In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: Priests

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Between 1850 and 1855

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00013

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Transcribed from The Walt Whitman Archive I: Whitman Manuscripts at the Library of Congress, ed. Joel Myerson (New York: Garland, 1993); Major American Authors on CD-Rom: Walt Whitman (Westport, CT: Primary Source Media, 1997). The transcription was then checked against 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. Thematically and in the wording of one of the lines this manuscript resembles a portion of the second poem in that edition, eventually titled "A Song for Occupations." The ideas and some of the language are also similar to other early manuscripts that relate to the first poem in the 1855 edition of Leaves, ultimately titled "Song of Myself," and part of a cluster titled "Debris" that appeared in the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass (see "Do I not prove myself," "I know as well as," and "[Fa]bles, traditions").

Related item: On the back is a proposition for a poem "embodying the sentiment of perfect happiness." See loc.07512.

Contributors to digital file: Justin St. Clair, Jean Dickinson, Brett Barney, Kenneth M. Price, Kevin McMullen, and Nicole Gray

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^Priests! Until you can explain a paving stone, ^ to every ones my perfect satisfaction O Priests, do
not try to explain God:

Until your creeds can do as much as apples and hen's eggs, [restrain?] ^[pull?] let down your eyebrows ^a little,

Until your Bibles and prayer-books are able to
walk like me,

And until your brick and mortar can procreate
as I can,

I beg you, sSirs, do not presume to put them
above me.

take in
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