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Page 167
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7 — Poem of The Body.


THE bodies of men and women engirth me, and
         I engirth them,
They will not let me off, nor I them, till I go with
         them, respond to them, love them.

Was it doubted if those who corrupt their own live
         bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as
         they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the
         soul?

The expression of the body of man or woman
         balks account,
The male is perfect, and that of the female is per-
         fect.

The expression of a well-made man appears not
         only in his face,
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in
         the joints of his hips and wrists,

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It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex
         of his waist and knees—dress does not
         hide him,
The strong, sweet, supple quality he has, strikes
         through the cotton and flannel,
To see him pass conveys as much as the best
         poem, perhaps more,
You linger to see his back, and the back of his
         neck and shoulder-side.

The sprawl and fulness of babes, the bosoms and
         heads of women, the folds of their dress,
         their style as we pass in the street, the con-
         tour of their shape downwards,
The swimmer naked in the swimming-bath, seen
         as he swims through the transparent green-
         shine, or lies with his face up, and rolls
         silently in the heave of the water,
The bending forward and backward of rowers in
         row-boats, the horseman in his saddle,
Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their per-
         formances,
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with
         their open dinner-kettles, and their wives
         waiting,
The female soothing a child, the farmer's daughter
         in the garden or cow-yard,
The young fellow hoeing corn, the sleigh-driver
         guiding his six horses through the crowd,

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The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys,
         quite grown, lusty, good-natured, native-born,
         out on the vacant lot at sun-down, after work,
The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of
         love and resistance,
The upper-hold and under-hold, the hair rumpled
         over and blinding the eyes;
The march of firemen in their own costumes, the
         play of masculine muscle through clean-set-
         ting trowsers and waist-straps,
The slow return from the fire, the pause when the
         bell strikes suddenly again, the listening on
         the alert,
The natural, perfect, varied attitudes, the bent
         head, the curved neck, the counting,
Such-like I love, I loosen myself, pass freely,
         am at the mother's breast with the little
         child,
Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers,
         march in line with the firemen, pause, listen,
         count.

I knew a man, he was a common farmer, he was
         the father of five sons, and in them were the
         fathers of sons, and in them were the fathers
         of sons.

This man was of wonderful vigor, calmness,
         beauty of person,

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The shape of his head, the richness and breadth
         of his manners, the pale yellow and white
         of his hair and beard, the immeasurable
         meaning of his black eyes,
These I used to go and visit him to see—he was
         wise also,
He was six feet tall, he was over eighty years
         old—his sons were massive, clean, bearded,
         tan-faced, handsome,
They and his daughters loved him, all who saw
         him loved him, they did not love him by
         allowance, they loved him with personal
         love,
He drank water only, the blood showed like scar-
         let through the clear brown skin of his face,
He was a frequent gunner and fisher, he sailed his
         boat himself, he had a fine one presented to
         him by a ship-joiner—he had fowling-pieces,
         presented to him by men that loved him,
When he went with his five sons and many grand-
         sons to hunt or fish, you would pick him out
         as the most beautiful and vigorous of the
         gang,
You would wish long and long to be with him —
         you would wish to sit by him in the boat,
         that you and he might touch each other.

I have perceived that to be with those I like is
         enough,

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To stop in company with the rest at evening is
         enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breath-
         ing, laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them, to touch any one, to rest
         my arm ever so lightly round his or her neck
         for a moment—what is this, then?
I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it, as in
         a sea.

There is something in staying close to men and
         women, and looking on them, and in the con-
         tact and odor of them, that pleases the soul
         well,
All things please the soul, but these please the
         soul well.

This is the female form!
A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot,
It attracts with fierce undeniable attraction,
I am drawn by its breath as if I were no more
         than a helpless vapor—all falls aside but
         myself and it,
Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth,
         the atmosphere and the clouds, what was
         expected of heaven or feared of hell, are now
         consumed,
Mad filaments, ungovernable shoots play out of it,
         the response likewise ungovernable,

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Hair, bosom, hips, bend of legs, negligent falling
         hands, all diffused—mine too diffused,
Ebb stung by the flow, and flow stung by the ebb,
         love-flesh swelling and deliciously aching,
Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous,
         quivering jelly of love, white-blow and deliri-
         ous juice,
Bridegroom-night of love, working surely and
         softly into the prostrate dawn,
Undulating into the willing and yielding day,
Lost in the cleave of the clasping and sweet-
         fleshed day.

This is the nucleus—after the child is born of
         woman, the man is born of woman,
This is the bath of birth—this is the merge of
         small and large, and the outlet again.

Be not ashamed, women! your privilege encloses
         the rest, it is the exit of the rest,
You are the gates of the body, and you are the
         gates of the soul!

The female contains all qualities, and tempers
         them—she is in her place, she moves with
         perfect balance,
She is all things duly veiled, she is both passive
         and active—she is to conceive daughters as
         well as sons, and sons as well as daughters.


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As I see my soul reflected in nature, as I see
         through a mist, one with inexpressible com-
         pleteness and beauty—see the bent head and
         arms folded over the breast, the female I
         see,
I see the bearer of the great fruit which is im-
         mortality—the good thereof is not tasted
         by roues, and never can be.

The male is not less the soul, nor more—he too
         is in his place,
He too is all qualities, he is action and power, the
         flush of the known universe is in him,
Scorn becomes him well, and appetite and defi-
         ance become him well,
The fiercest largest passions, bliss that is utmost,
         sorrow that is utmost, become him well —
         pride is for him,
The full-spread pride of man is calming and ex-
         cellent to the soul,
Knowledge becomes him, he likes it always, he
         brings everything to the test of himself,
Whatever the survey, whatever the sea and the
         sail, he strikes soundings at last only here,
Where else does he strike soundings, except
         here?

The man's body is sacred, and the woman's body
         is sacred—it is no matter who,

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Is it a slave? Is it one of the dull-faced immi-
         grants just landed on the wharf?
Each belongs here or anywhere, just as much as
         the well-off, just as much as you,
Each has his or her place in the procession.

All is a procession!
The universe is a procession, with measured and
         beautiful motion!

Do you know so much, that you call the slave or
         the dull-face ignorant?
Do you suppose you have a right to a good sight,
         and he or she has no right to a sight?
Do you think matter has cohered together from its
         diffused float, and the soil is on the surface,
         and water runs, and vegetation sprouts, for
         you, and not for him and her?

A man's body at auction!
I help the auctioneer—the sloven does not half
         know his business.

Gentlemen, look on this wonder!
Whatever the bids of the bidders, they cannot be
         high enough for it,
For it the globe lay preparing quintillions of years,
         without one animal or plant,
For it the revolving cycles truly and steadily
         rolled.


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In this head the all-baffling brain,
In it and below it the making of the attributes of
         heroes.

Examine these limbs, red, black, or white—they
         are so cunning in tendon and nerve,
They shall be stript that you may see them.

Exquisite senses, life-lit eyes, pluck, volition,
Flakes of breast-muscle, pliant back-bone and
         neck, flesh not flabby, good-sized arms and
         legs,
And wonders within there yet.

Within there runs blood—the same old blood!
         the same red running blood!
There swells and jets a heart—there all passions,
         desires, reachings, aspirations,
Do you think they are not there because they are
         not expressed in parlors and lecture-rooms?

This is not only one man—this is the father of
         those who shall be fathers in their turns,
In him the start of populous states and rich re-
         publics,
Of him countless immortal lives, with countless
         embodiments and enjoyments.

How do you know who shall come from the off-
         spring of his offspring through the centuries?

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Who might you find you have come from yourself,
         if you could trace back through the cen-
         turies?

A woman's body at auction!
She too is not only herself, she is the teeming
         mother of mothers,
She is the bearer of them that shall grow and be
         mates to the mothers.

Her daughters, or their daughters' daughters —
         who knows who shall mate with them?
Who knows through the centuries what heroes
         may come from them?

In them, and of them, natal love—in them
         the divine mystery, the same old beautiful
         mystery.

Have you ever loved the body of a woman?
Have you ever loved the body of a man?
Your father, where is your father?
Your mother, is she living? Have you been
         much with her? and has she been much
         with you?
Do you not see that these are exactly the same
         to all, in all nations and times, all over the
         earth?


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If any thing is sacred, the human body is sacred,
And the glory and sweet of a man is the token of
         manhood untainted,
And in man or woman a clean, strong, firm-fibred
         body, is beautiful as the most beautiful face.

Have you seen the fool that corrupted his own live
         body? or the fool that corrupted her own live
         body?
For they do not conceal themselves, and cannot
         conceal themselves.

O my body! I dare not desert the likes of you in
         other men and women, nor the likes of the
         parts of you!
I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with
         the likes of the soul,
I believe the likes of you shall stand or fall with
         my poems—for they are poems,
Man's, woman's, child's, youth's, wife's, husband's,
         mother's, father's, young man's, young woman's
         poems,
Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the
         ears,
Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eye-brows, and
         the waking or sleeping of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth,
         jaws, and the jaw-hinges,
Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition,

Page 178
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Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of
         the neck, neck-slue,
Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-
         shoulders, and the ample side-round of the
         chest,
Upper-arm, arm-pit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-
         sinews, arm-bones,
Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles,
         thumb, forefinger, finger-balls, finger-joints,
         finger-nails,
Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast,
         breast-bone, breast-side,
Ribs, belly, back-bone, joints of the back-bone,
Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and out-
         ward round, man-balls, man-root,
Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk
         above,
Leg-fibres, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under-leg,
Ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel,
All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings
         of my or your body, or of any one's body,
         male or female,
The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels
         sweet and clean,
The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame,
Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality
         maternity,
Womanhood, and all that is a woman—and the
         man that comes from woman,

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The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears,
         laughter, weeping, love-looks, love-perturba-
         tions and risings,
The voice, articulation, language, whispering,
         shouting aloud,
Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walk-
         ing, swimming,
Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing,
         arm-curving, and tightening,
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth,
         and around the eyes,
The skin, the sun-burnt shade, freckles, hair,
The curious sympathy one feels, when feeling
         with the hand the naked meat of his own
         body or another person's body,
The circling rivers, the breath, and breathing it in
         and out,
The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips,
         and thence downward toward the knees,
The thin red jellies within you, or within me —
         the bones, and the marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health,
O I think these are not the parts and poems of
         the body only, but of the soul,
O I think these are the soul!
If these are not the soul, what is the soul?
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