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Poems By Walt Whitman by Walt Whitman

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In the night, in solitude, tears;
On the white shore dripping, dripping, sucked in by the sand;
Tears--not a star shining--all dark and desolate;
Moist tears from the eyes of a muffled head:
--O who is that ghost?--that form in the dark, with tears?
What shapeless lump is that, bent, crouched there on the sand?
Streaming tears--sobbing tears--throes, choked with wild cries;
O storm, embodied, rising, careering, with swift steps along the beach;
O wild and dismal night-storm, with wind! O belching and desperate!
O shade, so sedate and decorous by day, with calm countenance and regulated
But away, at night, as you fly, none looking--O then the unloosened ocean
Of tears! tears! tears!



Aboard, at the ship's helm,
A young steersman, steering with care.

A bell through fog on a sea-coast dolefully ringing,
An ocean-bell--O a warning bell, rocked by the waves.

O you give good notice indeed, you bell by the sea-reefs ringing,
Ringing, ringing, to warn the ship from its wreck-place.
For, as on the alert, O steersman, you mind the bell's admonition,
The bows turn,--the freighted ship, tacking, speeds away under her grey
The beautiful and noble ship, with all her precious wealth, speeds away
gaily and safe.


But O the ship, the immortal ship! O ship aboard the ship!
O ship of the body--ship of the soul--voyaging, voyaging, voyaging.



Great are the myths--I too delight in them;
Great are Adam and Eve--I too look back and accept them;
Great the risen and fallen nations, and their poets, women, sages,
inventors, rulers, warriors, and priests.

Great is Liberty! great is Equality! I am their follower;
Helmsmen of nations, choose your craft! where you sail, I sail,
I weather it out with you, or sink with you.

Great is Youth--equally great is Old Age--great are the Day and Night;
Great is Wealth--great is Poverty--great is Expression--great is Silence.


Youth, large, lusty, loving--Youth, full of grace, force, fascination!
Do you know that Old Age may come after you, with equal grace, force,

Day, full-blown and splendid--Day of the immense sun, action, ambition,
The Night follows close, with millions of suns, and sleep, and restoring

Wealth, with the flush hand, fine clothes, hospitality;
But then the soul's wealth, which is candour, knowledge, pride, enfolding
Who goes for men and women showing Poverty richer than wealth?

Expression of speech! in what is written or said, forget not that Silence
is also expressive;
That anguish as hot as the hottest, and contempt as cold as the coldest,
may be without words.


Great is the Earth, and the way it became what it is:
Do you imagine it has stopped at this? the increase abandoned?
Understand then that it goes as far onward from this as this is from the
times when it lay in covering waters and gases, before man had


Great is the quality of Truth in man;
The quality of truth in man supports itself through all changes;
It is inevitably in the man--he and it are in love, and never leave each

The truth in man is no dictum, it is vital as eyesight;
If there be any Soul, there is truth--if there be man or woman, there is
truth--if there be physical or moral, there is truth;
If there be equilibrium or volition, there is truth--if there be things at
all upon the earth, there is truth.

O truth of the earth! O truth of things! I am determined to press my way
toward you;
Sound your voice! I scale mountains, or dive in the sea, after you.


Great is Language--it is the mightiest of the sciences,
It is the fulness, colour, form, diversity of the earth, and of men and
women, and of all qualities and processes;
It is greater than wealth, it is greater than buildings, ships, religions,
paintings, music.

Great is the English speech--what speech is so great as the English?
Great is the English brood--what brood has so vast a destiny as the
It is the mother of the brood that must rule the earth with the new rule;
The new rule shall rule as the Soul rules, and as the love, justice,
equality in the Soul rule.


Great is Law--great are the old few landmarks of the law,
They are the same in all times, and shall not be disturbed.

Great is Justice!
Justice is not settled by legislators and laws--it is in the Soul;
It cannot be varied by statutes, any more than love, pride, the attraction
of gravity, can;
It is immutable--it does not depend on majorities--majorities or what not
come at last before the same passionless and exact tribunal.

For justice are the grand natural lawyers, and perfect judges--it is in
their souls;
It is well assorted--they have not studied for nothing--the great includes
the less;
They rule on the highest grounds--they oversee all eras, states,

The perfect judge fears nothing--he could go front to front before God;
Before the perfect judge all shall stand back--life and death shall stand
back--heaven and hell shall stand back.


Great is Life, real and mystical, wherever and whoever;
Great is Death--sure as Life holds all parts together, Death holds all
parts together.

Has Life much purport?--Ah! Death has the greatest purport.



Now list to my morning's romanza;
To the cities and farms I sing, as they spread in the sunshine before me.


A young man came to me bearing a message from his brother;
How should the young man know the whether and when of his brother?
Tell him to send me the signs.

And I stood before the young man face to face, and took his right hand in
my left hand, and his left hand in my right hand,
And I answered for his brother, and for men, and I answered for THE POET,
and sent these signs.

Him all wait for--him all yield up to--his word is decisive and final,
Him they accept, in him lave, in him perceive themselves, as amid light,
Him they immerse, and he immerses them.

Beautiful women, the haughtiest nations, laws, the landscape, people,
The profound earth and its attributes, and the unquiet ocean (so tell I my
morning's romanza),
All enjoyments and properties, and money, and whatever money will buy,
The best farms--others toiling and planting, and he unavoidably reaps,
The noblest and costliest cities--others grading and building, and he
domiciles there,
Nothing for any one but what is for him--near and far are for him,--the
ships in the offing,
The perpetual shows and marches on land, are for him, if they are for

He puts things in their attitudes;
He puts to-day out of himself, with plasticity and love;
He places his own city, times, reminiscences, parents, brothers and
sisters, associations, employment, politics, so that the rest never
shame them afterward, nor assume to command them.

He is the answerer;
What can be answered he answers--and what cannot be answered, he shows how
it cannot be answered.


A man is a summons and challenge;
(It is vain to skulk--Do you hear that mocking and laughter? Do you hear
the ironical echoes?)

Books, friendships, philosophers, priests, action, pleasure, pride, beat up
and down, seeking to give satisfaction;
He indicates the satisfaction, and indicates them that beat up and down

Whichever the sex, whatever the season or place, he may go freshly and
gently and safely, by day or by night;
He has the pass-key of hearts--to him the response of the prying of hands
on the knobs.

His welcome is universal--the flow of beauty is not more welcome or
universal than he is;
The person he favours by day or sleeps with at night is blessed.

Every existence has its idiom--everything has an idiom and tongue;
He resolves all tongues into his own, and bestows it upon men, and any man
translates, and any man translates himself also;
One part does not counteract another part--he is the joiner--he sees how
they join.

He says indifferently and alike, "_How are you, friend_?" to the President
at his levee,
And he says, "_Good-day, my brother_!" to Cudge that hoes in the sugar-
And both understand him, and know that his speech is right.

He walks with perfect ease in the Capitol,
He walks among the Congress, and one representative says to another, "_Here
is our equal, appearing and new_."


Then the mechanics take him for a mechanic,
And the soldiers suppose him to be a soldier, and the sailors that he has
followed the sea,
And the authors take him for an author, and the artists for an artist,
And the labourers perceive he could labour with them and love them;
No matter what the work is, that he is the one to follow it, or has
followed it,
No matter what the nation, that he might find his brothers and sisters

The English believe he comes of their English stock,
A Jew to the Jew he seems--a Russ to the Russ--usual and near, removed from

Whoever he looks at in the travellers' coffee-house claims him;
The Italian or Frenchman is sure, and the German is sure, and the Spaniard
is sure, and the island Cuban is sure;
The engineer, the deck-hand on the great lakes, or on the Mississippi, or
St. Lawrence, or Sacramento, or Hudson, or Paumanok Sound, claims him.

The gentleman of perfect blood acknowledges his perfect blood;
The insulter, the prostitute, the angry person, the beggar, see themselves
in the ways of him--he strangely transmutes them,
They are not vile any more--they hardly know themselves, they are so grown.



To think of it!
To think of time--of all that retrospection!
To think of to-day, and the ages continued henceforward!
Have you guessed you yourself would not continue?
Have you dreaded these earth-beetles?
Have you feared the future would be nothing to you?

Is to-day nothing? Is the beginningless past nothing?
If the future is nothing, they are just as surely nothing.

To think that the sun rose in the east! that men and women were flexible,
real, alive! that everything was alive!
To think that you and I did not see, feel, think, nor bear our part!
To think that we are now here, and bear our part!


Not a day passes--not a minute or second, without an accouchement!
Not a day passes-not a minute or second, without a corpse!

The dull nights go over, and the dull days also,
The soreness of lying so much in bed goes over,
The physician, after long putting off, gives the silent and terrible look
for an answer,
The children come hurried and weeping, and the brothers and sisters are
sent for;
Medicines stand unused on the shelf--(the camphor-smell has long pervaded
the rooms,)
The faithful hand of the living does not desert the hand of the dying,
The twitching lips press lightly on the forehead of the dying,
The breath ceases, and the pulse of the heart ceases,
The corpse stretches on the bed, and the living look upon it,
It is palpable as the living are palpable.

The living look upon the corpse with their eyesight,
But without eyesight lingers a different living, and looks curiously on the


To think that the rivers will flow, and the snow fall, and the fruits
ripen, and act upon others as upon us now--yet not act upon us!
To think of all these wonders of city and country, and others taking great
interest in them--and we taking--no interest in them!

To think how eager we are in building our houses!
To think others shall be just as eager, and we quite indifferent!
I see one building the house that serves him a few years, or seventy or
eighty years at most,
I see one building the house that serves him longer than that.

Slow-moving and black lines creep over the whole earth--they never cease--
they are the burial lines;
He that was President was buried, and he that is now President shall surely
be buried.


Gold dash of waves at the ferry-wharf--posh and ice in the river, half-
frozen mud in the streets, a grey discouraged sky overhead, the
short last daylight of Twelfth-month,
A hearse and stages--other vehicles give place--the funeral of an old
Broadway stage-driver, the cortege mostly drivers.

Steady the trot to the cemetery, duly rattles the death-bell, the gate is
passed, the new-dug grave is halted at, the living alight, the
hearse uncloses,
The coffin is passed out, lowered, and settled, the whip is laid on the
coffin, the earth is swiftly shovelled in,
The mound above is flattened with the spades--silence,
A minute, no one moves or speaks--it is done,
He is decently put away--is there anything more?

He was a good fellow, free-mouthed, quick-tempered, not bad-looking, able
to take his own part, witty, sensitive to a slight, ready with life
or death for a friend, fond of women, gambled, ate hearty, drank
hearty, had known what it was to be flush, grew low-spirited toward
the last, sickened, was helped by a contribution, died, aged forty-
one years--and that was his funeral.

Thumb extended, finger uplifted, apron, cape, gloves, strap, wet-weather
clothes, whip carefully chosen, boss, spotter, starter, hostler,
somebody loafing on you, you loafing on somebody, headway, man
before and man behind, good day's work, bad day's work, pet stock,
mean stock, first out, last out, turning-in at night;
To think that these are so much and so nigh to other drivers--and he there
takes no interest in them!


The markets, the government, the working-man's wages--to think what account
they are through our nights and days!
To think that other working-men will make just as great account of them--
yet we make little or no account!

The vulgar and the refined--what you call sin, and what you call goodness--
to think how wide a difference!
To think the difference will still continue to others, yet we lie beyond
the difference.

To think how much pleasure there is!
Have you pleasure from looking at the sky? have you pleasure from poems?
Do you enjoy yourself in the city? or engaged in business? or planning a
nomination and election? or with your wife and family?
Or with your mother and sisters? or in womanly housework? or the beautiful
maternal cares?
These also flow onward to others--you and I fly onward,
But in due time you and I shall take less interest in them.

Your farm, profits, crops,--to think how engrossed you are!
To think there will still be farms, profits, crops--yet for you, of what


What will be will be well--for what is is well;
To take interest is well, and not to take interest shall be well.

The sky continues beautiful,
The pleasure of men with women shall never be sated, nor the pleasure of
women with men, nor the pleasure from poems;
The domestic joys, the daily housework or business, the building of
houses--these are not phantasms--they have weight, form, location;
Farms, profits, crops, markets, wages, government, are none of them
The difference between sin and goodness is no delusion,
The earth is not an echo--man and his life, and all the things of his life,
are well-considered.

You are not thrown to the winds--you gather certainly and safely around
Yourself! Yourself! Yourself, for ever and ever!


It is not to diffuse you that you were born of your mother and father--it
is to identify you;
It is not that you should be undecided, but that you should
be decided;
Something long preparing and formless is arrived and formed in you,
You are henceforth secure, whatever comes or goes.

The threads that were spun are gathered, the weft crosses the warp, the
pattern is systematic.

The preparations have every one been justified,
The orchestra have sufficiently tuned their instruments--the baton has
given the signal.

The guest that was coming--he waited long, for reasons--he is now housed;
He is one of those who are beautiful and happy--he is one of those that to
look upon and be with is enough.

The law of the past cannot be eluded,
The law of the present and future cannot be eluded,
The law of the living cannot be eluded--it is eternal;
The law of promotion and transformation cannot be eluded,
The law of heroes and good-doers cannot be eluded,
The law of drunkards, informers, mean persons--not one iota thereof can be


Slow-moving and black lines go ceaselessly over the earth,
Northerner goes carried, and Southerner goes carried, and they on the
Atlantic side, and they on the Pacific, and they between, and all
through the Mississippi country, and all over the earth.

The great masters and kosmos are well as they go--the heroes and good-doers
are well,
The known leaders and inventors, and the rich owners and pious and
distinguished, may be well,
But there is more account than that--there is strict account of all.

The interminable hordes of the ignorant and wicked are not nothing,
The barbarians of Africa and Asia are not nothing,
The common people of Europe are not nothing--the American aborigines are
not nothing,
The infected in the immigrant hospital are not nothing--the murderer or
mean person is not nothing,
The perpetual successions of shallow people are not nothing as they go,
The lowest prostitute is not nothing--the mocker of religion is not nothing
as he goes.


I shall go with the rest--we have satisfaction,
I have dreamed that we are not to be changed so much, nor the law of us
I have dreamed that heroes and good-doers shall be under the present and
past law,
And that murderers, drunkards, liars, shall be under the present and past
For I have dreamed that the law they are under now is enough.

And I have dreamed that the satisfaction is not so much changed, and that
there is no life without satisfaction;
What is the earth? what are Body and Soul without satisfaction?

I shall go with the rest,
We cannot be stopped at a given point--that is no satisfaction,
To show us a good thing, or a few good things, for a space of time--that is
no satisfaction,
We must have the indestructible breed of the best, regardless of time.
If otherwise, all these things came but to ashes of dung,
If maggots and rats ended us, then alarum! for we are betrayed!
Then indeed suspicion of death.

Do you suspect death? If I were to suspect death, I should die now:
Do you think I could walk pleasantly and well-suited toward annihilation?


Pleasantly and well-suited I walk:
Whither I walk I cannot define, but I know it is good;
The whole universe indicates that it is good,
The past and the present indicate that it is good.

How beautiful and perfect are the animals! How perfect is my Soul!
How perfect the earth, and the minutest thing upon it!
What is called good is perfect, and what is called bad is just as perfect,
The vegetables and minerals are all perfect, and the imponderable fluids
are perfect;
Slowly and surely they have passed on to this, and slowly and surely they
yet pass on.

My Soul! if I realise you, I have satisfaction;
Animals and vegetables! if I realise you, I have satisfaction;
Laws of the earth and air! if I realise you, I have satisfaction.

I cannot define my satisfaction, yet it is so;
I cannot define my life, yet it is so.


It comes to me now!
I swear I think now that everything without exception has an eternal soul!
The trees have, rooted in the ground! the weeds of the sea have! the

I swear I think there is nothing but immortality!
That the exquisite scheme is for it, and the nebulous float is for it, and
the cohering is for it;
And all preparation is for it! and identity is for it! and life and death
are altogether for it!



Something startles me where I thought I was safest;
I withdraw from the still woods I loved;
I will not go now on the pastures to walk;
I will not strip the clothes from my body to meet my lover the sea;
I will not touch my flesh to the earth, as to other flesh, to renew me.


O how can the ground not sicken?
How can you be alive, you growths of spring?
How can you furnish health, you blood of herbs, roots, orchards, grain?
Are they not continually putting distempered corpses in you?
Is not every continent worked over and over with sour dead?

Where have you disposed of their carcasses?
Those drunkards and gluttons of so many generations;
Where have you drawn off all the foul liquid and meat?
I do not see any of it upon you to-day--or perhaps I am deceived;
I will run a furrow with my plough--I will press my spade through the sod,
and turn it up underneath;
I am sure I shall expose some of the foul meat.


Behold this compost! behold it well!
Perhaps every mite has once formed part of a sick person--Yet behold!
The grass covers the prairies,
The bean bursts noiselessly through the mould in the garden,
The delicate spear of the onion pierces upward,
The apple-buds cluster together on the apple branches,
The resurrection of the wheat appears with pale visage out of its graves,
The tinge awakes over the willow-tree and the mulberry-tree,
The he-birds carol mornings and evenings, while the she-birds sit on their
The young of poultry break through the hatched eggs,
The new-born of animals appear--the calf is dropped from the cow, the colt
from the mare,
Out of its little hill faithfully rise the potato's dark-green leaves,
Out of its hill rises the yellow maize-stalk;
The summer growth is innocent and disdainful above all those strata of sour

What chemistry!
That the winds are really not infectious,
That this is no cheat, this transparent green-wash of the sea, which is so
amorous after me;
That it is safe to allow it to lick my naked body all over with its
That it will not endanger me with the fevers that have deposited themselves
in it,
That all is clean for ever and for ever,
That the cool drink from the well tastes so good,
That blackberries are so flavorous and juicy,
That the fruits of the apple-orchard, and of the orange-orchard--that
melons, grapes, peaches, plums, will none of them poison me,
That when I recline on the grass I do not catch any disease,
Though probably every sphere of grass rises out of what was once a catching


Now I am terrified at the Earth! it is that calm and patient,
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,
It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such endless successions
of diseased corpses,
It distils such exquisite winds out of such infused fetor,
It renews with such unwitting looks its prodigal, annual, sumptuous crops,
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts such leavings from them
at last.



Despairing cries float ceaselessly toward me, day and night,
The sad voice of Death--the call of my nearest lover, putting forth,
alarmed, uncertain,
"_The Sea I am quickly to sail: come tell me,
Come tell me where I am speeding--tell me my destination_."


I understand your anguish, but I cannot help you;
I approach, hear, behold--the sad mouth, the look out of the eyes, your
mute inquiry,
"_Whither I go from the bed I recline on, come tell me_."
Old age, alarmed, uncertain--A young woman's voice, appealing to me for
A young man's voice, "_Shall I not escape_?"


By the City Dead-House, by the gate,
As idly sauntering, wending my way from the clangour,
I curious pause--for lo! an outcast form, a poor dead prostitute brought;
Her corpse they deposit unclaimed, it lies on the damp brick pavement.
The divine woman, her body--I see the body--I look on it alone,
That house once full of passion and beauty--all else I notice not;
Nor stillness so cold, nor running water from faucet, nor odours morbific
impress me;
But the house alone--that wondrous house--that delicate fair house--that
That immortal house, more than all the rows of dwellings ever built,
Or white-domed Capitol itself, with majestic figure surmounted--or all the
old high-spired cathedrals,
That little house alone, more than them all--poor, desperate house!
Fair, fearful wreck! tenement of a Soul! itself a Soul!
Unclaimed, avoided house! take one breath from my tremulous lips;
Take one tear, dropped aside as I go, for thought of you,
Dead house of love! house of madness and sin, crumbled! crushed!
House of life--erewhile talking and laughing--but ah, poor house! dead even
Months, years, an echoing, garnished house-but dead, dead, dead!



From all the rest I single out you, having a message for you:
You are to die--Let others tell you what they please, I cannot prevaricate,
I am exact and merciless, but I love you--There is no escape for you.


Softly I lay my right hand upon you--you just feel it;
I do not argue--I bend my head close, and half envelop it,
I sit quietly by--I remain faithful,
I am more than nurse, more than parent or neighbour,
I absolve you from all except yourself, spiritual, bodily--that is
The corpse you will leave will be but excrementitious.

The sun bursts through in unlooked-for directions!
Strong thoughts fill you, and confidence--you smile!
You forget you are sick, as I forget you are sick,
You do not see the medicines--you do not mind the weeping friends--I am
with you,
I exclude others from you--there is nothing to be commiserated,
I do not commiserate--I congratulate you.



Nations, ten thousand years before these States, and many times ten
thousand years before these States;
Garnered clusters of ages, that men and women like us grew up and travelled
their course, and passed on;
What vast-built cities--what orderly republics--what pastoral tribes and
What histories, rulers, heroes, perhaps transcending all others;
What laws, customs, wealth, arts, traditions;
What sort of marriage--what costumes--what physiology and phrenology;
What of liberty and slavery among them--what they thought of death and the
Who were witty and wise--who beautiful and poetic--who brutish and
Not a mark, not a record remains,--And yet all remains.


O I know that those men and women were not for nothing, any more than we
are for nothing;
I know that they belong to the scheme of the world every bit as much as we
now belong to it, and as all will henceforth belong to it.

Afar they stand--yet near to me they stand,
Some with oval countenances, learned and calm,
Some naked and savage--Some like huge collections of insects,
Some in tents--herdsmen, patriarchs, tribes, horsemen,
Some prowling through woods--Some living peaceably on farms, labouring,
reaping, filling barns,
Some traversing paved avenues, amid temples, palaces, factories, libraries,
shows, courts, theatres, wonderful monuments.

Are those billions of men really gone?
Are those women of the old experience of the earth gone?
Do their lives, cities, arts, rest only with us?
Did they achieve nothing for good, for themselves?


I believe, of all those billions of men and women that filled the unnamed
lands, every one exists this hour, here or elsewhere, invisible to
us, in exact proportion to what he or she grew from in life, and
out of what he or she did, felt, became, loved, sinned, in life.

I believe that was not the end of those nations, or any person of them, any
more than this shall be the end of my nation, or of me;
Of their languages, governments, marriage, literature, products, games,
wars, manners, crimes, prisons, slaves, heroes, poets, I suspect
their results curiously await in the yet unseen world--counterparts
of what accrued to them in the seen world;
I suspect I shall meet them there,
I suspect I shall there find each old particular of those unnamed lands.



On the beach at night alone,
As the old Mother sways her to and fro, singing her savage and husky song,
As I watch the bright stars shining--I think a thought of the clef of the
universes, and of the future.


A VAST SIMILITUDE interlocks all,
All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets, comets,
All the substances of the same, and all that is spiritual upon the same,
All distances of place, however wide,
All distances of time--all inanimate forms,
All Souls--all living bodies, though they be ever so different, or in
different worlds,
All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes--the fishes, the brutes,
All men and women--me also;
All nations, colours, barbarisms, civilisations, languages;
All identities that have existed, or may exist, on this globe, or any
All lives and deaths--all of the past, present, future;
This vast similitude spans them, and always has spanned, and shall for ever
span them, and compactly hold them.



Chanting the Square Deific, out of the One advancing, out of the sides;
Out of the old and new--out of the square entirely divine,
Solid, four-sided, (all the sides needed)--From this side JEHOVAH am I,
Old Brahm I, and I Saturnius am;
Not Time affects me--I am Time, modern as any;
Unpersuadable, relentless, executing righteous judgments;
As the Earth, the Father, the brown old Kronos, with laws,
Aged beyond computation--yet ever new--ever with those mighty laws rolling,
Relentless, I forgive no man--whoever sins dies--I will have that man's
Therefore let none expect mercy--Have the seasons, gravitation, the
appointed days, mercy?--No more have I;
But as the seasons, and gravitation--and as all the appointed days, that
forgive not,
I dispense from this side judgments inexorable, without the least remorse.


Consolator most mild, the promised one advancing,
With gentle hand extended, the mightier God am I,
Foretold by prophets and poets, in their most wrapt prophecies and poems;
From this side, lo! the Lord CHRIST gazes--lo! Hermes I--lo! mine is
Hercules' face;
All sorrow, labour, suffering, I, tallying it, absorb in myself;
Many times have I been rejected, taunted, put in prison, and crucified--and
many times shall be again;
All the world have I given up for my dear brothers' and sisters' sake--for
the soul's sake;
Wending my way through the homes of men, rich or poor, with the kiss of
For I am affection--I am the cheer-bringing God, with hope, and all-
enclosing charity;
Conqueror yet--for before me all the armies and soldiers of the earth shall
yet bow--and all the weapons of war become impotent:
With indulgent words, as to children--with fresh and sane words, mine only;
Young and strong I pass, knowing well I am destined myself to an early
But my Charity has no death--my Wisdom dies not, neither early nor late,
And my sweet Love, bequeathed here and elsewhere, never dies.


Aloof, dissatisfied, plotting revolt,
Comrade of criminals, brother of slaves,
Crafty, despised, a drudge, ignorant,
With sudra face and worn brow--black, but in the depths of my heart proud
as any;
Lifted, now and always, against whoever, scorning, assumes to rule me;
Morose, full of guile, full of reminiscences, brooding, with many wiles,
Though it was thought I was baffled and dispelled, and my wiles done--but
that will never be;
Defiant I SATAN still live--still utter words--in new lands duly appearing,
and old ones also;
Permanent here, from my side, warlike, equal with any, real as any,
Nor time, nor change, shall ever change me or my words.


Santa SPIRITA,[1] breather, life,
Beyond the light, lighter than light,
Beyond the flames of hell--joyous, leaping easily above hell;
Beyond Paradise--perfumed solely with mine own perfume;
Including all life on earth--touching, including God--including Saviour and
Ethereal, pervading all--for, without me, what were all? what were God?
Essence of forms--life of the real identities, permanent, positive, namely
the unseen,
Life of the great round world, the sun and stars, and of man--I, the
General Soul,
Here the Square finishing, the solid, I the most solid,
Breathe my breath also through these little songs.

[Footnote 1: The reader will share my wish that Whitman had written
_sanctus spiritus_, which is right, instead of _santa spirita_, which is
methodically wrong.]




The indications and tally of time;
Perfect sanity shows the master among philosophs;
Time, always without flaw, indicates itself in parts;
What always indicates the poet is the crowd of the pleasant company of
singers, and their words;
The words of the singers are the hours or minutes of the light or dark--but
the words of the maker of poems are the general light and dark;
The maker of poems settles justice, reality, immortality,
His insight and power encircle things and the human race,
He is the glory and extract, thus far, of things and of the human race.


The singers do not beget--only the POET begets;
The singers are welcomed, understood, appear often enough--but rare has the
day been, likewise the spot, of the birth of the maker of poems;
Not every century, or every five centuries, has contained such a day, for
all its names.
The singers of successive hours of centuries may have ostensible names, but
the name of each of them is one of the singers;
The name of each is eye-singer, ear-singer, head-singer,
sweet-singer, echo-singer, parlour-singer, love-singer, or something else.


All this time, and at all times, wait the words of poems;
The greatness of sons is the exuding of the greatness of mothers and
The words of poems are the tuft and final applause of science.

Divine instinct, breadth of vision, the law of reason, health, rudeness of
body, withdrawnness, gaiety, sun-tan, air-sweetness--such are some
of the words of poems.


The sailor and traveller underlie the maker of poems,
The builder, geometer, chemist, anatomist, phrenologist, artist--all these
underlie the maker of poems.


The words of the true poems give you more than poems,
They give you, to form for yourself, poems, religions, politics, war,
peace, behaviour, histories, essays, romances, and everything else,
They balance ranks, colours, races, creeds, and the sexes,
They do not seek beauty--they are sought,
For ever touching them, or close upon them, follows beauty, longing, fain,
They prepare for death--yet are they not the finish, but rather the outset,
They bring none to his or her terminus, or to be content and full;
Whom they take, they take into space, to behold the birth of stars, to
learn one of the meanings,
To launch off with absolute faith--to sweep through the ceaseless rings,
and never be quiet again.


You who celebrate bygones:
Who have explored the outward, the surfaces of the races--the life that has
exhibited itself;
Who have treated of man as the creature of politics, aggregates, rulers,
and priests.
I, habitue of the Alleghanies, treating man as he is in himself, in his own
Pressing the pulse of the life that has seldom exhibited itself, the great
pride of man in himself;
Chanter of Personality, outlining what is yet to be;
I project the history of the future.



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


Who is he that would become my follower?
Who would sign himself a candidate for my affections?

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

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

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


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

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


These I, singing in spring, collect for lovers:
For who but I should understand lovers, and all their sorrow and joy?
And who but I should be the poet of comrades?
Collecting, I traverse the garden, the world--but soon I pass the gates,
Now along the pond-side--now wading in a little, fearing not the wet,
Now by the post-and-rail fences, where the old stones thrown there, picked
from the fields, have accumulated,
Wild flowers and vines and weeds come up through the stones, and partly
cover them--Beyond these I pass,
Far, far in the forest, before I think where I go,
Solitary, smelling the earthy smell, stopping now and then in the silence;
Alone, I had thought--yet soon a silent troop gathers around me;
Some walk by my side, and some behind, and some embrace my arms or neck,
They, the spirits of friends, dead or alive--thicker they come, a great
crowd, and I in the middle,
Collecting, dispensing, singing in spring, there I wander with them,
Plucking something for tokens--tossing toward whoever is near me.
Here lilac, with a branch of pine,
Here, out of my pocket, some moss which I pulled off a live-oak in Florida,
as it hung trailing down,
Here some pinks and laurel leaves, and a handful of sage,
And here what I now draw from the water, wading in the pond-side,
(O here I last saw him that tenderly loves me--and returns again, never to
separate from me,
And this, O this shall henceforth be the token of comrades--this Calamus-
root[1] shall,
Interchange it, youths, with each other! Let none render it back!)
And twigs of maple, and a bunch of wild orange, and chestnut,
And stems of currants, and plum-blows, and the aromatic cedar,
These I, compassed around by a thick cloud of spirits,
Wandering, point to, or touch as I pass, or throw them loosely from me,
Indicating to each one what he shall have--giving something to each.
But what I drew from the water by the pond-side, that I reserve;
I will give of it--but only to them that love as I myself am capable of

[Footnote 1: I am favoured with the following indication, from Mr Whitman
himself, of the relation in which this word Calamus is to be
understood:--"Calamus is the very large and aromatic grass or rush growing
about water-ponds in the valleys--spears about three feet high; often
called Sweet Flag; grows all over the Northern and Middle States. The
_recherche_ or ethereal sense of the term, as used in my book, arises
probably from the actual Calamus presenting the biggest and hardiest kind
of spears of grass, and their fresh, aquatic, pungent _bouquet_."]



Come, I will make the continent indissoluble;
I will make the most splendid race the sun ever yet shone upon!
I will make divine magnetic lands,
With the love of comrades,
With the life-long love of comrades.


I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the rivers of America,
and along the shores of the great lakes, and all over the prairies;
I will make inseparable cities, with their arms about each other's necks;
By the love of comrades,
By the manly love of comrades.


For you these, from me, O Democracy, to serve you, _ma femme_!
For you! for you, I am trilling these songs,
In the love of comrades,
In the high-towering love of comrades.


Not heaving from my ribbed breast only;
Not in sighs at night, in rage, dissatisfied with myself;
Not in those long-drawn, ill-suppressed sighs;
Not in many an oath and promise broken;
Not in my wilful and savage soul's volition;
Not in the subtle nourishment of the air;
Not in this beating and pounding at my temples and wrists;
Not in the curious systole and diastole within, which will one day cease;
Not in many a hungry wish, told to the skies only;
Not in cries, laughter, defiances, thrown from me when alone, far in the
Not in husky pantings through clenched teeth;
Not in sounded and resounded words--chattering words, echoes, dead words;
Not in the murmurs of my dreams while I sleep,
Nor the other murmurs of these incredible dreams of every day;
Nor in the limbs and senses of my body, that take you and dismiss you
continually--Not there;
Not in any or all of them, O Adhesiveness! O pulse of my life!
Need I that you exist and show yourself, any more than in these songs.


WHAT place is besieged, and vainly tries to raise the siege?
Lo! I send to that place a commander, swift, brave, immortal;
And with him horse and foot, and parks of artillery,
And artillerymen, the deadliest that ever fired gun.



As I walk, solitary, unattended,
Around me I hear that _eclat_ of the world--politics, produce,
The announcements of recognised things--science,
The approved growth of cities, and the spread of inventions.

I see the ships, (they will last a few years,)
The vast factories, with their foremen and workmen,
And hear the endorsement of all, and do not object to it.


But I too announce solid things;
Science, ships, politics, cities, factories, are not nothing--they serve,
They stand for realities--all is as it should be.


Then my realities;
What else is so real as mine?
Libertad, and the divine Average-Freedom to every slave on the face of the
The rapt promises and _lumine_[1] of seers--the spiritual
world--these centuries-lasting songs,
And our visions, the visions of poets, the most solid announcements of any.

For we support all,
After the rest is done and gone, we remain,
There is no final reliance but upon us;
Democracy rests finally upon us, (I, my brethren, begin it,)
And our visions sweep through eternity.

[Footnote 1: I suppose Whitman gets this odd word _lumine_, by a process of
his own, out of _illuminati_, and intends it to stand for what would be
called clairvoyance, intuition.]



As nearing departure,
As the time draws nigh, glooming, a cloud,
A dread beyond, of I know not what, darkens me.


I shall _go_ forth,
I shall traverse the States--but I cannot tell whither or how long;
Perhaps soon, some day or night while I am singing, my voice will suddenly


O book and chant! must all then amount to but this?
Must we barely arrive at this beginning of me?...
And yet it is enough, O soul!
O soul! we have positively appeared--that is enough.



Poets to come!
Not to-day is to justify me, and Democracy, and what we are for;
But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than before
You must justify me.


I but write one or two indicative words for the future,
I but advance a moment, only to wheel and hurry back in the darkness.

I am a man who, sauntering along, without fully stopping, turns a casual
look upon you, and then averts his face,
Leaving it to you to prove and define it,
Expecting the main things from you.


Full of life now, compact, visible,
I, forty years old the eighty-third year of the States,
To one a century hence, or any number of centuries hence,
To you, yet unborn, these seeking you.

When you read these, I, that was visible, am become invisible;
Now it is you, compact, visible, realising my poems, seeking me;
Fancying how happy you were, if I could be with you, and become your loving
Be it as if I were with you. Be not too certain but I am now with you.



To conclude--I announce what comes after me;
I announce mightier offspring, orators, days, and then depart,

I remember I said, before my leaves sprang at all,
I would raise my voice jocund and strong, with reference to consummations.

When America does what was promised,
When there are plentiful athletic bards, inland and sea-board,
When through these States walk a hundred millions of superb persons,
When the rest part away for superb persons, and contribute to them,
When breeds of the most perfect mothers denote America,
Then to me my due fruition.

I have pressed through in my own right,
I have offered my style to every one--I have journeyed with confident step.
While my pleasure is yet at the full, I whisper, _So long_!
And take the young woman's hand, and the young man's hand for the last


I announce natural persons to arise,
I announce justice triumphant,
I announce uncompromising liberty and equality,
I announce the justification of candour, and the justification of pride.

I announce that the identity of these States is a single identity only,
I announce the Union, out of all its struggles and wars, more and more
I announce splendours and majesties to make all the previous politics of
the earth insignificant.

I announce a man or woman coming--perhaps you are the one (_So long_!)
I announce the great individual, fluid as Nature, chaste, affectionate,
compassionate, fully armed.
I announce a life that shall be copious, vehement, spiritual, bold,
And I announce an old age that shall lightly and joyfully meet its


O thicker and faster! (_So long_!)
O crowding too close upon me;
I foresee too much--it means more than I thought,
It appears to me I am dying.

Hasten throat, and sound your last!
Salute me--salute the days once more. Peal the old cry once more.

Screaming electric, the atmosphere using,
At random glancing, each as I notice absorbing,
Swiftly on, but a little while alighting,
Curious enveloped messages delivering,
Sparkles hot, seed ethereal, down in the dirt dropping,
Myself unknowing, my commission obeying, to question it never daring,
To ages, and ages yet, the growth of the seed leaving,
To troops out of me rising--they the tasks I have set promulging,
To women certain whispers of myself bequeathing--their affection me more
clearly explaining,
To young men my problems offering--no dallier I--I the muscle of their
brains trying,
So I pass--a little time vocal, visible, contrary,
Afterward, a melodious echo, passionately bent for--death making me really
The best of me then when no longer visible--for toward that I have been
incessantly preparing.

What is there more, that I lag and pause, and crouch extended with unshut
Is there a single final farewell?


My songs cease--I abandon them,
From behind the screen where I hid, I advance personally, solely to you.

Camerado! This is no book;
Who touches this touches a man.
(Is it night? Are we here alone?)
It is I you hold, and who holds you,
I spring from the pages into your arms--decease calls me forth.

O how your fingers drowse me!
Your breath falls around me like dew--your pulse lulls the tympans of my
I feel immerged from head to foot,

Enough, O deed impromptu and secret!
Enough, O gliding present! Enough, O summed-up past!


Dear friend, whoever you are, here, take this kiss,
I give it especially to you--Do not forget me,

I feel like one who has done his work--I progress on,--(long enough have I
dallied with Life,)
The unknown sphere, more real than I dreamed, more direct, awakening rays
about me--_So long_!
Remember my words--I love you--I depart from materials,
I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead.


While this Selection was passing through the press, it has been my
privilege to receive two letters from Mr. Whitman, besides another
communicated to me through a friend. I find my experience to be the same as
that of some previous writers: that, if one admires Whitman in reading his
books, one loves him on coming into any personal relation with him--even
the comparatively distant relation of letter-writing.

The more I have to thank the poet for the substance and tone of his
letters, and some particular expressions in them, the more does it become
incumbent upon me to guard against any misapprehension. He has had nothing
whatever to do with this Selection, as to either prompting, guiding, or
even ratifying it: except only that he did not prohibit my making two or
three verbal omissions in the _Prose Preface to the Leaves of Grass_, and
he has supplied his own title, _President Lincoln's Funeral Hymn_, to a
poem which, in my Prefatory Notice, is named (by myself) _Nocturn for the
Death of Lincoln_. All admirers of his poetry will rejoice to learn that
there is no longer any doubt of his adding to his next edition "a brief
cluster of pieces born of thoughts on the deep themes of Death and
Immortality." A new American edition will be dear to many: a complete
English edition ought to be an early demand of English poetic readers, and
would be the right and crowning result of the present Selection.

W. M. R.

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