Walt Whitman

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

To A Locomotive In Winter


THEE for my recitative!
Thee in the driving storm, even as now--the snow--the winter-day
declining;
Thee in thy panoply, thy measured dual throbbing, and thy beat
convulsive;
Thy black cylindric body, golden brass, and silvery steel;
Thy ponderous side-bars, parallel and connecting rods, gyrating,
shuttling at thy sides;
Thy metrical, now swelling pant and roar--now tapering in the
distance;
Thy great protruding head-light, fix'd in front;
Thy long, pale, floating vapor-pennants, tinged with delicate purple;
The dense and murky clouds out-belching from thy smoke-stack;
Thy knitted frame--thy springs and valves--the tremulous twinkle of
thy wheels; 10
Thy train of cars behind, obedient, merrily-following,
Through gale or calm, now swift, now slack, yet steadily careering:
Type of the modern! emblem of motion and power! pulse of the
continent!
For once, come serve the Muse, and merge in verse, even as here I see
thee,
With storm, and buffeting gusts of wind, and falling snow;
By day, thy warning, ringing bell to sound its notes,
By night, thy silent signal lamps to swing.

Fierce-throated beauty!
Roll through my chant, with all thy lawless music! thy swinging lamps
at night;
Thy piercing, madly-whistled laughter! thy echoes, rumbling like an
earthquake, rousing all! 20
Law of thyself complete, thine own track firmly holding;
(No sweetness debonair of tearful harp or glib piano thine,)
Thy trills of shrieks by rocks and hills return'd,
Launch'd o'er the prairies wide--across the lakes,
To the free skies, unpent, and glad, and strong.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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