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Title: Song of the Universal

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: June 17, 1874

Whitman Archive ID: per.00132

Source: New York Daily Graphic 17 June 1874: 818. Our transcription is based on a digital image 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, April Lambert, and Susan Belasco

image 1




Delivered at Tuft's College, Mass., To-day.]


Come, said the Muse,
Sing me a song no poet yet has chanted;
Sing me the Universal.
In this broad earth of ours,
Amid the measureless grossness and the slag,
Enclosed and safe within its central heart,
Nestles the seed Perfection.
By every life a share, or more or less,
None born but it is born—conceal'd or unconceal'd,
the seed is waiting.


Lo! keen-eyed, towering Science!
As from tall peaks the Modern overlooking,
Successive, absolute flats issuing.
Yet again, lo! the Soul—above all science;
For it, has History gather'd like husks around the
For it, the entire star-myriads roll through the sky.
In spiral roads, by long detours,
(As a much-tacking ship upon the sea,)
For it, the partial to the permanent flowing,
For it, the Real to the Ideal tends.
For it, the mystic evolution;
Not the right only justified—what we call evil also
Forth from their masks, no matter what,
From the huge, festering trunk—from craft and guile
and tears,
Health to emerge, and joy—joy universal.
Out of the bulk, the morbid and the shallow,
Out of the bad majority—the varied, countless frauds
of men and States,
Electric, antiseptic yet—cleaving, suffusing all,
Only the Good is universal.


Over the mountain growths, disease and sorrow,
An uncaught bird is ever hovering, hovering,
High in the purer, happier air.
From imperfection's murkiest cloud,
Darts always forth one ray of perfect light,
One flash of Heaven's glory.
To fashion's, custom's discord,
To the mad Babel-din, the deafening orgies,
Soothing each lull a strain is heard, just heard,
From some far shore, the final chorus sounding.


O the blest eyes! the happy hearts!
That see—that know the guiding thread so fine,
Along the mighty labyrinth!


And thou, America!
For the Scheme's culmination—its Thought, and its
For these, (not for thyself,) Thou hast arrived.
Thou too surroundest all;
Embracing, carrying, welcoming all, Thou too, by
pathways broad and new,
To the Ideal tendest.
The measur'd faiths of other lands—the grandeurs
of the past,
Are not for Thee—but grandeurs of Thine own;
Deific faiths and amplitudes, absorbing, compre-
hending all,
All eligible to all.
All, all for Immortality!
Love, like the light, silently wrapping all!
Nature's amelioration blessing all!
The blossoms, fruits of ages—orchards divine and
Forms, objects, growths, humanities, to Spiritual
Images ripening.
Give me, O God, to sing that thought!
Give me—give him or her I love this quenchless faith,
In Thy ensemble—whatever else withheld, withhold
not from us,
Belief in plan of Thee enclosed in Time and Space,
Health, peace, salvation universal.
Is it a dream?
Nay, but the lack of it the dream,
And, failing it, life's lore and wealth a dream,
And all the world a dream.


1. This poem was printed on the same day in the New York Evening Post, 17 June 1874. Reprinted in New York World, 19 June 1874; Camden New Republic, 20 June 1874; and in Two Rivulets (1876). [back]


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