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Year of Meteors, 1859 '60

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Saved by Tyler Hartigan
on January 18, 2013 at 1:22:34 am

     YEAR OF METEORS, 1859 '60


YEAR of meteors! brooding year!
I would bind in words retrospective, some of your deeds and signs;
I would sing your contest for the 19th Presidentiad;
I would sing how an old man, tall, with white hair, mounted the
scaffold in Virginia;
(I was at hand--silent I stood, with teeth shut close--I watch'd;
I stood very near you, old man, when cool and indifferent, but
trembling with age and your unheal'd wounds, you mounted the
--I would sing in my copious song your census returns of The States,
The tables of population and products--I would sing of your ships and
their cargoes,
The proud black ships of Manhattan, arriving, some fill'd with
immigrants, some from the isthmus with cargoes of gold;
Songs thereof would I sing--to all that hitherward comes would I
welcome give; 10
And you would I sing, fair stripling! welcome to you from me, sweet
boy of England!
Remember you surging Manhattan's crowds, as you pass'd with your
cortege of nobles?
There in the crowds stood I, and singled you out with attachment;
I know not why, but I loved you... (and so go forth little song,
Far over sea speed like an arrow, carrying my love all folded,
And find in his palace the youth I love, and drop these lines at his
--Nor forget I to sing of the wonder, the ship as she swam up my bay,
Well-shaped and stately the Great Eastern swam up my bay, she was 600
feet long,
Her, moving swiftly, surrounded by myriads of small craft, I forget
not to sing;
--Nor the comet that came unannounced out of the north, flaring in
heaven; 20
Nor the strange huge meteor procession, dazzling and clear, shooting
over our heads,
(A moment, a moment long, it sail'd its balls of unearthly light over
our heads,
Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;)
--Of such, and fitful as they, I sing--with gleams from them would I
gleam and patch these chants;
Your chants, O year all mottled with evil and good! year of
forebodings! year of the youth I love!
Year of comets and meteors transient and strange!--lo! even here, one
equally transient and strange!
As I flit through you hastily, soon to fall and be gone, what is this
What am I myself but one of your meteors?

Walt Whitman





       In this poem Whitman describes the year of 1859 as a very odd year with many ups and downs, which can be seen in line 28 when he says, "O year all mottled with evil and good!"  Earlier in the poem Whitman speaks of events he witnessed during that year such as the arrival of cargo in Manhattan consisting of immigrants and gold. He then goes on to describe some of the odd weather that year such as comets and meteors that quickly passed through the night sky. Whitman then takes another step and compares himself to one of these meteors in the last line when he says, " what am i but one of your meteors?" When he compares himself to the meteor he refers to how quickly one passes through life just like a meteor through the night sky.

     Whitman wrote this poem slighlty before the civil war so we can now determine that some of the reason why that year was odd for him was because of all the un-rest between the north and south. Whitman also was very big on writing free-verse and was one of the first major free-verse writers of his time. By doing this Walt Whitman is now very well known today for his awe-inspiring poetry that influences many. Whitman is then very descriptive when it comes to describing the good and bad events of 1859, so that he may bring the point across to the reader, and influence them to not even think otherwise.


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