BROOKLYN, NEW YORK,
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1856, by WALT WHITMAN, in the Clerk's
Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.
Leaves of Grass
|1. Poem of Walt Whitman, an American . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . || 5 |
|2. Poem of Women . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . || 101 |
|3. Poem of Salutation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . || 103 |
|4. Poem of The Daily Work of The Workmen and |
Workwomen of These States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
| 121 |
|5. Broad-Axe Poem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . || 140 |
|6. Poem of A Few Greatnesses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . || 161 |
|7. Poem of The Body . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . || 167 |
|8. Poem of Many In One . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ||180 |
|9. Poem of Wonder at The Resurrection of The Wheat . . . . . . . . || 202 |
|10. Poem of You, Whoever You Are . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . || 206 |
|11. Sun-Down Poem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . || 211 |
|12. Poem of The Road . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . || 223 |
|13. Poem of Procreation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . || 240 |
|14. Poem of The Poet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . || 244 |
|15. Clef Poem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . || 249 |
|16. Poem of The Dead Young Men of Europe, the
72d and 73d |
Years of These States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
| 252 |
|17. Poem of The Heart of The Son of Manhattan Island . . . . . . . . || 255 |
|18. Poem of The Last Explanation of Prudence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . || 257 |
|19. Poem of The Singers, and of The Words of Poems . . . . . . . . .|| 262 |
|20. Faith Poem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . || 265 |
|21. Liberty Poem for Asia, Africa, Europe,
America, Australia, |
Cuba, and the Archipelagoes of The Sea . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
| 268 |
|22. Poem of Apparitions in Boston, the 78th Year of These States . || 271 |
View Page iv
|23. Poem of Remembrances for A Girl or A Boy of These States . ||275 |
|24. Poem of Perfect Miracles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ||279 |
|25. Poem of The Child That Went Forth, and Always Goes |
Forth, Forever and Forever . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
|26. Night Poem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ||286 |
|27. Poem of Faces . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ||302 |
|28. Bunch Poem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ||309 |
|29. Lesson Poem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . || 313 |
|30. Poem of The Propositions of Nakedness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ||316 |
|31. Poem of The Sayers of The Words of The Earth . . . . . . . . . . . . ||322 |
|32. Burial Poem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . || 332 |
|Correspondence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ||345 |
|Opinions. 1855-6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ||359 |
LEAVES OF GRASS.
1 — Poem of Walt Whitman, an American.
I CELEBRATE myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me, as good belongs
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease, observing a spear of
Houses and rooms are full of perfumes—the
shelves are crowded with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself, and know it and
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,
View Page 6
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, buzzed whispers, love-root, silk-
thread, crotch, vine,
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my
heart, the passing of blood and air through
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of
the shore and dark-colored sea-rocks, and of
hay in the barn,
The sound of the belched words of my voice,
words loosed 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 reckoned a thousand acres much?
have you reckoned the earth much?
Have you practiced so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of
View Page 7
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
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
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.
Urge, and urge, and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.
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.
View Page 8
To elaborate is no avail—learned and unlearned
feel that it is so.
Sure as the most certain sure, plumb in the
uprights, well entretied, braced in the
Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical,
I and this mystery here we stand.
Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet
is all that is not my soul.
Lack one lacks both, and the unseen is proved
by the seen,
Till that becomes unseen, and receives proof in its
Showing the best and dividing it from the worst,
age vexes age,
Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of
things, while they discuss I am silent, and go
bathe and admire myself.
Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and
of any man hearty and clean,
Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and
none shall be less familiar than the rest.
I am satisfied—I see, dance, laugh, sing;
View Page 9
As the hugging and loving Bed-fellow sleeps at
my side through the night, and withdraws at
the peep of the day,
And leaves for me baskets covered 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
And forthwith cipher and show me to a cent,
Exactly the contents of one, and exactly the con-
tents of two, and which is ahead?
Trippers and askers surround me,
People I meet—the effect upon me of my early
life, of the ward and city I live in, of the
The latest news, discoveries, inventions, societies,
authors old and new,
My dinner, dress, associates, looks, work, compli-
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 or lack of money, or depress-
ions or exaltations,
They come to me days and nights and go from
But they are not the Me myself.
View Page 10
Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I
Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle,
Looks down, is erect, bends an arm on an
impalpable certain rest,
Looks with its side-curved head, curious what will
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
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
Not words, not music or rhyme I want—not cus-
tom or lecture, not even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice.
I mind how we lay in June, such a transparent
You settled your head athwart my hips, and gently
turned over upon me,
View Page 11
And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and
plunged your tongue to my bare-stript heart,
And reached till you felt my beard, and reached
till you held my feet.
Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace
and joy and knowledge that pass all the art
and 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 bro-
thers, 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
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,
And mossy scabs of the worm-fence, heaped stones,
elder, mullen, pokeweed.
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.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out
of hopeful green stuff woven.
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
View Page 12
A scented gift and remembrancer, designedly
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners,
that we may see and remark, and say Whose?
Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced
babe of the vegetation.
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give
them the same, I receive them the same.
And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair
Tenderly will I use you, curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young
It may be if I had known them I would have loved
It may be you are from old people, and from
women, and from offspring taken soon out of
their mothers' laps,
And here you are the mothers' laps.
This grass is very dark to be from the white heads
of old mothers,
View Page 13
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of
O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs
of mouths for nothing.
I wish I could translate the hints about the dead
young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the
offspring taken soon out of their laps.
What do you think has become of the young and
And what do you think has become of the women
They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no
And if ever there was, it led forward life, and does
not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.
All goes onward and outward—nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one sup-
posed, and luckier.
View Page 14
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-washed babe, and am not contained be-
tween my hat and boots,
And peruse manifold objects, no two alike, and
every one good,
The earth good, and the stars good, and their ad-
juncts all good.
I am not an earth nor an adjunct of an earth,
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
For me the man that is proud, and feels how it
stings to be slighted,
For me the sweetheart and the old maid—for me
mothers and the mothers of mothers,
For me lips that have smiled, eyes that have shed
For me children and the begetters of children.
View Page 15
Who need be afraid of the merge?
Undrape! you are not guilty to me, nor stale, nor
I see through the broadcloth and gingham, whether
And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless,
and can never be shaken away.
The little one sleeps in its cradle,
I lift the gauze and look a long time, and silently
brush away flies with my hand.
The youngster and the red-faced girl turn aside
up the bushy hill,
I peeringly view them from the top.
The suicide sprawls on the bloody floor of the
It is so—I witnessed the corpse—there the
pistol had fallen.
The blab of the pave, the tires of carts, sluff of
boot-soles, talk of the promenaders,
The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogat-
ing thumb, the clank of the shod horses on
the granite floor,
The snow-sleighs, the clinking, shouted jokes,
pelts of snow-balls,
The hurrahs for popular favorites, the fury of
View Page 16
The flap of the curtained litter, the sick man in-
side, 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 impassive stones that receive and return so
The souls moving along—are they invisible,
while the least of the stones is visible?
What groans of over-fed or half-starved who fall
sun-struck, 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 restrained by decorum,
Arrests of criminals, slights, adulterous offers
made, acceptances, rejections with convex lips,
I mind them or the resonance of them—I come
and I depart.
The big doors of the country-barn stand open and
The dried grass of the harvest-time loads the
The clear light plays on the brown gray and green
The armfuls are packed to the sagging mow;
View Page 17
I am there, I help, I came stretched atop of the
I felt its soft jolts, one leg reclined on the other;
I jump from the cross-beams and seize the clover
And roll head over heels, and tangle my hair full
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
Kindling a fire and broiling the fresh-killed game,
Soundly falling asleep on the gathered leaves, my
dog and gun by my side.
The Yankee clipper is under her three sky-sails,
she cuts the sparkle and scud,
My eyes settle the land—I bend at her prow or
shout joyously from the deck.
The boatmen and clam-diggers arose early and
stopped for me,
I tucked my trowser-ends in my boots and went
and had a good time,
You should have been with us that day round the
saw the marriage of the trapper in the open air
in the far-west—the bride was a red girl,
View Page 18
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 dressed
mostly in skins, his luxuriant beard and curls
protected his neck,
One hand rested on his rifle, the other hand held
firmly the wrist of the red girl,
She had long eyelashes, her head was bare, her
coarse straight locks descended upon her
voluptuous limbs and reached to her feet.
The runaway slave came to my house and
I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the
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 filled a tub for his sweated
body and bruised feet,
And gave him a room that entered from my own,
and gave him some coarse clean clothes,
And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes
and his awkwardness,
And remember putting plasters on the galls of his
neck and ankles;
View Page 19
He staid with me a week before he was recuper-
ated and passed north,
I had him sit next me at table—my fire-lock
leaned 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
She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank,
She hides, handsome and richly drest, aft the
blinds of the window.
Which of the young men does she like the best?
Ah, the homeliest of them is beautiful to her.
Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,
You splash in the water there, yet stay stock
still in your room.
Dancing and laughing along the beach came the
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and
The beards of the young men glistened with wet,
it ran from their long hair,
Little streams passed all over their bodies.
An unseen hand also passed over their bodies,
View Page 20
It descended tremblingly from their temples and
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 mar-
I loiter, enjoying his repartee and his shuffle and
Blacksmiths with grimed and hairy chests environ
Each has his main-sledge—they are all out —
there is a great heat in the fire.
From the cinder-strewed threshold I follow their
The lithe sheer of their waists plays even with
their massive arms,
Overhand the hammers roll, overhand so slow,
overhand so sure,
They do not hasten, each man hits in his place.
View Page 21
The negro holds firmly the reins of his four
horses, the block swags underneath on its
The negro that drives the huge dray of the stone-
yard, steady and tall he stands poised 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 moustache,
falls on the black of his polish'd and perfect
I behold the picturesque giant and love him, and
I do not stop there,
I go with the team also.
In me the caresser of life wherever moving, back-
ward as well as forward slueing,
To niches aside and junior bending.
Oxen that rattle the yoke or halt in the 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 winged purposes,
View Page 22
And acknowledge, red, yellow, white, playing
And consider green and violet, and the tufted
And do not call the tortoise unworthy because
she is not something else,
And the mocking-bird in the swamp never studied
the gamut, yet trills pretty well to me,
And the look of the bay mare shames silliness out
The wild gander leads his flock through the cool
Ya-honk! he says, and sounds it down to me like
The pert may suppose it meaningless, but I listen
I find its purpose and place up there toward the
The sharp-hoofed 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
The brood of the turkey-hen, and she with her
I see in them and myself the same old law.
The press of my foot to the earth springs a hun-
View Page 23
They scorn the best I can do to relate them.
I am enamoured of growing outdoors,
Of men that live among cattle, or taste of the
ocean or woods,
Of the builders and steerers of ships, of the wield-
ers of axes and mauls, of the drivers of
I can eat and sleep with them week in and week
What is commonest, cheapest, nearest, easiest, is
Me going in for my chances, spending for vast
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,
View Page 24
The duck-shooter walks by silent and cautious
The deacons are ordained with crossed hands at
The spinning-girl retreats and advances to the
hum of the big wheel,
The farmer stops by the bars of a Sunday and
looks at the oats and rye,
The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum, a con-
He will never sleep any more as he did in the cot
in his mother's bedroom;
The jour printer with gray head and gaunt jaws
works at his case,
He turns his quid of tobacco, his eyes get blurred
with the manuscript;
The malformed limbs are tied to the anatomist's
What is removed drops horribly in a pail;
The quadroon girl is sold at the stand—the
drunkard nods by the bar-room stove,
The machinist rolls up his sleeves—the police-
man travels his beat—the gate-keeper marks
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 com-
pete in the race,
View Page 25
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,
The woolly-pates hoe in the sugar-field, the over-
seer views them from his saddle,
The bugle calls in the ball-room, the gentlemen
run for their partners, the dancers bow to
The youth lies awake in the cedar-roofed garret,
and harks to the musical rain,
The Wolverine sets traps on the creek that helps
fill the Huron,
The reformer ascends the platform, he spouts with
his mouth and nose,
The company returns from its excursion, the
darkey brings up the rear and bears the well-
The squaw, wrapt in her yellow-hemmed cloth,
is offering moccasins and bead-bags for sale,
The connoisseur peers along the exhibition-
gallery with half-shut eyes bent side-ways,
The deck-hands make fast the steamboat, the plank
is thrown for the shore-going passengers,
The young sister holds out the skein, the elder
sister winds it off in a ball, and stops now
and then for the knots,
View Page 26
The one-year wife is recovering and happy, a
week ago she bore her first child,
The clean-haired Yankee girl works with her sew-
ing-machine, or in the factory or mill,
The nine months' gone is in the parturition cham-
ber, her faintness and pains are advancing,
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
red 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 baptised—the convert is making the
The regatta is spread on the bay—how the white
The drover watches his drove, he sings out to
them that would stray,
The pedlar sweats with his pack on his back, the
purchaser higgles about the odd cent,
The camera and plate are prepared, the lady must
sit for her daguerreotype,
The bride unrumples her white dress, the minute-
hand of the clock moves slowly,
The opium-eater reclines with rigid head and just-
View Page 27
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
The President holds a cabinet council, he is sur-
rounded by the Great Secretaries,
On the piazza walk five friendly matrons with
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,
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
In single file, each shouldering his hod, pass on-
ward the laborers,
Seasons pursuing each other, the indescribable
crowd is gathered—it is the Fourth of July
—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,
View Page 28
The stumps stand thick round the clearing, the
squatter strikes deep with his axe,
Flatboatmen make fast toward dusk near the cot-
ton-wood or pekan-trees,
Coon-seekers go through the regions of the Red
river, or through those drained by the Ten-
nessee, or through those of the Arkansaw,
Torches shine in the dark that hangs on the Chat-
tahoochee or Altamahaw,
Patriarchs sit at supper with sons and grandsons
and great-grandsons around them,
In walls of adobe, in canvass 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 one and all tend inward to me, and I
tend outward to them,
And such as it is to be of these, more or less, I am.
I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,
Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a
Stuffed with the stuff that is coarse, and stuffed
with the stuff that is fine,
View Page 29
One of the great nation, the nation of many
nations, the smallest the same, the largest
A southerner soon as a northerner, a planter non-
chalant and hospitable,
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 boatman over lakes or bays, or along coasts —
a Hoosier, Badger, Buckeye,
A Louisianian or Georgian, a Poke-easy from
sand-hills and pines,
At home on Canadian 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
A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the
A novice beginning, experient of myriads of sea-
View Page 30
Of every hue, trade, rank, of every caste and re-
Not merely of the New World, but of Africa,
Europe, Asia—a wandering savage,
A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor,
A prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician,
I resist anything better than my own diversity,
And breathe the air, and 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 suns I see, and the suns I cannot see, are
in their place,
The palpable is in its place, and the impalpable
is in its place.
These are the thoughts of all men in all ages
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 do not enclose everything, they are next
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.
View Page 31
This is the grass that grows wherever the land
is and the water is,
This is the common air that bathes the globe.
This is the breath of laws, songs, behaviour,
This is the tasteless water of souls, this is the
It is for the illiterate, it is for the judges of the
supreme court, it is for the federal capitol
and the state capitols,
It is for the admirable communes of literats,
composers, singers, lecturers, engineers, sa-
It is for the endless races of work-people, farm-
These are trills of thousands of clear cornets,
screams of octave flutes, strike of triangles.
I play not a march for victors only, I play great
marches for conquered and slain persons.
Have you heard that it was good to gain the day?
I also say it is good to fall—battles are lost in
the same spirit in which they are won.
I beat triumphal drums for the dead, I blow through
my embouchures my loudest and gayest music
View Page 32
Vivas to those who have failed! and to those
whose war-vessels sank in the sea! and
those themselves who sank in the sea!
And to all generals that lost engagements! and all
overcome heroes! and the numberless un-
known heroes, equal to the greatest heroes
This is the meal pleasantly set, this is the meat
and drink for natural hunger,
It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous
—I make appointments with all,
I will not have a single person slighted or left
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby in-
vited—the heavy-lipped slave is invited,
the venerealee is invited,
There shall be no difference between them and
This is the press of a bashful hand, this is the
float and odor of hair,
This is the touch of my lips to yours, this is the
murmur of yearning,
This is the far-off depth and height reflecting my
This is the thoughtful merge of myself, and the
Do you guess I have some intricate purpose?
View Page 33
Well, I have—for the April rain has, and the mica
on the side of a rock has.
Do you take it I would astonish?
Does the daylight astonish? Does the early red-
start, twittering through the woods?
Do I astonish more than they?
This hour I tell things in confidence,
I might not tell everybody, but I will tell you.
Who goes there! hankering, gross, mystical, nude?
How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat?
What is a man anyhow? What am I? What
All I mark as my own, you shall offset it with
Else it were time lost listening to me.
I do not snivel that snivel the world over,
That months are vacuums, and the ground but
wallow and filth,
That life is a suck and a sell, and nothing remains
at the end but threadbare crape and tears.
Whimpering and truckling fold with powders for
invalids, conformity goes to the fourth-
View Page 34
I cock my hat as I please, indoors or out.
Shall I pray? Shall I venerate and be cere-
I have pried through the strata, analyzed to a hair,
Counselled with doctors, calculated close, found no
sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.
In all people I see myself—none more, not one a
And the good or bad I say of myself I say of
And I know I am solid and sound,
To me the converging objects of the universe per-
All are written to me, and I must get what the
I know I am deathless,
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a
I know I shall not pass like a child's carlacue cut
with a burnt stick at night.
I know I am august,
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be
View Page 35
I see that the elementary laws never apologize,
I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I
plant my house by, after all.
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.
One world is aware, and by far the largest to me,
and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own today, or in ten
thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheer-
fulness I can wait.
My foothold is tenoned and mortised 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 into a new tongue.
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
View Page 36
And I say there is nothing greater than the mother
I chant the chant of dilation or pride,
We have had ducking and deprecating about
I show that size is only development.
Have you outstript the rest? are you the
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
I call to the earth and sea, half-held by the night.
Press close, bare-bosomed night! press close,
magnetic, nourishing night!
Night of south winds! night of the large few
Still, nodding night! mad, naked, summer night!
Smile, O voluptuous, cool-breathed earth!
Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees!
Earth of departed sunset! earth of the moun-
Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon, just
tinged with blue!
View Page 37
Earth of shine and dark, mottling the tide of the
Earth of the limpid gray of clouds, brighter and
clearer for my sake!
Far-swooping elbowed earth! rich, apple-blos-
Smile, for your lover comes!
Prodigal, you have given me love! therefore I
to you give love!
O unspeakable passionate love!
Thruster holding me tight, and that I hold tight!
We hurt each other as the bridegroom and the
bride hurt each other.
You sea! I resign myself to you also, I guess
what you mean,
I behold from the beach your crooked inviting
I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of
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 stretched ground-swells!
Sea breathing broad and convulsive breaths!
View Page 38
Sea of the brine of life! sea of unshovelled and
Howler and scooper of storms! capricious and
I am integral with you—I too am of one phase,
and of all phases.
Partaker of influx and efflux, extoller of hate and
Extoller of amies, and those that sleep in each
I am he attesting sympathy,
Shall I make my list of things in the house, and
skip the house that supports them?
I am the poet of commonsense, and of the demon-
strable, and of immortality,
And am not the poet of goodness only—I do not
decline to be the poet of wickedness also.
Washes and razors for foofoos—for me freckles
and a bristling beard.
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.
View Page 39
Did you fear some scrofula out of the unflagging
Did you guess the celestial laws are yet to be
worked over and rectified?
I step up to say that what we do is right, and
what we affirm is right, and some is only the
ore of right,
Witnesses of us, one side a balance, and the anti-
podal side a balance,
Soft doctrine as steady help as stable doctrine,
Thoughts and deeds of the present, our rouse and
This minute that comes to me over the past de-
There is no better than it and now.
What behaved well in the past, or behaves well
today, is not such a wonder,
The wonder is always and always how can there
be a mean man or an infidel.
Endless unfolding of words of ages!
And mine a word of the modern—a word en-
A word of the faith that never balks,
One time as good as another time—here or
henceforward it is all the same to me,
View Page 40
A word of reality, materialism first and last im-
Hurrah for positive science! long live exact
Fetch stonecrop, mix it with cedar and branches
This is the lexicographer, this the chemist, this
made a grammar of the old cartouches,
These mariners put the ship through dangerous
This is the geologist, this works with the scalpel,
and this is a mathematician.
Gentlemen, I receive you and attach and clasp
hands with you,
The facts are useful and real—they are not my
dwelling—I enter by them to an area of the
I am less the reminder of property or qualities,
and more the reminder of life,
And go on the square for my own sake and for
And make short account of neuters and geldings,
and favor men and women fully equipped,
And beat the gong of revolt, and stop with fugi-
tives and them that plot and conspire.
View Page 41
Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs,
Disorderly, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking, breed-
No sentimentalist, no stander above men and wo-
men, or apart from them—no more modest
Unscrew the locks from the doors!
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!
Whoever degrades another degrades me, and
whatever is done or said returns at last to
And whatever I do or say, I also return.
Through me the afflatus surging and surging —
through me the current and index.
I speak the pass-word primeval, I give the sign
By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot
have their counterpart of on the same terms.
Through me many long dumb voices,
Voices of the interminable generations of slaves,
Voices of prostitutes, and of deformed persons,
Voices of the diseased and despairing, and of
thieves and dwarfs,
Voices of cycles of preparation and accretion,
View Page 42
And of the threads that connect the stars, and of
wombs, and of the fatherstuff,
And of the rights of them the others are down
Of the trivial, flat, foolish, despised,
Fog in the air, beetles rolling balls of dung.
Through me forbidden voices,
Voices of sexes and lusts—voices veiled, and I
remove the veil,
Voices indecent, by me clarified and transfigured.
I do not press my finger 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.
I believe in the flesh and the appetites,
Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each
part and tag of me is a miracle.
Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy
whatever I touch or am touched from,
The scent of these arm-pits is aroma finer than
This head is more than churches, bibles, creeds.
If I worship any particular thing, it shall be some
of the spread of my own body,
View Page 43
Translucent mould of me, it shall be you!
Shaded ledges and rests, firm masculine coulter, it
shall be you!
Whatever goes to the tilth of me, it shall be you!
You my rich blood! your milky stream, pale strip-
pings of my life!
Breast that presses against other breasts, it shall
My brain, it shall be your occult convolutions!
Root of washed sweet-flag, timorous pond-snipe,
nest of guarded duplicate eggs, it shall be
Mixed tussled hay of head, beard, brawn, it shall
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 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 kissed, mortal I
have ever touched, it shall be you!
I dote on myself, there is that lot of me, and all so
View Page 44
Each moment, and whatever happens, thrills me
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 friendship I take again.
To walk up my stoop is unaccountable, I pause to
consider if it really be,
That I eat and drink is spectacle enough for the
great authors and schools,
A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more
than the metaphysics of books.
To behold the day-break!
The little light fades the immense and diaphanous
The air tastes good to my palate.
Hefts of the moving world at innocent gambols,
silently rising, freshly exuding,
Scooting obliquely high and low.
Something I cannot see puts upward libidinous
Seas of bright juice suffuse heaven.
The earth by the sky staid with, the daily close
of their junction,
View Page 45
The heaved challenge from the east that moment
over my head,
The mocking taunt, See then whether you shall
Dazzling and tremendous, how quick the sun-rise
would kill me,
If I could not now and always send sun-rise out
We also ascend dazzling and tremendous as the
We found our own, my soul, in the calm and cool
of the day-break.
My voice goes after what my eyes cannot
With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds,
and volumes of worlds.
Speech is the twin of my vision, it is unequal to
It provokes me forever,
It says sarcastically, Walt, you understand
enough, why don't you let it out then?
Come now, I will not be tantalized, you conceive
too much of articulation.
View Page 46
Do you not know how the buds beneath are
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 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 the best I am.
Encompass worlds, but never try to encompass
I crowd your noisiest talk by 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 confound the topmost
I think I will do nothing for a long time but listen,
To accrue what I hear into myself, to let sounds
contribute toward me.
I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat,
gossip of flames, clack of sticks cooking my
View Page 47
I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human
I hear all sounds as they are tuned to their uses,
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
recitative of fish-pedlars and fruit-pedlars, 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
shaky 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 colored
The steam-whistle, the solid roll of the train of
The slow-march played at night at the head of the
They go to guard some corpse, the flag-tops are
draped with black muslin.
I hear the violincello or man's heart's complaint,
I hear the keyed cornet, it glides quickly in
through my ears, it shakes mad-sweet pangs
through my belly and breast.
View Page 48
I hear the chorus, it is a grand-opera—this in-
deed is music!
A tenor large and fresh as the creation fills me,
The orbic flex of his mouth is pouring and filling
I hear the trained soprano, she convulses me like
the climax of my love-grip,
The orchestra wrenches such ardors from me, I
did not know I possessed them,
It throbs me to gulps of the farthest down horror,
It sails me, I dab with bare feet, they are licked
by the indolent waves,
I am exposed, cut by bitter and poisoned hail,
Steeped amid honeyed morphine, my windpipe
squeezed in the fakes of death,
Let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles,
And that we call Being.
To be in any form, what is that?
If nothing lay more developed, 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
View Page 49
I merely stir, press, feel with my fingers, and am
To touch my person to some one else's is about
as much as I can stand.
Is this then a touch? quivering me to a new
Flames and ether making a rush for my veins,
Treacherous tip of me reaching and crowding to
My flesh and blood playing out lightning to strike
what is hardly different from myself,
On all sides prurient provokers stiffening my
Straining the udder of my heart for its withheld
Behaving licentious toward me, taking no denial,
Depriving me of my best, as for a purpose,
Unbuttoning my clothes, holding me by the bare
Deluding my confusion with the calm of the
sun-light 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
View Page 50
Then all uniting to stand on a head-land and
The sentries desert every other part of me,
They have left me helpless to a red marauder,
They all come to the head-land, to witness and
assist against me.
I am given up by traitors!
I talk wildly, I have lost my wits, I and nobody
else am the greatest traitor,
I went myself first to the head-land, my own hands
carried me there.
You villain touch! what are you doing? my
breath is tight in its throat,
Unclench your floodgates! you are too much for
Blind, loving, wrestling touch! sheathed, hooded,
Did it make you ache so, leaving me?
Parting, tracked by arriving—perpetual payment
of the perpetual loan,
Rich showering rain, and recompense richer after-
Sprouts take and accumulate—stand by the curb
prolific and vital,
Landscapes, projected, masculine, full-sized, golden.
View Page 51
All truths wait in all things,
They neither hasten their own delivery, nor resist
They do not need the obstetric forceps of the
The insignificant is as big to me as any,
What is less or more than a touch?
Logic and sermons never convince,
The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul.
Only what proves itself to every man and woman
Only what nobody denies is so.
A minute and a drop of me settle my brain,
I believe the soggy clods shall become lovers and
And a compend of compends is the meat of a man
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,
And until every one shall delight us, and we
I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-
work of the stars,
View Page 52
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'ouvre for the highest,
And the running blackberry would adorn the
parlors of heaven,
And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn
And the cow crunching with depressed head sur-
passes any statue,
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sex-
tillions of infidels,
And I could come every afternoon of my life to
look at the farmer's girl boiling her iron tea-
kettle and baking short-cake.
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
And call any thing close 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 mastadon retreats beneath its own
In vain objects stand leagues off, and assume
View Page 53
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
In vain the elk takes to the inner passes of the
In vain the razor-billed auk sails far north to
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-contained,
I stand and look at them sometimes half the day
They do not sweat and whine about their condi-
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for
They do not make me sick discussing their duty
No one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with
the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that
lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or industrious over the
View Page 54
So they show their relations to me, and I accept
They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them
plainly in their possession.
I do not know where they got those tokens,
I may have passed that way untold times ago and
negligently dropt them,
Myself moving forward then and now and forever,
Gathering and showing more always and with
Infinite and omnigenous, and the like of these
Not too exclusive toward the reachers of my re-
Picking out here one that I love, choosing to go
with him on brotherly terms.
A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and respon-
sive to my caresses,
Head high in the forehead, wide between the
Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground,
Eyes well apart, full of sparkling wickedness, ears
finely cut, flexibly moving.
His nostrils dilate, my heels embrace him, his
well-built limbs tremble with pleasure, we
speed around and return.
View Page 55
I but use you a moment, then I resign you stal-
lion, do not need your paces, out-gallop them,
Myself, as I stand or sit, passing faster than you.
Swift wind! space! my soul! now I know it is
true, what I guessed at,
What I guessed when I loafed on the grass,
What I guessed while I lay alone in my bed, and
again as I walked the beach under the paling
stars of the morning.
My ties and ballasts leave me—I travel, I sail,
my elbows rest in the sea-gaps,
I skirt the 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, hoeing rows of carrots
and parsnips, crossing savannas, trailing in
Prospecting, gold-digging, girdling the trees of a
Scorched ankle-deep by the hot sand, hauling my
boat down the shallow river,
Where the panther walks to and fro on a limb
overhead, where the buck turns furiously at
View Page 56
Where the rattle-snake 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
Over the growing sugar, over the cotton-plant,
over the rice in its low moist field,
Over the sharp-peaked farm-house, with its scal-
loped scum and slender shoots from the gut-
Over the western persimmon, over the long-leaved
corn, over the delicate blue-flowered 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 July eve, where the
great gold-bug drops through the dark,
Where the flails keep time on the barn floor,
Where the brook puts out of the roots of the old
tree and flows to the meadow,
View Page 57
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 cob-
webs 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 out of its ribs,
Where the pear-shaped balloon is floating aloft,
floating in it myself and looking composedly
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 calves and
never forsakes them,
Where the steam-ship trails hind-ways its long
pennant of smoke,
Where the ground-shark's fin cuts like a black
chip out of the water,
Where the half-burned brig is riding on unknown
Where shells grow to her slimy deck, where the
dead are corrupting below,
Where the striped and starred flag is borne at the
head of the regiments,
Approaching Manhattan, up by the long-stretching
View Page 58
Under Niagara, the cataract falling like a veil
over my countenance,
Upon a door-step, upon the horse-block of hard
Upon the race-course, or enjoying pic-nics or jigs,
or a good game of base-ball,
At he-festivals, with blackguard jibes, ironical li-
cense, bull-dances, drinking, laughter,
At the cider-mill, tasting the sweet of the brown
sqush, 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,
Where the mocking-bird sounds his delicious gur-
gles, cackles, screams, weeps,
Where the hay-rick stands in the barn-yard, where
the dry-stalks are scattered, 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 heifers browse, where geese nip their food
with short jerks,
Where sun-down shadows lengthen over the limit-
less and lonesome prairie,
Where herds of buffalo make a crawling spread
of the square miles far and near,
View Page 59
Where the humming-bird shimmers, where the
neck of the long-lived swan is curving and
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-necked partridges roost in a ring on
the ground with their heads out,
Where burial coaches enter the arched gates of a
Where winter wolves bark amid wastes of snow
and icicled trees,
Where the yellow-crowned heron comes to the
edge of the marsh at night and feeds upon
Where the splash of swimmers and divers cool
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
Through the salt-lick or orange glade, under coni-
Through the gymnasium, through the curtained
saloon, through the office or public hall,
Pleased with the native, pleased with the foreign,
pleased with the new and old,
View Page 60
Pleased with women, the homely as well as the
Pleased with the quakeress as she puts off her
bonnet and talks melodiously,
Pleased with the tunes of the choir of the white-
Pleased with the earnest words of the sweating
Methodist preacher, or any preacher—look-
ing seriously at the camp-meeting,
Looking in at the shop-windows in Broadway the
whole forenoon, pressing the flesh of my nose
to the thick plate-glass,
Wandering the same afternoon with my face
turned up to the clouds,
My right and left arms round the sides of two
friends, and I in the middle;
Coming home with the bearded and dark-cheeked
bush-boy, riding behind him at the drape of
Far from the settlements, studying the print of
animals' feet, or the moccasin print,
By the cot in the hospital reaching lemonade to a
By the coffined corpse when all is still examin-
ing with a candle,
Voyaging to every port to dicker and adven-
Hurrying with the modern crowd, as eager and
fickle as any,
View Page 61
Hot toward one I hate ready in my madness to
Solitary at midnight in my back yard, my thoughts
gone from me a long while,
Walking the old hills of Judea, 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
Speeding with tailed 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 visit the orchards of spheres and look at the
And look at quintillions ripened, and look at quin-
I fly the flight of the fluid and swallowing soul,
My course runs below the soundings of plummets.
I help myself to material and immaterial,
No guard can shut me off, no law can prevent me.
View Page 62
I anchor my ship for a little while only,
My messengers continually cruise away, or bring
their returns to me.
I go hunting polar furs and the seal, leaping
chasms with a pike-pointed staff, clinging to
topples of brittle and blue.
I ascend to the fore-truck, I take my place late at
night in the crow's-nest, we sail through 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 plain in all direc-
The white-topped mountains show in the dis-
tance, 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 out-posts of the encamp-
ments, we pass with still feet and caution,
Or we are entering by the suburbs some vast
and ruined city, the blocks and fallen archi-
tecture more than all the living cities of the
I am a free companion, I bivouac by invading
View Page 63
I turn the bridegroom 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
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 steam-ship, and death chasing it
up and down the storm,
How he knuckled tight, and gave not back one
inch, and was faithful of days and faithful of
And chalked in large letters, Be of good cheer,
We will not desert you,
How he saved the drifting company at last,
How the lank loose-gowned women looked when
boated from the side of their prepared graves,
How the silent old-faced infants, and the lifted
sick, and the sharp-lipped unshaved men,
All this I swallow, it tastes good, I like it well, it
I am the man, I suffered, I was there.
The disdain and calmness of martyrs,
View Page 64
The mother, condemned for a witch, burnt with
dry wood, her children gazing on,
The hounded slave that flags in the race, leans by
the fence, blowing, covered with sweat,
The twinges that sting like needles his legs and
neck, the murderous buck-shot and the bullets,
All these I feel or am.
I am the hounded slave, I wince at the bite of the
Hell and despair are upon me, crack and again
crack the marksmen,
I clutch the rails of the fence, my gore dribs,
thinned 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, 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 wounded person,
My hurt turns livid upon me as I lean on a cane
I am the mashed fireman with breastbone broken,
tumbling walls buried me in their debris,
Heat and smoke I inspired, I heard the yelling
shouts of my comrades,
View Page 65
I heard the distant click of their picks and shov-
They have cleared the beams away, they tenderly
life 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 un-
White and beautiful are the faces around me, the
heads are bared of their fire-caps,
The kneeling crowd fades with the light of the
Distant and dead resuscitate,
They show as the dial or move as the hands of
me—I am the clock myself.
I am an old artillerist, I tell of my fort's bombard-
ment, I am there again.
Again the reveille of drummers, again the attack-
ing cannon, mortars, howitzers,
Again the attacked send cannon responsive;
I take part, I see and hear the whole,
The cries, curses, roar, the plaudits for well-aimed
The ambulanza slowly passing, trailing its red
View Page 66
Workmen searching after damages, making indis-
The fall of grenades through the rent roof, the
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 —
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.
Hear now the tale of a jet-black sunrise,
Hear of the murder in cold-blood of four hundred
and twelve young men.
Retreating, they had formed in a hollow square,
with their baggage for breast-works,
Nine hundred lives out of the surrounding enemy's,
nine times their number, was the price they
took in advance,
Their colonel was wounded and their ammunition
They treated for an honorable capitulation, re-
ceived writing and seal, gave up their arms,
marched back prisoners of war.
View Page 67
They were the glory of the race of rangers,
Matchless with horse, rifle, song, supper, court-
Large, turbulent, brave, handsome, generous,
Bearded, sunburnt, dressed in the free costume of
Not a single one over thirty years of age.
The second Sunday morning they were brought
out in squads and massacred—it was beauti-
ful early summer,
The work commenced about five o'clock and was
over by eight.
None obeyed 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 lay together,
The maimed and mangled dug in the dirt, the
new-comers saw them there,
Some, half-killed, attempted to crawl away,
These were dispatched with bayonets, or battered
with the blunts of muskets,
A youth not seventeen years old seized his assas-
sin, till two more came to release him,
The three were all torn, and covered with the
View Page 68
At eleven o'clock began the burning of the bodies;
That is the tale of the murder of the four hun-
dred and twelve young men,
And that was a jet-black sunrise.
Did you read in the sea-books of the old-fashioned
Did you learn who won by the light of the moon
Our foe was no skulk in his ship, I tell you,
His was the English pluck, and there is no tougher
or truer, and never was, and never will be,
Along the lowered eve he came, horribly raking
We closed with him, the yards entangled, the can-
My captain lashed fast with his own hands.
We had received some eighteen-pound shots un-
der the water,
On our lower-gun-deck two large pieces had burst
at the first fire, killing all around and blowing
Ten o'clock at night and the full moon shining,
and the leaks on the gain, and five feet of
View Page 69
The master-at-arms loosing the prisoners confined
in the after-hold, to give them a chance for
The transit to and from the magazine was now
stopped by the sentinels,
They saw so many strange faces that they did not
know whom to trust.
Our frigate was afire, the other asked if we de-
manded quarter? if our colors were struck
and the fighting done?
I laughed content when I heard the voice of my
We have not struck, he composedly cried, We
have just begun our part of the fighting.
Only three guns were in use,
One was directed by the captain himself against
the enemy's main-mast,
Two, well served with grape and canister,
silenced his musketry and cleared his
The tops alone seconded the fire of this little bat-
tery, especially the main-top,
They all held out bravely during the whole of the
Not a moment's cease,
View Page 70
The leaks gained fast on the pumps, the fire eat
toward the powder-magazine,
One of the pumps was shot away, it was generally
thought we were sinking.
Serene stood the little captain,
He was not hurried, his voice was neither high
His eyes gave more light to us than our battle-
Toward twelve at night, there in the beams of the
moon they surrendered to us.
Stretched and still lay the midnight,
Two great hulls motionless on the breast of the
Our vessel riddled and slowly sinking, prepara-
tions to pass to the one we had conquered,
The captain on the quarter-deck coldly giving his
orders through a countenance white as a
Near by, the corpse of the child that served in the
The dead face of an old salt with long white hair
and carefully curled whiskers,
The flames, spite of all that could be done, flicker-
ing aloft and below,
The husky voices of the two or three officers yet
fit for duty,
View Page 71
Formless stacks of bodies, bodies by them-
selves, dabs of flesh upon the masts and
Cut of cordage, dangle of rigging, slight shock of
the soothe of waves,
Black and impassive guns, litter of powder-parcels,
Delicate sniffs of sea-breeze, smells of sedgy grass
and fields by the shore, death-messages
given in change to survivors,
The hiss of the surgeon's knife, the gnawing teeth
of his saw,
Wheeze, cluck, swash of falling blood, short wild
scream, long dull tapering groan,
These so, these irretrievable.
O Christ! My fit is mastering me!
What the rebel said, gaily adjusting his throat to
What the savage at the stump, his eye-sockets
empty, his mouth spirting whoops and defi-
What stills the traveler come to the vault at
What sobers the Brooklyn boy as he looks down
the shores of the Wallabout and remembers
the prison ships,
What burnt the gums of the red-coat at Saratoga
when he surrendered his brigades,
View Page 72
These become mine and me every one, and they
are but little,
I become as much more as I like.
I become any presence or truth of humanity here,
And see myself in prison shaped like another
And feel the dull unintermitted pain.
For me the keepers of convicts shoulder their
carbines and keep watch,
It is I let out in the morning and barred at night.
Not a mutineer walks hand-cuffed to the jail, but I
am hand-cuffed 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.
Not a youngster is taken for larceny, but I go up
too, and am tried and sentenced.
Not a cholera patient lies at the last gasp, but I
also lie at the last gasp,
My face is ash-colored, my sinews gnarl, away
from me people retreat.
Askers embody themselves in me, and I am em-
bodied in them,
I project my hat, sit shame-faced, beg.
View Page 73
I rise extatic through all, sweep with the true
The whirling and whirling is elemental within
Somehow I have been stunned. Stand back!
Give me a little time beyond my cuffed 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 bludgeons and hammers!
That I could look with a separate look on my own
crucifixion and bloody crowning!
I remember, I resume the overstaid fraction,
The grave of rock multiplies what has been con-
fided to it, or to any graves,
The corpses rise, the gashes heal, the fastenings
I troop forth replenished with supreme power,
one of an average unending procession,
We walk the roads of Ohio, Massachusetts, Vir-
ginia, Wisconsin, Manhattan Island, New
Orleans, Texas, Montreal, San Francisco,
Charleston, Havana, Mexico,
Inland and by the sea-coast and boundary lines,
and we pass all boundary lines.
View Page 74
Our swift ordinances are on their way over the
The blossoms we wear in our hats are the growth
of two thousand years.
Eleves, I salute you!
I see the approach of your numberless gangs, I
see you understand yourselves and me,
And know that they who have eyes are divine,
and the blind and lame are equally divine,
And that my steps drag behind yours, yet go be-
And are aware how I am with you no more than
I am with everybody.
The friendly and flowing savage, Who is he?
Is he waiting for civilization, or past it and mas-
Is he some south-westerner, raised out-doors?
Is he Canadian?
Is he from the Mississippi country? from Iowa,
Oregon, California? from the mountains?
prairie-life, bush-life? from the sea?
Wherever he goes men and women accept and
They desire he should like them, touch them
speak to them, stay with them.
View Page 75
Behaviour lawless as snow-flakes, words simple
as grass, uncombed head, laughter, naivete,
Slow-stepping feet, common features, common
modes and emanations,
They descend in new forms from the tips of his
They are wafted with the odor of his body or
breath, they fly out of the glance of his eyes.
Flaunt of the sun-shine, I need not your bask, lie
You light surfaces only, I force surfaces and
Earth! you seem to look for something at my
Say old top-knot! what do you want?
Man or woman! I might tell how I like you, but
And might tell what it is in me, and what it is in
you, but cannot,
And might tell the pinings I have, the pulse of my
nights and days.
Behold I do not give lectures or a little charity,
What I give I give out of myself.
You there, impotent, loose in the knees, open your
scarfed chops till I blow grit within you,
View Page 76
Spread your palms, and lift the flaps of your
I am not to be denied, I compel, I have stores
plenty and to spare,
And any thing I have I bestow;
I do not ask who you are, that is not important to
You can do nothing, and be nothing, but what I
will infold you.
To a drudge of the cotton-fields or cleaner of
privies I lean—on his right cheek I put the
And in my soul I swear, I never will deny him.
On women fit for conception I start bigger and
This day I am jetting the stuff of far more arro-
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, I raise him with re-
O despairer, here is my neck,
View Page 77
By God! you shall not go down! hang your
whole weight upon me.
I dilate you with tremendous breath, I buoy you
Every room of the house do I fill with an armed
force, lovers of me, bafflers of graves,
Sleep! I and they keep guard all night,
Not doubt, not decease shall dare to lay finger
I have embraced you, and henceforth possess you
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
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
Magnifying and applying come I,
Outbidding at the start the old cautious hucksters,
The most they offer for mankind and eternity less
than a spirt of my own seminal wet,
View Page 78
Taking myself the exact dimensions of Jehovah —
lithographing Kronos, Zeus his son, Hercules
his grandson—buying drafts of Osiris, Isis,
Belus, Brahma, Buddha—in my portfolio
placing Manito loose, Allah on a leaf, the
crucifix engraved—with Odin, and the
hideous-faced Mexitli, and every idol and
Taking them all for what they are worth, and not
a cent more,
Admitting they were alive and did the work of
Admitting they bore mites, as for unfledged birds,
who have now to rise and fly and sing for
Accepting the rough deific sketches to fill out bet-
ter in myself—bestowing them freely on
each man and woman I see,
Discovering as much, or more, in a framer framing
Putting higher claims for him there with his
rolled-up sleeves, driving the mallet and
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,
Those ahold of fire-engines and hook-and-ladder
ropes no less to me than the gods of the
View Page 79
Minding their voices peal through the crash of
Their brawny limbs passing safe over charred
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 bagged out at
The snag-toothed hostler with red hair redeeming
sins past and to come,
Selling all he possesses, travelling 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
The bull and the bug never worshipped half
Dung and dirt more admirable than was dreamed,
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 pro-
Guessing when I am it will not tickle me much
to receive puffs out of pulpit or print;
By my life-lumps! becoming already a creator!
View Page 80
Putting myself here and now to the ambushed
womb of the shadows!
A call in the midst of the crowd,
My own voice, orotund, sweeping, final.
Come my children,
Come my boys and girls, my women, household,
Now the performer launches his nerve, he has
passed his prelude on the reeds within.
Easily written, loose-fingered chords! I feel the
thrum of their climax and close.
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 hard unsunk ground,
Ever the eaters and drinkers, ever the upward and
downward sun, ever the air and the ceaseless
Ever myself and my neighbors, refreshing,
Ever the old inexplicable query, ever that thorned
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;
View Page 81
Ever love, ever the sobbing liquid of life,
Ever the bandage under the chin, ever the tressels
Here and there with dimes on the eyes walking,
To feed the greed of the belly the brains liberally
Tickets buying, taking, selling, but in to the feast
never once going,
Many sweating, ploughing, thrashing, and then
the chaff for payment receiving,
A few idly owning, and they the wheat continu-
This is the city, and I am one of the citizens,
Whatever interests the rest interests me—poli-
tics, markets, newspapers, schools, benevolent
societies, improvements, banks, tariffs, steam-
ships, factories, stocks, stores, real estate,
They who piddle and patter here in collars and
tailed coats, I am aware who they are—they
are not worms or fleas,
I acknowledge the duplicates of myself—the weak-
est 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.
View Page 82
I know perfectly well my own egotism,
I know my omnivorous words, and cannot say any
And would fetch you, whoever you are, flush with
My words are words of a questioning, and to in-
This printed and bound book—but the printer,
and the printing-office boy?
The marriage estate and settlement—but the
body and mind of the bridegroom? also those
of the bride?
The panorama of the sea—but the sea itself?
The well-taken photographs—but your wife or
friend close and solid in your arms?
The fleet of ships of the line, and all the modern
improvements—but the craft and pluck of
The dishes and fare and furniture—but the host
and hostess, and the look out of their
The sky up there—yet here, or next door, or
across the way?
The saints and sages in history—but you your-
Sermons, creeds, theology—but the human brain,
and what is called reason, and what is called
love, and what is called life?
View Page 83
I do not despise you, priests,
My faith is the greatest of faiths, and the least of
Enclosing all 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 fetish of the first rock or stump, powow-
ing with sticks in the circle of obis,
Helping the lama or brahmin as he trims the
lamps of the idols,
Dancing yet through the streets in a phallic pro-
cession—rapt and austere in the woods, a
Drinking mead from the skull-cup, 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 di-
To the mass kneeling, to the puritan's prayer ris-
ing, sitting patiently in a pew,
Ranting and frothing in my insane crisis, waiting
dead-like till my spirit arouses me,
Looking forth on pavement and land, and outside
of pavement and land,
View Page 84
Belonging to the winders of the circuit of circuits.
One of that centripetal and centrifugal gang, I
turn and talk like a man leaving charges be-
fore a journey.
Down-hearted doubters, dull and excluded,
Frivolous, sullen, moping, angry, affected, dis-
I know every one of you, I know the unspoken
By experience I know them.
How the flukes splash!
How they contort, rapid as lightning, with spasms
and spouts of blood!
Be at peace, bloody flukes of doubters and sullen
I take my place among you as much as among
The past is the push of you, me, all, precisely the
Day and night are for you, me, all,
And what is yet untried and afterward is for you,
me, all, precisely the same.
I do not know what is untried and afterward,
But I know it is sure, alive, sufficient.
View Page 85
Each who passes is considered, each who stops is
considered, not a single one can it fail.
It cannot fail the young man who died and was
Nor the young woman who died and was put by
Nor the little child that peeped in at the door,
and then drew back and was never seen
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 slaughtered and wrecked, nor
the brutish koboo called the ordure of
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
one of the myriads of myriads that inhabit
Nor the present, nor the least wisp that is known.
It is time to explain myself—let us stand up.
What is known I strip away, I launch all men and
women forward with me into the unknown.
View Page 86
The clock indicates the moment, but what does
Eternity lies in bottomless reservoirs, its buckets
are rising forever and ever,
They pour, they pour, and exhale away.
We have thus far exhausted trillions of winters
There are trillions ahead, and trillions ahead of
Births have brought us richness and variety,
And other births will bring us richness and
I do not call one greater and one smaller,
That which fills its period and place is equal to
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
What have I to do with lamentation?
I am an acme of things accomplished, and I an
encloser of things to be.
View Page 87
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 traveled, and still I mount and
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
And took my time, and took no hurt from the fœtid
Long I was hugged close—long and long.
Immense have been the preparations for me,
Faithful and friendly the arms that have helped me.
Cycles ferried my cradle rowing and rowing like
For room to me stars kept aside in their own
They sent influences to look after what was to
Before I was born out of my mother generations
My embryo has never been torpid, nothing could
View Page 88
For it the nebula cohered to an orb, the long slow
strata piled to rest it on, vast vegetables gave
Monstrous sauroids transported it in their mouths,
and deposited it with care.
All forces have been steadily employed to com-
plete and delight me,
Now I stand on this spot with my soul.
Span of youth! ever-pushed elasticity! manhood,
balanced, florid, 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
Or while I swim in the bath, or drink from the
pump at the corner, or the curtain is down at
the opera, or I glimpse at a woman's face in
the rail-road car,
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.
View Page 89
Old age superbly rising! Ineffable grace of dying
Every condition promulges not only itself, it pro-
mulges what grows after and out of itself,
And the dark hush promulges as much as
I open my scuttle at night and see the far-
And all I see, multiplied as high as I can cipher,
edge but the rim of the farther systems.
Wider and wider they spread, expanding, always
Outward, outward, forever outward.
My sun has his sun, and round him obediently
He joins with his partners a group of superior
And greater sets follow, making specks of the
greatest inside them.
There is no stoppage, and never can be stoppage,
If I, you, the worlds, all beneath or upon their
surfaces, and all the palpable life, were this
moment reduced back to a pallid float, it
would not avail in the long run,
View Page 90
We should surely bring up again where we now
And as surely go as much farther, and then far-
ther 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.
See ever so far, there is limitless space outside of
Count ever so much, there is limitless time around
My rendezvous is appointed,
The Lord will be there and wait till I come on
I know I have the best of time and space, and
was never measured, and never will be
I tramp a perpetual journey,
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,
View Page 91
But each man and each woman of you I lead upon
My left hand hooks you round the waist,
My right hand points to landscapes of continents,
and a plain public road.
Not I, not any one else, can travel that road for
You must travel it for yourself.
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 every where on water and on
Shoulder your duds, I will mine, let us hasten
Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch
as we go.
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 ser-
vice to me,
For after we start we never lie by again.
This day before dawn I ascended a hill and
looked at the crowded heaven,
View Page 92
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 we
be filled and satisfied then?
And my spirit said No, we 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
Sit awhile wayfarer,
Here are biscuits to eat, here is milk to drink,
But as soon as you sleep and renew yourself in
sweet clothes, I will certainly kiss you with
my good-bye kiss, and open the gate for your
Long enough have you dreamed contemptible
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
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod
to me, shout, laughingly dash with your hair.
View Page 93
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 of
Fond of his sweetheart, relishing well his steak,
Unrequited love, or a slight, cutting him worse
than a wound 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
Preferring scars, and faces pitted with small-pox,
over all latherers and those that keep out of
I teach straying from me, yet who can stray from
I follow you, whoever you are, from the present
My words itch at your ears till you understand
I do not say these things for a dollar, or to fill up
the time while I wait for a boat,
View Page 94
It is you talking just as much as myself, I act as
the tongue of you,
It was tied in your mouth, in mine it begins to be
I swear I will never mention love or death inside
And I swear I never will translate myself at all,
only to him or her who privately stays with
me in the open air.
If you would understand me, go to the heights or
The nearest gnat is an explanation, and a drop or
motion of waves a key,
The maul, the oar, the hand-saw, second my words.
No shuttered room or school can commune with
But roughs and little children better than they.
The young mechanic is closest to me, he knows
me pretty well,
The wood-man 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,
View Page 95
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
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
And I have said that the body is not more than
And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one's-
And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy,
walks to his own funeral, dressed in his
And I or you, pocketless of a dime, may pur-
chase the pick of the earth,
And to glance with an eye, or show a bean in its
pod, confounds the learning of all times,
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 wheeled universe,
And any man or woman shall stand cool and
supercilious before a million universes.
View Page 96
And I call to mankind, Be not curious about God,
For I, who am curious about each, am not curious
No array of terms can say how much I am at
peace about God, and about death.
I hear and behold God in every object, yet I
understand God not in the least,
Nor do I understand who there can be more won-
derful than myself.
Why should I wish to see God better than this
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 dropped in the street, and
every one is signed by God's name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know
that others will punctually come forever and
And as to you death, and you bitter hug of mor-
tality, it is idle to try to alarm me.
To his work without flinching the accoucheur
View Page 97
I see the elder-hand, pressing, receiving, support-
I recline by the sills of the exquisite flexible
doors, mark the outlet, mark the relief and
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 grow-
I reach to the leafy lips, I reach to the polished
breasts of melons.
And as to you life, I reckon you are the leavings
of many deaths,
No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times
I hear you whispering there, O stars of heaven,
O suns, O grass of graves, O perpetual trans-
fers and promotions, if you do not say any-
thing, how can I say anything?
Of the turbid pool that lies in the autumn forest,
Of the moon that descends the steeps of the
Toss, sparkles of day and dusk! Toss on the
black stems that decay in the muck!
Toss to the moaning gibberish of the dry limbs!
View Page 98
I ascend from the moon, I ascend from the night,
And perceive of the ghastly glimmer the sun-
And debouch to the steady and central from the
offspring great or small.
There is that in me—I do not know what it is —
but I know it is in me.
Wrenched and sweaty, calm and cool then my
I sleep—I sleep long.
I do not know it—it is without name—it is a
It is not in any dictionary, utterance, symbol.
Something it swings on more than the earth I
To it the creation is the friend whose embracing
Perhaps I might tell more. Outlines! I plead for
my brothers and sisters.
Do you see, O my brothers and sisters?
It is not chaos or death—it is form, union, plan
—it is eternal life—it is happiness.
The past and present wilt—I have filled them,
View Page 99
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
Listener up there! here you! what have you to
confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of
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.
I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on
Who has done his day's work? who will soonest
be through with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?
Will you speak before I am gone? will you
prove already too late?
The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me —
he complains of my gab and my loitering.
I too am not a bit tamed—I too am untrans-
View Page 100
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the
The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness, after the rest, and true as
any, on the shadowed wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.
I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the
I effuse my flash in eddies, and drift it in lacy
I bequeath myself to the dirt, to grow from the
grass I love,
If you want me again, look for me under your
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 some where waiting for you.
View Page 101
2 — Poem of Women.
UNFOLDED only out of the folds of the
woman, man comes unfolded, and is always
to come unfolded,
Unfolded only out of the superbest woman of the
earth is to come the superbest man of the
Unfolded out of the friendliest woman is to come
the friendliest man,
Unfolded only out of the perfect body of a
woman, can a man be formed of perfect body,
Unfolded only out of the inimitable poem of
the woman can come the poems of man —
only thence have my poems come,
Unfolded out of the strong and arrogant woman
I love, only thence can appear the strong
and arrogant man I love,
Unfolded by brawny embraces from the well-
muscled woman I love, only thence come the
brawny embraces of the man,
Unfolded out of the folds of the woman's brain,
come all the folds of the man's brain, duly
View Page 102
Unfolded out of the justice of the woman, all jus-
tice is unfolded,
Unfolded out of the sympathy of the woman is all
A man is a great thing upon the earth, and
through eternity—but every jot of the great-
ness of man is unfolded out of woman,
First the man is shaped in the woman, he can
then be shaped in himself.
View Page 103
3 — Poem of Salutation.
O TAKE my hand, Walt Whitman!
Such gliding wonders! Such sights and
Such joined unended links, each hooked to the
Each answering all, each sharing the earth
What widens within you, Walt Whitman?
What waves and soils exuding?
What climes? what persons and lands are
Who are the infants? some playing, some slum-
Who are the girls? Who are the married
Who are the three old men going slowly with
their arms about each others' necks?
What rivers are these? What forests and fruits
What are the mountains called that rise so high
in the mists?
View Page 104
What myriads of dwellings are they, filled with
Within me latitude widens, longitude lengthens,
Asia, Africa, Europe, are to the east—America is
provided for in the west,
Banding the bulge of the earth winds the hot
Curiously north and south turn the axis-ends;
Within me is the longest day, the sun wheels in
slanting rings, it does not set for months,
Stretched in due time within me the midnight sun
just rises above the horizon, and sinks again;
Within me zones, seas, cataracts, plains, volca-
Oceanica, Australasia, Polynesia, and the great
West Indian islands.
What do you hear, Walt Whitman?
I hear the workman singing, and the farmer's wife
I hear in the distance the sounds of children, and
of animals early in the day,
I hear the inimitable music of the voices of
I hear the persuasions of lovers,
I hear quick rifle-cracks from the riflemen of East
Tennessee and Kentucky, hunting on hills,
View Page 105
I hear emulous shouts of Australians, pursuing the
I hear the Spanish dance with castanets, in
the chestnut shade, to the rebeck and
I hear continual echoes from the Thames,
I hear fierce French liberty songs,
I hear of the Italian boat-sculler the musical reci-
tative of old poems,
I hear the Virginia plantation chorus of negroes,
of a harvest night, in the glare of pine
I hear the strong baritone of the 'long-shore-men
of Manahatta—I hear the stevedores unlad-
ing the cargoes, and singing,
I hear the screams of the water-fowl of solitary
I hear the rustling pattering of locusts, as they
strike the grain and grass with the showers
of their terrible clouds,
I hear the Coptic refrain toward sun-down pen-
sively falling on the breast of the black ven-
erable vast mother, the Nile,
I hear the bugles of raft-tenders on the streams
I hear the chirp of the Mexican muleteer, and
the bells of the mule,
I hear the Arab muezzin, calling from the top of
View Page 106
I hear Christian priests at the altars of their
churches—I hear the responsive base and
I hear the wail of utter despair of the white-
haired Irish grand-parents, when they learn
the death of their grand-son,
I hear the cry of the Cossack, and the sailor's
voice, putting to sea at Okotsk,
I hear the wheeze of the slave-coffle, as the
slaves march on, as the husky gangs pass on
by twos and threes, fastened together with
wrist-chains and ankle-chains,
I hear the entreaties of women tied up for punish-
ment, I hear the sibilant whisk of thongs
through the air,
I hear the appeal of the greatest orator, he that
turns states by the tip of his tongue,
I hear the Hebrew reading his records and
I hear the rhythmic myths of the Greeks, and
the strong legends of the Romans,
I hear the tale of the divine life and bloody death
of the beautiful god, the Christ,
I hear the Hindoo teaching his favorite pupil the
loves, wars, adages, transmitted safely to this
day from poets who wrote three thousand
What do you see, Walt Whitman?
View Page 107
Who are they you salute, and that one after
another salute you?
I see a great round wonder rolling through the
I see diminute farms, hamlets, ruins, grave-yards,
jails, factories, palaces, hovels, huts of barba-
rians, tents of nomads, upon the surface,
I see the shaded part on one side where the
sleepers are sleeping, and the sun-lit part on
the other side,
I see the curious silent change of the light and
I see distant lands, as real and near to the
inhabitants of them as my land is to me.
I see plenteous waters,
I see mountain peaks—I see the sierras of
Andes and Alleghanies, I see where they
I see plainly the Himmalehs, Chian Shahs, Al-
I see the Rocky Mountains, and the Peak of
I see the Styrian Alps and the Karnac Alps,
I see the Pyrenees, Balks, Carpathians, and to
the north the Dofrafields, and off at sea
I see Vesuvius and Etna—I see the Anahuacs,
View Page 108
I see the Mountains of the Moon, and the Snow
Mountains, and the Red Mountains of Mada-
I see the Vermont hills, and the long string of
I see the vast deserts of Western America,
I see the Libyan, Arabian, and Asiatic deserts;
I see huge dreadful Arctic and Antarctic icebergs,
I see the superior oceans and the inferior ones —
the Atlantic and Pacific, the sea of Mexico,
the Brazilian sea, and the sea of Peru,
The Japan waters, those of Hindostan, the China
Sea, and the Gulf of Guinea,
The spread of the Baltic, Caspian, Bothnia, the
British shores, and the Bay of Biscay,
The clear-sunned Mediterranean, and from one to
another of its islands,
The inland fresh-tasted seas of North America,
The White Sea, and the sea around Greenland.
I behold the mariners of the world,
Some are in storms, some in the night, with
the watch on the look-out, some drifting
helplessly, some with contagious diseases.
I behold the steam-ships of the world,
Some double the Cape of Storms, some Cape
Verde, others Cape Guardafui, Bon, or Baja-
View Page 109
Others Dondra Head, others pass the Straits of
Sunda, others Cape Lopatka, others Beh-
Others Cape Horn, others the Gulf of Mexico, or
along Cuba or Hayti, others Hudson's Bay or
Others pass the Straits of Dover, others enter the
Wash, others the Firth of Solway, others
round Cape Clear, others the Land's End,
Others traverse the Zuyder Zee or the Scheld,
Others add to the exits and entrances at Sandy
Others to the comers and goers at Gibraltar or the
Others sternly push their way through the north-
Others descend or ascend the Obi or the Lena,
Others the Niger or the Congo, others the Hoang-
ho and Amoor, others the Indus, the Buram-
pooter and Cambodia,
Others wait at the wharves of Manahatta,
steamed up, ready to start,
Wait swift and swarthy in the ports of Australia,
Wait at Liverpool, Glasgow, Dublin, Marseilles,
Lisbon, Naples, Hamburgh, Bremen, Bor-
deaux, the Hague, Copenhagen,
Wait at Valparaiso, Rio Janeiro, Panama,
Wait at their moorings at Boston, Philadelphia,
Baltimore, Charleston, New Orleans, Galves-
ton, San Francisco.
View Page 110
I see the tracks of the rail-roads of the earth,
I see them welding state to state, county to
county, city to city, through North America,
I see them in Great Britain, I see them in Eu-
I see them in Asia and in Africa.
I see the electric telegraphs of the earth,
I see the filaments of the news of the wars,
deaths, losses, gains, passions, of my race.
I see the long thick river-stripes of the earth,
I see where the Mississippi flows, I see where
the Columbia flows,
I see the St. Lawrence and the falls of Niagara,
I see the Amazon and the Paraguay,
I see where the Seine flows, and where the
Loire, the Rhone, and the Guadalquivir
I see the windings of the Volga, the Dnieper,
I see the Tuscan going down the Arno, and the
Venetian along the Po,
I see the Greek seaman sailing out of Egina bay.
I see the site of the great old empire of Assyria,
and that of Persia, and that of India,
I see the falling of the Ganges over the high rim
View Page 111
I see the place of the idea of the Deity incarnated
by avatars in human forms,
I see the spots of the successions of priests on the
earth, oracles, sacrificers, brahmins, sabians
lamas, monks, muftis, exhorters,
I see where druids walked the groves of Mona, I
see the misletoe and vervain,
I see the temples of the deaths of the bodies of
gods, I see the old signifiers,
I see Christ once more eating the bread of his last
supper in the midst of youths and old persons,
I see where the strong divine young man, the Her-
cules, toiled faithfully and long, and then died,
I see the place of the innocent rich life and hap-
less fate of the beautiful nocturnal son, the
I see Kneph, blooming, dressed in blue, with the
crown of feathers on his head,
I see Hermes, unsuspected, dying, well-beloved,
saying to the people, Do not weep for me,
this is not my true country, I have lived
banished from my true country, I now go
back there, I return to the celestial sphere
where every one goes in his turn.
I see the battle-fields of the earth—grass grows
upon them, and blossoms and corn,
I see the tracks of ancient and modern expedi-
View Page 112
I see the nameless masonries, venerable messages
of the unknown events, heroes, records of the
I see the places of the sagas,
I see pine-trees and fir-trees torn by northern
I see granite boulders and cliffs, I see green mea-
dows and lakes,
I see the burial-cairns of Scandinavian warriors,
I see them raised high with stones, by the marge
of restless oceans, that the dead men's spirits,
when they wearied of their quiet graves,
might rise up through the mounds, and gaze
on the tossing billows, and be refreshed by
storms, immensity, liberty, action.
I see the steppes of Asia,
I see the tumuli of Mongolia, I see the tents of
Kalmucks and Baskirs,
I see the nomadic tribes with herds of oxen and
I see the table-lands notched with ravines, I see
the jungles and deserts,
I see the camel, the wild steed, the bustard, the
fat-tailed sheep, the antelope, and the bur-
I see the high-lands of Abyssinia,
View Page 113
I see flocks of goats feeding, I see the fig-tree,
I see fields of teff-wheat, I see the places of
verdure and gold.
I see the Brazilian vaquero,
I see the Bolivian ascending Mount Sorata,
I see the Guacho crossing the plains, I see the
incomparable rider of horses with his lasso
on his arm,
I see over the pampas the pursuit of wild cattle
for their hides.
I see the little and large sea-dots, some inhabited,
I see two boats with nets, lying off the shore of
Paumanok, quite still,
I see ten fishermen waiting—they discover now
a thick school of mossbonkers, they drop
the joined seine-ends in the water,
The boats separate, they diverge and row off,
each on its rounding course to the beach,
enclosing the mossbonkers,
The net is drawn in by a windlass by those
who stop ashore,
Some of the fishermen lounge in the boats,
others stand negligently ankle-deep in the
water, poised on strong legs,
The boats are partly drawn up, the water slaps
View Page 114
On the sand, in heaps and winrows, well out from
the water, lie the green-backed spotted moss-
I see the despondent red man in the west,
lingering about the banks of Moingo, and
about Lake Pepin,
He has beheld the quail and honey-bee, and
sadly prepared to depart.
I see the regions of snow and ice,
I see the sharp-eyed Samoiede and the Finn,
I see the seal-seeker in his boat, poising his
I see the Siberian on his slight-built sledge, drawn
I see the porpoise-hunters, I see the whale-crews
of the South Pacific and the North Atlantic,
I see the cliffs, glaciers, torrents, valleys, of Switz-
erland—I mark the long winters and the
I see the cities of the earth, and make myself a
part of them,
I am a real Londoner, Parisian, Viennese,
I am a habitan of St. Petersburgh, Berlin, Con-
I am of Adelaide, Sidney, Melbourne,
I am of Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh, Limerick,
View Page 115
I am of Madrid, Cadiz, Barcelona, Oporto, Lyons,
Brussels, Berne, Frankfort, Stuttgart, Turin,
I belong in Moscow, Cracow, Warsaw—or north-
ward in Christiana or Stockholm—or in
some street in Iceland,
I descend upon all those cities, and rise from them
I see vapors exhaling from unexplored coun-
I see the savage types, the bow and arrow, the
poisoned splint, the fetish and the obi.
I see African and Asiatic towns,
I see Algiers, Tripoli, Derne, Mogadore, Timbuc-
I see the swarms of Pekin, Canton, Benares,
I see the Kruman in his hut, and the Dahoman
and Ashantee-man in their huts,
I see the Turk smoking opium in Aleppo,
I see the picturesque crowds at the fairs of Khiva,
and those of Herat,
I see Teheran, I see Muscat and Medina, and the
intervening sands—I see the caravans toil-
I see Egypt and the Egyptians, I see the pyramids
View Page 116
I look on chiselled histories, songs, philosophies,
cut in slabs of sand-stone or granite blocks,
I see at Memphis mummy-pits, containing mum-
mies, embalmed, swathed in linen cloth, lying
there many centuries,
I look on the fall'n Theban, the large-ball'd eyes,
the side-drooping neck, the hands folded
across the breast.
I see the menials of the earth, laboring,
I see the prisoners in the prisons,
I see the defective human bodies of the earth,
I see the blind, the deaf and dumb, idiots, hunch-
I see the pirates, thieves, betrayers, murderers,
slave-makers of the earth,
I see the helpless infants, and the helpless old
men and women.
I see male and female everywhere,
I see the serene brotherhood of philosophs,
I see the constructiveness of my race,
I see the results of the perseverance and industry
of my race,
I see ranks, colors, barbarisms, civilizations—I
go among them, I mix indiscriminately,
And I salute all the inhabitants of the earth.
You, inevitable where you are!
You daughter or son of England!
View Page 117
You free man of Australia! you of Tasmania! you
of Papua! you free woman of the same!
You of the mighty Slavic tribes and empires! you
Russ in Russia!
You dim-descended, black, divine-souled African,
large, fine-headed, nobly-formed, superbly
destined, on equal terms with me!
You Norwegian! Swede! Dane! Icelander! you
You Spaniard of Spain! you Portuguese!
You Frenchwoman and Frenchman of France!
You Belge! you liberty-lover of the Netherlands!
You sturdy Austrian! you Lombard! Hun! Bohe-
mian! farmer of Styria!
You neighbor of the Danube!
You working-man of the Rhine, the Elbe, or the
Weser! you working-woman too!
You Sardinian! you Bavarian! you Swabian!
Saxon! Wallachian! Bulgarian!
You citizen of Prague! you Roman! Napolitan!
You lithe matador in the arena at Seville!
You mountaineer living lawlessly on the Taurus
You Bokh horse-herd watching your mares and
You beautiful-bodied Persian, at full speed in the
saddle, shooting arrows to the mark!
View Page 118
You Chinaman and Chinawoman of China! you
Tartar of Tartary!
You women of the earth, subordinated at your
You Jew journeying in your old age through every
risk to stand once on Syrian ground!
You other Jews waiting in all lands for your
You thoughtful Armenian pondering by some
stream of the Euphrates! you peering amid
the ruins of Nineveh! you ascending Mount
You foot-worn pilgrim welcoming the far-away
sparkle of the minarets of Mecca!
You sheiks along the stretch from Suez to Babel-
mandel, ruling your families and tribes!
You olive-grower tending your fruit on fields off
Nazareth, Damascus, or Lake Tiberias!
You Thibet trader on the wide inland, or bargain-
ing in the shops of Lassa!
You Japanese man or woman! you liver in
Madagascar, Ceylon, Sumatra, Borneo!
All you continentals of Asia, Africa, Europe,
Australia, indifferent of place!
All you on the numberless islands of the archi-
pelagoes of the sea!
And you of centuries hence, when you listen to me!
And you everywhere whom I specify not, but in-
clude just the same!
View Page 119
I salute you for myself and for America.
Each of us inevitable,
Each of us limitless—each of us with his or her
right upon the earth,
Each of us allowed the eternal purport of the earth,
Each of us here as divinely as any is here.
You Hottentot with clicking palate!
You woolly-haired hordes! you white or black
owners of slaves!
You owned persons dropping sweat-drops or
You felons, deformed persons, idiots!
You human forms with the fathomless ever-
impressive countenances of brutes!
You poor koboo whom the meanest of the rest
look down upon, for all your glimmering
language and spirituality!
You low expiring aborigines of the hills of Utah,
You dwarfed Kamskatkan, Greenlander, Lapp!
You Austral negro, naked, red, sooty, with pro-
trusive lip, grovelling, seeking your food!
You Caffre, Berber, Soudanese!
You haggard, uncouth, untutored Bedowee!
You plague-swarms in Madras, Nankin, Kaubul,
You bather bathing in the Ganges!
View Page 120
You benighted roamer of Amazonia! you Pat-
agonian! you Fegee-man!
You peon of Mexico! you Russian serf! you
quadroon of Carolina, Texas, Tennessee!
I do not refuse you my hand, or prefer others
I do not say one word against you.
My spirit has passed in compassion and deter-
mination around the whole earth,
I have looked for brothers, sisters, lovers, and
found them ready for me in all lands.
I think I have risen with you, you vapors, and
moved away to distant continents, and fallen
down there, for reasons,
I think I have blown with you, you winds,
I think, you waters, I have fingered every shore
I think I have run through what any river or strait
of the globe has run through,
I think I have taken my stand on the bases of
peninsulas, and on imbedded rocks.
What cities the light or warmth penetrates, I
penetrate those cities myself,
All islands to which birds wing their way, I
wing my way myself,
I find my home wherever there are any homes of
View Page 121
4 — Poem of The Daily Work of The Workmen and Workwomen of These
COME closer to me,
Push close, my lovers, and take the best I
Yield closer and closer, and give me the best you
This is unfinished business with me—How is it
I was chilled with the cold types, cylinder, wet
paper between us.
I pass so poorly with paper and types, I must pass
with the contact of bodies and souls.
I do not thank you for liking me as I am, and
liking the touch of me—I know that it is
good for you to do so.
Were all educations practical and ornamental well
displayed out of me, what would it amount to?
View Page 122
Were I as the head teacher, charitable proprietor,
wise statesman, what would it amount to?
Were I to you as the boss employing and paying
you, would that satisfy you?
The learned, virtuous, benevolent, and the usual
A man like me, and never the usual terms.
Neither a servant nor a master am I,
I take no sooner a large price than a small price
—I will have my own, whoever enjoys me,
I will be even with you, and you shall be even
If you are a workman or workwoman, I stand as
nigh as the nighest that works in the same
If you bestow gifts on your brother or dearest
friend, I demand as good as your brother or
If your lover, husband, wife, is welcome by day
or night, I must be personally as welcome,
If you become degraded, criminal, ill, then I
become so for your sake,
If you remember your foolish and outlawed deeds,
do you think I cannot remember my own
foolish and outlawed deeds? plenty of them?
If you carouse at the table, I carouse at the
opposite side of the table,
View Page 123
If you meet some stranger in the street, and love
him or her, do I not often meet strangers in
the street and love them?
If you see a good deal remarkable in me, I see
just as much, perhaps more, in you.
Why what have you thought of yourself?
Is it you, then, that thought yourself less?
Is it you that thought the President greater than
you? or the rich better off than you? or the
educated wiser than you?
Because you are greasy or pimpled, or that you
was once drunk, or a thief, or diseased, or
rheumatic, or a prostitute, or are so now, or
from frivolity or impotence, or that you are no
scholar, and never saw your name in print,
do you give in that you are any less
Souls of men and women! it is not you I call
unseen, unheard, untouchable and untouch-
It is not you I go argue pro and con about, and to
settle whether you are alive or no,
I own publicly who you are, if nobody else owns
—I see and hear you, and what you give and
What is there you cannot give and take?
View Page 124
I see not merely that you are polite or white-faced,
married, single, citizens of old states, citizens
of new states, eminent in some profession, a
lady or gentleman in a parlor, or dressed in
the jail uniform, or pulpit uniform,
Not only the free Utahan, Kansian, Arkansian —
not only the free Cuban, not merely the slave,
not Mexican native, Flatfoot, negro from
Iroquois eating the war-flesh, fish-tearer in his lair
of rocks and sand, Esquimaux in the dark
cold snow-house, Chinese with his transverse
eyes, Bedowee, wandering nomad, taboun-
schik at the head of his droves,
Grown, half-grown, and babe, of this country and
every country, indoors and outdoors, I see —
and all else is behind or through them.
The wife, and she is not one jot less than the
The daughter, and she is just as good as the
The mother, and she is every bit as much as the
Offspring of those not rich, boys apprenticed to
Young fellows working on farms, and old fellows
working on farms,
View Page 125
The naive, the simple and hardy, he going to the
polls to vote, he who has a good time, and he
who has a bad time,
Mechanics, southerners, new arrivals, laborers
sailors, mano'warsmen, merchantmen, coast-
All these I see, but nigher and farther the same I
None shall escape me, and none shall wish to
I bring what you much need, yet always have,
Not money, amours, dress, eating, but as good,
I send no agent or medium, offer no representative
of value, but offer the value itself.
There is something that comes home to one now
It is not what is printed, preached, discussed—it
eludes discussion and print,
It is not to be put in a book, it is not in this
It is for you, whoever you are—it is no farther
from you than your hearing and sight are
It is hinted by nearest, commonest, readiest—it
is not them, though it is endlessly provoked
by them—what is there ready and near you
View Page 126
You may read in many languages, yet read nothing
You may read the President's message, and read
nothing about it there,
Nothing in the reports from the State department
or Treasury department, or in the daily
papers or the weekly papers,
Or in the census returns, assessors' returns, prices
current, or any accounts of stock.
The sun and stars that float in the open air—the
apple-shaped earth, and we upon it, surely
the drift of them is something grand!
I do not know what it is, except that it is grand,
and that it is happiness,
And that the enclosing purport of us here
is not a speculation, or bon-mot, or recon-
And that it is not something which by luck may
turn out well for us, and without luck must be
a failure for us,
And not something which may yet be retracted in
a certain contingency.
The light and shade, the curious sense of body
and identity, the greed that with perfect
complaisance devours all things, the endless
pride and out-stretching of man, unspeakable
joys and sorrows,
View Page 127
The wonder every one sees in every one else he
sees, and the wonders that fill each minute
of time forever, and each acre of surface and
Have you reckoned them for a trade or farm-work?
or for the profits of a store? or to achieve
yourself a position? or to fill a gentleman's
leisure, or a lady's leisure?
Have you reckoned the landscape took substance
and form that it might be painted in a
Or men and women that they might be written of,
and songs sung?
Or the attraction of gravity, and the great laws
and harmonious combinations, and the fluids
of the air, as subjects for the savans?
Or the brown land and the blue sea for maps and
Or the stars to be put in constellations and
named fancy names?
Or that the growth of seeds is for agricultural ta-
bles, or agriculture itself?
Old institutions, these arts, libraries, legends,
collections, and the practice handed along
in manufactures, will we rate them so high?
Will we rate our cash and business high? I have
View Page 128
I rate them high as the highest, then a child born
of a woman and man I rate beyond all rate.
We thought our Union grand, and our Constitution
I do not say they are not grand and good, for they
I am this day just as much in love with them as
Then I am eternally in love with you, and with
all my fellows upon the earth.
We consider bibles and religions divine—I do not
say they are not divine,
I say they have all grown out of you, and may
grow out of you still,
It is not they who give the life, it is you who give
Leaves are not more shed from the trees, or trees
from the earth, than they are shed out of
The sum of all known reverence I add up in you,
whoever you are,
The President is there in the White House for
you, it is not you who are here for him,
The Secretaries act in their bureaus for you, not
you here for them,
The Congress convenes every December for you,
View Page 129
Laws, courts, the forming of States, the charters
of cities, the going and coming of commerce
and mails, are all for you.
All doctrines, all politics and civilization, exurge
All sculpture and monuments, and anything in-
scribed anywhere, are tallied in you,
The gist of histories and statistics as far back as
the records reach, is in you this hour, and
myths and tales the same,
If you were not breathing and walking here,
where would they all be?
The most renowned poems would be ashes, ora-
tions and plays would be vacuums.
All architecture is what you do to it when you
look upon it,
Did you think it was in the white or gray stone?
or the lines of the arches and cornices?
All music is what awakes from you, when you
are reminded by the instruments,
It is not the violins and the cornets—it is not the
oboe nor the beating drums, nor the score of
the baritone singer singing his sweet ro-
manza, nor that of the men's chorus, nor that
of the women's chorus,
It is nearer and farther than they.
View Page 130
Will the whole come back then?
Can each see signs of the best by a look in the
looking-glass? is there nothing greater or
Does all sit there with you, and here with me?
The old, forever-new things—you foolish child!
the closest, simplest things, this moment with
Your person, and every particle that relates to
The pulses of your brain, waiting their chance
and encouragement at every deed or sight,
Anything you do in public by day, and anything
you do in secret between-days,
What is called right and what is called wrong,
what you behold or touch, what causes your
anger or wonder,
The ankle-chain of the slave, the bed of the bed-
house, the cards of the gambler, the plates
of the forger,
What is seen or learnt in the street, or intui-
What is learnt in the public school, spelling,
reading, writing, ciphering, the black-board,
the teacher's diagrams,
The panes of the windows, all that appears
through them, the going forth in the morning,
the aimless spending of the day,
View Page 131
(What is it that you made money? what is it that
you got what you wanted?)
The usual routine, the work-shop, factory, yard,
office, store, desk,
The jaunt of hunting or fishing, the life of hunt-
ing or fishing,
Pasture-life, foddering, milking, herding, all the
personnel and usages,
The plum-orchard, apple-orchard, gardening,
seedlings, cuttings, flowers, vines,
Grains, manures, marl, clay, loam, the subsoil
plough, the shovel, pick, rake, hoe, irrigation,
The curry-comb, the horse-cloth, the halter, bridle,
bits, the very wisps of straw,
The barn and barn-yard, the bins, mangers, mows,
Manufactures, commerce, engineering, the build-
ing of cities, every trade carried on there,
the implements of every trade,
The anvil, tongs, hammer, the axe and wedge,
the square, mitre, jointer, smoothing-plane,
The plumbob, trowel, level, the wall-scaffold, the
work of walls and ceilings, any mason-
The steam-engine, lever, crank, axle, piston, shaft,
air-pump, boiler, beam, pulley, hinge, flange,
band, bolt, throttle, governors, up and down
View Page 132
The ship's compass, the sailor's tarpaulin, the
stays and lanyards, the ground tackle for
anchoring or mooring, the life-boat for
The sloop's tiller, the pilot's wheel and bell, the
yacht or fish-smack, the great gay-pennanted
three-hundred-foot steamboat under full head-
way, with her proud fat breasts and her deli-
cate swift-flashing paddles,
The trail, line, hooks, sinkers, the seine, hauling
The arsenal, small-arms, rifles, gunpowder, shot,
caps, wadding, ordnance for war, carriages;
Every-day objects, house-chairs, carpet, bed,
counterpane of the bed, him or her sleeping
at night, wind blowing, indefinite noises,
The snow-storm or rain-storm, the tow-trowsers,
the lodge-hut in the woods, the still-hunt,
City and country, fire-place, candle, gas-light,
The message of the governor, mayor, chief of
police—the dishes of breakfast, dinner, sup-
The bunk-room, the fire-engine, the string-term,
the car or truck behind,
The paper I write on or you write on, every word
we write, every cross and twirl of the pen,
and the curious way we write what we think,
yet very faintly,
View Page 133
The directory, the detector, the ledger, the books
in ranks on the book-shelves, the clock at-
tached to the wall,
The ring on your finger, the lady's wristlet, the
scent-powder, the druggist's vials and jars,
the draught of lager-beer,
The etui of surgical instruments, the etui of ocu-
list's or aurist's instruments, or dentist's in-
The permutating lock that can be turned and
locked as many different ways as there are
minutes in a year,
Glass-blowing, nail-making, salt-making, tin-roof-
ing, shingle-dressing, candle-making, lock-
making and hanging,
Ship-carpentering, dock-building, fish-curing, ferry-
ing, stone-breaking, flagging of side-walks
The pump, the pile-driver, the great derrick, the
coal-kiln and brick-kiln,
Coal-mines, all that is down there, the lamps in
the darkness, echoes, songs, what medita-
tions, what vast native thoughts looking
through smutch'd faces,
Iron-works, forge-fires in the mountains or by
river-banks, men around feeling the melt
with huge crowbars—lumps of ore, the due
combining of ore, limestone, coal—the blast-
furnace and the puddling-furnace, the loup-
View Page 134
lump at the bottom of the melt at last —
the rolling-mill, the stumpy bars of pig-iron,
the strong clean-shaped T rail for rail-
Oil-works, silk-works, white-lead-works, the
sugar-house, steam-saws, the great mills and
Lead-mines, and all that is done in lead-mines, or
with the lead afterward,
Copper-mines, the sheets of copper, and what is
formed out of the sheets, and all the work in
Stone-cutting, shapely trimmings for facades,
or window or door lintels—the mallet,
the tooth-chisel, the jib to protect the
Oakum, the oakum-chisel, the caulking-iron—the
kettle of boiling vault-cement, and the fire
under the kettle,
The cotton-bale, the stevedore's hook, the saw and
buck of the sawyer, the screen of the coal-
screener, the mould of the moulder, the
working-knife of the butcher, the ice-saw,
and all the work with ice,
The four-double cylinder press, the hand-press,
the frisket and tympan, the compositor's stick
and rule, type-setting, making up the forms,
all the work of newspaper counters, folders,
View Page 135
The implements for daguerreotyping—the tools
of the rigger, grappler, sail-maker, block-
Goods of gutta-percha, papier-mache, colors,
brushes, brush-making, glazier's implements,
The veneer and glue-pot, the confectioner's orna-
ments, the decanter and glasses, the shears
The awl and knee-strap, the pint measure and
quart measure, the counter and stool, the
writing-pen of quill or metal—the making of
all sorts of edged tools,
The ladders and hanging ropes of the gymnasium,
manly exercises, the game of base-ball, run-
ning, leaping, pitching quoits,
The designs for wall-papers, oil-cloths, carpets,
the fancies for goods for women, the book-
The brewery, brewing, the malt, the vats, every-
thing that is done by brewers, also by wine-
makers, also vinegar-makers,
Leather-dressing, coach-making, boiler-making,
rope-twisting, distilling, sign-painting, lime-
burning, coopering, cotton-picking, electro-
Stave-machines, planing-machines, reaping-ma-
chines, ploughing-machines, thrashing-ma-
View Page 136
The cart of the carman, the omnibus, the ponder-
The wires of the electric telegraph stretched on
land, or laid at the bottom of the sea, and
then the message in an instant from ten
thousand miles off,
The snow-plough and two engines pushing it, the
ride in the express-train of only one car, the
swift go through a howling storm—the locomo-
tive, and all that is done about a locomotive,
The bear-hunt or coon-hunt, the bonfire of shav-
ings in the open lot in the city, the crowd of
The blows of the fighting-man, the upper-cut and
Pyrotechny, letting off colored fire-works at
night, fancy figures and jets,
Shop-windows, coffins in the sexton's ware-room,
fruit on the fruit-stand—beef in the butcher's
stall, the slaughter-house of the butcher,
the butcher in his killing-clothes,
The area of pens of live pork, the killing-hammer,
the hog-hook, the scalder's tub, gutting, the
cutter's cleaver, the packer's maul, and the
plenteous winter-work of pork-packing,
Flour-works, grinding of wheat, rye, maize, rice
—the barrels and the half and quarter barrels,
the loaded barges, the high piles on wharves
View Page 137
Bread and cakes in the bakery, the milliner's rib-
bons, the dress-maker's patterns, the tea-table,
the home-made sweetmeats;
Coins and medals, the ancient bronze coin, bust,
inscription, date, ring-money, the copper
cent, the silver dime, the five-dime piece, the
gold dollar, the fifty-dollar piece—Modern
coins, and all the study and reminiscence of
Cheap literature, maps, charts, lithographs, daily
and weekly newspapers,
The column of wants in the one-cent paper,
the news by telegraph, amusements, operas,
The business parts of a city, the trottoirs of a
city when thousands of well-dressed people
walk up and down,
The cotton, woolen, linen you wear, the money
you make and spend,
Your room and bed-room, your piano-forte, the
stove and cook-pans,
The house you live in, the rent, the other tenants,
the deposite in the savings-bank, the trade at
The pay on Saturday night, the going home, and
In them the heft of the heaviest—in them far
more than you estimated, and far less also,
View Page 138
In them, not yourself—you and your soul enclose
all things, regardless of estimation,
In them your themes, hints, provokers—if not,
the whole earth has no themes, hints, pro-
vokers, and never had.
I do not affirm what you see beyond is futile—I
do not advise you to stop,
I do not say leadings you thought great are not
But I say that none lead to greater, sadder, hap-
pier, than those lead to.
Will you seek afar off? you surely come back at
In things best known to you, finding the best, or
as good as the best,
In folks nearest to you finding also the sweetest,
Happiness not in another place, but this place —
not for another hour, but this hour,
Man in the first you see or touch, always in your
friend, brother, nighest neighbor—Woman in
your mother, lover, wife,
The popular tastes and occupations taking prece-
dence in poems or anywhere,
You workwomen and workmen of These States
having your own divine and strong life —
looking the President always sternly in the
View Page 139
face, unbending, nonchalant, understanding
that he is to be kept by you to short and
sharp account of himself,
And all else thus far giving place to men and
When the psalm sings instead of the singer,
When the script preaches instead of the preacher,
When the pulpit descends and goes instead of the
carver that carved the supporting-desk,
When I can touch the body of books, by night or
by day, and when they touch my body back
When the sacred vessels, or the bits of the eucha-
rist, or the lath and plast, procreate as effec-
tually as the young silver-smiths or bakers, or
the masons in their over-alls,
When a university course convinces like a slum-
bering woman and child convince,
When the minted gold in the vault smiles like the
When warrantee deeds loafe in chairs opposite,
and are my friendly companions,
I intend to reach them my hand, and make as
much of them as I do of men and women.
View Page 140
5 — Broad-Axe Poem.
BROAD-AXE, shapely, naked, wan!
Head from the mother's bowels drawn!
Wooded flesh and metal bone! limb only one and
lip only one!
Gray-blue leaf by red-heat grown! helve produced
from a little seed sown!
Resting, the grass amid and upon,
To be leaned, and to lean on.
Strong shapes, and attributes of strong shapes,
masculine trades, sights and sounds,
Long varied train of an emblem, dabs of music,
Fingers of the organist skipping staccato over the
keys of the great organ.
Welcome are all earth's lands, each for its kind,
Welcome are lands of pine and oak,
Welcome are lands of the lemon and fig,
Welcome are lands of gold,
Welcome are lands of wheat and maize—welcome
those of the grape,
Welcome are lands of sugar and rice,
View Page 141
Welcome the cotton-lands—welcome those of the
white potato and sweet potato,
Welcome are mountains, flats, sands, forests, prai-
Welcome the rich borders of rivers, table-lands,
Welcome the measureless grazing lands—wel-
come the teeming soil of orchards, flax,
Welcome just as much the other more hard-faced
Lands rich as lands of gold, or wheat and fruit
Lands of mines, lands of the manly and rugged ores,
Lands of coal, copper, lead, tin, zinc,
Lands of iron! lands of the make of the axe!
The log at the wood-pile, the axe supported by it,
The sylvan hut, the vine over the doorway, the
space cleared for a garden,
The irregular tapping of rain down on the leaves,
after the storm is lulled,
The wailing and moaning at intervals, the thought
of the sea,
The thought of ships struck in the storm, and put
on their beam-ends, and the cutting away of
The sentiment of the huge timbers of old-fashioned
houses and barns;
View Page 142
The remembered print or narrative, the voyage at
a venture of men, families, goods,
The disembarcation, the founding of a new city,
The voyage of those who sought a New England
and found it,
The Year 1 of These States, the weapons that year
began with, scythe, pitch-fork, club, horse-
The settlements of the Arkansas, Colorado, Ottawa,
The slow progress, the scant fare, the axe, rifle,
The beauty of all adventurous and daring per-
The beauty of wood-boys and wood-men, with
their clear untrimmed faces,
The beauty of independence, departure, actions
that rely on themselves,
The American contempt for statutes and cere-
monies, the boundless impatience of restraint,
The loose drift of character, the inkling through
random types, the solidification;
The butcher in the slaughter-house, the hands
aboard schooners and sloops, the rafts-man,
Lumber-men in their winter camp, day-break in the
woods, stripes of snow on the limbs of trees,
the occasional snapping,
View Page 143
The glad clear sound of one's own voice, the
merry song, the natural life of the woods, the
strong day's work,
The blazing fire at night, the sweet taste of supper,
the talk, the bed of hemlock boughs, and the
The house-builder at work in cities or anywhere,
The preparatory jointing, squaring, sawing, mor-
The hoist-up of beams, the push of them in their
places, laying them regular,
Setting the studs by their tenons in the mortises,
according as they were prepared,
The blows of mallets and hammers, the attitudes
of the men, their curved limbs,
Bending, standing, astride the beams, driving in
pins, holding on by posts and braces,
The hooked arm over the plate, the other arm
wielding the axe,
The floor-men forcing the planks close, to be
Their postures bringing their weapons downward
on the bearers,
The echoes resounding through the vacant building;
The huge store-house carried up in the city, well
The six framing-men, two in the middle and two
at each end, carefully bearing on their
shoulders a heavy stick for a cross-beam,
View Page 144
The crowded line of masons with trowels in their
right hands rapidly laying the long side-wall,
two hundred feet from front to rear,
The flexible rise and fall of backs, the continual
click of the trowels and bricks,
The bricks, one after another, each laid so work-
man-like in its place, and set with a knock of
The piles of materials, the mortar on the mortar-
boards, and the steady replenishing by the
Spar-makers in the spar-yard, the swarming row
of well-grown apprentices,
The swing of their axes on the square-hewed
log, shaping it toward the shape of a
The brisk short crackle of the steel driven slant-
ingly into the pine,
The butter-colored chips flying off in great flakes
The limber motion of brawny young arms and hips
in easy costumes;
The constructor of wharves, bridges, piers, bulk-
heads, floats, stays against the sea;
The city fire-man—the fire that suddenly bursts
forth in the close-packed square,
The arriving engines, the hoarse shouts, the
nimble stepping and daring,
View Page 145
The strong command through the fire-trumpets,
the forming in line, the echoed rise and fall
of the arms forcing the water,
The slender, spasmic blue-white jets—the bring-
ing to bear of the hooks and ladders, and
The crash and cut away of connecting wood-work,
or through floors, if the fire smoulders under
The crowd with their lit faces, watching—the
glare and dense shadows;
The forger at his forge-furnace, and the user of
iron after him,
The maker of the axe large and small, and the
welder and temperer,
The chooser breathing his breath on the cold
steel and trying the edge with his thumb,
The one who clean-shapes the handle and sets it
firmly in the socket,
The shadowy processions of the portraits of the
past users also,
The primal patient mechanics, the architects and
The far-off Assyrian edifice and Mizra edifice,
The Roman lictors preceding the consuls,
The antique European warrior with his axe in
The uplifted arm, the clatter of blows on the
View Page 146
The death-howl, the limpsey tumbling, the
rush of friend and foe thither,
The siege of revolted lieges determined for lib-
The summons to surrender, the battering at castle
gates, the truce and parley,
The sack of an old city in its time,
The bursting in of mercenaries and bigots tumult-
uously and disorderly,
Roar, flames, blood, drunkenness, madness,
Goods freely rifled from houses and temples,
screams of women in the gripe of brigands,
Craft and thievery of camp-followers, men running,
old persons despairing,
The hell of war, the cruelties of creeds,
The list of all executive deeds and words, just or
The power of personality, just or unjust.
Muscle and pluck forever!
What invigorates life, invigorates death,
And the dead advance as much as the living
And the future is no more uncertain than the
And the roughness of the earth and of man en-
closes as much as the delicatesse of the earth
and of man,
And nothing endures but personal qualities.
View Page 147
What do you think endures?
Do you think the greatest city endures?
Or a teeming manufacturing state? or a prepared
constitution? or the best built steam-ships?
Or hotels of granite and iron? or any chef-
d'oeuvres of engineering, forts, armaments?
Away! These are not to be cherished for them-
They fill their hour, the dancers dance, the musi-
cians play for them,
The show passes, all does well enough of course,
All does very well till one flash of defiance.
The greatest city is that which has the greatest
man or woman,
If it be a few ragged huts, it is still the greatest
city in the whole world.
The place where the greatest city stands is not
the place of stretched wharves, docks, manu-
factures, deposites of produce,
Nor the place of ceaseless salutes of new-comers,
or the anchor-lifters of the departing,
Nor the place of the tallest and costliest build-
ings, or shops selling goods from the rest of
Nor the place of the best libraries and schools,
nor the place where money is plentiest,
View Page 148
Nor the place of the most numerous population.
Where the city stands with the brawniest breed
of orators and bards,
Where the city stands that is beloved by these,
and loves them in return, and understands
Where these may be seen going every day in the
streets, with their arms familiar to the shoul-
ders of their friends,
Where no monuments exist to heroes but in the
common words and deeds,
Where thrift is in its place, and prudence is in its
Where behavior is the finest of the fine arts,
Where the men and women think lightly of the
Where the slave ceases and the master of slaves
Where the populace rise at once against the auda-
city of elected persons,
Where fierce men and women pour forth as the
sea to the whistle of death pours its sweeping
and unript waves,
Where outside authority enters always after the
precedence of inside authority,
Where the citizen is always the head and ideal,
and President, Mayor, Governor, and what
not, are agents for pay,
View Page 149
Where children are taught from the jump that
they are to be laws to themselves, and to
depend on themselves,
Where equanimity is illustrated in affairs,
Where speculations on the soul are encouraged,
Where women walk in public processions in the
streets the same as the men,
Where they enter the public assembly and take
places the same as the men, and are appealed
to by the orators the same as the men,
Where the city of the faithfulest friends stands,
Where the city of the cleanliness of the sexes
Where the city of the healthiest fathers stands,
Where the city of the best-bodied mothers stands,
There the greatest city stands.
How beggarly appear poems, arguments, orations,
before an electric deed!
How the floridness of the materials of cities
shrivels before a man's or woman's look!
All waits, or goes by default, till a strong being
A strong being is the proof of the race, and of the
ability of the universe,
When he or she appears, materials are over-
The dispute on the soul stops,
View Page 150
The old customs and phrases are confronted,
turned back, or laid away.
What is your money-making now? What can it
What is your respectability now?
What are your theology, tuition, society, traditions,
Where are your jibes of being now?
Where are your cavils about the soul now?
Was that your best? Were those your vast and
Riches, opinions, politics, institutions, to part obe-
diently from the path of one man or woman!
The centuries, and all authority, to be trod under
the foot-soles of one man or woman!
—A sterile landscape covers the ore—there is as good as the best, for all the forbidding
There is the mine, there are the miners,
The forge-furnace is there, the melt is accom-
plished, the hammers-men are at hand with
their tongs and hammers,
What always served and always serves, is at hand.
Than this nothing has better served—it has served
View Page 151
Served the fluent-tongued and subtle-sensed
Greek, and long ere the Greek,
Served in building the buildings that last longer
Served the Hebrew, the Persian, the most ancient
Served the mound-raiser on the Mississippi,
served those whose relics remain in Central
Served Albic temples in woods or on plains, with
unhewn pillars, and the druids, and the
bloody body laid in the hollow of the great
Served the artificial clefts, vast, high, silent, on
the snow-covered hills of Scandinavia,
Served those who, time out of mind, made on the
granite walls rough sketches of the sun,
moon, stars, ships, ocean-waves,
Served the paths of the irruptions of the Goths,
served the pastoral tribes and nomads,
Served the incalculably distant Celt, served the
hardy pirates of the Baltic,
Served before any of those, the venerable and
harmless men of Ethiopia,
Served the making of helms for the galleys
of pleasure, and the making of those for
Served all great works on land, and all great
works on the sea,
View Page 152
For the medieval ages, and before the medieval
Served not the living only, then as now, but
served the dead.
I see the European headsman,
He stands masked, clothed in red, with huge legs,
and strong naked arms,
And leans on a ponderous axe.
Whom have you slaughtered lately, European
Whose is that blood upon you, so wet and
I see the clear sun-sets of the martyrs,
I see from the scaffolds the descending
Ghosts of dead princes, uncrowned ladies, im-
peached ministers, rejected kings,
Rivals, traitors, poisoners, disgraced chieftains,
and the rest.
I see those who in any land have died for the
The seed is spare, nevertheless the crop shall
never run out,
Mind you, O foreign kings, O priests, the crop
shall never run out.
View Page 153
I see the blood washed entirely away from the
Both blade and helve are clean,
They spirt no more the blood of European nobles,
—they clasp no more the necks of queens.
I see the headsman withdraw and become use-
I see the scaffold untrodden and mouldy, I see no
longer any axe upon it,
I see the mighty and friendly emblem of the power
of my own race, the newest largest race.
America! I do not vaunt my love for you,
I have what I have.
The axe leaps!
The solid forest gives fluid utterances,
They tumble forth, they rise and form,
Hut, tent, landing, survey,
Flail, plough, pick, crowbar, spade,
Shingle, rail, prop, wainscot, jamb, lath, panel,
Citadel, ceiling, saloon, academy, organ, exhibi-
Cornice, trellis, pilaster, balcony, window, shutter,
Hoe, rake, pitch-fork, pencil, wagon, staff, saw,
jackplane, mallet, wedge, rounce,
View Page 154
Chair, tub, hoop, table, wicket, vane, sash, floor,
Work-box, chest, stringed instrument, boat, frame,
and what not,
Capitols of States, and capitol of the nation of
Long stately rows in avenues, hospitals for or-
phans or for the poor or sick,
Manhattan steamboats and clippers, taking the
measure of all seas.
The shapes arise!
Shapes of the using of axes anyhow, and the
users, and all that neighbors them,
Cutters down of wood, and haulers of it to the
Penobscot, or St. John's, or Kennebec,
Dwellers in cabins among the Californian moun-
tains, or by the little lakes,
Dwellers south on the banks of the Gila or Rio
Grande—friendly gatherings, the characters
Dwellers up north in Minnesota and by the
Yellowstone river, dwellers on coasts and
Seal-fishers, whalers, arctic seamen breaking pas-
sages through the ice.
The shapes arise!
Shapes of factories, arsenals, foundries, markets,
Shapes of the two-threaded tracks of railroads,
View Page 155
Shapes of the sleepers of bridges, vast frame-
works, girders, arches,
Shapes of the fleets of barges, tows, lake craft,
The shapes arise!
Ship-yards and dry-docks along the Atlantic and
Pacific, and in many a bay and by-place,
The live-oak kelsons, the pine planks, the spars,
the hackmatuck-roots for knees,
The ships themselves on their ways, the tiers of
scaffolds, the workmen busy outside and in-
The tools lying around, the great augur and little
augur, the adze, bolt, line, square, gouge,
The shapes arise!
The shape measured, sawed, jacked, joined,
The coffin-shape for the dead to lie within in his
The shape got out in posts, in the bedstead posts,
in the posts of the bride's-bed,
The shape of the little trough, the shape of the
rockers beneath, the shape of the babe's
The shape of the floor-planks, the floor-planks for
View Page 156
The shape of the planks of the family home, the
home of the friendly parents and children,
The shape of the roof of the home of the happy
young man and woman, the roof over the well-
married young man and woman,
The roof over the supper joyously cooked by the
chaste wife, and joyously eaten by the chaste
husband, content after his day's work.
The shapes arise!
The shape of the prisoner's place in the court-
room, and of him or her seated in the place,
The shape of the pill-box, the disgraceful oint-
ment-box, the nauseous application, and him
or her applying it,
The shape of the liquor-bar leaned against by the
young rum-drinker and the old rum-drinker,
The shape of the shamed and angry stairs, trod
by sneaking footsteps,
The shape of the sly settee, and the adulterous
The shape of the gambling board with its devilish
winnings and losings,
The shape of the slats of the bed of a corrupted
body, the bed of the corruption of gluttony or
The shape of the step-ladder for the convicted
and sentenced murderer, the murderer with
haggard face and pinioned arms,
View Page 157
The sheriff at hand with his deputies, the silent
and white-lipped crowd, the sickening dan-
gling of the rope.
The shapes arise!
Shapes of doors giving so many exits and
The door passing the dissevered friend, flushed,
and in haste,
The door that admits good news and bad news,
The door whence the son left home, confident and
The door he entered from a long and scandalous
absence, diseased, broken down, without in-
nocence, without means.
Their shapes arise, the shapes of full-sized men!
Men taciturn yet loving, used to the open air, and
the manners of the open air,
Saying their ardor in native forms, saying the old
Take what I have then, (saying fain,) take the pay
you approached for,
Take the white tears of my blood, if that is what
you are after.
Her shape arises!
She, less guarded than ever, yet more guarded
View Page 158
The gross and soiled she moves among do not
make her gross and soiled,
She knows the thoughts as she passes, nothing is
concealed from her,
She is none the less considerate or friendly there-
She is the best-beloved, it is without exception,
she has no reason to fear, and she does not
Oaths, quarrels, hiccuped songs, smutty expres-
sions, are idle to her as she passes,
She is silent, she is possessed of herself, they do
not offend her,
She receives them as the laws of nature receive
them, she is strong,
She too is a law of nature, there is no law greater
than she is.
His shape arises!
Arrogant, masculine, naive, rowdyish,
Laugher, weeper, worker, idler, citizen, country-
Saunterer of woods, stander upon hills, summer
swimmer in rivers or by the sea,
Of pure American breed, of reckless health, his
body perfect, free from taint from top to toe,
free forever from headache and dyspepsia,
View Page 159
Ample-limbed, a good feeder, weight a hundred
and eighty pounds, full-blooded, six feet high,
forty inches round the breast and back,
Countenance sun-burnt, bearded, calm, unrefined,
Reminder of animals, meeter of savage and gen-
tleman on equal terms,
Attitudes lithe and erect, costume free, neck open,
of slow movement on foot,
Passer of his right arm round the shoulders of his
friends, companion of the street,
Persuader always of people to give him their
sweetest touches, and never their meanest,
A Manhattanese bred, fond of Brooklyn, fond of
Broadway, fond of the life of the wharves
and the great ferries,
Enterer everywhere, welcomed everywhere, eas-
ily understood after all,
Never offering others, always offering himself,
corroborating his phrenology,
Voluptuous, inhabitive, combative, conscientious,
alimentive, intuitive, of copious friendship,
sublimity, firmness, self-esteem, comparison,
individuality, form, locality, eventuality,
Avowing by life, manners, works, to contribute
illustrations of results of The States,
Teacher of the unquenchable creed, namely,
Inviter of others continually henceforth to try
their strength against his.
View Page 160
The shapes arise!
Shapes of America, shapes of centuries,
Shapes of those that do not joke with life, but are
in earnest with life,
Shapes ever projecting other shapes,
Shapes of a hundred Free States, begetting
another hundred north and south,
Shapes of the turbulent manly cities,
Shapes of the untamed breed of young men and
Shapes of women fit for These States,
Shapes of the composition of all the varieties of
Shapes of the friends and home-givers of the
Shapes bracing the whole earth, and braced with
the whole earth.
View Page 161
6 — Poem of a Few Greatnesses.
GREAT are the myths, I too delight in them,
Great are Adam and Eve, I too look back and
Great the risen and fallen nations, and their poets,
women, sages, inventors, rulers, warriors,
Great is liberty! Great is equality! I am their
Helmsmen of nations, choose your craft! where
you sail, I sail!
Yours is the muscle of life or death, yours is the
perfect science, in you I have absolute faith.
Great is today, and beautiful,
It is good to live in this age, there never was any
Great are the plunges, throes, triumphs, falls of
Great the reformers, with their lapses and screams,
Great the daring and venture of sailors on new
View Page 162
Great are yourself and myself,
We are just as good and bad as the oldest and
youngest or any,
What the best and worst did, we could do,
What they felt, do not we feel it in ourselves?
What they wished, do we not wish the same?
Great is youth, equally great is old age—great are
the day and night,
Great is wealth, great is poverty, great is expres-
sion, great is silence,
Youth, large, lusty, loving—youth, full of grace,
Do you know that old age may come after you,
with equal grace, force, fascination?
Day, full-blown and splendid—day of the im-
mense sun, action, ambition, laughter,
The night follows close, with millions of suns,
and sleep, and restoring darkness.
Wealth with the flush hand, fine clothes, hospi-
But then the soul's wealth, which is candor,
knowledge, pride, enfolding love;
(Who goes for men and women showing poverty
richer than wealth?)
View Page 163
Expression of speech! in what is written or said,
forget not that silence is also expressive,
That anguish as hot as the hottest, and contempt
as cold as the coldest, may be without words,
That the true adoration is likewise without words,
and without kneeling.
Great is the greatest nation! the nation of clus-
ters of equal nations!
Great is the earth, and the way it became what it
Do you imagine it is stopped at this? the increase
Understand then that it goes as far onward from
this, as this is from the times when it lay in
covering waters and gases.
Great is the quality of truth in man,
The quality of truth in man supports itself
through all changes,
It is inevitably in the man—he and it are in love,
and never leave each other.
The truth in man is no dictum, it is vital as eye-
If there be any soul, there is truth—if there be
man or woman, there is truth—if there be
physical or moral, there is truth,
View Page 164
If there be equilibrium or volition, there is truth
—if there be things at all upon the earth,
there is truth.
O truth of the earth! O truth of things! I am
determined to press the whole way toward
Sound your voice! I scale mountains, or dive in
the sea after you.
Great is language—it is the mightiest of the
It is the fulness, color, form, diversity of the
earth, and of men and women, and of all
qualities and processes,
It is greater than wealth—it is greater than
buildings, ships, religions, paintings, music.
Great is the English speech—what speech is so
great as the English?
Great is the English brood—what brood has so
vast a destiny as the English?
It is the mother of the brood that must rule the
earth with the new rule,
The new rule shall rule as the soul
rules, and as
the love, justice, equality in the soul, rule.
Great in the law—great are the old few land-
marks of the law,
View Page 165
They are the same in all times, and shall not be
Great are marriage, commerce, newspapers,
books, free-trade, rail-roads, steamers, interna-
tional mails, telegraphs, exchanges.
Great is justice!
Justice is not settled by legislators and laws—it
is in the soul,
It cannot be varied by statutes, any more than
love, pride, the attraction of gravity, can,
It is immutable—it does not depend on major-
ities—majorities or what not come at last
before the same passionless and exact tri-
For justice are the grand natural lawyers and per-
fect judges, it is in their souls,
It is well assorted, they have not studied for noth-
ing, the great includes the less,
They rule on the highest grounds, they oversee
all eras, states, administrations.
The perfect judge fears nothing, he could go front
to front before God,
Before the perfect judge all shall stand back —
life and death shall stand back—heaven and
hell shall stand back.
View Page 166
Great is goodness!
I do not know what it is any more than I know
what health is, but I know it is great.
Great is wickedness—I find I often admire it just
as much as I admire goodness,
Do you call that a paradox? It certainly is a par-
The eternal equilibrium of things is great, and the
eternal overthrow of things is great,
And there is another paradox.
Great is life, real and mystical, wherever and
Great is death—sure as life holds all parts to-
gether, death holds all parts together,
Death has just as much purport as life has,
Do you enjoy what life confers? you shall enjoy
what death confers,
I do not understand the realities of death, but I
know they are great,
I do not understand the least reality of life —
how then can I understand the realities of
View Page 167
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
The expression of the body of man or woman
The male is perfect, and that of the female is per-
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,
View Page 168
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex
of his waist and knees—dress does not
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-
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with
their open dinner-kettles, and their wives
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,
View Page 169
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 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
Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers,
march in line with the firemen, pause, listen,
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
This man was of wonderful vigor, calmness,
beauty of person,
View Page 170
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
He was six feet tall, he was over eighty years
old—his sons were massive, clean, bearded,
They and his daughters loved him, all who saw
him loved him, they did not love him by
allowance, they loved him with personal
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
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
View Page 171
To stop in company with the rest at evening is
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
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
All things please the soul, but these please the
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
Mad filaments, ungovernable shoots play out of it,
the response likewise ungovernable,
View Page 172
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-
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-
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
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.
View Page 173
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
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
The man's body is sacred, and the woman's body
is sacred—it is no matter who,
View Page 174
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
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
View Page 175
In this head the all-baffling brain,
In it and below it the making of the attributes of
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
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-
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?
View Page 176
Who might you find you have come from yourself,
if you could trace back through the cen-
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
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
Do you not see that these are exactly the same
to all, in all nations and times, all over the
View Page 177
If any thing is sacred, the human body is sacred,
And the glory and sweet of a man is the token of
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
For they do not conceal themselves, and cannot
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
Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the
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,
View Page 178
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
Upper-arm, arm-pit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-
Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles,
thumb, forefinger, finger-balls, finger-joints,
Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast,
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
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
Womanhood, and all that is a woman—and the
man that comes from woman,
View Page 179
The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears,
laughter, weeping, love-looks, love-perturba-
tions and risings,
The voice, articulation, language, whispering,
Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walk-
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
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?
View Page 180
8 — Poem of Many In One.
A NATION announcing itself,
I myself make the only growth by which I
can be appreciated,
I reject none, accept all, reproduce all in my own
A breed whose testimony is behaviour,
What we are, we are—nativity is answer enough
We wield ourselves as a weapon is wielded,
We are powerful and tremendous in ourselves,
We are executive in ourselves—we are sufficient
in the variety of ourselves,
We are the most beautiful to ourselves and in our-
Nothing is sinful to us outside of ourselves,
Whatever appears, whatever does not appear, we
are beautiful or sinful in ourselves.
Have you thought there could be but a single
View Page 181
There can be any number of Supremes—one
does not countervail another any more than
one eye-sight countervails another, or one life
All is eligible to all,
All is for individuals—all is for you,
No condition is prohibited, not God's or any,
If one is lost, you are inevitably lost.
All comes by the body—only health puts you
rapport with the universe.
Produce great persons, the rest follows.
How dare a sick man, or an obedient man, write
Which is the theory or book that is not diseased?
Piety and conformity to them that like!
Peace, obesity, allegiance, to them that like!
I am he who tauntingly compels men, women,
nations, to leap from their seats and contend
for their lives!
I am he who goes through the streets with a
barbed tongue, questioning every one I meet
—questioning you up there now,
Who are you, that wanted only to be told what
you knew before?
View Page 182
Who are you, that wanted only a book to join you
in your nonsense?
Are you, or would you be, better than all that has
ever been before?
If you would be better than all that has ever been
before, come listen to me, and I will to you.
Fear grace! Fear delicatesse!
Fear the mellow sweet, the sucking of honey-
Beware the advancing mortal ripening of nature!
Beware what precedes the decay of the rugged-
ness of states and men!
Ages, precedents, poems, have long been accumu-
lating undirected materials,
America brings builders, and brings its own styles.
Mighty bards have done their work, and passed to
One work forever remains, the work of surpassing
all they have done.
America, curious toward foreign characters,
stands sternly by its own,
Stands removed, spacious, composite, sound,
Sees itself promulger of men and women, initiates
the true use of precedents,
View Page 183
Does not repel them or the past, or what they
have produced under their forms, or amid
other politics, or amid the idea of castes, or
the old religions,
Takes the lesson with calmness, perceives the
corpse slowly borne from the eating and
sleeping rooms of the house,
Perceives that it waits a little while in the door,
that it was fittest for its days, that its life has
descended to the stalwart and well-shaped
heir who approaches, and that he shall be fit-
test for his days.
Any period, one nation must lead,
One land must be the promise and reliance of the
These States are the amplest poem,
Here is not merely a nation, but a teeming nation
Here the doings of men correspond with the
broadcast doings of the day and night,
Here is what moves in magnificent masses, care-
lessly faithful of particulars,
Here are the roughs, beards, friendliness, com-
bativeness, the soul loves,
Here the flowing trains, here the crowds, equality,
diversity, the soul loves.
Race of races, and bards to corroborate!
View Page 184
Of them, standing among them, one lifts to the
light his west-bred face,
To him the hereditary countenance bequeathed,
both mother's and father's,
His first parts substances, earth, water, animals, trees,
Built of the common stock, having room for far
Used to dispense with other lands, incarnating this
Attracting it body and soul to himself, hanging on
its neck with incomparable love,
Plunging his semitic muscle into its merits and
Making its geography, cities, beginnings, events,
glories, defections, diversities, vocal in him,
Making its rivers, lakes, bays, embouchure in him,
Mississippi with yearly freshets and changing
chutes, Missouri, Columbia, Ohio, St. Law-
rence, Hudson, spending themselves lovingly
The blue breadth over the sea off Massachusetts
and Maine, or over the Virginia and Maryland
sea, or over inland Champlain, Ontario, Erie,
Huron, Michigan, Superior, or over the
Texan, Mexican, Cuban, Floridian seas, or
over the seas off California and Oregon, not
tallying the breadth of the waters below,
more than the breadth of above and below is
tallied in him,
View Page 185
If the Atlantic coast stretch, or the Pacific coast
stretch, he stretching with them north or south,
Spanning between them east and west, and touch-
ing whatever is between them,
Growths growing from him to offset the growth of
pine, cedar, hemlock, live-oak, locust, chest-
nut, cypress, hickory, lime-tree, cotton-wood,
tulip-tree, cactus, tamarind, orange, magnolia,
Tangles as tangled in him as any cane-brake or
He likening sides and peaks of mountains, forests
coated with transparent ice, and icicles hang-
ing from the boughs,
Off him pasturage sweet and natural as savannah,
Through him flights, songs, screams, answering
those of the wild-pigeon, high-hold, orchard-
oriole, coot, surf-duck, red-shouldered-hawk,
fish-hawk, white-ibis, indian-hen, cat-owl,
water-pheasant, qua-bird, pied-sheldrake,
mocking-bird, buzzard, condor, night-heron,
His spirit surrounding his country's spirit, unclosed
to good and evil,
Surrounding the essences of real things, old times
and present times,
Surrounding just found shores, islands, tribes of
View Page 186
Weather-beaten vessels, landings, settlements, the
rapid stature and muscle,
The haughty defiance of the Year 1—war, peace,
the formation of the Constitution,
The separate States, the simple, elastic scheme,
The Union, always swarming with blatherers, and
always calm and impregnable,
The unsurveyed interior, log-houses, clearings,
wild animals, hunters, trappers;
Surrounding the multiform agriculture, mines,
temperature, the gestation of new States,
Congress convening every December, the mem-
bers duly coming up from the uttermost
Surrounding the noble character of mechanics and
farmers, especially the young men,
Responding their manners, speech, dress, friend-
ships—the gait they have of persons who
never knew how it felt to stand in the
presence of superiors,
The freshness and candor of their physiognomy, the
copiousness and decision of their phrenology,
The picturesque looseness of their carriage, their
deathless attachment to freedom, their fierce-
ness when wronged,
The fluency of their speech, their delight in
music, their curiosity, good-temper, open-
View Page 187
The prevailing ardor and enterprise, the large
The perfect equality of the female with the male,
the fluid movement of the population,
The superior marine, free commerce, fisheries,
Wharf-hemm'd cities, railroad and steamboat lines,
intersecting all points,
Factories, mercantile life, labor-saving machinery,
the north-east, north-west, south-west,
Manhattan firemen, the Yankee swap, southern
Slavery, the tremulous spreading of hands to
shelter it—the stern opposition to it, which
ceases only when it ceases.
For these, and the like, their own voices! For
these, space ahead!
Others take finish, but the republic is ever con-
structive, and ever keeps vista;
Others adorn the past—but you, O, days of the
present, I adorn you!
O days of the future, I believe in you!
O America, because you build for mankind, I build
O well-beloved stone-cutters! I lead them who
plan with decision and science,
I lead the present with friendly hand toward the
View Page 188
Bravas to states whose semitic impulses send
wholesome children to the next age!
But damn that which spends itself on flaunters and
dallyers, with no thought of the stains, pains,
dismay, feebleness, it is bequeathing!
By great bards only can series of peoples and
States be fused into the compact organism of
To hold men together by paper and seal, or by
compulsion, is no account,
That only holds men together which is living
principles, as the hold of the limbs of the
body, or the fibres of plants.
Of all races and eras, These States, with veins full
of poetical stuff, most need poets, and are to
have the greatest, and use them the greatest,
Their Presidents shall not be their common ref-
eree so much as their poets shall.
Of mankind, the poet is the equable man,
Not in him, but off from him, things are grotesque,
eccentric, fail of their full returns,
Nothing out of its place is good, nothing in its
place is bad,
He bestows on every object or quality its fit pro-
portions, neither more nor less,
He is the arbiter of the diverse, he is the key,
View Page 189
He is the equalizer of his age and land
He supplies what wants supplying—he checks
what wants checking,
In peace, out of him speaks the spirit of peace,
large, rich, thrifty, building populous towns,
encouraging agriculture, arts, commerce,
lighting the study of man, the soul, health,
In war he is the best backer of the war—he
fetches artillery as good as the engineer's, he
can make every word he speaks draw blood;
The years straying toward infidelity he withholds
by his steady faith,
He is no arguer, he is judgment,
He judges not as the judge judges, but as the sun
falling round a helpless thing,
As he sees the farthest he has the most faith,
His thoughts are the hymns of the praise of things,
In the dispute on God and eternity he is silent,
He sees eternity less like a play with a prologue
He sees eternity in men and women—he does
not see men and women as dreams or dots.
An American literat fills his own place,
He justifies science—did you think the demon-
strable less divine than the mythical?
He stands by liberty according to the compact of
the first day of the first year of These States,
View Page 190
He concentres in the real body and soul, and in
the pleasure of things,
He possesses the superiority of genuineness over
fiction and romance;
As he emits himself, facts are showered over with
The day-light is lit with more volatile light—the
deep between the setting and rising sun goes
deeper many fold,
Each precise object, condition, combination, pro-
cess, exhibits a beauty—the multiplication-
table its, old age its, the carpenter's trade
its, the grand-opera its,
The huge-hulled clean-shaped Manhattan clipper
at sea, under steam or full sail, gleams with
The national circles and large harmonies of gov-
ernment gleam with theirs,
The commonest definite intentions and actions
Of the idea of perfect individuals, the idea of
These States, their bards walk in advance,
leaders of leaders,
The attitudes of them cheer up slaves and horrify
Without extinction is liberty! Without retrograde
View Page 191
They live in the feelings of young men, and the
Not for nothing have the indomitable heads of the
earth been always ready to fall for liberty!
Language-using controls the rest;
Wonderful is language!
Wondrous the English language, language of live
Language of ensemble, powerful language of re-
Language of a proud and melancholy stock, and
of all who aspire,
Language of growth, faith, self-esteem, rudeness,
justice, friendliness, amplitude, prudence, de-
cision, exactitude, courage,
Language to well-nigh express the inexpressible,
Language for the modern, language for America.
Who would use language to America may well
prepare himself, body and mind,
He may well survey, ponder, arm, fortify, harden,
make lithe, himself,
He shall surely be questioned beforehand by me
with many and stern questions.
Who are you that would talk to America?
Have you studied out my land, its idioms and
View Page 192
Have you learned the physiology, phrenology,
politics, geography, pride, freedom, friendship,
of my land? its substratums and objects?
Have you considered the organic compact of the
first day of the first year of the independence
of The States?
Have you possessed yourself of the Federal Con-
Do you acknowledge liberty with audible and
absolute acknowledgment, and set slavery at
naught for life and death?
Do you see who have left described processes and
poems behind them, and assumed new ones?
Are you faithful to things? Do you teach what-
ever the land and sea, the bodies of men,
womanhood, amativeness, angers, excesses,
Have you sped through customs, laws, popu-
Can you hold your hand against all seductions,
follies, whirls, fierce contentions?
Are you not of some coterie? some school or
Are you done with reviews and criticisms of life?
animating to life itself?
Have you possessed yourself with the spirit of the
maternity of These States?
Have you sucked the nipples of the breasts of the
mother of many children?
View Page 193
Have you too the old, ever-fresh, forbearance and
Do you hold the like love for those hardening to
maturity? for the last-born? little and big?
and for the errant?
What is this you bring my America?
Is it uniform with my country?
Is it not something that has been better told or
Have you imported this, or the spirit of it, in some
Is it a mere tale? a rhyme? a prettiness?
Has it never dangled at the heels of the poets,
politicians, literats, of enemies' lands?
Does it not assume that what is notoriously gone
is still here?
Does it answer universal needs? Will it improve
Can your performance face the open fields and the
Will it absorb into me as I absorb food, air,
nobility, meanness—to appear again in my
strength, gait, face?
Have real employments contributed to it? original
makers, not amanuenses?
Does it meet modern discoveries, calibers, facts,
face to face?
Does it respect me? America? the soul? to-
View Page 194
What does it mean to me? to American persons, pro-
gresses, cities? Chicago, Canada, Arkansas?
the planter, Yankee, Georgian, native, immi-
grant, sailors, squatters, old States, new States?
Does it encompass all The States, and the
unexceptional rights of all men and women,
the genital impulse of The States?
Does it see behind the apparent custodians, the
real custodians, standing, menacing, silent,
the mechanics, Manhattanese, western men,
southerners, significant alike in their apathy
and in the promptness of their love?
Does it see what befals and has always befallen
each temporiser, patcher, outsider, partialist,
alarmist, infidel, who has ever asked any-
thing of America?
What mocking and scornful negligence?
The track strewed with the dust of skeletons?
By the road-side others disdainfully tossed?
Rhymes and rhymers pass away—poems dis-
tilled from other poems pass away,
The swarms of reflectors and the polite pass, and
Admirers, importers, obedient persons, make the
soil of literature;
America justifies itself, give it time—no disguise
can deceive it or conceal from it—it is im-
View Page 195
Only toward the likes of itself will it advance to
If its poets appear, it will advance to meet them,
there is no fear of mistake,
The proof of a poet shall be sternly deferred till
his country absorbs him as affectionately as
he has absorbed it.
He masters whose spirit masters—he tastes
sweetest who results sweetest,
The blood of the brawn beloved of time is uncon-
In the need of poems, philosophy, politics,
manners, engineering, an appropriate native
grand-opera, ship-craft, any craft, he or she
is greatest who contributes the greatest
original practical example.
Already a nonchalant breed silently fills the
houses and streets,
People's lips salute only doers, lovers, satisfiers,
There will shortly be no more priests—their
work is done,
Death is without emergencies here, but life is per-
petual emergencies here,
Are your body, days, manners, superb? after death
you shall be superb,
View Page 196
Friendship, self-esteem, justice, health, clear the
way with irresistible power.
Give me the pay I have served for!
Give me to speak beautiful words! take all the
I have loved the earth, sun, animals—I have de-
I have given alms to every one that asked, stood
up for the stupid and crazy, devoted my in-
come and labor to others,
I have hated tyrants, argued not concerning God,
had patience and indulgence toward the peo-
ple, taken off my hat to nothing known or
I have gone freely with powerful uneducated per-
sons, and with the young, and with the
mothers of families,
I have read these leaves to myself in the open air,
I have tried them by trees, stars, rivers,
I have dismissed whatever insulted my own soul
or defiled my body,
I have claimed nothing to myself which I have
not carefully claimed for others on the same
I have studied my land, its idioms and men,
I am willing to wait to be understood by the
growth of the taste of myself,
I reject none, I permit all,
View Page 197
Whom I have staid with once I have found long-
ing for me ever afterwards.
I swear I begin to see the meaning of these
It is not the earth, it is not America who is so
It is I who am great, or to be great—it is you, or
It is to walk rapidly through civilizations, govern-
ments, theories, nature, poems, shows, to in-
Underneath all are individuals,
I swear nothing is good that ignores individuals!
The American compact is with individuals,
The only government is that which makes minute
Underneath all is nativity,
I swear I will stand by my own nativity—pious
or impious, so be it!
I swear I am charmed with nothing except
Men, women, cities, nations, are only beautiful
Underneath all is the need of the expression of
love for men and women,
View Page 198
I swear I have had enough of mean and impotent
modes of expressing love for men and
After this day I take my own modes of express-
ing love for men and women.
I swear I will have each quality of my race in
Talk as you like, he only suits These States
whose manners favor the audacity and sub-
lime turbulence of These States.
Underneath the lessons of things, spirits, nature,
governments, ownerships, I swear I perceive
Underneath all to me is myself—to you, your-
If all had not kernels for you and me, what were
it to you and me?
O I see now that this America is only you and
Its power, weapons, testimony, are you and me,
Its roughs, beards, haughtiness, ruggedness, are
you and me,
Its ample geography, the sierras, the prairies,
Mississippi, Huron, Colorado, Boston, To-
ronto, Releigh, Nashville, Havana, are you
View Page 199
Its settlements, wars, the organic compact, peace,
Washington, the Federal Constitution, are
you and me,
Its young men's manners, speech, dress, friend-
ships, are you and me,
Its crimes, lies, thefts, defections, slavery, are you
Its Congress is you and me, the officers, capitols,
armies, ships, are you and me,
Its endless gestations of new States are you and
Its inventions, science, schools, are you and me,
Its deserts, forests, clearings, log-houses, hunters,
are you and me,
The perpetual arrivals of immigrants are you and
Natural and artificial are you and me,
Freedom, language, poems, employments, are you
Failures, successes, births, deaths, are you and me,
Past, present, future, are only you and me.
I swear I dare not shirk any part of myself,
Not America, nor any part of America,
Not my body, not friendship, hospitality, pro-
Not my soul, not the last explanation of prudence,
Not the similitude that interlocks me
identities that exist, or ever have existed,
View Page 200
Not faith, sin, defiance, nor any disposition or duty
Not the promulgation of liberty, not to cheer up
slaves and horrify despots,
Not to build for that which builds for mankind,
Not to balance ranks, complexions, creeds, and
Not to justify science, not the march of equality,
Not to feed the arrogant blood of the brawn
beloved of time.
I swear I am for those that have never been
For men and women whose tempers have never
For those whom laws, theories, conventions, can
I swear I am for those who walk abreast with
America and with the earth!
Who inaugurate one to inaugurate all.
I swear I will not be outfaced by irrational things!
I will penetrate what it is in them that is sarcastic
I will make cities and civilizations defer to me!
I will confront these shows of the day and night!
I will know if I am to be less than they!
I will see if I am not as majestic as they!
View Page 201
I will see if I am not as subtle and real as they!
I will see if I am to be less generous than they!
I will see if I have no meaning, and the houses
and ships have meaning!
I will see if the fishes and birds are to be enough
for themselves, and I am not to be enough for
I match my spirit against yours, you orbs, growths,
I will learn why the earth is gross, tantalizing,
I take you to be mine, you beautiful, terrible, rude
View Page 202
9 — Poem of Wonder at The Resurrection of The Wheat.
SOMETHING startles me where I thought I
I withdraw from the still woods I loved,
I will not go now on the pastures to walk,
I will not strip my clothes from my body to meet
my lover the sea,
I will not touch my flesh to the earth, as to other
flesh, to renew me.
How can the ground not sicken of men?
How can you be alive, you growths of spring?
How can you furnish health, you blood of herbs,
roots, orchards, grain?
Are they not continually putting distempered
corpses in the earth?
Is not every continent worked over and over with
Where have you disposed of those carcasses of
the drunkards and gluttons of so many gen-
View Page 203
Where have you drawn off all the foul liquid and
I do not see any of it upon you today—or per-
haps I am deceived,
I will run a furrow with my plough—I will press
my spade through the sod, and turn it up
I am sure I shall expose some of the foul meat.
This is the compost of billions of premature
Perhaps every mite has once formed part of a
The grass covers the prairies,
The bean bursts noiselessly through the mould in
The delicate spear of the onion pierces upward,
The apple-buds cluster together on the apple-
The resurrection of the wheat appears with pale
visage out of its graves,
The tinge awakes over the willow-tree and the
The he-birds carol mornings and evenings, while
the she-birds sit on their nests,
The young of poultry break through the hatched
View Page 204
The new-born of animals appear, the calf is
dropt from the cow, the colt from the mare,
Out of its little hill faithfully rise the potato's
dark green leaves,
Out of its hill rises the yellow maize-stalk;
The summer growth is innocent and disdainful
above all those strata of sour dead.
That the winds are really not infectious!
That this is no cheat, this transparent green-wash
of the sea, which is so amorous after me!
That it is safe to allow it to lick my naked
body all over with its tongues!
That it will not endanger me with the fevers that
have deposited themselves in it!
That all is clean, forever and forever!
That the cool drink from the well tastes so good!
That blackberries are so flavorous and juicy!
That the fruits of the apple-orchard, and of the
orange-orchard—that melons, grapes, peaches,
plums, will none of them poison me!
That when I recline on the grass I do not catch
Though probably every spear of grass rises out
of what was once a catching disease.
Now I am terrified at the earth! it is that calm
View Page 205
It grows such sweet things out of such corrup-
It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with
such endless successions of diseased corpses,
It distils such exquisite winds out of such infused
It renews with such unwitting looks, its prodigal,
annual, sumptuous crops,
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts
such leavings from them at last.
View Page 206
10 — Poem of You, Whoever You Are.
WHOEVER you are, I fear you are walking
the walks of dreams,
I fear those realities are to melt from under your
feet and hands;
Even now, your features, joys, speech, house,
trade, manners, troubles, follies, costume,
crimes, dissipate away from you,
Your true soul and body appear before me,
They stand forth out of affairs—out of commerce,
shops, law, science, work, farms, clothes, the
house, medicine, print, buying, selling, eating,
drinking, suffering, begetting, dying,
They receive these in their places, they find these
or the like of these, eternal, for reasons,
They find themselves eternal, they do not find that
the water and soil tend to endure forever —
and they not endure.
Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you,
that you be my poem,
I whisper with my lips close to your ear,
View Page 207
I have loved many women and men, but I love
none better than you.
O I have been dilatory and dumb,
I should have made my way straight to you long
I should have blabbed nothing but you, I should
have chanted nothing but you.
I will leave all, and come and make the hymns
None have understood you, but I understand you,
None have done justice to you, you have not done
justice to yourself,
None but have found you imperfect, I only find no
imperfection in you,
None but would subordinate you, I only am he
who will never consent to subordinate you,
I only am he who places over you no master,
owner, better, god, beyond what waits intrin-
sically in yourself.
Painters have painted their swarming groups, and
the centre figure of all,
From the head of the centre figure spreading a
nimbus of gold-colored light,
But I paint myriads of heads, but paint no head
without its nimbus of gold-colored light,
From my hand, from the brain of every man and
woman it streams, effulgently flowing forever.
View Page 208
O I could sing such grandeurs and glories about
You have not known what you are—you have
slumbered upon yourself all your life,
Your eye-lids have been as much as closed most
of the time,
What you have done returns already in mock-
Your thrift, knowledge, prayers, if they do not
return in mockeries, what is their return?
The mockeries are not you,
Underneath them, and within them, I see you lurk,
I pursue you where none else has pursued you,
Silence, the desk, the flippant expression, the
night, the accustomed routine, if these con-
ceal you from others, or from yourself, they
do not conceal you from me,
The shaved face, the unsteady eye, the impure
complexion, if these balk others, they do
not balk me,
The pert apparel, the deformed attitude, drunken-
ness, greed, premature death, all these I part
I track through your windings and turnings—I
come upon you where you thought eye should
never come upon you.
There is no endowment in man or woman that is
not tallied in you,
View Page 209
There is no virtue, no beauty, in man or woman
but as good is in you,
No pluck, no endurance in others, but as good is
No pleasure waiting for others, but an equal plea-
sure waits for you.
As for me, I give nothing to any one, except I
give the like carefully to you,
I sing the songs of the glory of none, not God,
sooner than I sing the songs of the glory of
Whoever you are, you are to hold your own at
These shows of the east and west are tame com-
pared to you,
These immense meadows, these interminable riv-
ers—you are immense and interminable as
These furies, elements, storms, motions of nature,
throes of apparent dissolution—you are he
or she who is master or mistress over them,
Master or mistress in your own right over nature,
elements, pain, passion, dissolution.
The hopples fall from your ankles! you find an
View Page 210
Old, young, male, female, rude, low, rejected by
the rest, whatever you are promulges itself,
Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are
provided, nothing is scanted,
Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance,
ennui, what you are picks its way.
View Page 211
11 — Sun-Down Poem.
FLOOD-TIDE of the river, flow on! I watch
you, face to face,
Clouds of the west! sun half an hour high! I see
you also face to face.
Crowds of men and women attired in the usual
costumes, how curious you are to me!
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds
that cross are more curious to me than you
And you that shall cross from shore to shore
years hence, are more to me, and more in my
meditations, than you might suppose.
The impalpable sustenance of me from all things
at all hours of the day,
The simple, compact, well-joined scheme—my-
self disintegrated, every one disintegrated,
yet part of the scheme,
The similitudes of the past and those of the
View Page 212
The glories strung like beads on my smallest
sights and hearings—on the walk in the
street, and the passage over the river,
The current rushing so swiftly, and swimming
with me far away,
The others that are to follow me, the ties between
me and them,
The certainty of others—the life, love, sight,
hearing of others.
Others will enter the gates of the ferry, and cross
from shore to shore,
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide,
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north
and west, and the heights of Brooklyn to the
south and east,
Others will see the islands large and small,
Fifty years hence others will see them as they
cross, the sun half an hour high,
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred
years hence, others will see them,
Will enjoy the sun-set, the pouring in of the flood-
tide, the falling back to the sea of the ebb-
It avails not, neither time or place—distance
I am with you, you men and women of a genera-
tion, or ever so many generations hence,
View Page 213
I project myself, also I return—I am with you,
and know how it is.
Just as you feel when you look on the river and
sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was
one of a crowd,
Just as you are refreshed by the gladness
of the river, and the bright flow, I was
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry
with the swift current, I stood, yet was hur-
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships,
and the thick-stemmed pipes of steamboats, I
I too many and many a time crossed the river,
the sun half an hour high,
I watched the December sea-gulls, I saw them
high in the air floating with motionless
wings oscillating their bodies,
I saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of
their bodies, and left the rest in strong
I saw the slow-wheeling circles and the gradual
edging toward the south.
I too saw the reflection of the summer-sky in the
View Page 214
Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of
Looked at the fine centrifugal spokes of light
round the shape of my head in the sun-lit
Looked on the haze on the hills southward and
Looked on the vapor as it flew in fleeces tinged
Looked toward the lower bay to notice the arriv-
Saw their approach, saw aboard those that were
Saw the white sails of schooners and sloops, saw
the ships at anchor,
The sailors at work in the rigging or out astride
The round masts, the swinging motion of the
hulls, the slender serpentine pennants,
The large and small steamers in motion, the pi-
lots in their pilot-houses,
The white wake left by the passage, the quick
tremulous whirl of the wheels,
The flags of all nations, the falling of them at
The scallop-edged waves in the twilight, the
ladled cups, the frolicsome crests and glisten-
View Page 215
The stretch afar growing dimmer and dimmer, the
gray walls of the granite store-houses by the
On the river the shadowy group, the big steam-
tug closely flanked on each side by the
barges—the hay-boat, the belated lighter,
On the neighboring shore the fires from the foun-
dry chimneys burning high and glaringly into
Casting their flicker of black, contrasted with wild
red and yellow
light, over the tops of houses,
and down into the clefts of streets.
These and all else were to me the same as they
are to you,
I project myself a moment to tell you—also I
I loved well those cities,
I loved well the stately and rapid river,
The men and women I saw were all near to me,
Others the same—others who look back on me,
because I looked forward to them,
The time will come, though I stop here today and
What is it, then, between us? What is the
count of the scores or hundreds of years
View Page 216
Whatever it is, it avails not—distance avails not,
and place avails not.
I too lived,
I too walked the streets of Manhattan Island, and
bathed in the waters around it;
I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir with-
In the day, among crowds of people, sometimes
they came upon me,
In my walks home late at night, or as I lay in my
bed, they came upon me.
I too had been struck from the float forever held
I too had received identity by my body,
That I was, I knew was of my body, and what I
should be, I knew I should be of my body.
It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall,
The dark threw patches down upon me also,
The best I had done seemed to me blank and sus-
My great thoughts, as I supposed them, were they
not in reality meagre? Would not people
laugh at me?
It is not you alone who know what it is to be
View Page 217
I am he who knew what it was to be evil,
I too knitted the old knot of contrariety,
Blabbed, blushed, resented, lied, stole, grudged,
Had guile, anger, lust, hot wishes I dared not
Was wayward, vain, greedy, shallow, sly, a solitary
committer, a coward, a malignant person,
The wolf, the snake, the hog, not wanting in me,
The cheating look, the frivolous word, the adul-
terous wish, not wanting,
Refusals, hates, postponements, meanness, lazi-
ness, none of these wanting.
But I was a Manhattanese, free, friendly, and
I was called by my nighest name by clear loud
voices of young men as they saw me ap-
proaching or passing,
Felt their arms on my neck as I stood, or the neg-
ligent leaning of their flesh against me as I sat,
Saw many I loved in the street, or ferry-boat, or
public assembly, yet never told them a word,
Lived the same life with the rest, the same old
laughing, gnawing, sleeping,
Played the part that still looks back on the actor
The same old role, the role that is what we make
it, as great as we like, or as small as we
like, or both great and small.
View Page 218
Closer yet I approach you,
What thought you have of me, I had as much of
you—I laid in my stores in advance,
I considered long and seriously of you before you
Who was to know what should come home to me?
Who knows but I am enjoying this?
Who knows but I am as good as looking at you
now, for all you cannot see me?
It is not you alone, nor I alone,
Not a few races, not a few generations, not a few
It is that each came, or comes, or shall come,
from its due emission, without fail, either
now, or then, or henceforth.
Every thing indicates—the smallest does, and
the largest does,
A necessary film envelops all, and envelops the
soul for a proper time.
Now I am curious what sight can ever be more
stately and admirable to me than my mast-
hemm'd Manhatta, my river and sun-set, and
my scallop-edged waves of flood-tide, the
sea-gulls oscillating their bodies, the hay-boat
in the twilight, and the belated lighter,
View Page 219
Curious what gods can exceed these that clasp
me by the hand, and with voices I love call
me promptly and loudly by my nighest name
as I approach,
Curious what is more subtle than this which ties
me to the woman or man that looks in my
Which fuses me into you now, and pours my
meaning into you.
We understand, then, do we not?
What I promised without mentioning it, have
you not accepted?
What the study could not teach—what the
preaching could not accomplish is accom-
plished, is it not?
What the push of reading could not start is
started by me personally, is it not?
Flow on, river! Flow with the flood-tide, and
ebb with the ebb-tide!
Frolic on, crested and scallop-edged waves!
Gorgeous clouds of the sun-set, drench with your
splendor me, or the men and women genera-
tions after me!
Cross from shore to shore, countless crowds of
Stand up, tall masts of Manahatta!—stand up,
beautiful hills of Brooklyn!
View Page 220
Bully for you! you proud, friendly, free Manhat-
Throb, baffled and curious brain! throw out ques-
tions and answers!
Suspend here and everywhere, eternal float of
Blab, blush, lie, steal, you or I or any one after
Gaze, loving and thirsting eyes, in the house or
street or public assembly!
Sound out, voices of young men! loudly and mu-
sically call me by my nighest name!
Live, old life! play the part that looks back on the
actor or actress!
Play the old role, the role that is great or small,
according as one makes it!
Consider, you who peruse me, whether I may
not in unknown ways be looking upon you!
Be firm, rail over the river, to support those who
lean idly, yet haste with the hasting cur-
Fly on, sea-birds! fly sideways, or wheel in large
circles high in the air!
Receive the summer-sky, you water! faithfully
hold it till all downcast eyes have time to
take it from you!
Diverge, fine spokes of light, from the shape of
my head, or any one's head, in the sun-lit
View Page 221
Come on, ships, from the lower bay! pass up
or down, white-sailed schooners, sloops,
Flaunt away, flags of all nations! be duly lowered
Burn high your fires, foundry chimneys! cast
black shadows at night-fall! cast red and
yellow light over the tops of the houses!
Appearances, now or henceforth, indicate what
You necessary film, continue to envelop the
About my body for me, and your body for you, be
hung our divinest aromas!
Thrive, cities! Bring your freight, bring your
shows, ample and sufficient rivers!
Expand, being than which none else is perhaps
Keep your places, objects than which none else is
We descend upon you and all things, we arrest
We realize the soul only by you, you faithful solids
Through you color, form, location, sublimity,
Through you every proof, comparison, and all the
suggestions and determinations of ourselves.
View Page 222
You have waited, you always wait, you dumb
beautiful ministers! you novices!
We receive you with free sense at last, and are
Not you any more shall be able to foil us, or with-
hold yourselves from us,
We use you, and do not cast you aside—we
plant you permanently within us,
We fathom you not—we love you—there is
perfection in you also,
You furnish your parts toward eternity,
Great or small, you furnish your parts toward the
View Page 223
12 — Poem of The Road.
AFOOT and light-hearted I take to the open
Healthy, free, the world before me!
The long brown path before me, leading wherever
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I am good-
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.
The earth—that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.
Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,
I carry them, men and women—I carry them
with me wherever I go,
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,
I am filled with them, and I will fill them in
View Page 224
You road I travel and look around! I believe you
are not all that is here!
I believe that something unseen is also here.
Here is the profound lesson of reception, neither
preference or denial,
The black with his woolly head, the felon, the
diseased, the illiterate person, are not de-
The birth, the hasting after the physician, the
beggar's tramp, the drunkard's stagger, the
laughing party of mechanics,
The escaped youth, the rich person's carriage, the
fop, the eloping couple,
The early market-man, the hearse, the moving of
furniture into the town, the return back from
They pass, I also pass, any thing passes, none can
None but are accepted, none but are dear to me.
You air that serves me with breath to speak!
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings
and give them shape!
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate
You animals moving serenely over the earth!
You birds that wing yourselves through the air!
View Page 225
You sprouting growths from the farmers' fields!
you stalks and weeds by the fences!
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the
I think you are latent with curious existences —
you are so dear to me.
You flagged walks of the cities! you strong curbs
at the edges!
You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves!
you timber-lined sides! you distant ships!
You rows of houses! you window-pierced facades!
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron
You windows whose transparent shells might
expose so much!
You doors and ascending steps! you arches!
You gray stones of interminable pavements! you
From all that has been near you I believe you
have imparted to yourselves, and now would
impart the same secretly to me,
From the living and the dead I think you have
peopled your impassive surfaces, and the
spirits thereof would be evident and ami-
cable with me.
The earth expanding right hand and left hand,
View Page 226
The picture alive, every part in its best light,
The music falling in where it is wanted, and
stopping where it is not wanted,
The cheerful voice of the public road—the gay
fresh sentiment of the road.
O highway I travel! O public road! do you say
to me, Do not leave me?
Do you say, Venture not? If you leave me, you
Do you say, I am already prepared—I am well-
beaten and undenied—Adhere to me?
O public road! I say back, I am not afraid to
leave you—yet I love you,
You express me better than I can express myself,
You shall be more to me than my poem.
I think heroic deeds were all conceived in the
I think I could stop here myself, and do miracles,
I think whatever I meet on the road I shall like,
and whatever beholds me shall like me,
I think whoever I see must be happy.
From this hour, freedom!
From this hour, I ordain myself loosed of limits
and imaginary lines!
Going where I list—my own master, total and
View Page 227
Listening to others, and considering well what
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently but with undeniable will divesting myself