Walt Whitman |
PROUD music of the storm!
Blast that careers so free, whistling across the prairies!
Strong hum of forest tree-tops! Wind of the mountains!
Personified dim shapes! you hidden orchestras!
You serenades of phantoms, with instruments alert,
Blending, with Nature’s rhythmus, all the tongues of nations;
You chords left us by vast composers! you choruses!
You formless, free, religious dances! you from the Orient!
You undertone of rivers, roar of pouring cataracts;
You sounds from distant guns, with galloping cavalry!
Echoes of camps, with all the different bugle-calls!
Trooping tumultuous, filling the midnight late, bending me powerless,
Entering my lonesome slumber-chamber—Why have you seiz’d me?
Come forward, O my Soul, and let the rest retire;
Listen—lose not—it is toward thee they tend;
Parting the midnight, entering my slumber-chamber,
For thee they sing and dance, O Soul.
A festival song!
The duet of the bridegroom and the bride—a marriage-march,
With lips of love, and hearts of lovers, fill’d to the brim with love;
The red-flush’d cheeks, and perfumes—the cortege swarming, full of friendly
young and old,
To flutes’ clear notes, and sounding harps’ cantabile.
Now loud approaching drums!
Victoria! see’st thou in powder-smoke the banners torn but flying? the rout of the
Hearest those shouts of a conquering army?
(Ah, Soul, the sobs of women—the wounded groaning in agony,
The hiss and crackle of flames—the blacken’d ruins—the embers of cities,
The dirge and desolation of mankind.
Now airs antique and medieval fill me!
I see and hear old harpers with their harps, at Welsh festivals:
I hear the minnesingers, singing their lays of love,
I hear the minstrels, gleemen, troubadours, of the feudal ages.
Now the great organ sounds,
Tremulous—while underneath, (as the hid footholds of the earth,
On which arising, rest, and leaping forth, depend,
All shapes of beauty, grace and strength—all hues we know,
Green blades of grass, and warbling birds—children that gambol and play—the
The strong base stands, and its pulsations intermits not,
Bathing, supporting, merging all the rest—maternity of all the rest;
And with it every instrument in multitudes,
The players playing—all the world’s musicians,
The solemn hymns and masses, rousing adoration,
All passionate heart-chants, sorrowful appeals,
The measureless sweet vocalists of ages,
And for their solvent setting, Earth’s own diapason,
Of winds and woods and mighty ocean waves;
A new composite orchestra—binder of years and climes—ten-fold renewer,
As of the far-back days the poets tell—the Paradiso,
The straying thence, the separation long, but now the wandering done,
The journey done, the Journeyman come home,
And Man and Art, with Nature fused again.
Tutti! for Earth and Heaven!
The Almighty Leader now for me, for once has signal’d with his wand.
The manly strophe of the husbands of the world,
And all the wives responding.
The tongues of violins!
(I think, O tongues, ye tell this heart, that cannot tell itself;
This brooding, yearning heart, that cannot tell itself.
Ah, from a little child,
Thou knowest, Soul, how to me all sounds became music;
My mother’s voice, in lullaby or hymn;
(The voice—O tender voices—memory’s loving voices!
Last miracle of all—O dearest mother’s, sister’s, voices;)
The rain, the growing corn, the breeze among the long-leav’d corn,
The measur’d sea-surf, beating on the sand,
The twittering bird, the hawk’s sharp scream,
The wild-fowl’s notes at night, as flying low, migrating north or south,
The psalm in the country church, or mid the clustering trees, the open air camp-meeting,
The fiddler in the tavern—the glee, the long-strung sailor-song,
The lowing cattle, bleating sheep—the crowing cock at dawn.
All songs of current lands come sounding ’round me,
The German airs of friendship, wine and love,
Irish ballads, merry jigs and dances—English warbles,
Chansons of France, Scotch tunes—and o’er the rest,
Italia’s peerless compositions.
Across the stage, with pallor on her face, yet lurid passion,
Stalks Norma, brandishing the dagger in her hand.
I see poor crazed Lucia’s eyes’ unnatural gleam;
Her hair down her back falls loose and dishevell’d.
I see where Ernani, walking the bridal garden,
Amid the scent of night-roses, radiant, holding his bride by the hand,
Hears the infernal call, the death-pledge of the horn.
To crossing swords, and grey hairs bared to heaven,
The clear, electric base and baritone of the world,
The trombone duo—Libertad forever!
From Spanish chestnut trees’ dense shade,
By old and heavy convent walls, a wailing song,
Song of lost love—the torch of youth and life quench’d in despair,
Song of the dying swan—Fernando’s heart is breaking.
Awaking from her woes at last, retriev’d Amina sings;
Copious as stars, and glad as morning light, the torrents of her joy.
(The teeming lady comes!
The lustrious orb—Venus contralto—the blooming mother,
Sister of loftiest gods—Alboni’s self I hear.
I hear those odes, symphonies, operas;
I hear in the William Tell, the music of an arous’d and angry people;
I hear Meyerbeer’s Huguenots, the Prophet, or Robert;
Gounod’s Faust, or Mozart’s Don Juan.
I hear the dance-music of all nations,
The waltz, (some delicious measure, lapsing, bathing me in bliss;)
The bolero, to tinkling guitars and clattering castanets.
I see religious dances old and new,
I hear the sound of the Hebrew lyre,
I see the Crusaders marching, bearing the cross on high, to the martial clang of cymbals;
I hear dervishes monotonously chanting, interspers’d with frantic shouts, as they
around, turning always towards Mecca;
I see the rapt religious dances of the Persians and the Arabs;
Again, at Eleusis, home of Ceres, I see the modern Greeks dancing,
I hear them clapping their hands, as they bend their bodies,
I hear the metrical shuffling of their feet.
I see again the wild old Corybantian dance, the performers wounding each other;
I see the Roman youth, to the shrill sound of flageolets, throwing and catching their
As they fall on their knees, and rise again.
I hear from the Mussulman mosque the muezzin calling;
I see the worshippers within, (nor form, nor sermon, argument, nor word,
But silent, strange, devout—rais’d, glowing heads—extatic faces.
I hear the Egyptian harp of many strings,
The primitive chants of the Nile boatmen;
The sacred imperial hymns of China,
To the delicate sounds of the king, (the stricken wood and stone;)
Or to Hindu flutes, and the fretting twang of the vina,
A band of bayaderes.
Now Asia, Africa leave me—Europe, seizing, inflates me;
To organs huge, and bands, I hear as from vast concourses of voices,
Luther’s strong hymn, Eine feste Burg ist unser Gott;
Rossini’s Stabat Mater dolorosa;
Or, floating in some high cathedral dim, with gorgeous color’d windows,
The passionate Agnus Dei, or Gloria in Excelsis.
Composers! mighty maestros!
And you, sweet singers of old lands—Soprani! Tenori! Bassi!
To you a new bard, carolling free in the west,
Obeisant, sends his love.
(Such led to thee, O Soul!
All senses, shows and objects, lead to thee,
But now, it seems to me, sound leads o’er all the rest.
I hear the annual singing of the children in St.
Or, under the high roof of some colossal hall, the symphonies, oratorios of Beethoven,
The Creation, in billows of godhood laves me.
Give me to hold all sounds, (I, madly struggling, cry,)
Fill me with all the voices of the universe,
Endow me with their throbbings—Nature’s also,
The tempests, waters, winds—operas and chants—marches and dances,
Utter—pour in—for I would take them all.
Then I woke softly,
And pausing, questioning awhile the music of my dream,
And questioning all those reminiscences—the tempest in its fury,
And all the songs of sopranos and tenors,
And those rapt oriental dances, of religious fervor,
And the sweet varied instruments, and the diapason of organs,
And all the artless plaints of love, and grief and death,
I said to my silent, curious Soul, out of the bed of the slumber-chamber,
Come, for I have found the clue I sought so long,
Let us go forth refresh’d amid the day,
Cheerfully tallying life, walking the world, the real,
Nourish’d henceforth by our celestial dream.
And I said, moreover,
Haply, what thou hast heard, O Soul, was not the sound of winds,
Nor dream of raging storm, nor sea-hawk’s flapping wings, nor harsh scream,
Nor vocalism of sun-bright Italy,
Nor German organ majestic—nor vast concourse of voices—nor layers of harmonies;
Nor strophes of husbands and wives—nor sound of marching soldiers,
Nor flutes, nor harps, nor the bugle-calls of camps;
But, to a new rhythmus fitted for thee,
Poems, bridging the way from Life to Death, vaguely wafted in night air, uncaught,
Which, let us go forth in the bold day, and write.
Marge Piercy |
The dark socket of the year
the pit, the cave where the sun lies down
and threatens never to rise,
when despair descends softly as the snow
covering all paths and choking roads:
then hawkfaced pain seized you
threw you so you fell with a sharp
cry, a knife tearing a bolt of silk.
My father heard the crash but paid
no mind, napping after lunch
yet fifteen hundred miles north
I heard and dropped a dish.
Your pain sunk talons in my skull
and crouched there cawing, heavy
as a great vessel filled with water,
oil or blood, till suddenly next day
the weight lifted and I knew your mind
had guttered out like the Chanukah
candles that burn so fast, weeping
veils of wax down the chanukiya.
Those candles were laid out,
friends invited, ingredients bought
for latkes and apple pancakes,
that holiday for liberation
and the winter solstice
when tops turn like little planets.
Shall you have all or nothing
take half or pass by untouched?
Nothing you got, Nun said the dreydl
as the room stopped spinning.
The angel folded you up like laundry
your body thin as an empty dress.
Your clothes were curtains
hanging on the window of what had
been your flesh and now was glass.
Outside in Florida shopping plazas
loudspeakers blared Christmas carols
and palm trees were decked with blinking
Except by the tourist
hotels, the beaches were empty.
Pelicans with pregnant pouches
flapped overhead like pterodactyls.
In my mind I felt you die.
First the pain lifted and then
you flickered and went out.
I walk through the rooms of memory.
Sometimes everything is shrouded in dropcloths,
every chair ghostly and muted.
Other times memory lights up from within
bustling scenes acted just the other side
of a scrim through which surely I could reach
my fingers tearing at the flimsy curtain
of time which is and isn't and will be
the stuff of which we're made and unmade.
In sleep the other night I met you, seventeen
your first nasty marriage just annulled,
thin from your abortion, clutching a book
against your cheek and trying to look
older, trying to took middle class,
trying for a job at Wanamaker's,
dressing for parties in cast off
stage costumes of your sisters.
were hazy with dreams.
You did not
notice me waving as you wandered
past and I saw your slip was showing.
You stood still while I fixed your clothes,
as if I were your mother.
combing your springy black hair, ringlets
that seemed metallic, glittering;
remember me dressing you, my seventy year
old mother who was my last dollbaby,
giving you too late what your youth had wanted.
What is this mask of skin we wear,
what is this dress of flesh,
this coat of few colors and little hair?
This voluptuous seething heap of desires
and fears, squeaking mice turned up
in a steaming haystack with their babies?
This coat has been handed down, an heirloom
this coat of black hair and ample flesh,
this coat of pale slightly ruddy skin.
This set of hips and thighs, these buttocks
they provided cushioning for my grandmother
Hannah, for my mother Bert and for me
and we all sat on them in turn, those major
muscles on which we walk and walk and walk
over the earth in search of peace and plenty.
My mother is my mirror and I am hers.
What do we see? Our face grown young again,
our breasts grown firm, legs lean and elegant.
Our arms quivering with fat, eyes
set in the bark of wrinkles, hands puffy,
our belly seamed with childbearing,
Give me your dress that I might try it on.
Oh it will not fit you mother, you are too fat.
I will not fit you mother.
I will not be the bride you can dress,
the obedient dutiful daughter you would chew,
a dog's leather bone to sharpen your teeth.
You strike me sometimes just to hear the sound.
Loneliness turns your fingers into hooks
barbed and drawing blood with their caress.
My twin, my sister, my lost love,
I carry you in me like an embryo
as once you carried me.
What is it we turn from, what is it we fear?
Did I truly think you could put me back inside?
Did I think I would fall into you as into a molten
furnace and be recast, that I would become you?
What did you fear in me, the child who wore
your hair, the woman who let that black hair
grow long as a banner of darkness, when you
a proper flapper wore yours cropped?
You pushed and you pulled on my rubbery
flesh, you kneaded me like a ball of dough.
Rise, rise, and then you pounded me flat.
Secretly the bones formed in the bread.
I became willful, private as a cat.
You never knew what alleys I had wandered.
You called me bad and I posed like a gutter
queen in a dress sewn of knives.
All I feared was being stuck in a box
with a lid.
A good woman appeared to me
indistinguishable from a dead one
except that she worked all the time.
Your payday never came.
Your dreams ran
with bright colors like Mexican cottons
that bled onto the drab sheets of the day
and would not bleach with scrubbing.
My dear, what you said was one thing
but what you sang was another, sweetly
subversive and dark as blackberries
and I became the daughter of your dream.
This body is your body, ashes now
and roses, but alive in my eyes, my breasts,
my throat, my thighs.
You run in me
a tang of salt in the creek waters of my blood,
you sing in my mind like wine.
did not dare in your life you dare in mine.