Election Day, November, 1884

March 26 2013

“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 cañons, 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.”


Walt Whitman, Election Day, November, 1884, in Leaves of Grass. Taken from reprint of a 1902 edition produced by executors. Different lifetime editions: 1855 to the deathbed edition in 1892.

The election brought in Grover Cleveland, the first Democratic president since James Buchanan.

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