1 FIRST, O songs, for a prelude, Lightly strike on the stretchâ€™d tympanum, pride and joy in my city, How she led the rest to armsâ€”how 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.
2 Forty years had I in my city seen soldiers parading; Forty years as a pageantâ€”till unawares, the Lady of this teeming and turbulent city, Sleepless amid her ships, her houses, her incalculable wealth, With her million children around herâ€”suddenly, At dead of night, at news from the south, Incensâ€™d, struck with clenchâ€™d hand the pavement.
A shock electricâ€”the night sustainâ€™d it; Till with ominous hum, our hive at day-break pourâ€™d out its myriads.
From the houses then, and the workshops, and through all the doorways, Leapt they tumultuousâ€”and lo! Manhattan arming.
3 To the drum-taps prompt, The young men falling in and arming; The mechanics arming, (the trowel, the jack-plane, the blacksmithâ€™s hammer, tost aside with precipitation;) The lawyer leaving his office, and armingâ€”the judge leaving the court; The driver deserting his wagon in the street, jumping down, throwing the reins abruptly down on the horsesâ€™ backs; The salesman leaving the storeâ€”the boss, book-keeper, porter, all leaving; Squads gather everywhere by common consent, and arm; The new recruits, even boysâ€”the old men show them how to wear their accoutrementsâ€”they buckle the straps carefully; Outdoors armingâ€”indoors armingâ€”the flash of the musket-barrels; The white tents cluster in campsâ€”the armâ€™d sentries aroundâ€”the sunrise cannon, and again at sunset; Armâ€™d 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 shoulders! How I love them! how I could hug them, with their brown faces, and their clothes and knapsacks coverâ€™d with dust!) The blood of the city upâ€”armâ€™d! armâ€™d! the cry everywhere; The flags flung out from the steeples of churches, and from all the public buildings and stores; The tearful partingâ€”the mother kisses her sonâ€”the son kisses his mother; (Loth is the mother to partâ€”yet not a word does she speak to detain him;) The tumultuous escortâ€”the ranks of policemen preceding, clearing the way; The unpent enthusiasmâ€”the wild cheers of the crowd for their favorites; The artilleryâ€”the silent cannons, bright as gold, drawn along, rumble lightly over the stones; (Silent cannonsâ€”soon to cease your silence! Soon, unlimberâ€™d, to begin the red business;) All the mutter of preparationâ€”all the determinâ€™d arming; The hospital serviceâ€”the lint, bandages, and medicines; The women volunteering for nursesâ€”the work begun for, in earnestâ€”no mere parade now; War! an armâ€™d race is advancing!â€”the welcome for battleâ€”no turning away; War! be it weeks, months, or yearsâ€”an armâ€™d race is advancing to welcome it.
4 Mannahatta a-march!â€”and itâ€™s O to sing it well! Itâ€™s O for a manly life in the camp! And the sturdy artillery! The guns, bright as goldâ€”the work for giantsâ€”to 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.
5 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 frownâ€™d amid all your children; But now you smile with joy, exulting old Mannahatta!