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

114. Rise, O Days


1

RISE, O days, from your fathomless deeps, till you loftier, fiercer sweep!
 
Long for my soul, hungering gymnastic, I devour’d what the earth gave me; 
Long I roam’d the woods of the north—long I watch’d Niagara pouring; 
I travel’d the prairies over, and slept on their breast—I cross’d the Nevadas, I cross’d the plateaus; 
I ascended the towering rocks along the Pacific, I sail’d out to sea;         5
I sail’d through the storm, I was refresh’d by the storm; 
I watch’d with joy the threatening maws of the waves; 
I mark’d the white combs where they career’d so high, curling over; 
I heard the wind piping, I saw the black clouds; 
Saw from below what arose and mounted, (O superb! O wild as my heart, and powerful!)  10
Heard the continuous thunder, as it bellow’d after the lightning; 
Noted the slender and jagged threads of lightning, as sudden and fast amid the din they chased each other across the sky; 
—These, and such as these, I, elate, saw—saw with wonder, yet pensive and masterful; 
All the menacing might of the globe uprisen around me; 
Yet there with my soul I fed—I fed content, supercilious.  15
  
2

’Twas well, O soul! ’twas a good preparation you gave me!
 
Now we advance our latent and ampler hunger to fill; 
Now we go forth to receive what the earth and the sea never gave us; 
Not through the mighty woods we go, but through the mightier cities; 
Something for us is pouring now, more than Niagara pouring;  20
Torrents of men, (sources and rills of the Northwest, are you indeed inexhaustible?) 
What, to pavements and homesteads here—what were those storms of the mountains and sea? 
What, to passions I witness around me to-day? Was the sea risen? 
Was the wind piping the pipe of death under the black clouds? 
Lo! from deeps more unfathomable, something more deadly and savage;  25
Manhattan, rising, advancing with menacing front—Cincinnati, Chicago, unchain’d; 
—What was that swell I saw on the ocean? behold what comes here! 
How it climbs with daring feet and hands! how it dashes! 
How the true thunder bellows after the lightning! how bright the flashes of lightning! 
How DEMOCRACY, with desperate vengeful port strides on, shown through the dark by those flashes of lightning!  30
(Yet a mournful wail and low sob I fancied I heard through the dark, 
In a lull of the deafening confusion.) 
  
3

Thunder on! stride on, Democracy! strike with vengeful stroke!
 
And do you rise higher than ever yet, O days, O cities! 
Crash heavier, heavier yet, O storms! you have done me good;  35
My soul, prepared in the mountains, absorbs your immortal strong nutriment; 
—Long had I walk’d my cities, my country roads, through farms, only half-satisfied; 
One doubt, nauseous, undulating like a snake, crawl’d on the ground before me, 
Continually preceding my steps, turning upon me oft, ironically hissing low; 
—The cities I loved so well, I abandon’d and left—I sped to the certainties suitable to me;  40
Hungering, hungering, hungering, for primal energies, and Nature’s dauntlessness, 
I refresh’d myself with it only, I could relish it only; 
I waited the bursting forth of the pent fire—on the water and air I waited long; 
—But now I no longer wait—I am fully satisfied—I am glutted; 
I have witness’d the true lightning—I have witness’d my cities electric;  45
I have lived to behold man burst forth, and warlike America rise; 
Hence I will seek no more the food of the northern solitary wilds, 
No more on the mountains roam, or sail the stormy sea. 


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