Gavriíl Derzhávin (1743-1816)
I have built a monument, marvellous, eternal,
higher than the Pyramids, harder than metal,
fierce gales and thunder will not shatter it,
nor will the flight of time erode it.
So – not all of me will die; the finer part
will cheat death, free from all decay,
my fame will grow, and never fade,
wherever the Slavic race is honoured.
Word of me will pass from White Sea to Black,
where Neva, Volga, Don, and Ural rivers flow,
and among the countless peoples all will know,
how I travelled from obscurity to fame,
the first to venture in our Russian tongue
to celebrate aloud Felitsa’s virtues,
to speak with warm simplicity of God,
and with a smile utter truth to princes.
O Muse! Take pride in your hard-won reward,
scorn all those who show scorn for you;
and with untroubled and unhurried hand,
crown your forehead with eternal Dawn.
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
The Return of the Heroes
For the lands, and for these passionate days, and for myself,
Now I awhile return to thee, O soil of autumn fields,
Reclining on thy breast, giving myself to thee,
Answering the pulses of thy sane and equable heart,
Tuning a verse for thee.
O Earth, that hast no voice, confide to me a voice,
O harvest of my lands—O boundless Summer growths!
O lavish brown parturient earth—O infinite, teeming womb.
A song to narrate thee.
Ever upon this stage,
Is acted God’s calm, annual drama,
Gorgeous processions, songs of birds,
Sunrise that fullest feeds and freshens most the soul,
The heaving sea, the waves upon the shore, the musical, strong waves,
The woods, the stalwart trees, the slender, tapering trees,
The lilliput countless armies of the grass,
The heat, the showers, the measureless pasturages,
The scenery of the snows, the wind’s free orchestra,
The stretching, light-hung roof of clouds, the clear cerulean and the silvery fringes,
The high dilating stars, the placid beckoning stars,
The shows of all the varied soils, and all the growths and products,
The moving flocks and herds, the plains and emerald meadows,
The shows of all the varied lands and all the growths and products.
Thou art all over set in births and joys!
Thou groan’st with riches! thy wealth clothes thee as a swathing garment,
Thou laughest loud with ache of great possessions,
A myriad-twining life, like interlacing vines, binds all thy vast demesne,
As some huge ship freighted to water’s edge thou ridest into port,
As rain falls from the heaven, and vapors rise from the earth, so have the precious values fallen upon thee, and risen out of thee;
Thou envy of the globe! thou miracle!
Thou, bathed, choked, swimming in plenty,
Thou lucky Mistress of the tranquil barns,
Thou Prairie Dame that sittest in the middle and lookest out upon thy world, and lookest East, and lookest West,
Dispensatress, that by a word givest a thousand miles, a million farms, and missest nothing,
Thou all-acceptress—thou hospitable, (thou only art hospitable as God is hospitable.)
When late I sang sad was my voice;
Sad were the shows around me with deafening noises of hatred and smoke of war;
In the midst of the conflict, the heroes, I stood,
Or pass’d with slow step through the wounded and dying.
But now I sing not War,
Nor the measur’d march of soldiers, nor the tents of camps,
Nor the regiments hastily coming up, deploying in line of battle;
No more the sad, unnatural shows of war.
Ask’d room those flush’d immortal ranks, the first forth-stepping armies?
Ask room alas the ghastly ranks—the armies dread that follow’d.
(Pass—pass, ye proud brigades, with your tramping, sinewy legs,
With your shoulders young and strong, with your knapsacks and your muskets;
How elate I stood and watch’d you, where starting off you march’d.
Pass;—then rattle drums again,
For an army heaves in sight, O another gathering army,
Swarming, trailing on the rear, O you dread accruing army,
O you regiments so piteous, with your mortal diarrhea, with your fever,
O my land’s maimed darlings, with the plenteous bloody bandage and the crutch,
Lo, your pallid army follows.)
But on these days of brightness,
On the far-stretching beauteous landscape, the roads and lanes, the high-piled farm-wagons, and the fruits and barns,
Should the dead intrude?
Ah the dead to me mar not, they fit well in Nature,
They fit very well in the landscape under the trees and grass,
And along the edge of the sky in the horizon’s far margin.
Nor do I forget you Departed;
Nor in winter or summer my lost ones,
But most in the open air as now when my soul is rapt and at peace, like pleasing phantoms,
Your memories rising glide silently by me.
I saw the day the return of the heroes;
(Yet the heroes never surpass’d shall never return,
Them that day I saw not.)
I saw the interminable corps, I saw the processions of armies,
I saw them approaching, defiling by with divisions,
Streaming northward, their work done, camping awhile in clusters of mighty camps.
No holiday soldiers—youthful, yet veterans,
Worn, swart, handsome, strong, of the stock of homestead and workshop,
Harden’d of many a long campaign and sweaty march,
Inured on many a hard-fought bloody field.
A pause—the armies wait,
A million flush’d embattled conquerors wait,
The world too waits, then soft as breaking night and sure as dawn,
They melt, they disappear.
Exult O lands! victorious lands!
Not there your victory on those red shuddering fields;
But here and hence your victory.
Melt, melt away, ye armies—disperse, ye blue-clad soldiers,
Resolve ye back again, give up for good your deadly arms,
Other the arms the fields henceforth for you, or South or North,
With saner wars, sweet wars, life-giving wars.
Loud O my throat, and clear O soul!
The season of thanks and the voice of full-yielding,
The chant of joy and power for boundless fertility.
All till’d and untill’d fields expand before me,
I see the true arenas of my race and land—or first or last,
Man’s innocent and strong arenas.
I see the heroes at other toils,
I see well-wielded in their hands the better weapons.
I see where the Mother of All,
With full-spanning eye gazes forth, dwells long,
And counts the varied gathering of the products.
Busy the far, the sunlit panorama,
Prairie, orchard, and yellow grain of the North,
Cotton and rice of the South and Louisianian cane,
Open unseeded fallows, rich fields of clover and timothy,
Kine and horses feeding, and droves of sheep and swine,
And many a stately river flowing and many a jocund brook,
And healthy uplands with herby-perfumed breezes,
And the good green grass, that delicate miracle the ever-recurring grass.
Toil on heroes! harvest the products!
Not alone on those warlike fields the Mother of All,
With dilated form and lambent eyes watch’d you.
Toil on heroes! toil well! handle the weapons well!
The Mother of All, yet here as ever she watches you.
Well-pleased America thou beholdest,
Over the fields of the West, those crawling monsters,
The human-divine inventions, the labor-saving implements;
Beholdest, moving in every direction imbued as with life the revolving hay-rakes,
The steam-power reaping-machines and the horse-power machines,
The engines, thrashers of grain, and cleaners of grain, well separating the straw, the nimble work of the patent pitchfork;
Beholdest the newer saw-mill, the southern cotton-gin, and the rice-cleanser.
Beneath thy look O Maternal,
With these and else and with their own strong hands the heroes harvest.
All gather and all harvest;
Yet but for thee O Powerful, not a scythe might swing as now in security,
Not a maize-stalk dangle as now its silken tassels in peace.
Under thee only they harvest, even but a wisp of hay under thy great face only,
Harvest the wheat of Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, every barbed spear under thee,
Harvest the maize of Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, each ear in its light-green sheath,
Gather the hay to its myriad mows in the odorous tranquil barns,
Oats to their bins, the white potato, the buckwheat of Michigan, to theirs;
Gather the cotton in Mississippi or Alabama, dig and hoard the golden the sweet potato of Georgia and the Carolinas,
Clip the wool of California or Pennsylvania,
Cut the flax in the Middle States, or hemp or tobacco in the Borders,
Pick the pea and the bean, or pull apples from the trees or bunches of grapes from the vines,
Or aught that ripens in all these States or North or South,
Under the beaming sun and under thee