In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: The wild gander leads his

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Between 1850 and 1855

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00507

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 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: This manuscript was probably written between 1850 and 1855, while Whitman was working on the first (1855) edition of Leaves of Grass. The lines in the manuscript appear in the first poem in that edition, eventually titled "Song of Myself." John C. Broderick has described this manuscript as the last surviving page of "the original manuscript of the first edition of Leaves of Grass" ("The Greatest Whitman Collector and the Greatest Whitman Collection," The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, 27.2 [April 1970], 109–128), a claim echoed by Arthur Golden in "The Ending of the 1855 Version of 'Song of Myself,'" Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, 3.4 (Spring 1986), 30n6. The page number at the top of the manuscript is not inconsistent with the possible positioning of these lines as part of a printer's copy, but lacking further evidence it would be difficult to confirm the claim.

Related item: A list of terms written on the back of this manuscript leaf likely relates to "Broad-Axe Poem," first published in the 1856 edition of Leaves of Grass. See loc.07428.

Contributors to digital file: Caitlin Henry, Nicole Gray, Sandy Byrd, Charles Green, Farrah Lehman, Kenneth M. Price, and Brett Barney

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The wild gander leads his flock through the cool night,

Ya‑honk! he says, and sounds it down to me like
an invitation;

The pert suppose it is meaningless, ^has no is meaningless, but I listen better closer,

I find it has its place and sign up there toward
the November sky.—

The clawed cat of the forest, the deer, ^huge sharphoofed moose of the north, the cat on the housesill, the chickadee the prairie‑dog,

The litter of the grunting sow as they tug at her teats,

The brood of the turkey‑hen, and she with her
half‑spread wings,

I see in them and myself the same old law.

The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred

They scorn the best I can do to relate them.—

I am enamored of growing outdoors,

^ Of the drivers of horses— Of men that live among cattle or taste of the
ocean or soil,

Of the builders ^and steerers of ships— Of drivers of horses—ofOf wielders Of the wielders of axes and malls.—of ^the drivers of horses,

I can eat and sleep with them week in and week out.

What is ^ nearest and commonest ^and nearest and cheapest ^and easiest is Me,

Me going in for my chances, . . . spending

Spending for vast returns,

Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first
that will take me,

Not asking the sky to come down to receive my
good will,

Scattering it freely forever.—

The pure contralto sings in the organ‑loft,

The carpenter dresses his plank, . . . . the tongue of his fore‑plane
whistles its wild ascending lisp,

The married and unmarried children ride home to their
thanksgiving dinner,

The pilot seizes the king‑pin, . . . . he heaves down with a strong arm,

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