A Poem (and a Painting)

 Thomas Hart Benton, Field Workers (Cotton Pickers), 1945. Oil on Canvas. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Thomas Hart Benton, Field Workers (Cotton Pickers), 1945. Oil on Canvas. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
 

I Hear America Singing

 

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,

The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,

The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,

The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand

singing on the steamboat deck,

The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,

The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or

at noon intermission or at sundown,

The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of

the girl sewing or washing,

Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,

The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows,

robust, friendly,

Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

 

—Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892) From Leaves of Grass, 1867 Edition

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A Poem (and a Photo)

NYC + Liberty

Mannahatta

I was asking for something specific and perfect for my city,

Whereupon lo! upsprang the aboriginal name.

Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid, sane,

unruly, musical, self-sufficient,

I see that the word of my city is that word from of old,

Because I see that word nested in nests of water-bays,

superb,

Rich, hemm’d thick all around with sailships and

steamships, an island sixteen miles long, solid-founded,

Numberless crowded streets, high growths of iron, slender,

strong, light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies,

Tides swift and ample, well-loved by me, toward sundown,

The flowing sea-currents, the little islands, larger adjoining

islands, the heights, the villas,

The countless masts, the white shore-steamers, the lighters,

the ferry-boats, the black sea-steamers well-model’d,

The down-town streets, the jobbers’ houses of business, the

houses of business of the ship-merchants and money-

brokers, the river-streets,

Immigrants arriving, fifteen or twenty thousand in a week,

The carts hauling goods, the manly race of drivers of horses,

the brown-faced sailors,

The summer air, the bright sun shining, and the sailing

clouds aloft,

The winter snows, the sleigh-bells, the broken ice in the

river, passing along up or down with the flood-tide or

ebb-tide,

The mechanics of the city, the masters, well-form’d,

beautiful-faced, looking you straight in the eyes,

Trottoirs throng’d, vehicles, Broadway, the women, the

shops and shows,

A million people–manners free and superb–open voices–

hospitality–the most courageous and friendly young

men,

City of hurried and sparkling waters! city of spires and masts!

City nested in bays! my city!

— Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

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