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<SPAN name="link2H_4_0191" id="link2H_4_0191"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> BOOK XXIV. AUTUMN RIVULETS </h2> <p> As Consequent, Etc. </p> <pre xml:space="preserve"> As consequent from store of summer rains, Or wayward rivulets in autumn flowing, Or many a herb-lined brook's reticulations, Or subterranean sea-rills making for the sea, Songs of continued years I sing. Life's ever-modern rapids first, (soon, soon to blend, With the old streams of death.) Some threading Ohio's farm-fields or the woods, Some down Colorado's canons from sources of perpetual snow, Some half-hid in Oregon, or away southward in Texas, Some in the north finding their way to Erie, Niagara, Ottawa, Some to Atlantica's bays, and so to the great salt brine. In you whoe'er you are my book perusing, In I myself, in all the world, these currents flowing, All, all toward the mystic ocean tending. Currents for starting a continent new, Overtures sent to the solid out of the liquid, Fusion of ocean and land, tender and pensive waves, (Not safe and peaceful only, waves rous'd and ominous too, Out of the depths the storm's abysmic waves, who knows whence? Raging over the vast, with many a broken spar and tatter'd sail.) Or from the sea of Time, collecting vasting all, I bring, A windrow-drift of weeds and shells. O little shells, so curious-convolute, so limpid-cold and voiceless, Will you not little shells to the tympans of temples held, Murmurs and echoes still call up, eternity's music faint and far, Wafted inland, sent from Atlantica's rim, strains for the soul of the prairies, Whisper'd reverberations, chords for the ear of the West joyously sounding, Your tidings old, yet ever new and untranslatable, Infinitesimals out of my life, and many a life, (For not my life and years alone I give&mdash;all, all I give,) These waifs from the deep, cast high and dry, Wash'd on America's shores? </pre> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0192" id="link2H_4_0192"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> The Return of the Heroes </h2> <pre xml:space="preserve"> 1 For the lands and for these passionate days and for myself, Now I awhile retire to thee O soil of autumn fields, Reclining on thy breast, giving myself to thee, Answering the pulses of thy sane and equable heart, Turning a verse for thee. O earth that hast no voice, confide to me a voice, O harvest of my lands&mdash;O boundless summer growths, O lavish brown parturient earth&mdash;O infinite teeming womb, A song to narrate thee. 2 Ever upon this stage, Is acted God's calm annual drama, Gorgeous processions, songs of birds, Sunrise that fullest feeds and freshens most the soul, The heaving sea, the waves upon the shore, the musical, strong waves, The woods, the stalwart trees, the slender, tapering trees, The liliput countless armies of the grass, The heat, the showers, the measureless pasturages, The scenery of the snows, the winds' free orchestra, The stretching light-hung roof of clouds, the clear cerulean and the silvery fringes, The high-dilating stars, the placid beckoning stars, The moving flocks and herds, the plains and emerald meadows, The shows of all the varied lands and all the growths and products. 3 Fecund America&mdash;today, Thou art all over set in births and joys! Thou groan'st with riches, thy wealth clothes thee as a swathing-garment, Thou laughest loud with ache of great possessions, A myriad-twining life like interlacing vines binds all thy vast demesne, As some huge ship freighted to water's edge thou ridest into port, As rain falls from the heaven and vapors rise from earth, so have the precious values fallen upon thee and risen out of thee; Thou envy of the globe! thou miracle! Thou, bathed, choked, swimming in plenty, Thou lucky Mistress of the tranquil barns, Thou Prairie Dame that sittest in the middle and lookest out upon thy world, and lookest East and lookest West, Dispensatress, that by a word givest a thousand miles, a million farms, and missest nothing, Thou all-acceptress&mdash;thou hospitable, (thou only art hospitable as God is hospitable.) 4 When late I sang sad was my voice, Sad were the shows around me with deafening noises of hatred and smoke of war; In the midst of the conflict, the heroes, I stood, Or pass'd with slow step through the wounded and dying. But now I sing not war, Nor the measur'd march of soldiers, nor the tents of camps, Nor the regiments hastily coming up deploying in line of battle; No more the sad, unnatural shows of war. Ask'd room those flush'd immortal ranks, the first forth-stepping armies? Ask room alas the ghastly ranks, the armies dread that follow'd. (Pass, pass, ye proud brigades, with your tramping sinewy legs, With your shoulders young and strong, with your knapsacks and your muskets; How elate I stood and watch'd you, where starting off you march'd. Pass&mdash;then rattle drums again, For an army heaves in sight, O another gathering army, Swarming, trailing on the rear, O you dread accruing army, O you regiments so piteous, with your mortal diarrhoea, with your fever, O my land's maim'd darlings, with the plenteous bloody bandage and the crutch, Lo, your pallid army follows.) 5 But on these days of brightness, On the far-stretching beauteous landscape, the roads and lanes the high-piled farm-wagons, and the fruits and barns, Should the dead intrude? Ah the dead to me mar not, they fit well in Nature, They fit very well in the landscape under the trees and grass, And along the edge of the sky in the horizon's far margin. Nor do I forget you Departed, Nor in winter or summer my lost ones, But most in the open air as now when my soul is rapt and at peace, like pleasing phantoms, Your memories rising glide silently by me. 6 I saw the day the return of the heroes, (Yet the heroes never surpass'd shall never return, Them that day I saw not.) I saw the interminable corps, I saw the processions of armies, I saw them approaching, defiling by with divisions, Streaming northward, their work done, camping awhile in clusters of mighty camps. No holiday soldiers&mdash;youthful, yet veterans, Worn, swart, handsome, strong, of the stock of homestead and workshop, Harden'd of many a long campaign and sweaty march, Inured on many a hard-fought bloody field. A pause&mdash;the armies wait, A million flush'd embattled conquerors wait, The world too waits, then soft as breaking night and sure as dawn, They melt, they disappear. Exult O lands! victorious lands! Not there your victory on those red shuddering fields, But here and hence your victory. Melt, melt away ye armies&mdash;disperse ye blue-clad soldiers, Resolve ye back again, give up for good your deadly arms, Other the arms the fields henceforth for you, or South or North, With saner wars, sweet wars, life-giving wars. 7 Loud O my throat, and clear O soul! The season of thanks and the voice of full-yielding, The chant of joy and power for boundless fertility. All till'd and untill'd fields expand before me, I see the true arenas of my race, or first or last, Man's innocent and strong arenas. I see the heroes at other toils, I see well-wielded in their hands the better weapons. I see where the Mother of All, With full-spanning eye gazes forth, dwells long, And counts the varied gathering of the products. Busy the far, the sunlit panorama, Prairie, orchard, and yellow grain of the North, Cotton and rice of the South and Louisianian cane, Open unseeded fallows, rich fields of clover and timothy, Kine and horses feeding, and droves of sheep and swine, And many a stately river flowing and many a jocund brook, And healthy uplands with herby-perfumed breezes, And the good green grass, that delicate miracle the ever-recurring grass. 8 Toil on heroes! harvest the products! Not alone on those warlike fields the Mother of All, With dilated form and lambent eyes watch'd you. Toil on heroes! toil well! handle the weapons well! The Mother of All, yet here as ever she watches you. Well-pleased America thou beholdest, Over the fields of the West those crawling monsters, The human-divine inventions, the labor-saving implements; Beholdest moving in every direction imbued as with life the revolving hay-rakes, The steam-power reaping-machines and the horse-power machines The engines, thrashers of grain and cleaners of grain, well separating the straw, the nimble work of the patent pitchfork, Beholdest the newer saw-mill, the southern cotton-gin, and the rice-cleanser. Beneath thy look O Maternal, With these and else and with their own strong hands the heroes harvest. All gather and all harvest, Yet but for thee O Powerful, not a scythe might swing as now in security, Not a maize-stalk dangle as now its silken tassels in peace. Under thee only they harvest, even but a wisp of hay under thy great face only, Harvest the wheat of Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, every barbed spear under thee, Harvest the maize of Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, each ear in its light-green sheath, Gather the hay to its myriad mows in the odorous tranquil barns, Oats to their bins, the white potato, the buckwheat of Michigan, to theirs; Gather the cotton in Mississippi or Alabama, dig and hoard the golden the sweet potato of Georgia and the Carolinas, Clip the wool of California or Pennsylvania, Cut the flax in the Middle States, or hemp or tobacco in the Borders, Pick the pea and the bean, or pull apples from the trees or bunches of grapes from the vines, Or aught that ripens in all these States or North or South, Under the beaming sun and under thee. </pre> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0193" id="link2H_4_0193"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> There Was a Child Went Forth </h2> <pre xml:space="preserve"> There was a child went forth every day, And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became, And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day, Or for many years or stretching cycles of years. The early lilacs became part of this child, And grass and white and red morning-glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird, And the Third-month lambs and the sow's pink-faint litter, and the mare's foal and the cow's calf, And the noisy brood of the barnyard or by the mire of the pond-side, And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there, and the beautiful curious liquid, And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads, all became part of him. The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month became part of him, Winter-grain sprouts and those of the light-yellow corn, and the esculent roots of the garden, And the apple-trees cover'd with blossoms and the fruit afterward, and wood-berries, and the commonest weeds by the road, And the old drunkard staggering home from the outhouse of the tavern whence he had lately risen, And the schoolmistress that pass'd on her way to the school, And the friendly boys that pass'd, and the quarrelsome boys, And the tidy and fresh-cheek'd girls, and the barefoot negro boy and girl, And all the changes of city and country wherever he went. His own parents, he that had father'd him and she that had conceiv'd him in her womb and birth'd him, They gave this child more of themselves than that, They gave him afterward every day, they became part of him. The mother at home quietly placing the dishes on the supper-table, The mother with mild words, clean her cap and gown, a wholesome odor falling off her person and clothes as she walks by, The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, anger'd, unjust, The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the crafty lure, The family usages, the language, the company, the furniture, the yearning and swelling heart, Affection that will not be gainsay'd, the sense of what is real, the thought if after all it should prove unreal, The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-time, the curious whether and how, Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all flashes and specks? Men and women crowding fast in the streets, if they are not flashes and specks what are they? The streets themselves and the facades of houses, and goods in the windows, Vehicles, teams, the heavy-plank'd wharves, the huge crossing at the ferries, The village on the highland seen from afar at sunset, the river between, Shadows, aureola and mist, the light falling on roofs and gables of white or brown two miles off, The schooner near by sleepily dropping down the tide, the little boat slack-tow'd astern, The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests, slapping, The strata of color'd clouds, the long bar of maroon-tint away solitary by itself, the spread of purity it lies motionless in, The horizon's edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance of salt marsh and shore mud, These became part of that child who went forth every day, and who now goes, and will always go forth every day. </pre> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0194" id="link2H_4_0194"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> Old Ireland </h2> <pre xml:space="preserve"> Far hence amid an isle of wondrous beauty, Crouching over a grave an ancient sorrowful mother, Once a queen, now lean and tatter'd seated on the ground, Her old white hair drooping dishevel'd round her shoulders, At her feet fallen an unused royal harp, Long silent, she too long silent, mourning her shrouded hope and heir, Of all the earth her heart most full of sorrow because most full of love. Yet a word ancient mother, You need crouch there no longer on the cold ground with forehead between your knees, O you need not sit there veil'd in your old white hair so dishevel'd, For know you the one you mourn is not in that grave, It was an illusion, the son you love was not really dead, The Lord is not dead, he is risen again young and strong in another country, Even while you wept there by your fallen harp by the grave, What you wept for was translated, pass'd from the grave, The winds favor'd and the sea sail'd it, And now with rosy and new blood, Moves to-day in a new country. </pre> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0195" id="link2H_4_0195"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> The City Dead-House </h2> <pre xml:space="preserve"> By the city dead-house by the gate, As idly sauntering wending my way from the clangor, I curious pause, for lo, an outcast form, a poor dead prostitute brought, Her corpse they deposit unclaim'd, it lies on the damp brick pavement, The divine woman, her body, I see the body, I look on it alone, That house once full of passion and beauty, all else I notice not, Nor stillness so cold, nor running water from faucet, nor odors morbific impress me, But the house alone&mdash;that wondrous house&mdash;that delicate fair house &mdash;that ruin! That immortal house more than all the rows of dwellings ever built! Or white-domed capitol with majestic figure surmounted, or all the old high-spired cathedrals, That little house alone more than them all&mdash;poor, desperate house! Fair, fearful wreck&mdash;tenement of a soul&mdash;itself a soul, Unclaim'd, avoided house&mdash;take one breath from my tremulous lips, Take one tear dropt aside as I go for thought of you, Dead house of love&mdash;house of madness and sin, crumbled, crush'd, House of life, erewhile talking and laughing&mdash;but ah, poor house, dead even then, Months, years, an echoing, garnish'd house&mdash;but dead, dead, dead. </pre> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0196" id="link2H_4_0196"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> This Compost </h2> <pre xml:space="preserve"> 1 Something startles me where I thought I was safest, I withdraw from the still woods I loved, I will not go now on the pastures to walk, I will not strip the clothes from my body to meet my lover the sea, I will not touch my flesh to the earth as to other flesh to renew me. O how can it be that the ground itself does not sicken? How can you be alive you growths of spring? How can you furnish health you blood of herbs, roots, orchards, grain? Are they not continually putting distemper'd corpses within you? Is not every continent work'd over and over with sour dead? Where have you disposed of their carcasses? Those drunkards and gluttons of so many generations? Where have you drawn off all the foul liquid and meat? I do not see any of it upon you to-day, or perhaps I am deceiv'd, I will run a furrow with my plough, I will press my spade through the sod and turn it up underneath, I am sure I shall expose some of the foul meat. 2 Behold this compost! behold it well! Perhaps every mite has once form'd part of a sick person&mdash;yet behold! The grass of spring covers the prairies, The bean bursts noiselessly through the mould in the garden, The delicate spear of the onion pierces upward, The apple-buds cluster together on the apple-branches, The resurrection of the wheat appears with pale visage out of its graves, The tinge awakes over the willow-tree and the mulberry-tree, The he-birds carol mornings and evenings while the she-birds sit on their nests, The young of poultry break through the hatch'd eggs, The new-born of animals appear, the calf is dropt from the cow, the colt from the mare, Out of its little hill faithfully rise the potato's dark green leaves, Out of its hill rises the yellow maize-stalk, the lilacs bloom in the dooryards, The summer growth is innocent and disdainful above all those strata of sour dead. What chemistry! That the winds are really not infectious, That this is no cheat, this transparent green-wash of the sea which is so amorous after me, That it is safe to allow it to lick my naked body all over with its tongues, That it will not endanger me with the fevers that have deposited themselves in it, That all is clean forever and forever, That the cool drink from the well tastes so good, That blackberries are so flavorous and juicy, That the fruits of the apple-orchard and the orange-orchard, that melons, grapes, peaches, plums, will none of them poison me, That when I recline on the grass I do not catch any disease, Though probably every spear of grass rises out of what was once catching disease. Now I am terrified at the Earth, it is that calm and patient, It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions, It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such endless successions of diseas'd corpses, It distills such exquisite winds out of such infused fetor, It renews with such unwitting looks its prodigal, annual, sumptuous crops, It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts such leavings from them at last. </pre> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0197" id="link2H_4_0197"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> To a Foil'd European Revolutionaire </h2> <pre xml:space="preserve"> Courage yet, my brother or my sister! Keep on&mdash;Liberty is to be subserv'd whatever occurs; That is nothing that is quell'd by one or two failures, or any number of failures, Or by the indifference or ingratitude of the people, or by any unfaithfulness, Or the show of the tushes of power, soldiers, cannon, penal statutes. What we believe in waits latent forever through all the continents, Invites no one, promises nothing, sits in calmness and light, is positive and composed, knows no discouragement, Waiting patiently, waiting its time. (Not songs of loyalty alone are these, But songs of insurrection also, For I am the sworn poet of every dauntless rebel the world over, And he going with me leaves peace and routine behind him, And stakes his life to be lost at any moment.) The battle rages with many a loud alarm and frequent advance and retreat, The infidel triumphs, or supposes he triumphs, The prison, scaffold, garrote, handcuffs, iron necklace and leadballs do their work, The named and unnamed heroes pass to other spheres, The great speakers and writers are exiled, they lie sick in distant lands, The cause is asleep, the strongest throats are choked with their own blood, The young men droop their eyelashes toward the ground when they meet; But for all this Liberty has not gone out of the place, nor the infidel enter'd into full possession. When liberty goes out of a place it is not the first to go, nor the second or third to go, It waits for all the rest to go, it is the last. When there are no more memories of heroes and martyrs, And when all life and all the souls of men and women are discharged from any part of the earth, Then only shall liberty or the idea of liberty be discharged from that part of the earth, And the infidel come into full possession. Then courage European revolter, revoltress! For till all ceases neither must you cease. I do not know what you are for, (I do not know what I am for myself, nor what any thing is for,) But I will search carefully for it even in being foil'd, In defeat, poverty, misconception, imprisonment&mdash;for they too are great. Did we think victory great? So it is&mdash;but now it seems to me, when it cannot be help'd, that defeat is great, And that death and dismay are great. </pre> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0198" id="link2H_4_0198"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> Unnamed Land </h2> <pre xml:space="preserve"> Nations ten thousand years before these States, and many times ten thousand years before these States, Garner'd clusters of ages that men and women like us grew up and travel'd their course and pass'd on, What vast-built cities, what orderly republics, what pastoral tribes and nomads, What histories, rulers, heroes, perhaps transcending all others, What laws, customs, wealth, arts, traditions, What sort of marriage, what costumes, what physiology and phrenology, What of liberty and slavery among them, what they thought of death and the soul, Who were witty and wise, who beautiful and poetic, who brutish and undevelop'd, Not a mark, not a record remains&mdash;and yet all remains. O I know that those men and women were not for nothing, any more than we are for nothing, I know that they belong to the scheme of the world every bit as much as we now belong to it. Afar they stand, yet near to me they stand, Some with oval countenances learn'd and calm, Some naked and savage, some like huge collections of insects, Some in tents, herdsmen, patriarchs, tribes, horsemen, Some prowling through woods, some living peaceably on farms, laboring, reaping, filling barns, Some traversing paved avenues, amid temples, palaces, factories, libraries, shows, courts, theatres, wonderful monuments. Are those billions of men really gone? Are those women of the old experience of the earth gone? Do their lives, cities, arts, rest only with us? Did they achieve nothing for good for themselves? I believe of all those men and women that fill'd the unnamed lands, every one exists this hour here or elsewhere, invisible to us. In exact proportion to what he or she grew from in life, and out of what he or she did, felt, became, loved, sinn'd, in life. I believe that was not the end of those nations or any person of them, any more than this shall be the end of my nation, or of me; Of their languages, governments, marriage, literature, products, games, wars, manners, crimes, prisons, slaves, heroes, poets, I suspect their results curiously await in the yet unseen world, counterparts of what accrued to them in the seen world, I suspect I shall meet them there, I suspect I shall there find each old particular of those unnamed lands. </pre> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0199" id="link2H_4_0199"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> Song of Prudence </h2> <pre xml:space="preserve"> Manhattan's streets I saunter'd pondering, On Time, Space, Reality&mdash;on such as these, and abreast with them Prudence. The last explanation always remains to be made about prudence, Little and large alike drop quietly aside from the prudence that suits immortality. The soul is of itself, All verges to it, all has reference to what ensues, All that a person does, says, thinks, is of consequence, Not a move can a man or woman make, that affects him or her in a day, month, any part of the direct lifetime, or the hour of death, But the same affects him or her onward afterward through the indirect lifetime. The indirect is just as much as the direct, The spirit receives from the body just as much as it gives to the body, if not more. Not one word or deed, not venereal sore, discoloration, privacy of the onanist, Putridity of gluttons or rum-drinkers, peculation, cunning, betrayal, murder, seduction, prostitution, But has results beyond death as really as before death. Charity and personal force are the only investments worth any thing. No specification is necessary, all that a male or female does, that is vigorous, benevolent, clean, is so much profit to him or her, In the unshakable order of the universe and through the whole scope of it forever. Who has been wise receives interest, Savage, felon, President, judge, farmer, sailor, mechanic, literat, young, old, it is the same, The interest will come round&mdash;all will come round. Singly, wholly, to affect now, affected their time, will forever affect, all of the past and all of the present and all of the future, All the brave actions of war and peace, All help given to relatives, strangers, the poor, old, sorrowful, young children, widows, the sick, and to shunn'd persons, All self-denial that stood steady and aloof on wrecks, and saw others fill the seats of the boats, All offering of substance or life for the good old cause, or for a friend's sake, or opinion's sake, All pains of enthusiasts scoff'd at by their neighbors, All the limitless sweet love and precious suffering of mothers, All honest men baffled in strifes recorded or unrecorded, All the grandeur and good of ancient nations whose fragments we inherit, All the good of the dozens of ancient nations unknown to us by name, date, location, All that was ever manfully begun, whether it succeeded or no, All suggestions of the divine mind of man or the divinity of his mouth, or the shaping of his great hands, All that is well thought or said this day on any part of the globe, or on any of the wandering stars, or on any of the fix'd stars, by those there as we are here, All that is henceforth to be thought or done by you whoever you are, or by any one, These inure, have inured, shall inure, to the identities from which they sprang, or shall spring. Did you guess any thing lived only its moment? The world does not so exist, no parts palpable or impalpable so exist, No consummation exists without being from some long previous consummation, and that from some other, Without the farthest conceivable one coming a bit nearer the beginning than any. Whatever satisfies souls is true; Prudence entirely satisfies the craving and glut of souls, Itself only finally satisfies the soul, The soul has that measureless pride which revolts from every lesson but its own. Now I breathe the word of the prudence that walks abreast with time, space, reality, That answers the pride which refuses every lesson but its own. What is prudence is indivisible, Declines to separate one part of life from every part, Divides not the righteous from the unrighteous or the living from the dead, Matches every thought or act by its correlative, Knows no possible forgiveness or deputed atonement, Knows that the young man who composedly peril'd his life and lost it has done exceedingly well for himself without doubt, That he who never peril'd his life, but retains it to old age in riches and ease, has probably achiev'd nothing for himself worth mentioning, Knows that only that person has really learn'd who has learn'd to prefer results, Who favors body and soul the same, Who perceives the indirect assuredly following the direct, Who in his spirit in any emergency whatever neither hurries nor avoids death. </pre> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0200" id="link2H_4_0200"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> The Singer in the Prison </h2> <pre xml:space="preserve"> O sight of pity, shame and dole! O fearful thought&mdash;a convict soul. 1 Rang the refrain along the hall, the prison, Rose to the roof, the vaults of heaven above, Pouring in floods of melody in tones so pensive sweet and strong the like whereof was never heard, Reaching the far-off sentry and the armed guards, who ceas'd their pacing, Making the hearer's pulses stop for ecstasy and awe. 2 The sun was low in the west one winter day, When down a narrow aisle amid the thieves and outlaws of the land, (There by the hundreds seated, sear-faced murderers, wily counterfeiters, Gather'd to Sunday church in prison walls, the keepers round, Plenteous, well-armed, watching with vigilant eyes,) Calmly a lady walk'd holding a little innocent child by either hand, Whom seating on their stools beside her on the platform, She, first preluding with the instrument a low and musical prelude, In voice surpassing all, sang forth a quaint old hymn. A soul confined by bars and bands, Cries, help! O help! and wrings her hands, Blinded her eyes, bleeding her breast, Nor pardon finds, nor balm of rest. Ceaseless she paces to and fro, O heart-sick days! O nights of woe! Nor hand of friend, nor loving face, Nor favor comes, nor word of grace. It was not I that sinn'd the sin, The ruthless body dragg'd me in; Though long I strove courageously, The body was too much for me. Dear prison'd soul bear up a space, For soon or late the certain grace; To set thee free and bear thee home, The heavenly pardoner death shall come. Convict no more, nor shame, nor dole! Depart&mdash;a God-enfranchis'd soul! 3 The singer ceas'd, One glance swept from her clear calm eyes o'er all those upturn'd faces, Strange sea of prison faces, a thousand varied, crafty, brutal, seam'd and beauteous faces, Then rising, passing back along the narrow aisle between them, While her gown touch'd them rustling in the silence, She vanish'd with her children in the dusk. While upon all, convicts and armed keepers ere they stirr'd, (Convict forgetting prison, keeper his loaded pistol,) A hush and pause fell down a wondrous minute, With deep half-stifled sobs and sound of bad men bow'd and moved to weeping, And youth's convulsive breathings, memories of home, The mother's voice in lullaby, the sister's care, the happy childhood, The long-pent spirit rous'd to reminiscence; A wondrous minute then&mdash;but after in the solitary night, to many, many there, Years after, even in the hour of death, the sad refrain, the tune, the voice, the words, Resumed, the large calm lady walks the narrow aisle, The wailing melody again, the singer in the prison sings, O sight of pity, shame and dole! O fearful thought&mdash;a convict soul. </pre> <p>
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