I WANDER all night in my vision,
Stepping with light feet, swiftly and noiselessly stepping and stopping,
Bending with open eyes over the shut eyes of sleepers,
Wandering and confused, lost to myself, ill-assorted, contradictory,
Pausing, gazing, bending, and stopping.
How solemn they look there, stretchd and still!
How quiet they breathe, the little children in their cradles!
The wretched features of ennuyés, the white features of corpses, the livid faces of
drunkards, the sick-gray faces of onanists,
The gashd bodies on battle-fields, the insane in their strong-doord rooms, the
idiots, the new-born emerging from gates, and the dying emerging from gates,
The night pervades them and infolds them.
The married couple sleep calmly in their bedhe with his palm on the hip of the wife,
with her palm on the hip of the husband,
The sisters sleep lovingly side by side in their bed,
The men sleep lovingly side by side in theirs,
And the mother sleeps, with her little child carefully wrapt.
The blind sleep, and the deaf and dumb sleep,
The prisoner sleeps well in the prisonthe run-away son sleeps;
The murderer that is to be hung next dayhow does he sleep?
And the murderd personhow does he sleep?
The female that loves unrequited sleeps,
And the male that loves unrequited sleeps,
The head of the money-maker that plotted all day sleeps,
And the enraged and treacherous dispositionsall, all sleep.
I stand in the dark with drooping eyes by the worst-suffering and the most restless,
I pass my hands soothingly to and fro a few inches from them,
The restless sink in their bedsthey fitfully sleep.
Now I pierce the darknessnew beings appear,
The earth recedes from me into the night,
I saw that it was beautiful, and I see that what is not the earth is beautiful.
I go from bedside to bedsideI sleep close with the other sleepers, each in turn,
I dream in my dream all the dreams of the other dreamers,
And I become the other dreamers.
I am a dancePlay up, there! the fit is whirling me fast!
I am the ever-laughingit is new moon and twilight,
I see the hiding of douceursI see nimble ghosts whichever way I look,
Cache, and cache again, deep in the ground and sea, and where it is neither ground or sea.
Well do they do their jobs, those journeymen divine,
Only from me can they hide nothing, and would not if they could,
I reckon I am their boss, and they make me a pet besides,
And surround me and lead me, and run ahead when I walk,
To lift their cunning covers, to signify me with stretchd arms, and resume the way;
Onward we move! a gay gang of blackguards! with mirth-shouting music, and wild-flapping
I am the actor, the actress, the voter, the politician;
The emigrant and the exile, the criminal that stood in the box,
He who has been famous, and he who shall be famous after to-day,
The stammerer, the well-formd person, the wasted or feeble person.
I am she who adornd herself and folded her hair expectantly,
My truant lover has come, and it is dark.
Double yourself and receive me, darkness!
Receive me and my lover toohe will not let me go without him.
I roll myself upon you, as upon a bedI resign myself to the dusk.
He whom I call answers me, and takes the place of my lover,
He rises with me silently from the bed.
Darkness! you are gentler than my loverhis flesh was sweaty and panting,
I feel the hot moisture yet that he left me.
My hands are spread forth, I pass them in all directions,
I would sound up the shadowy shore to which you are journeying.
Be careful, darkness! already, what was it touchd me?
I thought my lover had gone, else darkness and he are one,
I hear the heart-beatI follow, I fade away.
O hot-cheekd and blushing! O foolish hectic!
O for pitys sake, no one must see me now! my clothes were stolen while I was abed,
Now I am thrust forth, where shall I run?
Pier that I saw dimly last night, when I lookd from the windows!
Pier out from the main, let me catch myself with you, and stayI will not chafe you,
I feel ashamed to go naked about the world.
I am curious to know where my feet standand what this is flooding me, childhood or
manhoodand the hunger that crosses the bridge between.
The cloth laps a first sweet eating and drinking,
Laps life-swelling yolkslaps ear of rose-corn, milky and just ripend;
The white teeth stay, and the boss-tooth advances in darkness,
And liquor is spilld on lips and bosoms by touching glasses, and the best liquor
I descend my western course, my sinews are flaccid,
Perfume and youth course through me, and I am their wake.
It is my face yellow and wrinkled, instead of the old womans,
I sit low in a straw-bottom chair, and carefully darn my grandsons stockings.
It is I too, the sleepless widow, looking out on the winter midnight,
I see the sparkles of starshine on the icy and pallid earth.
A shroud I see, and I am the shroudI wrap a body, and lie in the coffin,
It is dark here under groundit is not evil or pain hereit is blank here, for
It seems to me that everything in the light and air ought to be happy,
Whoever is not in his coffin and the dark grave, let him know he has enough.
I see a beautiful gigantic swimmer, swimming naked through the eddies of the sea,
His brown hair lies close and even to his headhe strikes out with courageous
urges himself with his legs,
I see his white bodyI see his undaunted eyes,
I hate the swift-running eddies that would dash him head-foremost on the rocks.
What are you doing, you ruffianly red-trickled waves?
Will you kill the courageous giant? Will you kill him in the prime of his middle age?
Steady and long he struggles,
He is baffled, bangd, bruisdhe holds out while his strength holds out,
The slapping eddies are spotted with his bloodthey bear him awaythey roll him,
him, turn him,
His beautiful body is borne in the circling eddies, it is continually bruisd on
Swiftly and out of sight is borne the brave corpse.
I turn, but do not extricate myself,
Confused, a past-reading, another, but with darkness yet.
The beach is cut by the razory ice-windthe wreck-guns sound,
The tempest lullsthe moon comes floundering through the drifts.
I look where the ship helplessly heads end onI hear the burst as she strikesI
howls of dismaythey grow fainter and fainter.
I cannot aid with my wringing fingers,
I can but rush to the surf, and let it drench me and freeze upon me.
I search with the crowdnot one of the company is washd to us alive;
In the morning I help pick up the dead and lay them in rows in a barn.
Now of the older war-days, the defeat at Brooklyn,
Washington stands inside the lineshe stands on the intrenchd hills, amid a
His face is cold and damphe cannot repress the weeping drops,
He lifts the glass perpetually to his eyesthe color is blanchd from his
He sees the slaughter of the southern braves confided to him by their parents.
The same, at last and at last, when peace is declared,
He stands in the room of the old tavernthe well-belovd soldiers all pass
The officers speechless and slow draw near in their turns,
The chief encircles their necks with his arm, and kisses them on the cheek,
He kisses lightly the wet cheeks one after anotherhe shakes hands, and bids good-by
Now I tell what my mother told me to-day as we sat at dinner together,
Of when she was a nearly grown girl, living home with her parents on the old homestead.
A red squaw came one breakfast time to the old homestead,
On her back she carried a bundle of rushes for rush-bottoming chairs,
Her hair, straight, shiny, coarse, black, profuse, half-envelopd her face,
Her step was free and elastic, and her voice sounded exquisitely as she spoke.
My mother lookd in delight and amazement at the stranger,
She lookd at the freshness of her tall-borne face, and full and pliant limbs,
The more she lookd upon her, she loved her,
Never before had she seen such wonderful beauty and purity,
She made her sit on a bench by the jamb of the fireplaceshe cookd food for
She had no work to give her, but she gave her remembrance and fondness.
The red squaw staid all the forenoon, and toward the middle of the afternoon she went
O my mother was loth to have her go away!
All the week she thought of hershe watchd for her many a month,
She rememberd her many a winter and many a summer,
But the red squaw never came, nor was heard of there again.
Now Lucifer was not deador if he was, I am his sorrowful terrible heir;
I have been wrongdI am oppressdI hate him that oppresses me,
I will either destroy him, or he shall release me.
Damn him! how he does defile me!
How he informs against my brother and sister, and takes pay for their blood!
How he laughs when I look down the bend, after the steamboat that carries away my woman!
Now the vast dusk bulk that is the whales bulk, it seems mine;
Warily, sportsman! though I lie so sleepy and sluggish, the tap of my flukes is death.
A show of the summer softness! a contact of something unseen! an amour of the light and
I am jealous, and overwhelmd with friendliness,
And will go gallivant with the light and air myself,
And have an unseen something to be in contact with them also.
O love and summer! you are in the dreams, and in me!
Autumn and winter are in the dreamsthe farmer goes with his thrift,
The droves and crops increase, and the barns are well-filld.
Elements merge in the nightships make tacks in the dreams,
The sailor sailsthe exile returns home,
The fugitive returns unharmdthe immigrant is back beyond months and years,
The poor Irishman lives in the simple house of his childhood, with the well-known
They warmly welcome himhe is barefoot again, he forgets he is well off;
The Dutchman voyages home, and the Scotchman and Welshman voyage home, and the native of
Mediterranean voyages home,
To every port of England, France, Spain, enter well-filld ships,
The Swiss foots it toward his hillsthe Prussian goes his way, the Hungarian his way,
Pole his way,
The Swede returns, and the Dane and Norwegian return.
The homeward bound, and the outward bound,
The beautiful lost swimmer, the ennuyé, the onanist, the female that loves
The actor and actress, those through with their parts, and those waiting to commence,
The affectionate boy, the husband and wife, the voter, the nominee that is chosen, and the
that has faild,
The great already known, and the great any time after to-day,
The stammerer, the sick, the perfect-formd, the homely,
The criminal that stood in the box, the judge that sat and sentenced him, the fluent
jury, the audience,
The laugher and weeper, the dancer, the midnight widow, the red squaw,
The consumptive, the erysipelite, the idiot, he that is wrongd,
The antipodes, and every one between this and them in the dark,
I swear they are averaged nowone is no better than the other,
The night and sleep have likend them and restored them.
I swear they are all beautiful;
Every one that sleeps is beautifuleverything in the dim light is beautiful,
The wildest and bloodiest is over, and all is peace.
Peace is always beautiful,
The myth of heaven indicates peace and night.
The myth of heaven indicates the Soul;
The Soul is always beautifulit appears more or it appears lessit comes, or it
It comes from its embowerd garden, and looks pleasantly on itself, and encloses the
Perfect and clean the genitals previously jetting, and perfect and clean the womb
The head well-grown, proportiond and plumb, and the bowels and joints
The Soul is always beautiful,
The universe is duly in order, everything is in its place,
What has arrived is in its place, and what waits is in its place;
The twisted skull waits, the watery or rotten blood waits,
The child of the glutton or venerealee waits long, and the child of the drunkard waits
drunkard himself waits long,
The sleepers that lived and died waitthe far advanced are to go on in their turns,
behind are to come on in their turns,
The diverse shall be no less diverse, but they shall flow and unitethey unite now.
The sleepers are very beautiful as they lie unclothed,
They flow hand in hand over the whole earth, from east to west, as they lie unclothed,
The Asiatic and African are hand in handthe European and American are hand in hand,
Learnd and unlearnd are hand in hand, and male and female are hand in hand,
The bare arm of the girl crosses the bare breast of her loverthey press close
lusthis lips press her neck,
The father holds his grown or ungrown son in his arms with measureless love, and the son
father in his arms with measureless love,
The white hair of the mother shines on the white wrist of the daughter,
The breath of the boy goes with the breath of the man, friend is inarmd by friend,
The scholar kisses the teacher, and the teacher kisses the scholarthe wrongd
The call of the slave is one with the masters call, and the master salutes the
The felon steps forth from the prisonthe insane becomes sanethe suffering of
persons is relievd,
The sweatings and fevers stopthe throat that was unsound is soundthe lungs of
consumptive are resumedthe poor distressd head is free,
The joints of the rheumatic move as smoothly as ever, and smoother than ever,
Stiflings and passages openthe paralyzed become supple,
The swelld and convulsd and congested awake to themselves in condition,
They pass the invigoration of the night, and the chemistry of the night, and awake.
I too pass from the night,
I stay a while away, O night, but I return to you again, and love you.
Why should I be afraid to trust myself to you?
I am not afraidI have been well brought forward by you;
I love the rich running day, but I do not desert her in whom I lay so long,
I know not how I came of you, and I know not where I go with youbut I know I came
shall go well.
I will stop only a time with the night, and rise betimes;
I will duly pass the day, O my mother, and duly return to you.