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Passage To India

Walt Whitman 1819 (West Hills) – 1892 (Camden)

  SINGING my days,
  Singing the great achievements of the present,
  Singing the strong, light works of engineers,
  Our modern wonders, (the antique ponderous Seven outvied,)
  In the Old World, the east, the Suez canal,
  The New by its mighty railroad spann'd,
  The seas inlaid with eloquent, gentle wires,
  I sound, to commence, the cry, with thee, O soul,
  The Past! the Past! the Past!

  The Past! the dark, unfathom'd retrospect! 10
  The teeming gulf! the sleepers and the shadows!
  The past! the infinite greatness of the past!
  For what is the present, after all, but a growth out of the past?
  (As a projectile, form'd, impell'd, passing a certain line, still
  keeps on,
  So the present, utterly form'd, impell'd by the past.)

  Passage, O soul, to India!
  Eclaircise the myths Asiatic--the primitive fables.

  Not you alone, proud truths of the world!
  Nor you alone, ye facts of modern science!
  But myths and fables of eld--Asia's, Africa's fables! 20
  The far-darting beams of the spirit!--the unloos'd dreams!
  The deep diving bibles and legends;
  The daring plots of the poets--the elder religions;
  --O you temples fairer than lilies, pour'd over by the rising sun!
  O you fables, spurning the known, eluding the hold of the known,
  mounting to heaven!
  You lofty and dazzling towers, pinnacled, red as roses, burnish'd
  with gold!
  Towers of fables immortal, fashion'd from mortal dreams!
  You too I welcome, and fully, the same as the rest;
  You too with joy I sing.

  Passage to India! 30
  Lo, soul! seest thou not God's purpose from the first?
  The earth to be spann'd, connected by net-work,
  The people to become brothers and sisters,
  The races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage,
  The oceans to be cross'd, the distant brought near,
  The lands to be welded together.

  (A worship new, I sing;
  You captains, voyagers, explorers, yours!
  You engineers! you architects, machinists, your!
  You, not for trade or transportation only, 40
  But in God's name, and for thy sake, O soul.)

  Passage to India!
  Lo, soul, for thee, of tableaus twain,
  I see, in one, the Suez canal initiated, open'd,
  I see the procession of steamships, the Empress Eugenie's leading the
  I mark, from on deck, the strange landscape, the pure sky, the level
  sand in the distance;
  I pass swiftly the picturesque groups, the workmen gather'd,
  The gigantic dredging machines.

  In one, again, different, (yet thine, all thine, O soul, the same,)
  I see over my own continent the Pacific Railroad, surmounting every
  barrier; 50
  I see continual trains of cars winding along the Platte, carrying
  freight and passengers;
  I hear the locomotives rushing and roaring, and the shrill steam-
  I hear the echoes reverberate through the grandest scenery in the
  I cross the Laramie plains--I note the rocks in grotesque shapes--the
  I see the plentiful larkspur and wild onions--the barren, colorless,
  I see in glimpses afar, or towering immediately above me, the great
  mountains--I see the Wind River and the Wahsatch mountains;
  I see the Monument mountain and the Eagle's Nest--I pass the
  Promontory--I ascend the Nevadas;
  I scan the noble Elk mountain, and wind around its base;
  I see the Humboldt range--I thread the valley and cross the river,
  I see the clear waters of Lake Tahoe--I see forests of majestic
  pines, 60
  Or, crossing the great desert, the alkaline plains, I behold
  enchanting mirages of waters and meadows;
  Marking through these, and after all, in duplicate slender lines,
  Bridging the three or four thousand miles of land travel,
  Tying the Eastern to the Western sea,
  The road between Europe and Asia.

  (Ah Genoese, thy dream! thy dream!
  Centuries after thou art laid in thy grave,
  The shore thou foundest verifies thy dream!)

  Passage to India!
  Struggles of many a captain--tales of many a sailor dead! 70
  Over my mood, stealing and spreading they come,
  Like clouds and cloudlets in the unreach'd sky.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:24 min read

Walt Whitman

Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. more…

All Walt Whitman poems | Walt Whitman Books

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