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This Compost!


1SOMETHING startles me where I thought I was  
I withdraw from the still woods I loved; I will not go now on the pastures to walk; I will not strip the clothes from my body to meet my  
 lover the sea;
I will not touch my flesh to the earth, as to other  
 flesh, to renew me.
2O how can the ground not sicken? How can you be alive, you growths of spring? How can you furnish health, you blood of herbs,  
 roots, orchards, grain?
Are they not continually putting distemper'd corpses  
 in you?
Is not every continent work'd over and over with sour  
3Where have you disposed of their carcasses? Those drunkards and gluttons of so many genera- 
Where have you drawn off all the foul liquid and  
I do not see any of it upon you to-day—or perhaps I  
 am deceiv'd;
I will run a furrow with my plough—I will press my  
 spade through the sod, and turn it up under- 
I am sure I shall expose some of the foul meat.
4Behold this compost! behold it well! Perhaps every mite has once form'd part of a sick  
 person—Yet behold!
The grass covers the prairies, The bean bursts noiselessly through the mould in the  
  [ begin page 307 ]ppp.00473.307.jpg The delicate spear of the onion pierces upward, The apple-buds cluster together on the apple-branches, The resurrection of the wheat appears with pale visage  
 out of its graves,
The tinge awakes over the willow-tree and the mul- 
The he-birds carol mornings and evenings, while the  
 she-birds sit on their nests,
The young of poultry break through the hatch'd eggs, The new-born of animals appear—the calf is dropt  
 from the cow, the colt from the mare,
Out of its little hill faithfully rise the potato's dark  
 green leaves,
Out of its hill rises the yellow maize-stalk; The summer growth is innocent and disdainful above  
 all those strata of sour dead.
5What chemistry! That the winds are really not infectious, That this is no cheat, this transparent green-wash of  
 the sea, which is so amorous after me,
That it is safe to allow it to lick my naked body all  
 over with its tongues,
That it will not endanger me with the fevers that  
 have deposited themselves in it,
That all is clean forever and forever, That the cool drink from the well tastes so good, That blackberries are so flavorous and juicy, That the fruits of the apple-orchard, and of the  
 orange-orchard—that melons, grapes, peaches,  
 plums, will none of them poison me,
That when I recline on the grass I do not catch any  
Though probably every spear of grass rises out of  
 what was once a catching disease.
6Now I am terrified at the earth! it is that calm and  
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,   [ begin page 308 ]ppp.00473.308.jpg It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such  
 endless successions of diseas'd corpses,
It distils such exquisite winds out of such infused  
It renews with such unwitting looks, its prodigal,  
 annual, sumptuous crops,
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts  
 such leavings from them at last.
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