Treasure Island

Walt Whitman

(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892 / New York / United States)

American Feuillage



AMERICA always!
Always our own feuillage!
Always Florida's green peninsula! Always the priceless delta of
Louisiana! Always the cotton-fields of Alabama and Texas!
Always California's golden hills and hollows--and the silver
mountains of New Mexico! Always soft-breath'd Cuba!
Always the vast slope drain'd by the Southern Sea--inseparable with
the slopes drain'd by the Eastern and Western Seas;
The area the eighty-third year of These States--the three and a half
millions of square miles;
The eighteen thousand miles of sea-coast and bay-coast on the main--
the thirty thousand miles of river navigation,
The seven millions of distinct families, and the same number of
dwellings--Always these, and more, branching forth into
numberless branches;
Always the free range and diversity! always the continent of
Democracy!
Always the prairies, pastures, forests, vast cities, travelers,
Kanada, the snows; 10
Always these compact lands--lands tied at the hips with the belt
stringing the huge oval lakes;
Always the West, with strong native persons--the increasing density
there--the habitans, friendly, threatening, ironical, scorning
invaders;
All sights, South, North, East--all deeds, promiscuously done at all
times,
All characters, movements, growths--a few noticed, myriads unnoticed,
Through Mannahatta's streets I walking, these things gathering;
On interior rivers, by night, in the glare of pine knots, steamboats
wooding up;
Sunlight by day on the valley of the Susquehanna, and on the valleys
of the Potomac and Rappahannock, and the valleys of the Roanoke
and Delaware;
In their northerly wilds, beasts of prey haunting the Adirondacks,
the hills--or lapping the Saginaw waters to drink;
In a lonesome inlet, a sheldrake, lost from the flock, sitting on the
water, rocking silently;
In farmers' barns, oxen in the stable, their harvest labor done--they
rest standing--they are too tired; 20
Afar on arctic ice, the she-walrus lying drowsily, while her cubs
play around;
The hawk sailing where men have not yet sail'd--the farthest polar
sea, ripply, crystalline, open, beyond the floes;
White drift spooning ahead, where the ship in the tempest dashes;
On solid land, what is done in cities, as the bells all strike
midnight together;
In primitive woods, the sounds there also sounding--the howl of the
wolf, the scream of the panther, and the hoarse bellow of the
elk;
In winter beneath the hard blue ice of Moosehead Lake--in summer
visible through the clear waters, the great trout swimming;
In lower latitudes, in warmer air, in the Carolinas, the large black
buzzard floating slowly, high beyond the tree tops,
Below, the red cedar, festoon'd with tylandria--the pines and
cypresses, growing out of the white sand that spreads far and
flat;
Rude boats descending the big Pedee--climbing plants, parasites, with
color'd flowers and berries, enveloping huge trees,
The waving drapery on the live oak, trailing long and low,
noiselessly waved by the wind; 30
The camp of Georgia wagoners, just after dark--the supper-fires, and
the cooking and eating by whites and negroes,
Thirty or forty great wagons--the mules, cattle, horses, feeding from
troughs,
The shadows, gleams, up under the leaves of the old sycamore-trees--
the flames--with the black smoke from the pitch-pine, curling
and rising;
Southern fishermen fishing--the sounds and inlets of North Carolina's
coast--the shad-fishery and the herring-fishery--the large
sweep-seines--the windlasses on shore work'd by horses--the
clearing, curing, and packing-houses;
Deep in the forest, in piney woods, turpentine dropping from the
incisions in the trees--There are the turpentine works,
There are the negroes at work, in good health--the ground in all
directions is cover'd with pine straw:
--In Tennessee and Kentucky, slaves busy in the coalings, at the
forge, by the furnace-blaze, or at the corn-shucking;
In Virginia, the planter's son returning after a long absence,
joyfully welcom'd and kiss'd by the aged mulatto nurse;
On rivers, boatmen safely moor'd at night-fall, in their boats, under
shelter of high banks,
Some of the younger men dance to the sound of the banjo or fiddle--
others sit on the gunwale, smoking and talking; 40
Late in the afternoon, the mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing
in the Great Dismal Swamp--there are the greenish waters, the
resinous odor, the plenteous moss, the cypress tree, and the
juniper tree;
--Northward, young men of Mannahatta--the target company from an
excursion returning home at evening--the musket-muzzles all
bear bunches of flowers presented by women;
Children at play--or on his father's lap a young boy fallen asleep,
(how his lips move! how he smiles in his sleep!)
The scout riding on horseback over the plains west of the
Mississippi--he ascends a knoll and sweeps his eye around;
California life--the miner, bearded, dress'd in his rude costume--the
stanch California friendship--the sweet air--the graves one, in
passing, meets, solitary, just aside the horsepath;
Down in Texas, the cotton-field, the negro-cabins--drivers driving
mules or oxen before rude carts--cotton bales piled on banks
and wharves;
Encircling all, vast-darting, up and wide, the American Soul, with
equal hemispheres--one Love, one Dilation or Pride;
--In arriere, the peace-talk with the Iroquois, the aborigines--the
calumet, the pipe of good-will, arbitration, and indorsement,
The sachem blowing the smoke first toward the sun and then toward the
earth,
The drama of the scalp-dance enacted with painted faces and guttural
exclamations, 50
The setting out of the war-party--the long and stealthy march,
The single-file--the swinging hatchets--the surprise and slaughter of
enemies;
--All the acts, scenes, ways, persons, attitudes of These States--
reminiscences, all institutions,
All These States, compact--Every square mile of These States, without
excepting a particle--you also--me also,
Me pleas'd, rambling in lanes and country fields, Paumanok's fields,
Me, observing the spiral flight of two little yellow butterflies,
shuffling between each other, ascending high in the air;
The darting swallow, the destroyer of insects--the fall traveler
southward, but returning northward early in the spring;
The country boy at the close of the day, driving the herd of cows,
and shouting to them as they loiter to browse by the road-side;
The city wharf--Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, New
Orleans, San Francisco,
The departing ships, when the sailors heave at the capstan; 60
--Evening--me in my room--the setting sun,
The setting summer sun shining in my open window, showing the swarm
of flies, suspended, balancing in the air in the centre of the
room, darting athwart, up and down, casting swift shadows in
specks on the opposite wall, where the shine is;
The athletic American matron speaking in public to crowds of
listeners;
Males, females, immigrants, combinations--the copiousness--the
individuality of The States, each for itself--the money-makers;
Factories, machinery, the mechanical forces--the windlass, lever,
pulley--All certainties,
The certainty of space, increase, freedom, futurity,
In space, the sporades, the scatter'd islands, the stars--on the firm
earth, the lands, my lands;
O lands! all so dear to me--what you are, (whatever it is,) I become
a part of that, whatever it is;
Southward there, I screaming, with wings slowly flapping, with the
myriads of gulls wintering along the coasts of Florida--or in
Louisiana, with pelicans breeding;
Otherways, there, atwixt the banks of the Arkansaw, the Rio Grande,
the Nueces, the Brazos, the Tombigbee, the Red River, the
Saskatchawan, or the Osage, I with the spring waters laughing
and skipping and running; 70
Northward, on the sands, on some shallow bay of Paumanok, I, with
parties of snowy herons wading in the wet to seek worms and
aquatic plants;
Retreating, triumphantly twittering, the king-bird, from piercing the
crow with its bill, for amusement--And I triumphantly
twittering;
The migrating flock of wild geese alighting in autumn to refresh
themselves--the body of the flock feed--the sentinels outside
move around with erect heads watching, and are from time to
time reliev'd by other sentinels--And I feeding and taking
turns with the rest;
In Kanadian forests, the moose, large as an ox, corner'd by hunters,
rising desperately on his hind-feet, and plunging with his
fore-feet, the hoofs as sharp as knives--And I, plunging at the
hunters, corner'd and desperate;
In the Mannahatta, streets, piers, shipping, store-houses, and the
countless workmen working in the shops,
And I too of the Mannahatta, singing thereof--and no less in myself
than the whole of the Mannahatta in itself,
Singing the song of These, my ever united lands--my body no more
inevitably united, part to part, and made one identity, any
more than my lands are inevitably united, and made ONE
IDENTITY;
Nativities, climates, the grass of the great Pastoral Plains;
Cities, labors, death, animals, products, war, good and evil--these
me,
These affording, in all their particulars, endless feuillage to me
and to America, how can I do less than pass the clew of the
union of them, to afford the like to you? 80
Whoever you are! how can I but offer you divine leaves, that you also
be eligible as I am?
How can I but, as here, chanting, invite you for yourself to collect
bouquets of the incomparable feuillage of These States?

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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