Song of the Exposition
AFTER all, not to create only, or found only,
But to bring, perhaps from afar, what is already founded,
To give it our own identity, average, limitless, free;
To fill the gross, the torpid bulk with vital religious fire;
Not to repel or destroy, so much as accept, fuse, rehabilitate;
To obey, as well as command—to follow, more than to lead;
These also are the lessons of our New World;
—While how little the New, after all—how much the Old, Old World!
Long, long, long, has the grass been growing,
Long and long has the rain been falling,
Long has the globe been rolling round.
Come, Muse, migrate from Greece and Ionia;
Cross out, please, those immensely overpaid accounts,
That matter of Troy, and Achilles’ wrath, and Eneas’, Odysseus’ wanderings;
Placard â€œRemovedâ€ and â€œTo Letâ€ on the rocks of your snowy
Repeat at Jerusalem—place the notice high on Jaffa’s gate, and on Mount Moriah;
The same on the walls of your Gothic European Cathedrals, and German, French and Spanish
For know a better, fresher, busier sphere—a wide, untried domain awaits, demands you.
Responsive to our summons,
Or rather to her long-nurs’d inclination,
Join’d with an irresistible, natural gravitation,
She comes! this famous Female—as was indeed to be expected;
(For who, so-ever youthful, ’cute and handsome, would wish to stay in mansions such as
When offer’d quarters with all the modern improvements,
With all the fun that ’s going—and all the best society?)
She comes! I hear the rustling of her gown;
I scent the odor of her breath’s delicious fragrance;
I mark her step divine—her curious eyes a-turning, rolling,
Upon this very scene.
The Dame of Dames! can I believe, then,
Those ancient temples classic, and castles strong and feudalistic,
could none of them restrain her?
Nor shades of Virgil and Dante—nor myriad memories, poems, old associations, magnetize and
hold on to her?
But that she ’s left them all—and here?
Yes, if you will allow me to say so,
I, my friends, if you do not, can plainly see Her,
The same Undying Soul of Earth’s, activity’s, beauty’s, heroism’s Expression,
Out from her evolutions hither come—submerged the strata of her former themes,
Hidden and cover’d by to-day’s—foundation of to-day’s;
Ended, deceas’d, through time, her voice by Castaly’s fountain;
Silent through time the broken-lipp’d Sphynx in Egypt—silent those century-baffling tombs;
Closed for aye the epics of Asia’s, Europe’s helmeted warriors;
Calliope’s call for ever closed—Clio, Melpomene, Thalia closed and dead;
Seal’d the stately rhythmus of Una and Oriana—ended the quest of the Holy Graal;
Jerusalem a handful of ashes blown by the wind—extinct;
The Crusaders’ streams of shadowy, midnight troops, sped with the sunrise;
Amadis, Tancred, utterly gone—Charlemagne, Roland, Oliver gone,
Palmerin, ogre, departed—vanish’d the turrets that Usk reflected,
Arthur vanish’d with all his knights—Merlin and Lancelot and Galahad—all
gone—dissolv’d utterly, like an exhalation;
Pass’d! pass’d! for us, for ever pass’d! that once so mighty World—now void, inanimate,
Embroider’d, dazzling World! with all its gorgeous legends, myths,
Its kings and barons proud—its priests, and warlike lords, and courtly dames;
Pass’d to its charnel vault—laid on the shelf—coffin’d, with Crown and Armor on,
Blazon’d with Shakspeare’s purple page,
And dirged by Tennyson’s sweet sad rhyme.
I say I see, my friends, if you do not, the Animus of all that World,
Escaped, bequeath’d, vital, fugacious as ever, leaving those dead remains, and now this
—And I can hear what maybe you do not—a terrible aesthetical commotion,
With howling, desperate gulp of â€œflowerâ€ and â€œbower,â€
With â€œSonnet to Matilda’s Eyebrowâ€ quite, quite frantic;
With gushing, sentimental reading circles turn’d to ice or stone;
With many a squeak, (in metre choice,) from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, London;
As she, the illustrious Emigré, (having, it is true, in her day, although the same,
Making directly for this rendezvous—vigorously clearing a path for herself—striding
By thud of machinery and shrill steam-whistle undismay’d,
Bluff’d not a bit by drain-pipe, gasometers, artificial fertilizers,
Smiling and pleased, with palpable intent to stay,
She ’s here, install’d amid the kitchen ware!
But hold—don’t I forget my manners?
To introduce the Stranger (what else indeed have I come for?) to thee, Columbia:
In Liberty’s name, welcome, Immortal! clasp hands,
And ever henceforth Sisters dear be both.
Fear not, O Muse! truly new ways and days receive, surround you,
(I candidly confess, a queer, queer race, of novel fashion,)
And yet the same old human race—the same within, without,
Faces and hearts the same—feelings the same—yearnings the same,
The same old love—beauty and use the same.
We do not blame thee, Elder World—nor separate ourselves from thee:
(Would the Son separate himself from the Father?)
Looking back on thee—seeing thee to thy duties, grandeurs, through past ages bending,
We build to ours to-day.
Mightier than Egypt’s tombs,
Fairer than Grecia’s, Roma’s temples,
Prouder than Milan’s statued, spired Cathedral,
More picturesque than Rhenish castle-keeps,
We plan, even now, to raise, beyond them all,
Thy great Cathedral, sacred Industry—no tomb,
A Keep for life for practical Invention.
As in a waking vision,
E’en while I chant, I see it rise—I scan and prophesy outside and in,
Its manifold ensemble.
Around a Palace,
Loftier, fairer, ampler than any yet,
Earth’s modern Wonder, History’s Seven outstripping,
High rising tier on tier, with glass and iron faÃ§ades.
Gladdening the sun and sky—enhued in cheerfulest hues,
Bronze, lilac, robin’s-egg, marine and crimson,
Over whose golden roof shall flaunt, beneath thy banner, Freedom,
The banners of The States, the flags of every land,
A brood of lofty, fair, but lesser Palaces shall cluster.
Somewhere within the walls of all,
Shall all that forwards perfect human life be started,
Tried, taught, advanced, visibly exhibited.
Here shall you trace in flowing operation,
In every state of practical, busy movement,
The rills of Civilization.
Materials here, under your eye, shall change their shape, as if by magic;
The cotton shall be pick’d almost in the very field,
Shall be dried, clean’d, ginn’d, baled, spun into thread and cloth, before you:
You shall see hands at work at all the old processes, and all the new ones;
You shall see the various grains, and how flour is made, and then bread baked by the
You shall see the crude ores of California and Nevada passing on and on till they become
You shall watch how the printer sets type, and learn what a composing stick is;
You shall mark, in amazement, the Hoe press whirling its cylinders, shedding the printed
steady and fast:
The photograph, model, watch, pin, nail, shall be created before you.
In large calm halls, a stately Museum shall teach you the infinite, solemn lessons of
In another, woods, plants, Vegetation shall be illustrated—in another Animals, animal life
One stately house shall be the Music House;
Others for other Arts—Learning, the Sciences, shall all be here;
None shall be slighted—none but shall here be honor’d, help’d, exampled.
This, this and these, America, shall be your Pyramids and Obelisks,
Your Alexandrian Pharos, gardens of Babylon,
Your temple at Olympia.
The male and female many laboring not,
Shall ever here confront the laboring many,
With precious benefits to both—glory to all,
To thee, America—and thee, Eternal Muse.
And here shall ye inhabit, Powerful Matrons!
In your vast state, vaster than all the old;
Echoed through long, long centuries to come,
To sound of different, prouder songs, with stronger themes,
Practical, peaceful life—the people’s life—the People themselves,
Lifted, illumin’d, bathed in peace—elate, secure in peace.
Away with themes of war! away with War itself!
Hence from my shuddering sight, to never more return, that show of blacken’d, mutilated
That hell unpent, and raid of blood—fit for wild tigers, or for lop-tongued wolves—not
And in its stead speed Industry’s campaigns!
With thy undaunted armies, Engineering!
Thy pennants, Labor, loosen’d to the breeze!
Thy bugles sounding loud and clear!
Away with old romance!
Away with novels, plots, and plays of foreign courts!
Away with love-verses, sugar’d in rhyme—the intrigues, amours of idlers,
Fitted for only banquets of the night, where dancers to late music slide;
The unhealthy pleasures, extravagant dissipations of the few,
With perfumes, heat and wine, beneath the dazzling chandeliers.
To you, ye Reverent, sane Sisters,
To this resplendent day, the present scene,
These eyes and ears that like some broad parterre bloom up around, before me,
I raise a voice for far superber themes for poets and for Art,
To exalt the present and the real,
To teach the average man the glory of his daily walk and trade,
To sing, in songs, how exercise and chemical life are never to be baffled;
Boldly to thee, America, to-day! and thee, Immortal Muse!
To practical, manual work, for each and all—to plough, hoe, dig,
To plant and tend the tree, the berry, the vegetables, flowers,
For every man to see to it that he really do something—for every woman too;
To use the hammer, and the saw, (rip or cross-cut,)
To cultivate a turn for carpentering, plastering, painting,
To work as tailor, tailoress, nurse, hostler, porter,
To invent a little—something ingenious—to aid the washing, cooking, cleaning,
And hold it no disgrace to take a hand at them themselves.
I say I bring thee, Muse, to-day and here,
All occupations, duties broad and close,
Toil, healthy toil and sweat, endless, without cessation,
The old, old general burdens, interests, joys,
The family, parentage, childhood, husband and wife,
The house-comforts—the house itself, and all its belongings,
Food and its preservations—chemistry applied to it;
Whatever forms the average, strong, complete, sweet-blooded Man or Woman—the perfect,
And helps its present life to health and happiness—and shapes its Soul,
For the eternal Real Life to come.
With latest materials, works,
Steam-power, the great Express lines, gas, petroleum,
These triumphs of our time, the Atlantic’s delicate cable,
The Pacific Railroad, the Suez canal, the Mont Cenis tunnel;
Science advanced, in grandeur and reality, analyzing every thing,
This world all spann’d with iron rails—with lines of steamships
threading every sea,
Our own Rondure, the current globe I bring.
And thou, high-towering One—America!
Thy swarm of offspring towering high—yet higher thee, above all towering,
With Victory on thy left, and at thy right hand Law;
Thou Union, holding all—fusing, absorbing, tolerating all,
Thee, ever thee, I bring.
Thou—also thou, a world!
With all thy wide geographies, manifold, different, distant,
Rounding by thee in One—one common orbic language,
One common indivisible destiny and Union.
And by the spells which ye vouchsafe,
To those, your ministers in earnest,
I here personify and call my themes,
To make them pass before ye.
Behold, America! (And thou, ineffable Guest and Sister!)
For thee come trooping up thy waters and thy lands:
Behold! thy fields and farms, thy far-off woods and mountains,
As in procession coming.
Behold! the sea itself!
And on its limitless, heaving breast, thy ships:
See! where their white sails, bellying in the wind, speckle the green and blue!
See! thy steamers coming and going, steaming in or out of port!
See! dusky and undulating, their long pennants of smoke!
Behold, in Oregon, far in the north and west,
Or in Maine, far in the north and east, thy cheerful axemen,
Wielding all day their axes!
Behold, on the lakes, thy pilots at their wheels—thy oarsmen!
Behold how the ash writhes under those muscular arms!
There by the furnace, and there by the anvil,
Behold thy sturdy blacksmiths, swinging their sledges;
Overhand so steady—overhand they turn and fall, with joyous clank,
Like a tumult of laughter.
Behold! (for still the procession moves,)
Behold, Mother of All, thy countless sailors, boatmen, coasters!
The myriads of thy young and old mechanics!
Mark—mark the spirit of invention everywhere—thy rapid patents,
Thy continual workshops, foundries, risen or rising;
See, from their chimneys, how the tall flame-fires stream!
Mark, thy interminable farms, North, South,
Thy wealthy Daughter-States, Eastern, and Western,
The varied products of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Georgia, Texas, and the rest;
Thy limitless crops—grass, wheat, sugar, corn, rice, hemp, hops,
Thy barns all fill’d—thy endless freight-trains, and thy bulging store-houses,
The grapes that ripen on thy vines—the apples in thy orchards,
Thy incalculable lumber, beef, pork, potatoes—thy coal—thy gold and silver,
The inexhaustible iron in thy mines.
All thine, O sacred Union!
Ship, farm, shop, barns, factories, mines,
City and State—North, South, item and aggregate,
We dedicate, dread Mother, all to thee!
Protectress absolute, thou! Bulwark of all!
For well we know that while thou givest each and all, (generous as God,)
Without thee, neither all nor each, nor land, home,
Ship, nor mine—nor any here, this day, secure,
Nor aught, nor any day secure.
And thou, thy Emblem, waving over all!
Delicate beauty! a word to thee, (it may be salutary;)
Remember, thou hast not always been, as here to-day, so comfortably ensovereign’d;
In other scenes than these have I observ’d thee, flag;
Not quite so trim and whole, and freshly blooming, in folds of stainless silk;
But I have seen thee, bunting, to tatters torn, upon thy splinter’d staff,
Or clutch’d to some young color-bearer’s breast, with desperate hands,
Savagely struggled for, for life or death—fought over long,
’Mid cannon’s thunder-crash, and many a curse, and groan and yell—and rifle-volleys
And moving masses, as wild demons surging—and lives as nothing risk’d,
For thy mere remnant, grimed with dirt and smoke, and sopp’d in blood;
For sake of that, my beauty—and that thou might’st dally, as now, secure up there,
Many a good man have I seen go under.
Now here, and these, and hence, in peace all thine, O Flag!
And here, and hence, for thee, O universal Muse! and thou for them!
And here and hence, O Union, all the work and workmen thine!
The poets, women, sailors, soldiers, farmers, miners, students thine!
None separate from Thee—henceforth one only, we and Thou;
(For the blood of the children—what is it only the blood Maternal?
And lives and works—what are they all at last except the roads to Faith and Death?)
While we rehearse our measureless wealth, it is for thee, dear Mother!
We own it all and several to-day indissoluble in Thee;
—Think not our chant, our show, merely for products gross, or lucre—it is for Thee, the
Soul, electric, spiritual!
Our farms, inventions, crops, we own in Thee! Cities and States in Thee!
Our freedom all in Thee! our very lives in Thee!
by Walt Whitman
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