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Cluster: Messenger Leaves. (1860)

Table of Contents (1860–1861)

Poems in this cluster


To You, Whoever You Are.

WHOEVER you are, I fear you are walking the walks of  
I fear those realities are to melt from under your feet  
 and hands;
Even now, your features, joys, speech, house, trade,  
 manners, troubles, follies, costume, crimes, dis- 
 sipate away from you,
Your true Soul and body appear before me, They stand forth out of affairs—out of commerce,  
 shops, law, science, work, farms, clothes, the  
 house, medicine, print, buying, selling, eating,  
 drinking, suffering, dying.
2Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you,  
 that you be my poem,
I whisper with my lips close to your ear, I have loved many women and men, but I love none  
 better than you.
3O I have been dilatory and dumb, I should have made my way straight to you long ago, I should have blabbed nothing but you, I should have  
 chanted nothing but you.
  [ begin page 392 ]ppp.01500.400.jpg 4I will leave all, and come and make the hymns of  
None have understood you, but I understand you, None have done justice to you—you have not done  
 justice to yourself,
None but have found you imperfect—I only find no  
 imperfection in you,
None but would subordinate you—I only am he who  
 will never consent to subordinate you,
I only am he who places over you no master, owner,  
 better, God, beyond what waits intrinsically in  
5Painters have painted their swarming groups, and the  
 centre figure of all,
From the head of the centre figure spreading a nim- 
 bus of gold-colored light,
But I paint myriads of heads, but paint no head with- 
 out its nimbus of gold-colored light,
From my hand, from the brain of every man and  
 woman it streams, effulgently flowing forever.
6O I could sing such grandeurs and glories about you! You have not known what you are—you have slum- 
 bered upon yourself all your life,
Your eyelids have been the same as closed most of  
 the time,
What you have done returns already in mockeries, Your thrift, knowledge, prayers, if they do not return  
 in mockeries, what is their return?
7The mockeries are not you, Underneath them, and within them, I see you lurk, I pursue you where none else has pursued you,   [ begin page 393 ]ppp.01500.401.jpg Silence, the desk, the flippant expression, the night,  
 the accustomed routine, if these conceal you from  
 others, or from yourself, they do not conceal you  
 from me,
The shaved face, the unsteady eye, the impure com- 
 plexion, if these balk others, they do not balk  
The pert apparel, the deformed attitude, drunken- 
 ness, greed, premature death, all these I part  
I track through your windings and turnings—I come  
 upon you where you thought eye should never  
 come upon you.
8There is no endowment in man or woman that is not  
 tallied in you,
There is no virtue, no beauty, in man or woman, but  
 as good is in you,
No pluck, no endurance in others, but as good is  
 in you,
No pleasure waiting for others, but an equal pleasure  
 waits for you.
9As for me, I give nothing to any one, except I give  
 the like carefully to you,
I sing the songs of the glory of none, not God, sooner  
 than I sing the songs of the glory of you.
10Whoever you are! claim your own at any hazard! These shows of the east and west are tame compared  
 to you,
These immense meadows—these interminable rivers  
 —you are immense and interminable as they,
  [ begin page 394 ]ppp.01500.402.jpg These furies, elements, storms, motions of Nature,  
 throes of apparent dissolution—you are he or  
 she who is master or mistress over them,
Master or mistress in your own right over Nature,  
 elements, pain, passion, dissolution.
11The hopples fall from your ankles—you find an un- 
 failing sufficiency,
Old or young, male or female, rude, low, rejected by  
 the rest, whatever you are promulges itself,
Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are pro- 
 vided, nothing is scanted,
Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui,  
 what you are picks its way.

To a Foiled Revolter or Revoltress.

1COURAGE! my brother or my sister! Keep on! Liberty is to be subserved, whatever occurs; That is nothing, that is quelled by one or two failures,  
 or any number of failures,
Or by the indifference or ingratitude of the people,  
 or by any unfaithfulness,
Or the show of the tushes of power—soldiers, cannon,  
 penal statutes.
2What we believe in waits latent forever through  
 Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America,  
 Australia, Cuba, and all the islands and archi- 
 pelagoes of the sea.
  [ begin page 395 ]ppp.01500.403.jpg 3What we believe in invites no one, promises nothing,  
 sits in calmness and light, is positive and com- 
 posed, knows no discouragement,
Waits patiently its time—a year—a century—a  
 hundred centuries.
4The battle rages with many a loud alarm and fre- 
 quent advance and retreat,
The infidel triumphs—or supposes he triumphs, The prison, scaffold, garrote, hand-cuffs, iron necklace  
 and anklet, lead-balls, do their work,
The named and unnamed heroes pass to other  
The great speakers and writers are exiled—they lie  
 sick in distant lands,
The cause is asleep—the strongest throats are still,  
 choked with their own blood,
The young men drop their eyelashes toward the  
 ground when they meet,
But for all this, liberty has not gone out of the place,  
 nor the infidel entered into possession.
5When liberty goes out of a place, it is not the first  
 to go, nor the second or third to go,
It waits for all the rest to go—it is the last.
6When there are no more memories of the superb  
 lovers of the nations of the world,
The superb lovers' names scouted in the public  
 gatherings by the lips of the orators,
Boys not christened after them, but christened after  
 traitors and murderers instead,
  [ begin page 396 ]ppp.01500.404.jpg Tyrants' and priests' successes really acknowledged  
 anywhere, for all the ostensible appearance,
You or I walking abroad upon the earth, elated at  
 the sight of slaves, no matter who they are,
And when all life, and all the Souls of men and women  
 are discharged from any part of the earth,
Then shall the instinct of liberty be discharged from  
 that part of the earth,
Then shall the infidel and the tyrant come into  
7Then courage! For till all ceases, neither must you cease. 8I do not know what you are for, (I do not what I am  
 for myself, nor what any thing is for,)
But I will search carefully for it in being foiled, In defeat, poverty, imprisonment—for they too are  
9Did we think victory great? So it is—But now it seems to me, when it cannot be  
 helped, that defeat is great,
And that death and dismay are great.
  [ begin page 397 ]ppp.01500.405.jpg

To Him that was Crucified.

MY spirit to yours, dear brother, Do not mind because many, sounding your name, do  
 not understand you,
I do not sound your name, but I understand you, 
 (there are others also;)
I specify you with joy, O my comrade, to salute you, 
 and to salute those who are with you, before and  
 since—and those to come also,
That we all labor together, transmitting the same  
 charge and succession;
We few, equals, indifferent of lands, indifferent of  
We, enclosers of all continents, all castes—allowers  
 of all theologies,
Compassionaters, perceivers, rapport of men, We walk silent among disputes and assertions, but  
 reject not the disputers, nor any thing that is  
We hear the bawling and din—we are reached at  
 by divisions, jealousies, recriminations on every  
They close peremptorily upon us, to surround us, 
 my comrade,
Yet we walk unheld, free, the whole earth over, 
 journeying up and down, till we make our in- 
 effaceable mark upon time and the diverse eras,
Till we saturate time and eras, that the men and  
 women of races, ages to come, may prove breth- 
 ren and lovers, as we are.
34   [ begin page 398 ]ppp.01500.406.jpg

To One shortly To Die.

1FROM all the rest I single out you, having a message  
 for you:
You are to die—Let others tell you what they  
 please, I cannot prevaricate,
I am exact and merciless, but I love you—There is  
 no escape for you.
2Softly I lay my right hand upon you—you just  
 feel it,
I do not argue—I bend my head close, and half-  
 envelop it,
I sit quietly by—I remain faithful, I am more than nurse, more than parent or neighbor, I absolve you from all except yourself, spiritual,  
 bodily—that is eternal,
(The corpse you will leave will be but excremen- 
3The sun bursts through in unlooked-for directions! Strong thoughts fill you, and confidence—you smile! You forget you are sick, as I forget you are sick, You do not see the medicines—you do not mind the  
 weeping friends—I am with you,
I exclude others from you—there is nothing to be  
I do not commiserate—I congratulate you.
  [ begin page 399 ]ppp.01500.407.jpg

To a Common Prostitute.

1BE composed—be at ease with me—I am Walt  
 Whitman, liberal and lusty as Nature,
Not till the sun excludes you, do I exclude you, Not till the waters refuse to glisten for you, and the  
 leaves to rustle for you, do my words refuse to  
 glisten and rustle for you.
2My girl, I appoint with you an appointment—and I  
 charge you that you make preparation to be  
 worthy to meet me,
And I charge you that you be patient and perfect till  
 I come.
3Till then, I salute you with a significant look, that  
 you do not forget me.

To Rich Givers.

WHAT you give me, I cheerfully accept, A little sustenance, a hut and garden, a little money  
 —these as I rendezvous with my poems,
A traveller's lodging and breakfast as I journey  
 through The States—Why should I be ashamed  
 to own such gifts? Why to advertise for them?
For I myself am not one who bestows nothing upon  
 man and woman,
For I know that what I bestow upon any man or  
 woman is no less than the entrance to all the  
 gifts of the universe.
  [ begin page 400 ]ppp.01500.408.jpg

To a Pupil.

1IS reform needed? Is it through you? The greater the reform needed, the greater the PER- 
you need to accomplish it.
2You! do you not see how it would serve to have eyes,  
 blood, complexion, clean and sweet?
Do you not see how it would serve to have such a  
 body and Soul, that when you enter the crowd,  
 an atmosphere of desire and command enters  
 with you, and every one is impressed with your  
3O the magnet! the flesh over and over! Go, mon cher! if need be, give up all else, and com- 
 mence to-day to inure yourself to pluck, reality,  
 self-esteem, definiteness, elevatedness,
Rest not, till you rivet and publish yourself of your  
 own personality.

To The States, 
 To Identify the 16th, 17th, or 18th Presidentiad.

WHY reclining, interrogating? Why myself and all  
What deepening twilight! Scum floating atop of the  
Who are they, as bats and night-dogs, askant in the  
  [ begin page 401 ]ppp.01500.409.jpg What a filthy Presidentiad! (O south, your torrid  
 suns! O north, your arctic freezings!)
Are those really Congressmen? Are those the great  
 Judges? Is that the President?
Then I will sleep a while yet—for I see that These  
 States sleep, for reasons;
(With gathering murk—with muttering thunder and  
 lambent shoots, we all duly awake,
South, north, east, west, inland and seaboard, we will  
 surely awake.)

To a Cantatrice.

HERE, take this gift! I was reserving it for some hero, orator, or general, One who should serve the good old cause, the prog- 
 ress and freedom of the race, the cause of  
 my Soul;
But I see that what I was reserving belongs to you  
 just as much as to any.

Walt Whitman's Caution.

TO The States, or any one of them, or any city of  
 The States, Resist much, obey little,
Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved, Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, of this  
 earth, ever afterward resumes its liberty.
34*   [ begin page 402 ]ppp.01500.410.jpg

To a President.

ALL you are doing and saying is to America dangled  
You have not learned of Nature—of the politics of  
 Nature, you have not learned the great ampli- 
 tude, rectitude, impartiality,
You have not seen that only such as they are for  
 These States,
And that what is less than they, must sooner or later  
 lift off from These States.

To other Lands.

I HEAR you have been asking for something to repre- 
 sent the new race, our self-poised Democracy,
Therefore I send you my poems, that you behold in  
 them what you wanted.

To Old Age.

I SEE in you the estuary that enlarges and spreads  
 itself grandly as it pours in the great sea.
  [ begin page 403 ]ppp.01500.411.jpg

To You.

LET us twain walk aside from the rest; Now we are together privately, do you discard cer- 
Come! vouchsafe to me what has yet been vouchsafed  
 to none—Tell me the whole story,
Tell me what you would not tell your brother, wife, 
 husband, or physician.

To You.

STRANGER! if you, passing, meet me, and desire to  
 speak to me, why should you not speak to me?
And why should I not speak to you?

Table of Contents (1860–1861)

Poems in this cluster

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