AMERICA does not repel the past or what it has produced under
its forms or amid other politics or the idea of castes or the old religions
. . . . accepts the lesson with calmness . . . is not so impatient as has
supposed that the slough still sticks to opinions and manners and literature
while the life which served its requirements has passed into the new life
of the new forms . . . perceives that the corpse is slowly borne from the
eating and sleeping rooms of the house . . . perceives that it waits a little
while in the door . . . that it was fittest for its days . . . that its
has descended to the stalwart and wellshaped heir who approaches . . . and
that he shall be fittest for his days.
|shows of exterior victory to enjoy the breed of fullsized men or one
fullsized man unconquerable and simple.
The American poets are to enclose old and new for America is the race of races. Of them a bard is to be commensurate with a people. To him the other continents arrive as contributions . . . he gives them reception for their sake and his own sake. His spirit responds to his country's spirit . . . . he incarnates its geography and natural life and rivers and lakes. Mississippi with annual freshets and changing chutes, Missouri and Columbia and Ohio and Saint Lawrence with the falls and beautiful masculine Hudson, do not embouchure where they spend themselves more than they embouchure into him. The blue breadth over the inland sea of Virginia and Maryland and the sea off Massachusetts and Maine and over Manhattan bay and over Champlain and Erie and over Ontario and Huron and Michigan and Superior, and over the Texan and Mexican and Floridian and Cuban seas and over the seas off California and Oregon, is not tallied by the blue breadth of the waters below more than the breadth of above and below is tallied by him. When the long Atlantic coast stretches longer and the Pacific coast stretches longer he easily stretches with them north or south. He spans between them also from east to west and reflects what is between them. On him rise solid growths that offset the growths of pine and cedar and hemlock and liveoak and locust and chestnut and cypress and hickory and limetree and cottonwood and tuliptree and cactus and wildvine and tamarind and persimmon . . . . and tangles as tangled as any canebrake or swamp . . . . and forests coated with transparent ice and icicles hanging from the boughs and crackling in the wind . . . . and sides and peaks of mountains . . . . and pasturage sweet and free as savannah or upland or prairie . . . . with flights and songs and screams that answer those of the wildpigeon and highhold and orchard-oriole and coot and surf-duck and redshouldered-hawk and fish-hawk and white-ibis and indian-hen and cat-owl and water-pheasant and qua-bird and pied-sheldrake and blackbird and mockingbird and buzzard and condor and night-heron and eagle. To him the hereditary countenance descends both mother's and father's. To him enter the essences of the real things and past and present events---of the enormous diversity of temperature and agriculture and mines---the tribes of red aborigines---the weatherbeaten vessels entering new ports or making landings on rocky coast ---the first settlements north or south---the rapid stature and muscle---the haughty defiance of '76, and the war and peace and formation of the constitution . . . . the union always surrounded by blatherers and always calm and impregnable---the perpetual coming of immigrants---the wharf hem'd cities and superior marine---the unsurveyed interior---the loghouses and clearings and wild animals and hunters and trappers . . . . the free commerce---the fisheries and whaling and gold-digging ---the endless gestation of new states---the convening of Congress every December, the members duly coming up from all climates and the uttermost parts . . . . the noble character of the young mechanics and of all free American workmen and workwomen . . . . the general ardor and friendliness and enterprise---the perfect equality of the female with the male . . . . the large amativeness--- the fluid movement of the population---the factories and mercantile life and laborsaving machinery---the Yankee swap---the New-York firemen and the target excursion---the southern plantation life--- the character of the northeast and of the northwest and southwest---slavery and the tremulous spreading of hands to protect it, and the stern opposition to it which shall never cease till it ceases or the speaking of tongues and the moving of lips cease. For such the expression of the American poet is to be transcendant and new. It is to be indirect and not direct or descriptive or epic. Its quality goes through these to much more. Let the age and wars of other nations be chanted and their eras and characters be illustrated and that finish the verse. Not so the great psalm of the republic. Here the theme is creative and has vista. Here comes one among the wellbeloved stonecutters and plans with decision and science and sees the solid and beautiful forms of the future where there are now no solid forms.
Of all nations the United States with veins full of poetical stuff most need poets and will doubtless have the greatest and use them the greatest. Their Presidents shall not be their common referee so much as their poets shall. Of all mankind the great poet is the equable man. Not in him but off from him things are grotesque or eccentric or fail of their sanity. Nothing out of its place is good and nothing in its place is bad. He bestows on every object or quality its fit proportions neither more nor less. He is the arbiter of the diverse and he is the key. He is the equalizer of his age and land . . . . he supplies what wants supplying and checks what wants checking. If peace is the routine out of him speaks the spirit of peace, large, rich, thrifty, building vast and populous cities, encouraging agriculture and the arts and commerce---lighting the study of man, the soul, immortality ---federal, state or municipal government,
|marriage, health, freetrade, intertravel by land and sea . . . . nothing
too close, nothing too far off . . . the stars not too far off. In war he
is the most deadly force of the war. Who recruits him recruits horse and
foot . . . he fetches parks of artillery the best that engineer ever knew.
If the time becomes slothful and heavy he knows how to arouse it . . . he
can make every word he speaks draw blood. Whatever stagnates in the flat
of custom or obedience or legislation he never stagnates. Obedience does
not master him, he masters it. High up out of reach he stands turning a
concentrated light . . . he turns the pivot with his finger . . . he baffles
the swiftest runners as he stands and easily overtakes and envelops them.
The time straying toward infidelity and confections and persiflage he withholds
by his steady faith . . . he spreads out his dishes . . . he offers the sweet
firmfibred meat that grows men and women. His brain is the ultimate brain.
He is no arguer . . . he is judgment. He judges not as the judge judges but
as the sun falling around a helpless thing. As he sees the farthest he
has the most faith. His thoughts are the hymns of the praise of things.
In the talk on the soul and eternity and God off of his equal plane he
is silent. He sees eternity less like a play with a prologue and denouement
. . . . he sees eternity in men and women . . . he does not see men and women
as dreams or dots. Faith is the antiseptic of the soul . . . it pervades
the common people and preserves them . . . they never give up believing and
expecting and trusting. There is that indescribable freshness and unconsciousness
about an illiterate person that humbles and mocks the power of the noblest
expressive genius. The poet sees for a certainty how one not a great artist
may be just as sacred and perfect as the greatest artist. . . . . . The power
to destroy or remould is freely used by him but never the power of attack.
What is past is past. If he does not expose superior models and prove himself
by every step he takes he is not what is wanted. The presence of the greatest
poet conquers . . . not parleying or struggling or any prepared attempts.
Now he has passed that way see after him! there is not left any vestige
of despair or misanthropy or cunning or exclusiveness or the ignominy of
a nativity or color or delusion of hell or the necessity of hell . . . . .
and no man thenceforward shall be degraded for ignorance or weakness or
The greatest poet hardly knows pettiness or triviality. If he breathes into any thing that was before thought small it dilates with the grandeur and life of the universe. He is a seer . . . . he is individual . . . he is complete in himself . . . . the others are as good as he, only he sees it and they do not. He is not one of the chorus . . . . he does not stop for any regulation . . . he is the president of regulation. What the eyesight does to the rest he does to the rest. Who knows the curious mystery of the eyesight? The other senses corroborate themselves, but this is removed from any proof but its own and foreruns the identities of the spiritual world. A single glance of it mocks all the investigations of man and all the instruments and books of the earth and all reasoning. What is marvellous? what is unlikely? what is impossible or baseless or vague? after you have once just opened the space of a peachpit and given audience to far and near and to the sunset and had all things enter with electric swiftness softly and duly without confusion or jostling or jam.
The land and sea, the animals fishes and birds, the sky of heaven and the orbs, the forests mountains and rivers, are not small themes . . . but folks expect of the poet to indicate more than the beauty and dignity which always attach to dumb real objects . . . . they expect him to indicate the path between reality and their souls. Men and women perceive the beauty well enough . . probably as well as he. The passionate tenacity of hunters, woodmen, early risers, cultivators of gardens and orchards and fields, the love of healthy women for the manly form, sea-faring persons, drivers of horses, the passion for light and the open air, all is an old varied sign of the unfailing perception of beauty and of a residence of the poetic in outdoor people. They can never be assisted by poets to perceive . . . some may but they never can. The poetic quality is not marshalled in rhyme or uniformity or abstract addresses to things nor in melancholy complaints or good precepts, but is the life of these and much else and is in the soul. The profit of rhyme is that it drops seeds of a sweeter and more luxuriant rhyme, and of uniformity that it conveys itself into its own roots in the ground out of sight. The rhyme and uniformity of perfect poems show the free growth of metrical laws and bud from them as unerringly and loosely as lilacs or roses on a bush, and take shapes as compact as the shapes of chestnuts and oranges and melons and pears, and shed the perfume impalpable to form. The fluency and ornaments of the finest poems or music or orations or recitations are not independent but dependent. All beauty comes from beautiful blood and a beautiful brain. If the greatnesses are in conjunction in a man or woman it is enough . . . . the fact will prevail through the universe . . . . but the gaggery and gilt of a million years will not prevail. Who troubles himself about his ornaments or fluency is lost. This is what you
|shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give
alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote
your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God,
have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing
known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful
uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families,
read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life,
re examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss
whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem
and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines
of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion
and joint of your body. . . . . . . . The poet shall not spend his time in
work. He shall know that the ground is always ready ploughed and manured
. . . . others may not know it but he shall. He shall go directly to the
His trust shall master the trust of everything he touches . . . . and shall
master all attachment.
The known universe has one complete lover and that is the greatest poet. He consumes an eternal passion and is indifferent which chance happens and which possible contingency of fortune or misfortune and persuades daily and hourly his delicious pay. What balks or breaks others is fuel for his burning progress to contact and amorous joy. Other proportions of the reception of pleasure dwindle to nothing to his proportions. All expected from heaven or from the highest he is rapport with in the sight of the daybreak or a scene of the winter woods or the presence of children playing or with his arm round the neck of a man or woman. His love above all love has leisure and expanse . . . . he leaves room ahead of himself. He is no irresolute or suspicious lover . . . he is sure . . . he scorns intervals. His experience and the showers and thrills are not for nothing. Nothing can jar him . . . . suffering and darkness cannot---death and fear cannot. To him complaint and jealousy and envy are corpses buried and rotten in the earth . . . . he saw them buried. The sea is not surer of the shore or the shore of the sea than he is of the fruition of his love and of all perfection and beauty.
The fruition of beauty is no chance of hit or miss . . . it is inevitable as life . . . . it is exact and plumb as gravitation. From the eyesight proceeds another eyesight and from the hearing proceeds another hearing and from the voice proceeds another voice eternally curious of the harmony of things with man. To these respond perfections not only in the committees that were supposed to stand for the rest but in the rest themselves just the same. These understand the law of perfection in masses and floods . . . that its finish is to each for itself and onward from itself . . . that it is profuse and impartial . . . that there is not a minute of the light or dark nor an acre of the earth or sea without it---nor any direction of the sky nor any trade or employment nor any turn of events. This is the reason that about the proper expression of beauty there is precision and balance . . . one part does not need to be thrust above another. The best singer is not the one who has the most lithe and powerful organ . . . the pleasure of poems is not in them that take the handsomest measure and similes and sound.
Without effort and without exposing in the least how it is done the greatest poet brings the spirit of any or all events and passions and scenes and persons some more and some less to bear on your individual character as you hear or read. To do this well is to compete with the laws that pursue and follow time. What is the purpose must surely be there and the clue of it must be there . . . . and the faintest indication is the indication of the best and then becomes the clearest indication. Past and present and future are not disjoined but joined. The greatest poet forms the consistence of what is to be from what has been and is. He drags the dead out of their coffins and stands them again on their feet . . . . he says to the past, Rise and walk before me that I may realize you. He learns the lesson . . . . he places himself where the future becomes present. The greatest poet does not only dazzle his rays over character and scenes and passions . . . he finally ascends and finishes all . . . he exhibits the pinnacles that no man can tell what they are for or what is beyond . . . . he glows a moment on the extremest verge. He is most wonderful in his last half-hidden smile or frown . . . by that flash of the moment of parting the one that sees it shall be encouraged or terrified afterward for many years. The greatest poet does not moralize or make applications of morals . . . he knows the soul. The soul has that measureless pride which consists in never acknowledging any lessons but its own. But it has sympathy as measureless as its pride and the one balances the other and neither can stretch too far while it stretches in company with the other. The inmost secrets of art sleep with the twain. The greatest poet has lain close betwixt both and they are vital in his style and thoughts.
The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters is simplicity. Nothing is better than simplicity . . . . nothing can make up for excess or for the lack of definiteness.
|To carry on the heave of impulse and pierce intellectual depths and
give all subjects their articulations are powers neither common nor very
uncommon. But to speak in literature with the perfect rectitude and insousiance
of the movements of animals and the unimpeachableness of the sentiment
of trees in the woods and grass by the roadside is the flawless triumph
of art. If you have looked on him who has achieved it you have looked on
one of the masters of the artists of all nations and times. You shall not
contemplate the flight of the graygull over the bay or the mettlesome action
of the blood horse or the tall leaning of sunflowers on their stalk or
the appearance of the sun journeying through heaven or the appearance of
the moon afterward with any more satisfaction than you shall contemplate
him. The greatest poet has less a marked style and is more the channel
of thoughts and things without increase or diminution, and is the free
channel of himself. He swears to his art, I will not be meddlesome, I will
not have in my writing any elegance or effect or originality to hang in
the way between me and the rest like curtains. I will have nothing hang
in the way, not the richest curtains. What I tell I tell for precisely
what it is. Let who may exalt or startle or fascinate or sooth I will have
purposes as health or heat or snow has and be as regardless of observation.
What I experience or portray shall go from my composition without a shred
of my composition. You shall stand by my side and look in the mirror with
The old red blood and stainless gentility of great poets will be proved by their unconstraint. A heroic person walks at his ease through and out of that custom or precedent or authority that suits him not. Of the traits of the brotherhood of writers savans musicians inventors and artists nothing is finer than silent defiance advancing from new free forms. In the need of poems philosophy politics mechanism science behaviour, the craft of art, an appropriate native grand-opera, shipcraft, or any craft, he is greatest forever and forever who contributes the greatest original practical example. The cleanest expression is that which finds no sphere worthy of itself and makes one.
The messages of great poets to each man and woman are, Come to us on equal terms, Only then can you understand us, We are no better than you, What we enclose you enclose, What we enjoy you may enjoy. Did you suppose there could be only one Supreme? We affirm there can be unnumbered Supremes, and that one does not countervail another any more than one eyesight countervails another . . and that men can be good or grand only of the consciousness of their supremacy within them. What do you think is the grandeur of storms and dismemberments and the deadliest battles and wrecks and the wildest fury of the elements and the power of the sea and the motion of nature and of the throes of human desires and dignity and hate and love? It is that something in the soul which says, Rage on, Whirl on, I tread master here and everywhere, Master of the spasms of the sky and of the shatter of the sea, Master of nature and passion and death, And of all terror and all pain.
The American bards shall be marked for generosity and affection and for encouraging competitors . . They shall be kosmos . . without monopoly or secresy . . glad to pass any thing to any one . . hungry for equals night and day. They shall not be careful of riches and privilege . . . . they shall be riches and privilege . . . . they shall perceive who the most affluent man is. The most affluent man is he that confronts all the shows he sees by equivalents out of the stronger wealth of himself. The American bard shall delineate no class of persons nor one or two out of the strata of interests nor love most nor truth most nor the soul most nor the body most . . .. and not be for the eastern states more than the western or the northern states more than the southern.
Exact science and its practical movements are no checks on the greatest poet but always his encouragement and support. The outset and remembrance are there . . there the arms that lifted him first and brace him best . . . . there he returns after all his goings and comings. The sailor and traveler . . the anatomist chemist astronomer geologist phrenologist spiritualist mathematician historian and lexicographer are not poets, but they are the lawgivers of poets and their construction underlies the structure of every perfect poem. No matter what rises or is uttered they sent the seed of the conception of it . . . of them and by them stand the visible proofs of souls . . . . . always of their fatherstuff must be begotten the sinewy races of bards. If there shall be love and content between the father and the son and if the greatness of the son is the exuding of the greatness of the father there shall be love between the poet and the man of demonstrable science. In the beauty of poems are the tuft and final applause of science.
Great is the faith of the flush of knowledge and of the investigation of the depths of qualities and things. Cleaving and circling here swells the soul of the poet yet it president of itself always. The depths are fathomless and therefore calm. The innocence and nakedness are resumed . . . they are neither modest nor immodest. The whole theory of the special and supernatural and all that was twined with it or educed out of it departs as a dream.
|What has ever happened . . . . what happens and whatever may or shall
happen, the vital laws enclose all . . . . they are sufficent for any case
and for all cases . . . none to be hurried or retarded . . . . any miracle of
affairs or persons inadmissible in the vast clear scheme where every motion
and every spear of grass and the frames and spirits of men and women and
all that concerns them are unspeakably perfect miracles all referring to
all and each distinct and in its place. It is also not consistent with
the reality of the soul to admit that there is anything in the known universe
more divine than men and women.
Men and women and the earth and all upon it are simply to be taken as they are, and the investigation of their past and present and future shall be unintermitted and shall be done with perfect candor. Upon this basis philosophy speculates ever looking toward the poet, ever regarding the eternal tendencies of all toward happiness never inconsistent with what is clear to the senses and to the soul. For the eternal tendencies of all toward happiness make the only point of sane philosophy. Whatever comprehends less than that . . . whatever is less than the laws of light and of astronomical motion . . . or less than the laws that follow the thief the liar the glutton and the drunkard through this life and doubtless afterward . . . . . . or less than vast stretches of time or the slow formation of density or the patient upheaving of strata---is of no account. Whatever would put God in a poem or system of philosophy as contending against some being or influence is also of no account. Sanity and ensemble characterise the great master . . . spoilt in one principle all is spoilt. The great master has nothing to do with miracles. He sees health for himself in being one of the mass . . . . he sees the hiatus in singular eminence. To the perfect shape comes common ground. To be under the general law is great for that is to correspond with it. The master knows that he is unspeakably great and that all are unspeakably great . . . . that nothing for instance is greater than to conceive children and bring them up well . . . that to be is just as great as to perceive or tell.
In the make of the great masters the idea of political liberty is indispensible. Liberty takes the adherence of heroes wherever men and women exist . . . . but never takes any adherence or welcome from the rest more than from poets. They are the voice and exposition of liberty. They out of ages are worthy the grand idea . . . . to them it is confided and they must sustain it. Nothing has precedence of it and nothing can warp or degrade it. The attitude of great poets is to cheer up slaves and horrify despots. The turn of their necks, the sound of their feet, the motions of their wrists, are full of hazard to the one and hope to the other. Come nigh them awhile and though they neither speak or advise you shall learn the faithful American lesson. Liberty is poorly served by men whose good intent is quelled from one failure or two failures or any number of failures, or from the casual indifference or ingratitude of the people, or from the sharp show of the tushes of power, or the bringing to bear soldiers and cannon or any penal statutes. Liberty relies upon itself, invites no one, promises nothing, sits in calmness and light, is positive and composed, and knows no discouragement. The battle rages with many a loud alarm and frequent advance and retreat . . . . the enemy triumphs . . . . the prison, the handcuffs, the iron necklace and anklet, the scaffold, garrote and leadballs do their work . . . . the cause is asleep . . . . the strong throats are choked with their own blood . . . . the young men drop their eyelashes toward the ground when they pass each other . . . . and is liberty gone out of that place? No never. When liberty goes it is not the first to go nor the second or third to go . . it waits for all the rest to go . . it is the last. . . When the memories of the old martyrs are faded utterly away . . . . when the large names of patriots are laughed at in the public halls from the lips of the orators . . . . when the boys are no more christened after the same but christened after tyrants and traitors instead . . . . when the laws of the free are grudgingly permitted and laws for informers and bloodmoney are sweet to the taste of the people . . . . when I and you walk abroad upon the earth stung with compassion at the sight of numberless brothers answering our equal friendship and calling no man master---and when we are elated with noble joy at the sight of slaves . . . . when the soul retires in the cool communion of the night and surveys its experience and has much extasy over the word and deed that put back a helpless innocent person into the gripe of the gripers or into any cruel inferiority . . . . when those in all parts of these states who could easier realize the true American character but do not yet---when the swarms of cringers, suckers, doughfaces, lice of politics, planners of sly involutions for their own preferment to city offices or state legislatures or the judiciary or congress or the presidency, obtain a response of love and natural deference from the people whether they get the offices or no . . . . when it is better to be a bound booby and rogue in office at a high salary than the poorest free mechanic or farmer with his hat unmoved from his head and firm eyes and a candid and generous heart . . . . and when servility by town or state or the federal government or any oppression on a large
|scale or small scale can be tried on without its own punishment following
duly after in exact proportion against the smallest chance of escape . .
or rather when all life and all the souls of men and women are discharged
from any part of the earth---then only shall the instinct of liberty be
discharged from that part of the earth.
As the attributes of the poets of the kosmos concentre in the real body and soul and in the pleasure of things they possess the superiority of genuineness over all fiction and romance. As they emit themselves facts are showered over with light . . . . the daylight is lit with more volatile light . . . . also the deep between the setting and rising sun goes deeper many fold. Each precise object or condition or combination or process exhibits a beauty . . . . the multiplication table its---old age its---the carpenter's trade its---the grand-opera its . . . . the hugehulled cleanshaped New-York clipper at sea under steam or full sail gleams with unmatched beauty . . . . the American circles and large harmonies of government gleam with theirs . . . . and the commonest definite intentions and actions with theirs. The poets of the kosmos advance through all interpositions and coverings and turmoils and stratagems to first principles. They are of use . . . . they dissolve poverty from its need and riches from its conceit. You large proprietor they say shall not realize or perceive more than any one else. The owner of the library is not he who holds a legal title to it having bought and paid for it. Any one and every one is owner of the library who can read the same through all the varieties of tongues and subjects and styles, and in whom they enter with ease and take residence and force toward paternity and maternity, and make supple and powerful and rich and large. . . . . . . . . These American states strong and healthy and accomplished shall receive no pleasure from violations of natural models and must not permit them. In paintings or mouldings or carvings in mineral or wood, or in the illustrations of books or newspapers, or in any comic or tragic prints, or in the patterns of woven stuffs or any thing to beautify rooms or furniture or costumes, or to put upon cornices or monuments or on the prows or sterns of ships, or to put anywhere before the human eye indoors or out, that which distorts honest shapes or which creates unearthly beings or places or contingencies is a nuisance and revolt. Of the human form especially it is so great it must never be made ridiculous. Of ornaments to a work nothing outre can be allowed . . but those ornaments can be allowed that conform to the perfect facts of the open air and that flow out of the nature of the work and come irrepressibly from it and are necessary to the completion of the work. Most works are most beautiful without ornament. . . Exaggerations will be revenged in human physiology. Clean and vigorous children are jetted and conceived only in those communities where the models of natural forms are public every day. . . . . Great genius and the people of these states must never be demeaned to romances. As soon as histories are properly told there is no more need of romances.
The great poets are also to be known by the absence in them of tricks and by the justification of perfect personal candor. Then folks echo a new cheap joy and a divine voice leaping from their brains: How beautiful is candor! All faults may be forgiven of him who has perfect candor. Henceforth let no man of us lie, for we have seen that openness wins the inner and outer world and that there is no single exception, and that never since our earth gathered itself in a mass have deceit or subterfuge or prevarication attracted its smallest particle or the faintest tinge of a shade---and that through the enveloping wealth and rank of a state or the whole republic of states a sneak or sly person shall be discovered and despised . . . . and that the soul has never been once fooled and never can be fooled . . . . and thrift without the loving nod of the soul is only a foetid puff . . . . and there never grew up in any of the continents of the globe nor upon any planet or satellite or star, nor upon the asteroids, nor in any part of ethereal space, nor in the midst of density, nor under the fluid wet of the sea, nor in that condition which precedes the birth of babes, nor at any time during the changes of life, nor in that condition that follows what we term death, nor in any stretch of abeyance or action afterward of vitality, nor in any process of formation or reformation anywhere, a being whose instinct hated the truth.
Extreme caution or prudence, the soundest organic health, large hope and comparison and fondness for women and children, large alimentiveness and destructiveness and causality, with a perfect sense of the oneness of nature and the propriety of the same spirit applied to human affairs . . these are called up of the float of the brain of the world to be parts of the greatest poet from his birth out of his mother's womb and from her birth out of her mother's. Caution seldom goes far enough. It has been thought that the prudent citizen was the citizen who applied himself to solid gains and did well for himself and his family and completed a lawful life without debt or crime. The greatest poet sees and admits these economies as he sees the economies of food and sleep, but has higher notions of prudence than to think he gives much when he gives
|a few slight attentions at the latch of the gate. The premises of the prudence of life are not the hospitality of it or the ripeness and harvest of it. Beyond the independence of a little sum laid aside for burial-money, and of a few clapboards around and shingles overhead on a lot of American soil owned, and the easy dollars that supply the year's plain clothing and meals, the melancholy prudence of the abandonment of such a great being as a man is to the toss and pallor of years of moneymaking with all their scorching days and icy nights and all their stifling deceits and underhanded dodgings, or infinitessimals of parlors, or shameless stuffing while others starve . . and all the loss of the bloom and odor of the earth and of the flowers and atmosphere and of the sea and of the true taste of the women and men you pass or have to do with in youth or middle age, and the issuing sickness and desperate revolt at the close of a life without elevation or naivete, and the ghastly chatter of a death without serenity or majesty, is the great fraud upon modern civilization and forethought, blotching the surface and system which civilization undeniably drafts, and moistening with tears the immense features it spreads and spreads with such velocity before the reached kisses of the soul. . . Still the right explanation remains to be made about prudence. The prudence of the mere wealth and respectability of the most esteemed life appears too faint for the eye to observe at all when little and large alike drop quietly aside at the thought of the prudence suitable for immortality. What is wisdom that fills the thinness of a year or seventy or eighty years to wisdom spaced out by ages and coming back at a certain time with strong reinforcements and rich presents and the clear faces of wedding-guests as far as you can look in every direction running gaily toward you? Only the soul is of itself . . . . all else has reference to what ensues. All that a person does or thinks is of consequence. Not a move can a man or woman make that affects him or her in a day or a month or any part of the direct lifetime or the hour of death but the same affects him or her onward afterward through the indirect lifetime. The indirect is always as great and real as the direct. The spirit receives from the body just as much as it gives to the body. Not one name of word or deed . . not of venereal sores or discolorations . . not the privacy of the onanist . . not of the putrid veins of gluttons or rumdrinkers . . . not peculation or cunning or betrayal or murder . . no serpentine poison of those that seduce women . . not the foolish yielding of women . . not prostitution . . not of any depravity of young men . . not of the attainment of gain by discreditable means . . not any nastiness of appetite . . not any harshness of officer to men or judges to prisoners or fathers to sons or sons to fathers or of husbands to wives or bosses to their boys . . not of greedy looks or malignant wishes . . . nor any of the wiles practised by people upon themselves . . . ever is or ever can be stamped on the programme but it is duly realized and returned, and that returned in further performances . . . and they returned again. Nor can the push of charity or personal force ever be any thing else than the profoundest reason, whether it bring arguments to hand or no. No specification is necessary . . to add or subtract or divide is in vain. Little or big, learned or unlearned, white or black, legal or illegal, sick or well, from the first inspiration down the windpipe to the last expiration out of it, all that a male or female does that is vigorous and benevolent and clean is so much sure profit to him or her in the unshakable order of the universe and through the whole scope of it forever. If the savage or felon is wise it is well . . . . if the greatest poet or savan is wise it is simply the same . . if the President or chief justice is wise it is the same . . . if the young mechanic or farmer is wise it is no more or less . . if the prostitute is wise it is no more nor less. The interest will come round . . all will come round. All the best actions of war and peace . . . all help given to relatives and strangers and the poor and old and sorrowful and young children and widows and the sick, and to all shunned persons . . all furtherance of fugitives and of the escape of slaves . . all the self-denial that stood steady and aloof on wrecks and saw others take the seats of the boats . . . all offering of substance or life for the good old cause, or for a friend's sake or opinion's sake . . . all pains of enthusiasts scoffed at by their neighbors . . all the vast sweet love and precious suffering of mothers . . . all honest men baffled in strifes recorded or unrecorded . . . . all the grandeur and good of the few ancient nations whose fragments of annals we inherit . . and all the good of the hundreds of far mightier and more ancient nations unknown to us by name or date or location . . . . all that was ever manfully begun, whether it succeeded or no . . . . all that has at any time been well suggested out of the divine heart of man or by the divinity of his mouth or by the shaping of his great hands . . and all that is well thought or done this day on any part of the surface of the globe . . or on any of the wandering stars or fixed stars by those there as we are here . . or that is henceforth to be well thought or done by you whoever you are, or by any one---these singly and wholly inured at their time and inure now and will inure always to the identities from which they sprung or shall spring. . . Did you guess any of them lived only its moment?|
|The world does not so exist . . no parts palpable or impalpable so exist
. . . no result exists now without being from its long antecedent result,
and that from its antecedent, and so backward without the farthest mentionable
spot coming a bit nearer the beginning than any other spot. . . . . Whatever
satisfies the soul is truth. The prudence of the greatest poet answers
at last the craving and glut of the soul, is not contemptuous of less ways
of prudence if they conform to its ways, puts off nothing, permits no let-up
for its own case or any case, has no particular sabbath or judgment-day,
divides not the living from the dead or the righteous from the unrighteous,
is satisfied with the present, matches every thought or act by its correlative,
knows no possible forgiveness or deputed atonement . . knows that the young
man who composedly periled his life and lost it has done exceeding well
for himself, while the man who has not periled his life and retains it
to old age in riches and ease has perhaps achieved nothing for himself
worth mentioning . . and that only that person has no great prudence to
learn who has learnt to prefer real longlived things, and favors body and
soul the same, and perceives the indirect assuredly following the direct,
and what evil or good he does leaping onward and waiting to meet him again---and
who in his spirit in any emergency whatever neither hurries or avoids death.
The direct trial of him who would be the greates poet is today. If he does not flood himself with the immediate age as with vast oceanic tides . . . . . and if he does not attract his own land body and soul to himself and hang on its neck with incomparable love and plunge his semitic muscle into its merits and demerits . . . and if he be not himself the age transfigured . . . . and if to him is not opened the eternity which gives similitude to all periods and locations and processes and animate and inanimate forms, and which is the bond of time, and rises up from its inconceivable vagueness and infiniteness in the swimming shape of today, and is held by the ductile anchors of life, and makes the present spot the passage from what was to what shall be, and commits itself to the representation of this wave of an hour and this one of the sixty beautiful children of the wave---let him merge in the general run and wait his development. . . . . . . . Still the final test of poems or any character or work remains. The prescient poet projects himself centuries ahead and judges performer or performance after the changes of time. Does it live through them? Does it still hold on untired? Will the same style and the direction of genius to similar points be satisfactory now? Has no new discovery in science or arrival at superior planes of thought and judgment and behaviour fixed him or his so that either can be looked down upon? Have the marches of tens and hundreds and thousands of years made willing detours to the right hand and the left hand for his sake? Is he beloved long and long after he is buried? Does the young man think often of him? and the young woman think often of him? and do the middleaged and the old think of him?
A great poem is for ages and ages in common and for all degrees and complexions and all departments and sects and for a woman as much as a man and a man as much as a woman. A great poem is no finish to a man or woman but rather a beginning. Has any one fancied he could sit at last under some due authority and rest satisfied with explanations and realize and be content and full? To no such terminus does the greatest poet bring . . . he brings neither cessation or sheltered fatness and ease. The touch of him tells in action. Whom he takes he takes with firm sure grasp into live regions previously unattained . . . . thenceforward is no rest . . . . they see the space and ineffable sheen that turn the old spots and lights into dead vacuums. The companion of him beholds the birth and progress of stars and learns one of the meanings. Now there shall be a man cohered out of tumult and chaos . . . . the elder encourages the younger and shows him how . . . they two shall launch off fearlessly together till the new world fits an orbit for itself and looks unabashed on the lesser orbits of the stars and sweeps through the ceaseless rings and shall never be quiet again.
There will soon be no more priests. Their work is done. They may wait awhile . . perhaps a generation or two . . dropping off by degrees. A superior breed shall take their place . . . . the gangs of kosmos and prophets en masse shall take their place. A new order shall arise and they shall be the priests of man, and every man shall be his own priest. The churches built under their umbrage shall be the churches of men and women. Through the divinity of themselves shall the kosmos and the new breed of poets be interpreters of men and women and of all events and things. They shall find their inspiration in real objects today, symptoms of the past and future . . . . They shall not deign to defend immortality or God or the perfection of things or liberty or the exquisite beauty and reality of the soul. They shall arise in America and be responded to from the remainder of the earth.
The English language befriends the grand American expression . . . . it is brawny enough and limber and full enough. On the tough stock of a race who through all change of circumstance was never with-
|out the idea of political liberty, which is the animus of all liberty,
it has attracted the terms of daintier and gayer and subtler and more elegant
tongues. It is the powerful language of resistance . . . it is the dialect
of common sense. It is the speech of the proud and melancholy races and
of all who aspire. It is the chosen tongue to express growth faith self-esteem
freedom justice equality friendliness amplitude prudence decision and courage.
It is the medium that shall well nigh express the inexpressible.
No great literature nor any like style of behaviour or oratory or social intercourse or household arrangements or public institutions or the treatment by bosses of employed people, nor executive detail or detail of the army or navy, nor spirit of legislation or courts or police or tuition or architecture or songs or amusements or the costumes of young men, can long elude the jealous and passionate instinct of American standards. Whether or no the sign appears from the mouths of the people, it throbs a live interrogation in every freeman's and freewoman's heart after that which passes by or this built to remain. Is it uniform with my country? Are its disposals without ignominious distinctions? Is it for the evergrowing communes of brothers and lovers, large, well-united, proud beyond the old models, generous beyond all models? Is it something grown fresh out of the fields or drawn from the sea for use to me today here? I know that what answers for me an American must answer for any individual or nation that serves for a part of my materials. Does this answer? or is it without reference to universal needs? or sprung of the needs of the less developed society of special ranks? or old needs of pleasure overlaid by modern science and forms? Does this acknowledge liberty with audible and absolute acknowledgement, and set slavery at nought for life and death? Will it help breed one goodshaped and wellhung man, and a woman to be his perfect and independent mate? Does it improve manners? Is it for the nursing of the young of the republic? Does it solve readily with the sweet milk of the nipples of the breasts of the mother of many children? Has it too the old ever-fresh forbearance and impartiality? Does it look with the same love on the last born and on those hardening toward stature, and on the errant, and on those who disdain all strength of assault outside of their own?
The poems distilled from other poems will probably pass away. The coward will surely pass away. The expectation of the vital and great can only be satisfied by the demeanor of the vital and great. The swarms of the polished deprecating and reflectors and the polite float off and leave no remembrance. America prepares with composure and goodwill for the visitors that have sent word. It is not intellect that is to be their warrant and welcome. The talented, the artist, the ingenious, the editor, the statesman, the erudite . . they are not unappreciated . . they fall in their place and do their work. The soul of the nation also does its work. No disguise can pass on it . . no disguise can conceal from it. It rejects none, it permits all. Only toward as good as itself and toward the like of itself will it advance half-way. An individual is as superb as a nation when he has the qualities which make a superb nation. The soul of the largest and wealthiest and proudest nation may well go half-way to meet that of its poets. The signs are effectual. There is no fear of mistake. If the one is true the other is true. The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.
|I CELEBRATE myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
Houses and rooms are full of perfumes . . . . the shelves are crowded
The atmosphere is not a perfume . . . . it has no taste of the distillation
. . . . it is
The smoke of my own breath,
|Have you reckoned a thousand acres much? Have you reckoned the earth
Have you practiced so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?
Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of
I have heard what the talkers were talking . . . . the talk of the beginning
and the end,
There was never any more inception than there is now,
Urge and urge and urge,
Out of the dimness opposite equals advance . . . . Always substance
To elaborate is no avail . . . . Learned and unlearned feel that it is so.
Sure as the most certain sure . . . . plumb in the uprights, well entretied,
Clear and sweet is my soul . . . . and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul.
Lack one lacks both . . . . and the unseen is proved by the seen,
Showing the best and dividing it from the worst, age vexes age,
Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and of any man hearty and
I am satisfied . . . . I see, dance, laugh, sing;
|As God comes a loving bedfellow and sleeps at my side all night and
close on the
peep of the day,
And leaves for me baskets covered with white towels bulging the house with their
Shall I postpone my acceptation and realization and scream at my eyes,
That they turn from gazing after and down the road,
And forthwith cipher and show me to a cent,
Exactly the contents of one, and exactly the contents of two, and which is ahead?
Trippers and askers surround me,
Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,
Backward I see in my own days where I sweated through fog with linguists
I believe in you my soul . . . . the other I am must not abase itself
Loafe with me on the grass . . . . loose the stop from your throat,
I mind how we lay in June, such a transparent summer morning;
Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and joy and knowledge that
|And I know that the spirit of God is the eldest brother of my
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers . . . . and the women my sisters
And that a kelson of the creation is love;
And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,
And mossy scabs of the wormfence, and heaped stones, and elder and mullen and
A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
Or I guess the grass is itself a child . . . . the produced babe of the vegetation.
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
|What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?
They are alive and well somewhere;
All goes onward and outward . . . . and nothing collapses,
Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?
I pass death with the dying, and birth with the new- washed babe . .
. . and am not
I am not an earth nor an adjunct of an earth,
Every kind for itself and its own . . . . for me mine male and female,
Who need be afraid of the merge?
The little one sleeps in its cradle,
The suicide sprawls on the bloody floor of the bedroom.
|The blab of the pave . . . . the tires of carts and sluff of bootsoles
and talk of the
The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogating thumb, the clank of the shod
horses on the granite floor,
The carnival of sleighs, the clinking and shouted jokes and pelts of snowballs;
The hurrahs for popular favorites . . . . the fury of roused mobs,
The flap of the curtained litter -- the sick man inside, borne to the hospital,
The meeting of enemies, the sudden oath, the blows and fall,
The excited crowd -- the policeman with his star quickly working his passage to the
centre of the crowd;
The impassive stones that receive and return so many echoes,
The souls moving along . . . . are they invisible while the least atom of the stones is
What groans of overfed or half-starved who fall on the flags sunstruck or in fits,
What exclamations of women taken suddenly, who hurry home and give birth to
What living and buried speech is always vibrating here . . . . what howls restrained
Arrests of criminals, slights, adulterous offers made, acceptances, rejections with
I mind them or the resonance of them . . . . I come again and again.
The big doors of the country-barn stand open and ready,
Alone far in the wilds and mountains I hunt,
The Yankee clipper is under her three skysails . . . . she cuts the
sparkle and scud,
The boatmen and clamdiggers arose early and stopped for me,
I saw the marriage of the trapper in the open air in the far-west
. . . . the bride was
|Her father and his friends sat near by crosslegged and dumbly smoking
. . . . they
had moccasins to their feet and large thick blankets hanging from their
On a bank lounged the trapper . . . . he was dressed mostly in skins . . . . his luxuriant
beard and curls protected his neck,
One hand rested on his rifle . . . . the other hand held firmly the wrist of the red girl,
She had long eyelashes . . . . her head was bare . . . . her coarse straight locks
descended upon her voluptuous limbs and reached to her feet.
The runaway slave came to my house and stopped outside,
Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore,
She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank,
Which of the young men does she like the best?
Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,
Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty- ninth bather,
The beards of the young men glistened with wet, it ran from their long
An unseen hand also passed over their bodies,
The young men float on their backs, their white bellies swell to the
sun .. . . they do
|They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and bending arch,
They do not think whom they souse with spray.
The butcher-boy puts off his killing-clothes, or sharpens his knife
at the stall in the
Blacksmiths with grimed and hairy chests environ the anvil,
From the cinder-strewed threshold I follow their movements,
The negro holds firmly the reins of his four horses . . . . the block
I behold the picturesque giant and love him . . . . and I do not stop
In me the caresser of life wherever moving . . . . backward as well
as forward slue-
Oxen that rattle the yoke or halt in the shade, what is that you express
in your eyes?
My tread scares the wood-drake and wood-duck on my distant and daylong
The wild gander leads his flock through the cool night,
|Ya-honk! he says, and sounds it down to me like an invitation;
The pert may suppose it meaningless, but I listen closer,
I find its purpose and place up there toward the November sky.
The sharphoofed moose of the north, the cat on the housesill, the chickadee,
The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred affections,
I am enamoured of growing outdoors,
What is commonest and cheapest and nearest and easiest is Me,
The pure contralto sings in the organloft,
|The young fellow drives the express-wagon . . . . I love him though
I do not know
The half-breed straps on his light boots to compete in the race,
The western turkey-shooting draws old and young . . . . some lean on their rifles,
some sit on logs,
Out from the crowd steps the marksman and takes his position and levels his piece;
The groups of newly-come immigrants cover the wharf or levee,
The woollypates hoe in the sugarfield, the overseer views them from his saddle;
The bugle calls in the ballroom, the gentlemen run for their partners, the dancers
bow to each other;
The youth lies awake in the cedar-roofed garret and harks to the musical rain,
The Wolverine sets traps on the creek that helps fill the Huron,
The reformer ascends the platform, he spouts with his mouth and nose,
The company returns from its excursion, the darkey brings up the rear and bears the
The squaw wrapt in her yellow-hemmed cloth is offering moccasins and beadbags for
The connoisseur peers along the exhibition-gallery with halfshut eyes bent sideways,
The deckhands make fast the steamboat, the plank is thrown for the shoregoing
The young sister holds out the skein, the elder sister winds it off in a ball and stops
now and then for the knots,
The one-year wife is recovering and happy, a week ago she bore her first child,
The cleanhaired Yankee girl works with her sewing-machine or in the factory or
The nine months' gone is in the parturition chamber, her faintness and pains are ad-
The pavingman leans on his twohanded rammer -- the reporter's lead flies swiftly
over the notebook -- the signpainter is lettering with red and gold,
The canal-boy trots on the towpath -- the bookkeeper counts at his desk -- the
shoemaker waxes his thread,
The conductor beats time for the band and all the performers
The child is baptised -- the convert is making the first professions,
The regatta is spread on the bay . . . . how the white sails sparkle!
The drover watches his drove, he sings out to them that would stray,
The pedlar sweats with his pack on his back -- the purchaser higgles about the odd
The camera and plate are prepared, the lady must sit for her daguerreotype,
The bride unrumples her white dress, the minutehand of the clock moves slowly,
The opium eater reclines with rigid head and just-opened lips,
The prostitute draggles her shawl, her bonnet bobs on her tipsy and pimpled neck,
The crowd laugh at her blackguard oaths, the men jeer and wink to each other,
(Miserable! I do not laugh at your oaths nor jeer you,)
The President holds a cabinet council, he is surrounded by the great secretaries,
|On the piazza walk five friendly matrons with twined arms;
The crew of the fish-smack pack repeated layers of halibut in the hold,
The Missourian crosses the plains toting his wares and his cattle,
The fare-collector goes through the train -- he gives notice by the jingling of loose
The floormen are laying the floor -- the tinners are tinning the roof -- the masons
are calling for mortar,
In single file each shouldering his hod pass onward the laborers;
Seasons pursuing each other the indescribable crowd is gathered . . . . it is the
Fourth of July . . . . what salutes of cannon and small arms!
Seasons pursuing each other the plougher ploughs and the mower mows and the
wintergrain falls in the ground;
Off on the lakes the pikefisher watches and waits by the hole in the frozen surface,
The stumps stand thick round the clearing, the squatter strikes deep with his axe,
The flatboatmen make fast toward dusk near the cottonwood or pekantrees,
The coon-seekers go now through the regions of the Red river, or through those
drained by the Tennessee, or through those of the Arkansas,
The torches shine in the dark that hangs on the Chattahoochee or Altamahaw;
Patriarchs sit at supper with sons and grandsons and great grandsons around them,
In walls of adobe, in canvass tents, rest hunters and trappers after their day's sport.
The city sleeps and the country sleeps,
The living sleep for their time . . . . the dead sleep for their time,
The old husband sleeps by his wife and the young husband sleeps by his wife;
And these one and all tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them,
And such as it is to be of these more or less I am.
I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,
|Comrade of raftsmen and coalmen -- comrade of all who shake hands and
to drink and meat;
A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the thoughtfulest,
A novice beginning experient of myriads of seasons,
Of every hue and trade and rank, of every caste and religion,
Not merely of the New World but of Africa Europe or Asia . . . . a wandering
A farmer, mechanic, or artist . . . . a gentleman, sailor, lover or quaker,
A prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician or priest.
I resist anything better than my own diversity,
The moth and the fisheggs are in their place,
These are the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they are not
This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is,
This is the breath of laws and songs and behaviour,
This is the trill of a thousand clear cornets and scream of the octave
flute and strike
I play not a march for victors only . . . . I play great marches for
Have you heard that it was good to gain the day?
|I sound triumphal drums for the dead . . . . I fling through my embouchures
loudest and gayest music to them,
Vivas to those who have failed, and to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea,
and those themselves who sank in the sea,
And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome heroes, and the number-
less unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known.
This is the meal pleasantly set . . . . this is the meat and drink for
This is the press of a bashful hand . . . . this is the float and odor
Do you guess I have some intricate purpose?
Do you take it I would astonish?
This hour I tell things in confidence,
Who goes there! hankering, gross, mystical, nude?
What is a man anyhow? What am I? and what are you?
I do not snivel that snivel the world over,
Whimpering and truckling fold with powders for invalids . . . . conformity
Shall I pray? Shall I venerate and be ceremonious?
|I have pried through the strata and analyzed to a hair,
And counselled with doctors and calculated close and found no sweeter fat than
sticks to my own bones.
In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barleycorn less,
And I know I am solid and sound,
And I know I am deathless,
I know I am august,
I exist as I am, that is enough,
One world is aware, and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,
My foothold is tenoned and mortised in granite,
I am the poet of the body,
The pleasures of heaven are with me, and the pains of hell are with
I am the poet of the woman the same as the man,
I chant a new chant of dilation or pride,
|Have you outstript the rest? Are you the President?
It is a trifle . . . . they will more than arrive there every one, and still pass on.
I am he that walks with the tender and growing night;
Press close barebosomed night! Press close magnetic nourishing night!
Smile O voluptuous coolbreathed earth!
Prodigal! you have given me love! . . . . therefore I to you give love!
Thruster holding me tight and that I hold tight!
You sea! I resign myself to you also . . . . I guess what you mean,
Sea of stretched ground-swells!
Partaker of influx and efflux . . . . extoler of hate and conciliation,
I am he attesting sympathy;
I am the poet of commonsense and of the demonstrable and of immortality;
|Washes and razors for foofoos . . . . for me freckles and a bristling
What blurt is it about virtue and about vice?
Did you fear some scrofula out of the unflagging pregnancy?
I step up to say that what we do is right and what we affirm is right
. . . . and some
This minute that comes to me over the past decillions,
What behaved well in the past or behaves well today is not such a wonder,
Endless unfolding of words of ages!
A word of the faith that never balks,
A word of reality . . . . materialism first and last imbueing.
Hurrah for positive science! Long live exact demonstration!
Gentlemen I receive you, and attach and clasp hands with you,
I am less the reminder of property or qualities, and more the reminder
|And make short account of neuters and geldings, and favor men and women
And beat the gong of revolt, and stop with fugitives and them that plot and conspire.
Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a kosmos,
Unscrew the locks from the doors!
Whoever degrades another degrades me . . . . and whatever is done or
Through me the afflatus surging and surging . . . . through me the current and index.
I speak the password primeval . . . . I give the sign of democracy;
Through me many long dumb voices,
Through me forbidden voices,
I do not press my finger across my mouth,
I believe in the flesh and the appetites,
Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touched
|If I worship any particular thing it shall be some of the spread of
Translucent mould of me it shall be you,
Shaded ledges and rests, firm masculine coulter, it shall be you,
Whatever goes to the tilth of me it shall be you,
You my rich blood, your milky stream pale strippings of my life;
Breast that presses against other breasts it shall be you,
My brain it shall be your occult convolutions,
Root of washed sweet-flag, timorous pond-snipe, nest of guarded duplicate eggs, it
shall be you,
Mixed tussled hay of head and beard and brawn it shall be you,
Trickling sap of maple, fibre of manly wheat, it shall be you;
Sun so generous it shall be you,
Vapors lighting and shading my face it shall be you,
You sweaty brooks and dews it shall be you,
Winds whose soft-tickling genitals rub against me it shall be you,
Broad muscular fields, branches of liveoak, loving lounger in my winding paths, it
shall be you,
Hands I have taken, face I have kissed, mortal I have ever touched, it shall be you.
I dote on myself . . . . there is that lot of me, and all so luscious,
I cannot tell how my ankles bend . . . . nor whence the cause of my
To walk up my stoop is unaccountable . . . . I pause to consider if
it really be,
To behold the daybreak!
Hefts of the moving world at innocent gambols, silently rising, freshly
Something I cannot see puts upward libidinous prongs,
The earth by the sky staid with . . . . the daily close of their junction,
Dazzling and tremendous how quick the sunrise would kill me,
|We also ascend dazzling and tremendous as the sun,
We found our own my soul in the calm and cool of the daybreak.
My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach,
Speech is the twin of my vision . . . . it is unequal to measure itself.
It provokes me forever,
Come now I will not be tantalized . . . . you conceive too much of articulation.
Do you not know how the buds beneath are folded?
My final merit I refuse you . . . . I refuse putting from me the best I am.
Encompass worlds but never try to encompass me,
Writing and talk do not prove me,
I think I will do nothing for a long time but listen,
I hear the bravuras of birds . . . . the bustle of growing wheat . .
. . gossip of flames
I hear the sound of the human voice . . . . a sound I love,
|The ring of alarm-bells . . . . the cry of fire . . . . the whirr of
and hose-carts with premonitory tinkles and colored lights,
The steam-whistle . . . . the solid roll of the train of approaching cars;
The slow-march played at night at the head of the association,
They go to guard some corpse . . . . the flag-tops are draped with black muslin.
I hear the violincello or man's heart's complaint,
I hear the chorus . . . . it is a grand-opera . . . . this indeed is music!
A tenor large and fresh as the creation fills me,
I hear the trained soprano . . . . she convulses me like the climax
of my love-grip;
To be in any form, what is that?
Mine is no callous shell,
I merely stir, press, feel with my fingers, and am happy,
Is this then a touch? . . . . quivering me to a new identity,
|Immodestly sliding the fellow-senses away,
They bribed to swap off with touch, and go and graze at the edges of me,
No consideration, no regard for my draining strength or my anger,
Fetching the rest of the herd around to enjoy them awhile,
Then all uniting to stand on a headland and worry me.
The sentries desert every other part of me,
I am given up by traitors;
You villain touch! what are you doing? . . . . my breath is tight in
Blind loving wrestling touch! Sheathed hooded sharptoothed touch!
Parting tracked by arriving . . . . perpetual payment of the perpetual
Sprouts take and accumulate . . . . stand by the curb prolific and vital,
All truths wait in all things,
Logic and sermons never convince,
Only what proves itself to every man and woman is so,
A minute and a drop of me settle my brain;
|I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journeywork of the stars,
And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg of the wren,
And the tree-toad is a chef-d'ouvre for the highest,
And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven,
And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery,
And the cow crunching with depressed head surpasses any statue,
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels,
And I could come every afternoon of my life to look at the farmer's girl boiling her
iron tea-kettle and baking shortcake.
I find I incorporate gneiss and coal and long-threaded moss and fruits
and grains and
In vain the speeding or shyness,
I think I could turn and live awhile with the animals . . . . they are
so placid and self-
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
So they show their relations to me and I accept them;
I do not know where they got those tokens,
|Infinite and omnigenous and the like of these among them;
Not too exclusive toward the reachers of my remembrancers,
Picking out here one that shall be my amie,
Choosing to go with him on brotherly terms.
A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and responsive to my caresses,
His nostrils dilate . . . . my heels embrace him . . . . his well built
limbs tremble with
I but use you a moment and then I resign you stallion . . . . and do
not need your
Swift wind! Space! My Soul! Now I know it is true what I guessed at;
My ties and ballasts leave me . . . . I travel . . . . I sail . .
. . my elbows rest in the
By the city's quadrangular houses . . . . in log-huts, or camping with
|Over the western persimmon . . . . over the longleaved corn and the
Over the white and brown buckwheat, a hummer and a buzzer there with the rest,
Over the dusky green of the rye as it ripples and shades in the breeze;
Scaling mountains . . . . pulling myself cautiously up . . . . holding on by low scrag-
Walking the path worn in the grass and beat through the leaves of the brush;
Where the quail is whistling betwixt the woods and the wheatlot,
Where the bat flies in the July eve . . . . where the great goldbug drops through the
Where the flails keep time on the barn floor,
Where the brook puts out of the roots of the old tree and flows to the meadow,
Where cattle stand and shake away flies with the tremulous shuddering of their
Where the cheese-cloth hangs in the kitchen, and andirons straddle the hearth-slab,
and cobwebs fall in festoons from the rafters;
Where triphammers crash . . . . where the press is whirling its cylinders;
Wherever the human heart beats with terrible throes out of its ribs;
Where the pear-shaped balloon is floating aloft . . . . floating in it myself and look-
ing composedly down;
Where the life-car is drawn on the slipnoose . . . . where the heat hatches pale-
green eggs in the dented sand,
Where the she-whale swims with her calves and never forsakes them,
Where the steamship trails hindways its long pennant of smoke,
Where the ground-shark's fin cuts like a black chip out of the water,
Where the half-burned brig is riding on unknown currents,
Where shells grow to her slimy deck, and the dead are corrupting below;
Where the striped and starred flag is borne at the head of the regiments;
Approaching Manhattan, up by the long-stretching island,
Under Niagara, the cataract falling like a veil over my countenance;
Upon a door-step . . . . upon the horse-block of hard wood outside,
Upon the race-course, or enjoying pic-nics or jigs or a good game of base-ball,
At he-festivals with blackguard jibes and ironical license and bull-dances and
drinking and laughter,
At the cider-mill, tasting the sweet of the brown sqush . . . . sucking the juice
through a straw,
At apple-pealings, wanting kisses for all the red fruit I find,
At musters and beach-parties and friendly bees and huskings and house-raisings;
Where the mockingbird sounds his delicious gurgles, and cackles and screams and
Where the hay-rick stands in the barnyard, and the dry-stalks are scattered, and the
brood cow waits in the hovel,
Where the bull advances to do his masculine work, and the stud to the mare, and the
cock is treading the hen,
Where the heifers browse, and the geese nip their food with short jerks;
|Where the sundown shadows lengthen over the limitless and lonesome
Where the herds of buffalo make a crawling spread of the square miles far and
Where the hummingbird shimmers . . . . where the neck of the longlived swan is
curving and winding;
Where the laughing-gull scoots by the slappy shore and laughs her near-human
Where beehives range on a gray bench in the garden half-hid by the high weeds;
Where the band-necked partridges roost in a ring on the ground with their heads
Where burial coaches enter the arched gates of a cemetery;
Where winter wolves bark amid wastes of snow and icicled trees;
Where the yellow-crowned heron comes to the edge of the marsh at night and feeds
upon small crabs;
Where the splash of swimmers and divers cools the warm noon;
Where the katydid works her chromatic reed on the walnut-tree over the well;
Through patches of citrons and cucumbers with silver-wired leaves,
Through the salt-lick or orange glade . . . . or under conical firs;
Through the gymnasium . . . . through the curtained saloon . . . . through the office
or public hall;
Pleased with the native and pleased with the foreign . . . . pleased with the new
Pleased with women, the homely as well as the handsome,
Pleased with the quakeress as she puts off her bonnet and talks melodiously,
Pleased with the primitive tunes of the choir of the whitewashed church,
Pleased with the earnest words of the sweating Methodist preacher, or any preacher
. . . . looking seriously at the camp-meeting;
Looking in at the shop-windows in Broadway the whole forenoon . . . . pressing the
flesh of my nose to the thick plate-glass,
Wandering the same afternoon with my face turned up to the clouds;
My right and left arms round the sides of two friends and I in the middle;
Coming home with the bearded and dark-cheeked bush-boy . . . . riding behind him
at the drape of the day;
Far from the settlements studying the print of animals' feet, or the moccasin print;
By the cot in the hospital reaching lemonade to a feverish patient,
By the coffined corpse when all is still, examining with a candle;
Voyaging to every port to dicker and adventure;
Hurrying with the modern crowd, as eager and fickle as any,
Hot toward one I hate, ready in my madness to knife him;
Solitary at midnight in my back yard, my thoughts gone from me a long while,
Walking the old hills of Judea with the beautiful gentle god by my side;
Speeding through space . . . . speeding through heaven and the stars,
Speeding amid the seven satellites and the broad ring and the diameter of eighty
|Speeding with tailed meteors . . . . throwing fire-balls like the rest,
Carrying the crescent child that carries its own full mother in its belly;
Storming enjoying planning loving cautioning,
Backing and filling, appearing and disappearing,
I tread day and night such roads.
I visit the orchards of God and look at the spheric product,
I fly the flight of the fluid and swallowing soul,
I help myself to material and immaterial,
I anchor my ship for a little while only,
I ascend to the foretruck . . . . I take my place late at night in the
crow's nest . . . .
I am a free companion . . . . I bivouac by invading watchfires.
I turn the bridegroom out of bed and stay with the bride myself,
My voice is the wife's voice, the screech by the rail of the stairs,
I understand the large hearts of heroes,
|How the skipper saw the crowded and rudderless wreck of the steamship,
death chasing it up and down the storm,
How he knuckled tight and gave not back one inch, and was faithful of days and
faithful of nights,
And chalked in large letters on a board, Be of good cheer, We will not desert you;
How he saved the drifting company at last,
How the lank loose-gowned women looked when boated from the side of their
How the silent old-faced infants, and the lifted sick, and the sharp-lipped unshaved
All this I swallow and it tastes good . . . . I like it well, and it becomes mine,
I am the man . . . . I suffered . . . . I was there.
The disdain and calmness of martyrs,
I am the hounded slave . . . . I wince at the bite of the dogs,
Agonies are one of my changes of garments;
I am the mashed fireman with breastbone broken . . . . tumbling walls
buried me in
I lie in the night air in my red shirt . . . . the pervading hush is
for my sake,
|Distant and dead resuscitate,
They show as the dial or move as the hands of me . . . . and I am the clock myself.
I am an old artillerist, and tell of some fort's bombardment
Again the reveille of drummers . . . . again the attacking cannon and
I take part . . . . I see and hear the whole,
Again gurgles the mouth of my dying general . . . . he furiously
waves with his
I tell not the fall of Alamo . . . . not one escaped to tell the fall
Hear now the tale of a jetblack sunrise,
Retreating they had formed in a hollow square with their baggage for
They were the glory of the race of rangers,
The second Sunday morning they were brought out in squads and massacred
. . . . it
None obeyed the command to kneel,
|The maimed and mangled dug in the dirt . . . . the new-comers saw them
Some half-killed attempted to crawl away,
These were dispatched with bayonets or battered with the blunts of muskets;
A youth not seventeen years old seized his assassin till two more came to release
The three were all torn, and covered with the boy's blood.
At eleven o'clock began the burning of the bodies;
Did you read in the seabooks of the oldfashioned frigate-fight?
Our foe was no skulk in his ship, I tell you,
We closed with him . . . . the yards entangled . . . . the cannon touched,
We had received some eighteen-pound shots under the water,
Ten o'clock at night, and the full moon shining and the leaks on the
gain,and five feet
The transit to and from the magazine was now stopped by the sentinels,
Our frigate was afire . . . . the other asked if we demanded quarters?
if our colors
I laughed content when I heard the voice of my little captain,
Only three guns were in use,
|The tops alone seconded the fire of this little battery, especially
They all held out bravely during the whole of the action.
Not a moment's cease,
Serene stood the little captain,
Toward twelve at night, there in the beams of the moon they surrendered to us.
Stretched and still lay the midnight,
O Christ! My fit is mastering me!
|I become any presence or truth of humanity here,
And see myself in prison shaped like another man,
And feel the dull unintermitted pain.
For me the keepers of convicts shoulder their carbines and keep watch,
Not a mutineer walks handcuffed to the jail, but I am handcuffed to
him and walk
Not a youngster is taken for larceny, but I go up too and am tried and sentenced.
Not a cholera patient lies at the last gasp, but I also lie at the last
Askers embody themselves in me, and I am embodied in them,
I rise extatic through all, and sweep with the true gravitation,
Somehow I have been stunned. Stand back!
That I could forget the mockers and insults!
I remember . . . . I resume the overstaid fraction,
I troop forth replenished with supreme power, one of an average unending
Our swift ordinances are on their way over the whole earth,
|Eleves I salute you,
I see the approach of your numberless gangs . . . . I see you understand yourselves
And know that they who have eyes are divine, and the blind and lame are equally
And that my steps drag behind yours yet go before them,
And are aware how I am with you no more than I am with everybody.
The friendly and flowing savage . . . . Who is he?
Is he some southwesterner raised outdoors? Is he Canadian?
Wherever he goes men and women accept and desire him,
Behaviour lawless as snow-flakes . . . . words simple as grass . . .
Flaunt of the sunshine I need not your bask . . . . lie over,
Earth! you seem to look for something at my hands,
Man or woman! I might tell how I like you, but cannot,
Behold I do not give lectures or a little charity,
You there, impotent, loose in the knees, open your scarfed chops till
I blow grit
|I do not ask who you are . . . . that is not important to me,
You can do nothing and be nothing but what I will infold you.
To a drudge of the cottonfields or emptier of privies I lean . . . .
on his right cheek
On women fit for conception I start bigger and nimbler babes,
To any one dying . . . . thither I speed and twist the knob of the door,
I seize the descending man . . . . I raise him with resistless will.
O despairer, here is my neck,
I dilate you with tremendous breath . . . . I buoy you up;
I am he bringing help for the sick as they pant on their backs,
I heard what was said of the universe,
Magnifying and applying come I,
|Admitting they bore mites as for unfledged birds who have now to rise
and fly and
sing for themselves,
Accepting the rough deific sketches to fill out better in myself . . . . bestowing them
freely on each man and woman I see,
Discovering as much or more in a framer framing a house,
Putting higher claims for him there with his rolled-up sleeves, driving the mallet and
Not objecting to special revelations . . . . considering a curl of smoke or a hair on
the back of my hand as curious as any revelation;
Those ahold of fire-engines and hook-and-ladder ropes more to me than the gods of
the antique wars,
Minding their voices peal through the crash of destruction,
Their brawny limbs passing safe over charred laths . . . . their white foreheads whole
and unhurt out of the flames;
By the mechanic's wife with her babe at her nipple interceding for every person
Three scythes at harvest whizzing in a row from three lusty angels with shirts
bagged out at their waists;
The snag-toothed hostler with red hair redeeming sins past and to come,
Selling all he possesses and traveling on foot to fee lawyers for his brother and sit
by him while he is tried for forgery:
What was strewn in the amplest strewing the square rod about me, and not filling
the square rod then;
The bull and the bug never worshipped half enough,
Dung and dirt more admirable than was dreamed,
The supernatural of no account . . . . myself waiting my time to be one of the
The day getting ready for me when I shall do as much good as the best, and be as
Guessing when I am it will not tickle me much to receive puffs out of pulpit or
By my life-lumps! becoming already a creator!
Putting myself here and now to the ambushed womb of the shadows!
. . . . A call in the midst of the crowd,
Come my children,
Easily written loosefingered chords! I feel the thrum of their climax and close.
My head evolves on my neck,
|Music rolls, but not from the organ . . . . folks are around me, but
they are no
household of mine.
Ever the hard and unsunk ground,
Here and there with dimes on the eyes walking,
This is the city . . . . and I am one of the citizens;
They who piddle and patter here in collars and tailed coats . . . .
I am aware who
The weakest and shallowest is deathless with me,
I know perfectly well my own egotism,
My words are words of a questioning, and to indicate reality;
|The well-taken photographs . . . . but your wife or friend close and
solid in your
The fleet of ships of the line and all the modern improvements . . . . but the craft
and pluck of the admiral?
The dishes and fare and furniture . . . . but the host and hostess, and the look out of
The sky up there . . . . yet here or next door or across the way?
The saints and sages in history . . . . but you yourself?
Sermons and creeds and theology . . . . but the human brain, and what is called
reason, and what is called love, and what is called life?
I do not despise you priests;
One of that centripetal and centrifugal gang,
Down-hearted doubters, dull and excluded,
How the flukes splash!
Be at peace bloody flukes of doubters and sullen mopers,
|The past is the push of you and me and all precisely the same,
And the night is for you and me and all,
And what is yet untried and afterward is for you and me and all.
I do not know what is untried and afterward,
Each who passes is considered, and each who stops is considered, and
not a single
It cannot fail the young man who died and was buried,
It is time to explain myself . . . . let us stand up.
What is known I strip away . . . . I launch all men and women forward
with me into
The clock indicates the moment . . . . but what does eternity indicate?
Eternity lies in bottomless reservoirs . . . . its buckets are rising
forever and ever,
We have thus far exhausted trillions of winters and summers;
Births have brought us richness and variety,
I do not call one greater and one smaller,
Were mankind murderous or jealous upon you my brother or my sister?
|I am sorry for you . . . . they are not murderous or jealous upon me;
All has been gentle with me . . . . . . I keep no account with lamentation;
What have I to do with lamentation?
I am an acme of things accomplished, and I an encloser of things to be.
My feet strike an apex of the apices of the stairs,
Rise after rise bow the phantoms behind me,
Long I was hugged close . . . . long and long.
Immense have been the preparations for me,
Cycles ferried my cradle, rowing and rowing like cheerful boatmen;
Before I was born out of my mother generations guided me,
All forces have been steadily employed to complete and delight me,
Span of youth! Ever-pushed elasticity! Manhood balanced and florid and full!
My lovers suffocate me!
|Lighting on every moment of my life,
Bussing my body with soft and balsamic busses,
Noiselessly passing handfuls out of their hearts and giving them to be mine.
Old age superbly rising! Ineffable grace of dying days!
Every condition promulges not only itself . . . . it promulges what
grows after and out
I open my scuttle at night and see the far-sprinkled systems,
Wider and wider they spread, expanding and always expanding,
My sun has his sun, and round him obediently wheels,
There is no stoppage, and never can be stoppage;
A few quadrillions of eras, a few octillions of cubic leagues, do not
hazard the span,
See ever so far . . . . there is limitless space outside of that,
Our rendezvous is fitly appointed . . . . God will be there and wait till we come.
I know I have the best of time and space -- and that I was never measured,
I tramp a perpetual journey,
|But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll,
My left hand hooks you round the waist,
My right hand points to landscapes of continents, and a plain public road.
Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you,
It is not far . . . . it is within reach,
Shoulder your duds, and I will mine, and let us hasten forth;
If you tire, give me both burdens, and rest the chuff of your hand on
This day before dawn I ascended a hill and looked at the crowded heaven,
You are also asking me questions, and I hear you;
Sit awhile wayfarer,
Long enough have you dreamed contemptible dreams,
Long have you timidly waded, holding a plank by the shore,
I am the teacher of athletes,
|The boy I love, the same becomes a man not through derived power but
in his own
Wicked, rather than virtuous out of conformity or fear,
Fond of his sweetheart, relishing well his steak,
Unrequited love or a slight cutting him worse than a wound cuts,
First rate to ride, to fight, to hit the bull's eye, to sail a skiff, to sing a song or play
on the banjo,
Preferring scars and faces pitted with smallpox over all latherers and those that
keep out of the sun.
I teach straying from me, yet who can stray from me?
I do not say these things for a dollar, or to fill up the time while
I wait for a boat;
I swear I will never mention love or death inside a house,
If you would understand me go to the heights or water-shore,
No shuttered room or school can commune with me,
The young mechanic is closest to me . . . . he knows me pretty well,
I have said that the soul is not more than the body,
|And I or you pocketless of a dime may purchase the pick of the earth,
And to glance with an eye or show a bean in its pod confounds the learning of all
And there is no trade or employment but the young man following it may become a
And there is no object so soft but it makes a hub for the wheeled universe,
And any man or woman shall stand cool and supercilious before a million universes.
And I call to mankind, Be not curious about God,
I hear and behold God in every object, yet I understand God not in the
Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
And as to you death, and you bitter hug of mortality . . . . it is idle
to try to alarm
To his work without flinching the accoucheur comes,
And as to you corpse I think you are good manure, but that does not
And as to you life, I reckon you are the leavings of many deaths,
I hear you whispering there O stars of heaven,
Of the turbid pool that lies in the autumn forest,
|I ascend from the moon . . . . I ascend from the night,
And perceive of the ghastly glitter the sunbeams reflected,
And debouch to the steady and central from the offspring great or small.
There is that in me . . . . I do not know what it is . . . . but I know it is in me.
Wrenched and sweaty . . . . calm and cool then my body becomes;
I do not know it . . . . it is without name . . . . it is a word unsaid,
Something it swings on more than the earth I swing on,
Perhaps I might tell more . . . . Outlines! I plead for my brothers and sisters.
Do you see O my brothers and sisters?
The past and present wilt . . . . I have filled them and emptied them,
Listener up there! Here you . . . . what have you to confide to me?
Do I contradict myself?
I concentrate toward them that are nigh . . . . I wait on the door-slab.
Who has done his day's work and will soonest be through with his supper?
Will you speak before I am gone? Will you prove already too late?
The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me . . . . he complains of my gab and my loitering.
I too am not a bit tamed . . . . I too am untranslatable,
The last scud of day holds back for me,
|It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadowed
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.
I depart as air . . . . I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Push close my lovers and take the best I possess,
Yield closer and closer and give me the best you possess.
This is unfinished business with me . . . . how is it with you?
I pass so poorly with paper and types . . . . I must pass with the contact
I do not thank you for liking me as I am, and liking the touch of me
. . . . I know that
Were all educations practical and ornamental well displayed out of me,
The learned and virtuous and benevolent, and the usual terms;
Neither a servant nor a master am I,
If you are a workman or workwoman I stand as nigh as the nighest that
|If you have become degraded or ill, then I will become so for your
If you remember your foolish and outlawed deeds, do you think I cannot remember
my foolish and outlawed deeds?
If you carouse at the table I say I will carouse at the opposite side of the table;
If you meet some stranger in the street and love him or her, do I not often meet
strangers in the street and love them?
If you see a good deal remarkable in me I see just as much remarkable in you.
Why what have you thought of yourself?
Because you are greasy or pimpled---or that you was once drunk, or a
Souls of men and women! it is not you I call unseen, unheard, untouchable
I see not merely that you are polite or whitefaced . . . . married or
single . . . .
The wife---and she is not one jot less than the husband,
Offspring of those not rich---boys apprenticed to trades,
|Young fellows working on farms and old fellows working on farms;
The naive . . . . the simple and hardy . . . . he going to the polls to vote . . . . he
who has a good time, and he who has a bad time;
Mechanics, southerners, new arrivals, sailors, mano'warsmen, merchantmen, coast-
All these I see . . . . but nigher and farther the same I see;
None shall escape me, and none shall wish to escape me.
I bring what you much need, yet always have,
There is something that comes home to one now and perpetually,
You may read in many languages and read nothing about it;
The sun and stars that float in the open air . . . . the appleshaped
earth and we upon
The light and shade---the curious sense of body and identity---the greed
|Have you reckoned them as mainly for a trade or farmwork? or for the
a store? or to achieve yourself a position? or to fill a gentleman's leisure or a
Have you reckoned the landscape took substance and form that it might
Old institutions . . . . these arts libraries legends collections---and
We thought our Union grand and our Constitution grand;
We consider the bibles and religions divine . . . . I do not say they
are not divine,
The sum of all known value and respect I add up in you whoever you are;
All doctrines, all politics and civilization exurge from you,
|All architecture is what you do to it when you look upon it;
Did you think it was in the white or gray stone? or the lines of the arches and
All music is what awakens from you when you are reminded by the instruments,
Will the whole come back then?
The old forever new things . . . . you foolish child! . . . . the closest
|The plumbob and trowel and level . . the wall-scaffold, and the work
of walls and
ceilings .. or any mason-work:
The ship's compass . . the sailor's tarpaulin . . the stays and lanyards, and the ground-
tackle for anchoring or mooring
The sloop's tiller . . the pilot's wheel and bell . . the yacht or fish-smack . . the great
gay-pennanted three-hundred-foot steamboat under full headway, with her proud
fat breasts and her delicate swift-flashing paddles;
The trail and line and hooks and sinkers . . the seine, and hauling the seine;
Smallarms and rifles . . . . the powder and shot and caps and wadding . . . . the
ordnance for war . . . . the carriages:
Everyday objects . . . . the housechairs, the carpet, the bed and the counterpane of
the bed, and him or her sleeping at night, and the wind blowing, and the indefi-
The snowstorm or rainstorm . . . . the tow-trowsers . . . . the lodge-hut in the woods,
and the still-hunt:
City and country . . fireplace and candle . . gaslight and heater and aqueduct;
The message of the governor, mayor, or chief of police . . . . the dishes of breakfast
or dinner or supper;
The bunkroom, the fire-engine, the string-team, and the car or truck behind;
The paper I write on or you write on . . and every word we write . . and every
cross and twirl of the pen . . and the curious way we write what we think . . . .
yet very faintly;
The directory, the detector, the ledger . . . . the books in ranks or the bookshelves
. . . . the clock attached to the wall,
The ring on your finger . . the lady's wristlet . . the hammers of stonebreakers or
coppersmiths .. the druggist's vials and jars;
The etui of surgical instruments, and the etui of oculist's or aurist's instruments, or
Glassblowing, grinding of wheat and corn . . casting, and what is cast . . tinroofing,
Shipcarpentering, flagging of sidewalks by flaggers . . dockbuilding, fishcuring, ferry-
The pump, the piledriver, the great derrick . . the coalkiln and brickkiln,
Ironworks or whiteleadworks . . the sugarhouse . . steam-saws, and the great mills
The cottonbale . . the stevedore's hook . . the saw and buck of the sawyer . . the
screen of the coalscreener . . the mould of the moulder . . the workingknife of
The cylinder press . . the handpress . . the frisket and tympan . . the compositor's
stick and rule,
The implements for daguerreotyping . . . . the tools of the rigger or grappler or sail-
maker or blockmaker,
Goods of guttapercha or papiermache . . . . colors and brushes . . . . glaziers' im-
|The veneer and gluepot . . the confectioner's ornaments . . the decanter
. . the shears and flatiron;
The awl and kneestrap . . the pint measure and quart measure . . the counter and
stool . . the writingpen of quill or metal;
Billiards and tenpins . . . . the ladders and hanging ropes of the gymnasium, and the
The designs for wallpapers or oilcloths or carpets . . . . the fancies for goods for
women . . . . the bookbinder's stamps;
Leatherdressing, coachmaking, boilermaking, ropetwisting, distilling, signpainting,
limeburning, coopering, cottonpicking,
The walkingbeam of the steam-engine . . the throttle and governors, and the up and
Stavemachines and plainingmachines . . . . the cart of the carman . . the omnibus . .
the ponderous dray;
The snowplough and two engines pushing it . . . . the ride in the express train of
only one car . . . . the swift go through a howling storm:
The bearhunt or coonhunt . . . . the bonfire of shavings in the open lot in the city
. . the crowd of children watching;
The blows of the fighting-man . . the upper cut and one-two-three;
The shopwindows . . . . the coffins in the sexton's wareroom . . . . the fruit on the
fruitstand . . . . the beef on the butcher's stall,
The bread and cakes in the bakery . . . . the white and red pork in the pork-store;
The milliner's ribbons . . the dressmaker's patterns . . . . the tea-table . . the home-
The column of wants in the one-cent paper . . the news by telegraph . . . . the
amusements and operas and shows:
The cotton and woolen and linen you wear . . . . the money you make and spend;
Your room and bedroom . . . . your piano-forte . . . . the stove and cookpans,
The house you live in . . . . the rent . . . . the other tenants . . . . the deposite in the
savings-bank . . . . the trade at the grocery,
The pay on Saturday night . . . . the going home, and the purchases;
In them the heft of the heaviest . . . . in them far more than you estimated, and far
In them, not yourself . . . . you and your soul enclose all things, regardless of estimation,
In them your themes and hints and provokers . . if not, the whole earth has no
themes or hints or provokers, and never had.
I do not affirm what you see beyond is futile . . . . I do not advise
you to stop,
Will you seek afar off? You surely come back at last,
|In folks nearest to you finding also the sweetest and strongest and
Happiness not in another place, but this place . . not for another hour, but this hour,
Man in the first you see or touch . . . . always in your friend or brother or nighest
neighbor . . . . Woman in your mother or lover or wife,
And all else thus far known giving place to men and women.
When the psalm sings instead of the singer,
To think of today . . and the ages continued henceforward.
Have you guessed you yourself would not continue? Have you dreaded those
Is today nothing? Is the beginningless past nothing?
To think that the sun rose in the east . . . . that men and women were
Not a day passes . . not a minute or second without an accouchement;
When the dull nights are over, and the dull days also,
|The living look upon the corpse with their eyesight,
But without eyesight lingers a different living and looks curiously on the corpse.
To think that the rivers will come to flow, and the snow fall, and fruits
ripen .. and
To think how eager we are in building our houses,
I see one building the house that serves him a few years . . . . or
seventy or eighty
Slowmoving and black lines creep over the whole earth . . . . they never
cease . . . .
Cold dash of waves at the ferrywharf,
Rapid the trot to the cemetery,
He was a goodfellow,
Thumb extended or finger uplifted,
|Somebody loafing on you, or you loafing on somebody . . . . headway
. . . . man
before and man behind,
Good day's work or bad day's work . . . . pet stock or mean stock . . . . first out or
last out . . . . turning in at night,
To think that these are so much and so nigh to other drivers .. and he there takes
no interest in them.
The markets, the government, the workingman's wages . . . . to think
The vulgar and the refined . . . . what you call sin and what you call
goodness . . to
To think how much pleasure there is!
These also flow onward to others . . . . you and I flow onward;
Your farm and profits and crops . . . . to think how engrossed you are;
What will be will be well---for what is is well,
The sky continues beautiful . . . . the pleasure of men with women shall
You are not thrown to the winds . . you gather certainly and safely
|It is not to diffuse you that you were born of your mother and father---it
It is not that you should be undecided, but that you should be decided;
Something long preparing and formless is arrived and formed in you,
You are thenceforth secure, whatever comes or goes.
The threads that were spun are gathered . . . . the weft crosses the
warp . . . .
The preparations have every one been justified;
The guest that was coming . . . . he waited long for reasons . . . .
he is now housed,
The law of the past cannot be eluded,
Slowmoving and black lines go ceaselessly over the earth,
The great masters and kosmos are well as they go . . . . the heroes
The interminable hordes of the ignorant and wicked are not nothing,
I shall go with the rest . . . . we have satisfaction:
|I have dreamed that we are not to be changed so much . . . . nor the
law of us
I have dreamed that heroes and good-doers shall be under the present and past law,
And that murderers and drunkards and liars shall be under the present and past law;
For I have dreamed that the law they are under now is enough.
And I have dreamed that the satisfaction is not so much changed . .
. . and that there
I shall go with the rest,
If otherwise, all these things came but to ashes of dung;
Do you suspect death? If I were to suspect death I should die now,
Pleasantly and well-suited I walk,
How beautiful and perfect are the animals! How perfect is my soul!
O my soul! if I realize you I have satisfaction,
I cannot define my satisfaction . . yet it is so,
I swear I see now that every thing has an eternal soul!
|I swear I think there is nothing but immortality!
That the exquisite scheme is for it, and the nebulous float is for it, and the cohering
is for it,
And all preparation is for it . . and identity is for it . . and life and death are for it.
I WANDER all night in my vision,
How solemn they look there, stretched and still;
The wretched features of ennuyees, the white features of corpses, the
livid faces of
The married couple sleep calmly in their bed, he with his palm on the
hip of the
The blind sleep, and the deaf and dumb sleep,
|The murderer that is to be hung next day . . . . how does he sleep?
And the murdered person . . . . how does he sleep?
The female that loves unrequited sleeps,
I stand with drooping eyes by the worstsuffering and restless,
The earth recedes from me into the night,
I go from bedside to bedside . . . . I sleep close with the other sleepers,
I am a dance . . . . Play up there! the fit is whirling me fast.
I am the everlaughing . . . . it is new moon and twilight,
Well do they do their jobs, those journeymen divine,
I am the actor and the actress . . . . the voter . . the politician,
I am she who adorned herself and folded her hair expectantly,
Double yourself and receive me darkness,
|I roll myself upon you as upon a bed . . . . I resign myself to the
He whom I call answers me and takes the place of my lover,
Darkness you are gentler than my lover . . . . his flesh was sweaty
My hands are spread forth . . I pass them in all directions,
Be careful, darkness . . . . already, what was it touched me?
O hotcheeked and blushing! O foolish hectic!
Pier that I saw dimly last night when I looked from the windows,
The cloth laps a first sweet eating and drinking,
I descend my western course . . . . my sinews are flaccid,
It is my face yellow and wrinkled instead of the old woman's,
It is I too . . . . the sleepless widow looking out on the winter midnight,
A shroud I see---and I am the shroud . . . . I wrap a body and lie in
|It seems to me that everything in the light and air ought to be happy;
Whoever is not in his coffin and the dark grave, let him know he has enough.
I see a beautiful gigantic swimmer swimming naked through the eddies
of the sea,
I see his white body . . . . I see his undaunted eyes;
What are you doing you ruffianly red-trickled waves?
Steady and long he struggles;
I turn but do not extricate myself;
The beach is cut by the razory ice-wind . . . . the wreck-guns sound,
I look where the ship helplessly heads end on . . . . I hear the burst
as she strikes . .
I cannot aid with my wringing fingers;
I search with the crowd . . . . not one of the company is washed to
Now of the old war-days . . the defeat at Brooklyn;
The same at last and at last when peace is declared,
|The officers speechless and slow draw near in their turns,
The chief encircles their necks with his arm and kisses them on the cheek,
He kisses lightly the wet cheeks one after another . . . . he shakes hands and bids
goodbye to the army.
Now I tell what my mother told me today as we sat at dinner together,
A red squaw came one breakfastime to the old homestead,
My mother looked in delight and amazement at the stranger,
The red squaw staid all the forenoon, and toward the middle of the afternoon
Now Lucifer was not dead . . . . or if he was I am his sorrowful terrible
Damn him! how he does defile me,
Now the vast dusk bulk that is the whale's bulk . . . . it seems mine,
A show of the summer softness . . . . a contact of something unseen
. . . . an amour
|O love and summer! you are in the dreams and in me,
Autumn and winter are in the dreams . . . . the farmer goes with his thrift,
The droves and crops increase . . . . the barns are wellfilled.
Elements merge in the night . . . . ships make tacks in the dreams .
. . . the sailor
The homeward bound and the outward bound,
I swear they are all beautiful,
Peace is always beautiful,
The myth of heaven indicates the soul;
|It comes from its embowered garden and looks pleasantly on itself and
Perfect and clean the genitals previously jetting, and perfect and clean the womb
The head wellgrown and proportioned and plumb, and the bowels and joints
proportioned and plumb.
The soul is always beautiful,
The sleepers are very beautiful as they lie unclothed,
I too pass from the night;
|Why should I be afraid to trust myself to you?
I am not afraid . . . . I have been well brought forward by you;
I love the rich running day, but I do not desert her in whom I lay so long;
I know not how I came of you, and I know not where I go with you . . . . but I
know I came well and shall go well.
I will stop only a time with the night . . . . and rise betimes.
I will duly pass the day O my mother and duly return to you;
THE bodies of men and women engirth me, and I engirth them,
Was it dreamed whether those who corrupted their own live bodies could
The expression of the body of man or woman balks account,
The expression of a wellmade man appears not only in his face,
|The strong sweet supple quality he has strikes through the cotton and
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem . . perhaps more,
You linger to see his back and the back of his neck and shoulderside.
The sprawl and fulness of babes . . . . the bosoms and heads of women
. . . . the
I knew a man . . . . he was a common farmer . . . . he was the father
of five sons . ..
This man was of wonderful vigor and calmness and beauty of person;
|They and his daughters loved him . .. all who saw him loved him . ..
they did not
love him by allowance . . . they loved him with personal love;
He drank water only . . . . the blood showed like scarlet through the clear brown
skin of his face;
He was a frequent gunner and fisher . .. he sailed his boat himself . .. he had a fine
one presented to him by a shipjoiner . . . . he had fowling-pieces, presented to
him by men that loved him;
When he went with his five sons and many grandsons to hunt or fish you would pick
him out as the most beautiful and vigorous of the gang,
You would wish long and long to be with him: . . . you would wish to sit by him in
the boat that you and he might touch each other.
I have perceived that to be with those I like is enough,
There is something in staying close to men and women and looking on
them and in
This is the female form,
This is the nucleus . .. after the child is born of woman the man is
born of woman;
|Be not ashamed women . . your privilege encloses the rest . . it is
the exit of the rest,
You are the gates of the body and you are the gates of the soul.
The female contains all qualities and tempers them . . . . she is in
her place . . . .
As I see my soul reflected in nature . . . . as I see through a mist
one with inexpress-
The male is not less the soul, nor more . . . . he too is in his place,
The man's body is sacred and the woman's body is sacred . . . . it is
no matter who,
Each belongs here or anywhere just as much as the welloff . . . . just
as much as
All is a procession,
Do you know so much that you call the slave or the dullface ignorant?
A slave at auction!
|Gentlemen look on this curious creature,
Whatever the bids of the bidders they cannot be high enough for him,
For him the globe lay preparing quintillions of years without one animal or plant,
For him the revolving cycles truly and steadily rolled.
In that head the allbaffling brain,
Examine these limbs, red black or white . . . . they are very cunning
in tendon and
Exquisite senses, lifelit eyes, pluck, volition,
Within there runs his blood . . . . the same old blood . . the same
red running blood;
This is not only one man . . . . he is the father of those who shall
be fathers in their
How do you know who shall come from the offspring of his offspring through
A woman at auction,
Her daughters or their daughters' daughters . . who knows who shall
In them and of them natal love . . . . in them the divine mystery .
. . . the same old
Have you ever loved a woman?
|Your mother . . . . is she living? . . . . Have you been much with
her? and has she
been much with you?
Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all in all nations and times all
over the earth?
If life and the soul are sacred the human body is sacred;
Have you seen the fool that corrupted his own live body? or the fool
Who degrades or defiles the living human body is cursed,
SAUNTERING the pavement or riding the country byroad here then are
|The face of an amour . . . . the face of veneration,
The face as of a dream . . . . the face of an immobile rock,
The face withdrawn of its good and bad . . a castrated face,
A wild hawk . . his wings clipped by the clipper,
A stallion that yielded at last to the thongs and knife of the gelder.
Sauntering the pavement or crossing the ceaseless ferry, here then are
Do you suppose I could be content with all if I thought them their own finale?
This now is too lamentable a face for a man;
This face is a dog's snout sniffing for garbage;
This face is a haze more chill than the arctic sea,
This is a face of bitter herbs . . . . this an emetic . . . . they need
This face is an epilepsy advertising and doing business . . . . its
This face is bitten by vermin and worms,
This face owes to the sexton his dismalest fee,
Those are really men! . . . . the bosses and tufts of the great round globe!
Features of my equals, would you trick me with your creased and cadaverous
I see your rounded never-erased flow,
|Splay and twist as you like . . . . poke with the tangling fores of
fishes or rats,
You'll be unmuzzled . . . . you certainly will.
I saw the face of the most smeared and slobbering idiot they had at
The Lord advances and yet advances:
Out of this face emerge banners and horses . . . . O superb! . . . .
I see what is
This face is a lifeboat;
These faces bear testimony slumbering or awake,
Off the word I have spoken I except not one . . . . red white or black,
all are deific,
Spots or cracks at the windows do not disturb me,
This is a fullgrown lily's face,
The old face of the mother of many children:
|Lulled and late is the smoke of the Sabbath morning,
It hangs low over the rows of trees by the fences,
It hangs thin by the sassafras, the wildcherry and the catbrier under them.
I saw the rich ladies in full dress at the soiree,
Behold a woman!
She sits in an armchair under the shaded porch of the farmhouse,
Her ample gown is of creamhued linen,
The melodious character of the earth!
A YOUNG man came to me with a message from his brother,
And I stood before the young man face to face, and took his right hand
in my left hand and his left hand in my right hand,
Him all wait for . . . . him all yield up to . . . . his word is decisive
Beautiful women, the haughtiest nations, laws, the landscape, people
|All enjoyments and properties, and money, and whatever money will buy,
The best farms . . . . . others toiling and planting, and he unavoidably reaps,
The noblest and costliest cities . . . . others grading and building, and he domiciles
Nothing for any one but what is for him . . . . near and far are for him,
The ships in the offing . . . . the perpetual shows and marches on land are for him if
they are for any body.
He puts things in their attitudes,
He is the answerer,
A man is a summons and challenge,
Books friendships philosophers priests action pleasure pride beat up
Whichever the sex . .. whatever the season or place he may go freshly
His welcome is universal . . . . the flow of beauty is not more welcome
Every existence has its idiom . . . . every thing has an idiom and tongue;
He says indifferently and alike, How are you friend? to the President
at his levee,
He walks with perfect ease in the capitol,
|He walks among the Congress . . . . and one representative says to
another, Here is
our equal appearing and new.
Then the mechanics take him for a mechanic,
The English believe he comes of their English stock,
Whoever he looks at in the traveler's coffeehouse claims him,
The engineer, the deckhand on the great lakes or on the Mississippi
or St Law-
The gentleman of perfect blood acknowledges his perfect blood,
They are not vile any more . . . . they hardly know themselves, they are so grown:
You think it would be good to be the writer of melodious verses,
SUDDENLY out of its stale and drowsy lair, the lair of slaves,
O hope and faith! O aching close of lives! O many a sickened heart!
|And you, paid to defile the People . . . . you liars mark:
Not for numberless agonies, murders, lusts,
For court thieving in its manifold mean forms,
Worming from his simplicity the poor man's wages;
For many a promise sworn by royal lips, And broken, and laughed at in the breaking,
Then in their power not for all these did the blows strike of personal revenge . . or
the heads of the nobles fall;
The People scorned the ferocity of kings.
But the sweetness of mercy brewed bitter destruction, and the frightened
Yet behind all, lo, a Shape,
Meanwhile corpses lie in new-made graves . . . . bloody corpses of young
Those corpses of young men,
They live in other young men, O kings,
Not a grave of the murdered for freedom but grows seed for freedom .
. . . in its
Not a disembodied spirit can the weapons of tyrants let loose,
Liberty let others despair of you . . . . I never despair of you.
Is the house shut? Is the master away?
|CLEAR the way there Jonathan!
Way for the President's marshal! Way for the government cannon!
Way for the federal foot and dragoons . . . . and the phantoms afterward.
I rose this morning early to get betimes in Boston town;
I love to look on the stars and stripes . . . . I hope the fifes will play Yankee Doodle.
How bright shine the foremost with cutlasses,
A fog follows . . . . antiques of the same come limping,
Why this is a show! It has called the dead out of the earth,
What troubles you, Yankee phantoms? What is all this chattering of bare
If you blind your eyes with tears you will not see the President's marshal,
For shame old maniacs! . . . . Bring down those tossed arms, and let
Worse and worse . . . . Can't you stand it? Are you retreating?
Retreat then! Pell-mell! . . . . Back to the hills, old limpers!
But there is one thing that belongs here . . . . Shall I tell you what
it is, gentlemen of
I will whisper it to the Mayor . . . . he shall send a committee to
|Dig out King George's coffin . . . . unwrap him quick from the graveclothes
. . . .
box up his bones for a journey:
Find a swift Yankee clipper . . . . here is freight for you blackbellied clipper,
Up with your anchor! shake out your sails! . . . . steer straight toward Boston bay.
Now call the President's marshal again, and bring out the government
Here is a centrepiece for them:
The committee open the box and set up the regal ribs and glue those
that will not
You have got your revenge old buster!. . . . The crown is come to its
own and more
Stick your hands in your pockets Jonathan . . . . you are a made man
from this day,
THERE was a child went forth every day,
The early lilacs became part of this child,
And the field-sprouts of April and May became part of him . . . . wintergrain
|And the old drunkard staggering home from the outhouse of the tavern
had lately risen,
And the schoolmistress that passed on her way to the school . . and the friendly boys
that passed . . and the quarrelsome boys . . and the tidy and freshcheeked girls . .
and the barefoot negro boy and girl,
And all the changes of city and country wherever he went.
His own parents . . he that had propelled the fatherstuff at night,
and fathered him . .
The mother at home quietly placing the dishes on the suppertable,
|WHO learns my lesson complete?
Boss and journeyman and apprentice? . . . . churchman and atheist?
The stupid and the wise thinker . . . . parents and offspring . . . . merchant and clerk
and porter and customer . . . . editor, author, artist and schoolboy?
Draw nigh and commence,
The great laws take and effuse without argument,
I lie abstracted and hear beautiful tales of things and the reasons
I cannot say to any person what I hear . . . . I cannot say it to myself
. . . . it is
It is no little matter, this round and delicious globe, moving so exactly
in its orbit
I do not think seventy years is the time of a man or woman,
Is it wonderful that I should be immortal? as every one is immortal,
And that I grew six feet high . . . . and that I have become a man thirty-six
|And that the moon spins round the earth and on with the earth is equally
And that they balance themselves with the sun and stars is equally wonderful.
Come I should like to hear you tell me what there is in yourself that
is not just as
GREAT are the myths . . . . I too delight in them,
Great is liberty! Great is equality! I am their follower,
Great is today, and beautiful,
Great are the plunges and throes and triumphs and falls of democracy,
Great are yourself and myself,
Great is youth, and equally great is old age . . . . great are the day
Youth large lusty and loving . . . . youth full of grace and force and
Day fullblown and splendid . . . . day of the immense sun, and action
Wealth with the flush hand and fine clothes and hospitality:
|But then the soul's wealth---which is candor and knowledge and pride
Who goes for men and women showing poverty richer than wealth?
Expression of speech . . in what is written or said forget not that
silence is also
Great is the greatest nation . . the nation of clusters of equal nations.
Great is the earth, and the way it became what it is,
Great is the quality of truth in man,
The truth in man is no dictum . . . . it is vital as eyesight,
O truth of the earth! O truth of things! I am determined to press the
Great is language . . . . it is the mightiest of the sciences,
Great is the English speech . . . . What speech is so great as the English?
Great is the law . . . . Great are the old few landmarks of the law
. . . . they are the
|Great are marriage, commerce, newspapers, books, freetrade, railroads,
international mails and telegraphs and exchanges.
Great is Justice;
For justice are the grand natural lawyers and perfect judges . . . .
it is in their souls,
The perfect judge fears nothing . . . . he could go front to front before
Great is goodness;
Great is wickedness . . . . I find I often admire it just as much as
I admire good-
The eternal equilibrium of things is great, and the eternal overthrow
of things is
Great is life . . and real and mystical . . wherever and whoever,