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POTD - The Sleepers - 2, 3 & 4 by Walt Whitman

POTD - The Sleepers - 2, 3 & 4 by Walt Whitman


The Sleepers

by Walt Whitman


I descend my western course, my sinews are flaccid, 
Perfume and youth course through me and I am their 

It is my face yellow and wrinkled instead of the old 
I sit low in a straw-bottom chair and carefully darn my 
grandson's stockings.

It is I too, the sleepless widow looking out on the 
winter midnight, 
I see the sparkles of star shine on the icy and pallid 

A shroud I see and I am the shroud, I wrap a body and 
lie in the coffin, 
It is dark here under ground, it is not evil or pain 
here, it is blank here, for reasons.

(It seems to me that every thing 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.)


I see a beautiful gigantic swimmer swimming naked 
through the eddies of the sea, 
His brown hair lies close and even to his head, he 
strikes out with courageous arms, he urges himself 
with his legs, 
I see his white body, 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, bang'd, bruis'd, he holds out while his 
strength holds out, 
The slapping eddies are spotted with his blood, they 
bear him away, they roll him, swing him, turn him, 
His beautiful body is borne in the circling eddies, it 
is continually bruis'd on rocks, 
Swiftly and out of sight is borne the brave corpse.


I turn but do not extricate myself, 
Confused, a past-reading, another, but with darkness 

The beach is cut by the razory ice-wind, the wreck-guns 
The tempest lulls, the moon comes floundering through 
the drifts.

I look where the ship help lessly heads end on, I hear 
the burst as she strikes, I hear the howls of 
dismay, 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 crowd, not one of the company is 
wash'd to us alive, 
In the morning I help pick up the dead and lay them in 

rows in a barn.


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