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Poem of Walt Whitman, an American.

1 — Poem of Walt Whitman, an American.

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, I lean and loafe at my ease, observing a spear of  
 summer grass.
Houses and rooms are full of perfumes—the  
 shelves are crowded with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself, and know it and  
 like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I  
 shall not let it.
The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste  
 of the distillation, it is odorless,
  [ begin page 6 ]ppp.00237.014.jpg It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it, I will go to the bank by the wood, and become  
 undisguised and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.
The smoke of my own breath, Echoes, ripples, buzzed whispers, love-root, silk- 
 thread, crotch, vine,
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my  
 heart, the passing of blood and air through  
 my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of  
 the shore and dark-colored sea-rocks, and of  
 hay in the barn,
The sound of the belched words of my voice,  
 words loosed to the eddies of the wind,
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching  
 around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the  
 supple boughs wag,
The delight alone, or in the rush of the streets, or  
 along the fields and hill-sides,
The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song  
 of me rising from bed and meeting the sun.
Have you reckoned a thousand acres much?  
 have you reckoned the earth much?
Have you practiced so long to learn to read? Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of  
  [ begin page 7 ]ppp.00237.015.jpg Stop this day and night with me, and you shall  
 possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun —  
 there are millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third  
 hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead,  
 nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor  
 take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides, and filter them from  
I have heard what the talkers were talking, the  
 talk of the beginning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.
There was never any more inception than there is  
Nor any more youth or age than there is now, And will never be any more perfection than there  
 is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.
Urge, and urge, and urge, Always the procreant urge of the world. Out of the dimness opposite equals advance —  
 always substance and increase, always sex,
Always a knit of identity, always distinction,  
 always a breed of life.
  [ begin page 8 ]ppp.00237.016.jpg 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, braced in the  
Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical, I and this mystery here we stand.
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,
Till that becomes unseen, and receives proof in its  
Showing the best and dividing it from the worst,  
 age vexes age,
Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of  
 things, while they discuss I am silent, and go  
 bathe and admire myself.
Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and  
 of any man hearty and clean,
Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and  
 none shall be less familiar than the rest.
I am satisfied—I see, dance, laugh, sing;   [ begin page 9 ]ppp.00237.017.jpg As the hugging and loving Bed-fellow sleeps at  
 my side through the night, and withdraws at  
 the peep of the day,
And leaves for me baskets covered with white  
 towels, swelling the house with their plenty,
Shall I postpone my acceptation and realization,  
 and scream at my eyes,
That they turn from gazing after and down the  
And forthwith cipher and show me to a cent, Exactly the contents of one, and exactly the con- 
 tents of two, and which is ahead?
Trippers and askers surround me, People I meet—the effect upon me of my early  
 life, of the ward and city I live in, of the  
The latest news, discoveries, inventions, societies,  
 authors old and new,
My dinner, dress, associates, looks, work, compli- 
 ments, dues,
The real or fancied indifference of some man or  
 woman I love,
The sickness of one of my folks, or of myself, or  
 ill-doing, or loss or lack of money, or depress- 
 ions or exaltations,
They come to me days and nights and go from  
 me again,
But they are not the Me myself.
1*   [ begin page 10 ]ppp.00237.018.jpg Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I  
Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle,  
Looks down, is erect, bends an arm on an  
 impalpable certain rest,
Looks with its side-curved head, curious what will  
 come next,
Both in and out of the game, and watching and  
 wondering at it.
Backward I see in my own days where I sweated  
 through fog with linguists and contenders,
I have no mockings or arguments—I witness and  
I believe in you, my soul—the other I am must  
 not abase itself to you,
And you must not be abased to the other.
Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from  
 your throat,
Not words, not music or rhyme I want—not cus- 
 tom or lecture, not even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice.
I mind how we lay in June, such a transparent  
 summer morning,
You settled your head athwart my hips, and gently  
 turned over upon me,
  [ begin page 11 ]ppp.00237.019.jpg And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and  
 plunged your tongue to my bare-stript heart,
And reached till you felt my beard, and reached  
 till you held my feet.
Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace  
 and joy and knowledge that pass all the art  
 and argument of the earth,
And I know that the hand of God is the promise  
 of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother  
 of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my bro- 
 thers, and the women my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love, And limitless are leaves, stiff or drooping in the  
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them, And mossy scabs of the worm-fence, heaped stones,  
 elder, mullen, pokeweed.
A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me  
 with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know  
 what it is any more than he.
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,   [ begin page 12 ]ppp.00237.020.jpg A scented gift and remembrancer, designedly  
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners,  
 that we may see and remark, and say Whose?
Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced  
 babe of the vegetation.
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic, And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and  
 narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white, Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give  
 them the same, I receive them the same.
And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair  
 of graves.
Tenderly will I use you, curling grass, It may be you transpire from the breasts of young  
It may be if I had known them I would have loved  
It may be you are from old people, and from  
 women, and from offspring taken soon out of  
 their mothers' laps,
And here you are the mothers' laps.
This grass is very dark to be from the white heads  
 of old mothers,
  [ begin page 13 ]ppp.00237.021.jpg Darker than the colorless beards of old men, Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of  
O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues! And I perceive they do not come from the roofs  
 of mouths for nothing.
I wish I could translate the hints about the dead  
 young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the  
 offspring taken soon out of their laps.
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, The smallest sprout shows there is really no  
And if ever there was, it led forward life, and does  
 not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.
All goes onward and outward—nothing collapses, And to die is different from what any one sup- 
 posed, and luckier.
  [ begin page 14 ]ppp.00237.022.jpg Has any one supposed it lucky to be born? I hasten to inform him or her, it is just as lucky to  
 die, and I know it.
I pass death with the dying, and birth with the  
 new-washed babe, and am not contained be- 
 tween my hat and boots,
And peruse manifold objects, no two alike, and  
 every one good,
The earth good, and the stars good, and their ad- 
 juncts all good.
I am not an earth nor an adjunct of an earth, I am the mate and companion of people, all just  
 as immortal and fathomless as myself;
They do not know how immortal, but I know.
Every kind for itself and its own—for me mine,  
 male and female,
For me those that have been boys and that love  
For me the man that is proud, and feels how it  
 stings to be slighted,
For me the sweetheart and the old maid—for me  
 mothers and the mothers of mothers,
For me lips that have smiled, eyes that have shed  
For me children and the begetters of children.
  [ begin page 15 ]ppp.00237.023.jpg Who need be afraid of the merge? Undrape! you are not guilty to me, nor stale, nor  
I see through the broadcloth and gingham, whether  
 or no,
And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless,  
 and can never be shaken away.
The little one sleeps in its cradle, I lift the gauze and look a long time, and silently  
 brush away flies with my hand.
The youngster and the red-faced girl turn aside  
 up the bushy hill,
I peeringly view them from the top.
The suicide sprawls on the bloody floor of the  
It is so—I witnessed the corpse—there the  
 pistol had fallen.
The blab of the pave, the tires of carts, sluff of  
 boot-soles, talk of the promenaders,
The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogat- 
 ing thumb, the clank of the shod horses on  
 the granite floor,
The snow-sleighs, the clinking, shouted jokes,  
 pelts of snow-balls,
The hurrahs for popular favorites, the fury of  
 roused mobs,
  [ begin page 16 ]ppp.00237.024.jpg The flap of the curtained litter, the sick man in- 
 side, 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 of the stones is visible?
What groans of over-fed or half-starved who fall  
 sun-struck, or in fits,
What exclamations of women taken suddenly, who  
 hurry home and give birth to babes,
What living and buried speech is always vibrating  
 here, what howls restrained by decorum,
Arrests of criminals, slights, adulterous offers  
 made, acceptances, rejections with convex lips,
I mind them or the resonance of them—I come  
 and I depart.
The big doors of the country-barn stand open and  
The dried grass of the harvest-time loads the  
 slow-drawn wagon,
The clear light plays on the brown gray and green  
The armfuls are packed to the sagging mow;   [ begin page 17 ]ppp.00237.025.jpg I am there, I help, I came stretched atop of the  
I felt its soft jolts, one leg reclined on the other; I jump from the cross-beams and seize the clover  
 and timothy,
And roll head over heels, and tangle my hair full  
 of wisps.
Alone, far in the wilds and mountains, I hunt, Wandering, amazed at my own lightness and glee, In the late afternoon choosing a safe spot to pass  
 the night,
Kindling a fire and broiling the fresh-killed game, Soundly falling asleep on the gathered leaves, my  
 dog and gun by my side.
The Yankee clipper is under her three sky-sails,  
 she cuts the sparkle and scud,
My eyes settle the land—I bend at her prow or  
 shout joyously from the deck.
The boatmen and clam-diggers arose early and  
 stopped for me,
I tucked my trowser-ends in my boots and went  
 and had a good time,
You should have been with us that day round the  
I saw the marriage of the trapper in the open air  
 in the far-west—the bride was a red girl,
  [ begin page 18 ]ppp.00237.026.jpg Her father and his friends sat near, cross-legged  
 and dumbly smoking—they had moccasins to  
 their feet and large thick blankets hanging  
 from their shoulders,
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,
I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the  
Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw  
 him limpsy and weak,
And went where he sat on a log, and led him in  
 and assured him,
And brought water and filled a tub for his sweated  
 body and bruised feet,
And gave him a room that entered from my own,  
 and gave him some coarse clean clothes,
And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes  
 and his awkwardness,
And remember putting plasters on the galls of his  
 neck and ankles;
  [ begin page 19 ]ppp.00237.027.jpg He staid with me a week before he was recuper- 
 ated and passed north,
I had him sit next me at table—my fire-lock  
 leaned in the corner.
Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore, Twenty-eight young men, and all so friendly, Twenty-eight years of womanly life, and all so  
She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank, She hides, handsome and richly drest, aft the  
 blinds of the window.
Which of the young men does she like the best? Ah, the homeliest of them is beautiful to her. Where are you off to, lady? for I see you, You splash in the water there, yet stay stock  
 still in your room.
Dancing and laughing along the beach came the  
 twenty-ninth bather,
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and  
 loved them.
The beards of the young men glistened with wet,  
 it ran from their long hair,
Little streams passed all over their bodies.
An unseen hand also passed over their bodies,   [ begin page 20 ]ppp.00237.028.jpg It descended tremblingly from their temples and  
The young men float on their backs, their white  
 bellies bulge to the sun, they do not ask who  
 seizes fast to them,
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 mar- 
I loiter, enjoying his repartee and his shuffle and  
Blacksmiths with grimed and hairy chests environ  
 the anvil,
Each has his main-sledge—they are all out —  
 there is a great heat in the fire.
From the cinder-strewed threshold I follow their  
The lithe sheer of their waists plays even with  
 their massive arms,
Overhand the hammers roll, overhand so slow,  
 overhand so sure,
They do not hasten, each man hits in his place.
  [ begin page 21 ]ppp.00237.029.jpg The negro holds firmly the reins of his four  
 horses, the block swags underneath on its  
 tied-over chain,
The negro that drives the huge dray of the stone- 
 yard, steady and tall he stands poised on one  
 leg on the string-piece,
His blue shirt exposes his ample neck and breast,  
 and loosens over his hip-band,
His glance is calm and commanding, he tosses the  
 slouch of his hat away from his forehead,
The sun falls on his crispy hair and moustache,  
 falls on the black of his polish'd and perfect  
I behold the picturesque giant and love him, and  
 I do not stop there,
I go with the team also.
In me the caresser of life wherever moving, back- 
 ward as well as forward slueing,
To niches aside and junior bending.
Oxen that rattle the yoke or halt in the shade!  
 what is that you express in your eyes?
It seems to me more than all the print I have read  
 in my life.
My tread scares the wood-drake and wood-duck,  
 on my distant and day-long ramble,
They rise together, they slowly circle around; I believe in those winged purposes,   [ begin page 22 ]ppp.00237.030.jpg And acknowledge, red, yellow, white, playing  
 within me,
And consider green and violet, and the tufted  
 crown, intentional,
And do not call the tortoise unworthy because  
 she is not something else,
And the mocking-bird in the swamp never studied  
 the gamut, yet trills pretty well to me,
And the look of the bay mare shames silliness out  
 of me.
The wild gander leads his flock through the cool  
Ya-honk! he says, and sounds it down to me like  
 an invitation;
The pert may suppose it meaningless, but I listen  
I find its purpose and place up there toward the  
 November sky.
The sharp-hoofed moose of the north, the cat on  
 the house-sill, the chickadee, the prairie-dog,
The litter of the grunting sow as they tug at her  
The brood of the turkey-hen, and she with her  
 half-spread wings,
I see in them and myself the same old law.
The press of my foot to the earth springs a hun- 
 dred affections,
  [ begin page 23 ]ppp.00237.031.jpg They scorn the best I can do to relate them. I am enamoured of growing outdoors, Of men that live among cattle, or taste of the  
 ocean or woods,
Of the builders and steerers of ships, of the wield- 
 ers of axes and mauls, of the drivers of  
I can eat and sleep with them week in and week  
What is commonest, cheapest, nearest, easiest, is  
Me going in for my chances, spending for vast  
Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that  
 will take me,
Not asking the sky to come down to my good-will, Scattering it freely forever.
The pure contralto sings in the organ-loft, The carpenter dresses his plank, the tongue of  
 his foreplane whistles its wild ascending lisp,
The married and unmarried children ride home to  
 their thanksgiving dinner,
The pilot seizes the king-pin, he heaves down  
 with a strong arm,
The mate stands braced in the whale-boat, lance  
 and harpoon are ready,
  [ begin page 24 ]ppp.00237.032.jpg The duck-shooter walks by silent and cautious  
The deacons are ordained with crossed hands at  
 the altar,
The spinning-girl retreats and advances to the  
 hum of the big wheel,
The farmer stops by the bars of a Sunday and  
 looks at the oats and rye,
The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum, a con- 
 firmed case,
He will never sleep any more as he did in the cot  
 in his mother's bedroom;
The jour printer with gray head and gaunt jaws  
 works at his case,
He turns his quid of tobacco, his eyes get blurred  
 with the manuscript;
The malformed limbs are tied to the anatomist's  
What is removed drops horribly in a pail; The quadroon girl is sold at the stand—the  
 drunkard nods by the bar-room stove,
The machinist rolls up his sleeves—the police- 
 man travels his beat—the gate-keeper marks  
 who pass,
The young fellow drives the express-wagon —  
 I love him though I do not know him,
The half-breed straps on his light boots to com- 
 pete in the race,
  [ begin page 25 ]ppp.00237.033.jpg The western turkey-shooting draws old and young  
 —some lean on their rifles, some sit on logs,
Out from the crowd steps the marksman, takes  
 his position, levels his piece;
The groups of newly-come immigrants cover the  
 wharf or levee,
The woolly-pates hoe in the sugar-field, the over- 
 seer views them from his saddle,
The bugle calls in the ball-room, 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 well- 
 riddled target,
The squaw, wrapt in her yellow-hemmed cloth,  
 is offering moccasins and bead-bags for sale,
The connoisseur peers along the exhibition- 
 gallery with half-shut eyes bent side-ways,
The deck-hands make fast the steamboat, the plank  
 is thrown for the shore-going passengers,
The young sister holds out the skein, the elder  
 sister winds it off in a ball, and stops now  
 and then for the knots,
2   [ begin page 26 ]ppp.00237.034.jpg The one-year wife is recovering and happy, a  
 week ago she bore her first child,
The clean-haired Yankee girl works with her sew- 
 ing-machine, or in the factory or mill,
The nine months' gone is in the parturition cham- 
 ber, her faintness and pains are advancing,
The paving-man leans on his two-handed rammer  
 —the reporter's lead flies swiftly over the  
 note-book—the sign-painter is lettering with  
 red and gold,
The canal-boy trots on the tow-path—the book- 
 keeper counts at his desk—the shoemaker  
 waxes his thread,
The conductor beats time for the band, and all the  
 performers follow him,
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 cent,
The camera and plate are prepared, the lady must  
 sit for her daguerreotype,
The bride unrumples her white dress, the minute- 
 hand of the clock moves slowly,
The opium-eater reclines with rigid head and just- 
 opened lips,
  [ begin page 27 ]ppp.00237.035.jpg 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 sur- 
 rounded 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 change,
The floor-men are laying the floor—the tinners  
 are tinning the roof—the masons are calling  
 for mortar,
In single file, each shouldering his hod, pass on- 
 ward 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,  
 the mower mows, and the winter-grain falls  
 in the ground,
Off on the lakes the pike-fisher watches and waits  
 by the hole in the frozen surface,
  [ begin page 28 ]ppp.00237.036.jpg The stumps stand thick round the clearing, the  
 squatter strikes deep with his axe,
Flatboatmen make fast toward dusk near the cot- 
 ton-wood or pekan-trees,
Coon-seekers go through the regions of the Red  
 river, or through those drained by the Ten- 
 nessee, or through those of the Arkansaw,
Torches shine in the dark that hangs on the Chat- 
 tahoochee 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,
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others, Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a  
Stuffed with the stuff that is coarse, and stuffed  
 with the stuff that is fine,
  [ begin page 29 ]ppp.00237.037.jpg One of the great nation, the nation of many  
 nations, the smallest the same, the largest  
 the same,
A southerner soon as a northerner, a planter non- 
 chalant and hospitable,
A Yankee bound my own way, ready for trade,  
 my joints the limberest joints on earth and  
 the sternest joints on earth,
A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in  
 my deer-skin leggings,
A boatman over lakes or bays, or along coasts —  
 a Hoosier, Badger, Buckeye,
A Louisianian or Georgian, a Poke-easy from  
 sand-hills and pines,
At home on Canadian snow-shoes, or up in the  
 bush, or with fishermen off Newfoundland,
At home in the fleet of ice-boats, sailing with the  
 rest, and tacking,
At home on the hills of Vermont, or in the woods  
 of Maine, or the Texan ranch,
Comrade of Californians, comrade of free north- 
 westerners, loving their big proportions.
Comrade of raftsmen and coalmen, comrade of all  
 who shake hands and welcome to drink and  
A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the  
A novice beginning, experient of myriads of sea- 
  [ begin page 30 ]ppp.00237.038.jpg Of every hue, trade, rank, of every caste and re- 
Not merely of the New World, but of Africa,  
 Europe, Asia—a wandering savage,
A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor,  
 lover, quaker,
A prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician,  
I resist anything better than my own diversity, And breathe the air, and leave plenty after me, And am not stuck up, and am in my place. The moth and the fish-eggs are in their place, The suns I see, and the suns I cannot see, are  
 in their place,
The palpable is in its place, and the impalpable  
 is in its place.
These are the thoughts of all men in all ages  
 and lands, they are not original with me,
If they are not yours as much as mine, they are  
 nothing, or next to nothing,
If they do not enclose everything, they are next  
 to nothing,
If they are not the riddle and the untying of the  
 riddle, they are nothing,
If they are not just as close as they are distant,  
 they are nothing.
  [ begin page 31 ]ppp.00237.039.jpg This is the grass that grows wherever the land  
 is and the water is,
This is the common air that bathes the globe.
This is the breath of laws, songs, behaviour, This is the tasteless water of souls, this is the  
 true sustenance,
It is for the illiterate, it is for the judges of the  
 supreme court, it is for the federal capitol  
 and the state capitols,
It is for the admirable communes of literats,  
 composers, singers, lecturers, engineers, sa- 
It is for the endless races of work-people, farm- 
 ers, seamen.
These are trills of thousands of clear cornets,  
 screams of octave flutes, strike of triangles.
I play not a march for victors only, I play great  
 marches for conquered and slain persons.
Have you heard that it was good to gain the day? I also say it is good to fall—battles are lost in  
 the same spirit in which they are won.
I beat triumphal drums for the dead, I blow through  
 my embouchures my loudest and gayest music  
 to them,
  [ begin page 32 ]ppp.00237.040.jpg 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 numberless un- 
 known heroes, equal to the greatest heroes  
This is the meal pleasantly set, this is the meat  
 and drink for natural hunger,
It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous  
 —I make appointments with all,
I will not have a single person slighted or left  
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby in- 
 vited—the heavy-lipped slave is invited,  
 the venerealee is invited,
There shall be no difference between them and  
 the rest.
This is the press of a bashful hand, this is the  
 float and odor of hair,
This is the touch of my lips to yours, this is the  
 murmur of yearning,
This is the far-off depth and height reflecting my  
 own face,
This is the thoughtful merge of myself, and the  
 outlet again.
Do you guess I have some intricate purpose?   [ begin page 33 ]ppp.00237.041.jpg Well, I have—for the April rain has, and the mica  
 on the side of a rock has.
Do you take it I would astonish? Does the daylight astonish? Does the early red- 
 start, twittering through the woods?
Do I astonish more than they?
This hour I tell things in confidence, I might not tell everybody, but I will tell you. Who goes there! hankering, gross, mystical, nude? How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat? What is a man anyhow? What am I? What  
 are you?
All I mark as my own, you shall offset it with  
 your own,
Else it were time lost listening to me.
I do not snivel that snivel the world over, That months are vacuums, and the ground but  
 wallow and filth,
That life is a suck and a sell, and nothing remains  
 at the end but threadbare crape and tears.
Whimpering and truckling fold with powders for  
 invalids, conformity goes to the fourth- 
2*   [ begin page 34 ]ppp.00237.042.jpg I cock my hat as I please, indoors or out. Shall I pray? Shall I venerate and be cere- 
I have pried through the strata, analyzed to a hair, Counselled with doctors, calculated close, found no  
 sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.
In all people I see myself—none more, not one a  
 barleycorn less,
And the good or bad I say of myself I say of  
And I know I am solid and sound, To me the converging objects of the universe per- 
 petually flow,
All are written to me, and I must get what the  
 writing means.
I know I am deathless, I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a  
 carpenter's compass,
I know I shall not pass like a child's carlacue cut  
 with a burnt stick at night.
I know I am august, I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be  
  [ begin page 35 ]ppp.00237.043.jpg I see that the elementary laws never apologize, I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I  
 plant my house by, after all.
I exist as I am, that is enough, If no other in the world be aware, I sit content, And if each and all be aware, I sit content. One world is aware, and by far the largest to me,  
 and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own today, or in ten  
 thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheer- 
 fulness I can wait.
My foothold is tenoned and mortised in granite, I laugh at what you call dissolution, And I know the amplitude of time. I am the poet of the body, And I am the poet of the soul. The pleasures of heaven are with me, and the  
 pains of hell are with me,
The first I graft and increase upon myself, the  
 latter I translate into a new tongue.
I am the poet of the woman the same as the man, And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a  
  [ begin page 36 ]ppp.00237.044.jpg And I say there is nothing greater than the mother  
 of men.
I chant the chant of dilation or pride, We have had ducking and deprecating about  
I show that size is only development.
Have you outstript the rest? are you the  
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  
I call to the earth and sea, half-held by the night.
Press close, bare-bosomed night! press close,  
 magnetic, nourishing night!
Night of south winds! night of the large few  
Still, nodding night! mad, naked, summer night!
Smile, O voluptuous, cool-breathed earth! Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees! Earth of departed sunset! earth of the moun- 
 tains, misty-topt!
Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon, just  
 tinged with blue!
  [ begin page 37 ]ppp.00237.045.jpg Earth of shine and dark, mottling the tide of the  
Earth of the limpid gray of clouds, brighter and  
 clearer for my sake!
Far-swooping elbowed earth! rich, apple-blos- 
 somed earth!
Smile, for your lover comes!
Prodigal, you have given me love! therefore I  
 to you give love!
O unspeakable passionate love!
Thruster holding me tight, and that I hold tight! We hurt each other as the bridegroom and the  
 bride hurt each other.
You sea! I resign myself to you also, I guess  
 what you mean,
I behold from the beach your crooked inviting  
I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of  
We must have a turn together—I undress —  
 hurry me out of sight of the land,
Cushion me soft, rock me in billowy drowse, Dash me with amorous wet, I can repay you.
Sea of stretched ground-swells! Sea breathing broad and convulsive breaths!   [ begin page 38 ]ppp.00237.046.jpg Sea of the brine of life! sea of unshovelled and  
 always-ready graves!
Howler and scooper of storms! capricious and  
 dainty sea!
I am integral with you—I too am of one phase,  
 and of all phases.
Partaker of influx and efflux, extoller of hate and  
Extoller of amies, and those that sleep in each  
 others' arms.
I am he attesting sympathy, Shall I make my list of things in the house, and  
 skip the house that supports them?
I am the poet of commonsense, and of the demon- 
 strable, and of immortality,
And am not the poet of goodness only—I do not  
 decline to be the poet of wickedness also.
Washes and razors for foofoos—for me freckles  
 and a bristling beard.
What blurt is this about virtue and about vice? Evil propels me, and reform of evil propels me —  
 I stand indifferent,
My gait is no fault-finder's or rejecter's gait, I moisten the roots of all that has grown.
  [ begin page 39 ]ppp.00237.047.jpg Did you fear some scrofula out of the unflagging  
Did you guess the celestial laws are yet to be  
 worked over and rectified?
I step up to say that what we do is right, and  
 what we affirm is right, and some is only the  
 ore of right,
Witnesses of us, one side a balance, and the anti- 
 podal side a balance,
Soft doctrine as steady help as stable doctrine, Thoughts and deeds of the present, our rouse and  
 early start.
This minute that comes to me over the past de- 
There is no better than it and now.
What behaved well in the past, or behaves well  
 today, is not such a wonder,
The wonder is always and always how can there  
 be a mean man or an infidel.
Endless unfolding of words of ages! And mine a word of the modern—a word en- 
A word of the faith that never balks, One time as good as another time—here or  
 henceforward it is all the same to me,
  [ begin page 40 ]ppp.00237.048.jpg A word of reality, materialism first and last im- 
Hurrah for positive science! long live exact  
Fetch stonecrop, mix it with cedar and branches  
 of lilac,
This is the lexicographer, this the chemist, this  
 made a grammar of the old cartouches,
These mariners put the ship through dangerous  
 unknown seas,
This is the geologist, this works with the scalpel,  
 and this is a mathematician.
Gentlemen, I receive you and attach and clasp  
 hands with you,
The facts are useful and real—they are not my  
 dwelling—I enter by them to an area of the  
I am less the reminder of property or qualities,  
 and more the reminder of life,
And go on the square for my own sake and for  
 others' sakes,
And make short account of neuters and geldings,  
 and favor men and women fully equipped,
And beat the gong of revolt, and stop with fugi- 
 tives and them that plot and conspire.
  [ begin page 41 ]ppp.00237.049.jpg Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs,  
 a kosmos,
Disorderly, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking, breed- 
No sentimentalist, no stander above men and wo- 
 men, or apart from them—no more modest  
 than immodest.
Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs! Whoever degrades another degrades me, and  
 whatever is done or said returns at last to  
And whatever I do or say, I also return.
Through me the afflatus surging and surging —  
 through me the current and index.
I speak the pass-word primeval, I give the sign  
 of democracy,
By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot  
 have their counterpart of on the same terms.
Through me many long dumb voices, Voices of the interminable generations of slaves, Voices of prostitutes, and of deformed persons, Voices of the diseased and despairing, and of  
 thieves and dwarfs,
Voices of cycles of preparation and accretion,   [ begin page 42 ]ppp.00237.050.jpg And of the threads that connect the stars, and of  
 wombs, and of the fatherstuff,
And of the rights of them the others are down  
Of the trivial, flat, foolish, despised, Fog in the air, beetles rolling balls of dung.
Through me forbidden voices, Voices of sexes and lusts—voices veiled, and I  
 remove the veil,
Voices indecent, by me clarified and transfigured.
I do not press my finger across my mouth, I keep as delicate around the bowels as around  
 the head and heart,
Copulation is no more rank to me than death is.
I believe in the flesh and the appetites, Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each  
 part and tag of me is a miracle.
Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy  
 whatever I touch or am touched from,
The scent of these arm-pits is aroma finer than  
This head is more than churches, bibles, creeds.
If I worship any particular thing, it shall be some  
 of the spread of my own body,
  [ begin page 43 ]ppp.00237.051.jpg 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 strip- 
 pings 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  
Mixed tussled hay of head, beard, 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 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 live-oak, 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  
  [ begin page 44 ]ppp.00237.052.jpg Each moment, and whatever happens, thrills me  
 with joy.
I cannot tell how my ankles bend, nor whence the  
 cause of my faintest wish,
Nor the cause of the friendship I emit, nor the  
 cause of the friendship I take again.
To walk up my stoop is unaccountable, I pause to  
 consider if it really be,
That I eat and drink is spectacle enough for the  
 great authors and schools,
A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more  
 than the metaphysics of books.
To behold the day-break! The little light fades the immense and diaphanous  
The air tastes good to my palate.
Hefts of the moving world at innocent gambols,  
 silently rising, freshly exuding,
Scooting obliquely high and low.
Something I cannot see puts upward libidinous  
Seas of bright juice suffuse heaven.
The earth by the sky staid with, the daily close  
 of their junction,
  [ begin page 45 ]ppp.00237.053.jpg The heaved challenge from the east that moment  
 over my head,
The mocking taunt, See then whether you shall  
 be master!
Dazzling and tremendous, how quick the sun-rise  
 would kill me,
If I could not now and always send sun-rise out  
 of me.
We also ascend dazzling and tremendous as the  
We found our own, my soul, in the calm and cool  
 of the day-break.
My voice goes after what my eyes cannot  
With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds,  
 and volumes of worlds.
Speech is the twin of my vision, it is unequal to  
 measure itself.
It provokes me forever, It says sarcastically, Walt, you understand  
 enough, why don't you let it out then?
Come now, I will not be tantalized, you conceive  
 too much of articulation.
  [ begin page 46 ]ppp.00237.054.jpg Do you not know how the buds beneath are  
Waiting in gloom, protected by frost, The dirt receding before my prophetical screams, I underlying causes, to balance them at last, My knowledge my live parts, it keeping tally with  
 the meaning of things,
Happiness, which, whoever hears me, let him or  
 her set out in search of this day.
My final merit I refuse you—I refuse putting  
 from me the best I am.
Encompass worlds, but never try to encompass  
I crowd your noisiest talk by looking toward you.
Writing and talk do not prove me, I carry the plenum of proof, and every thing else,  
 in my face,
With the hush of my lips I confound the topmost  
I think I will do nothing for a long time but listen, To accrue what I hear into myself, to let sounds  
 contribute toward me.
I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat,  
 gossip of flames, clack of sticks cooking my  
  [ begin page 47 ]ppp.00237.055.jpg I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human  
I hear all sounds as they are tuned to their uses,  
 sounds of the city and sounds out of the city,  
 sounds of the day and night,
Talkative young ones to those that like them, the  
 recitative of fish-pedlars and fruit-pedlars, the  
 loud laugh of work-people at their meals,
The angry base of disjointed friendship, the faint  
 tones of the sick,
The judge with hands tight to the desk, his  
 shaky lips pronouncing a death-sentence,
The heave'e'yo of stevedores unlading ships by the  
 wharves, the refrain of the anchor-lifters,
The ring of alarm-bells, the cry of fire, the  
 whirr of swift-streaking engines and hose- 
 carts, with premonitory tinkles and colored  
The steam-whistle, the solid roll of the train of  
 approaching cars,
The slow-march played at night at the head of the  
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 keyed cornet, it glides quickly in  
 through my ears, it shakes mad-sweet pangs  
 through my belly and breast.
  [ begin page 48 ]ppp.00237.056.jpg I hear the chorus, it is a grand-opera—this in- 
 deed is music!
A tenor large and fresh as the creation fills me, The orbic flex of his mouth is pouring and filling  
 me full.
I hear the trained soprano, she convulses me like  
 the climax of my love-grip,
The orchestra wrenches such ardors from me, I  
 did not know I possessed them,
It throbs me to gulps of the farthest down horror, It sails me, I dab with bare feet, they are licked  
 by the indolent waves,
I am exposed, cut by bitter and poisoned hail, Steeped amid honeyed morphine, my windpipe  
 squeezed in the fakes of death,
Let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles, And that we call Being.
To be in any form, what is that? If nothing lay more developed, the quahaug in its  
 callous shell were enough.
Mine is no callous shell, I have instant conductors all over me, whether I  
 pass or stop,
They seize every object and lead it harmlessly  
 through me.
  [ begin page 49 ]ppp.00237.057.jpg I merely stir, press, feel with my fingers, and am  
To touch my person to some one else's is about  
 as much as I can stand.
Is this then a touch? quivering me to a new  
Flames and ether making a rush for my veins, Treacherous tip of me reaching and crowding to  
 help them,
My flesh and blood playing out lightning to strike  
 what is hardly different from myself,
On all sides prurient provokers stiffening my  
Straining the udder of my heart for its withheld  
Behaving licentious toward me, taking no denial, Depriving me of my best, as for a purpose, Unbuttoning my clothes, holding me by the bare  
Deluding my confusion with the calm of the  
 sun-light and pasture-fields,
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  
3   [ begin page 50 ]ppp.00237.058.jpg Then all uniting to stand on a head-land and  
 worry me.
The sentries desert every other part of me, They have left me helpless to a red marauder, They all come to the head-land, to witness and  
 assist against me.
I am given up by traitors! I talk wildly, I have lost my wits, I and nobody  
 else am the greatest traitor,
I went myself first to the head-land, my own hands  
 carried me there.
You villain touch! what are you doing? my  
 breath is tight in its throat,
Unclench your floodgates! you are too much for  
Blind, loving, wrestling touch! sheathed, hooded,  
 sharp-toothed touch!
Did it make you ache so, leaving me?
Parting, tracked by arriving—perpetual payment  
 of the perpetual loan,
Rich showering rain, and recompense richer after- 
Sprouts take and accumulate—stand by the curb  
 prolific and vital,
Landscapes, projected, masculine, full-sized, golden.
  [ begin page 51 ]ppp.00237.059.jpg All truths wait in all things, They neither hasten their own delivery, nor resist  
They do not need the obstetric forceps of the  
The insignificant is as big to me as any, What is less or more than a touch?
Logic and sermons never convince, The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul. Only what proves itself to every man and woman  
 is so,
Only what nobody denies is so.
A minute and a drop of me settle my brain, I believe the soggy clods shall become lovers and  
And a compend of compends is the meat of a man  
 or woman,
And a summit and flower there is the feeling they  
 have for each other,
And they are to branch boundlessly out of that  
 lesson until it becomes omnific,
And until every one shall delight us, and we  
I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey- 
 work of the stars,
  [ begin page 52 ]ppp.00237.060.jpg 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 sur- 
 passes any statue,
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sex- 
 tillions 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 short-cake.
I find I incorporate gneiss, coal, long-threaded  
 moss, fruits, grains, esculent roots,
And am stucco'd with quadrupeds and birds all over, And have distanced what is behind me for good  
And call any thing close again, when I desire it.
In vain the speeding or shyness, In vain the plutonic rocks send their old heat  
 against my approach,
In vain the mastadon retreats beneath its own  
 powdered bones,
In vain objects stand leagues off, and assume  
 manifold shapes,
  [ begin page 53 ]ppp.00237.061.jpg In vain the ocean settling in hollows, and the great  
 monsters lying low,
In vain the buzzard houses herself with the sky, In vain the snake slides through the creepers and  
In vain the elk takes to the inner passes of the  
In vain the razor-billed auk sails far north to  
I follow quickly, I ascend to the nest in the fissure  
 of the cliff.
I think I could turn and live with animals, they  
 are so placid and self-contained,
I stand and look at them sometimes half the day  
They do not sweat and whine about their condi- 
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for  
 their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty  
 to God,
No one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with  
 the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that  
 lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or industrious over the  
 whole earth.
  [ begin page 54 ]ppp.00237.062.jpg So they show their relations to me, and I accept  
They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them  
 plainly in their possession.
I do not know where they got those tokens, I may have passed that way untold times ago and  
 negligently dropt them,
Myself moving forward then and now and forever, Gathering and showing more always and with  
Infinite and omnigenous, and the like of these  
 among them,
Not too exclusive toward the reachers of my re- 
Picking out here one that I love, choosing to go  
 with him on brotherly terms.
A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and respon- 
 sive to my caresses,
Head high in the forehead, wide between the  
Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground, Eyes well apart, full of sparkling wickedness, ears  
 finely cut, flexibly moving.
His nostrils dilate, my heels embrace him, his  
 well-built limbs tremble with pleasure, we  
 speed around and return.
  [ begin page 55 ]ppp.00237.063.jpg I but use you a moment, then I resign you stal- 
 lion, do not need your paces, out-gallop them,
Myself, as I stand or sit, passing faster than you.
Swift wind! space! my soul! now I know it is  
 true, what I guessed at,
What I guessed when I loafed on the grass, What I guessed while I lay alone in my bed, and  
 again as I walked the beach under the paling  
 stars of the morning.
My ties and ballasts leave me—I travel, I sail,  
 my elbows rest in the sea-gaps,
I skirt the sierras, my palms cover continents, I am afoot with my vision.
By the city's quadrangular houses, in log-huts,  
 camping with lumber-men,
Along the ruts of the turnpike, along the dry gulch  
 and rivulet bed,
Weeding my onion-patch, hoeing rows of carrots  
 and parsnips, crossing savannas, trailing in  
Prospecting, gold-digging, girdling the trees of a  
 new purchase,
Scorched ankle-deep by the hot sand, hauling my  
 boat down the shallow river,
Where the panther walks to and fro on a limb  
 overhead, where the buck turns furiously at  
 the hunter,
  [ begin page 56 ]ppp.00237.064.jpg Where the rattle-snake suns his flabby length on  
 a rock, where the otter is feeding on fish,
Where the alligator in his tough pimples sleeps  
 by the bayou,
Where the black bear is searching for roots or  
 honey, where the beaver pats the mud with  
 his paddle-tail,
Over the growing sugar, over the cotton-plant,  
 over the rice in its low moist field,
Over the sharp-peaked farm-house, with its scal- 
 loped scum and slender shoots from the gut- 
Over the western persimmon, over the long-leaved  
 corn, over the delicate blue-flowered flax,
Over the white and brown buckwheat, a hummer  
 and 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 scragged limbs,
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 wheat-lot,
Where the bat flies in the July eve, where the  
 great gold-bug drops through the dark,
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,
  [ begin page 57 ]ppp.00237.065.jpg Where cattle stand and shake away flies with the  
 tremulous shuddering of their hides,
Where the cheese-cloth hangs in the kitchen, where  
 andirons straddle the hearth-slab, where cob- 
 webs fall in festoons from the rafters,
Where trip-hammers 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 looking composedly  
Where the life-car is drawn on the slip-noose,  
 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 steam-ship trails hind-ways 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  
Where shells grow to her slimy deck, where 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  
3*   [ begin page 58 ]ppp.00237.066.jpg 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, ironical li- 
 cense, bull-dances, drinking, laughter,
At the cider-mill, tasting the sweet of the brown  
 sqush, sucking the juice through a straw,
At apple-peelings, wanting kisses for all the red  
 fruit I find,
At musters, beach-parties, friendly bees, huskings,  
Where the mocking-bird sounds his delicious gur- 
 gles, cackles, screams, weeps,
Where the hay-rick stands in the barn-yard, where  
 the dry-stalks are scattered, where the brood  
 cow waits in the hovel,
Where the bull advances to do his masculine  
 work, where the stud to the mare, where the  
 cock is treading the hen,
Where heifers browse, where geese nip their food  
 with short jerks,
Where sun-down shadows lengthen over the limit- 
 less and lonesome prairie,
Where herds of buffalo make a crawling spread  
 of the square miles far and near,
  [ begin page 59 ]ppp.00237.067.jpg Where the humming-bird shimmers, where the  
 neck of the long-lived swan is curving and  
Where the laughing-gull scoots by the shore,  
 where she laughs her near-human laugh,
Where bee-hives range on a gray bench in the  
 garden, half-hid by the high weeds,
Where band-necked partridges roost in a ring on  
 the ground with their heads out,
Where burial coaches enter the arched gates of a  
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 cool  
 the warm noon,
Where the katy-did 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, under coni- 
 cal firs,
Through the gymnasium, through the curtained  
 saloon, through the office or public hall,
Pleased with the native, pleased with the foreign,  
 pleased with the new and old,
  [ begin page 60 ]ppp.00237.068.jpg Pleased with women, the homely as well as the  
Pleased with the quakeress as she puts off her  
 bonnet and talks melodiously,
Pleased with the tunes of the choir of the white- 
 washed church,
Pleased with the earnest words of the sweating  
 Methodist preacher, or any preacher—look- 
 ing 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 examin- 
 ing with a candle,
Voyaging to every port to dicker and adven- 
Hurrying with the modern crowd, as eager and  
 fickle as any,
  [ begin page 61 ]ppp.00237.069.jpg 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 thousand  
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 spheres and look at the  
And look at quintillions ripened, and look at quin- 
 tillions green.
I fly the flight of the fluid and swallowing soul, My course runs below the soundings of plummets. I help myself to material and immaterial, No guard can shut me off, no law can prevent me.   [ begin page 62 ]ppp.00237.070.jpg I anchor my ship for a little while only, My messengers continually cruise away, or bring  
 their returns to me.
I go hunting polar furs and the seal, leaping  
 chasms with a pike-pointed staff, clinging to  
 topples of brittle and blue.
I ascend to the fore-truck, I take my place late at  
 night in the crow's-nest, we sail through the  
 arctic sea, it is plenty light enough,
Through the clear atmosphere I stretch around on  
 the wonderful beauty,
The enormous masses of ice pass me and I  
 pass them, the scenery is plain in all direc- 
The white-topped mountains show in the dis- 
 tance, I fling out my fancies toward them,
We are approaching some great battle-field in  
 which we are soon to be engaged,
We pass the colossal out-posts of the encamp- 
 ments, we pass with still feet and caution,
Or we are entering by the suburbs some vast  
 and ruined city, the blocks and fallen archi- 
 tecture more than all the living cities of the  
I am a free companion, I bivouac by invading  
  [ begin page 63 ]ppp.00237.071.jpg I turn the bridegroom out of bed and stay with  
 the bride myself,
I tighten her all night to my thighs and lips.
My voice is the wife's voice, the screech by the  
 rail of the stairs,
They fetch my man's body up, dripping and  
I understand the large hearts of heroes, The courage of present times and all times, How the skipper saw the crowded and rudderless  
 wreck of the steam-ship, and 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  
And chalked in large letters, 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 prepared graves,
How the silent old-faced infants, and the lifted  
 sick, and the sharp-lipped unshaved men,
All this I swallow, it tastes good, I like it well, it  
 becomes mine,
I am the man, I suffered, I was there.
The disdain and calmness of martyrs,   [ begin page 64 ]ppp.00237.072.jpg The mother, condemned for a witch, burnt with  
 dry wood, her children gazing on,
The hounded slave that flags in the race, leans by  
 the fence, blowing, covered with sweat,
The twinges that sting like needles his legs and  
 neck, the murderous buck-shot and the bullets,
All these I feel or am.
I am the hounded slave, I wince at the bite of the  
Hell and despair are upon me, crack and again  
 crack the marksmen,
I clutch the rails of the fence, my gore dribs,  
 thinned with the ooze of my skin,
I fall on the weeds and stones, The riders spur their unwilling horses, haul close, Taunt my dizzy ears, beat me violently over the  
 head with whip-stocks.
Agonies are one of my changes of garments, I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I  
 myself become the wounded person,
My hurt turns livid upon me as I lean on a cane  
 and observe.
I am the mashed fireman with breastbone broken,  
 tumbling walls buried me in their debris,
Heat and smoke I inspired, I heard the yelling  
 shouts of my comrades,
  [ begin page 65 ]ppp.00237.073.jpg I heard the distant click of their picks and shov- 
They have cleared the beams away, they tenderly  
 life me forth.
I lie in the night air in my red shirt, the pervading  
 hush is for my sake.
Painless after all I lie, exhausted but not so un- 
White and beautiful are the faces around me, the  
 heads are bared of their fire-caps,
The kneeling crowd fades with the light of the  
Distant and dead resuscitate, They show as the dial or move as the hands of  
 me—I am the clock myself.
I am an old artillerist, I tell of my fort's bombard- 
 ment, I am there again.
Again the reveille of drummers, again the attack- 
 ing cannon, mortars, howitzers,
Again the attacked send cannon responsive; I take part, I see and hear the whole, The cries, curses, roar, the plaudits for well-aimed  
The ambulanza slowly passing, trailing its red  
  [ begin page 66 ]ppp.00237.074.jpg Workmen searching after damages, making indis- 
 pensable repairs,
The fall of grenades through the rent roof, the  
 fan-shaped explosion,
The whizz of limbs, heads, stone, wood, iron,  
 high in the air.
Again gurgles the mouth of my dying general, he  
 furiously waves with his hand,
He gasps through the clot, Mind not me—mind —  
 the entrenchments.
I tell not the fall of Alamo, not one escaped to tell  
 the fall of Alamo,
The hundred and fifty are dumb yet at Alamo.
Hear now the tale of a jet-black sunrise, Hear of the murder in cold-blood of four hundred  
 and twelve young men.
Retreating, they had formed in a hollow square,  
 with their baggage for breast-works,
Nine hundred lives out of the surrounding enemy's,  
 nine times their number, was the price they  
 took in advance,
Their colonel was wounded and their ammunition  
They treated for an honorable capitulation, re- 
 ceived writing and seal, gave up their arms,  
 marched back prisoners of war.
  [ begin page 67 ]ppp.00237.075.jpg They were the glory of the race of rangers, Matchless with horse, rifle, song, supper, court- 
Large, turbulent, brave, handsome, generous,  
 proud, affectionate,
Bearded, sunburnt, dressed in the free costume of  
Not a single one over thirty years of age.
The second Sunday morning they were brought  
 out in squads and massacred—it was beauti- 
 ful early summer,
The work commenced about five o'clock and was  
 over by eight.
None obeyed the command to kneel, Some made a mad and helpless rush, some stood  
 stark and straight,
A few fell at once, shot in the temple or heart, the  
 living and dead lay together,
The maimed and mangled dug in the dirt, the  
 new-comers saw them there,
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 assas- 
 sin, till two more came to release him,
The three were all torn, and covered with the  
 boy's blood.
  [ begin page 68 ]ppp.00237.076.jpg At eleven o'clock began the burning of the bodies; That is the tale of the murder of the four hun- 
 dred and twelve young men,
And that was a jet-black sunrise.
Did you read in the sea-books of the old-fashioned  
Did you learn who won by the light of the moon  
 and stars?
Our foe was no skulk in his ship, I tell you, His was the English pluck, and there is no tougher  
 or truer, and never was, and never will be,
Along the lowered eve he came, horribly raking  
We closed with him, the yards entangled, the can- 
 non touched,
My captain lashed fast with his own hands.
We had received some eighteen-pound shots un- 
 der the water,
On our lower-gun-deck two large pieces had burst  
 at the first fire, killing all around and blowing  
 up overhead.
Ten o'clock at night and the full moon shining,  
 and the leaks on the gain, and five feet of  
 water reported,
  [ begin page 69 ]ppp.00237.077.jpg The master-at-arms loosing the prisoners confined  
 in the after-hold, to give them a chance for  
The transit to and from the magazine was now  
 stopped by the sentinels,
They saw so many strange faces that they did not  
 know whom to trust.
Our frigate was afire, the other asked if we de- 
 manded quarter? if our colors were struck  
 and the fighting done?
I laughed content when I heard the voice of my  
 little captain,
We have not struck, he composedly cried, We  
 have just begun our part of the fighting.
Only three guns were in use, One was directed by the captain himself against  
 the enemy's main-mast,
Two, well served with grape and canister,  
 silenced his musketry and cleared his  
The tops alone seconded the fire of this little bat- 
 tery, especially the main-top,
They all held out bravely during the whole of the  
Not a moment's cease,   [ begin page 70 ]ppp.00237.078.jpg The leaks gained fast on the pumps, the fire eat  
 toward the powder-magazine,
One of the pumps was shot away, it was generally  
 thought we were sinking.
Serene stood the little captain, He was not hurried, his voice was neither high  
 nor low,
His eyes gave more light to us than our battle- 
Toward twelve at night, there in the beams of the  
 moon they surrendered to us.
Stretched and still lay the midnight, Two great hulls motionless on the breast of the  
Our vessel riddled and slowly sinking, prepara- 
 tions to pass to the one we had conquered,
The captain on the quarter-deck coldly giving his  
 orders through a countenance white as a  
Near by, the corpse of the child that served in the  
The dead face of an old salt with long white hair  
 and carefully curled whiskers,
The flames, spite of all that could be done, flicker- 
 ing aloft and below,
The husky voices of the two or three officers yet  
 fit for duty,
  [ begin page 71 ]ppp.00237.079.jpg Formless stacks of bodies, bodies by them- 
 selves, dabs of flesh upon the masts and  
Cut of cordage, dangle of rigging, slight shock of  
 the soothe of waves,
Black and impassive guns, litter of powder-parcels,  
 strong scent,
Delicate sniffs of sea-breeze, smells of sedgy grass  
 and fields by the shore, death-messages  
 given in change to survivors,
The hiss of the surgeon's knife, the gnawing teeth  
 of his saw,
Wheeze, cluck, swash of falling blood, short wild  
 scream, long dull tapering groan,
These so, these irretrievable.
O Christ! My fit is mastering me! What the rebel said, gaily adjusting his throat to  
 the rope-noose,
What the savage at the stump, his eye-sockets  
 empty, his mouth spirting whoops and defi- 
What stills the traveler come to the vault at  
 Mount Vernon,
What sobers the Brooklyn boy as he looks down  
 the shores of the Wallabout and remembers  
 the prison ships,
What burnt the gums of the red-coat at Saratoga  
 when he surrendered his brigades,
  [ begin page 72 ]ppp.00237.080.jpg These become mine and me every one, and they  
 are but little,
I become as much more as I like.
I become any presence or truth of humanity here, And see myself in prison shaped like another  
And feel the dull unintermitted pain.
For me the keepers of convicts shoulder their  
 carbines and keep watch,
It is I let out in the morning and barred at night.
Not a mutineer walks hand-cuffed to the jail, but I  
 am hand-cuffed to him and walk by his side,
I am less the jolly one there, and more the silent  
 one, with sweat on my twitching lips.
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 gasp,
My face is ash-colored, my sinews gnarl, away  
 from me people retreat.
Askers embody themselves in me, and I am em- 
 bodied in them,
I project my hat, sit shame-faced, beg.
  [ begin page 73 ]ppp.00237.081.jpg I rise extatic through all, sweep with the true  
The whirling and whirling is elemental within  
Somehow I have been stunned. Stand back! Give me a little time beyond my cuffed head,  
 slumbers, dreams, gaping,
I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake.
That I could forget the mockers and insults! That I could forget the trickling tears, and the  
 blows of the bludgeons and hammers!
That I could look with a separate look on my own  
 crucifixion and bloody crowning!
I remember, I resume the overstaid fraction, The grave of rock multiplies what has been con- 
 fided to it, or to any graves,
The corpses rise, the gashes heal, the fastenings  
 roll away.
I troop forth replenished with supreme power,  
 one of an average unending procession,
We walk the roads of Ohio, Massachusetts, Vir- 
 ginia, Wisconsin, Manhattan Island, New  
 Orleans, Texas, Montreal, San Francisco,  
 Charleston, Havana, Mexico,
Inland and by the sea-coast and boundary lines,  
 and we pass all boundary lines.
4   [ begin page 74 ]ppp.00237.082.jpg Our swift ordinances are on their way over the  
 whole earth,
The blossoms we wear in our hats are the growth  
 of two thousand years.
Eleves, I salute you! I see the approach of your numberless gangs, I  
 see you understand yourselves and me,
And know that they who have eyes are divine,  
 and the blind and lame are equally divine,
And that my steps drag behind yours, yet go be- 
 fore 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 waiting for civilization, or past it and mas- 
 tering it?
Is he some south-westerner, raised out-doors?  
 Is he Canadian?
Is he from the Mississippi country? from Iowa,  
 Oregon, California? from the mountains?  
 prairie-life, bush-life? from the sea?
Wherever he goes men and women accept and  
 desire him;
They desire he should like them, touch them  
 speak to them, stay with them.
  [ begin page 75 ]ppp.00237.083.jpg Behaviour lawless as snow-flakes, words simple  
 as grass, uncombed head, laughter, naivete,
Slow-stepping feet, common features, common  
 modes and emanations,
They descend in new forms from the tips of his  
They are wafted with the odor of his body or  
 breath, they fly out of the glance of his eyes.
Flaunt of the sun-shine, I need not your bask, lie  
You light surfaces only, I force surfaces and  
 depths also.
Earth! you seem to look for something at my  
Say old top-knot! what do you want?
Man or woman! I might tell how I like you, but  
And might tell what it is in me, and what it is in  
 you, but cannot,
And might tell the pinings I have, the pulse of my  
 nights and days.
Behold I do not give lectures or a little charity, What I give I give out of myself. You there, impotent, loose in the knees, open your  
 scarfed chops till I blow grit within you,
  [ begin page 76 ]ppp.00237.084.jpg Spread your palms, and lift the flaps of your  
I am not to be denied, I compel, I have stores  
 plenty and to spare,
And any thing I have I bestow; I do not ask who you are, that is not important to  
You can do nothing, and be nothing, but what I  
 will infold you.
To a drudge of the cotton-fields or cleaner of  
 privies I lean—on his right cheek I put the  
 family kiss,
And in my soul I swear, I never will deny him.
On women fit for conception I start bigger and  
 nimbler babes,
This day I am jetting the stuff of far more arro- 
 gant republics.
To any one dying, thither I speed and twist the  
 knob of the door,
Turn the bed-clothes toward the foot of the bed, Let the physician and the priest go home.
I seize the descending man, I raise him with re- 
 sistless will.
O despairer, here is my neck,   [ begin page 77 ]ppp.00237.085.jpg By God! you shall not go down! hang your  
 whole weight upon me.
I dilate you with tremendous breath, I buoy you  
Every room of the house do I fill with an armed  
 force, lovers of me, bafflers of graves,
Sleep! I and they keep guard all night, Not doubt, not decease shall dare to lay finger  
 upon you,
I have embraced you, and henceforth possess you  
 to myself,
And when you rise in the morning you will find  
 what I tell you is so.
I am he bringing help for the sick as they pant  
 on their backs,
And for strong upright men I bring yet more  
 needed help.
I heard what was said of the universe, Heard it and heard it of several thousand years; It is middling well as far as it goes, but is that  
Magnifying and applying come I, Outbidding at the start the old cautious hucksters, The most they offer for mankind and eternity less  
 than a spirt of my own seminal wet,
  [ begin page 78 ]ppp.00237.086.jpg Taking myself the exact dimensions of Jehovah —  
 lithographing Kronos, Zeus his son, Hercules  
 his grandson—buying drafts of Osiris, Isis,  
 Belus, Brahma, Buddha—in my portfolio  
 placing Manito loose, Allah on a leaf, the  
 crucifix engraved—with Odin, and the  
 hideous-faced Mexitli, and every idol and  
Taking them all for what they are worth, and not  
 a cent more,
Admitting they were alive and did the work of  
 their day,
Admitting they bore mites, as for unfledged birds,  
 who have now to rise and fly and sing for  
Accepting the rough deific sketches to fill out bet- 
 ter 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 just as curious as any revelation,
Those ahold of fire-engines and hook-and-ladder  
 ropes no less to me than the gods of the  
 antique wars,
  [ begin page 79 ]ppp.00237.087.jpg Minding their voices peal through the crash of  
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 born,
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, travelling 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  
Dung and dirt more admirable than was dreamed, The supernatural of no account—myself waiting  
 my time to be one of the supremes,
The day getting ready for me when I shall do  
 as much good as the best, and be as pro- 
Guessing when I am it will not tickle me much  
 to receive puffs out of pulpit or print;
By my life-lumps! becoming already a creator!   [ begin page 80 ]ppp.00237.088.jpg Putting myself here and now to the ambushed  
 womb of the shadows!
A call in the midst of the crowd, My own voice, orotund, sweeping, final. Come my children, Come my boys and girls, my women, household,  
Now the performer launches his nerve, he has  
 passed his prelude on the reeds within.
Easily written, loose-fingered chords! I feel the  
 thrum of their climax and close.
My head slues round on my neck, Music rolls, but not from the organ—folks are  
 around me, but they are no household of mine.
Ever the hard unsunk ground, Ever the eaters and drinkers, ever the upward and  
 downward sun, ever the air and the ceaseless  
Ever myself and my neighbors, refreshing,  
 wicked, real,
Ever the old inexplicable query, ever that thorned  
 thumb, that breath of itches and thirsts,
Ever the vexer's hoot! hoot! till we find where  
 the sly one hides, and bring him forth;
  [ begin page 81 ]ppp.00237.089.jpg Ever love, ever the sobbing liquid of life, Ever the bandage under the chin, ever the tressels  
 of death.
Here and there with dimes on the eyes walking, To feed the greed of the belly the brains liberally  
Tickets buying, taking, selling, but in to the feast  
 never once going,
Many sweating, ploughing, thrashing, and then  
 the chaff for payment receiving,
A few idly owning, and they the wheat continu- 
 ally claiming.
This is the city, and I am one of the citizens, Whatever interests the rest interests me—poli- 
 tics, markets, newspapers, schools, benevolent  
 societies, improvements, banks, tariffs, steam- 
 ships, factories, stocks, stores, real estate,  
 personal estate.
They who piddle and patter here in collars and  
 tailed coats, I am aware who they are—they  
 are not worms or fleas,
I acknowledge the duplicates of myself—the weak- 
 est and shallowest is deathless with me,
What I do and say, the same waits for them; Every thought that flounders in me, the same  
 flounders in them.
4*   [ begin page 82 ]ppp.00237.090.jpg I know perfectly well my own egotism, I know my omnivorous words, and cannot say any  
And would fetch you, whoever you are, flush with  
My words are words of a questioning, and to in- 
 dicate reality;
This printed and bound book—but the printer,  
 and the printing-office boy?
The marriage estate and settlement—but the  
 body and mind of the bridegroom? also those  
 of the bride?
The panorama of the sea—but the sea itself? The well-taken photographs—but your wife or  
 friend close and solid in your arms?
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 their  
The sky up there—yet here, or next door, or  
 across the way?
The saints and sages in history—but you your- 
Sermons, creeds, theology—but the human brain,  
 and what is called reason, and what is called  
 love, and what is called life?
  [ begin page 83 ]ppp.00237.091.jpg I do not despise you, priests, My faith is the greatest of faiths, and the least of  
Enclosing all worship ancient and modern, and all  
 between ancient and modern,
Believing I shall come again upon the earth after  
 five thousand years,
Waiting responses from oracles, honoring the  
 gods, saluting the sun,
Making a fetish of the first rock or stump, powow- 
 ing with sticks in the circle of obis,
Helping the lama or brahmin as he trims the  
 lamps of the idols,
Dancing yet through the streets in a phallic pro- 
 cession—rapt and austere in the woods, a  
Drinking mead from the skull-cup, to shastas and  
 vedas admirant, minding the koran,
Walking the teokallis, spotted with gore from the  
 stone and knife, beating the serpent-skin drum,
Accepting the gospels, accepting him that was  
 crucified, knowing assuredly that he is di- 
To the mass kneeling, to the puritan's prayer ris- 
 ing, sitting patiently in a pew,
Ranting and frothing in my insane crisis, waiting  
 dead-like till my spirit arouses me,
Looking forth on pavement and land, and outside  
 of pavement and land,
  [ begin page 84 ]ppp.00237.092.jpg Belonging to the winders of the circuit of circuits. One of that centripetal and centrifugal gang, I  
 turn and talk like a man leaving charges be- 
 fore a journey.
Down-hearted doubters, dull and excluded, Frivolous, sullen, moping, angry, affected, dis- 
 heartened, atheistical,
I know every one of you, I know the unspoken  
By experience I know them.
How the flukes splash! How they contort, rapid as lightning, with spasms  
 and spouts of blood!
Be at peace, bloody flukes of doubters and sullen  
I take my place among you as much as among  
The past is the push of you, me, all, precisely the  
Day and night are for you, me, all, And what is yet untried and afterward is for you,  
 me, all, precisely the same.
I do not know what is untried and afterward, But I know it is sure, alive, sufficient.   [ begin page 85 ]ppp.00237.093.jpg Each who passes is considered, each who stops is  
 considered, not a single one can it fail.
It cannot fail the young man who died and was  
Nor the young woman who died and was put by  
 his side,
Nor the little child that peeped in at the door,  
 and then drew back and was never seen  
Nor the old man who has lived without purpose,  
 and feels it with bitterness worse than gall,
Nor him in the poor-house tubercled by rum and  
 the bad disorder,
Nor the numberless slaughtered and wrecked, nor  
 the brutish koboo called the ordure of  
Nor the sacs merely floating with open mouths  
 for food to slip in,
Nor any thing in the earth, or down in the oldest  
 graves of the earth,
Nor any thing in the myriads of spheres, nor  
 one of the myriads of myriads that inhabit  
Nor the present, nor the least wisp that is known.
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 unknown.
  [ begin page 86 ]ppp.00237.094.jpg The clock indicates the moment, but what does  
 eternity indicate?
Eternity lies in bottomless reservoirs, its buckets  
 are rising forever and ever,
They pour, they pour, and exhale away.
We have thus far exhausted trillions of winters  
 and summers,
There are trillions ahead, and trillions ahead of  
Births have brought us richness and variety, And other births will bring us richness and  
I do not call one greater and one smaller, That which fills its period and place is equal to  
Were mankind murderous or jealous upon you, my  
 brother, 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.
  [ begin page 87 ]ppp.00237.095.jpg My feet strike an apex of the apices of the stairs, On every step bunches of ages, and larger bunches  
 between the steps,
All below duly traveled, and still I mount and  
Rise after rise bow the phantoms behind me, Afar down I see the huge first Nothing, I know I  
 was even there,
I waited unseen and always, and slept through the  
 lethargic mist,
And took my time, and took no hurt from the fœtid  
Long I was hugged close—long and long. Immense have been the preparations for me, Faithful and friendly the arms that have helped me. Cycles ferried my cradle rowing and rowing like  
 cheerful boatmen,
For room to me stars kept aside in their own  
They sent influences to look after what was to  
 hold me.
Before I was born out of my mother generations  
 guided me,
My embryo has never been torpid, nothing could  
 overlay it,
  [ begin page 88 ]ppp.00237.096.jpg For it the nebula cohered to an orb, the long slow  
 strata piled to rest it on, vast vegetables gave  
 it sustenance,
Monstrous sauroids transported it in their mouths,  
 and deposited it with care.
All forces have been steadily employed to com- 
 plete and delight me,
Now I stand on this spot with my soul.
Span of youth! ever-pushed elasticity! manhood,  
 balanced, florid, full!
My lovers suffocate me! Crowding my lips, thick in the pores of my skin, Jostling me through streets and public halls,  
 coming naked to me at night,
Crying by day Ahoy! from the rocks of the river,  
 swinging and chirping over my head,
Calling my name from flower-beds, vines, tangled  
Or while I swim in the bath, or drink from the  
 pump at the corner, or the curtain is down at  
 the opera, or I glimpse at a woman's face in  
 the rail-road car,
Lighting on every moment of my life, Bussing my body with soft balsamic busses, Noiselessly passing handfuls out of their hearts  
 and giving them to be mine.
  [ begin page 89 ]ppp.00237.097.jpg Old age superbly rising! Ineffable grace of dying  
Every condition promulges not only itself, it pro- 
 mulges what grows after and out of itself,
And the dark hush promulges as much as  
I open my scuttle at night and see the far- 
 sprinkled systems,
And all I see, multiplied as high as I can cipher,  
 edge but the rim of the farther systems.
Wider and wider they spread, expanding, always  
Outward, outward, forever outward.
My sun has his sun, and round him obediently  
He joins with his partners a group of superior  
And greater sets follow, making specks of the  
 greatest inside them.
There is no stoppage, and never can be stoppage, If I, you, the worlds, all beneath or upon their  
 surfaces, and all the palpable life, were this  
 moment reduced back to a pallid float, it  
 would not avail in the long run,
  [ begin page 90 ]ppp.00237.098.jpg We should surely bring up again where we now  
And as surely go as much farther, and then far- 
 ther and farther.
A few quadrillions of eras, a few octillions of  
 cubic leagues, do not hazard the span, or  
 make it impatient,
They are but parts, any thing is but a part.
See ever so far, there is limitless space outside of  
Count ever so much, there is limitless time around  
My rendezvous is appointed, The Lord will be there and wait till I come on  
 perfect terms.
I know I have the best of time and space, and  
 was never measured, and never will be  
I tramp a perpetual journey, My signs are a rain-proof coat, good shoes, and a  
 staff cut from the woods,
No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair, I have no chair, no church, no philosophy, I lead no man to a dinner-table, library, exchange,   [ begin page 91 ]ppp.00237.099.jpg 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 must travel it for yourself.
It is not far, it is within reach, Perhaps you have been on it since you were born,  
 and did not know,
Perhaps it is every where on water and on  
Shoulder your duds, I will mine, let us hasten  
Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch  
 as we go.
If you tire, give me both burdens and rest the  
 chuff of your hand on my hip,
And in due time you shall repay the same ser- 
 vice to me,
For after we start we never lie by again.
This day before dawn I ascended a hill and  
 looked at the crowded heaven,
  [ begin page 92 ]ppp.00237.100.jpg And I said to my spirit, When we become the  
 enfolders of those orbs, and the pleasure and  
 knowledge of every thing in them, shall we  
 be filled and satisfied then?
And my spirit said No, we level that lift to pass  
 and continue beyond.
You are also asking me questions, and I hear you, I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out  
 for yourself.
Sit awhile wayfarer, Here are biscuits to eat, here is milk to drink, But as soon as you sleep and renew yourself in  
 sweet clothes, I will certainly kiss you with  
 my good-bye kiss, and open the gate for your  
 egress hence.
Long enough have you dreamed contemptible  
Now I wash the gum from your eyes, You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light,  
 and of every moment of your life.
Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by  
 the shore,
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer, To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod  
 to me, shout, laughingly dash with your hair.
  [ begin page 93 ]ppp.00237.101.jpg I am the teacher of athletes, He that by me spreads a wider breast than my  
 own proves the width of my own,
He most honors my style who learns under it to  
 destroy the teacher.
The boy I love, the same becomes a man, not  
 through derived power, but in his own right,
Wicked, rather than virtuous out of conformity of  
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  
Preferring scars, and faces pitted with small-pox,  
 over all latherers and those that keep out of  
 the sun.
I teach straying from me, yet who can stray from  
I follow you, whoever you are, from the present  
My words itch at your ears till you understand  
I do not say these things for a dollar, or to fill up  
 the time while I wait for a boat,
  [ begin page 94 ]ppp.00237.102.jpg It is you talking just as much as myself, I act as  
 the tongue of you,
It was tied in your mouth, in mine it begins to be  
I swear I will never mention love or death inside  
 a house,
And I swear I never will translate myself at all,  
 only to him or her who privately stays with  
 me in the open air.
If you would understand me, go to the heights or  
The nearest gnat is an explanation, and a drop or  
 motion of waves a key,
The maul, the oar, the hand-saw, second my words.
No shuttered room or school can commune with  
But roughs and little children better than they.
The young mechanic is closest to me, he knows  
 me pretty well,
The wood-man that takes his axe and jug with  
 him, shall take me with him all day,
The farm-boy ploughing in the field feels good at  
 the sound of my voice,
In vessels that sail my words sail—I go with  
 fishermen and seamen, and love them,
  [ begin page 95 ]ppp.00237.103.jpg My face rubs to the hunter's face when he lies  
 down alone in his blanket,
The driver thinking of me does not mind the  
 jolt of his wagon,
The young mother and old mother comprehend  
The girl and the wife rest the needle a moment,  
 and forget where they are,
They and all would resume what I have told them.
I have said that the soul is not more than the  
And I have said that the body is not more than  
 the soul,
And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one's- 
 self is,
And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy,  
 walks to his own funeral, dressed in his  
And I or you, pocketless of a dime, may pur- 
 chase the pick of the earth,
And to glance with an eye, or show a bean in its  
 pod, confounds the learning of all times,
And there is no trade or employment but the  
 young man following it may become a hero,
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.
  [ begin page 96 ]ppp.00237.104.jpg And I call to mankind, Be not curious about God, For I, who am curious about each, am not curious  
 about God,
No array of terms can say how much I am at  
 peace about God, and about death.
I hear and behold God in every object, yet I  
 understand God not in the least,
Nor do I understand who there can be more won- 
 derful than myself.
Why should I wish to see God better than this  
I see something of God each hour of the twenty- 
 four, and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and  
 in my own face in the glass,
I find letters from God dropped in the street, and  
 every one is signed by God's name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know  
 that others will punctually come forever and  
And as to you death, and you bitter hug of mor- 
 tality, it is idle to try to alarm me.
To his work without flinching the accoucheur  
  [ begin page 97 ]ppp.00237.105.jpg I see the elder-hand, pressing, receiving, support- 
I recline by the sills of the exquisite flexible  
 doors, mark the outlet, mark the relief and  
And as to you corpse, I think you are good  
 manure, but that does not offend me,
I smell the white roses sweet-scented and grow- 
I reach to the leafy lips, I reach to the polished  
 breasts of melons.
And as to you life, I reckon you are the leavings  
 of many deaths,
No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times  
I hear you whispering there, O stars of heaven, O suns, O grass of graves, O perpetual trans- 
 fers and promotions, if you do not say any- 
 thing, how can I say anything?
Of the turbid pool that lies in the autumn forest, Of the moon that descends the steeps of the  
 soughing twilight,
Toss, sparkles of day and dusk! Toss on the  
 black stems that decay in the muck!
Toss to the moaning gibberish of the dry limbs!
5   [ begin page 98 ]ppp.00237.106.jpg I ascend from the moon, I ascend from the night, And perceive of the ghastly glimmer the sun- 
 beams 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 sleep—I sleep long.
I do not know it—it is without name—it is a  
 word unsaid,
It is not in any dictionary, utterance, symbol.
Something it swings on more than the earth I  
 swing on,
To it the creation is the friend whose embracing  
 awakes me.
Perhaps I might tell more. Outlines! I plead for  
 my brothers and sisters.
Do you see, O my brothers and sisters? It is not chaos or death—it is form, union, plan  
 —it is eternal life—it is happiness.
The past and present wilt—I have filled them,  
 emptied them,
  [ begin page 99 ]ppp.00237.107.jpg And proceed to fill my next fold of the future. Listener up there! here you! what have you to  
 confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of  
Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay  
 only a minute longer.
Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes. I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on  
 the door-slab.
Who has done his day's work? who will soonest  
 be through with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?
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 untrans- 
  [ begin page 100 ]ppp.00237.108.jpg I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the  
The last scud of day holds back for me, It flings my likeness, after the rest, and true as  
 any, on the shadowed wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.
I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the  
 run-away sun,
I effuse my flash in eddies, and drift it in lacy  
I bequeath myself to the dirt, to grow from the  
 grass I love,
If you want me again, look for me under your  
You will hardly know who I am, or what I mean, But I shall be good health to you nevertheless, And filter and fibre your blood. Failing to fetch me at first, keep encouraged, Missing me one place, search another, I stop some where waiting for you.
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