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Books by Whitman

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12 — Poem of The Road.

AFOOT and light-hearted I take to the open
Healthy, free, the world before me!
The long brown path before me, leading wherever
I choose!

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I am good-
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more,
need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.

The earth—that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,
I carry them, men and women—I carry them
with me wherever I go,
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,
I am filled with them, and I will fill them in

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You road I travel and look around! I believe you
are not all that is here!
I believe that something unseen is also here.

Here is the profound lesson of reception, neither
preference or denial,
The black with his woolly head, the felon, the
diseased, the illiterate person, are not de-
The birth, the hasting after the physician, the
beggar's tramp, the drunkard's stagger, the
laughing party of mechanics,
The escaped youth, the rich person's carriage, the
fop, the eloping couple,
The early market-man, the hearse, the moving of
furniture into the town, the return back from
the town,
They pass, I also pass, any thing passes, none can
be interdicted,
None but are accepted, none but are dear to me.

You air that serves me with breath to speak!
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings
and give them shape!
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate
equable showers!
You animals moving serenely over the earth!
You birds that wing yourselves through the air!
you insects!

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You sprouting growths from the farmers' fields!
you stalks and weeds by the fences!
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the
I think you are latent with curious existences —
you are so dear to me.

You flagged walks of the cities! you strong curbs
at the edges!
You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves!
you timber-lined sides! you distant ships!
You rows of houses! you window-pierced facades!
you roofs!
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron
You windows whose transparent shells might
expose so much!
You doors and ascending steps! you arches!
You gray stones of interminable pavements! you
trodden crossings!
From all that has been near you I believe you
have imparted to yourselves, and now would
impart the same secretly to me,
From the living and the dead I think you have
peopled your impassive surfaces, and the
spirits thereof would be evident and ami-
cable with me.

The earth expanding right hand and left hand,

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The picture alive, every part in its best light,
The music falling in where it is wanted, and
stopping where it is not wanted,
The cheerful voice of the public road—the gay
fresh sentiment of the road.

O highway I travel! O public road! do you say
to me, Do not leave me?
Do you say, Venture not? If you leave me, you
are lost?
Do you say, I am already prepared—I am well-
beaten and undenied—Adhere to me?

O public road! I say back, I am not afraid to
leave you—yet I love you,
You express me better than I can express myself,
You shall be more to me than my poem.

I think heroic deeds were all conceived in the
open air,
I think I could stop here myself, and do miracles,
I think whatever I meet on the road I shall like,
and whatever beholds me shall like me,
I think whoever I see must be happy.

From this hour, freedom!
From this hour, I ordain myself loosed of limits
and imaginary lines!
Going where I list—my own master, total and

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Listening to others, and considering well what
they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently but with undeniable will divesting myself
of the holds that would hold me.

I inhale great draughts of air,
The east and the west are mine, and the north
and the south are mine.

I am larger than I thought!
I did not know I held so much goodness!

All seems beautiful to me,
I can repeat over to men and women, You have
done such good to me, I would do the same
to you.

I will recruit for myself and you as I go,
I will scatter myself among men and women as
I go,
I will toss the new gladness and roughness among
Whoever denies me, it shall not trouble me,
Whoever accepts me, he or she shall be blessed,
and shall bless me.

Now if a thousand perfect men were to appear,
it would not amaze me,

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Now if a thousand beautiful forms of women ap-
peared, it would not astonish me.

Now I see the secret of the making of the best
It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and
sleep with the earth.

Here is space—here a great personal deed has
A great deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole
race of men,
Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law,
and mocks all authority and all argument
against it.

Here is the test of wisdom,
Wisdom is not finally tested in schools,
Wisdom cannot be passed from one having it, to
another not having it,
Wisdom is of the soul, is not susceptible of proof,
is its own proof,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities, and
is content,
Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of
things, and the excellence of things,
Something there is in the float of the sight of
things that provokes it out of the soul.

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Now I re-examine philosophies and religions,
They may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not
prove at all under the spacious clouds, and
along the landscape and flowing currents.

Here is realization,
Here is a man tallied—he realizes here what he
has in him,
The animals, the past, the future, light, space,
majesty, love, if they are vacant of you, you
are vacant of them.

Only the kernel of every object nourishes;
Where is he who tears off the husks for you and
Where is he that undoes stratagems and envelopes
for you and me?

Here is adhesiveness—it is not previously
fashioned, it is apropos;
Do you know what it is as you pass to be loved
by strangers?
Do you know the talk of those turning eye-balls?

Here is the efflux of the soul,
The efflux of the soul comes through beautiful
gates of laws, provoking questions,
These yearnings, why are they? these thoughts
in the darkness, why are they?

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Why are there men and women that while they
are nigh me the sun-light expands my blood?
Why when they leave me do my pennants of joy
sink flat and lank?
Why are there trees I never walk under but large
and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
(I think they hang there winter and summer on
those trees, and always drop fruit as I pass;)
What is it I interchange so suddenly with stran-
What with some driver as I ride on the seat by
his side?
What with some fisherman, drawing his seine by
the shore, as I walk by and pause?
What gives me to be free to a woman's or man's
good-will? What gives them to be free to

The efflux of the soul is happiness—here is
I think it pervades the air, waiting at all times,
Now it flows into us—we are rightly charged.

Here rises the fluid and attaching character;
The fluid and attaching character is the freshness
and sweetness of man and woman,
The herbs of the morning sprout no fresher and
sweeter every day out of the roots of them-
selves, than it sprouts fresh and sweet contin-
ually out of itself.

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Toward the fluid and attaching character exudes
the sweat of the love of young and old,
From it falls distilled the charm that mocks beauty
and attainments,
Toward it heaves the shuddering longing ache of

Allons! Whoever you are, come travel with
Traveling with me, you find what never tires.

The earth never tires!
The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at
first—nature is rude and incomprehensible
at first,
Be not discouraged—keep on—there are divine
things, well enveloped,
I swear to you there are divine things more beau-
tiful than words can tell!

Allons! We must not stop here!
However sweet these laid-up stores, however
convenient this dwelling, we cannot remain
However sheltered this port, however calm these
waters, we must not anchor here!
However welcome the hospitality that surrounds
us, we are permitted to receive it but a little

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Allons! the inducements shall be great to you,
We will sail pathless and wild seas,
We will go where winds blow, waves dash,
and the Yankee clipper speeds by under full

Allons! With power, liberty, the earth, the
Health, defiance, gaiety, self-esteem, curiosity!

Allons! From all formulas!
From your formulas, O bat-eyed and materialistic

The stale cadaver blocks up the passage—the
burial waits no longer.

Allons! Yet take warning!
He traveling with me needs the best blood, thews,
None may come to the trial till he or she bring
courage and health.

Come not here if you have already spent the best
of yourself!
Only those may come who come in sweet and
determined bodies,
No diseased person—no rum-drinker or venereal
taint is permitted here,

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I and mine do not convince by arguments,
similes, rhymes,
We convince by our presence.

Listen! I will be honest with you,
I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer
rough new prizes,
These are the days that must happen to you:
You shall not heap up what is called riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you
earn or achieve,
You but arrive at the city to which you were
destined—you hardly settle yourself to satis-
faction, before you are called by an irresistible
call to depart,
You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and
mockings of those who remain behind you,
What beckonings of love you receive, you shall
only answer with passionate kisses of parting,
You shall not allow the hold of those who spread
their reached hands toward you.

Allons! After the great companions! and to be-
long to them!
They too are on the road! they are the swift and
majestic men! they are the greatest women!

Over that which hindered them, over that which
retarded, passing impediments large or small,

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Committers of crimes, committers of many beauti-
ful virtues,
Enjoyers of calms of seas, and storms of seas,
Sailors of many a ship, walkers of many a mile of
Habitues of many different countries, habitues of
far-distant dwellings,
Trusters of men and women, observers of cities,
solitary toilers,
Pausers and contemplaters of tufts, blossoms, shells
of the shore,
Dancers at wedding-dances, kissers of brides,
tender helpers of children, bearers of children,
Soldiers of revolts, standers by gaping graves,
lowerers down of coffins,
Journeyers over consecutive seasons, over the
years—the curious years, each emerging
from that which preceded it,
Journeyers as with companions, namely, their own
diverse phases,
Forth-steppers from the latent unrealized baby-
Journeyers gaily with their own youth—journey-
ers with their bearded and well-grained
Journeyers with their womanhood, ample, unsur-
passed, content,
Journeyers with their sublime old age of manhood
or womanhood,

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Old age, calm, expanded, broad with the haughty
breadth of the universe,
Old age, flowing free with the delicious near-by
freedom of death.

Allons! to that which is endless as it was
To undergo much, tramps of days, rests of nights!
To merge all in the travel they tend to, and the
days and nights they tend to!
Again to merge them in the start of superior
To see nothing anywhere but what you may reach
it and pass it!
To conceive no time, however distant, but what
you may reach it and pass it!
To look up or down no road but it stretches and
waits for you! however long, but it stretches
and waits for you!
To see no being, not God's or any, but you also
go thither!
To see no possession but you may possess it!
enjoying all without labor or purchase —
abstracting the feast, yet not abstracting one
particle of it;
To take the best of the farmer's farm and the rich
man's elegant villa, and the chaste blessings
of the well-married couple, and the fruits of
orchards and flowers of gardens!

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To take to your use out of the compact cities as
you pass through!
To carry buildings and streets with you afterward
wherever you go!
To gather the minds of men out of their brains as
you encounter them! to gather the love out
of their hearts!
To take your own lovers on the road with
you, for all that you leave them behind
To know the universe itself as a road—as many
roads—as roads for traveling souls!

The soul travels,
The body does not travel as much as the soul,
The body has just as great a work as the soul,
and parts away at last for the journeys of the

All parts away for the progress of souls,
All religion, all solid things, arts, governments —
all that was or is apparent upon this globe or
any globe, falls into niches and corners before
the processions of souls along the grand roads
of the universe,
Of the progress of the souls of men and women
along the grand roads of the universe, all
other progress is the needed emblem and

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Forever alive, forever forward,
Stately, solemn, sad, withdrawn, baffled, mad,
turbulent, feeble, dissatisfied,
Desperate, proud, fond, sick, accepted by men,
rejected by men,
They go! they go! I know that they go, but I
know not where they go,
But I know that they go toward the best—
toward something great.

Allons! Whoever you are! come forth!
You must not stay in your house, though you built
it, or though it has been built for you.

Allons! out of the dark confinement!
It is useless to protest—I know all, and expose it.

Behold through you as bad as the rest!
Through the laughter, dancing, dining, supping, of
Inside of dresses and ornaments, inside of those
washed and trimmed faces,
Behold a secret silent loathing and despair!

No husband, no wife, no friend, no lover, so
trusted as to hear the confession,
Another self, a duplicate of every one, skulking and
hiding it goes, open and above-board it goes,
Formless and wordless through the streets of the
cities, polite and bland in the parlors,

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In the cars of rail-roads, in steam-boats, in the
public assembly,
Home to the houses of men and women, among
their families, at the table, in the bed-room,
every where,
Smartly attired, countenance smiling, form upright,
death under the breast-bones, hell under the
Under the broad-cloth and gloves, under the
ribbons and artificial flowers,
Keeping fair with the customs, speaking not a
syllable of itself,
Speaking of anything else, but never of itself.

Allons! through struggles and wars!
The goal that was named cannot be counter-
Have the past struggles succeeded?
What has succeeded? Yourself? Your nation?
Now understand me well—it is provided in the
essence of things, that from any fruition of
success, no matter what, shall come forth
something to make a greater struggle neces-

My call is the call of battle—I nourish active

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He going with me must go well armed,
He going with me goes often with spare diet,
poverty, angry enemies, contentions.

Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have
tried it well.

Allons! be not detained!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and
the book on the shelf unopened!
Let the tools remain in the work-shop! let the
money remain unearned!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the
lawyer plead in the court, and the judge
expound the law!

Mon enfant! I give you my hand!
I give you my love, more precious than money,
I give you myself, before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? Will you come
travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?


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