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Cluster: Leaves of Grass. (1867)

Table of Contents (1867)

Poems in this cluster



1 THERE was a child went forth every day; And the first object he look'd upon, that object he be- 
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 com- 
 monest weeds by the road;
  [ begin page 160 ]ppp.00473.160.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 quarrel- 
 some boys,
And the tidy and fresh-cheek'd girls—and the bare- 
 foot 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 that 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?
  [ begin page 161 ]ppp.00473.161.jpg The streets themselves, and the façades of houses, and  
 goods in the windows,
Vehicles, teams, the heavy-plank'd wharves—the  
 huge crossing at the ferries,
The village on the highland, seen from afar at sun- 
 set—the river between,
Shadows, aureola and mist, 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 pur- 
 ity 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.


1 MYSELF and mine gymnastic ever, To stand the cold or heat—to take good aim with a  
 gun—to sail a boat—to manage horses—to be- 
 get superb children,
To speak readily and clearly—to feel at home among  
 common people,
And to hold our own in terrible positions, on land  
 and sea.
2Not for an embroiderer; (There will always be plenty of embroiderers—I wel- 
 come them also;)
But for the fibre of things, and for inherent men and  
3Not to chisel ornaments,   [ begin page 162 ]ppp.00473.162.jpg But to chisel with free stroke the heads and limbs of  
 plenteous Supreme Gods, that The States may  
 realize them, walking and talking.
4Let me have my own way; Let others promulge the laws—I will make no account  
 of the laws;
Let others praise eminent men and hold up peace—  
 I hold up agitation and conflict;
I praise no eminent man—I rebuke to his face the one  
 that was thought most worthy.
5(Who are you? you mean devil! And what are you  
 secretly guilty of, all your life?
Will you turn aside all your life? Will you grub and  
 chatter all your life?)
6(And who are you—blabbing by rote, years, pages, 
 languages, reminiscences,
Unwitting to-day that you do not know how to speak  
 a single word?)
7Let others finish specimens—I never finish speci- 
I shower them by exhaustless laws, as nature does, 
 fresh and modern continually.
8I give nothing as duties; What others give as duties, I give as living impulses; (Shall I give the heart's action as a duty?) 9Let others dispose of questions—I dispose of noth- 
 ing—I arouse unanswerable questions;
Who are they I see and touch, and what about them? What about these likes of myself, that draw me so close  
 by tender directions and indirections?
10I call to the world to distrust the accounts of my  
 friends, but listen to my enemies—as I myself do;
  [ begin page 163 ]ppp.00473.163.jpg I charge you, too, forever, reject those who would ex- 
 pound me—for I cannot expound myself;
I charge that there be no theory or school founded out  
 of me;
I charge you to leave all free, as I have left all free.
11After me, vista! O, I see life is not short, but immeasurably long; I henceforth tread the world, chaste, temperate, an  
 early riser, a steady grower,
Every hour the semen of centuries—and still of cen- 
12I will follow up these continual lessons of the air, 
 water, earth;
I perceive I have no time to lose.


1 WHO learns my lesson complete? Boss, journeyman, apprentice—churchman and athe- 
The stupid and the wise thinker—parents and off- 
 spring—merchant, clerk, porter, and customer,
Editor, author, artist, and schoolboy—Draw nigh and  
It is no lesson—it lets down the bars to a good lesson, And that to another, and every one to another still.
2The great laws take and effuse without argument; I am of the same style, for I am their friend, I love them quits and quits—I do not halt and make  
3I lie abstracted, and hear beautiful tales of things, 
 and the reasons of things
They are so beautiful, I nudge myself to listen.
  [ begin page 164 ]ppp.00473.164.jpg 4I cannot say to any person what I hear—I cannot  
 say it to myself—it is very wonderful.
5It is no small matter, this round and delicious globe. 
 moving so exactly in its orbit forever and ever, 
 without one jolt, or the untruth of a single  
I do not think it was made in six days, nor in ten  
 thousand years, nor ten billions of years,
Nor plann'd and built one thing after another, as an  
 architect plans and builds a house.
6I do not think seventy years is the time of a man or  
Nor that seventy millions of years is the time of a  
 man or woman,
Nor that years will ever stop the existence of me, or  
 any one else.
7Is it wonderful that I should be immortal? as every  
 one is immortal;
I know it is wonderful—but my eye-sight is equally  
 wonderful, and how I was conceived in my  
 mother's womb is equally wonderful;
And pass'd from a babe, in the creeping trance of  
 a couple of summers and winters, to articulate  
 and walk—All this is equally wonderful.
8And that my Soul embraces you this hour, and we  
 affect each other without ever seeing each other, 
 and never perhaps to see each other, is every  
 bit as wonderful.
9And that I can think such thoughts as these, is just  
 as wonderful;
And that I can remind you, and you think them and  
 know them to be true, is just as wonderful.
  [ begin page 165 ]ppp.00473.165.jpg 10And that the moon spins round the earth, and on  
 with the earth, is equally wonderful;
And that they balance themselves with the sun and  
 stars, is equally wonderful.


1 WHOEVER you are, I fear you are walking the walks of  
I fear those supposed realities are to melt from under  
 your feet and hands;
Even now, your features, joys, speech, house, trade, 
 manners, troubles, follies, costume, crimes, 
 dissipate away from you,
Your true Soul and Body appear before me, They stand forth out of affairs—out of commerce, 
 shops, law, science, work, farms, clothes, the  
 house, medicine, print, buying, selling, eating, 
 drinking, suffering, dying.
2Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, 
 that you be my poem;
I whisper with my lips close to your ear, I have loved many women and men, but I love none  
 better than you.
3O I have been dilatory and dumb; I should have made my way straight to you long ago; I should have blabb'd nothing but you, I should have  
 chanted nothing but you.
4I will leave all, and come and make the hymns of  
None have understood you, but I understand you; None have done justice to you—you have not done  
 justice to yourself;
  [ begin page 166 ]ppp.00473.166.jpg None but have found you imperfect—I only find no  
 imperfection in you;
None but would subordinate you—I only am he who  
 will never consent to subordinate you;
I only am he who places over you no master, owner, 
 better, God, beyond what waits intrinsically in  
5Painters have painted their swarming groups, and  
 the centre figure of all;
From the head of the centre figure spreading a nim- 
 bus of gold-color'd light;
But I paint myriads of heads, but paint no head with- 
 out its nimbus of gold-color'd light;
From my hand, from the brain of every man and  
 woman it streams, effulgently flowing forever.
6O I could sing such grandeurs and glories about  
You have not known what you are—you have slum- 
 ber upon yourself all your life;
Your eye-lids have been the same as closed most of  
 the time;
What you have done returns already in mockeries; (Your thrift, knowledge, prayers, if they do not return  
 in mockeries, what is their return?)
7The mockeries are not you; Underneath them, and within them, I see you lurk; I pursue you where none else has pursued you; Silence, the desk, the flippant expression, the night, 
 the accustom'd routine, if these conceal you from  
 others, or from yourself, they do not conceal you  
 from me;
The shaved face, the unsteady eye, the impure com- 
 plexion, if these balk others, they do not balk  
The pert apparel, the deform'd attitude, drunkenness, 
 greed, premature death, all these I part aside.
  [ begin page 167 ]ppp.00473.167.jpg 8There is no endowment in man or woman that is  
 not tallied in you;
There is no virtue, no beauty, in man or woman, but as  
 good is in you;
No pluck, no endurance in others, but as good is in  
No pleasure waiting for others, but an equal pleasure  
 waits for you.
9As for me, I give nothing to any one, except I give  
 the like carefully to you;
I sing the songs of the glory of none, not God, sooner  
 than I sing the songs of the glory of you.
10Whoever you are! claim your own at any hazard! These shows of the east and west are tame compared  
 to you;
These immense meadows—these interminable rivers—  
 you are immense and interminable as they;
These furies, elements, storms, motions of Nature, 
 throes of apparent dissolution—you are he or  
 she who is master or mistress over them,
Master or mistress in your own right over Nature, 
 elements, pain, passion, dissolution.
11The hopples fall from your ankles—you find an un- 
 failing sufficiency;
Old or young, male or female, rude, low, rejected by  
 the rest, whatever you are promulges itself;
Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are pro- 
 vided, nothing is scanted;
Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui, 
 what you are picks it way.

Table of Contents (1867)

Poems in this cluster

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