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SONG OF THE OPEN ROAD.


1


1  AFOOT and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I
         choose.

2  Henceforth I ask not good-fortune—I myself am good-
         fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more,
         need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.

3  The earth—that is sufficient;
I do not want the constellations any nearer;
I know they are very well where they are;
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

4  (Still here I carry my old delicious burdens;
I carry them, men and women—I carry them with me
         wherever I go;
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them;
I am fill'd with them, and I will fill them in return.)

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5  You road I enter upon and look around! I believe
         you are not all that is here;
I believe that much unseen is also here.

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6  Here the profound lesson of reception, neither prefer-
         ence or denial;
The black with his woolly head, the felon, the diseas'd,
         the illiterate person, are not denied;
The birth, the hasting after the physician, the beggar's
         tramp, the drunkard's stagger, the laughing party
         of mechanics,
The escaped youth, the rich person's carriage, the fop,
         the eloping couple,
The early market-man, the hearse, the moving of fur-
         niture into the town, the return back from the
         town,
They pass—I also pass—anything passes—none can be
         interdicted;
None but are accepted—none but are dear to me:

3


7  You air that serves me with breath to speak!
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings, and
         give them shape!
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate
         equable showers!
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the road-
         sides!
I think you are latent with unseen existences—you are
         so dear to me.

8  You flagg'd walks of the cities! you strong curbs at
         the edges!
You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you
         timber-lined sides! you distant ships!
You rows of houses! you window-pierc'd facades! you
         roofs!
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron
         guards!
You windows whose transparent shells might expose so
         much!
You doors and ascending steps! you arches!
You gray stones of interminable pavements! you trod-
         den crossings!

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From all that has been near you, I believe you have im-
         parted to yourselves, and now would impart the
         same secretly to me;
From the living and the dead I think you have peopled
         your impassive surfaces, and the spirits thereof
         would be evident and amicable with me.

4


9  The earth expanding right hand and left hand,
The picture alive, every part in its best light,
The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping
         where it is not wanted,
The cheerful voice of the public road—the gay fresh
         sentiment of the road.

10  O highway I travel! O public road! do you say to
         me, Do not leave me?
Do you say, Venture not? If you leave me, you are lost?
Do you say, I am already prepared—I am well-beaten and
          undenied—adhere to me?

11  O public road! I say back, I am not afraid to leave
         you—yet I love you;
You express me better than I can express myself;
You shall be more to me than my poem.

12  I think heroic deeds were all conceiv'd in the open
         air, and all great poems also;
I think I could stop here myself, and do miracles;
(My judgments, thoughts, I henceforth try by the open
         air, the road:)
I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like,
         and whoever beholds me shall like me;
I think whoever I see must be happy.

5


13  From this hour, freedom!
From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and
         imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master, total and absolute,

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Listening to others, and considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of
         the holds that would hold me.

14  I inhale great draughts of space;
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the
         south are mine.

15  I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness.

16  All seems beautiful to me;
I can repeat over to men and women, You have done
         such good to me, I would do the same to you.

17  I will recruit for myself and you as I go;
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go;
I will toss the new gladness and roughness among
         them;
Whoever denies me, it shall not trouble me;
Whoever accepts me, he or she shall be blessed, and
         shall bless me.

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18  Now if a thousand perfect men were to appear, it
         would not amaze me;
Now if a thousand beautiful forms of women appear'd,
         it would not astonish me.

19  Now I see the secret of the making of the best per-
         sons,
It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and sleep with
         the earth.

20  Here a great personal deed has room;
A great deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole race
         of men,
Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law, and
         mocks all authority and all argument against it.

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21  Here is the test of wisdom;
Wisdom is not finally tested in schools;
Wisdom cannot be pass'd from one having it, to an-
         other not having it;
Wisdom is of the Soul, is not susceptible of proof, is
         its own proof,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities, and is
         content,
Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of things,
         and the excellence of things;
Something there is in the float of the sight of things.
         that provokes it out of the Soul.

22  Now I rexamine philosophies and religions,
They may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not prove at
         all under the spacious clouds, and along the
         landscape and flowing currents.

23  Here is realization;
Here is a man tallied—he realizes here what he has in
         him;
The past, the future, majesty, love—if they are vacant of
         you, you are vacant of them.

24  Only the kernel of every object nourishes;
Where is he who tears off the husks for you and me?
Where is he that undoes stratagems and envelopes for
         you and me?

25  Here is adhesiveness—it is not previously fashion'd—
         it is apropos;
Do you know what it is, as you pass, to be loved by
         strangers?
Do you know the talk of those turning eye-balls?

7


26  Here is the efflux of the Soul;
The efflux of the Soul comes from within, through em-
         bower'd gates, ever provoking questions:
These yearnings, why are they? These thoughts in the
         darkness, why are they?

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Why are there men and women that while they are
         nigh me, the sun-light expands my blood!
Why, when they leave me, do my pennants of joy sink
         flat and lank?
Why are there trees I never walk under, but large and
         melodious thoughts descend upon me?
(I think they hang there winter and summer on those
         trees, and always drop fruit as I pass;)
What is it I interchange so suddenly with strangers?
What with some driver, as I ride on the seat by his
         side?
What with some fisherman, drawing his seine by the
         shore, as I walk by, and pause?
What gives me to be free to a woman's or man's good-
         will? What gives them to be free to mine?

8


27  The efflux of the Soul is happiness—here is happi-
         ness;
I think it pervades the open air, waiting at all times;
Now it flows unto us—we are rightly charged.

28  Here rises the fluid and attaching character;
The fluid and attaching character is the freshness and
         sweetness of man and woman;
(The herbs of the morning sprout no fresher and sweeter
         every day out of the roots of themselves, than it
         sprouts fresh and sweet continually out of itself.)

29  Toward the fluid and attaching character exudes the
         sweat of the love of young and old;
From it falls distill'd the charm that mocks beauty and
         attainments;
Toward it heaves the shuddering longing ache of contact.

9


30  Allons! whoever you are, come travel with me!
Traveling with me, you find what never tires.

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31  The earth never tires;
The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first—
         Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first;
Be not discouraged—keep on—there are divine things,
         well envelop'd;
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful
         than words can tell.

32  Allons! we must not stop here!
However sweet these laid-up stores—however conve-
         nient this dwelling, we cannot remain here;
However shelter'd this port, and however calm these
         waters, we must not anchor here;
However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us, we
         are permitted to receive it but a little while.

10


33  Allons! the inducements shall be greater;
We will sail pathless and wild seas;
We will go where winds blow, waves dash, and the
         Yankee clipper speeds by under full sail.

34  Allons! with power, liberty, the earth, the elements!
Health, defiance, gayety, self-esteem, curiosity;
Allons! from all formules!
From your formules, O bat-eyed and materialistic
         priests!

35  The stale cadaver blocks up the passage—the burial
         waits no longer.

36  Allons! yet take warning!
He traveling with me needs the best blood, thews, en-
         durance;
None may come to the trial, till he or she bring courage
         and health.

37  Come not here if you have already spent the best of
         yourself;
Only those may come, who come in sweet and deter-
         min'd bodies;

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No diseas'd person—no rum-drinker or venereal taint
         is permitted here.

38  I and mine do not convince by arguments, similes,
         rhymes;
We convince by our presence.

11


39  Listen! I will be honest with you;
I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough
         new prizes;
These are the days that must happen to you:

40  You shall not heap up what is call'd riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or
         achieve,
You but arrive at the city to which you were destin'd—
         you hardly settle yourself to satisfaction, before
         you are call'd by an irresistible call to depart,
You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mock-
         ings of those who remain behind you;
What beckonings of love you receive, you shall only
         answer with passionate kisses of parting,
You shall not allow the hold of those who spread their
         reach'd hands towards you.

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41  Allons! after the GREAT COMPANIONS! and to belong
         to them!
They too are on the road! they are the swift and ma-
         jestic men! they are the greatest women.

42  Over that which hinder'd them—over that which re-
         tarded—passing impediments large or small,
Committers of crimes, committers of many beautiful
         virtues,
Enjoyers of calms of seas, and storms of seas,
Sailors of many a ship, walkers of many a mile of land,
Habitus of many distant countries, habitus of far-
         distant dwellings,

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Trusters of men and women, observers of cities, solitary
         toilers,
Pausers and contemplators of tufts, blossoms, shells of
         the shore,
Dancers at wedding-dances, kissers of brides, tender
         helpers of children, bearers of children,
Soldiers of revolts, standers by gaping graves, lowerers
         down of coffins,
Journeyers over consecutive seasons, over the years—
         the curious years, each emerging from that which
         preceded it,
Journeyers as with companions, namely, their own
         diverse phases,
Forth-steppers from the latent unrealized baby-days,
Journeyers gayly with their own youth—Journeyers
         with their bearded and well-grain'd manhood,
Journeyers with their womanhood, ample, unsurpass'd,
         content,
Journeyers with their own sublime old age of manhood
         or womanhood,
Old age, calm, expanded, broad with the haughty
         breadth of the universe,
Old age, flowing free with the delicious near-by freedom
         of death.

13


43  Allons! to that which is endless, as it was begin-
         ningless,
To undergo much, tramps of days, rests of nights,
To merge all in the travel they tend to, and the days and
         nights they tend to,
Again to merge them in the start of superior journeys;
To see nothing anywhere but what you may reach it
         and pass it,
To conceive no time, however distant, but what you
         may reach it and pass it,
To look up or down no road but it stretches and waits
         for you—however long, but it stretches and waits
         for you;
To see no being, not God's or any, but you also go
         thither,

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To see no possession but you may possess it—enjoying
         all without labor or purchase—abstracting the
         feast, yet not abstracting one particle of it;
To take the best of the farmer's farm and the rich man's
         elegant villa, and the chaste blessings of the well-
         married couple, and the fruits of orchards and
         flowers of gardens,
To take to your use out of the compact cities as you
         pass through,
To carry buildings and streets with you afterward
         wherever you go,
To gather the minds of men out of their brains as you
         encounter them—to gather the love out of their
         hearts,
To take your lovers on the road with you, for all that
         you leave them behind you,
To know the universe itself as a road—as many roads—
         as roads for traveling souls.

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44  The Soul travels;
The body does not travel as much as the soul;
The body has just as great a work as the soul, and parts
         away at last for the journeys of the soul.

45  All parts away for the progress of souls;
All religion, all solid things, arts, governments,—all
         that was or is apparent upon this globe or any
         globe, falls into niches and corners before the
         procession of Souls along the grand roads of the
         universe.

46  Of the progress of the souls of men and women along
         the grand roads of the universe, all other progress
         is the needed emblem and sustenance.

47  Forever alive, forever forward,
Stately, solemn, sad, withdrawn, baffled, mad, turbulent,
         feeble, dissatisfied,
Desperate, proud, fond, sick, accepted by men, rejected
         by men,

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They go! they go! I know that they go, but I know
         not where they go;
But I know that they go toward the best—toward some-
         thing great.

15


48  Allons! whoever you are! come forth!
You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the
         house, though you built it, or though it has been
         built for you.

49  Allons! out of the dark confinement!
It is useless to protest—I know all, and expose it.

50  Behold, through you as bad as the rest,
Through the laughter, dancing, dining, supping, of
         people,
Inside of dresses and ornaments, inside of those wash'd
         and trimm'd faces,
Behold a secret silent loathing and despair.

51  No husband, no wife, no friend, trusted to hear the
         confession;
Another self, a duplicate of every one, skulking and
         hiding it goes,
Formless and wordless through the streets of the cities,
         polite and bland in the parlors,
In the cars of rail-roads, in steamboats, in the public
         assembly,
Home to the houses of men and women, at the table, in
         the bed-room, everywhere,
Smartly attired, countenance smiling, form upright,
         death under the breast-bones, hell under the
         skull-bones,
Under the broadcloth and gloves, under the ribbons
         and artificial flowers,
Keeping fair with the customs, speaking not a syllable
         of itself,
Speaking of anything else, but never of itself.

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52  Allons! through struggles and wars!
The goal that was named cannot be countermanded.

53  Have the past struggles succeeded?
What has succeeded? yourself? your nation? nature?
Now understand me well—It is provided in the essence
         of things, that from any fruition of success, no
         matter what, shall come forth something to make
         a greater struggle necessary.

54  My call is the call of battle—I nourish active rebel-
         lion;
He going with me must go well arm'd;
He going with me goes often with spare diet, poverty,
         angry enemies, desertions.

17


55  Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well.

56  Allons! be not detain'd!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the
         book on the shelf unopen'd!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money
         remain unearn'd!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer
         plead in the court, and the judge expound the
         law.

57  Mon enfant! I give you my hand!
I give you my love, more precious than money,
I give you myself, before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with
         me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
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