Walt Whitman: Poems

Chants Democratic: A Broadway Pageant



Over sea, hither from Niphon,

Courteous, the Princes of Asia, swart-cheeked princes,

First-comers, guests, two-sworded princes,

Lesson-giving princes, leaning back in their open barouches, bare-headed,


This day they ride through Manhattan.



I do not know whether others behold what I behold,

In the procession, along with the Princes of Asia, the errand-bearers,

Bringing up the rear, hovering above, around, or in the ranks marching;

But I will sing you a song of what I behold, Libertad.


When million-footed Manhattan, unpent, descends to its pavements;

When the thunder-cracking guns arouse me with the proud roar I love;

When the round-mouthed guns, out of the smoke and smell I love, spit their


When the fire-flashing guns have fully alerted me--when heaven-clouds

canopy my city with a delicate thin haze;

When, gorgeous, the countless straight stems, the forests at the wharves,

thicken with colours;

When every ship, richly dressed, carries her flag at the peak;

When pennants trail, and street-festoons hang from the windows;

When Broadway is entirely given up to foot-passengers and foot-standers--

when the mass is densest;

When the facades of the houses are alive with people--when eyes gaze,

riveted, tens of thousands at a time;

When the guests from the islands advance--when the pageant moves forward,


When the summons is made--when the answer, that waited thousands of years,


I too, arising, answering, descend to the pavements, merge with the crowd,

and gaze with them.


Superb-faced Manhattan!

Comrade Americanos!--to us, then, at last, the Orient comes.

To us, my city,

Where our tall-topped marble and iron beauties range on opposite sides--to

walk in the space between,

To-day our Antipodes comes.

The Originatress comes,

The land of Paradise--land of the Caucasus--the nest of birth,

The nest of languages, the bequeather of poems, the race of eld,

Florid with blood, pensive, rapt with musings, hot with passion,

Sultry with perfume, with ample and flowing garments,

With sunburnt visage, with intense soul and glittering eyes,

The race of Brahma comes!

See, my cantabile! these, and more, are flashing to us from the procession;

As it moves changing, a kaleidoscope divine it moves changing before us.

Not the errand-bearing princes, nor the tanned Japanee only;

Lithe and silent, the Hindoo appears--the whole Asiatic continent itself

appears--the Past, the dead,

The murky night-morning of wonder and fable, inscrutable,

The enveloped mysteries, the old and unknown hive-bees,

The North--the sweltering South--Assyria--the Hebrews--the Ancient of


Vast desolated cities--the gliding Present--all of these, and more, are in

the pageant-procession.

Geography, the world, is in it;

The Great Sea, the brood of islands, Polynesia, the coast beyond;

The coast you henceforth are facing--you Libertad! from your Western golden


The countries there, with their populations--the millions _en masse_, are

curiously here;

The swarming market-places--the temples, with idols ranged along the sides,

or at the end--bronze, brahmin, and lama;

The mandarin, farmer, merchant, mechanic, and fisherman;

The singing-girl and the dancing-girl--the ecstatic person--the divine


The secluded Emperors--Confucius himself--the great poets and heroes--the

warriors, the castes, all,

Trooping up, crowding from all directions--from the Altay mountains,

From Thibet--from the four winding and far-flowing rivers

of China,

From the Southern peninsulas, and the demi-continental islands--from


These, and whatever belongs to them, palpable, show forth to me, and are

seized by me,

And I am seized by them, and friendlily held by them,

Till, as here, them all I chant, Libertad! for themselves and for you.


For I too, raising my voice, join the ranks of this pageant;

I am the chanter--I chant aloud over the pageant;

I chant the world on my Western Sea;

I chant, copious, the islands beyond, thick as stars in the sky;

I chant the new empire, grander than any before--As in a vision it comes to


I chant America, the Mistress--I chant a greater supremacy;

I chant, projected, a thousand blooming cities yet, in time, on those

groups of sea-islands;

I chant my sail-ships and steam-ships threading the archipelagoes;

I chant my stars and stripes fluttering in the wind;

I chant commerce opening, the sleep of ages having done its work--races

reborn, refreshed;

Lives, works, resumed--The object I know not--but the old, the Asiatic,

resumed, as it must be,

Commencing from this day, surrounded by the world.

And you, Libertad of the world!

You shall sit in the middle, well-poised, thousands of years;

As to-day, from one side, the Princes of Asia come to you;

As to-morrow, from the other side, the Queen of England sends her eldest

son to you.

The sign is reversing, the orb is enclosed,

The ring is circled, the journey is done;

The box-lid is but perceptibly opened--nevertheless the perfume pours

copiously out of the whole box.


Young Libertad!

With the venerable Asia, the all-mother,

Be considerate with her, now and ever, hot Libertad--for you are all;

Bend your proud neck to the long-off mother, now sending messages over the

archipelagoes to you:

Bend your proud neck for once, young Libertad.


Were the children straying westward so long? so wide the tramping?

Were the precedent dim ages debouching westward from Paradise so long?

Were the centuries steadily footing it that way, all the while unknown, for

you, for reasons?

They are justified--they are accomplished--they shall now be turned the

other way also, to travel toward you thence;

They shall now also march obediently eastward, for your sake, Libertad.