In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: I am a curse

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Between 1850 and 1855

Whitman Archive ID: uva.00256

Source: Papers of Walt Whitman (MSS 3829), Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature, Albert H. Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. 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. It is a draft of lines that appeared in the fourth poem in that edition, eventually titled "The Sleepers."

Related item: Fragmentary poetic lines on the back of this manuscript leaf may relate to the poem eventually titled "Song of Myself." See uva.00602.

Notes written on manuscript: On leaf 1 recto, in unknown hand: "8"

Contributors to digital file: Brandon James O'Neil and Nicole Gray

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I am black a curse: a black slave negro spoke felt thought thinks me

You You He could annot speak for himyourself, slave negro.—I lend you him my own mouth tongue

A black I darted like a snake from his ^[illegible] mouth.—

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I My eyes are bloodshot, they look down the river,

A steamboat carries off paddles away my woman and children.—

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Around my neck I am

T The His iIron necklace and the red sores of my the shoulders
I do not feel mind,

The hHopples and ball at my the ancles, ^and tight cuffs at the wrists does ^must not
detain me

I ^ will go down the river, mywith ^the sight of my bloodshot eyes,

I ^ will go in to the steamboat that paddles ^off my wife woman and child

A I do not stop with my woman and children,

I burst down the saloon doors, and crash on
party of passengers.—

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But for them, I sh too should have been on the steamboat [cut away]

I should soon

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