In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: I know a rich capitalist

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Between about 1854 and 1860

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00129

Source: I know a rich capitalist |  The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library. 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: Emory Holloway has pointed out that Whitman's reference to the sinking of the San Francisco indicates that this notebook, "or at least part of it, is later than 1853." He writes that "it was probably begun in 1854" because the "marble church" in the first passage presumably refers to the Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan, "which was not completed until then." See Holloway, "A Whitman Manuscript," American Mercury 3 (December 1924), 475–480. See also Andrew C. Higgins, "Art and Argument: The Rise of Walt Whitman's Rhetorical Poetics, 1838-1855," PhD diss., University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1999; and Edward F. Grier, Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts (New York: New York University Press, 1984), 1:128–135.

Of the notebook passages that can be identified with published works, most represent early versions of images and phrases from the 1855 poem eventually titled "Song of Myself." One passage clearly contributed to the 1856 poem later titled "Song of the Open Road." Others are possibly connected to the poems eventually titled "A Song for Occupations" and "Great Are the Myths," both first published in the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, and to the Preface for that volume. One passage seems to have contributed to the 1860–1861 poem that Whitman later titled "Our Old Feuillage."

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

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I know a rich capitalist who, out of his wealth, built a ^marble church, the most splendid in the city; and when it was opened, he stood at the door, the first Sunday, and helped the sexton show people to seats.—He was the meanest looking person in the place, and proud out of his building and wealth.

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The Elementary Laws do not get excited and run and bawl to vindicate themselves.—Priests and The doctors might all deny the attraction of gravity, and that sublime law power would never complain.—Be thou you like the grand powers.—


Exist.—The Soul is larger than the Do not trouble yourself to set soothe satisfy soothe sputterers and babb infidels ?.— (Manure thy soul, the fields of the heart, for it brings great crops.—) As sSure as the

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most certain sure—as reliable as Immortality—you the effects come when appear after the causes appear. are born.


I see on the Egyptian head-rests the most hideous forms and combinations of groups as if they intended to scare away [unrest?]

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The genuine mMan is not, as            would have him, like one of a block of city houses, that can't stand except as it is upheld in the midst of the rest


Greater than b wires of iron or treaties, or even strong mutual interests is the Smpathy.—When Creighton ^ [re?]hove too to for many days and nights and rescued the wrecked thousand on the sSan Francisco

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If a man spatter mud on his new clothes, by [re?]lifting a child or an old woman over the gutter slush let him nevertheless be content.—Mud like that strikes in and makes beauty spots

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Pride of Birth.—

There is nothing in * nothing royal blood, or inthe succession inheritance through a direct line of the ^name of the most ^re[illegible]historical heroes, or in any ^tr * (the eminency of any office of President or Governor or Mayor,) that begins to but [illegible] that should make us carry our heads so high, as and so fill us with more than imperial pride, bulging pride than ever spread itself in capitols, or courts, as the consciousness that we are hum human souls.—HOffice, however high exalted, and wealth, however capacious, ^ may but often show many a mean and starved nature

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for their [domos?]; as the

The best of such distinctions abstractly amounts to little.— Toiled for, suffered for, lived for, as they are by the vast majority of men, their ^only real charm is that they but faintly symbolize ^afar off the unspeakable haughtiness and nobilityleness which, are grace the soul personality of every man carries well, if he but once take the hint of his ^own inalienable birthright.

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Love is the cause of causes.—W Out of the first Nothing and —out of the ^black fogs of primeval of the nostrilsOr original Vacuity, of Death which that vast and sluggish ^hung ebbless and floodless in the spread of space—it asked ^of God with undeniable will, something to satisfy ^itself its itself.— immortal longings.— From its By it then Chaos was staid with.— Like aA family Like a brood of beautiful children came from them ^ whom we call the Laws of Nature.—

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Yes he is like a small boy who raises a big kite, and it pulls entirely too hard for him.— He had better let it go ere it carry him entirely out up in the air and out of sight


A coffin swimming buoyantly on the swift flowing current of the river

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Yes I believe in the Trinity,—God Reality—God Beneficence or Love—and God Imortality or Growth.


He dives in the water for a dead drowned man and sees the body and with open staring eyes and the hair floating out and up from his head

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Love is the cause of causes,

Out of the vast, first Nothing

The ebbless and floodless vapor
from the nostrils of Death,

It asked of God with unde
-niable will,

Something to satisfy itself.—

By it then Chaos was staid with

And duly came from them
a brood of beautiful children

Whom we call the laws of nature

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There are two attributes ? of the soul, and both are illimitable, and they are its north latitude and its south latitude.—One of these is Love.—The other is Dilation or Pride There is nothing so in-conceivable haughty as the           

The style of the most magnificent heroes or rulers is

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? Nature is always plumb +

Loyalty of some flatterer of royalty who (latter) is brought to the scaffold

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The reason that Who do the we turn f look back, as century after century adds to the lenghth of the road between us,—why do we ^always turn with [living?] pleasure and curiosity to the sayings and doings ^thirty centuries ago of wandering Jewish tribes, of little Greek communitsies, orf half savage Rome, and of Ethiopia and Persia? There is something in those sayings and doings that effuses directly from the soul—Raw and bungling as they send it out, Tthey do not give it f[illegible] send it out at second hand, but fresh and alive.—

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This Poetry, or aliment of the soul, we must have.—It is clamored for with the most irresistible longing.—Accordingly it is everywhere and upon each objec and all that our senses can

Children and simple people often touch the [illegible] tune make speeches that illustrate this relation with some of these relations, better

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^Much Tthe largest portion of what rides jauntily through the world literary world avenues as poetry, and keeps the saddle for scores, perhaps fifties of years, is awkward and ill-bouncing [badly?] ill paced enough;—Jingling such as Love-songs shambles, in long metre or short, some very some of them ardent, and but most of them very dismal and spavined, ; make up —both styles having always been ready and numerous on the road;—and

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* What stuff passes for poetry in the world

What awkward and ill-bouncing riders


What is printed in books or what not, and has rhymes attached to its tails, is but a very small portion of the poetry of


case of the dryiver who came in looking as natural as life, but was frozen dead and hard

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A lawyer who had put off his case once, came in court and asked further delay, in a tearf with tears in his eyes stating the death of his mother. The Judge was just granting his request, with great commiseration, when an old lady from the gallery cries out "O            my son! how often have I whipped you for lying."

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pork and pound cake and things and things ^products that can be [stewed?] or ^[worn?] put in the bank.—All expr that makes clear this relation, and tracks defines the road between between any thing conceivable objects and the human spirit, ^and explains what those objects mean, is poetry, coarse or fine.—Even if ^the explanation be done at second and third hand, removes and two or three removes off, or as most are, or distantly suggested, we are thankful; folks take them and relish them well; for we are greedy of this sort of feeding diet, and exceedingly voracious, never get weary tired of stuffing *

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*I discover that among people whose company is pleasant to me, I almost invariably grow fonder and fonder of those who without any who evidently constantly like me ^and are not afraid to show it steadily, who and are good natured, and have no notably offensive ways,., and don't blow hot and cold (They may be plain ugly in the face; simple or slack in mind; and of common po employment.—) * tr

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Pile up your

You shall go in some rich man's house, where the long suite of parlors have has been attacked and taken possession of by artists, ornamenters, makers of carpeting, marble mantels, curtains, good soft seats, ^and morocco binding for books.—and marble mantels What can be unbought; for the place yet ^looks very beggarly. The worthy gentleman who has footed the bills, for all these, has surely omitted forgotten something.—We remember that hour ^ moment first of April at the post office, when the young man in the linen jacket ^blotched with ink handed us out of through the window a

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very rare envelope, promising great things, when and, we found nothing at all inside but a piece of blank paper.—


* It is this which is the source of all Poetry; for there is ^in all men an instinct of the truth. in all men There is a file We have a saw-toothed appetite ^ with which restlessly hankers for some satisfactory food out of this immense and varied earth, beyond men something more ^satisfactory than

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where the Congress meets is the sacred ? place.—If they adjourn from there            to some log house or shed of hemlock boards

Ever ^The heart ^kernel of every object thing that can be seen or ^felt or thought of has its relation to the soul, and is significant of something there.—This is the He who can put tear off all husks and skins aside and and [peel?] the pierce or ^straight through everystratagems of concealment, and goes to the actual *

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