In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: Out from Behind this Mask

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: About 1876

Whitman Archive ID: bpl.00001

Source: The Walt Whitman Collection, Boston Public Library. Transcribed from digital images of the original. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of manuscripts, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: "Out from Behind This Mask" was published first on February 19, 1876, in the New York Tribune and, later that same year, in Two Rivulets. The poem was written in response to an engraving by William J. Linton based on a photograph of Whitman taken by George C. Potter in about 1871. This manuscript was probably composed in 1876, shortly before the poem was published.

Contributors to digital file: Kenneth Price, Brett Barney, Andrew Jewell, Nick Krauter, Lisa Renfro, Jennifer Overkamp, Kirsten Clawson, and Nicole Gray

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Out from Behind this Mask.

small type

(On an engraved head, a Portrait 'looking
at you.')

Out from behind this mask,

This general curtain of the face, con-
tain'd in me for me, in you for
you, in each for each,

(Tragedies, sorrows, songs—laughter and
tears—O heaven!

The passionate, teeming play this cur-
tain hid!)

This glaze of God's serenest, purest sky,

This film of Satan's seething pit,

This Soul's geography's map—this lim-
itless, small continent—this sound-
less sea;

Out of the folded convolutions of this

This subtler astronomic orb than sun
or moon—than Jupiter, Venus, Mars,

This condensation of the Universe—nay, here
the real Universe—here the Idea—all
in this mystic handful wrapt;

From these to emanate, to you, whoe'er
you are,

These burin'd eyes—a Look.

                                                                                       Walt Whitman.

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