FIRST, O songs, for a prelude,
Lightly strike on the stretchd tympanum, pride and joy in my city,
How she led the rest to armshow she gave the cue,
How at once with lithe limbs, unwaiting a moment, she sprang;
(O superb! O Manhattan, my own, my peerless!
O strongest you in the hour of danger, in crisis! O truer than steel!)
How you sprang! how you threw off the costumes of peace with indifferent hand;
How your soft opera-music changed, and the drum and fife were heard in their stead;
How you led to the war, (that shall serve for our prelude, songs of soldiers,)
How Manhattan drum-taps led.
Forty years had I in my city seen soldiers parading;
Forty years as a pageanttill unawares, the Lady of this teeming and turbulent city,
Sleepless amid her ships, her houses, her incalculable wealth,
With her million children around hersuddenly,
At dead of night, at news from the south,
Incensd, struck with clenchd hand the pavement.
A shock electricthe night sustaind it;
Till with ominous hum, our hive at day-break pourd out its myriads.
From the houses then, and the workshops, and through all the doorways,
Leapt they tumultuousand lo! Manhattan arming.
To the drum-taps prompt,
The young men falling in and arming;
The mechanics arming, (the trowel, the jack-plane, the blacksmiths hammer, tost
The lawyer leaving his office, and armingthe judge leaving the court;
The driver deserting his wagon in the street, jumping down, throwing the reins abruptly
The salesman leaving the storethe boss, book-keeper, porter, all leaving;
Squads gather everywhere by common consent, and arm;
The new recruits, even boysthe old men show them how to wear their
buckle the straps carefully;
Outdoors armingindoors armingthe flash of the musket-barrels;
The white tents cluster in campsthe armd sentries aroundthe sunrise
again at sunset;
Armd regiments arrive every day, pass through the city, and embark from the wharves;
(How good they look, as they tramp down to the river, sweaty, with their guns on their
How I love them! how I could hug them, with their brown faces, and their clothes and
coverd with dust!)
The blood of the city uparmd! armd! the cry everywhere;
The flags flung out from the steeples of churches, and from all the public buildings and
The tearful partingthe mother kisses her sonthe son kisses his mother;
(Loth is the mother to partyet not a word does she speak to detain him;)
The tumultuous escortthe ranks of policemen preceding, clearing the way;
The unpent enthusiasmthe wild cheers of the crowd for their favorites;
The artillerythe silent cannons, bright as gold, drawn along, rumble lightly over
(Silent cannonssoon to cease your silence!
Soon, unlimberd, to begin the red business;)
All the mutter of preparationall the determind arming;
The hospital servicethe lint, bandages, and medicines;
The women volunteering for nursesthe work begun for, in earnestno mere parade
War! an armd race is advancing!the welcome for battleno turning away;
War! be it weeks, months, or yearsan armd race is advancing to welcome it.
Mannahatta a-march!and its O to sing it well!
Its O for a manly life in the camp!
And the sturdy artillery!
The guns, bright as goldthe work for giantsto serve well the guns:
Unlimber them! no more, as the past forty years, for salutes for courtesies merely;
Put in something else now besides powder and wadding.
And you, Lady of Ships! you Mannahatta!
Old matron of this proud, friendly, turbulent city!
Often in peace and wealth you were pensive, or covertly frownd amid all your
But now you smile with joy, exulting old Mannahatta!