I Was There

(1988)

"I Was There" is the second song in Lee Hoiby's song cycle I Was There: Five Poems of Walt Whitman of 1988. The song cycle is for baritone and piano.

I Was There
by Walt Whitman


I understand the large hearts of heroes,
The courage of present times and all times;
How the skipper saw the crowded and rudderless wreck of the
steam-ship, and Death chasing it up and down the storm,
How he knuckled tight, and gave not back an inch,
and was faithful of days and faithful of nights,
And chalk'd in large letters, on a board,
Be of good cheer, we will not desert you:
How he follow'd with them, and tack'd with them three days
and would not give it up;
How he saved the drifting company at last:
How the lank loose-gown'd women look'd when
boated from the side of their prepared graves;
How the silent old-faced infants, and the lifted sick,
and the sharp-lipp'd unshaved men:
All this I swallow, it tastes good, I like it well, it becomes mine,
I am the man, I suffer'd, I was there.


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