Leaves of Grass (1881-82)

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BY the city dead-house by the gate,
As idly sauntering wending my way from the clangor,
I curious pause, for lo, an outcast form, a poor dead prostitute

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View Page 285

Her corpse they deposit unclaim'd, it lies on the damp brick
The divine woman, her body, I see the body, I look on it alone,
That house once full of passion and beauty, all else I notice not,
Nor stillness so cold, nor running water from faucet, nor odors
         morbific impress me,
But the house alone—that wondrous house—that delicate fair
         house—that ruin!
That immortal house more than all the rows of dwellings ever
Or white-domed capitol with majestic figure surmounted, or all
         the old high-spired cathedrals,
That little house alone more than them all—poor, desperate
Fair, fearful wreck—tenement of a soul—itself a soul,
Unclaim'd, avoided house—take one breath from my tremulous
Take one tear dropt aside as I go for thought of you,
Dead house of love—house of madness and sin, crumbled,
House of life, erewhile talking and laughing—but ah, poor house,
         dead even then,
Months, years, an echoing, garnish'd house—but dead, dead,
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