Walt Whitman |
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done, The ship has weather'd every rack,
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!
O the bleeding drops of red, 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 ribbon'd wreaths- for you the shores
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
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,
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, 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 mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
Walt Whitman |
SPLENDOR 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 forever the triumph of things.
Illustrious every one!
Illustrious what we name space—sphere of unnumber’d 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
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-color’d flesh;
To be conscious of my body, so satisfied, so large;
To be this incredible God I am;
To have gone forth among other Gods—these 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 on!
How the water sports and sings! (Surely it is alive!)
How the trees rise and stand up—with strong trunks—with branches and leaves!
(Surely there is something more in each of the tree—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 America!
I take your strong chords—I intersperse them, and cheerfully pass them forward.
I too carol the sun, usher’d, 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 sail’d down the Mississippi,
As I wander’d over the prairies,
As I have lived—As I have look’d 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 roam’d the streets of inland Chicago—whatever streets I have roam’d;
Or cities, or silent woods, or peace, or even amid the sights of war;
Wherever I have been, I have charged myself with contentment and triumph.
I sing the Equalities, modern or old,
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, if none else does, unmitigated adoration.
Walt Whitman |
TO think of time—of all that retrospection!
To think of to-day, and the ages continued henceforward!
Have you guess’d you yourself would not continue?
Have you dreaded these earth-beetles?
Have you fear’d 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!
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 eye-sight,
But without eye-sight lingers a different living, and looks curiously on the corpse.
To think the thought of Death, merged in the thought of materials!
To think that the rivers will flow, and the snow fall, and fruits ripen, and act upon
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
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
He that was President was buried, and he that is now President shall surely be buried.
A reminiscence of the vulgar fate,
A frequent sample of the life and death of workmen,
Each after his kind:
Cold dash of waves at the ferry-wharf—posh and ice in the river, half-frozen mud in
streets, a gray, 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 pass’d, the
new-dug grave is halted at, the living alight, the hearse uncloses,
The coffin is pass’d out, lower’d and settled, the whip is laid on the coffin,
earth is swiftly shovel’d in,
The mound above is flatted 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-mouth’d, quick-temper’d, not bad-looking, able to
own part, witty, sensitive to a slight, ready with life or death for a friend, fond of
gambled, ate hearty, drank hearty, had known what it was to be flush, grew low-spirited
the last, sicken’d, was help’d by a contribution, died, aged forty-one
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
somebody, headway, man before and man behind, good day’s work, bad day’s work,
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
through our nights and days!
To think that other working-men will make just as great account of them—yet we make
or no account!
The vulgar and the refined—what you call sin, and what you call goodness—to
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 flow onward,
But in due time, you and I shall take less interest in them.
Your farm, profits, crops,—to think how engross’d you are!
To think there will still be farms, profits, crops—yet for you, of what avail?
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,
the pleasure from poems,
The domestic joys, the daily housework or business, the building of houses—these are
phantasms—they have weight, form, location;
Farms, profits, crops, markets, wages, government, are none of them phantasms,
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
You are not thrown to the winds—you gather certainly and safely around yourself;
Yourself! Yourself! Yourself, forever and ever!
It is not to diffuse you that you were born of your mother and father—it is to
It is not that you should be undecided, but that you should be decided;
Something long preparing and formless is arrived and form’d in you,
You are henceforth secure, whatever comes or goes.
The threads that were spun are gather’d, the weft crosses the warp, the pattern is
The preparations have every one been justified,
The orchestra have sufficiently tuned their instruments—the baton has given the
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
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 eluded.
Slow moving and black lines go ceaselessly over the earth,
Northerner goes carried, and Southerner goes carried, and they on the Atlantic side, and
on the Pacific, and they between, and all through the Mississippi country, and all over
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 distinguish’d, may
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
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
Of and in all these things,
I have dream’d that we are not to be changed so much, nor the law of us changed,
I have dream’d 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 law,
For I have dream’d that the law they are under now is enough.
If otherwise, all came but to ashes of dung,
If maggots and rats ended us, then Alarum! for we are betray’d!
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 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 pass’d on to this, and slowly and surely they yet pass
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 animals!
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
And all preparation is for it! and identity is for it! and life and materials are
Walt Whitman |
WOMEN sit, or move to and fro—some old, some young;
The young are beautiful—but the old are more beautiful than the young.
Walt Whitman |
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand
singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or
at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of
the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day--at night the party of young fellows,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
Walt Whitman |
TO conclude—I announce what comes after me;
I announce mightier offspring, orators, days, and then, for the present, 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 promis’d,
When there are plentiful athletic bards, inland and seaboard,
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 and mine our due fruition.
I have press’d through in my own right,
I have sung the Body and the Soul—War and Peace have I sung,
And the songs of Life and of Birth—and shown that there are many births:
I have offer’d my style to everyone—I have journey’d 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 time.
I announce natural persons to arise;
I announce justice triumphant;
I announce uncompromising liberty and equality;
I announce the justification of candor, and the justification of pride.
I announce that the identity of These States is a single identity only;
I announce the Union more and more compact, indissoluble;
I announce splendors and majesties to make all the previous politics of the earth
I announce adhesiveness—I say it shall be limitless, unloosen’d;
I say you shall yet find the friend you were looking for.
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,
I announce a life that shall be copious, vehement, spiritual, bold;
I announce an end that shall lightly and joyfully meet its translation;
I announce myriads of youths, beautiful, gigantic, sweet-blooded;
I announce a race of splendid and savage old men.
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 envelop’d 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, out of the army, the war arising—they the tasks I have set
To women certain whispers of myself bequeathing—their affection me more clearly
To young men my problems offering—no dallier I—I the muscle of their brains
So I pass—a little time vocal, visible, contrary;
Afterward, a melodious echo, passionately bent for—(death making me really undying;)
The best of me then when no longer visible—for toward that I have been incessantly
What is there more, that I lag and pause, and crouch extended with unshut mouth?
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 ears;
I feel immerged from head to foot;
Enough, O deed impromptu and secret!
Enough, O gliding present! Enough, O summ’d-up past!
Dear friend, whoever you are, take this kiss,
I give it especially to you—Do not forget me;
I feel like one who has done work for the day, to retire awhile;
I receive now again of my many translations—from my avataras ascending—while
doubtless await me;
An unknown sphere, more real than I dream’d, more direct, darts awakening rays about
Remember my words—I may again return,
I love you—I depart from materials;
I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead.
Walt Whitman |
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
I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying, neglected, gaunt,
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
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny—I see martyrs and prisoners;
I observe a famine at sea—I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be
preserve the lives of the rest;
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon laborers, the poor,
negroes, and the like;
All these—All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.
Walt Whitman |
Always our own feuillage!
Always Florida’s green peninsula! Always the priceless delta of Louisiana! Always the
cotton-fields of Alabama and Texas!
Always California’s golden hills and hollows—and the silver mountains of New
Always soft-breath’d Cuba!
Always the vast slope drain’d by the Southern Sea—inseparable with the slopes
by the Eastern and Western Seas;
The area the eighty-third year of These States—the three and a half millions of
The eighteen thousand miles of sea-coast and bay-coast on the main—the thirty
The seven millions of distinct families, and the same number of dwellings—Always
more, branching forth into numberless branches;
Always the free range and diversity! always the continent of Democracy!
Always the prairies, pastures, forests, vast cities, travelers, Kanada, the snows;
Always these compact lands—lands tied at the hips with the belt stringing the huge
Always the West, with strong native persons—the increasing density there—the
friendly, threatening, ironical, scorning invaders;
All sights, South, North, East—all deeds, promiscuously done at all times,
All characters, movements, growths—a few noticed, myriads unnoticed,
Through Mannahatta’s streets I walking, these things gathering;
On interior rivers, by night, in the glare of pine knots, steamboats wooding up;
Sunlight by day on the valley of the Susquehanna, and on the valleys of the Potomac and
Rappahannock, and the valleys of the Roanoke and Delaware;
In their northerly wilds, beasts of prey haunting the Adirondacks, the hills—or
Saginaw waters to drink;
In a lonesome inlet, a sheldrake, lost from the flock, sitting on the water, rocking
In farmers’ barns, oxen in the stable, their harvest labor done—they rest
standing—they are too tired;
Afar on arctic ice, the she-walrus lying drowsily, while her cubs play around;
The hawk sailing where men have not yet sail’d—the farthest polar sea, ripply,
crystalline, open, beyond the floes;
White drift spooning ahead, where the ship in the tempest dashes;
On solid land, what is done in cities, as the bells all strike midnight together;
In primitive woods, the sounds there also sounding—the howl of the wolf, the scream
panther, and the hoarse bellow of the elk;
In winter beneath the hard blue ice of Moosehead Lake—in summer visible through the
waters, the great trout swimming;
In lower latitudes, in warmer air, in the Carolinas, the large black buzzard floating
beyond the tree tops,
Below, the red cedar, festoon’d with tylandria—the pines and cypresses, growing
white sand that spreads far and flat;
Rude boats descending the big Pedee—climbing plants, parasites, with color’d
berries, enveloping huge trees,
The waving drapery on the live oak, trailing long and low, noiselessly waved by the wind;
The camp of Georgia wagoners, just after dark—the supper-fires, and the cooking and
whites and negroes,
Thirty or forty great wagons—the mules, cattle, horses, feeding from troughs,
The shadows, gleams, up under the leaves of the old sycamore-trees—the
black smoke from the pitch-pine, curling and rising;
Southern fishermen fishing—the sounds and inlets of North Carolina’s
shad-fishery and the herring-fishery—the large sweep-seines—the windlasses on
work’d by horses—the clearing, curing, and packing-houses;
Deep in the forest, in piney woods, turpentine dropping from the incisions in the
are the turpentine works,
There are the negroes at work, in good health—the ground in all directions is
—In Tennessee and Kentucky, slaves busy in the coalings, at the forge, by the
at the corn-shucking;
In Virginia, the planter’s son returning after a long absence, joyfully welcom’d
kiss’d by the aged mulatto nurse;
On rivers, boatmen safely moor’d at night-fall, in their boats, under shelter of high
Some of the younger men dance to the sound of the banjo or fiddle—others sit on the
smoking and talking;
Late in the afternoon, the mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing in the Great Dismal
Swamp—there are the greenish waters, the resinous odor, the plenteous moss, the
and the juniper tree;
—Northward, young men of Mannahatta—the target company from an excursion
evening—the musket-muzzles all bear bunches of flowers presented by women;
Children at play—or on his father’s lap a young boy fallen asleep, (how his lips
he smiles in his sleep!)
The scout riding on horseback over the plains west of the Mississippi—he ascends a
sweeps his eye around;
California life—the miner, bearded, dress’d in his rude costume—the stanch
friendship—the sweet air—the graves one, in passing, meets, solitary, just
Down in Texas, the cotton-field, the negro-cabins—drivers driving mules or oxen
carts—cotton bales piled on banks and wharves;
Encircling all, vast-darting, up and wide, the American Soul, with equal
one Dilation or Pride;
—In arriere, the peace-talk with the Iroquois, the aborigines—the calumet, the
good-will, arbitration, and indorsement,
The sachem blowing the smoke first toward the sun and then toward the earth,
The drama of the scalp-dance enacted with painted faces and guttural exclamations,
The setting out of the war-party—the long and stealthy march,
The single-file—the swinging hatchets—the surprise and slaughter of enemies;
—All the acts, scenes, ways, persons, attitudes of These States—reminiscences,
All These States, compact—Every square mile of These States, without excepting a
particle—you also—me also,
Me pleas’d, rambling in lanes and country fields, Paumanok’s fields,
Me, observing the spiral flight of two little yellow butterflies, shuffling between each
ascending high in the air;
The darting swallow, the destroyer of insects—the fall traveler southward, but
northward early in the spring;
The country boy at the close of the day, driving the herd of cows, and shouting to them as
loiter to browse by the road-side;
The city wharf—Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, New Orleans, San
The departing ships, when the sailors heave at the capstan;
—Evening—me in my room—the setting sun,
The setting summer sun shining in my open window, showing the swarm of flies, suspended,
in the air in the centre of the room, darting athwart, up and down, casting swift shadows
on the opposite wall, where the shine is;
The athletic American matron speaking in public to crowds of listeners;
Males, females, immigrants, combinations—the copiousness—the individuality of
each for itself—the money-makers;
Factories, machinery, the mechanical forces—the windlass, lever, pulley—All
The certainty of space, increase, freedom, futurity,
In space, the sporades, the scatter’d islands, the stars—on the firm earth, the
O lands! all so dear to me—what you are, (whatever it is,) I become a part of that,
Southward there, I screaming, with wings slowly flapping, with the myriads of gulls
the coasts of Florida—or in Louisiana, with pelicans breeding;
Otherways, there, atwixt the banks of the Arkansaw, the Rio Grande, the Nueces, the
Tombigbee, the Red River, the Saskatchawan, or the Osage, I with the spring waters
skipping and running;
Northward, on the sands, on some shallow bay of Paumanok, I, with parties of snowy herons
the wet to seek worms and aquatic plants;
Retreating, triumphantly twittering, the king-bird, from piercing the crow with its bill,
amusement—And I triumphantly twittering;
The migrating flock of wild geese alighting in autumn to refresh themselves—the body
flock feed—the sentinels outside move around with erect heads watching, and are from
time reliev’d by other sentinels—And I feeding and taking turns with the rest;
In Kanadian forests, the moose, large as an ox, corner’d by hunters, rising
hind-feet, and plunging with his fore-feet, the hoofs as sharp as knives—And I,
hunters, corner’d and desperate;
In the Mannahatta, streets, piers, shipping, store-houses, and the countless workmen
And I too of the Mannahatta, singing thereof—and no less in myself than the whole of
Mannahatta in itself,
Singing the song of These, my ever united lands—my body no more inevitably united,
part, and made one identity, any more than my lands are inevitably united, and made ONE
Nativities, climates, the grass of the great Pastoral Plains;
Cities, labors, death, animals, products, war, good and evil—these me,
These affording, in all their particulars, endless feuillage to me and to America, how can
than pass the clew of the union of them, to afford the like to you?
Whoever you are! how can I but offer you divine leaves, that you also be eligible as I am?
How can I but, as here, chanting, invite you for yourself to collect bouquets of the
feuillage of These States?
Walt Whitman |
OF these years I sing,
How they pass and have pass’d, through convuls’d pains as through parturitions;
How America illustrates birth, muscular youth, the promise, the sure fulfillment, the
Success, despite of people—Illustrates evil as well as good;
How many hold despairingly yet to the models departed, caste, myths, obedience,
How few see the arrived models, the Athletes, the Western States—or see freedom or
spirituality—or hold any faith in results,
(But I see the Athletes—and I see the results of the war glorious and
they again leading to other results;)
How the great cities appear—How the Democratic masses, turbulent, wilful, as I love
How the whirl, the contest, the wrestle of evil with good, the sounding and resounding,
How society waits unform’d, and is for awhile between things ended and things begun;
How America is the continent of glories, and of the triumph of freedom, and of the
and of the fruits of society, and of all that is begun;
And how The States are complete in themselves—And how all triumphs and glories are
complete in themselves, to lead onward,
And how these of mine, and of The States, will in their turn be convuls’d, and serve
parturitions and transitions,
And how all people, sights, combinations, the Democratic masses, too, serve—and how
fact, and war itself, with all its horrors, serves,
And how now, or at any time, each serves the exquisite transition of death.
OF seeds dropping into the ground—of birth,
Of the steady concentration of America, inland, upward, to impregnable and swarming
Of what Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and the rest, are to be,
Of what a few years will show there in Nebraska, Colorado, Nevada, and the rest;
(Or afar, mounting the Northern Pacific to Sitka or Aliaska;)
Of what the feuillage of America is the preparation for—and of what all sights,
South, East and West, are;
Of This Union, soak’d, welded in blood—of the solemn price paid—of the
lost, ever present in my mind;
—Of the temporary use of materials, for identity’s sake,
Of the present, passing, departing—of the growth of completer men than any yet,
Of myself, soon, perhaps, closing up my songs by these shores,
Of California, of Oregon—and of me journeying to live and sing there;
Of the Western Sea—of the spread inland between it and the spinal river,
Of the great pastoral area, athletic and feminine,
of all sloping down there where the fresh free giver, the mother, the Mississippi flows,
Of future women there—of happiness in those high plateaus, ranging three thousand
warm and cold;
Of mighty inland cities yet unsurvey’d and unsuspected, (as I am also, and as it must
Of the new and good names—of the modern developments—of inalienable homesteads;
Of a free and original life there—of simple diet and clean and sweet blood;
Of litheness, majestic faces, clear eyes, and perfect physique there;
Of immense spiritual results, future years, far west, each side of the Anahuacs;
Of these leaves, well understood there, (being made for that area;)
Of the native scorn of grossness and gain there;
(O it lurks in me night and day—What is gain, after all, to savageness and freedom?)
Walt Whitman |
O ME! O life!.
of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;
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.
Walt Whitman |
WHOEVER you are, I fear you are walking the walks of dreams,
I fear these 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, forms,
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.
O I have been dilatory and dumb;
I should have made my way straight to you long ago;
I should have blabb’d nothing but you, I should have chanted nothing but you.
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
I only am he who places over you no master, owner, better, God, beyond what waits
Painters have painted their swarming groups, and the centre figure of all;
From the head of the centre figure spreading a nimbus of gold-color’d light;
But I paint myriads of heads, but paint no head without its nimbus of gold-color’d
From my hand, from the brain of every man and woman it streams, effulgently flowing
O I could sing such grandeurs and glories about you!
You have not known what you are—you have slumber’d upon yourself all your life;
Your eye-lids 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
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 accustom’d routine, if
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 balk others, they do
The pert apparel, the deform’d attitude, drunkenness, greed, premature death, all
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 you;
I sing the songs of the glory of none, not God, sooner than I sing the songs of the glory
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
These furies, elements, storms, motions of Nature, throes of apparent dissolution—you
he or she who is master or mistress over them,
Master or mistress in your own right over Nature, elements, pain, passion, dissolution.
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 promulges
Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are provided, nothing is scanted;
Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui, what you are picks its way.
Walt Whitman |
THAT which eludes this verse and any verse,
Unheard by sharpest ear, unform’d in clearest eye or cunningest mind,
Nor lore nor fame, nor happiness nor wealth,
And yet the pulse of every heart and life throughout the world incessantly,
Which you and I and all pursuing ever ever miss,
Open but still a secret, the real of the real, an illusion,
Costless, vouchsafed to each, yet never man the owner,
Which poets vainly seek to put in rhyme, historians in prose,
Which sculptor never chisel’d yet, nor painter painted,
Which vocalist never sung, nor orator nor actor ever utter’d,
Invoking here and now I challenge for my song.
Indifferently, ’mid public, private haunts, in solitude,
Behind the mountain and the wood,
Companion of the city’s busiest streets, through the assemblage,
It and its radiations constantly glide.
In looks of fair unconscious babes,
Or strangely in the coffin’d dead,
Or show of breaking dawn or stars by night,
As some dissolving delicate film of dreams,
Hiding yet lingering.
Two little breaths of words comprising it.
Two words, yet all from first to last comprised in it.
How ardently for it!
How many ships have sail’d and sunk for it!
How many travelers started from their homes and ne’er return’d!
How much of genius boldly staked and lost for it!
What countless stores of beauty, love, ventur’d for it!
How all superbest deeds since Time began are traceable to it—and shall be to the end!
How all heroic martyrdoms to it!
How, justified by it, the horrors, evils, battles of the earth!
How the bright fascinating lambent flames of it, in every age and land, have drawn
Rich as a sunset on the Norway coast, the sky, the islands, and the cliffs,
Or midnight’s silent glowing northern lights unreachable.
Haply God’s riddle it, so vague and yet so certain,
The soul for it, and all the visible universe for it,
And heaven at last for it.
Walt Whitman |
(The war is completed—the price is paid—the title is settled beyond recall;)
Let every one answer! let those who sleep be waked! let none evade!
Must we still go on with our affectations and sneaking?
Let me bring this to a close—I pronounce openly for a new distribution of roles;
Let that which stood in front go behind! and let that which was behind advance to the
Let murderers, bigots, fools, unclean persons, offer new propositions!
Let the old propositions be postponed!
Let faces and theories be turn’d inside out! let meanings be freely criminal, as well
Let there be no suggestion above the suggestion of drudgery!
Let none be pointed toward his destination! (Say! do you know your destination?)
Let men and women be mock’d with bodies and mock’d with Souls!
Let the love that waits in them, wait! let it die, or pass stillborn to other spheres!
Let the sympathy that waits in every man, wait! or let it also pass, a dwarf, to other
Let contradictions prevail! let one thing contradict another! and let one line of my poems
Let the people sprawl with yearning, aimless hands! let their tongues be broken! let their
be discouraged! let none descend into their hearts with the fresh lusciousness of love!
(Stifled, O days! O lands! in every public and private corruption!
Smother’d in thievery, impotence, shamelessness, mountain-high;
Brazen effrontery, scheming, rolling like ocean’s waves around and upon you, O my
For not even those thunderstorms, nor fiercest lightnings of the war, have purified the
—Let the theory of America still be management, caste, comparison! (Say! what other
Let them that distrust birth and death still lead the rest! (Say! why shall they not lead
Let the crust of hell be neared and trod on! let the days be darker than the nights! let
slumber bring less slumber than waking time brings!
Let the world never appear to him or her for whom it was all made!
Let the heart of the young man still exile itself from the heart of the old man! and let
heart of the old man be exiled from that of the young man!
Let the sun and moon go! let scenery take the applause of the audience! let there be
under the stars!
Let freedom prove no man’s inalienable right! every one who can tyrannize, let him
tyrannize to his satisfaction!
Let none but infidels be countenanced!
Let the eminence of meanness, treachery, sarcasm, hate, greed, indecency, impotence, lust,
taken for granted above all! let writers, judges, governments, households, religions,
philosophies, take such for granted above all!
Let the worst men beget children out of the worst women!
Let the priest still play at immortality!
Let death be inaugurated!
Let nothing remain but the ashes of teachers, artists, moralists, lawyers, and
Let him who is without my poems be assassinated!
Let the cow, the horse, the camel, the garden-bee—let the mudfish, the lobster, the
mussel, eel, the sting-ray, and the grunting pig-fish—let these, and the like of
put on a perfect equality with man and woman!
Let churches accommodate serpents, vermin, and the corpses of those who have died of the
filthy of diseases!
Let marriage slip down among fools, and be for none but fools!
Let men among themselves talk and think forever obscenely of women! and let women among
themselves talk and think obscenely of men!
Let us all, without missing one, be exposed in public, naked, monthly, at the peril of our
lives! let our bodies be freely handled and examined by whoever chooses!
Let nothing but copies at second hand be permitted to exist upon the earth!
Let the earth desert God, nor let there ever henceforth be mention’d the name of God!
Let there be no God!
Let there be money, business, imports, exports, custom, authority, precedents, pallor,
dyspepsia, smut, ignorance, unbelief!
Let judges and criminals be transposed! let the prison-keepers be put in prison! let those
were prisoners take the keys! Say! why might they not just as well be transposed?)
Let the slaves be masters! let the masters become slaves!
Let the reformers descend from the stands where they are forever bawling! let an idiot or
insane person appear on each of the stands!
Let the Asiatic, the African, the European, the American, and the Australian, go armed
the murderous stealthiness of each other! let them sleep armed! let none believe in good
Let there be no unfashionable wisdom! let such be scorn’d and derided off from the
Let a floating cloud in the sky—let a wave of the sea—let growing mint, spinach,
onions, tomatoes—let these be exhibited as shows, at a great price for admission!
Let all the men of These States stand aside for a few smouchers! let the few seize on what
choose! let the rest gawk, giggle, starve, obey!
Let shadows be furnish’d with genitals! let substances be deprived of their genitals!
Let there be wealthy and immense cities—but still through any of them, not a single
savior, knower, lover!
Let the infidels of These States laugh all faith away!
If one man be found who has faith, let the rest set upon him!
Let them affright faith! let them destroy the power of breeding faith!
Let the she-harlots and the he-harlots be prudent! let them dance on, while seeming lasts!
seeming! seeming! seeming!)
Let the preachers recite creeds! let them still teach only what they have been taught!
Let insanity still have charge of sanity!
Let books take the place of trees, animals, rivers, clouds!
Let the daub’d portraits of heroes supersede heroes!
Let the manhood of man never take steps after itself!
Let it take steps after eunuchs, and after consumptive and genteel persons!
Let the white person again tread the black person under his heel! (Say! which is trodden
heel, after all?)
Let the reflections of the things of the world be studied in mirrors! let the things
still continue unstudied!
Let a man seek pleasure everywhere except in himself!
Let a woman seek happiness everywhere except in herself!
(What real happiness have you had one single hour through your whole life?)
Let the limited years of life do nothing for the limitless years of death! (What do you
death will do, then?)
Walt Whitman |
SAUNTERING the pavement, or riding the country by-road—lo! such faces!
Faces of friendship, precision, caution, suavity, ideality;
The spiritual, prescient face—the always welcome, common, benevolent face,
The face of the singing of music—the grand faces of natural lawyers and judges, broad
The faces of hunters and fishers, bulged at the brows—the shaved blanch’d faces
The pure, extravagant, yearning, questioning artist’s face;
The ugly face of some beautiful Soul, the handsome detested or despised face;
The sacred faces of infants, the illuminated face of the mother of many children;
The face of an amour, the face of veneration;
The face as of a dream, the face of an immobile rock;
The face withdrawn of its good and bad, a castrated face;
A wild hawk, his wings clipp’d by the clipper;
A stallion that yielded at last to the thongs and knife of the gelder.
Sauntering the pavement, thus, or crossing the ceaseless ferry, faces, and faces, and
I see them, and complain not, and am content with all.
Do you suppose I could be content with all, if I thought them their own finale?
This now is too lamentable a face for a man;
Some abject louse, asking leave to be—cringing for it;
Some milk-nosed maggot, blessing what lets it wrig to its hole.
This face is a dog’s snout, sniffing for garbage;
Snakes nest in that mouth—I hear the sibilant threat.
This face is a haze more chill than the arctic sea;
Its sleepy and wobbling icebergs crunch as they go.
This is a face of bitter herbs—this an emetic—they need no label;
And more of the drug-shelf, laudanum, caoutchouc, or hog’s-lard.
This face is an epilepsy, its wordless tongue gives out the unearthly cry,
Its veins down the neck distended, its eyes roll till they show nothing but their whites,
Its teeth grit, the palms of the hands are cut by the turn’d-in nails,
The man falls struggling and foaming to the ground while he speculates well.
This face is bitten by vermin and worms,
And this is some murderer’s knife, with a half-pull’d scabbard.
This face owes to the sexton his dismalest fee;
An unceasing death-bell tolls there.
Those then are really men—the bosses and tufts of the great round globe!
Features of my equals, would you trick me with your creas’d and cadaverous march?
Well, you cannot trick me.
I see your rounded, never-erased flow;
I see neath the rims of your haggard and mean disguises.
Splay and twist as you like—poke with the tangling fores of fishes or rats;
You’ll be unmuzzled, you certainly will.
I saw the face of the most smear’d and slobbering idiot they had at the asylum;
And I knew for my consolation what they knew not;
I knew of the agents that emptied and broke my brother,
The same wait to clear the rubbish from the fallen tenement;
And I shall look again in a score or two of ages,
And I shall meet the real landlord, perfect and unharm’d, every inch as good as
The Lord advances, and yet advances;
Always the shadow in front—always the reach’d hand bringing up the laggards.
Out of this face emerge banners and horses—O superb! I see what is coming;
I see the high pioneer-caps—I see the staves of runners clearing the way,
I hear victorious drums.
This face is a life-boat;
This is the face commanding and bearded, it asks no odds of the rest;
This face is flavor’d fruit, ready for eating;
This face of a healthy honest boy is the programme of all good.
These faces bear testimony, slumbering or awake;
They show their descent from the Master himself.
Off the word I have spoken, I except not one—red, white, black, are all deific;
In each house is the ovum—it comes forth after a thousand years.
Spots or cracks at the windows do not disturb me;
Tall and sufficient stand behind, and make signs to me;
I read the promise, and patiently wait.
This is a full-grown lily’s face,
She speaks to the limber-hipp’d man near the garden pickets,
Come here, she blushingly cries—Come nigh to me, limber-hipp’d
Stand at my side till I lean as high as I can upon you,
Fill me with albescent honey, bend down to me,
Rub to me with your chafing beard, rub to my breast and shoulders.
The old face of the mother of many children!
Whist! I am fully content.
Lull’d and late is the smoke of the First-day morning,
It hangs low over the rows of trees by the fences,
It hangs thin by the sassafras, the wild-cherry, and the cat-brier under them.
I saw the rich ladies in full dress at the soiree,
I heard what the singers were singing so long,
Heard who sprang in crimson youth from the white froth and the water-blue,
Behold a woman!
She looks out from her quaker cap—her face is clearer and more beautiful than the
She sits in an arm-chair, under the shaded porch of the farmhouse,
The sun just shines on her old white head.
Her ample gown is of cream-hued linen,
Her grandsons raised the flax, and her granddaughters spun it with the distaff and the
The melodious character of the earth,
The finish beyond which philosophy cannot go, and does not wish to go,
The justified mother of men.
Walt Whitman |
A PROMISE to California,
Also to the great Pastoral Plains, and for Oregon:
Sojourning east a while longer, soon I travel toward you, to remain, to teach robust
For I know very well that I and robust love belong among you, inland, and along the
For These States tend inland, and toward the Western Sea—and I will also.