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Poem of the Road.

12 — Poem of The Road.

AFOOT and light-hearted I take to the open  
Healthy, free, the world before me! The long brown path before me, leading wherever  
 I choose!
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I am good- 
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more,  
 need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.
The earth—that is sufficient, I do not want the constellations any nearer, I know they are very well where they are, I know they suffice for those who belong to them. Still here I carry my old delicious burdens, I carry them, men and women—I carry them  
 with me wherever I go,
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them, I am filled with them, and I will fill them in  
  [ begin page 224 ]ppp.00237.232.jpg You road I travel and look around! I believe you  
 are not all that is here!
I believe that something unseen is also here.
Here is the profound lesson of reception, neither  
 preference or denial,
The black with his woolly head, the felon, the  
 diseased, the illiterate person, are not de- 
The birth, the hasting after the physician, the  
 beggar's tramp, the drunkard's stagger, the  
 laughing party of mechanics,
The escaped youth, the rich person's carriage, the  
 fop, the eloping couple,
The early market-man, the hearse, the moving of  
 furniture into the town, the return back from  
 the town,
They pass, I also pass, any thing passes, none can  
 be interdicted,
None but are accepted, none but are dear to me.
You air that serves me with breath to speak! You objects that call from diffusion my meanings  
 and give them shape!
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate  
 equable showers!
You animals moving serenely over the earth! You birds that wing yourselves through the air!  
 you insects!
  [ begin page 225 ]ppp.00237.233.jpg You sprouting growths from the farmers' fields!  
 you stalks and weeds by the fences!
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the  
I think you are latent with curious existences —  
 you are so dear to me.
You flagged walks of the cities! you strong curbs  
 at the edges!
You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves!  
 you timber-lined sides! you distant ships!
You rows of houses! you window-pierced facades!  
 you roofs!
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron  
You windows whose transparent shells might  
 expose so much!
You doors and ascending steps! you arches! You gray stones of interminable pavements! you  
 trodden crossings!
From all that has been near you I believe you  
 have imparted to yourselves, and now would  
 impart the same secretly to me,
From the living and the dead I think you have  
 peopled your impassive surfaces, and the  
 spirits thereof would be evident and ami- 
 cable with me.
The earth expanding right hand and left hand, 10*   [ begin page 226 ]ppp.00237.234.jpg The picture alive, every part in its best light, The music falling in where it is wanted, and  
 stopping where it is not wanted,
The cheerful voice of the public road—the gay  
 fresh sentiment of the road.
O highway I travel! O public road! do you say  
 to me, Do not leave me?
Do you say, Venture not? If you leave me, you  
 are lost?
Do you say, I am already prepared—I am well- 
 beaten and undenied—Adhere to me?
O public road! I say back, I am not afraid to  
 leave you—yet I love you,
You express me better than I can express myself, You shall be more to me than my poem.
I think heroic deeds were all conceived in the  
 open air,
I think I could stop here myself, and do miracles, I think whatever I meet on the road I shall like,  
 and whatever beholds me shall like me,
I think whoever I see must be happy.
From this hour, freedom! From this hour, I ordain myself loosed of limits  
 and imaginary lines!
Going where I list—my own master, total and  
  [ begin page 227 ]ppp.00237.235.jpg Listening to others, and considering well what  
 they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently but with undeniable will divesting myself  
 of the holds that would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of air, The east and the west are mine, and the north  
 and the south are mine.
I am larger than I thought! I did not know I held so much goodness! All seems beautiful to me, I can repeat over to men and women, You have  
 done such good to me, I would do the same  
 to you.
I will recruit for myself and you as I go, I will scatter myself among men and women as  
 I go,
I will toss the new gladness and roughness among  
Whoever denies me, it shall not trouble me, Whoever accepts me, he or she shall be blessed,  
 and shall bless me.
Now if a thousand perfect men were to appear,  
 it would not amaze me,
  [ begin page 228 ]ppp.00237.236.jpg Now if a thousand beautiful forms of women ap- 
 peared, it would not astonish me.
Now I see the secret of the making of the best  
It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and  
 sleep with the earth.
Here is space—here a great personal deed has  
A great deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole  
 race of men,
Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law,  
 and mocks all authority and all argument  
 against it.
Here is the test of wisdom, Wisdom is not finally tested in schools, Wisdom cannot be passed from one having it, to  
 another not having it,
Wisdom is of the soul, is not susceptible of proof,  
 is its own proof,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities, and  
 is content,
Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of  
 things, and the excellence of things,
Something there is in the float of the sight of  
 things that provokes it out of the soul.
  [ begin page 229 ]ppp.00237.237.jpg Now I re-examine philosophies and religions, They may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not  
 prove at all under the spacious clouds, and  
 along the landscape and flowing currents.
Here is realization, Here is a man tallied—he realizes here what he  
 has in him,
The animals, the past, the future, light, space,  
 majesty, love, if they are vacant of you, you  
 are vacant of them.
Only the kernel of every object nourishes; Where is he who tears off the husks for you and  
Where is he that undoes stratagems and envelopes  
 for you and me?
Here is adhesiveness—it is not previously  
 fashioned, it is apropos;
Do you know what it is as you pass to be loved  
 by strangers?
Do you know the talk of those turning eye-balls?
Here is the efflux of the soul, The efflux of the soul comes through beautiful  
 gates of laws, provoking questions,
These yearnings, why are they? these thoughts  
 in the darkness, why are they?
  [ begin page 230 ]ppp.00237.238.jpg Why are there men and women that while they  
 are nigh me the sun-light expands my blood?
Why when they leave me do my pennants of joy  
 sink flat and lank?
Why are there trees I never walk under but large  
 and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
(I think they hang there winter and summer on  
 those trees, and always drop fruit as I pass;)
What is it I interchange so suddenly with stran- 
What with some driver as I ride on the seat by  
 his side?
What with some fisherman, drawing his seine by  
 the shore, as I walk by and pause?
What gives me to be free to a woman's or man's  
 good-will? What gives them to be free to  
The efflux of the soul is happiness—here is  
I think it pervades the air, waiting at all times, Now it flows into us—we are rightly charged.
Here rises the fluid and attaching character; The fluid and attaching character is the freshness  
 and sweetness of man and woman,
The herbs of the morning sprout no fresher and  
 sweeter every day out of the roots of them- 
 selves, than it sprouts fresh and sweet contin- 
 ually out of itself.
  [ begin page 231 ]ppp.00237.239.jpg Toward the fluid and attaching character exudes  
 the sweat of the love of young and old,
From it falls distilled the charm that mocks beauty  
 and attainments,
Toward it heaves the shuddering longing ache of  
Allons! Whoever you are, come travel with  
Traveling with me, you find what never tires.
The earth never tires! The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at  
 first—nature is rude and incomprehensible  
 at first,
Be not discouraged—keep on—there are divine  
 things, well enveloped,
I swear to you there are divine things more beau- 
 tiful than words can tell!
Allons! We must not stop here! However sweet these laid-up stores, however  
 convenient this dwelling, we cannot remain  
However sheltered this port, however calm these  
 waters, we must not anchor here!
However welcome the hospitality that surrounds  
 us, we are permitted to receive it but a little  
  [ begin page 232 ]ppp.00237.240.jpg Allons! the inducements shall be great to you, We will sail pathless and wild seas, We will go where winds blow, waves dash,  
 and the Yankee clipper speeds by under full  
Allons! With power, liberty, the earth, the  
Health, defiance, gaiety, self-esteem, curiosity!
Allons! From all formulas! From your formulas, O bat-eyed and materialistic  
The stale cadaver blocks up the passage—the  
 burial waits no longer.
Allons! Yet take warning! He traveling with me needs the best blood, thews,  
None may come to the trial till he or she bring  
 courage and health.
Come not here if you have already spent the best  
 of yourself!
Only those may come who come in sweet and  
 determined bodies,
No diseased person—no rum-drinker or venereal  
 taint is permitted here,
  [ begin page 233 ]ppp.00237.241.jpg I and mine do not convince by arguments,  
 similes, rhymes,
We convince by our presence.
Listen! I will be honest with you, I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer  
 rough new prizes,
These are the days that must happen to you: You shall not heap up what is called riches, You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you  
 earn or achieve,
You but arrive at the city to which you were  
 destined—you hardly settle yourself to satis- 
 faction, before you are called by an irresistible  
 call to depart,
You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and  
 mockings of those who remain behind you,
What beckonings of love you receive, you shall  
 only answer with passionate kisses of parting,
You shall not allow the hold of those who spread  
 their reached hands toward you.
Allons! After the great companions! and to be- 
 long to them!
They too are on the road! they are the swift and  
 majestic men! they are the greatest women!
Over that which hindered them, over that which  
 retarded, passing impediments large or small,
  [ begin page 234 ]ppp.00237.242.jpg Committers of crimes, committers of many beauti- 
 ful virtues,
Enjoyers of calms of seas, and storms of seas, Sailors of many a ship, walkers of many a mile of  
Habitues of many different countries, habitues of  
 far-distant dwellings,
Trusters of men and women, observers of cities,  
 solitary toilers,
Pausers and contemplaters of tufts, blossoms, shells  
 of the shore,
Dancers at wedding-dances, kissers of brides,  
 tender helpers of children, bearers of children,
Soldiers of revolts, standers by gaping graves,  
 lowerers down of coffins,
Journeyers over consecutive seasons, over the  
 years—the curious years, each emerging  
 from that which preceded it,
Journeyers as with companions, namely, their own  
 diverse phases,
Forth-steppers from the latent unrealized baby- 
Journeyers gaily with their own youth—journey- 
 ers with their bearded and well-grained  
Journeyers with their womanhood, ample, unsur- 
 passed, content,
Journeyers with their sublime old age of manhood  
 or womanhood,
  [ begin page 235 ]ppp.00237.243.jpg Old age, calm, expanded, broad with the haughty  
 breadth of the universe,
Old age, flowing free with the delicious near-by  
 freedom of death.
Allons! to that which is endless as it was  
To undergo much, tramps of days, rests of nights! To merge all in the travel they tend to, and the  
 days and nights they tend to!
Again to merge them in the start of superior  
To see nothing anywhere but what you may reach  
 it and pass it!
To conceive no time, however distant, but what  
 you may reach it and pass it!
To look up or down no road but it stretches and  
 waits for you! however long, but it stretches  
 and waits for you!
To see no being, not God's or any, but you also  
 go thither!
To see no possession but you may possess it!  
 enjoying all without labor or purchase —  
 abstracting the feast, yet not abstracting one  
 particle of it;
To take the best of the farmer's farm and the rich  
 man's elegant villa, and the chaste blessings  
 of the well-married couple, and the fruits of  
 orchards and flowers of gardens!
  [ begin page 236 ]ppp.00237.244.jpg To take to your use out of the compact cities as  
 you pass through!
To carry buildings and streets with you afterward  
 wherever you go!
To gather the minds of men out of their brains as  
 you encounter them! to gather the love out  
 of their hearts!
To take your own lovers on the road with  
 you, for all that you leave them behind  
To know the universe itself as a road—as many  
 roads—as roads for traveling souls!
The soul travels, The body does not travel as much as the soul, The body has just as great a work as the soul,  
 and parts away at last for the journeys of the  
All parts away for the progress of souls, All religion, all solid things, arts, governments —  
 all that was or is apparent upon this globe or  
 any globe, falls into niches and corners before  
 the processions of souls along the grand roads  
 of the universe,
Of the progress of the souls of men and women  
 along the grand roads of the universe, all  
 other progress is the needed emblem and  
  [ begin page 237 ]ppp.00237.245.jpg Forever alive, forever forward, Stately, solemn, sad, withdrawn, baffled, mad,  
 turbulent, feeble, dissatisfied,
Desperate, proud, fond, sick, accepted by men,  
 rejected by men,
They go! they go! I know that they go, but I  
 know not where they go,
But I know that they go toward the best— toward something great.
Allons! Whoever you are! come forth! You must not stay in your house, though you built  
 it, or though it has been built for you.
Allons! out of the dark confinement! It is useless to protest—I know all, and expose it. Behold through you as bad as the rest! Through the laughter, dancing, dining, supping, of  
Inside of dresses and ornaments, inside of those  
 washed and trimmed faces,
Behold a secret silent loathing and despair!
No husband, no wife, no friend, no lover, so  
 trusted as to hear the confession,
Another self, a duplicate of every one, skulking and  
 hiding it goes, open and above-board it goes,
Formless and wordless through the streets of the  
 cities, polite and bland in the parlors,
  [ begin page 238 ]ppp.00237.246.jpg In the cars of rail-roads, in steam-boats, in the  
 public assembly,
Home to the houses of men and women, among  
 their families, at the table, in the bed-room,  
 every where,
Smartly attired, countenance smiling, form upright,  
 death under the breast-bones, hell under the  
Under the broad-cloth and gloves, under the  
 ribbons and artificial flowers,
Keeping fair with the customs, speaking not a  
 syllable of itself,
Speaking of anything else, but never of itself.
Allons! through struggles and wars! The goal that was named cannot be counter- 
Have the past struggles succeeded? What has succeeded? Yourself? Your nation?  
Now understand me well—it is provided in the  
 essence of things, that from any fruition of  
 success, no matter what, shall come forth  
 something to make a greater struggle neces- 
My call is the call of battle—I nourish active  
  [ begin page 239 ]ppp.00237.247.jpg He going with me must go well armed, He going with me goes often with spare diet,  
 poverty, angry enemies, contentions.
Allons! the road is before us! It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have  
 tried it well.
Allons! be not detained! Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and  
 the book on the shelf unopened!
Let the tools remain in the work-shop! let the  
 money remain unearned!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the  
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the  
 lawyer plead in the court, and the judge  
 expound the law!
Mon enfant! I give you my hand! I give you my love, more precious than money, I give you myself, before preaching or law; Will you give me yourself? Will you come  
 travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
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