Published Works

Books by Whitman



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 161] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




6 — Poem of a Few Greatnesses.

GREAT are the myths, I too delight in them,
Great are Adam and Eve, I too look back and
accept them,
Great the risen and fallen nations, and their poets,
women, sages, inventors, rulers, warriors,
priests.

Great is liberty! Great is equality! I am their
follower,
Helmsmen of nations, choose your craft! where
you sail, I sail!
Yours is the muscle of life or death, yours is the
perfect science, in you I have absolute faith.

Great is today, and beautiful,
It is good to live in this age, there never was any
better.

Great are the plunges, throes, triumphs, falls of
democracy,
Great the reformers, with their lapses and screams,
Great the daring and venture of sailors on new
explorations.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 162] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Great are yourself and myself,
We are just as good and bad as the oldest and
youngest or any,
What the best and worst did, we could do,
What they felt, do not we feel it in ourselves?
What they wished, do we not wish the same?

Great is youth, equally great is old age—great are
the day and night,
Great is wealth, great is poverty, great is expres-
sion, great is silence,

Youth, large, lusty, loving—youth, full of grace,
force, fascination,
Do you know that old age may come after you,
with equal grace, force, fascination?

Day, full-blown and splendid—day of the im-
mense sun, action, ambition, laughter,
The night follows close, with millions of suns,
and sleep, and restoring darkness.

Wealth with the flush hand, fine clothes, hospi-
tality,
But then the soul's wealth, which is candor,
knowledge, pride, enfolding love;
(Who goes for men and women showing poverty
richer than wealth?)


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 163] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Expression of speech! in what is written or said,
forget not that silence is also expressive,
That anguish as hot as the hottest, and contempt
as cold as the coldest, may be without words,
That the true adoration is likewise without words,
and without kneeling.

Great is the greatest nation! the nation of clus-
ters of equal nations!

Great is the earth, and the way it became what it
is,
Do you imagine it is stopped at this? the increase
abandoned?
Understand then that it goes as far onward from
this, as this is from the times when it lay in
covering waters and gases.

Great is the quality of truth in man,
The quality of truth in man supports itself
through all changes,
It is inevitably in the man—he and it are in love,
and never leave each other.

The truth in man is no dictum, it is vital as eye-
sight,
If there be any soul, there is truth—if there be
man or woman, there is truth—if there be
physical or moral, there is truth,


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 164] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



If there be equilibrium or volition, there is truth
—if there be things at all upon the earth,
there is truth.

O truth of the earth! O truth of things! I am
determined to press the whole way toward
you,
Sound your voice! I scale mountains, or dive in
the sea after you.

Great is language—it is the mightiest of the
sciences,
It is the fulness, color, form, diversity of the
earth, and of men and women, and of all
qualities and processes,
It is greater than wealth—it is greater than
buildings, ships, religions, paintings, music.

Great is the English speech—what speech is so
great as the English?
Great is the English brood—what brood has so
vast a destiny as the English?
It is the mother of the brood that must rule the
earth with the new rule,
The new rule shall rule as the soul rules, and as
the love, justice, equality in the soul, rule.

Great in the law—great are the old few land-
marks of the law,


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 165] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



They are the same in all times, and shall not be
disturbed.

Great are marriage, commerce, newspapers,
books, free-trade, rail-roads, steamers, interna-
tional mails, telegraphs, exchanges.

Great is justice!
Justice is not settled by legislators and laws—it
is in the soul,
It cannot be varied by statutes, any more than
love, pride, the attraction of gravity, can,
It is immutable—it does not depend on major-
ities—majorities or what not come at last
before the same passionless and exact tri-
bunal.

For justice are the grand natural lawyers and per-
fect judges, it is in their souls,
It is well assorted, they have not studied for noth-
ing, the great includes the less,
They rule on the highest grounds, they oversee
all eras, states, administrations.

The perfect judge fears nothing, he could go front
to front before God,
Before the perfect judge all shall stand back —
life and death shall stand back—heaven and
hell shall stand back.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 166] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Great is goodness!
I do not know what it is any more than I know
what health is, but I know it is great.

Great is wickedness—I find I often admire it just
as much as I admire goodness,
Do you call that a paradox? It certainly is a par-
adox.

The eternal equilibrium of things is great, and the
eternal overthrow of things is great,
And there is another paradox.

Great is life, real and mystical, wherever and
whoever,
Great is death—sure as life holds all parts to-
gether, death holds all parts together,
Death has just as much purport as life has,
Do you enjoy what life confers? you shall enjoy
what death confers,
I do not understand the realities of death, but I
know they are great,
I do not understand the least reality of life —
how then can I understand the realities of
death?

Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.