Skip to main content

Walt Whitman


1I CELEBRATE myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me, as good belongs  
 to you.
2I loafe and invite my Soul, I lean and loafe at my ease, observing a spear of  
 summer grass.
3Houses and rooms are full of perfumes—the shelves  
 are crowded with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself, and know it and  
 like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall  
 not let it.
4The atmosphere is not a perfume—it has no taste of  
 the distillation, it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever—I am in love with it, I will go to the bank by the wood, and become  
 undisguised and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.
  [ begin page 24 ]ppp.01500.032.jpg 5The smoke of my own breath, Echoes, ripples, buzzed whispers, love-root, silk- 
 thread, crotch and vine,
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my  
 heart, the passing of blood and air through my  
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the  
 shore, and dark-colored sea-rocks, and of hay in  
 the barn,
The sound of the belched words of my voice, words  
 loosed to the eddies of the wind,
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around  
 of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple  
 boughs wag,
The delight alone, or in the rush of the streets, or  
 along the fields and hill-sides,
The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of  
 me rising from bed and meeting the sun.
6Have you reckoned a thousand acres much? Have  
 you reckoned the earth much?
Have you practised so long to learn to read? Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of  
7Stop this day and night with me, and you shall pos- 
 sess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun— 
 there are millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third  
 hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, 
 nor feed on the spectres in books.
  [ begin page 25 ]ppp.01500.033.jpg You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take  
 things from me,
You shall listen to all sides, and filter them from  
8I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk  
 of the beginning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.
9There was never any more inception than there is  
Nor any more youth or age than there is now, And will never be any more perfection than there is  
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.
10Urge, and urge, and urge, Always the procreant urge of the world. 11Out of the dimness opposite equals advance—always  
 substance and increase, always sex,
Always a knit of identity—always distinction— 
 always a breed of life.
12To elaborate is no avail—learned and unlearned  
 feel that it is so.
13Sure as the most certain sure, plumb in the uprights, 
 well entretied, braced in the beams,
Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical, I and this mystery here we stand.
14Clear and sweet is my Soul, and clear and sweet is  
 all that is not my Soul.
  [ begin page 26 ]ppp.01500.034.jpg 15Lack one lacks both, and the unseen is proved by the  
Till that becomes unseen, and receives proof in its  
16Showing the best, and dividing it from the worst, age  
 vexes age,
Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of things, 
 while they discuss I am silent, and go bathe  
 and admire myself.
17Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and of  
 any man hearty and clean,
Not an inch, nor a particle of an inch, is vile, and  
 none shall be less familiar than the rest.
18I am satisfied—I see, dance, laugh, sing; As the hugging and loving Bed-fellow sleeps at my  
 side through the night, and withdraws at the  
 peep of the day,
And leaves for me baskets covered with white towels, 
 swelling the house with their plenty,
Shall I postpone my acceptation and realization, and  
 scream at my eyes,
That they turn from gazing after and down the road, And forthwith cipher and show me to a cent, Exactly the contents of one, and exactly the contents  
 of two, and which is ahead?
19Trippers and askers surround me, People I meet—the effect upon me of my early life, 
 or the ward and city I live in, or the nation,
  [ begin page 27 ]ppp.01500.035.jpg The latest news, discoveries, inventions, societies, 
 authors old and new,
My dinner, dress, associates, looks, work, compliments, 
The real or fancied indifference of some man or  
 woman I love,
The sickness of one of my folks, or of myself, or  
 ill-doing, or loss or lack of money, or depressions  
 or exaltations,
These come to me days and nights, and go from me  
But they are not the Me myself.
20Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am, Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, 
Looks down, is erect, or bends an arm on an  
 impalpable certain rest,
Looking with side-curved head, curious what will  
 come next,
Both in and out of the game, and watching and  
 wondering at it.
21Backward I see in my own days where I sweated  
 through fog with linguists and contenders,
I have no mockings or arguments—I witness and  
22I believe in you, my Soul—the other I am must  
 not abase itself to you,
And you must not be abased to the other.
23Loafe with me on the grass—loose the stop from  
 your throat,
  [ begin page 28 ]ppp.01500.036.jpg Not words, not music or rhyme I want—not custom  
 or lecture, not even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice.
24I mind how once we lay, such a transparent summer  
How you settled your head athwart my hips, and  
 gently turned over upon me,
And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and  
 plunged your tongue to my bare-stript heart,
And reached till you felt my beard, and reached till  
 you held my feet.
25Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and  
 joy and knowledge that pass all the art and  
 argument of the earth,
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of  
 my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of  
 my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, 
 and the women my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love, And limitless are leaves, stiff or drooping in the  
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them, And mossy scabs of the worm-fence, and heaped  
 stones, elder, mullen, and pokeweed.
26A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me  
 with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what  
 it is, any more than he.
  [ begin page 29 ]ppp.01500.037.jpg 27I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of  
 hopeful green stuff woven.
28Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord, A scented gift and remembrancer, designedly dropped, Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, 
 that we may see and remark, and say Whose?
29Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced  
 babe of the vegetation.
30Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic, And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and  
 narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white, Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them  
 the same, I receive them the same.
31And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of  
32Tenderly will I use you, curling grass, It may be you transpire from the breasts of young  
It may be if I had known them I would have loved  
It may be you are from old people, and from women, 
 and from offspring taken soon out of their  
 mothers' laps,
And here you are the mothers' laps.
33This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of  
 old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men, 3*   [ begin page 30 ]ppp.01500.038.jpg Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of  
34O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues! And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of  
 mouths for nothing.
35I wish I could translate the hints about the dead  
 young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the  
 offspring taken soon out of their laps.
36What do you think has become of the young and  
 old men?
And what do you think has become of the women  
 and children?
37They are alive and well somewhere, The smallest sprout shows there is really no death, And if ever there was, it led forward life, and does  
 not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.
38All goes onward and outward—nothing collapses, And to die is different from what any one supposed, 
 and luckier.
39Has any one supposed it lucky to be born? I hasten to inform him or her, it is just as lucky to  
 die, and I know it.
40I pass death with the dying, and birth with the new- 
 washed babe, and am not contained between my  
 hat and boots,
  [ begin page 31 ]ppp.01500.039.jpg And peruse manifold objects, no two alike, and every  
 one good,
The earth good, and the stars good, and their  
 adjuncts all good.
41I am not an earth, nor an adjunct of an earth, I am the mate and companion of people, all just as  
 immortal and fathomless as myself;
They do not know how immortal, but I know.
42Every kind for itself and its own—for me mine, male  
 and female,
For me those that have been boys, and that love  
For me the man that is proud, and feels how it stings  
 to be slighted,
For me the sweetheart and the old maid—for me  
 mothers, and the mothers of mothers,
For me lips that have smiled, eyes that have shed  
For me children, and the begetters of children.
43Who need be afraid of the merge? Undrape! you are not guilty to me, nor stale, nor  
I see through the broadcloth and gingham, whether  
 or no,
And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless, and  
 can never be shaken away.
44The little one sleeps in its cradle, I lift the gauze and look a long time, and silently  
 brush away flies with my hand.
  [ begin page 32 ]ppp.01500.040.jpg 45The youngster and the red-faced girl turn aside up  
 the bushy hill,
I peeringly view them from the top.
46The suicide sprawls on the bloody floor of the  
It is so—I witnessed the corpse—there the pistol  
 had fallen.
47The blab of the pave, the tires of carts, sluff of boot- 
 soles, talk of the promenaders,
The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogating  
 thumb, the clank of the shod horses on the  
 granite floor,
The snow-sleighs, the clinking, shouted jokes, pelts of  
The hurrahs for popular favorites, the fury of roused  
The flap of the curtained litter, a sick man inside, 
 borne to the hospital,
The meeting of enemies, the sudden oath, the blows  
 and fall,
The excited crowd, the policeman with his star, 
 quickly working his passage to the centre of  
 the crowd,
The impassive stones that receive and return so many  
The Souls moving along—(are they invisible, while  
 the least of the stones is visible?)
What groans of over-fed or half-starved who fall sun- 
 struck, or in fits,
What exclamations of women taken suddenly, who  
 hurry home and give birth to babes,
  [ begin page 33 ]ppp.01500.041.jpg What living and buried speech is always vibrating  
 here—what howls restrained by decorum,
Arrests of criminals, slights, adulterous offers made, 
 acceptances, rejections with convex lips,
I mind them or the show or resonance of them—I  
 come and I depart.
48The big doors of the country-barn stand open and  
The dried grass of the harvest-time loads the slow- 
 drawn wagon,
The clear light plays on the brown gray and green  
The armfuls are packed to the sagging mow.
49I am there—I help—I came stretched atop of the  
I felt its soft jolts—one leg reclined on the other; I jump from the cross-beams and seize the clover and  
And roll head over heels, and tangle my hair full of  
50Alone, far in the wilds and mountains, I hunt, Wandering, amazed at my own lightness and glee, In the late afternoon choosing a safe spot to pass the  
Kindling a fire and broiling the fresh-killed game, Soundly falling asleep on the gathered leaves, with  
 my dog and gun by my side.
51The Yankee clipper is under her three sky-sails— 
 she cuts the sparkle and scud,
  [ begin page 34 ]ppp.01500.042.jpg My eyes settle the land—I bend at her prow, or shout  
 joyously from the deck.
52The boatmen and clam-diggers arose early and  
 stopped for me,
I tucked my trowser-ends in my boots, and went and  
 had a good time;
You should have been with us that day round the  
53I saw the marriage of the trapper in the open air in  
 the far-west—the bride was a red girl,
Her father and his friends sat near, cross-legged and  
 dumbly smoking—they had moccasons to their  
 feet, and large thick blankets hanging from their  
On a bank lounged the trapper—he was dressed  
 mostly in skins—his luxuriant beard and curls  
 protected his neck,
One hand rested on his rifle—the other hand held  
 firmly the wrist of the red girl,
She had long eyelashes—her head was bare—her  
 coarse straight locks descended upon her volup- 
 tuous limbs and reached to her feet.
54The runaway slave came to my house and stopped  
I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the wood- 
Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw  
 him limpsy and weak,
And went where he sat on a log, and led him in and  
 assured him,
  [ begin page 35 ]ppp.01500.043.jpg And brought water, and filled a tub for his sweated  
 body and bruised feet,
And gave him a room that entered from my own, and  
 gave him some coarse clean clothes,
And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and  
 his awkwardness,
And remember putting plasters on the galls of his  
 neck and ankles;
He staid with me a week before he was recuperated  
 and passed north,
I had him sit next me at table—my fire-lock leaned  
 in the corner.
55Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore, Twenty-eight young men, and all so friendly; Twenty-eight years of womanly life, and all so  
56She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank, She hides, handsome and richly drest, aft the blinds  
 of the window.
57Which of the young men does she like the best? Ah, the homeliest of them is beautiful to her. 58Where are you off to, lady? for I see you, You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in  
 your room.
59Dancing and laughing along the beach came the  
 twenty-ninth bather,
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved  
  [ begin page 36 ]ppp.01500.044.jpg 60The beards of the young men glistened with wet, it  
 ran from their long hair,
Little streams passed all over their bodies.
61An unseen hand also passed over their bodies, It descended tremblingly from their temples and  
62The young men float on their backs—their white  
 bellies bulge to the sun—they do not ask who  
 seizes fast to them,
They do not know who puffs and declines with  
 pendant and bending arch,
They do not think whom they souse with spray.
63The butcher-boy puts off his killing-clothes, or sharp- 
 ens his knife at the stall in the market,
I loiter, enjoying his repartee and his shuffle and  
64Blacksmiths with grimed and hairy chests environ the  
Each has his main-sledge—they are all out—there  
 is a great heat in the fire.
65From the cinder-strewed threshold I follow their  
The lithe sheer of their waists plays even with their  
 massive arms,
Overhand the hammers roll—overhand so slow— 
 overhand so sure,
They do not hasten—each man hits in his place.
  [ begin page 37 ]ppp.01500.045.jpg 66The negro holds firmly the reins of his four horses  
 —the blocks swags underneath on its tied-over  
The negro that drives the huge dray of the stone-yard  
 —steady and tall he stands, poised on one leg on  
 the string-piece,
His blue shirt exposes his ample neck and breast, and  
 loosens over his hip-band,
His glance is calm and commanding—he tosses the  
 slouch of his hat away from his forehead,
The sun falls on his crispy hair and moustache— 
 falls on the black of his polished and perfect  
67I behold the picturesque giant and love him—and  
 I do not stop there,
I go with the team also.
68In me the caresser of life wherever moving—back- 
 ward as well as forward slueing,
To niches aside and junior bending.
69Oxen that rattle the yoke or halt in the shade! what  
 is that you express in your eyes?
It seems to me more than all the print I have read in  
 my life.
70My tread scares the wood-drake and wood-duck, on  
 my distant and day-long ramble,
They rise together—they slowly circle around.
71I believe in those winged purposes, And acknowledge red, yellow, white, playing within  
  [ begin page 38 ]ppp.01500.046.jpg And consider green and violet, and the tufted crown, 
And do not call the tortoise unworthy because she is  
 not something else,
And the mocking-bird in the swamp never studied the  
 gamut, yet trills pretty well to me,
And the look of the bay mare shames silliness out  
 of me.
72The wild gander leads his flock through the cool  
Ya-honk! he says, and sounds it down to me like an  
The pert may suppose it meaningless, but I listen  
I find its purpose and place up there toward the  
 wintry sky.
73The sharp-hoofed moose of the north, the cat on the  
 house-sill, the chickadee, the prairie-dog,
The litter of the grunting sow as they tug at her  
The brood of the turkey-hen, and she with her half- 
 spread wings,
I see in them and myself the same old law.
74The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred  
They scorn the best I can do to relate them.
75I am enamoured of growing outdoors. Of men that live among cattle, or taste of the ocean  
 or woods,
  [ begin page 39 ]ppp.01500.047.jpg Of the builders and steerers of ships, and the wielders  
 of axes and mauls, and the drivers of horses,
I can eat and sleep with them week in and week out.
76What is commonest, cheapest, nearest, easiest, is Me, Me going in for my chances, spending for vast  
Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that  
 will take me,
Not asking the sky to come down to my good will, Scattering it freely forever.
77The pure contralto sings in the organ loft, The carpenter dresses his plank—the tongue of his  
 foreplane whistles its wild ascending lisp,
The married and unmarried children ride home to  
 their Thanksgiving dinner,
The pilot seizes the king-pin—he heaves down with  
 a strong arm,
The mate stands braced in the whale-boat—lance  
 and harpoon are ready,
The duck-shooter walks by silent and cautious  
The deacons are ordained with crossed hands at the  
The spinning-girl retreats and advances to the hum  
 of the big wheel,
The farmer stops by the bars, as he walks on a First  
 Day loafe, and looks at the oats and rye,
The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum, a con- 
 firmed case,
He will never sleep any more as he did in the cot in  
 his mother's bedroom;
  [ begin page 40 ]ppp.01500.048.jpg The jour printer with gray head and gaunt jaws  
 works at his case,
He turns his quid of tobacco, while his eyes blurr  
 with the manuscript;
The malformed limbs are tied to the anatomist's  
What is removed drops horribly in a pail; The quadroon girl is sold at the stand—the drunkard  
 nods by the bar-room stove,
The machinist rolls up his sleeves—the policeman  
 travels his beat—the gate-keeper marks who  
The young fellow drives the express-wagon—I love  
 him, though I do not know him,
The half-breed straps on his light boots to compete  
 in the race,
The western turkey-shooting draws old and young— 
 some lean on their rifles, some sit on logs,
Out from the crowd steps the marksman, takes his  
 position, levels his piece;
The groups of newly-come emigrants cover the wharf  
 or levee,
As the woolly-pates hoe in the sugar-field, the over- 
 seer views them from his saddle,
The bugle calls in the ball-room, the gentlemen run  
 for their partners, the dancers bow to each other,
The youth lies awake in the cedar-roofed garret, and  
 harks to the musical rain,
The Wolverine sets traps on the creek that helps fill  
 the Huron,
The reformer ascends the platform, he spouts with  
 his mouth and nose,
  [ begin page 41 ]ppp.01500.049.jpg The company returns from its excursion, the darkey  
 brings up the rear and bears the well-riddled  
The squaw, wrapt in her yellow-hemmed cloth, is  
 offering moccasons and bead-bags for sale,
The connoisseur peers along the exhibition-gallery  
 with half-shut eyes bent side-ways,
As the deck-hands make fast the steamboat, the plank  
 is thrown for the shore-going passengers,
The young sister holds out the skein, while the elder  
 sister winds it off in a ball, and stops now and  
 then for the knots,
The one-year wife is recovering and happy, having  
 a week ago borne her first child,
The clean-haired Yankee girl works with her sewing- 
 machine, or in the factory or mill,
The nine months' gone is in the parturition chamber, 
 her faintness and pains are advancing,
The paving-man leans on his two-handed rammer  
 —the reporter's lead flies swiftly over the note- 
 book—the sign-painter is lettering with red and  
The canal-boy trots on the tow-path—the bookkeeper  
 counts at his desk—the shoemaker waxes his  
The conductor beats time for the band, and all the  
 performers follow him,
The child is baptized—the convert is making his first  
The regatta is spread on the bay—how the white  
 sails sparkle!
The drover, watching his drove, sings out to them that  
 would stray,
4*   [ begin page 42 ]ppp.01500.050.jpg The pedler sweats with his pack on his back, the  
 purchaser higgling about the odd cent,
The camera and plate are prepared, the lady must sit  
 for her daguerreotype,
The bride unrumples her white dress, the minute- 
 hand of the clock moves slowly,
The opium-eater reclines with rigid head and just- 
 opened lips,
The prostitute draggles her shawl, her bonnet bobs on  
 her tipsy and pimpled neck,
The crowd laugh at her blackguard oaths, the men  
 jeer and wink to each other,
(Miserable!-I do not laugh at your oaths, nor jeer  
The President, holding a cabinet council, is sur- 
 rounded by the Great Secretaries,
On the piazza walk five friendly matrons with twined  
The crew of the fish-smack pack repeated layers of  
 halibut in the hold,
The Missourian crosses the plains, toting his wares  
 and his cattle,
As the fare-collector goes through the train, he gives  
 notice by the jingling of loose change,
The floor-men are laying the floor—the tinners are  
 tinning the roof—the masons are calling for  
In single file, each shouldering his hod, pass onward  
 the laborers,
Seasons pursuing each other, the indescribable crowd  
 is gathered—it is the Fourth of Seventh Month  
 —What salutes of cannon and small arms!
  [ begin page 43 ]ppp.01500.051.jpg Seasons pursuing each other, the plougher ploughs, 
 the mower mows, and the winter-grain falls in  
 the ground,
Off on the lakes the pike-fisher watches and waits by  
 the hole in the frozen surface,
The stumps stand thick round the clearing, the  
 squatter strikes deep with his axe,
Flatboatmen make fast, towards dusk, near the cotton- 
 wood or pekan-trees,
Coon-seekers go through the regions of the Red river, 
 or through those drained by the Tennessee, or  
 through those of the Arkansaw,
Torches shine in the dark that hangs on the Chatta- 
 hooche or Altamahaw,
Patriarchs sit at supper with sons and grandsons and  
 great-grandsons around them,
In walls of adobie, in canvas tents, rest hunters and  
 trappers after their day's sport,
The city sleeps and the country sleeps, The living sleep for their time, the dead sleep for  
 their time,
The old husband sleeps by his wife, and the young  
 husband sleeps by his wife;
And these one and all tend inward to me, and I tend  
 outward to them,
And such as it is to be of these, more or less, I am.
78I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the  
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others, Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man, Stuffed with the stuff that is coarse, and stuffed with  
 the stuff that is fine,
  [ begin page 44 ]ppp.01500.052.jpg One of the great nation, the nation of many nations, 
 the smallest the same, and the largest the same,
A southerner soon as a northerner, a planter non- 
 chalant and hospitable,
A Yankee, bound my own way, ready for trade, my  
 joints the limberest joints on earth and the  
 sternest joints on earth,
A Kentuckian, walking the vale of the Elkhorn in  
 my deer-skin leggings,
A boatman over lakes or bays, or along coasts—a  
 Hoosier, Badger, Buckeye,
A Louisianian or Georgian—a Poke-easy from sand- 
 hills and pines,
At home on Kanadian snow-shoes, or up in the bush, 
 or with fishermen off Newfoundland,
At home in the fleet of ice-boats, sailing with the rest, 
 and tacking,
At home on the hills of Vermont, or in the woods  
 of Maine, or the Texan ranch,
Comrade of Californians—comrade of free north- 
 westerners, and loving their big proportions,
Comrade of raftsmen and coalmen—comrade of all  
 who shake hands and welcome to drink and  
A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the thought- 
A novice beginning, yet experient of myriads of  
Of every hue, trade, rank, caste and religion, Not merely of the New World, but of Africa, Europe, 
 Asia—a wandering savage,
A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor, lover, 
  [ begin page 45 ]ppp.01500.053.jpg A prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician, 
79I resist anything better than my own diversity, And breathe the air, and leave plenty after me, And am not stuck up, and am in my place. 80The moth and the fish-eggs are in their place, The suns I see, and the suns I cannot see, are in their  
The palpable is in its place, and the impalpable is in  
 its place.
81These are the thoughts of all men in all ages and  
 lands—they are not original with me,
If they are not yours as much as mine, they are  
 nothing, or next to nothing,
If they do not enclose everything, they are next to  
If they are not the riddle and the untying of the  
 riddle, they are nothing,
If they are not just as close as they are distant, they  
 are nothing.
82This is the grass that grows wherever the land is  
 and the water is,
This is the common air that bathes the globe.
83This is the breath for America, because it is my  
This is for laws, songs, behavior, This is the tasteless water of Souls—this is the true  
  [ begin page 46 ]ppp.01500.054.jpg 84This is for the illiterate, and for the judges of the  
 Supreme Court, and for the Federal capitol and  
 the State capitols,
And for the admirable communes of literats, com- 
 posers, singers, lecturers, engineers, and savans,
And for the endless races of work-people, farmers, 
 and seamen.
85This is the trilling of thousands of clear cornets, 
 screaming of octave flutes, striking of triangles.
86I play not here marches for victors only—I play  
 great marches for conquered and slain persons.
87Have you heard that it was good to gain the day? I also say it is good to fall—battles are lost in the  
 same spirit in which they are won.
88I beat triumphal drums for the dead, I blow through my embouchures my loudest and  
 gayest music to them.
89Vivas to those who have failed! And to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea! And those themselves who sank in the sea! And to all generals that lost engagements! and all  
 overcome heroes!
And the numberless unknown heroes, equal to the  
 greatest heroes known.
90This is the meal pleasantly set—this is the meat and  
 drink for natural hunger,
It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous—I  
 make appointments with all,
  [ begin page 47 ]ppp.01500.055.jpg I will not have a single person slighted or left away, The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited, The heavy-lipped slave is invited—the venerealee is  
There shall be no difference between them and the  
91This is the press of a bashful hand—this is the float  
 and odor of hair,
This is the touch of my lips to yours—this is the  
 murmur of yearning,
This is the far-off depth and height reflecting my  
 own face,
This is the thoughtful merge of myself, and the outlet  
92Do you guess I have some intricate purpose? Well, I have—for the Fourth Month showers have, 
 and the mica on the side of a rock has.
93Do you take it I would astonish? Does the daylight astonish? Does the early redstart, 
 twittering through the woods?
Do I astonish more than they?
94This hour I tell things in confidence, I might not tell everybody, but I will tell you. 95Who goes there! hankering, gross, mystical, nude? How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat? 96What is a man anyhow? What am I? What are  
  [ begin page 48 ]ppp.01500.056.jpg 97All I mark as my own, you shall offset it with your  
Else it were time lost listening to me.
98I do not snivel that snivel the world over, That months are vacuums, and the ground but  
 wallow and filth,
That life is a suck and a sell, and nothing remains at  
 the end but threadbare crape, and tears.
99Whimpering and truckling fold with powders for  
 invalids—conformity goes to the fourth-removed,
I cock my hat as I please, indoors or out.
100Why should I pray? Why should I venerate and be  
101Having pried through the strata, analyzed to a hair, 
 counsell'd with doctors, and calculated close,
I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.
102In all people I see myself—none more, and not one a  
 barleycorn less,
And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them.
103And I know I am solid and sound, To me the converging objects of the universe per- 
 petually flow,
All are written to me, and I must get what the  
 writing means.
104I know I am deathless, 
 I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a  
 carpenter's compass,
  [ begin page 49 ]ppp.01500.057.jpg I know I shall not pass like a child's carlacue cut  
 with a burnt stick at night.
105I know I am august, I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be  
I see that the elementary laws never apologize, I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant  
 my house by, after all.
106I exist as I am—that is enough, If no other in the world be aware, I sit content, And if each and all be aware, I sit content. 107One world is aware, and by far the largest to me, and  
 that is myself,
And whether I come to my own to-day, or in ten  
 thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerful- 
 ness I can wait
108My foothold is tenoned and mortised in granite, I laugh at what you call dissolution, And I know the amplitude of time. 109I am the poet of the body, And I am the poet of the Soul. 110The pleasures of heaven are with me, and the pains  
 of hell are with me,
The first I graft and increase upon myself—the latter  
 I translate into a new tongue.
5   [ begin page 50 ]ppp.01500.058.jpg 111I am the poet of the woman the same as the man, And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a  
And I say there is nothing greater than the mother  
 of men.
112I chant the chant of dilation or pride, We have had ducking and deprecating about enough, I show that size is only development. 113Have you outstript the rest? Are you the President? It is a trifle—they will more than arrive there every  
 one, and still pass on.
114I am He that walks with the tender and growing  
I call to the earth and sea, half-held by the Night.
115Press close, bare-bosomed Night! Press close, mag- 
 netic, nourishing Night!
Night of south winds! Night of the large few stars! Still, nodding night! Mad, naked, summer night.
116Smile, O voluptuous, cool-breathed Earth! Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees! Earth of departed sunset! Earth of the mountains, 
Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon, just  
 tinged with blue!
Earth of shine and dark, mottling the tide of the  
Earth of the limpid gray of clouds, brighter and  
 clearer for my sake!
  [ begin page 51 ]ppp.01500.059.jpg Far-swooping elbowed Earth! Rich, apple-blossomed  
Smile, for YOUR LOVER comes!
117Prodigal, you have given me love! Therefore I to  
 you give love!
O unspeakable passionate love!
118Thruster holding me tight, and that I hold tight! We hurt each other as the bridegroom and the bride  
 hurt each other.
119You Sea! I resign myself to you also—I guess  
 what you mean,
I behold from the beach your crooked inviting fingers, I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me; We must have a turn together—I undress—hurry  
 me out of sight of the land,
Cushion me soft, rock me in billowy drowse, Dash me with amorous wet—I can repay you.
120Sea of stretched ground-swells! Sea breathing broad and convulsive breaths! Sea of the brine of life! Sea of unshovelled and  
 always-ready graves!
Howler and scooper of storms! Capricious and dainty  
I am integral with you—I too am of one phase, and  
 of all phases.
121Partaker of influx and efflux—extoller of hate and  
Extoller of amies, and those that sleep in each others' 
  [ begin page 52 ]ppp.01500.060.jpg 122I am he attesting sympathy, Shall I make my list of things in the house, and skip  
 the house that supports them?
123I am the poet of common sense, and of the demon- 
 strable, and of immortality,
And am not the poet of goodness only—I do not  
 decline to be the poet of wickedness also.
124Washes and razors for foofoos—for me freckles and  
 a bristling beard.
125What blurt is this about virtue and about vice? Evil propels me, and reform of evil propels me—I  
 stand indifferent,
My gait is no fault-finder's or rejecter's gait, I moisten the roots of all that has grown.
126Did you fear some scrofula out of the unflagging  
Did you guess the celestial laws are yet to be worked  
 over and rectified?
127I step up to say that what we do is right, and what  
 we affirm is right—and some is only the ore of  
Witnesses of us—one side a balance, and the antip- 
 odal side a balance,
Soft doctrine as steady help as stable doctrine, Thoughts and deeds of the present, our rouse and  
 early start.
128This minute that comes to me over the past decillions, There is no better than it and now.   [ begin page 53 ]ppp.01500.061.jpg 129What behaved well in the past, or behaves well  
 to-day, is not such a wonder,
The wonder is, always and always, how can there be  
 a mean man or an infidel.
130Endless unfolding of words of ages! And mine a word of the modern—a word en-masse. 131A word of the faith that never balks, One time as good as another time—here or hence- 
 forward, it is all the same to me.
132A word of reality—materialism first and last im- 
133Hurrah for positive Science! long live exact demon- 
Fetch stonecrop, mixt with cedar and branches of  
This is the lexicographer—this the chemist—this  
 made a grammar of the old cartouches,
These mariners put the ship through dangerous un- 
 known seas,
This is the geologist—this works with the scalpel— 
 and this is a mathematician.
134Gentlemen! I receive you, and attach and clasp  
 hands with you,
The facts are useful and real—they are not my  
 dwelling—I enter by them to an area of the  
135I am less the reminder of property or qualities, and  
 more the reminder of life,
  [ begin page 54 ]ppp.01500.062.jpg And go on the square for my own sake and for others' 
And make short account of neuters and geldings, and  
 favor men and women fully equipped,
And beat the gong of revolt, and stop with fugitives, 
 and them that plot and conspire.
136Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a  
Disorderly, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking, breeding, No sentimentalist—no stander above men and wo- 
 men, or apart from them,
No more modest than immodest.
137Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs! 138Whoever degrades another degrades me, And whatever is done or said returns at last to me, And whatever I do or say, I also return. 139Through me the afflatus surging and surging— 
 through me the current and index.
140I speak the pass-word primeval—I give the sign of  
By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have  
 their counterpart of on the same terms.
141Through me many long dumb voices, Voices of the interminable generations of slaves, Voices of prostitutes, and of deformed persons, Voices of the diseased and despairing, and of thieves  
 and dwarfs,
  [ begin page 55 ]ppp.01500.063.jpg Voices of cycles of preparation and accretion, And of the threads that connect the stars—and of  
 wombs, and of the fatherstuff,
And of the rights of them the others are down upon, Of the trivial, flat, foolish, despised, Fog in the air, beetles rolling balls of dung.
142Through me forbidden voices, Voices of sexes and lusts—voices veiled, and I  
 remove the veil,
Voices indecent, by me clarified and transfigured.
143I do not press my finger across my mouth, I keep as delicate around the bowels as around the  
 head and heart,
Copulation is no more rank to me than death is.
144I believe in the flesh and the appetites, Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each part  
 and tag of me is a miracle.
145Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy what- 
 ever I touch or am touched from,
The scent of these arm-pits, aroma finer than prayer, This head more than churches, bibles, and all the  
146If I worship any particular thing, it shall be some of  
 the spread of my own body.
147Translucent mould of me, it shall be you! Shaded ledges and rests, it shall be you! Firm masculine colter, it shall be you.   [ begin page 56 ]ppp.01500.064.jpg 148Whatever goes to the tilth of me, it shall be you! You my rich blood! Your milky stream, pale strip- 
 pings of my life.
149Breast that presses against other breasts, it shall be  
My brain, it shall be your occult convolutions.
150Root of washed sweet-flag! Timorous pond-snipe! 
 Nest of guarded duplicate eggs! it shall be  
Mixed tussled hay of head, beard, brawn, it shall  
 be you!
Trickling sap of maple! Fibre of manly wheat! it  
 shall be you!
151Sun so generous, it shall be you! Vapors lighting and shading my face, it shall be  
You sweaty brooks and dews, it shall be you! Winds whose soft-tickling genitals rub against me, it  
 shall be you!
Broad, muscular fields! Branches of live oak! Lov- 
 ing lounger in my winding paths! it shall be  
Hands I have taken—face I have kissed—mortal I  
 have ever touched! it shall be you.
152I dote on myself—there is that lot of me, and all so  
Each moment, and whatever happens, thrills me with  
  [ begin page 57 ]ppp.01500.065.jpg 153O I am so wonderful! I cannot tell how my ankles bend, nor whence the  
 cause of my faintest wish,
Nor the cause of the friendship I emit, nor the cause  
 of the friendship I take again.
154That I walk up my stoop, I pause to consider if it  
 really be,
That I eat and drink is spectacle enough for the great  
 authors and schools,
A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than  
 the metaphysics of books.
155To behold the day-break! The little light fades the immense and diaphanous  
The air tastes good to my palate.
156Hefts of the moving world, at innocent gambols, 
 silently rising, freshly exuding,
Scooting obliquely high and low.
157Something I cannot see puts upward libidinous  
Seas of bright juice suffuse heaven.
158The earth by the sky staid with—the daily close of  
 their junction,
The heaved challenge from the east that moment over  
 my head,
The mocking taunt, See then whether you shall be  
  [ begin page 58 ]ppp.01500.066.jpg 159Dazzling and tremendous, how quick the sun-rise  
 would kill me,
If I could not now and always send sun-rise out  
 of me.
160We also ascend, dazzling and tremendous as the sun, We found our own, O my Soul, in the calm and cool  
 of the day-break.
161My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach, With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds, and  
 volumes of worlds.
162Speech is the twin of my vision—it is unequal to  
 measure itself;
It provokes me forever, It says sarcastically, Walt, you understand enough 
  why don't you let it out then?
163Come now, I will not be tantalized—you conceive  
 too much of articulation.
164Do you not know how the buds beneath are folded? Waiting in gloom, protected by frost, The dirt receding before my prophetical screams, I underlying causes, to balance them at last, My knowledge my live parts—it keeping tally with  
 the meaning of things,
Happiness—which, whoever hears me, let him or her  
 set out in search of this day.
165My final merit I refuse you—I refuse putting from  
 me the best I am.
  [ begin page 59 ]ppp.01500.067.jpg 166Encompass worlds, but never try to encompass me, I crowd your sleekest talk by simply looking toward  
167Writing and talk do not prove me, I carry the plenum of proof, and everything else, in  
 my face,
With the hush of my lips I confound the topmost  
168I think I will do nothing for a long time but listen, To accrue what I hear into myself—to let sounds  
 contribute toward me.
169I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat, 
 gossip of flames, clack of sticks cooking my  
170I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human  
I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused  
 or following,
Sounds of the city and sounds out of the city— 
 sounds of the day and night,
Talkative young ones to those that like them—the  
 recitative of fish-pedlers and fruit-pedlers—the  
 loud laugh of work-people at their meals,
The angry base of disjointed friendship—the faint  
 tones of the sick,
The judge with hands tight to the desk, his shaky lips  
 pronouncing a death-sentence,
The heave'e'yo of stevedores unlading ships by the  
 wharves—the refrain of the anchor-lifters,
  [ begin page 60 ]ppp.01500.068.jpg The ring of alarm-bells—the cry of fire—the whirr  
 of swift-streaking engines and hose-carts, with  
 premonitory tinkles, and colored lights,
The steam-whistle—the solid roll of the train of  
 approaching cars,
The slow-march played at night at the head of the  
 association, marching two and two,
(They go to guard some corpse—the flag-tops are  
 draped with black muslin.)
171I hear the violoncello, or man's heart's complaint; I hear the keyed cornet—it glides quickly in through  
 my ears,
It shakes mad-sweet pangs through my belly and  
172I hear the chorus—it is a grand-opera, Ah, this indeed is music! This suits me. 173A tenor large and fresh as the creation fills me, The orbic flex of his mouth is pouring and filling  
 me full.
174I hear the trained soprano—she convulses me like  
 the climax of my love-grip,
The orchestra wrenches such ardors from me, I did  
 not know I possessed them,
It throbs me to gulps of the farthest down horror, It sails me—I dab with bare feet—they are licked  
 by the indolent waves,
I am exposed, cut by bitter and poisoned hail, Steeped amid honeyed morphine, my windpipe throt- 
 tled in fakes of death,
  [ begin page 61 ]ppp.01500.069.jpg At length let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles, And that we call BEING.
175To be in any form—what is that? (Round and round we go, all of us, and ever come  
 back thither,)
If nothing lay more developed, the quahaug in its  
 callous shell were enough.
176Mine is no callous shell, I have instant conductors all over me, whether I pass  
 or stop,
They seize every object, and lead it harmlessly  
 through me.
177I merely stir, press, feel with my fingers, and am  
To touch my person to some one else's is about as  
 much as I can stand.
178Is this then a touch? quivering me to a new identity, Flames and ether making a rush for my veins, Treacherous tip of me reaching and crowding to  
 help them,
My flesh and blood playing out lightning to strike  
 what is hardly different from myself,
On all sides prurient provokers stiffening my limbs, Straining the udder of my heart for its withheld  
Behaving licentious toward me, taking no denial, Depriving me of my best, as for a purpose, Unbuttoning my clothes, holding me by the bare  
6   [ begin page 62 ]ppp.01500.070.jpg Deluding my confusion with the calm of the sun-light  
 and pasture-fields,
Immodestly sliding the fellow-senses away, They bribed to swap off with touch, and go and graze  
 at the edges of me,
No consideration, no regard for my draining strength  
 or my anger,
Fetching the rest of the herd around to enjoy them  
 a while,
Then all uniting to stand on a headland and worry  
179The sentries desert every other part of me, They have left me helpless to a red marauder, They all come to the headland, to witness and assist  
 against me.
180I am given up by traitors, I talk wildly—I have lost my wits—I and nobody  
 else am the greatest traitor,
I went myself first to the headland—my own hands  
 carried me there.
181You villain touch! what are you doing? My breath  
 is tight in its throat,
Unclench your floodgates! you are too much for me.
182Blind, loving, wrestling touch! sheathed, hooded, 
 sharp-toothed touch!
Did it make you ache so, leaving me?
183Parting, tracked by arriving—perpetual payment of  
 perpetual loan,
  [ begin page 63 ]ppp.01500.071.jpg Rich showering rain, and recompense richer after- 
184Sprouts take and accumulate—stand by the curb  
 prolific and vital,
Landscapes, projected, masculine, full-sized, and  
185All truths wait in all things, They neither hasten their own delivery, nor resist it, They do not need the obstetric forceps of the  
The insignificant is as big to me as any, What is less or more than a touch?
186Logic and sermons never convince, The damp of the night drives deeper into my Soul. 187Only what proves itself to every man and woman  
 is so,
Only what nobody denies is so.
188A minute and a drop of me settle my brain, I believe the soggy clods shall become lovers and  
And a compend of compends is the meat of a man or  
And a summit and flower there is the feeling they  
 have for each other,
And they are to branch boundlessly out of that lesson  
 until it becomes omnific,
And until every one shall delight us, and we them.
  [ begin page 64 ]ppp.01500.072.jpg 189I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey- 
 work of the stars,
And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of  
 sand, and the egg of the wren,
And the tree-toad is a chef-d'œuvre for the highest, And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors  
 of heaven,
And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all  
And the cow crunching with depressed head surpasses  
 any statue,
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions  
 of infidels,
And I could come every afternoon of my life to look  
 at the farmer's girl boiling her iron tea-kettle  
 and baking short-cake.
190I find I incorporate gneiss, coal, long-threaded moss, 
 fruits, grains, esculent roots,
And am stuccoed with quadrupeds and birds all over, And have distanced what is behind me for good  
And call anything close again, when I desire it.
191In vain the speeding or shyness, In vain the plutonic rocks send their old heat against  
 my approach,
In vain the mastodon retreats beneath its own pow- 
 dered bones,
In vain objects stand leagues off, and assume manifold  
In vain the ocean settling in hollows, and the great  
 monsters lying low,
  [ begin page 65 ]ppp.01500.073.jpg In vain the buzzard houses herself with the sky, In vain the snake slides through the creepers and  
In vain the elk takes to the inner passes of the  
In vain the razor-billed auk sails far north to  
I follow quickly, I ascend to the nest in the fissure  
 of the cliff.
192I think I could turn and live with animals, they are  
 so placid and self-contained,
I stand and look at them sometimes an hour at a  
193They do not sweat and whine about their condition, They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their  
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to  
No one is dissatisfied—not one is demented with the  
 mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived  
 thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or industrious over the whole  
194So they show their relations to me, and I accept  
They bring me tokens of myself—they evince them  
 plainly in their possession.
195I do not know where they get those tokens, 6*   [ begin page 66 ]ppp.01500.074.jpg I may have passed that way untold times ago, and  
 negligently dropt them,
Myself moving forward then and now forever, Gathering and showing more always and with  
Infinite and omnigenous, and the like of these among  
Not too exclusive toward the reachers of my remem- 
Picking out here one that I love, to go with on  
 brotherly terms.
196A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and responsive  
 to my caresses,
Head high in the forehead, wide between the ears, Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground, Eyes well apart, full of sparkling wickedness—ears  
 finely cut, flexibly moving.
197His nostrils dilate, as my heels embrace him, His well-built limbs tremble with pleasure, as we  
 speed around and return.
198I but use you a moment, then I resign you stallion, Why do I need your paces, when I myself out-gallop  
Even, as I stand or sit, passing faster than you.
199O swift wind! Space! my Soul! now I know it is  
 true, what I guessed at,
What I guessed when I loafed on the grass, What I guessed while I lay alone in my bed, And again as I walked the beach under the paling  
 stars of the morning.
  [ begin page 67 ]ppp.01500.075.jpg 200My ties and ballasts leave me—I travel—I sail— 
 my elbows rest in the sea-gaps,
I skirt the sierras—my palms cover continents, I am afoot with my vision.
201By the city's quadrangular houses—in log huts— 
 camping with lumbermen,
Along the ruts of the turnpike—along the dry gulch  
 and rivulet bed,
Weeding my onion-patch, or hoeing rows of carrots  
 and parsnips—crossing savannas—trailing in  
Prospecting—gold-digging—girdling the trees of a  
 new purchase,
Scorched ankle-deep by the hot sand—hauling my  
 boat down the shallow river,
Where the panther walks to and fro on a limb over- 
 head—Where the buck turns furiously at the  
Where the rattlesnake suns his flabby length on a  
 rock—Where the otter is feeding on fish,
Where the alligator in his tough pimples sleeps by the  
Where the black bear is searching for roots or honey  
 —Where the beaver pats the mud with his  
Over the growing sugar—over the cotton plant— 
 over the rice in its low moist field,
Over the sharp-peaked farm house, with its scalloped  
 scum and slender shoots from the gutters,
Over the western persimmon—over the long-leaved  
 corn—over the delicate blue-flowered flax,
Over the white and brown buckwheat, a hummer  
 and buzzer there with the rest,
  [ begin page 68 ]ppp.01500.076.jpg Over the dusky green of the rye as it ripples and  
 shades in the breeze,
Scaling mountains, pulling myself cautiously up, 
 holding on by low scragged limbs,
Walking the path worn in the grass and beat through  
 the leaves of the brush,
Where the quail is whistling betwixt the woods and  
 the wheat-lot,
Where the bat flies in the Seventh Month eve— Where the great gold-bug drops through the  
Where the flails keep time on the barn floor, Where the brook puts out of the roots of the old tree  
 and flows to the meadow,
Where cattle stand and shake away flies with the  
 tremulous shuddering of their hides,
Where the cheese-cloth hangs in the kitchen—Where  
 andirons straddle the hearth-slab—Where cob- 
 webs fall in festoons from the rafters,
Where trip-hammers crash—Where the press is  
 whirling its cylinders,
Wherever the human heart beats with terrible throes  
 out of its ribs,
Where the pear-shaped balloon is floating aloft, float- 
 ing in it myself and looking composedly down,
Where the life-car is drawn on the slip-noose—Where  
 the heat hatches pale-green eggs in the dented  
Where the she-whale swims with her calf, and never  
 forsakes it,
Where the steam-ship trails hind-ways its long pen- 
 nant of smoke,
Where the fin of the shark cuts like a black chip out  
 of the water,
  [ begin page 69 ]ppp.01500.077.jpg Where the half-burned brig is riding on unknown  
Where shells grow to her slimy deck—Where the  
 dead are corrupting below,
Where the striped and starred flag is borne at the  
 head of the regiments,
Approaching Manhattan, up by the long-stretching  
Under Niagara, the cataract falling like a veil over  
 my countenance,
Upon a door-step—upon the horse-block of hard  
 wood outside,
Upon the race-course, or enjoying picnics or jigs, or  
 a good game of base-ball,
At he-festivals, with blackguard gibes, ironical license, 
 bull-dances, drinking, laughter,
At the cider-mill, tasting the sweet of the brown  
 sqush, sucking the juice through a straw,
At apple-peelings, wanting kisses for all the red fruit  
 I find,
At musters, beach-parties, friendly bees, huskings, 
Where the mocking-bird sounds his delicious gur- 
 gles, cackles, screams, weeps,
Where the hay-rick stands in the barn-yard—Where  
 the dry-stalks are scattered—Where the brood  
 cow waits in the hovel,
Where the bull advances to do his masculine work— 
 Where the stud to the mare—Where the cock  
 is treading the hen,
Where heifers browse—Where geese nip their food  
 with short jerks,
Where sun-down shadows lengthen over the limitless  
 and lonesome prairie,
  [ begin page 70 ]ppp.01500.078.jpg Where herds of buffalo make a crawling spread of  
 the square miles far and near,
Where the humming-bird shimmers—Where the  
 neck of the long-lived swan is curving and  
Where the laughing-gull scoots by the shore, where  
 she laughs her near-human laugh,
Where bee-hives range on a gray bench in the garden, 
 half hid by the high weeds,
Where band-necked partridges roost in a ring on the  
 ground with their heads out,
Where burial coaches enter the arched gates of a  
Where winter wolves bark amid wastes of snow and  
 icicled trees,
Where the yellow-crowned heron comes to the edge of  
 the marsh at night and feeds upon small crabs,
Where the splash of swimmers and divers cools the  
 warm noon,
Where the katy-did works her chromatic reed on the  
 walnut-tree over the well,
Through patches of citrons and cucumbers with  
 silver-wired leaves,
Through the salt-lick or orange glade, or under con- 
 ical firs,
Through the gymnasium—through the curtained  
 saloon—through the office or public hall,
Pleased with the native, and pleased with the foreign  
 —pleased with the new and old,
Pleased with women, the homely as well as the  
Pleased with the quakeress as she puts off her bonnet  
 and talks melodiously,
  [ begin page 71 ]ppp.01500.079.jpg Pleased with the tunes of the choir of the white- 
 washed church,
Pleased with the earnest words of the sweating  
 Methodist preacher, or any preacher—Impressed  
 seriously at the camp-meeting,
Looking in at the shop-windows of Broadway the  
 whole forenoon—flatting the flesh of my nose  
 on the thick plate-glass,
Wandering the same afternoon with my face turned  
 up to the clouds,
My right and left arms round the sides of two  
 friends, and I in the middle;
Coming home with the silent and dark-cheeked  
 bush-boy—riding behind him at the drape of  
 the day,
Far from the settlements, studying the print of ani- 
 mals' feet, or the moccason print,
By the cot in the hospital, reaching lemonade to a  
 feverish patient,
By the coffined corpse when all is still, examining  
 with a candle,
Voyaging to every port, to dicker and adventure, Hurrying with the modern crowd, as eager and fickle  
 as any,
Hot toward one I hate, ready in my madness to knife  
Solitary at midnight in my back yard, my thoughts  
 gone from me a long while,
Walking the old hills of Judea, with the beautiful  
 gentle God by my side,
Speeding through space—speeding through heaven  
 and the stars,
  [ begin page 72 ]ppp.01500.080.jpg Speeding amid the seven satellites, and the broad  
 ring, and the diameter of eighty thousand miles,
Speeding with tailed meteors—throwing fire-balls  
 like the rest,
Carrying the crescent child that carries its own full  
 mother in its belly,
Storming, enjoying, planning, loving, cautioning, Backing and filling, appearing and disappearing, I tread day and night such roads.
202I visit the orchards of spheres, and look at the product, And look at quintillions ripened, and look at quin- 
 tillions green.
203I fly the flight of the fluid and swallowing soul, My course runs below the soundings of plummets. 204I help myself to material and immaterial, No guard can shut me off, nor law prevent me. 205I anchor my ship for a little while only, My messengers continually cruise away, or bring their  
 returns to me.
206I go hunting polar furs and the seal—Leaping  
 chasms with a pike-pointed staff—Clinging to  
 topples of brittle and blue.
207I ascend to the foretruck, I take my place late at night in the crow's-nest, We sail the arctic sea—it is plenty light enough, Through the clear atmosphere I stretch around on  
 the wonderful beauty,
  [ begin page 73 ]ppp.01500.081.jpg The enormous masses of ice pass me, and I pass them  
 —the scenery is plain in all directions,
The white-topped mountains show in the distance— 
 I fling out my fancies toward them,
We are approaching some great battle-field in which  
 we are soon to be engaged,
We pass the colossal out-posts of the encampment— 
 we pass with still feet and caution,
Or we are entering by the suburbs some vast and  
 ruined city,
The blocks and fallen architecture more than all the  
 living cities of the globe.
208I am a free companion—I bivouac by invading  
209I turn the bridegroom out of bed, and stay with the  
 bride myself,
I tighten her all night to my thighs and lips.
210My voice is the wife's voice, the screech by the rail  
 of the stairs,
They fetch my man's body up, dripping and drowned.
211I understand the large hearts of heroes, The courage of present times and all times, How the skipper saw the crowded and rudderless  
 wreck of the steam-ship, and Death chasing it up  
 and down the storm,
How he knuckled tight, and gave not back one inch, 
 and was faithful of days and faithful of nights,
And chalked in large letters, on a board, Be of good  
  cheer, We will not desert you,
7   [ begin page 74 ]ppp.01500.082.jpg How he followed with them, and tacked with them— 
 and would not give it up,
How he saved the drifting company at last, How the lank loose-gowned women looked when  
 boated from the side of their prepared graves,
How the silent old-faced infants, and the lifted sick, 
 and the sharp-lipped unshaved men,
All this I swallow—it tastes good—I like it well— 
 it becomes mine,
I am the man—I suffered—I was there.
212The disdain and calmness of martyrs, The mother, condemned for a witch, burnt with dry  
 wood, her children gazing on,
The hounded slave that flags in the race, leans by the  
 the fence, blowing, covered with sweat,
The twinges that sting like needles his legs and neck  
 —the murderous buck-shot and the bullets,
All these I feel or am.
213I am the hounded slave, I wince at the bite of the  
Hell and despair are upon me, crack and again crack  
 the marksmen,
I clutch the rails of the fence, my gore dribs, thinned  
 with the ooze of my skin,
I fall on the weeds and stones, The riders spur their unwilling horses, haul close, Taunt my dizzy ears, and beat me violently over the  
 head with whip-stocks.
214Agonies are one of my changes of garments, I do not ask the wounded person how he feels—I  
 myself become the wounded person,
  [ begin page 75 ]ppp.01500.083.jpg My hurt turns livid upon me as I lean on a cane and  
215I am the mashed fireman with breastbone broken, Tumbling walls buried me in their debris, Heat and smoke I inspired—I heard the yelling  
 shouts of my comrades,
I heard the distant click of their picks and shovels, They have cleared the beams away—they tenderly  
 lift me forth.
216I lie in the night air in my red shirt—the pervading  
 hush is for my sake,
Painless after all I lie, exhausted but not so unhappy, White and beautiful are the faces around me—the  
 heads are bared of their fire-caps,
The kneeling crowd fades with the light of the  
217Distant and dead resuscitate, They show as the dial or move as the hands of me— 
 I am the clock myself.
218I am an old artillerist—I tell of my fort's bombard- 
I am there again.
219Again the reveille of drummers, Again the attacking cannon, mortars, howitzers, Again the attacked send cannon responsive. 220I take part—I see and hear the whole, The cries, curses, roar—the plaudits for well-aimed  
  [ begin page 76 ]ppp.01500.084.jpg The ambulanza slowly passing, trailing its red drip, Workmen searching after damages, making indis- 
 pensable repairs,
The fall of grenades through the rent roof—the  
 fan-shaped explosion,
The whizz of limbs, heads, stone, wood, iron, high in  
 the air.
221Again gurgles the mouth of my dying general—he  
 furiously waves with his hand,
He gasps through the clot, Mind not memind 
  the entrenchments.
222I tell not the fall of Alamo, Not one escaped to tell the fall of Alamo, The hundred and fifty are dumb yet at Alamo. 223Hear now the tale of the murder in cold blood of four  
 hundred and twelve young men.
224Retreating, they had formed in a hollow square, with  
 their baggage for breastworks,
Nine hundred lives out of the surrounding enemy's, 
 nine times their number, was the price they took  
 in advance,
Their colonel was wounded and their ammunition  
They treated for an honorable capitulation, received  
 writing and seal, gave up their arms, and  
 marched back prisoners of war.
225They were the glory of the race of rangers, Matchless with horse, rifle, song, supper, courtship,   [ begin page 77 ]ppp.01500.085.jpg Large, turbulent, generous, brave, handsome, proud, 
 and affectionate,
Bearded, sunburnt, dressed in the free costume of  
Not a single one over thirty years of age.
226The second First Day morning they were brought out  
 in squads and massacred—it was beautiful early  
The work commenced about five o'clock, and was over  
 by eight.
227None obeyed the command to kneel, Some made a mad and helpless rush—some stood  
 stark and straight,
A few fell at once, shot in the temple or heart—the  
 living and dead lay together,
The maimed and mangled dug in the dirt—the new- 
 comers saw them there,
Some, half-killed, attempted to crawl away, These were despatched with bayonets, or battered with  
 the blunts of muskets,
A youth not seventeen years old seized his assassin till  
 two more came to release him,
The three were all torn, and covered with the boy's  
228At eleven o'clock began the burning of the bodies: That is the tale of the murder of the four hundred  
 and twelve young men.
229Did you read in the sea-books of the old-fashioned  
7*   [ begin page 78 ]ppp.01500.086.jpg Did you learn who won by the light of the moon and  
230Our foe was no skulk in his ship, I tell you, His was the English pluck—and there is no tougher  
 or truer, and never was, and never will be;
Along the lowered eve he came, horribly raking us.
231We closed with him—the yards entangled—the  
 cannon touched,
My captain lashed fast with his own hands.
232We had received some eighteen-pound shots under  
 the water,
On our lower-gun-deck two large pieces had burst at  
 the first fire, killing all around, and blowing up  
233Ten o'clock at night, and the full moon shining, and  
 the leaks on the gain, and five feet of water  
The master-at-arms loosing the prisoners confined in  
 the after-hold, to give them a chance for them- 
234The transit to and from the magazine was now  
 stopped by the sentinels,
They saw so many strange faces, they did not know  
 whom to trust.
235Our frigate was afire, The other asked if we demanded quarter? If our colors were struck, and the fighting done?   [ begin page 79 ]ppp.01500.087.jpg 236I laughed content when I heard the voice of my little  
We have not struck, he composedly cried, We have  
  just begun our part of the fighting.
237Only three guns were in use, One was directed by the captain himself against the  
 enemy's main-mast,
Two, well served with grape and canister, silenced his  
 musketry and cleared his decks.
238The tops alone seconded the fire of this little battery, 
 especially the main-top,
They all held out bravely during the whole of the  
239Not a moment's cease, The leaks gained fast on the pumps—the fire eat  
 toward the powder-magazine,
One of the pumps was shot away—it was generally  
 thought we were sinking.
240Serene stood the little captain, He was not hurried—his voice was neither high  
 nor low,
His eyes gave more light to us than our battle- 
241Toward twelve at night, there in the beams of the  
 moon, they surrendered to us.
242Stretched and still lay the midnight, Two great hulls motionless on the breast of the  
  [ begin page 80 ]ppp.01500.088.jpg Our vessel riddled and slowly sinking—preparations  
 to pass to the one we had conquered,
The captain on the quarter-deck coldly giving his  
 orders through a countenance white as a sheet,
Near by, the corpse of the child that served in the  
The dead face of an old salt with long white hair and  
 carefully curled whiskers,
The flames, spite of all that could be done, flickering  
 aloft and below,
The husky voices of the two or three officers yet fit  
 for duty,
Formless stacks of bodies, and bodies by themselves  
 —dabs of flesh upon the masts and spars,
Cut of cordage, dangle of rigging, slight shock of the  
 soothe of waves,
Black and impassive guns, litter of powder-parcels, 
 strong scent,
Delicate sniffs of sea-breeze, smells of sedgy grass and  
 fields by the shore, death-messages given in  
 charge to survivors,
The hiss of the surgeon's knife, the gnawing teeth of  
 his saw,
Wheeze, cluck, swash of falling blood, short wild  
 scream, and long dull tapering groan,
These so—these irretrievable.
243O Christ! This is mastering me! Through the conquered doors they crowd. I am  
244What the rebel said, gayly adjusting his throat to the  
  [ begin page 81 ]ppp.01500.089.jpg What the savage at the stump, his eye-sockets empty, 
 his mouth spirting whoops and defiance,
What stills the traveller come to the vault at Mount  
What sobers the Brooklyn boy as he looks down the  
 shores of the Wallabout and remembers the  
 Prison Ships,
What burnt the gums of the red-coat at Saratoga  
 when he surrendered his brigades,
These become mine and me every one—and they are  
 but little,
I become as much more as I like.
245I become any presence or truth of humanity here, See myself in prison shaped like another man, And feel the dull unintermitted pain. 246For me the keepers of convicts shoulder their  
 carbines and keep watch,
It is I let out in the morning and barred at night.
247Not a mutineer walks hand-cuffed to the jail, but I  
 am hand-cuffed to him and walk by his side,
I am less the jolly one there, and more the silent one, 
 with sweat on my twitching lips.
248Not a youngster is taken for larceny, but I go up too, 
 and am tried and sentenced.
249Not a cholera patient lies at the last gasp, but I also  
 lie at the last gasp,
My face is ash-colored—my sinews gnarl—away  
 from me people retreat.
  [ begin page 82 ]ppp.01500.090.jpg 250Askers embody themselves in me, and I am embodied  
 in them,
I project my hat, sit shame-faced, and beg.
251Enough—I bring such to a close, Rise extatic through all, sweep with the true gravita- 
The whirling and whirling elemental within me.
252Somehow I have been stunned. Stand back! Give me a little time beyond my cuffed head, slum- 
 bers, dreams, gaping,
I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake.
253That I could forget the mockers and insults! That I could forget the trickling tears, and the blows  
 of the bludgeons and hammers!
That I could look with a separate look on my own  
 crucifixion and bloody crowning.
254I remember now, I resume the overstaid fraction, The grave of rock multiplies what has been confided  
 to it, or to any graves,
Corpses rise, gashes heal, fastenings roll from me.
255I troop forth replenished with supreme power, one of  
 an average unending procession,
We walk the roads of the six North Eastern States, 
 and of Virginia, Wisconsin, Manhattan Island, 
 Philadelphia, New Orleans, Texas, Charleston, 
 Havana, Mexico,
Inland and by the sea-coast and boundary lines, and  
 we pass all boundary lines.
  [ begin page 83 ]ppp.01500.091.jpg 256Our swift ordinances are on their way over the whole  
The blossoms we wear in our hats are the growth of  
 two thousand years.
257Élèves, I salute you! I see the approach of your numberless gangs—I see  
 you understand yourselves and me,
And know that they who have eyes and can walk are  
 divine, and the blind and lame are equally divine,
And that my steps drag behind yours, yet go before  
And are aware how I am with you no more than I am  
 with everybody.
258The friendly and flowing savage, Who is he? Is he waiting for civilization, or past it and master- 
 ing it?
259Is he some south-westerner, raised out-doors? Is he  
Is he from the Mississippi country? Iowa, Oregon, 
 California? the mountains? prairie-life, bush- 
 life? or from the sea?
260Wherever he goes men and women accept and desire  
They desire he should like them, touch them, speak  
 to them, stay with them.
261Behavior lawless as snow-flakes, words simple as  
 grass, uncombed head, laughter, and näveté,
Slow-stepping feet, common features, common modes  
 and emanations,
  [ begin page 84 ]ppp.01500.092.jpg They descend in new forms from the tips of his  
They are wafted with the odor of his body or breath  
 —they fly out of the glance of his eyes.
262Flaunt of the sunshine, I need not your bask,—lie  
You light surfaces only—I force surfaces and depths  
Earth! you seem to look for something at my hands, Say, old Top-knot! what do you want?
263Man or woman! I might tell how I like you, but  
And might tell what it is in me, and what it is in  
 you, but cannot,
And might tell that pining I have—that pulse of my  
 nights and days.
264Behold! I do not give lectures or a little charity, What I give, I give out of myself. 265You there, impotent, loose in the knees, Open your scarfed chops till I blow grit within you, Spread your palms, and lift the flaps of your pockets; I am not to be denied—I compel—I have stores  
 plenty and to spare,
And anything I have I bestow.
266I do not ask who you are—that is not important to  
You can do nothing, and be nothing, but what I will  
 infold you.
  [ begin page 85 ]ppp.01500.093.jpg 267To a drudge of the cotton-fields or cleaner of privies  
 I lean,
On his right cheek I put the family kiss, And in my soul I swear, I never will deny him.
268On women fit for conception I start bigger and nim- 
 bler babes,
This day I am jetting the stuff of far more arrogant  
269To any one dying—thither I speed, and twist the  
 knob of the door,
Turn the bed-clothes toward the foot of the bed, Let the physician and the priest go home.
270I seize the descending man, and raise him with resist- 
 less will.
271O despairer, here is my neck, By God! you shall not go down! Hang your whole  
 weight upon me.
272I dilate you with tremendous breath—I buoy you up, Every room of the house do I fill with an armed force, Lovers of me, bafflers of graves. 273Sleep! I and they keep guard all night, Not doubt—not decease shall dare to lay finger upon  
I have embraced you, and henceforth possess you to  
And when you rise in the morning you will find what  
 I tell you is so.
8   [ begin page 86 ]ppp.01500.094.jpg 274I am he bringing help for the sick as they pant on  
 their backs,
And for strong upright men I bring yet more needed  
275I heard what was said of the universe, Heard it and heard it of several thousand years; It is middling well as far as it goes,—But is that all? 276Magnifying and applying come I, Outbidding at the start the old cautious hucksters, The most they offer for mankind and eternity less  
 than a spirt of my own seminal wet,
Taking myself the exact dimensions of Jehovah, Lithographing Kronos, Zeus his son, and Hercules  
 his grandson,
Buying drafts of Osiris, Isis, Belus, Brahma, Buddha, In my portfolio placing Manito loose, Allah on a leaf, 
 the crucifix engraved,
With Odin, and the hideous-faced Mexitli, and every  
 idol and image,
Taking them all for what they are worth, and not a  
 cent more,
Admitting they were alive and did the work of their  
Admitting they bore mites, as for unfledged birds, 
 who have now to rise and fly and sing for them- 
Accepting the rough deific sketches to fill out better  
 in myself—bestowing them freely on each man  
 and woman I see,
Discovering as much, or more, in a framer framing a  
  [ begin page 87 ]ppp.01500.095.jpg Putting higher claims for him there with his rolled- 
 up sleeves, driving the mallet and chisel,
Not objecting to special revelations—considering a  
 curl of smoke or a hair on the back of my hand  
 just as curious as any revelation,
Those ahold of fire engines and hook-and-ladder ropes  
 no less to me than the Gods of the antique wars,
Minding their voices peal through the crash of  
Their brawny limbs passing safe over charred laths— 
 their white foreheads whole and unhurt out of  
 the flames;
By the mechanic's wife with her babe at her nipple  
 interceding for every person born,
Three scythes at harvest whizzing in a row from  
 three lusty angels with shirts bagged out at  
 their waists,
The snag-toothed hostler with red hair redeeming sins  
 past and to come,
Selling all he possesses, travelling on foot to fee  
 lawyers for his brother, and sit by him while he  
 is tried for forgery;
What was strewn in the amplest strewing the square  
 rod about me, and not filling the square rod  
The bull and the bug never worshipped half enough, Dung and dirt more admirable than was dreamed, The supernatural of no account—myself waiting my  
 time to be one of the Supremes,
The day getting ready for me when I shall do as  
 much good as the best, and be as prodigious,
Guessing when I am it will not tickle me much to  
 receive puffs out of pulpit or print;
  [ begin page 88 ]ppp.01500.096.jpg By my life-lumps! becoming already a creator, Putting myself here and now to the ambushed womb  
 of the shadows.
277A call in the midst of the crowd, My own voice, orotund, sweeping, final. 278Come my children, Come my boys and girls, my women, household, 
 and intimates,
Now the performer launches his nerve—he has  
 passed his prelude on the reeds within.
279Easily written, loose-fingered chords! I feel the thrum  
 of their climax and close.
280My head slues round on my neck, Music rolls, but not from the organ, Folks are around me, but they are no household of  
281Ever the hard unsunk ground, Ever the eaters and drinkers—Ever the upward  
 and downward sun—Ever the air and the cease- 
 less tides,
Ever myself and my neighbors, refreshing, wicked, 
Ever the old inexplicable query—Ever that thorned  
 thumb—that breath of itches and thirsts,
Ever the vexer's hoot! hoot! till we find where the  
 sly one hides, and bring him forth;
Ever love—Ever the sobbing liquid of life, Ever the bandage under the chin—Ever the tressels  
 of death.
  [ begin page 89 ]ppp.01500.097.jpg 282Here and there, with dimes on the eyes walking, To feed the greed of the belly, the brains liberally  
Tickets buying, taking, selling, but in to the feast  
 never once going,
Many sweating, ploughing, thrashing, and then the  
 chaff for payment receiving,
A few idly owning, and they the wheat continually  
283This is the city, and I am one of the citizens, Whatever interests the rest interests me—politics, 
 markets, newspapers, schools,
Benevolent societies, improvements, banks, tariffs, 
 steamships, factories, stocks, stores, real estate, 
 and personal estate.
284They who piddle and patter here in collars and tailed  
 coats—I am aware who they are—they are not  
 worms or fleas.
285I acknowledge the duplicates of myself—the weakest  
 and shallowest is deathless with me,
What I do and say, the same waits for them, Every thought that flounders in me, the same floun- 
 ders in them.
286I know perfectly well my own egotism, I know my omnivorous words, and cannot say any  
And would fetch you, whoever you are, flush with  
8*   [ begin page 90 ]ppp.01500.098.jpg 287My words are words of a questioning, and to indicate  
 reality and motive power:
This printed and bound book—but the printer, and  
 the printing-office boy?
The well-taken photographs—but your wife or friend  
 close and solid in your arms?
The fleet of ships of the line, and all the modern  
 improvements—but the craft and pluck of the  
The dishes and fare and furniture—but the host and  
 hostess, and the look out of their eyes?
The sky up there—yet here, or next door, or across  
 the way?
The saints and sages in history—but you yourself? Sermons, creeds, theology—but the human brain, 
 and what is reason? and what is love? and what  
 is life?
288I do not despise you, priests, My faith is the greatest of faiths, and the least of  
Enclosing all worship ancient and modern, and all  
 between ancient and modern,
Believing I shall come again upon the earth after  
 five thousand years,
Waiting responses from oracles, honoring the Gods, 
 saluting the sun,
Making a fetish of the first rock or stump, powwowing  
 with sticks in the circle of obis,
Helping the lama or brahmin as he trims the lamps  
 of the idols,
Dancing yet through the streets in a phallic pro- 
 cession—rapt and austere in the woods, a  
  [ begin page 91 ]ppp.01500.099.jpg Drinking mead from the skull-cup—to Shastas and  
 Vedas admirant—minding the Koran,
Walking the teokallis, spotted with gore from the  
 stone and knife, beating the serpent-skin drum,
Accepting the Gospels—accepting him that was  
 crucified, knowing assuredly that he is divine,
To the mass kneeling, or the puritan's prayer rising, 
 or sitting patiently in a pew,
Ranting and frothing in my insane crisis, or waiting  
 dead-like till my spirit arouses me,
Looking forth on pavement and land, or outside of  
 pavement and land,
Belonging to the winders of the circuit of circuits.
289One of that centripetal and centrifugal gang, I turn  
 and talk like a man leaving charges before a  
290Down-hearted doubters, dull and excluded, Frivolous, sullen, moping, angry, affected, disheart- 
 ened, atheistical,
I know every one of you—I know the unspoken  
By experience I know them.
291How the flukes splash! How they contort, rapid as lightning, with spasms, 
 and spouts of blood!
292Be at peace, bloody flukes of doubters and sullen  
I take my place among you as much as among any, The past is the push of you, me, all, precisely the  
  [ begin page 92 ]ppp.01500.100.jpg Day and night are for you, me, all, And what is yet untried and afterward is for you, 
 me, all, precisely the same.
293I do not know what is untried and afterward, But I know it is sure, alive, sufficient. 294Each who passes is considered—Each who stops is  
 considered—Not a single one can it fail.
295It cannot fail the young man who died and was  
Nor the young woman who died and was put by his  
Nor the little child that peeped in at the door, and  
 then drew back, and was never seen again,
Nor the old man who has lived without purpose, and  
 feels it with bitterness worse than gall,
Nor him in the poor-house, tubercled by rum and  
 the bad disorder,
Nor the numberless slaughtered and wrecked—nor  
 the brutish koboo called the ordure of humanity,
Nor the sacs merely floating with open mouths for  
 food to slip in,
Nor anything in the earth, or down in the oldest  
 graves of the earth,
Nor anything in the myriads of spheres—nor one of  
 the myriads of myriads that inhabit them,
Nor the present—nor the least wisp that is known.
296It is time to explain myself—Let us stand up. 297What is known I strip away, I launch all men and women forward with me into  
  [ begin page 93 ]ppp.01500.101.jpg 298The clock indicates the moment—but what does  
 eternity indicate?
299We have thus far exhausted trillions of winters and  
There are trillions ahead, and trillions ahead of them.
300Births have brought us richness and variety, And other births will bring us richness and variety. 301I do not call one greater and one smaller, That which fills its period and place is equal to any. 302Were mankind murderous or jealous upon you, my  
 brother, my sister?
I am sorry for you—they are not murderous or jeal- 
 ous upon me,
All has been gentle with me—I keep no account  
 with lamentation,
(What have I to do with lamentation?)
303I am an acme of things accomplished, and I an  
 encloser of things to be.
304My feet strike an apex of the apices of the stairs, On every step bunches of ages, and larger bunches  
 between the steps,
All below duly travelled, and still I mount and mount.
305Rise after rise bow the phantoms behind me, Afar down I see the huge first Nothing—I know I  
 was even there,
I waited unseen and always, and slept through the  
 lethargic mist,
  [ begin page 94 ]ppp.01500.102.jpg And took my time, and took no hurt from the fetid  
306Long I was hugged close—long and long. 307Immense have been the preparations for me, Faithful and friendly the arms that have helped me. 308Cycles ferried my cradle, rowing and rowing like  
 cheerful boatmen,
For room to me stars kept aside in their own rings, They sent influences to look after what was to  
 hold me.
309Before I was born out of my mother, generations  
 guided me,
My embryo has never been torpid—nothing could  
 overlay it.
310For it the nebula cohered to an orb, The long slow strata piled to rest it on, Vast vegetables gave it sustenance, Monstrous sauroids transported it in their mouths, 
 and deposited it with care.
311All forces have been steadily employed to complete  
 and delight me,
Now I stand on this spot with my Soul.
312O span of youth! Ever-pushed elasticity! O manhood, balanced, florid, and full. 313My lovers suffocate me! Crowding my lips, thick in the pores of my skin, Jostling me through streets and public halls— 
 coming naked to me at night,
  [ begin page 95 ]ppp.01500.103.jpg Crying by day Ahoy! from the rocks of the river  
 —swinging and chirping over my head,
Calling my name from flower-beds, vines, tangled  
Or while I swim in the bath, or drink from the pump  
 at the corner—or the curtain is down at the  
 opera, or I glimpse at a woman's face in the  
 railroad car,
Lighting on every moment of my life, Bussing my body with soft balsamic busses, Noiselessly passing handfuls out of their hearts, and  
 giving them to be mine.
314Old age superbly rising! O welcome, ineffable grace  
 of dying days!
315Every condition promulges not only itself—it pro- 
 mulges what grows after and out of itself,
And the dark hush promulges as much as any.
316I open my scuttle at night and see the far-sprinkled  
And all I see, multiplied as high as I can cipher, edge  
 but the rim of the farther systems.
317Wider and wider they spread, expanding, always  
Outward, outward, and forever outward.
318My sun has his sun, and round him obediently  
He joins with his partners a group of superior circuit, And greater sets follow, making specks of the greatest  
 inside them.
  [ begin page 96 ]ppp.01500.104.jpg 319There is no stoppage, and never can be stoppage, If I, you, the worlds, all beneath or upon their sur- 
 faces, and all the palpable life, were this moment  
 reduced back to a pallid float, it would not avail  
 in the long run,
We should surely bring up again where we now  
And as surely go as much farther—and then farther  
 and farther.
320A few quadrillions of eras, a few octillions of cubic  
 leagues, do not hazard the span, or make it  
They are but parts—anything is but a part.
321See ever so far, there is limitless space outside  
 of that,
Count ever so much, there is limitless time around  
322My rendezvous is appointed, The Lord will be there, and wait till I come on per- 
 fect terms.
323I know I have the best of time and space, and was  
 never measured, and never will be measured.
324I tramp a perpetual journey, My signs are a rain-proof coat, good shoes, and a staff  
 cut from the woods,
No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair, I have no chair, no church, no philosophy, I lead no man to a dinner-table, library, or exchange,   [ begin page 97 ]ppp.01500.105.jpg But each man and each woman of you I lead upon  
 a knoll,
My left hand hooking you round the waist, My right hand pointing to landscapes of continents, 
 and a plain public road.
325Not I—not any one else, can travel that road for  
You must travel it for yourself.
326It is not far—it is within reach, Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, 
 and did not know,
Perhaps it is every where on water and on land.
327Shoulder your duds, and I will mine, and let us  
 hasten forth,
Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch as  
 we go.
328If you tire, give me both burdens, and rest the chuff  
 of your hand on my hip,
And in due time you shall repay the same service  
 to me,
For after we start we never lie by again.
329This day before dawn I ascended a hill, and looked  
 at the crowded heaven,
And I said to my Spirit, When we become the  
  enfolders of those orbs, and the pleasure and  
  knowledge of everything in them, shall we be  
  filled and satisfied then?
And my Spirit said No, we level that lift, to pass and  
  continue beyond.
9   [ begin page 98 ]ppp.01500.106.jpg 330You are also asking me questions, and I hear you, I answer that I cannot answer—you must find out  
 for yourself.
331Sit a while, wayfarer, Here are biscuits to eat, and here is milk to drink, But as soon as you sleep, and renew yourself in  
 sweet clothes, I will certainly kiss you with my  
 good-bye kiss, and open the gate for your egress  
332Long enough have you dreamed contemptible dreams, Now I wash the gum from your eyes, You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light, 
 and of every moment of your life.
333Long have you timidly waded, holding a plank by  
 the shore,
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer, To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod  
 to me, shout, and laughingly dash with your hair.
334I am the teacher of athletes, He that by me spreads a wider breast than my own, 
 proves the width of my own,
He most honors my style who learns under it to  
 destroy the teacher.
335The boy I love, the same becomes a man, not through  
 derived power, but in his own right,
Wicked, rather than virtuous out of conformity or  
Fond of his sweetheart, relishing well his steak,   [ begin page 99 ]ppp.01500.107.jpg Unrequited love, or a slight, cutting him worse than  
 a wound cuts,
First rate to ride, to fight, to hit the bull's-eye, to  
 sail a skiff, to sing a song, or play on the banjo,
Preferring scars, and faces pitted with small-pox, over  
 all latherers, and those that keep out of the sun.
336I teach straying from me—yet who can stray from  
I follow you, whoever you are, from the present  
My words itch at your ears till you understand  
337I do not say these things for a dollar, or to fill up  
 the time while I wait for a boat,
It is you talking just as much as myself—I act as  
 the tongue of you,
Tied in your mouth, in mine it begins to be loosened.
338I swear I will never again mention love or death  
 inside a house,
And I swear I will never translate myself at all, only  
 to him or her who privately stays with me in  
 the open air.
339If you would understand me, go to the heights or  
The nearest gnat is an explanation, and a drop or  
 motion of waves a key,
The maul, the oar, the hand-saw, second my words.
340No shuttered room or school can commune with me, But roughs and little children better than they.   [ begin page 100 ]ppp.01500.108.jpg 341The young mechanic is closest to me—he knows me  
 pretty well,
The woodman, that takes his axe and jug with him, 
 shall take me with him all day,
The farm-boy, ploughing in the field, feels good at the  
 sound of my voice,
In vessels that sail, my words sail—I go with fisher- 
 men and seamen, and love them.
342My face rubs to the hunter's face, when he lies down  
 alone in his blanket,
The driver, thinking of me, does not mind the jolt  
 of his wagon,
The young mother and old mother comprehend me, The girl and the wife rest the needle a moment, and  
 forget where they are,
They and all would resume what I have told them.
343I have said that the Soul is not more than the  
And I have said that the body is not more than  
 the Soul,
And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one's  
 self is.
And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy, 
 walks to his own funeral, dressed in his shroud,
And I or you, pocketless of a dime, may purchase  
 the pick of the earth,
And to glance with an eye, or show a bean in its  
 pod, confounds the learning of all times,
And there is no trade or employment but the young  
 man following it may become a hero,
  [ begin page 101 ]ppp.01500.109.jpg And there is no object so soft but it makes a hub  
 for the wheeled universe,
And any man or woman shall stand cool and  
 supercilious before a million universes.
344And I call to mankind, Be not curious about God, For I, who am curious about each, am not curious  
 about God,
No array of terms can say how much I am at peace  
 about God, and about death.
345I hear and behold God in every object, yet under- 
 stand God not in the least,
Nor do I understand who there can be more won- 
 derful than myself.
346Why should I wish to see God better than this day? I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, 
 and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in  
 my own face in the glass,
I find letters from God dropped in the street—and  
 every one is signed by God's name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that  
 others will punctually come forever and ever.
347And as to you Death, and you bitter hug of mortality, 
 it is idle to try to alarm me.
348To his work without flinching the accoucheur comes, I see the elder-hand, pressing, receiving, supporting, I recline by the sills of the exquisite flexible doors, 
 and mark the outlet, and mark the relief and  
9*   [ begin page 102 ]ppp.01500.110.jpg 349And as to you corpse, I think you are good manure, 
 but that does not offend me,
I smell the white roses sweet-scented and growing, I reach to the leafy lips—I reach to the polished  
 breasts of melons.
350And as to you life, I reckon you are the leavings of  
 many deaths,
No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times  
351I hear you whispering there, O stars of heaven, O suns! O grass of graves! O perpetual transfers and  
If you do not say anything, how can I say anything?
352Of the turbid pool that lies in the autumn forest, Of the moon that descends the steeps of the soughing  
Toss, sparkles of day and dusk! toss on the black  
 stems that decay in the muck!
Toss to the moaning gibberish of the dry limbs.
353I ascend from the moon, I ascend from the night, I perceive of the ghastly glimmer the sunbeams re- 
And debouch to the steady and central from the  
 offspring great or small.
354There is that in me—I do not know what it is—but  
 I know it is in me.
355Wrenched and sweaty—calm and cool then my body  
I sleep—I sleep long.
  [ begin page 103 ]ppp.01500.111.jpg 356I do not know it—it is without name—it is a word  
It is not in any dictionary, utterance, symbol.
357Something it swings on more than the earth I swing on, To it the creation is the friend whose embracing  
 awakes me.
358Perhaps I might tell more. Outlines! I plead for my  
 brothers and sisters.
359Do you see, O my brothers and sisters? It is not chaos or death—it is form, union, plan—it  
 is eternal life—it is HAPPINESS.
360The past and present wilt—I have filled them, emp- 
 tied them,
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
361Listener up there! Here you! What have you to  
 confide to me?
Look in my face, while I snuff the sidle of evening, Talk honestly—no one else hears you, and I stay  
 only a minute longer.
362Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself, I am large—I contain multitudes. 363I concentrate toward them that are nigh—I wait on  
 the door-slab.
364Who has done his day's work? Who will soonest be  
 through with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?
  [ begin page 104 ]ppp.01500.112.jpg 365Will you speak before I am gone? Will you prove  
 already too late?
366The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me—he  
 complains of my gab and my loitering.
367I too am not a bit tamed—I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world. 368The last scud of day holds back for me, It flings my likeness, after the rest, and true as any, 
 on the shadowed wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.
369I depart as air—I shake my white locks at the  
 run-away sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.
370I bequeathe myself to the dirt, to grow from the  
 grass I love,
If you want me again, look for me under your boot- 
371You will hardly know who I am, or what I mean, But I shall be good health to you nevertheless, And filter and fibre your blood. 372Failing to fetch me at first, keep encouraged, Missing me one place, search another, I stop somewhere waiting for you.
Back to top