Walt Whitman

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

As I Ebb'd With the Ocean of Life


1
As I ebb'd with the ocean of life,
As I wended the shores I know,
As I walk'd where the ripples continually wash you Paumanok,
Where they rustle up hoarse and sibilant,
Where the fierce old mother endlessly cries for her castaways,
I musing late in the autumn day, gazing off southward,
Held by this electric self out of the pride of which I utter poems,
Was seiz'd by the spirit that trails in the lines underfoot,
The rim, the sediment that stands for all the water and all the
         land of the globe.

Fascinated, my eyes reverting from the south, dropt, to follow
      &nb sp; those slender windrows,
Chaff, straw, splinters of wood, weeds, and the sea-gluten,
Scum, scales from shining rocks, leaves of salt-lettuce, left by the
         tide,
Miles walking, the sound of breaking waves the other side of me,
Paumanok there and then as I thought the old thought of likenesses,
These you presented to me you fish-shaped island,
As I wended the shores I know,
As I walk'd with that electric self seeking types.

2
As I wend to the shores I know not,
As I list to the dirge, the voices of men and women wreck'd,
As I inhale the impalpable breezes that set in upon me,
As the ocean so mysterious rolls toward me closer and closer,
I too but signify at the utmost a little wash'd-up drift,
A few sands and dead leaves to gather,
Gather, and merge myself as part of the sands and drift.

O baffled, balk'd, bent to the very earth,
Oppress'd with myself that I have dared to open my mouth,
Aware now that amid all that blab whose echoes recoil upon me I
       &n bsp;have not once had the least idea who or what I am,
But that before all my arrogant poems the real Me stands yet
         untouch'd, untold, altogether unreach'd,
Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congratulatory signs and
         bows,
With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word I have written,
Pointing in silence to these songs, and then to the sand beneath.

I perceive I have not really understood any thing, not a single
      &nb sp; object, and that no man ever can,
Nature here in sight of the sea taking advantage of me to dart
        ; upon me and sting me,
Because I have dared to open my mouth to sing at all.

3
You oceans both, I close with you,
We murmur alike reproachfully rolling sands and drift, knowing
      &n bsp; not why,
These little shreds indeed standing for you and me and all.

You friable shore with trails of debris,
You fish-shaped island, I take what is underfoot,
What is yours is mine my father.

I too Paumanok,
I too have bubbled up, floated the measureless float, and been
        ; wash'd on your shores,
I too am but a trail of drift and debris,
I too leave little wrecks upon you, you fish-shaped island.

I throw myself upon your breast my father,
I cling to you so that you cannot unloose me,
I hold you so firm till you answer me something.

Kiss me my father,
Touch me with your lips as I touch those I love,
Breathe to me while I hold you close the secret of the murmuring
         I envy.

4
Ebb, ocean of life, (the flow will return,)
Cease not your moaning you fierce old mother,
Endlessly cry for your castaways, but fear not, deny not me,
Rustle not up so hoarse and angry against my feet as I touch you
         or gather from you.

I mean tenderly by you and all,
I gather for myself and for this phantom looking down where we
       & nbsp;lead, and following me and mine.
Me and mine, loose windrows, little corpses,
Froth, snowy white, and bubbles,
(See, from my dead lips the ooze exuding at last,
See, the prismatic colors glistening and rolling,)
Tufts of straw, sands, fragments,
Buoy'd hither from many moods, one contradicting another,
From the storm, the long calm, the darkness, the swell,
Musing, pondering, a breath, a briny tear, a dab of liquid or soil,
Up just as much out of fathomless workings fermented and thrown,
A limp blossom or two, torn, just as much over waves floating,
         drifted at random,
Just as much for us that sobbing dirge of Nature,
Just as much whence we come that blare of the cloud-trumpets,
We, capricious, brought hither we know not whence, spread out
         before you,
You up there walking or sitting,
Whoever you are, we too lie in drifts at your feet.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

Do you like this poem?
0 person liked.
0 person did not like.

Read poems about / on: fish, ocean, father, nature, mother, autumn, sea, laughter, women, pride, kiss, silence, life, water, fear, fishing, poem, woman

Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Comments about this poem (As I Ebb'd With the Ocean of Life by Walt Whitman )

Enter the verification code :

  • Joel Peckham (4/24/2006 6:30:00 PM)

    This is one of Whitman's greatest shorter poems. It is one of his most modern works and is a poem continuously referenced as an influence by contemporary poets as diverse as Galway Kinnel and Frank Bidart. Rarely do we see Whitman in such a state of profound doubt and psychological struggle. It also teaches very well. Balancing it with the ending of Song of Myself shows just how far this poet has traveled away from the bluster of that work in just a few short years. His own felt-rejection from the literary community and the brutal realities of the civil war are clearly playing upon his mind here. Powerful stuff. (Report) Reply

Read all 1 comments »

Top Poems

  1. Phenomenal Woman
    Maya Angelou
  2. The Road Not Taken
    Robert Frost
  3. If You Forget Me
    Pablo Neruda
  4. Still I Rise
    Maya Angelou
  5. Dreams
    Langston Hughes
  6. Annabel Lee
    Edgar Allan Poe
  7. If
    Rudyard Kipling
  8. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
    Robert Frost
  9. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
    Maya Angelou
  10. Invictus
    William Ernest Henley

New Poems

  1. I Boomerang, Michelle Claus
  2. Thrills and spills(Hindi translation), Thampi KEE
  3. What has The CPI(M) Done People Know It.., Bijay Kant Dubey
  4. The Communists Are Not At All The Good Men, Bijay Kant Dubey
  5. Pleading to God?, Dr John Celes
  6. Restricted!, Geetha Jayakumar
  7. Seemith!, Geetha Jayakumar
  8. Fashion Girls, Bijay Kant Dubey
  9. How Suicide Works 3, C Jay Caputo
  10. Under The Moonlit Nights, I Think of Kis.., Bijay Kant Dubey

Poem of the Day

poet Christina Georgina Rossetti

Where sunless rivers weep
Their waves into the deep,
She sleeps a charmed sleep:
Awake her not.
Led by a single star,
She came from very far
...... Read complete »

   

Member Poem

[Hata Bildir]