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Poem of Many in One.

8 — Poem of Many In One.

A NATION announcing itself, I myself make the only growth by which I  
 can be appreciated,
I reject none, accept all, reproduce all in my own  
A breed whose testimony is behaviour, What we are, we are—nativity is answer enough  
 to objections;
We wield ourselves as a weapon is wielded, We are powerful and tremendous in ourselves, We are executive in ourselves—we are sufficient  
 in the variety of ourselves,
We are the most beautiful to ourselves and in our- 
Nothing is sinful to us outside of ourselves, Whatever appears, whatever does not appear, we  
 are beautiful or sinful in ourselves.
Have you thought there could be but a single  
  [ begin page 181 ]ppp.00237.189.jpg There can be any number of Supremes—one  
 does not countervail another any more than  
 one eye-sight countervails another, or one life  
 countervails another.
All is eligible to all, All is for individuals—all is for you, No condition is prohibited, not God's or any, If one is lost, you are inevitably lost. All comes by the body—only health puts you  
 rapport with the universe.
Produce great persons, the rest follows. How dare a sick man, or an obedient man, write  
Which is the theory or book that is not diseased?
Piety and conformity to them that like! Peace, obesity, allegiance, to them that like! I am he who tauntingly compels men, women,  
 nations, to leap from their seats and contend  
 for their lives!
I am he who goes through the streets with a  
 barbed tongue, questioning every one I meet  
 —questioning you up there now,
Who are you, that wanted only to be told what  
 you knew before?
  [ begin page 182 ]ppp.00237.190.jpg Who are you, that wanted only a book to join you  
 in your nonsense?
Are you, or would you be, better than all that has  
 ever been before?
If you would be better than all that has ever been  
 before, come listen to me, and I will to you.
Fear grace! Fear delicatesse! Fear the mellow sweet, the sucking of honey- 
Beware the advancing mortal ripening of nature! Beware what precedes the decay of the rugged- 
 ness of states and men!
Ages, precedents, poems, have long been accumu- 
 lating undirected materials,
America brings builders, and brings its own styles.
Mighty bards have done their work, and passed to  
 other spheres,
One work forever remains, the work of surpassing  
 all they have done.
America, curious toward foreign characters,  
 stands sternly by its own,
Stands removed, spacious, composite, sound, Sees itself promulger of men and women, initiates  
 the true use of precedents,
  [ begin page 183 ]ppp.00237.191.jpg Does not repel them or the past, or what they  
 have produced under their forms, or amid  
 other politics, or amid the idea of castes, or  
 the old religions,
Takes the lesson with calmness, perceives the  
 corpse slowly borne from the eating and  
 sleeping rooms of the house,
Perceives that it waits a little while in the door,  
 that it was fittest for its days, that its life has  
 descended to the stalwart and well-shaped  
 heir who approaches, and that he shall be fit- 
 test for his days.
Any period, one nation must lead, One land must be the promise and reliance of the  
These States are the amplest poem, Here is not merely a nation, but a teeming nation  
 of nations,
Here the doings of men correspond with the  
 broadcast doings of the day and night,
Here is what moves in magnificent masses, care- 
 lessly faithful of particulars,
Here are the roughs, beards, friendliness, com- 
 bativeness, the soul loves,
Here the flowing trains, here the crowds, equality,  
 diversity, the soul loves.
Race of races, and bards to corroborate!   [ begin page 184 ]ppp.00237.192.jpg Of them, standing among them, one lifts to the  
 light his west-bred face,
To him the hereditary countenance bequeathed,  
 both mother's and father's,
His first parts substances, earth, water, animals, trees, Built of the common stock, having room for far  
 and near,
Used to dispense with other lands, incarnating this  
Attracting it body and soul to himself, hanging on  
 its neck with incomparable love,
Plunging his semitic muscle into its merits and  
Making its geography, cities, beginnings, events,  
 glories, defections, diversities, vocal in him,
Making its rivers, lakes, bays, embouchure in him, Mississippi with yearly freshets and changing  
 chutes, Missouri, Columbia, Ohio, St. Law- 
 rence, Hudson, spending themselves lovingly  
 in him,
The blue breadth over the sea off Massachusetts  
 and Maine, or over the Virginia and Maryland  
 sea, or over inland Champlain, Ontario, Erie,  
 Huron, Michigan, Superior, or over the  
 Texan, Mexican, Cuban, Floridian seas, or  
 over the seas off California and Oregon, not  
 tallying the breadth of the waters below,  
 more than the breadth of above and below is  
 tallied in him,
  [ begin page 185 ]ppp.00237.193.jpg If the Atlantic coast stretch, or the Pacific coast  
 stretch, he stretching with them north or south,
Spanning between them east and west, and touch- 
 ing whatever is between them,
Growths growing from him to offset the growth of  
 pine, cedar, hemlock, live-oak, locust, chest- 
 nut, cypress, hickory, lime-tree, cotton-wood,  
 tulip-tree, cactus, tamarind, orange, magnolia,  
Tangles as tangled in him as any cane-brake or  
He likening sides and peaks of mountains, forests  
 coated with transparent ice, and icicles hang- 
 ing from the boughs,
Off him pasturage sweet and natural as savannah,  
 upland, prairie,
Through him flights, songs, screams, answering  
 those of the wild-pigeon, high-hold, orchard- 
 oriole, coot, surf-duck, red-shouldered-hawk,  
 fish-hawk, white-ibis, indian-hen, cat-owl,  
 water-pheasant, qua-bird, pied-sheldrake,  
 mocking-bird, buzzard, condor, night-heron,  
His spirit surrounding his country's spirit, unclosed  
 to good and evil,
Surrounding the essences of real things, old times  
 and present times,
Surrounding just found shores, islands, tribes of  
 red aborigines,
  [ begin page 186 ]ppp.00237.194.jpg Weather-beaten vessels, landings, settlements, the  
 rapid stature and muscle,
The haughty defiance of the Year 1—war, peace,  
 the formation of the Constitution,
The separate States, the simple, elastic scheme,  
 the immigrants,
The Union, always swarming with blatherers, and  
 always calm and impregnable,
The unsurveyed interior, log-houses, clearings,  
 wild animals, hunters, trappers;
Surrounding the multiform agriculture, mines,  
 temperature, the gestation of new States,
Congress convening every December, the mem- 
 bers duly coming up from the uttermost  
Surrounding the noble character of mechanics and  
 farmers, especially the young men,
Responding their manners, speech, dress, friend- 
 ships—the gait they have of persons who  
 never knew how it felt to stand in the  
 presence of superiors,
The freshness and candor of their physiognomy, the  
 copiousness and decision of their phrenology,
The picturesque looseness of their carriage, their  
 deathless attachment to freedom, their fierce- 
 ness when wronged,
The fluency of their speech, their delight in  
 music, their curiosity, good-temper, open- 
  [ begin page 187 ]ppp.00237.195.jpg The prevailing ardor and enterprise, the large  
The perfect equality of the female with the male,  
 the fluid movement of the population,
The superior marine, free commerce, fisheries,  
 whaling, gold-digging,
Wharf-hemm'd cities, railroad and steamboat lines,  
 intersecting all points,
Factories, mercantile life, labor-saving machinery,  
 the north-east, north-west, south-west,
Manhattan firemen, the Yankee swap, southern  
 plantation life,
Slavery, the tremulous spreading of hands to  
 shelter it—the stern opposition to it, which  
 ceases only when it ceases.
For these, and the like, their own voices! For  
 these, space ahead!
Others take finish, but the republic is ever con- 
 structive, and ever keeps vista;
Others adorn the past—but you, O, days of the  
 present, I adorn you!
O days of the future, I believe in you! O America, because you build for mankind, I build  
 for you!
O well-beloved stone-cutters! I lead them who  
 plan with decision and science,
I lead the present with friendly hand toward the  
  [ begin page 188 ]ppp.00237.196.jpg Bravas to states whose semitic impulses send  
 wholesome children to the next age!
But damn that which spends itself on flaunters and  
 dallyers, with no thought of the stains, pains,  
 dismay, feebleness, it is bequeathing!
By great bards only can series of peoples and  
 States be fused into the compact organism of  
 one nation.
To hold men together by paper and seal, or by  
 compulsion, is no account,
That only holds men together which is living  
 principles, as the hold of the limbs of the  
 body, or the fibres of plants.
Of all races and eras, These States, with veins full  
 of poetical stuff, most need poets, and are to  
 have the greatest, and use them the greatest,
Their Presidents shall not be their common ref- 
 eree so much as their poets shall.
Of mankind, the poet is the equable man, Not in him, but off from him, things are grotesque,  
 eccentric, fail of their full returns,
Nothing out of its place is good, nothing in its  
 place is bad,
He bestows on every object or quality its fit pro- 
 portions, neither more nor less,
He is the arbiter of the diverse, he is the key,   [ begin page 189 ]ppp.00237.197.jpg He is the equalizer of his age and land He supplies what wants supplying—he checks  
 what wants checking,
In peace, out of him speaks the spirit of peace,  
 large, rich, thrifty, building populous towns,  
 encouraging agriculture, arts, commerce,  
 lighting the study of man, the soul, health,  
 immortality, government,
In war he is the best backer of the war—he  
 fetches artillery as good as the engineer's, he  
 can make every word he speaks draw blood;
The years straying toward infidelity he withholds  
 by his steady faith,
He is no arguer, he is judgment, He judges not as the judge judges, but as the sun  
 falling round a helpless thing,
As he sees the farthest he has the most faith, His thoughts are the hymns of the praise of things, In the dispute on God and eternity he is silent, He sees eternity less like a play with a prologue  
 and denouement,
He sees eternity in men and women—he does  
 not see men and women as dreams or dots.
An American literat fills his own place, He justifies science—did you think the demon- 
 strable less divine than the mythical?
He stands by liberty according to the compact of  
 the first day of the first year of These States,
  [ begin page 190 ]ppp.00237.198.jpg He concentres in the real body and soul, and in  
 the pleasure of things,
He possesses the superiority of genuineness over  
 fiction and romance;
As he emits himself, facts are showered over with  
The day-light is lit with more volatile light—the  
 deep between the setting and rising sun goes  
 deeper many fold,
Each precise object, condition, combination, pro- 
 cess, exhibits a beauty—the multiplication- 
 table its, old age its, the carpenter's trade  
 its, the grand-opera its,
The huge-hulled clean-shaped Manhattan clipper  
 at sea, under steam or full sail, gleams with  
 unmatched beauty,
The national circles and large harmonies of gov- 
 ernment gleam with theirs,
The commonest definite intentions and actions  
 with theirs.
Of the idea of perfect individuals, the idea of  
 These States, their bards walk in advance,  
 leaders of leaders,
The attitudes of them cheer up slaves and horrify  
Without extinction is liberty! Without retrograde  
 is equality!
  [ begin page 191 ]ppp.00237.199.jpg They live in the feelings of young men, and the  
 best women,
Not for nothing have the indomitable heads of the  
 earth been always ready to fall for liberty!
Language-using controls the rest; Wonderful is language! Wondrous the English language, language of live  
Language of ensemble, powerful language of re- 
Language of a proud and melancholy stock, and  
 of all who aspire,
Language of growth, faith, self-esteem, rudeness,  
 justice, friendliness, amplitude, prudence, de- 
 cision, exactitude, courage,
Language to well-nigh express the inexpressible, Language for the modern, language for America.
Who would use language to America may well  
 prepare himself, body and mind,
He may well survey, ponder, arm, fortify, harden,  
 make lithe, himself,
He shall surely be questioned beforehand by me  
 with many and stern questions.
Who are you that would talk to America? Have you studied out my land, its idioms and  
  [ begin page 192 ]ppp.00237.200.jpg Have you learned the physiology, phrenology,  
 politics, geography, pride, freedom, friendship,  
 of my land? its substratums and objects?
Have you considered the organic compact of the  
 first day of the first year of the independence  
 of The States?
Have you possessed yourself of the Federal Con- 
Do you acknowledge liberty with audible and  
 absolute acknowledgment, and set slavery at  
 naught for life and death?
Do you see who have left described processes and  
 poems behind them, and assumed new ones?
Are you faithful to things? Do you teach what- 
 ever the land and sea, the bodies of men,  
 womanhood, amativeness, angers, excesses,  
 crimes, teach?
Have you sped through customs, laws, popu- 
Can you hold your hand against all seductions,  
 follies, whirls, fierce contentions?
Are you not of some coterie? some school or  
Are you done with reviews and criticisms of life?  
 animating to life itself?
Have you possessed yourself with the spirit of the  
 maternity of These States?
Have you sucked the nipples of the breasts of the  
 mother of many children?
  [ begin page 193 ]ppp.00237.201.jpg Have you too the old, ever-fresh, forbearance and  
Do you hold the like love for those hardening to  
 maturity? for the last-born? little and big?  
 and for the errant?
What is this you bring my America? Is it uniform with my country? Is it not something that has been better told or  
 done before?
Have you imported this, or the spirit of it, in some  
Is it a mere tale? a rhyme? a prettiness? Has it never dangled at the heels of the poets,  
 politicians, literats, of enemies' lands?
Does it not assume that what is notoriously gone  
 is still here?
Does it answer universal needs? Will it improve  
Can your performance face the open fields and the  
Will it absorb into me as I absorb food, air,  
 nobility, meanness—to appear again in my  
 strength, gait, face?
Have real employments contributed to it? original  
 makers, not amanuenses?
Does it meet modern discoveries, calibers, facts,  
 face to face?
Does it respect me? America? the soul? to- 
9   [ begin page 194 ]ppp.00237.202.jpg What does it mean to me? to American persons, pro- 
 gresses, cities? Chicago, Canada, Arkansas?  
 the planter, Yankee, Georgian, native, immi- 
 grant, sailors, squatters, old States, new States?
Does it encompass all The States, and the  
 unexceptional rights of all men and women,  
 the genital impulse of The States?
Does it see behind the apparent custodians, the  
 real custodians, standing, menacing, silent,  
 the mechanics, Manhattanese, western men,  
 southerners, significant alike in their apathy  
 and in the promptness of their love?
Does it see what befals and has always befallen  
 each temporiser, patcher, outsider, partialist,  
 alarmist, infidel, who has ever asked any- 
 thing of America?
What mocking and scornful negligence? The track strewed with the dust of skeletons? By the road-side others disdainfully tossed?
Rhymes and rhymers pass away—poems dis- 
 tilled from other poems pass away,
The swarms of reflectors and the polite pass, and  
 leave ashes,
Admirers, importers, obedient persons, make the  
 soil of literature;
America justifies itself, give it time—no disguise  
 can deceive it or conceal from it—it is im- 
 passive enough,
  [ begin page 195 ]ppp.00237.203.jpg Only toward the likes of itself will it advance to  
 meet them,
If its poets appear, it will advance to meet them,  
 there is no fear of mistake,
The proof of a poet shall be sternly deferred till  
 his country absorbs him as affectionately as  
 he has absorbed it.
He masters whose spirit masters—he tastes  
 sweetest who results sweetest,
The blood of the brawn beloved of time is uncon- 
In the need of poems, philosophy, politics,  
 manners, engineering, an appropriate native  
 grand-opera, ship-craft, any craft, he or she  
 is greatest who contributes the greatest  
 original practical example.
Already a nonchalant breed silently fills the  
 houses and streets,
People's lips salute only doers, lovers, satisfiers,  
 positive knowers;
There will shortly be no more priests—their  
 work is done,
Death is without emergencies here, but life is per- 
 petual emergencies here,
Are your body, days, manners, superb? after death  
 you shall be superb,
  [ begin page 196 ]ppp.00237.204.jpg Friendship, self-esteem, justice, health, clear the  
 way with irresistible power.
Give me the pay I have served for! Give me to speak beautiful words! take all the  
I have loved the earth, sun, animals—I have de- 
 spised riches,
I have given alms to every one that asked, stood  
 up for the stupid and crazy, devoted my in- 
 come and labor to others,
I have hated tyrants, argued not concerning God,  
 had patience and indulgence toward the peo- 
 ple, taken off my hat to nothing known or  
I have gone freely with powerful uneducated per- 
 sons, and with the young, and with the  
 mothers of families,
I have read these leaves to myself in the open air,  
 I have tried them by trees, stars, rivers,
I have dismissed whatever insulted my own soul  
 or defiled my body,
I have claimed nothing to myself which I have  
 not carefully claimed for others on the same  
I have studied my land, its idioms and men, I am willing to wait to be understood by the  
 growth of the taste of myself,
I reject none, I permit all,   [ begin page 197 ]ppp.00237.205.jpg Whom I have staid with once I have found long- 
 ing for me ever afterwards.
I swear I begin to see the meaning of these  
It is not the earth, it is not America who is so  
It is I who am great, or to be great—it is you, or  
 any one,
It is to walk rapidly through civilizations, govern- 
 ments, theories, nature, poems, shows, to in- 
Underneath all are individuals, I swear nothing is good that ignores individuals! The American compact is with individuals, The only government is that which makes minute  
 of individuals.
Underneath all is nativity, I swear I will stand by my own nativity—pious  
 or impious, so be it!
I swear I am charmed with nothing except  
Men, women, cities, nations, are only beautiful  
 from nativity.
Underneath all is the need of the expression of  
 love for men and women,
  [ begin page 198 ]ppp.00237.206.jpg I swear I have had enough of mean and impotent  
 modes of expressing love for men and  
After this day I take my own modes of express- 
 ing love for men and women.
I swear I will have each quality of my race in  
Talk as you like, he only suits These States  
 whose manners favor the audacity and sub- 
 lime turbulence of These States.
Underneath the lessons of things, spirits, nature,  
 governments, ownerships, I swear I perceive  
 other lessons,
Underneath all to me is myself—to you, your- 
If all had not kernels for you and me, what were  
 it to you and me?
O I see now that this America is only you and  
Its power, weapons, testimony, are you and me, Its roughs, beards, haughtiness, ruggedness, are  
 you and me,
Its ample geography, the sierras, the prairies,  
 Mississippi, Huron, Colorado, Boston, To- 
 ronto, Releigh, Nashville, Havana, are you  
 and me,
  [ begin page 199 ]ppp.00237.207.jpg Its settlements, wars, the organic compact, peace,  
 Washington, the Federal Constitution, are  
 you and me,
Its young men's manners, speech, dress, friend- 
 ships, are you and me,
Its crimes, lies, thefts, defections, slavery, are you  
 and me,
Its Congress is you and me, the officers, capitols,  
 armies, ships, are you and me,
Its endless gestations of new States are you and  
Its inventions, science, schools, are you and me, Its deserts, forests, clearings, log-houses, hunters,  
 are you and me,
The perpetual arrivals of immigrants are you and  
Natural and artificial are you and me, Freedom, language, poems, employments, are you  
 and me,
Failures, successes, births, deaths, are you and me, Past, present, future, are only you and me.
I swear I dare not shirk any part of myself, Not America, nor any part of America, Not my body, not friendship, hospitality, pro- 
Not my soul, not the last explanation of prudence, Not the similitude that interlocks me with all  
 identities that exist, or ever have existed,
  [ begin page 200 ]ppp.00237.208.jpg Not faith, sin, defiance, nor any disposition or duty  
 of myself,
Not the promulgation of liberty, not to cheer up  
 slaves and horrify despots,
Not to build for that which builds for mankind, Not to balance ranks, complexions, creeds, and  
 the sexes,
Not to justify science, not the march of equality, Not to feed the arrogant blood of the brawn  
 beloved of time.
I swear I am for those that have never been  
For men and women whose tempers have never  
 been mastered,
For those whom laws, theories, conventions, can  
 never master.
I swear I am for those who walk abreast with  
 America and with the earth!
Who inaugurate one to inaugurate all.
I swear I will not be outfaced by irrational things! I will penetrate what it is in them that is sarcastic  
 upon me!
I will make cities and civilizations defer to me! I will confront these shows of the day and night! I will know if I am to be less than they! I will see if I am not as majestic as they!   [ begin page 201 ]ppp.00237.209.jpg I will see if I am not as subtle and real as they! I will see if I am to be less generous than they! I will see if I have no meaning, and the houses  
 and ships have meaning!
I will see if the fishes and birds are to be enough  
 for themselves, and I am not to be enough for  
I match my spirit against yours, you orbs, growths,  
 mountains, brutes,
I will learn why the earth is gross, tantalizing,  
I take you to be mine, you beautiful, terrible, rude  
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