Published Works

Books by Whitman

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 121] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

4 — Poem of The Daily Work of The Workmen and Workwomen of These States.

COME closer to me,
Push close, my lovers, and take the best I
Yield closer and closer, and give me the best you

This is unfinished business with me—How is it
with you?
I was chilled with the cold types, cylinder, wet
paper between us.

I pass so poorly with paper and types, I must pass
with the contact of bodies and souls.

I do not thank you for liking me as I am, and
liking the touch of me—I know that it is
good for you to do so.

Were all educations practical and ornamental well
displayed out of me, what would it amount to?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 122] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Were I as the head teacher, charitable proprietor,
wise statesman, what would it amount to?
Were I to you as the boss employing and paying
you, would that satisfy you?

The learned, virtuous, benevolent, and the usual
A man like me, and never the usual terms.

Neither a servant nor a master am I,
I take no sooner a large price than a small price
—I will have my own, whoever enjoys me,
I will be even with you, and you shall be even
with me.

If you are a workman or workwoman, I stand as
nigh as the nighest that works in the same
If you bestow gifts on your brother or dearest
friend, I demand as good as your brother or
dearest friend,
If your lover, husband, wife, is welcome by day
or night, I must be personally as welcome,
If you become degraded, criminal, ill, then I
become so for your sake,
If you remember your foolish and outlawed deeds,
do you think I cannot remember my own
foolish and outlawed deeds? plenty of them?
If you carouse at the table, I carouse at the
opposite side of the table,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 123] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

If you meet some stranger in the street, and love
him or her, do I not often meet strangers in
the street and love them?
If you see a good deal remarkable in me, I see
just as much, perhaps more, in you.

Why what have you thought of yourself?
Is it you, then, that thought yourself less?
Is it you that thought the President greater than
you? or the rich better off than you? or the
educated wiser than you?

Because you are greasy or pimpled, or that you
was once drunk, or a thief, or diseased, or
rheumatic, or a prostitute, or are so now, or
from frivolity or impotence, or that you are no
scholar, and never saw your name in print,
do you give in that you are any less

Souls of men and women! it is not you I call
unseen, unheard, untouchable and untouch-
It is not you I go argue pro and con about, and to
settle whether you are alive or no,
I own publicly who you are, if nobody else owns
—I see and hear you, and what you give and
What is there you cannot give and take?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 124] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I see not merely that you are polite or white-faced,
married, single, citizens of old states, citizens
of new states, eminent in some profession, a
lady or gentleman in a parlor, or dressed in
the jail uniform, or pulpit uniform,
Not only the free Utahan, Kansian, Arkansian —
not only the free Cuban, not merely the slave,
not Mexican native, Flatfoot, negro from
Iroquois eating the war-flesh, fish-tearer in his lair
of rocks and sand, Esquimaux in the dark
cold snow-house, Chinese with his transverse
eyes, Bedowee, wandering nomad, taboun-
schik at the head of his droves,
Grown, half-grown, and babe, of this country and
every country, indoors and outdoors, I see —
and all else is behind or through them.

The wife, and she is not one jot less than the
The daughter, and she is just as good as the
The mother, and she is every bit as much as the

Offspring of those not rich, boys apprenticed to
Young fellows working on farms, and old fellows
working on farms,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 125] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The naive, the simple and hardy, he going to the
polls to vote, he who has a good time, and he
who has a bad time,
Mechanics, southerners, new arrivals, laborers
sailors, mano'warsmen, merchantmen, coast-
All these I see, but nigher and farther the same I
None shall escape me, and none shall wish to
escape me.

I bring what you much need, yet always have,
Not money, amours, dress, eating, but as good,
I send no agent or medium, offer no representative
of value, but offer the value itself.

There is something that comes home to one now
and perpetually,
It is not what is printed, preached, discussed—it
eludes discussion and print,
It is not to be put in a book, it is not in this
It is for you, whoever you are—it is no farther
from you than your hearing and sight are
from you,
It is hinted by nearest, commonest, readiest—it
is not them, though it is endlessly provoked
by them—what is there ready and near you

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 126] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

You may read in many languages, yet read nothing
about it,
You may read the President's message, and read
nothing about it there,
Nothing in the reports from the State department
or Treasury department, or in the daily
papers or the weekly papers,
Or in the census returns, assessors' returns, prices
current, or any accounts of stock.

The sun and stars that float in the open air—the
apple-shaped earth, and we upon it, surely
the drift of them is something grand!
I do not know what it is, except that it is grand,
and that it is happiness,
And that the enclosing purport of us here
is not a speculation, or bon-mot, or recon-
And that it is not something which by luck may
turn out well for us, and without luck must be
a failure for us,
And not something which may yet be retracted in
a certain contingency.

The light and shade, the curious sense of body
and identity, the greed that with perfect
complaisance devours all things, the endless
pride and out-stretching of man, unspeakable
joys and sorrows,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 127] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The wonder every one sees in every one else he
sees, and the wonders that fill each minute
of time forever, and each acre of surface and
space forever,
Have you reckoned them for a trade or farm-work?
or for the profits of a store? or to achieve
yourself a position? or to fill a gentleman's
leisure, or a lady's leisure?

Have you reckoned the landscape took substance
and form that it might be painted in a
Or men and women that they might be written of,
and songs sung?
Or the attraction of gravity, and the great laws
and harmonious combinations, and the fluids
of the air, as subjects for the savans?
Or the brown land and the blue sea for maps and
Or the stars to be put in constellations and
named fancy names?
Or that the growth of seeds is for agricultural ta-
bles, or agriculture itself?

Old institutions, these arts, libraries, legends,
collections, and the practice handed along
in manufactures, will we rate them so high?
Will we rate our cash and business high? I have
no objection,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 128] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I rate them high as the highest, then a child born
of a woman and man I rate beyond all rate.

We thought our Union grand, and our Constitution
I do not say they are not grand and good, for they
I am this day just as much in love with them as
Then I am eternally in love with you, and with
all my fellows upon the earth.

We consider bibles and religions divine—I do not
say they are not divine,
I say they have all grown out of you, and may
grow out of you still,
It is not they who give the life, it is you who give
the life,
Leaves are not more shed from the trees, or trees
from the earth, than they are shed out of

The sum of all known reverence I add up in you,
whoever you are,
The President is there in the White House for
you, it is not you who are here for him,
The Secretaries act in their bureaus for you, not
you here for them,
The Congress convenes every December for you,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 129] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Laws, courts, the forming of States, the charters
of cities, the going and coming of commerce
and mails, are all for you.

All doctrines, all politics and civilization, exurge
from you,
All sculpture and monuments, and anything in-
scribed anywhere, are tallied in you,
The gist of histories and statistics as far back as
the records reach, is in you this hour, and
myths and tales the same,
If you were not breathing and walking here,
where would they all be?
The most renowned poems would be ashes, ora-
tions and plays would be vacuums.

All architecture is what you do to it when you
look upon it,
Did you think it was in the white or gray stone?
or the lines of the arches and cornices?

All music is what awakes from you, when you
are reminded by the instruments,
It is not the violins and the cornets—it is not the
oboe nor the beating drums, nor the score of
the baritone singer singing his sweet ro-
manza, nor that of the men's chorus, nor that
of the women's chorus,
It is nearer and farther than they.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 130] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Will the whole come back then?
Can each see signs of the best by a look in the
looking-glass? is there nothing greater or
Does all sit there with you, and here with me?

The old, forever-new things—you foolish child!
the closest, simplest things, this moment with
Your person, and every particle that relates to
your person,
The pulses of your brain, waiting their chance
and encouragement at every deed or sight,
Anything you do in public by day, and anything
you do in secret between-days,
What is called right and what is called wrong,
what you behold or touch, what causes your
anger or wonder,
The ankle-chain of the slave, the bed of the bed-
house, the cards of the gambler, the plates
of the forger,
What is seen or learnt in the street, or intui-
tively learnt,
What is learnt in the public school, spelling,
reading, writing, ciphering, the black-board,
the teacher's diagrams,
The panes of the windows, all that appears
through them, the going forth in the morning,
the aimless spending of the day,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 131] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

(What is it that you made money? what is it that
you got what you wanted?)
The usual routine, the work-shop, factory, yard,
office, store, desk,
The jaunt of hunting or fishing, the life of hunt-
ing or fishing,
Pasture-life, foddering, milking, herding, all the
personnel and usages,
The plum-orchard, apple-orchard, gardening,
seedlings, cuttings, flowers, vines,
Grains, manures, marl, clay, loam, the subsoil
plough, the shovel, pick, rake, hoe, irrigation,
The curry-comb, the horse-cloth, the halter, bridle,
bits, the very wisps of straw,
The barn and barn-yard, the bins, mangers, mows,
Manufactures, commerce, engineering, the build-
ing of cities, every trade carried on there,
the implements of every trade,
The anvil, tongs, hammer, the axe and wedge,
the square, mitre, jointer, smoothing-plane,
The plumbob, trowel, level, the wall-scaffold, the
work of walls and ceilings, any mason-
The steam-engine, lever, crank, axle, piston, shaft,
air-pump, boiler, beam, pulley, hinge, flange,
band, bolt, throttle, governors, up and down

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 132] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The ship's compass, the sailor's tarpaulin, the
stays and lanyards, the ground tackle for
anchoring or mooring, the life-boat for
The sloop's tiller, the pilot's wheel and bell, the
yacht or fish-smack, the great gay-pennanted
three-hundred-foot steamboat under full head-
way, with her proud fat breasts and her deli-
cate swift-flashing paddles,
The trail, line, hooks, sinkers, the seine, hauling
the seine,
The arsenal, small-arms, rifles, gunpowder, shot,
caps, wadding, ordnance for war, carriages;
Every-day objects, house-chairs, carpet, bed,
counterpane of the bed, him or her sleeping
at night, wind blowing, indefinite noises,
The snow-storm or rain-storm, the tow-trowsers,
the lodge-hut in the woods, the still-hunt,
City and country, fire-place, candle, gas-light,
heater, aqueduct,
The message of the governor, mayor, chief of
police—the dishes of breakfast, dinner, sup-
The bunk-room, the fire-engine, the string-team,
the car or truck behind,
The paper I write on or you write on, every word
we write, every cross and twirl of the pen,
and the curious way we write what we think,
yet very faintly,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 133] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The directory, the detector, the ledger, the books
in ranks on the book-shelves, the clock at-
tached to the wall,
The ring on your finger, the lady's wristlet, the
scent-powder, the druggist's vials and jars,
the draught of lager-beer,
The etui of surgical instruments, the etui of ocu-
list's or aurist's instruments, or dentist's in-
The permutating lock that can be turned and
locked as many different ways as there are
minutes in a year,
Glass-blowing, nail-making, salt-making, tin-roof-
ing, shingle-dressing, candle-making, lock-
making and hanging,
Ship-carpentering, dock-building, fish-curing, ferry-
ing, stone-breaking, flagging of side-walks
by flaggers,
The pump, the pile-driver, the great derrick, the
coal-kiln and brick-kiln,
Coal-mines, all that is down there, the lamps in
the darkness, echoes, songs, what medita-
tions, what vast native thoughts looking
through smutch'd faces,
Iron-works, forge-fires in the mountains or by
river-banks, men around feeling the melt
with huge crowbars—lumps of ore, the due
combining of ore, limestone, coal—the blast-
furnace and the puddling-furnace, the loup-

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 134] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

lump at the bottom of the melt at last —
the rolling-mill, the stumpy bars of pig-iron,
the strong clean-shaped T rail for rail-
Oil-works, silk-works, white-lead-works, the
sugar-house, steam-saws, the great mills and
Lead-mines, and all that is done in lead-mines, or
with the lead afterward,
Copper-mines, the sheets of copper, and what is
formed out of the sheets, and all the work in
forming it,
Stone-cutting, shapely trimmings for facades,
or window or door lintels—the mallet,
the tooth-chisel, the jib to protect the
Oakum, the oakum-chisel, the caulking-iron—the
kettle of boiling vault-cement, and the fire
under the kettle,
The cotton-bale, the stevedore's hook, the saw and
buck of the sawyer, the screen of the coal-
screener, the mould of the moulder, the
working-knife of the butcher, the ice-saw,
and all the work with ice,
The four-double cylinder press, the hand-press,
the frisket and tympan, the compositor's stick
and rule, type-setting, making up the forms,
all the work of newspaper counters, folders,
carriers, news-men,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 135] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The implements for daguerreotyping—the tools
of the rigger, grappler, sail-maker, block-
Goods of gutta-percha, papier-mache, colors,
brushes, brush-making, glazier's implements,
The veneer and glue-pot, the confectioner's orna-
ments, the decanter and glasses, the shears
and flat-iron,
The awl and knee-strap, the pint measure and
quart measure, the counter and stool, the
writing-pen of quill or metal—the making of
all sorts of edged tools,
The ladders and hanging ropes of the gymnasium,
manly exercises, the game of base-ball, run-
ning, leaping, pitching quoits,
The designs for wall-papers, oil-cloths, carpets,
the fancies for goods for women, the book-
binder's stamps,
The brewery, brewing, the malt, the vats, every-
thing that is done by brewers, also by wine-
makers, also vinegar-makers,
Leather-dressing, coach-making, boiler-making,
rope-twisting, distilling, sign-painting, lime-
burning, coopering, cotton-picking, electro-
plating, stereotyping,
Stave-machines, planing-machines, reaping-ma-
chines, ploughing-machines, thrashing-ma-
chines, steam-wagons,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 136] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The cart of the carman, the omnibus, the ponder-
ous dray,
The wires of the electric telegraph stretched on
land, or laid at the bottom of the sea, and
then the message in an instant from ten
thousand miles off,
The snow-plough and two engines pushing it, the
ride in the express-train of only one car, the
swift go through a howling storm—the locomo-
tive, and all that is done about a locomotive,
The bear-hunt or coon-hunt, the bonfire of shav-
ings in the open lot in the city, the crowd of
children watching,
The blows of the fighting-man, the upper-cut and
Pyrotechny, letting off colored fire-works at
night, fancy figures and jets,
Shop-windows, coffins in the sexton's ware-room,
fruit on the fruit-stand—beef in the butcher's
stall, the slaughter-house of the butcher,
the butcher in his killing-clothes,
The area of pens of live pork, the killing-hammer,
the hog-hook, the scalder's tub, gutting, the
cutter's cleaver, the packer's maul, and the
plenteous winter-work of pork-packing,
Flour-works, grinding of wheat, rye, maize, rice
—the barrels and the half and quarter barrels,
the loaded barges, the high piles on wharves
and levees,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 137] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Bread and cakes in the bakery, the milliner's rib-
bons, the dress-maker's patterns, the tea-table,
the home-made sweetmeats;
Coins and medals, the ancient bronze coin, bust,
inscription, date, ring-money, the copper
cent, the silver dime, the five-dime piece, the
gold dollar, the fifty-dollar piece—Modern
coins, and all the study and reminiscence of
old coins,
Cheap literature, maps, charts, lithographs, daily
and weekly newspapers,
The column of wants in the one-cent paper,
the news by telegraph, amusements, operas,
The business parts of a city, the trottoirs of a
city when thousands of well-dressed people
walk up and down,
The cotton, woolen, linen you wear, the money
you make and spend,
Your room and bed-room, your piano-forte, the
stove and cook-pans,
The house you live in, the rent, the other tenants,
the deposite in the savings-bank, the trade at
the grocery,
The pay on Saturday night, the going home, and
the purchases;
In them the heft of the heaviest—in them far
more than you estimated, and far less also,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 138] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In them, not yourself—you and your soul enclose
all things, regardless of estimation,
In them your themes, hints, provokers—if not,
the whole earth has no themes, hints, pro-
vokers, and never had.

I do not affirm what you see beyond is futile—I
do not advise you to stop,
I do not say leadings you thought great are not
But I say that none lead to greater, sadder, hap-
pier, than those lead to.

Will you seek afar off? you surely come back at
In things best known to you, finding the best, or
as good as the best,
In folks nearest to you finding also the sweetest,
strongest, lovingest,
Happiness not in another place, but this place —
not for another hour, but this hour,
Man in the first you see or touch, always in your
friend, brother, nighest neighbor—Woman in
your mother, lover, wife,
The popular tastes and occupations taking prece-
dence in poems or anywhere,
You workwomen and workmen of These States
having your own divine and strong life —
looking the President always sternly in the

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [begin page 139] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

face, unbending, nonchalant, understanding
that he is to be kept by you to short and
sharp account of himself,
And all else thus far giving place to men and

When the psalm sings instead of the singer,
When the script preaches instead of the preacher,
When the pulpit descends and goes instead of the
carver that carved the supporting-desk,
When I can touch the body of books, by night or
by day, and when they touch my body back
When the sacred vessels, or the bits of the eucha-
rist, or the lath and plast, procreate as effec-
tually as the young silver-smiths or bakers, or
the masons in their over-alls,
When a university course convinces like a slum-
bering woman and child convince,
When the minted gold in the vault smiles like the
night-watchman's daughter,
When warrantee deeds loafe in chairs opposite,
and are my friendly companions,
I intend to reach them my hand, and make as
much of them as I do of men and women.


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.