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Cluster: Leaves of Grass. (1860)

Table of Contents (1860–1861)

Poems in this cluster



1ELEMENTAL drifts! O I wish I could impress others as you and the waves  
 have just been impressing me.
2As I ebbed with an ebb of the ocean of life, As I wended the shores I know, As I walked where the sea-ripples wash you, Pau- 
Where they rustle up, hoarse and sibilant, Where the fierce old mother endlessly cries for her  
I, musing, late in the autumn day, gazing off south- 
Alone, held by the eternal self of me that threatens  
 to get the better of me, and stifle me,
Was seized by the spirit that trails in the lines  
In the rim, the sediment, that stands for all the water  
 and all the land of the globe.
  [ begin page 196 ]ppp.01500.204.jpg 3Fascinated, my eyes, reverting from the south,  
 dropped, to follow those slender winrows,
Chaff, straw, splinters of wood, weeds, and the sea-  
Scum, scales from shining rocks, leaves of salt-  
 lettuce, left by the tide;
Miles walking, the sound of breaking waves the other  
 side of me,
Paumanok, there and then, as I thought the old  
 thought of likenesses,
These you presented to me, you fish-shaped island, As I wended the shores I know, As I walked with that eternal self of me, seeking  
4As I wend the shores I know not, As I listen to the dirge, the voices of men and women  
As I inhale the impalpable breezes that set in  
 upon me,
As the ocean so mysterious rolls toward me closer  
 and closer,
At once I find, the least thing that belongs to me, or  
 that I see or touch, I know not;
I, too, but signify, at the utmost, a little washed-up  
A few sands and dead leaves to gather, Gather, and merge myself as part of the sands and  
5O baffled, balked, Bent to the very earth, here preceding what follows, Oppressed with myself that I have dared to open my  
  [ begin page 197 ]ppp.01500.205.jpg Aware now, that, amid all the blab whose echoes  
 recoil upon me, I have not once had the least  
 idea who or what I am,
But that before all my insolent poems the real ME  
 still stands untouched, untold, altogether un- 
Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congrat- 
 ulatory signs and bows,
With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word  
 I have written or shall write,
Striking me with insults till I fall helpless upon the  
6O I perceive I have not understood anything—not a  
 single object—and that no man ever can.
7I perceive Nature here, in sight of the sea, is taking  
 advantage of me, to dart upon me, and sting me,
Because I was assuming so much, And because I have dared to open my mouth to sing  
 at all.
8You oceans both! You tangible land! Nature! Be not too rough with me—I submit—I close with  
These little shreds shall, indeed, stand for all.
9You friable shore, with trails of debris! You fish-shaped island! I take what is underfoot; What is yours is mine, my father. 10I too Paumanok, I too have bubbled up, floated the measureless float,  
 and been washed on your shores;
17*   [ begin page 198 ]ppp.01500.206.jpg I too am but a trail of drift and debris, I too leave little wrecks upon you, you fish-shaped  
11I throw myself upon your breast, my father, I cling to you so that you cannot unloose me, I hold you so firm, till you answer me something. 12Kiss me, my father, Touch me with your lips, as I touch those I love, Breathe to me, while I hold you close, the secret of  
 the wondrous murmuring I envy,
For I fear I shall become crazed, if I cannot emulate  
 it, and utter myself as well as it.
13Sea-raff! Crook-tongued waves! O, I will yet sing, some day, what you have said  
 to me.
14Ebb, ocean of life, (the flow will return,) Cease not your moaning, you fierce old mother, Endlessly cry for your castaways—but fear not,  
 deny not me,
Rustle not up so hoarse and angry against my feet, as  
 I touch you, or gather from you.
15I mean tenderly by you, I gather for myself, and for this phantom, looking  
 down where we lead, and following me and  
16Me and mine! We, loose winrows, little corpses, Froth, snowy white, and bubbles,   [ begin page 199 ]ppp.01500.207.jpg (See! from my dead lips the ooze exuding at last! See—the prismatic colors, glistening and rolling!) Tufts of straw, sands, fragments, Buoyed hither from many moods, one contradicting  
From the storm, the long calm, the darkness, the  
Musing, pondering, a breath, a briny tear, a dab of  
 liquid or soil,
Up just as much out of fathomless workings fer- 
 mented and thrown,
A limp blossom or two, torn, just as much over waves  
 floating, drifted at random,
Just as much for us that sobbing dirge of Nature, Just as much, whence we come, that blare of the  
We, capricious, brought hither, we know not whence,  
 spread out before You, up there, walking or  
Whoever you are—we too lie in drifts at your feet.


1GREAT are the myths—I too delight in them, Great are Adam and Eve—I too look back and  
 accept them,
Great the risen and fallen nations, and their poets,  
 women, sages, inventors, rulers, warriors, and  
  [ begin page 200 ]ppp.01500.208.jpg 2Great is Liberty! great is Equality! I am their fol- 
Helmsmen of nations, choose your craft! where you  
 sail, I sail,
Yours is the muscle of life or death—yours is the  
 perfect science—in you I have absolute faith.
3Great is To-day, and beautiful, It is good to live in this age—there never was any  
4Great are the plunges, throes, triumphs, downfalls of  
Great the reformers, with their lapses and screams, Great the daring and venture of sailors, on new ex- 
5Great are Yourself and Myself, We are just as good and bad as the oldest and young- 
 est or any,
What the best and worst did, we could do, What they felt, do not we feel it in ourselves? What they wished, do we not wish the same?
6Great is Youth—equally great is Old Age—great  
 are the Day and Night,
Great is Wealth—great is Poverty—great is Ex- 
 pression—great is Silence.
7Youth, large, lusty, loving—Youth, full of grace,  
 force, fascination,
Do you know that Old Age may come after you, with  
 equal grace, force, fascination?
  [ begin page 201 ]ppp.01500.209.jpg 8Day, full-blown and splendid—Day of the immense  
 sun, action, ambition, laughter,
The Night follows close, with millions of suns, and  
 sleep, and restoring darkness.
9Wealth with the flush hand, fine clothes, hospitality, But then the Soul's wealth, which is candor, knowl- 
 edge, pride, enfolding love;
(Who goes for men and women showing Poverty  
 richer than wealth?)
10Expression of speech! in what is written or said, for- 
 get not that Silence is also expressive,
That anguish as hot as the hottest, and contempt as  
 cold as the coldest, may be without words,
That the true adoration is likewise without words,  
 and without kneeling.
11Great is the greatest Nation—the nation of clusters  
 of equal nations.
12Great is the Earth, and the way it became what it is; Do you imagine it is stopped at this? the increase  
Understand then that it goes as far onward from  
 this, as this is from the times when it lay in  
 covering waters and gases, before man had ap- 
13Great is the quality of Truth in man, The quality of truth in man supports itself through  
 all changes,
  [ begin page 202 ]ppp.01500.210.jpg It is inevitably in the man—he and it are in love,  
 and never leave each other.
14The truth in man is no dictum, it is vital as eye- 
If there be any Soul, there is truth—if there be man  
 or woman, there is truth—if there be physical  
 or moral, there is truth,
If there be equilibrium or volition, there is truth—  
 if there be things at all upon the earth, there  
 is truth.
15O truth of the earth! O truth of things! I am de- 
 termined to press my way toward you,
Sound your voice! I scale mountains, or dive in the  
 sea after you.
16Great is Language—it is the mightiest of the sci- 
It is the fulness, color, form, diversity of the earth,  
 and of men and women, and of all qualities  
 and processes,
It is greater than wealth—it is greater than build- 
 ings, ships, religions, paintings, music.
17Great is the English speech—what speech is so  
 great as the English?
Great is the English brood—what brood has so vast  
 a destiny as the English?
It is the mother of the brood that must rule the earth  
 with the new rule,
The new rule shall rule as the Soul rules, and as the  
 love, justice, equality in the Soul, rule.
  [ begin page 203 ]ppp.01500.211.jpg 18Great is Law—great are the old few landmarks of  
 the law,
They are the same in all times, and shall not be  
19Great are commerce, newspapers, books, free-trade,  
 railroads, steamers, international mails, tele- 
 graphs, exchanges.
20Great is Justice! Justice is not settled by legislators and laws—it is in  
 the Soul,
It cannot be varied by statues, any more than love,  
 pride, the attraction of gravity, can,
It is immutable—it does not depend on majorities—  
 majorities or what not come at last before the  
 same passionless and exact tribunal.
21For justice are the grand natural lawyers and perfect  
 judges—it is in their Souls,
It is well assorted—they have not studied for noth- 
 ing—the great includes the less,
They rule on the highest grounds—they oversee all  
 eras, states, administrations.
22The perfect judge fears nothing—he could go front  
 to front before God,
Before the perfect judge all shall stand back—life  
 and death shall stand back—heaven and hell  
 shall stand back.
23Great is Goodness! I do not know what it is, any more than I know what  
 health is—but I know it is great.
  [ begin page 204 ]ppp.01500.212.jpg 24Great is Wickedness—I find I often admire it, just as  
 much as I admire goodness,
Do you call that a paradox? It certainly is a paradox.
25The eternal equilibrium of things is great, and the  
 eternal overthrow of things is great,
And there is another paradox.
26Great is Life, real and mystical, wherever and whoever, Great is Death—sure as Life holds all parts together,  
 Death holds all parts together,
Death has just as much purport as Life has, Do you enjoy what Life confers? you shall enjoy what  
 Death confers,
I do not understand the realities of Death, but I know  
 they are great,
I do not understand the least reality of Life—how then  
 can I understand the realities of Death?


1A YOUNG man came to me with a message from his  
How should the young man know the whether and  
 when of his brother?
Tell him to send me the signs.
2And I stood before the young man face to face, and  
 took his right hand in my left hand, and his left  
 hand in my right hand,
  [ begin page 205 ]ppp.01500.213.jpg And I answered for his brother, and for men, and I  
 answered for THE POET, and sent these signs.
3Him all wait for—him all yield up to—his word is  
 decisive and final,
Him they accept, in him lave, in him perceive them- 
 selves, as amid light,
Him they immerse, and he immerses them.
4Beautiful women, the haughtiest nations, laws, the  
 landscape, people, animals,
The profound earth and its attributes, and the unquiet  
All enjoyments and properties, and money, and what- 
 ever money will buy,
The best farms—others toiling and planting, and he  
 unavoidably reaps,
The noblest and costliest cities—others grading and  
 building, and he domiciles there,
Nothing for any one, but what is for him—near and  
 far are for him,
The ships in the offing—the perpetual shows and  
 marches on land, are for him, if they are for any  
5He puts things in their attitudes, He puts to-day out of himself, with plasticity and  
He places his own city, times, reminiscences, parents,  
 brothers and sisters, associations, employment,  
 politics, so that the rest never shame them after- 
 ward, nor assume to command them.
18   [ begin page 206 ]ppp.01500.214.jpg 6He is the answerer, What can be answered he answers—and what cannot  
 be answered, he shows how it cannot be answered.
7A man is a summons and challenge; (It is vain to skulk—Do you hear that mocking and  
 laughter? Do you hear the ironical echoes?)
8Books, friendships, philosophers, priests, action, pleas- 
 ure, pride, beat up and down, seeking to give  
He indicates the satisfaction, and indicates them that  
 beat up and down also.
9Whichever the sex, whatever the season or place, he  
 may go freshly and gently and safely, by day or  
 by night,
He has the pass-key of hearts—to him the response  
 of the prying of hands on the knobs.
10His welcome is universal—the flow of beauty is not  
 more welcome or universal than he is,
The person he favors by day or sleeps with at night is  
11Every existence has its idiom—everything has an  
 idiom and tongue,
He resolves all tongues into his own, and bestows it  
 upon men, and any man translates, and any man  
 translates himself also,
One part does not counteract another part—he is the  
 joiner—he sees how they join.
12He says indifferently and alike, How are you, friend?  
 to the President at his levee,
  [ begin page 207 ]ppp.01500.215.jpg And he says, Good-day, my brother! to Cudge that  
 hoes in the sugar-field,
And both understand him, and know that his speech  
 is right.
13He walks with perfect ease in the capitol, He walks among the Congress, and one representative  
 says to another, Here is our equal, appearing and  
14Then the mechanics take him for a mechanic, And the soldiers suppose him to be a captain, and the  
 sailors that he has followed the sea,
And the authors take him for an author, and the  
 artists for an artist,
And the laborers perceive he could labor with them  
 and love them,
No matter what the work is, that he is the one to fol- 
 low it, or has followed it,
No matter what the nation, that he might find his  
 brothers and sisters there.
15The English believe he comes of their English stock, A Jew to the Jew he seems—a Russ to the Russ—  
 usual and near, removed from none.
16Whoever he looks at in the traveller's coffee-house  
 claims him,
The Italian or Frenchman is sure, and the German is  
 sure, and the Spaniard is sure, and the island  
 Cuban is sure;
The engineer, the deck-hand on the great lakes, or on  
 the Mississippi, or St. Lawrence, or Sacramento,  
 or Hudson, or Paumanok Sound, claims him.
  [ begin page 208 ]ppp.01500.216.jpg 17The gentleman of perfect blood acknowledges his per- 
 fect blood,
The insulter, the prostitute, the angry person, the  
 beggar, see themselves in the ways of him—he  
 strangely transmutes them,
They are not vile any more—they hardly know them- 
 selves, they are so grown.
18Do you think it would be good to be the writer of  
 melodious verses?
Well, it would be good to be the writer of melodious  
But what are verses beyond the flowing character you  
 could have? or beyond beautiful manners and  
Or beyond one manly or affectionate deed of an ap- 
 prentice-boy? or old woman? or man that has  
 been in prison, or is likely to be in prison?


1SOMETHING startles me where I thought I was safest, I withdraw from the still woods I loved, I will not go now on the pastures to walk, I will not strip the clothes from my body to meet my  
 lover the sea,
I will not touch my flesh to the earth, as to other  
 flesh, to renew me.
  [ begin page 209 ]ppp.01500.217.jpg 2O Earth! O how can the ground of you not sicken? How can you be alive, you growths of spring? How can you furnish health, you blood of herbs, roots,  
 orchards, grain?
Are they not continually putting distempered corpses  
 in you?
Is not every continent worked over and over with sour  
3Where have you disposed of those carcasses of the  
 drunkards and gluttons of so many generations?
Where have you drawn off all the foul liquid and meat? I do not see any of it upon you to-day—or perhaps  
 I am deceived,
I will run a furrow with my plough—I will press  
 my spade through the sod, and turn it up un- 
I am sure I shall expose some of the foul meat.
4Behold! This is the compost of billions of premature corpses, Perhaps every mite has once formed part of a sick  
 person—Yet behold!
The grass covers the prairies, The bean bursts noiselessly through the mould in the  
The delicate spear of the onion pierces upward, The apple-buds cluster together on the apple-branches, The resurrection of the wheat appears with pale visage  
 out of its graves,
The tinge awakes over the willow-tree and the mul- 
18*   [ begin page 210 ]ppp.01500.218.jpg The he-birds carol mornings and evenings, while the  
 she-birds sit on their nests,
The young of poultry break through the hatched eggs, The new-born of animals appear—the calf is dropt  
 from the cow, the colt from the mare,
Out of its little hill faithfully rise the potato's dark  
 green leaves,
Out of its hill rises the yellow maize-stalk; The summer growth is innocent and disdainful above  
 all those strata of sour dead.
5What chemistry! That the winds are really not infectious, That this is no cheat, this transparent green-wash of  
 the sea, which is so amorous after me,
That it is safe to allow it to lick my naked body all  
 over with its tongues,
That it will not endanger me with the fevers that  
 have deposited themselves in it,
That all is clean, forever and forever, That the cool drink from the well tastes so good, That blackberries are so flavorous and juicy, That the fruits of the apple-orchard, and of the  
 orange-orchard—that melons, grapes, peaches,  
 plums, will none of them poison me,
That when I recline on the grass I do not catch any  
Though probably every spear of grass rises out of  
 what was once a catching disease.
6Now I am terrified at the Earth! it is that calm and  
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,   [ begin page 211 ]ppp.01500.219.jpg It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such  
 endless successions of diseased corpses,
It distils such exquisite winds out of such infused  
It renews, with such unwitting looks, its prodigal,  
 annual, sumptuous crops,
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts  
 such leavings from them at last.


1ALL day I have walked the city, and talked with my  
 friends, and thought of prudence,
Of time, space, reality—of such as these, and abreast  
 with them, prudence.
2After all, the last explanation remains to be made  
 about prudence,
Little and large alike drop quietly aside from the  
 prudence that suits immortality.
3The Soul is of itself, All verges to it—all has reference to what ensues, All that a person does, says, thinks, is of conse- 
Not a move can a man or woman make, that affects  
 him or her in a day, month, any part of the  
 direct life-time, or the hour of death, but the  
 same affects him or her onward afterward  
 through the indirect life-time.
  [ begin page 212 ]ppp.01500.220.jpg 4The indirect is more than the direct, The spirit receives from the body just as much as it  
 gives to the body, if not more.
5Not one word or deed—not venereal sore, discolor- 
 ation, privacy of the onanist, putridity of gluttons  
 or rum-drinkers, peculation, cunning, betrayal,  
 murder, seduction, prostitution, but has results  
 beyond death, as really as before death.
6Charity and personal force are the only investments  
 worth anything.
7No specification is necessary—all that a male or  
 female does, that is vigorous, benevolent, clean,  
 is so much profit to him or her, in the unshakable  
 order of the universe, and through the whole  
 scope of it forever.
8Who has been wise, receives interest, Savage, felon, President, judge, farmer, sailor, me- 
 chanic, young, old, it is the same,
The interest will come round—all will come round.
9Singly, wholly, to affect now, affected their time, will  
 forever affect, all of the past, and all of the  
 present, and all of the future,
All the brave actions of war and peace, All help given to relatives, strangers, the poor, old,  
 sorrowful, young children, widows, the sick, and  
 to shunned persons,
All furtherance of fugitives, and of the escape of  
  [ begin page 213 ]ppp.01500.221.jpg All self-denial that stood steady and aloof on wrecks,  
 and saw others fill the seats of the boats,
All offering of substance or life for the good old cause,  
 or for a friend's sake, or opinion's sake,
All pains of enthusiasts, scoffed at by their neighbors, All the limitless sweet love and precious suffering of  
All honest men baffled in strifes recorded or unre- 
All the grandeur and good of ancient nations whose  
 fragments we inherit,
All the good of the hundreds of ancient nations un- 
 known to us by name, date, location,
All that was ever manfully begun, whether it suc- 
 ceeded or no,
All suggestions of the divine mind of man, or the  
 divinity of his mouth, or the shaping of his great  
All that is well thought or said this day on any part  
 of the globe—or on any of the wandering stars,  
 or on any of the fixed stars, by those there as we  
 are here,
All that is henceforth to be thought or done by you,  
 whoever you are, or by any one,
These inure, have inured, shall inure, to the identities  
 from which they sprang, or shall spring.
10Did you guess anything lived only its moment? The world does not so exist—no parts palpable or  
 impalpable so exist,
No consummation exists without being from some  
 long previous consummation—and that from  
 some other,
  [ begin page 214 ]ppp.01500.222.jpg Without the farthest conceivable one coming a bit  
 nearer the beginning than any.
11Whatever satisfies Souls is true, Prudence entirely satisfies the craving and glut of  
Itself finally satisfies the Soul, The Soul has that measureless pride which revolts  
 from every lesson but its own.
12Now I give you an inkling, Now I breathe the word of the prudence that walks  
 abreast with time, space, reality,
That answers the pride which refuses every lesson but  
 its own.
13What is prudence, is indivisible, Declines to separate one part of life from every part, Divides not the righteous from the unrighteous, or  
 the living from the dead,
Matches every thought or act by its correlative, Knows no possible forgiveness or deputed atonement, Knows that the young man who composedly perilled  
 his life and lost it, has done exceeding well for  
 himself, without doubt,
That he who never perilled his life, but retains it to  
 old age in riches and ease, has probably achieved  
 nothing for himself worth mentioning;
Knows that only the person has really learned, who  
 has learned to prefer results,
Who favors body and Soul the same, Who perceives the indirect assuredly following the  
Who in his spirit in any emergency whatever neither  
 hurries or avoids death.
  [ begin page 215 ]ppp.01500.223.jpg


1PERFECT sanity shows the master among philosophs, Time, always without flaw, indicates itself in parts, What always indicates the poet, is the crowd of the  
 pleasant company of singers, and their words,
The words of the singers are the hours or minutes of  
 the light or dark—but the words of the maker  
 of poems are the general light and dark,
The maker of poems settles justice, reality, immor- 
His insight and power encircle things and the human  
He is the glory and extract, thus far, of things, and  
 of the human race.
2The singers do not beget—only THE POET begets, The singers are welcomed, understood, appear often  
 enough—but rare has the day been, likewise the  
 spot, of the birth of the maker of poems,
Not every century, or every five centuries, has con- 
 tained such a day, for all its names.
3The singers of successive hours of centuries may have  
 ostensible names, but the name of each of them  
 is one of the singers,
The name of each is, a heart-singer, eye-singer, hymn-  
 singer, law-singer, ear-singer, head-singer, sweet-  
 singer, wise-singer, droll-singer, thrift-singer, sea-  
 singer, wit-singer, echo-singer, parlor-singer, love-  
 singer, passion-singer, mystic-singer, fable-singer,  
 item-singer, weeping-singer, or something else.
  [ begin page 216 ]ppp.01500.224.jpg 4All this time, and at all times, wait the words of  
The greatness of sons is the exuding of the greatness  
 of mothers and fathers,
The words of poems are the tuft and final applause of  
5Divine instinct, breadth of vision, the law of reason,  
 health, rudeness of body, withdrawnness, gayety,  
 sun-tan, air-sweetness—such are some of the  
 words of poems.
6The sailor and traveller underlie the maker of poems, The builder, geometer, mathematician, astronomer,  
 melodist, chemist, anatomist, spiritualist, lan- 
 guage-searcher, geologist, phrenologist, artist—  
 all these underlie the maker of poems.
7The words of poems give you more than poems, They give you to form for yourself poems, religions,  
 politics, war, peace, behavior, histories, essays,  
 romances, and everything else,
They balance ranks, colors, races, creeds, and the  
They do not seek beauty—they are sought, Forever touching them, or close upon them, follows  
 beauty, longing, fain, love-sick.
8They prepare for death—yet are they not the finish,  
 but rather the outset,
They bring none to his or her terminus, or to be con- 
 tent and full;
  [ begin page 217 ]ppp.01500.225.jpg Whom they take, they take into space, to behold the  
 birth of stars, to learn one of the meanings,
To launch off with absolute faith—to sweep through  
 the ceaseless rings, and never be quiet again.


I NEED no assurances—I am a man who is pre- 
 occupied, of his own Soul;
I do not doubt that whatever I know at a given time, 
 there waits for me more, which I do not know;
I do not doubt that from under the feet, and beside  
 the hands and face I am cognizant of, are now  
 looking faces I am not cognizant of—calm and  
 actual faces;
I do not doubt but the majesty and beauty of the  
 world are latent in any iota of the world;
I do not doubt there are realizations I have no idea of, 
 waiting for me through time, and through the  
 universes—also upon this earth;
I do not doubt I am limitless, and that the universes  
 are limitless—in vain I try to think how  
I do not doubt that the orbs, and the systems of orbs, 
 play their swift sports through the air on purpose  
 —and that I shall one day be eligible to do as  
 much as they, and more than they;
I do not doubt there is far more in trivialities, insects, 
 vulgar persons, slaves, dwarfs, weeds, rejected  
 refuse, than I have supposed;
19   [ begin page 218 ]ppp.01500.226.jpg I do not doubt there is more in myself than I have  
 supposed—and more in all men and women— 
 and more in my poems than I have supposed;
I do not doubt that temporary affairs keep on and on, 
 millions of years;
I do not doubt interiors have their interiors, and  
 exteriors have their exteriors—and that the  
 eye-sight has another eye-sight, and the hearing  
 another hearing, and the voice another voice;
I do not doubt that the passionately-wept deaths of  
 young men are provided for—and that the  
 deaths of young women, and the deaths of little  
 children, are provided for;
I do not doubt that wrecks at sea, no matter what the  
 horrors of them—no matter whose wife, child, 
 husband, father, lover, has gone down—are pro- 
 vided for, to the minutest point;
I do not doubt that shallowness, meanness, malig- 
 nance, are provided for;
I do not doubt that cities, you, America, the re- 
 mainder of the earth, politics, freedom, degra- 
 dations, are carefully provided for;
I do not doubt that whatever can possibly happen, 
 any where, at any time, is provided for, in the  
 inherences of things.
  [ begin page 219 ]ppp.01500.227.jpg


1WHAT shall I give? and which are my miracles? 2Realism is mine—my miracles—Take freely, Take without end—I offer them to you wherever  
 your feet can carry you, or your eyes reach.
3Why! who makes much of a miracle? As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles, Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan, Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the  
Or wade with naked feet along the beach, just in the  
 edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods, Or talk by day with any one I love—or sleep in the  
 bed at night with any one I love,
Or sit at the table at dinner with my mother, Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car, Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive, of a sum- 
 mer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields, Or birds—or the wonderfulness of insects in the air, Or the wonderfulness of the sun-down—or of stars  
 shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new-moon  
 in spring;
Or whether I go among those I like best, and that like  
 me best—mechanics, boatmen, farmers,
  [ begin page 220 ]ppp.01500.228.jpg Or among the savans—or to the soiree—or to the  
Or stand a long while looking at the movements of  
Or behold children at their sports, Or the admirable sight of the perfect old man, or the  
 perfect old woman,
Or the sick in hospitals, or the dead carried to burial, Or my own eyes and figure in the glass, These, with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles, The whole referring—yet each distinct and in its  
4To me, every hour of the light and dark is miracle, Every inch of space is a miracle, Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread  
 with the same,
Every cubic foot of the interior swarms with the same; Every spear of grass—the frames, limbs, organs, of  
 men and women, and all that concerns them,
All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles.
5To me the sea is a continual miracle, The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the  
 waves—the ships, with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?
  [ begin page 221 ]ppp.01500.229.jpg


1THERE was a child went forth every day, And the first object he looked upon and received  
 with wonder, pity, love, or dread, that object he  
And that object became part of him for the day, or a  
 certain part of the day, or for many years, or  
 stretching cycles of years.
2The early lilacs became part of this child, And grass, and white and red morning-glories, and  
 white and red clover, and the song of the phœbe-  
And the Third Month lambs, and the sow's pink-faint  
 litter, and the mare's foal, and the cow's calf,
And the noisy brood of the barn-yard, or by the mire  
 of the pond-side,
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below  
 there—and the beautiful curious liquid,
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads—  
 all became part of him.
3The field-sprouts of Fourth Month and Fifth Month  
 became part of him,
Winter-grain sprouts, and those of the light-yellow  
 corn, and the esculent roots of the garden,
And the apple-trees covered with blossoms, and the  
 fruit afterward, and wood-berries, and the com- 
 monest weeds by the road;
19*   [ begin page 222 ]ppp.01500.230.jpg And the old drunkard staggering home from the out- 
 house of the tavern, whence he had lately risen,
And the school-mistress that passed on her way to the  
And the friendly boys that passed—and the quarrel- 
 some boys,
And the tidy and fresh-cheeked girls—and the bare- 
 foot negro boy and girl,
And all the changes of city and country, wherever he  
4His own parents, He that had fathered him, and she that conceived him  
 in her womb, and birthed him,
They gave this child more of themselves than that, They gave him afterward every day—they and of  
 them became part of him.
5The mother at home, quietly placing the dishes on the  
The mother with mild words—clean her cap and  
 gown, a wholesome odor falling off her person  
 and clothes as she walks by;
The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, an- 
 gered, unjust,
The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the  
 crafty lure,
The family usages, the language, the company, the  
 furniture—the yearning and swelling heart,
Affection that will not be gainsayed—the sense of  
 what is real—the thought if, after all, it should  
 prove unreal,
The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-time—  
 the curious whether and how,
  [ begin page 223 ]ppp.01500.231.jpg Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all flashes  
 and specks?
Men and women crowding fast in the streets—if they  
 are not flashes and specks, what are they?
The streets themselves, and the façades of houses, and  
 goods in the windows,
Vehicles, teams, the heavy-planked wharves—the  
 huge crossing at the ferries,
The village on the highland, seen from afar at sunset—  
 the river between,
Shadows, aureola and mist, light falling on roofs and  
 gables of white or brown, three miles off,
The schooner near by, sleepily dropping down the  
 tide—the little boat slack-towed astern,
The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests,  
The strata of colored clouds, the long bar of maroon-  
 tint, away solitary by itself—the spread of purity  
 it lies motionless in,
The horizon's edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance  
 of salt-marsh and shore-mud;
These became part of that child who went forth every  
 day, and who now goes, and will always go forth  
 every day,
And these become part of him or her that peruses  
 them here.
  [ begin page 224 ]ppp.01500.232.jpg


1IT is ended—I dally no more, After to-day I inure myself to run, leap, swim,  
 wrestle, fight,
To stand the cold or heat—to take good aim with a  
 gun—to sail a boat—to manage horses—to  
 beget superb children,
To speak readily and clearly—to feel at home among  
 common people,
And to hold my own in terrible positions, on land  
 and sea.
2Not for an embroiderer, (There will always be plenty of embroiderers—I  
 welcome them also;)
But for the fibre of things, and for inherent men and  
3Not to chisel ornaments, But to chisel with free stroke the heads and limbs of  
 plenteous Supreme Gods, that The States may  
 realize them, walking and talking.
4Let me have my own way, Let others promulge the laws—I will make no ac- 
 count of the laws,
Let others praise eminent men and hold up peace—  
 I hold up agitation and conflict,
I praise no eminent man—I rebuke to his face the  
 one that was thought most worthy.
  [ begin page 225 ]ppp.01500.233.jpg 5(Who are you? you mean devil! And what are you  
 secretly guilty of, all your life?
Will you turn aside all your life? Will you grub  
 and chatter all your life?)
6(And who are you—blabbing by rote, years, pages,  
 languages, reminiscences,
Unwitting to-day that you do not know how to speak  
 a single word?)
7Let others finish specimens—I never finish specimens, I shower them by exhaustless laws, as nature does,  
 fresh and modern continually.
8I give nothing as duties, What others give as duties, I give as living impulses; (Shall I give the heart's action as a duty?) 9Let others dispose of questions—I dispose of noth- 
 ing—I arouse unanswerable questions;
Who are they I see and touch, and what about them? What about these likes of myself, that draw me so  
 close by tender directions and indirections?
10Let others deny the evil their enemies charge against  
 them—but how can I the like?
Nothing ever has been, or ever can be, charged against  
 me, half as bad as the evil I really am;
I call to the world to distrust the accounts of my  
 friends, but listen to my enemies—as I my- 
 self do;
I charge you, too, forever, reject those who would  
 expound me—for I cannot expound myself,
  [ begin page 226 ]ppp.01500.234.jpg I charge that there be no theory or school founded out  
 of me,
I charge you to leave all free, as I have left all free.
11After me, vista! O, I see life is not short, but immeasurably long, I henceforth tread the world, chaste, temperate, an  
 early riser, a gymnast, a steady grower,
Every hour the semen of centuries—and still of cen- 
12I will follow up these continual lessons of the air,  
 water, earth,
I perceive I have no time to lose.


1WHO learns my lesson complete? Boss, journeyman, apprentice—churchman and athe- 
The stupid and the wise thinker—parents and off- 
 spring—merchant, clerk, porter, and customer,
Editor, author, artist, and schoolboy—Draw nigh and  
It is no lesson — it lets down the bars to a good  
And that to another, and every one to another still.
2The great laws take and effuse without argument, I am of the same style, for I am their friend,   [ begin page 227 ]ppp.01500.235.jpg I love them quits and quits—I do not halt and make  
3I lie abstracted, and hear beautiful tales of things,  
 and the reasons of things,
They are so beautiful, I nudge myself to listen.
4I cannot say to any person what I hear—I cannot  
 say it to myself—it is very wonderful.
5It is no small matter, this round and delicious globe,  
 moving so exactly in its orbit forever and ever,  
 without one jolt, or the untruth of a single  
I do not think it was made in six days, nor in ten  
 thousand years, nor ten billions of years,
Nor planned and built one thing after another, as an  
 architect plans and builds a house.
6I do not think seventy years is the time of a man or  
Nor that seventy millions of years is the time of a  
 man or woman,
Nor that years will ever stop the existence of me, or  
 any one else.
7Is it wonderful that I should be immortal? as every  
 one is immortal,
I know it is wonderful—but my eye-sight is equally  
 wonderful, and how I was conceived in my moth- 
 er's womb is equally wonderful;
  [ begin page 228 ]ppp.01500.236.jpg And how I was not palpable once, but am now—and  
 was born on the last day of Fifth Month, in the  
 Year 43 of America,
And passed from a babe, in the creeping trance of  
 three summers and three winters, to articulate  
 and walk—All this is equally wonderful.
8And that I grew six feet high, and that I have become  
 a man thirty-six years old in the Year 79 of  
 America—and that I am here anyhow—are all  
 equally wonderful.
9And that my Soul embraces you this hour, and we af- 
 fect each other without ever seeing each other,  
 and never perhaps to see each other, is every bit  
 as wonderful.
10And that I can think such thoughts as these, is just as  
And that I can remind you, and you think them and  
 know them to be true, is just as wonderful.
11And that the moon spins round the earth, and on with  
 the earth, is equally wonderful,
And that they balance themselves with the sun and  
 stars, is equally wonderful.
12Come! I should like to hear you tell me what there  
 is in yourself that is not just as wonderful,
And I should like to hear the name of anything be- 
 tween First Day morning and Seventh Day night  
 that is not just as wonderful.
  [ begin page 229 ]ppp.01500.237.jpg


1THIS night I am happy; As I walk the beach where the old mother sways to  
 and fro, singing her savage and husky song,
As I watch the stars shining—I think a thought of  
 the clef of the universes, and of the future.
2What can the future bring me more than I have? Do you suppose I wish to enjoy life in other spheres? 3I say distinctly I comprehend no better sphere than  
 this earth,
I comprehend no better life than the life of my body.
4I do not know what follows the death of my body, But I know well that whatever it is, it is best for me, And I know well that whatever is really Me shall live  
 just as much as before.
5I am not uneasy but I shall have good housing to  
But this is my first—how can I like the rest any  
Here I grew up—the studs and rafters are grown  
 parts of me.
6I am not uneasy but I am to be beloved by young and  
 old men, and to love them the same,
20   [ begin page 230 ]ppp.01500.238.jpg I suppose the pink nipples of the breasts of women  
 with whom I shall sleep will touch the side of my  
 face the same,
But this is the nipple of a breast of my mother, always  
 near and always divine to me, her true child and  
 son, whatever comes.
7I suppose I am to be eligible to visit the stars, in my  
I suppose I shall have myriads of new experiences—  
 and that the experience of this earth will prove  
 only one out of myriads;
But I believe my body and my Soul already indicate  
 those experiences,
And I believe I shall find nothing in the stars more  
 majestic and beautiful than I have already found  
 on the earth,
And I believe I have this night a clew through the  
And I believe I have this night thought a thought of  
 the clef of eternity.
8A VAST SIMILITUDE interlocks all, All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns,  
 moons, planets, comets, asteroids,
All the substances of the same, and all that is spiritual,  
 upon the same,
All distances of place, however wide, All distances of time—all inanimate forms, All Souls—all living bodies, though they be ever so  
 different, or in different worlds,
All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes—  
 the fishes, the brutes,
  [ begin page 231 ]ppp.01500.239.jpg All men and women—me also, All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages, All identities that have existed, or may exist, on this  
 globe or any globe,
All lives and deaths—all of past, present, future, This vast similitude spans them, and always has  
 spanned, and shall forever span them, and  
 compactly hold them.


1O BITTER sprig! Confession sprig! In the bouquet I give you place also—I bind you in, Proceeding no further till, humbled publicly, I give fair warning, once for all. 2I own that I have been sly, thievish, mean, a prevari- 
 cator, greedy, derelict,
And I own that I remain so yet.
3What foul thought but I think it—or have in me the  
 stuff out of which it is thought?
What in darkness in bed at night, alone or with a  
4You felons on trials in courts, You convicts in prison cells—you sentenced assas- 
 sins, chained and handcuffed with iron,
  [ begin page 232 ]ppp.01500.240.jpg Who am I, that I am not on trial, or in prison? Me, ruthless and devilish as any, that my wrists are  
 not chained with iron, or my ankles with iron?
5You prostitutes flaunting over the trottoirs, or obscene  
 in your rooms,
Who am I, that I should call you more obscene than  
6O culpable! O traitor! O I acknowledge—I exposé! (O admirers! praise not me! compliment not me! you  
 make me wince,
I see what you do not—I know what you do not;) Inside these breast-bones I lie smutch'd and choked, Beneath this face that appears so impassive, hell's  
 tides continually run,
Lusts and wickedness are acceptable to me, I walk with delinquents with passionate love, I feel I am of them—I belong to those convicts and  
 prostitutes myself,
And henceforth I will not deny them—for how can I  
 deny myself?
  [ begin page 233 ]ppp.01500.241.jpg


UNFOLDED out of the folds of the woman, man comes  
 unfolded, as is always to come unfolded,
Unfolded only out of the superbest woman of the  
 earth, is to come the superbest man of the earth,
Unfolded out of the friendliest woman, is to come  
 the friendliest man,
Unfolded only out of the perfect body of a woman, 
 can a man be formed of perfect body,
Unfolded only out of the inimitable poem of the  
 woman, can come the poems of man—only  
 thence have my poems come,
Unfolded out of the strong and arrogant woman I  
 love, only thence can appear the strong and  
 arrogant man I love,
Unfolded by brawny embraces from the well-muscled  
 woman I love, only thence come the brawny  
 embraces of the man,
Unfolded out of the folds of the woman's brain, come  
 all the folds of the man's brain, duly obedient,
Unfolded out of the justice of the woman, all justice  
 is unfolded,
Unfolded out of the sympathy of the woman is all  
A man is a great thing upon the earth, and through  
 eternity—but every jot of the greatness of man  
 is unfolded out of woman,
First the man is shaped in the woman, he can then be  
 shaped in himself.
20*   [ begin page 234 ]ppp.01500.242.jpg


1NIGHT on the Prairies; I walk by myself—I stand and look at the stars,  
 which I think now I never realized before.
2Now I absorb immortality and peace, I admire death and test propositions. 3How plenteous! How spiritual! How resumé! The same Old Man and Soul—the same old aspi- 
 rations, and the same content.
4I was thinking the day most splendid, till I saw what  
 the not-day exhibited,
I was thinking this globe enough, till there tumbled  
 upon me myriads of other globes.
5Now while the great thoughts of space and eternity  
 fill me, I will measure myself by them,
And now, touched with the lives of other globes,  
 arrived as far along as those of the earth,
Or waiting to arrive, or passed on farther than those  
 of the earth,
I henceforth no more ignore them than I ignore my  
 own life,
Or the lives on the earth arrived as far as mine, or  
 waiting to arrive.
6O how plainly I see now that life cannot exhibit all to  
 me—as the day cannot,
O I see that I am to wait for what will be exhibited  
 by death.
  [ begin page 235 ]ppp.01500.243.jpg


SEA-WATER, and all living below it, Forests at the bottom of the sea—the branches and  
Sea-lettuce, vast lichens, strange flowers and seeds— 
 the thick tangle, the openings, and the pink turf,
Different colors, pale gray and green, purple, white, 
 and gold—the play of light through the water,
Dumb swimmers there among the rocks—coral, 
 gluten, grass, rushes—and the aliment of the  
Sluggish existences grazing there, suspended, or  
 slowly crawling close to the bottom,
The sperm-whale at the surface, blowing air and  
 spray, or disporting with his flukes,
The leaden-eyed shark, the walrus, the turtle, the  
 hairy sea-leopard, and the sting-ray;
Passions there—wars, pursuits, tribes—sight in  
 those ocean-depths—breathing that thick-breath- 
 ing air, as so many do,
The change thence to the sight here, and to the subtle  
 air breathed by beings like us, who walk this  
The change onward from ours to that of beings who  
 walk other spheres.
  [ begin page 236 ]ppp.01500.244.jpg


I SIT and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, 
 and upon all oppression and shame,
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at  
 anguish with themselves, remorseful after deeds  
I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, 
 dying, neglected, gaunt, desperate,
I see the wife misused by her husband—I see the  
 treacherous seducer of the young woman,
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love, 
 attempted to be hid—I see these sights on the  
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny—I  
 see martyrs and prisoners,
I observe a famine at sea—I observe the sailors  
 casting lots who shall be killed, to preserve the  
 lives of the rest,
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arro- 
 gant persons upon laborers, the poor, and upon  
 negroes, and the like;
All these—All the meanness and agony without end, 
 I sitting, look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.
  [ begin page 237 ]ppp.01500.245.jpg


1O ME, man of slack faith so long! Standing aloof—denying portions so long; Me with mole's eyes, unrisen to buoyancy and vision  
Only aware to-day of compact, all-diffused truth, Discovering to-day there is no lie, or form of lie,  
 and can be none, but grows just as inevitably  
 upon itself as the truth does upon itself,
Or as any law of the earth, or any natural production  
 of the earth does.
2(This is curious, and may not be realized immedi- 
 ately—But it must be realized;
I feel in myself that I represent falsehoods equally  
 with the rest,
And that the universe does.)
3Where has failed a perfect return, indifferent of lies  
 or the truth?
Is it upon the ground, or in water or fire? or in the  
 spirit of man? or in the meat and blood?
4Meditating among liars, and retreating sternly into  
 myself, I see that there are really no liars or  
 lies after all,
And that nothing fails its perfect return—And that  
 what are called lies are perfect returns,
  [ begin page 238 ]ppp.01500.246.jpg And that each thing exactly represents itself, and  
 what has preceded it,
And that the truth includes all, and is compact, just  
 as much as space is compact,
And that there is no flaw or vacuum in the amount  
 of the truth—but that all is truth without ex- 
And henceforth I will go celebrate anything I see  
 or am,
And sing and laugh, and deny nothing.


FORMS, qualities, lives, humanity, language, thoughts, The ones known, and the ones unknown—the ones  
 on the stars,
The stars themselves, some shaped, others unshaped, Wonders as of those countries—the soil, trees, cities, 
 inhabitants, whatever they may be,
Splendid suns, the moons and rings, the countless  
 combinations and effects,
Such-like, and as good as such-like, visible here or  
 anywhere, stand provided for in a handful of  
 space, which I extend my arm and half enclose  
 with my hand,
That contains the start of each and all—the virtue, 
 the germs of all;
That is the theory as of origins.   [ begin page 239 ]ppp.01500.247.jpg


SO far, and so far, and on toward the end, Singing what is sung in this book, from the irresisti- 
 ble impulses of me;
But whether I continue beyond this book, to ma- 
Whether I shall dart forth the true rays, the ones  
 that wait unfired,
(Did you think the sun was shining its brightest? No—it has not yet fully risen ;) Whether I shall complete what is here started, Whether I shall attain my own height, to justify these, 
 yet unfinished,
Whether I shall make THE POEM OF THE NEW WORLD, 
 transcending all others—depends, rich persons, 
 upon you,
Depends, whoever you are now filling the current Presidentiad, upon you, Upon you, Governor, Mayor, Congressman, And you, contemporary America.
  [ begin page 240 ]ppp.01500.248.jpg


1NOW I make a leaf of Voices—for I have found noth- 
 ing mightier than they are,
And I have found that no word spoken, but is beau- 
 tiful, in its place.
2O what is it in me that makes me tremble so at  
3Surely, whoever speaks to me in the right voice, him  
 or her I shall follow, as the waters follow the  
 moon, silently, with fluid steps, any where around  
 the globe.
4Now I believe that all waits for the right voices; Where is the practised and perfect organ? Where is  
 the developed Soul?
For I see every word uttered thence has deeper,  
 sweeter, new sounds, impossible on less terms.
5I see brains and lips closed—I see tympans and tem- 
 ples unstruck,
Until that comes which has the quality to strike and  
 to unclose,
Until that comes which has the quality to bring forth  
 what lies slumbering, forever ready, in all words.
  [ begin page 241 ]ppp.01500.249.jpg


1WHAT am I, after all, but a child, pleased with the  
 sound of my own name? repeating it over and  
I cannot tell why it affects me so much, when I hear  
 it from women's voices, and from men's voices,  
 or from my own voice,
I stand apart to hear—it never tires me.
2To you, your name also, Did you think there was nothing but two or three  
 pronunciations in the sound of your name?


LOCATIONS and times—what is it in me that meets  
 them all, whenever and wherever, and makes me  
 at home?
Forms, colors, densities, odors—what is it in me that  
 corresponds with them?
What is the relation between me and them?
21   [ begin page 242 ]ppp.01500.250.jpg


LIFT me close to your face till I whisper, What you are holding is in reality no book, nor part  
 of a book,
It is a man, flushed and full-blooded—it is I—So  
We must separate—Here! take from my lips this  
Whoever you are, I give it especially to you; So long—and I hope we shall meet again.

Table of Contents (1860–1861)

Poems in this cluster

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