Published Works

Books by Whitman

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1A NATION announcing itself, (many in one,)
I myself make the only growth by which I can be
I reject none, accept all, reproduce all in my own

2A breed whose testimony is behavior,
What we are WE ARE—nativity is answer enough
to objections;
We wield ourselves as a weapon is wielded,

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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 only.

3Have you thought there could be but a single
There can be any number of Supremes—One does
not countervail another, any more than one eye-
sight countervails another, or one life counter-
vails another.

4All 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.

5All comes by the body—only health puts you rapport
with the universe.

6Produce great persons, the rest follows.

7How dare a sick man, or an obedient man, write
poems for These States?
Which is the theory or book that, for our purposes, is
not diseased?

8Piety and conformity to them that like!
Peace, obesity, allegiance, to them that like!

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I am he who tauntingly compels men, women,
nations, to leap from their seats and contend
for their lives.

9I am he who goes through the streets with a barbed
tongue, questioning every one I meet—ques-
tioning you up there now:
Who are you, that wanted only to be told what you
knew before?
Who are you, that wanted only a book to join you in
your nonsense?

10Are 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 not otherwise.

11Fear grace—Fear delicatesse,
Fear the mellow sweet, the sucking of honey-juice,
Beware the advancing mortal ripening of nature,
Beware what precedes the decay of the ruggedness of
states and men.

12Ages, precedents, poems, have long been accumu-
lating undirected materials,
America brings builders, and brings its own styles.

13Mighty bards have done their work, and passed to
other spheres,
One work forever remains, the work of surpassing all
they have done.

14America, curious toward foreign characters, stands by
its own at all hazards,

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Stands removed, spacious, composite, sound,
Sees itself promulger of men and women, initiates
the true use of precedents,
Does not repel them or the past, or what they have
produced under their forms, or amid other pol-
itics, or amid the idea of castes, or the old
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 fittest for his days.

15Any period, one nation must lead,
One land must be the promise and reliance of the

16These States are the amplest poem,
Here is not merely a nation, but a teeming nation of
Here the doings of men correspond with the broad-
cast doings of the day and night,
Here is what moves in magnificent masses, carelessly
faithful of particulars,
Here are the roughs, beards, friendliness, combative-
ness, the Soul loves,
Here the flowing trains—here the crowds, equality,
diversity, the Soul loves.

17Race 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
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, Niagara, Hudson,
spending themselves lovingly in him,
If the Atlantic coast stretch, or the Pacific coast
stretch, he stretching with them north or south,
Spanning between them east and west, and touching
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 hanging
from the boughs,

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Off him pasturage sweet and natural as savanna,
upland, prairie,
Through him flights, songs, screams, answering those
of the wild-pigeon, coot, fish-hawk, qua-bird,
mocking-bird, condor, night-heron, eagle;
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
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
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, tem-
perature, the gestation of new States,
Congress convening every Twelfth Month, the mem-
bers duly coming up from the uttermost parts;
Surrounding the noble character of mechanics and
farmers, especially the young men,
Responding their manners, speech, dress, friendships
—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,

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The picturesque looseness of their carriage, their
deathless attachment to freedom, their fierceness
when wronged,
The fluency of their speech, their delight in music,
their curiosity, good temper, and open-handed-
ness—the whole composite make,
The prevailing ardor and enterprise, the large am-
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-hemmed 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 plan-
tation life,
Slavery, the tremulous spreading of hands to shelter
it—the stern opposition to it, which ceases only
when it ceases.

18For 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,

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I lead the present with friendly hand toward the

19Bravas to States whose semitic impulses send whole-
some children to the next age!
But damn that which spends itself on flaunters and
dalliers, with no thought of the stain, pains,
dismay, feebleness, it is bequeathing.

20By great bards only can series of peoples and States
be fused into the compact organism of one

21To hold men together by paper and seal, or by com-
pulsion, is no account,
That only holds men together which is living prin-
ciples, as the hold of the limbs of the body, or
the fibres of plants.

22Of 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 referee
so much as their poets shall.

23Of 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 propor-
tions, 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, encour-
aging agriculture, arts, commerce, lighting the
study of man, the Soul, health, immortality,
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
He sees eternity in men and women—he does not
see men and women as dreams or dots.

24Of the idea of perfect and free individuals, the idea
of These States, the bard walks in advance,
leader of leaders,
The attitude of him cheers up slaves, and horrifies
foreign despots.

25Without extinction is Liberty! Without retrograde
is Equality!
They live in the feelings of young men, and the
best women,

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Not for nothing have the indomitable heads of the
earth been always ready to fall for Liberty!

26Are YOU indeed for Liberty?
Are you a man who would assume a place to teach
here, or lead here, or be a poet here?
The place is august—the terms obdurate.

27Who would assume to teach here, 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.

28Who are you, indeed, who would talk or sing in
Have you studied out MY LAND, its idioms and
Have you learned the physiology, phrenology, poli-
tics, 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, signed by the Commissioners, ratified by
The States, and read by Washington at the head
of the army?
Have you possessed yourself of the Federal Constitu-
Do you acknowledge Liberty with audible and abso-
lute acknowledgment, and set slavery at nought
for life and death?
Do you see who have left described processes and
poems behind them, and assumed new ones?

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Are you faithful to things? Do you teach whatever
the land and sea, the bodies of men, womanhood,
amativeness, angers, excesses, crimes, teach?
Have you sped through customs, laws, popularities?
Can you hold your hand against all seductions, follies,
whirls, fierce contentions? Are you very strong?
Are you of the whole people?
Are you not of some coterie? some school or religion?
Are you done with reviews and criticisms of life? ani-
mating to life itself?
Have you vivified yourself from the maternity of
These States?
Have you sucked the nipples of the breasts of the
mother of many children?
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?

29What is this you bring my America?
Is it uniform with my country?
Is it not something that has been better told or done
Have you not imported this, or the spirit of it, in
some ship?
Is it a mere tale? a rhyme? a prettiness?
Has it never dangled at the heels of the poets, poli-
ticians, literats, of enemies' lands?
Does it not assume that what is notoriously gone is
still here?
Does it answer universal needs? Will it improve

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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,
Have real employments contributed to it? original
makers—not amanuenses?
Does it meet modern discoveries, calibers, facts, face
to face?
Does it respect me? Democracy? the Soul? to-day?
What does it mean to me? to American persons,
progresses, cities? Chicago, Kanada, Arkansas?
the planter, Yankee, Georgian, native, immi-
grant, sailors, squatters, old States, new States?
Does it encompass all The States, and the unexcep-
tional rights of all the men and women of the
earth, the genital impulse of These States?
Does it see behind the apparent custodians, the
real custodians, standing, menacing, silent, the
mechanics, Manhattanese, western men, south-
erners, significant alike in their apathy and in
the promptness of their love?
Does it see what befalls and has always befallen
each temporizer, patcher, outsider, partialist,
alarmist, infidel, who has ever asked anything
of America?
What mocking and scornful negligence?
The track strewed with the dust of skeletons?
By the roadside others disdainfully tossed?

30Rhymes and rhymers pass away—poems distilled
from other poems pass away,
The swarms of reflectors and the polite pass, and
leave ashes;

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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 impassive
Only toward the likes of itself will it advance to meet
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.

31He masters whose spirit masters—he tastes sweetest
who results sweetest in the long run,
The blood of the brawn beloved of time is uncon-
In the need of poems, philosophy, politics, manners,
engineering, an appropriate native grand-opera,
shipcraft, any craft, he or she is greatest who
contributes the greatest original practical ex-

32Already a nonchalant breed, silently emerging, fills
the houses and streets,
People's lips salute only doers, lovers, satisfiers,
positive knowers;
There will shortly be no more priests—I say 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;
How dare you place anything before a man?

33Fall behind me, States!
A man, before all—myself, typical, before all.

34Give 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 despised
I have given alms to every one that asked, stood up
for the stupid and crazy, devoted my income
and labor to others,
I have hated tyrants, argued not concerning God,
had patience and indulgence toward the people,
taken off my hat to nothing known or unknown,
I have gone freely with powerful uneducated persons,
and with the young, and with the mothers of
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 terms.
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,
Whom I have staid with once I have found longing
for me ever afterward.

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34I swear I begin to see the meaning of these things!
It is not the earth, it is not America, who is so great,
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 indi-

35Underneath all are individuals,
I swear nothing is good to me now that ignores
The American compact is altogether with individuals,
The only government is that which makes minute of
The whole theory of the universe is directed to one
single individual—namely, to You.

36Underneath 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 nativity,
Men, women, cities, nations, are only beautiful from

37Underneath all is the need of the expression of love
for men and women,
I swear I have had enough of mean and impotent
modes of expressing love for men and women,
After this day I take my own modes of expressing
love for men and women.

38I swear I will have each quality of my race in

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Talk as you like, he only suits These States whose
manners favor the audacity and sublime turbu-
lence of The States.

39Underneath the lessons of things, spirits, nature,
governments, ownerships, I swear I perceive
other lessons,
Underneath all to me is myself—to you, yourself,
(the same monotonous old song,)
If all had not kernels for you and me, what were it
to you and me?

40O I see now, flashing, that this America is only you
and me,
Its power, weapons, testimony, are you and me,
Its roughs, beards, haughtiness, ruggedness, are you
and me,
Its ample geography, the sierras, the prairies, Mis-
sissippi, Huron, Colorado, Boston, Toronto,
Raleigh, Nashville, Havana, are you and me,
Its settlements, wars, the organic compact, peace,
Washington, the Federal Constitution, are you
and me,
Its young men's manners, speech, dress, friendships,
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 me,
Its inventions, science, schools, are you and me,
Its deserts, forests, clearings, log-houses, hunters, are
you and me,

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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.

41I swear I dare not shirk any part of myself,
Not any part of America, good or bad,
Not my body—not friendship, hospitality, pro-
Not my Soul, nor the last explanation of prudence,
Not the similitude that interlocks me with all iden-
tities that exist, or ever have existed,
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
Not to justify science, nor the march of equality,
Nor to feed the arrogant blood of the brawn beloved
of time.

42I swear I am for those that have never been
For men and women whose tempers have never been
For those whom laws, theories, conventions, can never

43I swear I am for those who walk abreast with the
whole earth!
Who inaugurate one to inaugurate all.

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44I 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!
(This is what I have learnt from America—it is the
amount—and it I teach again.)

45I 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!
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!

46I will see if I have no meaning, while 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

47I match my spirit against yours, you orbs, growths,
mountains, brutes,
Copious as you are, I absorb you all in myself, and
become the master myself.

48The Many In One—what is it finally except myself?
These States—what are they except myself?

49I have learned why the earth is gross, tantalizing,
wicked—it is for my sake,
I take you to be mine, you beautiful, terrible, rude


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