Song Of The Redwood-Tree

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

   A prophecy and indirection--a thought impalpable, to breathe, as air;
   A chorus of dryads, fading, departing--or hamadryads departing;
   A murmuring, fateful, giant voice, out of the earth and sky,
   Voice of a mighty dying tree in the Redwood forest dense.

   Farewell, my brethren,
   Farewell, O earth and sky--farewell, ye neighboring waters;
   My time has ended, my term has come.

   Along the northern coast,
   Just back from the rock-bound shore, and the caves,                10
   In the saline air from the sea, in the Mendocino country,
   With the surge for bass and accompaniment low and hoarse,
   With crackling blows of axes, sounding musically, driven by strong
   Riven deep by the sharp tongues of the axes--there in the Redwood
         forest dense,
   I heard the mighty tree its death-chant chanting.

   The choppers heard not--the camp shanties echoed not;
   The quick-ear'd teamsters, and chain and jack-screw men, heard not,
   As the wood-spirits came from their haunts of a thousand years, to
         join the refrain;
   But in my soul I plainly heard.

   Murmuring out of its myriad leaves,                                20
   Down from its lofty top, rising two hundred feet high,
   Out of its stalwart trunk and limbs--out of its foot-thick bark,
   That chant of the seasons and time--chant, not of the past only, but
         the future.

   You untold life of me,
   And all you venerable and innocent joys,
   Perennial, hardy life of me, with joys, 'mid rain, and many a summer
   And the white snows, and night, and the wild winds;
   O the great patient, rugged joys! my soul's strong joys, unreck'd by
   (For know I bear the soul befitting me--I too have consciousness,
   And all the rocks and mountains have--and all the earth;)          30
   Joys of the life befitting me and brothers mine,
   Our time, our term has come.

   Nor yield we mournfully, majestic brothers,
   We who have grandly fill'd our time;
   With Nature's calm content, and tacit, huge delight,
   We welcome what we wrought for through the past,
   And leave the field for them.

   For them predicted long,
   For a superber Race--they too to grandly fill their time,
   For them we abdicate--in them ourselves, ye forest kings!          40
   In them these skies and airs--these mountain peaks--Shasta--Nevadas,
   These huge, precipitous cliffs--this amplitude--these valleys grand--
   To be in them absorb'd, assimilated.

   Then to a loftier strain,
   Still prouder, more ecstatic, rose the chant,
   As if the heirs, the Deities of the West,
   Joining, with master-tongue, bore part.

   Not wan from Asia's fetishes,
   Nor red from Europe's old dynastic slaughter-house,
   (Area of murder-plots of thrones, with scent left yet of wars and
         scaffolds every where,)                                      50
   But come from Nature's long and harmless throes--peacefully builded
   These virgin lands--Lands of the Western Shore,
   To the new Culminating Man--to you, the Empire New,
   You, promis'd long, we pledge, we dedicate.

   You occult, deep volitions,
   You average Spiritual Manhood, purpose of all, pois'd on yourself--
         giving, not taking law,
   You Womanhood divine, mistress and source of all, whence life and
         love, and aught that comes from life and love,
   You unseen Moral Essence of all the vast materials of America, (age
         upon age, working in Death the same as Life,)
   You that, sometimes known, oftener unknown, really shape and mould
         the New World, adjusting it to Time and Space,
   You hidden National Will, lying in your abysms, conceal'd, but ever
         alert,                                                       60
   You past and present purposes, tenaciously pursued, may-be
         unconscious of yourselves,
   Unswerv'd by all the passing errors, perturbations of the surface;
   You vital, universal, deathless germs, beneath all creeds, arts,
         statutes, literatures,
   Here build your homes for good--establish here--These areas entire,
         Lands of the Western Shore,
   We pledge, we dedicate to you.

   For man of you--your characteristic Race,
   Here may be hardy, sweet, gigantic grow--here tower, proportionate to
   Here climb the vast, pure spaces, unconfined, uncheck'd by wall or
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on May 03, 2023

3:17 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 4,388
Words 643
Stanzas 12
Stanza Lengths 5, 3, 9, 5, 5, 12, 5, 7, 4, 9, 19, 4

Walt Whitman

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

All Walt Whitman poems | Walt Whitman Books

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