A poem by Whitman has to be the one to celebrate the Biden-Harris victory — only Whitman expresses the sheer joy that democracy can give the spirit.
When I looked through his work, though, it wasn’t one of the more exuberant poems of Leaves of Grass that seemed to hit the note of this moment, but this one, from the collection Whitman wrote while he served as a nurse for the Union troops during the Civil War.
“Turn O Libertad” was one of the 53 original poems in Drum-Taps, which Whitman sent to his printer in March 1865, at the precise historical moment when the Union victory was clear, but Robert E. Lee had not yet surrendered on April 9, and Abraham Lincoln had not yet been assassinated on April 15.
Turn O Libertad
Turn O Libertad, for the war is over,
From it and all henceforth expanding, doubting no more, resolute, sweeping the world,
Turn from lands retrospective recording proofs of the past,
From the singers that sing the trailing glories of the past,
From the chants of the feudal world, the triumphs of kings, slavery, caste,
Turn to the world, the triumphs reserv’d and to come — give up that backward world,
Leave to the singers of hitherto, give them the trailing past,
But what remains remains for singers for you — wars to come are for you,
(Lo, how the wars of the past have duly inured to you, and the wars of the present also inure;)
Then turn, and be not alarm’d O Libertad — turn your undying face,
To where the future, greater than all the past,
Is swiftly, surely preparing for you.
—Walt Whitman (1865)