Almost a year passed by since the abandoned plan, when in December , I got an official assignment which would require a visit to the southernmost island of India, the Great Nicobar island. So here was this opportunity where I could mix work with leisure and where my long-standing wish would finally get a chance of being fulfilled.
Needless to say, the photographer in me was equally excited. The beaches of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India are the nesting grounds of four species of sea-turtles — the giant Leatherbacks, the Green sea-turtles, the Olive Ridleys and the Hawksbill, the leatherbacks being the largest of these species. The status of the Leatherback has, in fact, been recently changed from endangered to critically endangered. It was a cloudy, rain-laden morning when my team started off for Campbell Bay in the Great Nicobar Island on the 12 th of December As the ship entered the open seas, lashing waves and gusty winds made matters worse and the team could finally reach Campbell Bay only on the 14 th of December after spending about forty-eight hours on sea for a journey which normally takes around thirty hours.
My journey to Campbell Bay was scheduled for the 18 th of December , but due to bad weather, the sailing was postponed to the 19 th and then again to the 20 th of December, when the ship could finally set sail. The weather being pleasant, the journey was comfortable. Ensconced in the comfort provided by the Deluxe Class cabin, I soon found myself in Campbell Bay at about 3 pm on the 21 st , after just about twenty-eight hours on sea. For the next two days, being a weekend, no official work was possible. In order to make good use of the time, it was decided that we would take a chance at visiting the remote Galathea National Park on the southern fringe of the island the next night itself, i.
Since it would be a full-moon night, we would stand a better chance at spotting the sea-turtles, and if we were lucky, we could even see the Leatherbacks. Visiting Galathea National Park would require obtaining permission from the Forest Department for the entry into the Galathea Forest Range and requesting help of the forest staff and boatmen stationed at the Forest Protection Camp at Galathea Forest Range to cross the crocodile-infested MagarNalah.
Crossing the nalah would take us to the other side of the Galathea river, where we would have a better chance of spotting the leatherbacks. While permission was being arranged from the forest department, we decided to visit the 13 th mile beach, where, the forest department staff told us, two Olive Ridleys had recently come visiting. One had visited on the 2 nd December at The other individual had come visiting on 17 th December at 8 am and had laid a clutch of eggs.
These eggs had subsequently been transferred to a separate fenced area on the same beach so as to protect them against the stray dogs, wild pigs and birds which are a constant danger for these eggs. It is a fact that feral dogs account for destruction of nearly seventy percent of the eggs and hatchlings of the sea-turtles in these islands. At the 13 th mile beach. Eggs reburied by the Forest Department in a safe enclosure. By the afternoon of the 22 nd , requisite permissions had been arranged and we started on our visit to the Galathea National Park at about 2 pm in the afternoon so as to make it across the Galathea River while it was still daylight.
We took the North-South road and aftervabout thirty-seven kilometres down the way, the road came to an end. One could see the sea down towards the left and, further south, the famous lighthouse at Indira Point could be seen in the distance on a piece of land jutting further out into the sea. At this point, we had to leave our vehicles at a spot where we would be able to find them the next day.
It was now a walk of about three kilometres downhill to the forest protection camp at Galathea Range through mud and soil. The last stretch of about a hundred metres wound through dense vegetation. We could see that the ground here was always muddy and submerged in water, as strips of betelnut-tree wood had been tied together to build a make-shift bridge over which one could safely walk across the marshy terrain.
On the way we learnt that the massive nest mounds of megapodes, birds endemic to these islands, were also to be found in the area. Soon we reached the seashore, where we found the forest staff waiting in their tents by the seaside. They had already been informed in advance. We found them making preparations for their dinner as no fires were allowed to be lit on the other side of the Galathea river and consequently cooking was not possible on the other side. We had some much-needed rest while the forest staff and the boatmen had an early dinner. Dusk setting in at the Galathea National Park.
We had to take a boat to the other shore. To the left is the open sea. As we waited, the western sky turned a burning red. It was sunset-time and we were privy to one of the most exciting sunsets of our lives. Rich shades of orange and red had turned the sky into a flaming battlefield. The last light of the day was fading fast and it would soon be dark.
The boatmen were ready by now and we were informed that it was almost time for high-tide and crossing the nalah against the stream would become difficult. We could see a boat moored in the distance where the Galathea river met the sea. Hurried steps on the sandy beach brought us to the boat. Now we were a motley group of fifteen people and we realized that the boatmen would have to take us across in two groups. The water in the nalah was about knee-deep near the shore and we could only marvel at the brave boatmen standing in those crocodile-infested waters in order to push the boat into the water.
While the first group crossed the nalah with ease, the second group had considerable difficulty because water had started flowing in due to the high-tide and they could make it to the shore only after a long time. This being a full-moon night, the moon could now be seen rising in the sky through gaps in the tree-tops just in front of us. I was in the first group crossing the stream and it was a treat to watch the moon rise and render everything into wonderful varying hues of silver and white while the boatmen struggled to get the other group ashore.
A considerable time passed before the other group could join us. We were now on the right side of the Galathea river, in the Galathea Bay and in the southernmost area of the Indian subcontinent with nothing but miles and miles of the open sea right in front of us. Our thoughts kept on racing to that fateful night of 26 th December when these islands were ravaged by the Indian Ocean Tsunami. We learnt that on that fateful date, only a single forest staff stationed here had survived.
We walked about three hundred metres, passed a culvert damaged by the Tsunami and came into an open space. With not a soul to give us company, we sat down to pass the night and wait for the gentle creatures of the deep to come ashore. The moon had now left the tree-tops far behind and was tracing its path further up in the sky. Being a full-moon night, there was considerable light all around and passing the night out in the open by the seashore did not seem a difficult proposition.
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We had been forewarned about the tiny mosquitoes that abound here and sure enough, once we had settled, we could feel their presence. Only the fact that we might not get to see any turtles kept bothering us. The coastline of the bay was a few kilometres long and these turtles could turn up anywhere.
We just hoped for them to come, and to come somewhere close to us. It was still only about quarter past six. We knew we were in for a long haul and were prepared. Only the turtles had to come, and the sense of euphoria would get us through the night. We waited and talked among ourselves. A few of us went further ahead. After about fifteen minutes spent braving the mosquitoes, we could see torchlights flashing in the distance.
We paid scant attention as we thought it was too early to expect anything. After a few more minutes we could see one of the staff members rushing in our direction with the news that a turtle had been seen making its way beyond the shore to the sands. We rushed to the place with him leading the way. In the distance, we could surely make out something trudging in a straight line away from the shore beyond the high-tide level.
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We were electrified. All tiredness was swept away, and we rushed, one and all, towards the black mass making its way up the sandy beach. In the moonlight, it appeared as if a big black boulder, the size of a small car, was slowly moving up across the sands. We reached close and were elated to find that it was a giant Leatherback, about two and a half metres from the tip of its head to the end of its carapace. Others soon exclaimed that another one had come ashore a few feet away. And of these one and all I weave the song of myself.
I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,. Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,. Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,. One of the Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the largest the same,. A Southerner soon as a Northerner, a planter nonchalant and hospitable down by the Oconee I live,.
A Yankee bound my own way ready for trade, my joints the limberest joints on earth and the sternest joints on earth,. A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in my deer-skin leggings, a Louisianian or Georgian,. A boatman over lakes or bays or along coasts, a Hoosier, Badger, Buckeye;.
At home on Kanadian snow-shoes or up in the bush, or with fishermen off Newfoundland,. At home in the fleet of ice-boats, sailing with the rest and tacking,. At home on the hills of Vermont or in the woods of Maine, or the Texan ranch,. Comrade of Californians, comrade of free North-Westerners, loving their big proportions,.
Comrade of raftsmen and coalmen, comrade of all who shake hands and welcome to drink and meat,. A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the thoughtfullest,. A novice beginning yet experient of myriads of seasons,. Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion,. A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor, quaker,.
Prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician, priest. I resist any thing better than my own diversity,. The moth and the fish-eggs are in their place,. The bright suns I see and the dark suns I cannot see are in their place,. The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place. These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they are not original with me,.
If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or next to nothing,. If they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle they are nothing,. If they are not just as close as they are distant they are nothing. This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is,. With music strong I come, with my cornets and my drums,. Have you heard that it was good to gain the day? I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won.
I blow through my embouchures my loudest and gayest for them. And to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea! And to those themselves who sank in the sea! And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome heroes! And the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known! This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger,. It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous, I make appointments with all,. I will not have a single person slighted or left away,.
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited,. There shall be no difference between them and the rest. This is the press of a bashful hand, this the float and odor of hair,. This the touch of my lips to yours, this the murmur of yearning,. This the far-off depth and height reflecting my own face,.
This the thoughtful merge of myself, and the outlet again. Do you guess I have some intricate purpose? Well I have, for the Fourth-month showers have, and the mica on the side of a rock has. Does the daylight astonish? I might not tell everybody, but I will tell you. Who goes there? How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat? What is a man anyhow? All I mark as my own you shall offset it with your own,. I do not snivel that snivel the world over,. That months are vacuums and the ground but wallow and filth.
Why should I pray? I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones. In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn less,. And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them. To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow,. All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood,. I see that the elementary laws never apologize,. I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by, after all. If no other in the world be aware I sit content,. And if each and all be aware I sit content. One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,. And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or ten million years,. I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.
I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul,. The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me,. The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate into a new tongue. I am the poet of the woman the same as the man,. And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man,.
And I say there is nothing greater than the mother of men. We have had ducking and deprecating about enough,. Have you outstript the rest? It is a trifle, they will more than arrive there every one, and still pass on. I am he that walks with the tender and growing night,. I call to the earth and sea half-held by the night.
Night of south winds—night of the large few stars! Still nodding night—mad naked summer night. Earth of departed sunset—earth of the mountains misty-topt! Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon just tinged with blue! Earth of shine and dark mottling the tide of the river! Earth of the limpid gray of clouds brighter and clearer for my sake! Prodigal, you have given me love—therefore I to you give love! You sea! I resign myself to you also—I guess what you mean,. I behold from the beach your crooked inviting fingers,. I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me,.
We must have a turn together, I undress, hurry me out of sight of the land,. Cushion me soft, rock me in billowy drowse,. Sea breathing broad and convulsive breaths,. Howler and scooper of storms, capricious and dainty sea,. I am integral with you, I too am of one phase and of all phases. Partaker of influx and efflux I, extoller of hate and conciliation,.
Shall I make my list of things in the house and skip the house that supports them? I am not the poet of goodness only, I do not decline to be the poet of wickedness also. What blurt is this about virtue and about vice? Evil propels me and reform of evil propels me, I stand indifferent,.
Did you fear some scrofula out of the unflagging pregnancy? I find one side a balance and the antipodal side a balance,. Soft doctrine as steady help as stable doctrine,. Thoughts and deeds of the present our rouse and early start. This minute that comes to me over the past decillions,. What behaved well in the past or behaves well to-day is not such a wonder,. The wonder is always and always how there can be a mean man or an infidel. And mine a word of the modern, the word En-Masse.
Here or henceforward it is all the same to me, I accept Time absolutely. It alone is without flaw, it alone rounds and completes all,. That mystic baffling wonder alone completes all. Hurrah for positive science! Fetch stonecrop mixt with cedar and branches of lilac,. This is the lexicographer, this the chemist, this made a grammar of the old cartouches,. These mariners put the ship through dangerous unknown seas. This is the geologist, this works with the scalpel, and this is a mathematician.
Your facts are useful, and yet they are not my dwelling,. I but enter by them to an area of my dwelling. Less the reminders of properties told my words,. And more the reminders they of life untold, and of freedom and extrication,. And make short account of neuters and geldings, and favor men and women fully equipt,. And beat the gong of revolt, and stop with fugitives and them that plot and conspire.
Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son,. Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking and breeding,. No sentimentalist, no stander above men and women or apart from them,. Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs! And whatever is done or said returns at last to me. Through me the afflatus surging and surging, through me the current and index.
I speak the pass-word primeval, I give the sign of democracy,. By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms. Voices of the interminable generations of prisoners and slaves,. Voices of cycles of preparation and accretion,. And of the threads that connect the stars, and of wombs and of the father-stuff,. And of the rights of them the others are down upon,. Fog in the air, beetles rolling balls of dung. I keep as delicate around the bowels as around the head and heart,. Copulation is no more rank to me than death is. Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each part and tag of me is a miracle.
The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer,. This head more than churches, bibles, and all the creeds. If I worship one thing more than another it shall be the spread of my own body, or any part of it,. Whatever goes to the tilth of me it shall be you! You my rich blood!
Breast that presses against other breasts it shall be you! My brain it shall be your occult convolutions! Trickling sap of maple, fibre of manly wheat, it shall be you! Vapors lighting and shading my face it shall be you! You sweaty brooks and dews it shall be you! Winds whose soft-tickling genitals rub against me it shall be you! Broad muscular fields, branches of live oak, loving lounger in my winding paths, it shall be you!
I dote on myself, there is that lot of me and all so luscious,. Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy,. I cannot tell how my ankles bend, nor whence the cause of my faintest wish,. Nor the cause of the friendship I emit, nor the cause of the friendship I take again. That I walk up my stoop, I pause to consider if it really be,. A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books. The little light fades the immense and diaphanous shadows,. Hefts of the moving world at innocent gambols silently rising freshly exuding,.
Something I cannot see puts upward libidinous prongs,. The earth by the sky staid with, the daily close of their junction,. The mocking taunt, See then whether you shall be master! Dazzling and tremendous how quick the sun-rise would kill me,. If I could not now and always send sun-rise out of me.
We also ascend dazzling and tremendous as the sun,. We found our own O my soul in the calm and cool of the daybreak. My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach,. With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds and volumes of worlds. Speech is the twin of my vision, it is unequal to measure itself,. It provokes me forever, it says sarcastically,. Come now I will not be tantalized, you conceive too much of articulation,. Do you not know O speech how the buds beneath you are folded?
The dirt receding before my prophetical screams,.
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I underlying causes to balance them at last,. My knowledge my live parts, it keeping tally with the meaning of all things,. Happiness, which whoever hears me let him or her set out in search of this day. My final merit I refuse you, I refuse putting from me what I really am,. Encompass worlds, but never try to encompass me,. I crowd your sleekest and best by simply looking toward you. I carry the plenum of proof and every thing else in my face,.
With the hush of my lips I wholly confound the skeptic. To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute toward it. I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat, gossip of flames, clack of sticks cooking my meals,. I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice,. I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following,. Sounds of the city and sounds out of the city, sounds of the day and night,.
Talkative young ones to those that like them, the loud laugh of work-people at their meals,. The angry base of disjointed friendship, the faint tones of the sick,. The judge with hands tight to the desk, his pallid lips pronouncing a death-sentence,. The steam whistle, the solid roll of the train of approaching cars,. They go to guard some corpse, the flag-tops are draped with black muslin. It shakes mad-sweet pangs through my belly and breast. A tenor large and fresh as the creation fills me,.
The orbic flex of his mouth is pouring and filling me full. The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies,. I am cut by bitter and angry hail, I lose my breath,. At length let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles,.
Round and round we go, all of us, and ever come back thither,. I have instant conductors all over me whether I pass or stop,. They seize every object and lead it harmlessly through me. I merely stir, press, feel with my fingers, and am happy,. Is this then a touch? Flames and ether making a rush for my veins,.
Treacherous tip of me reaching and crowding to help them,. My flesh and blood playing out lightning to strike what is hardly different from myself,. On all sides prurient provokers stiffening my limbs,. Straining the udder of my heart for its withheld drip,. Behaving licentious toward me, taking no denial,.
Unbuttoning my clothes, holding me by the bare waist,. Deluding my confusion with the calm of the sunlight and pasture-fields,. They bribed to swap off with touch and go and graze at the edges of me,. No consideration, no regard for my draining strength or my anger,. Fetching the rest of the herd around to enjoy them a while,. Then all uniting to stand on a headland and worry me. The sentries desert every other part of me,. They have left me helpless to a red marauder,. They all come to the headland to witness and assist against me.
I talk wildly, I have lost my wits, I and nobody else am the greatest traitor,. I went myself first to the headland, my own hands carried me there. You villain touch! Unclench your floodgates, you are too much for me. Rich showering rain, and recompense richer afterward. Sprouts take and accumulate, stand by the curb prolific and vital,. Landscapes projected masculine, full-sized and golden.
They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,. They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon,. The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul. Only what proves itself to every man and woman is so,. I believe the soggy clods shall become lovers and lamps,. And a compend of compends is the meat of a man or woman,. And a summit and flower there is the feeling they have for each other,. And they are to branch boundlessly out of that lesson until it becomes omnific,. And until one and all shall delight us, and we them. I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars,.
And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg of the wren,. And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven,. And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery,. And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels. I find I incorporate gneiss, coal, long-threaded moss, fruits, grains, esculent roots,.
And have distanced what is behind me for good reasons,. But call any thing back again when I desire it. In vain the plutonic rocks send their old heat against my approach,. In vain objects stand leagues off and assume manifold shapes,. In vain the ocean settling in hollows and the great monsters lying low,. In vain the buzzard houses herself with the sky,. In vain the snake slides through the creepers and logs,. In vain the elk takes to the inner passes of the woods,. I follow quickly, I ascend to the nest in the fissure of the cliff. They do not sweat and whine about their condition,. They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,.
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,. Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,. Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,. Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth. So they show their relations to me and I accept them,. They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them plainly in their possession.
Did I pass that way huge times ago and negligently drop them? Myself moving forward then and now and forever,. Gathering and showing more always and with velocity,. Infinite and omnigenous, and the like of these among them,. Not too exclusive toward the reachers of my remembrancers,. Picking out here one that I love, and now go with him on brotherly terms.
A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and responsive to my caresses,. Head high in the forehead, wide between the ears,. Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground,. Eyes full of sparkling wickedness, ears finely cut, flexibly moving. His nostrils dilate as my heels embrace him,.
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His well-built limbs tremble with pleasure as we race around and return. I but use you a minute, then I resign you, stallion,. Why do I need your paces when I myself out-gallop them? Even as I stand or sit passing faster than you. Space and Time! My ties and ballasts leave me, my elbows rest in sea-gaps,. I skirt sierras, my palms cover continents,. Along the ruts of the turnpike, along the dry gulch and rivulet bed,. Weeding my onion-patch or hoeing rows of carrots and parsnips, crossing savannas, trailing in forests,.
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Prospecting, gold-digging, girdling the trees of a new purchase,. Where the panther walks to and fro on a limb overhead, where the buck turns furiously at the hunter,. Where the rattlesnake suns his flabby length on a rock, where the otter is feeding on fish,.
Where the alligator in his tough pimples sleeps by the bayou,. Where the black bear is searching for roots or honey, where the beaver pats the mud with his paddle-shaped tail;. Over the white and brown buckwheat, a hummer and buzzer there with the rest,. Over the dusky green of the rye as it ripples and shades in the breeze;.
Scaling mountains, pulling myself cautiously up, holding on by low scragged limbs,. Walking the path worn in the grass and beat through the leaves of the brush,. Where the quail is whistling betwixt the woods and the wheat-lot,. Where the bat flies in the Seventh-month eve, where the great gold-bug drops through the dark,. Where the brook puts out of the roots of the old tree and flows to the meadow,. Where cattle stand and shake away flies with the tremulous shuddering of their hides,.
Where the cheese-cloth hangs in the kitchen, where andirons straddle the hearth-slab, where cobwebs fall in festoons from the rafters;. Where trip-hammers crash, where the press is whirling its cylinders,. Wherever the human heart beats with terrible throes under its ribs,. Where the pear-shaped balloon is floating aloft, floating in it myself and looking composedly down,. Where the life-car is drawn on the slip-noose, where the heat hatches pale-green eggs in the dented sand,. Where the she-whale swims with her calf and never forsakes it,.
Where the steam-ship trails hind-ways its long pennant of smoke,. Where the fin of the shark cuts like a black chip out of the water,. Where shells grow to her slimy deck, where the dead are corrupting below;. Approaching Manhattan up by the long-stretching island,. Under Niagara, the cataract falling like a veil over my countenance,. Upon a door-step, upon the horse-block of hard wood outside,. Upon the race-course, or enjoying picnics or jigs or a good game of base-ball,. At he-festivals, with blackguard gibes, ironical license, bull-dances, drinking, laughter,. At the cider-mill tasting the sweets of the brown mash, sucking the juice through a straw,.
At apple-peelings wanting kisses for all the red fruit I find,. At musters, beach-parties, friendly bees, huskings, house-raisings;. Where the mocking-bird sounds his delicious gurgles, cackles, screams, weeps,. Where the bull advances to do his masculine work, where the stud to the mare, where the cock is treading the hen,. Where the heifers browse, where geese nip their food with short jerks,. Where sun-down shadows lengthen over the limitless and lonesome prairie,. Where herds of buffalo make a crawling spread of the square miles far and near,.
Where the humming-bird shimmers, where the neck of the long-lived swan is curving and winding,. Where the laughing-gull scoots by the shore, where she laughs her near-human laugh,. Where bee-hives range on a gray bench in the garden half hid by the high weeds,. Where winter wolves bark amid wastes of snow and icicled trees,. Where the splash of swimmers and divers cools the warm noon,. Where the katy-did works her chromatic reed on the walnut-tree over the well,.
Through patches of citrons and cucumbers with silver-wired leaves,. Through the salt-lick or orange glade, or under conical firs,. Looking in at the shop-windows of Broadway the whole forenoon, flatting the flesh of my nose on the thick plate glass,. My right and left arms round the sides of two friends, and I in the middle;. By the cot in the hospital reaching lemonade to a feverish patient,. Voyaging to every port to dicker and adventure,. Hurrying with the modern crowd as eager and fickle as any,.
Hot toward one I hate, ready in my madness to knife him,. Solitary at midnight in my back yard, my thoughts gone from me a long while,. Speeding through space, speeding through heaven and the stars,. Speeding amid the seven satellites and the broad ring, and the diameter of eighty thousand miles,. Carrying the crescent child that carries its own full mother in its belly,.
Storming, enjoying, planning, loving, cautioning,. Backing and filling, appearing and disappearing,. I visit the orchards of spheres and look at the product,. I fly those flights of a fluid and swallowing soul,. My course runs below the soundings of plummets. No guard can shut me off, no law prevent me. My messengers continually cruise away or bring their returns to me. I go hunting polar furs and the seal, leaping chasms with a pike-pointed staff, clinging to topples of brittle and blue.
We sail the arctic sea, it is plenty light enough,. Through the clear atmosphere I stretch around on the wonderful beauty,. The enormous masses of ice pass me and I pass them, the scenery is plain in all directions,. The white-topt mountains show in the distance, I fling out my fancies toward them,.
We are approaching some great battle-field in which we are soon to be engaged,. We pass the colossal outposts of the encampment, we pass with still feet and caution,. The blocks and fallen architecture more than all the living cities of the globe. I am a free companion, I bivouac by invading watchfires,. I turn the bridegroom out of bed and stay with the bride myself,. I tighten her all night to my thighs and lips. The courage of present times and all times,.
How the skipper saw the crowded and rudderless wreck of the steam-ship, and Death chasing it up and down the storm,. How he knuckled tight and gave not back an inch, and was faithful of days and faithful of nights,. All this I swallow, it tastes good, I like it well, it becomes mine,. The twinges that sting like needles his legs and neck, the murderous buckshot and the bullets,. I am the hounded slave, I wince at the bite of the dogs,. Hell and despair are upon me, crack and again crack the marksmen,. The riders spur their unwilling horses, haul close,.
Taunt my dizzy ears and beat me violently over the head with whip-stocks. I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person,. My hurts turn livid upon me as I lean on a cane and observe. Heat and smoke I inspired, I heard the yelling shouts of my comrades,.
I heard the distant click of their picks and shovels,. I lie in the night air in my red shirt, the pervading hush is for my sake,. Painless after all I lie exhausted but not so unhappy,.
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White and beautiful are the faces around me, the heads are bared of their fire-caps,. The kneeling crowd fades with the light of the torches. They show as the dial or move as the hands of me, I am the clock myself. Again to my listening ears the cannon responsive. The ambulanza slowly passing trailing its red drip,. Workmen searching after damages, making indispensable repairs,.
The fall of grenades through the rent roof, the fan-shaped explosion,. The whizz of limbs, heads, stone, wood, iron, high in the air. Again gurgles the mouth of my dying general, he furiously waves with his hand,. He gasps through the clot Mind not me—mind—the entrenchments.
Now I tell what I knew in Texas in my early youth,. The hundred and fifty are dumb yet at Alamo,. Their colonel was wounded and their ammunition gone,. They were the glory of the race of rangers,. Matchless with horse, rifle, song, supper, courtship,. Large, turbulent, generous, handsome, proud, and affectionate,. Bearded, sunburnt, drest in the free costume of hunters,. The second First-day morning they were brought out in squads and massacred, it was beautiful early summer,.
Some made a mad and helpless rush, some stood stark and straight,. A few fell at once, shot in the temple or heart, the living and dead lay together,. That is the tale of the murder of the four hundred and twelve young men. Would you learn who won by the light of the moon and stars? Our foe was no skulk in his ship I tell you, said he,. His was the surly English pluck, and there is no tougher or truer, and never was, and never will be;. On our lower-gun-deck two large pieces had burst at the first fire, killing all around and blowing up overhead.
The master-at-arms loosing the prisoners confined in the after-hold to give them a chance for themselves. The transit to and from the magazine is now stopt by the sentinels,. They see so many strange faces they do not know whom to trust. If our colors are struck and the fighting done? Now I laugh content, for I hear the voice of my little captain,.
We have not struck, he composedly cries, we have just begun our part of the fighting. The tops alone second the fire of this little battery, especially the main-top,. They hold out bravely during the whole of the action. The leaks gain fast on the pumps, the fire eats toward the powder-magazine. One of the pumps has been shot away, it is generally thought we are sinking.
He is not hurried, his voice is neither high nor low,. His eyes give more light to us than our battle-lanterns. Toward twelve there in the beams of the moon they surrender to us. Two great hulls motionless on the breast of the darkness,. The captain on the quarter-deck coldly giving his orders through a countenance white as a sheet,. The flames spite of all that can be done flickering aloft and below,. The husky voices of the two or three officers yet fit for duty,. Formless stacks of bodies and bodies by themselves, dabs of flesh upon the masts and spars,. Cut of cordage, dangle of rigging, slight shock of the soothe of waves,.
Black and impassive guns, litter of powder-parcels, strong scent,. A few large stars overhead, silent and mournful shining,. Delicate sniffs of sea-breeze, smells of sedgy grass and fields by the shore, death-messages given in charge to survivors,. Wheeze, cluck, swash of falling blood, short wild scream, and long, dull, tapering groan,.
You laggards there on guard! See myself in prison shaped like another man,. For me the keepers of convicts shoulder their carbines and keep watch,. I am less the jolly one there, and more the silent one with sweat on my twitching lips. Not a youngster is taken for larceny but I go up too, and am tried and sentenced. Not a cholera patient lies at the last gasp but I also lie at the last gasp,. Askers embody themselves in me and I am embodied in them,.
I project my hat, sit shame-faced, and beg. I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake. That I could forget the mockers and insults! That I could forget the trickling tears and the blows of the bludgeons and hammers! That I could look with a separate look on my own crucifixion and bloody crowning.
The grave of rock multiplies what has been confided to it, or to any graves,. Corpses rise, gashes heal, fastenings roll from me. Inland and sea-coast we go, and pass all boundary lines,. Our swift ordinances on their way over the whole earth,. The blossoms we wear in our hats the growth of thousands of years. Continue your annotations, continue your questionings. The friendly and flowing savage, who is he? Is he waiting for civilization, or past it and mastering it?
Is he from the Mississippi country? Iowa, Oregon, California? The mountains? Wherever he goes men and women accept and desire him,. They desire he should like them, touch them, speak to them, stay with them. Slow-stepping feet, common features, common modes and emanations,. They descend in new forms from the tips of his fingers,. They are wafted with the odor of his body or breath, they fly out of the glance of his eyes.
Flaunt of the sunshine I need not your bask—lie over! You light surfaces only, I force surfaces and depths also. Man or woman, I might tell how I like you, but cannot,. And might tell what it is in me and what it is in you, but cannot,. And might tell that pining I have, that pulse of my nights and days. Behold, I do not give lectures or a little charity,. Spread your palms and lift the flaps of your pockets,.
I am not to be denied, I compel, I have stores plenty and to spare,. I do not ask who you are, that is not important to me,. You can do nothing and be nothing but what I will infold you. To cotton-field drudge or cleaner of privies I lean,. And in my soul I swear I never will deny him. On women fit for conception I start bigger and nimbler babes. This day I am jetting the stuff of far more arrogant republics. To any one dying, thither I speed and twist the knob of the door. Turn the bed-clothes toward the foot of the bed,. I seize the descending man and raise him with resistless will,.
By God, you shall not go down! I dilate you with tremendous breath, I buoy you up,. Not doubt, not decease shall dare to lay finger upon you,. I have embraced you, and henceforth possess you to myself,. And when you rise in the morning you will find what I tell you is so. I am he bringing help for the sick as they pant on their backs,. And for strong upright men I bring yet more needed help. Heard it and heard it of several thousand years;. It is middling well as far as it goes—but is that all?
Outbidding at the start the old cautious hucksters,. Taking myself the exact dimensions of Jehovah,. Lithographing Kronos, Zeus his son, and Hercules his grandson,. In my portfolio placing Manito loose, Allah on a leaf, the crucifix engraved,. With Odin and the hideous-faced Mexitli and every idol and image,.
Taking them all for what they are worth and not a cent more,. Admitting they were alive and did the work of their days,. Accepting the rough deific sketches to fill out better in myself, bestowing them freely on each man and woman I see,. Discovering as much or more in a framer framing a house,.
Not objecting to special revelations, considering a curl of smoke or a hair on the back of my hand just as curious as any revelation,. Lads ahold of fire-engines and hook-and-ladder ropes no less to me than the gods of the antique wars,. Minding their voices peal through the crash of destruction,. Selling all he possesses, traveling on foot to fee lawyers for his brother and sit by him while he is tried for forgery;. What was strewn in the amplest strewing the square rod about me, and not filling the square rod then,.
The supernatural of no account, myself waiting my time to be one of the supremes,. The day getting ready for me when I shall do as much good as the best, and be as prodigious;. By my life-lumps! Come my boys and girls, my women, household and intimates,. Folks are around me, but they are no household of mine. Ever the eaters and drinkers, ever the upward and downward sun, ever the air and the ceaseless tides,.
Ever myself and my neighbors, refreshing, wicked, real,. Ever love, ever the sobbing liquid of life,. Ever the bandage under the chin, ever the trestles of death. Here and there with dimes on the eyes walking,. To feed the greed of the belly the brains liberally spooning,.
Tickets buying, taking, selling, but in to the feast never once going,. Many sweating, ploughing, thrashing, and then the chaff for payment receiving,. A few idly owning, and they the wheat continually claiming. This is the city and I am one of the citizens,. Whatever interests the rest interests me, politics, wars, markets, newspapers, schools,.