1 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, stretchâ€™d and still! How quiet they breathe, the little children in their cradles!
The married couple sleep calmly in their bedâ€”he with his palm on the hip of the wife, and she 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 prisonâ€”the run-away son sleeps; The murderer that is to be hung next dayâ€”how does he sleep? And the murderâ€™d personâ€”how 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 dispositionsâ€”all, all sleep.
2 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 bedsâ€”they fitfully sleep.
Now I pierce the darknessâ€”new 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 bedsideâ€”I 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.
3 I am a danceâ€”Play up, there! the fit is whirling me fast!
I am the ever-laughingâ€”it is new moon and twilight, I see the hiding of douceursâ€”I 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 stretchâ€™d arms, and resume the way; Onward we move! a gay gang of blackguards! with mirth-shouting music, and wild-flapping pennants of joy!
4 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-formâ€™d person, the wasted or feeble person.
5 I am she who adornâ€™d 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 tooâ€”he will not let me go without him.
I roll myself upon you, as upon a bedâ€”I resign myself to the dusk.
6 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 loverâ€”his 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 touchâ€™d me? I thought my lover had gone, else darkness and he are one, I hear the heart-beatâ€”I follow, I fade away.
7 O hot-cheekâ€™d and blushing! O foolish hectic! O for pityâ€™s 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 lookâ€™d from the windows! Pier out from the main, let me catch myself with you, and stayâ€”I will not chafe you, I feel ashamed to go naked about the world.
I am curious to know where my feet standâ€”and what this is flooding me, childhood or manhoodâ€”and the hunger that crosses the bridge between.
8 The cloth laps a first sweet eating and drinking, Laps life-swelling yolksâ€”laps ear of rose-corn, milky and just ripenâ€™d; The white teeth stay, and the boss-tooth advances in darkness, And liquor is spillâ€™d on lips and bosoms by touching glasses, and the best liquor afterward.
9 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 womanâ€™s, I sit low in a straw-bottom chair, and carefully darn my grandsonâ€™s 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 shroudâ€”I wrap a body, and lie in the coffin, It is dark here under groundâ€”it is not evil or pain hereâ€”it is blank here, for reasons.
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.
10 I see a beautiful gigantic swimmer, swimming naked through the eddies of the sea, His brown hair lies close and even to his headâ€”he strikes out with courageous armsâ€”he urges himself with his legs, I see his white bodyâ€”I 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, bangâ€™d, bruisâ€™dâ€”he holds out while his strength holds out, The slapping eddies are spotted with his bloodâ€”they bear him awayâ€”they roll him, swing him, turn him, His beautiful body is borne in the circling eddies, it is continually bruisâ€™d on rocks, Swiftly and out of sight is borne the brave corpse.
11 I turn, but do not extricate myself, Confused, a past-reading, another, but with darkness yet.
The beach is cut by the razory ice-windâ€”the wreck-guns sound, The tempest lullsâ€”the moon comes floundering through the drifts.
I look where the ship helplessly heads end onâ€”I hear the burst as she strikesâ€”I hear the howls of dismayâ€”they 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 crowdâ€”not one of the company is washâ€™d to us alive; In the morning I help pick up the dead and lay them in rows in a barn.
12 Now of the older war-days, the defeat at Brooklyn, Washington stands inside the linesâ€”he stands on the intrenchâ€™d hills, amid a crowd of officers, His face is cold and dampâ€”he cannot repress the weeping drops, He lifts the glass perpetually to his eyesâ€”the color is blanchâ€™d from his cheeks, 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 tavernâ€”the well-belovâ€™d soldiers all pass through, 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 anotherâ€”he shakes hands, and bids good-by to the army.
13 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-envelopâ€™d her face, Her step was free and elastic, and her voice sounded exquisitely as she spoke.
My mother lookâ€™d in delight and amazement at the stranger, She lookâ€™d at the freshness of her tall-borne face, and full and pliant limbs, The more she lookâ€™d 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 fireplaceâ€”she cookâ€™d food for her, 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 away, O my mother was loth to have her go away! All the week she thought of herâ€”she watchâ€™d for her many a month, She rememberâ€™d her many a winter and many a summer, But the red squaw never came, nor was heard of there again.
14 Now Lucifer was not deadâ€”or if he was, I am his sorrowful terrible heir; I have been wrongâ€™dâ€”I am oppressâ€™dâ€”I 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 whaleâ€™s bulk, it seems mine; Warily, sportsman! though I lie so sleepy and sluggish, the tap of my flukes is death.
15 A show of the summer softness! a contact of something unseen! an amour of the light and air! I am jealous, and overwhelmâ€™d 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 dreamsâ€”the farmer goes with his thrift, The droves and crops increase, and the barns are well-fillâ€™d.
16 Elements merge in the nightâ€”ships make tacks in the dreams, The sailor sailsâ€”the exile returns home, The fugitive returns unharmâ€™dâ€”the immigrant is back beyond months and years, The poor Irishman lives in the simple house of his childhood, with the well-known neighbors and faces, They warmly welcome himâ€”he is barefoot again, he forgets he is well off; The Dutchman voyages home, and the Scotchman and Welshman voyage home, and the native of the Mediterranean voyages home, To every port of England, France, Spain, enter well-fillâ€™d ships, The Swiss foots it toward his hillsâ€”the Prussian goes his way, the Hungarian his way, and the Pole his way, The Swede returns, and the Dane and Norwegian return.
I swear they are all beautiful; Every one that sleeps is beautifulâ€”everything in the dim light is beautiful, The wildest and bloodiest is over, and all is peace.
18 Peace is always beautiful, The myth of heaven indicates peace and night.
The myth of heaven indicates the Soul; The Soul is always beautifulâ€”it appears more or it appears lessâ€”it comes, or it lags behind, It comes from its embowerâ€™d garden, and looks pleasantly on itself, and encloses the world, Perfect and clean the genitals previously jetting, and perfect and clean the womb cohering, The head well-grown, proportionâ€™d and plumb, and the bowels and joints proportionâ€™d and plumb.
19 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 long, and the drunkard himself waits long, The sleepers that lived and died waitâ€”the far advanced are to go on in their turns, and the far behind are to come on in their turns, The diverse shall be no less diverse, but they shall flow and uniteâ€”they unite now.
20 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 handâ€”the European and American are hand in hand, Learnâ€™d and unlearnâ€™d are hand in hand, and male and female are hand in hand, The bare arm of the girl crosses the bare breast of her loverâ€”they press close without lustâ€”his lips press her neck, The father holds his grown or ungrown son in his arms with measureless love, and the son holds the 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 inarmâ€™d by friend, The scholar kisses the teacher, and the teacher kisses the scholarâ€”the wrongâ€™d is made right, The call of the slave is one with the masterâ€™s call, and the master salutes the slave, The felon steps forth from the prisonâ€”the insane becomes saneâ€”the suffering of sick persons is relievâ€™d, The sweatings and fevers stopâ€”the throat that was unsound is soundâ€”the lungs of the consumptive are resumedâ€”the poor distressâ€™d head is free, The joints of the rheumatic move as smoothly as ever, and smoother than ever, Stiflings and passages openâ€”the paralyzed become supple, The swellâ€™d and convulsâ€™d and congested awake to themselves in condition, They pass the invigoration of the night, and the chemistry of the night, and awake.
21 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 afraidâ€”I 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 youâ€”but I know I came well, and 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.