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Leaves of Grass 1

Part of the cluster LEAVES OF GRASS.


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Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congrat- 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.

Part of the cluster LEAVES OF GRASS.

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