This Man

- 1881-1968

If only you were here, Walt Whitman,
To tell the largeness of this man!
For only you could forget in space his enemies—
You who saw Lincoln stand up before the faces of a city
Alone like this man,
Alone even when friended,
Alone with destiny;
You who saw him facing Manhattan,
Manhattan hating him,
Never a cheer—
That silence,
That anger,
That misunderstanding:
What would you saw now
Of this American,
This liberator,
This man of destiny?—
Choired by the voices of slaves who would be freemen
And of freemen who would renounce their slaves,
Called to be a witness of joy before the peoples of the earth?
Would you not say that lilacs have bloomed again,
And that our of their death their odor is the odor of life,
And that a star which had risen at evening grew pale toward a morning of sun?
And that the beauty of the sinews of These States,
Summoned now
By this man
To a new stature,
Shall become the beauty of the sinews of the world!

More by Witter Bynner

At the Touch of You

 
At the touch of you,	
As if you were an archer with your swift hand at the bow,	
The arrows of delight shot through my body.	
 
You were spring,	
And I the edge of a cliff,
And a shining waterfall rushed over me. 

Undressing You

Fiercely I remove from you
All the little vestiges—
Garments that confine you,
Things that touch the flesh,
The wool and the silk
And the linen that entwine you,
Tear them all away from you,
Bare you from the mesh.
And now I have you as you are,
Nothing to encumber you—
But now I see, caressing you,
Colder hands than mine.
They take away your flesh and bone,
And, utterly undressing you,
They tear you from your beauty
And they leave no sign. 

Train-Mates

Outside hove Shasta, snowy height on height,
A glory; but a negligible sight,
For you had often seen a mountain-peak
But not my paper. So we came to speak...
  
A smoke, a smile,—a good way to commence
The comfortable exchange of difference!
You a young engineer, five feet eleven,
Forty-five chest, with football in your heaven,
Liking a road-bed newly built and clean,
Your fingers hot to cut away the green
Of brush and flowers that bring beside a track
The kind of beauty steel lines ought to lack,—
And I a poet, wistful of my betters,
Reading George Meredith's high-hearted letters,
Joining betweenwhile in the mingled speech
Of a drummer, circus-man, and parson, each
Absorbing to himself—as I to me
And you to you—a glad identity!
  
After a time, when others went away,
A curious kinship made us choose to stay,
Which I could tell you now; but at the time
You thought of baseball teams and I of rhyme,
Until we found that we were college men
And smoked more easily and smiled again;
And I from Cambridge cried, the poet still:
"I know your fine Greek theatre on the hill
At Berkeley!" With your happy Grecian head
Upraised, "I never saw the place," you said—
"Once I was free of class, I always went
Out to the field."
  
Young engineer, you meant
As fair a tribute to the better part
As ever I did. Beauty of the heart
Is evident in temples. But it breathes
Alive where athletes quicken curly wreaths,
Which are the lovelier because they die.
You are a poet quite as much as I,
Though differences appear in what we do,
And I an athlete quite as much as you.
Because you half-surmise my quarter-mile
And I your quatrain, we could greet and smile.
Who knows but we shall look again and find
The circus-man and drummer, not behind
But leading in our visible estate—
As discus-thrower and as laureate?