Sprigs of Lilac for Walt Whitman
Sprigs of Lilac for Walt Whitman.
. . . " Some solemn immortal birth; On Vie frontier! to eyes impenetrable. Some tout is pasting over."
" At the last, tenderly, From the walls of the powerful fortress'd house. Prom the clasp of the knitted locks, from the keep of the well-closed Lit me be wafted.
" Let me glide noiselessly forth: With the key of softness unlock the locks—with a whisper, Set ope the doors, 0 soul.
" Tenderly—be not impatient (Strong is your hold, 0 mortal flesh, Strong is your hold, 0 love)."
Edmund Clarence Siedman:
Good-bye, Walt! Good-bye from all you loved of Earth— Rock, tree, dumb creature, man aud woman— To you tbelr comrade human. The last assault Ends now, and now In some great world baa birth A minstrel, whose strong soul finds broader wings.
More brave imaginings. Stars crown the hill-top where your dust shall lie. Even as we say good-bye, Good-bye, old Walt!
Harrison S. Morris :
He was in love with truth aud knew her near— Her comrade, not her Buppllant on the knee: She gave him wild melodious words to be Mi da music that should haunt the atmosphere. She drew him to her bosom, daylong dear, And pointed to the stars and to the sea, And taught him miracles and mystery, And made him master of the rounded year.
Yet one gift did she keep. He looked in vain. Brow-shaded, through the darkness of the mist. Marking a beauty like a wandering breath That beckoned, yet denied his soul a tryst: He sang a passion, yet he saw not plain Till kind earth held him and he spake with death.
The end expected daily, monthly, yearly, has come finally, peacefully, happily. No regret. The work done. Everything as it should be, as he wished it to be. I think of him that summer—a picture for the eye, an encouragement for the heart of all who, passing, paused for a friendly word by the window, or by invitation entered through a shadowy hall to "have a bite" in the sunny little kitchen beyond. Never-tobe-forgotten days! One noon, Aunt Mary, tired from her "cleanin' up," but proud that she was "born the same year and month as he." Next day "some foreign gentleman" announced—but not a bit "foreign" after all when once he had crossed the threshold of the democrat and breathed the air of Mickle Street. Then, another noon, crowding the front doorway, a bevy of English girls, radiant, rosy, grouped against the sunlight—a beautiful tableau as we see them from our places at the table. "Come right in, darlings," he cries. We move together a little at his command. Mrs. Davis, always ready for every such emergency, lays the plates, and those three English girls, who "must take in Walt Whitman if they miss Niagara," dine for the first time, it may be, in a kitchen, their joy in " actually being there " receiving no detriment from the surroundings. It was so with all comers. " It beats the dickens," said the old farmer from Georgia, "how soul and mind do triumph o'er all else." In a dream (if I may tell it) I met Whitman in company with others who appeared to be offering him greetings. They were on the shore of a vast ocean, the roar of which seemed to me like deep organ music. " He has just come forth from the bath," I thought I heard one saying. " Here I am," said he,advancing to where I stood, speechless, gazing, " refreshed, renewed, for cycle on cycle—time no more! "
John Herbert Clifford:
It was a great honor and sacred service to be of the friends chosen to bear Walt Whitman to his resting-place. For one, I have nothing but high, serene satisfaction in all I have seen and heard this day. Even if there be no multitude of fresh witnesses, now that he is gone—as Landor says that of the noble dead men sometimes cry recognition, just as they who say nothing of the sun's shining through the day exclaim, when he is gone, "How gloriously he set!"—stilt, coming years cannot but bring him to his own, his own to him. During the last visit here of Matthew Arnold, I had the honor of a private word with him, and asked if he knew Whitman. " No," he said, with long, languid drawl, suited to the slow-rising eyebrow, " I don't know Whitman, have not read his books. But can you tell me what Longfellow thought of him ?" Upon this, when related to him, Walt's only comment was: "Ah? Well, I guess Arnold never did see me." There be, say some, whose gaze upon Whitman is too fixed, so that they become like Goethe's traveller, who looked at the sun till he could see nothing else. Whitman is a sun, but his shining shall be not less beneficent for loving eyes blinded by " vision splendid," nor for blinking critic peepers that find him "dark with excess of light." Hamlin Garland:
The whole temper of the republic in letters, as in politics, is changing. Whitman's prophecies are being realized—not in the exact form in which he seemed to expect them, but in spirit and interior purpose. His enemies are almost gone. Those who know him admire and love him. Sylvester Baxter:
Those of us who had the privilege of personal contact with dear old Walt were favored of centuries—but he will long continue to speak to men as face to face. Thomas Bailey Aldrich:
Have sent you a wreath for Whitman. /. Newton Baker:
I have followed all the steps and taken them with you these last days of sorrow—the nights of vigil, the days of anxious care—the long imminence, the final scenes—the laying away—the sealing from sight forever—all the last, last things and words. And then the awakened interest—the newlyfound tongues of praise that before were silent—the meeds of merit too late uttered—but, but and but. John H. Johnston:
How that funeral day will cling and grow! In a hundred years not one like it, nor will there be in another hundred. What can we say of Ingersoll ? It seems now as I think it over that his speech was just such a one as Paul would have made over Jesus if he had lived out his days, and Paul had known him in the flesh. Percival Chubb:
I must join in the chorus of tribute, regret and thankfulness. Harry L. Bonsall:
Those who knew Walt Whitman loved him. Those who became imbued with the spirit of his poetry and philosophy revered him. Those who did not understand him ranked him with inscrutable mysteries, which, if not solvable, were none the less exempt from profanation. No man with heart or brains ever despised him. As a god from high Olympus he walked the earth in simple human guise, in physique and mentality, expression and action, looking, and being in essential essence, the character attributed to him. With a circumscribed but constantly growing number we have rated him as the first great democratic poet and philosopher. As we have set up for ourselves in politics, without servilely seeking medieval or even modern European methods, so in poetry, and, to some extent, in art, as in utilities, we will lead instead of following the old world. Walt Whitman has blazed the forests of our tangled pathway with sturdy strokes, and it will be less difficult to follow than it was to lead the way. In one short lifetime, covering much, if not most, of the literary life of our country, his voice has been heard and heeded on both continents. Whitman's work was not for the masters but the masses. Like Lincoln, he believed in the apprehension and appreciation of the common people—the whole people of these States, and of the reading world, for that matter. The man who esteemed himself as a type of all men is better understood by them than are those who follow the schools in writing for the schools and the fools who soar above their kind, thinking that few are sufficiently well endowed to scale their heights. Whitman, the equal of any, peer of princes and presidents, shakes hands with Cuffee, his brother, as well. The pretenders in literature cannot approve of this leveller. But fortunately for poor, conventional literature, not all, nor nearly all, are pretenders; and as the spirit of our poet infuses and transfuses itself into the circulation of newer blood, we believe the verdict will be that this day the Poet of the People, the Peer of the Proudest, lay dead in his humble Camden home.
Daniel Longaker :
I feel that I have gained from Walt Whitman direct benefit far greater than material reward for any services I may have rendered him. I am confident you will understand what I mean. I am not thinking of any indirect benefit—only of the good my association with our departed friend has wrought in my own character. I have realized an enlargement of scope and breadth of view of life and affairs which I believe will go on with the advancing years—the impulse of it all originating in that association.
Harry D. Busk ;
Walt is dead. But for me he still says: " Camerado, I will give you my hand, I will give you my love more precious than money." Other men may die. He will always live for me. The children of Camden may have lost their Kris, but we have lost less, for Walt's personality must live forever in his book.
Richard Watson Gilder:
I hope the wreath and flowers arrived to-day, and I was very much grieved not to be able to be there in person.