Walt Whitman

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

President Lincoln's Burial Hymn



When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd


WHEN lilacs last in the door-yard bloom'd,
And the great star early droop'd in the western sky in the night,
I mourn'd--and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring;
Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.


O powerful, western, fallen star!
O shades of night! O moody, tearful night!
O great star disappear'd! O the black murk that hides the star!
O cruel hands that hold me powerless! O helpless soul of me! 10
O harsh surrounding cloud, that will not free my soul!


In the door-yard fronting an old farm-house, near the white-wash'd
palings,
Stands the lilac bush, tall-growing, with heart-shaped leaves of rich
green,
With many a pointed blossom, rising, delicate, with the perfume
strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle......and from this bush in the door-yard,
With delicate-color'd blossoms, and heart-shaped leaves of rich
green,
A sprig, with its flower, I break.


In the swamp, in secluded recesses,
A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.

Solitary, the thrush, 20
The hermit, withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements,
Sings by himself a song.

Song of the bleeding throat!
Death's outlet song of life--(for well, dear brother, I know
If thou wast not gifted to sing, thou would'st surely die.)


Over the breast of the spring, the land, amid cities,
Amid lanes, and through old woods, (where lately the violets peep'd
from the ground, spotting the gray debris;)
Amid the grass in the fields each side of the lanes--passing the
endless grass;
Passing the yellow-spear'd wheat, every grain from its shroud in the
dark-brown fields uprising;
Passing the apple-tree blows of white and pink in the orchards; 30
Carrying a corpse to where it shall rest in the grave,
Night and day journeys a coffin.


Coffin that passes through lanes and streets,
Through day and night, with the great cloud darkening the land,
With the pomp of the inloop'd flags, with the cities draped in black,
With the show of the States themselves, as of crape-veil'd women,
standing,
With processions long and winding, and the flambeaus of the night,
With the countless torches lit--with the silent sea of faces, and the
unbared heads,
With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin, and the sombre faces,
With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices rising strong
and solemn; 40
With all the mournful voices of the dirges, pour'd around the coffin,
The dim-lit churches and the shuddering organs--Where amid these you
journey,
With the tolling, tolling bells' perpetual clang;
Here! coffin that slowly passes,
I give you my sprig of lilac.


(Nor for you, for one, alone;
Blossoms and branches green to coffins all I bring:
For fresh as the morning--thus would I carol a song for you, O sane
and sacred death.

All over bouquets of roses,
O death! I cover you over with roses and early lilies; 50
But mostly and now the lilac that blooms the first,
Copious, I break, I break the sprigs from the bushes;
With loaded arms I come, pouring for you,
For you, and the coffins all of you, O death.)


O western orb, sailing the heaven!
Now I know what you must have meant, as a month since we walk'd,
As we walk'd up and down in the dark blue so mystic,
As we walk'd in silence the transparent shadowy night,
As I saw you had something to tell, as you bent to me night after
night,
As you droop'd from the sky low down, as if to my side, (while the
other stars all look'd on;) 60
As we wander'd together the solemn night, (for something, I know not
what, kept me from sleep;)
As the night advanced, and I saw on the rim of the west, ere you
went, how full you were of woe;
As I stood on the rising ground in the breeze, in the cold
transparent night,
As I watch'd where you pass'd and was lost in the netherward black of
the night,
As my soul, in its trouble, dissatisfied, sank, as where you, sad
orb,
Concluded, dropt in the night, and was gone.


Sing on, there in the swamp!
O singer bashful and tender! I hear your notes--I hear your call;
I hear--I come presently--I understand you;
But a moment I linger--for the lustrous star has detain'd me; 70
The star, my departing comrade, holds and detains me.


O how shall I warble myself for the dead one there I loved?
And how shall I deck my song for the large sweet soul that has gone?
And what shall my perfume be, for the grave of him I love?

Sea-winds, blown from east and west,
Blown from the eastern sea, and blown from the western sea, till
there on the prairies meeting:
These, and with these, and the breath of my chant,
I perfume the grave of him I love.


O what shall I hang on the chamber walls?
And what shall the pictures be that I hang on the walls, 80
To adorn the burial-house of him I love?

Pictures of growing spring, and farms, and homes,
With the Fourth-month eve at sundown, and the gray smoke lucid and
bright,
With floods of the yellow gold of the gorgeous, indolent, sinking
sun, burning, expanding the air;
With the fresh sweet herbage under foot, and the pale green leaves of
the trees prolific;
In the distance the flowing glaze, the breast of the river, with a
wind-dapple here and there;
With ranging hills on the banks, with many a line against the sky,
and shadows;
And the city at hand, with dwellings so dense, and stacks of
chimneys,
And all the scenes of life, and the workshops, and the workmen
homeward returning.


Lo! body and soul! this land! 90
Mighty Manhattan, with spires, and the sparkling and hurrying tides,
and the ships;
The varied and ample land--the South and the North in the light--
Ohio's shores, and flashing Missouri,
And ever the far-spreading prairies, cover'd with grass and corn.

Lo! the most excellent sun, so calm and haughty;
The violet and purple morn, with just-felt breezes;
The gentle, soft-born, measureless light;
The miracle, spreading, bathing all--the fulfill'd noon;
The coming eve, delicious--the welcome night, and the stars,
Over my cities shining all, enveloping man and land.


Sing on! sing on, you gray-brown bird! 100
Sing from the swamps, the recesses--pour your chant from the bushes;
Limitless out of the dusk, out of the cedars and pines.

Sing on, dearest brother--warble your reedy song;
Loud human song, with voice of uttermost woe.

O liquid, and free, and tender!
O wild and loose to my soul! O wondrous singer!
You only I hear......yet the star holds me, (but will soon depart;)
Yet the lilac, with mastering odor, holds me.


Now while I sat in the day, and look'd forth,
In the close of the day, with its light, and the fields of spring,
and the farmer preparing his crops, 110
In the large unconscious scenery of my land, with its lakes and
forests,
In the heavenly aerial beauty, (after the perturb'd winds, and the
storms;)
Under the arching heavens of the afternoon swift passing, and the
voices of children and women,
The many-moving sea-tides,--and I saw the ships how they sail'd,
And the summer approaching with richness, and the fields all busy
with labor,
And the infinite separate houses, how they all went on, each with its
meals and minutia of daily usages;
And the streets, how their throbbings throbb'd, and the cities pent--
lo! then and there,
Falling upon them all, and among them all, enveloping me with the
rest,
Appear'd the cloud, appear'd the long black trail;
And I knew Death, its thought, and the sacred knowledge of death. 120


Then with the knowledge of death as walking one side of me,
And the thought of death close-walking the other side of me,
And I in the middle, as with companions, and as holding the hands of
companions,
I fled forth to the hiding receiving night, that talks not,
Down to the shores of the water, the path by the swamp in the
dimness,
To the solemn shadowy cedars, and ghostly pines so still.

And the singer so shy to the rest receiv'd me;
The gray-brown bird I know, receiv'd us comrades three;
And he sang what seem'd the carol of death, and a verse for him I
love.

From deep secluded recesses, 130
From the fragrant cedars, and the ghostly pines so still,
Came the carol of the bird.

And the charm of the carol rapt me,
As I held, as if by their hands, my comrades in the night;
And the voice of my spirit tallied the song of the bird.

DEATH CAROL.


Come, lovely and soothing Death,
Undulate round the world, serenely arriving, arriving,
In the day, in the night, to all, to each,
Sooner or later, delicate Death.

Prais'd be the fathomless universe, 140
For life and joy, and for objects and knowledge curious;
And for love, sweet love--But praise! praise! praise!
For the sure-enwinding arms of cool-enfolding Death.

Dark Mother, always gliding near, with soft feet,
Have none chanted for thee a chant of fullest welcome?

Then I chant it for thee--I glorify thee above all;
I bring thee a song that when thou must indeed come, come
unfalteringly.

Approach, strong Deliveress!
When it is so--when thou hast taken them, I joyously sing the dead,
Lost in the loving, floating ocean of thee, 150
Laved in the flood of thy bliss, O Death.

From me to thee glad serenades,
Dances for thee I propose, saluting thee--adornments and feastings
for thee;
And the sights of the open landscape, and the high-spread sky, are
fitting,
And life and the fields, and the huge and thoughtful night.

The night, in silence, under many a star;
The ocean shore, and the husky whispering wave, whose voice I know;
And the soul turning to thee, O vast and well-veil'd Death,
And the body gratefully nestling close to thee.

Over the tree-tops I float thee a song! 160
Over the rising and sinking waves--over the myriad fields, and the
prairies wide;
Over the dense-pack'd cities all, and the teeming wharves and ways,
I float this carol with joy, with joy to thee, O Death!


To the tally of my soul,
Loud and strong kept up the gray-brown bird,
With pure, deliberate notes, spreading, filling the night.

Loud in the pines and cedars dim,
Clear in the freshness moist, and the swamp-perfume;
And I with my comrades there in the night.

While my sight that was bound in my eyes unclosed, 170
As to long panoramas of visions.


I saw askant the armies;
And I saw, as in noiseless dreams, hundreds of battle-flags;
Borne through the smoke of the battles, and pierc'd with missiles, I
saw them,
And carried hither and yon through the smoke, and torn and bloody;
And at last but a few shreds left on the staffs, (and all in
silence,)
And the staffs all splinter'd and broken.

I saw battle-corpses, myriads of them,
And the white skeletons of young men--I saw them;
I saw the debris and debris of all the dead soldiers of the war; 180
But I saw they were not as was thought;
They themselves were fully at rest--they suffer'd not;
The living remain'd and suffer'd--the mother suffer'd,
And the wife and the child, and the musing comrade suffer'd,
And the armies that remain'd suffer'd.


Passing the visions, passing the night;
Passing, unloosing the hold of my comrades' hands;
Passing the song of the hermit bird, and the tallying song of my
soul,
(Victorious song, death's outlet song, yet varying, ever-altering
song,
As low and wailing, yet clear the notes, rising and falling, flooding
the night, 190
Sadly sinking and fainting, as warning and warning, and yet again
bursting with joy,
Covering the earth, and filling the spread of the heaven,
As that powerful psalm in the night I heard from recesses,)
Passing, I leave thee, lilac with heart-shaped leaves;
I leave thee there in the door-yard, blooming, returning with spring,
I cease from my song for thee;
From my gaze on thee in the west, fronting the west, communing with
thee,
O comrade lustrous, with silver face in the night.


Yet each I keep, and all, retrievements out of the night;
The song, the wondrous chant of the gray-brown bird, 200
And the tallying chant, the echo arous'd in my soul,
With the lustrous and drooping star, with the countenance full of
woe,
With the lilac tall, and its blossoms of mastering odor;
With the holders holding my hand, nearing the call of the bird,
Comrades mine, and I in the midst, and their memory ever I keep--for
the dead I loved so well;
For the sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and lands...and this for
his dear sake;
Lilac and star and bird, twined with the chant of my soul,
There in the fragrant pines, and the cedars dusk and dim.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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

Read poems about / on: song, star, death, night, spring, warning, sea, green, joy, silence, sky, brother, women, ocean, dark, house, tree, mother, lost, heaven

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 (President Lincoln's Burial Hymn by Walt Whitman )

Enter the verification code :

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. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
    Maya Angelou
  9. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
    Robert Frost
  10. Invictus
    William Ernest Henley

New Poems

  1. Your bracelet, Abhimanyu Singh Arha
  2. My Heart Song, samantha hale
  3. Hidden Gold, Hazel Durham
  4. The One, Spiritwind Wood
  5. THAT HUGE BLACKOUT, MOHAMMAD SKATI
  6. What The World Told, Adeosun Olamide
  7. Pebble, The Astronomer
  8. This World, Spiritwind Wood
  9. With Pride We Remain, Spiritwind Wood
  10. The Perversion of Christian Ideals, Brian Johnston

Poem of the Day

poet Wilfred Owen

All sounds have been as music to my listening:
Pacific lamentations of slow bells,
The crunch of boots on blue snow rosy-glistening,
Shuffle of autumn leaves; and all farewells:

...... Read complete »

   
[Hata Bildir]