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I Sing the Body Electric

Part of the cluster CHILDREN OF ADAM.



1 I SING the Body electric; The armies of those I love engirth me, and I engirth 
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond 
 to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the 
 charge of the Soul.
2Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own 
 bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they 
 who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do as much as the Soul? And if the body were not the Soul, what is the Soul?
  [ begin page 99 ]ppp.00473.099.jpg


3The love of the Body of man or woman balks ac- 
 count—the body itself balks account;
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is 
4The expression of the face balks account; But the expression of a well-made man appears not 
 only in his face;
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the 
 joints of his hips and wrists;
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of 
 his waist and knees—dress does not hide him;
The strong, sweet, supple quality he has, strikes 
 through the cotton and flannel;
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem,  
 perhaps more;
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck 
 and shoulder-side.
5The sprawl and fulness of babes, the bosoms and 
 heads of women, the folds of their dress, their 
 style as we pass in the street, the contour of 
 their shape downwards,
The swimmer naked in the swimming bath, seen as he 
 swims through the transparent green-shine, or 
 lies with his face up, and rolls silently to and 
 fro in the heave of the water,
The bending forward and backward of rowers in row- 
 boats—the horseman in his saddle,
Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their perform- 
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their 
 open dinner-kettles, and their wives waiting,
The female soothing a child—the farmer's daughter in 
 the garden or cow-yard,
The young fellow hoeing corn—the sleigh-driver 
 guiding his six horses through the crowd,
  [ begin page 100 ]ppp.00473.100.jpg The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite 
 grown, lusty, good-natured, native-born, out on 
 the vacant lot at sun-down, after work,
The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love 
 and resistance,
The upper-hold and under-hold, the hair rumpled 
 over and blinding the eyes;
The march of firemen in their own costumes, the play 
 of masculine muscle through clean-setting 
 trowsers and waist-straps,
The slow return from the fire, the pause when the bell 
 strikes suddenly again, and the listening on the 
The natural, perfect, varied attitudes—the bent head,  
 the curv'd neck, and the counting;
Such-like I love—I loosen myself, pass freely, am at 
 the mother's breast with the little child,
Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers, march 
 in line with the firemen, and pause, listen,  
 and count.


6I knew a man, a common farmer—the father of 
 five sons;
And in them were the fathers of sons—and in them 
 were the fathers of sons.
7This man was of wonderful vigor, calmness, beauty 
 of person;
The shape of his head, the richness and breadth of 
 his manners, the pale yellow and white of his 
 hair and beard, and the immeasurable meaning 
 of his black eyes,
These I used to go and visit him to see—he was wise 
He was six feet tall, he was over eighty years old—his 
 sons were massive, clean, bearded, tan-faced,  
  [ begin page 101 ]ppp.00473.101.jpg They and his daughters loved him—all who saw him 
 loved him;
They did not love him by allowance—they loved him 
 with personal love;
He drank water only—the blood show'd like scarlet 
 through the clear-brown skin of his face;
He was a frequent gunner and fisher—he sail'd his 
 boat himself—he had a fine one presented to 
 him by a ship-joiner—he had fowling-pieces,  
 presented to him by men that loved him;
When he went with his five sons and many grand-sons 
 to hunt or fish, you would pick him out as the 
 most beautiful and vigorous of the gang,
You would wish long and long to be with him—you 
 would wish to sit by him in the boat, that you 
 and he might touch each other.


8I have perceiv'd that to be with those I like is 
To stop in company with the rest at evening is 
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing,  
 laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them, or touch any one, or rest my 
 arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a 
 moment—what is this then?
I do not ask any more delight—I swim in it, as in a 
9There is something in staying close to men and wo- 
 men, and looking on them, and in the contact 
 and odor of them, that pleases the soul well;
All things please the soul—but these please the soul 


10This is the female form; A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot; E   [ begin page 102 ]ppp.00473.102.jpg It attracts with fierce undeniable attraction! I am drawn by its breath as if I were no more than a 
 helpless vapor—all falls aside but myself and it;
Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth,  
 the atmosphere and the clouds, and what was 
 expected of heaven or fear'd of hell, are now 
Mad filaments, ungovernable shoots play out of it, the 
 response likewise ungovernable!
Hair, bosom, hips, bend of legs, negligent falling 
 hands, all diffused—mine too diffused;
Ebb stung by the flow, and flow stung by the ebb— 
 love-flesh swelling and deliciously aching;
Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous,  
 quivering jelly of love, white-blow and deliri- 
 ous juice;
Bridegroom night of love, working surely and softly 
 into the prostrate dawn;
Undulating into the willing and yielding day, Lost in the cleave of the clasping and sweet-flesh'd 
11This is the nucleus—after the child is born of 
 woman, the man is born of woman;
This is the bath of birth—this is the merge of small 
 and large, and the outlet again.
12Be not ashamed, women—your privilege encloses 
 the rest, and is the exit of the rest,
You are the gates of the body, and you are the gates 
 of the soul.
13The female contains all qualities, and tempers them 
 —she is in her place, and moves with perfect 
She is all things duly veil'd—she is both passive and 
She is to conceive daughters as well as sons, and sons 
 as well as daughters.
  [ begin page 103 ]ppp.00473.103.jpg 14As I see my soul reflected in nature; As I see through a mist, one with inexpressible com- 
 pleteness and beauty,
See the bent head, and arms folded over the breast— 
 the female I see.


15The male is not less the soul, nor more—he too is 
 in his place;
He too is all qualities—he is action and power; The flush of the known universe is in him; Scorn becomes him well, and appetite and defiance 
 become him well;
The wildest largest passions, bliss that is utmost, sor- 
 row that is utmost, become him well—pride is 
 for him;
The full-spread pride of man is calming and excellent 
 to the soul;
Knowledge becomes him—he likes it always—he 
 brings everything to the test of himself;
Whatever the survey, whatever the sea and the sail, he 
 strikes soundings at last only here;
Where else does he strike soundings, except here?
16The man's body is sacred, and the woman's body is 
No matter who it is, it is sacred; Is it a slave? Is it one of the dull-faced immigrants 
 just landed on the wharf?
Each belongs here or anywhere, just as much as the 
 well-off—just as much as you;
Each has his or her place in the procession.
17All is a procession; The universe is a procession, with measured and beau- 
 tiful motion.
  [ begin page 104 ]ppp.00473.104.jpg 18Do you know so much yourself, that you call the slave 
 or the dull-face ignorant?
Do you suppose you have a right to a good sight, and 
 he or she has no right to a sight?
Do you think matter has cohered together from its 
 diffuse float—and the soil is on the surface,  
 and water runs, and vegetation sprouts,
For you only, and not for him and her?


19A man's Body at auction; I help the auctioneer—the sloven does not half know 
 his business.
20Gentlemen, look on this wonder! Whatever the bids of the bidders, they cannot be high 
 enough for it;
For it the globe lay preparing quintillions of years,  
 without one animal or plant;
For it the revolving cycles truly and steadily roll'd.
21In this head the all-baffling brain; In it and below it, the makings of heroes. 22Examine these limbs, red, black, or white—they are 
 so cunning in tendon and nerve;
They shall be stript, that you may see them.
23Exquisite senses, life-lit eyes, pluck, volition, Flakes of breast-muscle, pliant back-bone and neck,  
 flesh not flabby, good sized arms and legs,
And wonders within there yet.
24Within there runs blood, The same old blood! The same red-running blood! There swells and jets a heart—there all passions, de- 
 sires, reachings, aspirations;
Do you think they are not there because they are not 
 express'd in parlors and lecture—rooms?
  [ begin page 105 ]ppp.00473.105.jpg 25This is not only one man—this is the father of those 
 who shall be fathers in their turns;
In him the start of populous states and rich republics; Of him countless immortal lives, with countless em- 
 bodiments and enjoyments.
26How do you know who shall come from the off- 
 spring of his offspring through the centuries?
Who might you find you have come from yourself, if 
 you could trace back through the centuries?


27A woman's Body at auction! She too is not only herself—she is the teeming 
 mother of mothers;
She is the bearer of them that shall grow and be 
 mates to the mothers.
28Have you ever loved the Body of a woman? Have you ever loved the Body of a man? Your father—where is your father? Your mother—is she living? have you been much 
 with her? and has she been much with you?
Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all,  
 in all nations and times, all over the earth?
29If any thing is sacred, the human body is sacred, And the glory and sweet of a man, is the token of man- 
 hood untainted;
And in man or woman, a clean, strong, firm-fibred 
 body, is beautiful as the most beautiful face.
30Have you seen the fool that corrupted his own live 
 body? or the fool that corrupted her own live 
For they do not conceal themselves, and cannot con- 
 ceal themselves.
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31O my Body! I dare not desert the likes of you in 
 other men and women, nor the likes of the 
 parts of you;
I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with the 
 likes of the Soul, (and that they are the Soul;)
I believe the likes of you shall stand or fall with my 
 poems—and that they are poems,
Man's, woman's, child's, youth's, wife's, husband's,  
 mother's, father's, young man's, young woman's 
Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears, Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eye-brows, and the 
 waking or sleeping of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws,  
 and the jaw-hinges,
Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition, Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the 
 neck, neck-slue,
Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoul- 
 ders, and the ample side-round of the chest,
Upper-arm, arm-pit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm- 
 sinews, arm-bones,
Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb,  
 fore-finger, finger-balls, finger-joints, finger- 
Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast, breast- 
 bone, breast-side,
Ribs, belly, backbone, joints of the back-bone, Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward 
 round, man-balls, man-root,
Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk above, Leg-fibres, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under-leg, Ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel; All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of 
 my or your body, or of any one's body, male or 
  [ begin page 107 ]ppp.00473.107.jpg The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet 
 and clean,
The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame, Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality, ma- 
Womanhood, and all that is a woman—and the man 
 that comes from woman,
The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laugh- 
 ter, weeping, love-looks, love-perturbations and 
The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shout- 
 ing aloud,
Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking,  
Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm- 
 curving and tightening,
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and 
 around the eyes,
The skin, the sun-burnt shade, freckles, hair, The curious sympathy one feels, when feeling with the 
 hand the naked meat of the body,
The circling rivers, the breath, and breathing it in 
 and out,
The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and 
 thence downward toward the knees,
The thin red jellies within you, or within me—the 
 bones, and the marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health; O I say, these are not the parts and poems of the Body 
 only, but of the Soul,
O I say now these are the Soul!

Part of the cluster CHILDREN OF ADAM.

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