, savans, musicians,
inventors and artists, nothing is finer than silent defiance advancing
from new free forms. In the need of poems, philosophy, politics,
mechanism, science, behavior, the craft of art, an appropriate native
grand opera, shipcraft, or any craft, he is greatest for ever and ever
who contributes the greatest original practical example. The cleanest
expression is that which finds no sphere worthy of itself, and makes

The messages of great poems to each man and woman are, Come to us on
equal terms, only then can you understand us. We are no better than
you, what we inclose you inclose, what we enjoy you may enjoy. Did
you suppose there could be only one Supreme? We affirm there can be
unnumber'd Supremes, and that one does not countervail another any more
than one eyesight countervails another--and that men can be good or
grand only of the consciousness of their supremacy within them. What
do you think is the grandeur of storms and dismemberments, and the
deadliest battles and wrecks, and the wildest fury of the elements, and
the power of the sea, and the motion of Nature, and the throes of human
desires, and dignity and hate and love? It is that something in the
soul which says, Rage on, whirl on, I tread master here and
everywhere--Master of the spasms of the sky and of the shatter of the
sea, Master of nature and passion and death, and of all terror and all

The American bards shall be mark'd for generosity and affection, and
for encouraging competitors. They shall be Kosmos, without monopoly or
secrecy, glad to pass anything to any one--hungry for equals night and
day. They shall not be careful of riches and privilege--they shall be
riches and privilege--they shall perceive who the most affluent man
is. The most affluent man is he that confronts all the shows he sees
by equivalents out of the stronger wealth of himself. The American bard
shall delineate no class of persons, nor one or two out of the strata of
interests, nor love most nor truth most, nor the soul most, nor the body
most--and not be for the Eastern States more than the Western, or the
Northern States more than the Southern.

Exact science and its practical movements are no checks on the
greatest poet, but always his encouragement and support. The outset and
remembrance are there--there the arms that lifted him first, and braced
him best--there he returns after all his goings and comings. The
sailor and traveler--the anatomist, chemist, astronomer, geologist,
phrenologist, spiritualist, mathematician, historian, and lexicographer,
are not poets, but they are the lawgivers of poets, and their
construction underlies the structure of every perfect poem. No matter
what rises or is utter'd, they sent the seed of the conception of it--of
them and by them stand the visible proofs of souls. If there shall be
love and content between the father and the son, and if the greatness
of the son is the exuding of the greatness of the father, there shall be
love between the poet and the man of demonstrable science. In the beauty
of poems are henceforth the tuft and final applause of science.

Great is the faith of the flush of knowledge, and of the investigation
of the depths of qualities and things. Cleaving and circling here swells
the soul of the poet, yet is president of itself always. The depths
are fathomless, and therefore calm. The innocence and nakedness are
resumed--they are neither modest nor immodest. The whole theory of
the supernatural, and all that was twined with it or educed out of it,
departs as a dream. What has ever happen'd--what happens, and whatever
may or shall happen, the vital laws inclose all. They are sufficient for
any case and for all cases--none to be hurried or retarded--any special
miracle of affairs or persons inadmissible in the vast clear scheme
where every motion and every spear of grass, and the frames and spirits
of men and women and all that concerns them, are unspeakably perfect
miracles, all referring to all, and each distinct and in its place. It
is also not consistent with the reality of the soul to admit that there
is anything in the known universe more divine than men and women.

Men and women, and the earth and all upon it, are to be taken as they
are, and the investigation of their past and present and future shall
be unintermitted, and shall be done with perfect candor. Upon this basis
philosophy speculates, ever looking towards the poet, ever regarding the
eternal tendencies of all toward happiness, never inconsistent with what
is clear to the senses and to the soul. For the eternal tendencies of
all toward happiness make the only point of sane philosophy. Whatever
comprehends less than that--whatever is less than the laws of light and
of astronomical motion--or less than the laws that follow the thief,
the liar, the glutton and the drunkard, through this life and doubtless
afterward--or less than vast stretches of time, or the slow formation of
density, or the patient upheaving of strata--is of no account. Whatever
would put God in a poem or system of philosophy as contending against
some being or influence, is also of no account. Sanity and ensemble
characterize the great master--spoilt in one principle, all is spoilt.
The great master has nothing to do with miracles. He sees health
for himself in being one of the mass--he sees the hiatus in singular
eminence. To the perfect shape comes common ground. To be under the
general law is great, for that is to correspond with it. The master
knows that he is unspeakably great, and that all are unspeakably
great--that nothing, for instance, is greater than to conceive children,
and bring them up well--that to _be_ is just as great as to perceive or

In the make of the great masters the idea of political liberty is
indispensable. Liberty takes the adherence of heroes wherever man and
woman exist--but never takes any adherence or welcome from the rest more
than from poets. They are the voice and exposition of liberty. They out
of ages are worthy the grand idea--to them it is confided, and they
must sustain it. Nothing has precedence of it, and nothing can warp or
degrade it.

As the attributes of the poets of the kosmos concentre in the real
body, and in the pleasure of things, they possess the superiority of
genuineness over all fiction and romance. As they emit themselves, facts
are shower'd over with light--the daylight is lit with more volatile
light--the deep between the setting and rising sun goes deeper many
fold. Each precise object or condition or combination or process
exhibits a beauty--the multiplication table its--old age its--the
carpenter's trade its--the grand opera its--the huge-hull'd clean-shap'd
New York clipper at sea under steam or full sail gleams with unmatch'd
beauty--the American circles and large harmonies of government gleam
with theirs--and the commonest definite intentions and actions with
theirs. The poets of the kosmos advance through all interpositions and
coverings and turmoils and stratagems to first principles. They are of
use--they dissolve poverty from its need, and riches from its conceit.
You large proprietor, they say, shall not realize or perceive more than
any one else. The owner of the library is not he who holds a legal title
to it, having bought and paid for it. Any one and every one is owner of
the library, (indeed he or she alone is owner,) who can read the same
through all the varieties of tongues and subjects and styles, and in
whom they enter with ease, and make supple and powerful and rich and

These American States, strong and healthy and accomplish'd, shall
receive no pleasure from violations of natural models, and must not
permit them. In paintings or mouldings or carvings in mineral or wood,
or in the illustrations of books or newspapers, or in the patterns of
woven stuffs, or anything to beautify rooms or furniture or costumes, or
to put upon cornices or monuments, or on the prows or sterns of ships,
or to put anywhere before the human eye indoors or out, that which
distorts honest shapes, or which creates unearthly beings or places or
contingencies, is a nuisance and revolt. Of the human form especially,
it is so great it must never be made ridiculous. Of ornaments to a work
nothing outre can be allow'd--but those ornaments can be allow'd that
conform to the perfect facts of the open air, and that flow out of the
nature of the work, and come irrepressibly from it, and are necessary
to the completion of the work. Most works are most beautiful without
ornament. Exaggerations will be revenged in human physiology. Clean and
vigorous children are jetted and conceiv'd only in those communities
where the models of natural forms are public every day. Great genius and
the people of these States must never be demean'd to romances. As soon
as histories are properly told, no more need of romances.

The great poets are to be known by the absence in them of tricks, and by
the justification of perfect personal candor. All faults may be forgiven
of him who has perfect candor. Henceforth let no man of us lie, for we
have seen that openness wins the inner and outer world, and that there
is no single exception, and that never since our earth gather'd itself
in a mass have deceit or subterfuge or prevarication attracted its
smallest particle or the faintest tinge of a shade--and that through the
enveloping wealth and rank of a state, or the whole republic of states,
a sneak or sly person shall be discover'd and despised--and that the
soul has never once been fool'd and never can be fool'd--and thrift
without the loving nod of the soul is only a foetid puff--and there
never grew up in any of the continents of the globe, nor upon any planet
or satellite, nor in that condition which precedes the birth of babes,
nor at any time during the changes of life, nor in any stretch of
abeyance or action of vitality, nor in any process of formation or
reformation anywhere, a being whose instinct hated the truth.

Extreme caution or prudence, the soundest organic health, large hope and
comparison and fondness for women and children, large alimentiveness
and destuctiveness and causality, with a perfect sense of the oneness of
nature, and the propriety of the same spirit applied to human affairs,
are called up of the float of the brain of the world to be parts of
the greatest poet from his birth out of his mother's womb, and from her
birth out of her mother's. Caution seldom goes far enough. It has been
thought that the prudent citizen was the citizen who applied himself to
solid gains, and did well for himself and for his family, and completed
a lawful life without debt or crime. The greatest poet sees and admits
these economies as he sees the economies of food and sleep, but has
higher notions of prudence than to think he gives much when he gives
a few slight attentions at the latch of the gate. The premises of the
prudence of life are not the hospitality of it, or the ripeness and
harvest of it. Beyond the independence of a little sum laid aside for
burial-money, and of a few clap-boards around and shingles overhead on a
lot of American soil own'd, and the easy dollars that supply the year's
plain clothing and meals, the melancholy prudence of the abandonment
of such a great being as a man is, to the toss and pallor of years of
money-making, with all their scorching days and icy nights, and all
their stifling deceits and underhand dodgings, or infinitesimals of
parlors, or shameless stuffing while others starve, and all the loss of
the bloom and odor of the earth, and of the flowers and atmosphere, and
of the sea, and of the true taste of the women and men you pass or
have to do with in youth or middle age, and the issuing sickness and
desperate revolt at the close of a life without elevation or naivety,
(even if you have achiev'd a secure 10,000 a year, or election to
Congress or the Governorship,) and the ghastly chatter of a death
without serenity or majesty, is the great fraud upon modern civilization
and forethought, blotching the surface and system which civilization
undeniably drafts, and moistening with tears the immense features it
spreads and spreads with such velocity before the reach'd kisses of the

Ever the right explanation remains to be made about prudence. The
prudence of the mere wealth and respectability of the most esteem'd life
appears too faint for the eye to observe at all, when little and large
alike drop quietly aside at the thought of the prudence suitable for
immortality. What is the wisdom that fills the thinness of a year, or
seventy or eighty years--to the wisdom spaced out by ages, and coming
back at a certain time with strong reinforcements and rich presents,
and the clear faces of wedding-guests as far as you can look, in every
direction, running gaily toward you? Only the soul is of itself--all
else has reference to what ensues. All that a person does or thinks is
of consequence. Nor can the push of charity or personal force ever be
anything else' than the profoundest reason, whether it brings argument
to hand or no. No specification is necessary--to add or subtract or
divide is in vain. Little or big, learn'd or unlearn'd, white or black,
legal or illegal, sick or well, from the first inspiration down the
windpipe to the last expiration out of it, all that a male or female
does that is vigorous and benevolent and clean is so much sure profit
to him or her in the unshakable order of the universe, and through the
whole scope of it forever. The prudence of the greatest poet answers
at last the craving and glut of the soul, puts off nothing, permits
no let-up for its own case or any case, has no particular sabbath or
judgment day, divides not the living from the dead, or the righteous
from the unrighteous, is satisfied with the present, matches every
thought or act by its correlative, and knows no possible forgiveness or
deputed atonement.

The direct trial of him who would be the greatest poet is to-day. If
he does not flood himself with the immediate age as with vast oceanic
tides--if he be not himself the age transfigur'd, and if to him is not
open'd the eternity which gives similitude to all periods and locations
and processes, and animate and inanimate forms, and which is the bond of
time, and rises up from its inconceivable vagueness and infiniteness
in the swimming shapes of to-day, and is held by the ductile anchors of
life, and makes the present spot the passage from what was to what shall
be, and commits itself to the representation of this wave of an hour,
and this one of the sixty beautiful children of the wave--let him merge
in the general run, and wait his development.

Still the final test of poems, or any character or work, remains. The
prescient poet projects himself centuries ahead, and judges performer or
performance after the changes of time. Does it live through them? Does
it still hold on untired? Will the same style, and the direction of
genius to similar points, be satisfactory now? Have the marches of tens
and hundreds and thousands of years made willing detours to the right
hand and the left hand for his sake? Is he beloved long and long after
he is buried? Does the young man think often of him? and the young woman
think often of him? and do the middleaged and the old think of him?

A great poem is for ages and ages in common, and for all degrees and
complexions, and all departments and sects, and for a woman as much as a
man, and a man as much as a woman. A great poem is no finish to a man or
woman, but rather a beginning. Has any one fancied he could sit at last
under some due authority, and rest satisfied with explanations, and
realize, and be content and full? To no such terminus does the greatest
poet bring--he brings neither cessation nor shelter'd fatness and ease.
The touch of him, like Nature, tells in action. Whom he takes he
takes with firm sure grasp into live regions previously
unattain'd--thenceforward is no rest--they see the space and ineffable
sheen that turn the old spots and lights into dead vacuums. Now there
shall be a man cohered out of tumult and chaos--the elder encourages the
younger and shows him how--they two shall launch off fearlessly together
till the new world fits an orbit for itself, and looks unabash'd on the
lesser orbits of the stars, and sweeps through the ceaseless rings, and
shall never be quiet again.

There will soon be no more priests. Their work is done. A new order
shall arise, and they shall be the priests of man, and every man shall
be his own priest. They shall find their inspiration in real objects
to-day, symptoms of the past and future. They shall not deign to defend
immortality or God, or the perfection of things, or liberty, or the
exquisite beauty and reality of the soul. They shall arise in America,
and be responded to from the remainder of the earth.

The English language befriends the grand American expression--it is
brawny enough, and limber and full enough. On the tough stock of a race
who through all change of circumstance was never without the idea of
political liberty, which is the animus of all liberty, it has attracted
the terms of daintier and gayer and subtler and more elegant tongues.
It is the powerful language of resistance--it is the dialect of common
sense. It is the speech of the proud and melancholy races, and of
all who aspire. It is the chosen tongue to express growth, faith,
self-esteem, freedom, justice, equality, friendliness, amplitude,
prudence, decision, and courage. It is the medium that shall wellnigh
express the inexpressible.

No great literature, nor any like style of behavior or oratory, or
social intercourse or household arrangements, or public institutions,
or the treatment by bosses of employ'd people, nor executive detail,
or detail of the army and navy, nor spirit of legislation or courts,
or police or tuition or architecture, or songs or amusements, can long
elude the jealous and passionate instinct of American standards. Whether
or no the sign appears from the mouths of the people, it throbs a live
interrogation in every freeman's and freewoman's heart, after that which
passes by, or this built to remain. Is it uniform with my country?
Are its disposals without ignominious distinctions? Is it for the
ever-growing communes of brothers and lovers, large, well united, proud,
beyond the old models, generous beyond all models? Is it something grown
fresh out of the fields, or drawn from the sea for use to me to-day
here? I know that what answers for me, an American, in Texas, Ohio,
Canada, must answer for any individual or nation that serves for a part
of my materials. Does this answer? Is it for the nursing of the young of
the republic? Does it solve readily with the sweet milk of the nipples
of the breasts of the Mother of Many Children?

America prepares with Composure and good-will for the visitors that have
sent word. It is not intellect that is to be their warrant and welcome.
The talented, the artist, the ingenious, the editor, the statesman, the
erudite, are not unappreciated--they fall in their place and do their
work. The soul of the nation also does its work. It rejects none, it
permits all. Only toward the like of itself will it advance half-way. An
individual is as superb as a nation when he has the qualities which make
a superb nation. The soul of the largest and wealthiest and proudest
nation may well go half-way to meet that of its poets.

PREFACE, 1872 To As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free Now Thou Mother with
thy Equal Brood, _in permanent edition_.

The impetus and ideas urging me, for some years past, to an utterance,
or attempt at utterance, of New World songs, and an epic of Democracy,
having already had their publish'd expression, as well as I can expect
to give it, in "Leaves of Grass," the present and any future pieces from
me are really but the surplusage forming after that volume, or the wake
eddying behind it. I fulfill'd in that an imperious conviction, and the
commands of my nature as total and irresistible as those which make
the sea flow, or the globe revolve. But of this supplementary volume,
I confess I am not so certain. Having from early manhood abandon'd the
business pursuits and applications usual in my time and country, and
obediently yielded myself up ever since to the impetus mention'd, and
to the work of expressing those ideas, it may be that mere habit has got
dominion of me, when there is no real need of saying anything further.
But what is life but an experiment? and mortality but an exercise? with
reference to results beyond. And so shall my poems be. If incomplete
here, and superfluous there, _n' importe_--the earnest trial and
persistent exploration shall at least be mine, and other success failing
shall be success enough. I have been more anxious, anyhow, to suggest
the songs of vital endeavor and manly evolution, and furnish something
for races of outdoor athletes, than to make perfect rhymes, or reign
in the parlors. I ventur'd from the beginning my own way, taking
chances--and would keep on venturing.

I will therefore not conceal from any persons, known or unknown to me,
who take an interest in the matter, that I have the ambition of devoting
yet a few years to poetic composition. The mighty present age! To absorb
and express in poetry, anything of it--of its world--America--cities and
States--the years, the events of our Nineteeth century--the rapidity
of movement--the violent contrasts, fluctuations of light and shade,
of hope and fear--the entire revolution made by science in the poetic
method--these great new underlying facts and new ideas rushing and
spreading everywhere;--truly a mighty age! As if in some colossal drama,
acted again like those of old under the open sun, the Nations of our
time, and all the characteristics of Civilization, seem hurrying,
stalking across, flitting from wing to wing, gathering, closing up,
toward some long-prepared, most tremendous denouement. Not to conclude
the infinite scenas of the race's life and toil and happiness and
sorrow, but haply that the boards be clear'd from oldest, worst
incumbrances, accumulations, and Man resume the eternal play anew, and
under happier, freer auspices. To me, the United States are important
because in this colossal drama they are unquestionably designated for
the leading parts, for many a century to come. In them history and
humanity seem to seek to culminate. Our broad areas are even now the
busy theatre of plots, passions, interests, and suspended problems,
compared to which the intrigues of the past of Europe, the wars of
dynasties, the scope of kings and kingdoms, and even the development of
peoples, as hitherto, exhibit scales of measurement comparatively narrow
and trivial. And on these areas of ours, as on a stage, sooner or later,
something like an _eclairissement_ of all the past civilization of
Europe and Asia is probably to be evolved.

The leading parts. Not to be acted, emulated here, by us again, that
role till now foremost in history--not to become a conqueror nation,
or to achieve the glory of mere military, or diplomatic, or commercial
superiority--but to become the grand producing land of nobler men and
women--of copious races, cheerful, healthy, tolerant, free--to become
the most friendly nation, (the United States indeed)--the modern
composite nation, form'd from all, with room for all, welcoming all
immigrants--accepting the work of our own interior development, as the
work fitly filling ages and ages to come;--the leading nation of peace,
but neither ignorant nor incapable of being the leading nation of
war;--not the man's nation only, but the woman's nation--a land of
splendid mothers, daughters, sisters, wives.

Our America to-day I consider in many respects as but indeed a vast
seething mass of _materials_, ampler, better, (worse also,) than
previously known--eligible to be used to carry towards its crowning
stage, and build for good, the great ideal nationality of the future,
the nation of the body and the soul,[32]--no limit here to land, help,
opportunities, mines, products, demands, supplies, etc.;--with (I think)
our political organization, National, State, and Municipal, permanently
establish'd, as far ahead as we can calculate--but, so far, no social,
literary, religious, or esthetic organizations, consistent with our
politics, or becoming to us--which organizations can only come, in time,
through great democratic ideas, religion--through science, which now,
like a new sunrise, ascending, begins to illuminate all--and through our
own begotten poets and literatuses. (The moral of a late well-written
book on civilization seems to be that the only real foundation-walls and
bases--and also _sine qua non_ afterward--of true and full civilization,
is the eligibility and certainty of boundless products for feeding,
clothing, sheltering everybody--perennial fountains of physical
and domestic comfort, with intercommunication, and with civil and
ecclesiastical freedom--and that then the esthetic and mental business
will take care of itself. Well, the United States have establish'd this
basis, and upon scales of extent, variety, vitality, and continuity,
rivaling those of Nature; and have now to proceed to build an
edifice upon it. I say this edifice is only to be fitly built by new
literatures, especially the poetic. I say a modern image-making creation
is indispensable to fuse and express the modern political and scientific
creations--and then the trinity will be complete.)

When I commenced, years ago, elaborating the plan of my poems, and
continued turning over that plan, and shifting it in my mind through
many years, (from the age of twenty-eight to thirty-five,) experimenting
much, and writing and abandoning much, one deep purpose underlay the
others, and has underlain it and its execution ever since--and that has
been the religious purpose. Amid many changes, and a formulation taking
far different shape from what I at first supposed, this basic purpose
has never been departed from in the composition of my verses. Not of
course to exhibit itself in the old ways, as in writing hymns or psalms
with an eye to the church-pew, or to express conventional pietism, or
the sickly yearnings of devotees, but in new ways, and aiming at the
widest sub-bases and inclusions of humanity, and tallying the fresh air
of sea and land. I will see, (said I to myself,) whether there is not,
for my purposes as poet, a religion, and a sound religious germenancy
in the average human race, at least in their modern development in the
United States, and in the hardy common fiber and native yearnings and
elements, deeper and larger, and affording more profitable returns, than
all mere sects or churches--as boundless, joyous, and vital as Nature
itself--a germenancy that has too long been unencouraged, unsung, almost
unknown. With science, the old theology of the East, long in its dotage,
begins evidently to die and disappear. But (to my mind) science--and
may-be such will prove its principal service--as evidently prepares
the way for One indescribably grander--Time's young but perfect
offspring--the new theology--heir of the West--lusty and loving, and
wondrous beautiful. For America, and for today, just the same as any
day, the supreme and final science is the science of God--what we call
science being only its minister--as Democracy is, or shall be also. And
a poet of America (I said) must fill himself with such thoughts, and
chant his best out of them. And as those were the convictions and aims,
for good or bad, of "Leaves of Grass," they are no less the intention
of this volume. As there can be, in my opinion, no sane and complete
personality, nor any grand and electric nationality, without the stock
element of religion imbuing all the other elements, (like heat in
chemistry, invisible itself, but the life of all visible life,) so there
can be no poetry worthy the name without that element behind all. The
time has certainly come to begin to discharge the idea of religion,
in the United States, from mere ecclesiasticism, and from Sundays and
churches and church-going, and assign it to that general position,
chiefest, most indispensable, most exhilarating, to which the others
are to be adjusted, inside of all human character, and education, and
affairs. The people, especially the young men and women of America,
must begin to learn that religion, (like poetry,) is something far, far
different from what they supposed. It is, indeed, too important to the
power and perpetuity of the New World to be consign'd any longer to the
churches, old or new, Catholic or Protestant--Saint this, or Saint
that. It must be consign'd henceforth to democracy _en masse_, and to
literature. It must enter into the poems of the nation. It must make the

The Four Years' War is over--and in the peaceful, strong, exciting,
fresh occasions of to-day, and of the future, that strange, sad war is
hurrying even now to be forgotten. The camp, the drill, the lines of
sentries, the prisons, the hospitals--(ah! the hospitals!)--all have
passed away--all seem now like a dream. A new race, a young and lusty
generation, already sweeps in with oceanic currents, obliterating the
war, and all its scars, its mounded graves, and all its reminiscences of
hatred, conflict, death. So let It be obliterated. I say the life of the
present and the future makes undeniable demands upon us each and all,
south, north, east, west. To help put the United States (even if only in
imagination) hand in hand, in one unbroken circle in a chant--to rouse
them to the unprecedented grandeur of the part they are to play, and are
even now playing--to the thought of their great future, and the attitude
conform'd to it--especially their great esthetic, moral, scientific
future, (of which their vulgar material and political present is but
as the preparatory tuning of instruments by an orchestra,) these, as
hitherto, are still, for me, among my hopes, ambitions.

"Leaves of Grass," already publish'd, is, in its intentions, the song of
a great composite _democratic individual_, male or female. And following
on and amplifying the same purpose, I suppose I have in my mind to
run through the chants of this volume, (if ever completed,) the
thread-voice, more or less audible, of an aggregated, inseparable,
unprecedented, vast, composite, electric _democratic nationality_.

Purposing, then, to still fill out, from time to time through years to
come, the following volume, (unless prevented,) I conclude this
preface to the first instalment of it, pencil'd in the open air, on my
fifty-third birth-day, by wafting to you, dear reader, whoever you are,
(from amid the fresh scent of the grass, the pleasant coolness of the
forenoon breeze, the lights and shades of tree-boughs silently dappling
and playing around me, and the notes of the cat-bird for undertone and
accompaniment,) my true good-will and love. W. W. _Washington, D. C.,
May_ 31, 1872.


[32] The problems of the achievements of this crowning stage through
future first-class National Singers, Orators, Artists, and others--of
creating in literature an _imaginative_ New World, the correspondent and
counterpart of the current Scientific and Political New Worlds,--and the
perhaps distant, but still delightful prospect, (for our children, if
not in our own day,) of delivering America, and, indeed, all Christian
lands everywhere, from the thin moribund and watery, but appallingly
extensive nuisance of conventional poetry--by putting something really
alive and substantial in its place--I have undertaken to grapple with,
and argue, in the preceding "Democratic Vistas."

PREFACE, 1876 _To the two-volume Centennial Edition of_ Leaves of Grass
_and_ Two Rivulets.

At the eleventh hour, under grave illness, I gather up the pieces of
prose and poetry left over since publishing, a while since, my first and
main volume, "Leaves or Grass"--pieces, here, some new, some old--nearly
all of them (sombre as many are, making this almost death's book)
composed in by-gone atmospheres of perfect health--and preceded by
the freshest collection, the little "Two Rivulets," now send them
out, embodied in the present melange, partly as my contribution and
outpouring to celebrate, in some sort, the feature of the time, the
first centennial of our New World nationality--and then as chyle and
nutriment to that moral, indissoluble union, equally representing all,
and the mother of many coming centennials.

And e'en for flush and proof of our America--for reminder, just as much,
or more, in moods of towering pride and joy, I keep my special chants of
death and immortality[33] to stamp the coloring-finish of all, present
and past. For terminus and temperer to all, they were originally
written; and that shall be their office at the last.

For some reason--not explainable or definite to my own mind, yet
secretly pleasing and satisfactory to it--I have not hesitated to
embody in, and run through the volume, two altogether distinct veins,
or strata--politics for one, and for the other, the pensive thought
of immortality. Thus, too, the prose and poetic, the dual forms of the
present book. The volume, therefore, after its minor episodes, probably
divides into these two, at first sight far diverse, veins of topic and
treatment. Three points, in especial, have become very dear to me,
and all through I seek to make them again and again, in many forms and
repetitions, as will be seen: 1. That the true growth-characteristics
of the democracy of the New World are henceforth to radiate in superior
literary, artistic and religious expressions, far more than in its
republican forms, universal suffrage, and frequent elections, (though
these are unspeakably important.) 2. That the vital political mission of
the United States is, to practically solve and settle the problem of
two sets of rights--the fusion, thorough compatibility and junction
of individual State prerogatives, with the indispensable necessity
of centrality and Oneness--the national identity power--the sovereign
Union, relentless, permanently comprising all, and over all, and in that
never yielding an inch: then 3d. Do we not, amid a general malaria of
fogs and vapors, our day, unmistakably see two pillars of promise, with
grandest, indestructible indications--one, that the morbid facts of
American politics and society everywhere are but passing incidents and
flanges of our unbounded impetus of growth? weeds, annuals, of the rank,
rich soil--not central, enduring, perennial things? The other, that all
the hitherto experience of the States, their first century, has been
but preparation, adolescence--and that this Union is only now and
henceforth, (_i.e._, since the secession war,) to enter on its full
democratic career?

Of the whole, poems and prose, (not attending at all to chronological
order, and with original dates and passing allusions in the heat and
impression of the hour, left shuffled in, and undisturb'd,) the chants
of "Leaves of Grass," my former volume, yet serve as the indispensable
deep soil, or basis, out of which, and out of which only, could come the
roots and stems more definitely indicated by these later pages. (While
that volume radiates physiology alone, the present one, though of the
like origin in the main, more palpably doubtless shows the pathology
which was pretty sure to come in time from the other.)

In that former and main volume, composed in the flush of my health and
strength, from the age of 30 to 50 years, I dwelt on birth and life,
clothing my ideas in pictures, days, transactions of my time, to give
them positive place, identity--saturating them with that vehemence
of pride and audacity of freedom necessary to loosen the mind
of still-to-be-form'd America from the accumulated folds, the
superstitions, and all the long, tenacious and stifling anti-democratic
authorities of the Asiatic and European past--my enclosing purport being
to express, above all artificial regulation and aid, the eternal bodily
composite, cumulative, natural character of one's self.[34]

Estimating the American Union as so far, and for some time to come, in
its yet formative condition, I bequeath poems and essays as nutriment
and influences to help truly assimilate and harden, and especially to
furnish something toward what the States most need of all, and which
seems to me yet quite unsupplied in literature, namely, to show them, or
begin to show them, themselves distinctively, and what they are for.
For though perhaps the main points of all ages and nations are points of
resemblance, and, even while granting evolution, are substantially the
same, there are some vital things in which this Republic, as to its
individualities, and as a compacted Nation, is to specially stand forth,
and culminate modern humanity. And these are the very things it least
morally and mentally knows--(though, curiously enough, it is at the same
time faithfully acting upon them.)

I count with such absolute certainty on the great future of the United
States--different from, though founded on, the past--that I have always
invoked that future, and surrounded myself with it, before or while
singing my songs. (As ever, all tends to followings--America, too, is a
prophecy. What, even of the best and most successful, would be justified
by itself alone? by the present, or the material ostent alone? Of men or
States, few realize how much they live in the future. That, rising
like pinnacles, gives its main significance to all You and I are doing
to-day. Without it, there were little meaning in lands or poems--little
purport in human lives. All ages, all Nations and States, have been such
prophecies. But where any former ones with prophecy so broad, so clear,
as our times, our lands--as those of the West?)

Without being a scientist, I have thoroughly adopted the conclusions
of the great savants and experimentalists of our time, and of the last
hundred years, and they have interiorly tinged the chyle of all my
verse, for purposes beyond. Following the modern spirit, the real poems
of the present, ever solidifying and expanding into the future, must
vocalize the vastness and splendor and reality with which scientism has
invested man and the universe, (all that is called creation) and
must henceforth launch humanity into new orbits, consonant, with that
vastness, splendor, and reality, (unknown to the old poems,) like new
systems of orbs, balanced upon themselves, revolving in limitless space,
more subtle than the stars. Poetry, so largely hitherto and even at
present wedded to children's tales, and to mere amorousness, upholstery
and superficial rhyme, will have to accept, and, while not denying the
past, nor the themes of the past, will be revivified by this tremendous
innovation, the kosmic spirit, which must henceforth, in my opinion,
be the background and underlying impetus, more or less visible, of all
first-class songs.

Only, (for me, at any rate, in all my prose and poetry,) joyfully
accepting modern science, and loyally following it without the slightest
hesitation, there remains ever recognized still a higher flight, a
higher fact, the eternal soul of man, (of all else too,) the spiritual,
the religious--which it is to be the greatest office of scientism, in my
opinion, and of future poetry also, to free from fables, crudities and
superstitions, and launch forth in renew'd faith and scope a hundred
fold. To me, the worlds of religiousness, of the conception of the
divine, and of the ideal, though mainly latent, are just as absolute in
humanity and the universe as the world of chemistry, or anything in the
objective worlds. To me

      The prophet and the bard,
    Shall yet maintain themselves--in higher circles yet,
    Shall mediate to the modern, to democracy--interpret yet to them,
      God and eidólons.

To me, the crown of savantism is to be, that it surely opens the way for
a more splendid theology, and for ampler and diviner songs. No year, nor
even century, will settle this. There is a phase of the real, lurking
behind the real, which it is all for. There is also in the intellect of
man, in time, far in prospective recesses, a judgment, a last appellate
court, which will settle it.

In certain parts in these flights, or attempting to depict or suggest
them, I have not been afraid of the charge of obscurity, in either of
my two volumes-because human thought, poetry or melody, must leave dim
escapes and outlets-must possess a certain fluid, aerial character,
akin to space itself, obscure to those of little or no imagination,--but
indispensable to the highest purposes. Poetic style, when address'd to
the soul, is less definite form, outline, sculpture, and becomes vista,
music, half-tints, and even less than half-tints. True, it may be
architecture; but again it may be the forest wild-wood, or the best
effect thereof, at twilight, the waving oaks and cedars in the wind, and
the impalpable odor.

Finally, as I have lived in fresh lands, inchoate, and in a
revolutionary age, future-founding, I have felt to identify the points
of that age, these lands, in my recitatives, altogether in my own way.
Thus my form has strictly grown from my purports and facts, and is the
analogy of them. Within my time the United States have emerged from
nebulous vagueness and suspense, to full orbic, (though varied,)
decision--have done the deeds and achiev'd the triumphs of half a score
of centuries--and are henceforth to enter upon their real history the
way being now, (_i.e._ since the result of the secession war,) clear'd
of death-threatening impedimenta, and the free areas around and ahead
of us assured and certain, which were not so before--(the past century
being but preparations, trial voyages and experiments of the ship,
before her starting out upon deep water.)

In estimating my volumes, the world's current times and deeds, and their
spirit, must be first profoundly estimated. Out of the hundred years
just ending, (1776-1876,) with their genesis of inevitable wilful
events, and new experiments and introductions, and many unprecedented
things of war and peace, (to be realized better, perhaps only realized,
at the remove of a century hence;) out of that stretch of time,
and especially out of the immediately preceding twenty-five years,
(1850-'75,) with all their rapid changes, innovations, and audacious
movements-and bearing their own inevitable wilful birth-marks--the
experiments of my poems too have found genesis.

W. W.


[33] PASSAGE TO INDIA.--As in some ancient legend-play, to close the
plot and the hero's career, there is a farewell gathering on ship's deck
and on shore, a loosing of hawsers and ties, a spreading of sails to
the wind--a starting out on unknown seas, to fetch up no one knows
whither--to return no more--and the curtain falls, and there is the end
of it--so I have reserv'd that poem, with its cluster, to finish and
explain much that, without them, would not be explain'd, and to take
leave, and escape for good, from all that has preceded them. (Then
probably "Passage to India," and its cluster, are but freer vent and
fuller expression to what, from the first, and so on throughout, more
or less lurks in my writings, underneath every page, every line,

I am not sure but the last inclosing sublimation of race or poem is,
what it thinks of death. After the rest has been comprehended and said,
even the grandest--after those contributions to mightiest nationality,
or to sweetest song, or to the best personalism, male or female, have
been glean'd from the rich and varied themes of tangible life, and
have been fully accepted and sung, and the pervading fact of visible
existence, with the duty it devolves, is rounded and apparently
completed, it still remains to be really completed by suffusing through
the whole and several, that other pervading invisible fact, so large a
part, (is it not the largest part?) of life here, combining the rest,
and furnishing, for person or State, the only permanent and unitary
meaning to all, even the meanest life, consistently with the dignity of
the universe, in Time. As from the eligibility to this thought, and the
cheerful conquest of this fact, flash forth the first distinctive
proofs of the soul, so to me, (extending it only a little further,) the
ultimate Democratic purports, the ethereal and spiritual ones, are to
concentrate here, and as fixed stars, radiate hence. For, in my opinion,
it is no less than this idea of immortality, above all other ideas,
that is to enter into, and vivify, and give crowning religious stamp, to
democracy in the New World.

It was originally my intention, after chanting in "Leaves of Grass"
the songs of the body and existence, to then compose a further, equally
needed volume, based on those convictions of perpetuity and conservation
which, enveloping all precedents, make the unseen soul govern absolutely
at last. I meant, while in a sort continuing the theme of my first
chants, to shift the slides, and exhibit the problem and paradox of the
same ardent and fully appointed personality entering the sphere of
the resistless gravitation of spiritual law, and with cheerful face
estimating death, not at all as the cessation, but as somehow what
I feel it must be, the entrance upon by far the greatest part of
existence, and something that life is at least as much for, as it is for
itself. But the full construction of such a work is beyond my powers,
and must remain for some bard in the future. The physical and the
sensuous, in themselves or in their immediate continuations, retain
holds upon me which I think are never entirely releas'd; and those holds
I have not only not denied, but hardly wish'd to weaken.

Meanwhile, not entirely to give the go-by to my original plan, and far
more to avoid a mark'd hiatus in it, than to entirely fulfil it, I
end my books with thoughts, or radiations from thoughts, on death,
immortality, and a free entrance into the spiritual world. In those
thoughts, in a sort, I make the first steps or studies toward the mighty
theme, from the point of view necessitated by my foregoing poems, and
by modern science. In them I also seek to set the key-stone to my
democracy's enduring arch. I recollate them now, for the press, in
order to partially occupy and offset days of strange sickness, and the
heaviest affliction and bereavement of my life; and I fondly please
myself with the notion of leaving that cluster to you, O unknown reader
of the future, as "something to remember me by," more especially than
all else. Written in former days of perfect health, little did I think
the pieces had the purport that now, under present circumstances, opens
to me.

[As I write these lines, May 31, 1875, it is again early summer,--again
my birth-day--now my fifty-sixth. Amid the outside beauty and freshness,
the sunlight and verdure of the delightful season, O how different the
moral atmosphere amid which I now revise this Volume, from the jocund
influence surrounding the growth and advent of "Leaves of Grass." I
occupy myself, arranging these pages for publication, still envelopt
in thoughts of the death two years since of my dear Mother, the most
perfect and magnetic character, the rarest combination of practical,
moral and spiritual, and the least selfish, of all and any I have ever
known--and by me O so much the most deeply loved--and also under the
physical affliction of a tedious attack of paralysis, obstinately
lingering and keeping its hold upon me, and quite suspending all bodily
activity and comfort.]

Under these influences, therefore, I still feel to keep "Passage to
India" for last words even to this centennial dithyramb. Not as, in
antiquity, at highest festival of Egypt, the noisome skeleton of death
was sent on exhibition to the revelers, for zest and shadow to the
occasion's joy and light--but as the marble statue of the normal Greeks
at Elis, suggesting death in the form of a beautiful and perfect young
man, with closed eyes, leaning on an inverted torch--emblem of rest and
aspiration after action--of crown and point which all lives and poems
should steadily have reference to, namely, the justified and noble
termination of our identity, this grade of it, and outlet-preparation to
another grade.

[34] Namely, a character, making most of common and normal elements, to
the superstructure of which not only the precious accumulations of the
learning and experiences of the Old World, and the settled social and
municipal necessities and current requirements, so long a-building,
shall still faithfully contribute, but which at its foundations and
carried up thence, and receiving its impetus from the democratic spirit,
and accepting its gauge in all departments from the democratic formulas,
shall again directly be vitalized by the perennial influences of Nature
at first hand, and the old heroic stamina of Nature, the strong air
of prairie and mountain, the dash of the briny sea, the primary
antiseptics--of the passions, in all their fullest heat and potency,
of courage, rankness, amativeness, and of immense pride. Not to lose at
all, therefore, the benefits of artificial progress and civilization,
but to re-occupy for Western tenancy the oldest though ever-fresh
fields, and reap from them the savage and sane nourishment indispensable
to a hardy nation, and the absence of which, threatening to become worse
and worse, is the most serious lack and defect to-day of our New World

Not but what the brawn of "Leaves of Grass" is, I hope, thoroughly
spiritualized everywhere, for final estimate, but, from the very
subjects, the direct effect is a sense of the life, as it should be, of
flesh and blood, and physical urge, and animalism. While there are other
themes, and plenty of abstract thoughts and poems in the volume--while
I have put in it passing and rapid but actual glimpses of the great
struggle between the nation and the slave-power, (1861-'65,) as the
fierce and bloody panorama of that contest unroll'd itself: while the
whole book, indeed, revolves around that four years' war, which, as I
was in the midst of it, becomes, in "Drum-Taps," pivotal to the rest
entire--and here and there, before and afterward, not a few episodes
and speculations--_that_--namely, to make a type-portrait for living,
active, worldly, healthy personality, objective as well as subjective,
joyful and potent, and modern and free, distinctively for the use of
the United States, male and female, through the long future--has been,
I say, my general object. (Probably, indeed, the whole of these varied
songs, and all my writings, both volumes, only ring changes in some
sort, on the ejaculation, How vast, how eligible, how joyful, how real,
is a human being, himself or herself.)

Though from no definite plan at the time, I see now that I have
unconsciously sought, by indirections at least as much as directions, to
express the whirls and rapid growth and intensity of the United States,
the prevailing tendency and events of the Nineteenth century, and
largely the spirit of the whole current world, my time; for I feel that
I have partaken of that spirit, as I have been deeply interested in
all those events, the closing of long-stretch'd eras and ages, and,
illustrated in the history of the United States, the opening of larger
ones. (The death of President Lincoln, for instance, fitly, historically
closes, in the civilization of feudalism, many old influences--drops on
them, suddenly, a vast, gloomy, as it were, separating curtain.)

Since I have been ill, (1873-'74-'75,) mostly without serious pain, and
with plenty of time and frequent inclination to judge my poems,
(never composed with eye on the book-market, nor for fame, nor for any
pecuniary profit,) I have felt temporary depression more than once, for
fear that in "Leaves of Grass" the _moral_ parts were not sufficiently
pronounced. But in my clearest and calmest moods I have realized that
as those "Leaves," all and several, surely prepare the way for, and
necessitate morals, and are adjusted to them, just the same as Nature
does and is, they are what, consistently with my plan, they must and
probably should be. (In a certain sense, while the Moral is the purport
and last intelligence of all Nature, there is absolutely nothing of
the moral in the works, or laws, or shows of Nature. Those only lead
inevitably to it--begin and necessitate it.)

Then I meant "Leaves of Grass," as publish'd, to be the Poem of average
Identity, (of _yours_, whoever you are, now reading these lines.) A man
is not greatest as victor in war, nor inventor or explorer, nor even
in science, or in his intellectual or artistic capacity, or exemplar
in some vast benevolence. To the highest democratic view, man is most
acceptable in living well the practical life and lot which happens
to him as ordinary farmer, sea-farer, mechanic, clerk, laborer, or
driver--upon and from which position as a central basis or pedestal,
while performing its labors, and his duties as citizen, son, husband,
father and employ'd person, he preserves his physique, ascends,
developing, radiating himself in other regions--and especially where
and when, (greatest of all, and nobler than the proudest mere genius or
magnate in any field,) he fully realizes the conscience, the spiritual,
the divine faculty, cultivated well, exemplified in all his deeds and
words, through life, uncompromising to the end--a flight loftier
than any of Homer's or Shakspere's--broader than all poems and
bibles--namely, Nature's own, and in the midst of it, Yourself, your own
Identity, body and soul. (All serves, helps--but in the centre of all,
absorbing all, giving, for your purpose, the only meaning and vitality
to all, master or mistress of all, under the law, stands Yourself.)
To sing the Song of that law of average Identity, and of Yourself,
consistently with the divine law of the universal, is a main intention
of those "Leaves."

Something more may be added--for, while I am about it, I would make a
full confession. I also sent out "Leaves of Grass" to arouse and set
flowing in men's and women's hearts, young and old, endless streams of
living, pulsating love and friendship, directly from them to myself, now
and ever. To this terrible, irrepressible yearning, (surely more or less
down underneath in most human souls)--this never-satisfied appetite
for sympathy, and this boundless offering of sympathy--this universal
democratic comradeship-this old, eternal, yet ever-new interchange of
adhesiveness, so fitly emblematic of America--I have given in that book,
undisguisedly, declaredly, the openest expression. Besides, important
as they are in my purpose as emotional expressions for humanity, the
special meaning of the "Calamus" cluster of "Leaves of Grass," (and
more or less running through the book, and cropping out in "Drum-Taps,")
mainly resides in its political significance. In my opinion, it is by
a fervent, accepted development of comradeship, the beautiful and sane
affection of man for man, latent in all the young fellows, north and
south, east and west--it is by this, I say, and by what goes directly
and indirectly along with it, that the United States of the future, (I
cannot too often repeat,) are to be most effectually welded together,
intercalated, anneal'd into a living union.

Then, for enclosing clue of all, it is imperatively and ever to be
borne in mind that "Leaves of Grass" entire is not to be construed as an
intellectual or scholastic effort or poem mainly, but more as a radical
utterance out of the Emotions and the Physique--an utterance adjusted
to, perhaps born of, Democracy and the Modern--in its very nature
regardless of the old conventions, and, under the great laws, following
only its own impulses.



Strange as it may seem, the topmost proof of a race is its own born
poetry. The presence of that, or the absence, each tells its story. As
the flowering rose or lily, as the ripened fruit to a tree, the apple or
the peach, no matter how fine the trunk, or copious or rich the branches
and foliage, here waits _sine qua non_ at last. The stamp of entire and
finished greatness to any nation, to the American Republic among the
rest, must be sternly withheld till it has put what it stands for in the
blossom of original, first-class poems. No imitations will do.

And though no _esthetik_ worthy the present condition or future
certainties of the New World seems to have been outlined in men's minds,
or has been generally called for, or thought needed, I am clear that
until the United States have just such definite and native expressers
in the highest artistic fields, their mere political, geographical,
wealth-forming, and even intellectual eminence, however astonishing
and predominant, will constitute but a more and more expanded and
well-appointed body, and perhaps brain, with little or no soul.
Sugar-coat the grim truth as we may, and ward off with outward plausible
words, denials, explanations, to the mental inward perception of the
land this blank is plain; a barren void exists. For the meanings and
maturer purposes of these States are not the constructing of a new world
of politics merely, and physical comforts for the million, but even more
determinedly, in range with science and the modern, of a new world of
democratic sociology and imaginative literature. If the latter were not
establish'd for the States, to form their only permanent tie and hold,
the first-named would be of little avail.

With the poems of a first-class land are twined, as weft with warp, its
types of personal character, of individuality, peculiar, native, its
own physiognomy, man's and woman's, its own shapes, forms, and manners,
fully justified under the eternal laws of all forms, all manners, all
times. The hour has come for democracy in America to inaugurate
itself in the two directions specified--autochthonic poems and
personalities--born expressers of itself, its spirit alone, to radiate
in subtle ways, not only in art, but the practical and familiar, in the
transactions between employers and employed persons, in business and
wages, and sternly in the army and navy, and revolutionizing them. I
find nowhere a scope profound enough, and radical and objective enough,
either for aggregates or individuals. The thought and identity of
a poetry in America to fill, and worthily fill, the great void, and
enhance these aims, electrifying all and several, involves the essence
and integral facts, real and spiritual, of the whole land, the whole
body. What the great sympathetic is to the congeries of bones, joints,
heart, fluids, nervous system and vitality, constituting, launching
forth in time and space a human being--aye, an immortal soul--such
relation, and no less, holds true poetry to the single personality, or
to the nation.

Here our thirty-eight States stand to-day, the children of past
precedents, and, young as they are, heirs of a very old estate. One or
two points we will consider, out of the myriads presenting themselves.
The feudalism, of the British Islands, illustrated by Shakspere--and by
his legitimate followers, Walter Scott and Alfred Tennyson--with all its
tyrannies, superstitions, evils, had most superb and heroic permeating
veins, poems, manners; even its errors fascinating. It almost seems as
if only that feudalism in Europe, like slavery in our own South, could
outcrop types of tallest, noblest personal character yet--strength and
devotion and love better than elsewhere--invincible courage, generosity,
aspiration, the spines of all. Here is where Shakspere and the others
I have named perform a service incalculably precious to our America.
Politics, literature, and everything else, centers at last in perfect
_personnel_, (as democracy is to find the same as the rest;) and here
feudalism is unrival'd--here the rich and highest-rising lessons it
bequeaths us--a mass of foreign nutriment, which we are to work over,
and popularize and enlarge, and present again in our own growths.

Still there are pretty grave and anxious drawbacks, jeopardies, fears.
Let us give some reflections on the subject, a little fluctuating, but
starting from one central thought, and returning there again. Two or
three curious results may plow up. As in the astronomical laws, the
very power that would seem most deadly and destructive turns out to be
latently conservative of longest, vastest future births and lives.
We will for once briefly examine the just-named authors solely from a
Western point of view. It may be, indeed, that we shall use the sun
of English literature, and the brightest current stars of his system,
mainly as pegs to hang some cogitations on, for home inspection.

As depicter and dramatist of the passions at their stormiest outstretch,
though ranking high, Shakspere (spanning the arch wide enough) is
equaled by several, and excelled by the best old Greeks, (as Eschylus.)
But in portraying mediaeval European lords and barons, the arrogant
port, so dear to the inmost human heart, (pride! pride! dearest,
perhaps, of all--touching us, too, of the States closest of all--closer
than love,) he stands alone, and I do not wonder he so witches the

From first to last, also, Walter Scott and Tennyson, like Shakspere,
exhale that principle of caste which we Americans have come on earth to
destroy. Jefferson's verdict on the Waverley novels was that they turned
and condensed brilliant but entirely false lights and glamours over the
lords, ladies, and aristocratic institutes of Europe, with all
their measureless infamies, and then left the bulk of the suffering,
down-trodden people contemptuously in the shade. Without stopping to
answer this hornet-stinging criticism, or to repay any part of the
debt of thanks I owe, in common with every American, to the noblest,
healthiest, cheeriest romancer that ever lived, I pass on to Tennyson,
his works.

Poetry here of a very high (perhaps the highest) order of verbal
melody, exquisitely clean and pure, and almost always perfumed, like the
tuberose, to an extreme of sweetness--sometimes not, however, but even
then a camellia of the hot-house, never a common flower--the verse
of inside elegance and high-life; and yet preserving amid all its
super-delicatesse a smack of outdoors and outdoor folk. The old Norman
lordhood quality here, too, crossed with that Saxon fiber from which
twain the best current stock of England springs--poetry that revels
above all things in traditions of knights and chivalry, and deeds of
derring-do. The odor of English social life in its highest range--a
melancholy, affectionate, very manly, but dainty breed--pervading
the pages like an invisible scent; the idleness, the traditions, the
mannerisms, the stately _ennui_; the yearning of love, like a spinal
marrow, inside of all; the costumes brocade and satin; the old
houses and furniture--solid oak, no mere veneering--the moldy secrets
everywhere; the verdure, the ivy on the walls, the moat, the English
landscape outside, the buzzing fly in the sun inside the window pane.
Never one democratic page; nay, not a line, not a word; never free and
_naïve_ poetry, but involved, labored, quite sophisticated--even when
the theme is ever so simple or rustic, (a shell, a bit of sedge, the
commonest love-passage between a lad and lass,) the handling of the
rhyme all showing the scholar and conventional gentleman; showing the
laureate too, the _attaché_ of the throne, and most excellent, too;
nothing better through the volumes than the dedication "to the Queen"
at the beginning, and the other fine dedication, "these to his memory"
(Prince Albert's,) preceding "Idylls of the King."

Such for an off-hand summary of the mighty three that now, by the women,
men, and young folk of the fifty millions given these States by their
late census, have been and are more read than all others put together.

We hear it said, both of Tennyson and another current leading literary
illustrator of Great Britain, Carlyle--as of Victor Hugo in France--that
not one of them is personally friendly or admirant toward America;
indeed, quite the reverse. _N'importe_. That they (and more good minds
than theirs) cannot span the vast revolutionary arch thrown by the
United States over the centuries, fixed in the present, launched to
the endless future; that they cannot stomach the high-life-below-stairs
coloring all our poetic and genteel social status so far--the
measureless viciousness of the great radical Republic, with its
ruffianly nominations and elections; its loud, ill-pitched voice,
utterly regardless whether the verb agrees with the nominative; its
fights, errors, eructations, repulsions, dishonesties, audacities;
those fearful and varied and long-continued storm and stress stages (so
offensive to the well-regulated college-bred mind) wherewith Nature,
history, and time block out nationalities more powerful than the
past, and to upturn it and press on to the future;--that they cannot
understand and fathom all this, I say, is it to be wondered at?
Fortunately, the gestation of our thirty-eight empires (and plenty more
to come) proceeds on its course, on scales of area and velocity immense
and absolute as the globe, and, like the globe itself, quite oblivious
even of great poets and thinkers. But we can by no means afford to be
oblivious of them.

The same of feudalism, its castles, courts, etiquettes, personalities.
However they, or the spirits of them hovering in the air, might scowl
and glower at such removes as current Kansas or Kentucky life and forms,
the latter may by no means repudiate or leave out the former. Allowing
all the evil that it did, we get, here and today, a balance of good out
of its reminiscence almost beyond price.

Am I content, then, that the general interior chyle of our republic
should be supplied and nourish'd by wholesale from foreign and
antagonistic sources such as these? Let me answer that question briefly:

Years ago I thought Americans ought to strike out separate, and have
expressions of their own in highest literature. I think so still,
and more decidedly than ever. But those convictions are now strongly
temper'd by some additional points, (perhaps the results of advancing
age, or the reflection of invalidism.) I see that this world of the
West, as part of all, fuses inseparably with the East, and with all,
as time does--the ever new yet old, old human race--"the same subject
continued," as the novels of our grandfathers had it for chapter-heads.
If we are not to hospitably receive and complete the inaugurations of
the old civilizations, and change their small scale to the largest,
broadest scale, what on earth are we for?

The currents of practical business in America, the rude, coarse,
tussling facts of our lives, and all their daily experiences, need just
the precipitation and tincture of this entirely different fancy world
of lulling, contrasting, even feudalistic, anti-republican poetry and
romance. On the enormous outgrowth of our unloos'd individualities,
and the rank, self-assertion of humanity here, may well fall these
grace-persuading, _recherché_ influences. We first require that
individuals and communities shall be free; then surely comes a time
when it is requisite that they shall not be too free. Although to such
results in the future I look mainly for a great poetry native to us,
these importations till then will have to be accepted, such as they are,
and thankful they are no worse. The inmost spiritual currents of the
present time curiously revenge and check their own compell'd tendency
to democracy, and absorption in it, by mark'd leanings to the past--by
reminiscences in poems, plots, operas, novels, to a far-off, contrary,
deceased world, as if they dreaded the great vulgar gulf-tides of
to-day. Then what has been fifty centuries growing, working in, and
accepted as crowns and apices for our kind, is not going to be pulled
down and discarded in a hurry.

It is, perhaps, time we paid our respects directly to the honorable
party, the real object of these preambles. But we must make
_reconnaissance_ a little further still. Not the least part of our
lesson were to realize the curiosity and interest of friendly foreign
experts,[35] and how our situation looks to them. "American poetry,"
says the London "Times,"[36] is the poetry of apt pupils, but it is
afflicted from first to last with a fatal want of raciness. Bryant has
been long passed as a poet by Professor Longfellow; but in Longfellow,
with all his scholarly grace and tender feeling, the defect is more
apparent than it was in Bryant. Mr. Lowell can overflow with American
humor when politics inspire his muse; but in the realm of pure poetry he
is no more American than a Newdigate prize-man. Joaquin Miller's verse
has fluency and movement and harmony, but as for the thought, his songs
of the sierras might as well have been written in Holland.

Unless in a certain very slight contingency, the "Times" says: "American
verse, from its earliest to its latest stages, seems an exotic, with an
exuberance of gorgeous blossom, but no principle of reproduction. That
is the very note and test of its inherent want. Great poets are tortured
and massacred by having their flowers of fancy gathered and gummed down
in the _hortus siccus_ of an anthology. American poets show better in
an anthology than in the collected volumes of their works. Like their
audience they have been unable to resist the attraction of the vast
orbit of English literature. They may talk of the primeval forest, but
it would generally be very hard from internal evidence to detect that
they were writing on the banks of the Hudson rather than on those of the
Thames. ....In fact, they have caught the English tone and air and mood
only too faithfully, and are accepted by the superficially cultivated
English intelligence as readily as if they were English born. Americans
themselves confess to a certain disappointment that a literary curiosity
and intelligence so diffused [as in the United States] have not taken
up English literature at the point at which America has received it, and
carried it forward and developed it with an independent energy. But like
reader like poet. Both show the effects of having come into an estate
they have not earned. A nation of readers has required of its poets a
diction and symmetry of form equal to that of an old literature like
that of Great Britain, which is also theirs. No ruggedness, however
racy, would be tolerated by circles which, however superficial their
culture, read Byron and Tennyson."

The English critic, though a gentleman and a scholar, and friendly
withal, is evidently not altogether satisfied, (perhaps he is jealous,)
and winds up by saying: "For the English language to have been enriched
with a national poetry which was not English but American, would have
been a treasure beyond price." With which, as whet and foil, we shall
proceed to ventilate more definitely certain no doubt willful opinions.

Leaving unnoticed at present the great masterpieces of the antique, or
anything from the middle ages, the prevailing flow of poetry for the
last fifty or eighty years, and now at its height, has been and is (like
the music) an expression of mere surface melody, within narrow limits,
and yet, to give it its due, perfectly satisfying to the demands of the
ear, of wondrous charm, of smooth and easy delivery, and the triumph of
technical art. Above all things it is fractional and select. It shrinks
with aversion from the sturdy, the universal, and the democratic.

The poetry of the future, (a phrase open to sharp criticism, and not
satisfactory to me, but significant, and I will use it)--the poetry of
the future aims at the free expression of emotion, (which means far, far
more than appears at first,) and to arouse and initiate, more than to
define or finish. Like all modern tendencies, it has direct or indirect
reference continually to the reader, to you or me, to the central
identity of everything, the mighty Ego. (Byron's was a vehement dash,
with plenty of impatient democracy, but lurid and introverted amid all
its magnetism; not at all the fitting, lasting song of a grand, secure,
free, sunny race.) It is more akin, likewise, to outside life and
landscape, (returning mainly to the antique feeling,) real sun and gale,
and woods and shores--to the elements themselves--not sitting at ease in
parlor or library listening to a good tale of them, told in good rhyme.
Character, a feature far above style or polish--a feature not absent at
any time, but now first brought to the fore--gives predominant stamp to
advancing poetry. Its born sister, music, already responds to the same
influences. "The music of the present, Wagner's, Gounod's, even the
later Verdi's, all tends toward this free expression of poetic emotion,
and demands a vocalism totally unlike that required for Rossini's
splendid roulades, or Bellini's suave melodies."

Is there not even now, indeed, an evolution, a departure from the
masters? Venerable and unsurpassable after their kind as are the old
works, and always unspeakably precious as studies, (for Americans
more than any other people,) is it too much to say that by the
shifted combinations of the modern mind the whole underlying theory
of first-class verse has changed? "Formerly, during the period term'd
classic," says Sainte-Beuve, "when literature was govern'd by recognized
rules, he was considered the best poet who had composed the most perfect
work, the most beautiful poem, the most intelligible, the most
agreeable to read, the most complete in every respect,--the Aeneid, the
Gerusalemme, a fine tragedy. To-day, something else is wanted. For us
the greatest poet is he who in his works most stimulates the reader's
imagination and reflection, who excites him the most himself to poetize.
The greatest poet is not he who has done the best; it is he who suggests
the most; he, not all of whose meaning is at first obvious, and who
leaves you much to desire, to explain, to study, much to complete in
your turn."

The fatal defects our American singers labor under are subordination of
spirit, an absence of the concrete and of real patriotism, and in excess
that modern esthetic contagion a queer friend of mine calls the _beauty
disease_. "The immoderate taste for beauty and art," says Charles
Baudelaire, "leads men into monstrous excesses. In minds imbued with a
frantic greed for the beautiful, all the balances of truth and justice
disappear. There is a lust, a disease of the art faculties, which eats
up the moral like a cancer."

Of course, by our plentiful verse-writers there is plenty of service
perform'd, of a kind. Nor need we go far for a tally. We see, in
every polite circle, a class of accomplished, good-natured persons,
("society," in fact, could not get on without them,) fully eligible for
certain problems, times, and duties--to mix egg-nog, to mend the broken
spectacles, to decide whether the stewed eels shall precede the sherry
or the sherry the stewed eels, to eke out Mrs. A. B.'s parlor-tableaux
with monk, Jew, lover, Puck, Prospero, Caliban, or what not, and to
generally contribute and gracefully adapt their flexibilities and
talents, in those ranges, to the world's service. But for real crises,
great needs and pulls, moral or physical, they might as well have never
been born.

Or the accepted notion of a poet would appear to be a sort of male
odalisque, singing or piano-playing a kind of spiced ideas, second-hand
reminiscences, or toying late hours at entertainments, in rooms stifling
with fashionable scent. I think I haven't seen a new-published, healthy,
bracing, simple lyric in ten years. Not long ago, there were verses in
each of three fresh monthlies, from leading authors, and in every one
the whole central _motif_ (perfectly serious) was the melancholiness
of a marriageable young woman who didn't get a rich husband, but a poor

Besides its tonic and _al fresco_ physiology, relieving such as this,
the poetry of the future will take on character in a more important
respect. Science, having extirpated the old stock-fables and
superstitions, is clearing a field for verse, for all the arts, and
even for romance, a hundred-fold ampler and more wonderful, with the new
principles behind. Republicanism advances over the whole world. Liberty,
with Law by her side, will one day be paramount--will at any rate be
the central idea. Then only--for all the splendor and beauty of what has
been, or the polish of what is--then only will the true poets appear,
and the true poems. Not the satin and patchouly of today, not the
glorification of the butcheries and wars of the past, nor any fight
between Deity on one side and somebody else on the other--not Milton,
not even Shakspere's plays, grand as they are. Entirely different and
hitherto unknown Classes of men, being authoritatively called for in
imaginative literature, will certainly appear. What is hitherto most
lacking, perhaps most absolutely indicates the future. Democracy has
been hurried on through time by measureless tides and winds, resistless
as the revolution of the globe, and as far-reaching and rapid. But in
the highest walks of art it has not yet had a single representative
worthy of it anywhere upon the earth.

Never had real bard a task more fit for sublime ardor and genius than
to sing worthily the songs these States have already indicated. Their
origin, Washington, '76, the picturesqueness of old times, the war of
1812 and the sea-fights; the incredible rapidity of movement and breadth
of area--to fuse and compact the South and North, the East and West,
to express the native forms, situations, scenes, from Montauk to
California, and from the Saguenay to the Rio Grande--the working out on
such gigantic scales, and with such a swift and mighty play of changing
light and shade, of the great problems of man and freedom,--how far
ahead of the stereotyped plots, or gem-cutting, or tales of love,
or wars of mere ambition! Our history is so full of spinal, modern,
germinal subjects--one above all. What the ancient siege of Illium, and
the puissance of Hector's and Agamemnon's warriors proved to Hellenic
art and literature, and all art and literature since, may prove the
war of attempted secession of 1861-'65 to the future esthetics, drama,
romance, poems of the United States.

Nor could utility itself provide anything more practically serviceable
to the hundred millions who, a couple of generations hence, will inhabit
within the limits just named, than the permeation of a sane, sweet,
autochthonous national poetry--must I say of a kind that does not now
exist? but which, I fully believe, will in time be supplied on scales as
free as Nature's elements. (It is acknowledged that we of the States
are the most materialistic and money-making people ever known. My own
theory, while fully accepting this, is that we are the most emotional,
spiritualistic, and poetry-loving people also.)

Infinite are the new and orbic traits waiting to be launch'd forth in
the firmament that is, and is to be, America. Lately, I have wonder'd
whether the last meaning of this cluster of thirty-eight States is not
only practical fraternity among themselves--the only real union, (much
nearer its accomplishment, too, than appears on the surface)--but for
fraternity over the whole globe--that dazzling, pensive dream of ages!
Indeed, the peculiar glory of our lands, I have come to see, or expect
to see, not in their geographical or republican greatness, nor wealth or
products, nor military or naval power, nor special, eminent names in any
department, to shine with, or outshine, foreign special names in similar
departments,--but more and more in a vaster, saner, more surrounding
Comradeship, uniting closer and closer not only the American States, but
all nations, and all humanity. That, O poets! is not that a theme worth
chanting, striving for? Why not fix your verses henceforth to the
gauge of the round globe? the whole race? Perhaps the most illustrious
culmination of the modern may thus prove to be a signal growth of
joyous, more exalted bards of adhesiveness, identically one in soul, but
contributed by every nation, each after its distinctive kind. Let us,
audacious, start it. Let the diplomats, as ever, still deeply plan,
seeking advantages, proposing treaties between governments, and to bind
them, on paper: what I seek is different, simpler. I would inaugurate
from America, for this purpose, new formulas--international poems. I
have thought that the invisible root out of which the poetry deepest in,
and dearest to, humanity grows, is Friendship. I have thought that both
in patriotism and song (even amid their grandest shows past) we have
adhered too long to petty limits, and that the time has come to enfold
the world.

Not only is the human and artificial world we have establish'd in the
West a radical departure from anything hitherto known--not only men and
politics, and all that goes with them--but Nature itself, in the main
sense, its construction, is different. The same old font of type, of
course, but set up to a text never composed or issued before. For Nature
consists not only in itself, objectively, but at least just as much in
its subjective reflection from the person, spirit, age, looking at
it, in the midst of it, and absorbing it--faithfully sends back the
characteristic beliefs of the time or individual--takes, and readily
gives again, the physiognomy of any nation or literature--falls like a
great elastic veil on a face, or like the molding plaster on a statue.

What is Nature? What were the elements, the invisible backgrounds and
eidolons of it, to Homer's heroes, voyagers, gods? What all through the
wanderings of Virgil's Aeneas? Then to Shakspere's characters--Hamlet,
Lear, the English-Norman kings, the Romans? What was Nature to Rousseau,
to Voltaire, to the German Goethe in his little classical court gardens?
In those presentments in Tennyson (see the "Idylls of the King"--what
sumptuous, perfumed, arras-and-gold Nature, inimitably described, better
than any, fit for princes and knights and peerless ladies--wrathful or
peaceful, just the same--Vivien and Merlin in their strange dalliance,
or the death-float of Elaine, or Geraint and the long journey of his
disgraced Enid and himself through the wood, and the wife all day
driving the horses,) as in all the great imported art-works, treatises
systems, from Lucretius down, there is a constantly lurking often
pervading something, that will have to be eliminated, as not only
unsuited to modern democracy and science in America, but insulting to
them, and disproved by them.[37]

Still, the rule and demesne of poetry will always be not the exterior,
but interior; not the macrocosm, but microcosm; not Nature, but Man. I
haven't said anything about the imperative need of a race of giant bards
in the future, to hold up high to eyes of land and race the eternal
antiseptic models, and to dauntlessly confront greed, injustice, and all
forms of that wiliness and tyranny whose roots never die--(my opinion
is, that after all the rest is advanced, _that_ is what first-class
poets are for; as, to their days and occasions, the Hebrew lyrists,
Roman Juvenal, and doubtless the old singers of India, and the British
Druids)--to counteract dangers, immensest ones, already looming in
America--measureless corruption in politics--what we call religion,
a mere mask of wax or lace;--for _ensemble_, that most cankerous,
offensive of all earth's shows--a vast and varied community, prosperous
and fat with wealth of money and products and business ventures--plenty
of mere intellectuality too--and then utterly without the sound,
prevailing, moral and esthetic health-action beyond all the money and
mere intellect of the world.

Is it a dream of mine that, in times to come, west, south, east, north,
will silently, surely arise a race of such poets, varied, yet one
in soul--nor only poets, and of the best, but newer, larger
prophets--larger than Judea's, and more passionate--to meet and
penetrate those woes, as shafts of light the darkness?

As I write, the last fifth of the nineteenth century is enter'd upon,
and will soon be waning. Now, and for a long time to come, what the
United States most need, to give purport, definiteness, reason why, to
their unprecedented material wealth, industrial products, education
by rote merely, great populousness and intellectual activity, is the
central, spinal reality, (or even the idea of it,) of such a democratic
band of-native-born-and-bred teachers, artists, _littérateurs_, tolerant
and receptive of importations, but entirely adjusted to the West, to
ourselves, to our own days, combinations, differences, superiorities.
Indeed, I am fond of thinking that the whole series of concrete and
political triumphs of the Republic are mainly as bases and preparations
for half a dozen future poets, ideal personalities, referring not to a
special class, but to the entire people, four or five millions of square

Long, long are the processes of the development of a nationality Only
to the rapt vision does the seen become the prophecy of the unseen.[38]
Democracy, so far attending only to the real, is not for the real only,
but the grandest ideal--to justify the modern by that, and not only to
equal, but to become by that superior to the past.

On a comprehensive summing up of the processes and present and hitherto
condition of the United States, with reference to their future, and
the indispensable precedents to it, my point, below all surfaces, and
subsoiling them, is, that the bases and prerequisites of a leading
nationality are, first, at all hazards, freedom, worldly wealth and
products on the largest and most varied scale, common education and
intercommunication, and, in general, the passing through of just the
stages and crudities we have passed or are passing through in the United

Then, perhaps, as weightiest factor of the whole business, and of the
main outgrowths of the future, it remains to be definitely avow'd
that the native-born middle-class population of quite all the United
States--the average of farmers and mechanics everywhere--the real,
though latent and silent bulk of America, city or country, presents a
magnificent mass of material, never before equal'd on earth. It is this
material, quite unexpress'd by literature or art, that in every respect
insures the future of the republic. During the secession war I was with
the armies, and saw the rank and file, north and south, and studied them
for four years. I have never had the least doubt about the country in
its essential future since.

Meantime, we can (perhaps) do no better than to saturate ourselves with,
and continue to give imitations, yet awhile, of the esthetic models,
supplies, of that past and of those lands we spring from. Those wondrous
stores, reminiscences, floods, currents! Let them flow on, flow hither
freely. And let the sources be enlarged, to include not only the works
of British origin, as now, but stately and devout Spain, courteous
France, profound Germany, the manly Scandinavian lands, Italy's art
race, and always the mystic Orient. Remembering that at present, and
doubtless long ahead, a certain humility would well become us. The
course through time of highest civilization, does it not wait the
first glimpse of our contribution to its kosmic train of poems,
bibles, first-class structures, perpetuities--Egypt and Palestine and
India--Greece and Rome and mediaeval Europe--and so onward? The shadowy
procession is not a meagre one, and the standard not a low one. All that
is mighty in our kind seems to have already trod the road. Ah, never may
America forget her thanks and reverence for samples, treasures such
as these--that other life-blood, inspiration, sunshine, hourly in use
to-day, all days, forever, through her broad demesne!

All serves our New World progress, even the bafflers, head-winds,
cross-tides. Through many perturbations and squalls, and much backing
and filling, the ship, upon the whole, makes unmistakably for her
destination. Shakspere has served, and serves, may-be, the best of any.

For conclusion, a passing thought, a contrast, of him who, in my
opinion, continues and stands for the Shaksperean cultus at the present
day among all English-writing peoples--of Tennyson, his poetry. I find
it impossible, as I taste the sweetness of those lines, to escape the
flavor, the conviction, the lush-ripening culmination, and last honey of
decay (I dare not call it rottenness) of that feudalism which the
mighty English dramatist painted in all the splendors of its noon and
afternoon. And how they are chanted--both poets! Happy those kings and
nobles to be so sung, so told! To run their course--to get their deeds
and shapes in lasting pigments--the very pomp and dazzle of the sunset!

Meanwhile, democracy waits the coming of its bards in silence and in
twilight--but 'tis the twilight of the dawn.


[35] A few years ago I saw the question, "Has America produced any great
poem?" announced as prize-subject for the competition of some university
in Northern Europe. I saw the item in a foreign paper and made a note
of it; but being taken down with paralysis, and prostrated for a long
season, the matter slipp'd away, and I have never been able since to get
hold of any essay presented for the prize, or report of the discussion,
nor to learn for certain whether there was any essay or discussion,
nor can I now remember the place. It may have been Upsala, or possibly
Heidelberg. Perhaps some German or Scandinavian can give particulars. I
think it was in 1872.

[36] In a long and prominent editorial, at the time, on the death of
William Cullen Bryant.

[37] Whatever may be said of the few principal poems--or their best
passages--it is certain that the overwhelming mass of poetic works,
as now absorb'd into human character, exerts a certain constipating,
repressing, indoor, and artificial influence, impossible to
elude--seldom or never that freeing, dilating, joyous one, with which
uncramp'd Nature works on every individual without exception.

[38] Is there not such a thing as the philosophy of American history and
politics? And if so, what is it?... Wise men say there are two sets
of wills to nations and to persons--one set that acts and works
from explainable motives--from teaching, intelligence, judgment,
circumstance, caprice, emulation, greed, etc.--and then another set,
perhaps deep, hidden, unsuspected, yet often more potent than the
first, refusing to be argued with, rising as it were out of abysses,
resistlessly urging on speakers, doers, communities, unwitting to
themselves--the poet to his fieriest words--the race to pursue its
loftiest ideal. Indeed, the paradox of a nation's life and career, with
all its wondrous contradictions, can probably only be explain'd from
these two wills, sometimes conflicting, each operating in its sphere,
combining in races or in persons, and producing strangest results.

Let us hope there is (indeed, can there be any doubt there is?) this
great unconscious and abysmic second will also running through the
average nationality and career of America. Let us hope that, amid all
the dangers and defections of the present, and through all the processes
of the conscious will, it alone is the permanent and sovereign force,
destined to carry on the New World to fulfil its destinies in the
future--to resolutely pursue those destinies, age upon age; to build,
far, far beyond its past vision, present thought; to form and fashion,
and for the general type, men and women more noble, more athletic than
the world has yet seen; to gradually, firmly blend, from all the States,
with all varieties, a friendly, happy, free, religious nationality--a
nationality not only the richest, most inventive, most productive and
materialistic the world has yet known, but compacted indissolubly, and
out of whose ample and solid bulk, and giving purpose and finish to it,
conscience, morals, and all the spiritual attributes, shall surely rise,
like spires above some group of edifices, firm-footed on the earth, yet
scaling space and heaven.

Great as they are, and greater far to be, the United States, too, are
but a series of steps in the eternal process of creative thought. And
here is, to my mind, their final justification, and certain perpetuity.
There is in that sublime process, in the laws of the universe--and,
above all, in the moral law--something that would make unsatisfactory,
and even vain and contemptible, all the triumphs of war, the gains of
peace, and the proudest worldly grandeur of all the nations that
have ever existed, or that (ours included) now exist, except that we
constantly see, through all their worldly career, however struggling and
blind and lame, attempts, by all ages, all peoples, according to their
development, to reach, to press, to progress on, and ever farther on, to
more and more advanced ideals.

The glory of the republic of the United States, in my opinion, is to be
that, emerging in the light of the modern and the splendor of science,
and solidly based on the past, it is to cheerfully range itself, and its
politics are henceforth to come, under those universal laws, and embody
them, and carry them out, to serve them. And as only that individual
becomes truly great who understands well that, while complete in himself
in a certain sense, he is but a part of the divine, eternal scheme, and
whose special life and laws are adjusted to move in harmonious relations
with the general laws of Nature, and especially with the moral law, the
deepest and highest of all, and the last vitality of man or state--so
the United States may only become the greatest and the most continuous,
by understanding well their harmonious relations with entire humanity
and history, and all their laws and progress, sublimed with the creative
thought of Deity, through all time, past, present, and future. Thus will
they expand to the amplitude of their destiny, and become illustrations
and culminating parts of the kosmos, and of civilization.

No more considering the States as an incident, or series of incidents,
however vast, coming accidentally along the path of time, and shaped
by casual emergencies as they happen to arise, and the mere result of
modern improvements, vulgar and lucky, ahead of other nations and times,
I would finally plant, as seeds, these thoughts or speculations in the
growth of our republic--that it is the deliberate culmination and result
of all the past--that here, too, as in all departments of the universe,
regular laws (slow and sure in planting, slow and sure in ripening) have
controll'd and govern'd, and will yet control and govern; and that those
laws can no more be baffled or steer'd clear of, or vitiated, by chance,
or any fortune or opposition, than the laws of winter and summer, or
darkness and light.

The summing up of the tremendous moral and military perturbations of
1861-'65, and their results--and indeed of the entire hundred years of
the past of our national experiment, from its inchoate movement down
to the present day (1780-1881)--is, that they all now launch the United
States fairly forth, consistently with the entirety of civilization and
humanity, and in main sort the representative of them, leading the van,
leading the fleet of the modern and democratic, on the seas and voyages
of the future.

And the real history of the United States--starting from that great
convulsive struggle for unity, the secession war, triumphantly
concluded, and _the South_ victorious after all--is only to be written
at the remove of hundreds, perhaps a thousand, years hence.


"All is proper to be express'd, provided our aim is only high
enough."--_J. F. Millet._

"The candor of science is the glory of the modern. It does not hide
and repress; it confronts, turns on the light. It alone has perfect
faith--faith not in a part only, but all. Does it not undermine the old
religious standards? Yes, in God's truth, by excluding the devil from
the theory of the universe--by showing that evil is not a law in itself,
but a sickness, a perversion of the good, and the other side of the
good--that in fact all of humanity, and of everything, is divine in its
bases, its eligibilities."

Shall the mention of such topics as I have briefly but plainly and
resolutely broach'd in the "Children of Adam" section of "Leaves of
Grass" be admitted in poetry and literature? Ought not the innovation
to be put down by opinion and criticism? and, if those fail, by the
District Attorney? True, I could not construct a poem which declaredly
took, as never before, the complete human identity, physical, moral,
emotional, and intellectual, (giving precedence and compass in a certain
sense to the first,) nor fulfil that _bona fide_ candor and entirety
of treatment which was a part of my purpose, without comprehending this
section also. But I would entrench myself more deeply and widely than
that. And while I do not ask any man to indorse my theory, I confess
myself anxious that what I sought to write and express, and the ground I
built on, shall be at least partially understood, from its own platform.
The best way seems to me to confront the question with entire frankness.

There are, generally speaking, two points of view, two conditions of the
world's attitude toward these matters; the first, the conventional one
of good folks and good print everywhere, repressing any direct statement
of them, and making allusions only at second or third hand--(as
the Greeks did of death, which, in Hellenic social culture, was not
mention'd point-blank, but by euphemisms.) In the civilization of
to-day, this condition--without stopping to elaborate the arguments and
facts, which are many and varied and perplexing--has led to states of
ignorance, repressal, and cover'd over disease and depletion,
forming certainly a main factor in the world's woe. A nonscientific,
non-esthetic, and eminently non-religious condition, bequeath'd to us
from the past, (its origins diverse, one of them the far-back lessons
of benevolent and wise men to restrain the prevalent coarseness and
animality of the tribal ages--with Puritanism, or perhaps Protestantism
itself for another, and still another specified in the latter part
of this memorandum)--to it is probably due most of the ill births,
inefficient maturity, snickering pruriency, and of that human pathologic
evil and morbidity which is, in my opinion, the keel and reason-why of
every evil and morbidity. Its scent, as of something sneaking,
furtive, mephitic, seems to lingeringly pervade all modern literature,
conversation, and manners.

The second point of view, and by far the largest--as the world in
working-day dress vastly exceeds the world in parlor toilette--is
the one of common life, from the oldest times down, and especially in
England, (see the earlier chapters of "Taine's English Literature," and
see Shakspere almost anywhere,) and which our age to-day inherits from
riant stock, in the wit, or what passes for wit, of masculine circles,
and in erotic stories and talk, to excite, express, and dwell on, that
merely sensual voluptuousness which, according to Victor Hugo, is the
most universal trait of all ages, all lands. This second condition,
however bad, is at any rate like a disease which comes to the surface,
and therefore less dangerous than a conceal'd one.

The time seems to me to have arrived, and America to be the place, for
a new departure--a third point of view. The same freedom and faith and
earnestness which, after centuries of denial, struggle, repression,
and martyrdom, the present day brings to the treatment of politics and
religion, must work out a plan and standard on this subject, not so
much for what is call'd society, as for thoughtfulest men and women, and
thoughtfulest literature. The same spirit that marks the physiological
author and demonstrator on these topics in his important field, I have
thought necessary to be exemplified, for once, in another certainly not
less important field.

In the present memorandum I only venture to indicate that plan and
view--decided upon more than twenty years ago, for my own literary
action, and formulated tangibly in my printed poems--(as Bacon says an
abstract thought or theory is of no moment unless it leads to a deed or
work done, exemplifying it in the concrete)--that the sexual passion
in itself, while normal and unperverted, is inherently legitimate,
creditable, not necessarily an improper theme for poet, as confessedly
not for scientist--that, with reference to the whole construction,
organism, and intentions of "Leaves of Grass," anything short of
confronting that theme, and making myself clear upon it as the enclosing
basis of everything, (as the sanity of everything was to be the
atmosphere of the poems,) I should beg the question in its most
momentous aspect, and the superstructure that follow'd, pretensive as
it might assume to be, would all rest on a poor foundation, or no
foundation at all. In short, as the assumption of the sanity of birth,
Nature and humanity, is the key to any true theory of life and the
universe--at any rate, the only theory out of which I wrote--it is, and
must inevitably be, the only key to "Leaves of Grass," and every part
of it. _That_, (and not a vain consistency or weak pride, as a late
"Springfield Republican" charges,) is the reason that I have stood out
for these particular verses uncompromisingly for over twenty years, and
maintain them to this day. _That_ is what I felt in my inmost brain and
heart, when I only answer'd Emerson's vehement arguments with silence,
under the old elms of Boston Common.

Indeed, might not every physiologist and every good physician pray
for the redeeming of this subject from its hitherto relegation to the
tongues and pens of blackguards, and boldly putting it for once at
least, if no more, in the demesne of poetry and sanity--as something not
in itself gross or impure, but entirely consistent with highest manhood
and womanhood, and indispensable to both? Might not only every wife and
every mother--not only every babe that comes into the world, if that
were possible--not only all marriage, the foundation and _sine qua
non_ of the civilized state--bless and thank the showing, or taking for
granted, that motherhood, fatherhood, sexuality, and all that belongs
to them, can be asserted, where it comes to question, openly, joyously,
proudly, "without shame or the need of shame," from the highest artistic
and human considerations--but, with reverence be it written, on such
attempt to justify the base and start of the whole divine scheme in
humanity, might not the Creative Power itself deign a smile of approval?

To the movement for the eligibility and entrance of women amid new
spheres of business, politics, and the suffrage, the current prurient,
conventional treatment of sex is the main formidable obstacle. The
rising tide of "woman's rights," swelling and every year advancing
farther and farther, recoils from it with dismay. There will in my
opinion be no general progress in such eligibility till a sensible,
philosophic, democratic method is substituted.

The whole question--which strikes far, very far deeper than most people
have supposed, (and doubtless, too, something is to be said on all
sides,) is peculiarly an important one in art--is first an ethic, and
then still more an esthetic one. I condense from a paper read not long
since at Cheltenham, England, before the "Social Science Congress," to
the Art Department, by P. H. Rathbone of Liverpool, on the "Undraped
Figure in Art," and the discussion that follow'd:

"When coward Europe suffer'd the unclean Turk to soil the sacred shores
of Greece by his polluting presence, civilization and morality receiv'd
a blow from which they have never entirely recover'd, and the trail of
the serpent has been over European art and European society ever since.
The Turk regarded and regards women as animals without soul, toys to be
play'd with or broken at pleasure, and to be hidden, partly from shame,
but chiefly for the purpose of stimulating exhausted passion. Such is
the unholy origin of the objection to the nude as a fit subject for art;
it is purely Asiatic, and though not introduced for the first time
in the fifteenth century, is yet to be traced to the source of all
impurity--the East. Although the source of the prejudice is thoroughly
unhealthy and impure, yet it is now shared by many pure-minded and
honest, if somewhat uneducated, people. But I am prepared to maintain
that it is necessary for the future of English art and of English
morality that the right of the nude to a place in our galleries should
be boldly asserted; it must, however, be the nude as represented by
thoroughly trained artists, and with a pure and noble ethic purpose. The
human form, male and female, is the type and standard of all beauty of
form and proportion, and it is necessary to be thoroughly familiar with
it in order safely to judge of all beauty which consists of form and
proportion. To women it is most necessary that they should become
thoroughly imbued with the knowledge of the ideal female form, in order
that they should recognize the perfection of it at once, and without
effort, and so far as possible avoid deviations from the ideal. Had
this been the case in times past, we should not have had to deplore the
distortions effected by tight-lacing, which destroy'd the figure and
ruin'd the health of so many of the last generation. Nor should we have
had the scandalous dresses alike of society and the stage. The extreme
development of the low dresses which obtain'd some years ago, when the
stays crush'd up the breasts into suggestive prominence, would surely
have been check'd, had the eye of the public been properly educated by
familiarity with the exquisite beauty of line of a well-shaped bust.
I might show how thorough acquaintance with the ideal nude foot would
probably have much modified the foot-torturing boots and high heels,
which wring the foot out of all beauty of line, and throw the body
forward into an awkward and ungainly attitude.

It is argued that the effect of nude representation of women upon young
men is unwholesome, but it would not be so if such works were admitted
without question into our galleries, and became thoroughly familiar
to them. On the contrary, it would do much to clear away from
healthy-hearted lads one of their sorest trials--that prurient curiosity
which is bred of prudish concealment. Where there is mystery there is
the suggestion of evil, and to go to a theatre, where you have only to
look at the stalls to see one-half of the female form, and to the
stage to see the other half undraped, is far more pregnant with evil
imaginings than the most objectionable of totally undraped figures. In
French art there have been questionable nude figures exhibited; but the
fault was not that they were nude, but that they were the portraits
of ugly immodest women. Some discussion follow'd. There was a general
concurrence in the principle contended for by the reader of the paper.
Sir Walter Stirling maintain'd that the perfect male figure, rather than
the female, was the model of beauty. After a few remarks from Rev. Mr.
Roberts and Colonel Oldfield, the Chairman regretted that no opponent of
nude figures had taken part in the discussion. He agreed with Sir
Walter Stirling as to the male figure being the most perfect model of
proportion. He join'd in defending the exhibition of nude figures,
but thought considerable supervision should be exercis'd over such

No, it is not the picture or nude statue or text, with clear aim, that
is indecent; it is the beholder's own thought, inference, distorted
construction. True modesty is one of the most precious of attributes,
even virtues, but in nothing is there more pretense, more falsity, than
the needless assumption of it. Through precept and consciousness, man
has long enough realized how bad he is. I would not so much disturb or
demolish that conviction, only to resume and keep unerringly with it the
spinal meaning of the Scriptural text, _God overlook'd all that He had
made_, (including the apex of the whole--humanity--with its elements,
passions, appetites,) _and behold, it was very good_."

Does not anything short of that third point of view, when you come to
think of it profoundly and with amplitude, impugn Creation from the
outset? In fact, however overlaid, or unaware of itself, does not
the conviction involv'd in it perennially exist at the centre of
all society, and of the sexes, and of marriage? Is it not really an
intuition of the human race? For, old as the world is, and beyond
statement as are the countless and splendid results of its culture and
evolution, perhaps the best and earliest and purest intuitions of the
human race have yet to be develop'd.


_deliver'd in New York, April 14, 1879--in Philadelphia, '80--in Boston,

How often since that dark and dripping Saturday--that chilly April day,
now fifteen years bygone--my heart has entertain'd the dream, the
wish, to give of Abraham Lincoln's death, its own special thought and
memorial. Yet now the sought-for opportunity offers, I find my notes
incompetent, (why, for truly profound themes, is statement so idle? why
does the right phrase never offer?) and the fit tribute I dream'd of,
waits unprepared as ever. My talk here indeed is less because of itself
or anything in it, and nearly altogether because I feel a desire, apart
from any talk, to specify the day, the martyrdom. It is for this, my
friends, I have call'd you together. Oft as the rolling years bring
back this hour, let it again, however briefly, be dwelt upon. For my
own part, I hope and desire, till my own dying day, whenever the 14th
or 15th of April comes, to annually gather a few friends, and hold its
tragic reminiscence. No narrow or sectional reminiscence. It belongs
to these States in their entirety--not the North only, but the
South--perhaps belongs most tenderly and devoutly to the South, of
all; for there, really, this man's birth-stock. There and thence
his antecedent stamp. Why should I not say that thence his manliest
traits--his universality--his canny, easy ways and words upon the
surface--his inflexible determination and courage at heart? Have you
never realized it, my friends, that Lincoln, though grafted on the West,
is essentially, in personnel and character, a Southern contribution?

And though by no means proposing to resume the secession war to-night,
I would briefly remind you of the public conditions preceding that
contest. For twenty years, and especially during the four or five before
the war actually began, the aspect of affairs in the United States,
though without the flash of military excitement, presents more than
the survey of a battle, or any extended campaign, or series, even of
Nature's convulsions. The hot passions of the South--the strange
mixture at the North of inertia, incredulity, and conscious power--the
incendiarism of the abolitionists--the rascality and grip of the
politicians, unparallel'd in any land, any age. To these I must not omit
adding the honesty of the essential bulk of the people everywhere--yet
with all the seething fury and contradiction of their natures more
arous'd than the Atlantic's waves in wildest equinox. In politics, what
can be more ominous, (though generally unappreciated then)--what more
significant than the Presidentiads of Fillmore and Buchanan? proving
conclusively that the weakness and wickedness of elected rulers are
just as likely to afflict us here, as in the countries of the Old World,
under their monarchies, emperors, and aristocracies. In that Old World
were everywhere heard underground rumblings, that died out, only to
again surely return. While in America the volcano, though civic yet,
continued to grow more and more convulsive--more and more stormy and

In the height of all this excitement and chaos, hovering on the edge at
first, and then merged in its very midst, and destined to play a leading
part, appears a strange and awkward figure. I shall not easily forget
the first time I ever saw Abraham Lincoln. It must have been about the
18th or 19th of February, 1861. It was rather a pleasant afternoon, in
New York city, as he arrived there from the West, to remain a few hours,
and then pass on to Washington, to prepare for his inauguration. I saw
him in Broadway, near the site of the present Post-office. He came down,
I think from Canal street, to stop at the Astor House. The broad spaces,
sidewalks, and street in the neighborhood, and for some distance, were
crowded with solid masses of people, many thousands. The omnibuses and
other vehicles had all been turn'd off, leaving an unusual hush in that
busy part of the city. Presently two or three shabby hack barouches made
their way with some difficulty through the crowd, and drew up at the
Astor House entrance. A tall figure stepp'd out of the centre of these
barouches, paus'd leisurely on the sidewalk, look'd up at the granite
walls and looming architecture of the grand old hotel--then, after a
relieving stretch of arms and legs, turn'd round for over a minute to
slowly and good-humoredly scan the appearance of the vast and silent
crowds. There were no speeches--no compliments--no welcome--as far as
I could hear, not a word said. Still much anxiety was conceal'd in that
quiet. Cautious persons had fear'd some mark'd insult or indignity to
the President-elect--for he possess'd no personal popularity at all in
New York city, and very little political. But it was evidently tacitly
agreed that if the few political supporters of Mr. Lincoln present
would entirely abstain from any demonstration on their side, the immense
majority, who were anything but supporters, would abstain on their side
also. The result was a sulky, unbroken silence, such as certainly never
before characterized so great a New York crowd.

Almost in the same neighborhood I distinctly remember'd seeing Lafayette
on his visit to America in 1825. I had also personally seen and heard,
various years afterward, how Andrew Jackson, Clay, Webster, Hungarian
Kossuth, Filibuster Walker, the Prince of Wales on his visit, and
other celebres, native and foreign, had been welcom'd there--all that
indescribable human roar and magnetism, unlike any other sound in the
universe--the glad exulting thunder-shouts of countless unloos'd throats
of men! But on this occasion, not a voice--not a sound. From the top of
an omnibus, (driven up one side, close by, and block'd by the curbstone
and the crowds,) I had, I say, a capital view of it all, and
especially of Mr. Lincoln, his look and gait--his perfect composure and
coolness--his unusual and uncouth height, his dress of complete black,
stovepipe hat push'd back on the head, dark-brown complexion, seam'd
and wrinkled yet canny-looking face, black, bushy head of hair,
disproportionately long neck, and his hands held behind as he stood
observing the people. He look'd with curiosity upon that immense sea of
faces, and the sea of faces return'd the look with similar curiosity. In
both there was a dash of comedy, almost farce, such as Shakspere puts in
his blackest tragedies. The crowd that hemm'd around consisted I should
think of thirty to forty thousand men, not a single one his personal
friend--while I have no doubt, (so frenzied were the ferments of
the time,) many an assassin's knife and pistol lurk'd in hip or
breast-pocket there, ready, soon as break and riot came.

But no break or riot came. The tall figure gave another relieving
stretch or two of arms and legs; then with moderate pace, and
accompanied by a few unknown-looking persons, ascended the portico-steps
of the Astor House, disappear'd through its broad entrance--and the
dumb-show ended.

I saw Abraham Lincoln often the four years following that date. He
changed rapidly and much during his Presidency--but this scene, and him
in it, are indelibly stamp'd upon my recollection. As I sat on the top
of my omnibus, and had a good view of him, the thought, dim and inchoate
then, has since come out clear enough, that four sorts of genius, four
mighty and primal hands, will be needed to the complete limning of this
man's future portrait--the eyes and brains and finger-touch of Plutarch
and Eschylus and Michel Angelo, assisted by Rabelais.

And now--(Mr. Lincoln passing on from this scene to Washington, where
he was inaugurated, amid armed cavalry, and sharpshooters at every
point--the first instance of the kind in our history--and I hope it will
be the last)--now the rapid succession of well-known events, (too
well known--I believe, these days, we almost hate to hear them
mention'd)--the national flag fired on at Sumter--the uprising of the
North, in paroxysms of astonishment and rage--the chaos of divided
councils--the call for troops--the first Bull Run--the stunning
cast-down, shock, and dismay of the North--and so in full flood the
secession war. Four years of lurid, bleeding, murky, murderous war.
Who paint those years, with all their scenes?--the hard-fought
engagements--the defeats, plans, failures--the gloomy hours, days,
when our Nationality seem'd hung in pall of doubt, perhaps death--the
Mephistophelean sneers of foreign lands and attachés--the dreaded
Scylla of European interference, and the Charybdis of the tremendously
dangerous latent strata of secession sympathizers throughout the free
States, (far more numerous than is supposed)--the long marches
in summer--the hot sweat, and many a sunstroke, as on the rush to
Gettysburg in '63--the night battles in the woods, as under Hooker
at Chancellorsville--the camps in winter--the military prisons--the
hospitals--(alas! alas! the hospitals.)

The secession war? Nay, let me call it the Union war. Though
whatever call'd, it is even yet too near us--too vast and too closely
overshadowing--its branches unform'd yet, (but certain,) shooting too
far into the future--and the most indicative and mightiest of them yet
ungrown. A great literature will yet arise out of the era of those
four years, those scenes--era compressing centuries of native passion,
first-class pictures, tempests of life and death--an inexhaustible mine
for the histories, drama, romance, and even philosophy, of peoples to
come--indeed the verteber of poetry and art, (of personal character
too,) for all future America--far more grand, in my opinion, to the
hands capable of it, than Homer's siege of Troy, or the French wars to

But I must leave these speculations, and come to the theme I have
assign'd and limited myself to. Of the actual murder of President
Lincoln, though so much has been written, probably the facts are yet
very indefinite in most persons' minds. I read from my memoranda,
written at the time, and revised frequently and finally since.

The day, April 14, 1865, seems to have been a pleasant one throughout
the whole land--the moral atmosphere pleasant too--the long storm, so
dark, so fratricidal, full of blood and doubt and gloom, over and ended
at last by the sun-rise of such an absolute National victory, and utter
break-down of Secessionism--we almost doubted our own senses! Lee had
capitulated beneath the apple-tree of Appomattox. The other armies, the
flanges of the revolt, swiftly follow'd. And could it really be, then?
Out of all the affairs of this world of woe and failure and disorder,
was there really come the confirm'd, unerring sign of plan, like a
shaft of pure light--of rightful rule--of God? So the day, as I say, was
propitious. Early herbage, early flowers, were out. (I remember where
I was stopping at the time, the season being advanced, there were many
lilacs in full bloom. By one of those caprices that enter and give tinge
to events without being at all a part of them, I find myself always
reminded of the great tragedy of that day by the sight and odor of these
blossoms. It never fails.)

But I must not dwell on accessories. The deed hastens. The popular
afternoon paper of Washington, the little "Evening Star," had spatter'd
all over its third page, divided among the advertisements in a
sensational manner, in a hundred different places, _The President and
his Lady will be at the Theatre this evening_.... (Lincoln was fond
of the theatre. I have myself seen him there several times. I remember
thinking how funny it was that he, in some respects the leading actor
in the stormiest drama known to real history's stage through centuries,
should sit there and be so completely interested and absorb'd in those
human jack-straws, moving about with their silly little gestures,
foreign spirit, and flatulent text.)

On this occasion the theatre was crowded, many ladies in rich and gay
costumes, officers in their uniforms, many well-known citizens, young
folks, the usual clusters of gas-lights, the usual magnetism of so many
people, cheerful, with perfumes, music of violins and flutes--(and
over all, and saturating all, that vast, vague wonder, _Victory_,
the nation's victory, the triumph of the Union, filling the air, the
thought, the sense, with exhilaration more than all music and perfumes.)

The President came betimes, and, with his wife, witness'd the play
from the large stage-boxes of the second tier, two thrown into one,
and profusely drap'd with the national flag. The acts and scenes of the
piece--one of those singularly written compositions which have at least
the merit of giving entire relief to an audience engaged in mental
action or business excitements and cares during the day, as it makes
not the slightest call on either the moral, emotional, esthetic, or
spiritual nature--a piece, ("Our American Cousin,") in which, among
other characters, so call'd, a Yankee, certainly such a one as was never
seen, or the least like it ever seen, in North America, is introduced
in England, with a varied fol-de-rol of talk, plot, scenery, and such
phantasmagoria as goes to make up a modern popular drama--had progress'd
through perhaps a couple of its acts, when in the midst of this comedy,
or non-such, or whatever it is to be call'd, and to offset it, or finish
it out, as if in Nature's and the great Muse's mockery of those poor
mimes, came interpolated that scene, not really or exactly to be
described at all, (for on the many hundreds who were there it seems
to this hour to have left a passing blur, a dream, a blotch)--and yet
partially to be described as I now proceed to give it. There is a scene
in the play representing a modern parlor in which two unprecedented
English ladies are inform'd by the impossible Yankee that he is not
a man of fortune, and therefore undesirable for marriage-catching
purposes; after which, the comments being finish'd, the dramatic trio
make exit, leaving the stage clear for a moment. At this period came the
murder of Abraham Lincoln.

Great as all its manifold train, circling round it, and stretching into
the future for many a century, in the politics, history, art, &c.,
of the New World, in point of fact the main thing, the actual
murder, transpired with the quiet and simplicity of any commonest
occurrence--the bursting of a bud or pod in the growth of vegetation,
for instance. Through the general hum following the stage pause, with
the change of positions, came the muffled sound of a pistol-shot, which
not one-hundredth part of the audience heard at the time--and yet a
moment's hush--somehow, surely, a vague startled thrill--and then,
through the ornamented, draperied, starr'd and striped space-way of the
President's box, a sudden figure, a man, raises himself with hands
and feet, stands a moment on the railing, leaps below to the stage, (a
distance of perhaps fourteen or fifteen feet,) falls out of position,
catching his boot-heel in the copious drapery, (the American flag,)
falls on one knee, quickly recovers himself, rises as if nothing had
happen'd, (he really sprains his ankle, but unfelt then)--and so
the figure, Booth, the murderer, dress'd in plain black broadcloth,
bare-headed, with full, glossy, raven hair, and his eyes like some mad
animal's flashing with light and resolution, yet with a certain strange
calmness, holds aloft in one hand a large knife--walks along not much
back from the footlights--turns fully toward the audience his face
of statuesque beauty, lit by those basilisk eyes, flashing with
desperation, perhaps insanity--launches out in a firm and steady voice
the words _Sic semper tyrannis_--and then walks with neither slow
nor very rapid pace diagonally across to the back of the stage, and
disappears. (Had not all this terrible scene--making the mimic ones
preposterous--had it not all been rehears'd, in blank, by Booth,

A moment's hush--a scream--the cry of _murder_--Mrs. Lincoln leaning out
of the box, with ashy cheeks and lips, with involuntary cry, pointing
to the retreating figure, _He has kill'd the President._ And still a
moment's strange, incredulous suspense--and then the deluge!--then that
mixture of horror, noises, uncertainty--(the sound, somewhere back, of
a horse's hoofs clattering with speed)--the people burst through chairs
and railings, and break them up--there is inextricable confusion
and terror--women faint--quite feeble persons fall, and are trampl'd
on--many cries of agony are heard--the broad stage suddenly fills
to suffocation with a dense and motley crowd, like some horrible
carnival--the audience rush generally upon it, at least the strong men
do--the actors and actresses are all there in their play-costumes and
painted faces, with mortal fright showing through the rouge--the screams
and calls, confused talk--redoubled, trebled--two or three manage to
pass up water from the stage to the President's box--others try to
clamber up--&c., &c.

In the midst of all this, the soldiers of the President's guard,
with others, suddenly drawn to the scene, burst in--(some two hundred
altogether)--they storm the house, through all the tiers, especially
the upper ones, inflam'd with fury, literally charging the audience with
fix'd bayonets, muskets and pistols, snouting _Clear out! clear out!
you sons of_----.... Such the wild scene, or a suggestion of it rather,
inside the play-house that night.

Outside, too, in the atmosphere of shock and craze, crowds of people,
fill'd with frenzy, ready to seize any outlet for it, come near
committing murder several times on innocent individuals. One such case
was especially exciting. The infuriated crowd, through some chance, got
started against one man, either for words he utter'd, or perhaps without
any cause at all, and were proceeding at once to actually hang him on
a neighboring lamp-post, when he was rescued by a few heroic policemen,
who placed him in their midst, and fought their way slowly and amid
great peril toward the station house. It was a fitting episode of the
whole affair. The crowd rushing and eddying to and fro--the night,
the yells, the pale faces, many frighten'd people trying in vain to
extricate themselves--the attack'd man, not yet freed from the jaws
of death, looking like a corpse--the silent, resolute, half-dozen
policemen, with no weapons but their little clubs, yet stern and steady
through all those eddying swarms--made a fitting side-scene to the grand
tragedy of the murder. They gain'd the station house with the protected
man, whom they placed in security for the night, and discharged him in
the morning.

And in the midst of that pandemonium, infuriated soldiers, the audience
and the crowd, the stage, and all its actors and actresses, its
paint-pots, spangles, and gas-lights--the life blood from those veins,
the best and sweetest of the land, drips slowly down, and death's ooze
already begins its little bubbles on the lips.

Thus the visible incidents and surroundings of Abraham Lincoln's murder,
as they really occur'd. Thus ended the attempted secession of these
States; thus the four years' war. But the main things come subtly
and invisibly afterward, perhaps long afterward--neither military,
political, nor (great as those are,) historical. I say, certain
secondary and indirect results, out of the tragedy of this death, are,
in my opinion, greatest. Not the event of the murder itself. Not that
Mr. Lincoln strings the principal points and personages of the
period, like beads, upon the single string of his career. Not that his
idiosyncrasy, in its sudden appearance and disappearance, stamps this
Republic with a stamp more mark'd and enduring than any yet given by
any one man--(more even than Washington's;)--but, join'd with these,
the immeasurable value and meaning of that whole tragedy lies, to me,
in senses finally dearest to a nation, (and here all our own)--the
imaginative and artistic senses--the literary and dramatic ones. Not in
any common or low meaning of those terms, but a meaning precious to the
race, and to every age. A long and varied series of contradictory
events arrives at last at its highest poetic, single, central, pictorial
denouement. The whole involved, baffling, multiform whirl of the
secession period comes to a head, and is gather'd in one brief flash of
lightning-illumination--one simple, fierce deed. Its sharp culmination,
and as it were solution, of so many bloody and angry problems,
illustrates those climax-moments on the stage of universal Time, where
the historic Muse at one entrance, and the tragic Muse at the other,
suddenly ringing down the curtain, close an immense act in the long
drama of creative thought, and give it radiation, tableau, stranger than
fiction. Fit radiation--fit close! How the imagination--how the student
loves these things! America, too, is to have them. For not in all
great deaths, nor far or near--not Caesar in the Roman senate-house,
or Napoleon passing away in the wild night-storm at St. Helena--not
Paleologus, falling, desperately fighting, piled over dozens deep with
Grecian corpses--not calm old Socrates, drinking the hemlock--outvies
that terminus of the secession war, in one man's life, here in our
midst, in our own time--that seal of the emancipation of three million
slaves--that parturition and delivery of our at last really free
Republic, born again, henceforth to commence its career of genuine
homogeneous Union, compact, consistent with itself.

Nor will ever future American Patriots and Unionists, indifferently over
the whole land, or North or South, find a better moral to their lesson.
The final use of the greatest men of a Nation is, after all, not with
reference to their deeds in themselves, or their direct bearing on their
times or lands. The final use of a heroic-eminent life--especially of a
heroic-eminent death--is its indirect filtering into the nation and the
race, and to give, often at many removes, but unerringly, age after age,
color and fibre to the personalism of the youth and maturity of that
age, and of mankind. Then there is a cement to the whole people,
subtler, more underlying, than any thing in written constitution, or
courts or armies--namely, the cement of a death identified thoroughly
with that people, at its head, and for its sake. Strange, (is it not?)
that battles, martyrs, agonies, blood, even assassination, should so
condense--perhaps only really, lastingly condense--a Nationality.

I repeat it--the grand deaths of the race--the dramatic deaths of every
nationality--are its most important inheritance-value--in some respects
beyond its literature and art--(as the hero is beyond his finest
portrait, and the battle itself beyond its choicest song or epic.) Is
not here indeed the point underlying all tragedy? the famous pieces of
the Grecian masters--and all masters? Why, if the old Greeks had had
this man, what trilogies of plays--what epics--would have been made
out of him! How the rhapsodes would have recited him! How quickly that
quaint tall form would have enter'd into the region where men vitalize
gods, and gods divinify men! But Lincoln, his times, his death--great
as any, any age--belong altogether to our own, and our autochthonic.
(Sometimes indeed I think our American days, our own stage--the actors
we know and have shaken hands, or talk'd with--more fateful than
anything in Eschylus--more heroic than the fighters around Troy--afford
kings of men for our Democracy prouder than Agamemnon--models of
character cute and hardy as Ulysses--deaths more pitiful than Priam's.)

When, centuries hence, (as it must, in my opinion, be centuries hence
before the life of these States, or of Democracy, can be really written
and illustrated,) the leading historians and dramatists seek for some
personage, some special event, incisive enough to mark with deepest
cut, and mnemonize, this turbulent Nineteenth century of ours, (not only
these States, but all over the political and social world)--something,
perhaps, to close that gorgeous procession of European feudalism, with
all its pomp and caste-prejudices, (of whose long train we in America
are yet so inextricably the heirs)--something to identify with terrible
identification, by far the greatest revolutionary step in the history of
the United States, (perhaps the greatest of the world, our century)--the
absolute extirpation and erasure of slavery from the States--those
historians will seek in vain for any point to serve more thoroughly
their purpose, than Abraham Lincoln's death.

Dear to the Muse--thrice dear to Nationality--to the whole human
race--precious to this Union--precious to Democracy--unspeakably and
forever precious--their first great Martyr Chief.




_Camden, N.J., U.S. America, March 17th, 1876._ DEAR FRIEND:--Yours of
the 28th Feb. receiv'd, and indeed welcom'd. I am jogging along still
about the same in physical condition--still certainly no worse, and I
sometimes lately suspect rather better, or at any rate more adjusted to
the situation. Even begin to think of making some move, some change of
base, &c.: the doctors have been advising it for over two years, but I
haven't felt to do it yet. My paralysis does not lift--I cannot walk
any distance--I still have this baffling, obstinate, apparently chronic
affection of the stomachic apparatus and liver: yet I get out of doors
a little every day--write and read in moderation--appetite sufficiently
good--(eat only very plain food, but always did that)--digestion
tolerable--spirits unflagging. I have told you most of this before, but
suppose you might like to know it all again, up to date. Of course, and
pretty darkly coloring the whole, are bad spells, prostrations,
some pretty grave ones, intervals--and I have resign'd myself to the
certainty of permanent incapacitation from solid work: but things may
continue at least in this half-and-half way for months, even years.

My books are out, the new edition; a set of which, immediately on
receiving your letter of 28th, I have sent you, (by mail, March 15,)
and I suppose you have before this receiv'd them. My dear friend, your
offers of help, and those of my other British friends, I think I fully
appreciate, in the right spirit, welcome and acceptive--leaving the
matter altogether in your and their hands, and to your and their
convenience, discretion, leisure, and nicety. Though poor now, even to
penury, I have not so far been deprived of any physical thing I need or
wish whatever, and I feel confident I shall not in the future. During my
employment of seven years or more in Washington after the war (1865-'72)
I regularly saved part of my wages: and, though the sum has now become
about exhausted by my expenses of the last three years, there are
already beginning at present welcome dribbles hitherward from the sales
of my new edition, which I just job and sell, myself, (all through this
illness, my book-agents for three years in New York successively, badly
cheated me,) and shall continue to dispose of the books myself. And that
is the way I should prefer to glean my support. In that way I cheerfully
accept all the aid my friends find it convenient to proffer.

To repeat a little, and without undertaking details, understand, dear
friend, for yourself and all, that I heartily and most affectionately
thank my British friends, and that I accept their sympathetic generosity
in the same spirit in which I believe (nay, know) it is offer'd--that
though poor I am not in want--that I maintain good heart and cheer; and
that by far the most satisfaction to me (and I think it can be done, and
believe it will be) will be to live, as long as possible, on the sales,
by myself, of my own works, and perhaps, if practicable, by further
writings for the press.

W. W.

I am prohibited from writing too much, and I must make this candid
statement of the situation serve for all my dear friends over there.



_Camden, New Jersey, U.S.A., Dec. 20, '81._ DEAR SIR:--Your letter
asking definite endorsement to your translation of my "Leaves of Grass"
into Russian is just received, and I hasten to answer it. Most warmly
and willingly I consent to the translation, and waft a prayerful God
speed to the enterprise.

You Russians and we Americans! Our countries so distant, so unlike at
first glance--such a difference in social and political conditions,
and our respective methods of moral and practical development the
last hundred years;--and yet in certain features, and vastest ones, so
resembling each other. The variety of stock-elements and tongues, to
be resolutely fused in a common identity and union at all hazards--the
idea, perennial through the ages, that they both have their historic and
divine mission--the fervent element of manly friendship throughout
the whole people, surpass'd by no other races--the grand expanse of
territorial limits and boundaries--the unform'd and nebulous state of
many things, not yet permanently settled, but agreed on all hands to
be the preparations of an infinitely greater future--the fact that both
Peoples have their independent and leading positions to hold, keep, and
if necessary, fight for, against the rest of the world--the deathless
aspirations at the inmost centre of each great community, so vehement,
so mysterious, so abysmic--are certainly features you Russians and
we Americans possess in common. As my dearest dream is for an
internationality of poems and poets binding the lands of the earth
closer than all treaties and diplomacy--as the purpose beneath the rest
in my book is such hearty comradeship, for individuals to begin with,
and for all the nations of the earth as a result--how happy I should be
to get the hearing and emotional contact of the great Russian peoples.

To whom, now and here, (addressing you for Russia and Russians and
empowering you, should you see fit, to print the present letter, in your
book, as a preface,) I waft affectionate salutation from these shores,
in America's name.

W. W.


NATIONALITY--(AND YET) It is more and more clear to me that the main
sustenance for highest separate personality, these States, is to come
from that general sustenance of the aggregate, (as air, earth, rains,
give sustenance to a tree)--and that such personality, by democratic
standards, will only be fully coherent, grand and free, through the
cohesion, grandeur and freedom of the common aggregate, the Union. Thus
the existence of the true American continental solidarity of the future,
depending on myriads of superb, large-sized, emotional and physically
perfect individualities, of one sex just as much as the other, the
supply of such individualities, in my opinion, wholly depends on
a compacted imperial ensemble. The theory and practice of both
sovereignties, contradictory as they are, are necessary. As the
centripetal law were fatal alone, or the centrifugal law deadly and
destructive alone, but together forming the law of eternal kosmical
action, evolution, preservation, and life--so, by itself alone, the
fullness of individuality, even the sanest, would surely destroy itself.
This is what makes the importance to the identities of these States
of the thoroughly fused, relentless, dominating Union--a moral and
spiritual idea, subjecting all the parts with remorseless power, more
needed by American democracy than by any of history's hitherto empires
or feudalities, and the _sine qua non_ of carrying out the republican
principle to develop itself in the New World through hundreds, thousands
of years to come.

Indeed, what most needs fostering through the hundred years to come, in
all parts of the United States, north, south, Mississippi valley, and
Atlantic and Pacific coasts, is this fused and fervent identity of the
individual, whoever he or she may be, and wherever the place, with the
idea and fact of AMERICAN TOTALITY, and with what is meant by the Flag,
the stars and stripes. We need this conviction of nationality as a
faith, to be absorb'd in the blood and belief of the People everywhere,
south, north, west, east, to emanate in their life, and in native
literature and art. We want the germinal idea that America, inheritor
of the past, is the custodian of the future of humanity. Judging from
history, it is some such moral and spiritual ideas appropriate to
them, (and such ideas only,) that have made the profoundest glory
and endurance of nations in the past. The races of Judea, the classic
clusters of Greece and Rome, and the feudal and ecclesiastical clusters
of the Middle Ages, were each and all vitalized by their separate
distinctive ideas, ingrain'd in them, redeeming many sins, and indeed,
in a sense, the principal reason-why for their whole career.

Then, in the thought of nationality especially for the United States,
and making them original, and different from all other countries,
another point ever remains to be considered. There are two distinct
principles--aye, paradoxes--at the life-fountain and life-continuation
of the States; one, the sacred principle of the Union, the right of
ensemble, at whatever sacrifice--and yet another, an equally sacred
principle, the right of each State, consider'd as a separate sovereign
individual, in its own sphere. Some go zealously for one set of these
rights, and some as zealously for the other set. We must have both; or
rather, bred out of them, as out of mother and father, a third set, the
perennial result and combination of both, and neither jeopardized. I
say the loss or abdication of one set, in the future, will be ruin to
democracy just as much as the loss of the other set. The problem is,
to harmoniously adjust the two, and the play of the two. [Observe the
lesson of the divinity of Nature, ever checking the excess of one law,
by an opposite, or seemingly opposite law--generally the other side of
the same law.] For the theory of this Republic is, not that the General
government is the fountain of all life and power, dispensing it forth,
around, and to the remotest portions of our territory, but that THE
PEOPLE are, represented in both, underlying both the General and State
governments, and consider'd just as well in their individualities and
in their separate aggregates, or States, as consider'd in one vast
aggregate, the Union. This was the original dual theory and
foundation of the United States, as distinguish'd from the feudal and
ecclesiastical single idea of monarchies and papacies, and the divine
right of kings. (Kings have been of use, hitherto, as representing the
idea of the identity of nations. But, to American democracy, _both_
ideas must be fulfill'd, and in my opinion the loss of vitality of
either one will indeed be the loss of vitality of the other.)


In the regions we call Nature, towering beyond all measurement, with
infinite spread, infinite depth and height--in those regions, including
Man, socially and historically, with his moral-emotional influences--how
small a part, (it came in my mind to-day,) has literature really
depicted--even summing up all of it, all ages. Seems at its best some
little fleet of boats, hugging the shores of a boundless sea, and never
venturing, exploring the unmapp'd--never, Columbus-like, sailing out for
New Worlds, and to complete the orb's rondure. Emerson writes frequently
in the atmosphere of this thought, and his books report one or two
things from that very ocean and air, and more legibly address'd to
our age and American polity than by any man yet. But I will begin by
scarifying him--thus proving that I am not insensible to his deepest
lessons. I will consider his books from a democratic and western point
of view. I will specify the shadows on these sunny expanses. Somebody
has said of heroic character that "wherever the tallest peaks are
present, must inevitably be deep chasms and valleys." Mine be the
ungracious task (for reasons) of leaving unmention'd both sunny expanses
and sky-reaching heights, to dwell on the bare spots and darknesses. I
have a theory that no artist or work of the very first class may be or
can be without them.

First, then, these pages are perhaps too perfect, too concentrated. (How
good, for instance, is good butter, good sugar. But to be eating nothing
but sugar and butter all the time! even if ever so good.) And though
the author has much to say of freedom and wildness and simplicity
and spontaneity, no performance was ever more based on artificial
scholarships and decorums at third or fourth removes, (he calls it
culture,) and built up from them. It is always a _make_, never an
unconscious _growth_. It is the porcelain figure or statuette of lion,
or stag, or Indian hunter--and a very choice statuette too--appropriate
for the rosewood or marble bracket of parlor or library; never the
animal itself, or the hunter himself. Indeed, who wants the real animal
or hunter? What would that do amid astral and bric-a-brac and tapestry,
and ladies and gentlemen talking in subdued tones of Browning and
Longfellow and art? The least suspicion of such actual bull, or Indian,
or of Nature carrying out itself, would put all those good people to
instant terror and flight.

Emerson, in my opinion, is not most eminent as poet or artist or
teacher, though valuable in all those. He is best as critic, or
diagnoser. Not passion or imagination or warp or weakness, or any
pronounced cause or specialty, dominates him. Cold and bloodless
intellectuality dominates him. (I know the fires, emotions, love,
egotisms, glow deep, perennial, as in all New Englanders--but the
façade, hides them well--they give no sign.) He does not see or take one
side, one presentation only or mainly, (as all the poets, or most of the
fine writers anyhow)--he sees all sides. His final influence is to
make his students cease to worship anything--almost cease to believe in
anything, outside of themselves. These books will fill, and well fill,
certain stretches of life, certain stages of development--are, (like
the tenets or theology the author of them preach'd when a young man,)
unspeakably serviceable and precious as a stage. But in old or nervous
or solemnest or dying hours, when one needs the impalpably soothing and
vitalizing influences of abysmic Nature, or its affinities in literature
or human society, and the soul resents the keenest mere intellection,
they will not be sought for.

For a philosopher, Emerson possesses a singularly dandified theory of
manners. He seems to have no notion at all that manners are simply the
signs by which the chemist or metallurgist knows his metals. To the
profound scientist, all metals are profound, as they really are. The
little one, like the conventional world, will make much of gold and
silver only. Then to the real artist in humanity, what are called bad
manners are often the most picturesque and significant of all. Suppose
these books becoming absorb'd, the permanent chyle of American general
and particular character--what a well-wash'd and grammatical, but
bloodless and helpless, race we should turn out! No, no, dear friend;
though the States want scholars, undoubtedly, and perhaps want ladies
and gentlemen who use the bath frequently, and never laugh loud, or talk
wrong, they don't want scholars, or ladies and gentlemen, at the expense
of all the rest. They want good farmers, sailors, mechanics, clerks,
citizens--perfect business and social relations--perfect fathers and
mothers. If we could only have these, or their approximations, plenty
of them, fine and large and sane and generous and patriotic, they might
make their verbs disagree from their nominatives, and laugh like volleys
of musketeers, if they should please. Of course these are not all
America wants, but they are first of all to be provided on a large
scale. And, with tremendous errors and escapades, this, substantially,
is what the States seem to have an intuition of, and to be mainly aiming
at. The plan of a select class, superfined, (demarcated from the rest,)
the plan of Old World lands and literatures, is not so objectionable in
itself, but because it chokes the true plan for us, and indeed is death
to it. As to such special class, the United States can never produce any
equal to the splendid show, (far, far beyond comparison or competition
here,) of the principal European nations, both in the past and at the
present day. But an immense and distinctive commonalty over our vast and
varied area, west and east, south and north--in fact, for the first time
in history, a great, aggregated, real PEOPLE, worthy the name, and made
of develop'd heroic individuals, both sexes--is America's principal,
perhaps only, reason for being. If ever accomplish'd, it will be at
least as much, (I lately think, doubly as much,) the result of fitting
and democratic sociologies, literatures and arts--if we ever get
them--as of our democratic politics.

At times it has been doubtful to me if Emerson really knows or feels
what Poetry is at its highest, as in the Bible, for instance, or Homer
or Shakspere. I see he covertly or plainly likes best superb verbal
polish, or something old or odd--Waller's "Go, lovely rose," or
Lovelace's lines "to Lucusta"--the quaint conceits of the old French
bards, and the like. Of _power_ he seems to have a gentleman's
admiration--but in his inmost heart the grandest attribute of God and
Poets is always subordinate to the octaves, conceits, polite kinks, and

The reminiscence that years ago I began like most youngsters to have
a touch (though it came late, and was only on the surface) of
Emerson-on-the-brain--that I read his writings reverently, and address'd
him in print as "Master," and for a month or so thought of him as
such--I retain not only with composure, but positive satisfaction. I
have noticed that most young people of eager minds pass through this
stage of exercise.

The best part of Emersonianism is, it breeds the giant that destroys
itself. Who wants to be any man's mere follower? lurks behind every
page. No teacher ever taught, that has so provided for his pupil's
setting up independently--no truer evolutionist.



_One party says_--We arrange our lives--even the best and boldest men
and women that exist, just as much as the most limited--with reference
to what society conventionally rules and makes right. We retire to our
rooms for freedom; to undress, bathe, unloose everything in freedom.
These, and much else, would not be proper in society.

_Other party answers_--Such is the rule of society. Not always so, and
considerable exceptions still exist. However, it must be called the
general rule, sanction'd by immemorial usage, and will probably always
remain so.

_First party_--Why not, then, respect it in your poems?

_Answer_--One reason, and to me a profound one, is that the soul of a
man or woman demands, enjoys compensation in the highest directions for
this very restraint of himself or herself, level'd to the average, or
rather mean, low, however eternally practical, requirements of society's
intercourse. To balance this indispensable abnegation, the free minds
of poets relieve themselves, and strengthen and enrich mankind with free
flights in all the directions not tolerated by ordinary society.

_First party_--But must not outrage or give offence to it.

_Answer_--No, not in the deepest sense--and do not, and cannot. The
vast averages of time and the race _en masse_ settle these things. Only
understand that the conventional standards and laws proper enough for
ordinary society apply neither to the action of the soul, nor its poets.
In fact the latter know no laws but the laws of themselves, planted in
them by God, and are themselves the last standards of the law, and its
final exponents--responsible to Him directly, and not at all to mere
etiquette. Often the best service that can be done to the race, is
to lift the veil, at least for a time, from these rules and

NEW POETRY--_California, Canada, Texas_.--In my opinion the time has
arrived to essentially break down the barriers of form between prose and
poetry. I say the latter is henceforth to win and maintain its character
regardless of rhyme, and the measurement-rules of iambic, spondee,
dactyl, &c., and that even if rhyme and those measurements continue
to furnish the medium for inferior writers and themes, (especially for
persiflage and the comic, as there seems henceforward, to the perfect
taste, something inevitably comic in rhyme, merely in itself, and
anyhow,) the truest and greatest _Poetry_, (while subtly and necessarily
always rhythmic, and distinguishable easily enough,) can never again, in
the English language, be express'd in arbitrary and rhyming metre, any
more than the greatest eloquence, or the truest power and passion. While
admitting that the venerable and heavenly forms of chiming versification
have in their time play'd great and fitting parts--that the pensive
complaint, the ballads, wars, amours, legends of Europe, &c., have, many
of them, been inimitably render'd in rhyming verse--that there have
been very illustrious poets whose shapes the mantle of such verse
has beautifully and appropriately envelopt--and though the mantle
has fallen, with perhaps added beauty, on some of our own age--it is,
not-withstanding, certain to me, that the day of such conventional rhyme
is ended. In America, at any rate, and as a medium of highest esthetic
practical or spiritual expression, present or future, it palpably
fails, and must fail, to serve. The Muse of the Prairies, of California,
Canada, Texas, and of the peaks of Colorado, dismissing the literary,
as well as social etiquette of over-sea feudalism and caste, joyfully
enlarging, adapting itself to comprehend the size of the whole people,
with the free play, emotions, pride, passions, experiences, that belong
to them, body and soul--to the general globe, and all its relations in
astronomy, as the savans portray them to us--to the modern, the busy
Nineteenth century, (as grandly poetic as any, only different,)
with steamships, railroads, factories, electric telegraphs, cylinder
presses--to the thought of the solidarity of nations, the brotherhood
and sisterhood of the entire earth--to the dignity and heroism of the
practical labor of farms, factories, foundries, workshops, mines, or
on shipboard, or on lakes and rivers--resumes that other medium of
expression, more flexible, more eligible--soars to the freer, vast,
diviner heaven of prose.

Of poems of the third or fourth class, (perhaps even some of the
second,) it makes little or no difference who writes them--they are good
enough for what they are; nor is it necessary that they should be
actual emanations from the personality and life of the writers. The very
reverse sometimes gives piquancy. But poems of the first class, (poems
of the depth, as distinguished from those of the surface,) are to be
sternly tallied with the poets themselves, and tried by them and their
lives. Who wants a glorification of courage and manly defiance from
a coward or a sneak?--a ballad of benevolence or chastity from some
rhyming hunks, or lascivious, glib _roué_?

In these States, beyond all precedent, poetry will have to do with
actual facts, with the concrete States, and--for we have not much more
than begun--with the definitive getting into shape of the Union. Indeed
I sometimes think _it_ alone is to define the Union, (namely, to give
it artistic character, spirituality, dignity.) What American humanity is
most in danger of is an overwhelming prosperity, "business" worldliness,
materialism: what is most lacking, east, west, north, south, is a fervid
and glowing Nationality and patriotism, cohering all the parts into one.
Who may fend that danger, and fill that lack in the future, but a class
of loftiest poets?

If the United States haven't grown poets, on any scale of grandeur,
it is certain they import, print, and read more poetry than any equal
number of people elsewhere--probably more than all the rest of the world

Poetry (like a grand personality) is a growth of many generations--many
rare combinations.

To have great poets, there must be great audiences, too.


To avoid mistake, I would say that I not only commend the study of
this literature, but wish our sources of supply and comparison vastly
enlarged. American students may well derive from all former lands--from
forenoon Greece and Rome, down to the perturb'd mediaeval times,
the Crusades, and so to Italy, the German intellect--all the older
literatures, and all the newer ones--from witty and warlike France,
and markedly, and in many ways, and at many different periods, from the
enterprise and soul of the great Spanish race--bearing ourselves
always courteous, always deferential, indebted beyond measure to the
mother-world, to all its nations dead, as all its nations living--the
offspring, this America of ours, the daughter, not by any means of the
British isles exclusively, but of the continent, and all continents.
Indeed, it is time we should realize and fully fructify those germs we
also hold from Italy, France, Spain, especially in the best imaginative
productions of those lands, which are, in many ways, loftier and subtler
than the English, or British, and indispensable to complete our service,
proportions, education, reminiscences, &c.... The British element
these States hold, and have always held, enormously beyond its fit
proportions. I have already spoken of Shakspere. He seems to me
of astral genius, first class, entirely fit for feudalism. His
contributions, especially to the literature of the passions, are
immense, forever dear to humanity--and his name is always to be
reverenced in America. But there is much in him ever offensive to
democracy. He is not only the tally of feudalism, but I should say
Shakspere is incarnated, uncompromising feudalism, in literature. Then
one seems to detect something in him--I hardly know how to describe
it--even amid the dazzle of his genius; and, in inferior manifestations,
it is found in nearly all leading British authors. (Perhaps we will have
to import the words Snob, Snobbish, &c., after all.) While of the great
poems of Asian antiquity, the Indian epics, the book of Job, the Ionian
Iliad, the unsurpassedly simple, loving, perfect idyls of the life and
death of Christ, in the New Testament, (indeed Homer and the Biblical
utterances intertwine familiarly with us, in the main,) and along down,
of most of the characteristic, imaginative or romantic relics of the
continent, as the Cid, Cervantes' Don Quixote, &c., I should say they
substantially adjust themselves to us, and, far off as they are, accord
curiously with our bed and board to-day, in New York, Washington,
Canada, Ohio, Texas, California--and with our notions, both of
seriousness and of fun, and our standards of heroism, manliness, and
even the democratic requirements--those requirements are not only not
fulfill'd in the Shaksperean productions, but are insulted on every

I add that--while England is among the greatest of lands in political
freedom, or the idea of it, and in stalwart personal character, &c.--the
spirit of English literature is not great, at least is not greatest--and
its products are no models for us. With the exception of Shakspere,
there is no first-class genius in that literature--which, with a truly
vast amount of value, and of artificial beauty, (largely from the
classics,) is almost always material, sensual, not spiritual--almost
always congests, makes plethoric, not frees, expands, dilates--is cold,
anti-democratic, loves to be sluggish and stately, and shows much of
that characteristic of vulgar persons, the dread of saying or doing
something not at all improper in itself, but unconventional, and that
may be laugh'd at. In its best, the sombre pervades it; it is moody,
melancholy, and, to give it its due, expresses, in characters and
plots, those qualities, in an unrival'd manner. Yet not as the black
thunder-storms, and in great normal, crashing passions, of the Greek
dramatists--clearing the air, refreshing afterward, bracing with power;
but as in Hamlet, moping, sick, uncertain, and leaving ever after a
secret taste for the blues, the morbid fascination, the luxury of wo....

I strongly recommend all the young men and young women of the United
States to whom it may be eligible, to overhaul the well-freighted
fleets, the literatures of Italy, Spain, France, Germany, so full of
those elements of freedom, self-possession, gay-heartedness, subtlety,
dilation, needed in preparations for the future of the States. I only
wish we could have really good translations. I rejoice at the feeling
for Oriental researches and poetry, and hope it will go on.


Running through prehistoric ages--coming down from them into the
daybreak of our records, founding theology, suffusing literature, and so
brought onward--(a sort of verteber and marrow to all the antique races
and lands, Egypt, India, Greece, Rome, the Chinese, the Jews, &c., and
giving cast and complexion to their art, poems, and their politics as
well as ecclesiasticism, all of which we more or less inherit,) appear
those venerable claims to origin from God himself, or from gods and
goddesses--ancestry from divine beings of vaster beauty, size, and power
than ours. But in current and latest times, the theory of human
origin that seems to have most made its mark, (curiously reversing the
antique,) is that we have come on, originated, developt, from monkeys,
baboons--a theory more significant perhaps in its indirections, or what
it necessitates, than it is even in itself. (Of the twain, far apart as
they seem, and angrily as their conflicting advocates to-day oppose
each other, are not both theories to be possibly reconcil'd, and even
blended? Can we, indeed, spare either of them? Better still, out of
them is not a third theory, the real one, or suggesting the real one, to

Of this old theory, evolution, as broach'd anew, trebled, with indeed
all-devouring claims, by Darwin, it has so much in it, and is so needed
as a counterpoise to yet widely prevailing and unspeakably tenacious,
enfeebling superstitions--is fused, by the new man, into such grand,
modest, truly scientific accompaniments--that the world of erudition,
both moral and physical, cannot but be eventually better'd and broaden'd
in its speculations, from the advent of Darwinism. Nevertheless, the
problem of origins, human and other, is not the least whit nearer
its solution. In due time the Evolution theory will have to abate its
vehemence, cannot be allow'd to dominate every thing else, and will have
to take its place as a segment of the circle, the cluster--as but one of
many theories, many thoughts, of profoundest value--and re-adjusting
and differentiating much, yet leaving the divine secrets just as
inexplicable and unreachable as before--maybe more so.

_Then furthermore_--What is finally to be done by priest or poet--and by
priest or poet only--amid all the stupendous and dazzling novelties
of our century, with the advent of America, and of science and
democracy--remains just as indispensable, after all the work of the
grand astronomers, chemists, linguists, historians, and explorers of the
last hundred years--and the wondrous German and other metaphysicians of
that time--and will continue to remain, needed, America and here,
just the same as in the world of Europe, or Asia, of a hundred, or a
thousand, or several thousand years ago. I think indeed _more_ needed,
to furnish statements from the present points, the added arriere, and
the unspeakably immenser vistas of to-day. Only, the priests and poets
of the modern, at least as exalted as any in the past, fully absorbing
and appreciating the results of the past, in the commonalty of all
humanity, all time, (the main results already, for there is perhaps
nothing more, or at any rate not much, strictly new, only more important
modern combinations, and new relative adjustments,) must indeed recast
the old metal, the already achiev'd material, into and through new
moulds, current forms.

Meantime, the highest and subtlest and broadest truths of modern science
wait for their true assignment and last vivid flashes of light--as
Democracy waits for it's--through first-class metaphysicians and
speculative philosophs--laying the basements and foundations for those
new, more expanded, more harmonious, more melodious, freer American


I have myself little or no hope from what is technically called
"Society" in our American cities. New York, of which place I have spoken
so sharply, still promises something, in time, out of its tremendous
and varied materials, with a certain superiority of intuitions, and the
advantage of constant agitation, and ever new and rapid dealings of
the cards. Of Boston, with its circles of social mummies, swathed in
cerements harder than brass--its bloodless religion, (Unitarianism,)
its complacent vanity of scientism and literature, lots of grammatical
correctness, mere knowledge, (always wearisome, in itself)--its zealous
abstractions, ghosts of reforms--I should say, (ever admitting its
business powers, its sharp, almost demoniac, intellect, and no lack, in
its own way, of courage and generosity)--there is, at present, little
of cheering, satisfying sign. In the West, California, &c., "society" is
yet unform'd, puerile, seemingly unconscious of anything above a driving
business, or to liberally spend the money made by it, in the usual
rounds and shows.

Then there is, to the humorous observer of American attempts at fashion,
according to the models of foreign courts and saloons, quite a
comic side--particularly visible at Washington city--a sort of
high-life-below-stairs business. As if any farce could be funnier,
for instance, than the scenes of the crowds, winter nights, meandering
around our Presidents and their wives, cabinet officers, western or
other Senators, Representatives, &c.; born of good laboring mechanic or
farmer stock and antecedents, attempting those full-dress receptions,
finesse of parlors, foreign ceremonies, etiquettes, &c.

Indeed, consider'd with any sense of propriety, or any sense at all,
the whole of this illy-play'd fashionable play and display, with their
absorption of the best part of our wealthier citizens' time, money,
energies, &c., is ridiculously out of place in the United States. As if
our proper man and woman, (far, far greater words than "gentleman"
and "lady,") could still fail to see, and presently achieve, not this
spectral business, but something truly noble, active, sane, American--by
modes, perfections of character, manners, costumes, social relations,
&c., adjusted to standards, far, far different from those.

Eminent and liberal foreigners, British or continental, must at times
have their faith fearfully tried by what they see of our New World
personalities. The shallowest and least American persons seem surest
to push abroad, and call without fail on well-known foreigners, who are
doubtless affected with indescribable qualms by these queer ones. Then,
more than half of our authors and writers evidently think it a
great thing to be "aristocratic," and sneer at progress, democracy,
revolution, etc. If some international literary snobs' gallery were
establish'd, it is certain that America could contribute at least her
full share of the portraits, and some very distinguish'd ones. Observe
that the most impudent slanders, low insults, &c., on the great
revolutionary authors, leaders, poets, &c., of Europe, have their origin
and main circulation in certain circles here. The treatment of Victor
Hugo living, and Byron dead, are samples. Both deserving so well of
America, and both persistently attempted to be soil'd here by unclean
birds, male and female.

Meanwhile I must still offset the like of the foregoing, and all it
infers, by the recognition of the fact, that while the surfaces of
current society here show so much that is dismal, noisome, and vapory,
there are, beyond question, inexhaustible supplies, as of true gold ore,
in the mines of America's general humanity. Let us, not ignoring the
dross, give fit stress to these precious immortal values also. Let it
be distinctly admitted, that--whatever may be said of our fashionable
society, and of any foul fractions and episodes--only here in America,
out of the long history and manifold presentations of the ages, has at
last arisen, and now stands, what never before took positive form
and sway, _the People_--and that view'd en masse, and while fully
acknowledging deficiencies, dangers, faults, this people, inchoate,
latent, not yet come to majority, nor to its own religious, literary, or
esthetic expression, yet affords, to-day, an exultant justification
of all the faith, all the hopes and prayers and prophecies of good
men through the past--the stablest, solidest-based government of
the world--the most assured in a future--the beaming Pharos to whose
perennial light all earnest eyes, the world over, are tending--and that
already, in and from it, the democratic principle, having been mortally
tried by severest tests, fatalities of war and peace, now issues from
the trial, unharm'd, trebly-invigorated, perhaps to commence forthwith
its finally triumphant march around the globe.

THE TRAMP AND STRIKE QUESTIONS: _Part of a Lecture proposed, (never

Two grim and spectral dangers--dangerous to peace, to health, to social
security, to progress--long known in concrete to the governments of the
Old World, and there eventuating, more than once or twice, in dynastic
overturns, bloodshed, days, months, of terror--seem of late years to
be nearing the New World, nay, to be gradually establishing themselves
among us. What mean these phantoms here? (I personify them in fictitious
shapes, but they are very real.) Is the fresh and broad demesne of
America destined also to give them foothold and lodgment, permanent

Beneath the whole political world, what most presses and perplexes
to-day, sending vastest results affecting the future, is not the
abstract question of democracy, but of social and economic organization,
the treatment of working-people by employers, and all that goes along
with it--not only the wages-payment part, but a certain spirit and
principle, to vivify anew these relations; all the questions of
progress, strength, tariffs, finance, &c., really evolving themselves
more or less directly out of the Poverty Question, ("the Science of
Wealth," and a dozen other names are given it, but I prefer the severe
one just used.) I will begin by calling the reader's attention to a
thought upon the matter which may not have struck you before--the wealth
of the civilized world, as contrasted with its poverty--what does it
derivatively stand for, and represent? A rich person ought to have a
strong stomach. As in Europe the wealth of to-day mainly results from,
and represents, the rapine, murder, outrages, treachery, hoggishness, of
hundreds of years ago, and onward, later, so in America, after the same
token--(not yet so bad, perhaps, or at any rate not so palpable--we have
not existed long enough--but we seem to be doing our best to make it

Curious as it may seem, it is in what are call'd the poorest, lowest
characters you will sometimes, nay generally, find glints of the most
sublime virtues, eligibilities, heroisms. Then it is doubtful whether
the State is to be saved, either in the monotonous long run, or in
tremendous special crises, by its good people only. When the storm is
deadliest, and the disease most imminent, help often comes from strange
quarters--(the homoeopathic motto, you remember, _cure the bite with a
hair of the same dog.)_

The American Revolution of 1776 was simply a great strike, successful
for its immediate object--but whether a real success judged by the scale
of the centuries, and the long-striking balance of Time, yet remains to
be settled. The French Revolution was absolutely a strike, and a very
terrible and relentless one, against ages of bad pay, unjust division
of wealth-products, and the hoggish monopoly of a few, rolling in
superfluity, against the vast bulk of the work-people, living in

If the United States, like the countries of the Old World, are also
to grow vast crops of poor, desperate, dissatisfied, nomadic,
miserably-waged populations, such as we see looming upon us of late
years--steadily, even if slowly, eating into them like a cancer of lungs
or stomach--then our republican experiment, notwithstanding all its
surface-successes, is at heart an unhealthy failure.

_Feb. '79._--I saw to-day a sight I had never seen before--and it
amazed, and made me serious; three quite good-looking American men,
of respectable personal presence, two of them young, carrying
chiffonier-bags on their shoulders, and the usual long iron hooks in
their hands, plodding along, their eyes cast down, spying for scraps,
rags, bones, &c.


Estimated and summ'd-up to-day, having thoroughly justified itself
the past hundred years, (as far as growth, vitality and power are
concern'd,) by severest and most varied trials of peace and war,
and having establish'd itself for good, with all its necessities and
benefits, for time to come, is now to be seriously consider'd also
in its pronounc'd and already developt dangers. While the battle was
raging, and the result suspended, all defections and criticisms were
to be hush'd, and everything bent with vehemence unmitigated toward the
urge of victory. But that victory settled, new responsibilities advance.
I can conceive of no better service in the United States, henceforth,
by democrats of thorough and heart-felt faith, than boldly exposing
the weakness, liabilities and infinite corruptions of democracy. By the
unprecedented opening-up of humanity en-masse in the United States, the
last hundred years, under our institutions, not only the good qualities
of the race, but just as much the bad ones, are prominently brought
forward. Man is about the same, in the main, whether with despotism, or
whether with freedom.

"The ideal form of human society," Canon Kingsley declares, "is
democracy. A nation--and were it even possible, a whole world--of free
men, lifting free foreheads to God and Nature; calling no man master,
for One is their master, even God; knowing and doing their duties toward
the Maker of the universe, and therefore to each other; not from fear,
nor calculation of profit or loss, but because they have seen the beauty
of righteousness, and trust, and peace; because the law of God is in
their hearts. Such a nation--such a society--what nobler conception of
moral existence can we form? Would not that, indeed, be the kingdom of
God come on earth?"

To this faith, founded in the ideal, let us hold--and never abandon
or lose it. Then what a spectacle is _practically_ exhibited by our
American democracy to-day!


Though I think I fully comprehend the absence of moral tone in our
current politics and business, and the almost entire futility of
absolute and simple honor as a counterpoise against the enormous greed
for worldly wealth, with the trickeries of gaining it, all through
society our day, I still do not share the depression and despair on the
subject which I find possessing many good people. The advent of America,
the history of the past century, has been the first general aperture and
opening-up to the average human commonalty, on the broadest scale, of
the eligibilities to wealth and worldly success and eminence, and has
been fully taken advantage of; and the example has spread hence, in
ripples, to all nations. To these eligibilities--to this limitless
aperture, the race has tended, en-masse, roaring and rushing and crude,
and fiercely, turbidly hastening--and we have seen the first stages,
and are now in the midst of the result of it all, so far. But there will
certainly ensue other stages, and entirely different ones. In nothing
is there more evolution than the American mind. Soon, it will be fully
realized that ostensible wealth and money-making, show, luxury, &c.,
imperatively necessitate something beyond--namely, the sane, eternal
moral and spiritual-esthetic attributes, elements. (We cannot have even
that realization on any less terms than the price we are now paying
for it.) Soon, it will be understood clearly, that the State cannot
flourish, (nay, cannot exist,) without those elements. They will
gradually enter into the chyle of sociology and literature. They will
finally make the blood and brawn of the best American individualities
of both sexes--and thus, with them, to a certainty, (through these very
processes of to-day,) dominate the New World.


It still remains doubtful to me whether these will ever secure,
officially, the best wit and capacity--whether, through them, the
first-class genius of America will ever personally appear in the high
political stations, the Presidency, Congress, the leading State
offices, &c. Those offices, or the candidacy for them, arranged, won,
by caucusing, money, the favoritism or pecuniary interest of rings, the
superior manipulation of the ins over the outs, or the outs over the
ins, are, indeed, at best, the mere business agencies of the people, are
useful as formulating, neither the best and highest, but the average
of the public judgment, sense, justice, (or sometimes want of judgment,
sense, justice.) We elect Presidents, Congressmen, &c., not so much to
have them consider and decide for us, but as surest practical means of
expressing the will of majorities on mooted questions, measures, &c.

As to general suffrage, after all, since we have gone so far, the more
general it is, the better. I favor the widest opening of the doors. Let
the ventilation and area be wide enough, and all is safe. We can never
have a born penitentiary-bird, or panel-thief, or lowest gambling-hell
or groggery keeper, for President--though such may not only emulate, but
get, high offices from localities--even from the proud and wealthy city
of New York.


The protectionists are fond of flashing to the public eye the glittering
delusion of great money-results from manufactures, mines, artificial
exports--so many millions from this source, and so many from that--such
a seductive, unanswerable show--an immense revenue of annual cash from
iron, cotton, woollen, leather goods, and a hundred other things, all
bolstered up by "protection." But the really important point of all
is, _into whose pockets does this plunder really go?_ It would be some
excuse and satisfaction if even a fair proportion of it went to the
masses of laboring-men--resulting in homesteads to such, men, women,
children--myriads of actual homes in fee simple, in every State, (not
the false glamour of the stunning wealth reported in the census, in
the statistics, or tables in the newspapers,) but a fair division
and generous average to those workmen and workwomen--_that_ would be
something. But the fact itself is nothing of the kind. The profits of
"protection" go altogether to a few score select persons--who, by
favors of Congress, State legislatures, the banks, and other special
advantages, are forming a vulgar aristocracy, full as bad as anything in
the British or European castes, of blood, or the dynasties there of the
past. As Sismondi pointed out, the true prosperity of a nation is not in
the great wealth of a special class, but is only to be really attain'd
in having the bulk of the people provided with homes or land in fee
simple. This may not be the best show, but it is the best reality.


Though Nature maintains, and must prevail, there will always be plenty
of people, and good people, who cannot, or think they cannot, see
anything in that last, wisest, most envelop'd of proverbs, "Friendship
rules the World." Modern society, in its largest vein, is essentially
intellectual, infidelistic--secretly admires, and depends most on,
pure compulsion or science, its rule and sovereignty--is, in short, in
"cultivated" quarters, deeply Napoleonic.

"Friendship," said Bonaparte, in one of his lightning-flashes of
candid garrulity, "Friendship is but a name. I love no one--not even my
brothers; Joseph perhaps a little. Still, if I do love him, it is from
habit, because he is the eldest of us. Duroc? Ay, him, if any one,
I love in a sort--but why? He suits me; he is cool, undemonstrative,
unfeeling--has no weak affections--never embraces any one--never weeps."

I am not sure but the same analogy is to be applied, in cases, often
seen, where, with an extra development and acuteness of the intellectual
faculties, there is a mark'd absence of the spiritual, affectional, and
sometimes, though more rarely, the highest esthetic and moral elements
of cognition.


Of most foreign countries, small or large, from the remotest times
known, down to our own, each has contributed after its kind, directly
or indirectly, at least one great undying song, to help vitalize and
increase the valor, wisdom, and elegance of humanity, from the points of
view attain'd by it up to date. The stupendous epics of India, the holy
Bible itself, the Homeric canticles, the Nibelungen, the Cid Campeador,
the Inferno, Shakspere's dramas of the passions and of the feudal lords,
Burns's songs, Goethe's in Germany, Tennyson's poems in England, Victor
Hugo's in France, and many more, are the widely various yet integral
signs or land-marks, (in certain respects the highest set up by the
human mind and soul, beyond science, invention, political amelioration,
&c.,) narrating in subtlest, best ways, the long, long routes of
history, and giving identity to the stages arrived at by aggregate
humanity, and the conclusions assumed in its progressive and varied
civilizations.... Where is America's art-rendering, in any thing like
the spirit worthy of herself and the modern, to these characteristic
immortal monuments? So far, our Democratic society, (estimating its
various strata, in the mass, as one,) possesses nothing--nor have we
contributed any characteristic music, the finest tie of nationality--to
make up for that glowing, blood-throbbing, religious, social, emotional,
artistic, indefinable, indescribably beautiful charm and hold which
fused the separate parts of the old feudal societies together, in their
wonderful interpenetration, in Europe and Asia, of love, belief,
and loyalty, running one way like a living weft--and picturesque
responsibility, duty, and blessedness, running like a warp the other
way. (In the Southern States, under slavery, much of the same.)...
In coincidence, and as things now exist in the States, what is more
terrible, more alarming, than the total want of any such fusion
and mutuality of love, belief, and rapport of interest, between
the comparatively few successful rich, and the great masses of the
unsuccessful, the poor? As a mixed political and social question, is not
this full of dark significance? Is it not worth considering as a problem
and puzzle in our democracy--an indispensable want to be supplied?


In the talk (which I welcome) about the need of men of training,
thoroughly school'd and experienced men, for statesmen, I would present
the following as an offset. It was written by me twenty years ago--and
has been curiously verified since:

I say no body of men are fit to make Presidents, Judges, and Generals,
unless they themselves supply the best specimens of the same; and that
supplying one or two such specimens illuminates the whole body for a
thousand years. I expect to see the day when the like of the present
personnel of the governments, Federal, State, municipal, military, and
naval, will be look'd upon with derision, and when qualified mechanics
and young men will reach Congress and other official stations, sent
in their working costumes, fresh from their benches and tools, and
returning to them again with dignity. The young fellows must prepare
to do credit to this destiny, for the stuff is in them. Nothing gives
place, recollect, and never ought to give place, except to its clean
superiors. There is more rude and undevelopt bravery, friendship,
conscientiousness, clear-sightedness, and practical genius for any
scope of action, even the broadest and highest, now among the American
mechanics and young men, than in all the official persons in these
States, legislative, executive, judicial, military, and naval, and more
than among all the literary persons. I would be much pleas'd to see some
heroic, shrewd, fully-inform'd, healthy-bodied, middle-aged, beard-faced
American blacksmith or boatman come down from the West across the
Alleghanies, and walk into the Presidency, dress'd in a clean suit of
working attire, and with the tan all over his face, breast, and arms;
I would certainly vote for that sort of man, possessing the due
requirements, before any other candidate.

(The facts of rank-and-file workingmen, mechanics, Lincoln, Johnson,
Grant, Garfield, brought forward from the masses and placed in the
Presidency, and swaying its mighty powers with firm hand--really with
more sway than any king in history, and with better capacity in using
that sway--can we not see that these facts have bearings far, far beyond
their political or party ones?)


If you go to Europe, (to say nothing of Asia, more ancient and massive
still,) you cannot stir without meeting venerable mementos--cathedrals,
ruins of temples, castles, monuments of the great, statues and
paintings, (far, far beyond anything America can ever expect to
produce,) haunts of heroes long dead, saints, poets, divinities, with
deepest associations of ages. But here in the New World, while _those_
we can never emulate, we have _more_ than those to build, and far more
greatly to build. (I am not sure but the day for conventional monuments,
statues, memorials, &c., has pass'd away--and that they are henceforth
superfluous and vulgar.) An enlarg'd general superior humanity, (partly
indeed resulting from those,) we are to build. European, Asiatic
greatness are in the past. Vaster and subtler, America, combining,
justifying the past, yet works for a grander future, in living
democratic forms. (Here too are indicated the paths for our national
bards.) Other times, other lands, have had their missions--Art, War,
Ecclesiasticism, Literature, Discovery, Trade, Architecture, &c.,
&c.--but that grand future is the enclosing purport of the United


How small were the best thoughts, poems, conclusions, except for
a certain invariable resemblance and uniform standard in the final
thoughts, theology, poems, &c., of all nations, all civilizations, all
centuries and times. Those precious legacies--accumulations! They come
to us from the far-off--from all eras, and all lands--from Egypt, and
India, and Greece, and Rome--and along through the middle and later
ages, in the grand monarchies of Europe--born under far different
institutes and conditions from ours--but out of the insight and
inspiration of the same old humanity--the same old heart and brain--the
same old countenance yearningly, pensively, looking forth. What we have
to do to-day is to receive them cheerfully, and to give them ensemble,
and a modern American and democratic physiognomy.


As is well known, story-telling was often with President Lincoln a
weapon which he employ'd with great skill. Very often he could not
give a point-blank reply or comment--and these indirections, (sometimes
funny, but not always so,) were probably the best responses possible. In
the gloomiest period of the war, he had a call from a large delegation
of bank presidents. In the talk after business was settled, one of the
big Dons asked Mr. Lincoln if his confidence in the permanency of the
Union was not beginning to be shaken--whereupon the homely President
told a little story: "When I was a young man in Illinois," said he, "I
boarded for a time with a deacon of the Presbyterian church. One night I
was roused from my sleep by a rap at the door, and I heard the deacon's
voice exclaiming, 'Arise, Abraham! the day of judgment has come!' I
sprang from my bed and rushed to the window, and saw the stars falling
in great showers; but looking back of them in the heavens I saw the
grand old constellations, with which I was so well acquainted, fixed and
true in their places. Gentlemen, the world did not come to an end then,
nor will the Union now."


It is not only true that most people entirely misunderstand Freedom, but
I sometimes think I have not yet met one person who rightly understands
it. The whole Universe is absolute Law. Freedom only opens entire
activity and license _under the law_. To the degraded or undevelopt--and
even to too many others--the thought of freedom is a thought of escaping
from law--which, of course, is impossible. More precious than all
worldly riches is Freedom--freedom from the painful constipation and
poor narrowness of ecclesiasticism--freedom in manners, habiliments,
furniture, from the silliness and tyranny of local fashions--entire
freedom from party rings and mere conventions in Politics--and better
than all, a general freedom of One's-Self from the tyrannic domination
of vices, habits, appetites, under which nearly every man of us, (often
the greatest brawler for freedom,) is enslav'd. Can we attain such
enfranchisement--the true Democracy, and the height of it? While we are
from birth to death the subjects of irresistible law, enclosing every
movement and minute, we yet escape, by a paradox, into true free will.
Strange as it may seem, we only attain to freedom by a knowledge of, and
implicit obedience to, Law. Great--unspeakably great--is the Will! the
free Soul of man! At its greatest, understanding and obeying the laws,
it can then, and then only, maintain true liberty. For there is to the
highest, that law as absolute as any--more absolute than any--the Law of
Liberty. The shallow, as intimated, consider liberty a release from all
law, from every constraint. The wise see in it, on the contrary, the
potent Law of Laws, namely, the fusion and combination of the conscious
will, or partial individual law, with those universal, eternal,
unconscious ones, which run through all Time, pervade history, prove
immortality, give moral purpose to the entire objective world, and the
last dignity to human life.


For certain purposes, literary productions through all the recorded ages
may be roughly divided into two classes. The first consisting of only
a score or two, perhaps less, of typical, primal, representative works,
different from any before, and embodying in themselves their own main
laws and reasons for being. Then the second class, books and writings
innumerable, incessant--to be briefly described as radiations or
offshoots, or more or less imitations of the first. The works of the
first class, as said, have their own laws, and may indeed be described
as making those laws, and amenable only to them. The sharp warning of
Margaret Fuller, unquell'd for thirty years, yet sounds in the air:
"It does not follow that because the United States print and read more
books, magazines, and newspapers than all the rest of the world, that
they really have, therefore, a literature."


The final culmination of this vast and varied Republic will be the
production and perennial establishment of millions of comfortable city
homesteads and moderate-sized farms, healthy and independent, single
separate ownership, fee simple, life in them complete but cheap, within
reach of all. Exceptional wealth, splendor, countless manufactures,
excess of exports, immense capital and capitalists, the
five-dollar-a-day hotels well fill'd, artificial improvements, even
books, colleges, and the suffrage--all, in many respects, in themselves,
(hard as it is to say so, and sharp as a surgeon's lance,) form, more or
less, a sort of anti-democratic disease and monstrosity, except as
they contribute by curious indirections to that culmination--seem to me
mainly of value, or worth consideration, only with reference to it.

There is a subtle something in the common earth, crops, cattle, air,
trees, &c., and in having to do at first hand with them, that forms the
only purifying and perennial element for individuals and for society.
I must confess I want to see the agricultural occupation of America at
first hand permanently broaden'd. Its gains are the only ones on which
God seems to smile. What others--what business, profit, wealth, without
a taint? What fortune else--what dollar--does not stand for, and come
from, more or less imposition, lying, unnaturalness?


One of the problems presented in America these times is, how to
combine one's duty and policy as a member of associations, societies,
brotherhoods or what not, and one's obligations to the State and Nation,
with essential freedom as an individual personality, without which
freedom a man cannot grow or expand, or be full, modern, heroic,
democratic, American. With all the necessities and benefits of
association, (and the world cannot get along without it,) the true
nobility and satisfaction of a man consist in his thinking and acting
for himself. The problem, I say, is to combine the two, so as not to
ignore either.


I like well our polyglot construction-stamp, and the retention thereof,
in the broad, the tolerating, the many-sided, the collective. All
nations here--a home for every race on earth. British, German,
Scandinavian, Spanish, French, Italian--papers published, plays acted,
speeches made, in all languages--on our shores the crowning resultant
of those distillations, decantations, compactions of humanity, that have
been going on, on trial, over the earth so long.




DOUGH-FACE SONG --Like dough; soft; yielding to pressure;
pale----_Webster's Dictionary_.

    We are all docile dough-faces,
      They knead us with the fist,
    They, the dashing southern lords,
      We labor as they list;
    For them we speak--or hold our tongues,
      For them we turn and twist.

    We join them in their howl against
      Free soil and "abolition,"
    That firebrand--that assassin knife--
      Which risk our land's condition,
    And leave no peace of life to any
      Dough-faced politician.

    To put down "agitation," now,
      We think the most judicious;
    To damn all "northern fanatics,"
      Those "traitors" black and vicious;
    The "reg'lar party usages"
      For us, and no "new issues."

    Things have come to a pretty pass,
      When a trifle small as this,
    Moving and bartering nigger slaves,
      Can open an abyss,
    With jaws a-gape for "the two great parties;"
      A pretty thought, I wis!

      We know not where they're found.
    Rights of the masses--progress!--bah!
      Words that tickle and sound;
    But claiming to rule o'er "practical men"
      Is very different ground.

    Beyond all such we know a term
      Charming to ears and eyes,
    With it we'll stab young Freedom,
      And do it in disguise;

    Speak soft, ye wily dough-faces--
      That term is "compromise."

    And what if children, growing up,
      In future seasons read
    The thing we do? and heart and tongue
      Accurse us for the deed?
    The future cannot touch us;
      The present gain we heed.

    Then, all together, dough-faces!
      Let's stop the exciting clatter,
    And pacify slave-breeding wrath
      By yielding all the matter;
    For otherwise, as sure as guns,
      The Union it will shatter.

    Besides, to tell the honest truth
      (For us an innovation,)
    Keeping in with the slave power
      Is our personal salvation;
    We've very little to expect
      From t' other part of the nation.

    Besides it's plain at Washington
      Who likeliest wins the race,
    What earthly chance has "free soil"
      For any good fat place?
    While many a daw has feather'd his nest,
      By his creamy and meek dough-face.

    Take heart, then, sweet companions,
      Be steady, Scripture Dick!
    Webster, Cooper, Walker,
      To your allegiance stick!
    With Brooks, and Briggs and Phoenix,
      Stand up through thin and thick!

    We do not ask a bold brave front;
      We never try that game;
    'Twould bring the storm upon our heads,
      A huge mad storm of shame;
    Evade it, brothers--"compromise"
      Will answer just the same.



Ting-a-ling-ling-ling! went the little bell on the teacher's desk of a
village-school one morning, when the studies of the earlier part of the
day were about half completed. It was well understood that this was a
command for silence and attention; and when these had been obtained, the
master spoke. He was a low thick-set man, and his name was Lugare.

"Boys," said he, "I have had a complaint enter'd, that last night some
of you were stealing fruit from Mr. Nichols's garden. I rather think I
know the thief. Tim Barker, step up here, sir."

The one to whom he spoke came forward. He was a slight, fair-looking boy
of about thirteen; and his face had a laughing, good-humor'd expression,
which even the charge now preferr'd against him, and the stern tone
and threatening look of the teacher, had not entirely dissipated. The
countenance of the boy, however, was too unearthly fair for health; it
had, notwithstanding its fleshy, cheerful look, a singular cast as if
some inward disease, and that a fearful one, were seated within. As the
stripling stood before that place of judgment--that place so often
made the scene of heartless and coarse brutality, of timid innocence
confused, helpless child-hood outraged, and gentle feelings crush'
d--Lugare looked on him with a frown which plainly told that he felt in
no very pleasant mood. (Happily a worthier and more philosophical system
is proving to men that schools can be better govern'd than by lashes and
tears and sighs. We are waxing toward that consummation when one of the
old-fashion'd school-masters, with his cowhide, his heavy birch-rod,
and his many ingenious methods of child-torture, will be gazed upon as
a scorn'd memento of an ignorant, cruel, and exploded doctrine. May
propitious gales speed that day!)

"Were you by Mr. Nichols's garden-fence last night?" said Lugare.

"Yes, sir," answer'd the boy, "I was."

"Well, sir, I'm glad to find you so ready with your confession. And
so you thought you could do a little robbing, and enjoy yourself in a
manner you ought to be ashamed to own, without being punish'd, did you?"

"I have not been robbing," replied the boy quickly. His face was
suffused, whether with resentment or fright, it was difficult to tell.
"And I didn't do anything last night, that I am ashamed to own."

"No impudence!" exclaim'd the teacher, passionately, as he grasp'd a
long and heavy ratan: "give me none of your sharp speeches, or I'll
thrash you till you beg like a dog."

The youngster's face paled a little; his lip quiver'd, but he did not

"And pray, sir," continued Lugare, as the outward signs of wrath
disappear'd from his features; "what were you about the garden for?
Perhaps you only receiv'd the plunder, and had an accomplice to do the
more dangerous part of the job?"

"I went that way because it is on my road home. I was there again
afterwards to meet an acquaintance; and--and--But I did not go into the
garden, nor take anything away from it. I would not steal,--hardly to
save myself from starving."

"You had better have stuck to that last evening. You were seen, Tim
Barker, to come from under Mr. Nichols's garden-fence, a little after
nine o'clock, with a bag full of something or other over your shoulders.
The bag had every appearance of being filled with fruit, and this
morning the melon-beds are found to have been completely clear'd. Now,
sir, what was there in that bag?"

Like fire itself glow'd the face of the detected lad. He spoke not a
word. All the school had their eyes directed at him. The perspiration
ran down his white forehead like rain-drops.

"Speak, sir!" exclaimed Lugare, with a loud strike of his ratan on the

The boy look'd as though he would faint. But the unmerciful teacher,
confident of having brought to light a criminal, and exulting in
the idea of the severe chastisement he should now be justified in
inflicting, kept working himself up to a still greater and greater
degree of passion. In the meantime, the child seem'd hardly to know what
to do with himself. His tongue cleav'd to the roof of his mouth. Either
he was very much frighten'd, or he was actually unwell.

"Speak, I say!" again thunder'd Lugare; and his hand, grasping his
ratan, tower'd above his head in a very significant manner.

"I hardly can, sir," said the poor fellow faintly. His voice was husky
and thick. "I will tell you some--some other time. Please let me go to
my seat--I a'n't well."

"Oh yes; that's very likely;" and Mr. Lugare bulged out his nose and
cheeks with contempt. "Do you think to make me believe your lies? I've
found you out, sir, plainly enough; and I am satisfied that you are as
precious a little villain as there is in the State. But I will postpone
settling with you for an hour yet. I shall then call you up again;
and if you don't tell the whole truth then, I will give you something
that'll make you remember Mr. Nichols's melons for many a month to
come:--go to your seat."

Glad enough of the ungracious permission, and answering not a sound,
the child crept tremblingly to his bench. He felt very strangely,
dizzily--more as if he was in a dream than in real life; and laying his
arms on his desk, bow'd down his face between them. The pupils turn'd
to their accustom'd studies, for during the reign of Lugare in the
village-school, they had been so used to scenes of violence and severe
chastisement, that such things made but little interruption in the tenor
of their way.

Now, while the intervening hour is passing, we will clear up the mystery
of the bag, and of young Barker being under the garden fence on the
preceding night. The boy's mother was a widow, and they both had to live
in the very narrowest limits. His father had died when he was six years
old, and little Tim was left a sickly emaciated infant whom no one
expected to live many months. To the surprise of all, however, the poor
child kept alive, and seem'd to recover his health, as he certainly
did his size and good looks. This was owing to the kind offices of an
eminent physician who had a country-seat in the neighborhood, and who
had been interested in the widow's little family. Tim, the physician
said, might possibly outgrow his disease; but everything was uncertain.
It was a mysterious and baffling malady; and it would not be wonderful
if he should in some moment of apparent health be suddenly taken away.
The poor widow was at first in a continual state of uneasiness; but
several years had now pass'd, and none of the impending evils had fallen
upon the boy's head. His mother seem'd to feel confident that he would
live, and be a help and an honor to her old age; and the two struggled
on together, mutually happy in each other, and enduring much of poverty
and discomfort without repining, each for the other's sake.

Tim's pleasant disposition had made him many friends in the village, and
among the rest a young fanner named Jones, who, with his elder brother,
work'd a large farm in the neighborhood on shares. Jones very frequently
made Tim a present of a bag of potatoes or corn, or some garden
vegetables, which he took from his own stock; but as his partner was a
parsimonious, high-tempered man, and had often said that Tim was an
idle fellow, and ought not to be help'd because he did not work, Jones
generally made his gifts in such a manner that no one knew anything
about them, except himself and the grateful objects of his kindness.
It might be, too, that the widow was both to have it understood by the
neighbors that she received food from anyone; for there is often an
excusable pride in people of her condition which makes them shrink from
being consider'd as objects of "charity" as they would from the severest
pains. On the night in question, Tim had been told that Jones would send
them a bag of potatoes, and the place at which they were to be waiting
for him was fixed at Mr. Nichols's garden-fence. It was this bag that
Tim had been seen staggering under, and which caused the unlucky boy to
be accused and convicted by his teacher as a thief. That teacher was one
little fitted for his important and responsible office. Hasty to decide,
and inflexibly severe, he was the terror of the little world he ruled
so despotically. Punishment he seemed to delight in. Knowing little of
those sweet fountains which in children's breasts ever open quickly
at the call of gentleness and kind words, he was fear'd by all for his
sternness, and loved by none. I would that he were an isolated instance
in his profession.

The hour of grace had drawn to its close, and the time approach'd at
which it was usual for Lugare to give his school a joyfully-receiv'd
dismission. Now and then one of the scholars would direct a furtive
glance at Tim, sometimes in pity, sometimes in indifference or inquiry.
They knew that he would have no mercy shown him, and though most of them
loved him, whipping was too common there to exact much sympathy. Every
inquiring glance, however, remain'd unsatisfied, for at the end of the
hour, Tim remain'd with his face completely hidden, and his head bow'd
in his arms, precisely as he had lean'd himself when he first went
to his seat. Lugare look'd at the boy occasionally with a scowl which
seem'd to bode vengeance for his sullenness. At length the last class
had been heard, and the last lesson recited, and Lugare seated himself
behind his desk on the platform, with his longest and stoutest ratan
before him.

"Now, Barker," he said, "we'll settle that little business of yours.
Just step up here."

Tim did not move. The school-room was as still as the grave. Not a sound
was to be heard, except occasionally a long-drawn breath.

"Mind me, sir, or it will be the worse for you. Step up here, and take
off your jacket!"

The boy did not stir any more than if he had been of wood. Lugare shook
with passion. He sat still a minute, as if considering the best way to
wreak his vengeance. That minute, passed in death-like silence, was
a fearful one to some of the children, for their faces whiten'd with
fright. It seem'd, as it slowly dropp'd away, like the minute which
precedes the climax of an exquisitely-performed tragedy, when some
mighty master of the histrionic art is treading the stage, and you
and the multitude around you are waiting, with stretch'd nerves and
suspended breath, in expectation of the terrible catastrophe.

"Tim is asleep, sir," at length said one of the boys who sat near him.
Lugare, at this intelligence, allow'd his features to relax from their
expression of savage anger into a smile, but that smile look'd more
malignant if possible, than his former scowls. It might be that he felt
amused at the horror depicted on the faces of those about him; or
it might be that he was gloating in pleasure on the way in which he
intended to wake the slumberer.

"Asleep! are you, my young gentleman!" said he; "let us see if we can't
find something to tickle your eyes open. There's nothing like making the
best of a bad case, boys. Tim, here, is determin'd not to be worried in
his mind about a little flogging, for the thought of it can't even keep
the little scoundrel awake."

Lugare smiled again as he made the last observation. He grasp'd his
ratan firmly, and descended from his seat. With light and stealthy steps
he cross'd the room and stood by the unlucky sleeper. The boy was still
as unconscious of his impending punishment as ever. He might be dreaming
some golden dream of youth and pleasure; perhaps he was far away in the
world of fancy, seeing scenes, and feeling delights, which cold reality
never can bestow. Lugare lifted his ratan high over his head, and with
the true and expert aim which he had acquired by long practice, brought
it down on Tim's back with a force and whacking sound which seem'd
sufficient to wake a freezing man in his last lethargy. Quick and fast,
blow foliow'd blow. Without waiting to see the effect of the first cut,
the brutal wretch plied his instrument of torture first on one side of
the boy's back, and then on the other, and only stopped at the end of
two or three minutes from very weariness. But still Tim show'd no signs
of motion; and as Lugare, provoked at his torpidity, jerk'd away one of
the child's arms, on which he had been leaning over the desk, his head
dropp'd down on the board with a dull sound, and his face lay turn'd up
and exposed to view. When Lugare saw it, he stood like one transfix'd
by a basilisk. His countenance turn'd to a leaden whiteness; the ratan
dropp'd from his grasp; and his eyes, stretch'd wide open, glared as at
some monstrous spectacle of horror and death. The sweat started in
great globules seemingly from every pore in his face; his skinny lips
contracted, and show'd his teeth; and when he at length stretch'd forth
his arm, and with the end of one of his fingers touch'd the child's
cheek, each limb quiver'd like the tongue of a snake; and his strength
seemed as though it would momentarily fail him. The boy was dead. He
had probably been so for some time, for his eyes were turn'd up, and his
body was quite cold. Death was in the school-room, and Lugare had been
flogging A CORPSE.

-_Democratic Review, August, 1841._


That section of Nassau street which runs into the great mart of New York
brokers and stock-jobbers, has for a long time been much occupied by
practitioners of the law. Tolerably well-known amid this class some
years since, was Adam Covert, a middle-aged man of rather limited means,
who, to tell the truth, gained more by trickery than he did in the
legitimate and honorable exercise of his profession. He was a tall,
bilious-faced widower; the father of two children; and had lately been
seeking to better his fortunes by a rich marriage. But somehow or other
his wooing did not seem to thrive well, and, with perhaps one exception,
the lawyer's prospects in the matrimonial way were hopelessly gloomy.

Among the early clients of Mr. Covert had been a distant relative named
Marsh, who, dying somewhat suddenly, left his son and daughter, and some
little property, to the care of Covert, under a will drawn out by that
gentleman himself. At no time caught without his eyes open, the cunning
lawyer, aided by much sad confusion in the emergency which had caused
his services to be called for, and disguising his object under a cloud
of technicalities, inserted provisions in the will, giving himself an
almost arbitrary control over the property and over those for whom it
was designed. This control was even made to extend beyond the time when
the children would arrive at mature age. The son, Philip, a spirited and
high-temper'd fellow, had some time since pass'd that age. Esther,
the girl, a plain, and somewhat devotional young woman, was in her
nineteenth year.

Having such power over his wards, Covert did not scruple openly to use
his advantage, in pressing his claims as a suitor for Esther's hand.
Since the death of Marsh, the property he left, which had been in real
estate, and was to be divided equally between the brother and sister,
had risen to very considerable value; and Esther's share was to a man in
Covert's situation a prize very well worth seeking. All this time, while
really owning a respectable income, the young orphans often felt the
want of the smallest sum of money--and Esther, on Philip's account, was
more than once driven to various contrivances--the pawn-shop, sales of
her own little luxuries, and the like, to furnish him with means.

Though she had frequently shown her guardian unequivocal evidence of her
aversion, Esther continued to suffer from his persecutions, until one
day he proceeded farther and was more pressing than usual. She possess'd
some of her brother's mettlesome temper, and gave him an abrupt and most
decided refusal. With dignity, she exposed the baseness of his conduct,
and forbade him ever again mentioning marriage to her. He retorted
bitterly, vaunted his hold on her and Philip, and swore an oath that
unless she became his wife, they should both thenceforward become
penniless. Losing his habitual self-control in his exasperation, he even
added insults such as woman never receives from any one deserving the
name of man, and at his own convenience left the house. That day, Philip
return'd to New York, after an absence of several weeks on the business
of a mercantile house in whose employment he had lately engaged.

Toward the latter part of the same afternoon, Mr. Covert was sitting in
his office, in Nassau street, busily at work, when a knock at the door
announc'd a visitor, and directly afterward young Marsh enter'd the
room. His face exhibited a peculiar pallid appearance that did not
strike Covert at all agreeably, and he call'd his clerk from an
adjoining room, and gave him something to do at a desk near by.

"I wish to see you alone, Mr. Covert, if convenient," said the newcomer.

"We can talk quite well enough where we are," answer'd the lawyer;
"indeed, I don't know that I have any leisure to talk at all, for just
now I am very much press'd with business."

"But I _must_ speak to you," rejoined Philip sternly, "at least I must
say one thing, and that is, Mr. Covert, that you are a villain!"

"Insolent!" exclaimed the lawyer, rising behind the table, and pointing
to the door. "Do you see that, sir? Let one minute longer find you
the other side, or your feet may reach the landing by quicker method.
Begone, sir!"

Such a threat was the more harsh to Philip, for he had rather
high-strung feelings of honor. He grew almost livid with suppress'd

"I will see you again very soon," said he, in a low but distinct manner,
his lips trembling as he spoke; and left the office.

The incidents of the rest of that pleasant summer day left little
impression on the young man's mind. He roam'd to and fro without any
object or destination. Along South street and by Whitehall, he watch'd
with curious eyes the movements of the shipping, and the loading and
unloading of cargoes; and listen'd to the merry heave-yo of the sailors
and stevedores. There are some minds upon which great excitement
produces the singular effect of uniting two utterly inconsistent
faculties--a sort of cold apathy, and a sharp sensitiveness to all that
is going on at the same time. Philip's was one of this sort; he
noticed the various differences in the apparel of a gang of
wharf-laborers--turn'd over in his brain whether they receiv'd wages
enough to keep them comfortable, and their families also--and if they
had families or not, which he tried to tell by their looks. In such
petty reflections the daylight passed away. And all the while the master
wish of Philip's thoughts was a desire to see the lawyer Covert. For
what purpose he himself was by no means clear.

Nightfall came at last. Still, however, the young man did not direct
his steps homeward. He felt more calm, however, and entering an eating
house, order'd something for his supper, which, when it was brought to
him, he merely tasted, and stroll'd forth again. There was a kind of
gnawing sensation of thirst within him yet, and as he pass'd a hotel, he
bethought him that one little glass of spirits would perhaps be just the
thing. He drank, and hour after hour wore away unconsciously; he drank
not one glass, but three or four, and strong glasses they were to him,
for he was habitually abstemious.

It had been a hot day and evening, and when Philip, at an advanced
period of the night, emerged from the bar-room into the street, he
found that a thunderstorm had just commenced. He resolutely walk'd on,
however, although at every step it grew more and more blustering.

The rain now pour'd down a cataract; the shops were all shut; few of
the street lamps were lighted; and there was little except the frequent
flashes of lightning to show him his way. When about half the length of
Chatham street, which lay in the direction he had to take, the momentary
fury of the tempest forced him to turn aside into a sort of shelter
form'd by the corners of the deep entrance to a Jew pawnbroker's shop
there. He had hardly drawn himself in as closely as possible, when
the lightning revealed to him that the opposite corner of the nook was
tenanted also.

"A sharp rain, this," said the other occupant, who simultaneously beheld

The voice sounded to the young man's ears a note which almost made him
sober again. It was certainly the voice of Adam Covert. He made some
commonplace reply, and waited for another flash of lightning to show him
the stranger's face. It came, and he saw that his companion was indeed
his guardian.

Philip Marsh had drank deeply--(let us plead all that may be possible
to you, stern moralist.) Upon his mind came swarming, and he could not
drive them away, thoughts of all those insults his sister had told him
of, and the bitter words Covert had spoken to her; he reflected, too,
on the injuries Esther as well as himself had receiv'd, and were
still likely to receive, at the hands of that bold, bad man; how
mean, selfish, and unprincipled was his character--what base and cruel
advantages he had taken of many poor people, entangled in his power,
and of how much wrong and suffering he had been the author, and might be
again through future years. The very turmoil of the elements, the harsh
roll of the thunder, the vindictive beating of the rain, and the fierce
glare of the wild fluid that seem'd to riot in the ferocity of the storm
around him, kindled a strange sympathetic fury in the young man's mind.
Heaven itself (so deranged were his imaginations) appear'd to have
provided a fitting scene and time for a deed of retribution, which to
his disorder'd passion half wore the semblance of a divine justice. He
remember'd not the ready solution to be found in Covert's pressure of
business, which had no doubt kept him later than usual; but fancied some
mysterious intent in the ordaining that he should be there, and that
they two should meet at that untimely hour. All this whirl of influence
came over Philip with startling quickness at that horrid moment. He
stepp'd to the side of his guardian.

"Ho!" said he, "have we met so soon, Mr. Covert? You traitor to my dead
father--robber of his children! I fear to think on what I think now!"

The lawyer's natural effrontery did not desert him.

"Unless you'd like to spend a night in the watch-house, young
gentleman," said he, after a short pause, "move on. Your father was a
weak man, I remember; as for his son, his own wicked heart is his worst
foe. I have never done wrong to either--that I can say, and swear it!"

"Insolent liar!" exclaimed Philip, his eye flashing out sparks of fire
in the darkness.

Covert made no reply except a cool, contemptuous laugh, which stung
the excited young man to double fury. He sprang upon the lawyer, and
clutch'd him by the neckcloth.

"Take it, then!" he cried hoarsely, for his throat was impeded by the
fiendish rage which in that black hour possess'd him. "You are not fit
to live!"

He dragg'd his guardian to the earth and fell crushingly upon him,
choking the shriek the poor victim but just began to utter. Then, with
monstrous imprecations, he twisted a tight knot around the gasping
creature's neck, drew a clasp knife from his pocket, and touching the
spring, the long sharp blade, too eager for its bloody work, flew open.

During the lull of the storm, the last strength of the prostrate man
burst forth into one short loud cry of agony. At the same instant, the
arm of the murderer thrust the blade, once, twice, thrice, deep in his
enemy's bosom! Not a minute had passed since that fatal exasperating
laugh--but the deed was done, and the instinctive thought which came at
once to the guilty one, was a thought of fear and escape.

In the unearthly pause which follow'd, Philip's eyes gave one long
searching sweep in every direction, above and around him. _Above_! God
of the all-seeing eye! What, and who was that figure there?

"Forbear! In Jehovah's name forbear;" cried a shrill, but clear and
melodious voice.

It was as if some accusing spirit had come down to bear witness against
the deed of blood. Leaning far out of an open window, appear' d a white
draperied shape, its face possess'd of a wonderful youthful beauty.
Long vivid glows of lightning gave Philip a full opportunity to see as
clearly as though the sun had been shining at noonday. One hand of the
figure was raised upward in a deprecating attitude, and his large bright
black eyes bent down upon the scene below with an expression of horror
and shrinking pain. Such heavenly looks, and the peculiar circumstance
of the time, fill'd Philip's heart with awe.

"Oh, if it is not yet too late," spoke the youth again, "spare him. In
God's voice, I command, 'Thou shalt do no murder!'"

The words rang like a knell in the ear of the terror-stricken and
already remorseful Philip. Springing from the body, he gave a second
glance up and down the walk, which was totally lonesome and deserted;
then crossing into Reade street, he made his fearful way in a half state
of stupor, half-bewilderment, by the nearest avenues to his home.

When the corpse of the murder'd lawyer was found in the morning, and the
officers of justice commenced their inquiry, suspicion immediately fell
upon Philip, and he was arrested. The most rigorous search, however,
brought to light nothing at all implicating the young man, except his
visit to Covert's office the evening before, and his angry language
there. That was by no means enough to fix so heavy a charge upon him.

The second day afterward, the whole business came before the ordinary
judicial tribunal, in order that Philip might be either committed for
the crime, or discharged. The testimony of Mr. Covert's clerk stood
alone. One of his employers, who, believing in his innocence, had
deserted him not in this crisis, had provided him with the ablest
criminal counsel in New York. The proof was declared entirely
insufficient, and Philip was discharged.

The crowded court-room made way for him as he came out; hundreds of
curious looks fixed upon his features, and many a jibe pass'd upon him.
But of all that arena of human faces, he saw only _one_--a sad, pale,
black-eyed one, cowering in the centre of the rest. He had seen that
face twice before--the first time as a warning spectre--the second time
in prison, immediately after his arrest--now for the _last_ time. This
young stranger--the son of a scorn'd race--coming to the court-room to
perform an unhappy duty, with the intention of testifying to what he
had seen, melted at the sight of Philip's bloodless cheek, and of his
sister's convulsive sobs, and forbore witnessing against the murderer.
Shall we applaud or condemn him? Let every reader answer the question
for himself.

That afternoon Philip left New York. His friendly employer own'd a small
farm some miles up the Hudson, and until the excitement of the affair
was over, he advised the young man to go thither. Philip thankfully
accepted the proposal, made a few preparations, took a hurried leave of
Esther, and by nightfall was settled in his new abode.

And how, think you, rested Philip Marsh that night? _Rested_ indeed! O,
if those who clamor so much for the halter and the scaffold to punish
crime, could have seen that sight, they might have learn'd a lesson
then! Four days had elapsed since he that lay tossing upon the bed there
had slumber'd. Not the slightest intermission had come to his awaken'd
and tensely strung sense, during those frightful days. Disturb'd waking
dreams came to him, as he thought what he might do to gain his lost
peace. Far, far away would he go! The cold roll of the murder'd
man's eye, as it turn'd up its last glance into his face--the shrill
exclamation of pain--all the unearthly vividness of the posture,
motions, and looks of the dead--the warning voice from above--pursued
him like tormenting furies, and were never absent from his mind, asleep
or awake, that long weary night. Anything, any place, to escape such
horrid companionship! He would travel inland--hire himself to do hard
drudgery upon some farm--work incessantly through the wide summer days,
and thus force nature to bestow oblivion upon his senses, at least a
little while now and then. He would fly on, on, on, until amid different
scenes and a new life, the old memories were rubb'd entirely out. He
would fight bravely in himself for peace of mind. For peace he would
labor and struggle--for peace he would pray!

At length after a feverish slumber of some thirty or forty minutes, the
unhappy youth, waking with a nervous start, rais'd himself in bed, and
saw the blessed daylight beginning to dawn. He felt the sweat trickling
down his naked breast; the sheet where he had lain was quite wet with
it. Dragging himself wearily, he open'd the window. Ah! that good
morning air--how it refresh'd him--how he lean'd out, and drank in the
fragrance of the blossoms below, and almost for the first time in his
life felt how beautifully indeed God had made the earth, and that there
was wonderful sweetness in mere existence. And amidst the thousand mute
mouths and eloquent eyes, which appear'd as it were to look up and speak
in every direction, he fancied so many invitations to come among them.

Not without effort, for he was very weak, he dress'd himself, and issued
forth into the open air.

Clouds of pale gold and transparent crimson draperied the eastern sky,
but the sun, whose face gladden'd them into all that glory, was not yet
above the horizon. It was a time and place of such rare, such Eden-like
beauty! Philip paused at the summit of an upward slope, and gazed around
him. Some few miles off he could see a gleam of the Hudson river, and
above it a spur of those rugged cliffs scatter'd along its western
shores. Nearer by were cultivated fields. The clover grew richly there,
the young grain bent to the early breeze, and the air was filled with an
intoxicating perfume. At his side was the large well-kept garden of his
host, in which were many pretty flowers, grass plots, and a wide avenue
of noble trees. As Philip gazed, the holy calming power of Nature--the
invisible spirit of so much beauty and so much innocence, melted into
his soul. The disturb'd passions and the feverish conflict subsided. He
even felt something like envied peace of mind--a sort of joy even in
the presence of all the unmarr'd goodness. It was as fair to him, guilty
though he had been, as to the purest of the pure. No accusing frowns
show'd in the face of the flowers, or in the green shrubs, or
the branches of the trees. They, more forgiving than mankind, and
distinguishing not between the children of darkness and the children of
light--they at least treated him with gentleness. Was he, then, a being
so accurs'd? Involuntarily, he bent over a branch of red roses, and took
them softly between his hands--those murderous, bloody hands! But the
red roses neither wither'd nor smell'd less fragiant. And as the young
man kiss'd them, and dropp'd a tear upon them, it seem'd to him that he
had found pity and sympathy from Heaven itself.

Though against all the rules of story-writing, we continue our narrative
of these mainly true incidents (for such they are,) no further. Only to
say that _the murderer_ soon departed for a new field of action--that
he is still living--and that this is but one of thousands of cases of
unravel'd, unpunish'd crime--left, not to the tribunals of man, but to a
wider power and judgment.


["_She came to me last night, The floor gave back no tread_."] The story
I am going to tell is a traditional reminiscence of a country place, in
my rambles about which I have often passed the house, now unoccupied,
and mostly in ruins, that was the scene of the transaction. I cannot,
of course, convey to others that particular kind of influence which is
derived from my being so familiar with the locality, and with the very
people whose grandfathers or fathers were contemporaries of the actors
in the drama I shall transcribe. I must hardly expect, therefore, that
to those who hear it thro' the medium of my pen, the narration will
possess as life-like and interesting a character as it does to myself.

On a large and fertile neck of land that juts out in the Sound,
stretching to the east of New York city, there stood, in the latter part
of the last century, an old-fashion'd country-residence. It had been
built by one of the first settlers of this section of the New World; and
its occupant was originally owner of the extensive tract lying adjacent
to his house, and pushing into the bosom of the salt waters. It was
during the troubled times which mark'd our American Revolution that
the incidents occurr'd which are the foundation of my story. Some
time before the commencement of the war, the owner, whom I shall call
Vanhome, was taken sick and died. For some time before his death he had
lived a widower; and his only child, a lad of ten years old, was thus
left an orphan. By his father's will this child was placed implicitly
under the guardianship of an uncle, a middle-aged man, who had been
of late a resident in the family. His care and interest, however, were
needed but a little while--not two years claps'd after the parents were
laid away to their last repose before another grave had to be prepared
for the son--the child who had been so haplessly deprived of their
fostering care.

The period now arrived when the great national convulsion burst
forth. Sounds of strife and the clash of arms, and the angry voices of
disputants, were borne along by the air, and week after week grew to
still louder clamor. Families were divided; adherents to the crown, and
ardent upholders of the rebellion, were often found in the bosom of the
same domestic circle. Vanhome, the uncle spoken of as guardian to the
young heir, was a man who lean'd to the stern, the high-handed and the
severe. He soon became known among the most energetic of the loyalists.
So decided were his sentiments that, leaving the estate which he had
inherited from his brother and nephew, he join'd the forces of the
British king. Thenceforward, whenever his old neighbors heard of him, it
was as being engaged in the cruelest outrages, the boldest inroads, or
the most determin'd attacks upon the army of his countrymen or their
peaceful settlements. Eight years brought the rebel States and their
leaders to that glorious epoch when the last remnant of a monarch's rule
was to leave their shores--when the last waving of the royal standard
was to flutter as it should be haul'd down from the staff, and its place
fill'd by the proud testimonial of our warriors' success.

Pleasantly over the autumn fields shone the November sun, when a
horseman, of somewhat military look, plodded slowly along the road that
led to the old Vanhome farmhouse. There was nothing peculiar in his
attire, unless it might be a red scarf which he wore tied round his
waist. He was a dark-featured, sullen-eyed man; and as his glance was
thrown restlessly to the right and left, his whole manner appear'd to
be that of a person moving amid familiar and accustom'd scenes.
Occasionally he stopp'd, and looking long and steadily at some object
that attracted his attention, mutter'd to himself, like one in whose
breast busy thoughts were moving. His course was evidently to the
homestead itself, at which in due time he arrived. He dismounted, led
his horse to the stables, and then, without knocking, though there were
evident signs of occupancy around the building, the traveler made his
entrance as composedly and boldly as though he were master of the whole

Now the house being in a measure deserted for many years, and the
successful termination of the strife rendering it probable that the
Vanhome estate would be confiscated to the new government, an aged,
poverty-stricken couple had been encouraged by the neighbors to take
possession as tenants of the place. Their name was Gills; and these
people the traveler found upon his entrance were likely to be his host
and hostess. Holding their right as they did by so slight a tenure,
they ventur'd to offer no opposition when the stranger signified his
intention of passing several hours there.

The day wore on, and the sun went down in the west; still the
interloper, gloomy and taciturn, made no signs of departing. But as
the evening advanced (whether the darkness was congenial to his sombre
thoughts, or whether it merely chanced so) he seem'd to grow more
affable and communicative, and informed Gills that he should pass the
night there, tendering him at the same time ample remuneration, which
the latter accepted with many thanks.

"Tell me," said he to his aged host, when they were all sitting around
the ample hearth, at the conclusion of their evening meal, "tell me
something to while away the hours."

"Ah! sir," answered Gills, "this is no place for new or interesting
events. We live here from year to year, and at the end of one we find
ourselves at about the same place which we filled in the beginning."

"Can you relate nothing, then?" rejoin'd the guest, and a singular
smile pass'd over his features; "can you say nothing about your own
place?--this house or its former inhabitants, or former history?"

The old man glanced across to his wife, and a look expressive of
sympathetic feeling started in the face of each.

"It is an unfortunate story, sir," said Gills, "and may cast a chill
upon you, instead of the pleasant feeling which it would be best to
foster when in strange walls."

"Strange walls!" echoed he of the red scarf, and for the first time
since his arrival he half laughed, but it was not the laugh which comes
from a man's heart.

"You must know, sir," continued Gills, "I am myself a sort of intruder
here. The Vanhomes--that was the name of the former residents and
owners--I have never seen; for when I came to these parts the last
occupant had left to join the red-coat soldiery. I am told that he is
to sail with them for foreign lands, now that the war is ended, and his
property almost certain to pass into other hands."

As the old man went on, the stranger cast down his eyes, and listen'd
with an appearance of great interest, though a transient smile or a
brightening of the eye would occasionally disturb the serenity of his

"The old owners of this place," continued the white-haired narrator,
"were well off in the world, and bore a good name among their neighbors.
The brother of Sergeant Vanhome, now the only one of the name, died ten
or twelve years since, leaving a son--a child so small that the father's
willmade provision for his being brought up by his uncle, whom I
mention'd but now as of the British army. He was a strange man, this
uncle; disliked by all who knew him; passionate, vindictive, and, it was
said, very avaricious, even from his childhood.

"Well, not long after the death of the parents, dark stories began to
be circulated about cruelty and punishment and whippings and starvation
inflicted by the new master upon his nephew. People who had business
at the homestead would frequently, when they came away, relate the most
fearful things of its manager, and how he misused his brother's child.
It was half hinted that he strove to get the youngster out of the way in
order that the whole estate might fall into his own hands. As I told you
before, however, nobody liked the man; and perhaps they judged him too

"After things had gone on in this way for some time, a countryman,
a laborer, who was hired to do farm-work upon the place, one evening
observed that the little orphan Vanhome was more faint and pale even
than usual, for he was always delicate, and that is one reason why I
think it possible that his death, of which I am now going to tell you,
was but the result of his own weak constitution, and nothing else. The
laborer slept that night at the farmhouse. Just before the time at which
they usually retired to bed, this person, feeling sleepy with his day's
toil, left the kitchen hearth and wended his way to rest. In going to
his place of repose he had to pass a chamber--the very chamber where
you, sir, are to sleep to-night--and there he heard the voice of the
orphan child uttering half-suppress'd exclamations as if in pitiful
entreaty. Upon stopping, he heard also the tones of the elder Vanhome,
but they were harsh and bitter. The sound of blows followed. As each one
fell it was accompanied by a groan or shriek, and so they continued for
some time. Shock'd and indignant, the countryman would have burst
open the door and interfered to prevent this brutal proceeding, but he
bethought him that he might get himself into trouble, and perhaps find
that he could do no good after all, and so he passed on to his room.

"Well, sir, the following day the child did not come out among the
work-people as usual. He was taken very ill. No physician was sent for
until the next afternoon; and though one arrived in the course of the
night, it was too late--the poor boy died before morning.

"People talk'd threateningly upon the subject, but nothing could be
proved against Vanhome. At one period there were efforts made to have
the whole affair investigated. Perhaps that would have taken place, had
not every one's attention been swallow'd up by the rumors of difficulty
and war, which were then beginning to disturb the country.

"Vanhome joined the army of the king. His enemies said that he feared to
be on the side of the rebels, because if they were routed his property
would be taken from him. But events have shown that, if this was indeed
what he dreaded, it has happen'd to him from the very means which he
took to prevent it."

The old man paused. He had quite wearied himself with so long talking.
For some minutes there was unbroken silence. Presently the stranger
signified his intention of retiring for the night. He rose, and his host
took a light for the purpose of ushering him to his apartment.

When Gills return'd to his accustom'd situation in the large arm-chair
by the chimney-hearth, his ancient helpmate had retired to rest. With
the simplicity of their times, the bed stood in the same room where the
three had been seated during the last few hours; and now the remaining
two talk'd together about the singular events of the evening. As the
time wore on, Gills show'd no disposition to leave his cosy chair;
but sat toasting his feet, and bending over the coals. Gradually the
insidious heat and the lateness of the hour began to exercise their
influence over the old man. The drowsy indolent feeling which every one
has experienced in getting thoroughly heated through by close contact
with a glowing fire, spread in each vein and sinew, and relax'd its
tone. He lean'd back in his chair and slept.

For a long time his repose went on quietly and soundly. He could not
tell how many hours elapsed; but, a while after midnight, the torpid
senses of the slumberer were awaken'd by a startling shock. It was a
cry as of a strong man in his agony--a shrill, not very loud cry, but
fearful, and creeping into the blood like cold, polish'd steel. The old
man raised himself in his seat and listen'd, at once fully awake. For a
minute, all was the solemn stillness of midnight. Then rose that horrid
tone again, wailing and wild, and making the hearer's hair to stand on
end. One moment more, and the trampling of hasty feet sounded in the
passage outside. The door was thrown open, and the form of the stranger,
more like a corpse than living man, rushed into the room.

"All white!" yell'd the conscience-stricken creature--"all white, and
with the grave-clothes around him. One shoulder was bare, and I saw,"
he whisper'd, "I saw blue streaks upon it. It was horrible, and I cried
aloud. He stepp'd toward me! He came to my very bedside; his small hand
almost touch'd my face. I could not bear it, and fled."

The miserable man bent his head down upon his bosom; convulsive
rattlings shook his throat; and his whole frame waver'd to and fro
like a tree in a storm. Bewilder'd and shock'd, Gills look'd at his
apparently deranged guest, and knew not what answer to make, or what
course of conduct to pursue.

Thrusting out his arms and his extended fingers, and bending down
his eyes, as men do when shading them from a glare of lightning, the
stranger stagger'd from the door, and, in a moment further, dash'd madly
through the passage which led through the kitchen into the outer road.
The old man heard the noise of his falling footsteps, sounding fainter
and fainter in the distance, and then, retreating, dropp'd his own
exhausted limbs into the chair from which he had been arous'd so
terribly. It was many minutes before his energies recover'd their
accustomed tone again. Strangely enough, his wife, unawaken'd by the
stranger's ravings, still slumber'd on as profoundly as ever.

Pass we on to a far different scene--the embarkation of the British
troops for the distant land whose monarch was never more to wield the
sceptre over a kingdom lost by his imprudence and tyranny. With frowning
brow and sullen pace the martial ranks moved on. Boat after boat was
filled, and, as each discharged its complement in the ships that lay
heaving their anchors in the stream, it return'd, and was soon filled
with another load. And at length it became time for the last soldier
to lift his eye and take a last glance at the broad banner of England's
pride, which flapp'd its folds from the top of the highest staff on the

As the warning sound of a trumpet called together all who were
laggards--those taking leave of friends, and those who were arranging
their own private affairs, left until the last moment--a single
horseman was seen furiously dashing down the street. A red scarf tightly
encircled his waist. He made directly for the shore, and the crowd
there gather'd started back in wonderment as they beheld his dishevel'd
appearance and ghastly face. Throwing himself violently from his saddle,
he flung the bridle over the animal's neck, and gave him a sharp cut
with a small riding whip. He made for the boat; one minute later, and he
had been left. They were pushing the keel from the landing--the stranger
sprang--a space of two or three feet already intervened--he struck on
the gunwale--and the Last Soldier of King George had left the American


As the sun, one August day some fifty years ago, had just pass'd the
meridian of a country town in the eastern section of Long Island, a
single traveler came up to the quaint low-roof'd village tavern, open'd
its half-door, and enter'd the common room. Dust cover'd the clothes of
the wayfarer, and his brow was moist with sweat. He trod in a lagging,
weary way; though his form and features told of an age not more than
nineteen or twenty years. Over one shoulder was slung a sailor's jacket,
and in his hand he carried a little bundle. Sitting down on a rude
bench, he told a female who made her appearance behind the bar, that
he would have a glass of brandy and sugar. He took off the liquor at a
draught: after which he lit and began to smoke a cigar, with which he
supplied himself from his pocket--stretching out one leg, and leaning
his elbow down on the bench, in the attitude of a man who takes an
indolent lounge.

"Do you know one Richard Hall that lives somewhere here among you?" said

"Mr. Hall's is down the lane that turns off by that big locust tree,"
answer'd the woman, pointing to the direction through the open door;
"it's about half a mile from here to his house."

The youth, for a minute or two, puff'd the smoke from his mouth very
leisurely in silence. His manner had an air of vacant self-sufficiency,
rather strange in one of so few years.

"I wish to see Mr. Hall," he said at length--"Here's a silver six-pence,
for any one who will carry a message to him."

"The folks are all away. It's but a short walk, and your limbs are
young," replied the female, who was not altogether pleased with the easy
way of making himself at home which mark'd her shabby-looking customer.
That individual, however, seem'd to give small attention to the hint,
but lean'd and puff'd his cigar-smoke as leisurely as before.

"Unless," continued the woman, catching a second glance at the sixpence;
"unless old Joe is at the stable, as he's very likely to be. I'll go
and find out for you." And she push'd open a door at her back, stepp'd
through an adjoining room into a yard, whence her voice was the next
moment heard calling the person she had mention'd, in accents by no
means remarkable for their melody or softness.

Her search was successful. She soon return'd with him who was to act as
messenger--a little, wither'd, ragged old man--a hanger-on there,
whose unshaven face told plainly enough the story of his intemperate
habits--those deeply seated habits, now too late to be uprooted, that
would ere long lay him in a drunkard's grave. The youth inform'd him
what the required service was, and promised him the reward as soon as he
should return,

"Tell Richard Hall that I am going to his father's house this afternoon.
If he asks who it is that wishes him here, say the person sent no name,"
continued the stranger, sitting up from his indolent posture, as the
feet of old Joe were about leaving the door-stone, and his blear'd eyes
turned to eaten the last sentence of the mandate.

"And yet, perhaps you may as well," added he, communing a moment with
himself: "you may tell him his brother Frank, Wild Frank, it is, who
wishes him to come."

The old man departed on his errand, and he who call'd himself Wild
Frank, toss'd his nearly smoked cigar out of the window, and folded his
arms in thought.

No better place than this, probably, will occur to give a brief account
of some former events in the life of the young stranger, resting and
waiting at the village inn. Fifteen miles east of that inn lived a
farmer named Hall, a man of good repute, well-off in the world, and head
of a large family. He was fond of gain--required all his boys to labor
in proportion to their age; and his right hand man, if he might not
be called favorite, was his eldest son Richard. This eldest son, an
industrious, sober-faced young fellow, was invested by his father with
the powers of second in command; and as strict and swift obedience was
a prime tenet in the farmer's domestic government, the children all
tacitly submitted to their brother's sway--all but one, and that was
Frank. The farmer's wife was a quiet woman, in rather tender health; and
though for all her offspring she had a mother's love, Frank's kiss
ever seem'd sweetest to her lips. She favor'd him more than the
rest--perhaps, as in a hundred similar instances, for his being so often
at fault, and so often blamed. In truth, however, he seldom receiv'd
more blame than he deserv'd, for he was a capricious, high-temper'd lad,
and up to all kinds of mischief. From these traits he was known in the
neighborhood by the name of Wild Frank.

Among the farmer's stock there was a fine young blood mare--a beautiful
creature, large and graceful, with eyes like dark-hued jewels, and her
color that of the deep night. It being the custom of the farmer to let
his boys have something about the farm that they could call their
own, and take care of as such, Black Nell, as the mare was called, had
somehow or other fallen to Frank's share. He was very proud of her, and
thought as much of her comfort as his own. The elder brother, however,
saw fit to claim for himself, and several times to exercise, a privilege
of managing and using Black Nell, notwithstanding what Frank consider'd
his prerogative. On one of these occasions a hot dispute arose, and,
after much angry blood, it was referr'd to the farmer for settlement. He
decided in favor of Richard, and added a harsh lecture to his other son.
The farmer was really unjust; and Wild Frank's face paled with rage and
mortification. That furious temper which he had never been taught
to curb, now swell'd like an overflowing torrent. With difficulty
restraining the exhibition of his passions, as soon as he got by himself
he swore that not another sun should roll by and find him under that
roof. Late at night he silently arose, and turning his back on what he
thought an inhospitable home, in mood in which the child should never
leave the parental roof, bent his steps toward the city.

It may well be imagined that alarm and grief pervaded the whole of the
family, on discovering Frank's departure. And as week after week melted
away and brought no tidings of him, his poor mother's heart grew wearier
and wearier. She spoke not much, but was evidently sick in spirit.
Nearly two years had claps'd when about a week before the incidents
at the commencement of this story, the farmer's family were joyfully
surprised by receiving a letter from the long absent son. He had been
to sea, and was then in New York, at which port his vessel had just
arrived. He wrote in a gay strain; appear'd to have lost the angry
feeling which caused his flight from home; and said he heard in the city
that Richard had married, and settled several miles distant, where he
wished him all good luck and happiness. Wild Frank wound up his letter
by promising, as soon as he could get through the imperative business of
his ship, to pay a visit to his parents and native place. On Tuesday of
the succeeding week, he said he would be with them.

Within half an hour after the departure of old Joe, the form of that
ancient personage was seen slowly wheeling round the locust-tree at the
end of the lane, accompanied by a stout young man in primitive homespun
apparel. The meeting between Wild Frank and his brother Richard, though
hardly of that kind which generally takes place between persons so
closely related, could not exactly be call'd distant or cool either.
Richard press'd his brother to go with him to the farmhouse, and refresh
and repose himself for some hours at least, but Frank declined.

"They will all expect me home this afternoon," he said, "I wrote to them
I would be there to-day."

"But you must be very tired, Frank," rejoin'd the other; "won't you
let some of us harness up and carry you? Or if you like--" he stopp'd
a moment, and a trifling suffusion spread over his face; "if you like,
I'll put the saddle on Black Nell--she's here at my place now, and you
can ride home like a lord."

Frank's face color'd a little, too. He paused for a moment in
thought--he was really foot-sore, and exhausted with his journey that
hot day--so he accepted his brother's offer.

"You know the speed of Nell, as well as I," said Richard; "I'll warrant
when I bring her here you'll say she's in good order as ever." So
telling him to amuse himself for a few minutes as well as he could,
Richard left the tavern.

Could it be that Black Nell knew her early master? She neigh'd and
rubb'd her nose on his shoulder; and as he put his foot in the stirrup
and rose on her back, it was evident that they were both highly pleased
with their meeting. Bidding his brother farewell, and not forgetting old
Joe, the young man set forth on his journey to his father's house. As he
left the village behind, and came upon the long monotonous road before
him, he thought on the circumstances of his leaving home--and he
thought, too, on his course of life, how it was being frittered away
and lost. Very gentle influences, doubtless, came over Wild Frank's
mind then, and he yearn'd to show his parents that he was sorry for the
trouble he had cost them. He blamed himself for his former follies, and
even felt remorse that he had not acted more kindly to Richard, and gone
to his house. Oh, it had been a sad mistake of the farmer that he did
not teach his children to love one another. It was a foolish thing
that he prided himself on governing his little flock well, when sweet
affection, gentle forbearance, and brotherly faith, were almost unknown
among them.

The day was now advanced, though the heat pour'd down with a strength
little less oppressive than at noon. Frank had accomplish'd the greater
part of his journey; he was within two miles of his home. The road here
led over a high, tiresome hill, and he determined to stop on the top of
it and rest himself, as well as give the animal he rode a few minutes'
breath. How well he knew the place! And that mighty oak, standing just
outside the fence on the very summit of the hill, often had he reposed
under its shade. It would be pleasant for a few minutes to stretch his
limbs there again as of old, he thought to himself; and he dismounted
from the saddle and led Black Nell under the tree. Mindful of the
comfort of his favorite, he took from his little bundle, which he had
strapped behind him on the mare's back, a piece of strong cord, four or
five yards in length, which he tied to the bridle, and wound and tied
the other end, for security, over his own wrist; then throwing himself
at full length upon the ground, Black Nell was at liberty to graze
around him, without danger of straying away.

It was a calm scene, and a pleasant. There was no rude sound--hardly
even a chirping insect--to break the sleepy silence of the place. The
atmosphere had a dim, hazy cast, and was impregnated with overpowering
heat. The young man lay there minute after minute, as time glided away
unnoticed; for he was very tired, and his repose was sweet to him.
Occasionally he raised himself and cast a listless look at the distant
landscape, veil'd as it was by the slight mist. At length his repose was
without such interruptions. His eyes closed, and though at first they
open'd languidly again at intervals, after a while they shut altogether.
Could it be that he slept? It was so indeed. Yielding to the drowsy
influences about him, and to his prolong'd weariness of travel, he had
fallen into a deep, sound slumber. Thus he lay; and Black Nell, the
original cause of his departure from his home--by a singular chance, the
companion of his return--quietly cropp'd the grass at his side.

An hour nearly pass'd away, and yet the young man slept on. The light
and heat were not glaring now; a change had come over earth and heaven.
There were signs of one of those thunderstorms that in our climate
spring up and pass over so quickly and so terribly. Masses of vapor
loom' d up in the horizon, and a dark shadow settled on the woods and
fields. The leaves of the great oak rustled together over the youth's
head. Clouds flitted swiftly in the sky, like bodies of armed men coming
up to battle at the call of their leader's trumpet. A thick rain-drop
fell now and then, while occasionally hoarse mutterings of thunder
sounded in the distance; yet the slumberer was not arous'd. It was
strange that Wild Frank did not awake. Perhaps his ocean life had taught
him to rest undisturbed amid the jarring of elements. Though the storm
was now coming on in its fury, he slept like a babe in its cradle.

Black Nell had ceased grazing, and stood by her sleeping master with
ears erect, and her long mane and tail waving in the wind. It seem'd
quite dark, so heavy were the clouds. The blast blew sweepingly, the
lightning flash'd, and the rain fell in torrents. Crash after crash of
thunder seem'd to shake the solid earth. And Black Nell, she stood now,
an image of beautiful terror, with her fore feet thrust out, her neck
arch'd, and her eyes glaring balls of fear. At length, after a dazzling
and lurid glare, there came a peal--a deafening crash--as if the great
axle was rent. God of Spirits! the startled mare sprang off like a ship
in an ocean-storm! Her eyes were blinded with light; she dashed madly
down the hill, and plunge after plunge--far, far away--swift as an
arrow--dragging the hapless body of the youth behind her!

In the low, old-fashion'd dwelling of the farmer there was a large
family group. The men and boys had gather'd under shelter at the
approach of the storm; and the subject of their talk was the return
of the long absent son. The mother spoke of him, too, and her eyes
brighten'd with pleasure as she spoke. She made all the little domestic
preparations--cook'd his favorite dishes--and arranged for him his
own bed, in its own old place. As the tempest mounted to its fury they
discuss'd the probability of his getting soak'd by it; and the provident
dame had already selected some dry garments for a change. But the rain
was soon over, and nature smiled again in her invigorated beauty. The
sun shone out as it was dipping in the west. Drops sparkled on the
leaf-tips--coolness and clearness were in the air.

The clattering of a horse's hoofs came to the ears of those who were
gather'd there. It was on the other side of the house that the wagon
road lead; and they open'd the door and rush'd in a tumult of glad
anticipations, through the adjoining room to the porch. What a sight it
was that met them there! Black Nell stood a few feet from the door, with
her neck crouch'd down; she drew her breath long and deep, and vapor
rose from every part of her reeking body. And with eyes starting from
their sockets, and mouths agape with stupefying terror, they beheld on
the ground near her a mangled, hideous mass--the rough semblance of a
human form--all batter'd, and cut, and bloody. Attach'd to it was the
fatal cord, dabbled over with gore. And as the mother gazed--for she
could not withdraw her eyes--and the appalling truth came upon her mind,
she sank down without shriek or utterance, into a deep, deathly swoon.


Listen, and the old will speak a chronicle for the young. Ah, youth!
thou art one day coming to be old, too. And let me tell thee how thou
mayest get a useful lesson. For an hour, _dream thyself old_. Realize,
in thy thoughts and consciousness, that vigor and strength are subdued
in thy sinews--that the color of the shroud is liken'd in thy very
hairs--that all those leaping desires, luxurious hopes, beautiful
aspirations, and proud confidences, of thy younger life, have long been
buried (a funeral for the better part of thee) in that grave which must
soon close over thy tottering limbs. Look back, then, through the long
track of the past years. How has it been with thee? Are there bright
beacons of happiness enjoy'd, and of good done by the way? Glimmer
gentle rays of what was scatter'd from a holy heart? Have benevolence,
and love, and undeviating honesty left tokens on which thy eyes can rest
sweetly? Is it well with thee, thus? Answerest thou, it is? Or answerest
thou, I see nothing but gloom and shatter'd hours, and the wreck of good
resolves, and a broken heart, filled with sickness, and troubled among
its ruined chambers with the phantoms of many follies?

O, youth! youth! this dream will one day be a _reality_--a reality,
either of heavenly peace or agonizing sorrow.

And yet not for all is it decreed to attain the neighborhood of the
three-score and ten years--the span of life. I am to speak of one
who died young. Very awkward was his childhood--but most fragile and
sensitive! So delicate a nature may exist in a rough, unnoticed plant!
Let the boy rest;--he was not beautiful, and dropp'd away betimes. But
for the cause--it is a singular story, to which let crusted worldlings
pay the tribute of a light laugh--light and empty as their own hollow

Love! which with its cankerseed of decay within, has sent young men
and maidens to a long'd-for, but too premature burial. Love! the
child-monarch that Death itself cannot conquer; that has its tokens on
slabs at the head of grass-cover'd tombs--tokens more visible to the
eye of the stranger, yet not so deeply graven as the face and the
remembrances cut upon the heart of the living. Love! the sweet, the
pure, the innocent; yet the causer of fierce hate, of wishes for deadly
revenge, of bloody deeds, and madness, and the horrors of hell. Love!
that wanders over battlefields, turning up mangled human trunks, and
parting back the hair from gory faces, and daring the points of swords
and the thunder of artillery, without a fear or a thought of danger.

Words! words! I begin to see I am, indeed, an old man, and garrulous!
Let me go back--yes, I see it must be many years!

It was at the close of the last century. I was at that time studying
law, the profession my father follow'd. One of his clients was an
elderly widow, a foreigner, who kept a little ale-house, on the banks of
the North River, at about two miles from what is now the centre of the
city. Then the spot was quite out of town and surrounded by fields and
green trees. The widow often invited me to come and pay her a visit,
when I had a leisure afternoon--including also in the invitation my
brother and two other students who were in my father's office. Matthew,
the brother I mention, was a boy of sixteen; he was troubled with an
inward illness--though it had no power over his temper, which ever
retain' d the most admirable placidity and gentleness.

He was cheerful, but never boisterous, and everybody loved him; his mind
seem'd more develop'd than is usual for his age, though his personal
appearance was exceedingly plain. Wheaton and Brown, the names of the
other students, were spirited, clever young fellows, with most of the
traits that those in their position of life generally possess. The
first was as generous and brave as any man I ever knew. He was very
passionate, too, but the whirlwind soon blew over, and left everything
quiet again. Frank Brown was slim, graceful, and handsome. He profess'd
to be fond of sentiment, and used to fall regularly in love once a

The half of every Wednesday we four youths had to ourselves, and were
in the habit of taking a sail, a ride, or a walk together. One of these
afternoons, of a pleasant day in April, the sun shining, and the air
clear, I bethought myself of the widow and her beer--about which latter
article I had made inquiries, and heard it spoken of in terms of
high commendation. I mention'd the matter to Matthew and to my
fellow-students, and we agreed to fill up our holiday by a jaunt to the
ale-house. Accordingly, we set forth, and, after a fine walk, arrived in
glorious spirits at our destination.

Ah! how shall I describe the quiet beauties of the spot, with its long,
low piazza looking out upon the river, and its clean homely tables,
and the tankards of real silver in which the ale was given us, and the
flavor of that excellent liquor itself. There was the widow; and there
was a sober, stately old woman, half companion, half servant, Margery
by name; and there was (good God! my fingers quiver yet as I write the
word!) young Ninon, the daughter of the widow.

O, through the years that live no more, my memory strays back, and that
whole scene comes up before me once again-and the brightest part of
the picture is the strange ethereal beauty of that young girl! She
was apparently about the age of my brother Matthew, and the most
fascinating, artless creature I had ever beheld. She had blue eyes and
light hair, and an expression of childish simplicity which was charming
indeed. I have no doubt that ere half an hour had elapsed from the time
we enter'd the tavern and saw Ninon, every one of the four of us loved
the girl to the very depth of passion.

We neither spent so much money, nor drank as much beer, as we had
intended before starting from home. The widow was very civil, being
pleased to see us, and Margery served our wants with a deal of
politeness--but it was to Ninon that the afternoon's pleasure was
attributable; for though we were strangers, we became acquainted at
once--the manners of the girl, merry as she was, putting entirely out of
view the most distant imputation of indecorum--and the presence of the
widow and Margery, (for we were all in the common room together, there
being no other company,) serving to make us all disembarrass'd, and at

It was not until quite a while after sunset that we started on our
return to the city. We made several attempts to revive the mirth and
lively talk that usually signalized our rambles, but they seem'd forced
and discordant, like laughter in a sick-room. My brother was the only
one who preserved his usual tenor of temper and conduct.

I need hardly say that thenceforward every Wednesday afternoon was spent
at the widow's tavern. Strangely, neither Matthew or my two friends, or
myself, spoke to each other of the sentiment that filled us in reference
to Ninon. Yet we all knew the thoughts and feelings of the others; and
each, perhaps, felt confident that his love alone was unsuspected by his

The story of the widow was a touching yet simple one. She was by birth
a Swiss. In one of the cantons of her native land, she had grown up, and
married, and lived for a time in happy comfort. A son was born to her,
and a daughter, the beautiful Ninon. By some reverse of fortune, the
father and head of the family had the greater portion of his possessions
swept from him. He struggled for a time against the evil influence, but
it press'd upon him harder and harder. He had heard of a people in the
western world--a new and swarming land--where the stranger was welcom'd,
and peace and the protection of the strong arm thrown around him. He had
not heart to stay and struggle amid the scenes of his former prosperity,
and he determin'd to go and make his home in that distant republic of
the west. So with his wife and children, and the proceeds of what little
property was left, he took passage for New York. He was never to reach
his journey's end. Either the cares that weigh' d upon his mind, or some
other cause, consign'd him to a sick hammock, from which he only found
relief through the Great Dismisser. He was buried in the sea, and in due
time his family arrived at the American emporium. But there, the son too
sicken'd--died, ere long, and was buried likewise. They would not bury
him in the city, but away--by the solitary banks of the Hudson; on which
the widow soon afterwards took up her abode.

Ninon was too young to feel much grief at these sad occurrences; and the
mother, whatever she might have suffer'd inwardly, had a good deal of
phlegm and patience, and set about making herself and her remaining
child as comfortable as might be. They had still a respectable sum in
cash, and after due deliberation, the widow purchas'd the little quiet
tavern, not far from the grave of her boy; and of Sundays and holidays
she took in considerable money--enough to make a decent support for
them in their humble way of living. French and Germans visited the house
frequently, and quite a number of young Americans too. Probably the
greatest attraction to the latter was the sweet face of Ninon.

Spring passed, and summer crept in and wasted away, and autumn had
arrived. Every New Yorker knows what delicious weather we have, in these
regions, of the early October days; how calm, clear, and divested of
sultriness, is the air, and how decently nature seems preparing for her
winter sleep.

Thus it was the last Wednesday we started on our accustomed excursion.
Six months had elapsed since our first visit, and, as then, we were full
of the exuberance of young and joyful hearts. Frequent and hearty were
our jokes, by no means particular about the theme or the method, and
long and loud the peals of laughter that rang over the fields or along
the shore.

We took our seats round the same clean, white table, and received our
favorite beverage in the same bright tankards. They were set before us
by the sober Margery, no one else being visible. As frequently happen'd,
we were the only company. Walking and breathing the keen, fine air had
made us dry, and we soon drain'd the foaming vessels, and call'd for
more. I remember well an animated chat we had about some poems that
had just made their appearance from a great British author, and were
creating quite a public stir. There was one, a tale of passion and
despair, which Wheaton had read, and of which he gave us a transcript.
Wild, startling, and dreamy, perhaps it threw over our minds its
peculiar cast. An hour moved off, and we began to think it strange that
neither Ninon or the widow came into the room. One of us gave a hint to
that effect to Margery; but she made no answer, and went on in her usual
way as before.

"The grim old thing," said Wheaton, "if she were in Spain, they'd make
her a premier duenna!"

I ask'd the woman about Ninon and the widow. She seemed disturb'd, I
thought; but, making no reply to the first part of my question, said
that her mistress was in another part of the house, and did not wish to
be with company.

"Then be kind enough, Mrs. Vinegar," resumed Wheaton, good-naturedly,
"be kind enough to go and ask the widow if we can see Ninon."

Our attendant's face turn'd as pale as ashes, and she precipitately left
the apartment. We laugh'd at her agitation, which Frank Brown assigned
to our merry ridicule.

Quite a quarter of an hour elaps'd before Margery's return. When she
appear'd she told us briefly that the widow had bidden her obey our
behest, and now, if we desired, she would conduct us to the daughter's
presence. There was a singular expression in the woman's eyes, and
the whole affair began to strike us as somewhat odd; but we arose, and
taking our caps, follow'd her as she stepp'd through the door. Back of
the house were some fields, and a path leading into clumps of trees. At
some thirty rods distant from the tavern, nigh one of those clumps, the
larger tree whereof was a willow, Margery stopp'd, and pausing a minute,
while we came up, spoke in tones calm and low:

"Ninon is there!"

She pointed downward with her finger. Great God! There was a _grave_,
new made, and with the sods loosely join'd, and a rough brown stone at
each extremity! Some earth yet lay upon the grass near by. If we had
look'd, we might have seen the resting-place of the widow's son, Ninon's
brother--for it was close at hand. But amid the whole scene our eyes
took in nothing except that horrible covering of death--the oven-shaped
mound. My sight seemed to waver, my head felt dizzy, and a feeling of
deadly sickness came over me. I heard a stifled exclamation, and looking
round, saw Frank Brown leaning against the nearest tree, great sweat
upon his forehead, and his cheeks bloodless as chalk. Wheaton gave
way to his agony more fully than ever I had known a man before; he had
fallen--sobbing like a child, and wringing his hands. It is impossible
to describe the suddenness and fearfulness of the sickening truth that
came upon us like a stroke of thunder.

Of all of us, my brother Matthew neither shed tears, or turned pale,
or fainted, or exposed any other evidence of inward depth of pain. His
quiet, pleasant voice was indeed a tone lower, but it was that which
recall'd us, after the lapse of many long minutes, to ourselves.

So the girl had died and been buried. We were told of an illness that
had seized her the very day after our last preceding visit; but we
inquired not into the particulars.

And now come I to the conclusion of my story, and to the most singular
part of it. The evening of the third day afterward, Wheaton, who had
wept scalding tears, and Brown, whose cheeks had recovered their color,
and myself, that for an hour thought my heart would never rebound again
from the fearful shock--that evening, I say, we three were seated around
a table in another tavern, drinking other beer, and laughing but a
little less cheerfully, and as though we had never known the widow or
her daughter--neither of whom, I venture to affirm, came into our minds
once the whole night, or but to be dismiss'd again, carelessly, like the
remembrance of faces seen in a crowd.

Strange are the contradictions of the things of life! The seventh day
after that dreadful visit saw my brother Matthew--the delicate one, who,
while bold men writhed in torture, had kept the same placid face, and
the same untrembling fingers--him that seventh day saw a clay-cold
corpse, carried to the repose of the churchyard. The shaft, rankling
far down and within, wrought a poison too great for show, and the youth


Just after sunset, one evening in summer--that pleasant hour when the
air is balmy, the light loses its glare, and all around is imbued with
soothing quiet--on the door-step of a house there sat an elderly woman
waiting the arrival of her son. The house was in a straggling village
some fifty miles from New York city. She who sat on the door-step was a
widow; her white cap cover'd locks of gray, and her dress, though clean,
was exceedingly homely. Her house--for the tenement she occupied was her
own--was very little and very old. Trees clustered around it so thickly
as almost to hide its color--that blackish gray color which belongs to
old wooden houses that have never been painted; and to get in it you had
to enter a little rickety gate and walk through a short path, border'd
by carrot beds and beets and other vegetables. The son whom she was
expecting was her only child. About a year before he had been bound
apprentice to a rich farmer in the place, and after finishing his daily
task he was in the habit of spending half an hour at his mother's. On
the present occasion the shadows of night had settled heavily before the
youth made his appearance. When he did, his walk was slow and dragging,
and all his motions were languid, as if from great weariness. He open'd
the gate, came through the path, and sat down by his mother in silence.

"You are sullen to-night, Charley," said the widow, after a moment's
pause, when she found that he return' d no answer to her greeting.

As she spoke she put her hand fondly on his head; it seem'd moist as if
it had been dipp'd in the water. His shirt, too, was soak'd; and as
she pass'd her fingers down his shoulder she left a sharp twinge in her
heart, for she knew that moisture to be the hard wrung sweat of severe
toil, exacted from her young child (he was but thirteen years old) by an
unyielding taskmaster.

"You have work'd hard to-day, my son."

"I've been mowing."

The widow's heart felt another pang.

"Not _all day_, Charley?" she said, in a low voice; and there was a
slight quiver in it.

"Yes, mother, all day," replied the boy; "Mr. Ellis said he couldn't
afford to hire men, for wages are so high. I've swung the scythe ever
since an hour before sunrise. Feel of my hands."

There were blisters on them like great lumps. Tears started in the
widow's eyes. She dared not trust herself with a reply, though her heart
was bursting with the thought that she could not better his condition.
There was no earthly means of support on which she had dependence enough
to encourage her child in the wish she knew he was forming--the wish not
utter'd for the first time--to be freed from his bondage. "Mother," at
length said the boy, "I can stand it no longer. I cannot and will not
stay at Mr. Ellis's. Ever since the day I first went into his house I've
been a slave; and if I have to work so much longer I know I shall run
off and go to sea or somewhere else. I'd as leave be in my grave as
there." And the child burst into a passionate fit of weeping.

His mother was silent, for she was in deep grief herself. After some
minutes had flown, however, she gather'd sufficient self-possession to
speak to her son in a soothing tone, endeavoring to win him from his
sorrows and cheer up his heart. She told him that time was swift--that
in the course of a few years he would be his own master.--that all
people have their troubles--with many other ready arguments which,
though they had little effect in calming her own distress, she hoped
would act as a solace to the disturb'd temper of the boy. And as the
half hour to which he was limited had now elaps'd, she took him by the
hand and led him to the gate, to set forth on his return. The youth
seemed pacified, though occasionally one of those convulsive sighs that
remain after a fit of weeping, would break from his throat. At the gate
he threw his arms about his mother's neck; each press'd a long kiss
on the lips of the other, and the youngster bent his steps towards his
master's house.

As her child pass'd out of sight the widow return'd, shut the gate and
enter'd her lonely room. There was no light in the old cottage that
night--the heart of its occupant was dark and cheerless. Love, agony,
and grief, and tears and convulsive wrestlings were there. The thought
of a beloved son condemned to labor--labor that would break down a
man--struggling from day to day under the hard rule of a soulless
gold-worshipper; the knowledge that years must pass thus; the sickening
idea of her own poverty, and of living mainly on the grudged charity of
neighbors--thoughts, too, of former happy days--these rack'd the widow's
heart, and made her bed a sleepless one without repose.

The boy bent his steps to his employer's, as has been said. In his way
down the village street he had to pass a public house, the only one the
place contain'd; and when he came off against it he heard the sound of
a fiddle--drown'd, however, at intervals, by much laughter and talking.
The windows were up, and, the house standing close to the road, Charles
thought it no harm to take a look and see what was going on within. Half
a dozen footsteps brought him to the low casement, on which he lean'd
his elbow, and where he had a full view of the room and its occupants.
In one corner was an old man, known in the village as Black Dave--he
it was whose musical performances had a moment before drawn Charles's
attention to the tavern; and he it was who now exerted himself in a
violent manner to give, with divers flourishes and extra twangs, a tune
very popular among that thick-lipp'd race whose fondness for melody is
so well known. In the middle of the room were five or six sailors, some
of them quite drunk, and others in the earlier stages of that process,
while on benches around were more sailors, and here and there a person
dress'd in landsman's attire. The men in the middle of the room were
dancing; that is, they were going through certain contortions and
shufflings, varied occasionally by exceeding hearty stamps upon the
sanded floor. In short the whole party were engaged in a drunken frolic,
which was in no respect different from a thousand other drunken frolics,
except, perhaps, that there was less than the ordinary amount of anger
and quarreling. Indeed everyone seem' d in remarkably good humor.

But what excited the boy's attention more than any other object was an
individual, seated on one of the benches opposite, who, though evidently
enjoying the spree as much as if he were an old hand at such business,
seem' d in every other particular to be far out of his element. His
appearance was youthful. He might have been twenty-one or two years
old. His countenance was intelligent, and had the air of city life and
society. He was dress'd not gaudily, but in every respect fashionably;
his coat being of the finest broadcloth, his linen delicate and spotless
as snow, and his whole aspect that of one whose counterpart may now and
then be seen upon the pave in Broadway of a fine afternoon. He laugh'd
and talk'd with the rest, and it must be confess'd his jokes--like the
most of those that pass'd current there--were by no means distinguish'd
for their refinement or purity. Near the door was a small table, cover'd
with decanters and glasses, some of which had been used, but were used
again indiscriminately, and a box of very thick and very long cigars.

One of the sailors--and it was he who made the largest share of the
hubbub--had but one eye. His chin and cheeks were cover'd with huge,
bushy whiskers, and altogether he had quite a brutal appearance. "Come,
boys," said this gentleman, "come, let us take a drink. I know you're
all a getting dry;" and he clench'd his invitation with an appalling
oath. This politeness was responded to by a general moving of the
company toward the table holding the before-mention'd decanters and
glasses. Clustering there around, each one help'd himself to a very
handsome portion of that particular liquor which suited his fancy; and
steadiness and accuracy being at that moment by no means distinguishing
traits of the arms and legs of the party, a goodly amount of the fluid
was spill'd upon the floor. This piece of extravagance excited the ire
of the personage who gave the "treat;" and that ire was still further
increas'd when he discover'd two or three loiterers who seem'd disposed
to slight his request to drink. Charles, as we have before mention'd,
was looking in at the window.

"Walk up, boys! walk up! If there be any skulker among us, blast my eyes
if he shan't go down on his marrow bones and taste the liquor we have
spilt! Hallo!" he exclaim'd as he spied Charles; "hallo, you chap in the
window, come here and take a sup."

As he spoke he stepp'd to the open casement, put his brawny hands under
the boy's arms, and lifted him into the room bodily.

"There, my lads," said he, turning to his companions, "there's a new
recruit for you. Not so coarse a one, either," he added as he took a
fair view of the boy, who, though not what is called pretty, was fresh
and manly looking, and large for his age.

"Come, youngster, take a glass," he continued. And he pour'd one nearly
full of strong brandy.

Now Charles was not exactly frighten'd, for he was a lively fellow, and
had often been at the country merry-makings, and at the parties of the
place; but he was certainly rather abash'd at his abrupt introduction to
the midst of strangers. So, putting the glass aside, he look'd up with a
pleasant smile in his new acquaintance's face.

"I've no need for anything now," he said, "but I'm just as much obliged
to you as if I was."

"Poh! man, drink it down," rejoin'd the sailor, "drink it down--it won't
hurt you."

And, by way of showing its excellence, the one-eyed worthy drain'd it
himself to the last drop. Then filling it again, he renew'd his efforts
to make the lad go through the same operation.

"I've no occasion. Besides, _my mother has often pray'd me not to
drink,_ and I promised to obey her."

A little irritated by his continued refusal, the sailor, with a loud
oath, declared that Charles should swallow the brandy, whether he would
or no. Placing one of his tremendous paws on the back of the boy's head,
with the other he thrust the edge of the glass to his lips, swearing
at the same time, that if he shook it so as to spill its contents the
consequences would be of a nature by no means agreeable to his back and
shoulders. Disliking the liquor, and angry at the attempt to overbear
him, the undaunted child lifted his hand and struck the arm of the
sailor with a blow so sudden that the glass fell and was smash'd to
pieces on the floor; while the brandy was about equally divided between
the face of Charles, the clothes of the sailor, and the sand. By this
time the whole of the company had their attention drawn to the scene.
Some of them laugh'd when they saw Charles's undisguised antipathy to
the drink; but they laugh'd still more heartily when he discomfited
the sailor. All of them, however, were content to let the matter go as
chance would have it--all but the young man of the black coat, who has
been spoken of.

What was there in the words which Charles had spoken that carried the
mind of the young man back to former times--to a period when he was
more pure and innocent than now? "_My mother has often pray'd me not to
drink!_" Ah, how the mist of months roll'd aside, and presented to his
soul's eye the picture of _his_ mother, and a prayer of exactly similar
purport! Why was it, too, that the young man's heart moved with a
feeling of kindness toward the harshly treated child?

Charles stood, his cheek flush'd and his heart throbbing, wiping the
trickling drops from his face with a handkerchief. At first the sailor,
between his drunkenness and his surprise, was much in the condition
of one suddenly awaken'd out of a deep sleep, who cannot call his
consciousness about him. When he saw the state of things, however, and
heard the jeering laugh of his companions, his dull eye lighting up with
anger, fell upon the boy who had withstood him. He seized Charles with
a grip of iron, and with the side of his heavy boot gave him a sharp and
solid kick. He was about repeating the performance--for the child
hung like a rag in his grasp--but all of a sudden his ears rang, as if
pistols were snapp'd close to them; lights of various hues flicker'd
in his eye, (he had but one, it will be remember'd,) and a strong
propelling power caused him to move from his position, and keep moving
until he was brought up by the wall. A blow, a cuff given in such a
scientific manner that the hand from which it proceeded was evidently no
stranger to the pugilistic art, had been suddenly planted in the ear of
the sailor. It was planted by the young man of the black coat. He had
watch'd with interest the proceeding of the sailor and the boy--two or
three times he was on the point of interfering; but when the kick was
given, his rage was uncontrollable. He sprang from his seat in the
attitude of a boxer--struck the sailor in a manner to cause those
unpleasant sensations which have been described--and would probably have
follow'd up the attack, had not Charles, now thoroughly terrified, clung
around his legs and prevented his advancing.

The scene was a strange one, and for the time quite a silent one. The
company had started from their seats, and for a moment held breathless
but strain'd positions. In the middle of the room stood the young man,
in his not at all ungraceful attitude--every nerve out, and his eyes
flashing brilliantly.

He seem'd rooted like a rock; and clasping him, with an appearance of
confidence in his protection, clung the boy.

"You scoundrel!" cried the young man, his voice thick with passion,
"dare to touch the boy again, and I'll thrash you till no sense is left
in your body."

The sailor, now partially recover'd, made some gestures of a belligerent

"Come on, drunken brute!" continued the angry youth; "I wish you would!
You've not had half what you deserve!"

Upon sobriety and sense more fully taking their power in the brains of
the one-eyed mariner, however, that worthy determined in his own
mind that it would be most prudent to let the matter drop. Expressing
therefore his conviction to that effect, adding certain remarks to the
purport that he "meant no harm to the lad," that he was surprised
at such a gentleman being angry at "a little piece of fun," and so
forth--he proposed that the company should go on with their jollity just
as if nothing had happen'd. In truth, he of the single eye was not a
bad fellow at heart, after all; the fiery enemy whose advances he had
so often courted that night, had stolen away his good feelings, and set
busy devils at work within him, that might have made his hands do some
dreadful deed, had not the stranger interposed.

In a few minutes the frolic of the party was upon its former footing.
The young man sat down upon one of the benches, with the boy by his
side, and while the rest were loudly laughing and talking, they
two convers'd together. The stranger learn'd from Charles all the
particulars of his simple story--how his father had died years
since--how his mother work' d hard for a bare living--and how he
himself, for many dreary months, had been the servant of a hard-hearted,
avaricious master. More and more interested, drawing the child close to
his side, the young man listen'd to his plainly told history--and thus
an hour pass'd away.

It was now past midnight. The young man told Charles that on the morrow
he would take steps to relieve him from his servitude--that for the
present night the landlord would probably give him a lodging at the
inn--and little persuading did the host need for that.

As he retired to sleep, very pleasant thoughts filled the mind of the
young man--thoughts of a worthy action perform'd--thoughts, too, newly
awakened ones, of walking in a steadier and wiser path than formerly.

That roof, then, sheltered two beings that night--one of them innocent
and sinless of all wrong--the other--oh, to that other what evil had not
been present, either in action or to his desires!

Who was the stranger? To those that, from ties of relationship or
otherwise, felt an interest in him, the answer to that question was not
pleasant to dwell upon. His name was Langton--parentless--a dissipated
young man--a brawler--one whose too frequent companions were rowdies,
blacklegs, and swindlers. The New York police offices were not strangers
to his countenance. He had been bred to the profession of medicine;
besides, he had a very respectable income, and his house was in a
pleasant street on the west side of the city. Little of his time,
however, did Mr. John Langton spend at his domestic hearth; and the
elderly lady who officiated as his housekeeper was by no means surprised
to have him gone for a week or a month at a time, and she knowing
nothing of his whereabouts.

Living as he did, the young man was an unhappy being. It was not so much
that his associates were below his own capacity--for Langton, though
sensible and well bred, was not highly talented or refined--but that he
lived without any steady purpose, that he had no one to attract him to
his home, that he too easily allow'd himself to be tempted--which caused
his life to be, of late, one continued scene of dissatisfaction. This
dissatisfaction he sought to drive away by the brandy bottle, and mixing
in all kinds of parties where the object was pleasure. On the present
occasion he had left the city a few days before, and passing his time at
a place near the village where Charles and his mother lived. He fell in,
during the day, with those who were his companions of the tavern spree;
and thus it happen'd that they were all together. Langton hesitated not
to make himself at home with any associate that suited his fancy.

The next morning the poor widow rose from her sleepless cot; and from
that lucky trait in our nature which makes one extreme follow another,
she set about her toil with a lighten'd heart. Ellis, the farmer, rose,
too, short as the nights were, an hour before day; for his god was gain,
and a prime article of his creed was to get as much work as possible
from every one around him. In the course of the day Ellis was called
upon by young Langton, and never perhaps in his life was the farmer
puzzled more than at the young man's proposal--his desire to provide for
the widow's family, a family that could do him no pecuniary good, and
his willingness to disburse money for that purpose. The widow, too, was
called upon, not only on that day, but the next and the next.

It needs not that I should particularize the subsequent events of
Langton's and the boy's history--how the reformation of the profligate
might be dated to begin from that time--how he gradually sever'd the
guilty ties that had so long gall'd him--how he enjoy'd his own home
again--how the friendship of Charles and himself grew not slack with
time--and how, when in the course of seasons he became head of a family
of his own, he would shudder at the remembrance of his early dangers and
his escapes.


"Another day," utter'd the poet Lingave, as he awoke in the morning,
and turn'd him drowsily on his hard pallet, "another day comes out,
burthen'd with its weight of woes. Of what use is existence to me?
Crush'd down beneath the merciless heel of poverty, and no promise of
hope to cheer me on, what have I in prospect but a life neglected and a
death of misery?"

The youth paused; but receiving no answer to his questions, thought
proper to continue the peevish soliloquy. "I am a genius, they say," and
the speaker smiled bitterly, "but genius is not apparel and food. Why
should I exist in the world, unknown, unloved, press'd with cares, while
so many around me have all their souls can desire? I behold the
splendid equipages roll by--I see the respectful bow at the presence of
pride--and I curse the contrast between my own lot, and the fortune
of the rich. The lofty air--the show of dress--the aristocratic
demeanor--the glitter of jewels--dazzle my eyes; and sharp-tooth' d envy
works within me. I hate these haughty and favor'd ones. Why should my
path be so much rougher than theirs? Pitiable, unfortunate man that I
am! to be placed beneath those whom in my heart I despise--and to be
constantly tantalized with the presence of that wealth I cannot enjoy!"
And the poet cover'd his eyes with his hands, and wept from very passion
and fretfulness.

O, Lingave! be more of a man! Have you not the treasures of health and
untainted propensities, which many of those you envy never enjoy? Are
you not their superior in mental power, in liberal views of mankind, and
in comprehensive intellect? And even allowing you the choice, how would
you shudder at changing, in total, conditions with them! Besides,
were you willing to devote all your time and energies, you could gain
property too: squeeze, and toil, and worry, and twist everything into a
matter of profit, and you can become a great man, as far as money goes
to make greatness.

Retreat, then, man of the polish'd soul, from those irritable complaints
against your lot-those longings for wealth and puerile distinction, not
worthy your class. Do justice, philosopher, to your own powers. While
the world runs after its shadows and its bubbles, (thus commune in your
own mind,) we will fold ourselves in our circle of understanding, and
look with an eye of apathy on those things it considers so mighty and
so enviable. Let the proud man pass with his pompous glance--let the gay
flutter in finery--let the foolish enjoy his folly, and the beautiful
move on in his perishing glory; we will gaze without desire on all their
possessions, and all their pleasures. Our destiny is different from
theirs. Not for such as we, the lowly flights of their crippled wings.
We acknowledge no fellow-ship with them in ambition. We composedly look
down on the paths where they walk, and pursue our own, without uttering
a wish to descend, and be as they. What is it to us that the mass pay
us not that deference which wealth commands? We desire no applause, save
the applause of the good and discriminating--the choice spirits among
men. Our intellect would be sullied, were the vulgar to approximate to
it, by professing to readily enter in, and praising it. Our pride is a
towering, and thrice refined pride.

When Lingave had given way to his temper some half hour, or thereabout,
he grew more calm, and bethought himself that he was acting a very silly
part. He listen'd a moment to the clatter of the carts, and the tramp
of early passengers on the pave below, as they wended along to commence
their daily toil. It was just sunrise, and the season was summer. A
little canary bird, the only pet poor Lingave could afford to keep,
chirp'd merrily in its cage on the wall. How slight a circumstance will
sometimes change the whole current of our thoughts! The music of that
bird abstracting the mind of the poet but a moment from his sorrows,
gave a chance for his natural buoyancy to act again.

Lingave sprang lightly from his bed, and perform'd his ablutions and his
simple toilet--then hanging the cage on a nail outside the window, and
speaking an endearment to the songster, which brought a perfect flood of
melody in return--he slowly passed through his door, descended the
long narrow turnings of the stairs, and stood in the open street.
Undetermin'd as to any particular destination, he folded his hands
behind him, cast his glance upon the ground, and moved listlessly

Hour after hour the poet walk'd along--up this street and down that--he
reck'd not how or where. And as crowded thoroughfares are hardly the
most fit places for a man to let his fancy soar in the clouds--many a
push and shove and curse did the dreamer get bestow'd upon him.

The booming of the city clock sounded forth the hour twelve--high noon.

"Ho! Lingave!" cried a voice from an open basement window as the poet

He stopp'd, and then unwittingly would have walked on still, not fully
awaken'd from his reverie.

"Lingave, I say!" cried the voice again, and the person to whom the
voice belong'd stretch'd his head quite out into the area in front,
"Stop man. Have you forgotten your appointment?"

"Oh! ah!" said the poet, and he smiled unmeaningly, and descending
the steps, went into the office of Ridman, whose call it was that had
startled him in his walk.

Who was Ridman? While the poet is waiting the convenience of that
personage, it may be as well to describe him.

Ridman was a _money-maker_. He had much penetration, considerable
knowledge of the world, and a disposition to be constantly in the midst
of enterprise, excitement, and stir. His schemes for gaining wealth were
various; he had dipp'd into almost every branch and channel of business.
A slight acquaintance of several years' standing subsisted between him
and the poet. The day previous a boy had call'd with a note from Ridman
to Lingave, desiring the presence of the latter at the money-maker's
room. The poet return'd for answer that he would be there. This was the
engagement which he came near breaking.

Ridman had a smooth tongue. All his ingenuity was needed in the
explanation to his companion of why and wherefore the latter had been
sent for.

It is not requisite to state specifically the offer made by the man
of wealth to the poet. Ridman, in one of his enterprises, found it
necessary to procure the aid of such a person as Lingave--a writer of
power, a master of elegant diction, of fine taste, in style passionate
yet pure, and of the delicate imagery that belongs to the children of
song. The youth was absolutely startled at the magnificent and permanent
remuneration which was held out to him for a moderate exercise of his

But the _nature_ of the service required! All the sophistry and art of
Ridman could not veil its repulsiveness. The poet was to labor for the
advancement of what he felt to be unholy--he was to inculcate what
would lower the perfection of man. He promised to give an answer to the
proposal the succeeding day, and left the place.

Now during the many hours there was a war going on in the heart of the
poor poet. He was indeed poor; often he had no certainty whether he
should be able to procure the next day's meals. And the poet knew
the beauty of truth, and adored, not in the abstract merely, but in
practice, the excellence of upright principles.

Night came. Lingave, wearied, lay upon his pallet again and slept. The
misty veil thrown over him, the spirit of poesy came to his visions, and
stood beside him, and look'd down pleasantly with her large eyes, which
were bright and liquid like the reflection of stars in a lake.

Virtue, (such imagining, then, seem'd conscious to the soul of the
dreamer,) is ever the sinew of true genius. Together, the two in one,
they are endow'd with immortal strength, and approach loftily to Him
from whom both spring. Yet there are those that having great powers,
bend them to the slavery of wrong. God forgive them! for they surely do
it ignorantly or hee