In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: In the course of the

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Between 1850 and 1855

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00942

Source: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. 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 manuscript includes drafts of lines used in the first poem in that edition, eventually titled "Song of Myself."

Related item: The prose drafted on the back of these and several other related manuscript leaves includes ideas and phrases that resemble those used in "Unnamed Lands," a poem published first in the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass. See duk.00003.

Contributors to digital file: Caitlin Henry, Andrew Jewell, Stacey Provan, Ken Price, Kirsten Clawson, Kevin McMullen, Nicole Gray, and Brett Barney

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In the course of the winding path through the grass


And when once spirits go they went far enough to see
the happiness beyond,

That is was the reason no wit or temptation can ever could
draw lure them back, to the body.

[cut away] grass is ^And now it it the grass seems to me the dark, uncropped uncut hair of graves:

[T?]enderly will I touch use you, tressy grass,

[paper glued]

It may be you effuse transpire from the breasts of young men—

It may be if I had known them I would have loved them.

You may be sprout from dead babes infants ^young little ones taken soon out of their
mothers' laps,

And now you yourselves rest in are the mothers' laps.

How can you be so dark?

Are you not from the white ^ white blanched white heads of the old mothers of old mothers?

Are you not from the colorless beards of old men?

[A?]re [no?] you not from pale red tongues and under the faint red roofs of mouths?

[paper glued]

O, now I know what you mean!

[Y?]ou do not come out of tongues and the roofs of mouths for not[hing?]

[Yo?]u would tell whisper me what is done to the young men,

[And to the old men and the mothers?]

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[And the [cut away] ^[cut away]?] taken soon out of their laps—

Then even the cinders they left behind them,

and than the parings cinders and soiled cl rags they dropped as they went left us,

Even they continue on, and become new live fire, and
plentiful beautiful clothing.

And that when [once?] they soul ^ spirit soul goes far [enough?] into [to see?] the happiness beyond,

And That is the reason why no art or cunning can wit or temptation could ever lures it them back to the ^ cold flesh.— to the body body flesh. body.

Yet I cannot say, any more than you, their spirits went far enough what has become
of the young ^and old men,

Nor what has become of the women and children

Only I am sure positive enough they are all alive and well

Because this grass tells me there is no such thing
as death,

Or if ever there was, it stood at the beginning preceded all, primitive
and does not wait at the end,

And ceased the moment the first live thing began.

And that nothing recedes, ^collapses, but all goes onward and outward

And that to die is not what what you one supposeds.—

Have you supposed it good to be born?

[Have?] I hasten to inform tell you it is just as good to die, [illegible] and I know it;

[I know it?] For I take my death with the dying,

[And my birth with the new-washed babe?]

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