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4.

1SOMETHING startles me where I thought I was safest,
I withdraw from the still woods I loved,
I will not go now on the pastures to walk,
I will not strip the clothes from my body to meet my
lover the sea,
I will not touch my flesh to the earth, as to other
flesh, to renew me.



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2O Earth!
O how can the ground of you not sicken?
How can you be alive, you growths of spring?
How can you furnish health, you blood of herbs, roots,
orchards, grain?
Are they not continually putting distempered corpses
in you?
Is not every continent worked over and over with sour
dead?

3Where have you disposed of those carcasses of the
drunkards and gluttons of so many generations?
Where have you drawn off all the foul liquid and meat?
I do not see any of it upon you to-day—or perhaps
I am deceived,
I will run a furrow with my plough—I will press
my spade through the sod, and turn it up un-
derneath,
I am sure I shall expose some of the foul meat.

4Behold!
This is the compost of billions of premature corpses,
Perhaps every mite has once formed part of a sick
person—Yet behold!
The grass covers the prairies,
The bean bursts noiselessly through the mould in the
garden,
The delicate spear of the onion pierces upward,
The apple-buds cluster together on the apple-branches,
The resurrection of the wheat appears with pale visage
out of its graves,
The tinge awakes over the willow-tree and the mul-
berry-tree,


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The he-birds carol mornings and evenings, while the
she-birds sit on their nests,
The young of poultry break through the hatched eggs,
The new-born of animals appear—the calf is dropt
from the cow, the colt from the mare,
Out of its little hill faithfully rise the potato's dark
green leaves,
Out of its hill rises the yellow maize-stalk;
The summer growth is innocent and disdainful above
all those strata of sour dead.

5What chemistry!
That the winds are really not infectious,
That this is no cheat, this transparent green-wash of
the sea, which is so amorous after me,
That it is safe to allow it to lick my naked body all
over with its tongues,
That it will not endanger me with the fevers that
have deposited themselves in it,
That all is clean, forever and forever,
That the cool drink from the well tastes so good,
That blackberries are so flavorous and juicy,
That the fruits of the apple-orchard, and of the
orange-orchard—that melons, grapes, peaches,
plums, will none of them poison me,
That when I recline on the grass I do not catch any
disease,
Though probably every spear of grass rises out of
what was once a catching disease.

6Now I am terrified at the Earth! it is that calm and
patient,
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,


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It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such
endless successions of diseased corpses,
It distils such exquisite winds out of such infused
fetor,
It renews, with such unwitting looks, its prodigal,
annual, sumptuous crops,
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts
such leavings from them at last.

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