Published Works

Books by Whitman



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 391] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




MESSENGER LEAVES.


To You, Whoever You Are.

WHOEVER you are, I fear you are walking the walks of
dreams,
I fear those realities are to melt from under your feet
and hands;
Even now, your features, joys, speech, house, trade,
manners, troubles, follies, costume, crimes, dis-
sipate away from you,
Your true Soul and body appear before me,
They stand forth out of affairs—out of commerce,
shops, law, science, work, farms, clothes, the
house, medicine, print, buying, selling, eating,
drinking, suffering, dying.

2Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you,
that you be my poem,
I whisper with my lips close to your ear,
I have loved many women and men, but I love none
better than you.

3O I have been dilatory and dumb,
I should have made my way straight to you long ago,
I should have blabbed nothing but you, I should have
chanted nothing but you.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 392] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



4I will leave all, and come and make the hymns of
you;
None have understood you, but I understand you,
None have done justice to you—you have not done
justice to yourself,
None but have found you imperfect—I only find no
imperfection in you,
None but would subordinate you—I only am he who
will never consent to subordinate you,
I only am he who places over you no master, owner,
better, God, beyond what waits intrinsically in
yourself.

5Painters have painted their swarming groups, and the
centre figure of all,
From the head of the centre figure spreading a nim-
bus of gold-colored light,
But I paint myriads of heads, but paint no head with-
out its nimbus of gold-colored light,
From my hand, from the brain of every man and
woman it streams, effulgently flowing forever.

6O I could sing such grandeurs and glories about you!
You have not known what you are—you have slum-
bered upon yourself all your life,
Your eyelids have been the same as closed most of
the time,
What you have done returns already in mockeries,
Your thrift, knowledge, prayers, if they do not return
in mockeries, what is their return?

7The mockeries are not you,
Underneath them, and within them, I see you lurk,
I pursue you where none else has pursued you,


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 393] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Silence, the desk, the flippant expression, the night,
the accustomed routine, if these conceal you from
others, or from yourself, they do not conceal you
from me,
The shaved face, the unsteady eye, the impure com-
plexion, if these balk others, they do not balk
me,
The pert apparel, the deformed attitude, drunken-
ness, greed, premature death, all these I part
aside,
I track through your windings and turnings—I come
upon you where you thought eye should never
come upon you.

8There is no endowment in man or woman that is not
tallied in you,
There is no virtue, no beauty, in man or woman, but
as good is in you,
No pluck, no endurance in others, but as good is
in you,
No pleasure waiting for others, but an equal pleasure
waits for you.

9As for me, I give nothing to any one, except I give
the like carefully to you,
I sing the songs of the glory of none, not God, sooner
than I sing the songs of the glory of you.

10Whoever you are! claim your own at any hazard!
These shows of the east and west are tame compared
to you,
These immense meadows—these interminable rivers
—you are immense and interminable as they,


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 394] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



These furies, elements, storms, motions of Nature,
throes of apparent dissolution—you are he or
she who is master or mistress over them,
Master or mistress in your own right over Nature,
elements, pain, passion, dissolution.

11The hopples fall from your ankles—you find an un-
failing sufficiency,
Old or young, male or female, rude, low, rejected by
the rest, whatever you are promulges itself,
Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are pro-
vided, nothing is scanted,
Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui,
what you are picks its way.


To a Foiled Revolter or Revoltress.

1COURAGE! my brother or my sister!
Keep on! Liberty is to be subserved, whatever occurs;
That is nothing, that is quelled by one or two failures,
or any number of failures,
Or by the indifference or ingratitude of the people,
or by any unfaithfulness,
Or the show of the tushes of power—soldiers, cannon,
penal statutes.

2What we believe in waits latent forever through
Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America,
Australia, Cuba, and all the islands and archi-
pelagoes of the sea.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 395] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



3What we believe in invites no one, promises nothing,
sits in calmness and light, is positive and com-
posed, knows no discouragement,
Waits patiently its time—a year—a century—a
hundred centuries.

4The battle rages with many a loud alarm and fre-
quent advance and retreat,
The infidel triumphs—or supposes he triumphs,
The prison, scaffold, garrote, hand-cuffs, iron necklace
and anklet, lead-balls, do their work,
The named and unnamed heroes pass to other
spheres,
The great speakers and writers are exiled—they lie
sick in distant lands,
The cause is asleep—the strongest throats are still,
choked with their own blood,
The young men drop their eyelashes toward the
ground when they meet,
But for all this, liberty has not gone out of the place,
nor the infidel entered into possession.

5When liberty goes out of a place, it is not the first
to go, nor the second or third to go,
It waits for all the rest to go—it is the last.

6When there are no more memories of the superb
lovers of the nations of the world,
The superb lovers' names scouted in the public
gatherings by the lips of the orators,
Boys not christened after them, but christened after
traitors and murderers instead,


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 396] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Tyrants' and priests' successes really acknowledged
anywhere, for all the ostensible appearance,
You or I walking abroad upon the earth, elated at
the sight of slaves, no matter who they are,
And when all life, and all the Souls of men and women
are discharged from any part of the earth,
Then shall the instinct of liberty be discharged from
that part of the earth,
Then shall the infidel and the tyrant come into
possession.

7Then courage!
For till all ceases, neither must you cease.

8I do not know what you are for, (I do not what I am
for myself, nor what any thing is for,)
But I will search carefully for it in being foiled,
In defeat, poverty, imprisonment—for they too are
great.

9Did we think victory great?
So it is—But now it seems to me, when it cannot be
helped, that defeat is great,
And that death and dismay are great.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 397] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




To Him that was Crucified.

MY spirit to yours, dear brother,
Do not mind because many, sounding your name, do
not understand you,
I do not sound your name, but I understand you,
(there are others also;)
I specify you with joy, O my comrade, to salute you,
and to salute those who are with you, before and
since—and those to come also,
That we all labor together, transmitting the same
charge and succession;
We few, equals, indifferent of lands, indifferent of
times,
We, enclosers of all continents, all castes—allowers
of all theologies,
Compassionaters, perceivers, rapport of men,
We walk silent among disputes and assertions, but
reject not the disputers, nor any thing that is
asserted,
We hear the bawling and din—we are reached at
by divisions, jealousies, recriminations on every
side,
They close peremptorily upon us, to surround us,
my comrade,
Yet we walk unheld, free, the whole earth over,
journeying up and down, till we make our in-
effaceable mark upon time and the diverse eras,
Till we saturate time and eras, that the men and
women of races, ages to come, may prove breth-
ren and lovers, as we are.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 398] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




To One shortly To Die.

1FROM all the rest I single out you, having a message
for you:
You are to die—Let others tell you what they
please, I cannot prevaricate,
I am exact and merciless, but I love you—There is
no escape for you.

2Softly I lay my right hand upon you—you just
feel it,
I do not argue—I bend my head close, and half-
envelop it,
I sit quietly by—I remain faithful,
I am more than nurse, more than parent or neighbor,
I absolve you from all except yourself, spiritual,
bodily—that is eternal,
(The corpse you will leave will be but excremen-
titious.)

3The sun bursts through in unlooked-for directions!
Strong thoughts fill you, and confidence—you smile!
You forget you are sick, as I forget you are sick,
You do not see the medicines—you do not mind the
weeping friends—I am with you,
I exclude others from you—there is nothing to be
commiserated,
I do not commiserate—I congratulate you.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 399] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




To a Common Prostitute.

1BE composed—be at ease with me—I am Walt
Whitman, liberal and lusty as Nature,
Not till the sun excludes you, do I exclude you,
Not till the waters refuse to glisten for you, and the
leaves to rustle for you, do my words refuse to
glisten and rustle for you.

2My girl, I appoint with you an appointment—and I
charge you that you make preparation to be
worthy to meet me,
And I charge you that you be patient and perfect till
I come.

3Till then, I salute you with a significant look, that
you do not forget me.


To Rich Givers.

WHAT you give me, I cheerfully accept,
A little sustenance, a hut and garden, a little money
—these as I rendezvous with my poems,
A traveller's lodging and breakfast as I journey
through The States—Why should I be ashamed
to own such gifts? Why to advertise for them?
For I myself am not one who bestows nothing upon
man and woman,
For I know that what I bestow upon any man or
woman is no less than the entrance to all the
gifts of the universe.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 400] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




To a Pupil.

1IS reform needed? Is it through you?
The greater the reform needed, the greater the PER-
SONALITY
you need to accomplish it.

2You! do you not see how it would serve to have eyes,
blood, complexion, clean and sweet?
Do you not see how it would serve to have such a
body and Soul, that when you enter the crowd,
an atmosphere of desire and command enters
with you, and every one is impressed with your
personality?

3O the magnet! the flesh over and over!
Go, mon cher! if need be, give up all else, and com-
mence to-day to inure yourself to pluck, reality,
self-esteem, definiteness, elevatedness,
Rest not, till you rivet and publish yourself of your
own personality.


To The States,
To Identify the 16th, 17th, or 18th Presidentiad.

WHY reclining, interrogating? Why myself and all
drowsing?
What deepening twilight! Scum floating atop of the
waters!
Who are they, as bats and night-dogs, askant in the
Capitol?


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 401] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



What a filthy Presidentiad! (O south, your torrid
suns! O north, your arctic freezings!)
Are those really Congressmen? Are those the great
Judges? Is that the President?
Then I will sleep a while yet—for I see that These
States sleep, for reasons;
(With gathering murk—with muttering thunder and
lambent shoots, we all duly awake,
South, north, east, west, inland and seaboard, we will
surely awake.)


To a Cantatrice.

HERE, take this gift!
I was reserving it for some hero, orator, or general,
One who should serve the good old cause, the prog-
ress and freedom of the race, the cause of
my Soul;
But I see that what I was reserving belongs to you
just as much as to any.


Walt Whitman's Caution.

TO The States, or any one of them, or any city of
The States, Resist much, obey little,
Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved,
Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, of this
earth, ever afterward resumes its liberty.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 402] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




To a President.

ALL you are doing and saying is to America dangled
mirages,
You have not learned of Nature—of the politics of
Nature, you have not learned the great ampli-
tude, rectitude, impartiality,
You have not seen that only such as they are for
These States,
And that what is less than they, must sooner or later
lift off from These States.


To other Lands.

I HEAR you have been asking for something to repre-
sent the new race, our self-poised Democracy,
Therefore I send you my poems, that you behold in
them what you wanted.


To Old Age.

I SEE in you the estuary that enlarges and spreads
itself grandly as it pours in the great sea.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 403] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




To You.

LET us twain walk aside from the rest;
Now we are together privately, do you discard cer-
emony,
Come! vouchsafe to me what has yet been vouchsafed
to none—Tell me the whole story,
Tell me what you would not tell your brother, wife,
husband, or physician.


To You.

STRANGER! if you, passing, meet me, and desire to
speak to me, why should you not speak to me?
And why should I not speak to you?

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.