In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: vain the mastadon retreats beneath

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Between 1850 and 1855

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00079

Source: The Oscar Lion Papers, 1914–1955, New York Public Library, New York, N.Y. Transcribed from digital images of the original item. 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 between 1850 and 1855 as he was composing the first (1855) edition of Leaves of Grass. Lines from the manuscript appear in the first poem of that edition, eventually titled "Song of Myself."

Related items: Whitman drafted two prose manuscripts on the back of this leaf. See nyp.00523 and nyp.00524.

Contributors to digital file: Stephanie Blalock, Caitlin Henry, Nicole Gray, and Robert LaCosse

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[cut away] vain the mastadon retreats beneath its
half-powdered bones,


In vain objects stand leagues off and assume
manifold shapes,


In vain the sea sets ^ocean settling in its hollows, and the
great monsters lieying low,

In vain the buzzard houses herself in ^with the sky,

In vain the snake slides through the creepers
and rocks stones logs,

In vain the moose ? puma elk takes to the inner passes of the woods,

In vain the razor‑billed auk sails far north to Labrador,

I follow quickly . . . . I ascend to the nest in the
fissure of the cliff.—

I believe I ^think I will could turn again and live awhile awhile [illegible] with the an[cut away]

[cut away] are so placid and self-contained,

[cut away] [can?] stand and look observe watch on at them all day long,— by the [illegible] hour and the [cut away] [cut away] can stand and look at them them sometimes all half the day long.



They do not sweat and whine about their condition

They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,

They do not make me sick, discussing their duty to God;

Not one is dissatisified . . . . not one takes medicine or is
demented with the mania of owning things,

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