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Cluster: Leaves of Grass. (1871)

Table of Contents (1871)

Poems in this cluster



1THERE was a child went forth every day; And the first object he look'd upon, that object he  
And that object became part of him for the day, or a  
 certain part of the day, or for many years, or  
 stretching cycles of years.
2The early lilacs became part of this child, And grass, and white and red morning-glories, and  
 white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe- 
And the Third-month lambs, and the sow's pink-faint  
 litter, and the mare's foal, and the cow's calf,
And the noisy brood of the barn-yard, or by the mire  
 of the pond-side,
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below  
 there—and the beautiful curious liquid,
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads—all  
 became part of him.
3The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month  
 became part of him;
Winter-grain sprouts, and those of the light-yellow  
 corn, and the esculent roots of the garden,
And the apple-trees cover'd with blossoms, and the fruit  
 afterward, and wood-berries, and the commonest  
 weeds by the road;
  [ begin page 254 ]ppp.00270.256.jpg And the old drunkard staggering home from the out- 
 house of the tavern, whence he had lately risen,
And the school-mistress that pass'd on her way to the  
And the friendly boys that pass'd—and the quarrelsome  
And the tidy and fresh-cheek'd girls—and the barefoot  
 negro boy and girl,
And all the changes of city and country, wherever he  
4His own parents, He that had father'd him, and she had conceiv'd  
 him in her womb, and birth'd him,
They gave this child more of themselves than that; They gave him afterward every day—they became part  
 of him.
5The mother at home, quietly placing the dishes on  
 the supper-table;
The mother with mild words—clean her cap and gown,  
 a wholesome odor falling off her person and  
 clothes as she walks by;
The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, anger'd,  
The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the  
 crafty lure,
The family usages, the language, the company, the fur- 
 niture—the yearning and swelling heart,
Affection that will not be gainsay'd—the sense of what  
 is real—the thought if, after all, it should prove  
The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-time—  
 the curious whether and how,
Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all flashes  
 and specks?
Men and women crowding fast in the streets—if they  
 are not flashes and specks, what are they?
The streets themselves, and the façades of houses, and  
 goods in the windows,
  [ begin page 255 ]ppp.00270.257.jpg Vehicles, teams, the heavy-plank'd wharves—the huge  
 crossing at the ferries,
The village on the highland, seen from afar at sunset—  
 the river between,
Shadows, aureola and mist, the light falling on roofs  
 and gables of white or brown, three miles off,
The schooner near by, sleepily dropping down the tide  
 —the little boat slack-tow'd astern,
The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests,  
The strata of color'd clouds, the long bar of maroon- 
 tint, away solitary by itself—the spread of purity  
 it lies motionless in,
The horizon's edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance  
 of salt marsh and shore mud;
These became part of that child who went forth every  
 day, and who now goes, and will always go forth  
 every day.


O MAGNET-SOUTH! O glistening, perfumed South! My  
O quick mettle, rich blood, impulse, and love! Good  
 and evil! O all dear to me!
O dear to me my birth-things—All moving things, and  
 the trees where I was born—the grains, plants,  
Dear to me my own slow sluggish rivers where they  
 flow, distant, over flats of silvery sands, or  
 through swamps;
Dear to me the Roanoke, the Savannah, the Altamahaw,  
 the Pedee, the Tombigbee, the Santee, the Coosa,  
 and the Sabine;
O pensive, far away wandering, I return with my Soul  
 to haunt their banks again;
Again in Florida I float on transparent lakes—I float  
 on the Okeechobee—I cross the hummock land,  
 or through pleasant openings, or dense forests;
  [ begin page 256 ]ppp.00270.258.jpg I see the parrots in the woods—I see the papaw tree  
 and the blossoming titi;
Again, sailing in my coaster, on deck, I coast off  
 Georgia—I coast up the Carolinas,
I see where the live-oak is growing—I see where the  
 yellow-pine, the scented bay-tree, the lemon and  
 orange, the cypress, the graceful palmetto;
I pass rude sea-headlands and enter Pamlico Sound  
 through an inlet, and dart my vision inland;
O the cotton plant! the growing fields of rice, sugar,  
The cactus, guarded with thorns—the laurel-tree, with  
 large white flowers;
The range afar—the richness and barrenness—the old  
 woods charged with mistletoe and training moss,
The piney odor and the gloom—the awful natural still- 
 ness, (Here in these dense swamps the freebooter  
 carries his gun, and the fugitive slave has his  
 conceal'd hut;)
O the strange fascination of these half-known, half- 
 impassable swamps, infested by reptiles, resound- 
 ing with the bellow of the alligator, the sad  
 noises of the night-owl and the wild cat, and the  
 whirr of the rattlesnake;
The mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing all the  
 forenoon—singing through the moon-lit night,
The humming-bird, the wild turkey, the raccoon, the  
A Tennessee corn-field—the tall, graceful, long-leav'd  
 corn—slender, flapping, bright green, with tas- 
 sels—with beautiful ears, each well-sheath'd in  
 its husk;
An Arkansas prairie—a sleeping lake, or still bayou; O my heart! O tender and fierce pangs—I can stand  
 them not—I will depart;
O to be a Virginian, where I grew up! O to be a Caro- 
O longings irrepressible! O I will go back to old Ten- 
 nessee, and never wander more!
  [ begin page 257 ]ppp.00270.259.jpg


1THINK of the Soul; I swear to you that body of yours gives proportions to  
 your Soul somehow to live in other spheres;
I do not know how, but I know it is so.
2Think of loving and being loved; I swear to you, whoever you are, you can interfuse your- 
 self with such things that everybody that sees  
 you shall look longingly upon you.
3Think of the past; I warn you that in a little while others will find their  
 past in you and your times.
4The race is never separated—nor man nor woman  
All is inextricable—things, spirits, Nature, nations, you  
 too—from precedents you come.
5Recall the ever-welcome defiers, (The mothers pre- 
 cede them;)
Recall the sages, poets, saviors, inventors, lawgivers, of  
 the earth;
Recall Christ, brother of rejected persons—brother of  
 slaves, felons, idiots, and of insane and diseas'd  
6Think of the time when you were not yet born; Think of times you stood at the side of the dying; Think of the time when your own body will be dying. 7Think of spiritual results, Sure as the earth swims through the heavens, does every  
 one of its objects pass into spiritual results.
8Think of manhood, and you to be a man; Do you count manhood, and the sweet of manhood,  
9   [ begin page 258 ]ppp.00270.260.jpg Think of womanhood, and you to be a woman; The creation is womanhood; Have I not said that womanhood involves all? Have I not told how the universe has nothing better  
 than the best womanhood?

You Felons on Trial in Courts.

1YOU felons on trial in courts; You convicts in prison-cells—you sentenced assassins,  
 chain'd and hand-cuff'd with iron;
Who am I, too, that I am not on trial, or in prison? Me, ruthless and devilish as any, that my wrists are not  
 chain'd with iron, or my ankles with iron?
2You prostitutes flaunting over the trottoirs, or ob- 
 scene in your rooms,
Who am I, that I should call you more obscene than  
3O culpable! I acknowledge—I exposé! (O admirers! praise not me! compliment not me! you  
 make me wince,
I see what you do not—I know what you do not.)
4Inside these breast-bones I lie smutch'd and choked; Beneath this face that appears so impassive, hell's tides  
 continually run;
Lusts and wickedness are acceptable to me; I walk with delinquents with passionate love; I feel I am of them—I belong to those convicts and  
 prostitutes myself,
And henceforth I will not deny them—for how can I  
 deny myself?
  [ begin page 259 ]ppp.00270.261.jpg

To a Common Prostitute.

1BE composed—be at ease with me—I am Walt Whit- 
 man, liberal and lusty as Nature;
Not till the sun excludes you, do I exclude you; Not till the waters refuse to glisten for you, and the  
 leaves to rustle for you, do my words refuse to  
 glisten and rustle for you.
2My girl, I appoint with you an appointment—and I  
 charge you that you make preparation to be  
 worthy to meet me,
And I charge you that you be patient and perfect till I  
3Till then, I salute you with a significant look, that  
 you do not forget me.

I was Looking a Long While.

I WAS looking a long while for a clue to the history of  
 the past for myself, and for these chants—and  
 now I have found it;
It is not in those paged fables in the libraries, (them I  
 neither accept nor reject;)
It is no more in the legends than in all else; It is in the present—it is this earth to-day; It is in Democracy—(the purport and aim of all the  
It is the life of one man or one woman to-day—the av- 
 erage man of to-day;
It is in languages, social customs, literatures, arts; It is in the broad show of artificial things, ships, ma- 
 chinery, politics, creeds, modern improvements,  
 and the interchange of nations,
All for the average man of to-day.
  [ begin page 260 ]ppp.00270.262.jpg

To a President.

ALL you are doing and saying is to America dangled  
You have not learn'd of Nature—of the politics of Na- 
 ture, you have not learn'd the great amplitude,  
 rectitude, impartiality;
You have not seen that only such as they are for These  
And that what is less than they, must sooner or later  
 lift off from These States.


To Identify the 16th, 17th, or 18th Presidentiad.

WHY reclining, interrogating? Why myself and all  
What deepening twilight! scum floating atop of the  
Who are they, as bats and night-dogs, askant in the  
What a filthy Presidentiad! (O south, your torrid suns!  
 O north, your arctic freezings!)
Are those really Congressmen? are those the great  
 Judges? is that the President?
Then I will sleep awhile yet—for I see that These States  
 sleep, for reasons;
(With gathering murk—with muttering thunder and  
 lambent shoots, we all duly awake,
South, north, east, west, inland and seaboard, we will  
 surely awake.)

Table of Contents (1871)

Poems in this cluster

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