Published Works

Books by Whitman



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 333] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




RESPONDEZ!

RESPONDEZ! Respondez!
(The war is completed—the price is paid—the title is
settled beyond recall;)
Let every one answer! let those who sleep be waked!
let none evade!
Must we still go on with our affectations and sneaking?
Let me bring this to a close—I pronounce openly for
a new distribution of roles;
Let that which stood in front go behind! and let that
which was behind advance to the front and
speak;
Let murderers, bigots, fools, unclean persons, offer new
propositions!
Let the old propositions be postponed!
Let faces and theories be turn'd inside out! let mean-
ings be freely criminal, as well as results!
Let there be no suggestion above the suggestion of
drudgery!
Let none be pointed toward his destination! (Say! do
you know your destination?)
Let men and women be mock'd with bodies and mock'd
with Souls!
Let the love that waits in them, wait! let it die, or pass
still-born to other spheres!
Let the sympathy that waits in every man, wait! or let
it also pass, a dwarf, to other spheres!
Let contradictions prevail! let one thing contradict
another! and let one line of my poems contra-
dict another!
Let the people sprawl with yearning, aimless hands!
let their tongues be broken! let their eyes be
discouraged! let none descend into their hearts
with the fresh lusciousness of love!
(Stifled, O days! O lands! in every public and private
corruption!
Smother'd in thievery, impotence, shamelessness, moun-
tain-high;
Brazen effrontery, scheming, rolling like ocean's waves
around and upon you, O my days! my lands!


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 334] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



For not even those thunderstorms, nor fiercest light-
nings of the war, have purified the atmosphere;)
—Let the theory of America still be management, caste,
comparison! (Say! what other theory would
you?)
Let them that distrust birth and death still lead the
rest! (Say! why shall they not lead you?)
Let the crust of hell be near'd and trod on! let the
days be darker than the nights! let slumber bring
less slumber than waking time brings!
Let the world never appear to him or her for whom it
was all made!
Let the heart of the young man still exile itself from
the heart of the old man! and let the heart of
the old man be exiled from that of the young
man!
Let the sun and moon go! let scenery take the applause
of the audience! let there be apathy under the
stars!
Let freedom prove no man's inalienable right! every
one who can tyrannize, let him tyrannize to his
satisfaction!
Let none but infidels be countenanced!
Let the eminence of meanness, treachery, sarcasm, hate,
greed, indecency, impotence, lust, be taken for
granted above all! let writers, judges, govern-
ments, households, religions, philosophies, take
such for granted above all!
Let the worst men beget children out of the worst
women!
Let the priest still play at immortality!
Let death be inaugurated!
Let nothing remain but the ashes of teachers, artists;
moralists, lawyers, and learn'd and polite per-
sons!
Let him who is without my poems be assassinated!
Let the cow, the horse, the camel, the garden-bee—let
the mud-fish, the lobster, the mussel, eel, the
sting-ray, and the grunting pig-fish—let these,
and the like of these, be put on a perfect equality
with man and woman!


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 335] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Let churches accommodate serpents, vermin, and the
corpses of those who have died of the most
filty of diseases!
Let marriage slip down among fools, and be for none
but fools!
Let men among themselves talk and think forever ob-
scencly of women! and let women among them-
selves talk and think obscenely of men!
Let us all, without missing one, be exposed in public,
naked, monthly, at the peril of our lives! let
our bodies be freely handled and examined by
whoever chooses!
Let nothing but copies at second hand be permitted to
exist upon the earth!
Let the earth desert God, nor let there ever henceforth
be mention'd the name of God!
Let there be no God!
Let there be money, business, imports, exports, custom,
authority, precedents, pallor, dyspepsia, smut,
ignorance, unbelief!
Let judges and criminals be transposed! let the prison-
keepers be put in prison! let those that were
prisoners take the keys! (Say! why might they
not just as well be transposed?)
Let the slaves be masters! let the masters become slaves!
Let the reformers descend from the stands where they
are forever bawling! let an idiot or insane
person appear on each of the stands!
Let the Asiatic, the African, the European, the Ameri-
can, and the Australian, go armed against the
murderous stealthiness of each other! let them
sleep armed! let none believe in good will!
Let there be no unfashionable wisdom! let such be
scorn'd and derided off from the earth!
Let a floating cloud in the sky—let a wave of the sea—
let growing mint, spinach, onions, tomatoes—
let these be exhibited as shows, at a great price for
admission!
Let all the men of These States stand aside for a few
smouchers! let the few seize on what they
choose! let the rest gawk, giggle, starve, obey!


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 336] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Let shadows be furnish'd with genitals! let substances
be deprived of their genitals!
Let there be wealthy and immense cities—but still
through any of them, not a single poet, savior,
knower, lover!
Let the infidels of These States laugh all faith away!
If one man be found who has faith, let the rest set upon
him!
Let them affright faith! let them destroy the power of
breeding faith!
Let the she-harlots and the he-harlots be prudent! let
them dance on, while seeming lasts! (O seeming!
seeming! seeming!)
Let the preachers recite creeds! let them still teach
only what they have been taught!
Let insanity still have charge of sanity!
Let books take the place of trees, animals, rivers, clouds!
Let the daub'd portraits of heroes supersede heroes!
Let the manhood of man never take steps after itself!
Let it take steps after eunuchs, and after consumptive
and genteel persons!
Let the white person again tread the black person
under his heel! (Say! which is trodden under
heel after all?)
Let the reflections of the things of the world be studied
in mirrors! let the things themselves still con-
tinue unstudied!
Let a man seek pleasure everywhere except in himself!
Let a woman seek happiness everywhere except in
herself!
(What real happiness have you had one single hour
through your whole life?)
Let the limited years of life do nothing for the limitless
years of death! (What do you suppose death
will do, then?)

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.