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Sparkles from the Wheel
Walt Whitman


Where the city's ceaseless crowd moves on, the live-long day,
Withdrawn, I join a group of children watching--I pause aside with them.

By the curb, toward the edge of the flagging,
A knife-grinder works at his wheel, sharpening a great knife;
Bending over, he carefully holds it to the stone--by foot and knee,
With measur'd tread, he turns rapidly--As he presses with light but firm hand,
Forth issue, then, in copious golden jets,
Sparkles from the wheel.

The scene, and all its belongings--how they seize and affect me!
The sad, sharp-chinn'd old man, with worn clothes, and broad shoulder-band of leather;
Myself, effusing and fluid--a phantom curiously floating--now here absorb'd and arrested;

The group, (an unminded point, set in a vast surrounding;)
The attentive, quiet children--the loud, proud, restive base of the streets;
The low, hoarse purr of the whirling stone--the light-press'd blade,
Diffusing, dropping, sideways-darting, in tiny showers of gold,
Sparkles from the wheel.

This poem is in the public domain.


Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892) is primarily known for a collection of poems called Leaves of Grass, which he completely revised at least five times during the course of his life and which appeared in print in at least three different editions. Though his formal education ended with elementary school, Whitman was an educator at several points in his life. More often, he worked as a printer, a clerk, or a nurse; he was chronically poor, but managed to interject culture (he loved opera) and travel into his life. He achieved international acclaim during the course of his career, but probably had as many detractors as he did fans. 


Post New Comment:
This poem, I think, reflects all of life. Whitman, in a single couplet: "Forth issue, then, in copious golden jets, Sparkles from the wheel." the whole of existence from birth through the cycle of life and excludes, maybe, only death.
Posted 05/20/2022 07:59 PM
Such a stance; so straightforward and unaffected.
Posted 04/19/2015 10:20 AM
Brilliant, and sooo wonderful! I love this poem. I'd like to have known this man!!
Posted 04/19/2015 09:14 AM
Larry Schug:
Places me right in the scene. another example of how to live life.
Posted 04/19/2015 09:10 AM
Just marvellous
Posted 04/19/2015 01:25 AM

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