In Whitman's Hand

Notebooks

About this Item

Title: Poem incarnating the mind

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Before 1855

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00346

Source: Notebook LC #85 |  The Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1842–1937, 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: Edward Grier dates this notebook before 1855, based on the pronoun revisions from third person to first person and the notebook's similarity to Whitman's early "Talbot Wilson" notebook (Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts [New York: New York University Press, 1984], 1:102). Grier notes that a portion of this notebook (beginning "How spied the captain and sailors") describes the wreck of the ship San Francisco in January 1854 (1:108 n33). A note on one of the last pages of the notebook matches the plot of the first of four tales Whitman published as "Some Fact-Romances" in The Aristidean in 1845, so segments of the notebook may have been written as early as the 1840s. Lines from the notebook were used in "Song of Myself" and "A Song of the Rolling Earth," which appeared in the 1856 Leaves of Grass. Language and ideas from the notebook also appear to have contributed to other poems and prose, including "Miracles;" the preface to the 1855 Leaves of Grass; "The Sleepers," which first appeared as the fourth poem in the 1855 Leaves; and "A Song of Joys," which appeared as "Poem of Joys" in the 1860 edition. On the cover of the notebook is a note in an unknown hand that reads: "Note Book Walt Whitman E85."

The notebook has been disassembled. Our transcription is based on the numbering that appears at the bottom of each leaf. Whitman made a series of marks linking continuous text on separate pages, however, and our text does not attempt to follow his order of inscription. For a reading version of the notebook that rearranges the ordering in an attempt to capture Whitman's intended textual flow, see Grier, 1:102–112.

Contributors to digital file: Nicole Gray, Natalie O'Neal, and Kenneth M. Price



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Poem incarnating the mind of an old man, whose life has been magnificently developed—the wildest and most exuberant joy—the utterance of hope and floods of anticipation—faith in whatever happens—but all enfolded in Joy Joy Joy, which underlies and overtops the whole effusion


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Why are you cautious and of the ? and of your eyes?—I guess it is because they incarnate to me the


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^Crossing the Fulton ferry to-day, I met an old acquaintance, to-day whom I had missed from the city these three years.—He told me his experience that time.—He had been reporting and lobbying at Albany and Washington ^employed as reporter and lobbyer.—.—He corresponded with newspapers and received pay.—He When dull legislators made dull speeches, he licked them into sleekness, and so had synopses of them put in print, and received pay.—He took hold of some scheme or claim before upon the legislature, and lobbied for it;—he helped men who were office seeking; he put *


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with merchants and tradesmen and factors the point of honor is to pay notes punctually,—to pay off the men every Saturday night,—to have ^ receive permit no demands which they cannot satisfy at an appointed day.—


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We are Concerned in the make of th a grand steam ship We cannot sleep nights for thinking on the pennant halyards, of the steamer ^and the little gaskets, but we feel no speck of anxiety about the style and strength of the engines.—


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His blood My gore presently oozes from ^trickles down ^ from a [score of?]
and [illegible] and thinned with the
plentiful sweat
salt ooze of my skin,

And ^ [See how it?] ^as trickles down the black [skin?]

I He slowly falls on the ^reddened grass and stones,

And the hunters haul up close
with their unwilling horses,

And Till the taunt and curse oath [sink?] swim
^away from my dim and dizzy ^ away from my in his ears

tr *

What Lucifer felt, ^ cursed when tumbling from
Heaven

What the rebel, when he felt gaily
adjusting his neck to the
rope noose,

*

What the red ^ brown savage, lashed to
the stump, but ^[spirting?] launching yelling still
his yells and laughter to at every foe

What rage of hell [of?] spirted urged

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*

greenhorns through their noviciate; he manufactured public opinion at a distance, and so forth, and so forth.—For all these he duly received pay.—


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from the lips and fingers hands
of the vict captors victors.—

How fared The young captain that lay ^ [illegible] dying pale ^pale and ebbing
^flat on his ^own bloody deck

The pangs of defeat more sharper than
death to his hearts breast the green edged wounds of of his side,

What choked the throat of
the general when he sur
rendered with all his army,

(over leaf ☞
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But the spirits, effusing mind, character,

No man and no woman can with bruise gash or starve or overburden or pollute or imbibe bad rotten stuff in the that superior nature of his or her's, any more than one can poison or starve his body.—

What minutes of damnation

What heightless dread, ^falls in the
click of a moment

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story of Julia Scudder whose husband left her


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Is not the faculty of sight better than the ? of the eye?—Is not the human voice more than the [rings?] of the windpipe?

No man and no woman will means to stab deform or sicken the body.—Of For that wonderful and beautiful vessel, we are pro make


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Lotos—the water lily of the Nile

honey-lotus—honey-clover

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Amelioration is the blood that runs through the body of the universe.—I grow I do not lag—I do not hasten—^ —it appears to say— I bide my time day hours over billions ^of billions of years—I exist in the formless void that through asks for takes uncounted ages forms time and coheres to a nebula ?, and in further ages time coheresing to an orb, and marches, like gladly round, a ^beautiful tangible creature, in itsher place in the newer processions of God, whither where the troops are hastening for ^new accessions comers have been falling in the ranks for

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ever, and now will be so always—I could be balked no how, not if all the worlds and living beings in were ^this [hour?] ^minute reduced turned back into the fog ^impalpable film of chaos—I should surely bring up again where we now stand, and go on as much further and still thence on and on—I think a few [n?] my right hand is time, and my left hand is space—both are ample—a few quintillions of cycles, a few sextillions of cubic leagues, are not of ^ special importance to me—I what I attain shall attain to I do not know can never tell, for there is something that
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underlies and overtops me, of whom I am an effusion a part an attribute and instrument.—

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such is the

And will you ^Tongue of a million voices, tell us no more,. of tongue of a million voices?—Come, we listen O mouth of mystery we listen, we listen with [dreaming?] stretched pangs itchings of desire, for to hear your tale of the soul.—

We Tthrob and wait, and lay your our ears to the wall as y as we may, we throb


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and wait ^for the god in vain.—I am vast—he seems to console us with, ^a whispering undertone in lack instead of an answer—and my works are what is wherever the universe is—but we are only the morning wakers to the soul of man.—the Soul of man! the Soul of man!—To that, we do the office of the servants who wakes histheir master at the dawn.


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Of all the plenty in nature there is, no plenty is comparable to the plenty of time and space.—Of these there is ample store,—there is no limit

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All truths lie hidde waiting in all things.—They neither urge the opening of themselves nor resist it.—[transposition mark] (The heart of man alone is the one unbalanced and restless thing in the world)

And the For their birth you need not the obstetric orforceps of the surgeon. Approach them with love They ^ perhaps unfold to you and emit them^selves, more fragrant than roses from their living buds, if whenever you fetch in yourself thate spring sunshine and ^moistened with summer rain.—But it must be in yourself.—It shall come

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from your soul.—It shall be love.—


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We hear of miracles.—But what is there that is not a miracle? What Of wWhat can may you conceive of or propound name to me in the future, that were a greater miracle than stranger or subtler shall be beyond me any ^ all or ^the least thing around us?—I am looking in your eyes;—tell me O then, if you can, what is there in the immortality of the soul more incomprehensible than this curious spiritual and beautiful miracle of sight?—^By the equally subtle one of Volition, is an I open to almond-sized two pairs of lids, only as big as a peach-pits, when lo! the unnamable variety and whelming splendor *

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We know that sympathy or love is the law of over all laws, because in nothing else but love does is the soul conscious of pure happiness, which is appears to be the ultimate resting place of and point of all things.—


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* of the whole world to come to me.—with silence and with swiftness.—In an instant I ma Then make I fluid and draw to myself, however dense ^keeping each to its distinct isolation, and no hubbub or jam or confusion, or jam, the whole of physical nature, though rocks are dense and hills are ponderous, and the stars are far away off sextillions of miles.—All the years of all the beings that have ever life lived on the earth,

*
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If the light of a half day dawn were arrested, and held so for a thousand years

How


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And wrote chalked on a great
board, Be of good cheer, we
will not desert you
,
and held it up as they
to against the
and did it;

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The thin swift passing clouds like lace, blown overhead during a storm are called the flying scud


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If Let us suppose for fo that all the most rational people of the world had gone no further than children of twelve years old—or, as this seems forced, suppose the utmost advance yet made was the advance of the Camanches and kindred peoples of


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The Poet

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All the greatness and beau large hearts of heroes,

All the courage of olden time and new

What How spied the the captain and sailors ^the [illegible] great wreck with its [helpless?] drifting hundreds,

did when they ^How they waited, their craft shooting madly like an arrow up and down in the storm.

And in that deadly sea waited five ^How they gripped close with Death ^there on the sea, and gave him not one inch, but held on
days and nights near the helpless ^ fogged great wreck,

* over leaf

How the ^lank white faced women looked
as they when ferried them safely at last
as from ^the sides their [waiting?] prepared graves

How the children, and the ^lifted sick, and
the sharp-lipped, unshaved men;

All this he I drinks swallows in his my
soul, and it becomes his mine,
and he I likes it well,

He is I am the man; [illegible] he I suffered, he I was
there:

And more:

He [is?] the brave boy that saved them too:

All the beautiful disdain and
calmness of martyrs

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The old woman that was
chained and burnt with dry
wood, and her children looking on,

The great queens that walked
serenely to the block,

The ^hunted slave that who stood could
run no longer,
^flags in the race at last and
then stood by leans leaned up by the fence,
blowing [panting?] and covered with sweat,

And his eye that shoot burns defiance
and desperation hatred

And the buck shot, were

And [the how?] the twinges that
sting like needles his
breast and neck

The murderous buck-shot
planted like terrible and the bullets.

This All [illegible]this he I not only feels and sees feels [am?] but

He is I am the hunted slave,

Damnation and despair are close upon him me

He I clutches the rail of
the fence.

* (back
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All around me I hear how great is Adam or Eve—how illustrious significant are the illustrious Greeks, or later Italians and Germans, and modern En- celebrities of England and France.—Yes Christ was great large and so was Homer was great; and so Columbus and Washington and Fulton. But ^greatness is the other word for developement, and in my soul to me I know that I am great large and strong as any of them, probably greater.— larger.—

Because all that they did I feel that I too could do, and more ^and that multiplied; ; and ^and with after none of them or their achievements


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isdoes my stomach ^say fully ^enough and satis[fied?] fully satisfies me.—[Except?] Christ; he alone is the brings the perfumed bread for of to my soul, ^ever vivifying and clean, to me,— ever fresh and plenty, ever welcome and sufficient to spare.—

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Not even God, that dread ? is so great to me as mMyself is great to me.—Who knows but I too shall in time be a God as pure and prodigious as any of them.— ^Now I stand here, an existence a personality in the Universe, ^ isolated, perfect and sound, is isolated; all to all things and all other beings ^as an audience at the play-house perpetually and perpetually calling me out from my recesses behind the ^my curtain.—

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shall we sky-lark with God

The poet seems to say to
the rest of the world

Come, God and I are now here

What will you have of us.


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* with all the science and genius, for implements, were were nobly occupied in the single employment of investigating this one single abstract one minute minute of my life


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Blacksmithing

when they have a great heat in the fire.—

Five or six blacksmiths swing their sledges in overhand overhand overhand

It would be as though some publisher should reject the best and poems ever written in the world because he who brings them to be printed has a worn shabby umbrella, or mud on the shank of his boot.


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The creek on Long Island when the boating party were returning and capsized, and the young man saved his sweetheart and lost his sister


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I One grand faculty [illegible] we want,—and that is the power to pierce all fine clothing and ^thick coated shams, and settle for sure what the reality of the thing clothed and disguised is, and what it weighs stark naked; the power of eluding and slipping like an eel from through all blandishments and graspings

* back

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of convention.; the power


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