1 TO think of timeâ€”of all that retrospection! To think of to-day, and the ages continued henceforward!
Have you guessâ€™d you yourself would not continue? Have you dreaded these earth-beetles? Have you fearâ€™d the future would be nothing to you?
Is to-day nothing? Is the beginningless past nothing? If the future is nothing, they are just as surely nothing.
To think that the sun rose in the east! that men and women were flexible, real, alive! that everything was alive! To think that you and I did not see, feel, think, nor bear our part! To think that we are now here, and bear our part!
2 Not a day passesâ€”not a minute or second, without an accouchement! Not a day passesâ€”not a minute or second, without a corpse!
The dull nights go over, and the dull days also, The soreness of lying so much in bed goes over, The physician, after long putting off, gives the silent and terrible look for an answer, The children come hurried and weeping, and the brothers and sisters are sent for, Medicines stand unused on the shelfâ€”(the camphor-smell has long pervaded the rooms,) The faithful hand of the living does not desert the hand of the dying, The twitching lips press lightly on the forehead of the dying, The breath ceases, and the pulse of the heart ceases, The corpse stretches on the bed, and the living look upon it, It is palpable as the living are palpable.
The living look upon the corpse with their eye-sight, But without eye-sight lingers a different living, and looks curiously on the corpse.
3 To think the thought of Death, merged in the thought of materials! To think that the rivers will flow, and the snow fall, and fruits ripen, and act upon others as upon us nowâ€”yet not act upon us! To think of all these wonders of city and country, and others taking great interest in themâ€”and we taking no interest in them!
To think how eager we are in building our houses! To think others shall be just as eager, and we quite indifferent!
(I see one building the house that serves him a few years, or seventy or eighty years at most, I see one building the house that serves him longer than that.)
Slow-moving and black lines creep over the whole earthâ€”they never ceaseâ€”they are the burial lines, He that was President was buried, and he that is now President shall surely be buried.
4 A reminiscence of the vulgar fate, A frequent sample of the life and death of workmen, Each after his kind: Cold dash of waves at the ferry-wharfâ€”posh and ice in the river, half-frozen mud in the streets, a gray, discouraged sky overhead, the short, last daylight of Twelfth-month, A hearse and stagesâ€”other vehicles give placeâ€”the funeral of an old Broadway stage-driver, the cortege mostly drivers.
Steady the trot to the cemetery, duly rattles the death-bell, the gate is passâ€™d, the new-dug grave is halted at, the living alight, the hearse uncloses, The coffin is passâ€™d out, lowerâ€™d and settled, the whip is laid on the coffin, the earth is swiftly shovelâ€™d in, The mound above is flatted with the spadesâ€”silence, A minuteâ€”no one moves or speaksâ€”it is done, He is decently put awayâ€”is there anything more?
He was a good fellow, free-mouthâ€™d, quick-temperâ€™d, not bad-looking, able to take his own part, witty, sensitive to a slight, ready with life or death for a friend, fond of women, gambled, ate hearty, drank hearty, had known what it was to be flush, grew low-spirited toward the last, sickenâ€™d, was helpâ€™d by a contribution, died, aged forty-one yearsâ€”and that was his funeral.
Thumb extended, finger uplifted, apron, cape, gloves, strap, wet-weather clothes, whip carefully chosen, boss, spotter, starter, hostler, somebody loafing on you, you loafing on somebody, headway, man before and man behind, good dayâ€™s work, bad dayâ€™s work, pet stock, mean stock, first out, last out, turning-in at night; To think that these are so much and so nigh to other driversâ€”and he there takes no interest in them!
5 The markets, the government, the working-manâ€™s wagesâ€”to think what account they are through our nights and days! To think that other working-men will make just as great account of themâ€”yet we make little or no account!
The vulgar and the refinedâ€”what you call sin, and what you call goodnessâ€”to think how wide a difference! To think the difference will still continue to others, yet we lie beyond the difference.
To think how much pleasure there is! Have you pleasure from looking at the sky? have you pleasure from poems? Do you enjoy yourself in the city? or engaged in business? or planning a nomination and election? or with your wife and family? Or with your mother and sisters? or in womanly housework? or the beautiful maternal cares?
â€”These also flow onward to othersâ€”you and I flow onward, But in due time, you and I shall take less interest in them.
Your farm, profits, crops,â€”to think how engrossâ€™d you are! To think there will still be farms, profits, cropsâ€”yet for you, of what avail?
6 What will be, will be wellâ€”for what is, is well, To take interest is well, and not to take interest shall be well.
The sky continues beautiful, The pleasure of men with women shall never be sated, nor the pleasure of women with men, nor the pleasure from poems, The domestic joys, the daily housework or business, the building of housesâ€”these are not phantasmsâ€”they have weight, form, location; Farms, profits, crops, markets, wages, government, are none of them phantasms, The difference between sin and goodness is no delusion, The earth is not an echoâ€”man and his life, and all the things of his life, are well-considerâ€™d.
You are not thrown to the windsâ€”you gather certainly and safely around yourself; Yourself! Yourself! Yourself, forever and ever!
7 It is not to diffuse you that you were born of your mother and fatherâ€”it is to identify you; It is not that you should be undecided, but that you should be decided; Something long preparing and formless is arrived and formâ€™d in you, You are henceforth secure, whatever comes or goes.
The threads that were spun are gatherâ€™d, the weft crosses the warp, the pattern is systematic.
The preparations have every one been justified, The orchestra have sufficiently tuned their instrumentsâ€”the baton has given the signal.
The guest that was comingâ€”he waited long, for reasonsâ€”he is now housed, He is one of those who are beautiful and happyâ€”he is one of those that to look upon and be with is enough.
The law of the past cannot be eluded, The law of the present and future cannot be eluded, The law of the living cannot be eludedâ€”it is eternal, The law of promotion and transformation cannot be eluded, The law of heroes and good-doers cannot be eluded, The law of drunkards, informers, mean personsâ€”not one iota thereof can be eluded.
8 Slow moving and black lines go ceaselessly over the earth, Northerner goes carried, and Southerner goes carried, and they on the Atlantic side, and they on the Pacific, and they between, and all through the Mississippi country, and all over the earth.
The great masters and kosmos are well as they goâ€”the heroes and good-doers are well, The known leaders and inventors, and the rich owners and pious and distinguishâ€™d, may be well, But there is more account than thatâ€”there is strict account of all.
The interminable hordes of the ignorant and wicked are not nothing, The barbarians of Africa and Asia are not nothing, The common people of Europe are not nothingâ€”the American aborigines are not nothing, The infected in the immigrant hospital are not nothingâ€”the murderer or mean person is not nothing, The perpetual successions of shallow people are not nothing as they go, The lowest prostitute is not nothingâ€”the mocker of religion is not nothing as he goes.
9 Of and in all these things, I have dreamâ€™d that we are not to be changed so much, nor the law of us changed, I have dreamâ€™d that heroes and good-doers shall be under the present and past law, And that murderers, drunkards, liars, shall be under the present and past law, For I have dreamâ€™d that the law they are under now is enough.
If otherwise, all came but to ashes of dung, If maggots and rats ended us, then Alarum! for we are betrayâ€™d! Then indeed suspicion of death.
Do you suspect death? If I were to suspect death, I should die now, Do you think I could walk pleasantly and well-suited toward annihilation?
10 Pleasantly and well-suited I walk, Whither I walk I cannot define, but I know it is good, The whole universe indicates that it is good, The past and the present indicate that it is good.
How beautiful and perfect are the animals! How perfect the earth, and the minutest thing upon it!
What is called good is perfect, and what is called bad is just as perfect, The vegetables and minerals are all perfect, and the imponderable fluids are perfect; Slowly and surely they have passâ€™d on to this, and slowly and surely they yet pass on.
11 I swear I think now that everything without exception has an eternal Soul! The trees have, rooted in the ground! the weeds of the sea have! the animals!
I swear I think there is nothing but immortality! That the exquisite scheme is for it, and the nebulous float is for it, and the cohering is for it; And all preparation is for it! and identity is for it! and life and materials are altogether for it