Walt Whitman’s “Election Day, November, 1884”

The Transpartisan Review Special Note #3

Posted by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner

Election Day, November, 1884

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 canyons, 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,

The final ballot-shower from East to West—the paradox and con-

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.

Camden, N. J., Oct. 26, 1884

See note on this poem in Quartz here. Whitman “…wrote the poem to commemorate the election of Grover Cleveland after a particularly mudslinging election.” Find the original poem In Whitman Archives here.

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