Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking

Original Text: 
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1891-92): 196-201. PS 3201 1891 Robarts Library.
1Out of the cradle endlessly rocking,
2Out of the mocking-bird's throat, the musical shuttle,
4Over the sterile sands and the fields beyond, where the child leaving his bed wander'd alone, bareheaded, barefoot,
5Down from the shower'd halo,
6Up from the mystic play of shadows twining and twisting as if they were alive,
7Out from the patches of briers and blackberries,
8From the memories of the bird that chanted to me,
9From your memories sad brother, from the fitful risings and fallings I heard,
10From under that yellow half-moon late-risen and swollen as if with tears,
11From those beginning notes of yearning and love there in the mist,
12From the thousand responses of my heart never to cease,
13From the myriad thence-arous'd words,
14From the word stronger and more delicious than any,
15From such as now they start the scene revisiting,
16As a flock, twittering, rising, or overhead passing,
17Borne hither, ere all eludes me, hurriedly,
18A man, yet by these tears a little boy again,
19Throwing myself on the sand, confronting the waves,
20I, chanter of pains and joys, uniter of here and hereafter,
21Taking all hints to use them, but swiftly leaping beyond them,
22A reminiscence sing.
24When the lilac-scent was in the air and Fifth-month grass was growing,
25Up this seashore in some briers,
26Two feather'd guests from Alabama, two together,
27And their nest, and four light-green eggs spotted with brown,
28And every day the he-bird to and fro near at hand,
29And every day the she-bird crouch'd on her nest, silent, with bright eyes,
30And every day I, a curious boy, never too close, never disturbing them,
31Cautiously peering, absorbing, translating.
33Pour down your warmth, great sun!
34While we bask, we two together.
35Two together!
36Winds blow south, or winds blow north,
37Day come white, or night come black,
38Home, or rivers and mountains from home,
39Singing all time, minding no time,
40While we two keep together.
41Till of a sudden,
42May-be kill'd, unknown to her mate,
43One forenoon the she-bird crouch'd not on the nest,
44Nor return'd that afternoon, nor the next,
45Nor ever appear'd again.
46And thenceforward all summer in the sound of the sea,
47And at night under the full of the moon in calmer weather,
48Over the hoarse surging of the sea,
49Or flitting from brier to brier by day,
50I saw, I heard at intervals the remaining one, the he-bird,
51The solitary guest from Alabama.
52Blow! blow! blow!
53Blow up sea-winds along Paumanok's shore;
54I wait and I wait till you blow my mate to me.
55Yes, when the stars glisten'd,
56All night long on the prong of a moss-scallop'd stake,
57Down almost amid the slapping waves,
58Sat the lone singer wonderful causing tears.
59He call'd on his mate,
60He pour'd forth the meanings which I of all men know.
61Yes my brother I know,
62The rest might not, but I have treasur'd every note,
63For more than once dimly down to the beach gliding,
64Silent, avoiding the moonbeams, blending myself with the shadows,
65Recalling now the obscure shapes, the echoes, the sounds and sights after their sorts,
66The white arms out in the breakers tirelessly tossing,
67I, with bare feet, a child, the wind wafting my hair,
68Listen'd long and long.
69Listen'd to keep, to sing, now translating the notes,
70Following you my brother.
71Soothe! soothe! soothe!
72Close on its wave soothes the wave behind,
73And again another behind embracing and lapping, every one close,
74But my love soothes not me, not me.
75Low hangs the moon, it rose late,
76It is lagging -- O I think it is heavy with love, with love.
77O madly the sea pushes upon the land,
78With love, with love.
79O night! do I not see my love fluttering out among the breakers?
80What is that little black thing I see there in the white?
81Loud! loud! loud!
82Loud I call to you, my love!
83High and clear I shoot my voice over the waves,
84Surely you must know who is here, is here,
85You must know who I am, my love.
86Low-hanging moon!
87What is that dusky spot in your brown yellow?
88O it is the shape, the shape of my mate!
89O moon do not keep her from me any longer.
90Land! land! O land!
91Whichever way I turn, O I think you could give me my mate back again if you only would,
92For I am almost sure I see her dimly whichever way I look.
93O rising stars!
94Perhaps the one I want so much will rise, will rise with some of you.
95O throat! O trembling throat!
96Sound clearer through the atmosphere!
97Pierce the woods, the earth,
98Somewhere listening to catch you must be the one I want.
99Shake out carols!
100Solitary here, the night's carols!
101Carols of lonesome love! death's carols!
102Carols under that lagging, yellow, waning moon!
103O under that moon where she droops almost down into the sea!
104O reckless despairing carols.
105But soft! sink low!
106Soft! let me just murmur,
107And do you wait a moment you husky-nois'd sea,
108For somewhere I believe I heard my mate responding to me,
109So faint, I must be still, be still to listen,
110But not altogether still, for then she might not come immediately to me.
111Hither my love!
112Here I am! here!
113With this just-sustain'd note I announce myself to you,
114This gentle call is for you my love, for you.
115Do not be decoy'd elsewhere,
116That is the whistle of the wind, it is not my voice,
117That is the fluttering, the fluttering of the spray,
118Those are the shadows of leaves.
119O darkness! O in vain!
120O I am very sick and sorrowful.
121O brown halo in the sky near the moon, drooping upon the sea!
122O troubled reflection in the sea!
123O throat! O throbbing heart!
124And I singing uselessly, uselessly all the night.
125O past! O happy life! O songs of joy!
126In the air, in the woods, over fields,
127Loved! loved! loved! loved! loved!
128But my mate no more, no more with me!
129We two together no more.
130The aria sinking,
131All else continuing, the stars shining,
132The winds blowing, the notes of the bird continuous echoing,
133With angry moans the fierce old mother incessantly moaning,
134On the sands of Paumanok's shore gray and rustling,
135The yellow half-moon enlarged, sagging down, drooping, the face of the sea almost touching,
136The boy ecstatic, with his bare feet the waves, with his hair the atmosphere dallying,
137The love in the heart long pent, now loose, now at last tumultuously bursting,
138The aria's meaning, the ears, the soul, swiftly depositing,
139The strange tears down the cheeks coursing,
140The colloquy there, the trio, each uttering,
141The undertone, the savage old mother incessantly crying,
142To the boy's soul's questions sullenly timing, some drown'd secret hissing,
143To the outsetting bard.
144Demon or bird! (said the boy's soul,)
145Is it indeed toward your mate you sing? or is it really to me?
146For I, that was a child, my tongue's use sleeping, now I have heard you,
147Now in a moment I know what I am for, I awake,
148And already a thousand singers, a thousand songs, clearer, louder and more sorrowful than yours,
149A thousand warbling echoes have started to life within me, never to die.
150O you singer solitary, singing by yourself, projecting me,
151O solitary me listening, never more shall I cease perpetuating you,
152Never more shall I escape, never more the reverberations,
153Never more the cries of unsatisfied love be absent from me,
154Never again leave me to be the peaceful child I was before what there in the night,
155By the sea under the yellow and sagging moon,
156The messenger there arous'd, the fire, the sweet hell within,
157The unknown want, the destiny of me.
158O give me the clew! (it lurks in the night here somewhere,)
159O if I am to have so much, let me have more!
160A word then, (for I will conquer it,)
161The word final, superior to all,
162Subtle, sent up -- what is it? -- I listen;
163Are you whispering it, and have been all the time, you sea-waves?
164Is that it from your liquid rims and wet sands?
165Whereto answering, the sea,
166Delaying not, hurrying not,
167Whisper'd me through the night, and very plainly before day-break,
168Lisp'd to me the low and delicious word death,
169And again death, death, death, death,
170Hissing melodious, neither like the bird nor like my arous'd child's heart,
171But edging near as privately for me rustling at my feet,
172Creeping thence steadily up to my ears and laving me softly all over,
173Death, death, death, death, death.
174Which I do not forget,
175But fuse the song of my dusky demon and brother,
176That he sang to me in the moonlight on Paumanok's gray beach,
177With the thousand responsive songs at random,
178My own songs awaked from that hour,
179And with them the key, the word up from the waves,
180The word of the sweetest song and all songs,
181That strong and delicious word which, creeping to my feet,
182(Or like some old crone rocking the cradle, swathed in sweet garments, bending aside,)
183The sea whisper'd me.


3] Ninth-month: September. Back to Line
23] Paumanok: Algonquian word for "Long Island." Back to Line
32] The italicized lines represent the mocking-bird's song. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
("as "A Child's Reminiscence")
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.