Published Works

Books by Whitman



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 225] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




SONG OF THE OPEN ROAD.

1

1 AFOOT and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I
choose.

2Henceforth I ask not good-fortune—I myself am
good-fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more,
need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.

3The earth—that is sufficient;
I do not want the constellations any nearer;
I know they are very well where they are;
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

4Still here I carry my old delicious burdens;
I carry them, men and women—I carry them with me
wherever I go;
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them;
I am fill'd with them, and I will fill them in return.


2

5You road I enter upon and look around! I believe
you are not all that is here; I believe that much unseen is also here.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 226] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



6Here is the profound lesson of reception, neither
preference or denial;
The black with his woolly head, the felon, the dis-
eas, the illiterate person, are not denied;
The birth, the hasting after the physician, the beggar's
tramp, the drunkard's stagger, the laughing
party of mechanics,
The escaped youth, the rich person's carriage, the fop,
the eloping couple,
The early market-man, the hearse, the moving of
furniture into the town, the return back from
the town,
They pass, I also pass, anything passes—none can be
interdicted,
None but are accepted, none but are dear to me.


3

7You air that serves me with breath to speak!
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and
give them shape!
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate
equable showers!
You animals moving serenely over the earth!
You birds that wing yourselves through the air! you
insects!
You sprouting growths from the farmers' fields! you
stalks and weeds by the fences!
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the road-
sides!
I think you are latent with unseen existences—you
are so dear to me.

8You flagg'd walks of the cities! you strong curbs at
the edges!
You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you
timber-lined sides! you distant ships!
You rows of houses! you window-pierc'd façades! you
roofs!


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 227] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



You porches and entrances! you copings and iron
guards!
You windows whose transparent shells might expose so
much!
You doors and ascending steps! you arches!
You gray stones of interminable pavements! you trod-
den crossings!
From all that has been near you, I believe you have im-
parted to yourselves, and now would impart the
same secretly to me;
From the living and the dead I think you have peopled
your impassive surfaces, and the spirits thereof
would be evident and amicable with me.


4

9The earth expanding right hand and left hand,
The picture alive, every part in its best light,
The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping
where it is not wanted,
The cheerful voice of the public road—the gay fresh
sentiment of the road.

10O highway I travel! O public road! do you say to
me, Do not leave me?
Do you say, Venture not? If you leave me, you are
lost?
Do you say, I am already prepared—I am well-beaten
and undenied—adhere to me?

11O public road! I say back, I am not afraid to leave
you—yet I love you;
You express me better than I can express myself;
You shall be more to me than my poem.

12I think heroic deeds were all conceiv'd in the open
air;
I think I could stop here myself, and do miracles;


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 228] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like,
and whoever beholds me shall like me;
I think whoever I see must be happy.


5

13From this hour, freedom!
From this hour I ordain myself loosed of limits and
imaginary lines,
Going where I list—my own master, total and abso-
lute,
Listening to others, and considering well what they
say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of
the holds that would hold me.

14I inhale great draughts of air;
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the
south are mine.

15I am larger than I thought;
I did not know I held so much goodness.

16All seems beautiful to me;
I can repeat over to men and women, You have done
such good to me, I would do the same to you.

17I will recruit for myself and you as I go;
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go;
I will toss the new gladness and roughness among
them;
Whoever denies me, it shall not trouble me;
Whoever accepts me, he or she shall be blessed, and
shall bless me.


6

18Now if a thousand perfect men were to appear, it
would not amaze me;
Now if a thousand beautiful forms of women appear'd,
it would not astonish me.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 229] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



19Now I see the secret of the making of the best per-
sons,
It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and sleep with
the earth.

20Here is space—here a great personal deed has room;
A great deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole race
of men,
Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law, and
mocks all authority and all argument against it.

21Here is the test of wisdom;
Wisdom is not finally tested in schools;
Wisdom cannot be pass'd from one having it, to an-
other not having it;
Wisdom is of the Soul, is not susceptible of proof, is
its own proof,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities, and is
content,
Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of
things, and the excellence of things;
Something there is in the float of the sight of things
that provokes it out of the Soul.

22Now I reëxamine philosophies and religions,
They may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not prove at
all under the spacious clouds, and along the land-
scape and flowing currents.

23Here is realization;
Here is a man tallied—he realizes here what he has in
him;
The animals, the past, the future, light, space, majesty,
love, if they are vacant of you, you are vacant
of them.

24Only the kernel of every object nourishes;
Where is he who tears off the husks for you and me?
Where is he that undoes stratagems and envelopes for
you and me?


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 230] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




25Here is adhesiveness—it is not previously fashion'd
—it is apropos;
Do you know what it is, as you pass, to be loved by
strangers?
Do you know the talk of those turning eye-balls?


7

26Here is the efflux of the Soul;
The efflux of the Soul comes from within, through em-
bower gates, ever provoking questions:
These yearnings, why are they? These thoughts in the
darkness, why are they?
Why are there men and women that while they are
nigh me, the sun-light expands my blood?
Why, when they leave me, do my pennants of joy sink
flat and lank?
Why are there trees I never walk under, but large and
melodious thoughts descend upon me?
(I think they hang there winter and summer on those
trees, and always drop fruit as I pass;)
What is it I interchange so suddenly with strangers?
What with some driver, as I ride on the seat by his
side?
What with some fisherman, drawing his seine by the
shore, as I walk by, and pause?
What gives me to be free to a woman's or man's good-
will? What gives them to be free to mine?


8

27The efflux of the Soul is happiness—here is happi-
ness;
I think it pervades the air, waiting at all times;
Now it flows into us—we are rightly charged.

28Here rises the fluid and attaching character;
The fluid and attaching character is the freshness and
sweetness of man and woman;


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 231] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



(The herbs of the morning sprout no fresher and
sweeter every day out of the roots of them-
selves, than it sprouts fresh and sweet contin-
ually out of itself.)

29Toward the fluid and attaching character exudes
the sweat of the love of young and old;
From it falls distill'd the charm that mocks beauty
and attainments;
Toward it heaves the shuddering longing ache of
contact.


9

30Allons! whoever you are, come travel with me!
Traveling with me, you find what never tires.

31The earth never tires;
The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first—
Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first;
Be not discouraged—keep on—there are divine things,
well envelop'd;
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful
than words can tell.

32Allons! We must not stop here!
However sweet these laid-up stores—however con-
venient this dwelling, we cannot remain here;
However shelter'd this port, and however calm these
waters, we must not anchor here;
However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us,
we are permitted to receive it but a little while.


10

33Allons! The inducements shall be great to you;
We will sail pathless and wild seas;
We will go where winds blow, waves dash, and the
Yankee clipper speeds by under full sail.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 232] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



34Allons! With power, liberty, the earth, the ele-
ments!
Health, defiance, gayety, self-esteem, curiosity;
Allons! from all formules!
From your formules, O bat-eyed and materialistic
priests!

35The stale cadaver blocks up the passage—the burial
waits no longer.

36Allons! Yet take warning!
He traveling with me needs the best blood, thews,
endurance;
None may come to the trial, till he or she bring
courage and health.

37Come not here if you have already spent the best
of yourself;
Only those may come, who come in sweet and de-
termin bodies;
No diseas'd person—no rum-drinker or venereal
taint is permitted here.

38I and mine do not convince by arguments, similes,
rhymes;
We convince by our presence.


11

39Listen! I will be honest with you;
I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough
new prizes;
These are the days that must happen to you:

40You shall not heap up what is call'd riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn
or achieve,


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 233] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



You but arrive at the city to which you were des-
tined—you hardly settle yourself to satisfaction,
before you are call'd by an irresistible call to
depart,
You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mock-
ings of those who remain behind you;
What beckonings of love you receive, you shall only
answer with passionate kisses of parting,
You shall not allow the hold of those who spread
their reach'd hands toward you.


12

41Allons! After the GREAT COMPANIONS! and to belong
to them!
They too are on the road! they are the swift and
majestic men! they are the greatest women.

42Over that which hinder'd them—over that which
retarded—passing impediments large or small,
Committers of crimes, committers of many beautiful
virtues,
Enjoyers of calms of seas, and storms of seas,
Sailors of many a ship, walkers of many a mile of
land,
Habitués of many different countries, habitués of far-
distant dwellings,
Trusters of men and women, observers of cities, soli-
tary toilers,
Pausers and contemplators of tufts, blossoms, shells
of the shore,
Dancers at wedding-dances, kissers of brides, tender
helpers of children, bearers of children,
Soldiers of revolts, standers by gaping graves, lower-
ers down of coffins,
Jouneyers over consecutive seasons, over the years—
the curious years, each emerging from that
which preceded it,


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 234] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Journeyers as with companions, namely, their own
diverse phases,
Forth-steppers from the latent unrealized baby-days,
Journeyers gayly with their own youth—Journeyers
with their bearded and well-grain'd manhood,
Journeyers with their womanhood, ample, unsur-
pass, content,
Journeyers with their own sublime old age of man-
hood or womanhood,
Old age, calm, expanded, broad with the haughty
breadth of the universe,
Old age, flowing free with the delicious near-by free-
dom of death.


13

43Allons! To that which is endless, as it was begin-
ningless,
To undergo much, tramps of days, rests of nights,
To merge all in the travel they tend to, and the days
and nights they tend to,
Again to merge them in the start of superior jour-
neys;
To see nothing anywhere but what you may reach it
and pass it,
To conceive no time, however distant, but what you
may reach it and pass it,
To look up or down no road but it stretches and
waits for you—however long, but it stretches
and waits for you;
To see no being, not God's or any, but you also go
thither,
To see no possession but you may possess it—enjoy-
ing all without labor or purchase—abstracting
the feast, yet not abstracting one particle of it;
To take the best of the farmer's farm and the rich
man's elegant villa, and the chaste blessings of
the well-married couple, and the fruits of or-
chards and flowers of gardens,


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 235] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



To take to your use out of the compact cities as you
pass through,
To carry buildings and streets with you afterward
wherever you go,
To gather the minds of men out of their brains as
you encounter them—to gather the love out of
their hearts,
To take your lovers on the road with you, for all that
you leave them behind you,
To know the universe itself as a road—as many roads
—as roads for traveling souls.


14

44The soul travels;
The body does not travel as much as the soul;
The body has just as great a work as the soul, and
parts away at last for the journeys of the soul.

45All parts away for the progress of souls;
All religion, all solid things, arts, governments,—all
that was or is apparent upon this globe or any
globe, falls into niches and corners before the
procession of Souls along the grand roads of
the universe.

46Of the progress of the souls of men and women
along the grand roads of the universe, all
other progress is the needed emblem and sus-
tenance.

47Forever alive, forever forward,
Stately, solemn, sad, withdrawn, baffled, mad, turbu-
lent, feeble, dissatisfied,
Desperate, proud, fond, sick, accepted by men, re-
jected by men,
They go! they go! I know that they go, but I know
not where they go;
But I know that they go toward the best—toward
something great.




- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 236] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



15

48Allons! Whoever you are! come forth!
You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the
house, though you built it, or though it has
been built for you.

49Allons! out of the dark confinement!
It is useless to protest—I know all, and expose it.

50Behold, through you as bad as the rest,
Through the laughter, dancing, dining, supping, of
people,
Inside of dresses and ornaments, inside of those
wash'd and trimm'd faces,
Behold a secret silent loathing and despair.

51No husband, no wife, no friend, trusted to hear the
confession;
Another self, a duplicate of every one, skulking and
hiding it goes,
Formless and wordless through the streets of the
cities, polite and bland in the parlors,
In the cars of rail-roads, in steamboats, in the public
assembly,
Home to the houses of men and women, at the table,
in the bed-room everywhere,
Smartly attired, countenance smiling, form upright,
death under the breast-bones, hell under the
skull-bones,
Under the broadcloth and gloves, under the ribbons
and artificial flowers,
Keeping fair with the customs, speaking not a syllable
of itself,
Speaking of anything else, but never of itself.


16

52Allons! Through struggles and wars!
The goal that was named cannot be countermanded.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 237] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



53Have the past struggles succeeded?
What has succeeded? Yourself? Your nation? Na-
ture?
Now understand me well—It is provided in the es-
sence of things, that from any fruition of suc-
cess, no matter what, shall come forth some-
thing to make a greater struggle necessary.

54My call is the call of battle—I nourish active re-
bellion?
He going with me must go well armed;
He going with me goes often with spare diet, poverty,
angry enemies, desertions.


17

55Allons! The road is before us!
It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it
well.

56Allons! Be not detain'd!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the
book on the shelf unopen'd!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money
remain unearn'd!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in the pulpit! let the lawyer
plead in the court, and the judge expound the
law.

57Mon enfant! I give you my hand!
I give you my love, more precious than money,
I give you myself, before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with
me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?


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.