Walt Whitman

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

Song For All Seas, All Ships



TO-DAY a rude brief recitative,
Of ships sailing the Seas, each with its special flag or ship-signal;
Of unnamed heroes in the ships--Of waves spreading and spreading, far
as the eye can reach;
Of dashing spray, and the winds piping and blowing;
And out of these a chant, for the sailors of all nations,
Fitful, like a surge.

Of Sea-Captains young or old, and the Mates--and of all intrepid
Sailors;
Of the few, very choice, taciturn, whom fate can never surprise, nor
death dismay,
Pick'd sparingly, without noise, by thee, old Ocean--chosen by
thee, 10
Thou Sea, that pickest and cullest the race, in Time, and unitest
Nations!
Suckled by thee, old husky Nurse--embodying thee!
Indomitable, untamed as thee.

(Ever the heroes, on water or on land, by ones or twos appearing,
Ever the stock preserv'd, and never lost, though rare--enough for
seed preserv'd.)


Flaunt out O Sea, your separate flags of nations!
Flaunt out, visible as ever, the various ship-signals!
But do you reserve especially for yourself, and for the soul of man,
one flag above all the rest,
A spiritual woven Signal, for all nations, emblem of man elate above
death, 20
Token of all brave captains, and all intrepid sailors and mates,
And all that went down doing their duty;
Reminiscent of them--twined from all intrepid captains, young or old;
A pennant universal, subtly waving, all time, o'er all brave sailors,
All seas, all ships.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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