Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Poems By Walt Whitman by Walt Whitman

Part 4 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

My great thoughts, as I supposed them, were they not in reality meagre?
would not people laugh at me?

It is not you alone who know what it is to be evil;
I am he who knew what it was to be evil;
I too knitted the old knot of contrariety,
Blabbed, blushed, resented, lied, stole, grudged;
Had guile, anger, lust, hot wishes I dared not speak;
Was wayward, vain, greedy, shallow, sly, cowardly, malignant;
The wolf, the snake, the hog, not wanting in me;
The cheating look, the frivolous word, the adulterous wish, not wanting;
Refusals, hates, postponements, meanness, laziness, none of these wanting.

But I was Manhattanese, friendly and proud!
I was called by my nighest name by clear loud voices of young men as they
saw me approaching or passing,
Felt their arms on my neck as I stood, or the negligent leaning of their
flesh against me as I sat;
Saw many I loved in the street, or ferry-boat, or public assembly, yet
never told them a word;
Lived the same life with the rest, the same old laughing, gnawing,
Played the part that still looks back on the actor or actress,
The same old role, the role that is what we make it,--as great as we like,
Or as small as we like, or both great and small.

Closer yet I approach you:
What thought you have of me, I had as much of you--
I laid in my stores in advance;
I considered long and seriously of you before you were born.

Who was to know what should come home to me?
Who knows but I am enjoying this?
Who knows but I am as good as looking at you now, for all you cannot see

It is not you alone, nor I alone;
Not a few races, nor a few generations, nor a few centuries;
It is that each came or comes or shall come from its due
emission, without fail, either now or then or henceforth.

Everything indicates--the smallest does, and the largest does;
A necessary film envelops all, and envelops the Soul for a proper time.

Now I am curious what sight can ever be more stately and admirable to me
than my mast-hemmed Manhatta,
My river and sunset, and my scallop-edged waves of flood-tide;
The sea-gulls oscillating their bodies, the hay-boat in the twilight, and
the belated lighter;
Curious what Gods can exceed these that clasp me by the hand, and with
voices I love call me promptly and loudly by my nighest name as I
Curious what is more subtle than this which ties me to the woman or man
that looks in my face,
Which fuses me into you now, and pours my meaning into you.

We understand, then, do we not?
What I promised without mentioning it have you not accepted?
What the study could not teach--what the preaching could not accomplish, is
accomplished, is it not?
What the push of reading could not start, is started by me personally, is
it not?


Flow on river! flow with the flood-tide, and ebb with the ebb-tide!
Frolic on, crested and scallop-edged waves!
Gorgeous clouds of the sunset, drench with your splendour me, or the men
and women generations after me!
Cross from shore to shore, countless crowds of passengers!
Stand up, tall masts of Mannahatta!-stand up, beautiful hills of Brooklyn!
Bully for you! you proud, friendly, free Manhattanese!
Throb, baffled and curious brain! throw out questions and answers!
Suspend here and everywhere, eternal float of solution!

Blab, blush, lie, steal, you or I or any one after us!
Gaze, loving and thirsting eyes, in the house, or street, or public
Sound out, voices of young men! loudly and musically call me by my nighest
Live, old life! play the part that looks back on the actor or actress!
Play the old role, the role that is great or small, according as one makes
Consider, you who peruse me, whether I may not in unknown ways be looking
upon you:
Be firm, rail over the river, to support those who lean idly, yet haste
with the hasting current;
Fly on, sea-birds! fly sideways, or wheel in large circles high in the air;
Receive the summer sky, you water! and faithfully hold it, till all
downcast eyes have time to take it from you;
Diverge, fine spokes of light, from the shape of my head, or any one's
head, in the sun-lit water;
Come on, ships from the lower bay! pass up or down, white-sailed schooners,
sloops, lighters!
Flaunt away, flags of all nations! be duly lowered at sunset;
Burn high your fires, foundry chimneys! cast black shadows at nightfall;
cast red and yellow light over the tops of the houses;
Appearances, now or henceforth, indicate what you are;
You necessary film, continue to envelop the soul;
About my body for me, and your body for you, be hung our divinest aromas;
Thrive, cities! bring your freight, bring your shows, ample and sufficient
Expand, being than which none else is perhaps more spiritual!
Keep your places, objects than which none else is more lasting!

We descend upon you and all things--we arrest you all;
We realise the soul only by you, you faithful solids and fluids;
Through you colour, form, location, sublimity, ideality;
Through you every proof, comparison, and all the suggestions and
determinations of ourselves.

You have waited, you always wait, you dumb, beautiful ministers! you
We receive you with free sense at last, and are insatiate henceforward;
Not you any more shall be able to foil us, or withhold yourselves from us;
We use you, and do not cast you aside--we plant you permanently within us;
We fathom you not--we love you--there is perfection in you also;
You furnish your parts toward eternity;
Great or small, you furnish your parts toward the soul.



Night on the prairies.
The supper is over--the fire on the ground burns low;
The wearied emigrants sleep, wrapped in their blankets;
I walk by myself--I stand and look at the stars, which I think now I never
realised before.

Now I absorb immortality and peace,
I admire death, and test propositions.

How plenteous! How spiritual! How _resume_!
The same Old Man and Soul--the same old aspirations, and the same content.


I was thinking the day most splendid, till I saw what the not day
I was thinking this globe enough, till there sprang out so noiseless around
me myriads of other globes.

Now, while the great thoughts of space and eternity fill me, I will measure
myself by them:
And now, touched with the lives of other globes, arrived as far along as
those of the earth,
Or waiting to arrive, or passed on farther than those of the earth,
I henceforth no more ignore them than I ignore my own life,
Or the lives of the earth arrived as far as mine, or waiting to arrive.


O I see now that life cannot exhibit all to me-as the day cannot,
I see that I am to wait for what will be exhibited by death.



Elemental drifts!
O I wish I could impress others as you and the waves have just been
impressing me.

As I ebbed with an ebb of the ocean of life,
As I wended the shores I know,
As I walked where the sea-ripples wash you, Paumanok,
Where they rustle up, hoarse and sibilant,
Where the fierce old Mother endlessly cries for her castaways,
I, musing, late in the autumn day, gazing off southward,
Alone, held by this eternal self of me, out of the pride of which I have
uttered my poems,
Was seized by the spirit that trails in the lines underfoot,
In the rim, the sediment, that stands for all the water and all the land of
the globe.

Fascinated, my eyes, reverting from the south, dropped, to follow those
slender winrows,
Chaff, straw, splinters of wood, weeds, and the sea-gluten,
Scum, scales from shining rocks, leaves of salt-lettuce, left by the tide;
Miles walking, the sound of breaking waves the other side of me,
Paumanok, there and then, as I thought the old thought of likenesses.
These you presented to me, you fish-shaped Island,
As I wended the shores I know,
As I walked with that eternal self of me, seeking types.


As I wend to the shores I know not,
As I list to the dirge, the voices of men and women wrecked,
As I inhale the impalpable breezes that set in upon me,
As the ocean so mysterious rolls toward me closer and closer,
I too but signify, at the utmost, a little washed-up drift,
A few sands and dead leaves to gather,
Gather, and merge myself as part of the sands and drift.

O baffled, baulked, bent to the very earth,
Oppressed with myself that I have dared to open my mouth,
Aware now that, amid all the blab whose echoes recoil upon me, I have not
once had the least idea who or what I am,
But that before all my insolent poems, the real ME stands yet untouched,
untold, altogether unreached,
Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congratulatory signs and bows,
With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word I have written,
Pointing in silence to all these songs, and then to the sand beneath.

Now I perceive I have not understood anything--not a single object--and
that no man ever can.

I perceive Nature, here in sight of the sea, is taking advantage of me, to
dart upon me, and sting me,
Because I have dared to open my mouth to sing at all.


You oceans both! I close with you;
These little shreds shall indeed stand for all.

You friable shore, with trails of debris!
You fish-shaped Island! I take what is underfoot;
What is yours is mine, my father.

I too, Paumanok,
I too have bubbled up, floated the measureless float, and been washed on
your shores;
I too am but a trail of drift and debris,
I too leave little wrecks upon you, you fish-shaped Island.

I throw myself upon your breast, my father,
I cling to you so that you cannot unloose me,
I hold you so firm till you answer me something.

Kiss me, my father,
Touch me with your lips, as I touch those I love,
Breathe to me, while I hold you close, the secret of the wondrous murmuring
I envy.


Ebb, ocean of life, (the flow will return.)
Cease not your moaning, you fierce old Mother,
Endlessly cry for your castaways--but fear not, deny not me,
Rustle not up so hoarse and angry against my feet, as I touch you, or
gather from you.

I mean tenderly by you,
I gather for myself, and for this phantom, looking down where we lead, and
following me and mine.

Me and mine!
We, loose winrows, little corpses,
Froth, snowy white, and bubbles,
(See! from my dead lips the ooze exuding at last!
See--the prismatic colours, glistening and rolling!)
Tufts of straw, sands, fragments,
Buoyed hither from many moods, one contradicting another,
From the storm, the long calm, the darkness, the swell;
Musing, pondering, a breath, a briny tear, a dab of liquid or soil;
Up just as much out of fathomless workings fermented and thrown;
A limp blossom or two, torn, just as much over waves floating, drifted at
Just as much for us that sobbing dirge of Nature;
Just as much, whence we come, that blare of the cloud-trumpets;
We, capricious, brought hither, we know not whence, spread out before you,
You, up there, walking or sitting,
Whoever you are--we too lie in drifts at your feet.



Who learns my lesson complete?
Boss, journeyman, apprentice--churchman and atheist,
The stupid and the wise thinker--parents and offspring--merchant, clerk,
porter, and customer,
Editor, author, artist; and schoolboy--Draw nigh and commence;
It is no lesson--it lets down the bars to a good lesson,
And that to another, and every one to another still.


The great laws take and effuse without argument;
I am of the same style, for I am their friend,
I love them quits and quits--I do not halt and make salaams.

I lie abstracted, and hear beautiful tales of things, and the reasons of
They are so beautiful I nudge myself to listen.
I cannot say to any person what I hear--I cannot say it to myself--it is
very wonderful.

It is no small matter, this round and delicious globe, moving so exactly in
its orbit for ever and ever, without one jolt, or the untruth of a
single second;
I do not think it was made in six days, nor in ten thousand years, nor ten
billions of years,
Nor planned and built one thing after another, as an architect plans and
builds a house.
I do not think seventy years is the time of a man or woman,
Nor that seventy millions of years is the time of a man or woman,
Nor that years will ever stop the existence of me, or any one else.


Is it wonderful that I should be immortal? as every one is immortal;
I know it is wonderful--but my eyesight is equally wonderful, and how I was
conceived in my mother's womb is equally wonderful;
And passed from a babe, in the creeping trance of a couple of summers and
winters, to articulate and walk--All this is equally wonderful.

And that my Soul embraces you this hour, and we affect each other without
ever seeing each other, and never perhaps to see each other, is
every bit as wonderful.

And that I can think such thoughts as these is just as wonderful;
And that I can remind you, and you think them and know them to be true, is
just as wonderful.
And that the moon spins round the earth, and on with the earth, is equally
And that they balance themselves with the sun and stars is equally



What shall I give? and which are my miracles?


Realism is mine--my miracles--Take freely,
Take without end--I offer them to you wherever your feet can carry you or
your eyes reach.


Why! who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach, just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love--or sleep in the bed at night with any
one I love,
Or sit at the table at dinner with my mother,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive, of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds--or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown--or of stars shining so quiet and
Or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new moon in spring;
Or whether I go among those I like best, and that like me best--mechanics,
boatmen, farmers,
Or among the savans--or to the _soiree_--or to the opera.
Or stand a long while looking at the movements of machinery,
Or behold children at their sports,
Or the admirable sight of the perfect old man, or the perfect old woman,
Or the sick in hospitals, or the dead carried to burial,
Or my own eyes and figure in the glass;
These, with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring--yet each distinct and in its place.


To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every cubic foot of the interior swarms with the same;
Every spear of grass--the frames, limbs, organs, of men and women, and all
that concerns them,
All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles.

To me the sea is a continual miracle;
The fishes that swim--the rocks--the motion of the waves--the ships, with
men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?


Of the visages of things--And of piercing through to the accepted hells
Of ugliness--To me there is just as much in it as there is in
beauty--And now the ugliness of human beings is acceptable to me.
Of detected persons--To me, detected persons are not, in any respect, worse
than undetected persons--and are not in any respect worse than I am
Of criminals--To me, any judge, or any juror, is equally criminal--and any
reputable person is also--and the President is also.


I sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all
oppression and shame;
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with themselves,
remorseful after deeds done;
I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying, neglected,
gaunt, desperate;
I see the wife misused by her husband--I see the treacherous seducer of
young women;
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love, attempted to be hid--
I see these sights on the earth;
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny--I see martyrs and
I observe a famine at sea--I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be
killed, to preserve the lives of the rest;
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon
labourers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;
All these--all the meanness and agony without end, I, sitting, look out
See, hear, and am silent.


I heard you, solemn-sweet pipes of the organ, as last Sunday morn I passed
the church;
Winds of autumn!--as I walked the woods at dusk, I heard your
long-stretched sighs, up above, so mournful;
I heard the perfect Italian tenor, singing at the opera--I heard the
soprano in the midst of the quartette singing.
--Heart of my love! you too I heard, murmuring low, through one of the
wrists around my head;
Heard the pulse of you, when all was still, ringing little bells last night
under my ear.


O me! O life!--of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless--of cities filled with the foolish;
Of myself for ever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and
who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light--of the objects mean--of the struggle
ever renewed;
Of the poor results of all--of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around
Of the empty and useless years of the rest--with the rest me intertwined;
The question, O me! so sad, recurring--What good amid these, O me, O life?


That you are here--that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.


As I lay with my head in your lap, camerado,
The confession I made I resume--what I said to you and the open air I
I know I am restless, and make others so;
I know my words are weapons, full of danger, full of death;
(Indeed I am myself the real soldier;
It is not he, there, with his bayonet, and not the red-striped
For I confront peace, security, and all the settled laws, to unsettle them;
I am more resolute because all have denied me than I could ever have been
had all accepted me;
I heed not, and have never heeded, either experience, cautions, majorities,
nor ridicule;
And the threat of what is called hell is little or nothing to me;
And the lure of what is called heaven is little or nothing to me.
--Dear camerado! I confess I have urged you onward with me, and still urge
you, without the least idea what is our destination,
Or whether we shall be victorious, or utterly quelled and defeated.



Splendour of ended day, floating and filling me!
Hour prophetic--hour resuming the past:
Inflating my throat--you, divine Average!
You, Earth and Life, till the last ray gleams, I sing.


Open mouth of my soul, uttering gladness,
Eyes of my soul, seeing perfection,
Natural life of me, faithfully praising things;
Corroborating for ever the triumph of things.


Illustrious every one!
Illustrious what we name space--sphere of unnumbered spirits;
Illustrious the mystery of motion, in all beings, even the tiniest insect;
Illustrious the attribute of speech--the senses--the body;
Illustrious the passing light! Illustrious the pale reflection on the new
moon in the western sky!
Illustrious whatever I see, or hear, or touch, to the last.

Good in all,
In the satisfaction and _aplomb_ of animals,
In the annual return of the seasons,
In the hilarity of youth,
In the strength and flush of manhood,
In the grandeur and exquisiteness of old age,
In the superb vistas of Death.

Wonderful to depart;
Wonderful to be here!
The heart, to jet the all-alike and innocent blood,
To breathe the air, how delicious!
To speak! to walk! to seize something by the hand!
To prepare for sleep, for bed--to look on my rose-coloured flesh,
To be conscious of my body, so happy, so large,
To be this incredible God I am,
To have gone forth among other Gods--those men and women I love.

Wonderful how I celebrate you and myself!
How my thoughts play subtly at the spectacles around!
How the clouds pass silently overhead!

How the earth darts on and on! and how the sun, moon, stars, dart on and
How the water sports and sings! (Surely it is alive!)
How the trees rise and stand up--with strong trunks--with branches and
Surely there is something more in each of the trees--some living soul.

O amazement of things! even the least particle!
O spirituality of things!
O strain musical, flowing through ages and continents--now reaching me and
I take your strong chords--I intersperse them, and cheerfully pass them

I too carol the sun, ushered, or at noon, or, as now, setting,
I too throb to the brain and beauty of the earth, and of all the growths of
the earth,
I too have felt the resistless call of myself.

As I sailed down the Mississippi,
As I wandered over the prairies,
As I have lived--As I have looked through my windows, my eyes,
As I went forth in the morning--As I beheld the light breaking in the east;
As I bathed on the beach of the Eastern Sea, and again on the beach of the
Western Sea;
As I roamed the streets of inland Chicago-whatever streets I have roamed;
Wherever I have been, I have charged myself with contentment and triumph.

I sing the Equalities;
I sing the endless finales of things;
I say Nature continues--Glory continues;
I praise with electric voice:
For I do not see one imperfection in the universe;
And I do not see one cause or result lamentable at last in the universe.

O setting sun! though the time has come,
I still warble under you unmitigated adoration.


O Magnet South! O glistening, perfumed South! my South!
O quick mettle, rich blood, impulse, and love! good and evil! O all dear to
O dear to me my birth-things--all moving things, and the trees where I was
born,[1] the grains, plants, rivers;
Dear to me my own slow, sluggish rivers, where they flow distant over flats
of silvery sands or through swamps;
Dear to me the Roanoke, the Savannah, the Altamahaw, the Pedee, the
Tombigbee, the Santee, the Coosa, and the Sabine--
O pensive, far away wandering, I return with my soul to haunt their banks
Again in Florida I float on transparent lakes--I float on Okeechobee--I
the hummock land, or through pleasant openings or dense forests.
I see the parrots in the woods, I see the papaw-tree, and the blossoming
Again, sailing in my coaster, on deck, I coast off Georgia, I coast up the
I see where the live-oak is growing--I see where the yellow-pine, the
scented bay-tree, the lemon and orange, the cypress, the graceful
I pass rude sea-headlands, and enter Pamlico Sound through an inlet, and
dart my vision inland;
O the cotton plant! the growing fields of rice, sugar, hemp!
The cactus, guarded with thorns--the laurel-tree, with large white flowers;
The range afar--the richness and barrenness--the old woods charged with
mistletoe and trailing moss,
The piney odour and the gloom--the awful natural stillness, Here in these
dense swamps the freebooter carries his gun, and the fugitive slave
has his concealed hut;
O the strange fascination of these half-known, half-impassable swamps,
infested by reptiles, resounding with the bellow of the alligator,
the sad noises of the night-owl and the wild-cat, and the whirr of
the rattlesnake;
The mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing all the forenoon--singing
through the moon-lit night,
The humming-bird, the wild-turkey, the raccoon, the opossum;
A Tennessee corn-field--the tall, graceful, long-leaved corn--slender,
flapping, bright green, with tassels--with beautiful ears, each
well-sheathed in its husk;
An Arkansas prairie--a sleeping lake, or still bayou.
O my heart! O tender and fierce pangs--I can stand them not--I will depart!
O to be a Virginian, where I grew up! O to be a Carolinian!
O longings irrepressible! O I will go back to old Tennessee, and never
wander more!

[Footnote 1: These expressions cannot be understood in a literal
sense, for Whitman was born, not in the South, but in the State
of New York. The precise sense to be attached to them may be open
to some difference of opinion.]


Of the terrible doubt of appearances,
Of the uncertainty after all--that we may be deluded,
That maybe reliance and hope are but speculations after all,
That maybe identity beyond the grave is a beautiful fable only,
Maybe the things I perceive--the animals, plants, men, hills, shining and
flowing waters,
The skies of day and night--colours, densities, forms--Maybe these are (as
doubtless they are) only apparitions, and the real something has
yet to be known;
(How often they dart out of themselves, as if to confound me and mock me!
How often I think neither I know, nor any man knows, aught of them!)
Maybe seeming to me what they are (as doubtless they indeed but seem) as
from my present point of view--And might prove (as of course they
would) naught of what they appear, or naught anyhow, from entirely
changed points of view;
--To me, these, and the like of these, are curiously answered by my lovers,
my dear friends.
When he whom I love travels with me, or sits a long while holding me by the
When the subtle air, the impalpable, the sense that words and reason hold
not, surround us and pervade us,
Then I am charged with untold and untellable wisdom--I am silent--I require
nothing further,
I cannot answer the question of appearances, or that of identity beyond the
But I walk or sit indifferent--I am satisfied,
He ahold of my hand has completely satisfied me.


Recorders ages hence!
Come, I will take you down underneath this impassive exterior--I will tell
you what to say of me;
Publish my name and hang up my picture as that of the tenderest lover,
The friend, the lover's portrait, of whom his friend, his lover, was
Who was not proud of his songs, but of the measureless ocean of love within
him--and freely poured it forth,
Who often walked lonesome walks, thinking of his dear friends, his lovers,
Who pensive, away from one he loved, often lay sleepless and dissatisfied
at night,
Who knew too well the sick, sick dread lest the one he loved might secretly
be indifferent to him,
Whose happiest days were far away, through fields, in woods, on hills, he
and another, wandering hand in hand, they twain, apart from other
Who oft, as he sauntered the streets, curved with his arm the shoulder of
his friend--while the arm of his friend rested upon him also.


When I heard at the close of the day how my name had been received with
plaudits in the capitol, still it was not a happy night for me that
And else, when I caroused, or when my plans were accomplished, still I was
not happy.
But the day when I rose at dawn from the bed of perfect health, refreshed,
singing, inhaling the ripe breath of autumn,
When I saw the full moon in the west grow pale and disappear in the morning
When I wandered alone over the beach, and undressing bathed, laughing with
the cool waters, and saw the sunrise,
And when I thought how my dear friend, my lover, was on his way coming, O
then I was happy;
O then each breath tasted sweeter--and all that day my food nourished me
more--and the beautiful day passed well,
And the next came with equal joy--and with the next, at evening, came my
And that night, while all was still, I heard the waters roll slowly
continually up the shores,
I heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and sands, as directed to me,
whispering, to congratulate me;
For the one I love most lay sleeping by me under the same cover in the cool
In the stillness, in the autumn moonbeams, his face was inclined toward me,
And his arm lay lightly around my breast--and that night I was happy.


Of him I love day and night, I dreamed I heard he was dead;
And I dreamed I went where they had buried him I love--but he was not in
that place;
And I dreamed I wandered, searching among burial-places, to find him;
And I found that every place was a burial-place;
The houses full of life were equally full of death, (this house is now;)
The streets, the shipping, the places of amusement, the Chicago, Boston,
Philadelphia, the Mannahatta, were as full of the dead as of the living,
And fuller, O vastly fuller, of the dead than of the living.
--And what I dreamed I will henceforth tell to every person and age,
And I stand henceforth bound to what I dreamed;
And now I am willing to disregard burial-places, and dispense with them;
And if the memorials of the dead were put up indifferently everywhere, even
in the room where I eat or sleep, I should be satisfied;
And if the corpse of any one I love, or if my own corpse, be duly rendered
to powder, and poured in the sea, I shall be satisfied;
Or if it be distributed to the winds, I shall be satisfied.


What think you I take my pen in hand to record?
The battle-ship, perfect-modelled, majestic, that I saw pass the offing to-
day under full sail?
The splendours of the past day? Or the splendour of the night that envelops
Or the vaunted glory and growth of the great city spread around me?--No;
But I record of two simple men I saw to-day, on the pier, in the midst of
the crowd, parting the parting of dear friends;
The one to remain hung on the other's neck, and passionately kissed him,
While the one to depart tightly pressed the one to remain in his arms.


Passing stranger! you do not know how longingly I look upon you;
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking (it comes to me, as of a
I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you.
All is recalled as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste,
You grew up with me, were a boy with me, or a girl with me;
I ate with you, and slept with you--your body has become not yours only,
nor left my body mine only;
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass--you take of
my beard, breast, hands in return;
I am not to speak to you--I am to think of you when I sit alone, or wake at
night alone;
I am to wait--I do not doubt I am to meet you again;
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.


This moment yearning and thoughtful, sitting alone,
It seems to me there are other men in other lands, yearning and thoughtful;
It seems to me I can look over and behold them in Prussia, Italy, France,
Spain--or far, far away, in China, or in Russia or India--talking
other dialects;
And it seems to me, if I could know those men, I should become attached to
them, as I do to men in my own lands.
O I know we should be brethren and lovers;
I know I should be happy with them.


When I peruse the conquered fame of heroes, and the victories of mighty
generals, I do not envy the generals,
Nor the President in his Presidency, nor the rich in his great house.

But when I read of the brotherhood of lovers, how it was with them;
How through life, through dangers, odium, unchanging, long and long,
Through youth, and through middle and old age, how unfaltering, how
affectionate and faithful they were,
Then I am pensive--I hastily put down the book, and walk away, filled with
the bitterest envy.


I dreamed in a dream I saw a city invincible to the attacks of the whole of
the rest of the earth;
I dreamed that it was the new City of Friends;
Nothing was greater there than the quality of robust love--it led the rest;
It was seen every hour in the actions of the men of that city,
And in all their looks and words.



Out of the rolling ocean, the crowd, came a drop gently to me,
Whispering, _I love you; before long I die:
I have travelled a long way, merely to look on you, to touch you:
For I could not die till I once looked on you,
For I feared I might afterward lose you_.


Now we have met, we have looked, we are safe;
Return in peace to the ocean, my love;
I too am part of that ocean, my love--we are not so much separated;
Behold the great _rondure_--the cohesion of all, how perfect!
But as for me, for you, the irresistible sea is to separate us,
As for an hour carrying us diverse--yet cannot carry us diverse for ever;
Be not impatient--a little space--know you, I salute the air, the ocean,
and the land,
Every day, at sundown, for your dear sake, my love.


Among the men and women, the multitude,
I perceive one picking me out by secret and divine signs,
Acknowledging none else--not parent, wife, husband, brother, child, any
nearer than I am;
Some are baffled--But that one is not--that one knows me.

Ah, lover and perfect equal!
I meant that you should discover me so, by my faint indirections;
And I, when I meet you, mean to discover you by the like in you.




When lilacs last in the door-yard bloomed,
And the great star[1] early drooped in the western sky in the night,
I mourned,...and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring;
Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.


O powerful, western, fallen star!
O shades of night! O moody, tearful night!
O great star disappeared! O the black murk that hides the star!
O cruel hands that hold me powerless! O helpless soul of me!
O harsh surrounding cloud that will not free my soul!


In the door-yard fronting an old farm-house, near the whitewashed palings,
Stands the lilac bush, tall-growing, with heart-shaped leaves of rich
With many a pointed blossom, rising delicate, with the perfume strong I
With every leaf a miracle: and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-coloured blossoms, and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig, with its flower, I break.


In the swamp, in secluded recesses,
A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.

Solitary, the thrush,
The hermit, withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements,
Sings by himself a song:

Song of the bleeding throat!
Death's outlet song of life--for well, dear brother, I know,
If thou wast not gifted to sing, thou wouldst surely die.


Over the breast of the spring, the land, amid cities,
Amid lanes, and through old woods, where lately the violets peeped from the
ground, spotting the greydebris;
Amid the grass in the fields each side of the lanes--passing the endless
Passing the yellow-speared wheat, every grain from its shroud in the
dark-brown fields uprising;
Passing the apple-tree blows of white and pink in the orchards;
Carrying a corpse to where it shall rest in the grave,
Night and day journeys a coffin.


Coffin that passes through lanes and streets,
Through day and night, with the great cloud darkening the land,
With the pomp of the inlooped flags, with the cities draped in black,
With the show of the States themselves as of crape-veiled women standing,
With processions long and winding, and the flambeaus of the night,
With the countless torches lit--with the silent sea of faces,
and the unbared heads,
With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin, and the sombre faces,
With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices rising strong and
With all the mournful voices of the dirges, poured around the coffin,
The dim-lit churches and the shuddering organs--Where amid these you
With the tolling, tolling bells' perpetual clang;
Here! coffin that slowly passes,
I give you my sprig of lilac.


Nor for you, for one, alone;
Blossoms and branches green to coffins all I bring:
For fresh as the morning--thus would I chant a song for you, O sane and
sacred Death.

All over bouquets of roses,
O Death! I cover you over with roses and early lilies;
But mostly and now the lilac that blooms the first,
Copious, I break, I break the sprigs from the bushes!
With loaded arms I come, pouring for you,
For you and the coffins all of you, O Death.


O western orb, sailing the heaven!
Now I know what you must have meant, as a month since we walked,
As we walked up and down in the dark blue so mystic,
As we walked in silence the transparent shadowy night,
As I saw you had something to tell, as you bent to me night after night,
As you drooped from the sky low down, as if to my side, while the other
stars all looked on;
As we wandered together the solemn night, for something, I know not what,
kept me from sleep;
As the night advanced, and I saw on the rim of the west, ere you went, how
full you were of woe;
As I stood on the rising ground in the breeze, in the cool transparent
As I watched where you passed and was lost in the netherward black of the
As my soul, in its trouble, dissatisfied, sank, as where you, sad orb,
Concluded, dropped in the night, and was gone.


Sing on, there in the swamp!
O singer bashful and tender! I hear your notes--I hear your call;
I hear--I come presently--I understand you;
But a moment I linger--for the lustrous star has detained me;
The star, my comrade departing, holds and detains me.


O how shall I warble myself for the dead one there I loved?
And how shall I deck my song for the large sweet soul that has gone?
And what shall my perfume be for the grave of him I love?

Sea-winds, blown from east and west,
Blown from the Eastern Sea, and blown from the Western Sea, till there on
the prairies meeting:
These, and with these, and the breath of my chant,
I perfume the grave of him I love.


O what shall I hang on the chamber walls?
And what shall the pictures be that I hang on the walls,
To adorn the burial-house of him I love?

Pictures of growing spring, and farms, and homes,
With the Fourth-month eve at sundown, and the grey smoke lucid and bright,
With floods of the yellow gold of the gorgeous, indolent sinking sun,
burning, expanding the air;
With the fresh sweet herbage under foot, and the pale green leaves of the
trees prolific;
In the distance the flowing glaze, the breast of the river,
with a wind-dapple here and there;
With ranging hills on the banks, with many a line against the sky, and
And the city at hand, with dwellings so dense, and stacks of chimneys,
And all the scenes of life, and the workshops, and the workmen homeward


Lo! body and soul! this land!
Mighty Manhattan, with spires, and the sparkling and hurrying tides, and
the ships;
The varied and ample land--the South and the North in the
light--Ohio's shores, and flashing Missouri,
And ever the far-spreading prairies, covered with grass and corn.

Lo! the most excellent sun, so calm and haughty;
The violet and purple morn, with just-felt breezes;
The gentle, soft-born, measureless light;
The miracle, spreading, bathing all--the fulfilled noon;
The coming eve, delicious--the welcome night, and the stars,
Over my cities shining all, enveloping man and land.


Sing on! sing on, you grey-brown bird!
Sing from the swamps, the recesses--pour your chant from the bushes;
Limitless out of the dusk, out of the cedars and pines.

Sing on, dearest brother--warble your reedy song,
Loud human song, with voice of uttermost woe.

O liquid, and free, and tender!
O wild and loose to my soul! O wondrous singer!
You only I hear,... yet the star holds me, (but will soon depart;)
Yet the lilac, with mastering odour, holds me.


Now while I sat in the day, and looked forth,
In the close of the day, with its light, and the fields of spring, and the
farmer preparing his crops,
In the large unconscious scenery of my land, with its lakes and forests,
In the heavenly aerial beauty, after the perturbed winds and the storms;
Under the arching heavens of the afternoon swift passing, and the voices of
children and women,
The many-moving sea-tides,--and I saw the ships how they sailed,
And the summer approaching with richness, and the fields all busy with
And the infinite separate houses, how they all went on, each with its meals
and minutiae of daily usages;
And the streets, how their throbbings throbbed, and the cities
pent--lo! then and there,
Falling upon them all, and among them all, enveloping me with the rest,
Appeared the cloud, appeared the long black trail;
And I knew Death, its thought, and the sacred knowledge of Death.


And the Thought of Death close-walking the other side of me,
And I in the middle, as with companions, and as holding the hands of
I fled forth to the hiding receiving night, that talks not,
Down to the shores of the water, the path by the swamp in the dimness,
To the solemn shadowy cedars, and ghostly pines so still.

And the singer so shy to the rest received me;
The grey-brown bird I know received us Comrades three;
And he sang what seemed the song of Death, and a verse for him I love.

From deep secluded recesses,
From the fragrant cedars, and the ghostly pines so still,
Came the singing of the bird.

And the charm of the singing rapt me,
As I held, as if by their hands, my Comrades in the night;
And the voice of my spirit tallied the song of the bird.


Come, lovely and soothing Death,
Undulate round the world, serenely arriving, arriving,
In the day, in the night, to all, to each,
Sooner or later, delicate Death.

Praised be the fathomless universe,
For life and joy, and for objects and knowledge curious;
And for love, sweet love--But praise! O praise and praise,
For the sure-enwinding arms of cool-enfolding Death.

Dark Mother, always gliding near, with soft feet,
Have none chanted for thee a chant of fullest welcome?
Then I chant it for thee--I glorify thee above all;
I bring thee a song that, when thou must indeed come, come unfalteringly.

Approach, encompassing Death-strong deliveress!
When it is so--when thou hast taken them, I joyously sing the dead,
Lost in the loving, floating ocean of thee,
Laved in the flood of thy bliss, O Death.

From me to thee glad serenades,
Dances for thee I propose, saluting thee--adornments and feastings for
And the sights of the open landscape, and the high-spread sky, are fitting,
And life and the fields, and the huge and thoughtful night.

The night, in silence, under many a star;
The ocean shore, and the husky whispering wave, whose voice I know;
And the soul turning to thee, O vast and well-veiled Death,
And the body gratefully nestling close to thee.

Over the tree-tops I float thee a song!
Over the rising and sinking waves--over the myriad fields, and the prairies
Over the dense-packed cities all, and the teeming wharves and ways,
I float this carol with joy, with joy, to thee, O Death!


To the tally of my soul
Loud and strong kept up the grey-brown bird,
With pure, deliberate notes, spreading, filling the night.

Loud in the pines and cedars dim,
Clear in the freshness moist, and the swamp-perfume,
And I with my Comrades there in the night.

While my sight that was bound in my eyes unclosed,
As to long panoramas of visions.


I saw the vision of armies;
And I saw, as in noiseless dreams, hundreds of battle-flags;
Borne through the smoke of the battles, and pierced with missiles, I saw
And carried hither and yon through the smoke, and torn and bloody;
And at last but a few shreds of the flags left on the staffs, (and all in
And the staffs all splintered and broken.

I saw battle-corpses, myriads of them,
And the white skeletons of young men--I saw them;
I saw the debris and debris of all dead soldiers.
But I saw they were not as was thought;
They themselves were fully at rest--they suffered not;
The living remained and suffered--the mother suffered,
And the wife and the child, and the musing comrade suffered,
And the armies that remained suffered.


Passing the visions, passing the night;
Passing, unloosing the hold of my Comrades' hands;
Passing the song of the hermit bird, and the tallying song of my soul;
Victorious song, Death's outlet song, yet varying, ever-altering song;
As low and wailing, yet clear, the notes, rising and falling, flooding the
Sadly sinking and fainting, as warning and warning, and yet again bursting
with joy.
Covering the earth, and filling the spread of the heaven,
As that powerful psalm in the night, I heard from recesses.


Must I leave thee, lilac with heart-shaped leaves?
Must I leave thee there in the door-yard, blooming, returning with spring?

Must I pass from my song for thee--
From my gaze on thee in the west, fronting the west, communing with thee,
O comrade lustrous, with silver face in the night?


Yet each I keep, and all;
The song, the wondrous chant of the grey-brown bird,
And the tallying chant, the echo aroused in my soul,
With the lustrous and drooping star, with the countenance full of woe;
With the lilac tali, and its blossoms of mastering odour;
Comrades mine, and I in the midst, and their memory ever I keep--for the
dead I loved so well;
For the sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and lands--and this for his
dear sake;
Lilac and star and bird, twined with the chant of my soul,
With the holders holding my hand, nearing the call of the bird,
There in the fragrant pines, and the cedars dusk and dim.

[Footnote 1: "The evening star, which, as many may remember night after
night, in the early part of that eventful spring, hung low in the west with
unusual and tender brightness."--JOHN BURROUGHS.]



O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done!
The ship has weathered every wrack, the prize we sought is won.
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring.
But, O heart! heart! heart!
Leave you not the little spot
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.


O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells!
Rise up! for you the flag is flung, for you the bugle trills:
For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths; for you the shores a-crowding:
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning.

O Captain! dear father!
This arm I push beneath you.
It is some dream that on the deck
You've fallen cold and dead!


My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still:
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will.
But the ship, the ship is anchored safe, its voyage closed and done:
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won!
Exult, O shores! and ring, O bells!
But I, with silent tread,
Walk the spot my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.



Come, my tan-faced children,
Follow well in order, get your weapons ready;
Have you your pistols? have you your sharp-edged axes?
Pioneers! O pioneers!


For we cannot tarry here,
We must march, my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger,
We, the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend.
Pioneers! O pioneers!


O you youths, Western youths,
So impatient, full of action, full of manly pride and friendship,
Plain I see you, Western youths, see you tramping with the foremost,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


Have the elder races halted?
Do they droop and end their lesson, wearied, over there beyond the seas?
We take up the task eternal, and the burden, and the lesson,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


All the past we leave behind;
We debouch upon a newer, mightier world, varied world;
Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labour and the march,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


We detachments steady throwing,
Down the edges, through the passes, up the mountains steep,
Conquering, holding, daring, venturing, as we go, the unknown ways,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


We primeval forests felling,
We the rivers stemming, vexing we, and piercing deep the mines within;
We the surface broad surveying, and the virgin soil upheaving,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


Colorado men are we,
From the peaks gigantic, from the great sierras and the high plateaus,
From the mine and from the gully, from the hunting trail we come,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


From Nebraska, from Arkansas,
Central inland race are we, from Missouri, with the continental blood
All the hands of comrades clasping, all the Southern, all the Northern,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


O resistless, restless race!
O beloved race in all! O my breast aches with tender love for all!
O I mourn and yet exult--I am rapt with love for all,
Pioneers! O pioneers;


Raise the mighty mother mistress,
Waving high the delicate mistress, over all the starry mistress, (bend your
heads all,)
Raise the fanged and warlike mistress, stern, impassive, weaponed mistress,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


See, my children, resolute children,
By those swarms upon our rear, we must never yield or falter,
Ages back in ghostly millions, frowning there behind us urging,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


On and on, the compact ranks,
With accessions ever waiting, with the places of the dead quickly filled,
Through the battle, through defeat, moving yet and never stopping,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


O to die advancing on!
Are there some of us to droop and die? has the hour come?
Then upon the march we fittest die, soon and sure the gap is filled,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


All the pulses of the world,
Falling in, they beat for us, with the Western movement beat;
Holding single or together, steady moving, to the front, all for us,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


Life's involved and varied pageants,
All the forms and shows, all the workmen at their work,
All the seamen and the landsmen, all the masters with their slaves,
Pioneers, O pioneers!


All the hapless silent lovers,
All the prisoners in the prisons, all the righteous and the wicked,
All the joyous, all the sorrowing, all the living, all the dying,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


I too with my soul and body,
We, a curious trio, picking, wandering on our way,
Through these shores, amid the shadows, with the apparitions pressing,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


Lo! the darting, bowling orb!
Lo! the brother orbs around! all the clustering suns and planets;
All the dazzling days, all the mystic nights with dreams,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


These are of us, they are with us,
All for primal needed work, while the followers there in embryo wait
We to-day's procession heading, we the route for travel clearing,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


O you daughters of the West!
O you young and elder daughters! O you mothers and you wives!
Never must you be divided, in our ranks you move united,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


Minstrels latent on the prairies!
(Shrouded bards of other lands! you may sleep--you have done your work;)
Soon I hear you coming warbling, soon you rise and tramp amid us,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


Not for delectations sweet;
Not the cushion and the slipper, not the peaceful and the studious;
Not the riches safe and palling, not for us the tame enjoyment,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


Do the feasters gluttonous feast?
Do the corpulent sleepers sleep? have they locked and bolted doors?
Still be ours the diet hard, and the blanket on the ground,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


Has the night descended?
Was the road of late so toilsome? did we stop discouraged, nodding on our
Yet a passing hour I yield you in your tracks to pause oblivious,
Pioneers! O pioneers!


Till with sound of trumpet,
Far, far off the daybreak call--hark! how loud and clear I hear it wind;
Swift! to the head of the army!--swift! spring to your places,
Pioneers! O pioneers!



Earth, round, rolling, compact--suns, moons, animals--all these are words
to be said;
Watery, vegetable, sauroid advances--beings, premonitions, lispings of
the future,
Behold! these are vast words to be said.

Were you thinking that those were the words--those upright lines? those
curves, angles, dots?
No, those are not the words--the substantial words are in the ground and
They are in the air--they are in you.

Were you thinking that those were the words--those delicious sounds out of
your friends' mouths?
No; the real words are more delicious than they.

Human bodies are words, myriads of words;
In the best poems reappears the body, man's or woman's, well-shaped,
natural, gay;
Every part able, active, receptive, without shame or the need of shame.

Air, soil, water, fire--these are words;
I myself am a word with them--my qualities interpenetrate
with theirs--my name is nothing to them;
Though it were told in the three thousand languages, what would air, soil,
water, fire, know of my name?

A healthy presence, a friendly or commanding gesture, are words, sayings,
The charms that go with the mere looks of some men and women are sayings
and meanings also.


The workmanship of souls is by the inaudible words of the earth;
The great masters know the earth's words, and use them more than the
audible words.

Amelioration is one of the earth's words;
The earth neither lags nor hastens;
It has all attributes, growths, effects, latent in itself from the jump;
It is not half beautiful only--defects and excrescences show just as much
as perfections show.

The earth does not withhold--it is generous enough;
The truths of the earth continually wait, they are not so concealed either;
They are calm, subtle, untransmissible by print;
They are imbued through all things, conveying themselves willingly,
Conveying a sentiment and invitation of the earth. I utter and utter:
I speak not; yet, if you hear me not, of what avail am I to you?
To bear--to better; lacking these, of what avail am I?

_Accouche! Accouchez!_
Will you rot your own fruit in yourself there?
Will you squat and stifle there?

The earth does not argue,
Is not pathetic, has no arrangements,
Does not scream, haste, persuade, threaten, promise,
Makes no discriminations, has no conceivable failures,
Closes nothing, refuses nothing, shuts none out;
Of all the powers, objects, states, it notifies, shuts none out.

The earth does not exhibit itself, nor refuse to exhibit itself--possesses
still underneath;
Underneath the ostensible sounds, the august chorus of heroes, the wail of
Persuasions of lovers, curses, gasps of the dying, laughter of young
people, accents of bargainers,
Underneath these, possessing the words that never fail.

To her children, the words of the eloquent dumb great Mother never fail;
The true words do not fail, for motion does not fail, and reflection does
not fail;
Also the day and night do not fail, and the voyage we pursue does not fail.


Of the interminable sisters,
Of the ceaseless cotillons of sisters,
Of the centripetal and centrifugal sisters, the elder and younger sisters,
The beautiful sister we know dances on with the rest.

With her ample back towards every beholder,
With the fascinations of youth, and the equal fascinations of age,
Sits she whom I too love like the rest--sits undisturbed,
Holding up in her hand what has the character of a mirror, while her eyes
glance back from it,
Glance as she sits, inviting none, denying none,
Holding a mirror day and night tirelessly before her own face.

Seen at hand, or seen at a distance,
Duly the twenty-four appear in public every day,
Duly approach and pass with their companions, or a companion,
Looking from no countenances of their own, but from the countenances of
those who are with them,
From the countenances of children or women, or the manly countenance,
From the open countenances of animals, or from inanimate things,
From the landscape or waters, or from the exquisite apparition of the sky,
From our countenances, mine and yours, faithfully returning them,
Every day in public appearing without fail, but never twice with the same

Embracing man, embracing all, proceed the three hundred and
sixty-five resistlessly round the sun;
Embracing all, soothing, supporting, follow close three hundred and sixty-
five offsets of the first, sure and necessary as they.

Tumbling on steadily, nothing dreading,
Sunshine, storm, cold, heat, for ever withstanding, passing, carrying,

The Soul's realisation and determination still inheriting;
The fluid vacuum around and ahead still entering and dividing,
No baulk retarding, no anchor anchoring, on no rock striking,
Swift, glad, content, unbereaved, nothing losing,
Of all able and ready at any time to give strict account,
The divine ship sails the divine sea.


Whoever you are! motion and reflection are especially for you;
The divine ship sails the divine sea for you.

Whoever you are! you are he or she for whom the earth is solid and liquid,
You are he or she for whom the sun and moon hang in the sky;
For none more than you are the present and the past,
For none more than you is immortality.

Each man to himself, and each woman to herself, such as the word of the
past and present, and the word of immortality;
No one can acquire for another--not one!
Not one can grow for another--not one!

The song is to the singer, and comes back most to him;
The teaching is to the teacher, and comes back most to him;
The murder is to the murderer, and comes back most to him;

The theft is to the thief, and comes back most to him;
The love is to the lover, and conies back most to him;
The gift is to the giver, and comes back most to him--it cannot fail;
The oration is to the orator, the acting is to the actor and actress, not
to the audience;
And no man understands any greatness or goodness but his own, or the
indication of his own.


I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall be
I swear the earth remains jagged and broken only to him or her who remains
broken and jagged!

I swear there is no greatness or power that does not emulate those of the
I swear there can be no theory of any account, unless it corroborate the
theory of the earth!
No politics, art, religion, behaviour, or what not, is of account, unless
it compare with the amplitude of the earth,
Unless it face the exactness, vitality, impartiality, rectitude, of the

I swear I begin to see love with sweeter spasms than that which responds
It is that which contains itself--which never invites, and never refuses.

I swear I begin to see little or nothing in audible words!
I swear I think all merges toward the presentation of the unspoken meanings
of the earth;
Toward him who sings the songs of the Body, and of the truths of the earth;
Toward him who makes the dictionaries of words that print cannot touch.

I swear I see what is better than to tell the best;
It is always to leave the best untold.

When I undertake to tell the best, I find I cannot,
My tongue is ineffectual on its pivots,
My breath will not be obedient to its organs,
I become a dumb man.

The best of the earth cannot be told anyhow--all or any is best;
It is not what you anticipated--it is cheaper, easier, nearer;
Things are not dismissed from the places they held before;
The earth is just as positive and direct as it was before;
Facts, religions, improvements, politics, trades, are as real as before;
But the Soul is also real,--it too is positive and direct;
No reasoning, no proof has established it,
Undeniable growth has established it.


This is a poem for the sayers of words--these are hints of meanings,
These are they that echo the tones of souls, and the phrases of souls;
If they did not echo the phrases of souls, what were they then?
If they had not reference to you in especial, what were they then?
I swear I will never henceforth have to do with the faith that tells the
I will have to do only with that faith that leaves the best untold.


Say on, sayers!
Delve! mould! pile the words of the earth!
Work on--it is materials you bring, not breaths;
Work on, age after age! nothing is to be lost!
It may have to wait long, but it will certainly come in use;
When the materials are all prepared, the architects shall appear.

I swear to you the architects shall appear without fail! I announce them
and lead them;
I swear to you they will understand you and justify you;
I swear to you the greatest among them shall be he who best knows you, and
encloses all, and is faithful to all;
I swear to you, he and the rest shall not forget you--they shall perceive
that you are not an iota less than they;
I swear to you, you shall be glorified in them.



Now I make a leaf of Voices--for I have found nothing mightier than they
And I have found that no word spoken but is beautiful in its place.


O what is it in me that makes me tremble so at voices?
Surely, whoever speaks to me in the right voice, him or her I shall follow,
As the water follows the moon, silently, with fluid steps anywhere around
the globe.

All waits for the right voices;
Where is the practised and perfect organ? Where is the developed Soul?
For I see every word uttered thence has deeper, sweeter, new sounds,
impossible on less terms.

I see brains and lips closed--tympans and temples unstruck,
Until that comes which has the quality to strike and to unclose,
Until that comes which has the quality to bring forth what lies slumbering,
for ever ready, in all words.


Whoever you are, I fear you are walking the walks of dreams,
I fear those supposed realities are to melt from under your feet and hands;
Even now, your features, joys, speech, house, trade, manners, troubles,
follies, costume, crimes, dissipate away from you,
Your true Soul and Body appear before me,
They stand forth out of affairs-out of commerce, shops, law, science, work,
farms, clothes, the house, medicine, print, buying, selling,
eating, drinking, suffering, dying.

Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem;
I whisper with my lips close to your ear,
I have loved many women and men, but I love none better than you.

Oh! I have been dilatory and dumb;
I should have made my way straight to you long ago;
I should have blabbed nothing but you, I should have chanted nothing but

I will leave all, and come and make the hymns of you;
None have understood you, but I understand you;
None have done justice to you--you have not done justice to yourself;
None but have found you imperfect--I only find no imperfection in you;
None but would subordinate you--I only am he who will never consent to
subordinate you;
I only am he who places over you no master, owner, better, God, beyond what
waits intrinsically in yourself.

Painters have painted their swarming groups, and the centre figure of all,
From the head of the centre figure spreading a nimbus of
gold-coloured light;
But I paint myriads of heads, but paint no head without its nimbus of gold-
coloured light;
From my hand, from the brain of every man and woman, it streams,
effulgently flowing for ever.

O I could sing such grandeurs and glories about you!
You have not known what you are--you have slumbered upon yourself all your
Your eyelids have been the same as closed most of the time;
What you have done returns already in mockeries;
Your thrift, knowledge, prayers, if they do not return in mockeries, what
is their return?

The mockeries are not you;
Underneath them, and within them, I see you lurk;
I pursue you where none else has pursued you;
Silence, the desk, the flippant expression, the night, the accustomed
routine, if these conceal you from others, or from yourself, they
do not conceal you from me;
The shaved face, the unsteady eye, the impure complexion, if these baulk
others, they do not baulk me.
The pert apparel, the deformed attitude, drunkenness, greed, premature
death, all these I part aside.

There is no endowment in man or woman that is not tallied in you;
There is no virtue, no beauty, in man or woman, but as good is in you;
No pluck, no endurance in others, but as good is in you;
No pleasure waiting for others, but an equal pleasure waits for you.
As for me, I give nothing to any one, except I give the like carefully to
I sing the songs of the glory of none, not God, sooner than I sing the
songs of the glory of you.

Whoever you are! claim your own at any hazard!
These shows of the east and west are tame compared to you;
These immense meadows--these interminable rivers--you are immense and
interminable as they;
These furies, elements, storms, motions of Nature, throes of apparent
dissolution--you are he or she who is master or mistress over them,
Master or mistress in your own right over Nature, elements, pain, passion,

The hopples fall from your ankles--you find an unfailing sufficiency;
Old or young, male or female, rude, low, rejected by the rest, whatever you
are promulgates itself;
Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are provided, nothing is
Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui, what you are picks its


How they are provided for upon the earth, appearing at intervals;
How dear and dreadful they are to the earth;
How they inure to themselves as much as to any--What a paradox appears
their age;
How people respond to them, yet know them not;
How there is something relentless in their fate, all times;
How all times mischoose the objects of their adulation and reward,
And how the same inexorable price must still be paid for the same great



Is reform needed? Is it through you?
The greater the reform needed, the greater the PERSONALITY you need to
accomplish it.

You! do you not see how it would serve to have eyes, blood, complexion,
clean and sweet?
Do you not see how it would serve to have such a Body and Soul that, when
you enter the crowd, an atmosphere of desire and command enters
with you, and every one is impressed with your personality?


O the magnet! the flesh over and over!
Go, dear friend! if need be, give up all else, and commence to-day to inure
yourself to pluck, reality, self-esteem, definiteness,
Rest not, till you rivet and publish yourself of your own personality.



Think of the Soul;
I swear to you that body of yours gives proportions to your Soul somehow to
live in other spheres;
I do not know how, but I know it is so.


Think of loving and being loved;
I swear to you, whoever you are, you can interfuse yourself with such
things that everybody that sees you shall look longingly upon you.


Think of the past;
I warn you that, in a little while, others will find their past in you and
your times.

The race is never separated--nor man nor woman escapes;
All is inextricable--things, spirits, nature, nations, you too--from
precedents you come.

Recall the ever-welcome defiers (the mothers precede them);
Recall the sages, poets, saviours, inventors, lawgivers, of the earth;
Recall Christ, brother of rejected persons--brother of slaves, felons,
idiots, and of insane and diseased persons.


Think of the time when you was not yet born;
Think of times you stood at the side of the dying;
Think of the time when your own body will be dying.

Think of spiritual results:
Sure as the earth swims through the heavens, does every one of its objects
pass into spiritual results.

Think of manhood, and you to be a man;
Do you count manhood, and the sweet of manhood, nothing?

Think of womanhood, and you to be a woman;
The creation is womanhood;
Have I not said that womanhood involves all?
Have I not told how the universe has nothing better than the best


The world below the brine.
Forests at the bottom of the sea--the branches and leaves,
Sea-lettuce, vast lichens, strange flowers and seeds--the thick tangle, the
openings, and the pink turf,
Different colours, pale grey and green, purple, white, and gold--the play
of light through the water,
Dumb swimmers there among the rocks--coral, gluten, grass, rushes--and the
aliment of the swimmers,
Sluggish existences grazing there, suspended, or slowly crawling close to
the bottom:
The sperm-whale at the surface, blowing air and spray, or disporting with
his flukes,
The leaden-eyed shark, the walrus, the turtle, the hairy
sea-leopard, and the sting-ray.
Passions there, wars, pursuits, tribes--sight in those ocean-depths--
breathing that thick breathing air, as so many do.
The change thence to the sight here, and to the subtle air breathed by
beings like us, who walk this sphere:
The change onward from ours to that of beings who walk other spheres.



Why reclining, interrogating? Why myself and all drowsing?
What deepening twilight! Scum floating atop of the waters!
Who are they, as bats and night-dogs, askant in the Capitol?
What a filthy Presidentiad! (O South, your torrid suns! O North, your
Arctic freezings!)
Are those really Congressmen? Are those the great Judges? Is that the
Then I will sleep a while yet--for I see that these States sleep, for
With gathering murk--with muttering thunder and lambent shoots, we all duly
awake, South, North, East, West, inland and seaboard, we will
surely awake.

[Footnote 1: These were the three Presidentships of Polk; of Taylor,
succeeded by Fillmore; and of Pierce;--1845 to 1857.]


Tears! tears! tears!

Book of the day: