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The American Bard

November 5, 2008

“Election Day, November, 1884”

by Walt Whitman

If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest
scene and show,
‘Twould not be you, Niagara–nor you, ye limitless prairies–nor
your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite–nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyser-
loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon’s white cones–nor Huron’s belt of mighty lakes–
nor Mississippi’s stream:
–This seething hemisphere’s humanity, as now, I’d name–the
still small voice vibrating–America’s choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen–the act itself the main, the
quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous’d–sea-board and inland–
Texas to Maine–the Prairie States–Vermont, Virginia,
California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West–the paradox and
conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling–(a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome’s wars of old, or modern Napoleon’s:) the
peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity–welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
–Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify–while the
heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails.
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One Comment leave one →
  1. jesse permalink
    November 25, 2008 5:47 pm

    “The shallow consider liberty a release from all law, from every constraint. The wise see in it, on the contrary, the potent Law of Laws.” Walt Whitman, Notes Left Over, 1881.

    One point, however, must not be forgotten–ought to be put before the eyes of the people every day; and that is, although government can do little positive good to the people, it may do an immense deal of harm. . . . the Democratic principle . . . would prevent all this harm. It would have no man’s benefit achieved at the expense of his neighbors. It would have no one’s rights infringed upon and that, after all, is pretty much the sum and substance of the prerogatives of government. How beautiful and harmonious a system! How it transcends all other codes, as the golden rule, in its brevity, transcends the ponderous tomes of the philosophic lore! While mere politicians, in their narrow minds, are sweating and fuming with their complicated statutes, this one single rule, rationally construed and applied, is enough to form the starting point of all that is necessary in government: to make no more laws than those useful for preventing a man or body of men from infringing on the rights of other men.”

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