Leaves of Grass (1881-82)

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THOU Mother with thy equal brood,
Thou varied chain of different States, yet one identity only,
A special song before I go I'd sing o'er all the rest,
For thee, the future.

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I'd sow a seed for thee of endless Nationality,
I'd fashion thy ensemble including body and soul,
I'd show away ahead thy real Union, and how it may be accom-

The paths to the house I seek to make,
But leave to those to come the house itself.

Belief I sing, and preparation;
As Life and Nature are not great with reference to the present
But greater still from what is yet to come,
Out of that formula for thee I sing.



As a strong bird on pinions free,
Joyous, the amplest spaces heavenward cleaving,
Such be the thought I'd think of thee America,
Such be the recitative I'd bring for thee.

The conceits of the poets of other lands I'd bring thee not,
Nor the compliments that have served their turn so long,
Nor rhyme, nor the classics, nor perfume of foreign court or
         indoor library;
But an odor I'd bring as from forests of pine in Maine, or breath
         of an Illinois prairie,
With open airs of Virginia or Georgia or Tennessee, or from Texas
         uplands, or Florida's glades,
Or the Saguenay's black stream, or the wide blue spread of
With presentment of Yellowstone's scenes, or Yosemite,
And murmuring under, pervading all, I'd bring the rustling sea-
That endlessly sounds from the two Great Seas of the world.

And for thy subtler sense subtler refrains dread Mother,
Preludes of intellect tallying these and thee, mind-formulas fitted
         for thee, real and sane and large as these and thee,
Thou! mounting higher, diving deeper than we knew, thou
         transcendental Union!
By thee fact to be justified, blended with thought,
Thought of man justified, blended with God,
Through thy idea, lo, the immortal reality!
Through thy reality, lo, the immortal idea!

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Brain of the New World, what a task is thine,
To formulate the Modern—out of the peerless grandeur of the
Out of thyself, comprising science, to recast poems, churches, art,
(Recast, may-be discard them, end them—may-be their work is
         done, who knows?)
By vision, hand, conception, on the background of the mighty
         past, the dead,
To limn with absolute faith the mighty living present.

And yet thou living present brain, heir of the dead, the Old
         World brain,
Thou that lay folded like an unborn babe within its folds so long,
Thou carefully prepared by it so long—haply thou but unfoldest
         it, only maturest it,
It to eventuate in thee—the essence of the by-gone time contain'd
         in thee,
Its poems, churches, arts, unwitting to themselves, destined with
         reference to thee;
Thou but the apples, long, long, long a-growing,
The fruit of all the Old ripening to-day in thee.



Sail, sail thy best, ship of Democracy,
Of value is thy freight, 'tis not the Present only,
The Past is also stored in thee,
Thou holdest not the venture of thyself alone, not of the Western
         continent alone,
Earth's résumé entire floats on thy keel O ship, is steadied by thy
With thee Time voyages in trust, the antecedent nations sink or
         swim with thee,
With all their ancient struggles, martyrs, heroes, epics, wars, thou
         bear'st the other continents,
Theirs, theirs as much as thine, the destination-port triumphant;
Steer then with good strong hand and wary eye O helmsman, thou
         carriest great companions,
Venerable priestly Asia sails this day with thee,
And royal feudal Europe sails with thee.



Beautiful world of new superber birth that rises to my eyes,
Like a limitless golden cloud filling the western sky,

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Emblem of general maternity lifted above all,
Sacred shape of the bearer of daughters and sons,
Out of thy teeming womb thy giant babes in ceaseless procession
Acceding from such gestation, taking and giving continual strength
         and life,
World of the real—world of the twain in one,
World of the soul, born by the world of the real alone, led to
         identity, body, by it alone,
Yet in beginning only, incalculable masses of composite precious
By history's cycles forwarded, by every nation, language, hither
Ready, collected here, a freer, vast, electric world, to be con-
         structed here,
(The true New World, the world of orbic science, morals, litera-
         tures to come,)
Thou wonder world yet undefined, unform'd, neither do I define
How can I pierce the impenetrable blank of the future?
I feel thy ominous greatness evil as well as good,
I watch thee advancing, absorbing the present, transcending the
I see thy light lighting, and thy shadow shadowing, as if the
         entire globe,
But I do not undertake to define thee, hardly to comprehend thee,
I but thee name, thee prophesy, as now,
I merely thee ejaculate!

Thee in thy future,
Thee in thy only permanent life, career, thy own unloosen'd mind,
         thy soaring spirit,
Thee as another equally needed sun, radiant, ablaze, swift-moving,
         fructifying all,
Thee risen in potent cheerfulness and joy, in endless great
Scattering for good the cloud that hung so long, that weigh'd so
         long upon the mind of man,
The doubt, suspicion, dread, of gradual, certain decadence of man;
Thee in thy larger, saner brood of female, male—thee in thy
         athletes, moral, spiritual, South, North, West, East,
(To thy immortal breasts, Mother of All, thy every daughter, son,
         endear'd alike, forever equal,)
Thee in thy own musicians, singers, artists, unborn yet, but cer-

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Thee in thy moral wealth and civilization, (until which thy proud-
         est material civilization must remain in vain,)
Thee in thy all-supplying, all-enclosing worship—thee in no single
         bible, saviour, merely,
Thy saviours countless, latent within thyself, thy bibles incessant
         within thyself, equal to any, divine as any,
(Thy soaring course thee formulating, not in thy two great wars,
         nor in thy century's visible growth,
But far more in these leaves and chants, thy chants, great Mother!)
Thee in an education grown of thee, in teachers, studies, students,
         born of thee,
Thee in thy democratic fêtes en-masse, thy high original festivals,
         operas, lecturers, preachers,
Thee in thy ultimata, (the preparations only now completed, the
         edifice on sure foundations tied,)
Thee in thy pinnacles, intellect, thought, thy topmost rational joys,
         thy love and godlike aspiration,
In thy resplendent coming literati, thy full-lung'd orators, thy
         sacerdotal bards, kosmic savans,
These! these in thee, (certain to come,) to-day I prophesy.



Land tolerating all, accepting all, not for the good alone, all good
         for thee,
Land in the realms of God to be a realm unto thyself,
Under the rule of God to be a rule unto thyself.

(Lo, where arise three peerless stars,
To be thy natal stars my country, Ensemble, Evolution, Freedom,
Set in the sky of Law.)

Land of unprecedented faith, God's faith,
Thy soil, thy very subsoil, all upheav'd,
The general inner earth so long so sedulously draped over, now
         hence for what it is boldly laid bare,
Open'd by thee to heaven's light for benefit or bale.

Not for success alone,
Not to fair-sail unintermitted always,
The storm shall dash thy face, the murk of war and worse than
         war shall cover thee all over,
(Wert capable of war, its tug and trials? be capable of peace, its
For the tug and mortal strain of nations come at last in prosper-
         ous peace, not war;)

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In many a smiling mask death shall approach beguiling thee, thou
         in disease shalt swelter,
The livid cancer spread its hideous claws, clinging upon thy
         breasts, seeking to strike thee deep within,
Consumption of the worst, moral consumption, shall rouge thy
         face with hectic,
But thou shalt face thy fortunes, thy diseases, and surmount them
Whatever they are to-day and whatever through time they may be,
They each and all shall lift and pass away and cease from thee,
While thou, Time's spirals rounding, out of thyself, thyself still
         extricating, fusing,
Equable, natural, mystical Union thou, (the mortal with immortal
Shalt soar toward the fulfilment of the future, the spirit of the
         body and the mind,
The soul, its destinies.

The soul, its destinies, the real real,
(Purport of all these apparitions of the real;)
In thee America, the soul, its destinies,
Thou globe of globes! thou wonder nebulous!
By many a throe of heat and cold convuls'd, (by these thyself
Thou mental, moral orb—thou New, indeed new, Spiritual World!
The Present holds thee not—for such vast growth as thine,
For such unparallel'd flight as thine, such brood as thine,
The FUTURE only holds thee and can hold thee.

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