In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: In his presence

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Between 1850 and 1855

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00483

Source: Notes and Notebooks |  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: Whitman probably inscribed the material in this notebook in the early 1850s as he was composing the first (1855) edition of Leaves of Grass. Content from leaf 10 verso was revised and used in the poem eventually titled "The Sleepers," which first appeared as the fourth poem in that edition. The same passage likely also relates to lines in the 1855 poem eventually titled "Song of Myself." Content from leaf 13 recto may relate to other sections of the poem eventually titled "Song of Myself."

Contributors to digital file: Jonathan Y. Cheng, Nicole Gray, Kenneth M. Price, and Brett Barney

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In his presence all the crowns and sce Presidents and governors and kings of the world bend their heads—

All wealth and vaunted honor—

His eminence makes makes that all rank however vaunted

When he appears, Presidents and Governors descend into the crowd, for H alone is has eminence; and in its company, capitalists and bankers are cheap with all their golden eagles.—The learnedest professors,

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and the makers authors of the best ^most renowned books, are becom are baffled of their art, and having come to the flowering sweetness blooming of a great fact ^fact embodying flower and fruit in nature, where they and the bes best of them themselves are but the first twittering ? sprouts, groping ^feebly out of from the February ground.—

having come to a great fact in the orchard of nature covered with perfec flowers and fruit, where the best of themselves is but a            feebly pushing through the February ground.—

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The rights of property! Why what ^build foundation substance is there for the in any other right of property than that which is built on the primal right—the first‑born, deepest broadest right—the right ^of every human being to his personal self.—

Every man who claims or takes the power to own another man as his property, stabs me in that the heart of my own rights—for

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they ^only grow of that first vast principle, as a tree grows from the seed

Why do we arrest and            a thief of property.—Mainly because in stealing from another man he jeopardizes the principle by why you and I and all others hold our own?

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The one scratches me a little on the cheek forehead, the other draws his murderous razor through my heart

The one maugre all the snivellings of the [fash?]            leaves the man as he found him solid and real as a           —the other

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If every man and woman upon this which riding in this ^huge round car huge vehicle that wheels whirls us through the universe, be not interested in touched to the vitals, by the discussion question whether another of the passengers, can [can?] safely shall be made a slave, tell me O learned lawyer or professor—tell me what are they interested in?—What does touch them?—What comes home to a man, if ^the principle the right to himself does not?—Is there in the wide world any principle thing, that so evenly and so universally bears upon ^every individual of our race, in all ages, in

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tongues and colors and climates, and conditions,—Is there any thing that ^it stands us in hand —all of us without one single exception, are so to keep the the rats and the wolves moths so carefully away from, as this—the warrantee deed, the original charter of the very feet we stand on? that bear us up


A good saying in the street

Only something from a gentleman wcould insult me; and a gentleman never can would insult me.

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Common Good naturedly treat every thing—every sect—every dogma—every nation—pen refer to the heart of what goodness there is in them —

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The difference is between the laws of a ^ just and equitable republic and the laws, even though be the same, that come from an irresponsible tyrant.—

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I have heard of people who suggest as a choker upon (the right ? of freedom that all men are more or less slaves—some to gain, some to fashion, others to priests and superstition.—The hard-working mechanic, they say, is

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I know there are strong and solid arguments against slavery—lawyer—practical man—arguments addressed to the great American thought Will it pay?—&c &c &c &c

These Discourses upon in this channel entertain and instruct us well


But all these must be now left aside.—We will ascend to that tribunal of last resort—we will not waste words with messengers and secretarys.—We will go directly stand face to face with the

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chief of the supreme bench. We will speak with the soul.—

The learned think the unlearned an inferior race.—The merchant thinks his bookkeepers and clerks sundry degrees below him; they in turn think the porter and carmen common; and they the laborer that brings in coal, and the stevedores that haul the great burdens with them?

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But this is an inferior race.—Well who shall be the judge who is the of inferior and superior races.—The class of dainty gentlemen think that all servants and laboring people are inferior.—^In all lands, The select few who live and dress richly, always make a mean estimate of the body of the people.—


If it it be right justifiable to take away liberty for inferiority—then it is just to take money or goods, to commit rapes,

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to seize on any thing you will, for the same reason.—Would Is it be enough answer to the crime of stealing a watch, that you stole it from an ignorant nigger, who dont know the odds between an adverb and three times twelve?—If you spend your violent lust on a woman, by terror and violence, is will it balance accounts receipt the bill when who you endorse it, nothing but a mulatto wench?—

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But free as great as any worldly wealth to a man,—or her womanhood to a woman,—greater than these, I think, is ^the right of liberty, to any and to all men and women.—

It is as logical to take the life or property of some poor fellow for his inferiority or color, as it is to take his personal liberty.—

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Beware the flukes of the whale. ^He is slow and sleepy—but when he moves, his lightest touch is death.—

I think he already feels the lance, for he moves a little restlessly. You are great sportsmen, no doubt What!

tThat black and huge lethargic mass, my sportsmen, dull and sleepy as it seems, has holds the lightning and the taps bolts of thunder.—He is slow—O, long and long and slow and slow—but when he does move, his lightest touch is death.

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The flukes of a whale they are as quick as light


The Poet

His He has a charm that makes ^fluid the heart of every thing in the universe however distant or however dense, and when made so he breath inhales it as a breath, and it is ^all good air and arterializes vitalizes ? the blood within that goes squirting through his heart.—

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The poet, having not a dime, has the good of all things. And men, indeed, only have the good of any thing, in proportion as they enjoy approach the n his nature

The mere rich man, whose draught on the bank for is good for scores of thousands, may be, indeed generally must be, a ^blind and naked beggar in the the only real riches. of

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All the riches ? evoked into the world by all the inventors, by the industrious, and by the keen, are become bubbles when the true poet scatters the utterance of his soul upon the world.—To have the crops fail—to forego all the flour and pork of the western states—^to burn the navy, or half the a populous town were less to lose, than one of his great sayings to lose.—

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Each word is sweet medicine to the soul.—

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He sheds light upon the

He On The darkest night he sheds an infinite darkness.

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You can, to the poet, bring nothing which is not a curious miracle to him.—

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Change all this to commendation ☟

What has been called Religion ^that of Ethiopia or still backward—^that of ^Belus and Osiris and Isis, or that of—that of Jupiter and Ceres—that of Jerusalem with its temple an           —that of Rome under Popes and Jesuits ^that of Mahomet or Budda ^Bhudda Par those of our Methodists and Epicopalians and Presbyterians and Quakers and Unitarians and Mormons—what are they any or all or any of them? We I know they are ^intrinsically little or nothing, though nations and ages have writhed for ^ most of them in life and in death.—We I know they do not satisfy the appetite of

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the soul, with all their churches and their libraries and their priesthood.—

Nevertheless let us treat them with decent forbearance. Mean as they are when we have ascended beyond them, and look back, they were ^doubtless the roads for their times,.—

and Let us not despise too quickly despise them;—for they have brought sufficed to bring us where we are.—

Like scaffolding which is a blur and nuisance when the house is well up—yet the house could not be achieved without the scaffold.—

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