Creator: Walt Whitman
Date: Between about 1854 and 1860
Editorial note: As Floyd Stovall has noted, the few datable references in this notebook (e.g., the fighting at Sebastopol during the Crimean War) are to events from about 1853 to late 1854, shortly before the first publication of Leaves of Grass. See Floyd Stovall, "Dating Whitman's Early Notebooks," Studies in Bibliography 24 (1971), 197–204. See also Edward Grier, Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts (New York: New York University Press, 1984), 1:138–155.
This notebook contains much draft material for Whitman's early poems, although this fact has not often been recognized by scholars. Both Stovall and Grier point out that most of the connections to printed works are to poems and prose published in the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass but that the notebook also contains material clearly related to things that were first printed in the second (1856) and third (1860–1861) editions.
Whitman revised the text on leaf 23 verso to include a rather long passage that exceeded the space available between existing lines of text and therefore overflowed onto the facing page (leaf 24 recto).
Source: Notebook LC #84 | The Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1842–1937, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Transcribed from digital images of photocopies of the original manuscript.
Whitman Archive ID: loc.05589
Contributors to digital file: Brett Barney, Natalie O'Neal, Jonathan Y. Cheng, Nicole Gray, and Kenneth M. Price
[illegible]women creat[illegible] [illegible] c[illegible] Yet Homer [sup?][illegible] earth was [illegible] surrounded [illegible] [its?] dist[illegible] [borders?] [illegible] [interspersed?] [illegible]ts.
Osirtasen 1740 B C
Abraham 1970 B.C.
Oldest [monuments in Egypt?] [illegible]d [Wilkinson?] [illegible] world are the pyramids [of?] Memphis 2010 B. C. [illegible]
[illegible] [ho?] [illegible]
of Egypt [illegible][illegible] is [illegible]
Memorials—if they were timid and receptive he had made his chisels cut the granite with the tokens of feminine. He is the first after Osiris.
Troy taken 1184 B.C.
Dr. Abbott tells me that [Lepsius?] told him of finding monuments [through?] Ethiopia with inscriptions and astronomical signs upon them. [illegible]
be sure ^of the district where the trouble is—they wait thus perfectly still and in splendid postures—
The ^children's dancing school at Dodworth's
The difference is only the [illegible] difference of an inch.— But it is the difference between
cutting [off?] the rope
that holds us we cling
hto 100 feet above the land.—whether we cut it an inch above or an inch below where our hands hold on for life
A prince in Polish Austria ^near Hungary on his estate on the highway, puts up a perpetual inn where all wayfarers are entertained free of charge; this he keeps always open, and gives meat and bread and lodgings—and sometimes comes to amuse himself with the guests.
I have been asked, Which is the greater, the man or the woman?—Yes, I tell you, with the same answer that I tell whether Time is greater than space—and wh[illegible]
The life of man on earth is the chef d'ouvre of all things.— What then! is it a suck?—Has God tried conceived a joke, and tried it on, and is it a small one?
Of the poet
He walks with perfect
ease among a congress
And one king saithsays
to another, Here is
our equal, ^a prince whom
we knew not before
Then the great authors
take him for an author
And the great soldiers
for a captain
The sailors know
that he has followed
The English believe that
comes of Saxon stock
And the Italians f[illegible]
O laugh when my eyes settle
The bluey spoon-drift, like
a white race-horse of
brine, speeds before me
such such a thing as ownership here
any how.—The Chief B[illegible] [illegible]^ was is the [primal democrat?] [illegible] [illegible]
of his one of the laws ^[illegible] that [illegible] from the moment
any a man takes the [s]mallest page exclusively to himself [a]nd tryies to keep it from the rest [f]rom that [illegible] moment it
begins to wither ^under his hand and ^ [lose?] its immortal hieroglyphics ^presently fade away and become blank [illegible] and dead.—
tooth-chisel—jib for the thumb
Of writers there are plenty who pay all demands upon them, if folks are willing to take notes, or paper acceptances of any sort; but only one out [illegible]centuries who gives ready ^solid cash.–
It is a terrible sign of the human soul that it will not own any limit, even the widest.—The moment we knew the diameter of the earth to be eight thousand miles, it became no great thing to us.—With all the appalling grandeur of astronomy, if we could fix the line beyond which there was no more material universe, our soul, I think, would pine away and begin its death sickness
The [illegible] Nature is an ethereal mirror deep deep and floating The mirror that Nature holds ^and hides behind is deep and floating and ethereal and faithful. —in [illegible]it ^a man ^always sends and sees himself in it— from it himself he reflects his ^the fashion of his gods and all his religions and politics and books and art and social and public institutions—ignorance or knowledge—kindness or cruelty—grossness or refinement—definitions or chaos—each [illegible] is unerringly sent back to him or her who curiously gazes.
There is a fullsized woman of calm and voluptuous beauty. . . . [illegible] the unspeak[illegible] unspeakable charm of the face of the mother of many children is the charm of her face . . . . she is clean and sweet and simple with immortal health . . . she holds always before her [illegible] what has the quality of a mirror, and dwells serenely behind it.—
When ^out of a feast I eat bread only corn and roast potatoes fo for my dinner, through my own voluntary choice it is very well ^and I much content, but if some arrogant head of the table prevent me by force from touching any thing but corn and potatoes then is my anger roused.—
Every one that [illegible] [illegible] speaks his word for slavery is himself the worst slave—the spirit of a freeman is not light enough in him to show that all the fatness of the earth were bitter to a bondaged [illegible] neck.—
In the respect of happiness or extasy, the beautiful gas is pervades the air continually, and we only need to be rightly tuned and conditioned, in order that it may catch to us ? ?(like gunpowder catches to fire) and pass ^flow into us like one river into another.
The schooner is reefing hoisting her sailsl she will soon be down the coast.
old junk shop
I do not seek those that love me, I would rather seek out after some that hate me
The village on the highland, seen from afar at sunset—the sun sh[illegible]ining on the ^red white ^[illegible] or brown gables ^red, white or brown
the ferry boat ^ever plying forever and ever over the river
the schooner sleepily dropping down the tide the little small astern towed by the
In the open market place the barrels of apples, the flour and meat, and f[illegible] product ? in bunks and [bins?].
The deckhand of the steamboat in his red shirt.
The hayboat and barge—flee the two boat with bring her bevy of barges down the river
picture of the [New York customs?]
passage in poem
middle aged? ? ^single woman ? seeing from day to day for many years a man whom she deeply loves—never flagging—and eventually dies.—
The test of the goodness or truth of any thing is the soul itself—whatever does good to the soul, soothes, refreshes, cheers, inspirits, consoles, &c.—that is so, easy enough—But doctrines, sermons, logic ? ?
Do you know what I well know
Do you it is to
be loved as you pass in
Do you know what it is to
Do you know what it is
to have men and women
crave the touch of
your hand and the
contact of you?
Th not— —must be the poets I would have The poets I would have must be a power in the state, and an engrossing power in the state.
If you have sons habit custom them
to be drivers of horses
I knew six brothers drivers
Why should I do much
The capitol, the president,
There was never any more inception
than there is now
Nor any more youth or age
And will never be any more
Nor any more heaven or hell
The few who write the books and preach the sermons and ?keep? the schools—I do not think ther are they so much more than those who do not teach or preach, or write All tThis we call literature and science is not so very much—there is enough of unaccountable importance and beauty in every step we tread and every thought of [illegible]
Literature to these gentlemen is a parlor in which no person is to be welcomed unless he come attired in dress coat and observing the approved decorums with the fashionable
Poem—illustrating (good moments) soul in high glee all out (exquisite state of feeling of happiness— some moments at the opera—in the woods—
He leaps over or dives under for the time, all the reforms and propositions that worry these days and goes to the making of powerful men and women.—These With these he says, all reforms, all good, will come.—Without these all reforms all good, all outside effects, are useless and helpless.—
? for recitation
(tremulous with joy Mario's voice quivering)
(bring in a Death
We want no reforms no institutions, no parties—We want a living principle as nature has, under which nothing can go wrong.
—This must be vital through the United States, fit for the largest cases and actions and the [widest?]
Do you think I have written
all this for my own
Well perhaps I have . . . .
but it is not in the
your you think, imagine,
No one can realize anything
unless he has it in him . . . .
or has been it
It must ^certainly tally with what is
in him . . . . otherwise it is
all blank to him.
The annals the past, light, space
—if I have them not in
me, I have them not at all
The future is in me as a seed
or nascent thought.
If the general has not the
best a good
army in himself
he has no a good army . . . . otherwise he has a poor no army worth mentioning.
If you [poor?]— are rich in
yourself you are rich . . . .
otherwise you are ^wretchedly poor
If you are located in
yourself you are well
located . . . . if not [whate?]
you can never be are [illegible] dislodged or
If you can be are happy out
of yourself you can
be are happy . . . . for but I tell
you cannot be happy
through by others any more
than you can beget
a child through by others
. . . . or conceive a child
through by others.
I write not the hymns
I see th[illegible] the [building?] [of?] churches to
God . . . .
If I build a church it
shall be the a church
of to men and women
If I write hymns [they]
shall be all to men
If I become a devotee
it shall be to men
It is not a labor of clothing or putting on or describing—it is a labor of clearing away and not reducing—for every thing is beautiful in itself and perfect—and the office of the poet is to remove what stands in the way of our perceiving the beauty and perfection
My final aim
To concentrate around me the leaders of all reforms—transcendentalist spiritualists, free soilers
flawless truth and put it in the windows of your [brains?]
A Man at auction
How much for the man
He is of ? value
For him the earth lay
preparing billions of
years without one
animal or plant
For him the things of the
air, the earth and
He is not only himself
He is the father of
other men who
shall be fathers
in their turn
A woman at Auction
How much for the
For her all
She [can?] is not only herself
she is the bearer of
of other women, who
shall be mothers,
She is the bearer of
men who shall be
For him all sentiments
In his appointed day
he becomes a
In his appointed time
he reaches his
He is the one loved
He is the master
verse in each
when a song is sung the accompaniment to be by only one instrument or two instruments the rest silent.
—the ^vocal performer to make far more of his song, or solo part, by by-play, attitudes, expressions, movements, &c. than is usual at all in the made by the Italian opera singers—
—The American opera to be far more simple, and give far more scope to the persons enacting the characters
fiercely and with screaming energy
This great earth that rolls in the air, and the sun and moon, and men and women—do you think nothing more is to be made of than storekeeping and books and produce and drygoods and something to pay taxes on?
^Who are the Three old men going slowly with their arms about each others' necks
This great round globe with its rolling circles—and time—and perpetual motions—and all the moving animals—men and women—the sea and soil—the plants—the curious emananations
Have you in you the enthusiasm for the battles of [illegible] Re Bunker Hill and Long Island and Washington's retreat?—Have you the heroic feeling for—— —Look forth then fo— [there?] is still occasion for courage and [devotion?]—Nature is not so poor but there is always occasion for courage and determined power and [defiance?]
Always A truly the any great and original persons, teacher, inventor, poet or artist or poet, must himself make the taste and by which ^only he will be appreciated or even received.
shall ^must we be unchecked, un unmastered.—What real Americans can be made out of slaves? What real Americans can be made out of the masters of slaves?
Then you can say ^as to Nature [these?] words—send us O Nature as [much?] as you like—Send us the children of the poor, the [ignorant?] and the depraped—We are ready for them—we can receive them—for them also we have preparation and welcome—We have not only welcome for the [healthy?] [illegible] [strong?]
one a quivering jelly of love
[illegible] Limitless jets of love, hot
Arms of love [illegible] strong as
attraction reach as wide and large
as the air
Drunken and crazy
with love, [swing?] in
it is in the plummetless sea
deliciously throbbing aching
whiteblood of love
The architect that comes
among the stonecutters
and the heaps of
poem describes how the
workmen, possessed with
an indescribable faith,
go on age after age in
their work—and at last
came architects and
used each in its place
the stones they
poem of a road
The snowstorm or rainstorm bunkroom stringteam the counterfeit detector the directory the census returns, the Presidents m[en?] and the [Governors?]
The bugle calls in the ballroom—the dancers gentlemen lead out go for their partners—the playing begins—the dancers bow to each other.
The dishes on the daily table—the coffee the roast meat—the oysters—the coffee and cornbread and rye and wheatbread,
The questions are such as these
Has his life shown the true
And does it show the true American
Has he been easy and friendly with
his workmen?—Has he been
the stern master of slaves?
Has he been for making ignominious
respected the literary classes and
looked on the ignorant classes with [illegible]
If there be animal some brute that is very
sagacious and intelligent
And a being of our human race
no more sagacious and intelligent
than that animal—is one
preferred to the other?
Equality of all [rights?] and persons is [imperiously?] demanded by selfpreservation.—The cause of the ruin of all states that have been ruined has been that the whole body of the inhabitants without exception were not equally interested in the preservation of those states or cities—or that [a?] portion was degraded
form of a poem or the composition in which the opinions are expressed by different wise men or youths, as 1st wise man, 1st youth 1st woman.—or as expressed by Socrates, Christ
The expression of a wellperfectmade man appears not only in his face—but in his limbs—The motion of his hands and arms and all his joints—his walk—the carriage of his neck—and the flex of his waist and hips
Dress does not hide him. The
describe the perfect male body—pancratist—perfect in all [gynasia?]
Poem of the Wrestlers
My respiration and inspiration
. . . . the beating of my heart . . . .
the passing of blood and air
through my lungs.
Addresses on Literature
Though it have all the learning and art of the schools if it has not life it is nothing If When you read or hear if it does not call the blood leaping and flowing—[of?] —We do not fall in love with statues—we have healthy love for them
American Opera.—put three banjos, (or more?) in the orchestra—and let them accompany (at times exclusively,) the songs of the baritone or tenor—
Let a considerable part of the performance be instrumental—by the orchestra only.—
Let a few words go a great ways—the woplot not complicated but simple—Always one leading idea—as Friendship, Courage, Gratitude, Love,—always a distinct meaning—
The story and libretto as now are generally of no account.—
In the American Opera the story and libretto must be the body of the performance.
The fingers of the pianist playing lightly and rapidly over the keys.
a man placing his ear
To place the ear flat on the breast of the motionless body to see if it has any life in it's heart.
The land where——
The land where
The poor despised—Irish girls ^and boys immigrants just over
A fierce protective sweep around shielding them
I am the poet of the shallow and flat and desp[ised?]
Any one can [illegible] may know that the great heroes and poets are divine
The woodman that takes his axe and jug with him shall take me with him all day,
Poem What endures
I have no mockings ? and laughter?
I have only to be silent ? and
man and woman at auction
I see—Adam and Eve again
I see the old myths
poem picture of war—(the hospital at Sebastopol,)
then the opposite—the inferences and results—what war does to develope and strengthen and make more energetic and agile humanity—and what it contributes to poetry, oratory, &c.—
he does not lose by comparison with the orange tree or magnolia or with the fields that nourish the sugarplant or the cottonplant . . . . all that what strengthens or clothes adorns or is luscious can be had ^throughsubtle counterparts from him—from him the[illegible] magnolias and oranges and sugarplant and cottonplant and all fruits and flowers and all the sorts and productions of the earth.—
Poem—addressed to a young man who has come ^of age and is in possession of immense wealth.—
address on literature
—you must become a force in the state—and a real and great force—just as real and great as the president and congress—greater than they
I am an old artillerist
I tell of some
On South Fifth st (Monroe place) 2 doors above the river from Sixth street—going toward Greenpoint—
On Wilson st
Green, corner Fifth & Grand
The wealthiesty affluent man is he who answers all the ^confronts wealth whatever the grandestshow sees [illegible] by its an equivalent or more than equivalent [in?] from the depths bottomless grander riches wealth of himself.—
een soo se áwnz
or the mettlesome action of the blood horse
and the unimpeachableness of the sentiment of trees
haughty [&?] jealous and haughty instinct