Walt Whitman

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

On The Beach At Night



ON the beach, at night,
Stands a child, with her father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky.

Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading,
Lower, sullen and fast, athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,
Ascends, large and calm, the lord-star Jupiter;
And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate brothers, the Pleiades. 10


From the beach, the child, holding the hand of her father,
Those burial-clouds that lower, victorious, soon to devour all,
Watching, silently weeps.

Weep not, child,
Weep not, my darling,
With these kisses let me remove your tears;
The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,
They shall not long possess the sky--shall devour the stars only in
apparition:
Jupiter shall emerge--be patient--watch again another night--the
Pleiades shall emerge,
They are immortal--all those stars, both silvery and golden, shall
shine out again, 20
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again--they
endure;
The vast immortal suns, and the long-enduring pensive moons, shall
again shine.


Then, dearest child, mournest thou only for Jupiter?
Considerest thou alone the burial of the stars?

Something there is,
(With my lips soothing thee, adding, I whisper,
I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirection,)
Something there is more immortal even than the stars,
(Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,)
Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter, 30
Longer than sun, or any revolving satellite,
Or the radiant brothers, the Pleiades.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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  • Bill Patton (8/28/2008 11:38:00 AM)

    In 1959, I was stunned by Nevil Shute's novel 'On The Beach.' His view of a post-nuclear world was very frightening in those Cold-War days. Just the other day, I found out that the title is derived from a Whitman poem. I wanted to read the entire poem, so I navigated to this site. I was pleased to find that Whitman (who is buried only a few miles from my home in New Jersey) had a much more optimistic twist to his vision of the beach. (Report) Reply

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