Published Works

Books by Whitman

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 322] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

31 — Poem of The Sayers of The Words of The Earth.

EARTH, round, rolling, compact—suns, moons,
animals—all these are words,
Watery, vegetable, sauroid advances—beings,
premonitions, lispings of the future—these
are vast words.

Were you thinking that those were the words —
those upright lines? those curves, angles,
No, those are not the words—the substantial
words are in the ground and sea,
They are in the air—they are in you.

Were you thinking that those were the words —
those delicious sounds out of your friends'
No, the real words are more delicious than they.

Human bodies are words, myriads of words,
In the best poems re-appears the body, man's or
woman's, well-shaped, natural, gay,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 323] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Every part able, active, receptive, without shame
or the need of shame

Air, soil, water, fire, these are words,
I myself am a word with them—my qualities
interpenetrate with theirs—my name is noth-
ing to them,
Though it were told in the three thousand lan-
guages, what would air, soil, water, fire,
know of my name?

A healthy presence, a friendly or commanding
gesture, are words, sayings, meanings,
The charms that go with the mere looks of some
men and women are sayings and meanings

The workmanship of souls is by the inaudible
words of the earth,
The great masters, the sayers, know the earth's
words, and use them more than the audible

Syllables are not the earth's words,
Beauty, reality, manhood, time, life—the realities
of such as these are the earth's words.

Amelioration is one of the earth's words,
The earth neither lags nor hastens,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 324] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It has all attributes, growths, effects, latent in it-
self from the jump,
It is not half beautiful only—defects and excres-
cences show just as much as perfections

The earth does not withhold, it is generous
The truths of the earth continually wait, they are
not so concealed either,
They are calm, subtle, untransmissible by print,
They are imbued through all things, conveying
themselves willingly,
Conveying a sentiment and invitation of the earth
—I utter and utter,
I speak not, yet if you hear me not, of what avail
am I to you?
To bear—to better—lacking these, of what
avail am I?

Accouche! Accouchez!
Will you rot your own fruit in yourself there?
Will you squat and stifle there?

The earth does not argue,
Is not pathetic, has no arrangements,
Does not scream, haste, persuade, threaten,
Makes no discriminations, has no conceivable

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 325] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Closes nothing, refuses nothing, shuts none out,
Of all the powers, objects, states, it notifies, shuts
none out.

The earth does not exhibit itself nor refuse to
exhibit itself—possesses still underneath,
Underneath the ostensible sounds, the august
chorus of heroes, the wail of slaves,
Persuasions of lovers, curses, gasps of the dying,
laughter of young people, accents of bar-
Underneath these possessing the words that never

To her children the words of the eloquent dumb
great mother never fail,
The true words do not fail, for motion does not
fail, and reflection does not fail,
Also the day and night do not fail, and the voyage
we pursue does not fail.

Of the interminable sisters,
Of the ceaseless cotillions of sisters,
Of the centripetal and centrifugal sisters, the elder
and younger sisters,
The beautiful sister we know dances on with the

With her ample back toward every beholder,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 326] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

With the fascinations of youth and the equal fas-
cinations of age,
Sits she whom I too love like the rest, sits undis-
Holding up in her hand what has the character
of a mirror, her eyes glancing back from
Glancing thence as she sits, inviting none, denying
Holding a mirror day and night tirelessly before
her own face.

Seen at hand, or seen at a distance,
Duly the twenty-four appear in public every day,
Duly approach and pass with their companions, or
a companion,
Looking from no countenances of their own, but
from the countenances of those who are with
From the countenances of children or women, or
the manly countenance,
From the open countenances of animals, from in-
animate things,
From the landscape or waters, or from the exqui-
site apparition of the sky,
From our own countenances, mine and yours,
faithfully returning them,
Every day in public appearing without fail, but
never twice with the same companions.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 327] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Embracing man, embracing all, proceed the three
hundred and sixty-five resistlessly round the
Embracing all, soothing, supporting, follow close
three hundred and sixty-five offsets of the
first, sure and necessary as they.

Tumbling on steadily, nothing dreading,
Sunshine, storm, cold, heat, forever withstanding,
passing, carrying,
The soul's realization and determination still in-
The liquid vacuum around and ahead still entering
and dividing,
No balk retarding, no anchor anchoring, on no
rock striking,
Swift, glad, content, unbereaved, nothing losing,
Of all able and ready at any time to give strict
The divine ship sails the divine sea.

Whoever you are! motion and reflection are espe-
cially for you,
The divine ship sails the divine sea for you.

Whoever you are! you are he or she for whom
the earth is solid and liquid,
You are he or she for whom the sun and moon
hang in the sky,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 328] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

For none more than you are the present and the
For none more than you is immortality.

Each man to himself, and each woman to herself,
is the word of the past and present, and the
word of immortality,
Not one can acquire for another—not one!
Not one can grow for another—not one!

The song is to the singer, and comes back most to
The teaching is to the teacher, and comes back
most to him,
The murder is to the murderer, and comes back
most to him,
The theft is to the thief, and comes back most to
The love is to the lover, and comes back most to
The gift is to the giver, and comes back most to
him—it cannot fail,
The oration is to the orator, and the acting is to
the actor and actress, not to the audience,
And no man understands any greatness or good-
ness but his own, or the indication of his

I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him
or her who shall be complete!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 329] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I swear the earth remains broken and jagged only
to him or her who remains broken and

I swear there is no greatness or power that does
not emulate those of the earth!
I swear there can be no theory of any account,
unless it corroborate the theory of the earth!
No politics, art, religion, behaviour, or what not, is
of account, unless it compare with the ampli-
tude of the earth,
Unless it face the exactness, vitality, impartiality,
rectitude of the earth.

I swear I begin to see love with sweeter spasms
than that which responds love!
It is that which contains itself, which never in-
vites and never refuses.

I swear I begin to see little or nothing in audible
I swear I think all merges toward the presentation
of the unspoken meanings of the earth!
Toward him who sings the songs of the body, and
of the truths of the earth,
Toward him who makes the dictionaries of the
words that print cannot touch.

I swear I see what is better than to tell the best,
It is always to leave the best untold.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 330] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

When I undertake to tell the best, I find I can-
My tongue is ineffectual on its pivots,
My breath will not be obedient to its organs,
I become a dumb man.

The best of the earth cannot be told anyhow—all
or any is best,
It is not what you anticipated, it is cheaper, easier,
Things are not dismissed from the places they
held before,
The earth is just as positive and direct as it was
Facts, religions, improvements, politics, trades, are
as real as before,
But the soul is also real, it too is positive and
No reasoning, no proof has established it,
Undeniable growth has established it.

This is a poem for the sayers of the earth —
these are hints of meanings,
These are they that echo the tones of souls, and
the phrases of souls;
If they did not echo the phrases of souls, what
were they then?
If they had not reference to you in especial, what
were they then?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 331] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I swear I will never henceforth have to do with
the faith that tells the best!
I will have to do with that faith only that leaves
the best untold.

Say on, sayers of the earth!
Delve! mould! pile the substantial words of the
Work on, age after age! nothing is to be lost,
It may have to wait long, but it will certainly come
in use,
When the materials are all prepared, the archi-
tects shall appear,
I swear to you the architects shall appear without
fail! I announce them and lead them!
I swear to you they will understand you and justify
I swear to you the greatest among them shall be
he who best knows you, and encloses all, and
is faithful to all!
I swear to you, he and the rest shall not forget
you! they shall perceive that you are not an
iota less than they!
I swear to you, you shall be glorified in them!


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.