Song Of The Broad-Axe

Walt Whitman 1819 (West Hills) – 1892 (Camden)


  WEAPON, shapely, naked, wan!
  Head from the mother's bowels drawn!
  Wooded flesh and metal bone! limb only one, and lip only one!
  Gray-blue leaf by red-heat grown! helve produced from a little seed
  sown!
  Resting the grass amid and upon,
  To be lean'd, and to lean on.

  Strong shapes, and attributes of strong shapes--masculine trades,
  sights and sounds;
  Long varied train of an emblem, dabs of music;
  Fingers of the organist skipping staccato over the keys of the great
  organ.

  Welcome are all earth's lands, each for its kind; 10
  Welcome are lands of pine and oak;
  Welcome are lands of the lemon and fig;
  Welcome are lands of gold;
  Welcome are lands of wheat and maize--welcome those of the grape;
  Welcome are lands of sugar and rice;
  Welcome the cotton-lands--welcome those of the white potato and sweet
  potato;
  Welcome are mountains, flats, sands, forests, prairies;
  Welcome the rich borders of rivers, table-lands, openings;
  Welcome the measureless grazing-lands--welcome the teeming soil of
  orchards, flax, honey, hemp;
  Welcome just as much the other more hard-faced lands; 20
  Lands rich as lands of gold, or wheat and fruit lands;
  Lands of mines, lands of the manly and rugged ores;
  Lands of coal, copper, lead, tin, zinc;
  LANDS OF IRON! lands of the make of the axe!

  The log at the wood-pile, the axe supported by it;
  The sylvan hut, the vine over the doorway, the space clear'd for a
  garden,
  The irregular tapping of rain down on the leaves, after the storm is
  lull'd,
  The wailing and moaning at intervals, the thought of the sea,
  The thought of ships struck in the storm, and put on their beam ends,
  and the cutting away of masts;
  The sentiment of the huge timbers of old-fashion'd houses and
  barns; 30
  The remember'd print or narrative, the voyage at a venture of men,
  families, goods,
  The disembarkation, the founding of a new city,
  The voyage of those who sought a New England and found it--the outset
  anywhere,
  The settlements of the Arkansas, Colorado, Ottawa, Willamette,
  The slow progress, the scant fare, the axe, rifle, saddle-bags;
  The beauty of all adventurous and daring persons,
  The beauty of wood-boys and wood-men, with their clear untrimm'd
  faces,
  The beauty of independence, departure, actions that rely on
  themselves,
  The American contempt for statutes and ceremonies, the boundless
  impatience of restraint,
  The loose drift of character, the inkling through random types, the
  solidification; 40
  The butcher in the slaughter-house, the hands aboard schooners and
  sloops, the raftsman, the pioneer,
  Lumbermen in their winter camp, day-break in the woods, stripes of
  snow on the limbs of trees, the occasional snapping,
  The glad clear sound of one's own voice, the merry song, the natural
  life of the woods, the strong day's work,
  The blazing fire at night, the sweet taste of supper, the talk, the
  bed of hemlock boughs, and the bear-skin;
  --The house-builder at work in cities or anywhere,
  The preparatory jointing, squaring, sawing, mortising,
  The hoist-up of beams, the push of them in their places, laying them
  regular,
  Setting the studs by their tenons in the mortises, according as they
  were prepared,
  The blows of mallets and hammers, the attitudes of the men, their
  curv'd limbs,
  Bending, standing, astride the beams, driving in pins, holding on by
  posts and braces, 50
  The hook'd arm over the plate, the other arm wielding the axe,
  The floor-men forcing the planks close, to be nail'd,
  Their postures bringing their weapons downward on the bearers,
  The echoes resounding through the vacant building;
  The huge store-house carried up in the city, well under way,
  The six framing-men, two in the middle, and two at each end,
  carefully bearing on their shoulders a heavy stick for a cross-
  beam,
  The crowded line of masons with trowels in their right hands, rapidly
  laying the long side-wall, two hundred feet from front to rear,
  The flexible rise and fall of backs, the continual click of the
  trowels striking the bricks,
 
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Walt Whitman

Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. more…

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