The Risks and Joys of the Open Road


Listen! I will be honest with you,
I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new 
prizes,
For after we start we never lie by again.
Not for us the tame enjoyment, not the riches safe and palling,
Not the cushion and the slipper, not the peaceful and the studious.

He going with me leaves peace and routine behind him to undergo much, tramps of days, rests of nights,
(Still be ours the blanket on the ground,)
He going with me goes often with spare diet, poverty, angry enemies, desertions,
And stakes his life to be lost at any
moment.

I am he who tauntingly compels men, women, nations,
Crying, Allons! through struggles and wars!
Leap from your seats and contend for your lives!
(The element of danger adds zest to it all.)
He traveling with me needs the best blood, thews, endurance,
None may come to the trial till he or she bring courage and health.

Dear camerado!
I confess I have urged you onward with me, and still urge you, without the least idea what is our destination,
For we are starting out on unknown seas, to fetch up no one knows whither;
I launch all men and women forward with me into the unknown.

As in some ancient legend, there is a farewell gathering on ship’s deck and on shore, a loosing of hawsers and ties, a spreading of sails to the wind, a starting out on unknown seas,
We too take ship, hoist instantly the anchor,
O we can wait no longer—passage, immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!

No more returning to these shores,
Joyous we too launch out on trackless seas,
Fearless for unknown shores on waves of ecstasy to sail.

Bound toward the unknown region,
We feel the long pulsation, ebb and flow of endless motion, the tones of unseen mystery.
We will go where winds blow, waves dash;
Amid the slapping waves, amid the wafting winds,
We will sail pathless and wild seas,
Where neither ground is for the feet nor any path to follow.
Thus we presume to travel by maps yet unmade, where mariner has not yet dared to go,
No map there, nor guide,
all is a blank before us,
And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

(Undismay’d amid the rapids—amid the irresistible and deadly urge,
Stands a helmsman, with brow elate and strong hand,
A young steersman steering with care.
The elder encourages the younger and shows him how,
They two shall launch off fearlessly
.)

Now on for aye our infinite free venture wending, O farther, farther sail!
Allons! to that which is endless as it was beginningless,
Allons! the inducements shall be greater,
As we take to the open, take to the deepest, freest waters,
Venturing, daring, as we go the unknown ways.
O daring joy, but safe! are they not all the seas of God?
The voyage we pursue does not fail,
O farther, farther, farther sail!

Has the night descended?
Was the road of late so toilsome? did we stop discouraged nodding on our way?
Yet a passing hour I yield you in your tracks to pause oblivious,
Sit awhile, wayfarer; I give you biscuits to eat and milk to drink.
But as soon as you sleep and
bathe and renew yourself in sweet clothes,
kiss you with a good-bye kiss and open the gate for your egress hence.

I hear your mute inquiry,
“Whither I go from the bed I recline on, come tell me;
Come tell me where I am speeding—tell me my destination.”
I understand your anguish, but I cannot help you,
I warn thee in advance that it will depend entirely upon thyself how thee gets along,
My own part will be nothing more than to point out the best road.

Not I, not any one else, not God can travel that road for you,
You must travel it for yourself.
It is not far, it is within reach,
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know,
Perhaps it is everywhere on land—and on water.
 

The untold want by life and land ne’er granted,
Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find,
Up with your anchor—shake out your sails!
Now speed on really deep waters, steer for the deep waters only,
Fair winds always fill the ship’s sails that sail thee!

Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by the shore,
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
To give play to yourself and not depend on me, or on anyone but yourself,
To jump off in the midst of the unsounded sea, rise again, nod to me, shout, and laughingly dash with your hair.

NEXT: RELIGION