In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: "Summer Duck"

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Between 1852 and 1855

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00158

Source: Wood drake |  The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Transcribed from digital images of the original. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the notebooks, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: These pages were written by Whitman in the early to mid-1850s. William White described the pages as "torn from a tall notebook" (Daybooks and Notebooks [New York: New York University Press, 1978], 770–773). White noted a possible relationship between the opening words and the first poem of the 1855 edition, eventually titled "Song of Myself." The lines at the end of this manuscript were also reworked and used for a different section of the same poem. Matt Miller has noted that the information in the first several notes was taken from J. P. Giraud Jr., The Birds of Long Island (New York: Wiley & Putnam, 1844). For further discussion of the dating and importance of this notebook, see Miller, Collage of Myself: Walt Whitman and the Making of Leaves of Grass (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2010), 26–29.

Contributors to digital file: Brett Barney, Kirsten Clawson, and Nicole Gray

[begin leaf 1 recto] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Page image:]

"Summer Duck" or "Wood Duck" ^"wood drake" very gay, including in its colors white,
red, yellow, green, blue, &c crowns violet—length 20 inches
—common in the United States—often by creeks streams and
ponds—rises and slowly circuits—selects hollow
trees to breed in—keep in parties—generally move in pairs at least

King Bird "Tyrant Flycatcher" length 8½ inches—loud shrill voice—
attacks hawks and crows as if for amusement—when tired it
retreats to some stake or limb, with a triumphant twitter.—

Peewee—^one of the earliest comers in spring—builds nest often under the
eaves of a deserted house or barn—pleasing note—

"Redstart"—beautiful small bird arrives here latter part of April,
returns south late in September—common in
woods and along roadside and meadow—feeds on insects—
active—has a lively twitter.—

☞All the above are met on Long Island

young squaw
Papoose—old squaw

One personal deed,—one great effusion of some grand strength and will of man—may go far beyond law, custom, and all other conventionalisms—and seize upon the heart of the whole race, utterly defiant of authority—or argument against [them?] it.—

Do you suppose the world is finished, at any ^certain time—like a contract for paving a street?—Do you suppose because the American government has been formed, and public schools established, we have nothing more to do but take our ease, and make money, and let this grow sleep out the rest of the [time?]?

Fear delectation! delicatesse grace! Fear grace!— delicatesse!— al del-i-ca-teśs— These precede the (what is it in fruit when just ripe) terrible ripeness of nature—the decay of the ruggedness of a maen—the and of a nationns.—

[begin leaf 1 verso] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Page image:]

Go on! go on! we ha'n't got time

Ens l—a being, existence, essence, that recondite part of a substance from which all its qualities flow, ([old?] term in metaphysics)


Look out there's "Take heed to yourselves—there's a mad man stalking loose through in the ship, with a knife in his hands,"—such was the warning sung out at night more than once below in the Old Jersey prison ship, ^1780 moored at the Wallabout, in the revolution.—Utter derangement was a frequent symptom of the aggravated sicknesses that prevailed there.—The prisoners were allowed no light at night.—

No physicians were allowed provided.—

Sophocles, Eschylus, and Euripides flourished about the time of the birth of Socrates 468 B.C. ^and years afterward.—Great as their remains are, they were transcended by other works that have not come down to us.—Those other works, often gained the first prizes.—

In Eschylus the figures are shadowy, vast, and majestic—dreaming, moving with haughty grandeurs, strength and will

In Sophokles, the dialogue and feelings are more like reality and the interest approaches home,—great poetical beauty.—

In Euripides, love and compassion—scientific refinement,—something like skepticism.—This writer was a hearer of Socrates.—

Phallic festivals.—wild mirthful processions in honor of the god Dionysus (Bacchus)—in Athens, and other parts of Greece—unbounded license—mocking jibes and irony—epithets and biting insults

To the Poor—

I have my place among you

Is it nothing that I have preferred to be poor, rather than
to be rich?

The road to riches is easily open to me,

But I do not choose it.

I choose to stay with you.—

[begin leaf 2 recto] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Page image:]

[cut away](bring in a few[cut away] of ancient, and modern times—the worst I can find and the most [comely ?]and their ope effects— practical operations.)

Does any one tell me that it is the part of a man to obey such enactments as these?

I tell you the world is demented with this very obedience—

When a man, untrammeling himself from blind obedience to pries the craft of priests and politicians, branches out with his own sovereign will and strength—knowing that himself the unspeakable ^greatness of himself, or of the meanest of his fellow creatures—expands far beyond all the laws and governments of the earth—then he begins really to be a man.—Then he is great.—

From the baldness of birth to the baldness of burials and shrouds

Something behind or afterward.—Leave the impression that no matter what is said, there is something greater to say—something behind still more marvellous and beautiful—

[begin leaf 2 verso] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Page image:]

[cut away] He does better with spare[cut away] out, hunger, starvation, opposing enemies, contentious

Riches.—It is only the mean and vulgar appetite that craves money and property ^as the first and foremost of its wants

[begin hashmark section]

I have appeared among you to say that all what you do is
right, and that what you affirm is right;

But that [it is?] they are only the alphabet? of right.—

And that you shall use them as beginnings and first attempts.—

I have not appeared to take any with violent
hands to pull up by the roots any thing that has grown,

Whatever has grown, has grown well.—

Do you suppose fancy there was any flaw ^is some waters in the
semen of the first perpetual copulation?

Do you believe of suppose the universe [illegible]celestial laws of might be reformed and

[illegible][Virtue?] and about Vice [cut away]


[end hashmark section]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.