Verse > Walt Whitman > Leaves of Grass
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Walt Whitman (1819–1892).  Leaves of Grass.  1900.

101. A Broadway Pageant


1

OVER the western sea, hither from Niphon come,
 
Courteous, the swart-cheek’d two-sworded envoys, 
Leaning back in their open barouches, bare-headed, impassive, 
Ride to-day through Manhattan. 
  
Libertad!         5
I do not know whether others behold what I behold, 
In the procession, along with the nobles of Asia, the errand-bearers, 
Bringing up the rear, hovering above, around, or in the ranks marching; 
But I will sing you a song of what I behold, Libertad. 
  
2

When million-footed Manhattan, unpent, descends to her pavements;
  10
When the thunder-cracking guns arouse me with the proud roar I love; 
When the round-mouth’d guns, out of the smoke and smell I love, spit their salutes; 
When the fire-flashing guns have fully alerted me—when heaven-clouds canopy my city with a delicate thin haze; 
When, gorgeous, the countless straight stems, the forests at the wharves, thicken with colors; 
When every ship, richly drest, carries her flag at the peak;  15
When pennants trail, and street-festoons hang from the windows; 
When Broadway is entirely given up to foot-passengers and foot-standers—when the mass is densest; 
When the façades of the houses are alive with people—when eyes gaze, riveted, tens of thousands at a time; 
When the guests from the islands advance—when the pageant moves forward, visible; 
When the summons is made—when the answer that waited thousands of years, answers;  20
I too, arising, answering, descend to the pavements, merge with the crowd, and gaze with them. 
  
3

Superb-faced Manhattan!
 
Comrade Americanos!—to us, then, at last, the Orient comes. 
  
To us, my city, 
Where our tall-topt marble and iron beauties range on opposite sides—to walk in the space between,  25
To-day our Antipodes comes. 
  
The Originatress comes, 
The nest of languages, the bequeather of poems, the race of eld, 
Florid with blood, pensive, rapt with musings, hot with passion, 
Sultry with perfume, with ample and flowing garments,  30
With sunburnt visage, with intense soul and glittering eyes, 
The race of Brahma comes! 
  
4

See, my cantabile! these, and more, are flashing to us from the procession;
 
As it moves, changing, a kaleidoscope divine it moves, changing, before us. 
  
For not the envoys, nor the tann’d Japanee from his island only;  35
Lithe and silent, the Hindoo appears—the Asiatic continent itself appears—the Past, the dead, 
The murky night morning of wonder and fable, inscrutable, 
The envelop’d mysteries, the old and unknown hive-bees, 
The North—the sweltering South—eastern Assyria—the Hebrews—the Ancient of Ancients, 
Vast desolated cities—the gliding Present—all of these, and more, are in the pageant-procession.  40
  
Geography, the world, is in it; 
The Great Sea, the brood of islands, Polynesia, the coast beyond; 
The coast you, henceforth, are facing—you Libertad! from your Western golden shores 
The countries there, with their populations—the millions en-masse, are curiously here; 
The swarming market places—the temples, with idols ranged along the sides, or at the end—bonze, brahmin, and lama;  45
The mandarin, farmer, merchant, mechanic, and fisherman; 
The singing-girl and the dancing-girl—the ecstatic person—the secluded Emperors, 
Confucius himself—the great poets and heroes—the warriors, the castes, all, 
Trooping up, crowding from all directions—from the Altay mountains, 
From Thibet—from the four winding and far-flowing rivers of China,  50
From the Southern peninsulas, and the demi-continental islands—from Malaysia; 
These, and whatever belongs to them, palpable, show forth to me, and are seiz’d by me, 
And I am seiz’d by them, and friendlily held by them, 
Till, as here, them all I chant, Libertad! for themselves and for you. 
  
5

For I too, raising my voice, join the ranks of this pageant;
  55
I am the chanter—I chant aloud over the pageant; 
I chant the world on my Western Sea; 
I chant, copious, the islands beyond, thick as stars in the sky; 
I chant the new empire, grander than any before—As in a vision it comes to me; 
I chant America, the Mistress—I chant a greater supremacy;  60
I chant, projected, a thousand blooming cities yet, in time, on those groups of sea-islands; 
I chant my sail-ships and steam-ships threading the archipelagoes; 
I chant my stars and stripes fluttering in the wind; 
I chant commerce opening, the sleep of ages having done its work—races, reborn, refresh’d; 
Lives, works, resumed—The object I know not—but the old, the Asiatic, renew’d, as it must be,  65
Commencing from this day, surrounded by the world. 
  
6

And you, Libertad of the world!
 
You shall sit in the middle, well-pois’d, thousands of years; 
As to-day, from one side, the nobles of Asia come to you; 
As to-morrow, from the other side, the Queen of England sends her eldest son to you.  70
  
7

The sign is reversing, the orb is enclosed,
 
The ring is circled, the journey is done; 
The box-lid is but perceptibly open’d—nevertheless the perfume pours copiously out of the whole box. 
  
8

Young Libertad!
 
With the venerable Asia, the all-mother,  75
Be considerate with her, now and ever, hot Libertad—for you are all; 
Bend your proud neck to the long-off mother, now sending messages over the archipelagoes to you; 
Bend your proud neck low for once, young Libertad. 
  
9

Were the children straying westward so long? so wide the tramping?
 
Were the precedent dim ages debouching westward from Paradise so long?  80
Were the centuries steadily footing it that way, all the while unknown, for you, for reasons? 
  
They are justified—they are accomplish’d—they shall now be turn’d the other way also, to travel toward you thence; 
They shall now also march obediently eastward, for your sake, Libertad. 


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