Skip to main content

Song of the Open Road.



1AFOOT and light-hearted, I take to the open road, Healthy, free, the world before me, The long brown path before me, leading wherever I  
2Henceforth I ask not good-fortune—I myself am good- 
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more,  
 need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.
3The 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. 4(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 fill'd with them, and I will fill them in return.)


5You road I enter upon and look around! I believe  
 you are not all that is here;
I believe that much unseen is also here.
  [ begin page 178 ]ppp.00270.180.jpg 6Here the profound lesson of reception, neither prefer- 
 ence or denial;
The black with his woolly head, the felon, the diseas'd,  
 the illiterate person, are not denied;
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 fur- 
 niture into the town, the return back from the  
They pass—I also pass—anything passes—none can be  
None but are accepted—none but are dear to me:


7You 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 paths worn in the irregular hollows by the road- 
I think you are latent with unseen existences—you are  
 so dear to me.
8You flagg'd 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-pierc'd facades! you  
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron  
You windows whose transparent shells might expose so  
You doors and ascending steps! you arches! You gray stones of interminable pavements! you trod- 
 den crossings!
  [ begin page 179 ]ppp.00270.181.jpg From all that has been near you, I believe you have im- 
 parted 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 amicable with me.


9The earth expanding right hand and left hand, 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.
10O 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?
11O 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.
12I think heroic deeds were all conceiv'd in the open  
 air, and all great poems also;
I think I could stop here myself, and do miracles; (My judgments, thoughts, I henceforth try by the open  
 air, the road:)
I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like,  
 and whoever beholds me shall like me;
I think whoever I see must be happy.


13From this hour, freedom! From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and  
 imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master, total and absolute,   [ begin page 180 ]ppp.00270.182.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.
14I inhale great draughts of space; The east and the west are mine, and the north and the  
 south are mine.
15I am larger, better than I thought, I did not know I held so much goodness. 16All 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.
17I 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.


18Now if a thousand perfect men were to appear, it  
 would not amaze me;
Now if a thousand beautiful forms of women appear'd,  
 it would not astonish me.
19Now I see the secret of the making of the best per- 
It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and sleep with  
 the earth.
20Here a great personal deed has room; 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.
  [ begin page 181 ]ppp.00270.183.jpg 21Here is the test of wisdom; Wisdom is not finally tested in schools; Wisdom cannot be pass'd from one having it, to an- 
 other 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  
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.
22Now I rexamine 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.
23Here is realization; Here is a man tallied—he realizes here what he has in  
The past, the future, majesty, love—if they are vacant of  
 you, you are vacant of them.
24Only the kernel of every object nourishes; Where is he who tears off the husks for you and me? Where is he that undoes stratagems and envelopes for  
 you and me?
25Here is adhesiveness—it is not previously fashion'd—  
 it is apropos;
Do you know what it is, as you pass, to be loved by  
Do you know the talk of those turning eye-balls?


26Here is the efflux of the Soul; The efflux of the Soul comes from within, through em- 
 bower'd gates, ever provoking questions:
These yearnings, why are they? These thoughts in the  
 darkness, why are they?
  [ begin page 182 ]ppp.00270.184.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 strangers? What with some driver, as I ride on the seat by his  
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 mine?


27The efflux of the Soul is happiness—here is happi- 
I think it pervades the open air, waiting at all times; Now it flows unto us—we are rightly charged.
28Here 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 themselves, than it  
 sprouts fresh and sweet continually out of itself.)
29Toward the fluid and attaching character exudes the  
 sweat of the love of young and old;
From it falls distill'd the charm that mocks beauty and  
Toward it heaves the shuddering longing ache of contact.


30Allons! whoever you are, come travel with me! Traveling with me, you find what never tires.   [ begin page 183 ]ppp.00270.185.jpg 31The 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 envelop'd;
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful  
 than words can tell.
32Allons! we must not stop here! However sweet these laid-up stores—however conve- 
 nient this dwelling, we cannot remain here;
However shelter'd this port, and 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 while.


33Allons! the inducements shall be greater; We will sail pathless and wild seas; We will go where winds blow, waves dash, and the  
 Yankee clipper speeds by under full sail.
34Allons! with power, liberty, the earth, the elements! Health, defiance, gayety, self-esteem, curiosity; Allons! from all formules! From your formules, O bat-eyed and materialistic  
35The stale cadaver blocks up the passage—the burial  
 waits no longer.
36Allons! yet take warning! He traveling with me needs the best blood, thews, en- 
None may come to the trial, till he or she bring courage  
 and health.
37Come not here if you have already spent the best of  
Only those may come, who come in sweet and deter- 
 min'd bodies;
  [ begin page 184 ]ppp.00270.186.jpg No diseas'd person—no rum-drinker or venereal taint  
 is permitted here.
38I and mine do not convince by arguments, similes,  
We convince by our presence.


39Listen! 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:
40You shall not heap up what is call'd riches, You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or  
You but arrive at the city to which you were destin'd—  
 you hardly settle yourself to satisfaction, before  
 you are call'd by an irresistible call to depart,
You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mock- 
 ings 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  
 reach'd hands towards you.


41Allons! after the GREAT COMPANIONS! and to belong  
 to them!
They too are on the road! they are the swift and ma- 
 jestic men! they are the greatest women.
42Over that which hinder'd them—over that which re- 
 tarded—passing impediments large or small,
Committers of crimes, committers of many beautiful  
Enjoyers of calms of seas, and storms of seas, Sailors of many a ship, walkers of many a mile of land, Habitus of many distant countries, habitus of far- 
 distant dwellings,
  [ begin page 185 ]ppp.00270.187.jpg Trusters of men and women, observers of cities, solitary  
Pausers and contemplators 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-days, Journeyers gayly with their own youth—Journeyers  
 with their bearded and well-grain'd manhood,
Journeyers with their womanhood, ample, unsurpass'd,  
Journeyers with their own sublime old age of manhood  
 or womanhood,
Old age, calm, expanded, broad with the haughty  
 breadth of the universe,
Old age, flowing free with the delicious near-by freedom  
 of death.


43Allons! to that which is endless, as it was begin- 
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 journeys; 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  
  [ begin page 186 ]ppp.00270.188.jpg 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,
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  
To take your lovers on the road with you, for all that  
 you leave them behind you,
To know the universe itself as a road—as many roads—  
 as roads for traveling souls.


44The 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 soul.
45All 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  
 procession of Souls along the grand roads of the  
46Of the progress of the souls of men and women along  
 the grand roads of the universe, all other progress  
 is the needed emblem and sustenance.
47Forever alive, forever forward, Stately, solemn, sad, withdrawn, baffled, mad, turbulent,  
 feeble, dissatisfied,
Desperate, proud, fond, sick, accepted by men, rejected  
 by men,
  [ begin page 187 ]ppp.00270.189.jpg 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 some- 
 thing great.


48Allons! whoever you are! come forth! You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the  
 house, though you built it, or though it has been  
 built for you.
49Allons! out of the dark confinement! It is useless to protest—I know all, and expose it. 50Behold, through you as bad as the rest, Through the laughter, dancing, dining, supping, of  
Inside of dresses and ornaments, inside of those wash'd  
 and trimm'd faces,
Behold a secret silent loathing and despair.
51No husband, no wife, no friend, trusted to hear the  
Another self, a duplicate of every one, skulking and  
 hiding it goes,
Formless and wordless through the streets of the cities,  
 polite and bland in the parlors,
In the cars of rail-roads, in steamboats, in the public  
Home to the houses of men and women, at the table, in  
 the bed-room, everywhere,
Smartly attired, countenance smiling, form upright,  
 death under the breast-bones, hell under the  
Under the broadcloth 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.
  [ begin page 188 ]ppp.00270.190.jpg


52Allons! through struggles and wars! The goal that was named cannot be countermanded. 53Have the past struggles succeeded? What has succeeded? yourself? your nation? nature? 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 necessary.
54My call is the call of battle—I nourish active rebel- 
He going with me must go well arm'd; He going with me goes often with spare diet, poverty,  
 angry enemies, desertions.


55Allons! the road is before us! It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well. 56Allons! be not detain'd! Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the  
 book on the shelf unopen'd!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money  
 remain unearn'd!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher! Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer  
 plead in the court, and the judge expound the  
57Mon 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  
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
Back to top