Verse > Anthologies > Andrew Macphail, ed. > The Book of Sorrow
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Andrew Macphail, comp.  The Book of Sorrow.  1916.
 
XXVII. Vain Longing
From ‘Sea-Drift’
By Walt Whitman (1819–1892)
 
[See full text.]

SHINE! shine! shine!
Pour down your warmth, great Sun!
While we bask—we two together.
 
Two together!
Winds blow South, or winds blow North,        5
Day come white, or night come black,
Home, or rivers and mountains from home,
Singing all time, minding no time,
While we two keep together….
 
Blow! blow! blow!        10
Blow up, sea-winds, along Paumanok’s shore!
I wait and I wait, till you blow my mate to me….
 
Soothe! soothe! soothe!
Close on its wave soothes the wave behind,
And again another behind, embracing and lapping, every one close,        15
But my love soothes not me, not me.
 
Low hangs the moon—it rose late;
O it is lagging—O I think it is heavy with love, with love.
 
O madly the sea pushes, pushes upon the land,
With love—with love.        20
 
O night! do I not see my love fluttering out there among the breakers?
What is that little black thing I see there in the white?
 
Loud! loud! loud!
Loud I call to you, my love!
High and clear I shoot my voice over the waves;        25
Surely you must know who is here, is here;
You must know who I am, my love.
 
Low-hanging moon!
What is that dusky spot in your brown yellow?
O it is the shape, the shape of my mate!        30
O moon, do not keep her from me any longer.
 
Land! land! O land!
Whichever way I turn, O I think you could give my mate back again, if you only would,
For I am almost sure I see her dimly whichever way I look.
 
O rising stars!        35
Perhaps the one I want so much will rise, will rise with some of you.
 
O throat! O trembling throat!
Sound clearer through the atmosphere!
Pierce the woods, the earth;
Somewhere listening to catch you, must be the one I want.        40
 
Shake out, carols!
Solitary here—the night’s carols!
Carols of lonesome love! Death’s carols!
Carols under that lagging, yellow, waning moon!
O, under that moon, where she droops almost down into the sea!        45
O reckless, despairing carols.
 
But soft! sink low;
Soft! let me just murmur;
And do you wait a moment, you husky-noised sea;
For somewhere I believe I heard my mate responding to me,        50
So faint—I must be still, be still to listen;
But not altogether still, for then she might not come immediately to me.
 
Hither, my love!
Here I am! Here!
With this just-sustain’d note I announce myself to you;        55
This gentle call is for you, my love, for you.
 
Do not be decoy’d elsewhere!
That is the whistle of the wind—it is not my voice;
That is the fluttering, the fluttering of the spray;
Those are the shadows of leaves.        60
 
O darkness! O in vain!
O I am very sick and sorrowful.
 
O brown halo in the sky, near the moon, drooping upon the sea!
O troubled reflection in the sea!
O throat! O throbbing throat!        65
O all—and I singing uselessly, uselessly all the night.
 
Yet I murmur, murmur on!
O murmurs—you yourselves make me continue to sing, I know not why.
 
O past! O life! O songs of joy!
In the air—in the woods—over fields;        70
Loved! loved! loved! loved! loved!
But my love no more, no more with me!
We two together no more.
 
 
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