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Poem of the Road


1AFOOT and light-hearted I take to the open road, Healthy, free, the world before me, The long brown path before me, leading wherever I  
2Henceforth I ask not good-fortune—I am good- 
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, 
 need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.
3The earth—that is sufficient, I do not want the constellations any nearer, I know they are very well where they are, I know they suffice for those who belong to them. 4Still here I carry my old delicious burdens, I carry them, men and women—I carry them with  
 me wherever I go,
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them, I am filled with them, and I will fill them in return.
5You road I travel and look around! I believe you  
 are not all that is here,
I believe that much unseen is also here.
  [ begin page 316 ]ppp.01500.324.jpg 6Here is the profound lesson of reception, neither  
 preference or denial,
The black with his woolly head, the felon, the dis- 
 eased, the illiterate person, are not denied;
The birth, the hasting after the physician, the beg- 
 gar's tramp, the drunkard's stagger, the laughing  
 party of mechanics,
The escaped youth, the rich person's carriage, the fop, 
 the eloping couple,
The early market-man, the hearse, the moving of  
 furniture into the town, the return back from  
 the town,
They pass, I also pass, any thing passes—none can  
 be interdicted,
None but are accepted, none but are dear to me.
7You air that serves me with breath to speak! You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and  
 give them shape!
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate  
 equable showers!
You animals moving serenely over the earth! You birds that wing yourselves through the air! you  
You sprouting growths from the farmers' fields! you  
 stalks and weeds by the fences!
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the road- 
I think you are latent with curious existences—you  
 are so dear to me.
8You flagged walks of the cities! you strong curbs at  
 the edges!
  [ begin page 317 ]ppp.01500.325.jpg You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you  
 timber-lined sides! you distant ships!
You rows of houses! you window-pierced façades! 
 you roofs!
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron  
You windows whose transparent shells might expose  
 so much!
You doors and ascending steps! you arches! You gray stones of interminable pavements! you trod- 
 den crossings!
From all that has been near you I believe you have  
 imparted to yourselves, and now would impart  
 the same secretly to me,
From the living and the dead I think you have peopled  
 your impassive surfaces, and the spirits thereof  
 would be evident and amicable with me.
9The earth expanding right hand and left hand, The picture alive, every part in its best light, The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping  
 where it was not wanted,
The cheerful voice of the public road—the gay fresh  
 sentiment of the road.
10O highway I travel! O public road! do you say to  
 me, Do not leave me?
Do you say, Venture not? If you leave me, you are  
Do you say, I am already prepared—I am well-beaten  
 and undenied—adhere to me?
11O public road! I say back, I am not afraid to leave  
 you—yet I love you,
27*   [ begin page 318 ]ppp.01500.326.jpg You express me better than I can express myself, You shall be more to me than my poem.
12I think heroic deeds were all conceived in the open  
I think I could stop here myself, and do miracles, I think whatever I meet on the road I shall like, and  
 whoever beholds me shall like me,
I think whoever I see must be happy.
13From this hour, freedom! From this hour I ordain myself loosed of limits and  
 imaginary lines,
Going where I list—my own master, total and abso- 
Listening to others, and considering well what they  
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of  
 the holds that would hold me.
14I inhale great draughts of air, The east and the west are mine, and the north and  
 the south are mine.
15I am larger than I thought, I did not know I held so much goodness. 16All seems beautiful to me, I can repeat over to men and women, You have done  
 such good to me, I would do the same to you.
17I will recruit for myself and you as I go, I will scatter myself among men and women as I go,   [ begin page 319 ]ppp.01500.327.jpg I will toss the new gladness and roughness among  
Whoever denies me, it shall not trouble me, Whoever accepts me, he or she shall be blessed, and  
 shall bless me.
18Now if a thousand perfect men were to appear, it  
 would not amaze me,
Now if a thousand beautiful forms of women appeared, 
 it would not astonish me.
19Now I see the secret of the making of the best  
It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and sleep  
 with the earth.
20Here is space—here a great personal deed has room, A great deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole race  
 of men,
Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law, and  
 mocks all authority and all argument against it.
21Here is the test of wisdom, Wisdom is not finally tested in schools, Wisdom cannot be passed from one having it, to an- 
 other not having it,
Wisdom is of the Soul, is not susceptible of proof, is  
 its own proof,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities, and is  
Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of  
 things, and the excellence of things;
Something there is in the float of the sight of things  
 that provokes it out of the Soul.
  [ begin page 320 ]ppp.01500.328.jpg 22Now I reëxamine philosophies and religions, They may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not prove  
 at all under the spacious clouds, and along the  
 landscape and flowing currents.
23Here is realization, Here is a man tallied—he realizes here what he has  
 in him,
The animals, the past, the future, light, space, 
 majesty, love, if they are vacant of you, you  
 are vacant of them.
24Only the kernel of every object nourishes; Where is he who tears off the husks for you and me? Where is he that undoes stratagems and envelopes for  
 you and me?
25Here is adhesiveness—it is not previously fashioned  
 —it is apropos;
Do you know what it is, as you pass, to be loved by  
Do you know the talk of those turning eye-balls?
26Here is the efflux of the Soul, The efflux of the Soul comes through beautiful gates  
 of laws, provoking questions;
These yearnings, why are they? These thoughts in  
 the darkness, why are they?
Why are there men and women that while they are  
 nigh me, the sun-light expands my blood?
Why, when they leave me, do my pennants of joy sink  
 flat and lank?
Why are there trees I never walk under, but large and  
 melodious thoughts descend upon me?
  [ begin page 321 ]ppp.01500.329.jpg (I think they hang there winter and summer on those  
 trees, and always drop fruit as I pass;)
What is it I interchange so suddenly with strangers? What with some driver, as I ride on the seat by his  
What with some fisherman, drawing his seine by the  
 shore, as I walk by and pause?
What gives me to be free to a woman's or man's good- 
 will? What gives them to be free to mine?
27The efflux of the Soul is happiness—here is  
I think it pervades the air, waiting at all times, Now it flows into us—we are rightly charged.
28Here rises the fluid and attaching character; The fluid and attaching character is the freshness and  
 sweetness of man and woman,
The herbs of the morning sprout no fresher and  
 sweeter every day out of the roots of them- 
 selves, than it sprouts fresh and sweet contin- 
 ually out of itself.
29Toward the fluid and attaching character exudes the  
 sweat of the love of young and old,
From it falls distilled the charm that mocks beauty  
 and attainments,
Toward it heaves the shuddering longing ache of  
30Allons! Whoever you are, come travel with me! Travelling with me, you find what never tires.   [ begin page 322 ]ppp.01500.330.jpg 31The earth never tires, The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first— 
 Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first;
Be not discouraged—keep on—there are divine  
 things, well enveloped,
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful  
 than words can tell.
32Allons! We must not stop here! However sweet these laid-up stores—however con- 
 venient this dwelling, we cannot remain here,
However sheltered this port, and however calm these  
 waters, we must not anchor here,
However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us, 
 we are permitted to receive it but a little while.
33Allons! The inducements shall be great to you; We will sail pathless and wild seas; We will go where winds blow, waves dash, and the  
 Yankee clipper speeds by under full sail.
34Allons! With power, liberty, the earth, the elements! Health, defiance, gayety, self-esteem, curiosity; Allons! from all formules! From your formules, O bat-eyed and materialistic  
35The stale cadaver blocks up the passage—the burial  
 waits no longer.
36Allons! Yet take warning! He travelling with me needs the best blood, thews, 
  [ begin page 323 ]ppp.01500.331.jpg None may come to the trial, till he or she bring  
 courage and health.
37Come not here if you have already spent the best of  
Only those may come, who come in sweet and deter- 
 mined bodies,
No diseased person—no rum-drinker or venereal  
 taint is permitted here.
38I and mine do not convince by arguments, similes, 
We convince by our presence.
39Listen! I will be honest with you, I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough  
 new prizes,
These are the days that must happen to you:
40You shall not heap up what is called riches, You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn  
 or achieve,
You but arrive at the city to which you were des- 
 tined—you hardly settle yourself to satisfaction, 
 before you are called by an irresistible call to  
You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mock- 
 ings of those who remain behind you,
What beckonings of love you receive, you shall only  
 answer with passionate kisses of parting,
You shall not allow the hold of those who spread  
 their reached hands toward you.
41Allons! After the GREAT COMPANIONS! and to belong  
 to them!
  [ begin page 324 ]ppp.01500.332.jpg They too are on the road! they are the swift and  
 majestic men! they are the greatest women.
42Over that which hindered them—over that which  
 retarded—passing impediments large or small,
Committers of crimes, committers of many beautiful  
Enjoyers of calms of seas, and storms of seas, Sailors of many a ship, walkers of many a mile of  
Habitues of many different countries, habitues of far- 
 distant dwellings,
Trusters of men and women, observers of cities, soli- 
 tary toilers,
Pausers and contemplaters of tufts, blossoms, shells of  
 the shore,
Dancers at wedding-dances, kissers of brides, tender  
 helpers of children, bearers of children,
Soldiers of revolts, standers by gaping graves, lower- 
 ers down of coffins,
Journeyers over consecutive seasons, over the years— 
 the curious years, each emerging from that which  
 preceded it,
Journeyers as with companions, namely, their own  
 diverse phases,
Forth-steppers from the latent unrealized baby-days, Journeyers gayly with their own youth—journeyers  
 with their bearded and well-grained manhood,
Journeyers with their womanhood, ample, unsur- 
 passed, content,
Journeyers with their sublime old age of manhood or  
Old age, calm, expanded, broad with the haughty  
 breadth of the universe,
  [ begin page 325 ]ppp.01500.333.jpg Old age, flowing free with the delicious near-by free- 
 dom of death.
43Allons! To that which is endless, as it was beginning- 
To undergo much, tramps of days, rests of nights, To merge all in the travel they tend to, and the days  
 and nights they tend to,
Again to merge them in the start of superior jour- 
To see nothing anywhere but what you may reach it  
 and pass it,
To conceive no time, however distant, but what you  
 may reach it and pass it,
To look up or down no road but it stretches and waits  
 for you—however long, but it stretches and waits  
 for you;
To see no being, not God's or any, but you also go  
To see no possession but you may possess it—enjoy- 
 ing all without labor or purchase—abstracting  
 the feast, yet not abstracting one particle of it;
To take the best of the farmer's farm and the rich  
 man's elegant villa, and the chaste blessings of  
 the well-married couple, and the fruits of or- 
 chards and flowers of gardens,
To take to your use out of the compact cities as you  
 pass through,
To carry buildings and streets with you afterward  
 wherever you go,
To gather the minds of men out of their brains as you  
 encounter them—to gather the love out of their  
28   [ begin page 326 ]ppp.01500.334.jpg To take your own lovers on the road with you, for all  
 that you leave them behind you,
To know the universe itself as a road—as many  
 roads—as roads for travelling Souls.
44The Soul travels, The body does not travel as much as the Soul, The body has just as great a work as the Soul, and  
 parts away at last for the journeys of the Soul.
45All parts away for the progress of Souls, All religion, all solid things, arts, governments—all  
 that was or is apparent upon this globe or any  
 globe, falls into niches and corners before the  
 procession of Souls along the grand roads of the  
46Of the progress of the Souls of men and women along  
 the grand roads of the universe, all other prog- 
 ress is the needed emblem and sustenance.
47Forever alive, forever forward, Stately, solemn, sad, withdrawn, baffled, mad, turbu- 
 lent, feeble, dissatisfied,
Desperate, proud, fond, sick, accepted by men, re- 
 jected by men,
They go! they go! I know that they go, but I know  
 not where they go,
But I know that they go toward the best—toward  
 something great.
48Allons! Whoever you are! come forth! You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the  
 house, though you built it, or though it has been  
 built for you.
  [ begin page 327 ]ppp.01500.335.jpg 49Allons! out of the dark confinement! It is useless to protest—I know all, and expose it. 50Behold, through you as bad as the rest, Through the laughter, dancing, dining, supping, of  
Inside of dresses and ornaments, inside of those  
 washed and trimmed faces,
Behold a secret silent loathing and despair.
51No husband, no wife, no friend, no lover, so trusted  
 as to hear the confession,
Another self, a duplicate of every one, skulking  
 and hiding it goes, open and above board it  
Formless and wordless through the streets of the  
 cities, polite and bland in the parlors,
In the cars of rail-roads, in steam-boats, in the public  
Home to the houses of men and women, among their  
 families, at the table, in the bed-room, every- 
Smartly attired, countenance smiling, form upright, 
 death under the breast-bones, hell under the  
Under the broadcloth and gloves, under the ribbons  
 and artificial flowers,
Keeping fair with the customs, speaking not a syllable  
 of itself,
Speaking of anything else, but never of itself.
52Allons! Through struggles and wars! The goal that was named cannot be countermanded.   [ begin page 328 ]ppp.01500.336.jpg 53Have the past struggles succeeded? What has succeeded? Yourself? Your nation? 
Now understand me well—It is provided in the  
 essence of things, that from any fruition of suc- 
 cess, no matter what, shall come forth something  
 to make a greater struggle necessary.
54My call is the call of battle—I nourish active re- 
He going with me must go well armed, He going with me goes often with spare diet, poverty, 
 angry enemies, desertions.
55Allons! The road is before us! It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried  
 it well.
56Allons! Be not detained! Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the  
 book on the shelf unopened!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money  
 remain unearned!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher! Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer  
 plead in the court, and the judge expound the  
57Mon enfant! I give you my hand! I give you my love, more precious than money, I give you myself, before preaching or law; Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel  
 with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
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