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Title: Something Worth Perusal

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: April 7, 1842

Publication information: New York Aurora 7 April 1842: [2].

Source: Original issue held at the Paterson Free Public Library, Paterson, NJ. Our transcription is based on a digital image of an original issue.

Whitman Archive ID: per.00404

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Jake Byers, Lucas Reincke, Jason Stacy, and Kevin McMullen




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Something Worth Perusal.

We took our usual stroll down Broadway a little while after noon, yesterday. Gods! what a glorious morning it was! Just enough of enervating, voluputous heat—and just enough breeze to fill the wings of the zephyrs—and just enough sunshine to reflect a sparkle in the eyes of beautiful women—and just enough people walking on the pave to make one continued, ceaseless, devilish provoking, delicious, glorious jam!

Wasn't it brave! And didn't we laugh (not outwardly—that would have been vulgar; but in the inward soul's bedchamber) with very excess of delight and gladness? O, it is a beautiful world we live in, after all! The All Bounteous has made for us pleasures that are pure—joys which pall not, and are fresh ever—balmy air, and the fantastic drapery of clouds, and the sight of mighty waters, and a thousand influences, solemn and sweet, that forbid their entertainment to no man, but are spread by God as a banquet where all may come, and none shall be thrust aside.

Just off against Grace Church,1 we met a pale, tall, delicate girl, dressed fashionably, yet very neatly. She had her veil only have drawn over her face; and as we looked, we beheld one of the most lovely, intellectually feminine countenances our sight was ever blessed with. We never professed to be very susceptible to the tender passion—but really those starlike eyes! and that queenly neck! and those luscious lips! O, we'd better stop—for if we go on, we shall———

Then, down upon the Battery.2 We found the grass more darkly colored than the day before; and as we looked up to the trees overhead, we noticed swelling buds and leaves just breaking out. And so, on we went, with one hand in the side pocket of our coat, (the grey one,) and shortly arrived at the heavy balustrade which runs along on the edge of the flagstones. We stopped, and leaned upon the stout wooden rail, and directed our gaze, half idolently, half sentimentally, far out over the waters of the dark green bay that streched before us. It was a cheerful sight, that river. They tell us that our land is in difficulty—that the republic is bankrupt and starving. Let us laugh them to scorn! Behold those ponderous masts—that sloop from Albany with flours and meats—that mighty fleet of fat looking craft, some with lowing kine, sheep and other butcher ware—some with fish, the savory shad, and the delicious oyster—and the hale, thick limbed, amphibious creatures, man and boy, that are on board them.

Despair, indeed! Send sombre thoughts to the devil—we'll none of them, saith the heart within us. Have we not youth, and health, and no memory of guilty crimes committed, and a fair field, and the whole field before us? Again, we say, send care to the devil!

When our inclinations informed us that we felt disposed to slope, we turned, and sauntered listlessly up, and out the iron gates, and along Broadway. For a while nothing particular attracted our attention. We had arrived at that section of our walk whereabout it became necessary for us to pass the Cortlandt street crossing, when we saw—

Who can describe it? yes it! for though the creature had shape, if shape it might be called which shape had none, except that given to it by the tailor, by padding, by corsets, by ligaments, and by straps—or substance might be called that brainless was—yet surely the thing———

Courtlandt street corner certainly was the place; we can't be mistaken about that. And the———,the stranger undoubtedly did make his appearance there. His lower half, truly, was unexeptionable, and his coat faultless; but his—his—his——

Reader, look at him!





There, you have it—the cat's out of the bag! As the writers of laconics say, farther comment is unnecessary. We will just add, however, that we did not faint, nor stagger, nor howl. We did not cast one longing, lingering look behind—but we half twisted our neck, to cast two, right and left.

Talk of gentlemen fleeing from a mad dog—of locomotives—of race horses, indeed! How we streaked it!


Notes:

1. Whitman is referring to the Grace Church on the corner of Broadway and Rector, a church that has stood at that location since 1808 ("History," Grace Church in New York City, http://gracechurchnyc.org/home/about/history/). [back]

2. The Battery is a military encampment originally used for the placement of artillery at the southern tip of Manhattan Island. The first cannons were placed there in defense of New Amsterdam (later renamed New York City) when it was founded in the seventeenth century. It served as an encampment during the War of 1812 and the Civil War, acting as a temporary prison for Confederate soldiers during the latter ("History of the Battery," The Battery Conservancy, http://www.thebattery.org/the-battery/history/). [back]


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