Published Works

Books by Whitman

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 244] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

14 — Poem of The Poet.

A YOUNG man came to me with a message
from his brother,
How should the young man know the whether and
when of his brother?
Tell him to send me the signs.

And I stood before the young man face to face,
and took his right hand in my left hand, and
his left hand in my right hand,
And I answered for his brother, and for men, and
I answered for the poet, and sent these signs.

Him all wait for, him all yield up to, his word is
decisive and final,
Him they accept, in him lave, in him perceive
themselves, as amid light,
Him they immerse, and he immerses them.

Beautiful women, the haughtiest nations, laws, the
landscape, people, animals,
The profound earth and its attributes, and the un-
quiet ocean,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 245] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

All enjoyments and properties, and money, and
whatever money will buy,
The best farms, others toiling and planting, and
he unavoidably reaps,
The noblest and costliest cities, others grading
and building, and he domiciles there,
Nothing for any one, but what is for him—near
and far are for him,
The ships in the offing, the perpetual shows and
marches on land, are for him, if they are for
any body.

He puts things in their attitudes,
He puts today out of himself, with plasticity and
He places his own city, times, reminiscences,
parents, brothers and sisters, associations,
employment, politics, so that the rest never
shame them afterward, nor assume to com-
mand them.

He is the answerer,
What can be answered he answers, and what
cannot be answered, he shows how it cannot
be answered.

A man is a summons and challenge;
It is vain to skulk—Do you hear that mocking
and laughter? Do you hear the ironical

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 246] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Books, friendships, philosophers, priests, action,
pleasure, pride, beat up and down, seeking to
give satisfaction,
He indicates the satisfaction, and indicates them
that beat up and down also.

Whichever the sex, whatever the season or place,
he may go freshly and gently and safely, by
day or by night,
He has the pass-key of hearts—to him the
response of the prying of hands on the

His welcome is universal—the flow of beauty is
not more welcome or universal than he is,
The person he favors by day or sleeps with at
night is blessed.

Every existence has its idiom, every thing has an
idiom and tongue,
He resolves all tongues into his own, and bestows
it upon men, and any man translates, and any
man translates himself also,
One part does not counteract another part—he is
the joiner, he sees how they join.

He says indifferently and alike, How are you,
friend? to the President at his levee,
And he says, Good-day, my brother! to Cudge that
hoes in the sugar-field,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 247] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

And both understand him, and know that his
speech is right.

He walks with perfect ease in the capitol,
He walks among the Congress, and one represen-
tative says to another, Here is our equal
appearing and new.

Then the mechanics take him for a mechanic,
And the soldiers suppose him to be a captain, and
the sailors that he has followed the sea,
And the authors take him for an author, and the
artists for an artist,
And the laborers perceive he could labor with
them and love them.
No matter what the work is, that he is the one to
follow it, or has followed it,
No matter what the nation, that he might find his
brothers and sisters there.

The English believe he comes of their English
A Jew to the Jew he seems—a Russ to the Russ
—usual and near, removed from none.

Whoever he looks at in the traveler's coffee-
house claims him,
The Italian or Frenchman is sure, and the
German is sure, and the Spaniard is sure,
and the island Cuban is sure.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 248] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The engineer, the deck-hand on the great lakes,
or on the Mississippi, or St. Lawrence, or
Sacramento, or Hudson, or Delaware, claims

The gentleman of perfect blood acknowledges his
perfect blood,
The insulter, the prostitute, the angry person, the
beggar, see themselves in the ways of him —
he strangely transmutes them,
They are not vile any more—they hardly know
themselves, they are so grown.

Do you think it would be good to be the writer
of melodious verses?
Well, it would be good to be the writer of
melodious verses;
But what are verses beyond the flowing char-
acter you could have? or beyond beautiful
manners and behaviour?
Or beyond one manly or affectionate deed of an
apprentice-boy? or old woman? or man that
has been in prison, or is likely to be in


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.