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Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Leaves of Grass. 1900.

3. In Cabin’d Ships at Sea


IN cabin’d ships, at sea,

The boundless blue on every side expanding,

With whistling winds and music of the waves—the large imperious waves—In such,

Or some lone bark, buoy’d on the dense marine,

Where, joyous, full of faith, spreading white sails,

She cleaves the ether, mid the sparkle and the foam of day, or under many a star at night,

By sailors young and old, haply will I, a reminiscence of the land, be read,

In full rapport at last.


Here are our thoughts—voyagers’ thoughts,

Here not the land, firm land, alone appears, may then by them be said;

The sky o’erarches here—we feel the undulating deck beneath our feet,

We feel the long pulsation—ebb and flow of endless motion;

The tones of unseen mystery—the vague and vast suggestions of the briny world—the liquid-flowing syllables,

The perfume, the faint creaking of the cordage, the melancholy rhythm,

The boundless vista, and the horizon far and dim, are all here,

And this is Ocean’s poem.


Then falter not, O book! fulfil your destiny!

You, not a reminiscence of the land alone,

You too, as a lone bark, cleaving the ether—purpos’d I know

not whither—yet ever full of faith,

Consort to every ship that sails—sail you!

Bear forth to them, folded, my love—(Dear mariners! for you I fold it here, in every leaf;)

Speed on, my Book! spread your white sails, my little bark, athwart the imperious waves!

Chant on—sail on—bear o’er the boundless blue, from me, to every shore,

This song for mariners and all their ships.