Leaves of Grass (1881-82)

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WHOEVER you are, I fear you are walking the walks of dreams,
I fear these supposed realities are to melt from under your feet
         and hands,
Even now your features, joys, speech, house, trade, manners,
         troubles, follies, costume, crimes, dissipate away from you,
Your true soul and body appear before me,
They stand forth out of affairs, out of commerce, shops, work,
         farms, clothes, the house, buying, selling, eating, drinking,
         suffering, dying.

Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my
I whisper with my lips close to your ear,
I have loved many women and men, but I love none better than

O I have been dilatory and dumb,
I should have made my way straight to you long ago,
I should have blabb'd nothing but you, I should have chanted
         nothing but you.

I will leave all and come and make the hymns of you,
None has understood you, but I understand you,
None has done justice to you, you have not done justice to your-
None but has found you imperfect, I only find no imperfection in
None but would subordinate you, I only am he who will never
         consent to subordinate you,
I only am he who places over you no master, owner, better, God,
         beyond what waits intrinsically in yourself.

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Painters have painted their swarming groups and the centre-figure
         of all,
From the head of the centre-figure spreading a nimbus of gold-
         color'd light,
But I paint myriads of heads, but paint no head without its nim-
         bus of gold-color'd light,
From my hand from the brain of every man and woman it streams,
         effulgently flowing forever.

O I could sing such grandeurs and glories about you!
You have not known what you are, you have slumber'd upon
         yourself all your life,
Your eyelids have been the same as closed most of the time,
What you have done returns already in mockeries,
(Your thrift, knowledge, prayers, if they do not return in mock-
         eries, what is their return?)

The mockeries are not you,
Underneath them and within them I see you lurk,
I pursue you where none else has pursued you,
Silence, the desk, the flippant expression, the night, the accustom'd
         routine, if these conceal you from others or from yourself,
         they do not conceal you from me,
The shaved face, the unsteady eye, the impure complexion, if these
         balk others they do not balk me,
The pert apparel, the deform'd attitude, drunkenness, greed, pre-
         mature death, all these I part aside.

There is no endowment in man or woman that is not tallied in
There is no virtue, no beauty in man or woman, but as good is in
No pluck, no endurance in others, but as good is in you,
No pleasure waiting for others, but an equal pleasure waits for you.

As for me, I give nothing to any one except I give the like care-
         fully to you,
I sing the songs of the glory of none, not God, sooner than I
         sing the songs of the glory of you.

Whoever you are! claim your own at any hazard!
These shows of the East and West are tame compared to you,
These immense meadows, these interminable rivers, you are
         immense and interminable as they,

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These furies, elements, storms, motions of Nature, throes of appar-
         ent dissolution, you are he or she who is master or mistress
         over them,
Master or mistress in your own right over Nature, elements, pain,
         passion, dissolution.

The hopples fall from your ankles, you find an unfailing sufficiency,
Old or young, male or female, rude, low, rejected by the rest,
         whatever you are promulges itself,
Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are provided, nothing
         is scanted,
Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui, what you are
         picks its way.
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