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Cluster: Calamus. (1867)

Table of Contents (1867)

Poems in this cluster



IN paths untrodden, In the growth by margins of pond-waters, Escaped from the life that exhibits itself, From all the standards hitherto publish'd—from the  
 pleasures, profits, conformities,
Which too long I was offering to feed my Soul; Clear to me, now, standards not yet publish'd—clear  
 to me that my Soul,
That the Soul of the man I speak for, feeds, rejoices  
 in comrades;
Here, by myself, away from the clank of the world, Tallying and talk'd to here by tongues aromatic, No longer abash'd—for in this secluded spot I can  
 respond as I would not dare elsewhere,
Strong upon me the life that does not exhibit itself,  
 yet contains all the rest,
Resolv'd to sing no songs to-day but those of manly  
Projecting them along that substantial life, Bequeathing, hence, types of athletic love, Afternoon, this delicious Ninth-month, in my forty- 
 first year,
I proceed, for all who are, or have been, young men, To tell the secret of my nights and days, To celebrate the need of comrades.
  [ begin page 120 ]ppp.00473.120.jpg


SCENTED herbage of my breast, Leaves from you I yield, I write, to be perused best  
Tomb-leaves, growing up above me, above  
Perennial roots, tall leaves—O the winter shall not  
 freeze you, delicate leaves,
Every year shall you bloom again—Out from where  
 you retired, you shall emerge again;
O I do not know whether many, passing by, will dis- 
 cover you, or inhale your faint odor—but I  
 believe a few will;
O slender leaves! O blossoms of my blood! I permit  
 you to tell, in your own way, of the heart that  
 is under you;
O burning and throbbing—surely all will one day be  
O I do not know what you mean, there underneath  
 yourselves—you are not happiness,
You are often more bitter than I can bear—you burn  
 and sting me,
Yet you are very beautiful to me, you faint-tinged  
 roots—you make me think of Death,
Death is beautiful from you—(what indeed is beauti- 
 ful, except Death and Love?)
O I think it is not for life I am chanting here my  
 chant of lovers—I think it must be for Death,
For how calm, how solemn it grows, to ascend to the  
 atmosphere of lovers,
Death or life I am then indifferent—my Soul declines  
 to prefer,
I am not sure but the high Soul of lovers welcomes  
 death most;
Indeed, O Death, I think now these leaves mean pre- 
 cisely the same as you mean;
  [ begin page 121 ]ppp.00473.121.jpg Grow up taller, sweet leaves, that I may see! grow  
 up out of my breast!
Spring away from the conceal'd heart there! Do not fold yourself so in your pink-tinged roots,  
 timid leaves!
Do not remain down there so ashamed, herbage of my  
Come, I am determin'd to unbare this broad breast of  
 mine—I have long enough stifled and choked:
Emblematic and capricious blades, I leave you—now  
 you serve me not;
Away! I will say what I have to say, by itself, I will escape from the sham that was proposed to  
I will sound myself and comrades only—I will never  
 again utter a call, only their call,
I will raise with it, immortal reverberations through  
 The States,
I will give an example to lovers, to take permanent  
 shape and will through The States;
Through me shall the words be said to make death  
Give me your tone therefore, O Death, that I may  
 accord with it,
Give me yourself—for I see that you belong to me  
 now above all, and are folded inseparably to- 
 gether—you Love and Death are;
Nor will I allow you to balk me any more with what I  
 was calling life,
For now it is convey'd to me that you are the pur- 
 ports essential,
That you hide in these shifting forms of life, for reasons  
 —and that they are mainly for you,
That you, beyond them, come forth, to remain, the  
 real reality,
That behind the mask of materials you patiently wait,  
 no matter how long,
That you will one day, perhaps take control of all,   [ begin page 122 ]ppp.00473.122.jpg That you will perhaps dissipate this entire show of  
That may be you are what it is all for—but it does not  
 last so very long,
But you will last very long.

Whoever you are, Holding me now in Hand.

1 WHOEVER you are, holding me now in hand, Without one thing, all will be useless, I give you fair warning, before you attempt me  
I am not what you supposed, but far different.
2Who is he that would become my follower? Who would sign himself a candidate for my affections? 3The way is suspicious—the result uncertain, perhaps  
You would have to give up all else—I alone would ex- 
 pect to be your God, sole and exclusive,
Your novitiate would even then be long and exhaust- 
The whole past theory of your life, and all conformity  
 to the lives around you, would have to be aban- 
Therefore release me now, before troubling yourself  
 any further—Let go your hand from my  
Put me down, and depart on your way.
4Or else, by stealth, in some wood, for trial, Or back of a rock, in the open air, (For in any roof'd room of a house I emerge not—nor  
 in company,
  [ begin page 123 ]ppp.00473.123.jpg And in libraries I lie as one dumb, a gawk, or unborn, 
 or dead,)
But just possibly with you on a high hill—first watch- 
 ing lest any person, for miles around, ap- 
 proach unawares,
Or possibly with you sailing at sea, or on the beach of  
 the sea, or some quiet island,
Here to put your lips upon mine I permit you, With the comrade's long-dwelling kiss, or the new  
 husband's kiss,
For I am the new husband, and I am the comrade.
5Or, if you will, thrusting me beneath your clothing, Where I may feel the throbs of your heart, or rest  
 upon your hip,
Carry me when you go forth over land or sea; For thus, merely touching you, is enough—is best, And thus, touching you, would I silently sleep and be  
 carried eternally.
6But these leaves conning, you con at peril, For these leaves, and me, you will not understand, They will elude you at first, and still more afterward  
 —I will certainly elude you,
Even while you should think you had unquestionably  
 caught me, behold!
Already you see I have escaped from you.
7For it is not for what I have put into it that I have  
 written this book,
Nor is it by reading it you will acquire it, Nor do those know me best who admire me, and  
 vauntingly praise me,
Nor will the candidates for my love, (unless at most a  
 very few,) prove victorious,
Nor will my poems do good only—they will do just as  
 much evil, perhaps more;
For all is useless without that which you may guess at  
 many times and not hit—that which I hinted at;
Therefore release me, and depart on your way.
  [ begin page 124 ]ppp.00473.124.jpg


THESE, I, singing in spring, collect for lovers, (For who but I should understand lovers, and all their  
 sorrow and joy?
And who but I should be the poet of comrades?) Collecting, I traverse the garden, the world—but soon  
 I pass the gates,
Now along the pond-side—now wading in a little,  
 fearing not the wet,
Now by the post-and-rail fences, where the old stones  
 thrown there, pick'd from the fields, have accu- 
Wild-flowers and vines and weeds come up through  
 the stones, and partly cover them—Beyond  
 these I pass,
Far, far in the forest, before I think where I go, Solitary, smelling the earthy smell, stopping now and  
 then in the silence,
Alone I had thought—yet soon a silent troop gathers  
 around me,
Some walk by my side, and some behind, and some  
 embrace my arms or neck,
They, the spirits of friends, dead or alive—thicker  
 they come, a great crowd, and I in the middle,
Collecting, dispensing, singing in spring, there I wan- 
 der with them,
Plucking something for tokens—tossing toward who- 
 ever is near me;
Here! lilac, with a branch of pine, Here out of my pocket, some moss which I pull'd off  
 a live-oak in Florida, as it hung trailing down,
Here, some pinks and laurel leaves, and a handful of  
And here what I now draw from the water, wading in  
 the pond-side,
(O here I last saw him that tenderly loves me—and  
 returns again, never to separate from me,
  [ begin page 125 ]ppp.00473.125.jpg And this, O this shall henceforth be the token of com- 
 rades—this Calamus-root shall,
Interchange it, youths, with each other! Let none  
 render it back!)
And twigs of maple, and a bunch of wild orange, and  
And stems of currants, and plum-blows, and the aro- 
 matic cedar:
These, I, compass'd around by a thick cloud of spirits, Wandering, point to, or touch as I pass, or throw them  
 loosely from me,
Indicating to each one what he shall have—giving  
 something to each;
But what I drew from the water by the pond-side,  
 that I reserve,
I will give of it—but only to them that love, as I my- 
 self am capable of loving.



COME, I will make the continent indissoluble; I will make the most splendid race the sun ever yet  
 shone upon;
I will make divine magnetic lands, 
 With the love of comrades, 
 With the life-long love of comrades.


I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the  
 rivers of America, and along the shores of the  
 great lakes, and all over the prairies;
I will make inseparable cities, with their arms about  
 each other's necks;  
 By the love of comrades, 
 By the manly love of comrades.
E   [ begin page 126 ]ppp.00473.126.jpg


For you these, from me, O Democracy, to serve you, 
 ma femme!
For you! for you, I am trilling these songs, 
 In the love of comrades, 
 In the high-towering love of comrades.

Not Heaving from my Ribb'd Breast only.

NOT heaving from my ribb'd breast only; Not in sighs at night, in rage, dissatisfied with myself; Not in those long-drawn, ill-supprest sighs; Not in many an oath and promise broken; Not in my wilful and savage soul's volition; Not in the subtle nourishment of the air; Not in this beating and pounding at my temples and  
Not in the curious systole and diastole within, which  
 will one day cease;
Not in many a hungry wish, told to the skies only; Not in cries, laughter, defiances, thrown from me when  
 alone, far in the wilds;
Not in husky pantings through clench'd teeth; Not in sounded and resounded words—chattering  
 words, echoes, dead words;
Not in the murmurs of my dreams while I sleep, Nor the other murmurs of these incredible dreams of  
 every day;
Nor in the limbs and senses of my body, that take you  
 and dismiss you continually—Not there;
Not in any or all of them, O adhesiveness! O pulse  
 of my life!
Need I that you exist and show yourself, any more  
 than in these songs.
  [ begin page 127 ]ppp.00473.127.jpg

Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances.

OF the terrible doubt of appearances, Of the uncertainty after all—that we may be deluded, That may-be reliance and hope are but speculations  
 after all,
That may-be identity beyond the grave is a beautiful  
 fable only,
May-be the things I perceive—the animals, plants, men,  
 hills, shining and flowing waters,
The skies of day and night—colors, densities, forms—  
 May-be these are, (as doubtless they are,) only  
 apparitions, and the real something has yet to be  
(How often they dart out of themselves, as if to con- 
 found me and mock me!
How often I think neither I know, nor any man knows,  
 aught of them;)
May-be seeming to me what they are, (as doubtless  
 they indeed but seem,) as from my present point  
 of view—And might prove, (as of course they  
 would,) naught of what they appear, or naught  
 anyhow, from entirely changed points of view;
—To me, these, and the like of these, are curiously  
 answer'd by my lovers, my dear friends;
When he whom I love travels with me, or sits a long  
 while holding me by the hand,
When the subtle air, the impalpable, the sense that  
 words and reason hold not, surround us and  
 pervade us,
Then I am charged with untold and untellable wisdom  
 —I am silent—I require nothing further,
I cannot answer the question of appearances, or that  
 of identity beyond the grave;
But I walk or sit indifferent—I am satisfied, He ahold of my hand has completely satisfied me.
  [ begin page 128 ]ppp.00473.128.jpg


RECORDERS ages hence! Come, I will take you down underneath this impassive  
 exterior—I will tell you what to say of me;
Publish my name and hang up my picture as that of  
 the tenderest lover,
The friend, the lover's portrait, of whom his friend,  
 his lover, was fondest,
Who was not proud of his songs, but of the measure- 
 less ocean of love within him—and freely  
 pour'd it forth,
Who often walk'd lonesome walks, thinking of his  
 dear friends, his lovers,
Who pensive, away from one he lov'd, often lay sleep- 
 less and dissatisfied at night,
Who knew too well the sick, sick dread lest the one  
 he lov'd might secretly be indifferent to him,
Whose happiest days were far away, through fields,  
 in woods, on hills, he and another, wandering  
 hand in hand, they twain, apart from other  
Who oft as he saunter'd the streets, curved with his  
 arm the shoulder of his friend—while the arm  
 of his friend rested upon him also.

When I Heard at the Close of the Day.

WHEN I heard at the close of the day how my name  
 had been receiv'd with plaudits in the capitol,  
 still it was not a happy night for me that fol- 
And else, when I carous'd, or when my plans were  
 accomplish'd, still I was not happy;
But the day when I rose at dawn from the bed of  
 perfect health, refresh'd, singing, inhaling the  
 ripe breath of autumn,
  [ begin page 129 ]ppp.00473.129.jpg When I saw the full moon in the west grow pale and  
 disappear in the morning light,
When I wander'd alone over the beach, and undress- 
 ing, bathed, laughing with the cool waters, and  
 saw the sun rise,
And when I thought how my dear friend, my lover,  
 was on his way coming, O then I was happy;
O then each breath tasted sweeter—and all that day  
 my food nourish'd me more—and the beautiful  
 day pass'd well,
And the next came with equal joy—and with the next,  
 at evening, came my friend;
And that night, while all was still, I heard the waters  
 roll slowly continually up the shores,
I heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and sands, as  
 directed to me, whispering, to congratulate me,
For the one I love most lay sleeping by me under the  
 same cover in the cool night,
In the stillness, in the autumn moonbeams, his face  
 was inclined toward me,
And his arm lay lightly around my breast—and that  
 night I was happy.

Are you the New Person Drawn Toward me?

ARE you the new person drawn toward me? To begin with, take warning—I am surely far differ- 
 ent from what you suppose;
Do you suppose you will find in me your ideal? Do you think it so easy to have me become your  
Do you think the friendship of me would be unalloy'd  
Do you think I am trusty and faithful?   [ begin page 130 ]ppp.00473.130.jpg Do you see no further than this façade—this smooth  
 and tolerant manner of me?
Do you suppose yourself advancing on real ground  
 toward a real heroic man?
Have you no thought, O dreamer, that it may be all  
 maya, illusion?

Roots and Leaves Themselves Alone.

ROOTS and leaves themselves alone are these; Scents brought to men and women from the wild  
 woods, and from the pond-side,
Breast-sorrel and pinks of love—fingers that wind  
 around tighter than vines,
Gushes from the throats of birds, hid in the foliage  
 of trees, as the sun is risen;
Breezes of land and love—breezes set from living  
 shores out to you on the living sea—to you,  
 O sailors!
Frost-mellow'd berries, and Third-month twigs,  
 offer'd fresh to young persons wandering out  
 in the fields when the winter breaks up,
Love-buds, put before you and within you, whoever  
 you are,
Buds to be unfolded on the old terms; If you bring the warmth of the sun to them, they  
 will open, and bring form, color, perfume, to  
If you become the aliment and the wet, they will  
 become flowers, fruits, tall branches and trees.
  [ begin page 131 ]ppp.00473.131.jpg

Not Heat Flames up and Consumes.

NOT heat flames up and consumes, Not sea-waves hurry in and out, Not the air, delicious and dry, the air of the ripe  
 summer, bears lightly along white down-balls  
 of myriads of seeds,
Wafted, sailing gracefully, to drop where they may; Not these—O none of these, more than the flames of  
 me, consuming, burning for his love whom I  
O none, more than I, hurrying in and out; Does the tide hurry, seeking something, and never  
 give up? O I the same;
O nor down-balls, nor perfumes, nor the high, rain- 
 emitting clouds, are borne through the open  
Any more than my Soul is borne through the open  
Wafted in all directions, O love, for friendship, for  


TRICKLE, drops! my blue veins leaving! O drops of me! trickle, slow drops, Candid, from me falling—drip, bleeding drops, From wounds made to free you whence you were  
From my face—from my forehead and lips, From my breast—from within where I was conceal'd  
 —press forth, red drops—confession drops;
Stain every page—stain every song I sing, every word  
 I say, bloody drops;
  [ begin page 132 ]ppp.00473.132.jpg Let them know your scarlet heat—let them glisten; Saturate them with yourself, all ashamed and wet; Glow upon all I have written or shall write, bleeding  
Let it all be seen in your light, blushing drops.

Of Him I Love Day and Night.

OF him I love day and night, I dream'd I heard he was  
And I dream'd I went where they had buried him I love  
 —but he was not in that place;
And I dream'd I wander'd, searching among burial- 
 places, to find him;
And I found that every place was a burial-place; The houses full of life were equally full of death, (this  
 house is now;)
The streets, the shipping, the places of amusement,  
 the Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, the Manna- 
 hatta, were as full of the dead as of the living,
And fuller, O vastly fuller, of the dead than of the  
—And what I dream'd I will henceforth tell to every  
 person and age,
And I stand henceforth bound to what I dream'd; And now I am willing to disregard burial-places, and  
 dispense with them;
And if the memorials of the dead were put up indif- 
 ferently everywhere, even in the room where I  
 eat or sleep, I should be satisfied;
And if the corpse of any one I love, or if my own  
 corpse, be duly render'd to powder, and pour'd  
 in the sea, I shall be satisfied;
Or if it be distributed to the winds, I shall be sat- 
  [ begin page 133 ]ppp.00473.133.jpg


CITY of orgies, walks and joys! City whom that I have lived and sung in your midst  
 will one day make you illustrious,
Not the pageants of you—not your shifting tableaux,  
 your spectacles, repay me;
Not the interminable rows of your houses—nor the  
 ships at the wharves,
Nor the processions in the streets, nor the bright win- 
 dows, with goods in them;
Nor to converse with learn'd persons, or bear my share  
 in the soiree or feast;
Not those—but, as I pass, O Manhattan! your fre- 
 quent and swift flash of eyes offering me love,
Offering response to my own—these repay me; Lovers, continual lovers, only repay me.


BEHOLD this swarthy face, this unrefined face—these  
 gray eyes,
This beard—the white wool, unclipt upon my neck, My brown hands, and the silent manner of me, with- 
 out charm;
Yet comes one, a Manhattanese, and ever at parting,  
 kisses me lightly on the lips with robust love,
And I, in the public room, or on the crossing of the  
 street, or on the ship's deck, kiss him in return;
We observe that salute of American comrades, land  
 and sea,
We are those two natural and nonchalant persons.
F2   [ begin page 134 ]ppp.00473.134.jpg

I saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing.

I SAW in Louisiana a live-oak growing, All alone stood it, and the moss hung down from the  
Without any companion it grew there, uttering joyous  
 leaves of dark green,
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think  
 of myself;
But I wonder'd how it could utter joyous leaves,  
 standing alone there, without its friend, its  
 lover near—for I knew I could not;
And I broke off a twig with a certain number of  
 leaves upon it, and twined around it a little  
And brought it away—and I have placed it in sight in  
 my room;
It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear  
(For I believe lately I think of little else than of  
Yet it remains to me a curious token—it makes me  
 think of manly love;
—For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there  
 in Louisiana, solitary, in a wide flat space,
Uttering joyous leaves all its life, without a friend, a  
 lover, near,
I know very well I could not.

That Music Always Round Me.

THAT music always round me, unceasing, unbeginning  
 —yet long untaught I did not hear;
But now the chorus I hear, and am elated; A tenor, strong, ascending, with power and health,  
 with glad notes of day-break I hear,
  [ begin page 135 ]ppp.00473.135.jpg A soprano, at intervals, sailing buoyantly over the  
 tops of immense waves,
A transparent base, shuddering lusciously under and  
 through the universe,
The triumphant tutti—the funeral wailings, with  
 sweet flutes and violins—all these I fill myself  
I hear not the volumes of sound merely—I am moved  
 by the exquisite meanings,
I listen to the different voices winding in and out,  
 striving, contending with fiery vehemence to  
 excel each other in emotion,
I do not think the peformers​ know themselves—but  
 now I think I begin to know them.


PASSING stranger! you do not know how longingly I  
 look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking,  
 (it comes to me, as of a dream,)
I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you, All is recall'd as we flit by each other, fluid, affection- 
 ate, chaste, matured,
You grew up with me, were a boy with me, or a girl  
 with me,
I ate with you, and slept with you—your body has  
 become not yours only, nor left my body mine  
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as  
 we pass—you take of my beard, breast, hands,  
 in return,
I am not to speak to you—I am to think of you when  
 I sit alone, or wake at night alone,
I am to wait—I do not doubt I am to meet you again, I am to see to it that I do not lose you.
  [ begin page 136 ]ppp.00473.136.jpg

This Moment, Yearning and Thoughtful.

THIS moment yearning and thoughtful, sitting alone, It seems to me there are other men in other lands,  
 yearning and thoughtful;
It seems to me I can look over and behold them, in  
 Prussia, Italy, France, Spain—or far, far away,  
 in China, or in Russia or India—talking other  
And it seems to me if I could know those men, I  
 should become attached to them, as I do to men  
 in my own lands;
O I know we should be brethren and lovers, I know I should be happy with them.

I Hear it was Charged Against Me.

I HEAR it was charged against me that I sought to  
 destroy institutions;
But really I am neither for nor against institutions; (What indeed have I in common with them?—Or  
 what with the destruction of them?)
Only I will establish in the Mannahatta, and in every  
 city of These States, inland and seaboard,
And in the fields and woods, and above every keel  
 little or large, that dents the water,
Without edifices, or rules, or trustees, or any argu- 
The institution of the dear love of comrades.
  [ begin page 137 ]ppp.00473.137.jpg

The Prairie-Grass Dividing.

THE prairie-grass dividing—its special odor breathing, I demand of it the spiritual corresponding, Demand the most copious and close companionship  
 of men,
Demand the blades to rise of words, acts, beings, Those of the open atmosphere, coarse, sunlit, fresh,  
Those that go their own gait, erect, stepping with  
 freedom and command—leading, not following,
Those with a never-quell'd audacity—those with sweet  
 and lusty flesh, clear of taint,
Those that look carelessly in the faces of Presidents  
 and Governors, as to say, Who are you?
Those of earth-born passion, simple, never constrain'd'  
 never obedient,
Those of inland America.

We Two Boys Together Clinging.

WE two boys together clinging, One the other never leaving, Up and down the roads going—North and South  
 excursions making,
Power enjoying—elbows stretching—fingers clutch- 
Armed and fearless—eating, drinking, sleeping, lov- 
No law less than ourselves owning—sailing, soldiering,  
 thieving, threatening,
Misers, menials, priests alarming—air breathing, water  
 drinking, on the turf of the sea-beach dancing,
Cities wrenching, ease scorning, statutes mocking,  
 feebleness chasing,
Fulfilling our foray.

O Living Always—Always Dying!

O LIVING always—always dying! O the burials of me, past and present! O me, while I stride ahead, material, visible, imperi- 
 ous as ever!
O me, what I was for years, now dead, (I lament not  
 —I am content;)
O to disengage myself from those corpses of me,  
 which I turn and look at, where I cast them!
To pass on, (O living! always living!) and leave the  
 corpses behind!

When I Peruse the Conquer'd Fame.

WHEN I peruse the conquer'd fame of heroes, and the  
 victories of mighty generals, I do not envy the  
Nor the President in his Presidency, nor the rich in  
 his great house;
But when I read of the brotherhood of lovers, how it  
 was with them,
How through life, through dangers, odium, unchang- 
 ing, long and long,
Through youth, and through middle and old age, how  
 unfaltering, how affectionate and faithful they  
Then I am pensive—I hastily put down the book, and  
 walk away, fill'd with the bitterest envy.


A GLIMPSE, through an interstice caught, Of a crowd of workmen and drivers in a bar-room,  
 around the stove, late of a winter night—And I  
 unremark'd, seated in a corner;
  [ begin page 139 ]ppp.00473.139.jpg Of a youth who loves me, and whom I love, silently  
 approaching, and seating himself near, that he  
 may hold me by the hand;
A long while, amid the noises of coming and going—  
 of drinking and oath and smutty jest,
There we two, content, happy in being together,  
 speaking little, perhaps not a word.


A PROMISE to California, Also to the great Pastoral Plains, and for Oregon: Sojourning east a while longer, soon I travel toward  
 you, to remain, to teach robust American love;
For I know very well that I and robust love belong  
 among you, inland, and along the Western  
For These States tend inland, and toward the Western  
 Sea—and I will also.


WHAT ship, puzzled at sea, cons for the true reckon- 
Or, coming in, to avoid the bars, and follow the chan- 
 nel, a perfect pilot needs?
Here, sailor! Here, ship! take aboard the most perfect  
Whom, in a little boat, putting off, and rowing, I,  
 hailing you, offer.
  [ begin page 140 ]ppp.00473.140.jpg


HERE the frailest leaves of me, and yet my strongest- 
Here I shade down and hide my thoughts—I do not  
 expose them,
And yet they expose me more than all my other  


WHAT think you I take my pen in hand to record? The battle-ship, perfect-model'd, majestic, that I saw  
 pass the offing to-day under full sail?
The splendors of the past day? Or the splendor of the  
 night that envelops me?
Or the vaunted glory and growth of the great city  
 spread around me?—No;
But I record of two simple men I saw to-day, on the  
 pier, in the midst of the crowd, parting the part- 
 ing of dear friends;
The one to remain hung on the other's neck, and pas- 
 sionately kiss'd him,
While the one to depart, tightly prest the one to  
 remain in his arms.


No labor-saving machine, Nor discovery have I made; Nor will I be able to leave behind me any wealthy  
 bequest to found a hospital or library,
Nor reminiscence of any deed of courage, for America, Nor literary success, nor intellect—nor book for the  
Only a few carols, vibrating through the air, I leave, For comrades and lovers.
  [ begin page 141 ]ppp.00473.141.jpg


I DREAM'D in a dream, I saw a city invincible to the  
 attacks of the whole of the rest of the earth;
I dream'd that was the new City of Friends; Nothing was greater there than the quality of robust  
 love—it led the rest;
It was seen every hour in the actions of the men of  
 that city,
And in all their looks and words.


To the East and to the West; To the man of the Seaside State, and of Pennsylvania, To the Kanadian of the North—to the Southerner I  
These, with perfect trust, to depict you as myself—the  
 germs are in all men;
I believe the main purport of These States is to found  
 a superb friendship, exalté, previously unknown,
Because I perceive it waits, and has been always wait- 
 ing, latent in all men.


EARTH! my likeness! Though you look so impassive, ample and spheric  
I now suspect that is not all; I now suspect there is something fierce in you, eligible  
 to burst forth;
For an athlete is enamour'd of me—and I of him, But toward him there is something fierce and terrible  
 in me, eligible to burst forth,
I dare not tell it in words—not even in these songs.
  [ begin page 142 ]ppp.00473.142.jpg


A LEAF for hand in hand! You natural persons old and young! You on the Mississippi, and on all the branches and  
 bayous of the Mississippi!
You friendly boatmen and mechanics! You roughs! You twain! And all processions moving along the  
I wish to infuse myself among you till I see it com- 
 mon for you to walk hand in hand!


FAST-ANCHOR'D, eternal, O love! O woman I love; O bride! O wife! more resistless than I can tell, the  
 thought of you!
Then separate, as disembodied, or another born, Ethereal, the last athletic reality, my consolation; I ascend—I float in the regions of your love, O man, O sharer of my roving life.


SOMETIMES with one I love, I fill myself with rage, for  
 fear I effuse unreturn'd love;
But now I think there is no unreturn'd love—the pay  
 is certain, one way or another;
(I loved a certain person ardently, and my love was  
 not return'd;
Yet out of that, I have written these songs.)
  [ begin page 143 ]ppp.00473.143.jpg


THAT shadow, my likeness, that goes to and fro, seek- 
 ing a livelihood, chattering, chaffering;
How often I find myself standing and looking at it  
 where it flits;
How often I question and doubt whether that is really  
But in these, and among my lovers, and carolling my  
O I never doubt whether that is really me.


1 AMONG the men and women, the multitude, I perceive one picking me out by secret and divine  
Acknowledging none else—not parent, wife, husband, 
 brother, child, any nearer than I am;
Some are baffled—But that one is not—that one knows  
2Ah, lover and perfect equal! I meant that you should discover me so, by my faint  
And I, when I meet you, mean to discover you by the  
 like in you.


O BOY of the West! To you many things to absorb, I teach, to help you  
 become eleve of mine:
Yet if blood like mine circle not in your veins; If you be not silently selected by lovers, and do not  
 silently select lovers,
Of what use is it that you seek to become eleve of  
  [ begin page 144 ]ppp.00473.144.jpg


O YOU whom I often and silently come where you are,  
 that I may be with you;
As I walk by your side, or sit near, or remain in the  
 same room with you,
Little you know the subtle electric fire that for your  
 sake is playing within me.


1 FULL of life, now, compact, visible, I, forty years old the Eighty-third Year of The States, To one a century hence, or any number of centuries  
To you, yet unborn, these seeking you.
2When you read these, I, that was visible, am become  
Now it is you, compact, visible, realizing my poems, 
 seeking me;
Fancying how happy you were, if I could be with you, 
 and become your loving comrade;
Be it as if I were with you. Be not too certain but I  
 am now with you.

Table of Contents (1867)

Poems in this cluster

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