Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman - HTML preview
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Leaves of GrassInscriptions......................................................................................................................................... 41. Starting from Paumanok..........................................................................................................132. Song of Myself..........................................................................................................................233. Children of Adam......................................................................................................................684. Calamus....................................................................................................................................845. Salut au Monde! .....................................................................................................................1007. Song of the Open Road.............................................................................................................1088. Crossing Brooklyn Ferry ........................................................................................................1169. Song of the Answerer.............................................................................................................12110. Our Old Feuillage ...............................................................................................................12511. A Song of Joys....................................................................................................................12913. Song of the Broad-Axe.......................................................................................................13513. Song of the Exposition ............................................................................................................14314. Song of the Redwood-Tree................................................................................................15015. A Song for Occupations ..........................................................................................................15416. A Song of the Rolling Earth.....................................................................................................16017. Birds of Passage......................................................................................................................16518. A Broadway Pageant...............................................................................................................17719. Sea-Drift...................................................................................................................................18020. By The Roadside.....................................................................................................................193 21. Drum-Taps...............................................................................................................................203 22. Memories Of President Lincoln...............................................................................................23623. By Blue Ontario's Shore..........................................................................................................24424. Autumn Rivulets.......................................................................................................................25725. Proud Music of the Storm........................................................................................................29026. Passage to India......................................................................................................................29527. Prayer of Columbus.................................................................................................................30228. The Sleepers............................................................................................................................30429. To Think of Time......................................................................................................................31130. Whispers Of Heavenly Death..................................................................................................31731. Thou Mother with Thy Equal Brood........................................................................................32632. From Noon To Starry Night.....................................................................................................33133. Songs Of Parting .....................................................................................................................34834. Sands At Seventy....................................................................................................................360 35. Good-Bye My Fancy................................................................................................................379
InscriptionsONE'S-SELF I SING One's-self I sing, a simple separate person, Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse. Of physiology from top to toe I sing,
Not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy for the Muse, I say the Form complete is worthier far,
The Female equally with the Male I sing.
Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power, Cheerful, for freest action form'd under the laws divine, The Modern Man I sing.AS I PONDER'D IN SILENCE
As I ponder'd in silence,
Returning upon my poems, considering, lingering long, A Phantom arose before me with distrustful aspect,
Terrible in beauty, age, and power,
The genius of poets of old lands,
As to me directing like flame its eyes,
With finger pointing to many immortal songs,
And menacing voice, What singest thou? it said,
Know'st thou not there is hut one theme for ever-enduring bards? And that is the theme of War, the fortune of battles,
The making of perfect soldiers.
Be it so, then I answer'd,
I too haughty Shade also sing war, and a longer and greater one than any, Waged in my book with varying fortune, with flight, advance
and retreat, victory deferr'd and wavering,
(Yet methinks certain, or as good as certain, at the last,) the
field the world,
For life and death, for the Body and for the eternal Soul,
Lo, I too am come, chanting the chant of battles,
I above all promote brave soldiers.
IN CABIN'D SHIPS AT SEA In cabin'd ships at sea,
The boundless blue on every side expanding,
With whistling winds and music of the waves, the large imperious waves, Or some lone bark buoy'd on the dense marine,
Where joyous full of faith, spreading white sails,
She cleaves the ether mid the sparkle and the foam of day, or under
many a star at night,
By sailors young and old haply will I, a reminiscence of the land, be read, In full rapport at last.
Here are our thoughts, voyagers' thoughts,
Here not the land, firm land, alone appears, may then by them be said, The sky o'erarches here, we feel the undulating deck beneath our feet, We feel the long pulsation, ebb and flow of endless motion, The tones of unseen mystery, the vague and vast suggestions of the
briny world, the liquid-flowing syllables,
The perfume, the faint creaking of the cordage, the melancholy rhythm, The boundless vista and the horizon far and dim are all here, And this is ocean's poem.
Then falter not O book, fulfil your destiny,
You not a reminiscence of the land alone,
You too as a lone bark cleaving the ether, purpos'd I know not
whither, yet ever full of faith,
Consort to every ship that sails, sail you!
Bear forth to them folded my love, (dear mariners, for you I fold it
Speed on my book! spread your white sails my little bark athwart the imperious waves,
Chant on, sail on, bear o'er the boundless blue from me to every sea,
This song for mariners and all their ships.
I heard that you ask'd for something to prove this puzzle the New World, And to define America, her athletic Democracy,
Therefore I send you my poems that you behold in them what you wanted.
Who have explored the outward, the surfaces of the races, the life that has exhibited itself,
Who have treated of man as the creature of politics, aggregates, rulers and priests,
I, habitan of the Alleghanies, treating of him as he is in himself in his own rights,
Pressing the pulse of the life that has seldom exhibited itself, (the great pride of man in himself,)
Chanter of Personality, outlining what is yet to be,
I project the history of the future.
To thee old cause!
Thou peerless, passionate, good cause,
Thou stern, remorseless, sweet idea,
Deathless throughout the ages, races, lands,
After a strange sad war, great war for thee,
(I think all war through time was really fought, and ever will be
Thou orb of many orbs!
Thou seething principle! thou well-kept, latent germ! thou centre! Around the idea of thee the war revolving,
With all its angry and vehement play of causes,
(With vast results to come for thrice a thousand years,) These recitatives for thee,--my book and the war are one, Merged in its spirit I and mine, as the contest hinged on thee, As a wheel on its axis turns, this book unwitting to itself, Around the idea of thee.
I met a seer,
Passing the hues and objects of the world, The fields of art and learning, pleasure, sense,
Put in thy chants said he,
No more the puzzling hour nor day, nor segments, parts, put in, Put first before the rest as light for all and entrance-song of all,
Ever the dim beginning,
Ever the growth, the rounding of the circle,
Ever the summit and the merge at last, (to surely start again,)
Lo, I or you,
Or woman, man, or state, known or unknown, We seeming solid wealth, strength, beauty build,
The ostent evanescent,
The substance of an artist's mood or savan's studies long, Or warrior's, martyr's, hero's toils,
Of every human life,
(The units gather'd, posted, not a thought, emotion, deed, left out,) The whole or large or small summ'd, added up,
The old, old urge,
Based on the ancient pinnacles, lo, newer, higher pinnacles, From science and the modern still impell'd,
The present now and here,
America's busy, teeming, intricate whirl,
Of aggregate and segregate for only thence releasing,
These with the past,
Of vanish'd lands, of all the reigns of kings across the sea, Old conquerors, old campaigns, old sailors' voyages,
Densities, growth, facades,
Strata of mountains, soils, rocks, giant trees, Far-born, far-dying, living long, to leave,
Exalte, rapt, ecstatic,
The visible but their womb of birth,
Of orbic tendencies to shape and shape and shape,
All space, all time,
(The stars, the terrible perturbations of the suns,
Swelling, collapsing, ending, serving their longer, shorter use,)
Not this the world,
Nor these the universes, they the universes, Purport and end, ever the permanent life of life,
Beyond thy lectures learn'd professor,
Beyond thy telescope or spectroscope observer keen, beyond all mathematics, Beyond the doctor's surgery, anatomy, beyond the chemist with his chemistry,
Unfix'd yet fix'd,
Ever shall be, ever have been and are, Sweeping the present to the infinite future,
The prophet and the bard,
Shall yet maintain themselves, in higher stages yet,
Shall mediate to the Modern, to Democracy, interpret yet to them,
And thee my soul,
Joys, ceaseless exercises, exaltations,
Thy yearning amply fed at last, prepared to meet,
Thy body permanent,
The body lurking there within thy body,
The only purport of the form thou art, the real I myself,
Thy very songs not in thy songs,
No special strains to sing, none for itself,
But from the whole resulting, rising at last and floating,
For him I sing,
I raise the present on the past,
(As some perennial tree out of its roots, the present on the past,) With time and space I him dilate and fuse the immortal laws, To make himself by them the law unto himself.
WHEN I READ THE BOOK When I read the book, the biography famous,
And is this then (said I) what the author calls a man's life? And so will some one when I am dead and gone write my life? (As if any man really knew aught of my life,
Why even I myself I often think know little or nothing of my real life, Only a few hints, a few diffused faint clews and indirections I seek for my own use to trace out here.)
Beginning my studies the first step pleas'd me so much, The mere fact consciousness, these forms, the power of motion, The least insect or animal, the senses, eyesight, love, The first step I say awed me and pleas'd me so much, I have hardly gone and hardly wish'd to go any farther, But stop and loiter all the time to sing it in ecstatic songs.BEGINNERS
How they are provided for upon the earth, (appearing at intervals,) How dear and dreadful they are to the earth,
How they inure to themselves as much as to any--what a paradox
appears their age,
How people respond to them, yet know them not,
How there is something relentless in their fate all times, How all times mischoose the objects of their adulation and reward, And how the same inexorable price must still be paid for the same
To the States or any one of them, or any city of the States, Resist much, obey little,
Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved,
Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city of this earth, ever afterward resumes its liberty.
On journeys through the States we start,
(Ay through the world, urged by these songs,
Sailing henceforth to every land, to every sea,) We willing learners of all, teachers of all, and lovers of all. We have watch'd the seasons dispensing themselves and passing on, And have said, Why should not a man or woman do as much as the
Mississippi, and the Southern States,
We confer on equal terms with each of the States,
We make trial of ourselves and invite men and women to hear, We say to ourselves, Remember, fear not, be candid, promulge the
body and the soul,
Dwell a while and pass on, be copious, temperate, chaste, magnetic, And what you effuse may then return as the seasons return, And may be just as much as the seasons.
Here, take this gift,
I was reserving it for some hero, speaker, or general,
One who should serve the good old cause, the great idea, the
progress and freedom of the race,
Some brave confronter of despots, some daring rebel;
But I see that what I was reserving belongs to you just as much as to any.
Me imperturbe, standing at ease in Nature,
Master of all or mistress of all, aplomb in the midst of irrational things, Imbued as they, passive, receptive, silent as they,
Finding my occupation, poverty, notoriety, foibles, crimes, less
Me toward the Mexican sea, or in the Mannahatta or the Tennessee, or far north or inland,
A river man, or a man of the woods or of any farm-life of these States or of the coast, or the lakes or Kanada,
Me wherever my life is lived, O to be self-balanced for contingencies,
To confront night, storms, hunger, ridicule, accidents, rebuffs, as the trees and animals do.
Thither as I look I see each result and glory retracing itself and nestling close, always obligated,
Thither hours, months, years--thither trades, compacts, establishments, even the most minute,
Thither every-day life, speech, utensils, politics, persons, estates; Thither we also, I with my leaves and songs, trustful, admirant, As a father to his father going takes his children along with him.
On its breast a ship starting, spreading all sails, carrying even her moonsails.
The pennant is flying aloft as she speeds she speeds so stately-- below emulous waves press forward,
They surround the ship with shining curving motions and foam.
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 work, The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, 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.
What place is besieged, and vainly tries to raise the siege? Lo, I send to that place a commander, swift, brave, immortal, And with him horse and foot, and parks of artillery, And artillery-men, the deadliest that ever fired gun.STILL THOUGH THE ONE I SING
Still though the one I sing,
(One, yet of contradictions made,) I dedicate to Nationality, I leave in him revolt, (O latent right of insurrection! O
For that which was lacking on all your well-fill'd shelves, yet needed most, I bring,
Forth from the war emerging, a book I have made,
The words of my book nothing, the drift of it every thing,
A book separate, not link'd with the rest nor felt by the intellect,
But you ye untold latencies will thrill to every page.
Poets to come! orators, singers, musicians to come! Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for, But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater thanbefore known, Arouse! for you must justify me. I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future, I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the darkness.
I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping, turns a casual look upon you and then averts his face,
Leaving it to you to prove and define it,
Expecting the main things from you.
Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me?
And why should I not speak to you?
1. Starting from Paumanok
Starting from fish-shape Paumanok where I was born,
Well-begotten, and rais'd by a perfect mother,
After roaming many lands, lover of populous pavements,
Dweller in Mannahatta my city, or on southern savannas,
Or a soldier camp'd or carrying my knapsack and gun, or a miner
Or rude in my home in Dakota's woods, my diet meat, my drink from the spring,
Or withdrawn to muse and meditate in some deep recess,
Far from the clank of crowds intervals passing rapt and happy,
Aware of the fresh free giver the flowing Missouri, aware of
Aware of the buffalo herds grazing the plains, the hirsute and strong-breasted bull,
Of earth, rocks, Fifth-month flowers experienced, stars, rain, snow, my amaze,
Having studied the mocking-bird's tones and the flight of the
And heard at dawn the unrivall'd one, the hermit thrush from the swamp-cedars,
Solitary, singing in the West, I strike up for a New World.
Victory, union, faith, identity, time,
The indissoluble compacts, riches, mystery,
Eternal progress, the kosmos, and the modern reports.
This then is life,
Here is what has come to the surface after so many throes and convulsions.
See revolving the globe,
The ancestor-continents away group'd together,
The present and future continents north and south, with the isthmus
See, vast trackless spaces,
As in a dream they change, they swiftly fill,
Countless masses debouch upon them,
They are now cover'd with the foremost people, arts, institutions, known. See, projected through time, For me an audience interminable.
With firm and regular step they wend, they never stop, Successions of men, Americanos, a hundred millions, One generation playing its part and passing on,
Another generation playing its part and passing on in its turn, With faces turn'd sideways or backward towards me to listen, With eyes retrospective towards me.
Americanos! conquerors! marches humanitarian! Foremost! century marches! Libertad! masses! For you a programme of chants.
Chants of the prairies,
Chants of the long-running Mississippi, and down to the Mexican sea, Chants of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota, Chants going forth from the centre from Kansas, and thence equidistant, Shooting in pulses of fire ceaseless to vivify all.
Take my leaves America, take them South and take them North, Make welcome for them everywhere, for they are your own off-spring, Surround them East and West, for they would surround you, And you precedents, connect lovingly with them, for they connect
I conn'd old times,
I sat studying at the feet of the great masters,
Now if eligible O that the great masters might return and study me.
Dead poets, philosophs, priests,
Martyrs, artists, inventors, governments long since,
Language-shapers on other shores,
Nations once powerful, now reduced, withdrawn, or desolate, I dare not proceed till I respectfully credit what you have left
I have perused it, own it is admirable, (moving awhile among it,) Think nothing can ever be greater, nothing can ever deserve more
than it deserves,
Regarding it all intently a long while, then dismissing it, I stand in my place with my own day here.
Here the heir-ship and heiress-ship of the world, here the flame of materials,
Here spirituality the translatress, the openly-avow'd,
The ever-tending, the finale of visible forms,
The satisfier, after due long-waiting now advancing,
Yes here comes my mistress the soul.
Forever and forever--longer than soil is brown and solid--longer
I will make the poems of materials, for I think they are to be the most spiritual poems,
And I will make the poems of my body and of mortality,
For I think I shall then supply myself with the poems of my soul and of immortality.
I will make a song for these States that no one State may under any circumstances be subjected to another State,
And I will make a song that there shall be comity by day and by night between all the States, and between any two of them,
And I will make a song for the ears of the President, full of weapons with menacing points,
And behind the weapons countless dissatisfied faces;
And a song make I of the One form'd out of all,
The fang'd and glittering One whose head is over all,
Resolute warlike One including and over all,
(However high the head of any else that head is over all.)
I will trail the whole geography of the globe and salute courteously every city large and small,
And employments! I will put in my poems that with you is heroism upon land and sea,
And I will report all heroism from an American point of view.
I will sing the song of companionship,
I will show what alone must finally compact these,
I believe these are to found their own ideal of manly love,
I will therefore let flame from me the burning fires that were threatening to consume me,
I will lift what has too long kept down those smouldering fires, I will give them complete abandonment,
I will write the evangel-poem of comrades and of love,
For who but I should understand love with all its sorrow and joy? And who but I should be the poet of comrades?
I am the credulous man of qualities, ages, races,
I advance from the people in their own spirit,
Here is what sings unrestricted faith.
Omnes! omnes! let others ignore what they may,
I make the poem of evil also, I commemorate that part also, I am myself just as much evil as good, and my nation is--and I say
there is in fact no evil,
(Or if there is I say it is just as important to you, to the land or
to me, as any thing else.)
I too, following many and follow'd by many, inaugurate a religion, I descend into the arena,
(It may be I am destin'd to utter the loudest cries there, the winner's pealing shouts,
Who knows? they may rise from me yet, and soar above every thing.)
I say no man has ever yet been half devout enough,
None has ever yet adored or worship'd half enough,
None has begun to think how divine he himself is, and how certain
I say that the real and permanent grandeur of these States must be their religion,
Otherwise there is just no real and permanent grandeur;
(Nor character nor life worthy the name without religion,
Nor land nor man or woman without religion.)
What are you doing young man?
Are you so earnest, so given up to literature, science, art, amours? These ostensible realities, politics, points?
Your ambition or business whatever it may be?
It is well--against such I say not a word, I am their poet also, But behold! such swiftly subside, burnt up for religion's sake, For not all matter is fuel to heat, impalpable flame, the essential life of the earth,Any more than such are to religion.
What do you seek so pensive and silent? What do you need camerado?
Dear son do you think it is love?
It is a painful thing to love a man or woman to excess, and yet it satisfies, it is great,
But there is something else very great, it makes the whole coincide,
It, magnificent, beyond materials, with continuous hands sweeps and provides for all.
Know you, solely to drop in the earth the germs of a greater religion, The following chants each for its kind I sing.
For you to share with me two greatnesses, and a third one rising inclusive and more resplendent,
The greatness of Love and Democracy, and the greatness of Religion.
Melange mine own, the unseen and the seen,
Mysterious ocean where the streams empty,
Prophetic spirit of materials shifting and flickering around me,
Living beings, identities now doubtless near us in the air that we know not of, Contact daily and hourly that will not release me,
These selecting, these in hints demanded of me.
Not he with a daily kiss onward from childhood kissing me,
Has winded and twisted around me that which holds me to him, Any more than I am held to the heavens and all the spiritual world, After what they have done to me, suggesting themes.
O such themes--equalities! O divine average!
Warblings under the sun, usher'd as now, or at noon, or setting, Strains musical flowing through ages, now reaching hither,
I take to your reckless and composite chords, add to them, and
As I have walk'd in Alabama my morning walk,
I have seen where the she-bird the mocking-bird sat on her nest in
the briers hatching her brood.
I have seen the he-bird also,
I have paus'd to hear him near at hand inflating his throat and
And while I paus'd it came to me that what he really sang for was not there only,
Nor for his mate nor himself only, nor all sent back by the echoes,
But subtle, clandestine, away beyond,
A charge transmitted and gift occult for those being born.
Ma femme! for the brood beyond us and of us,
For those who belong here and those to come,
I exultant to be ready for them will now shake out carols stronger
To earn for the body and the mind whatever adheres and goes forward and is not dropt by death;
I will effuse egotism and show it underlying all, and I will be the bard of personality,
And I will show of male and female that either is but the equal of the other,
And sexual organs and acts! do you concentrate in me, for I am determin'd to tell you with courageous clear voice to prove you illustrious,
And I will show that there is no imperfection in the present, and can be none in the future,
And I will show that whatever happens to anybody it may be turn'd to beautiful results,
And I will show that nothing can happen more beautiful than death,
And I will thread a thread through my poems that time and events are compact,
And that all the things of the universe are perfect miracles, each as profound as any.
I will not make poems with reference to parts,
But I will make poems, songs, thoughts, with reference to ensemble, And I will not sing with reference to a day, but with reference to
And I will not make a poem nor the least part of a poem but has reference to the soul,
Because having look'd at the objects of the universe, I find there is no one nor any particle of one but has reference to the soul.
Was somebody asking to see the soul?
See, your own shape and countenance, persons, substances, beasts,
Item for item it will elude the hands of the corpse-cleaners and pass to fitting spheres,
Carrying what has accrued to it from the moment of birth to the moment of death.
Not the types set up by the printer return their impression, the meaning, the main concern,
Any more than a man's substance and life or a woman's substance and life return in the body and the soul,
Indifferently before death and after death.
Behold, the body includes and is the meaning, the main concern and includes and is the soul;
Whoever you are, how superb and how divine is your body, or any part of it!
Daughter of the lands did you wait for your poet?
Did you wait for one with a flowing mouth and indicative hand? Toward the male of the States, and toward the female of the States, Exulting words, words to Democracy's lands.
Interlink'd, food-yielding lands!
Land of coal and iron! land of gold! land of cotton, sugar, rice! Land of wheat, beef, pork! land of wool and hemp! land of the apple
Land of the pastoral plains, the grass-fields of the world! land of those sweet-air'd interminable plateaus!
Land of the herd, the garden, the healthy house of adobie!
Lands where the north-west Columbia winds, and where the south-west Colorado winds!
Land of the eastern Chesapeake! land of the Delaware!
Land of Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan!
Land of the Old Thirteen! Massachusetts land! land of Vermont and Connecticut!
Land of the ocean shores! land of sierras and peaks!
Land of boatmen and sailors! fishermen's land!
Inextricable lands! the clutch'd together! the passionate ones!
The side by side! the elder and younger brothers! the bony-limb'd!
The great women's land! the feminine! the experienced sisters and the inexperienced sisters!
Far breath'd land! Arctic braced! Mexican breez'd! the diverse! the compact!
The Pennsylvanian! the Virginian! the double Carolinian!
O all and each well-loved by me! my intrepid nations! O I at any rate include you all with perfect love!
I cannot be discharged from you! not from one any sooner than another!
O death! O for all that, I am yet of you unseen this hour with
Walking New England, a friend, a traveler,
Splashing my bare feet in the edge of the summer ripples on
Crossing the prairies, dwelling again in Chicago, dwelling in every town,
Observing shows, births, improvements, structures, arts,
Listening to orators and oratresses in public halls,
Of and through the States as during life, each man and woman my neighbor,
The Louisianian, the Georgian, as near to me, and I as near to him and her,
The Mississippian and Arkansian yet with me, and I yet with any of them,
Yet upon the plains west of the spinal river, yet in my house of adobie,
Yet returning eastward, yet in the Seaside State or in Maryland,
Yet Kanadian cheerily braving the winter, the snow and ice welcome to me,
Yet a true son either of Maine or of the Granite State, or the
Narragansett Bay State, or the Empire State,
Yet sailing to other shores to annex the same, yet welcoming every new brother,
Hereby applying these leaves to the new ones from the hour they unite with the old ones,
Coming among the new ones myself to be their companion and equal, coming personally to you now,
Enjoining you to acts, characters, spectacles, with me.
With me with firm holding, yet haste, haste on.
For your life adhere to me,
(I may have to be persuaded many times before I consent to give myself really to you, but what of that?
No dainty dolce affettuoso I,
Bearded, sun-burnt, gray-neck'd, forbidding, I have arrived, To be wrestled with as I pass for the solid prizes of the universe, For such I afford whoever can persevere to win them.
On my way a moment I pause,
Here for you! and here for America!
Still the present I raise aloft, still the future of the States I
Leaving natural breaths, sounds of rain and winds, calls as of birds and animals in the woods, syllabled to us for names,
Okonee, Koosa, Ottawa, Monongahela, Sauk, Natchez, Chattahoochee, Kaqueta, Oronoco,
Wabash, Miami, Saginaw, Chippewa, Oshkosh, Walla-Walla,
Leaving such to the States they melt, they depart, charging the water and the land with names.
Expanding and swift, henceforth,
Elements, breeds, adjustments, turbulent, quick and audacious, A world primal again, vistas of glory incessant and branching, A new race dominating previous ones and grander far, with new contests, New politics, new literatures and religions, new inventions and arts.
See, steamers steaming through my poems,
See, in my poems immigrants continually coming and landing, See, in arriere, the wigwam, the trail, the hunter's hut, the flat-boat,
See, on the one side the Western Sea and on the other the Eastern Sea, how they advance and retreat upon my poems as upon their own shores,
See, pastures and forests in my poems--see, animals wild and tame--see, beyond the Kaw, countless herds of buffalo feeding on short curly grass,
See, in my poems, cities, solid, vast, inland, with paved streets, with iron and stone edifices, ceaseless vehicles, and commerce,
See, the many-cylinder'd steam printing-press--see, the electric telegraph stretching across the continent,
See, through Atlantica's depths pulses American Europe reaching, pulses of Europe duly return'd,
See, the strong and quick locomotive as it departs, panting, blowing the steam-whistle,
See, ploughmen ploughing farms--see, miners digging mines--see, the numberless factories,
See, mechanics busy at their benches with tools--see from among them superior judges, philosophs, Presidents, emerge, drest in working dresses,
See, lounging through the shops and fields of the States, me well-belov'd, close-held by day and night,
Hear the loud echoes of my songs there--read the hints come at last.
O camerado close! O you and me at last, and us two only. O a word to clear one's path ahead endlessly!
O something ecstatic and undemonstrable! O music wild!
O now I triumph--and you shall also;
O hand in hand--O wholesome pleasure--O one more desirer and lover! O to haste firm holding--to haste, haste on with me.
2. Song of Myself
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten, I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard, Nature without check with original energy.
Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.
The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the
distillation, it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.
The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, buzz'd whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and vine, My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing
The sound of the belch'd words of my voice loos'd to the eddies of the wind,
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hill-sides,
The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun.
Have you reckon'd a thousand acres much? have you reckon'd the earth much? Have you practis'd so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?
Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.
I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the
beginning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.
There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.
Out of the dimness opposite equals advance, always substance and increase, always sex,
Always a knit of identity, always distinction, always a breed of life.
To elaborate is no avail, learn'd and unlearn'd feel that it is so.
Sure as the most certain sure, plumb in the uprights, well
entretied, braced in the beams,
Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical,
I and this mystery here we stand.
Lack one lacks both, and the unseen is proved by the seen, Till that becomes unseen and receives proof in its turn.
Showing the best and dividing it from the worst age vexes age, Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of things, while they
As the hugging and loving bed-fellow sleeps at my side through the night, and withdraws at the peep of the day with stealthy tread,
Leaving me baskets cover'd with white towels swelling the house with their plenty,
Shall I postpone my acceptation and realization and scream at my eyes,
That they turn from gazing after and down the road,
And forthwith cipher and show me to a cent,
Exactly the value of one and exactly the value of two, and which is ahead?
Trippers and askers surround me,
People I meet, the effect upon me of my early life or the ward and
city I live in, or the nation,
The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old and new, My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues,
The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love, The sickness of one of my folks or of myself, or ill-doing or loss
Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news, the fitful events;
These come to me days and nights and go from me again,
But they are not the Me myself.
Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,
Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary, Looks down, is erect, or bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest, Looking with side-curved head curious what will come next, Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.
Backward I see in my own days where I sweated through fog with linguists and contenders,
I have no mockings or arguments, I witness and wait.
I believe in you my soul, the other I am must not abase itself to you, And you must not be abased to the other.
Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat, Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not
I mind how once we lay such a transparent summer morning, How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn'd over upon me, And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongueto my bare-stript heart, And reach'd till you felt my beard, and reach'd till you held my feet.
Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass all the argument of the earth,
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love,
And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,
And mossy scabs of the worm fence, heap'd stones, elder, mullein and poke-weed.
A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands; How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may see
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones, Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I
Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them, It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon out
This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers, Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.
They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death, And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the
Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?
I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.
I pass death with the dying and birth with the new-wash'd babe, and am not contain'd between my hat and boots,
And peruse manifold objects, no two alike and every one good,
The earth good and the stars good, and their adjuncts all good.
I am the mate and companion of people, all just as immortal and fathomless as myself,
(They do not know how immortal, but I know.)
Every kind for itself and its own, for me mine male and female, For me those that have been boys and that love women, For me the man that is proud and feels how it stings to be slighted, For me the sweet-heart and the old maid, for me mothers and the
mothers of mothers,
For me lips that have smiled, eyes that have shed tears, For me children and the begetters of children.
Undrape! you are not guilty to me, nor stale nor discarded,
I see through the broadcloth and gingham whether or no,
And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless, and cannot be shaken away.
The little one sleeps in its cradle,
I lift the gauze and look a long time, and silently brush away flies
The blab of the pave, tires of carts, sluff of boot-soles, talk of the promenaders,
The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogating thumb, the clank of the shod horses on the granite floor,
The snow-sleighs, clinking, shouted jokes, pelts of snow-balls,
The hurrahs for popular favorites, the fury of rous'd mobs,
The flap of the curtain'd litter, a sick man inside borne to the hospital,
The meeting of enemies, the sudden oath, the blows and fall,
The excited crowd, the policeman with his star quickly working his passage to the centre of the crowd,
The impassive stones that receive and return so many echoes,
What groans of over-fed or half-starv'd who fall sunstruck or in fits,
What exclamations of women taken suddenly who hurry home and give birth to babes,
What living and buried speech is always vibrating here, what howls restrain'd by decorum,
Arrests of criminals, slights, adulterous offers made, acceptances, rejections with convex lips,
I mind them or the show or resonance of them--I come and I depart.
The big doors of the country barn stand open and ready, The dried grass of the harvest-time loads the slow-drawn wagon, The clear light plays on the brown gray and green intertinged, The armfuls are pack'd to the sagging mow.
I am there, I help, I came stretch'd atop of the load, I felt its soft jolts, one leg reclined on the other,
I jump from the cross-beams and seize the clover and timothy, And roll head over heels and tangle my hair full of wisps.
Alone far in the wilds and mountains I hunt,
Wandering amazed at my own lightness and glee,
In the late afternoon choosing a safe spot to pass the night, Kindling a fire and broiling the fresh-kill'd game,
Falling asleep on the gather'd leaves with my dog and gun by my side.
The boatmen and clam-diggers arose early and stopt for me, I tuck'd my trowser-ends in my boots and went and had a good time; You should have been with us that day round the chowder-kettle.
I saw the marriage of the trapper in the open air in the far west, the bride was a red girl,
Her father and his friends sat near cross-legged and dumbly smoking, they had moccasins to their feet and large thick blankets hanging from their shoulders,
On a bank lounged the trapper, he was drest mostly in skins, his luxuriant beard and curls protected his neck, he held his bride by the hand,
She had long eyelashes, her head was bare, her coarse straight locks descended upon her voluptuous limbs and reach'd to her feet.
The runaway slave came to my house and stopt outside,
I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile,
Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsy and weak, And went where he sat on a log and led him in and assured him, And brought water and fill'd a tub for his sweated body and bruis'd feet, And gave him a room that enter'd from my own, and gave him some
coarse clean clothes,
And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and his awkwardness, And remember putting piasters on the galls of his neck and ankles; He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and pass'd north, I had him sit next me at table, my fire-lock lean'd in the corner.
Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore, Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly;
Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome. She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank,
She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the window.
The young men float on their backs, their white bellies bulge to the sun, they do not ask who seizes fast to them,
They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and bending arch,
They do not think whom they souse with spray.
The butcher-boy puts off his killing-clothes, or sharpens his knife at the stall in the market,
I loiter enjoying his repartee and his shuffle and break-down.
From the cinder-strew'd threshold I follow their movements, The lithe sheer of their waists plays even with their massive arms, Overhand the hammers swing, overhand so slow, overhand so sure, They do not hasten, each man hits in his place.13
The negro holds firmly the reins of his four horses, the block swags underneath on its tied-over chain,
The negro that drives the long dray of the stone-yard, steady and tall he stands pois'd on one leg on the string-piece,
His blue shirt exposes his ample neck and breast and loosens over his hip-band,
His glance is calm and commanding, he tosses the slouch of his hat away from his forehead,
The sun falls on his crispy hair and mustache, falls on the black of his polish'd and perfect limbs.
In me the caresser of life wherever moving, backward as well as forward sluing,
To niches aside and junior bending, not a person or object missing,
Absorbing all to myself and for this song.
Oxen that rattle the yoke and chain or halt in the leafy shade, what is that you express in your eyes?
It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life.
My tread scares the wood-drake and wood-duck on my distant and day-long ramble,
They rise together, they slowly circle around.
I believe in those wing'd purposes,
And acknowledge red, yellow, white, playing within me,
And consider green and violet and the tufted crown intentional, And do not call the tortoise unworthy because she is not something else, And the in the woods never studied the gamut, yet trills pretty well to me, And the look of the bay mare shames silliness out of me.
The wild gander leads his flock through the cool night,
Ya-honk he says, and sounds it down to me like an invitation, The pert may suppose it meaningless, but I listening close, Find its purpose and place up there toward the wintry sky.
The sharp-hoof'd moose of the north, the cat on the house-sill, the chickadee, the prairie-dog,
The litter of the grunting sow as they tug at her teats,
The brood of the turkey-hen and she with her half-spread wings,
I see in them and myself the same old law.
I am enamour'd of growing out-doors,
Of men that live among cattle or taste of the ocean or woods, Of the builders and steerers of ships and the wielders of axes and
I can eat and sleep with them week in and week out.
What is commonest, cheapest, nearest, easiest, is Me,
Me going in for my chances, spending for vast returns,
Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that will take me, Not asking the sky to come down to my good will,
Scattering it freely forever.
The pure contralto sings in the organ loft,
The carpenter dresses his plank, the tongue of his foreplane
whistles its wild ascending lisp,
The married and unmarried children ride home to their Thanksgiving dinner, The pilot seizes the king-pin, he heaves down with a strong arm, The mate stands braced in the whale-boat, lance and harpoon are ready, The duck-shooter walks by silent and cautious stretches,
The deacons are ordain'd with cross'd hands at the altar,
The spinning-girl retreats and advances to the hum of the big wheel, The farmer stops by the bars as he walks on a First-day loafe and
looks at the oats and rye,
The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum a confirm'd case,
(He will never sleep any more as he did in the cot in his mother's
The jour printer with gray head and gaunt jaws works at his case, He turns his quid of tobacco while his eyes blurr with the manuscript; The malform'd limbs are tied to the surgeon's table,
What is removed drops horribly in a pail;
The quadroon girl is sold at the auction-stand, the drunkard nods by
The machinist rolls up his sleeves, the policeman travels his beat, the gate-keeper marks who pass,
The young fellow drives the express-wagon, (I love him, though I do not know him;)
The half-breed straps on his light boots to compete in the race,
The western turkey-shooting draws old and young, some lean on their rifles, some sit on logs,
Out from the crowd steps the marksman, takes his position, levels his piece;
The groups of newly-come immigrants cover the wharf or levee,
As the woolly-pates hoe in the sugar-field, the overseer views them from his saddle,
The bugle calls in the ball-room, the gentlemen run for their
partners, the dancers bow to each other,
The youth lies awake in the cedar-roof'd garret and harks to the musical rain,
The Wolverine sets traps on the creek that helps fill the Huron,
The squaw wrapt in her yellow-hemm'd cloth is offering moccasins and bead-bags for sale,
The connoisseur peers along the exhibition-gallery with half-shut eyes bent sideways,
As the deck-hands make fast the steamboat the plank is thrown for the shore-going passengers,
The young sister holds out the skein while the elder sister winds it off in a ball, and stops now and then for the knots,
The one-year wife is recovering and happy having a week ago borne her first child,
The clean-hair'd Yankee girl works with her sewing-machine or in the factory or mill,
The paving-man leans on his two-handed rammer, the reporter's lead flies swiftly over the note-book, the sign-painter is lettering with blue and gold,
The canal boy trots on the tow-path, the book-keeper counts at his desk, the shoemaker waxes his thread,
The conductor beats time for the band and all the performers follow him,
The child is baptized, the convert is making his first professions,
The regatta is spread on the bay, the race is begun, (how the white sails sparkle!)
The drover watching his drove sings out to them that would stray,
The pedler sweats with his pack on his back, (the purchaser higgling about the odd cent;)
The bride unrumples her white dress, the minute-hand of the clock moves slowly,
The opium-eater reclines with rigid head and just-open'd lips,
The prostitute draggles her shawl, her bonnet bobs on her tipsy and pimpled neck,
The crowd laugh at her blackguard oaths, the men jeer and wink to each other,
(Miserable! I do not laugh at your oaths nor jeer you;)
The President holding a cabinet council is surrounded by the great Secretaries,
On the piazza walk three matrons stately and friendly with twined arms,
The crew of the fish-smack pack repeated layers of halibut in the hold,
The Missourian crosses the plains toting his wares and his cattle,
As the fare-collector goes through the train he gives notice by the jingling of loose change,
The floor-men are laying the floor, the tinners are tinning the
roof, the masons are calling for mortar,
In single file each shouldering his hod pass onward the laborers;
Seasons pursuing each other the indescribable crowd is gather'd, it is the fourth of Seventh-month, (what salutes of cannon and small arms!)
Seasons pursuing each other the plougher ploughs, the mower mows, and the winter-grain falls in the ground;
Off on the lakes the pike-fisher watches and waits by the hole in the frozen surface,
The stumps stand thick round the clearing, the squatter strikes deep with his axe,
Flatboatmen make fast towards dusk near the cotton-wood or pecan-trees,
Coon-seekers go through the regions of the Red river or through those drain'd by the Tennessee, or through those of the Arkansas,
Torches shine in the dark that hangs on the Chattahooche or Altamahaw,
Patriarchs sit at supper with sons and grandsons and great-grandsons around them,
In walls of adobie, in canvas tents, rest hunters and trappers after their day's sport,
The city sleeps and the country sleeps,
The living sleep for their time, the dead sleep for their time,
The old husband sleeps by his wife and the young husband sleeps by his wife;
And these tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them,
And such as it is to be of these more or less I am,
And of these one and all I weave the song of myself.
I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,
Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,
Stuff'd with the stuff that is coarse and stuff'd with the stuff
One of the Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the largest the same,
A Southerner soon as a Northerner, a planter nonchalant and hospitable down by the Oconee I live,
A Yankee bound my own way ready for trade, my joints the limberest joints on earth and the sternest joints on earth,
A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in my deer-skin
leggings, a Louisianian or Georgian,
A boatman over lakes or bays or along coasts, a Hoosier, Badger, Buckeye;
At home on Kanadian snow-shoes or up in the bush, or with fishermen off Newfoundland,
At home in the fleet of ice-boats, sailing with the rest and tacking,
At home on the hills of Vermont or in the woods of Maine, or the Texan ranch,
Comrade of Californians, comrade of free North-Westerners, (loving their big proportions,)
Comrade of raftsmen and coalmen, comrade of all who shake hands and welcome to drink and meat,
A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the thoughtfullest,
A novice beginning yet experient of myriads of seasons,
Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion,
A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor, quaker,
Prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician, priest.
I resist any thing better than my own diversity,
Breathe the air but leave plenty after me,
And am not stuck up, and am in my place.
(The moth and the fish-eggs are in their place,
The bright suns I see and the dark suns I cannot see are in their place, The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place.)
These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they are not original with me,
If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or next to nothing,
If they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle they are nothing,
If they are not just as close as they are distant they are nothing.
With music strong I come, with my cornets and my drums,
I play not marches for accepted victors only, I play marches for
Vivas to those who have fail'd!
And to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea!
And to those themselves who sank in the sea!
And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome heroes! And the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known!
This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger, It is for the wicked just same as the righteous, I make appointments
I will not have a single person slighted or left away,
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited, The heavy-lipp'd slave is invited, the venerealee is invited; There shall be no difference between them and the rest.
This is the press of a bashful hand, this the float and odor of hair, This the touch of my lips to yours, this the murmur of yearning, This the far-off depth and height reflecting my own face, This the thoughtful merge of myself, and the outlet again.Do you guess I have some intricate purpose? Well I have, for the Fourth-month showers have, and the mica on the side of a rock has. Do you take it I would astonish?
Does the daylight astonish? does the early redstart twittering through the woods?
Do I astonish more than they?
Who goes there? hankering, gross, mystical, nude; How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat?
Whimpering and truckling fold with powders for invalids, conformity goes to the fourth-remov'd,
I wear my hat as I please indoors or out.
Having pried through the strata, analyzed to a hair, counsel'd with doctors and calculated close,
I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.
In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn less, And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them.
I know I am solid and sound,
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow, All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.
I know I am deathless,
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter's compass, I know I shall not pass like a child's carlacue cut with a burnt
I know I am august,
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood, I see that the elementary laws never apologize,
(I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by,
I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content, And if each and all be aware I sit content.
And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.
My foothold is tenon'd and mortis'd in granite, I laugh at what you call dissolution,
And I know the amplitude of time.
I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul,
The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me, The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate
I am the poet of the woman the same as the man, And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man, And I say there is nothing greater than the mother of men.
I chant the chant of dilation or pride,
We have had ducking and deprecating about enough, I show that size is only development.
It is a trifle, they will more than arrive there every one, and still pass on.
I am he that walks with the tender and growing night, I call to the earth and sea half-held by the night.
Press close bare-bosom'd night--press close magnetic nourishing night! Night of south winds--night of the large few stars!
Still nodding night--mad naked summer night.
Smile O voluptuous cool-breath'd earth!
Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees!
Earth of departed sunset--earth of the mountains misty-topt! Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon just tinged with blue! Earth of shine and dark mottling the tide of the river!
Earth of the limpid gray of clouds brighter and clearer for my sake! Far-swooping elbow'd earth--rich apple-blossom'd earth! Smile, for your lover comes.
You sea! I resign myself to you also--I guess what you mean, I behold from the beach your crooked fingers,
I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me,
We must have a turn together, I undress, hurry me out of sight of the land, Cushion me soft, rock me in billowy drowse,
Dash me with amorous wet, I can repay you.
Sea of stretch'd ground-swells,
Sea breathing broad and convulsive breaths,
Sea of the brine of life and of unshovell'd yet always-ready graves, Howler and scooper of storms, capricious and dainty sea,
I am integral with you, I too am of one phase and of all phases.
What blurt is this about virtue and about vice?
Evil propels me and reform of evil propels me, I stand indifferent, My gait is no fault-finder's or rejecter's gait,
I moisten the roots of all that has grown.
Did you fear some scrofula out of the unflagging pregnancy? Did you guess the celestial laws are yet to be work'd over and rectified?
I find one side a balance and the antipedal side a balance, Soft doctrine as steady help as stable doctrine,
Thoughts and deeds of the present our rouse and early start.
Endless unfolding of words of ages!
And mine a word of the modern, the word En-Masse.
Hurrah for positive science! long live exact demonstration!
Fetch stonecrop mixt with cedar and branches of lilac,
This is the lexicographer, this the chemist, this made a grammar of
the old cartouches,
These mariners put the ship through dangerous unknown seas. This is the geologist, this works with the scalper, and this is a
Gentlemen, to you the first honors always!
Your facts are useful, and yet they are not my dwelling,
I but enter by them to an area of my dwelling.
Less the reminders of properties told my words,
And more the reminders they of life untold, and of freedom and extrication, And make short account of neuters and geldings, and favor men and
Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son,
Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking and breeding,
No sentimentalist, no stander above men and women or apart from them, No more modest than immodest.
Through me many long dumb voices,
Voices of the interminable generations of prisoners and slaves, Voices of the diseas'd and despairing and of thieves and dwarfs, Voices of cycles of preparation and accretion,
And of the threads that connect the stars, and of wombs and of the
And of the rights of them the others are down upon,
Of the deform'd, trivial, flat, foolish, despised,
Fog in the air, beetles rolling balls of dung.
Through me forbidden voices,
Voices of sexes and lusts, voices veil'd and I remove the veil, Voices indecent by me clarified and transfigur'd.
I do not press my fingers across my mouth,
I keep as delicate around the bowels as around the head and heart, Copulation is no more rank to me than death is.
Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touch'd from,
The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer,
This head more than churches, bibles, and all the creeds.
If I worship one thing more than another it shall be the spread of my own body, or any part of it,
Translucent mould of me it shall be you!
Shaded ledges and rests it shall be you!
Firm masculine colter it shall be you!
Whatever goes to the tilth of me it shall be you!
You my rich blood! your milky stream pale strippings of my life! Breast that presses against other breasts it shall be you! My brain it shall be your occult convolutions!
Root of wash'd sweet-flag! timorous pond-snipe! nest of guarded duplicate eggs! it shall be you!
Mix'd tussled hay of head, beard, brawn, it shall be you!
Trickling sap of maple, fibre of manly wheat, it shall be you!
Sun so generous it shall be you!
Vapors lighting and shading my face it shall be you!
You sweaty brooks and dews it shall be you!
Winds whose soft-tickling genitals rub against me it shall be you!
Broad muscular fields, branches of live oak, loving lounger in my winding paths, it shall be you!
Hands I have taken, face I have kiss'd, mortal I have ever touch'd, it shall be you.
I dote on myself, there is that lot of me and all so luscious,
Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy,
I cannot tell how my ankles bend, nor whence the cause of my faintest wish, Nor the cause of the friendship I emit, nor the cause of the
To behold the day-break!
The little light fades the immense and diaphanous shadows, The air tastes good to my palate.
Hefts of the moving world at innocent gambols silently rising freshly exuding,
Scooting obliquely high and low.
The earth by the sky staid with, the daily close of their junction, The heav'd challenge from the east that moment over my head, The mocking taunt, See then whether you shall be master!
Dazzling and tremendous how quick the sun-rise would kill me, If I could not now and always send sun-rise out of me. We also ascend dazzling and tremendous as the sun, We found our own O my soul in the calm and cool of the daybreak.
Speech is the twin of my vision, it is unequal to measure itself, It provokes me forever, it says sarcastically,
Walt you contain enough, why don't you let it out then?
Come now I will not be tantalized, you conceive too much of articulation,
Do you not know O speech how the buds beneath you are folded?
Waiting in gloom, protected by frost,
The dirt receding before my prophetical screams,
I underlying causes to balance them at last,
My knowledge my live parts, it keeping tally with the meaning of all things,
Happiness, (which whoever hears me let him or her set out in search of this day.)
My final merit I refuse you, I refuse putting from me what I really am, Encompass worlds, but never try to encompass me,
I crowd your sleekest and best by simply looking toward you.
Writing and talk do not prove me,
I carry the plenum of proof and every thing else in my face,
With the hush of my lips I wholly confound the skeptic.
Now I will do nothing but listen,
To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute toward it.
I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat, gossip of flames, clack of sticks cooking my meals,
I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice,
I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following,
Sounds of the city and sounds out of the city, sounds of the day and night,
Talkative young ones to those that like them, the loud laugh of work-people at their meals,
The angry base of disjointed friendship, the faint tones of the sick,
The judge with hands tight to the desk, his pallid lips pronouncing a death-sentence,
The heave'e'yo of stevedores unlading ships by the wharves, the refrain of the anchor-lifters,
The ring of alarm-bells, the cry of fire, the whirr of swift-streaking engines and hose-carts with premonitory tinkles and color'd lights, The steam-whistle, the solid roll of the train of approaching cars, The slow march play'd at the head of the association marching two and two, (They go to guard some corpse, the flag-tops are draped with black muslin.)
I hear the violoncello, ('tis the young man's heart's complaint,) I hear the key'd cornet, it glides quickly in through my ears, It shakes mad-sweet pangs through my belly and breast.I hear the chorus, it is a grand opera, Ah this indeed is music--this suits me. A tenor large and fresh as the creation fills me, The orbic flex of his mouth is pouring and filling me full.
I hear the train'd soprano (what work with hers is this?)
The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies,
It wrenches such ardors from me I did not know I possess'd them, It sails me, I dab with bare feet, they are lick'd by the indolent waves, I am cut by bitter and angry hail, I lose my breath,
Steep'd amid honey'd morphine, my windpipe throttled in fakes of death, At length let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles,
And that we call Being.
To be in any form, what is that?
(Round and round we go, all of us, and ever come back thither,) If nothing lay more develop'd the quahaug in its callous shell were enough.
Mine is no callous shell,
I have instant conductors all over me whether I pass or stop, They seize every object and lead it harmlessly through me.
Is this then a touch? quivering me to a new identity,
Flames and ether making a rush for my veins,
Treacherous tip of me reaching and crowding to help them,
My flesh and blood playing out lightning to strike what is hardly
different from myself,
On all sides prurient provokers stiffening my limbs,
Straining the udder of my heart for its withheld drip,
Behaving licentious toward me, taking no denial,
Depriving me of my best as for a purpose,
Unbuttoning my clothes, holding me by the bare waist,
Deluding my confusion with the calm of the sunlight and pasture-fields, Immodestly sliding the fellow-senses away,
They bribed to swap off with touch and go and graze at the edges of me, No consideration, no regard for my draining strength or my anger, Fetching the rest of the herd around to enjoy them a while, Then all uniting to stand on a headland and worry me.
The sentries desert every other part of me,
They have left me helpless to a red marauder,
They all come to the headland to witness and assist against me.
I talk wildly, I have lost my wits, I and nobody else am the
I went myself first to the headland, my own hands carried me there.
Blind loving wrestling touch, sheath'd hooded sharp-tooth'd touch! Did it make you ache so, leaving me?
All truths wait in all things,
They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,
They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon,
The insignificant is as big to me as any,
(What is less or more than a touch?)
A minute and a drop of me settle my brain,
I believe the soggy clods shall become lovers and lamps,
And a compend of compends is the meat of a man or woman, And a summit and flower there is the feeling they have for each other, And they are to branch boundlessly out of that lesson until it becomes omnific,
I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars, And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg
of the wren,
And the tree-toad is a chef-d'oeuvre for the highest,
And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven, And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery, And the cow crunching with depress'd head surpasses any statue, And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.
I find I incorporate gneiss, coal, long-threaded moss, fruits, grains, esculent roots,
And am stucco'd with quadrupeds and birds all over,
And have distanced what is behind me for good reasons,
But call any thing back again when I desire it.
In vain the speeding or shyness,
In vain the plutonic rocks send their old heat against my approach, In vain the mastodon retreats beneath its own powder'd bones, In vain objects stand leagues off and assume manifold shapes, In vain the ocean settling in hollows and the great monsters lying low, In vain the buzzard houses herself with the sky,
In vain the snake slides through the creepers and logs,
In vain the elk takes to the inner passes of the woods,
In vain the razor-bill'd auk sails far north to Labrador,
I follow quickly, I ascend to the nest in the fissure of the cliff.
I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain'd,
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins, They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God, Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth. So they show their relations to me and I accept them,
They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them plainly in their possession.
Myself moving forward then and now and forever,
Gathering and showing more always and with velocity,
Infinite and omnigenous, and the like of these among them, Not too exclusive toward the reachers of my remembrancers, Picking out here one that I love, and now go with him on brotherly terms.
A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and responsive to my caresses, Head high in the forehead, wide between the ears,
Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground,
Eyes full of sparkling wickedness, ears finely cut, flexibly moving.
I but use you a minute, then I resign you, stallion, Why do I need your paces when I myself out-gallop them? Even as I stand or sit passing faster than you.
Space and Time! now I see it is true, what I guess'd at,
What I guess'd when I loaf'd on the grass,
What I guess'd while I lay alone in my bed,
And again as I walk'd the beach under the paling stars of the morning.
My ties and ballasts leave me, my elbows rest in sea-gaps, I skirt sierras, my palms cover continents,
I am afoot with my vision.
By the city's quadrangular houses--in log huts, camping with lumber-men, Along the ruts of the turnpike, along the dry gulch and rivulet bed, Weeding my onion-patch or hosing rows of carrots and parsnips,
crossing savannas, trailing in forests,
Prospecting, gold-digging, girdling the trees of a new purchase, Scorch'd ankle-deep by the hot sand, hauling my boat down the
Where the panther walks to and fro on a limb overhead, where the buck turns furiously at the hunter,
Where the rattlesnake suns his flabby length on a rock, where the otter is feeding on fish,
Where the alligator in his tough pimples sleeps by the bayou,
Where the black bear is searching for roots or honey, where the beaver pats the mud with his paddle-shaped tall;
Over the growing sugar, over the yellow-flower'd cotton plant, over the rice in its low moist field,
Over the sharp-peak'd farm house, with its scallop'd scum and slender shoots from the gutters,
Over the western persimmon, over the long-leav'd corn, over the delicate blue-flower flax,
Over the white and brown buckwheat, a hummer and buzzer there with the rest,
Over the dusky green of the rye as it ripples and shades in the breeze;
Scaling mountains, pulling myself cautiously up, holding on by low scragged limbs,
Walking the path worn in the grass and beat through the leaves of the brush,
Where the quail is whistling betwixt the woods and the wheat-lot,
Where the bat flies in the Seventh-month eve, where the great goldbug drops through the dark,
Where the brook puts out of the roots of the old tree and flows to the meadow,
Where cattle stand and shake away flies with the tremulous
shuddering of their hides,
Where the cheese-cloth hangs in the kitchen, where andirons straddle the hearth-slab, where cobwebs fall in festoons from the rafters;
Where trip-hammers crash, where the press is whirling its cylinders,
Wherever the human heart beats with terrible throes under its ribs,
Where the pear-shaped balloon is floating aloft, (floating in it
myself and looking composedly down,)
Where the life-car is drawn on the slip-noose, where the heat
hatches pale-green eggs in the dented sand,
Where the she-whale swims with her calf and never forsakes it,
Where the steam-ship trails hind-ways its long pennant of smoke,
Where the fin of the shark cuts like a black chip out of the water,
Where the half-burn'd brig is riding on unknown currents,
Where shells grow to her slimy deck, where the dead are corrupting below;
Where the dense-starr'd flag is borne at the head of the regiments,
Approaching Manhattan up by the long-stretching island,
Under Niagara, the cataract falling like a veil over my countenance,
Upon a door-step, upon the horse-block of hard wood outside,
Upon the race-course, or enjoying picnics or jigs or a good game of base-ball,
At he-festivals, with blackguard gibes, ironical license,
bull-dances, drinking, laughter,
At the cider-mill tasting the sweets of the brown mash, sucking the juice through a straw,
At apple-peelings wanting kisses for all the red fruit I find,
At musters, beach-parties, friendly bees, huskings, house-raisings;
Where the mocking-bird sounds his delicious gurgles, cackles, screams, weeps,
Where the hay-rick stands in the barn-yard, where the dry-stalks are scatter'd, where the brood-cow waits in the hovel,
Where the bull advances to do his masculine work, where the stud to the mare, where the cock is treading the hen,
Where the heifers browse, where geese nip their food with short jerks,
Where sun-down shadows lengthen over the limitless and lonesome prairie,
Where herds of buffalo make a crawling spread of the square miles far and near,
Where the humming-bird shimmers, where the neck of the long-lived swan is curving and winding,
Where the laughing-gull scoots by the shore, where she laughs her near-human laugh,
Where bee-hives range on a gray bench in the garden half hid by the high weeds,
Where band-neck'd partridges roost in a ring on the ground with their heads out,
Where burial coaches enter the arch'd gates of a cemetery,
Where winter wolves bark amid wastes of snow and icicled trees,
Where the yellow-crown'd heron comes to the edge of the marsh at night and feeds upon small crabs,
Where the splash of swimmers and divers cools the warm noon,
Where the katy-did works her chromatic reed on the walnut-tree over the well,
Through patches of citrons and cucumbers with silver-wired leaves,
Through the salt-lick or orange glade, or under conical firs,
Through the gymnasium, through the curtain'd saloon, through the office or public hall;
Pleas'd with the native and pleas'd with the foreign, pleas'd with the new and old,
Pleas'd with the homely woman as well as the handsome,
Pleas'd with the quakeress as she puts off her bonnet and talks melodiously,
Pleas'd with the tune of the choir of the whitewash'd church,
Pleas'd with the earnest words of the sweating Methodist preacher, impress'd seriously at the camp-meeting;
Looking in at the shop-windows of Broadway the whole forenoon, flatting the flesh of my nose on the thick plate glass,
Wandering the same afternoon with my face turn'd up to the clouds, or down a lane or along the beach,
My right and left arms round the sides of two friends, and I in the middle;
Coming home with the silent and dark-cheek'd bush-boy, (behind me he rides at the drape of the day,)
Far from the settlements studying the print of animals' feet, or the moccasin print,
By the cot in the hospital reaching lemonade to a feverish patient,
Nigh the coffin'd corpse when all is still, examining with a candle;
Voyaging to every port to dicker and adventure,
Hurrying with the modern crowd as eager and fickle as any,
Hot toward one I hate, ready in my madness to knife him,
Solitary at midnight in my back yard, my thoughts gone from me a long while,
Walking the old hills of Judaea with the beautiful gentle God by my side,
Speeding through space, speeding through heaven and the stars,
Speeding amid the seven satellites and the broad ring, and the diameter of eighty thousand miles,
Speeding with tail'd meteors, throwing fire-balls like the rest,
Carrying the crescent child that carries its own full mother in its belly,
Storming, enjoying, planning, loving, cautioning,
Backing and filling, appearing and disappearing,
I tread day and night such roads.
I ascend to the foretruck,
I take my place late at night in the crow's-nest,
We sail the arctic sea, it is plenty light enough,
Through the clear atmosphere I stretch around on the wonderful beauty, The enormous masses of ice pass me and I pass them, the scenery is
The white-topt mountains show in the distance, I fling out my
fancies toward them,
We are approaching some great battle-field in which we are soon to be engaged,
We pass the colossal outposts of the encampment, we pass with still feet and caution,
Or we are entering by the suburbs some vast and ruin'd city,
The blocks and fallen architecture more than all the living cities of the globe.
I am a free companion, I bivouac by invading watchfires, I turn the bridgroom out of bed and stay with the bride myself, I tighten her all night to my thighs and lips.My voice is the wife's voice, the screech by the rail of the stairs, They fetch my man's body up dripping and drown'd.
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
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.
The mother of old, condemn'd for a witch, burnt with dry wood, her children gazing on,
The hounded slave that flags in the race, leans by the fence, blowing, cover'd with sweat,
The twinges that sting like needles his legs and neck, the murderous buckshot and the bullets,
All these I feel or am.
I am the hounded slave, I wince at the bite of the dogs,
Hell and despair are upon me, crack and again crack the marksmen, I clutch the rails of the fence, my gore dribs, thinn'd with the
ooze of my skin,
I fall on the weeds and stones,
The riders spur their unwilling horses, haul close,
Taunt my dizzy ears and beat me violently over the head with whip-stocks. Agonies are one of my changes of garments,
I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the
I am the mash'd fireman with breast-bone broken,
Tumbling walls buried me in their debris,
Heat and smoke I inspired, I heard the yelling shouts of my comrades, I heard the distant click of their picks and shovels,
They have clear'd the beams away, they tenderly lift me forth.
I lie in the night air in my red shirt, the pervading hush is for my sake, Painless after all I lie exhausted but not so unhappy,
White and beautiful are the faces around me, the heads are bared
Again the long roll of the drummers,
Again the attacking cannon, mortars,
Again to my listening ears the cannon responsive.
I take part, I see and hear the whole,
The cries, curses, roar, the plaudits for well-aim'd shots,
The ambulanza slowly passing trailing its red drip,
Workmen searching after damages, making indispensable repairs, The fall of grenades through the rent roof, the fan-shaped explosion, The whizz of limbs, heads, stone, wood, iron, high in the air.
Again gurgles the mouth of my dying general, he furiously waves with his hand,
He gasps through the clot Mind not me--mind--the entrenchments.
Now I tell what I knew in Texas in my early youth,
(I tell not the fall of Alamo,
Not one escaped to tell the fall of Alamo,
The hundred and fifty are dumb yet at Alamo,)
'Tis the tale of the murder in cold blood of four hundred and twelve
Retreating they had form'd in a hollow square with their baggage for breastworks,
Nine hundred lives out of the surrounding enemies, nine times their number, was the price they took in advance,
Their colonel was wounded and their ammunition gone,
They treated for an honorable capitulation, receiv'd writing and seal, gave up their arms and march'd back prisoners of war.
They were the glory of the race of rangers,
Matchless with horse, rifle, song, supper, courtship,
Large, turbulent, generous, handsome, proud, and affectionate, Bearded, sunburnt, drest in the free costume of hunters,
Not a single one over thirty years of age.
The second First-day morning they were brought out in squads and massacred, it was beautiful early summer,
The work commenced about five o'clock and was over by eight.
None obey'd the command to kneel,
Some made a mad and helpless rush, some stood stark and straight, A few fell at once, shot in the temple or heart, the living and dead
The maim'd and mangled dug in the dirt, the new-comers saw them there, Some half-kill'd attempted to crawl away,
These were despatch'd with bayonets or batter'd with the blunts of muskets, A youth not seventeen years old seiz'd his assassin till two more
Would you hear of an old-time sea-fight?
Would you learn who won by the light of the moon and stars? List to the yarn, as my grandmother's father the sailor told it to me.
His was the surly English pluck, and there is no tougher or truer, and never was, and never will be;
Along the lower'd eve he came horribly raking us.
We closed with him, the yards entangled, the cannon touch'd, My captain lash'd fast with his own hands.
We had receiv'd some eighteen pound shots under the water, On our lower-gun-deck two large pieces had burst at the first fire,
Ten o'clock at night, the full moon well up, our leaks on the gain, and five feet of water reported,
The master-at-arms loosing the prisoners confined in the after-hold to give them a chance for themselves.
Our frigate takes fire,
The other asks if we demand quarter? If our colors are struck and the fighting done?
Only three guns are in use,
One is directed by the captain himself against the enemy's main-mast, Two well serv'd with grape and canister silence his musketry and
The tops alone second the fire of this little battery, especially the main-top,
They hold out bravely during the whole of the action.
Serene stands the little captain,
He is not hurried, his voice is neither high nor low, His eyes give more light to us than our battle-lanterns.
Stretch'd and still lies the midnight,
Two great hulls motionless on the breast of the darkness, Our vessel riddled and slowly sinking, preparations to pass to the
The captain on the quarter-deck coldly giving his orders through a countenance white as a sheet,
Near by the corpse of the child that serv'd in the cabin,
The dead face of an old salt with long white hair and carefully
The flames spite of all that can be done flickering aloft and below, The husky voices of the two or three officers yet fit for duty, Formless stacks of bodies and bodies by themselves, dabs of flesh
upon the masts and spars,
Cut of cordage, dangle of rigging, slight shock of the soothe of waves, Black and impassive guns, litter of powder-parcels, strong scent, A few large stars overhead, silent and mournful shining,
Delicate sniffs of sea-breeze, smells of sedgy grass and fields by
the shore, death-messages given in charge to survivors, The hiss of the surgeon's knife, the gnawing teeth of his saw, Wheeze, cluck, swash of falling blood, short wild scream, and long,dull, tapering groan, These so, these irretrievable.
You laggards there on guard! look to your arms!
In at the conquer'd doors they crowd! I am possess'd!
Embody all presences outlaw'd or suffering,
See myself in prison shaped like another man,
And feel the dull unintermitted pain.
Not a mutineer walks handcuff'd to jail but I am handcuff'd to him and walk by his side,
(I am less the jolly one there, and more the silent one with sweat on my twitching lips.)
Enough! enough! enough!
Somehow I have been stunn'd. Stand back!
Give me a little time beyond my cuff'd head, slumbers, dreams, gaping, I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake.
That I could forget the mockers and insults!
That I could forget the trickling tears and the blows of the
I remember now,
I resume the overstaid fraction,
The grave of rock multiplies what has been confided to it, or to any graves, Corpses rise, gashes heal, fastenings roll from me.
I troop forth replenish'd with supreme power, one of an average unending procession,
Inland and sea-coast we go, and pass all boundary lines,
Our swift ordinances on their way over the whole earth,
The blossoms we wear in our hats the growth of thousands of years.
The friendly and flowing savage, who is he?
Is he waiting for civilization, or past it and mastering it?
Is he some Southwesterner rais'd out-doors? is he Kanadian? Is he from the Mississippi country? Iowa, Oregon, California?
The mountains? prairie-life, bush-life? or sailor from the sea?
Behavior lawless as snow-flakes, words simple as grass, uncomb'd head, laughter, and naivete,
Slow-stepping feet, common features, common modes and emanations,
They descend in new forms from the tips of his fingers,
They are wafted with the odor of his body or breath, they fly out of the glance of his eyes.
Flaunt of the sunshine I need not your bask--lie over!
You light surfaces only, I force surfaces and depths also.
Earth! you seem to look for something at my hands,
Say, old top-knot, what do you want?
Man or woman, I might tell how I like you, but cannot, And might tell what it is in me and what it is in you, but cannot, And might tell that pining I have, that pulse of my nights and days.
You there, impotent, loose in the knees,
Open your scarf'd chops till I blow grit within you,
Spread your palms and lift the flaps of your pockets,
I am not to be denied, I compel, I have stores plenty and to spare, And any thing I have I bestow.
To cotton-field drudge or cleaner of privies I lean, On his right cheek I put the family kiss,
And in my soul I swear I never will deny him.
To any one dying, thither I speed and twist the knob of the door. Turn the bed-clothes toward the foot of the bed,
Let the physician and the priest go home.
I seize the descending man and raise him with resistless will, O despairer, here is my neck,
By God, you shall not go down! hang your whole weight upon me.
I dilate you with tremendous breath, I buoy you up, Every room of the house do I fill with an arm'd force, Lovers of me, bafflers of graves.
Sleep--I and they keep guard all night,
Not doubt, not decease shall dare to lay finger upon you, I have embraced you, and henceforth possess you to myself, And when you rise in the morning you will find what I tell you is so.
I am he bringing help for the sick as they pant on their backs, And for strong upright men I bring yet more needed help.
I heard what was said of the universe,
Heard it and heard it of several thousand years; It is middling well as far as it goes--but is that all? Magnifying and applying come I,
Outbidding at the start the old cautious hucksters,
Taking myself the exact dimensions of Jehovah,
Lithographing Kronos, Zeus his son, and Hercules his grandson, Buying drafts of Osiris, Isis, Belus, Brahma, Buddha,
In my portfolio placing Manito loose, Allah on a leaf, the crucifix
With Odin and the hideous-faced Mexitli and every idol and image, Taking them all for what they are worth and not a cent more, Admitting they were alive and did the work of their days,
(They bore mites as for unfledg'd birds who have now to rise and fly
Accepting the rough deific sketches to fill out better in myself, bestowing them freely on each man and woman I see,
Discovering as much or more in a framer framing a house,
Putting higher claims for him there with his roll'd-up sleeves driving the mallet and chisel,
Not objecting to special revelations, considering a curl of smoke or a hair on the back of my hand just as curious as any revelation,
Lads ahold of fire-engines and hook-and-ladder ropes no less to me than the gods of the antique wars,
Minding their voices peal through the crash of destruction,
Their brawny limbs passing safe over charr'd laths, their white foreheads whole and unhurt out of the flames;
By the mechanic's wife with her babe at her nipple interceding for every person born,
Three scythes at harvest whizzing in a row from three lusty angels with shirts bagg'd out at their waists,
The snag-tooth'd hostler with red hair redeeming sins past and to come,
Selling all he possesses, traveling on foot to fee lawyers for his brother and sit by him while he is tried for forgery;
What was strewn in the amplest strewing the square rod about me, and not filling the square rod then,
The bull and the bug never worshipp'd half enough,
Dung and dirt more admirable than was dream'd,
The supernatural of no account, myself waiting my time to be one of the supremes,
The day getting ready for me when I shall do as much good as the best, and be as prodigious;
By my life-lumps! becoming already a creator,
Putting myself here and now to the ambush'd womb of the shadows. 42
A call in the midst of the crowd,
My own voice, orotund sweeping and final.
Come my children,
Come my boys and girls, my women, household and intimates, Now the performer launches his nerve, he has pass'd his prelude on
My head slues round on my neck,
Music rolls, but not from the organ,
Folks are around me, but they are no household of mine.
Ever the eaters and drinkers, ever the upward and downward sun, ever the air and the ceaseless tides,
Ever myself and my neighbors, refreshing, wicked, real,
Ever the old inexplicable query, ever that thorn'd thumb, that breath of itches and thirsts,
Ever the vexer's hoot! hoot! till we find where the sly one hides and bring him forth,
Ever love, ever the sobbing liquid of life,
Ever the bandage under the chin, ever the trestles of death.
Here and there with dimes on the eyes walking,
To feed the greed of the belly the brains liberally spooning, Tickets buying, taking, selling, but in to the feast never once going, Many sweating, ploughing, thrashing, and then the chaff for payment
Whatever interests the rest interests me, politics, wars, markets, newspapers, schools,
The mayor and councils, banks, tariffs, steamships, factories, stocks, stores, real estate and personal estate.
The little plentiful manikins skipping around in collars and tail'd coats I am aware who they are, (they are positively not worms or fleas,) I acknowledge the duplicates of myself, the weakest and shallowest
is deathless with me,
What I do and say the same waits for them,
Every thought that flounders in me the same flounders in them. I know perfectly well my own egotism,
Know my omnivorous lines and must not write any less, And would fetch you whoever you are flush with myself.
Not words of routine this song of mine,
But abruptly to question, to leap beyond yet nearer bring; This printed and bound book--but the printer and the
The well-taken photographs--but your wife or friend close and solid in your arms?
The black ship mail'd with iron, her mighty guns in her turrets--but the pluck of the captain and engineers?
In the houses the dishes and fare and furniture--but the host and hostess, and the look out of their eyes?
The sky up there--yet here or next door, or across the way?
The saints and sages in history--but you yourself?
Sermons, creeds, theology--but the fathomless human brain,
And what is reason? and what is love? and what is life?
I do not despise you priests, all time, the world over,
My faith is the greatest of faiths and the least of faiths,
Enclosing worship ancient and modern and all between ancient and modern, Believing I shall come again upon the earth after five thousand years, Waiting responses from oracles, honoring the gods, saluting the sun, Making a fetich of the first rock or stump, powowing with sticks in
the circle of obis,
Helping the llama or brahmin as he trims the lamps of the idols, Dancing yet through the streets in a phallic procession, rapt and
Drinking mead from the skull-cap, to Shastas and Vedas admirant, minding the Koran,
Walking the teokallis, spotted with gore from the stone and knife, beating the serpent-skin drum,
Accepting the Gospels, accepting him that was crucified, knowing assuredly that he is divine,
To the mass kneeling or the puritan's prayer rising, or sitting
patiently in a pew,
Ranting and frothing in my insane crisis, or waiting dead-like till my spirit arouses me,
Looking forth on pavement and land, or outside of pavement and land,
Belonging to the winders of the circuit of circuits.
One of that centripetal and centrifugal gang I turn and talk like man leaving charges before a journey.
Down-hearted doubters dull and excluded,
Frivolous, sullen, moping, angry, affected, dishearten'd, atheistical, I know every one of you, I know the sea of torment, doubt, despair
Be at peace bloody flukes of doubters and sullen mopers, I take my place among you as much as among any,
The past is the push of you, me, all, precisely the same, And what is yet untried and afterward is for you, me, all, precisely
It cannot fall the young man who died and was buried, Nor the young woman who died and was put by his side, Nor the little child that peep'd in at the door, and then drew backand was never seen again,
Nor the old man who has lived without purpose, and feels it with bitterness worse than gall,
Nor him in the poor house tubercled by rum and the bad disorder,
Nor the numberless slaughter'd and wreck'd, nor the brutish koboo call'd the ordure of humanity,
Nor the sacs merely floating with open mouths for food to slip in,
Nor any thing in the earth, or down in the oldest graves of the earth,
Nor any thing in the myriads of spheres, nor the myriads of myriads that inhabit them,
Nor the present, nor the least wisp that is known.
We have thus far exhausted trillions of winters and summers, There are trillions ahead, and trillions ahead of them.
Births have brought us richness and variety, And other births will bring us richness and variety.
Were mankind murderous or jealous upon you, my brother, my sister? I am sorry for you, they are not murderous or jealous upon me, All has been gentle with me, I keep no account with lamentation, (What have I to do with lamentation?)I am an acme of things accomplish'd, and I an encloser of things to be.
My feet strike an apex of the apices of the stairs,
On every step bunches of ages, and larger bunches between the steps, All below duly travel'd, and still I mount and mount.
Rise after rise bow the phantoms behind me,
Afar down I see the huge first Nothing, I know I was even there, I waited unseen and always, and slept through the lethargic mist, And took my time, and took no hurt from the fetid carbon.
Cycles ferried my cradle, rowing and rowing like cheerful boatmen, For room to me stars kept aside in their own rings,
They sent influences to look after what was to hold me.
For it the nebula cohered to an orb,
The long slow strata piled to rest it on,
Vast vegetables gave it sustenance,
Monstrous sauroids transported it in their mouths and deposited it
O span of youth! ever-push'd elasticity! O manhood, balanced, florid and full. My lovers suffocate me,
Crowding my lips, thick in the pores of my skin,
Jostling me through streets and public halls, coming naked to me at night, Crying by day, Ahoy! from the rocks of the river, swinging and
chirping over my head,
Calling my name from flower-beds, vines, tangled underbrush, Lighting on every moment of my life,
Bussing my body with soft balsamic busses,
Noiselessly passing handfuls out of their hearts and giving them to be mine.
Every condition promulges not only itself, it promulges what grows after and out of itself,
And the dark hush promulges as much as any.
My sun has his sun and round him obediently wheels,
He joins with his partners a group of superior circuit,
And greater sets follow, making specks of the greatest inside them.
There is no stoppage and never can be stoppage,
If I, you, and the worlds, and all beneath or upon their surfaces, were this moment reduced back to a pallid float, it would
not avail the long run,
We should surely bring up again where we now stand,
And surely go as much farther, and then farther and farther.
A few quadrillions of eras, a few octillions of cubic leagues, do not hazard the span or make it impatient,
They are but parts, any thing is but a part.
My rendezvous is appointed, it is certain,
The Lord will be there and wait till I come on perfect terms,
The great Camerado, the lover true for whom I pine will be there. 46
I tramp a perpetual journey, (come listen all!)
My signs are a rain-proof coat, good shoes, and a staff cut from the woods, No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair,
I have no chair, no church, no philosophy,
I lead no man to a dinner-table, library, exchange,
But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll,
My left hand hooking you round the waist,
My right hand pointing to landscapes of continents and the public road.
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 water and on land.
If you tire, give me both burdens, and rest the chuff of your hand on my hip,
And in due time you shall repay the same service to me,
For after we start we never lie by again.
This day before dawn I ascended a hill and look'd at the crowded heaven, And I said to my spirit When we become the enfolders of those orbs, and the pleasure and knowledge of every thing in them, shall webe fill'd and satisfied then? And my spirit said No, we but level that lift to pass and continue beyond. You are also asking me questions and I hear you, I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself.
Sit a while dear son,
Here are biscuits to eat and here is milk to drink,
But as soon as you sleep and renew yourself in sweet clothes, I kiss you
Long enough have you dream'd contemptible dreams,
Now I wash the gum from your eyes,
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every
moment of your life.
Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by the shore, Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod to me, shout,
I am the teacher of athletes,
He that by me spreads a wider breast than my own proves the width of my own, He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher.
The boy I love, the same becomes a man not through derived power, but in his own right,
Wicked rather than virtuous out of conformity or fear,
Fond of his sweetheart, relishing well his steak,
Unrequited love or a slight cutting him worse than sharp steel cuts,
First-rate to ride, to fight, to hit the bull's eye, to sail a
skiff, to sing a song or play on the banjo,
Preferring scars and the beard and faces pitted with small-pox over all latherers,
And those well-tann'd to those that keep out of the sun.
I teach straying from me, yet who can stray from me?
I follow you whoever you are from the present hour,
My words itch at your ears till you understand them.
I do not say these things for a dollar or to fill up the time while I wait for a boat,
(It is you talking just as much as myself, I act as the tongue of you,
Tied in your mouth, in mine it begins to be loosen'd.)
If you would understand me go to the heights or water-shore, The nearest gnat is an explanation, and a drop or motion of waves key, The maul, the oar, the hand-saw, second my words.No shutter'd room or school can commune with me, But roughs and little children better than they. The young mechanic is closest to me, he knows me well,
The woodman that takes his axe and jug with him shall take me with him all day,
The farm-boy ploughing in the field feels good at the sound of my voice,
In vessels that sail my words sail, I go with fishermen and seamen and love them.
The soldier camp'd or upon the march is mine,
On the night ere the pending battle many seek me, and I do not fail them, On that solemn night (it may be their last) those that know me seek me. My face rubs to the hunter's face when he lies down alone in his blanket, The driver thinking of me does not mind the jolt of his wagon, The young mother and old mother comprehend me,
The girl and the wife rest the needle a moment and forget where they are, They and all would resume what I have told them.
I have said that the soul is not more than the body,
And I have said that the body is not more than the soul,
And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one's self is,
And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own
funeral drest in his shroud,
And I or you pocketless of a dime may purchase the pick of the earth, And to glance with an eye or show a bean in its pod confounds the
And there is no trade or employment but the young man following it may become a hero,
And there is no object so soft but it makes a hub for the wheel'd universe,
And I say to any man or woman, Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes.
And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God,
For I who am curious about each am not curious about God, (No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and
Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then, In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass, I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign'd
by God's name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe'er I go, Others will punctually come for ever and ever.
To his work without flinching the accoucheur comes, I see the elder-hand pressing receiving supporting, I recline by the sills of the exquisite flexible doors, And mark the outlet, and mark the relief and escape.
And as to you Corpse I think you are good manure, but that does not offend me,
I smell the white roses sweet-scented and growing,
I reach to the leafy lips, I reach to the polish'd breasts of melons.
I hear you whispering there O stars of heaven,
O suns--O grass of graves--O perpetual transfers and promotions, If you do not say any thing how can I say any thing?
Of the turbid pool that lies in the autumn forest,
Of the moon that descends the steeps of the soughing twilight, Toss, sparkles of day and dusk--toss on the black stems that decay
I ascend from the moon, I ascend from the night,
I perceive that the ghastly glimmer is noonday sunbeams reflected, And debouch to the steady and central from the offspring great or small.
The past and present wilt--I have fill'd them, emptied them. And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)
The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow'd wilds, It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean, But I shall be good health to you nevertheless, And filter and fibre your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, Missing me one place search another, I stop somewhere waiting for you.