Published Works

Books by Whitman

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1WHOEVER you are holding me now in hand,
Without one thing all will be useless,
I give you fair warning, before you attempt me
I am not what you supposed, but far different.

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2Who is he that would become my follower?
Who would sign himself a candidate for my affec-
tions? Are you he?

3The way is suspicious—the result slow, uncertain,
may-be destructive;
You would have to give up all else—I alone would
expect to be your God, sole and exclusive,
Your novitiate would even then be long and ex-
The whole past theory of your life, and all conformity
to the lives around you, would have to be aban-
Therefore release me now, before troubling yourself
any further—Let go your hand from my
Put me down, and depart on your way.

4Or else, only by stealth, in some wood, for trial,
Or back of a rock, in the open air,
(For in any roofed room of a house I emerge not—
nor in company,
And in libraries I lie as one dumb, a gawk, or unborn,
or dead,)
But just possibly with you on a high hill—first
watching lest any person, for miles around,
approach unawares,
Or possibly with you sailing at sea, or on the beach of
the sea, or some quiet island,
Here to put your lips upon mine I permit you,
With the comrade's long-dwelling kiss, or the new
husband's kiss,
For I am the new husband, and I am the comrade.

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5Or, if you will, thrusting me beneath your clothing,
Where I may feel the throbs of your heart, or rest
upon your hip,
Carry me when you go forth over land or sea;
For thus, merely touching you, is enough—is best,
And thus, touching you, would I silently sleep and be
carried eternally.

6But these leaves conning, you con at peril,
For these leaves, and me, you will not understand,
They will elude you at first, and still more after-
ward—I will certainly elude you,
Even while you should think you had unquestionably
caught me, behold!
Already you see I have escaped from you.

7For it is not for what I have put into it that I have
written this book,
Nor is it by reading it you will acquire it,
Nor do those know me best who admire me, and
vauntingly praise me,
Nor will the candidates for my love, (unless at most a
very few,) prove victorious,
Nor will my poems do good only—they will do just
as much evil, perhaps more,
For all is useless without that which you may guess
at many times and not hit—that which I
hinted at,
Therefore release me, and depart on your way.


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