Thayer and Eldridge,
year 85 of The States,(1860-61)
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1860,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of
ELECTROTYPED AT THE
BOSTON STEREOTYPE FOUNDRY.
GEORGE C. RAND & AVERY.
View Page iii
|PROTO-LEAF||......|| 5 to 22|
|WALT WHITMAN||......|| 23 104|
|CHANTS DEMOCRATIC and Native American Numbers 1 to 21||......|| 105 194|
|LEAVES OF GRASS Numbers 1 to 24||......||195 to 242 |
|SALUT AU MONDE||......||243 258 |
|POEM OF JOYS||......||259 268 |
|A WORD OUT OF THE SEA||......||269 277 |
|A Leaf of Faces||......||278 282 |
|Europe, the 72d and 73d Years T. S.||......|| 283 |
|ENFANS D'ADAM Numbers 1 to 15||......|| 287 to 314|
|POEM OF THE ROAD||......|| 315 328 |
|TO THE SAYERS OF WORDS||......||329 336 |
|A Boston Ballad, the 78th Year T. S.||......|| 337 |
|CALAMUS Numbers 1 to 45||......|| 341 to 378|
|CROSSING BROOKLYN FERRY||......||379 388 |
|Longings for Home||......||389 |
|To You, Whoever You Are||......|| 391 |
|To a foiled Revolter or Revoltress||......|| 394 |
|To Him That was Crucified||......||397 |
|To One Shortly To Die||......||398 |
|To a Common Prostitute||......||399 |
|To Rich Givers||......||399 |
|To a Pupil||......||400 |
|To The States, to Identify the 16th, 17th, or 18th Presidentiad||......||400 |
|To a Cantatrice||......|| 401 |
|Walt Whitman's Caution||......||401 |
|To a President||......||402 |
|To Other Lands||......|| 402 |
|To Old Age||......||402 |
|To You||......||403 |
|To You||......||403 |
View Page iv
|France, the 18th Year T. S.||......|| 406 |
|THOUGHTS Numbers 1 to 7||......||408 to 411 |
|Unnamed Lands||......||412 |
|A Hand Mirror||......||415 |
|Beginners Tests||......||416 |
|Savantism Perfections||......||417 |
|Debris||......|| 421 |
|SLEEP-CHASINGS||......||426 to 439 |
|BURIAL||......||440 448 |
|To My Soul||......||449 |
|So long||......||451 |
View Page 5
FREE, fresh, savage,
Fluent, luxuriant, self-content, fond of persons and
Fond of fish-shape Paumanok, where I was born,
Fond of the sea—lusty-begotten and various,
Boy of the Mannahatta, the city of ships, my city,
Or raised inland, or of the south savannas,
Or full-breath'd on Californian air, or Texan or
Tallying, vocalizing all—resounding Niagara—
Or rude in my home in Kanuck woods,
Or wandering and hunting, my drink water, my diet
Or withdrawn to muse and meditate in some deep
Far from the clank of crowds, an interval passing,
rapt and happy,
Stars, vapor, snow, the hills, rocks, the Fifth Month
flowers, my amaze, my love,
View Page 6
Aware of the buffalo, the peace-herds, the bull,
strong-breasted and hairy,
Aware of the mocking-bird of the wilds at day-
Solitary, singing in the west, I strike up for a new
Victory, union, faith, identity, time, the Soul, your-
self, the present and future lands, the indisso-
luble compacts, riches, mystery, eternal progress,
the kosmos, and the modern reports.
This then is life,
Here is what has come to the surface after so many
throes and convulsions.
How curious! How real!
Underfoot the divine soil—Overhead the sun.
The globe—the ancestor-continents, away, grouped
The present and future continents, north and south,
with the isthmus between.
See, vast, trackless spaces,
As in a dream, they change, they swiftly fill,
Countless masses debouch upon them,
They are now covered with the foremost people, arts,
See projected, through time,
For me, an audience interminable.
View Page 7
With firm and regular step they wend—they never
Successions of men, Americanos, a hundred millions,
One generation playing its part and passing on,
And another generation playing its part and passing
on in its turn,
With faces turned sideways or backward toward me
With eyes retrospective toward me.
Marches humanitarian! Foremost!
Century marches! Libertad! Masses!
For you a programme of chants.
Chants of the prairies,
Chants of the long-running Mississippi,
Chants of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa,
Inland chants—chants of Kanzas,
Chants away down to Mexico, and up north to
Chants of teeming and turbulent cities—chants of
Yankee chants—Pennsylvanian chants—chants of
Kentucky and Tennessee,
Chants of dim-lit mines—chants of mountain-tops,
Chants of sailors—chants of the Eastern Sea and the
Chants of the Mannahatta, the place of my dearest
love, the place surrounded by hurried and
Health chants—joy chants—robust chants of young
View Page 8
Chants inclusive—wide reverberating chants,
Chants of the Many In One.
In the Year 80 of The States,
My tongue, every atom of my blood, formed from
this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here,
From parents the same, and their parents' parents
I, now thirty-six years old, in perfect health,
Hoping to cease not till death.
Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while, sufficed at what they are, but
With accumulations, now coming forward in front,
Arrived again, I harbor, for good or bad—I permit
Nature, without check, with original energy.
Take my leaves, America!
Make welcome for them everywhere, for they are
your own offspring;
Surround them, East and West! for they would
And you precedents! connect lovingly with them, for
they connect lovingly with you.
I conned old times,
I sat studying at the feet of the great masters;
Now, if eligible, O that the great masters might
return and study me!
View Page 9
In the name of These States, shall I scorn the
Why These are the children of the antique, to
Dead poets, philosophs, priests,
Martyrs, artists, inventors, governments long since,
Language-shapers, on other shores,
Nations once powerful, now reduced, withdrawn, or
I dare not proceed till I respectfully credit what you
have left, wafted hither,
I have perused it—I own it is admirable,
I think nothing can ever be greater—Nothing can
ever deserve more than it deserves;
I regard it all intently a long while,
Then take my place for good with my own day and
Here lands female and male,
Here the heirship and heiress-ship of the world—
Here the flame of materials,
Here Spirituality, the translatress, the openly-avowed,
The ever-tending, the finale of visible forms,
The satisfier, after due long-waiting, now advancing,
Yes, here comes the mistress, the Soul.
Forever and forever—Longer than soil is brown and
solid—Longer than water ebbs and flows.
I will make the poems of materials, for I think they
are to be the most spiritual poems,
View Page 10
And I will make the poems of my body and of
For I think I shall then supply myself with the
poems of my Soul and of immortality.
I will make a song for These States, that no one
State may under any circumstances be subjected
to another State,
And I will make a song that there shall be comity by
day and by night between all The States, and
between any two of them,
And I will make a song of the organic bargains of
These States—And a shrill song of curses on
him who would dissever the Union;
And I will make a song for the ears of the President,
full of weapons with menacing points,
And behind the weapons countless dissatisfied faces.
I will acknowledge contemporary lands,
I will trail the whole geography of the globe, and
salute courteously every city large and small;
And employments! I will put in my poems, that
with you is heroism, upon land and sea—And I
will report all heroism from an American point
And sexual organs and acts! do you concentrate in
me—For I am determined to tell you with
courageous clear voice, to prove you illustrious.
I will sing the song of companionship,
I will show what alone must compact These,
I believe These are to found their own ideal of manly
love, indicating it in me;
View Page 11
I will therefore let flame from me the burning fires
that were threatening to consume me,
I will lift what has too long kept down those smoul-
I will give them complete abandonment,
I will write the evangel-poem of comrades and
(For who but I should understand love, with all its
sorrow and joy?
And who but I should be the poet of comrades?)
I am the credulous man of qualities, ages, races,
I advance from the people en-masse in their own
Here is what sings unrestricted faith.
Let others ignore what they may,
I make the poem of evil also—I commemorate that
I am myself just as much evil as good—And I say
there is in fact no evil,
Or if there is, I say it is just as important to you, to
the earth, or to me, as anything else.
I too, following many, and followed by many, inau-
gurate a Religion—I too go to the wars,
It may be I am destined to utter the loudest cries
thereof, the conqueror's shouts,
They may rise from me yet, and soar above every
Each is not for its own sake,
I say the whole earth, and all the stars in the sky, are
for Religion's sake.
View Page 12
I say no man has ever been half devout enough,
None has ever adored or worship'd half enough,
None has begun to think how divine he himself is,
and how certain the future is.
I specifically announce that the real and perma-
nent grandeur of These States must be their
Otherwise there is no real and permanent grandeur.
What are you doing, young man?
Are you so earnest—so given up to literature,
science, art, amours?
These ostensible realities, materials, points?
Your ambition or business, whatever it may be?
It is well—Against such I say not a word—I am
their poet also;
But behold! such swiftly subside—burnt up for
For not all matter is fuel to heat, impalpable flame,
the essential life of the earth,
Any more than such are to Religion.
What do you seek, so pensive and silent?
What do you need, comrade?
Mon cher! do you think it is love?
It is a painful thing to love a man or woman to
excess—yet it satisfies—it is great,
But there is something else very great—it makes the
View Page 13
It, magnificent, beyond materials, with continuous
hands, sweeps and provides for all.
O I see the following poems are indeed to drop in the
earth the germs of a greater Religion.
For you, to share with me, two greatnesses—And a
third one, rising inclusive and more resplendent,
The greatness of Love and Democracy—and the
greatness of Religion.
Mysterious ocean where the streams empty,
Prophetic spirit of materials shifting and flickering
Wondrous interplay between the seen and unseen,
Living beings, identities, now doubtless near us, in
the air, that we know not of,
Extasy everywhere touching and thrilling me,
Contact daily and hourly that will not release me,
These selecting—These, in hints, demanded of me.
Not he, adhesive, kissing me so long with his daily
Has winded and twisted around me that which holds
me to him,
Any more than I am held to the heavens, to the
And to the identities of the Gods, my unknown
After what they have done to me, suggesting
View Page 14
O such themes! Equalities!
O amazement of things! O divine average!
O warblings under the sun—ushered, as now, or at
noon, or setting!
O strain, musical, flowing through ages—now
I take to your reckless and composite chords—I
add to them, and cheerfully pass them forward.
As I have walked in Alabama my morning walk,
I have seen where the she-bird, the mocking-bird, sat
on her nest in the briers, hatching her brood.
I have seen the he-bird also,
I have paused to hear him, near at hand, inflating his
throat, and joyfully singing.
And while I paused, it came to me that what he
really sang for was not there only,
Nor for his mate nor himself only, nor all sent back
by the echoes,
But subtle, clandestine, away beyond,
A charge transmitted, and gift occult, for those
Near at hand to you a throat is now inflating itself
and joyfully singing.
For the brood beyond us and of us,
For those who belong here, and those to come,
View Page 15
I, exultant, to be ready for them, will now shake out
carols stronger and haughtier than have ever yet
been heard upon the earth.
I will make the songs of passions, to give them
And your songs, offenders—for I scan you with
kindred eyes, and carry you with me the same
I will make the true poem of riches,
Namely, to earn for the body and the mind, what
adheres, and goes forward, and is not dropt by
I will effuse egotism, and show it underlying all—
And I will be the bard of Personality;
And I will show of male and female that either is but
the equal of the other,
And I will show that there is no imperfection in male
or female, or in the earth, or in the present—
and can be none in the future,
And I will show that whatever happens to anybody, it
may be turned to beautiful results—And I will
show that nothing can happen more beautiful
And I will thread a thread through my poems that no
one thing in the universe is inferior to another
And that all the things of the universe are perfect
miracles, each as profound as any.
View Page 16
I will not make poems with reference to parts,
But I will make leaves, poems, poemets, songs, says,
thoughts, with reference to ensemble;
And I will not sing with reference to a day, but with
reference to all days,
And I will not make a poem, nor the least part of
a poem, but has reference to the Soul,
Because, having looked at the objects of the universe,
I find there is no one, nor any particle of one,
but has reference to the Soul.
Was somebody asking to see the Soul?
See! your own shape and countenance—persons,
substances, beasts, the trees, the running rivers,
the rocks and sands.
All hold spiritual joys, and afterward loosen them,
How can the real body ever die, and be buried?
Of your real body, and any man's or woman's real
body, item for item, it will elude the hands of
the corpse-cleaners, and pass to fitting spheres,
carrying what has accrued to it from the moment
of birth to the moment of death.
Not the types set up by the printer return their im-
pression, the meaning, the main concern, any
more than a man's substance and life, or a
woman's substance and life, return in the body
and the Soul, indifferently before death and
View Page 17
Behold! the body includes and is the meaning, the
main concern—and includes and is the Soul;
Whoever you are! how superb and how divine is your
body, or any part of it.
Whoever you are! to you endless announcements.
Daughter of the lands, did you wait for your poet?
Did you wait for one with a flowing mouth and
Toward the male of The States, and toward the
female of The States,
Toward the President, the Congress, the diverse Gov-
ernors, the new Judiciary,
Live words—words to the lands.
O the lands!
Lands scorning invaders! Interlinked, food-yielding
Land of coal and iron! Land of gold! Lands of
cotton, sugar, rice!
Odorous and sunny land! Floridian land!
Land of the spinal river, the Mississippi! Land of
the Alleghanies! Ohio's land!
Land of wheat, beef, pork! Land of wool and hemp!
Land of the potato, the apple, and the grape!
Land of the pastoral plains, the grass-fields of the
world! Land of those sweet-aired interminable
plateaus! Land there of the herd, the garden,
the healthy house of adobie! Land there of rapt
thought, and of the realization of the stars!
Land of simple, holy, untamed lives!
View Page 18
Lands where the northwest Columbia winds, and
where the southwest Colorado winds!
Land of the Chesapeake! Land of the Delaware!
Land of Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan!
Land of the Old Thirteen! Massachusetts land!
Land of Vermont and Connecticut!
Land of many oceans! Land of sierras and peaks!
Land of boatmen and sailors! Fishermen's land!
Inextricable lands! the clutched together! the
The side by side! the elder and younger brothers!
The great women's land! the feminine! the ex-
perienced sisters and the inexperienced sisters!
Far breath'd land! Arctic braced! Mexican breezed!
the diverse! the compact!
The Pennsylvanian! the Virginian! the double
O all and each well-loved by me! my intrepid nations!
O I cannot be discharged from you!
O Death! O for all that, I am yet of you, unseen,
this hour, with irrepressible love,
Walking New England, a friend, a traveller,
Splashing my bare feet in the edge of the summer
ripples, on Paumanok's sands,
Crossing the prairies—dwelling again in Chicago—
dwelling in many towns,
Observing shows, births, improvements, structures,
Listening to the orators and the oratresses in public
Of and through The States, as during life—each
man and woman my neighbor,
View Page 19
The Louisianian, the Georgian, as near to me, and I
as near to him and her,
The Mississippian and Arkansian—the woman and
man of Utah, Dakotah, Nebraska, yet with me
—and I yet with any of them,
Yet upon the plains west of the spinal river—yet
in my house of adobie,
Yet returning eastward—yet in the Sea-Side State,
or in Maryland,
Yet a child of the North—yet Kanadian, cheerily
braving the winter—the snow and ice welcome
Yet a true son either of Maine, or of the Granite
State, or of the Narragansett Bay State, or of
the Empire State,
Yet sailing to other shores to annex the same—yet
welcoming every new brother,
Hereby applying these leaves to the new ones, from
the hour they unite with the old ones,
Coming among the new ones myself, to be their
companion—coming personally to you now,
Enjoining you to acts, characters, spectacles, with
With me, with firm holding—yet haste, haste on.
For your life, adhere to me,
Of all the men of the earth, I only can unloose you
and toughen you,
I may have to be persuaded many times before I
consent to give myself to you—but what of
Must not Nature be persuaded many times?
View Page 20
No dainty dolce affettuoso I;
Bearded, sunburnt, gray-necked, forbidding, I have
To be wrestled with as I pass, for the solid prizes
of the universe,
For such I afford whoever can persevere to win them.
On my way a moment I pause,
Here for you! And here for America!
Still the Present I raise aloft—Still the Future of
The States I harbinge, glad and sublime,
And for the Past I pronounce what the air holds of
the red aborigines.
The red aborigines!
Leaving natural breaths, sounds of rain and winds,
calls as of birds and animals in the woods,
syllabled to us for names,
Okonee, Koosa, Ottawa, Monongahela, Sauk, Natchez,
Chattahoochee, Kaqueta, Oronoco.
Wabash, Miami, Saginaw, Chippewa, Oshkosh, Walla-
Leaving such to The States, they melt, they depart,
charging the water and the land with names.
O expanding and swift! O henceforth,
Elements, breeds, adjustments, turbulent, quick, and
A world primal again—Vistas of glory, incessant
A new race, dominating previous ones, and grander
New politics—New literatures and religions—New
inventions and arts.
View Page 21
These! These, my voice announcing—I will sleep
no more, but arise;
You oceans that have been calm within me! how
I feel you, fathomless, stirring, preparing
unprecedented waves and storms.
See! steamers steaming through my poems!
See, in my poems immigrants continually coming
See, in arriere, the wigwam, the trail, the hunter's
hut, the flat-boat, the maize-leaf, the claim, the
rude fence, and the backwoods village;
See, on the one side the Western Sea, and on the
other side the Eastern Sea, how they advance
and retreat upon my poems, as upon their own
See, pastures and forests in my poems—See, animals,
wild and tame—See, beyond the Kanzas, count-
less herds of buffalo, feeding on short curly
See, in my poems, old and new cities, solid, vast,
inland, with paved streets, with iron and stone
edifices, and ceaseless vehicles, and commerce;
See the populace, millions upon millions, handsome,
tall, muscular, both sexes, clothed in easy and
dignified clothes—teaching, commanding, mar-
rying, generating, equally electing and elective;
See, the many-cylinder'd steam printing-press—See,
the electric telegraph—See, the strong and
quick locomotive, as it departs, panting, blowing
See, ploughmen, ploughing farms—See, miners,
digging mines—See, the numberless factories;
View Page 22
See, mechanics, busy at their benches, with tools—
See from among them, superior judges, philo-
sophs, Presidents, emerge, dressed in working
See, lounging through the shops and fields of The
States, me, well-beloved, close-held by day and
Hear the loud echo of my songs there! Read the
hints come at last.
O my comrade!
O you and me at last—and us two only;
O power, liberty, eternity at last!
O to be relieved of distinctions! to make as much
of vices as virtues!
O to level occupations and the sexes! O to bring
all to common ground! O adhesiveness!
O the pensive aching to be together—you know not
why, and I know not why.
O a word to clear one's path ahead endlessly!
O something extatic and undemonstrable! O music
O now I triumph—and you shall also;
O hand in hand—O wholesome pleasure—O one
more desirer and lover,
O haste, firm holding—haste, haste on, with me.
View Page 23
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,
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.
View Page 24
The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, buzzed whispers, love-root, silk-
thread, crotch and vine,
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my
heart, the passing of blood and air through my
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the
shore, and dark-colored sea-rocks, and of hay in
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
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple
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 practised so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of
Stop this day and night with me, and you shall pos-
sess 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.
View Page 25
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 is
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.
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 beams,
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.
View Page 26
Lack one lacks both, and the unseen is proved by the
Till that becomes unseen, and receives proof in its
Showing the best, and dividing it from the worst, 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;
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 road,
And forthwith cipher and show me to a cent,
Exactly the contents of one, and exactly the contents
of two, and which is ahead?
Trippers and askers surround me,
People I meet—the effect upon me of my early life,
or the ward and city I live in, or the nation,
View Page 27
The latest news, discoveries, inventions, societies,
authors old and new,
My dinner, dress, associates, looks, work, compliments,
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 depressions
These come to me days and nights, and go from me
But they are not the Me myself.
Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,
Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle,
Looks down, is erect, or bends an arm on an
impalpable certain rest,
Looking with 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
View Page 28
Not words, not music or rhyme I want—not custom
or lecture, not even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice.
I mind how once we lay, such a transparent summer
How you settled your head athwart my hips, and
gently turned over upon me,
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
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers,
and the women my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love,
And limitless are leaves, stiff or drooping in the
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,
And mossy scabs of the worm-fence, and heaped
stones, elder, mullen, and 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.
View Page 29
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,
A scented gift and remembrancer, designedly dropped,
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 of
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
And here you are the mothers' laps.
This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
View Page 30
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 death,
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 supposed,
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 between my
hat and boots,
View Page 31
And peruse manifold objects, no two alike, and every
The earth good, and the stars good, and their
adjuncts 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
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.
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.
View Page 32
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
The blab of the pave, the tires of carts, sluff of boot-
soles, talk of the promenaders,
The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogating
thumb, the clank of the shod horses on the
The snow-sleighs, the clinking, shouted jokes, pelts of
The hurrahs for popular favorites, the fury of roused
The flap of the curtained litter, a sick man inside,
borne to the hospital,
The meeting of enemies, the sudden oath, the blows
The excited crowd, the policeman with his star,
quickly working his passage to the centre of
The impassive stones that receive and return so many
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,
View Page 33
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 show or 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 slow-
The clear light plays on the brown gray and green
The armfuls are packed to the sagging mow.
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
And roll head over heels, and tangle my hair full of
Alone, far in the wilds and mountains, I hunt,
Wandering, amazed at my own lightness and glee,
In the late afternoon choosing a safe spot to pass the
Kindling a fire and broiling the fresh-killed game,
Soundly falling asleep on the gathered leaves, with
my dog and gun by my side.
The Yankee clipper is under her three sky-sails—
she cuts the sparkle and scud,
View Page 34
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
I saw the marriage of the trapper in the open air in
the far-west—the bride was a red girl,
Her father and his friends sat near, cross-legged and
dumbly smoking—they had moccasons to their
feet, and large thick blankets hanging from their
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 volup-
tuous limbs and reached to her feet.
The runaway slave came to my house and stopped
I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the wood-
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
View Page 35
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
And remember putting plasters on the galls of his
neck and ankles;
He staid with me a week before he was recuperated
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
Dancing and laughing along the beach came the
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved
View Page 36
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,
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 sharp-
ens his knife at the stall in the market,
I loiter, enjoying his repartee and his shuffle and
Blacksmiths with grimed and hairy chests environ the
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
Overhand the hammers roll—overhand so slow—
overhand so sure,
They do not hasten—each man hits in his place.
View Page 37
The negro holds firmly the reins of his four horses
—the blocks swags underneath on its tied-over
The negro that drives the huge dray of the stone-yard
—steady and tall he stands, poised on one leg on
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 polished 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 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,
And acknowledge red, yellow, white, playing within
View Page 38
And consider green and violet, and the tufted crown,
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 an
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 half-
I see in them and myself the same old law.
The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred
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
View Page 39
Of the builders and steerers of ships, and the wielders
of axes and mauls, and the drivers of horses,
I can eat and sleep with them week in and week out.
What is commonest, cheapest, nearest, easiest, is Me,
Me going in for my chances, spending for vast
Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that
will take me,
Not asking the sky to come down to my good will,
Scattering it freely forever.
The pure contralto sings in the organ loft,
The carpenter dresses his plank—the tongue of his
foreplane whistles its wild ascending lisp,
The married and unmarried children ride home to
their Thanksgiving dinner,
The pilot seizes the king-pin—he heaves down with
a strong arm,
The mate stands braced in the whale-boat—lance
and harpoon are ready,
The duck-shooter walks by silent and cautious
The deacons are ordained with crossed hands at the
The spinning-girl retreats and advances to the hum
of the big wheel,
The farmer stops by the bars, as he walks on a First
Day loafe, and looks at the oats and rye,
The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum, a con-
He will never sleep any more as he did in the cot in
his mother's bedroom;
View Page 40
The jour printer with gray head and gaunt jaws
works at his case,
He turns his quid of tobacco, while his eyes blurr
with the manuscript;
The 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 policeman
travels his beat—the gate-keeper marks who
The young fellow drives the express-wagon—I love
him, though I do not know him,
The half-breed straps on his light boots to compete
in the race,
The western turkey-shooting draws old and young—
some lean on their rifles, some sit on logs,
Out from the crowd steps the marksman, takes his
position, levels his piece;
The groups of newly-come emigrants cover the wharf
As 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 each other,
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 reformer ascends the platform, he spouts with
his mouth and nose,
View Page 41
The company returns from its excursion, the darkey
brings up the rear and bears the well-riddled
The squaw, wrapt in her yellow-hemmed cloth, is
offering moccasons and bead-bags for sale,
The connoisseur peers along the exhibition-gallery
with half-shut eyes bent side-ways,
As the deck-hands make fast the steamboat, the plank
is thrown for the shore-going passengers,
The young sister holds out the skein, while the elder
sister winds it off in a ball, and stops now and
then for the knots,
The one-year wife is recovering and happy, having
a week ago borne her first child,
The clean-haired Yankee girl works with her sewing-
machine, or in the factory or mill,
The nine months' gone is in the parturition chamber,
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
The canal-boy trots on the tow-path—the bookkeeper
counts at his desk—the shoemaker waxes his
The conductor beats time for the band, and all the
performers follow him,
The child is baptized—the convert is making his first
The regatta is spread on the bay—how the white
The drover, watching his drove, sings out to them that
View Page 42
The pedler sweats with his pack on his back, the
purchaser higgling 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-
The prostitute draggles her shawl, her bonnet bobs on
her tipsy and pimpled neck,
The crowd laugh at her blackguard oaths, the men
jeer and wink to each other,
(Miserable!-I do not laugh at your oaths, nor jeer
The President, holding a cabinet council, is sur-
rounded by the Great Secretaries,
On the piazza walk five friendly matrons with twined
The crew of the fish-smack pack repeated layers of
halibut in the hold,
The Missourian crosses the plains, toting his wares
and his cattle,
As the fare-collector goes through the train, he gives
notice by the jingling of loose change,
The floor-men are laying the floor—the tinners are
tinning the roof—the masons are calling for
In single file, each shouldering his hod, pass onward
Seasons pursuing each other, the indescribable crowd
is gathered—it is the Fourth of Seventh Month
—What salutes of cannon and small arms!
View Page 43
Seasons pursuing each other, the plougher ploughs,
the mower mows, and the winter-grain falls in
Off on the lakes the pike-fisher watches and waits by
the hole in the frozen surface,
The stumps stand thick round the clearing, the
squatter strikes deep with his axe,
Flatboatmen make fast, towards dusk, near the cotton-
wood or pekan-trees,
Coon-seekers go through the regions of the Red river,
or through those drained by the Tennessee, or
through those of the Arkansaw,
Torches shine in the dark that hangs on the Chatta-
hooche or Altamahaw,
Patriarchs sit at supper with sons and grandsons and
great-grandsons around them,
In walls of adobie, in canvas tents, rest hunters and
trappers after their day's sport,
The city sleeps and the country sleeps,
The living sleep for their time, the dead sleep for
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 the
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,
Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,
Stuffed with the stuff that is coarse, and stuffed with
the stuff that is fine,
View Page 44
One of the great nation, the nation of many nations,
the smallest the same, and the largest the same,
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 Kanadian snow-shoes, or up in the bush,
or with fishermen off Newfoundland,
At home in the fleet of ice-boats, sailing with the rest,
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, and 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 thought-
A novice beginning, yet experient of myriads of
Of every hue, trade, rank, caste and religion,
Not merely of the New World, but of Africa, Europe,
Asia—a wandering savage,
A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor, lover,
View Page 45
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
The palpable is in its place, and the impalpable is in
These are the thoughts of all men in all ages and
lands—they are not original with me,
If they are not yours as much as mine, they are
nothing, or next to nothing,
If they do not enclose everything, they are next to
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
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 for America, because it is my
This is for laws, songs, behavior,
This is the tasteless water of Souls—this is the true
View Page 46
This is for the illiterate, and for the judges of the
Supreme Court, and for the Federal capitol and
the State capitols,
And for the admirable communes of literats, com-
posers, singers, lecturers, engineers, and savans,
And for the endless races of work-people, farmers,
This is the trilling of thousands of clear cornets,
screaming of octave flutes, striking of triangles.
I play not here marches 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 to them.
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
And the numberless unknown heroes, equal to the
greatest heroes known.
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,
View Page 47
I will not have a single person slighted or left away,
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited,
The heavy-lipped slave is invited—the venerealee is
There shall be no difference between them and the
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 outlet
Do you guess I have some intricate purpose?
Well, I have—for the Fourth Month showers have,
and the mica on the side of a rock has.
Do you take it I would astonish?
Does the daylight astonish? Does the early redstart,
twittering through the woods?
Do I astonish more than they?
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 are
View Page 48
All I mark as my own, you shall offset it with your
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-removed,
I cock my hat as I please, indoors or out.
Why should I pray? Why should I venerate and be
Having pried through the strata, analyzed to a hair,
counsell'd with doctors, and calculated close,
I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.
In all people I see myself—none more, and not one a
And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them.
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
View Page 49
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
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 to-day, or in ten
thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerful-
ness 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.
View Page 50
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
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 enough,
I show that size is only development.
Have you outstript the rest? Are you the President?
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, mag-
netic, nourishing Night!
Night of south winds! Night of the large few stars!
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 mountains,
Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon, just
tinged with blue!
Earth of shine and dark, mottling the tide of the
Earth of the limpid gray of clouds, brighter and
clearer for my sake!
View Page 51
Far-swooping elbowed Earth! Rich, apple-blossomed
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 fingers,
I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me;
We must have a turn together—I undress—hurry
me out of sight of the land,
Cushion me soft, rock me in billowy drowse,
Dash me with amorous wet—I can repay you.
Sea of stretched ground-swells!
Sea breathing broad and convulsive breaths!
Sea of the brine of life! Sea of unshovelled and
Howler and scooper of storms! Capricious and dainty
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 others'
View Page 52
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 common sense, 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
My gait is no fault-finder's or rejecter's gait,
I moisten the roots of all that has grown.
Did you fear some scrofula out of the unflagging
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
Witnesses of us—one side a balance, and the antip-
odal 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 decillions,
There is no better than it and now.
View Page 53
What behaved well in the past, or behaves well
to-day, 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-masse.
A word of the faith that never balks,
One time as good as another time—here or hence-
forward, it is all the same to me.
A word of reality—materialism first and last im-
Hurrah for positive Science! long live exact demon-
Fetch stonecrop, mixt with cedar and branches of
This is the lexicographer—this the chemist—this
made a grammar of the old cartouches,
These mariners put the ship through dangerous un-
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,
View Page 54
And go on the square for my own sake and for others'
And make short account of neuters and geldings, and
favor men and women fully equipped,
And beat the gong of revolt, and stop with fugitives,
and them that plot and conspire.
Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a
Disorderly, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking, breeding,
No sentimentalist—no stander above men and wo-
men, or apart from them,
No more modest than immodest.
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 me,
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 of
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
View Page 55
Voices of cycles of preparation and accretion,
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 upon,
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 what-
ever I touch or am touched from,
The scent of these arm-pits, aroma finer than prayer,
This head more than churches, bibles, and all the
If I worship any particular thing, it shall be some of
the spread of my own body.
Translucent mould of me, it shall be you!
Shaded ledges and rests, it shall be you!
Firm masculine colter, it shall be you.
View Page 56
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 be
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! Lov-
ing lounger in my winding paths! it shall be
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
Each moment, and whatever happens, thrills me with
View Page 57
O I am so wonderful!
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.
That I walk up my stoop, I pause to consider if it
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
The heaved challenge from the east that moment over
The mocking taunt, See then whether you shall be
View Page 58
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 sun,
We found our own, O my Soul, in the calm and cool
of the day-break.
My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach,
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.
Do you not know how the buds beneath are folded?
Waiting in gloom, protected by frost,
The dirt receding before my prophetical screams,
I underlying causes, to balance them at last,
My knowledge my live parts—it keeping tally with
the meaning of 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.
View Page 59
Encompass worlds, but never try to encompass me,
I crowd your sleekest talk by simply looking toward
Writing and talk do not prove me,
I carry the plenum of proof, and everything else, in
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
I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human
I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused
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-pedlers and fruit-pedlers—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,
View Page 60
The ring of alarm-bells—the cry of fire—the whirr
of swift-streaking engines and hose-carts, with
premonitory tinkles, and colored lights,
The steam-whistle—the solid roll of the train of
The slow-march played at night at the head of the
association, marching two and two,
(They go to guard some corpse—the flag-tops are
draped with black muslin.)
I hear the violoncello, or man's heart's complaint;
I hear the keyed cornet—it glides quickly in through
It shakes mad-sweet pangs through my belly and
I hear the chorus—it is a grand-opera,
Ah, this indeed is music! This suits me.
A tenor large and fresh as the creation fills me,
The orbic flex of his mouth is pouring and filling
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 throt-
tled in fakes of death,
View Page 61
At length let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles,
And that we call BEING.
To be in any form—what is that?
(Round and round we go, all of us, and ever come
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
They seize every object, and lead it harmlessly
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 identity,
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 limbs,
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
View Page 62
Deluding my confusion with the calm of the sun-light
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
Then all uniting to stand on a headland and worry
The sentries desert every other part of me,
They have left me helpless to a red marauder,
They all come to the headland, to witness and assist
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 headland—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 me.
Blind, loving, wrestling touch! sheathed, hooded,
Did it make you ache so, leaving me?
Parting, tracked by arriving—perpetual payment of
View Page 63
Rich showering rain, and recompense richer after-
Sprouts take and accumulate—stand by the curb
prolific and vital,
Landscapes, projected, masculine, full-sized, and
All truths wait in all things,
They neither hasten their own delivery, nor resist it,
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 or
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 them.
View Page 64
I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-
work of the stars,
And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of
sand, and the egg of the wren,
And the tree-toad is a chef-d'œuvre for the highest,
And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors
And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all
And the cow crunching with depressed head surpasses
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions
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 stuccoed with quadrupeds and birds all over,
And have distanced what is behind me for good
And call anything close again, when I desire it.
In vain the speeding or shyness,
In vain the plutonic rocks send their old heat against
In vain the mastodon retreats beneath its own pow-
In vain objects stand leagues off, and assume manifold
In vain the ocean settling in hollows, and the great
monsters lying low,
View Page 65
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 an hour at a
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to
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 whole
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 get those tokens,
View Page 66
I may have passed that way untold times ago, and
negligently dropt them,
Myself moving forward then and now forever,
Gathering and showing more always and with
Infinite and omnigenous, and the like of these among
Not too exclusive toward the reachers of my remem-
Picking out here one that I love, to go with on
A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and responsive
to my caresses,
Head high in the forehead, wide between the ears,
Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground,
Eyes well apart, full of sparkling wickedness—ears
finely cut, flexibly moving.
His nostrils dilate, as my heels embrace him,
His well-built limbs tremble with pleasure, as we
speed around and return.
I but use you a moment, then I resign you stallion,
Why do I need your paces, when I myself out-gallop
Even, as I stand or sit, passing faster than you.
O 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.
View Page 67
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 lumbermen,
Along the ruts of the turnpike—along the dry gulch
and rivulet bed,
Weeding my onion-patch, or 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 over-
head—Where the buck turns furiously at the
Where the rattlesnake suns his flabby length on a
rock—Where the otter is feeding on fish,
Where the alligator in his tough pimples sleeps by the
Where the black bear is searching for roots or honey
—Where the beaver pats the mud with his
Over the growing sugar—over the cotton plant—
over the rice in its low moist field,
Over the sharp-peaked farm house, with its scalloped
scum and slender shoots from the gutters,
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,
View Page 68
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
Where the bat flies in the Seventh Month eve—
Where the great gold-bug drops through the
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,
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, float-
ing in it myself and looking composedly down,
Where the life-car is drawn on the slip-noose—Where
the heat hatches pale-green eggs in the dented
Where the she-whale swims with her calf, and never
Where the steam-ship trails hind-ways its long pen-
nant of smoke,
Where the fin of the shark cuts like a black chip out
of the water,
View Page 69
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
Under Niagara, the cataract falling like a veil over
Upon a door-step—upon the horse-block of hard
Upon the race-course, or enjoying picnics or jigs, or
a good game of base-ball,
At he-festivals, with blackguard gibes, ironical license,
bull-dances, drinking, laughter,
At the cider-mill, tasting the sweet of the brown
sqush, sucking the juice through a straw,
At apple-peelings, wanting kisses for all the red fruit
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 limitless
and lonesome prairie,
View Page 70
Where herds of buffalo make a crawling spread of
the square miles far and near,
Where the humming-bird shimmers—Where the
neck of the long-lived swan is curving and
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
Where the yellow-crowned heron comes to the edge of
the marsh at night and feeds upon small crabs,
Where the splash of swimmers and divers cools the
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, or under con-
Through the gymnasium—through the curtained
saloon—through the office or public hall,
Pleased with the native, and pleased with the foreign
—pleased with the new and old,
Pleased with women, the homely as well as the
Pleased with the quakeress as she puts off her bonnet
and talks melodiously,
View Page 71
Pleased with the tunes of the choir of the white-
Pleased with the earnest words of the sweating
Methodist preacher, or any preacher—Impressed
seriously at the camp-meeting,
Looking in at the shop-windows of Broadway the
whole forenoon—flatting the flesh of my nose
on the thick plate-glass,
Wandering the same afternoon with my face 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 silent and dark-cheeked
bush-boy—riding behind him at the drape of
Far from the settlements, studying the print of ani-
mals' feet, or the moccason print,
By the cot in the hospital, reaching lemonade to a
By the coffined corpse when all is still, examining
with a candle,
Voyaging to every port, to dicker and adventure,
Hurrying with the modern crowd, as eager and fickle
Hot toward one I hate, ready in my madness to knife
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,
View Page 72
Speeding amid the seven satellites, and the broad
ring, and the diameter of eighty thousand miles,
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 product,
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, nor law prevent me.
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 foretruck,
I take my place late at night in the crow's-nest,
We sail the arctic sea—it is plenty light enough,
Through the clear atmosphere I stretch around on
the wonderful beauty,
View Page 73
The enormous masses of ice pass me, and I pass them
—the scenery is plain in all directions,
The white-topped mountains show in the distance—
I fling out my fancies toward them,
We are approaching some great battle-field in which
we are soon to be engaged,
We pass the colossal out-posts of the encampment—
we pass with still feet and caution,
Or we are entering by the suburbs some vast and
The blocks and fallen architecture more than all the
living cities of the globe.
I am a free companion—I bivouac by invading
I turn the bridegroom out of bed, and stay with the
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 drowned.
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 nights,
And chalked in large letters, on a board, Be of good
cheer, We will not desert you,
View Page 74
How he followed with them, and tacked with them—
and would not give it up,
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 becomes mine,
I am the man—I suffered—I was there.
The disdain and calmness of martyrs,
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
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
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, and beat me violently over the
head with whip-stocks.
Agonies are one of my changes of garments,
I do not ask the wounded person how he feels—I
myself become the wounded person,
View Page 75
My hurt turns livid upon me as I lean on a cane and
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,
I heard the distant click of their picks and shovels,
They have cleared the beams away—they tenderly
lift me forth.
I lie in the night air in my red shirt—the pervading
hush is for my sake,
Painless after all I lie, exhausted but not so unhappy,
White and beautiful are the faces around me—the
heads are bared 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-
I am there again.
Again the reveille of drummers,
Again the attacking 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
View Page 76
The ambulanza slowly passing, trailing its red drip,
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
Again gurgles the mouth of my dying general—he
furiously waves with his hand,
He gasps through the clot, Mind not me — mind —
the entrenchments .
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 the murder in cold blood of four
hundred and twelve young men.
Retreating, they had formed in a hollow square, with
their baggage for breastworks,
Nine hundred lives out of the surrounding enemy's,
nine times their number, was the price they took
Their colonel was wounded and their ammunition
They treated for an honorable capitulation, received
writing and seal, gave up their arms, and
marched back prisoners of war.
They were the glory of the race of rangers,
Matchless with horse, rifle, song, supper, courtship,
View Page 77
Large, turbulent, generous, brave, handsome, proud,
Bearded, sunburnt, dressed in the free costume of
Not a single one over thirty years of age.
The second First Day morning they were brought out
in squads and massacred—it was beautiful early
The work commenced about five o'clock, and was over
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 despatched with bayonets, or battered with
the blunts of muskets,
A youth not seventeen years old seized his assassin till
two more came to release him,
The three were all torn, and covered with the boy's
At eleven o'clock began the burning of the bodies:
That is the tale of the murder of the four hundred
and twelve young men.
Did you read in the sea-books of the old-fashioned
View Page 78
Did you learn who won by the light of the moon and
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 us.
We closed with him—the yards entangled—the
My captain lashed fast with his own hands.
We had received some eighteen-pound shots under
On our lower-gun-deck two large pieces had burst at
the first fire, killing all around, and blowing up
Ten o'clock at night, and the full moon shining, and
the leaks on the gain, and five feet of water
The master-at-arms loosing the prisoners confined in
the after-hold, to give them a chance for them-
The transit to and from the magazine was now
stopped by the sentinels,
They saw so many strange faces, they did not know
whom to trust.
Our frigate was afire,
The other asked if we demanded quarter?
If our colors were struck, and the fighting done?
View Page 79
I laughed content when I heard the voice of my little
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
Two, well served with grape and canister, silenced his
musketry and cleared his decks.
The tops alone seconded the fire of this little battery,
especially the main-top,
They all held out bravely during the whole of the
Not a moment's cease,
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
View Page 80
Our vessel riddled and slowly sinking—preparations
to pass to the one we had conquered,
The captain on the quarter-deck coldly giving his
orders through a countenance white as a sheet,
Near by, the corpse of the child that 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, flickering
aloft and below,
The husky voices of the two or three officers yet fit
Formless stacks of bodies, and bodies by themselves
—dabs of flesh upon the masts and spars,
Cut of cordage, dangle of rigging, slight shock of the
soothe of waves,
Black and impassive guns, litter of powder-parcels,
Delicate sniffs of sea-breeze, smells of sedgy grass and
fields by the shore, death-messages given in
charge to survivors,
The hiss of the surgeon's knife, the gnawing teeth of
Wheeze, cluck, swash of falling blood, short wild
scream, and long dull tapering groan,
These so—these irretrievable.
O Christ! This is mastering me!
Through the conquered doors they crowd. I am
What the rebel said, gayly adjusting his throat to the
View Page 81
What the savage at the stump, his eye-sockets empty,
his mouth spirting whoops and defiance,
What stills the traveller come to the vault at Mount
What sobers the Brooklyn boy as he looks down the
shores of the Wallabout and remembers the
What burnt the gums of the red-coat at Saratoga
when he surrendered his brigades,
These become mine and me every one—and they are
I become as much more as I like.
I become any presence or truth of humanity here,
See myself in prison shaped like another man,
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.
View Page 82
Askers embody themselves in me, and I am embodied
I project my hat, sit shame-faced, and beg.
Enough—I bring such to a close,
Rise extatic through all, sweep with the true gravita-
The whirling and whirling elemental within me.
Somehow I have been stunned. Stand back!
Give me a little time beyond my cuffed head, slum-
bers, 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 now,
I resume the overstaid fraction,
The grave of rock multiplies what has been confided
to it, or to any graves,
Corpses rise, gashes heal, fastenings roll from me.
I troop forth replenished with supreme power, one of
an average unending procession,
We walk the roads of the six North Eastern States,
and of Virginia, Wisconsin, Manhattan Island,
Philadelphia, New Orleans, Texas, Charleston,
Inland and by the sea-coast and boundary lines, and
we pass all boundary lines.
View Page 83
Our swift ordinances are on their way over the whole
The blossoms we wear in our hats are the growth of
two thousand years.
Élèves, 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 and can walk are
divine, and the blind and lame are equally divine,
And that my steps drag behind yours, yet go before
And are aware how I am with you no more than I am
The friendly and flowing savage, Who is he?
Is he waiting for civilization, or past it and master-
Is he some south-westerner, raised out-doors? Is he
Is he from the Mississippi country? Iowa, Oregon,
California? the mountains? prairie-life, bush-
life? or from the sea?
Wherever he goes men and women accept and desire
They desire he should like them, touch them, speak
to them, stay with them.
Behavior lawless as snow-flakes, words simple as
grass, uncombed head, laughter, and näveté,
Slow-stepping feet, common features, common modes
View Page 84
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 sunshine, I need not your bask,—lie
You light surfaces only—I force surfaces and depths
Earth! you seem to look for something at my hands,
Say, old Top-knot! what do you want?
Man or woman! I might tell how I like you, but
And might tell what it is in me, and what it is in
you, but cannot,
And might tell that pining I have—that pulse of my
nights and days.
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,
Spread your palms, and lift the flaps of your pockets;
I am not to be denied—I compel—I have stores
plenty and to spare,
And anything 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
View Page 85
To a drudge of the cotton-fields or cleaner of privies
On his right cheek I put the family kiss,
And in my soul I swear, I never will deny him.
On women fit for conception I start bigger and nim-
This day I am jetting the stuff of far more arrogant
To any one dying—thither I speed, and twist the
knob of the door,
Turn the bed-clothes toward the foot of the bed,
Let the physician and the priest go home.
I seize the descending man, and raise him with resist-
O despairer, here is my neck,
By God! you shall not go down! Hang your whole
weight upon me.
I dilate you with tremendous breath—I buoy you up,
Every room of the house do I fill with an 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 upon
I have embraced you, and henceforth possess you to
And when you rise in the morning you will find what
I tell you is so.
View Page 86
I am he bringing help for the sick as they pant on
And for strong upright men I bring yet more needed
I heard what was said of the universe,
Heard it and heard it of several thousand years;
It is middling well as far as it goes,—But is that all?
Magnifying and applying come I,
Outbidding at the start the old cautious hucksters,
The most they offer for mankind and eternity less
than a spirt of my own seminal wet,
Taking myself the exact dimensions of Jehovah,
Lithographing Kronos, Zeus his son, and Hercules
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 image,
Taking them all for what they are worth, and not a
Admitting they were alive and did the work of their
Admitting they bore mites, as for unfledged birds,
who have now to rise and fly and sing for them-
Accepting the rough deific sketches to fill out better
in myself—bestowing them freely on each man
and woman I see,
Discovering as much, or more, in a framer framing a
View Page 87
Putting higher claims for him there with his rolled-
up sleeves, driving the mallet and chisel,
Not objecting to special revelations—considering a
curl of smoke or a hair on the back of my hand
just as curious as any revelation,
Those ahold of fire engines and hook-and-ladder ropes
no less to me than the Gods of the antique wars,
Minding their voices peal through the crash of
Their brawny limbs passing safe over charred laths—
their white foreheads whole and unhurt out of
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 rod
The bull and the bug never worshipped half enough,
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 prodigious,
Guessing when I am it will not tickle me much to
receive puffs out of pulpit or print;
View Page 88
By my life-lumps! becoming already a creator,
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
Ever the hard unsunk ground,
Ever the eaters and drinkers—Ever the upward
and downward sun—Ever the air and the cease-
Ever myself and my neighbors, refreshing, wicked,
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;
Ever love—Ever the sobbing liquid of life,
Ever the bandage under the chin—Ever the tressels
View Page 89
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 continually
This is the city, and I am one of the citizens,
Whatever interests the rest interests me—politics,
markets, newspapers, schools,
Benevolent societies, improvements, banks, tariffs,
steamships, factories, stocks, stores, real estate,
and personal 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 weakest
and shallowest is deathless with me,
What I do and say, the same waits for them,
Every thought that flounders in me, the same floun-
ders in them.
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
View Page 90
My words are words of a questioning, and to indicate
reality and motive power:
This printed and bound book—but the printer, and
the printing-office boy?
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
The dishes and fare and furniture—but the host and
hostess, and the look out of their eyes?
The sky up there—yet here, or next door, or across
The saints and sages in history—but you yourself?
Sermons, creeds, theology—but the human brain,
and what is reason? and what is love? and what
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, powwowing
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
View Page 91
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 divine,
To the mass kneeling, or the puritan's prayer rising,
or sitting patiently in a pew,
Ranting and frothing in my insane crisis, or waiting
dead-like till my spirit arouses me,
Looking forth on pavement and land, or outside of
pavement and land,
Belonging to the winders of the circuit of circuits.
One of that centripetal and centrifugal gang, I turn
and talk like a man leaving charges before a
Down-hearted doubters, dull and excluded,
Frivolous, sullen, moping, angry, affected, disheart-
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 any,
The past is the push of you, me, all, precisely the
View Page 92
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.
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 his
Nor the little child that peeped in at the door, and
then drew back, and was never seen again,
Nor the old man who has lived without purpose, and
feels it with bitterness worse than gall,
Nor him in the poor-house, tubercled by rum and
the bad disorder,
Nor the numberless slaughtered and wrecked—nor
the brutish koboo called the ordure of humanity,
Nor the sacs merely floating with open mouths for
food to slip in,
Nor anything in the earth, or down in the oldest
graves of the earth,
Nor anything in the myriads of spheres—nor one of
the myriads of myriads that inhabit them,
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
View Page 93
The clock indicates the moment—but what does
We have thus far exhausted trillions of winters and
There are trillions ahead, and trillions ahead of them.
Births have brought us richness and variety,
And other births will bring us richness and variety.
I do not call one greater and one smaller,
That which fills its period and place is equal to any.
Were mankind murderous or jealous upon you, my
brother, my sister?
I am sorry for you—they are not murderous or jeal-
ous 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.
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 travelled, and still I mount and mount.
Rise after rise bow the phantoms behind me,
Afar down I see the huge first Nothing—I know I
was even there,
I waited unseen and always, and slept through the
View Page 94
And took my time, and took no hurt from the fetid
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 rings,
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
For it the nebula cohered to an orb,
The long slow strata piled to rest it on,
Vast vegetables gave it sustenance,
Monstrous sauroids transported it in their mouths,
and deposited it with care.
All forces have been steadily employed to complete
and delight me,
Now I stand on this spot with my Soul.
O span of youth! Ever-pushed elasticity!
O manhood, balanced, florid, and full.
My lovers suffocate me!
Crowding my lips, thick in the pores of my skin,
Jostling me through streets and public halls—
coming naked to me at night,
View Page 95
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
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.
Old age superbly rising! O welcome, ineffable grace
of dying days!
Every condition promulges not only itself—it pro-
mulges what grows after and out of itself,
And the dark hush promulges as much as any.
I open my scuttle at night and see the far-sprinkled
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, and forever outward.
My sun has his sun, and round him obediently
He joins with his partners a group of superior circuit,
And greater sets follow, making specks of the greatest
View Page 96
There is no stoppage, and never can be stoppage,
If I, you, the worlds, all beneath or upon their sur-
faces, and all the palpable life, were this moment
reduced back to a pallid float, it would not avail
in the long run,
We should surely bring up again where we now
And as surely go as much farther—and then farther
A few quadrillions of eras, a few octillions of cubic
leagues, do not hazard the span, or make it
They are but parts—anything is but a part.
See ever so far, there is limitless space outside
Count ever so much, there is limitless time around
My rendezvous is appointed,
The Lord will be there, and wait till I come on per-
I know I have the best of time and space, and was
never measured, and never will be measured.
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, or exchange,
View Page 97
But each man and each woman of you I lead upon
My left hand hooking you round the waist,
My right hand pointing 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 land.
Shoulder your duds, and I will mine, and let us
Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch as
If you tire, give me both burdens, and rest the chuff
of your hand on my hip,
And in due time you shall repay the same service
For after we start we never lie by again.
This day before dawn I ascended a hill, and looked
at the crowded heaven,
And I said to my Spirit, When we become the
enfolders of those orbs, and the pleasure and
knowledge of everything in them, shall we be
filled and satisfied then?
And my Spirit said No, we level that lift, to pass and
View Page 98
You are also asking me questions, and I hear you,
I answer that I cannot answer—you must find out
Sit a while, wayfarer,
Here are biscuits to eat, and 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 egress
Long enough have you dreamed contemptible dreams,
Now I wash the gum from your eyes,
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light,
and of every moment of your life.
Long have you timidly waded, holding a plank by
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod
to me, shout, and laughingly dash with your hair.
I am the teacher of athletes,
He that by me spreads a wider breast than my own,
proves the width of my own,
He most honors my style who learns under it to
destroy the teacher.
The boy I love, the same becomes a man, not through
derived power, but in his own right,
Wicked, rather than virtuous out of conformity or
Fond of his sweetheart, relishing well his steak,
View Page 99
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 banjo,
Preferring scars, and faces pitted with small-pox, over
all latherers, and those that keep out of the sun.
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,
It is you talking just as much as myself—I act as
the tongue of you,
Tied in your mouth, in mine it begins to be loosened.
I swear I will never again mention love or death
inside a house,
And I swear I will never 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 me,
But roughs and little children better than they.
View Page 100
The young mechanic is closest to me—he knows me
The woodman, that takes his axe and jug with him,
shall take me with him all day,
The farm-boy, ploughing in the field, feels good at the
sound of my voice,
In vessels that sail, my words sail—I go with fisher-
men and seamen, and love them.
My face rubs to the hunter's face, when he lies down
alone in his blanket,
The driver, thinking of me, does not mind the jolt
of his wagon,
The young mother and old mother comprehend me,
The girl and the wife rest the needle a moment, and
forget where they are,
They and all would resume what I have told them.
I have said that the Soul is not more than the
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 shroud,
And I or you, pocketless of a dime, may purchase
the pick of the earth,
And to glance with an eye, or show a bean in its
pod, confounds the learning of all times,
And there is no trade or employment but the young
man following it may become a hero,
View Page 101
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.
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 under-
stand 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 day?
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four,
and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in
my own face in the glass,
I find letters from God 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 ever.
And as to you Death, and you bitter hug of mortality,
it is idle to try to alarm me.
To his work without flinching the accoucheur comes,
I see the elder-hand, pressing, receiving, supporting,
I recline by the sills of the exquisite flexible doors,
and mark the outlet, and mark the relief and
View Page 102
And as to you corpse, I think you are good manure,
but that does not offend me,
I smell the white roses sweet-scented and growing,
I reach to the leafy lips—I reach to the polished
breasts of melons.
And as to you life, I reckon you are the leavings of
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 transfers and
If you do not say anything, how can I say anything?
Of the turbid pool that lies in the autumn forest,
Of the moon that descends the steeps of the soughing
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.
I ascend from the moon, I ascend from the night,
I perceive of the ghastly glimmer the sunbeams re-
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 body
I sleep—I sleep long.
View Page 103
I do not know it—it is without name—it is a word
It is not in any dictionary, utterance, symbol.
Something it swings on more than the earth I swing on,
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, emp-
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 evening,
Talk honestly—no one else hears you, and I stay
only a minute longer.
Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then, I contradict myself,
I am large—I contain multitudes.
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?
View Page 104
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 untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
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 flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.
I bequeathe myself to the dirt, to grow from the
grass I love,
If you want me again, look for me under your boot-
You will hardly know who I am, or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first, keep encouraged,
Missing me one place, search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.
View Page 105
CHANTS DEMOCRATIC AND NATIVE AMERICAN.
O mater! O fils!
O brood continental!
O flowers of the prairies!
O space boundless! O hum of mighty products!
O you teeming cities! O so invincible, turbulent,
O race of the future! O women!
O fathers! O you men of passion and the storm!
O native power only! O beauty!
O yourself! O God! O divine average!
O you bearded roughs! O bards! O all those slum-
O arouse! the dawn-bird's throat sounds shrill! Do
you not hear the cock crowing?
O, as I walk'd the beach, I heard the mournful notes
foreboding a tempest—the low, oft-repeated
shriek of the diver, the long-lived loon;
View Page 106
O I heard, and yet hear, angry thunder;—O you
sailors! O ships! make quick preparation!
O from his masterful sweep, the warning cry of the
(Give way there, all! It is useless! Give up your
O sarcasms! Propositions! (O if the whole world
should prove indeed a sham, a sell!)
O I believe there is nothing real but America and
O to sternly reject all except Democracy!
O imperator! O who dare confront you and me?
O to promulgate our own! O to build for that which
builds for mankind!
O feuillage! O North! O the slope drained by the
O all, all inseparable—ages, ages, ages!
O a curse on him that would dissever this Union for
any reason whatever!
O climates, labors! O good and evil! O death!
O you strong with iron and wood! O Personality!
O the village or place which has the greatest man or
woman! even if it be only a few ragged huts;
O the city where women walk in public processions in
the streets, the same as the men;
O a wan and terrible emblem, by me adopted!
O shapes arising! shapes of the future centuries!
O muscle and pluck forever for me!
O workmen and workwomen forever for me!
O farmers and sailors! O drivers of horses forever
O I will make the new bardic list of trades and tools!
O you coarse and wilful! I love you!
View Page 107
O South! O longings for my dear home! O soft and
O pensive! O I must return where the palm grows
and the mocking-bird sings, or else I die!
O equality! O organic compacts! I am come to be
your born poet!
O whirl, contest, sounding and resounding! I am
your poet, because I am part of you;
O days by-gone! Enthusiasts! Antecedents!
O vast preparations for These States! O years!
O what is now being sent forward thousands of years
O mediums! O to teach! to convey the invisible faith!
To promulge real things! to journey through all The
O creation! O to-day! O laws! O unmitigated
O for mightier broods of orators, artists, and singers!
O for native songs! carpenter's, boatman's, plough-
man's songs! shoemaker's songs!
O haughtiest growth of time! O free and extatic!
O what I, here, preparing, warble for!
O you hastening light! O the sun of the world will
ascend, dazzling, and take his height—and you
too will ascend;
O so amazing and so broad! up there resplendent,
darting and burning;
O prophetic! O vision staggered with weight of light!
with pouring glories!
O copious! O hitherto unequalled!
O Libertad! O compact! O union impossible to
O my Soul! O lips becoming tremulous, powerless!
O centuries, centuries yet ahead!
View Page 108
O voices of greater orators! I pause—I listen for
O you States! Cities! defiant of all outside authority!
I spring at once into your arms! you I most
O you grand Presidentiads! I wait for you!
New history! New heroes! I project you!
Visions of poets! only you really last! O sweep on!
O Death! O you striding there! O I cannot yet!
O heights! O infinitely too swift and dizzy yet!
O purged lumine! you threaten me more than I can
O present! I return while yet I may to you!
O poets to come, I depend upon you!
A NATION announcing itself, (many in one,)
I myself make the only growth by which I can be
I reject none, accept all, reproduce all in my own
A breed whose testimony is behavior,
What we are WE ARE—nativity is answer enough
We wield ourselves as a weapon is wielded,
View Page 109
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 only.
Have you thought there could be but a single
There can be any number of Supremes—One does
not countervail another, any more than one eye-
sight countervails another, or one life counter-
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
poems for These States?
Which is the theory or book that, for our purposes, is
Piety and conformity to them that like!
Peace, obesity, allegiance, to them that like!
View Page 110
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—ques-
tioning you up there now:
Who are you, that wanted only to be told what you
Who are you, that wanted only a book to join you in
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 not otherwise.
Fear grace—Fear delicatesse,
Fear the mellow sweet, the sucking of honey-juice,
Beware the advancing mortal ripening of nature,
Beware what precedes the decay of the ruggedness 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 by
its own at all hazards,
View Page 111
Stands removed, spacious, composite, sound,
Sees itself promulger of men and women, initiates
the true use of precedents,
Does not repel them or the past, or what they have
produced under their forms, or amid other pol-
itics, or amid the idea of castes, or the old
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 fittest 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 of
Here the doings of men correspond with the broad-
cast doings of the day and night,
Here is what moves in magnificent masses, carelessly
faithful of particulars,
Here are the roughs, beards, friendliness, combative-
ness, the Soul loves,
Here the flowing trains—here the crowds, equality,
diversity, the Soul loves.
Race of races, and bards to corroborate!
View Page 112
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 and
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, Niagara, Hudson,
spending themselves lovingly in him,
If the Atlantic coast stretch, or the Pacific coast
stretch, he stretching with them north or south,
Spanning between them east and west, and touching
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 hanging
from the boughs,
View Page 113
Off him pasturage sweet and natural as savanna,
Through him flights, songs, screams, answering those
of the wild-pigeon, coot, fish-hawk, qua-bird,
mocking-bird, condor, night-heron, eagle;
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 red
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
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, tem-
perature, the gestation of new States,
Congress convening every Twelfth Month, the mem-
bers duly coming up from the uttermost parts;
Surrounding the noble character of mechanics and
farmers, especially the young men,
Responding their manners, speech, dress, friendships
—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,
View Page 114
The picturesque looseness of their carriage, their
deathless attachment to freedom, their fierceness
The fluency of their speech, their delight in music,
their curiosity, good temper, and open-handed-
ness—the whole composite make,
The prevailing ardor and enterprise, the large am-
The perfect equality of the female with the male, the
fluid movement of the population,
The superior marine, free commerce, fisheries,
Wharf-hemmed 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 plan-
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,
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,
View Page 115
I lead the present with friendly hand toward the
Bravas to States whose semitic impulses send whole-
some children to the next age!
But damn that which spends itself on flaunters and
dalliers, with no thought of the stain, pains,
dismay, feebleness, it is bequeathing.
By great bards only can series of peoples and States
be fused into the compact organism of one
To hold men together by paper and seal, or by com-
pulsion, is no account,
That only holds men together which is living prin-
ciples, 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 referee
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
He bestows on every object or quality its fit propor-
tions, neither more nor less,
He is the arbiter of the diverse, he is the key,
View Page 116
He is the equalizer of his age and land,
He supplies what wants supplying—he checks what
In peace, out of him speaks the spirit of peace, large,
rich, thrifty, building populous towns, encour-
aging agriculture, arts, commerce, lighting the
study of man, the Soul, health, immortality,
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 and
He sees eternity in men and women—he does not
see men and women as dreams or dots.
Of the idea of perfect and free individuals, the idea
of These States, the bard walks in advance,
leader of leaders,
The attitude of him cheers up slaves, and horrifies
Without extinction is Liberty! Without retrograde
They live in the feelings of young men, and the
View Page 117
Not for nothing have the indomitable heads of the
earth been always ready to fall for Liberty!
Are YOU indeed for Liberty?
Are you a man who would assume a place to teach
here, or lead here, or be a poet here?
The place is august—the terms obdurate.
Who would assume to teach here, 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, indeed, who would talk or sing in
Have you studied out MY LAND, its idioms and
Have you learned the physiology, phrenology, poli-
tics, 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, signed by the Commissioners, ratified by
The States, and read by Washington at the head
of the army?
Have you possessed yourself of the Federal Constitu-
Do you acknowledge Liberty with audible and abso-
lute acknowledgment, and set slavery at nought
for life and death?
Do you see who have left described processes and
poems behind them, and assumed new ones?
View Page 118
Are you faithful to things? Do you teach whatever
the land and sea, the bodies of men, womanhood,
amativeness, angers, excesses, crimes, teach?
Have you sped through customs, laws, popularities?
Can you hold your hand against all seductions, follies,
whirls, fierce contentions? Are you very strong?
Are you of the whole people?
Are you not of some coterie? some school or religion?
Are you done with reviews and criticisms of life? ani-
mating to life itself?
Have you vivified yourself from the maternity of
Have you sucked the nipples of the breasts of the
mother of many children?
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 done
Have you not imported this, or the spirit of it, in
Is it a mere tale? a rhyme? a prettiness?
Has it never dangled at the heels of the poets, poli-
ticians, literats, of enemies' lands?
Does it not assume that what is notoriously gone is
Does it answer universal needs? Will it improve
View Page 119
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,
Have real employments contributed to it? original
Does it meet modern discoveries, calibers, facts, face
Does it respect me? Democracy? the Soul? to-day?
What does it mean to me? to American persons,
progresses, cities? Chicago, Kanada, Arkansas?
the planter, Yankee, Georgian, native, immi-
grant, sailors, squatters, old States, new States?
Does it encompass all The States, and the unexcep-
tional rights of all the men and women of the
earth, the genital impulse of These States?
Does it see behind the apparent custodians, the
real custodians, standing, menacing, silent, the
mechanics, Manhattanese, western men, south-
erners, significant alike in their apathy and in
the promptness of their love?
Does it see what befalls and has always befallen
each temporizer, patcher, outsider, partialist,
alarmist, infidel, who has ever asked anything
What mocking and scornful negligence?
The track strewed with the dust of skeletons?
By the roadside others disdainfully tossed?
Rhymes and rhymers pass away—poems distilled
from other poems pass away,
The swarms of reflectors and the polite pass, and
View Page 120
Admirers, importers, obedient persons, make the soil
America justifies itself, give it time—no disguise can
deceive it, or conceal from it—it is impassive
Only toward the likes of itself will it advance to meet
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
He masters whose spirit masters—he tastes sweetest
who results sweetest in the long run,
The blood of the brawn beloved of time is uncon-
In the need of poems, philosophy, politics, manners,
engineering, an appropriate native grand-opera,
shipcraft, any craft, he or she is greatest who
contributes the greatest original practical ex-
Already a nonchalant breed, silently emerging, fills
the houses and streets,
People's lips salute only doers, lovers, satisfiers,
There will shortly be no more priests—I say 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 121
Friendship, self-esteem, justice, health, clear the way
with irresistible power;
How dare you place anything before a man?
Fall behind me, States!
A man, before all—myself, typical, before all.
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 despised
I have given alms to every one that asked, stood up
for the stupid and crazy, devoted my income
and labor to others,
I have hated tyrants, argued not concerning God,
had patience and indulgence toward the people,
taken off my hat to nothing known or unknown,
I have gone freely with powerful uneducated persons,
and with the young, and with the mothers of
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 terms.
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,
Whom I have staid with once I have found longing
for me ever afterward.
View Page 122
I swear I begin to see the meaning of these things!
It is not the earth, it is not America, who is so great,
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 indi-
Underneath all are individuals,
I swear nothing is good to me now that ignores
The American compact is altogether with individuals,
The only government is that which makes minute of
The whole theory of the universe is directed to one
single individual—namely, to You.
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 nativity,
Men, women, cities, nations, are only beautiful from
Underneath all is the need of the expression of love
for men and women,
I swear I have had enough of mean and impotent
modes of expressing love for men and women,
After this day I take my own modes of expressing
love for men and women.
I swear I will have each quality of my race in
View Page 123
Talk as you like, he only suits These States whose
manners favor the audacity and sublime turbu-
lence of The States.
Underneath the lessons of things, spirits, nature,
governments, ownerships, I swear I perceive
Underneath all to me is myself—to you, yourself,
(the same monotonous old song,)
If all had not kernels for you and me, what were it
to you and me?
O I see now, flashing, that this America is only you
Its power, weapons, testimony, are you and me,
Its roughs, beards, haughtiness, ruggedness, are you
Its ample geography, the sierras, the prairies, Mis-
sissippi, Huron, Colorado, Boston, Toronto,
Raleigh, Nashville, Havana, are you and me,
Its settlements, wars, the organic compact, peace,
Washington, the Federal Constitution, are you
Its young men's manners, speech, dress, friendships,
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 me,
Its inventions, science, schools, are you and me,
Its deserts, forests, clearings, log-houses, hunters, are
you and me,
View Page 124
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 any part of America, good or bad,
Not my body—not friendship, hospitality, pro-
Not my Soul, nor the last explanation of prudence,
Not the similitude that interlocks me with all iden-
tities that exist, or ever have existed,
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 the
Not to justify science, nor the march of equality,
Nor to feed the arrogant blood of the brawn beloved
I swear I am for those that have never been
For men and women whose tempers have never been
For those whom laws, theories, conventions, can never
I swear I am for those who walk abreast with the
Who inaugurate one to inaugurate all.
View Page 125
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!
(This is what I have learnt from America—it is the
amount—and it I teach again.)
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!
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, while 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,
Copious as you are, I absorb you all in myself, and
become the master myself.
The Many In One—what is it finally except myself?
These States—what are they except myself?
I have learned why the earth is gross, tantalizing,
wicked—it is for my sake,
I take you to be mine, you beautiful, terrible, rude
View Page 126
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,
Welcome the cotton-lands—welcome those of the
white potato and sweet potato,
Welcome are mountains, flats, sands, forests, prairies,
View Page 127
Welcome the rich borders of rivers, table-lands,
Welcome the measureless grazing lands—welcome
the teeming soil of orchards, flax, honey, hemp,
Welcome just as much the other more hard-faced
Lands rich as lands of gold, or wheat and fruit lands,
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 thought of ships struck in the storm, and put on
their beam-ends, and the cutting away of masts;
The sentiment of the huge timbers of old-fashioned
houses and barns;
The remembered print or narrative, the voyage at a
venture of men, families, goods,
The disembarkation, the founding of a new city,
The voyage of those who sought a New England and
found it—the outset anywhere,
The settlements of the Arkansas, Colorado, Ottawa,
The slow progress, the scant fare, the axe, rifle,
The beauty of all adventurous and daring persons,
The beauty of wood-boys and wood-men, with their
clear untrimmed faces,
View Page 128
The beauty of independence, departure, actions that
rely on themselves,
The American contempt for statutes and ceremonies,
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 raftsman, the pioneer,
Lumbermen in their winter camp, daybreak in the
woods, stripes of snow on the limbs of trees, the
The glad clear sound of one's own voice, the merry
song, the natural life of the woods, the strong
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 nailed,
Their postures bringing their weapons downward on
View Page 129
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,
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 striking the bricks,
The bricks, one after another, each laid so workman-
like in its place, and set with a knock of the
The piles of materials, the mortar on the mortar-
boards, and the steady replenishing by the hod-
Spar-makers in the spar-yard, the swarming row of
The swing of their axes on the square-hewed log,
shaping it toward the shape of a mast,
The brisk short crackle of the steel driven slantingly
into the pine,
The butter-colored chips flying off in great flakes and
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 fireman—the fire that suddenly bursts forth
in the close-packed square,
The arriving engines, the hoarse shouts, the nimble
stepping and daring,
View Page 130
The strong command through the fire-trumpets, the
falling in line, the rise and fall of the arms
forcing the water,
The slender, spasmic blue-white jets—the bringing
to bear of the hooks and ladders, and their
The crash and cut away of connecting wood-work, or
through floors, if the fire smoulders under them,
The crowd with their lit faces, watching—the glare
and dense shadows;
The forger at his forge-furnace, and the user of iron
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
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
The death-howl, the limpsey tumbling body, the rush
of friend and foe thither,
The siege of revolted lieges determined for liberty,
The summons to surrender, the battering at castle
gates, the truce and parley,
View Page 131
The sack of an old city in its time,
The bursting in of mercenaries and bigots tumul-
tuously 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 advance,
And the future is no more uncertain than the present,
And the roughness of the earth and of man encloses
as much as the delicatesse of the earth and of
And nothing endures but personal qualities.
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 steamships?
Or hotels of granite and iron? or any chef-d'œuvres
of engineering, forts, armaments?
Away! These are not to be cherished for themselves,
They fill their hour, the dancers dance, the musicians
play for them,
The show passes, all does well enough of course,
All does very well till one flash of defiance.
View Page 132
The greatest city is that which has the greatest man
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, manufactures,
deposits 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 buildings,
or shops selling goods from the rest of the earth,
Nor the place of the best libraries and schools—nor
the place where money is plentiest,
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 them,
Where these may be seen going every day in the
streets, with their arms familiar to the shoulders
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 never-
ending audacity of elected persons,
View Page 133
Where fierce men and women pour forth, as the sea
to the whistle of death pours its sweeping and
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,
Where children are taught from the jump that they
are to be laws to themselves, and to depend on
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 stands,
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,
View Page 134
When he or she appears, materials are overawed,
The dispute on the Soul stops,
The old customs and phrases are confronted, turned
back, or laid away.
What is your money-making now? What can it do
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 appear-
There is the mine, there are the miners,
The forge-furnace is there, the melt is accomplished,
the hammers-men are at hand with their tongs
What always served and always serves, is at hand.
Than this nothing has better served—it has served
Served the fluent-tongued and subtle-sensed Greek,
and long ere the Greek,
View Page 135
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 America,
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 stone,
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 Kelt—served the
hardy pirates of the Baltic,
Served before any of those, the venerable and harm-
less men of Ethiopia,
Served the making of helms for the galleys of
pleasure, and the making of those for war,
Served all great works on land, and all great works
on the sea,
For the medival ages, and before the mediæval
Served not the living only, then as now, but served
I see the European headsman,
He stands masked, clothed in red, with huge legs,
and strong naked arms,
And leans on a ponderous axe.
View Page 136
Whom have you slaughtered lately, European heads-
Whose is that blood upon you, so wet and sticky?
I see the clear sunsets of the martyrs,
I see from the scaffolds the descending ghosts,
Ghosts of dead lords, uncrowned ladies, impeached
ministers, rejected kings,
Rivals, traitors, poisoners, disgraced chieftains, and
I see those who in any land have died for the good
The seed is spare, nevertheless the crop shall never
(Mind you, O foreign kings, O priests, the crop shall
never run out.)
I see the blood washed entirely away from the axe,
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 useless,
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,
View Page 137
They tumble forth, they rise and form,
Hut, tent, landing, survey,
Flail, plough, pick, crowbar, spade,
Shingle, rail, prop, wainscot, jamb, lath, panel, gable,
Citadel, ceiling, saloon, academy, organ, exhibition-
Cornice, trellis, pilaster, balcony, window, shutter,
Hoe, rake, pitch-fork, pencil, wagon, staff, saw, jack-
plane, mallet, wedge, rounce,
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 States,
Long stately rows in avenues, hospitals for orphans or
for the poor or sick,
Manhattan steamboats and clippers, taking the meas-
ure 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 Pe-
nobscot, or Kennebec,
Dwellers in cabins among the Californian mountains,
or by the little lakes, or on the Columbia,
Dwellers south on the banks of the Gila or Rio
Grande—friendly gatherings, the characters and
Dwellers up north in Minnesota and by the Yellow-
stone river—dwellers on coasts and off coasts,
Seal-fishers, whalers, arctic seamen breaking passages
through the ice.
View Page 138
The shapes arise!
Shapes of factories, arsenals, foundries, markets,
Shapes of the two-threaded tracks of railroads,
Shapes of the sleepers of bridges, vast frameworks,
Shapes of the fleets of barges, tows, lake craft, river
The shapes arise!
Ship-yards and dry-docks along the Eastern and
Western Seas, and in many a bay and by-place,
The live-oak kelsons, the pine planks, the spars, the
hackmatack-roots for knees,
The ships themselves on their ways, the tiers of
scaffolds, the workmen busy outside and inside,
The tools lying around, the great auger and little
auger, the adze, bolt, line, square, gouge, and
The shapes arise!
The shape measured, sawed, jacked, joined, stained,
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 cradle,
The shape of the floor-planks, the floor-planks for
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,
View Page 139
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 ointment-
box, the nauseous application, and him or her
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
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 alcoholic
The shape of the step-ladder for the convicted and
sentenced murderer, the murderer with haggard
face and pinioned arms,
The sheriff at hand with his deputies, the silent and
white-lipped crowd, the sickening dangling of
The shapes arise!
Shapes of doors giving so many exits and en-
The door passing the dissevered friend, flushed, and
View Page 140
The door that admits good news and bad news,
The door whence the son left home, confident and
The door he entered again from a long and scan-
dalous absence, diseased, broken down, without
innocence, without means.
Their shapes arise, above all the rest—the shapes of
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
Her shape arises,
She, less guarded than ever, yet more guarded than
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 therefore,
She is the best-beloved—it is without exception—
she has no reason to fear, and she does not fear,
Oaths, quarrels, hiccupped songs, proposals, smutty
expressions, are idle to her as she passes,
She is silent—she is possessed of herself—they do
not offend her,
View Page 141
She receives them as the laws of nature receive them
—she is strong,
She too is a law of nature—there is no law stronger
than she is.
His shape arises,
Arrogant, masculine, näive, rowdyish,
Laugher, weeper, worker, idler, citizen, countryman,
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, clean-
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 gentleman
on equal terms,
Attitudes lithe and erect, costume free, neck gray
and 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, easily
understood after all,
Never offering others, always offering himself, corrob-
orating his phrenology,
View Page 142
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 illus-
trations of results of The States,
Teacher of the unquenchable creed, namely, egotism,
Inviter of others continually henceforth to try their
strength against his.
The main shapes arise!
Shapes of Democracy, final—result 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 turbulent manly cities,
Shapes of an untamed breed of young men, and
Shapes of the women fit for These States,
Shapes of the composition of all the varieties of the
Shapes of the friends and home-givers of the whole
Shapes bracing the whole earth, and braced with the
View Page 143
COME closer to me,
Push closer, my lovers, and take the best I possess,
Yield closer and closer, and give me the best you
This is unfinished business with me—How is it with
I was chilled with the cold types, cylinder, wet paper
Male and Female!
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.
Workmen and Workwomen!
Were all educations, practical and ornamental, well
displayed out of me, what would it amount to?
Were I as the head teacher, charitable proprietor,
wise statesman, what would it amount to?
View Page 144
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 stand at work in a shop, I stand as nigh as
the nighest in the same shop,
If you bestow gifts on your brother or dearest friend,
I demand as good as your brother or dearest
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,
If you meet some stranger in the streets, 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.
View Page 145
Why, what have you thought of yourself?
Is it you then that thought yourself less?
Is it you that thought the President greater than
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 immortal?
Souls of men and women! it is not you I call unseen,
unheard, untouchable and untouching,
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 take,
What is there you cannot give and take?
I see not merely that you are polite or white-faced,
married, single, citizens of old States, citizens of
Eminent in some profession, a lady or gentleman in a
parlor, or dressed in the jail uniform, or pulpit
Grown, half-grown, and babe, of this country and
every country, indoors and outdoors, one just as
much as the other, I see,
And all else is behind or through them.
View Page 146
The wife—and she is not one jot less than the
The daughter—and she is just as good as the son,
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,
The näive, the simple and hardy, he going to the
polls to vote, he who has a good time, and he
has who a bad time,
Mechanics, southerners, new arrivals, laborers, sailors,
man-o'wars-men, merchantmen, coasters,
All these I see—but nigher and farther the same I
None shall escape me, and none shall wish to escape
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 and
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 from you,
View Page 147
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 now?)
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 reconnoissance,
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 com-
plaisance devours all things, the endless pride
and out-stretching of man, unspeakable joys and
The wonder every one sees in every one else he sees,
and the wonders that fill each minute of time for-
ever, and each acre of surface and space forever,
View Page 148
Have you reckoned them for a trade, or farm-work?
or for the profits of a store? or to achieve your-
self 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 picture?
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
Or that the growth of seeds is for agricultural tables,
or agriculture itself?
Old institutions—these arts, libraries, legends, col-
lections, and the practice handed along in manu-
factures—will we rate them so high?
Will we rate our cash and business high? I have
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
View Page 149
Then I am 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 you.
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 Twelfth Month for
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 from
All sculpture and monuments, and anything inscribed
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?
View Page 150
The most renowned poems would be ashes, orations
and plays would be vacuums.
All architecture is what you do to it when you look
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 romanza—nor
that of the men's chorus, nor that of the women's
It is nearer and farther than they.
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 more?
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 you,
Your person, and every particle that relates to your
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, or what causes your
anger or wonder,
View Page 151
The ankle-chain of the slave, the bed of the bed-
house, the cards of the gambler, the plates of
What is seen or learnt in the street, or intuitively
What is learnt in the public school, spelling, reading,
writing, ciphering, the black-board, the teacher's
The panes of the windows, all that appears through
them, the going forth in the morning, the aimless
spending of the day,
(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,
The jaunt of hunting or fishing, and the life of hunt-
ing or fishing,
Pasture-life, foddering, milking, herding, and all the
personnel and usages,
The plum-orchard, apple-orchard, gardening, seed-
lings, 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 building of
cities, every trade carried on there, and the
implements of every trade,
The anvil, tongs, hammer, the axe and wedge, the
square, mitre, jointer, smoothing-plane,
View Page 152
The plumbob, trowel, level, the wall-scaffold, the
work of walls and ceilings, or any mason-work,
The steam-engine, lever, crank, axle, piston, shaft,
air-pump, boiler, beam, pulley, hinge, flange,
band, bolt, throttle, governors, up and down
The ship's compass, the sailor's tarpaulin, the stays
and lanyards, the ground tackle for anchoring or
mooring, the life-boat for wrecks,
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 headway, with
her proud fat breasts, and her delicate swift-
The trail, line, hooks, sinkers, and the seine, and
hauling the seine,
The arsenal, small-arms, rifles, gunpowder, shot, caps,
wadding, ordnance for war, and carriages;
Every-day objects, house-chairs, carpet, bed, coun-
terpane 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, heater,
The message of the Governor, Mayor, Chief of Police
—the dishes of breakfast, dinner, supper,
The bunk-room, the fire-engine, the string-team, 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
View Page 153
The directory, the detector, the ledger, the books in
ranks on the book-shelves, the clock attached to
The ring on your finger, the lady's wristlet, the scent-
powder, the druggist's vials and jars, the draught
The etui of surgical instruments, the etui of oculist's
or aurist's instruments, or dentist's instruments,
The permutating lock that can be turned and locked
as many different ways as there are minutes in a
Glass-blowing, nail-making, salt-making, tin-roofing,
shingle-dressing, candle-making, lock-making and
Ship-carpentering, dock-building, fish-curing, ferrying,
stone-breaking, flagging of side-walks by flaggers,
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 meditations, what
vast native thoughts looking through smutch'd
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-lump at the bottom of
the melt at last—the rolling-mill, the stumpy
bars of pig-iron, the strong clean-shaped T rail
Oil-works, silk-works, white-lead-works, the sugar-
house, steam-saws, the great mills and factories,
Lead-mines, and all that is done in lead-mines, or
with the lead afterward,
View Page 154
Copper-mines, the sheets of copper, and what is
formed out of the sheets, and all the work in
Stone-cutting, shapely trimmings for façades, or win-
dow or door lintels—the mallet, the tooth-chisel,
the jib to protect the thumb,
Oakum, the oakum-chisel, the caulking-iron—the
kettle of boiling vault-cement, and the fire under
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 work-
ing-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, carriers,
The implements for daguerreotyping—the tools of
the rigger, grappler, sail-maker, block-maker,
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 and
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
The ladders and hanging-ropes of the gymnasium,
manly exercises, the game of base-ball, running,
leaping, pitching quoits,
View Page 155
The designs for wall-papers, oil-cloths, carpets, the
fancies for goods for women, the book-binder's
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-plating, elec-
Stave-machines, planing-machines, reaping-machines,
ploughing-machines, thrashing-machines, steam-
The cart of the carman, the omnibus, the ponderous
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 a 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 shavings
in the open lot in the city, and 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,
View Page 156
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 and
Bread and cakes in the bakery, the milliner's rib-
bons, the dress-maker's patterns, the tea-table,
the home-made sweetmeats;
Cheap literature, maps, charts, lithographs, daily and
The column of wants in the one-cent paper, the news
by telegraph, amusements, operas, shows,
The business parts of a city, the trottoirs of a city
when thousands of well-dressed people walk up
The cotton, woollen, linen you wear, the money you
make and spend,
Your room and bed-room, your piano-forte, the stove
The house you live in, the rent, the other tenants, the
deposit in the savings-bank, the trade at the
The pay on Seventh Day night, the going home, and
In them the heft of the heaviest—in them far more
than you estimated, and far less also,
In them realities for you and me—in them poems for
you and me,
In them, not yourself—you and your Soul enclose all
things, regardless of estimation,
View Page 157
In them themes, hints, provokers—if not, the whole
earth has no themes, hints, provokers, and never
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 great,
But I say that none lead to greater, sadder, happier,
than those lead to.
Will you seek afar off? You surely come back at last,
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, knowledge, 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 precedence
in poems or any where,
You workwomen and workmen of These States having
your own divine and strong life,
Looking the President always sternly in the face,
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 women
O you robust, sacred!
I cannot tell you how I love you;
View Page 158
All I love America for, is contained in men and
women like you.
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 again,
When the holy vessels, or the bits of the eucharist,
or the lath and plast, procreate as effectually as
the young silver-smiths or bakers, or the masons
in their over-alls,
When a university course convinces like a slumbering
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 like you.
View Page 159
Always me joined with you, whoever you are!
Always our own feuillage!
Always Florida's green peninsula! Always the price-
less delta of Louisiana! Always the cotton-fields
of Alabama and Texas!
Always California's golden hills and hollows—and
the silver mountains of New Mexico! Always
Always the vast slope drained by the Southern Sea
—inseparable with the slopes drained by the
Eastern and Western Seas,
The area the Eighty-third year of These States—the
three and a half millions of square miles,
The eighteen thousand miles of sea-coast and bay-
coast on the main—the thirty thousand miles
of river navigation,
The seven millions of distinct families, and the same
number of dwellings—Always these and more,
branching forth into numberless branches;
Always the free range and diversity! Always the
continent of Democracy!
Always the prairies, pastures, forests, vast cities,
travellers, Kanada, the snows;
View Page 160
Always these compact lands—lands tied at the hips
with the belt stringing the huge oval lakes;
Always the West, with strong native persons—the
increasing density there—the habitans, friendly,
threatening, ironical, scorning invaders;
All sights, South, North, East—all deeds, promis-
cuously done at all times,
All characters, movements, growths—a few noticed,
Through Mannahatta's streets I walking, these things
On interior rivers, by night, in the glare of pine
knots, steamboats wooding up;
Sunlight by day on the valley of the Susquehanna,
and on the valleys of the Potomac and Rappa-
hannock, and the valleys of the Roanoke and
In their northerly wilds beasts of prey haunting the
Adirondacks, the hills—or lapping the Saginaw
waters to drink;
In a lonesome inlet, a sheldrake, lost from the flock,
sitting on the water, rocking silently;
In farmers' barns, oxen in the stable, their harvest
labor done—they rest standing—they are too
Afar on arctic ice, the she-walrus lying drowsily,
while her cubs play around;
The hawk sailing where men have not yet sailed—
the farthest polar sea, ripply, crystalline, open,
beyond the floes;
White drift spooning ahead, where the ship in the
On solid land, what is done in cities, as the bells all
strike midnight together;
View Page 161
In primitive woods, the sounds there also sounding—
the howl of the wolf, the scream of the panther,
and the hoarse bellow of the elk;
In winter beneath the hard blue ice of Moosehead
Lake—in summer visible through the clear
waters, the great trout swimming;
In lower latitudes, in warmer air, in the Carolinas,
the large black buzzard floating slowly high
beyond the tree-tops,
Below, the red cedar, festooned with tylandria—the
pines and cypresses, growing out of the white
sand that spreads far and flat;
Rude boats descending the big Pedee—climbing
plants, parasites, with colored flowers and berries,
enveloping huge trees,
The waving drapery on the live oak, trailing long and
low, noiselessly waved by the wind;
The camp of Georgia wagoners, just after dark—the
supper-fires, and the cooking and eating by
whites and negroes,
Thirty or forty great wagons—the mules, cattle,
horses, feeding from troughs,
The shadows, gleams, up under the leaves of the old
sycamore-trees—the flames—also the black
smoke from the pitch-pine, curling and rising;
Southern fishermen fishing—the sounds and inlets
of North Carolina's coast—the shad-fishery
and the herring-fishery—the large sweep-seines
—the windlasses on shore worked by horses—
the clearing, curing, and packing houses;
Deep in the forest, in the piney woods, turpentine
and tar dropping from the incisions in the trees
—There is the turpentine distillery,
View Page 162
There are the negroes at work, in good health—the
ground in all directions is covered with pine
In Tennessee and Kentucky, slaves busy in the coal-
ings, at the forge, by the furnace-blaze, or at the
In Virginia, the planter's son returning after a long
absence, joyfully welcomed and kissed by the
aged mulatto nurse;
On rivers, boatmen safely moored at night-fall, in their
boats, under the shelter of high banks,
Some of the younger men dance to the sound of the
banjo or fiddle—others sit on the gunwale,
smoking and talking;
Late in the afternoon, the mocking-bird, the American
mimic, singing in the Great Dismal Swamp—
there are the greenish waters, the resinous odor,
the plenteous moss, the cypress tree, and the
Northward, young men of Mannahatta—the target
company from an excursion returning home at
evening—the musket-muzzles all bear bunches
of flowers presented by women;
Children at play—or on his father's lap a young boy
fallen asleep, (how his lips move! how he smiles
in his sleep!)
The scout riding on horseback over the plains west of
the Mississippi—he ascends a knoll and sweeps
his eye around;
California life—the miner, bearded, dressed in his
rude costume—the stanch California friendship
—the sweet air—the graves one, in passing,
meets, solitary, just aside the horse-path;
View Page 163
Down in Texas, the cotton-field, the negro-cabins—
drivers driving mules or oxen before rude carts
—cotton-bales piled on banks and wharves;
Encircling all, vast-darting, up and wide, the Amer-
ican Soul, with equal hemispheres—one Love,
one Dilation or Pride;
In arriere, the peace-talk with the Iroquois, the
aborigines—the calumet, the pipe of good-will
arbitration, and indorsement,
The sachem blowing the smoke first toward the sun
and then toward the earth,
The drama of the scalp-dance enacted with painted
faces and guttural exclamations,
The setting out of the war-party—the long and
The single file—the swinging hatchets—the surprise
and slaughter of enemies;
All the acts, scenes, ways, persons, attitudes of These
States—reminiscences, all institutions,
All These States, compact—Every square mile of
These States, without excepting a particle—you
Me pleased, rambling in lanes and country fields,
Me, observing the spiral flight of two little yellow
butterflies, shuffling between each other, ascend-
ing high in the air;
The darting swallow, the destroyer of insects—the
fall traveller southward, but returning northward
early in the spring;
The country boy at the close of the day, driving the
herd of cows, and shouting to them as they loiter
to browse by the road-side;
View Page 164
The city wharf—Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore,
Charleston, New Orleans, San Francisco,
The departing ships, when the sailors heave at the
Evening—me in my room—the setting sun,
The setting summer sun shining in my open window,
showing me flies, suspended, balancing in the
air in the centre of the room, darting athwart,
up and down, casting swift shadows in specks on
the opposite wall, where the shine is;
The athletic American matron speaking in public to
crowds of listeners;
Males, females, immigrants, combinations—the co-
piousness—the individuality and sovereignty
of The States, each for itself—the money-
Factories, machinery, the mechanical forces—the
windlass, lever, pulley—All certainties,
The certainty of space, increase, freedom, futurity,
In space, the sporades, the scattered islands, the stars
—on the firm earth, the lands, my lands,
O lands! all so dear to me—what you are, (what-
ever it is,) I become a part of that, whatever
Southward there, I screaming, with wings slow flap-
ping, with the myriads of gulls wintering along
the coasts of Florida—or in Louisiana, with
Otherways, there, atwixt the banks of the Arkansaw,
the Rio Grande, the Nueces, the Brazos, the
Tombigbee, the Red River, the Saskatchawan, or
the Osage, I with the spring waters laughing and
skipping and running;
View Page 165
Northward, on the sands, on some shallow bay of
Paumanok, I, with parties of snowy herons
wading in the wet to seek worms and aquatic
Retreating, triumphantly twittering, the king-bird,
from piercing the crow with its bill, for amuse-
ment—And I triumphantly twittering;
The migrating flock of wild geese alighting in autumn
to refresh themselves—the body of the flock feed
—the sentinels outside move around with erect
heads watching, and are from time to time re-
lieved by other sentinels—And I feeding and
taking turns with the rest;
In Kanadian forests, the moose, large as an ox, cor-
nered by hunters, rising desperately on his hind-
feet, and plunging with his fore-feet, the hoofs
as sharp as knives—And I, plunging at the
hunters, cornered and desperate;
In the Mannahatta, streets, piers, shipping, store-
houses, and the countless workmen working in
And I too of the Mannahatta, singing thereof—and
no less in myself than the whole of the Manna-
hatta in itself,
Singing the song of These, my ever united lands
—my body no more inevitably united, part to
part, and made one identity, any more than
my lands are inevitably united, and made ONE
Nativities, climates, the grass of the great Pastoral
Cities, labors, death, animals, products, good and evil
View Page 166
These affording, in all their particulars, endless
feuillage to me and to America, how can I do
less than pass the clew of the union of them, to
afford the like to you?
Whoever you are! how can I but offer you divine
leaves, that you also be eligible as I am?
How can I but, as here, chanting, invite you for
yourself to collect bouquets of the incomparable
feuillage of These States?
Let every one answer! Let those who sleep be
waked! Let none evade—not you, any more
(If it really be as is pretended, how much longer must
we go on with our affectations and sneaking?
Let me bring this to a close—I pronounce openly for
a new distribution of roles,)
Let that which stood in front go behind! and let
that which was behind advance to the front and
Let murderers, thieves, bigots, fools, unclean persons,
offer new propositions!
Let the old propositions be postponed!
Let faces and theories be turned inside out! Let
meanings be freely criminal, as well as results!
View Page 167
Let there be no suggestion above the suggestion of
Let none be pointed toward his destination! (Say!
do you know your destination?)
Let trillions of men and women be mocked with
bodies and mocked with Souls!
Let the love that waits in them, wait! Let it die,
or pass still-born to other spheres!
Let the sympathy that waits in every man, wait!
or let it also pass, a dwarf, to other spheres!
Let contradictions prevail! Let one thing contradict
another! and let one line of my poems contradict
Let the people sprawl with yearning aimless hands!
Let their tongues be broken! Let their eyes be
discouraged! Let none descend into their hearts
with the fresh lusciousness of love!
Let the theory of America be management, caste,
comparison! (Say! what other theory would
Let them that distrust birth and death lead the
rest! (Say! why shall they not lead you?)
Let the crust of hell be neared and trod on! Let the
days be darker than the nights! Let slumber
bring less slumber than waking-time brings!
Let the world never appear to him or her for whom
it was all made!
Let the heart of the young man exile itself from the
heart of the old man! and let the heart of the
old man be exiled from that of the young man!
Let the sun and moon go! Let scenery take the
applause of the audience! Let there be apathy
under the stars!
View Page 168
Let freedom prove no man's inalienable right! Every
one who can tyrannize, let him tyrannize to his
Let none but infidels be countenanced!
Let the eminence of meanness, treachery, sarcasm,
hate, greed, indecency, impotence, lust, be taken
for granted above all! Let writers, judges, gov-
ernments, households, religions, philosophies, take
such for granted above all!
Let the worst men beget children out of the worst
Let priests still play at immortality!
Let Death be inaugurated!
Let nothing remain upon the earth except the ashes of
teachers, artists, moralists, lawyers, and learned
and polite persons!
Let him who is without my poems be assassinated!
Let the cow, the horse, the camel, the garden-bee—
Let the mud-fish, the lobster, the mussel, eel, the
sting-ray, and the grunting pig-fish—Let these,
and the like of these, be put on a perfect equality
with man and woman!
Let churches accommodate serpents, vermin, and the
corpses of those who have died of the most filthy
Let marriage slip down among fools, and be for none
Let men among themselves talk and think obscenely
of women! and let women among themselves
talk and think obscenely of men!
Let every man doubt every woman! and let every
woman trick every man!
View Page 169
Let us all, without missing one, be exposed in public,
naked, monthly, at the peril of our lives! Let
our bodies be freely handled and examined by
Let nothing but copies, pictures, statues, reminis-
cences, elegant works, be permitted to exist
upon the earth!
Let the earth desert God, nor let there ever hence-
forth be mentioned the name of God!
Let there be no God!
Let there be money, business, imports, exports, cus-
tom, authority, precedents, pallor, dyspepsia,
smut, ignorance, unbelief!
Let judges and criminals be transposed! Let the
prison-keepers be put in prison! Let those that
were prisoners take the keys! (Say! why might
they not just as well be transposed?)
Let the slaves be masters! Let the masters become
Let the reformers descend from the stands where
they are forever bawling! Let an idiot or insane
person appear on each of the stands!
Let the Asiatic, the African, the European, the
American and the Australian, go armed against
the murderous stealthiness of each other! Let
them sleep armed! Let none believe in good-will!
Let there be no unfashionable wisdom! Let such be
scorned and derided off from the earth!
Let a floating cloud in the sky—Let a wave of the
sea—Let one glimpse of your eye-sight upon the
landscape or grass—Let growing mint, spinach,
onions, tomatoes—Let these be exhibited as
shows at a great price for admission!
View Page 170
Let all the men of These States stand aside for a
few smouchers! Let the few seize on what they
choose! Let the rest gawk, giggle, starve, obey!
Let shadows be furnished with genitals! Let sub-
stances be deprived of their genitals!
Let there be wealthy and immense cities—but
through any of them, not a single poet, saviour,
Let the infidels of These States laugh all faith away!
If one man be found who has faith, let the rest
set upon him! Let them affright faith! Let
them destroy the power of breeding faith!
Let the she-harlots and the he-harlots be prudent!
Let them dance on, while seeming lasts! (O
seeming! seeming! seeming!)
Let the preachers recite creeds! Let them teach only
what they have been taught!
Let the preachers of creeds never dare to go meditate
candidly upon the hills, alone, by day or by
night! (If one ever once dare, he is lost!)
Let insanity have charge of sanity!
Let books take the place of trees, animals, rivers,
Let the daubed portraits of heroes supersede heroes!
Let the manhood of man never take steps after itself!
Let it take steps after eunuchs, and after con-
sumptive and genteel persons!
Let the white person tread the black person under his
heel! (Say! which is trodden under heel, after
Let the reflections of the things of the world be studied
in mirrors! Let the things themselves continue
View Page 171
Let a man seek pleasure everywhere except in him-
self! Let a woman seek happiness everywhere
except in herself! (Say! what real happiness
have you had one single time through your whole
Let the limited years of life do nothing for the limit-
less years of death! (Say! what do you suppose
death will do, then ?)
You just maturing youth! You male or female!
Remember the organic compact of These States,
Remember the pledge of the Old Thirteen thence-
forward to the rights, life, liberty, equality of
Remember what was promulged by the founders, rat-
ified by The States, signed in black and white by
the Commissioners, and read by Washington at
the head of the army,
Remember the purpose of the founders,—Remember
Remember the copious humanity streaming from every
direction toward America;
Remember the hospitality that belongs to nations and
men; (Cursed be nation, woman, man, without
Remember, government is to subserve individuals,
View Page 172
Not any, not the President, is to have one jot more
than you or me,
Not any habitan of America is to have one jot less
than you or me.
Anticipate when the thirty or fifty millions, are to be-
come the hundred, or two hundred millions, of
equal freemen and freewomen, amicably joined.
Recall ages—One age is but a part—ages are but a
Recall the angers, bickerings, delusions, superstitions,
of the idea of caste,
Recall the bloody cruelties and crimes.
Anticipate the best women;
I say an unnumbered new race of hardy and well-
defined women are to spread through all These
I say a girl fit for These States must be free, capable,
dauntless, just the same as a boy.
Anticipate your own life—retract with merciless
Shirk nothing—retract in time—Do you see those
errors, diseases, weaknesses, lies, thefts?
Do you see that lost character?—Do you see de-
cay, consumption, rum-drinking, dropsy, fever,
mortal cancer or inflammation?
Do you see death, and the approach of death?
Think of the Soul;
I swear to you that body of yours gives proportions to
your Soul somehow to live in other spheres,
I do not know how, but I know it is so.
View Page 173
Think of loving and being loved;
I swear to you, whoever you are, you can interfuse
yourself with such things that everybody that sees
you shall look longingly upon you.
Think of the past;
I warn you that in a little while, others will find their
past in you and your times.
The race is never separated—nor man nor woman
All is inextricable—things, spirits, nature, nations,
you too—from precedents you come.
Recall the ever-welcome defiers, (The mothers precede
Recall the sages, poets, saviours, inventors, lawgivers,
of the earth,
Recall Christ, brother of rejected persons—brother
of slaves, felons, idiots, and of insane and diseased
Think of the time when you was not yet born,
Think of times you stood at the side of the dying,
Think of the time when your own body will be dying.
Think of spiritual results,
Sure as the earth swims through the heavens, does
every one of its objects pass into spiritual results.
Think of manhood, and you to be a man;
Do you count manhood, and the sweet of manhood,
View Page 174
Think of womanhood, and you to be a woman;
The creation is womanhood,
Have I not said that womanhood involves all?
Have I not told how the universe has nothing better
than the best womanhood?
With my fathers and mothers, and the accumulations
of past ages,
With all which, had it not been, I would not now be
here, as I am,
With Egypt, India, Phenicia, Greece, and Rome,
With the Celt, the Scandinavian, the Alb, and the
With antique maritime ventures—with laws, arti-
sanship, wars, and journeys,
With the poet, the skald, the saga, the myth, and the
With the sale of slaves—with enthusiasts—with
the troubadour, the crusader, and the monk,
With those old continents whence we have come to this
With the fading kingdoms and kings over there,
With the fading religions and priests,
With the small shores we look back to, from our own
large and present shores,
View Page 175
With countless years drawing themselves onward, and
arrived at these years,
You and Me arrived—America arrived, and making
This year! sending itself ahead countless years to
O but it is not the years—it is I—it is You,
We touch all laws, and tally all antecedents,
We are the skald, the oracle, the monk, and the
knight—we easily include them, and more,
We stand amid time, beginningless and endless—we
stand amid evil and good,
All swings around us—there is as much darkness as
The very sun swings itself and its system of planets
Its sun, and its again, all swing around us.
As for me,
I have the idea of all, and an all, and believe in all;
I believe materialism is true, and spiritualism is true—
I reject no part.
Have I forgotten any part?
Come to me, whoever and whatever, till I give you
I respect Assyria, China, Teutonia, and the Hebrews,
I adopt each theory, myth, god, and demi-god,
I see that the old accounts, bibles, genealogies, are
true, without exception,
I assert that all past days were what they should have
View Page 176
And that they could no-how have been better than
And that to-day is what it should be—and that
And that to-day and America could no-how be better
than they are.
In the name of These States, and in your and my
name, the Past,
And in the name of These States, and in your and my
name, the Present time.
I know that the past was great, and the future will
And I know that both curiously conjoint in the pres-
(For the sake of him I typify—for the common
average man's sake—your sake, if you are he;)
And that where I am, or you are, this present day,
there is the centre of all days, all races,
And there is the meaning, to us, of all that has ever
come of races and days, or ever will come.
SPLENDOR of falling day, floating and filling me,
Hour prophetic—hour resuming the past,
Inflating my throat—you, divine average!
You, Earth and Life, till the last ray gleams, I sing.
View Page 177
Open mouth of my Soul, uttering gladness,
Eyes of my Soul, seeing perfection,
Natural life of me, faithfully praising things,
Corroborating forever the triumph of things.
Illustrious every one!
Illustrious what we name space—sphere of unnum-
Illustrious the mystery of motion, in all beings, even
the tiniest insect,
Illustrious the attribute of speech—the senses—the
Illustrious the passing light! Illustrious the pale
reflection on the moon in the western sky!
Illustrious whatever I see, or hear, or touch, to the
Good in all,
In the satisfaction and aplomb of animals,
In the annual return of the seasons,
In the hilarity of youth,
In the strength and flush of manhood,
In the grandeur and exquisiteness of old age,
In the superb vistas of Death.
Wonderful to depart!
Wonderful to be here!
The heart, to jet the all-alike and innocent blood,
To breathe the air, how delicious!
To speak! to walk! to seize something by the hand!
To prepare for sleep, for bed—to look on my rose-
To be conscious of my body, so amorous, so large,
View Page 178
To be this incredible God I am,
To have gone forth among other Gods—those men
and women I love.
Wonderful how I celebrate you and myself!
How my thoughts play subtly at the spectacles
How the clouds pass silently overhead!
How the earth darts on and on! and how the sun,
moon, stars, dart on and on!
How the water sports and sings! (Surely it is
How the trees rise and stand up—with strong trunks
—with branches and leaves!
(Surely there is something more in each of the trees—
some living Soul.)
O amazement of things! even the least particle!
O spirituality of things!
O strain musical, flowing through ages and continents
—now reaching me and America!
I take your strong chords—I intersperse them, and
cheerfully pass them forward.
I too carol the sun, ushered, or at noon, or setting,
I too throb to the brain and beauty of the earth, and
of all the growths of the earth,
I too have felt the resistless call of myself.
As I sailed down the Mississippi,
As I wandered over the prairies,
As I have lived—As I have looked through my
windows, my eyes,
View Page 179
As I went forth in the morning—As I beheld the
light breaking in the east,
As I bathed on the beach of the Eastern Sea, and
again on the beach on the Western Sea,
As I roamed the streets of inland Chicago—whatever
streets I have roamed,
Wherever I have been, I have charged myself with
contentment and triumph.
I sing the Equalities,
I sing the endless finales of things,
I say Nature continues—Glory continues,
I praise with electric voice,
For I do not see one imperfection in the universe,
And I do not see one cause or result lamentable at
last in the universe.
O setting sun! O when the time comes,
I still warble under you, if none else does, unmiti-
A THOUGHT of what I am here for,
Of these years I sing—how they pass through con-
vulsed pains, as through parturitions;
How America illustrates birth, gigantic youth, the
promise, the sure fulfilment, despite of people
—Illustrates evil as well as good;
View Page 180
Of how many hold despairingly yet to the models
departed, caste, myths, obedience, compulsion,
and to infidelity;
How few see the arrived models, the Athletes, The
States—or see freedom or spirituality—or hold
any faith in results,
(But I see the Athletes—and I see the results
glorious and inevitable—and they again leading
to other results;)
How the great cities appear—How the Democratic
masses, turbulent, wilful, as I love them,
How the whirl, the contest, the wrestle of evil with
good, the sounding and resounding, keep on
How society waits unformed, and is between things
ended and things begun;
How America is the continent of glories, and of the
triumph of freedom, and of the Democracies, and
of the fruits of society, and of all that is begun;
And how The States are complete in themselves—
And how all triumphs and glories are complete
in themselves, to lead onward,
And how these of mine, and of The States, will in
their turn be convulsed, and serve other par-
turitions and transitions,
And how all people, sights, combinations, the Demo-
cratic masses too, serve—and how every fact
And how now, or at any time, each serves the
exquisite transition of Death.
View Page 181
HISTORIAN! you who celebrate bygones!
You have explored the outward, the surface of the
races—the life that has exhibited itself,
You have treated man as the creature of politics,
aggregates, rulers, and priests;
But now I also, arriving, contribute something:
I, an habitué of the Alleghanies, treat man as he is in
the influences of Nature, in himself, in his own
Advancing, to give the spirit and the traits of new
Democratic ages, myself, personally,
(Let the future behold them all in me—Me, so
puzzling and contradictory—Me, a Manhattan-
ese, the most loving and arrogant of men;)
I do not tell the usual facts, proved by records and
What I tell, (talking to every born American,)
requires no further proof than he or she who
will hear me, will furnish, by silently meditating
I press the pulse of the life that has hitherto seldom
exhibited itself, but has generally sought con-
cealment, (the great pride of man, in himself,)
I illuminate feelings, faults, yearnings, hopes—I
have come at last, no more ashamed nor afraid;
Chanter of Personality, outlining a history yet to be,
I project the ideal man, the American of the future.
View Page 182
THE thought of fruitage,
Of Death, (the life greater)—of seeds dropping into
the ground—of birth,
Of the steady concentration of America, inland,
upward, to impregnable and swarming places,
Of what Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and the rest, are
Of what a few years will show there in Missouri,
Kansas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and the
Of what the feuillage of America is the preparation
for—and of what all the sights, North, South,
East and West, are;
Of the temporary use of materials for identity's
Of departing—of the growth of a mightier race
than any yet,
Of myself, soon, perhaps, closing up my songs by
Of California—of Oregon—and of me journeying
hence to live and sing there;
Of the Western Sea—of the spread inland between
it and the spinal river,
Of the great pastoral area, athletic and feminine,
Of all sloping down there where the fresh free-
giver, the mother, the Mississippi flows—and
View Page 183
Of future men and women there—of happiness in
those high plateaus, ranging three thousand
miles, warm and cold,
Of cities yet unsurveyed and unsuspected, (as I am
also, and as it must be,)
Of the new and good names—of the strong develop-
ments—of the inalienable homesteads,
Of a free original life there—of simple diet, and
clean and sweet blood,
Of litheness, majestic faces, clear eyes, and perfect
Of immense spiritual results, future years, inland,
spread there each side of the Anahuacs,
Of these Leaves well-understood there, (being made
for that area,)
Of the native scorn of grossness and gain there,
(O it lurks in me night and day—What is gain,
after all, to savageness and freedom?)
To oratists—to male or female,
Vocalism, breath, measure, concentration, determina-
tion, and the divine power to use words.
Are you eligible?
Are you full-lung'd and limber-lipp'd from long trial?
from vigorous practice? from physique?
View Page 184
Do you move in these broad lands as broad as they?
Remembering inland America, the high plateaus,
Remembering Kanada—Remembering what edges
the vast round edge of the Mexican Sea?
Come duly to the divine power to use words?
For only at last, after many years—after chastity,
friendship, procreation, prudence, and nakedness,
After treading ground and breasting river and lake,
After a loosened throat—after absorbing eras, tem-
peraments, races—after knowledge, freedom,
After complete faith—after clarifyings, elevations,
and removing obstructions,
After these, and more, it is just possible there comes
to a man, a woman, the divine power to use
Then toward that man or that woman swiftly hasten
all—None refuse, all attend,
Armies, ships, antiquities, the dead, libraries, paint-
ings, machines, cities, hate, despair, amity, pain,
theft, murder, aspiration, form in close ranks,
They debouch as they are wanted to march obediently
through the mouth of that man, or that woman.
O now I see arise orators fit for inland America,
And I see it is as slow to become an orator as to
become a man,
And I see that power is folded in a great vocalism.
Of a great vocalism, when you hear it, the merciless
light shall pour, and the storm rage around,
View Page 185
Every flash shall be a revelation, an insult,
The glaring flame turned on depths, on heights, on
suns, on stars,
On the interior and exterior of man or woman,
On the laws of Nature—on passive materials,
On what you called death—and what to you there-
fore was death,
As far as there can be death.
LAWS for Creations,
For strong artists and leaders—for fresh broods of
teachers, and perfect literats for America,
For diverse savans, and coming musicians.
There shall be no subject but it shall be treated with
reference to the ensemble of the world, and the
compact truth of the world—And no coward or
copyist shall be allowed;
There shall be no subject too pronounced—All works
shall illustrate the divine law of indirections;
There they stand—I see them already, each poised
and in its place,
Statements, models, censuses, poems, dictionaries,
biographies, essays, theories—How complete!
How relative and interfused! No one super-
They do not seem to me like the old specimens,
View Page 186
They seem to me like Nature at last, (America has
given birth to them, and I have also;)
They seem to me at last as perfect as the animals,
and as the rocks and weeds—fitted to them,
Fitted to the sky, to float with floating clouds—to
rustle among the trees with rustling leaves,
To stretch with stretched and level waters, where
ships silently sail in the distance.
What do you suppose Creation is?
What do you suppose will satisfy the Soul, except to
walk free and own no superior?
What do you suppose I have intimated to you in a
hundred ways, but that man or woman is as good
And that there is no God any more divine than
And that that is what the oldest and newest myths
And that you or any one must approach Creations
through such laws?
POETS to come!
Not to-day is to justify me, and Democracy, and
what we are for,
But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental,
greater than before known,
You must justify me.
View Page 187
Indeed, if it were not for you, what would I be?
What is the little I have done, except to arouse you?
I depend on being realized, long hence, where the
broad fat prairies spread, and thence to Oregon
and California inclusive,
I expect that the Texan and the Arizonian, ages
hence, will understand me,
I expect that the future Carolinian and Georgian will
understand me and love me,
I expect that Kanadians, a hundred, and perhaps
many hundred years from now, in winter, in the
splendor of the snow and woods, or on the icy
lakes, will take me with them, and permanently
enjoy themselves with me.
Of to-day I know I am momentary, untouched—I
am the bard of the future,
I but write one or two indicative words for the future,
I but advance a moment, only to wheel and hurry
back in the darkness.
I am a man who, sauntering along, without fully
stopping, turns a casual look upon you, and then
averts his face,
Leaving it to you to prove and define it,
Expecting the main things from you.
View Page 188
WHO has gone farthest? For I swear I will go
And who has been just? For I would be the most
just person of the earth;
And who most cautious? For I would be more
And who has been happiest? O I think it is I! I
think no one was ever happier than I;
And who has lavished all? For I lavish constantly
the best I have;
And who has been firmest? For I would be firmer;
And who proudest? For I think I have reason to be
the proudest son alive—for I am the son of the
brawny and tall-topt city;
And who has been bold and true? For I would be
the boldest and truest being of the universe;
And who benevolent? For I would show more be-
nevolence than all the rest;
And who has projected beautiful words through the
longest time? By God! I will outvie him! I
will say such words, they shall stretch through
And who has received the love of the most friends?
For I know what it is to receive the passionate
love of many friends;
And to whom has been given the sweetest from
women, and paid them in kind? For I will
take the like sweets and pay them in kind;
View Page 189
And who possesses a perfect and enamoured body?
For I do not believe any one possesses a more
perfect or enamoured body than mine;
And who thinks the amplest thoughts? For I will
surround those thoughts;
And who has made hymns fit for the earth? For I
am mad with devouring extacy to make joyous
hymns for the whole earth!
THEY shall arise in the States—mediums shall,
They shall report Nature, laws, physiology, and
They shall illustrate Democracy and the kosmos,
They shall be alimentive, amative, perceptive,
They shall be complete women and men—their pose
brawny and supple, their drink water, their blood
clean and clear,
They shall enjoy materialism and the sight of prod-
ucts—they shall enjoy the sight of the beef,
lumber, bread-stuffs, of Chicago, the great city,
They shall train themselves to go in public to become
oratists, (orators and oratresses,)
Strong and sweet shall their tongues be—poems and
materials of poems shall come from their lives—
they shall be makers and finders,
Of them, and of their works, shall emerge divine
conveyers, to convey gospels,
View Page 190
Characters, events, retrospections, shall be conveyed
in gospels—Trees, animals, waters, shall be
Death, the future, the invisible faith, shall all be
Now we start hence, I with the rest, on our jour-
neys through The States,
We willing learners of all, teachers of all, and lovers
I have watched the seasons dispensing themselves,
and passing on,
And I have said, Why should not a man or woman
do as much as the seasons, and effuse as much?
We dwell a while in every city and town,
We pass through Kanada, the north-east, the vast
valley of the Mississippi, and the Southern
We confer on equal terms with each of The States,
We make trial of ourselves, and invite men and
women to hear,
We say to ourselves, Remember, fear not, be candid,
promulge the body and the Soul,
Promulge real things—Never forget the equality of
humankind, and never forget immortality;
View Page 191
Dwell a while, and pass on—Be copious, temperate,
And what you effuse may then return as the seasons
And may be just as much as the seasons.
Me standing at ease in Nature,
Master of all, or mistress of all—aplomb in the
midst of irrational things,
Imbued as they—passive, receptive, silent as they,
Finding my occupation, poverty, notoriety, foibles,
crimes, less important than I thought;
Me private, or public, or menial, or solitary—all
these subordinate, (I am eternally equal with
the best—I am not subordinate;)
Me toward the Mexican Sea, or in the Mannahatta,
or the Tennessee, or far north, or inland,
A river-man, or a man of the woods, or of any farm-
life of These States, or of the coast, or the lakes,
Me, wherever my life is to be lived, O to be self-bal-
anced for contingencies!
O to confront night, storms, hunger, ridicule, acci-
dents, rebuffs, as the trees and animals do.
View Page 192
I WAS looking a long while for the history of the
past for myself, and for these Chants—and now
I have found it,
It is not in those paged fables in the libraries, (them
I neither accept nor reject,)
It is no more in the legends than in all else,
It is in the present—it is this earth to-day,
It is in Democracy—in this America—the old world
It is the life of one man or one woman to-day, the
average man of to-day;
It is languages, social customs, literatures, arts,
It is the broad show of artificial things, ships, ma-
chinery, politics, creeds, modern improvements,
and the interchanges of nations,
All for the average man of to-day.
Those of mechanics—each one singing, his, as it
should be, blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank
View Page 193
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work,
or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat
—the deck-hand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench—the
hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter's song—the ploughboy's, on his way
in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at
The delicious singing of the mother—or of the
young wife at work—or of the girl sewing or
washing—Each singing what belongs to her,
and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—At night, the
party, of young fellows, robust, friendly, clean-
blooded, singing with melodious voices, melo-
Come! some of you! still be flooding The States
with hundreds and thousands of mouth-songs,
fit for The States only.
As I walk, solitary, unattended,
Around me I hear that eclat of the world—politics,
The announcements of recognized things—science,
The approved growth of cities, and the spread of
View Page 194
I see the ships, (they will last a few years,)
The vast factories with their foremen and workmen,
And hear the indorsement of all, and do not object
But we too announce solid things,
Science, ships, politics, cities, factories, are not noth-
They stand for realities—all is as it should be.
Then my realities,
What else is so real as mine?
Libertad, and the divine average—Freedom to every
slave on the face of the earth,
The rapt promises and lumine of seers—the spir-
itual world—these centuries-lasting songs,
And our visions, the visions of poets, the most solid
announcements of any.
For we support all,
After the rest is done and gone, we remain,
There is no final reliance but upon us,
Democracy rests finally upon us, (I, my brethren,
And our visions sweep through eternity.
View Page 195
LEAVES OF GRASS.
O I wish I could impress others as you and the waves
have just been impressing me.
As I ebbed with an ebb of the ocean of life,
As I wended the shores I know,
As I walked where the sea-ripples wash you, Pau-
Where they rustle up, hoarse and sibilant,
Where the fierce old mother endlessly cries for her
I, musing, late in the autumn day, gazing off south-
Alone, held by the eternal self of me that threatens
to get the better of me, and stifle me,
Was seized by the spirit that trails in the lines
In the rim, the sediment, that stands for all the water
and all the land of the globe.
View Page 196