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About this Item

Title: Fame's Vanity

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: October 23, 1839

Whitman Archive ID: per.00023

Source: The Long Island Democrat 23 October 1839: [1]. Our transcription is based on a photocopy of a microfilm copy of an original issue. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the periodical poems, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang and Susan Belasco


O, many a panting, noble heart
Cherishes in its deep recess
Th' hope to win renown o'er earth
From Glory's priz'd caress.
And some will reach that envied goal,
And have their fame known far and wide;
And some will sink unnoted down
In dark Oblivion's tide.
But I, who many a pleasant scheme
Do sometimes cull from Fancy's store,
With dreams, such as the youthful dream,
Of grandeur, love, and power—
Shall I build up a lofty name,
And seek to have the nations known
What conscious might dwells in the brain
That throbs aneath this brow?
And have thick countless ranks of men
Fix upon me their reverent gaze,
And listen to the deafening shouts
To me that thousands raise?
Thou foolish soul! the very place
That pride has made for folly's rest;
What thoughts with vanity all rife,
Fill up this heaving breast!
Fame, O what happiness is lost
In hot pursuit of that false glare!
Thou, whose drunk votaries die to gain
A puff of viewless air.
So, never let me more repine,
Though I live on obscure, unknown,
Though after death unsought may be
My markless resting stone.
For mighty one and lowly wretch,
Dull, idiot mind, or teeming sense
Must sleep on the same earthy couch,
A hundred seasons hence.


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