Published Works

Books by Whitman

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1As I sat alone, by blue Ontario's shore,
As I mused of these mighty days, and of peace return'd,
and the dead that return no more,
A Phantom, gigantic, superb, with stern visage, accosted
Chant me the poem, it said, that comes from the soul of
America—chant me the carol of victory;
And strike up the marches of Libertad—marches more
powerful yet;
And sing me before you go, the song of the throes of

2(Democracy—the destin'd conqueror—yet treacherous
lip-smiles everywhere,
And Death and infidelity at every step.)


3A Nation announcing itself,
I myself make the only growth by which I can be ap-
I reject none, accept all, then reproduce all in my own

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4A breed whose proof is in time and deeds;
What we are, we are—nativity is answer enough to
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 ourselves;
We stand self-pois'd in the middle, branching thence
over the world;
From Missouri, Nebraska, or Kansas, laughing attacks
to scorn.

5Nothing is sinful to us outside of ourselves,
Whatever appears, whatever does not appear, we are
beautiful or sinful in ourselves only.

6(O mother! O sisters dear!
If we are lost, no victor else has destroy'd us;
It is by ourselves we go down to eternal night.)


7Have you thought there could be but a single
There can be any number of Supremes—One does not
countervail another, any more than one eyesight
countervails another, or one life countervails

8All is eligible to all,
All is for individuals—All is for you,
No condition is prohibited—not God's, or any.

9All comes by the body—only health puts you rapport
with the universe.

10Produce great persons, the rest follows.

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11America isolated I sing;
I say that works made here in the spirit of other lands,
are so much poison in The States.

12(How dare such insects as we see assume to write
poems for America?
For our victorious armies, and the offspring following
the armies?)

13Piety and conformity to them that like!
Peace, obesity, allegiance, to them that like!
I am he who tauntingly compels men, women, nations,
Crying, Leap from your seats, and contend for your

14I am he who walks the States with a barb'd tongue,
questioning every one I meet;
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?

15(With pangs and cries, as thine own, O bearer of
many children!
These clamors wild, to a race of pride I give.)

16O lands! would you be freer than all that has ever
been before!
If you would be freer than all that has been before,
come listen to me.

17Fear grace—Fear elegance, civilization, 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.

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18Ages, precedents, have long been accumulating undi-
rected materials,
America brings builders, and brings its own styles.

19The immortal poets of Asia and Europe have done
their work, and pass'd to other spheres,
A work remains, the work of surpassing all they have

20America, curious toward foreign characters, stands
by its own at all hazards,
Stands removed, spacious, composite, sound—initiates
the true use of precedents,
Does not repel them, or the past, or what they have
produced under their forms,
Takes the lesson with calmness, perceives the corpse
slowly borne from 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.

21Any period, one nation must lead,
One land must be the promise and reliance of the

22These States are the amplest poem,
Here is not merely a nation, but a teeming nation of
Here the doings of men correspond with the broadcast
doings of the day and night,
Here is what moves in magnificent masses, careless of
Here are the roughs, beards, friendliness, combative-
ness, the Soul loves,
Here the flowing trains—here the crowds, equality,
diversity, the Soul loves.

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23Land of lands, and bards to corroborate!
Of them, standing among them, one lifts to the light his
west-bred face,
To him the hereditary countenance bequeath'd, 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 seminal muscle into its merits and de-
Making its cities, beginnings, events, diversities, wars,
vocal in him,
Making its rivers, lakes, bays, embouchure in him,
Mississippi with yearly freshets and changing chutes—
Columbia, Niagara, Hudson, spending them-
selves 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, chestnut,
hickory, cotton-wood, orange, magnolia,
Tangles as tangled in him as any cane-brake or swamp,
He likening sides and peaks of mountains, forests
coated with northern transparent ice,
Off him pasturage sweet and natural as savanna, up-
land, prairie,
Through him flights, whirls, screams, answering those
of the fish-hawk, mocking-bird, night-heron, and
His spirit surrounding his country's spirit, unclosed to
good and evil,
Surrounding the essences of real things, old times and
present times,

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Surrounding just found shores, islands, tribes of red
Weather-beaten vessels, landings, settlements, embryo
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 im-
The Union, always swarming with blatherers, and
always sure and impregnable,
The unsurvey'd 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,
The picturesque looseness of their carriage, their fierce-
ness when wrong'd,
The fluency of their speech, their delight in music, their
curiosity, good temper, and open-handedness—
the whole composite make,
The prevailing ardor and enterprise, the large amative-
The perfect equality of the female with the male, the
fluid movement of the population,
The superior marine, free commerce, fisheries, whaling,
Wharf-hemm'd cities, railroad and steamboat lines, in-
tersecting all points,
Factories, mercantile life, labor-saving machinery, the
north-east, north-west, south-west,
Manhattan firemen, the Yankee swap, southern planta-
tion life,

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Slavery—the murderous, treacherous conspiracy to raise
it upon the ruins of all the rest;
On and on to the grapple with it—Assassin! then your
life or ours be the stake—and respite no more.


24(Lo! high toward heaven, this day,
Libertad! from the conqueress' field return'd,
I mark the new aureola around your head;
No more of soft astral, but dazzling and fierce,
With war's flames, and the lambent lightnings playing,
And your port immovable where you stand;
With still the inextinguishable glance, and the clench'd
and lifted fist,
And your foot on the neck of the menacing one, the
scorner, utterly crush'd beneath you;
The menacing, arrogant one, that strode and advanced
with his senseless scorn, bearing the murderous
—Lo! the wide swelling one, the braggart, that would
yesterday do so much!
To-day a carrion dead and damn'd, the despised of all
the earth!
An offal rank, to the dunghill maggots spurn'd.)


25Others take finish, but the Republic is ever construc-
tive, 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! I isolate myself
for your sake;
O America, because you build for mankind, I build for
O well-beloved stone-cutters! I lead them who plan with
decision and science,
I lead the present with friendly hand toward the fu-

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26Bravas to all impulses sending sane children to the
next age!
But damn that which spends itself, with no thought of
the stain, pains, dismay, feebleness, it is be-


27I listened to the Phantom on Ontario's shore,
I heard the voice arising, demanding bards;
By them all native and grand—by them alone can The
States be fused into the compact organism of a

28To hold men together by paper and seal, or by com-
pulsion, is no account;
That only holds men together which aggregates all in a
living principle, as the hold of the limbs of the
body, or the fibres of plants.

29Of 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.

30(Soul of love, and tongue of fire!
Eye to pierce the deepest deeps, and sweep the world!
—Ah, mother! prolific and full in all besides—yet how
long barren, barren?)


31Of These States, 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
He bestows on every object or quality its fit proportion,
neither more nor less,
He is the arbiter of the diverse, he is the key,
He is the equalizer of his age and land,

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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, gov-
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—(Nature accepts him
He judges not as the judge judges, but as the sun fall-
ing 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.

32For the great Idea, the idea of perfect and free indi-
For that idea the bard walks in advance, leader of
The attitude of him cheers up slaves, and horrifies
foreign despots.

33Without extinction is Liberty! without retrograde is
They live in the feelings of young men, and the best
Not for nothing have the indomitable heads of the earth
been always ready to fall for Liberty.


34For the great Idea!
That, O my brethren—that is the mission of Poets.

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35Songs of stern defiance, ever ready,
Songs of the rapid arming, and the march,
The flag of peace quick-folded, and instead, the flag we
Warlike flag of the great Idea.

36(Angry cloth I saw there leaping!
I stand again in leaden rain, your flapping folds saluting;
I sing you over all, flying, beckoning through the fight
—O the hard-contested fight!
O the cannons ope their rosy-flashing muzzles! the
hurtled balls scream!
The battle-front forms amid the smoke—the volleys
pour incessant from the line;
Hark! the ringing word, Charge!—now the tussle, and
the furious maddening yells;
Now the corpses tumble curl'd upon the ground,
Cold, cold in death, for precious life of you,
Angry cloth I saw there leaping.)


37Are you he who would assume a place to teach, or be
a poet here in The States?
The place is August—the terms obdurate.

38Who 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 question'd beforehand by me with
many and stern questions.

39Who are you, indeed, who would talk or sing to
Have you studied out the land, its idioms and men?
Have you learn'd the physiology, phrenology, politics,
geography, pride, freedom, friendship, of the
land? its substratums and objects?

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Have you consider'd the organic compact of the first day
of the first year of Independence, sign'd by the
Commissioners, ratified by The States, and
read by Washington at the head of the army?
Have you possess'd yourself of the Federal Constitution?
Do you see who have left all feudal processes and poems
behind them, and assumed the poems and pro-
cesses of Democracy?
Are you faithful to things? do you teach as the land
and sea, the bodies of men, womanhood, ama-
tiveness, angers, teach?
Have you sped through fleeting customs, popularities?
Can you hold your hand against all seductions, follies,
whirls, fierce contentions? are you very strong?
are you really of the whole people?
Are you not of some coterie? some school or mere
Are you done with reviews and criticisms of life? ani-
mating now to life itself?
Have you vivified yourself from the maternity of These
Have you too the old, ever-fresh forbearance and im-
Do you hold the like love for those hardening to ma-
turity; for the last-born? little and big? and
for the errant?

40What 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
Is it not a mere tale? a rhyme? a prettiness? is the
good old cause in it?
Has it not dangled long at the heels of the poets, poli
ticians, literats, of enemies' lands?
Does it not assume that what is notoriously gone is still
Does it answer universal needs? will it improve man-

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Does it sound, with trumpet-voice, the proud victory of
the Union, in that secession war?
Can your performance face the open fields and the sea-
Will it absorb into me as I absorb food, air—to appear
again in my strength, gait, face?
Have real employments contributed to it? original
makers—not mere amanuenses?
Does it meet modern discoveries, calibers, faces, face to
What does it mean to me? to American persons, pro-
gresses, cities? Chicago, Kanada, Arkansas? the
planter, Yankee, Georgian, native, immigrant,
sailors, squatters, old States, new States?
Does it encompass all The States, and the unexcep-
tional rights of all the men and woman of the
earth? (the genital impulse of These States;)
Does it see behind the apparent custodians, the real
custodians, standing, menacing, silent—the me-
chanics, Manhattanese, western men, southerners,
significant alike in their apathy, and in the
promptness of their love?
Does it see what finally befalls, and has always finally
befallen, each temporizer, patcher, outsider, par-
tialist, alarmist, infidel, who has ever ask'd any-
thing of America?
What mocking and scornful negligence?
The track strew'd with the dust of skeletons;
By the roadside others disdainfully toss'd.


41Rhymes and rhymers pass away—poems distill'd
from foreign poems pass away,
The swarms of reflectors and the polite pass, and leave
Admirers, importers, obedient persons, make but the
soil of literature;
America justifies itself, give it time—no disguise can
deceive it, or conceal from it—it is impassive

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Only towards the likes of itself will it advance to meet
If its poets appear, it will in due time advance to meet
them—there is no fear of mistake,
(The proof of a poet shall be sternly deferr'd, till his
country absorbs him as affectionately as he has
absorb'd it.)

42He masters whose spirit masters—he tastes sweetest
who results sweetest in the long run;
The blood of the brawn beloved of time is unconstraint;
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-

43Already a nonchalant breed, silently emerging, ap-
pears on the streets,
People's lips salute only doers, lovers, satisfiers, positive
There will shortly be no more priests—I say their work
is done.
Death is without emergencies here, but life is perpet-
ual emergencies here,
Are your body, days, manners, superb? after death
you shall be superb;
Justice, health, self-esteem, clear the way with irresist-
ible power;
How dare you place anything before a man?


44Fall behind me, States!
A man before all—myself, typical, before all.

45Give me the pay I have served for!
Give me to sing the song of the great Idea! take all
the rest;
I have loved the earth, sun, animals—I have despised

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I have given alms to every one that ask'd, 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 dismiss'd whatever insulted my own Soul or
defiled my Body,
I have claim'd nothing to myself which I have not
carefully claim'd for others on the same terms,
I have sped to the camps, and comrades found and
accepted from every State;
(In war of you, as well as peace, my suit is good, Amer-
ica—sadly I boast;
Upon this breast has many a dying soldier lean'd, to
breathe his last;
This arm, this hand, this voice, have nourish'd, rais'd,
To life recalling many a prostrate form:)
—I am willing to wait to be understood by the growth
of the taste of myself,
I reject none, I permit all.

46(Say, O mother! have I not to your thought been
Have I not, through life, kept you and yours before


47I 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 up there,
or any one;
It is to walk rapidly through civilizations, governments,

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Through poems, pageants, shows, to form great indi-

48Underneath all, individuals!
I swear nothing is good to me now that ignores indi-
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.

49(Mother! with subtle sense severe—with the naked
sword in your hand,
I saw you at last refuse to treat but directly with indi-


50Underneath all, nativity,
I swear I will stand by my own nativity—pious or im-
pious, so be it;
I swear I am charm'd with nothing except nativity,
Men, women, cities, nations, are only beautiful from

51Underneath all is the need of the expression of love
for men and women,
I swear I have seen 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.

52I swear I will have each quality of my race in my-
(Talk as you like, he only suits These States whose
manners favor the audacity and sublime turbu-
lence of The States.)

53Underneath the lessons of things, spirits, Nature,
governments, ownerships, I swear I perceive
other lessons,

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Underneath all, to me is myself—to you, yourself—(the
same monotonous old song.)


54O I see now, flashing, that this America is only you
and me,
Its power, weapons, testimony, are you and me
Its crimes, lies, thefts, defections, slavery, are you and
Its Congress is you and me—the officers, capitols, ar-
mies, ships, are you and me,
Its endless gestations of new States are you and me,
The war—that war so bloody and grim—the war I will
henceforth forget—was you and me,
Natural and artificial are you and me,
Freedom, language, poems, employments, are you and
Past, present, future, are you and me.


55I swear I dare not shirk any part of myself,
Not any part of America, good or bad,
Not the promulgation of Liberty—not to cheer up slaves
and horrify foreign 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.

56I swear I am for those that have never been mas-
For men and women whose tempers have never been
For those whom laws, theories, conventions, can never

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57I swear I am for those who walk abreast with the
whole earth!
Who inaugurate one, to inaugurate all.

58I swear I will not be outfaced by irrational things!
I will penetrate what it is in them that is sarcastic upon
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.

59(Democracy! while weapons were everywhere aim'd
at your breast,
I saw you serenely give birth to immortal children—
saw in dreams your dilating form;
Saw you with spreading mantle covering the world.)


60I 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!

61I 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 my-


62I match my spirit against yours, you orbs, growths,
mountains, brutes,
Copious as you are, I absorb you all in myself, and be-
come the master myself.

63America isolated, yet embodying all, what is it finally
except myself?
These States—what are they except myself?

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64I know now why the earth is gross, tantalizing,
wicked—it is for my sake,
I take you to be mine, you beautiful, terrible, rude

65(Mother! bend down, bend close to me your face!
I know not what these plots and wars, and deferments
are for;
I know not fruition's success—but I know that through
war and peace your work goes on, and must yet
go on.)


66………Thus, by blue Ontario's shore,
While the winds fann'd me, and the waves came troop-
ing toward me,
I thrill'd with the Power's pulsations—and the charm
of my theme was upon me,
Till the tissues that held me, parted their ties upon

67And I saw the free Souls of poets;
The loftiest bards of past ages strode before me,
Strange, large men, long unwaked, undisclosed, were
disclosed to me.


68O my rapt verse, my call—mock me not!
Not for the bards of the past—not to invoke them have
I launch'd you forth,
Not to call even those lofty bards here by Ontario's
Have I sung, so capricious and loud, my savage song.

69Bards for my own land, only, I invoke;
(For the war, the war is over—the field is clear'd,)
Till they strike up marches henceforth triumphant and
To cheer, O mother, your boundless, expectant soul.

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70Bards grand as these days so grand!
Bards of the great Idea! Bards of the peaceful inven-
tions! (for the war, the war is over!)
Yet Bards of the latent armies—a million soldiers wait-
ing ever-ready,
Bards towering like hills—(no more these dots, these
pigmies, these little piping straws, these gnats,
that fill the hour, to pass for poets;)
Bards with songs as from burning coals, or the light-
ning's fork'd stripes!
Ample Ohio's bards—bards for California! inland
bards—bards of the war;)
(As a wheel turns on its axle, so I find my chants turn-
ing finally on the war;)
Bards of pride! Bards tallying the ocean's roar, and
the swooping eagle's scream!
You, by my charm, I invoke!


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