On the Sunny Side of the Street: I Hear America Singing

Dan hears what sound like woodpeckers on the church roof and thinks of Walt Whitman.

Last week I was moving something at our church when I heard what sounded like woodpeckers on the roof. Very large woodpeckers. I knew that the roof was being reshingled, but rather than the hiss--BANG! of air hammers, the noise produced by what turned out to be electric nails was a series of rapid taps.

Since work fascinates me (I can watch it all day), I went out and watched the workers putting the new shingles on. Unlike me, they worked quickly. Also unlike me, they knew what they were doing.

I thought of Walt Whitman's Poem, "I Hear America Singing," and indeed the workers' movement and the taps of the nailers were a kind of song.

Here's the poem:

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

    Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe

              and strong,

    The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,

    The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off


    The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deck-

              hand singing on the steamboat deck,

    The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing

              as he stands,

    The woodcutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morn-

              ing, or at noon intermission or at sundown,

    The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work,

              or of the girl sewing or washing,

    Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,

    The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young

              fellows, robust, friendly,

    Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.


--Walt Whitman

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