In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: To be at all

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Between 1850 and 1855

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00001

Source: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. 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: Whitman probably drafted this manuscript in the early 1850s as he was composing the first (1855) edition of Leaves of Grass. The first several lines of the manuscript are drafts of lines in the first poem of that edition, eventually titled "Song of Myself."

Related item: On the back of this manuscript is a list of words and other draft lines of verse that include language and images used in the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass. See duk.00883.

Contributors to digital file: Kenneth M. Price, Nicole Gray, Brett Barney, Andrew Jewell, and Kati Robertson

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To be at all—what is greater better than that?

I think if there were nothing more developed,
the clam in its callous shell in
the sand, were august enough.—|

I am not in any callous shell;

I am cased with supple conductors,
all over;

They take every object by the hand, and
lead it within me.—

[begin hashmark section]

They are thousands, each one with his entry
to himself;

They are always watching with their little
eyes, from my head to my feet.

[end hashmark section]

One no more than a pencil's point, ^ lead, lets in
and out of me, of me more bliss
than I thought the spheres
could carry.

such bliss and magnitude,

I think
I could [then?] dash lift put the girder
of the earth ^ a globe the house away if it lay between
me ^then and whatever I wanted.—



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[Page image:]


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