Published Works

Books by Whitman



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




LEAVES OF GRASS.


THERE WAS A CHILD WENT FORTH.

1THERE was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he look'd upon, that object he
became;
And that object became part of him for the day, or a
certain part of the day, or for many years, or
stretching cycles of years.

2The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass, and white and red morning-glories, and
white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-
bird,
And the Third-month lambs, and the sow's pink-faint
litter, and the mare's foal, and the cow's calf,
And the noisy brood of the barn-yard, or by the mire
of the pond-side,
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below
there—and the beautiful curious liquid,
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads—all
became part of him.

3The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month
became part of him;
Winter-grain sprouts, and those of the light-yellow
corn, and the esculent roots of the garden,
And the apple-trees cover'd with blossoms, and the fruit
afterward, and wood-berries, and the commonest
weeds by the road;


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 254] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



And the old drunkard staggering home from the out-
house of the tavern, whence he had lately risen,
And the school-mistress that pass'd on her way to the
school,
And the friendly boys that pass'd—and the quarrelsome
boys,
And the tidy and fresh-cheek'd girls—and the barefoot
negro boy and girl,
And all the changes of city and country, wherever he
went.

4His own parents,
He that had father'd him, and she had conceiv'd
him in her womb, and birth'd him,
They gave this child more of themselves than that;
They gave him afterward every day—they became part
of him.

5The mother at home, quietly placing the dishes on
the supper-table;
The mother with mild words—clean her cap and gown,
a wholesome odor falling off her person and
clothes as she walks by;
The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, anger'd,
unjust;
The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the
crafty lure,
The family usages, the language, the company, the fur-
niture—the yearning and swelling heart,
Affection that will not be gainsay'd—the sense of what
is real—the thought if, after all, it should prove
unreal,
The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-time—
the curious whether and how,
Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all flashes
and specks?
Men and women crowding fast in the streets—if they
are not flashes and specks, what are they?
The streets themselves, and the façades of houses, and
goods in the windows,


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 255] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Vehicles, teams, the heavy-plank'd wharves—the huge
crossing at the ferries,
The village on the highland, seen from afar at sunset—
the river between,
Shadows, aureola and mist, the light falling on roofs
and gables of white or brown, three miles off,
The schooner near by, sleepily dropping down the tide
—the little boat slack-tow'd astern,
The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests,
slapping,
The strata of color'd clouds, the long bar of maroon-
tint, away solitary by itself—the spread of purity
it lies motionless in,
The horizon's edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance
of salt marsh and shore mud;
These became part of that child who went forth every
day, and who now goes, and will always go forth
every day.


LONGINGS FOR HOME.

O MAGNET-SOUTH! O glistening, perfumed South! My
South!
O quick mettle, rich blood, impulse, and love! Good
and evil! O all dear to me!
O dear to me my birth-things—All moving things, and
the trees where I was born—the grains, plants,
rivers;
Dear to me my own slow sluggish rivers where they
flow, distant, over flats of silvery sands, or
through swamps;
Dear to me the Roanoke, the Savannah, the Altamahaw,
the Pedee, the Tombigbee, the Santee, the Coosa,
and the Sabine;
O pensive, far away wandering, I return with my Soul
to haunt their banks again;
Again in Florida I float on transparent lakes—I float
on the Okeechobee—I cross the hummock land,
or through pleasant openings, or dense forests;


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 256] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



I see the parrots in the woods—I see the papaw tree
and the blossoming titi;
Again, sailing in my coaster, on deck, I coast off
Georgia—I coast up the Carolinas,
I see where the live-oak is growing—I see where the
yellow-pine, the scented bay-tree, the lemon and
orange, the cypress, the graceful palmetto;
I pass rude sea-headlands and enter Pamlico Sound
through an inlet, and dart my vision inland;
O the cotton plant! the growing fields of rice, sugar,
hemp!
The cactus, guarded with thorns—the laurel-tree, with
large white flowers;
The range afar—the richness and barrenness—the old
woods charged with mistletoe and training moss,
The piney odor and the gloom—the awful natural still-
ness, (Here in these dense swamps the freebooter
carries his gun, and the fugitive slave has his
conceal'd hut;)
O the strange fascination of these half-known, half-
impassable swamps, infested by reptiles, resound-
ing with the bellow of the alligator, the sad
noises of the night-owl and the wild cat, and the
whirr of the rattlesnake;
The mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing all the
forenoon—singing through the moon-lit night,
The humming-bird, the wild turkey, the raccoon, the
opossum;
A Tennessee corn-field—the tall, graceful, long-leav'd
corn—slender, flapping, bright green, with tas-
sels—with beautiful ears, each well-sheath'd in
its husk;
An Arkansas prairie—a sleeping lake, or still bayou;
O my heart! O tender and fierce pangs—I can stand
them not—I will depart;
O to be a Virginian, where I grew up! O to be a Caro-
linian!
O longings irrepressible! O I will go back to old Ten-
nessee, and never wander more!



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 257] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




THINK OF THE SOUL.

1THINK of the Soul;
I swear to you that body of yours gives proportions to
your Soul somehow to live in other spheres;
I do not know how, but I know it is so.

2Think of loving and being loved;
I swear to you, whoever you are, you can interfuse your-
self with such things that everybody that sees
you shall look longingly upon you.

3Think of the past;
I warn you that in a little while others will find their
past in you and your times.

4The race is never separated—nor man nor woman
escapes;
All is inextricable—things, spirits, Nature, nations, you
too—from precedents you come.

5Recall the ever-welcome defiers, (The mothers pre-
cede them;)
Recall the sages, poets, saviors, inventors, lawgivers, of
the earth;
Recall Christ, brother of rejected persons—brother of
slaves, felons, idiots, and of insane and diseas'd
persons.

6Think of the time when you were not yet born;
Think of times you stood at the side of the dying;
Think of the time when your own body will be dying.

7Think of spiritual results,
Sure as the earth swims through the heavens, does every
one of its objects pass into spiritual results.

8Think of manhood, and you to be a man;
Do you count manhood, and the sweet of manhood,
nothing?

9



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 258] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Think of womanhood, and you to be a woman;
The creation is womanhood;
Have I not said that womanhood involves all?
Have I not told how the universe has nothing better
than the best womanhood?


You Felons on Trial in Courts.

1YOU felons on trial in courts;
You convicts in prison-cells—you sentenced assassins,
chain'd and hand-cuff'd with iron;
Who am I, too, that I am not on trial, or in prison?
Me, ruthless and devilish as any, that my wrists are not
chain'd with iron, or my ankles with iron?

2You prostitutes flaunting over the trottoirs, or ob-
scene in your rooms,
Who am I, that I should call you more obscene than
myself?

3O culpable!
I acknowledge—I exposé!
(O admirers! praise not me! compliment not me! you
make me wince,
I see what you do not—I know what you do not.)

4Inside these breast-bones I lie smutch'd and choked;
Beneath this face that appears so impassive, hell's tides
continually run;
Lusts and wickedness are acceptable to me;
I walk with delinquents with passionate love;
I feel I am of them—I belong to those convicts and
prostitutes myself,
And henceforth I will not deny them—for how can I
deny myself?



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 259] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




To a Common Prostitute.

1BE composed—be at ease with me—I am Walt Whit-
man, 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.


I was Looking a Long While.

I WAS looking a long while for a clue to the history of
the past for myself, and for these chants—and
now I have found it;
It is not in those paged fables in the libraries, (them I
neither accept nor reject;)
It is no more in the legends than in all else;
It is in the present—it is this earth to-day;
It is in Democracy—(the purport and aim of all the
past;)
It is the life of one man or one woman to-day—the av-
erage man of to-day;
It is in languages, social customs, literatures, arts;
It is in the broad show of artificial things, ships, ma-
chinery, politics, creeds, modern improvements,
and the interchange of nations,
All for the average man of to-day.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 260] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




To a President.

ALL you are doing and saying is to America dangled
mirages;
You have not learn'd of Nature—of the politics of Na-
ture, you have not learn'd the great amplitude,
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 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?
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 awhile 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.)

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.