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[Frontispiece leaf] [Frontispiece engraving]

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Brooklyn, New York:


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Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1855, by WALTER WHITMAN, in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.

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AMERICA does not repel the past or what it has produced under its forms or amid other politics or the idea of castes or the old religions . . . .
accepts the lesson with calmness . . . is not so impatient as has been supposed that the slough still sticks to opinions and manners and literature while the life which served its requirements has passed into the new life of the new forms . . . perceives that the corpse is slowly borne from the eating and sleeping rooms of the house . . . 
perceives that it waits a little while in the door . . . that it was fittest for its days . . . 
that its action has descended to the stalwart and wellshaped heir who approaches . . . 
and that he shall be fittest for his days.

The Americans of all nations at any time upon the earth have probably the fullest poetical nature.
The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem.
In the history of the earth hitherto the largest and most stirring appear tame and orderly to their ampler largeness and stir.
Here at last is something in the doings of man that corresponds with the broadcast doings of the day and night.
Here is not merely a nation but a teeming nation of nations.
Here is action untied from strings necessarily blind to particulars and details magnificently moving in vast masses.
Here is the hospitality which forever indicates heroes . . . . Here are the roughs and beards and space and ruggedness and nonchalance that the soul loves.
Here the performance disdaining the trivial unapproached in the tremendous audacity of its crowds and groupings and the push of its perspective spreads with crampless and flowing breadth and showers its prolific and splendid extravagance.
One sees it must indeed own the riches of the summer and winter, and need never be bankrupt while corn grows from the ground or the orchards drop apples or the bays contain fish or men beget children upon women.

Other states indicate themselves in their deputies . . . . but the genius of the United States is not best or most in its executives or legislatures, nor in its ambassadors or authors or colleges or churches or parlors, nor even in its newspapers or inventors . . . but always most in the common people.
Their manners speech dress friendships—the freshness and candor of their physiognomy—
the picturesque looseness of their carriage . . . their deathless attachment to freedom—their aversion to anything indecorous or soft or mean—the practical acknowledgment of the citizens of one state by the citizens of all other states—the fierceness of their roused resentment—
their curiosity and welcome of novelty—their self-esteem and wonderful sympathy—their susceptibility to a slight—
the air they have of persons who never knew how it felt to stand in the presence of superiors—
the fluency of their speech—their delight in music, the sure symptom of manly tenderness and native elegance of soul . . . their good temper and openhandedness—
the terrible significance of their elections—the President's taking off his hat to them not they to him—these too are unrhymed poetry.
It awaits the gigantic and generous treatment worthy of it.

The largeness of nature or the nation were monstrous without a corresponding largeness and generosity of the spirit of the citizen.
Not nature nor swarming states nor streets and steamships nor prosperous business nor farms nor capital nor learning may suffice for the ideal of man . . . nor suffice the poet.
No reminiscences may suffice either.
A live nation can always cut a deep mark and can have the best authority the cheapest . . . namely from its own soul.
This is the sum of the profitable uses of individuals or states and of present action and grandeur and of the subjects of poets.—
As if it were necessary to trot back generation after generation to the eastern records!
As if the beauty and sacredness of the demonstrable must fall behind that of the mythical!
As if men do not make their mark out of any times!
As if the opening of the western continent by discovery and what has transpired since in North and South America were less than the small theatre of the antique or the aimless sleepwalking of the middle ages!
The pride of the United States leaves the wealth and finesse of the cities and all returns of commerce and agriculture and all the magnitude of geography or

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iv shows of exterior victory to enjoy the breed of fullsized men or one fullsized man unconquerable and simple.

The American poets are to enclose old and new for America is the race of races.
Of them a bard is to be commensurate with a people.
To him the other continents arrive as contributions . . . he gives them reception for their sake and his own sake.
His spirit responds to his country's spirit . . . .
he incarnates its geography and natural life and rivers and lakes.
Mississippi with annual freshets and changing chutes, Missouri and Columbia and Ohio and Saint Lawrence with the falls and beautiful masculine Hudson, do not embouchure where they spend themselves more than they embouchure into him.
The blue breadth over the inland sea of Virginia and Maryland and the sea off Massachusetts and Maine and over Manhattan bay and over Champlain and Erie and over Ontario and Huron and Michigan and Superior, and over the Texan and Mexican and Floridian and Cuban seas and over the seas off California and Oregon, is not tallied by the blue breadth of the waters below more than the breadth of above and below is tallied by him.
When the long Atlantic coast stretches longer and the Pacific coast stretches longer he easily stretches with them north or south.
He spans between them also from east to west and reflects what is between them.
On him rise solid growths that offset the growths of pine and cedar and hemlock and liveoak and locust and chestnut and cypress and hickory and limetree and cottonwood and tuliptree and cactus and wildvine and tamarind and persimmon . . . .
and tangles as tangled as any canebrake or swamp . . . .
and forests coated with transparent ice and icicles hanging from the boughs and crackling in the wind . . . . and sides and peaks of mountains . . . .
and pasturage sweet and free as savannah or upland or prairie . . . .
with flights and songs and screams that answer those of the wildpigeon and highhold and orchard-oriole and coot and surf-duck and redshouldered-hawk and fish-hawk and white-ibis and indian-hen and cat-owl and water-pheasant and qua-bird and pied-sheldrake and blackbird and mockingbird and buzzard and condor and night-heron and eagle.
To him the hereditary countenance descends both mother's and father's.
To him enter the essences of the real things and past and present events—
of the enormous diversity of temperature and agriculture and mines—
the tribes of red aborigines—
the weatherbeaten vessels entering new ports or making landings on rocky coasts—the first settlements north or south—the rapid stature and muscle—
the haughty defiance of '76, and the war and peace and formation of the constitution . . . .
the union always surrounded by blatherers and always calm and impregnable—
the perpetual coming of immigrants—
the wharf hem'd cities and superior marine—
the unsurveyed interior—the loghouses and clearings and wild animals and hunters and trappers . . . .
the free commerce—the fisheries and whaling and gold-digging—
the endless gestation of new states—
the convening of Congress every December, the members duly coming up from all climates and the uttermost parts . . . .
the noble character of the young mechanics and of all free American workmen and workwomen . . . .
the general ardor and friendliness and enterprise—
the perfect equality of the female with the male . . . .
the large amativeness—
the fluid movement of the population—
the factories and mercantile life and laborsaving machinery—
the Yankee swap—the New-York firemen and the target excursion—the southern plantation life—
the character of the northeast and of the northwest and southwest—
slavery and the tremulous spreading of hands to protect it,
and the stern opposition to it which shall never cease till it ceases or the speaking of tongues and the moving of lips cease.
For such the expression of the American poet is to be transcendant and new.
It is to be indirect and not direct or descriptive or epic.
Its quality goes through these to much more.
Let the age and wars of other nations be chanted and their eras and characters be illustrated and that finish the verse.
Not so the great psalm of the republic.
Here the theme is creative and has vista.
Here comes one among the wellbeloved stonecutters and plans with decision and science and sees the solid and beautiful forms of the future where there are now no solid forms.

Of all nations the United States with veins full of poetical stuff most need poets and will doubtless have the greatest and use them the greatest.
Their Presidents shall not be their common referee so much as their poets shall.
Of all mankind the great poet is the equable man.
Not in him but off from him things are grotesque or eccentric or fail of their sanity.
Nothing out of its place is good and nothing in its place is bad.
He bestows on every object or quality its fit proportions neither more nor less.
He is the arbiter of the diverse and he is the key.
He is the equalizer of his age and land . . . .
he supplies what wants supplying and checks what wants checking.
If peace is the routine out of him speaks the spirit of peace, large, rich, thrifty, building vast and populous cities, encouraging agriculture and the arts and commerce—lighting the study of man, the soul, immortality—federal, state or municipal government,

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v marriage, health, freetrade, intertravel by land and sea . . . .
nothing too close, nothing too far off . . . the stars not too far off.
In war he is the most deadly force of the war.
Who recruits him recruits horse and foot . . . he fetches parks of artillery the best that engineer ever knew.
If the time becomes slothful and heavy he knows how to arouse it . . . he can make every word he speaks draw blood.
Whatever stagnates in the flat of custom or obedience or legislation he never stagnates.
Obedience does not master him, he masters it.
High up out of reach he stands turning a concentrated light . . . he turns the pivot with his finger . . . he baffles the swiftest runners as he stands and easily overtakes and envelops them.
The time straying toward infidelity and confections and persiflage he withholds by his steady faith . . .
he spreads out his dishes . . . he offers the sweet firmfibred meat that grows men and women.
His brain is the ultimate brain.
He is no arguer . . . he is judgment.
He judges not as the judge judges but as the sun falling around a helpless thing.
As he sees the farthest he has the most faith.
His thoughts are the hymns of the praise of things.
In the talk on the soul and eternity and God off of his equal plane he is silent.
He sees eternity less like a play with a prologue and denouement . . . .
he sees eternity in men and women . . . he does not see men and women as dreams or dots.
Faith is the antiseptic of the soul . . . it pervades the common people and preserves them . . . they never give up believing and expecting and trusting.
There is that indescribable freshness and unconsciousness about an illiterate person that humbles and mocks the power of the noblest expressive genius.
The poet sees for a certainty how one not a great artist may be just as sacred and perfect as the greatest artist. . . . . .
The power to destroy or remould is freely used by him but never the power of attack.
What is past is past.
If he does not expose superior models and prove himself by every step he takes he is not what is wanted.
The presence of the greatest poet conquers . . . not parleying or struggling or any prepared attempts.
Now he has passed that way see after him!
there is not left any vestige of despair or misanthropy or cunning or exclusiveness or the ignominy of a nativity or color or delusion of hell or the necessity of hell . . . . . and no man thenceforward shall be degraded for ignorance or weakness or sin.

The greatest poet hardly knows pettiness or triviality.
If he breathes into any thing that was before thought small it dilates with the grandeur and life of the universe.
He is a seer . . . . he is individual . . . he is complete in himself . . . . the others are as good as he, only he sees it and they do not.
He is not one of the chorus . . . . he does not stop for any regulation . . . he is the president of regulation.
What the eyesight does to the rest he does to the rest.
Who knows the curious mystery of the eyesight?
The other senses corroborate themselves, but this is removed from any proof but its own and foreruns the identities of the spiritual world.
A single glance of it mocks all the investigations of man and all the instruments and books of the earth and all reasoning.
What is marvellous? what is unlikely? what is impossible or baseless or vague? after you have once just opened the space of a peachpit and given audience to far and near and to the sunset and had all things enter with electric swiftness softly and duly without confusion or jostling or jam.

The land and sea, the animals fishes and birds, the sky of heaven and the orbs, the forests mountains and rivers, are not small themes . . . but folks expect of the poet to indicate more than the beauty and dignity which always attach to dumb real objects . . . . they expect him to indicate the path between reality and their souls.
Men and women perceive the beauty well enough . . probably as well as he.
The passionate tenacity of hunters, woodmen, early risers, cultivators of gardens and orchards and fields, the love of healthy women for the manly form, seafaring persons, drivers of horses, the passion for light and the open air, all is an old varied sign of the unfailing perception of beauty and of a residence of the poetic in outdoor people.
They can never be assisted by poets to perceive . . . some may but they never can.
The poetic quality is not marshalled in rhyme or uniformity or abstract addresses to things nor in melancholy complaints or good precepts, but is the life of these and much else and is in the soul.
The profit of rhyme is that it drops seeds of a sweeter and more luxuriant rhyme, and of uniformity that it conveys itself into its own roots in the ground out of sight.
The rhyme and uniformity of perfect poems show the free growth of metrical laws and bud from them as unerringly and loosely as lilacs or roses on a bush, and take shapes as compact as the shapes of chestnuts and oranges and melons and pears, and shed the perfume impalpable to form.
The fluency and ornaments of the finest poems or music or orations or recitations are not independent but dependent.
All beauty comes from beautiful blood and a beautiful brain.
If the greatnesses are in conjunction in a man or woman it is enough . . . . the fact will prevail through the universe . . . . but the gaggery and gilt of a million years will not prevail.
Who troubles himself about his ornaments or fluency is lost.
This is what you

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vi shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches,
give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others,
hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men,
go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families,
read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life,
re examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book,
dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body. . . . . . . .
The poet shall not spend his time in unneeded work.
He shall know that the ground is always ready ploughed and manured . . . . others may not know it but he shall.
He shall go directly to the creation.
His trust shall master the trust of everything he touches . . . . and shall master all attachment.

The known universe has one complete lover and that is the greatest poet.
He consumes an eternal passion and is indifferent which chance happens and which possible contingency of fortune or misfortune and persuades daily and hourly his delicious pay.
What balks or breaks others is fuel for his burning progress to contact and amorous joy.
Other proportions of the reception of pleasure dwindle to nothing to his proportions.
All expected from heaven or from the highest he is rapport with in the sight of the daybreak or a scene of the winter woods or the presence of children playing or with his arm round the neck of a man or woman.
His love above all love has leisure and expanse . . . . he leaves room ahead of himself.
He is no irresolute or suspicious lover . . . he is sure . . . he scorns intervals.
His experience and the showers and thrills are not for nothing.
Nothing can jar him . . . . suffering and darkness cannot—death and fear cannot.
To him complaint and jealousy and envy are corpses buried and rotten in the earth . . . . he saw them buried.
The sea is not surer of the shore or the shore of the sea than he is of the fruition of his love and of all perfection and beauty.

The fruition of beauty is no chance of hit or miss . . . it is inevitable as life . . . . it is exact and plumb as gravitation.
From the eyesight proceeds another eyesight and from the hearing proceeds another hearing and from the voice proceeds another voice eternally curious of the harmony of things with man.
To these respond perfections not only in the committees that were supposed to stand for the rest but in the rest themselves just the same.
These understand the law of perfection in masses and floods . . . that its finish is to each for itself and onward from itself . . . that it is profuse and impartial . . . that there is not a minute of the light or dark nor an acre of the earth or sea without it—nor any direction of the sky nor any trade or employment nor any turn of events.
This is the reason that about the proper expression of beauty there is precision and balance . . . one part does not need to be thrust above another.
The best singer is not the one who has the most lithe and powerful organ . . . the pleasure of poems is not in them that take the handsomest measure and similes and sound.

Without effort and without exposing in the least how it is done the greatest poet brings the spirit of any or all events and passions and scenes and persons some more and some less to bear on your individual character as you hear or read.
To do this well is to compete with the laws that pursue and follow time.
What is the purpose must surely be there and the clue of it must be there . . . . and the faintest indication is the indication of the best and then becomes the clearest indication.
Past and present and future are not disjoined but joined.
The greatest poet forms the consistence of what is to be from what has been and is.
He drags the dead out of their coffins and stands them again on their feet . . . . he says to the past, Rise and walk before me that I may realize you.
He learns the lesson . . . . he places himself where the future becomes present.
The greatest poet does not only dazzle his rays over character and scenes and passions . . . he finally ascends and finishes all . . . he exhibits the pinnacles that no man can tell what they are for or what is beyond . . . . he glows a moment on the extremest verge.
He is most wonderful in his last half-hidden smile or frown . . . by that flash of the moment of parting the one that sees it shall be encouraged or terrified afterward for many years.
The greatest poet does not moralize or make applications of morals . . . he knows the soul.
The soul has that measureless pride which consists in never acknowledging any lessons but its own.
But it has sympathy as measureless as its pride and the one balances the other and neither can stretch too far while it stretches in company with the other.
The inmost secrets of art sleep with the twain.
The greatest poet has lain close betwixt both and they are vital in his style and thoughts.

The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters is simplicity.
Nothing is better than simplicity . . . . nothing ca make up for excess or for the lack of definiteness

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To carry on the heave of impulse and pierce intellectual depths and give all subjects their articulations are powers neither common nor very uncommon.
But to speak in literature with the perfect rectitude and insousiance of the movements of animals and the unimpeachableness of the sentiment of trees in the woods and grass by the roadside is the flawless triumph of art.
If you have looked on him who has achieved it you have looked on one of the masters of the artists of all nations and times.
You shall not contemplate the flight of the graygull over the bay or the mettlesome action of the blood horse or the tall leaning of sunflowers on their stalk or the appearance of the sun journeying through heaven or the appearance of the moon afterward with any more satisfaction than you shall contemplate him.
The greatest poet has less a marked style and is more the channel of thoughts and things without increase or diminution, and is the free channel of himself.
He swears to his art, I will not be meddlesome, I will not have in my writing any elegance or effect or originality to hang in the way between me and the rest like curtains.
I will have nothing hang in the way, not the richest curtains.
What I tell I tell for precisely what it is.
Let who may exalt or startle or fascinate or sooth I will have purposes as health or heat or snow has and be as regardless of observation.
What I experience or portray shall go from my composition without a shred of my composition.
You shall stand by my side and look in the mirror with me.

The old red blood and stainless gentility of great poets will be proved by their unconstraint.
A heroic person walks at his ease through and out of that custom or precedent or authority that suits him not.
Of the traits of the brotherhood of writers savans musicians inventors and artists nothing is finer than silent defiance advancing from new free forms.
In the need of poems philosophy politics mechanism science behaviour, the craft of art, an appropriate native grand-opera, shipcraft, or any craft, he is greatest forever and forever who contributes the greatest original practical example.
The cleanest expression is that which finds no sphere worthy of itself and makes one.

The messages of great poets to each man and woman are, Come to us on equal terms, Only then can you understand us, We are no better than you, What we enclose you enclose, What we enjoy you may enjoy.
Did you suppose there could be only one Supreme?
We affirm there can be unnumbered Supremes, and that one does not countervail another any more than one eyesight countervails another . . and that men can be good or grand only of the consciousness of their supremacy within them.
What do you think is the grandeur of storms and dismemberments and the deadliest battles and wrecks and the wildest fury of the elements and the power of the sea and the motion of nature and of the throes of human desires and dignity and hate and love?
It is that something in the soul which says, Rage on, Whirl on, I tread master here and everywhere, Master of the spasms of the sky and of the shatter of the sea, Master of nature and passion and death, And of all terror and all pain.

The American bards shall be marked for generosity and affection and for encouraging competitors . .
They shall be kosmos . . without monopoly or secresy . . glad to pass any thing to any one . . hungry for equals night and day.
They shall not be careful of riches and privilege . . . . they shall be riches and privilege . . . . they shall perceive who the most affluent man is.
The most affluent man is he that confronts all the shows he sees by equivalents out of the stronger wealth of himself.
The American bard shall delineate no class of persons nor one or two out of the strata of interests nor love most nor truth most nor the soul most nor the body most . . . . and not be for the eastern states more than the western or the northern states more than the southern.

Exact science and its practical movements are no checks on the greatest poet but always his encouragement and support.
The outset and remembrance are there . . there the arms that lifted him first and brace him best . . . . there he returns after all his goings and comings.
The sailor and traveler . .
the anatomist chemist astronomer geologist phrenologist spiritualist mathematician historian and lexicographer are not poets, but they are the lawgivers of poets and their construction underlies the structure of every perfect poem.
No matter what rises or is uttered they sent the seed of the conception of it . . . of them and by them stand the visible proofs of souls . . . . . always of their fatherstuff must be begotten the sinewy races of bards.
If there shall be love and content between the father and the son and if the greatness of the son is the exuding of the greatness of the father there shall be love between the poet and the man of demonstrable science.
In the beauty of poems are the tuft and final applause of science.

Great is the faith of the flush of knowledge and of the investigation of the depths of qualities and things.
Cleaving and circling here swells the soul of the poet yet it president of itself always.
The depths are fathomless and therefore calm.
The innocence and nakedness are resumed . . . they are neither modest nor immodest.
The whole theory of the special and supernatural and all that was twined with it or educed out of it departs as a dream.

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What has ever happened . . . . what happens and whatever may or shall happen, the vital laws enclose all . . . . they are sufficient for any case and for all cases . . . none to be hurried or retarded . . . .
any miracle of affairs or persons inadmissible in the vast clear scheme where every motion and every spear of grass and the frames and spirits of men and women and all that concerns them are unspeakably perfect miracles all referring to all and each distinct and in its place.
It is also not consistent with the reality of the soul to admit that there is anything in the known universe more divine than men and women.

Men and women and the earth and all upon it are simply to be taken as they are, and the investigation of their past and present and future shall be unintermitted and shall be done with perfect candor.
Upon this basis philosophy speculates ever looking toward the poet, ever regarding the eternal tendencies of all toward happiness never inconsistent with what is clear to the senses and to the soul.
For the eternal tendencies of all toward happiness make the only point of sane philosophy.
Whatever comprehends less than that . . . whatever is less than the laws of light and of astronomical motion . . . or less than the laws that follow the thief the liar the glutton and the drunkard through this life and doubtless afterward . . . . . . or less than vast stretches of time or the slow formation of density or the patient upheaving of strata—is of no account.
Whatever would put God in a poem or system of philosophy as contending against some being or influence is also of no account.
Sanity and ensemble characterise the great master . . . spoilt in one principle all is spoilt.
The great master has nothing to do with miracles.
He sees health for himself in being one of the mass . . . . he sees the hiatus in singular eminence.
To the perfect shape comes common ground.
To be under the general law is great for that is to correspond with it.
The master knows that he is unspeakably great and that all are unspeakably great . . . . that nothing for instance is greater than to conceive children and bring them up well . . . that to be is just as great as to perceive or tell.

In the make of the great masters the idea of political liberty is indispensible.
Liberty takes the adherence of heroes wherever men and women exist . . . . but never takes any adherence or welcome from the rest more than from poets.
They are the voice and exposition of liberty.
They out of ages are worthy the grand idea . . . . to them it is confided and they must sustain it.
Nothing has precedence of it and nothing can warp or degrade it.
The attitude of great poets is to cheer up slaves and horrify despots.
The turn of their necks, the sound of their feet, the motions of their wrists, are full of hazard to the one and hope to the other.
Come nigh them awhile and though they neither speak or advise you shall learn the faithful American lesson.
Liberty is poorly served by men whose good intent is quelled from one failure or two failures or any number of failures,
or from the casual indifference or ingratitude of the people,
or from the sharp show of the tushes of power, or the bringing to bear soldiers and cannon or any penal statutes.
Liberty relies upon itself, invites no one, promises nothing, sits in calmness and light, is positive and composed, and knows no discouragement.
The battle rages with many a loud alarm and frequent advance and retreat . . . .
the enemy triumphs . . . .
the prison, the handcuffs, the iron necklace and anklet, the scaffold, garrote and leadballs do their work . . . .
the cause is asleep . . . . the strong throats are choked with their own blood . . . .
the young men drop their eyelashes toward the ground when they pass each other . . . .
and is liberty gone out of that place? No never.
When liberty goes it is not the first to go nor the second or third to go . .
it waits for all the rest to go . . it is the last. . .
When the memories of the old martyrs are faded utterly away . . . .
when the large names of patriots are laughed at in the public halls from the lips of the orators . . . .
when the boys are no more christened after the same but christened after tyrants and traitors instead . . . .
when the laws of the free are grudgingly permitted and laws for informers and bloodmoney are sweet to the taste of the people . . . .
when I and you walk abroad upon the earth stung with compassion at the sight of numberless brothers answering our equal friendship and calling no man master—and when we are elated with noble joy at the sight of slaves . . . .
when the soul retires in the cool communion of the night and surveys its experience and has much extasy over the word and deed that put back a helpless innocent person into the gripe of the gripers or into any cruel inferiority . . . .
when those in all parts of these states who could easier realize the true American character but do not yet—
when the swarms of cringers, suckers, doughfaces, lice of politics, planners of sly involutions for their own preferment to city offices or state legislatures or the judiciary or congress or the presidency, obtain a response of love and natural deference from the people whether they get the offices or no . . . .
when it is better to be a bound booby and rogue in office at a high salary than the poorest free mechanic or farmer with his hat unmoved from his head and firm eyes and a candid and generous heart . . . .
and when servility by town or state or the federal government or any oppression on a large

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ix scale or small scale can be tried on without its own punishment following duly after in exact proportion against the smallest chance of escape . . . .
or rather when all life and all the souls of men and women are discharged from any part of the earth—
then only shall the instinct of liberty be discharged from that part of the earth.

As the attributes of the poets of the kosmos concentre in the real body and soul and in the pleasure of things they possess the superiority of genuineness over all fiction and romance.
As they emit themselves facts are showered over with light . . . . the daylight is lit with more volatile light . . . . also the deep between the setting and rising sun goes deeper many fold.
Each precise object or condition or combination or process exhibits a beauty . . . . the multiplication table its—old age its—the carpenter's trade its—the grand-opera its . . . .
the hugehulled cleanshaped New-York clipper at sea under steam or full sail gleams with unmatched beauty . . . .
the American circles and large harmonies of government gleam with theirs . . . . and the commonest definite intentions and actions with theirs.
The poets of the kosmos advance through all interpositions and coverings and turmoils and stratagems to first principles.
They are of use . . . . they dissolve poverty from its need and riches from its conceit.
You large proprietor they say shall not realize or perceive more than any one else.
The owner of the library is not he who holds a legal title to it having bought and paid for it.
Any one and every one is owner of the library who can read the same through all the varieties of tongues and subjects and styles, and in whom they enter with ease and take residence and force toward paternity and maternity, and make supple and powerful and rich and large. . . . . . . . .
These American states strong and healthy and accomplished shall receive no pleasure from violations of natural models and must not permit them.
In paintings or mouldings or carvings in mineral or wood, or in the illustrations of books or newspapers, or in any comic or tragic prints, or in the patterns of woven stuffs or any thing to beautify rooms or furniture or costumes, or to put upon cornices or monuments or on the prows or sterns of ships, or to put anywhere before the human eye indoors or out, that which distorts honest shapes or which creates unearthly beings or places or contingencies is a nuisance and revolt.
Of the human form especially it is so great it must never be made ridiculous.
Of ornaments to a work nothing outre can be allowed . . but those ornaments can be allowed that conform to the perfect facts of the open air and that flow out of the nature of the work and come irrepressibly from it and are necessary to the completion of the work.
Most works are most beautiful without ornament. . .
Exaggerations will be revenged in human physiology.
Clean and vigorous children are jetted and conceived only in those communities where the models of natural forms are public every day. . . . .
Great genius and the people of these states must never be demeaned to romances.
As soon as histories are properly told there is no more need of romances.

The great poets are also to be known by the absence in them of tricks and by the justification of perfect personal candor.
Then folks echo a new cheap joy and a divine voice leaping from their brains: How beautiful is candor!
All faults may be forgiven of him who has perfect candor.
Henceforth let no man of us lie, for we have seen that openness wins the inner and outer world and that there is no single exception, and that never since our earth gathered itself in a mass have deceit or subterfuge or prevarication attracted its smallest particle or the faintest tinge of a shade—
and that through the enveloping wealth and rank of a state or the whole republic of states a sneak or sly person shall be discovered and despised . . . . and that the soul has never been once fooled and never can be fooled . . . . and thrift without the loving nod of the soul is only a fœtid puff . . . .
and there never grew up in any of the continents of the globe nor upon any planet or satellite or star, nor upon the asteroids, nor in any part of ethereal space, nor in the midst of density, nor under the fluid wet of the sea, nor in that condition which precedes the birth of babes, nor at any time during the changes of life, nor in that condition that follows what we term death, nor in any stretch of abeyance or action afterward of vitality, nor in any process of formation or reformation anywhere, a being whose instinct hated the truth.

Extreme caution or prudence, the soundest organic health, large hope and comparison and fondness for women and children, large alimentiveness and destructiveness and causality, with a perfect sense of the oneness of nature and the propriety of the same spirit applied to human affairs . .
these are called up of the float of the brain of the world to be parts of the greatest poet from his birth out of his mother's womb and from her birth out of her mother's.
Caution seldom goes far enough.
It has been thought that the prudent citizen was the citizen who applied himself to solid gains and did well for himself and his family and completed a lawful life without debt or crime.
The greatest poet sees and admits these economies as he sees the economies of food and sleep, but has higher notions of prudence than to think he gives much when he gives

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x a few slight attentions at the latch of the gate.
The premises of the prudence of life are not the hospitality of it or the ripeness and harvest of it.
Beyond the independence of a little sum laid aside for burial-money,
and of a few clapboards around and shingles overhead on a lot of American soil owned,
and the easy dollars that supply the year's plain clothing and meals,
the melancholy prudence of the abandonment of such a great being as a man is to the toss and pallor of years of moneymaking with all their scorching days and icy nights
and all their stifling deceits and underhanded dodgings, or infinitessimals of parlors, or shameless stuffing while others starve . .
and all the loss of the bloom and odor of the earth and of the flowers and atmosphere and of the sea and of the true taste of the women and men you pass or have to do with in youth or middle age,
and the issuing sickness and desperate revolt at the close of a life without elevation or naivete,
and the ghastly chatter of a death without serenity or majesty,
is the great fraud upon modern civilization and forethought, blotching the surface and system which civilization undeniably drafts, and moistening with tears the immense features it spreads and spreads with such velocity before the reached kisses of the soul . . .
Still the right explanation remains to be made about prudence.
The prudence of the mere wealth and respectability of the most esteemed life appears too faint for the eye to observe at all when little and large alike drop quietly aside at the thought of the prudence suitable for immortality.
What is wisdom that fills the thinness of a year or seventy or eighty years to wisdom spaced out by ages and coming back at a certain time with strong reinforcements and rich presents and the clear faces of wedding-guests as far as you can look in every direction running gaily toward you?
Only the soul is of itself . . . .
all else has reference to what ensues.
All that a person does or thinks is of consequence.
Not a move can a man or woman make that affects him or her in a day or a month or any part of the direct lifetime or the hour of death
but the same affects him or her onward afterward through the indirect lifetime.
The indirect is always as great and real as the direct.
The spirit receives from the body just as much as it gives to the body.
Not one name of word or deed . . not of venereal sores or discolorations . . not the privacy of the onanist . .
not of the putrid veins of gluttons or rumdrinkers . . . not peculation or cunning or betrayal or murder . . no serpentine poison of those that seduce women . . not the foolish yielding of women . . not prostitution . . not of any depravity of young men . . not of the attainment of gain by discreditable means . . not any nastiness of appetite . . not any harshness of officers to men or judges to prisoners or fathers to sons or sons to fathers or of husbands to wives or bosses to their boys . . not of greedy looks or malignant wishes . . . nor any of the wiles practised by people upon themselves . . .
ever is or ever can be stamped on the programme but it is duly realized and returned, and that returned in further performances . . . and they returned again.
Nor can the push of charity or personal force ever be any thing else than the profoundest reason, whether it bring arguments to hand or no.
No specification is necessary . . to add or subtract or divide is in vain.
Little or big, learned or unlearned, white or black, legal or illegal, sick or well, from the first inspiration down the windpipe to the last expiration out of it,
all that a male or female does that is vigorous and benevolent and clean is so much sure profit to him or her
in the unshakable order of the universe and through the whole scope of it forever.
If the savage or felon is wise it is well . . . . if the greatest poet or savan is wise it is simply the same . . if the President or chief justice is wise it is the same . . . if the young mechanic or farmer is wise it is no more or less . . if the prostitute is wise it is no more nor less.
The interest will come round . . all will come round.
All the best actions of war and peace . . .
all help given to relatives and strangers and the poor and old and sorrowful and young children and widows and the sick, and to all shunned persons . .
all furtherance of fugitives and of the escape of slaves . .
all the self-denial that stood steady and aloof on wrecks and saw others take the seats of the boats . . .
all offering of substance or life for the good old cause, or for a friend's sake or opinion's sake . . .
all pains of enthusiasts scoffed at by their neighbors . .
all the vast sweet love and precious suffering of mothers . . .
all honest men baffled in strifes recorded or unrecorded . . . .
all the grandeur and good of the few ancient nations whose fragments of annals we inherit . .
and all the good of the hundreds of far mightier and more ancient nations unknown to us by name or date or location . . . .
all that was ever manfully begun, whether it succeeded or no . . . .
all that has at any time been well suggested out of the divine heart of man or by the divinity of his mouth or by the shaping of his great hands . .
and all that is well thought or done this day on any part of the surface of the globe . . or on any of the wandering stars or fixed stars by those there as we are here . .
or that is henceforth to be well thought or done by you whoever you are, or by any one—
these singly and wholly inured at their time and inure now and will inure always to the identities from which they sprung or shall spring . . .
Did you guess any of them lived only its mo-

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The world does not so exist . . no parts palpable or impalpable so exist . . .
no result exists now without being from its long antecedent result, and that from its antecedent,
and so backward without the farthest mentionable spot coming a bit nearer the beginning than any other spot.  . . . .
Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.
The prudence of the greatest poet answers at last the craving and glut of the soul,
is not contemptuous of less ways of prudence if they conform to its ways, puts off nothing, permits no let-up for its own case or any case, has no particular sabbath or judgment-day,
divides not the living from the dead or the righteous from the unrighteous,
is satisfied with the present,
matches every thought or act by its correlative,
knows no possible forgiveness or deputed atonement . .
knows that the young man who composedly periled his life and lost it has done exceeding well for himself,
while the man who has not periled his life and retains it to old age in riches and ease has perhaps achieved nothing for himself worth mentioning . .
and that only that person has no great prudence to learn who has learnt to prefer real longlived things,
and favors body and soul the same,
and perceives the indirect assuredly following the direct,
and what evil or good he does leaping onward and waiting to meet him again—
and who in his spirit in any emergency whatever neither hurries or avoids death.

The direct trial of him who would be the greatest poet is today.
If he does not flood himself with the immediate age as with vast oceanic tides . . . . .
and if he does not attract his own land body and soul to himself and hang on its neck with incomparable love
and plunge his semitic muscle into its merits and demerits . . .
and if he be not himself the age transfigured . . . .
and if to him is not opened the eternity which gives similitude to all periods and locations and processes and animate and inanimate forms, and which is the bond of time, and rises up from its inconceivable vagueness and infiniteness in the swimming shape of today, and is held by the ductile anchors of life, and makes the present spot the passage from what was to what shall be, and commits itself to the representation of this wave of an hour and this one of the sixty beautiful children of the wave—
let him merge in the general run and wait his developement. . . . . . . .
Still the final test of poems or any character or work remains.
The prescient poet projects himself centuries ahead and judges performer or performance after the changes of time.
Does it live through them?
Does it still hold on untired?
Will the same style and the direction of genius to similar points be satisfactory now?
Has no new discovery in science or arrival at superior planes of thought and judgment and behaviour fixed him or his so that either can be looked down upon?
Have the marches of tens and hundreds and thousands of years made willing detours to the right hand and the left hand for his sake?
Is he beloved long and long after he is buried?
Does the young man think often of him? and the young woman think often of him? and do the middleaged and the old think of him?

A great poem is for ages and ages in common and for all degrees and complexions and all departments and sects and for a woman as much as a man and a man as much as a woman.
A great poem is no finish to a man or woman but rather a beginning.
Has any one fancied he could sit at last under some due authority and rest satisfied with explanations and realize and be content and full?
To no such terminus does the greatest poet bring . . .
he brings neither cessation or sheltered fatness and ease.
The touch of him tells in action.
Whom he takes he takes with firm sure grasp into live regions previously unattained . . . . thenceforward is no rest . . . . they see the space and ineffable sheen that turn the old spots and lights into dead vacuums.
The companion of him beholds the birth and progress of stars and learns one of the meanings.
Now there shall be a man cohered out of tumult and chaos . . . . the elder encourages the younger and shows him how . . .
they two shall launch off fearlessly together till the new world fits an orbit for itself and looks unabashed on the lesser orbits of the stars and sweeps through the ceaseless rings and shall never be quiet again.

There will soon be no more priests. Their work is done.
They may wait awhile . . perhaps a generation or two . . dropping off by degrees.
A superior breed shall take their place . . . .
the gangs of kosmos and prophets en masse shall take their place.
A new order shall arise and they shall be the priests of man, and every man shall be his own priest.
The churches built under their umbrage shall be the churches of men and women.
Through the divinity of themselves shall the kosmos and the new breed of poets be interpreters of men and women and of all events and things.
They shall find their inspiration in real objects today, symptoms of the past and future . . . .
They shall not deign to defend immortality or God or the perfection of things or liberty or the exquisite beauty and reality of the soul.
They shall arise in America and be responded to from the remainder of the earth.

The English language befriends the grand American expression . . . . it is brawny enough and limber and full enough.
On the tough stock of a race who through all change of circumstance was never with-

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xiiout the idea of political liberty, which is the animus of all liberty, it has attracted the terms of daintier and gayer and subtler and more elegant tongues.
It is the powerful language of resistance . . . it is the dialect of common sense.
It is the speech of the proud and melancholy races and of all who aspire.
It is the chosen tongue to express growth faith self-esteem freedom justice equality friendliness amplitude prudence decision and courage.
It is the medium that shall well nigh express the inexpressible.

No great literature nor any like style of behaviour or oratory or social intercourse or household arrangements or public institutions or the treatment by bosses of employed people, nor executive detail or detail of the army or navy, nor spirit of legislation or courts or police or tuition or architecture or songs or amusements or the costumes of young men, can long elude the jealous and passionate instinct of American standards.
Whether or no the sign appears from the mouths of the people, it throbs a live interrogation in every freeman's and freewoman's heart after that which passes by or this built to remain.
Is it uniform with my country? Are its disposals without ignominious distinctions? Is it for the evergrowing communes of brothers and lovers, large, well-united, proud beyond the old models, generous beyond all models?
Is it something grown fresh out of the fields or drawn from the sea for use to me today here?
I know that what answers for me an American must answer for any individual or nation that serves for a part of my materials.
Does this answer? or is it without reference to universal needs?
or sprung of the needs of the less developed society of special ranks?
or old needs of pleasure overlaid by modern science and forms?
Does this acknowledge liberty with audible and absolute acknowledgement, and set slavery at nought for life and death?
Will it help breed one goodshaped and wellhung man, and a woman to be his perfect and independent mate?
Does it improve manners?
Is it for the nursing of the young of the republic?
Does it solve readily with the sweet milk of the nipples of the breasts of the mother of many children?
Has it too the old ever-fresh forbearance and impartiality?
Does it look with the same love on the last born and on those hardening toward stature, and on the errant, and on those who disdain all strength of assault outside of their own?

The poems distilled from other poems will probably pass away.
The coward will surely pass away.
The expectation of the vital and great can only be satisfied by the demeanor of the vital and great.
The swarms of the polished deprecating and reflectors and the polite float off and leave no remembrance.
America prepares with composure and goodwill for the visitors that have sent word.
It is not intellect that is to be their warrant and welcome.
The talented, the artist, the ingenious, the editor, the statesman, the erudite . . they are not unappreciated . . they fall in their place and do their work.
The soul of the nation also does its work.
No disguise can pass on it . . no disguise can conceal from it.
It rejects none, it permits all.
Only toward as good as itself and toward the like of itself will it advance half-way.
An individual is as superb as a nation when he has the qualities which make a superb nation.
The soul of the largest and wealthiest and proudest nation may well go half-way to meet that of its poets.
The signs are effectual.
There is no fear of mistake.
If the one is true the other is true.
The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.

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Leaves of Grass.


And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease . . . . observing a spear of summer grass.

Houses and rooms are full of perfumes . . . . the shelves are crowded with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself, and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

The atmosphere is not a perfume . . . . it has no taste of the distillation . . . . it is
It is for my mouth forever . . . . I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

The smoke of my own breath,
Echos, ripples, and buzzed whispers . . . . loveroot, silkthread, crotch and vine,
My respiration and inspiration . . . . the beating of my heart . . . . the passing of blood
and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and darkcolored sea-
rocks, and of hay in the barn,
The sound of the belched words of my voice . . . . words loosed to the eddies of
the wind,
A few light kisses . . . . a few embraces . . . . a reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hillsides,
The feeling of health . . . . the full-noon trill . . . . the song of me rising from bed
and meeting the sun.

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14 Leaves of Grass.

Have you reckoned a thousand acres much? Have you reckoned the earth much?
Have you practiced so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun . . . . there are millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand . . . . nor look through the
eyes of the dead . . . . nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.

I have heard what the talkers were talking . . . . the talk of the beginning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.

There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now;
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.

Out of the dimness opposite equals advance . . . . Always substance and increase,
Always a knit of identity . . . . always distinction . . . . always a breed of life.

To elaborate is no avail . . . . Learned and unlearned feel that it is so.

Sure as the most certain sure . . . . plumb in the uprights, well entretied, braced in
the beams,
Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical,
I and this mystery here we stand.

Clear and sweet is my soul . . . . and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul.

Lack one lacks both . . . . and the unseen is proved by the seen,
Till that becomes unseen and receives proof in its turn.

Showing the best and dividing it from the worst, age vexes age,
Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of things, while they discuss I am silent,
and go bathe and admire myself.

Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and of any man hearty and clean,
Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be less familiar than the rest.

I am satisfied . . . . I see, dance, laugh, sing;

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Leaves of Grass. 15

As God comes a loving bedfellow and sleeps at my side all night and close on the
peep of the day,
And leaves for me baskets covered with white towels bulging the house with their
Shall I postpone my acceptation and realization and scream at my eyes,
That they turn from gazing after and down the road,
And forthwith cipher and show me to a cent,
Exactly the contents of one, and exactly the contents of two, and which is ahead?

Trippers and askers surround me,
People I meet . . . . . the effect upon me of my early life . . . . of the ward and city I
live in . . . . of the nation,
The latest news . . . . discoveries, inventions, societies . . . . authors old and new,
My dinner, dress, associates, looks, business, compliments, dues,
The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love,
The sickness of one of my folks—or of myself . . . . or ill-doing . . . . or loss or lack
of money . . . . or depressions or exaltations,
They come to me days and nights and go from me again,
But they are not the Me myself.

Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,
Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary,
Looks down, is erect, bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest,
Looks with its sidecurved head curious what will come next,
Both in and out of the game, and watching and wondering at it.

Backward I see in my own days where I sweated through fog with linguists and
I have no mockings or arguments . . . . I witness and wait.

I believe in you my soul . . . . the other I am must not abase itself to you,
And you must not be abased to the other.

Loafe with me on the grass . . . . loose the stop from your throat,
Not words, not music or rhyme I want . . . . not custom or lecture, not even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice.

I mind how we lay in June, such a transparent summer morning;
You settled your head athwart my hips and gently turned over upon me,
And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my barestript
And reached till you felt my beard, and reached till you held my feet.

Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and joy and knowledge that pass all
the art and argument of the earth;
And I know that the hand of God is the elderhand of my own,

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16 Leaves of Grass,

And I know that the spirit of God is the eldest brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers . . . . and the women my sisters
and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love;
And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,
And mossy scabs of the wormfence, and heaped stones, and elder and mullen and

A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? . . . . I do not know what it is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark,
and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child . . . . the produced babe of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and from offspring taken soon
out of their mothers' laps,
And here you are the mothers' laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their

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Leaves of Grass. 17

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.

All goes onward and outward . . . . and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?
I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.

I pass death with the dying, and birth with the new-washed babe . . . . and am not
contained between my hat and boots,
And peruse manifold objects, no two alike, and every one good,
The earth good, and the stars good, and their adjuncts all good.

I am not an earth nor an adjunct of an earth,
I am the mate and companion of people, all just as immortal and fathomless as
They do not know how immortal, but I know.

Every kind for itself and its own . . . . for me mine male and female,
For me all that have been boys and that love women,
For me the man that is proud and feels how it stings to be slighted,
For me the sweetheart and the old maid . . . . for me mothers and the mothers of
For me lips that have smiled, eyes that have shed tears,
For me children and the begetters of children.

Who need be afraid of the merge?
Undrape . . . . you are not guilty to me, nor stale nor discarded,
I see through the broadcloth and gingham whether or no,
And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless . . . . and can never be shaken away.

The little one sleeps in its cradle,
I lift the gauze and look a long time, and silently brush away flies with my hand.

The youngster and the redfaced girl turn aside up the bushy hill,
I peeringly view them from the top.

The suicide sprawls on the bloody floor of the bedroom,
It is so . . . . I witnessed the corpse . . . . there the pistol had fallen.

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18 Leaves of Grass.

The blab of the pave . . . . the tires of carts and sluff of bootsoles and talk of the
The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogating thumb, the clank of the shod
horses on the granite floor,
The carnival of sleighs, the clinking and shouted jokes and pelts of snowballs;
The hurrahs for popular favorites . . . . the fury of roused mobs,
The flap of the curtained litter—the sick man inside, borne to the hospital,
The meeting of enemies, the sudden oath, the blows and fall,
The excited crowd—the policeman with his star quickly working his passage to the
centre of the crowd;
The impassive stones that receive and return so many echoes,
The souls moving along . . . . are they invisible while the least atom of the stones is
What groans of overfed or half-starved who fall on the flags sunstruck or in fits,
What exclamations of women taken suddenly, who hurry home and give birth to
What living and buried speech is always vibrating here . . . . what howls restrained
by decorum,
Arrests of criminals, slights, adulterous offers made, acceptances, rejections with
convex lips,
I mind them or the resonance of them . . . . I come again and again.

The big doors of the country-barn stand open and ready,
The dried grass of the harvest-time loads the slow-drawn wagon,
The clear light plays on the brown gray and green intertinged,
The armfuls are packed to the sagging mow:
I am there . . . . I help . . . . I came stretched atop of the load,
I felt its soft jolts . . . . one leg reclined on the other,
I jump from the crossbeams, and seize the clover and timothy,
And roll head over heels, and tangle my hair full of wisps.

Alone far in the wilds and mountains I hunt,
Wandering amazed at my own lightness and glee,
In the late afternoon choosing a safe spot to pass the night,
Kindling a fire and broiling the freshkilled game,
Soundly falling asleep on the gathered leaves, my dog and gun by my side.

The Yankee clipper is under her three skysails . . . . she cuts the sparkle and scud,
My eyes settle the land . . . . I bend at her prow or shout joyously from the deck.

The boatmen and clamdiggers arose early and stopped for me,
I tucked my trowser-ends in my boots and went and had a good time,
You should have been with us that day round the chowder-kettle.

I saw the marriage of the trapper in the open air in the far-west . . . . the bride was
a red girl,

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Leaves of Grass. 19

Her father and his friends sat near by crosslegged and dumbly smoking . . . . they
had moccasins to their feet and large thick blankets hanging from their
On a bank lounged the trapper . . . . he was dressed mostly in skins . . . . his luxuriant
beard and curls protected his neck,
One hand rested on his rifle . . . . the other hand held firmly the wrist of the red girl,
She had long eyelashes . . . . her head was bare . . . . her coarse straight locks
descended upon her voluptuous limbs and reached to her feet.

The runaway slave came to my house and stopped outside,
I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile,
Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsey and weak,
And went where he sat on a log, and led him in and assured him,
And brought water and filled a tub for his sweated body and bruised feet,
And gave him a room that entered from my own, and gave him some coarse clean
And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and his awkwardness,
And remember putting plasters on the galls of his neck and ankles;
He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and passed north,
I had him sit next me at table . . . . my firelock leaned in the corner.

Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore,
Twenty-eight young men, and all so friendly,
Twenty-eight years of womanly life, and all so lonesome.

She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank,
She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the window.

Which of the young men does she like the best?
Ah the homeliest of them is beautiful to her.

Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,
You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room.

Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth bather,
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.

The beards of the young men glistened with wet, it ran from their long hair,
Little streams passed all over their bodies.

An unseen hand also passed over their bodies,
It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs.

The young men float on their backs, their white bellies swell to the sun . . . . they do
not ask who seizes fast to them,

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20 Leaves of Grass.

They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and bending arch,
They do not think whom they souse with spray.

The butcher-boy puts off his killing-clothes, or sharpens his knife at the stall in the
I loiter enjoying his repartee and his shuffle and breakdown.

Blacksmiths with grimed and hairy chests environ the anvil,
Each has his main-sledge . . . . they are all out . . . . there is a great heat in the fire.

From the cinder-strewed threshold I follow their movements,
The lithe sheer of their waists plays even with their massive arms,
Overhand the hammers roll—overhand so slow—overhand so sure,
They do not hasten, each man hits in his place.

The negro holds firmly the reins of his four horses . . . . the block swags underneath
on its tied-over chain,
The negro that drives the huge dray of the stoneyard . . . . steady and tall he stands
poised on one leg on the stringpiece,
His blue shirt exposes his ample neck and breast and loosens over his hipband,
His glance is calm and commanding . . . . he tosses the slouch of his hat away from
his forehead,
The sun falls on his crispy hair and moustache . . . . falls on the black of his polish'd
and perfect limbs.

I behold the picturesque giant and love him . . . . and I do not stop there,
I go with the team also.

In me the caresser of life wherever moving . . . . backward as well as forward slue-
To niches aside and junior bending.

Oxen that rattle the yoke or halt in the shade, what is that you express in your eyes?
It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life.

My tread scares the wood-drake and wood-duck on my distant and daylong ramble,
They rise together, they slowly circle around.
 . . . . I believe in those winged purposes,
And acknowledge the red yellow and white playing within me,
And consider the green and violet and the tufted crown intentional;
And do not call the tortoise unworthy because she is not something else,
And the mockingbird in the swamp never studied the gamut, yet trills pretty well to
And the look of the bay mare shames silliness out of me.

The wild gander leads his flock through the cool night,

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Leaves of Grass. 21

Ya-honk! he says, and sounds it down to me like an invitation;
The pert may suppose it meaningless, but I listen closer,
I find its purpose and place up there toward the November sky.

The sharphoofed moose of the north, the cat on the housesill, the chickadee, the
The litter of the grunting sow as they tug at her teats,
The brood of the turkeyhen, and she with her halfspread wings,
I see in them and myself the same old law.

The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred affections,
They scorn the best I can do to relate them.

I am enamoured of growing outdoors,
Of men that live among cattle or taste of the ocean or woods,
Of the builders and steerers of ships, of the wielders of axes and mauls, of the drivers
of horses,
I can eat and sleep with them week in and week out.

What is commonest and cheapest and nearest and easiest is Me,
Me going in for my chances, spending for vast returns,
Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that will take me,
Not asking the sky to come down to my goodwill,
Scattering it freely forever.

The pure contralto sings in the organloft,
The carpenter dresses his plank . . . . the tongue of his foreplane 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,
The mate stands braced in the whaleboat, lance and harpoon are ready,
The duck-shooter walks by silent and cautious stretches,
The deacons are ordained with crossed hands at the altar,
The spinning-girl retreats and advances to the hum of the big wheel,
The farmer stops by the bars of a Sunday and looks at the oats and rye,
The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum a confirmed case,
He will never sleep any more as he did in the cot in his mother's bedroom;
The jour printer with gray head and gaunt jaws works at his case,
He turns his quid of tobacco, his eyes get blurred with the manuscript;
The malformed limbs are tied to the anatomist's table,
What is removed drops horribly in a pail;
The quadroon girl is sold at the stand . . . . the drunkard nods by the barroom stove,
The machinist rolls up his sleeves . . . . the policeman travels his beat . . . . the gate-
keeper marks who pass,

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22 Leaves of Grass.

The young fellow drives the express-wagon . . . . I love him though I do not know
The half-breed straps on his light boots to compete in the race,
The western turkey-shooting draws old and young . . . . some lean on their rifles,
some sit on logs,
Out from the crowd steps the marksman and takes his position and levels his piece;
The groups of newly-come immigrants cover the wharf or levee,
The woollypates hoe in the sugarfield, the overseer views them from his saddle;
The bugle calls in the ballroom, the gentlemen run for their partners, the dancers
bow to each other;
The youth lies awake in the cedar-roofed garret and harks to the musical rain,
The Wolverine sets traps on the creek that helps fill the Huron,
The reformer ascends the platform, he spouts with his mouth and nose,
The company returns from its excursion, the darkey brings up the rear and bears the
well-riddled target,
The squaw wrapt in her yellow-hemmed cloth is offering moccasins and beadbags for
The connoisseur peers along the exhibition-gallery with halfshut eyes bent sideways,
The deckhands make fast the steamboat, the plank is thrown for the shoregoing
The young sister holds out the skein, the elder sister winds it off in a ball and stops
now and then for the knots,
The one-year wife is recovering and happy, a week ago she bore her first child,
The cleanhaired Yankee girl works with her sewing-machine or in the factory or
The nine months' gone is in the parturition chamber, her faintness and pains are ad-
The pavingman leans on his twohanded rammer—the reporter's lead flies swiftly
over the notebook—the signpainter is lettering with red and gold,
The canal-boy trots on the towpath—the bookkeeper counts at his desk—the
shoemaker waxes his thread,
The conductor beats time for the band and all the performers follow him,
The child is baptised—the convert is making the first professions,
The regatta is spread on the bay . . . . how the white sails sparkle!
The drover watches his drove, he sings out to them that would stray,
The pedlar sweats with his pack on his back—the purchaser higgles about the odd
The camera and plate are prepared, the lady must sit for her daguerreotype,
The bride unrumples her white dress, the minutehand of the clock moves slowly,
The opium eater reclines with rigid head and just-opened lips,
The prostitute draggles her shawl, her bonnet bobs on her tipsy and pimpled neck,
The crowd laugh at her blackguard oaths, the men jeer and wink to each other,
(Miserable! I do not laugh at your oaths nor jeer you,)
The President holds a cabinet council, he is surrounded by the great secretaries,

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Leaves of Grass. 23

On the piazza walk five friendly matrons with twined arms;
The crew of the fish-smack pack repeated layers of halibut in the hold,
The Missourian crosses the plains toting his wares and his cattle,
The fare-collector goes through the train—he gives notice by the jingling of loose
The floormen are laying the floor—the tinners are tinning the roof—the masons
are calling for mortar,
In single file each shouldering his hod pass onward the laborers;
Seasons pursuing each other the indescribable crowd is gathered . . . . it is the
Fourth of July . . . . what salutes of cannon and small arms!
Seasons pursuing each other the plougher ploughs and the mower mows and the
wintergrain falls in the ground;
Off on the lakes the pikefisher watches and waits by the hole in the frozen surface,
The stumps stand thick round the clearing, the squatter strikes deep with his axe,
The flatboatmen make fast toward dusk near the cottonwood or pekantrees,
The coon-seekers go now through the regions of the Red river, or through those
drained by the Tennessee, or through those of the Arkansas,
The torches shine in the dark that hangs on the Chattahoochee or Altamahaw;
Patriarchs sit at supper with sons and grandsons and great grandsons around them,
In walls of abode, in canvass tents, rest hunters and trappers after their day's sport.
The city sleeps and the country sleeps,
The living sleep for their time . . . . the dead sleep for their time,
The old husband sleeps by his wife and the young husband sleeps by his wife;
And these one and all tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them,
And such as it is to be of these more or less I am.

I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,
Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,
Stuffed with the stuff that is coarse, and stuffed with the stuff that is fine,
One of the great nation, the nation of many nations—the smallest the same and the
largest the same,
A southerner soon as a northerner, a planter nonchalant and hospitable,
A Yankee bound my own way . . . . ready for trade . . . . my joints the limberest
joints on earth and the sternest joints on earth,
A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in my deerskin leggings,
A boatman over the lakes or bays or along coasts . . . . a Hoosier, a Badger, a
A Louisianian or Georgian, a poke-easy from sandhills and pines,
At home on Canadian snowshoes or up in the bush, or with fishermen off New-
At home in the fleet of iceboats, sailing with the rest and tacking,
At home on the hills of Vermont or in the woods of Maine or the Texan ranch,
Comrade of Californians . . . . comrade of free northwesterners, loving their big

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24 Leaves of Grass,

Comrade of raftsmen and coalmen—comrade of all who shake hands and welcome
to drink and meat;
A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the thoughtfulest,
A novice beginning experient of myriads of seasons,
Of every hue and trade and rank, of every caste and religion,
Not merely of the New World but of Africa Europe or Asia . . . . a wandering
A farmer, mechanic, or artist . . . . a gentleman, sailor, lover or quaker,
A prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician or priest.

I resist anything better than my own diversity,
And breathe the air and leave plenty after me,
And am not stuck up, and am in my place.

The moth and the fisheggs are in their place,
The suns I see and the suns I cannot see are in their place,
The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place.

These are the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they are not original with
If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing or next to nothing,
If they do not enclose everything they are next to nothing,
If they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle they are nothing,
If they are not just as close as they are distant they are nothing.

This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is,
This is the common air that bathes the globe.

This is the breath of laws and songs and behaviour,
This is the the tasteless water of souls . . . . this is the true sustenance,
It is for the illiterate . . . . it is for the judges of the supreme court . . . . it is for the
federal capitol and the state capitols,
It is for the admirable communes of literary men and composers and singers and
lecturers and engineers and savans,
It is for the endless races of working people and farmers and seamen.

This is the trill of a thousand clear cornets and scream of the octave flute and strike
of triangles.

I play not a march for victors only . . . . I play great marches for conquered and
slain persons.

Have you heard that it was good to gain the day?
I also say it is good to fall . . . . battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are

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Leaves of Grass. 25

I sound triumphal drums for the dead . . . . I fling through my embouchures the
loudest and gayest music to them,
Vivas to those who have failed, and to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea,
and those themselves who sank in the sea,
And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome heroes, and the number-
less unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known.

This is the meal pleasantly set . . . . this is the meat and drink for natural hunger,
It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous . . . . I make appointments with all,
I will not have a single person slighted or left away,
The keptwoman and sponger and thief are hereby invited . . . . the heavy-lipped slave
is invited . . . . the venerealee is invited,
There shall be no difference between them and the rest.

This is the press of a bashful hand . . . . this is the float and odor of hair,
This is the touch of my lips to yours . . . . this is the murmur of yearning,
This is the far-off depth and height reflecting my own face,
This is the thoughtful merge of myself and the outlet again.

Do you guess I have some intricate purpose?
Well I have . . . . for the April rain has, and the mica on the side of a rock has.

Do you take it I would astonish?
Does the daylight astonish? or the early redstart twittering through the woods?
Do I astonish more than they?

This hour I tell things in confidence,
I might not tell everybody but I will tell you.

Who goes there! hankering, gross, mystical, nude?
How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat?

What is a man anyhow? What am I? and what are you?
All I mark as my own you shall offset it with your own,
Else it were time lost listening to me.

I do not snivel that snivel the world over,
That months are vacuums and the ground but wallow and filth,
That life is a suck and a sell, and nothing remains at the end but threadbare crape
and tears.

Whimpering and truckling fold with powders for invalids . . . . conformity goes to
the fourth-removed,
I cock my hat as I please indoors or out.

Shall I pray? Shall I venerate and be ceremonious?

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26 Leaves of Grass.

I have pried through the strata and analyzed to a hair,
And counselled with doctors and calculated close and found no sweeter fat than
sticks to my own bones.

In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barleycorn less,
And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them.

And I know I am solid and sound,
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow,
All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.

And I know I am deathless,
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter's compass,
I know I shall not pass like a child's carlacue cut with a burnt stick at night.

I know I am august,
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood,
I see that the elementary laws never apologize,
I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by after all.

I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.

One world is aware, and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.

My foothold is tenoned and mortised in granite,
I laugh at what you call dissolution,
And I know the amplitude of time.

I am the poet of the body,
And I am the poet of the soul.

The pleasures of heaven are with me, and the pains of hell are with me,
The first I graft and increase upon myself . . . . the latter I translate into a new

I am the poet of the woman the same as the man,
And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man,
And I say there is nothing greater than the mother of men.

I chant a new chant of dilation or pride,
We have had ducking and deprecating about enough,
I show that size is only developement.

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Leaves of Grass. 27

Have you outstript the rest? Are you the President?
It is a trifle . . . . they will more than arrive there every one, and still pass on.

I am he that walks with the tender and growing night;
I call to the earth and sea half-held by the night.

Press close barebosomed night! Press close magnetic nourishing night!
Night of south winds! Night of the large few stars!
Still nodding night! Mad naked summer night!

Smile O voluptuous coolbreathed earth!
Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees!
Earth of departed sunset! Earth of the mountains misty-topt!
Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon just tinged with blue!
Earth of shine and dark mottling the tide of the river!