Longings for Home (Poem by Walter Whitman)

Famous Poem


Longings for Home
By Walter Whitman


O Magnet South! O glistening, perfumed South! my South!
O quick mettle, rich blood, impulse, and love! good and evil!
O all dear to me! O dear to me my birth-things — all moving things, and the trees where I was born, [1] the grains, plants, rivers;
Dear to me my own slow, sluggish rivers, where they flow distant over flats of silvery sands or through swamps;
Dear to me the Roanoke, the Savannah, the Altamahaw, the Pedee, the Tombigbee, the Santee, the Coosa, and the Sabine — 
O pensive, far away wandering, I return with my soul to haunt their banks again.
Again in Florida I float on transparent lakes — I float on Okeechobee — I cross the hummock land, or through pleasant openings or dense forests.
I see the parrots in the woods, I see the papaw-tree, and the blossoming titi.
Again, sailing in my coaster, on deck, I coast off Georgia, I coast up the Carolinas; I see where the live-oak is growing — 
I see where the yellow-pine, the scented bay-tree, the lemon and orange, the cypress, the graceful palmetto.
I pass rude sea-headlands, and enter Pamlico Sound through an inlet, and dart my vision inland;
O the cotton plant! the growing fields of rice, sugar, hemp!
The cactus, guarded with thorns — the laurel-tree, with large white flowers;
The range afar — the richness and barrenness — the old woods charged with mistletoe and trailing moss,
The piney odour and the gloom — the awful natural stillness, Here in these dense swamps the freebooter carries his gun, and the fugitive slave has his concealed hut;
O the strange fascination of these half-known, half-impassable swamps, infested by reptiles, resounding with the bellow of the alligator, the sad noises of the night-owl and the wild-cat, and the whirr of the rattlesnake;
The mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing all the forenoon — singing through the moon-lit night,
The humming-bird, the wild-turkey, the raccoon, the opossum;
A Tennessee corn-field — the tall, graceful, long-leaved corn — slender, flapping, bright green, with tassels — with beautiful ears, each well-sheathed in its husk;
An Arkansas prairie — a sleeping lake, or still bayou.
O my heart! O tender and fierce pangs — I can stand them not — I will depart!
O to be a Virginian, where I grew up! O to be a Carolinian!
O longings irrepressible! O I will go back to old Tennessee, and never wander more!


Footnote:
[1] These expressions cannot be understood in a literal sense, for Whitman was born, not in the South, but in the State of New York. The precise sense to be attached to them may be open to some difference of opinion.

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