Published Works

Books by Whitman

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8 — Poem of Many In One.

A NATION announcing itself,
I myself make the only growth by which I
can be appreciated,
I reject none, accept all, reproduce all in my own

A breed whose testimony is behaviour,
What we are, we are—nativity is answer enough
to objections;
We wield ourselves as a weapon is wielded,
We are powerful and tremendous in ourselves,
We are executive in ourselves—we are sufficient
in the variety of ourselves,
We are the most beautiful to ourselves and in our-
Nothing is sinful to us outside of ourselves,
Whatever appears, whatever does not appear, we
are beautiful or sinful in ourselves.

Have you thought there could be but a single

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There can be any number of Supremes—one
does not countervail another any more than
one eye-sight countervails another, or one life
countervails another.

All is eligible to all,
All is for individuals—all is for you,
No condition is prohibited, not God's or any,
If one is lost, you are inevitably lost.

All comes by the body—only health puts you
rapport with the universe.

Produce great persons, the rest follows.
How dare a sick man, or an obedient man, write
Which is the theory or book that is not diseased?

Piety and conformity to them that like!
Peace, obesity, allegiance, to them that like!
I am he who tauntingly compels men, women,
nations, to leap from their seats and contend
for their lives!

I am he who goes through the streets with a
barbed tongue, questioning every one I meet
—questioning you up there now,
Who are you, that wanted only to be told what
you knew before?

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Who are you, that wanted only a book to join you
in your nonsense?

Are you, or would you be, better than all that has
ever been before?
If you would be better than all that has ever been
before, come listen to me, and I will to you.

Fear grace! Fear delicatesse!
Fear the mellow sweet, the sucking of honey-
Beware the advancing mortal ripening of nature!
Beware what precedes the decay of the rugged-
ness of states and men!

Ages, precedents, poems, have long been accumu-
lating undirected materials,
America brings builders, and brings its own styles.

Mighty bards have done their work, and passed to
other spheres,
One work forever remains, the work of surpassing
all they have done.

America, curious toward foreign characters,
stands sternly by its own,
Stands removed, spacious, composite, sound,
Sees itself promulger of men and women, initiates
the true use of precedents,

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Does not repel them or the past, or what they
have produced under their forms, or amid
other politics, or amid the idea of castes, or
the old religions,
Takes the lesson with calmness, perceives the
corpse 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 life has
descended to the stalwart and well-shaped
heir who approaches, and that he shall be fit-
test for his days.

Any period, one nation must lead,
One land must be the promise and reliance of the

These States are the amplest poem,
Here is not merely a nation, but a teeming nation
of nations,
Here the doings of men correspond with the
broadcast doings of the day and night,
Here is what moves in magnificent masses, care-
lessly faithful of particulars,
Here are the roughs, beards, friendliness, com-
bativeness, the soul loves,
Here the flowing trains, here the crowds, equality,
diversity, the soul loves.

Race of races, and bards to corroborate!

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Of them, standing among them, one lifts to the
light his west-bred face,
To him the hereditary countenance bequeathed,
both mother's and father's,
His first parts substances, earth, water, animals, trees,
Built of the common stock, having room for far
and near,
Used to dispense with other lands, incarnating this
Attracting it body and soul to himself, hanging on
its neck with incomparable love,
Plunging his semitic muscle into its merits and
Making its geography, cities, beginnings, events,
glories, defections, diversities, vocal in him,
Making its rivers, lakes, bays, embouchure in him,
Mississippi with yearly freshets and changing
chutes, Missouri, Columbia, Ohio, St. Law-
rence, Hudson, spending themselves lovingly
in him,
The blue breadth over the sea off Massachusetts
and Maine, or over the Virginia and Maryland
sea, or over inland Champlain, Ontario, Erie,
Huron, Michigan, Superior, or over the
Texan, Mexican, Cuban, Floridian seas, or
over the seas off California and Oregon, not
tallying the breadth of the waters below,
more than the breadth of above and below is
tallied in him,

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If the Atlantic coast stretch, or the Pacific coast
stretch, he stretching with them north or south,
Spanning between them east and west, and touch-
ing whatever is between them,
Growths growing from him to offset the growth of
pine, cedar, hemlock, live-oak, locust, chest-
nut, cypress, hickory, lime-tree, cotton-wood,
tulip-tree, cactus, tamarind, orange, magnolia,
Tangles as tangled in him as any cane-brake or
He likening sides and peaks of mountains, forests
coated with transparent ice, and icicles hang-
ing from the boughs,
Off him pasturage sweet and natural as savannah,
upland, prairie,
Through him flights, songs, screams, answering
those of the wild-pigeon, high-hold, orchard-
oriole, coot, surf-duck, red-shouldered-hawk,
fish-hawk, white-ibis, indian-hen, cat-owl,
water-pheasant, qua-bird, pied-sheldrake,
mocking-bird, buzzard, condor, night-heron,
His spirit surrounding his country's spirit, unclosed
to good and evil,
Surrounding the essences of real things, old times
and present times,
Surrounding just found shores, islands, tribes of
red aborigines,

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Weather-beaten vessels, landings, settlements, the
rapid stature and muscle,
The haughty defiance of the Year 1—war, peace,
the formation of the Constitution,
The separate States, the simple, elastic scheme,
the immigrants,
The Union, always swarming with blatherers, and
always calm and impregnable,
The unsurveyed interior, log-houses, clearings,
wild animals, hunters, trappers;
Surrounding the multiform agriculture, mines,
temperature, the gestation of new States,
Congress convening every December, the mem-
bers duly coming up from the uttermost
Surrounding the noble character of mechanics and
farmers, especially the young men,
Responding their manners, speech, dress, friend-
ships—the gait they have of persons who
never knew how it felt to stand in the
presence of superiors,
The freshness and candor of their physiognomy, the
copiousness and decision of their phrenology,
The picturesque looseness of their carriage, their
deathless attachment to freedom, their fierce-
ness when wronged,
The fluency of their speech, their delight in
music, their curiosity, good-temper, open-

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The prevailing ardor and enterprise, the large
The perfect equality of the female with the male,
the fluid movement of the population,
The superior marine, free commerce, fisheries,
whaling, gold-digging,
Wharf-hemm'd cities, railroad and steamboat lines,
intersecting all points,
Factories, mercantile life, labor-saving machinery,
the north-east, north-west, south-west,
Manhattan firemen, the Yankee swap, southern
plantation life,
Slavery, the tremulous spreading of hands to
shelter it—the stern opposition to it, which
ceases only when it ceases.

For these, and the like, their own voices! For
these, space ahead!
Others take finish, but the republic is ever con-
structive, and ever keeps vista;
Others adorn the past—but you, O, days of the
present, I adorn you!
O days of the future, I believe in you!
O America, because you build for mankind, I build
for you!
O well-beloved stone-cutters! I lead them who
plan with decision and science,
I lead the present with friendly hand toward the

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Bravas to states whose semitic impulses send
wholesome children to the next age!
But damn that which spends itself on flaunters and
dallyers, with no thought of the stains, pains,
dismay, feebleness, it is bequeathing!

By great bards only can series of peoples and
States be fused into the compact organism of
one nation.

To hold men together by paper and seal, or by
compulsion, is no account,
That only holds men together which is living
principles, as the hold of the limbs of the
body, or the fibres of plants.

Of all races and eras, These States, with veins full
of poetical stuff, most need poets, and are to
have the greatest, and use them the greatest,
Their Presidents shall not be their common ref-
eree so much as their poets shall.

Of mankind, the poet is the equable man,
Not in him, but off from him, things are grotesque,
eccentric, fail of their full returns,
Nothing out of its place is good, nothing in its
place is bad,
He bestows on every object or quality its fit pro-
portions, neither more nor less,
He is the arbiter of the diverse, he is the key,

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He is the equalizer of his age and land
He supplies what wants supplying—he checks
what wants checking,
In peace, out of him speaks the spirit of peace,
large, rich, thrifty, building populous towns,
encouraging agriculture, arts, commerce,
lighting the study of man, the soul, health,
immortality, government,
In war he is the best backer of the war—he
fetches artillery as good as the engineer's, he
can make every word he speaks draw blood;
The years straying toward infidelity he withholds
by his steady faith,
He is no arguer, he is judgment,
He judges not as the judge judges, but as the sun
falling round 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 dispute on God and eternity 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.

An American literat fills his own place,
He justifies science—did you think the demon-
strable less divine than the mythical?
He stands by liberty according to the compact of
the first day of the first year of These States,

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He concentres in the real body and soul, and in
the pleasure of things,
He possesses the superiority of genuineness over
fiction and romance;
As he emits himself, facts are showered over with
The day-light is lit with more volatile light—the
deep between the setting and rising sun goes
deeper many fold,
Each precise object, condition, combination, pro-
cess, exhibits a beauty—the multiplication-
table its, old age its, the carpenter's trade
its, the grand-opera its,
The huge-hulled clean-shaped Manhattan clipper
at sea, under steam or full sail, gleams with
unmatched beauty,
The national circles and large harmonies of gov-
ernment gleam with theirs,
The commonest definite intentions and actions
with theirs.

Of the idea of perfect individuals, the idea of
These States, their bards walk in advance,
leaders of leaders,
The attitudes of them cheer up slaves and horrify

Without extinction is liberty! Without retrograde
is equality!

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They live in the feelings of young men, and the
best women,
Not for nothing have the indomitable heads of the
earth been always ready to fall for liberty!

Language-using controls the rest;
Wonderful is language!
Wondrous the English language, language of live
Language of ensemble, powerful language of re-
Language of a proud and melancholy stock, and
of all who aspire,
Language of growth, faith, self-esteem, rudeness,
justice, friendliness, amplitude, prudence, de-
cision, exactitude, courage,
Language to well-nigh express the inexpressible,
Language for the modern, language for America.

Who would use language to America may well
prepare himself, body and mind,
He may well survey, ponder, arm, fortify, harden,
make lithe, himself,
He shall surely be questioned beforehand by me
with many and stern questions.

Who are you that would talk to America?
Have you studied out my land, its idioms and

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Have you learned the physiology, phrenology,
politics, geography, pride, freedom, friendship,
of my land? its substratums and objects?
Have you considered the organic compact of the
first day of the first year of the independence
of The States?
Have you possessed yourself of the Federal Con-
Do you acknowledge liberty with audible and
absolute acknowledgment, and set slavery at
naught for life and death?
Do you see who have left described processes and
poems behind them, and assumed new ones?
Are you faithful to things? Do you teach what-
ever the land and sea, the bodies of men,
womanhood, amativeness, angers, excesses,
crimes, teach?
Have you sped through customs, laws, popu-
Can you hold your hand against all seductions,
follies, whirls, fierce contentions?
Are you not of some coterie? some school or
Are you done with reviews and criticisms of life?
animating to life itself?
Have you possessed yourself with the spirit of the
maternity of These States?
Have you sucked the nipples of the breasts of the
mother of many children?

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Have you too the old, ever-fresh, forbearance and
Do you hold the like love for those hardening to
maturity? for the last-born? little and big?
and for the errant?
What is this you bring my America?
Is it uniform with my country?
Is it not something that has been better told or
done before?
Have you imported this, or the spirit of it, in some
Is it a mere tale? a rhyme? a prettiness?
Has it never dangled at the heels of the poets,
politicians, literats, of enemies' lands?
Does it not assume that what is notoriously gone
is still here?
Does it answer universal needs? Will it improve
Can your performance face the open fields and the
Will it absorb into me as I absorb food, air,
nobility, meanness—to appear again in my
strength, gait, face?
Have real employments contributed to it? original
makers, not amanuenses?
Does it meet modern discoveries, calibers, facts,
face to face?
Does it respect me? America? the soul? to-

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What does it mean to me? to American persons, pro-
gresses, cities? Chicago, Canada, Arkansas?
the planter, Yankee, Georgian, native, immi-
grant, sailors, squatters, old States, new States?
Does it encompass all The States, and the
unexceptional rights of all men and women,
the genital impulse of The States?
Does it see behind the apparent custodians, the
real custodians, standing, menacing, silent,
the mechanics, Manhattanese, western men,
southerners, significant alike in their apathy
and in the promptness of their love?
Does it see what befals and has always befallen
each temporiser, patcher, outsider, partialist,
alarmist, infidel, who has ever asked any-
thing of America?
What mocking and scornful negligence?
The track strewed with the dust of skeletons?
By the road-side others disdainfully tossed?

Rhymes and rhymers pass away—poems dis-
tilled from other poems pass away,
The swarms of reflectors and the polite pass, and
leave ashes,
Admirers, importers, obedient persons, make the
soil of literature;
America justifies itself, give it time—no disguise
can deceive it or conceal from it—it is im-
passive enough,

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Only toward the likes of itself will it advance to
meet them,
If its poets appear, it will advance to meet them,
there is no fear of mistake,
The proof of a poet shall be sternly deferred till
his country absorbs him as affectionately as
he has absorbed it.

He masters whose spirit masters—he tastes
sweetest who results sweetest,
The blood of the brawn beloved of time is uncon-
In the need of poems, philosophy, politics,
manners, engineering, an appropriate native
grand-opera, ship-craft, any craft, he or she
is greatest who contributes the greatest
original practical example.

Already a nonchalant breed silently fills the
houses and streets,
People's lips salute only doers, lovers, satisfiers,
positive knowers;
There will shortly be no more priests—their
work is done,
Death is without emergencies here, but life is per-
petual emergencies here,
Are your body, days, manners, superb? after death
you shall be superb,

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Friendship, self-esteem, justice, health, clear the
way with irresistible power.

Give me the pay I have served for!
Give me to speak beautiful words! take all the
I have loved the earth, sun, animals—I have de-
spised riches,
I have given alms to every one that asked, stood
up for the stupid and crazy, devoted my in-
come and labor to others,
I have hated tyrants, argued not concerning God,
had patience and indulgence toward the peo-
ple, taken off my hat to nothing known or
I have gone freely with powerful uneducated per-
sons, and with the young, and with the
mothers of families,
I have read these leaves to myself in the open air,
I have tried them by trees, stars, rivers,
I have dismissed whatever insulted my own soul
or defiled my body,
I have claimed nothing to myself which I have
not carefully claimed for others on the same
I have studied my land, its idioms and men,
I am willing to wait to be understood by the
growth of the taste of myself,
I reject none, I permit all,

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Whom I have staid with once I have found long-
ing for me ever afterwards.

I swear I begin to see the meaning of these
It is not the earth, it is not America who is so
It is I who am great, or to be great—it is you, or
any one,
It is to walk rapidly through civilizations, govern-
ments, theories, nature, poems, shows, to in-

Underneath all are individuals,
I swear nothing is good that ignores individuals!
The American compact is with individuals,
The only government is that which makes minute
of individuals.

Underneath all is nativity,
I swear I will stand by my own nativity—pious
or impious, so be it!
I swear I am charmed with nothing except
Men, women, cities, nations, are only beautiful
from nativity.

Underneath all is the need of the expression of
love for men and women,

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I swear I have had enough of mean and impotent
modes of expressing love for men and
After this day I take my own modes of express-
ing love for men and women.

I swear I will have each quality of my race in
Talk as you like, he only suits These States
whose manners favor the audacity and sub-
lime turbulence of These States.

Underneath the lessons of things, spirits, nature,
governments, ownerships, I swear I perceive
other lessons,
Underneath all to me is myself—to you, your-
If all had not kernels for you and me, what were
it to you and me?

O I see now that this America is only you and
Its power, weapons, testimony, are you and me,
Its roughs, beards, haughtiness, ruggedness, are
you and me,
Its ample geography, the sierras, the prairies,
Mississippi, Huron, Colorado, Boston, To-
ronto, Releigh, Nashville, Havana, are you
and me,

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Its settlements, wars, the organic compact, peace,
Washington, the Federal Constitution, are
you and me,
Its young men's manners, speech, dress, friend-
ships, are you and me,
Its crimes, lies, thefts, defections, slavery, are you
and me,
Its Congress is you and me, the officers, capitols,
armies, ships, are you and me,
Its endless gestations of new States are you and
Its inventions, science, schools, are you and me,
Its deserts, forests, clearings, log-houses, hunters,
are you and me,
The perpetual arrivals of immigrants are you and
Natural and artificial are you and me,
Freedom, language, poems, employments, are you
and me,
Failures, successes, births, deaths, are you and me,
Past, present, future, are only you and me.

I swear I dare not shirk any part of myself,
Not America, nor any part of America,
Not my body, not friendship, hospitality, pro-
Not my soul, not the last explanation of prudence,
Not the similitude that interlocks me with all
identities that exist, or ever have existed,

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Not faith, sin, defiance, nor any disposition or duty
of myself,
Not the promulgation of liberty, not to cheer up
slaves and horrify despots,
Not to build for that which builds for mankind,
Not to balance ranks, complexions, creeds, and
the sexes,
Not to justify science, not the march of equality,
Not to feed the arrogant blood of the brawn
beloved of time.

I swear I am for those that have never been
For men and women whose tempers have never
been mastered,
For those whom laws, theories, conventions, can
never master.

I swear I am for those who walk abreast with
America and with the earth!
Who inaugurate one to inaugurate all.

I swear I will not be outfaced by irrational things!
I will penetrate what it is in them that is sarcastic
upon me!
I will make cities and civilizations defer to me!
I will confront these shows of the day and night!
I will know if I am to be less than they!
I will see if I am not as majestic as they!

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I will see if I am not as subtle and real as they!
I will see if I am to be less generous than they!
I will see if I have no meaning, and the houses
and ships have meaning!
I will see if the fishes and birds are to be enough
for themselves, and I am not to be enough for

I match my spirit against yours, you orbs, growths,
mountains, brutes,
I will learn why the earth is gross, tantalizing,
I take you to be mine, you beautiful, terrible, rude


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