Sing Of The Banner At Day-Break

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


   O A new song, a free song,
   Flapping, flapping, flapping, flapping, by sounds, by voices clearer,
   By the wind's voice and that of the drum,
   By the banner's voice, and child's voice, and sea's voice, and
         father's voice,
   Low on the ground and high in the air,
   On the ground where father and child stand,
   In the upward air where their eyes turn,
   Where the banner at day-break is flapping.

   Words! book-words! what are you?
   Words no more, for hearken and see,                                10
   My song is there in the open air--and I must sing,
   With the banner and pennant a-flapping.

   I'll weave the chord and twine in,
   Man's desire and babe's desire--I'll twine them in, I'll put in life;
   I'll put the bayonet's flashing point--I'll let bullets and slugs
   (As one carrying a symbol and menace, far into the future,
   Crying with trumpet voice, Arouse and beware! Beware and arouse!)
   I'll pour the verse with streams of blood, full of volition, full of
   Then loosen, launch forth, to go and compete,
   With the banner and pennant a-flapping.                            20


   Come up here, bard, bard;
   Come up here, soul, soul;
   Come up here, dear little child,
   To fly in the clouds and winds with me, and play with the measureless


   Father, what is that in the sky beckoning to me with long finger?
   And what does it say to me all the while?


   Nothing, my babe, you see in the sky;
   And nothing at all to you it says. But look you, my babe,
   Look at these dazzling things in the houses, and see you the money-
         shops opening;
   And see you the vehicles preparing to crawl along the streets with
         goods:                                                       10
   These! ah, these! how valued and toil'd for, these!
   How envied by all the earth!


   Fresh and rosy red, the sun is mounting high;
   On floats the sea in distant blue, careering through its channels;
   On floats the wind over the breast of the sea, setting in toward
   The great steady wind from west and west-by-south,
   Floating so buoyant, with milk-white foam on the waters.

   But I am not the sea, nor the red sun;
   I am not the wind, with girlish laughter;
   Not the immense wind which strengthens--not the wind which lashes; 20
   Not the spirit that ever lashes its own body to terror and death;
   But I am that which unseen comes and sings, sings, sings,
   Which babbles in brooks and scoots in showers on the land,
   Which the birds know in the woods, mornings and evenings,
   And the shore-sands know, and the hissing wave, and that banner and
   Aloft there flapping and flapping.


   O father, it is alive--it is full of people--it has children!
   O now it seems to me it is talking to its children!
   I hear it--it talks to me--O it is wonderful!
   O it stretches--it spreads and runs so fast! O my father,          30
   It is so broad, it covers the whole sky!


   Cease, cease, my foolish babe,
   What you are saying is sorrowful to me--much it displeases me;
   Behold with the rest, again I say--behold not banners and pennants
   But the well-prepared pavements behold--and mark the solid-wall'd

                          BANNER AND PENNANT.

   Speak to the child, O bard, out of Manhattan;
   (The war is over--yet never over.... out of it, we are born to real
         life and identity;)
   Speak to our children all, or north or south of Manhattan,
   Where our factory-engines hum, where our miners delve the ground,
   Where our hoarse Niagara rumbles, where our prairie-plows are
         plowing;                                                     40
   Speak, O bard! point this day, leaving all the rest, to us over all--
         and yet we know not why;
   For what are we, mere strips of cloth, profiting nothing,
   Only flapping in the wind?


   I hear and see not strips of cloth alone;
   I hear again the tramp of armies, I hear the challenging sentry;
   I hear the jubilant shouts of millions of men-
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 05, 2023

3:25 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 4,352
Words 668
Stanzas 13
Stanza Lengths 9, 4, 10, 5, 2, 8, 6, 10, 5, 6, 1, 11, 3

Walt Whitman

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

All Walt Whitman poems | Walt Whitman Books

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