Published Works

Books by Whitman



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27 — Poem of Faces.

SAUNTERING the pavement or riding the
country by-road, here then are faces!
Faces of friendship, precision, caution, suavity,
ideality,
The spiritual prescient face—the always welcome,
common, benevolent face,
The face of the singing of music—the grand faces
of natural lawyers and judges, broad at the
back-top,
The faces of hunters and fishers, bulged at the
brows—the shaved blanched faces of ortho-
dox citizens,
The pure, extravagant, yearning, questioning artist's
face,
The ugly face of some beautiful soul, the hand-
some detested or despised face,
The sacred faces of infants, the illuminated face
of the mother of many children,
The face of an amour, the face of veneration,
The face as of a dream, the face of an immobile
rock,


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The face withdrawn of its good and bad, a cas-
trated face,
A wild hawk, his wings clipped by the clipper,
A stallion that yielded at last to the thongs and
knife of the gelder.

Sauntering the pavement or crossing the ceaseless
ferry, here then are faces!
I see them, and complain not, and am content
with all.

Do you suppose I could be content with all if I
thought them their own finale?

This now is too lamentable a face for a man
Some abject louse asking leave to be, cringing
for it,
Some milk-nosed maggot blessing what lets it
wrig to its hole.

This face is a dog's snout sniffing for garbage;
Snakes nest in that mouth, I hear the sibilant
threat.

This face is a haze more chill than the arctic sea,
Its sleepy and wobbling icebergs crunch as they
go.

This is a face of bitter herbs, this an emetic, they
need no label,


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And more of the drug-shelf, laudanum, caoutchouc,
or hog's-lard.

This face is an epilepsy, its wordless tongue gives
out the unearthly cry,
Its veins down the neck distend, its eyes roll till
they show nothing but their whites,
Its teeth grit, the palms of the hands are cut by
the turned-in nails,
The man falls struggling and foaming to the ground
while he speculates well.

This face is bitten by vermin and worms,
And this is some murderer's knife with a half-
pulled scabbard.

This face owes to the sexton his dismalest fee,
An unceasing death-bell tolls there.

Those then are really men, the bosses and tufts
of the great round globe!

Features of my equals, would you trick me with
your creased and cadaverous march?
Well, you cannot trick me.

I see your rounded never-erased flow,
I see neath the rims of your haggard and mean
disguises.



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Splay and twist as you like—poke with the tan-
gling fores of fishes or rats,
You'll be unmuzzled, you certainly will.

I saw the face of the most smeared and slobbering
idiot they had at the asylum,
And I knew for my consolation what they knew
not,
I knew of the agents that emptied and broke my
brother,
The same wait to clear the rubbish from the fallen
tenement,
And I shall look again in a score or two of
ages,
And I shall meet the real landlord perfect
and unharmed, every inch as good as
myself.

The Lord advances, and yet advances!
Always the shadow in front! always the reached
hand bringing up the laggards!

Out of this face emerge banners and horses—O
superb! I see what is coming,
I see the high pioneer-caps—I see the staves of
runners clearing the way,
I hear victorious drums.

This face is a life-boat,


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This is the face commanding and bearded, it asks
no odds of the rest,
This face is flavored fruit, ready for eating,
This face of a healthy honest boy is the programme
of all good.

These faces bear testimony slumbering or awake,
They show their descent from the Master
himself.

Off the word I have spoken I except not one —
red, white, black, all are deific,
In each house is the ovum, it comes forth after a
thousand years.

Spots or cracks at the windows do not disturb
me,
Tall and sufficient stand behind and make signs
to me,
I read the promise and patiently wait.

This is a full-grown lily's face,
She speaks to the limber-hipp'd man near the gar-
den pickets,
Come here, she blushingly cries—Come nigh to
me, limber-hipp'd man, and give me your finger
and thumb,
Stand at my side till I lean as high as I can upon
you,


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Fill me with albescent honey, bend down to me,
Rub to me with your chafing beard, rub to my
breast and shoulders.

The old face of the mother of many children!
Whist! I am fully content.

Lulled and late is the smoke of the Sabbath
morning,
It hangs low over the rows of trees by the
fences,
It hangs thin by the sassafras, the wild-cherry,
and the cat-brier under them.

I saw the rich ladies in full dress at the soiree,
I heard what the singers were singing so long,
Heard who sprang in crimson youth from the
white froth and the water-blue.

Behold a woman!
She looks out from her quaker cap—her face is
clearer and more beautiful than the sky.

She sits in an arm-chair, under the shaded porch
of the farm-house,
The sun just shines on her old white head.

Her ample gown is of cream-hued linen,


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Her grand-sons raised the flax, and her grand-
daughters spun it with the distaff and the
wheel.

The melodious character of the earth!
The finish beyond which philosophy cannot go,
and does not wish to go!
The justified mother of men!

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