I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their
parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.
Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.
The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the
distillation, it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.
The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing
of blood and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and
dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,
The sound of the belch’d words of my voice loos’d to the eddies of
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields
The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising
from bed and meeting the sun.
Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you reckon’d the
Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?
Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions
of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look
through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.
I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the
beginning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.
There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.
Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.
Out of the dimness opposite equals advance, always substance and
increase, always sex,
Always a knit of identity, always distinction, always a breed of
To elaborate is no avail, learn’d and unlearn’d feel that it is so.
Sure as the most certain sure, plumb in the uprights, well
entretied, braced in the beams,
Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical,
I and this mystery here we stand.
Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not
Lack one lacks both, and the unseen is proved by the seen,
Till that becomes unseen and receives proof in its turn.
Showing the best and dividing it from the worst age vexes age,
Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of things, while they
discuss I am silent, and go bathe and admire myself.
Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and of any man hearty
Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be
less familiar than the rest.
I am satisfied - I see, dance, laugh, sing;
As the hugging and loving bed-fellow sleeps at my side through the
night, and withdraws at the peep of the day with stealthy
Leaving me baskets cover’d with white towels swelling the house with
Shall I postpone my acceptation and realization and scream at my
That they turn from gazing after and down the road,
And forthwith cipher and show me to a cent,
Exactly the value of one and exactly the value of two, and which is
Trippers and askers surround me,
People I meet, the effect upon me of my early life or the ward and
city I live in, or the nation,
The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old
My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues,
The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love,
The sickness of one of my folks or of myself, or ill-doing or loss
or lack of money, or depressions or exaltations,
Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news,
the fitful events;
These come to me days and nights and go from me again,
But they are not the Me myself.
Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,
Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary,
Looks down, is erect, or bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest,
Looking with side-curved head curious what will come next,
Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.
Backward I see in my own days where I sweated through fog with
linguists and contenders,
I have no mockings or arguments, I witness and wait.
I believe in you my soul, the other I am must not abase itself to
And you must not be abased to the other.
Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat,
Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not
even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice.
I mind how once we lay such a transparent summer morning,
How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn’d over
And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue
to my bare-stript heart,
And reach’d till you felt my beard, and reach’d till you held my
Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass
all the argument of the earth,
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women
my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love,
And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,
And mossy scabs of the worm fence, heap’d stones, elder, mullein and
A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see
and remark, and say Whose?
Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I
receive them the same.
And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them,
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon out
of their mothers’ laps,
And here you are the mothers’ laps.
This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.
O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for
I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken
soon out of their laps.
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?
They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the
end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.
All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.
Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?
I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know
I pass death with the dying and birth with the new-wash’d babe, and
am not contain’d between my hat and boots,
And peruse manifold objects, no two alike and every one good,
The earth good and the stars good, and their adjuncts all good.
I am not an earth nor an adjunct of an earth,
I am the mate and companion of people, all just as immortal and
fathomless as myself,
(They do not know how immortal, but I know.)
Every kind for itself and its own, for me mine male and female,
For me those that have been boys and that love women,
For me the man that is proud and feels how it stings to be slighted,
For me the sweet-heart and the old maid, for me mothers and the
mothers of mothers,
For me lips that have smiled, eyes that have shed tears,
For me children and the begetters of children.
Undrape! you are not guilty to me, nor stale nor discarded,
I see through the broadcloth and gingham whether or no,
And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless, and cannot be
The little one sleeps in its cradle,
I lift the gauze and look a long time, and silently brush away flies
with my hand.
The youngster and the red-faced girl turn aside up the bushy hill,
I peeringly view them from the top.
The suicide sprawls on the bloody floor of the bedroom,
I witness the corpse with its dabbled hair, I note where the pistol
The blab of the pave, tires of carts, sluff of boot-soles, talk of
The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogating thumb, the
clank of the shod horses on the granite floor,
The snow-sleighs, clinking, shouted jokes, pelts of snow-balls,
The hurrahs for popular favorites, the fury of rous’d mobs,
The flap of the curtain’d litter, a sick man inside borne to the
The meeting of enemies, the sudden oath, the blows and fall,
The excited crowd, the policeman with his star quickly working his
passage to the centre of the crowd,
The impassive stones that receive and return so many echoes,
What groans of over-fed or half-starv’d who fall sunstruck or in
What exclamations of women taken suddenly who hurry home and
give birth to babes,
What living and buried speech is always vibrating here, what howls
restrain’d by decorum,
Arrests of criminals, slights, adulterous offers made, acceptances,
rejections with convex lips,
I mind them or the show or resonance of them-I come and I depart.
The big doors of the country barn stand open and ready,
The dried grass of the harvest-time loads the slow-drawn wagon,
The clear light plays on the brown gray and green intertinged,
The armfuls are pack’d to the sagging mow.
I am there, I help, I came stretch’d atop of the load,
I felt its soft jolts, one leg reclined on the other,
I jump from the cross-beams and seize the clover and timothy,
And roll head over heels and tangle my hair full of wisps.
Alone far in the wilds and mountains I hunt,
Wandering amazed at my own lightness and glee,
In the late afternoon choosing a safe spot to pass the night,
Kindling a fire and broiling the fresh-kill’d game,
Falling asleep on the gather’d leaves with my dog and gun by my
The Yankee clipper is under her sky-sails, she cuts the sparkle
My eyes settle the land, I bend at her prow or shout joyously from
The boatmen and clam-diggers arose early and stopt for me,
I tuck’d my trowser-ends in my boots and went and had a good time;
You should have been with us that day round the chowder-kettle.
I saw the marriage of the trapper in the open air in the far west,
the bride was a red girl,
Her father and his friends sat near cross-legged and dumbly smoking,
they had moccasins to their feet and large thick blankets
hanging from their shoulders,
On a bank lounged the trapper, he was drest mostly in skins, his
luxuriant beard and curls protected his neck, he held his bride
by the hand,
She had long eyelashes, her head was bare, her coarse straight locks
descended upon her voluptuous limbs and reach’d to her
The runaway slave came to my house and stopt outside,
I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile,
Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsy and
And went where he sat on a log and led him in and assured him,
And brought water and fill’d a tub for his sweated body and bruis’d
And gave him a room that enter’d from my own, and gave him some
coarse clean clothes,
And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and his awkwardness,
And remember putting piasters on the galls of his neck and ankles;
He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and pass’d north,
I had him sit next me at table, my fire-lock lean’d in the corner.
Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore,
Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly;
Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome.
She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank,
She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the window.
Which of the young men does she like the best?
Ah the homeliest of them is beautiful to her.
Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,
You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room.
Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.
The beards of the young men glisten’d with wet, it ran from their
Little streams pass’d all over their bodies.
An unseen hand also pass’d over their bodies,
It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs.
The young men float on their backs, their white bellies bulge to the
sun, they do not ask who seizes fast to them,
They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and bending
They do not think whom they souse with spray.
The butcher-boy puts off his killing-clothes, or sharpens his knife
at the stall in the market,
I loiter enjoying his repartee and his shuffle and break-down.
Blacksmiths with grimed and hairy chests environ the anvil,
Each has his main-sledge, they are all out, there is a great heat in
From the cinder-strew’d threshold I follow their movements,
The lithe sheer of their waists plays even with their massive arms,
Overhand the hammers swing, overhand so slow, overhand so sure,
They do not hasten, each man hits in his place.
The negro holds firmly the reins of his four horses, the block swags
underneath on its tied-over chain,
The negro that drives the long dray of the stone-yard, steady and
tall he stands pois’d on one leg on the string-piece,
His blue shirt exposes his ample neck and breast and loosens over
His glance is calm and commanding, he tosses the slouch of his hat
away from his forehead,
The sun falls on his crispy hair and mustache, falls on the black of
his polish’d and perfect limbs.
I behold the picturesque giant and love him, and I do not stop
I go with the team also.
In me the caresser of life wherever moving, backward as well as
To niches aside and junior bending, not a person or object missing,
Absorbing all to myself and for this song.
Oxen that rattle the yoke and chain or halt in the leafy shade, what
is that you express in your eyes?
It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life.
My tread scares the wood-drake and wood-duck on my distant and
They rise together, they slowly circle around.
I believe in those wing’d purposes,
And acknowledge red, yellow, white, playing within me,
And consider green and violet and the tufted crown intentional,
And do not call the tortoise unworthy because she is not something
And the in the woods never studied the gamut, yet trills pretty well
And the look of the bay mare shames silliness out of me.
The wild gander leads his flock through the cool night,
Ya-honk he says, and sounds it down to me like an invitation,
The pert may suppose it meaningless, but I listening close,
Find its purpose and place up there toward the wintry sky.
The sharp-hoof’d moose of the north, the cat on the house-sill, the
chickadee, the prairie-dog,
The litter of the grunting sow as they tug at her teats,
The brood of the turkey-hen and she with her half-spread wings,
I see in them and myself the same old law.
The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred affections,
They scorn the best I can do to relate them.
I am enamour’d of growing out-doors,
Of men that live among cattle or taste of the ocean or woods,
Of the builders and steerers of ships and the wielders of axes and
mauls, and the drivers of horses,
I can eat and sleep with them week in and week out.
What is commonest, cheapest, nearest, easiest, is Me,
Me going in for my chances, spending for vast returns,
Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that will take me,
Not asking the sky to come down to my good will,
Scattering it freely forever.
The pure contralto sings in the organ loft,
The carpenter dresses his plank, the tongue of his foreplane
whistles its wild ascending lisp,
The married and unmarried children ride home to their Thanksgiving
The pilot seizes the king-pin, he heaves down with a strong arm,
The mate stands braced in the whale-boat, lance and harpoon are
The duck-shooter walks by silent and cautious stretches,
The deacons are ordain’d with cross’d hands at the altar,
The spinning-girl retreats and advances to the hum of the big wheel,
The farmer stops by the bars as he walks on a First-day loafe and
looks at the oats and rye,
The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum a confirm’d case,
(He will never sleep any more as he did in the cot in his mother’s
The jour printer with gray head and gaunt jaws works at his case,
He turns his quid of tobacco while his eyes blurr with the
The malform’d limbs are tied to the surgeon’s table,
What is removed drops horribly in a pail;
The quadroon girl is sold at the auction-stand, the drunkard nods by
the bar-room stove,
The machinist rolls up his sleeves, the policeman travels his beat,
the gate-keeper marks who pass,
The young fellow drives the express-wagon, (I love him, though I do
not know him;)
The half-breed straps on his light boots to compete in the race,
The western turkey-shooting draws old and young, some lean on their
rifles, some sit on logs,
Out from the crowd steps the marksman, takes his position, levels
The groups of newly-come immigrants cover the wharf or levee,
As the woolly-pates hoe in the sugar-field, the overseer views them
from his saddle,
The bugle calls in the ball-room, the gentlemen run for their
partners, the dancers bow to each other,
The youth lies awake in the cedar-roof’d garret and harks to the
The Wolverine sets traps on the creek that helps fill the Huron,
The squaw wrapt in her yellow-hemm’d cloth is offering moccasins and
bead-bags for sale,
The connoisseur peers along the exhibition-gallery with half-shut
eyes bent sideways,
As the deck-hands make fast the steamboat the plank is thrown for
the shore-going passengers,
The young sister holds out the skein while the elder sister winds it
off in a ball, and stops now and then for the knots,
The one-year wife is recovering and happy having a week ago borne
her first child,
The clean-hair’d Yankee girl works with her sewing-machine or in the
factory or mill,
The paving-man leans on his two-handed rammer, the reporter’s lead
flies swiftly over the note-book, the sign-painter is lettering
with blue and gold,
The canal boy trots on the tow-path, the book-keeper counts at his
desk, the shoemaker waxes his thread,
The conductor beats time for the band and all the performers follow
The child is baptized, the convert is making his first professions,
The regatta is spread on the bay, the race is begun, (how the white
The drover watching his drove sings out to them that would stray,
The pedler sweats with his pack on his back, (the purchaser higgling
about the odd cent;)
The bride unrumples her white dress, the minute-hand of the clock
The opium-eater reclines with rigid head and just-open’d lips,
The prostitute draggles her shawl, her bonnet bobs on her tipsy and
The crowd laugh at her blackguard oaths, the men jeer and wink to
(Miserable! I do not laugh at your oaths nor jeer you;)
The President holding a cabinet council is surrounded by the great
On the piazza walk three matrons stately and friendly with twined
The crew of the fish-smack pack repeated layers of halibut in the
The Missourian crosses the plains toting his wares and his cattle,
As the fare-collector goes through the train he gives notice by the
jingling of loose change,
The floor-men are laying the floor, the tinners are tinning the
roof, the masons are calling for mortar,
In single file each shouldering his hod pass onward the laborers;
Seasons pursuing each other the indescribable crowd is gather’d, it
is the fourth of Seventh-month, (what salutes of cannon and
Seasons pursuing each other the plougher ploughs, the mower mows,
and the winter-grain falls in the ground;
Off on the lakes the pike-fisher watches and waits by the hole in
the frozen surface,
The stumps stand thick round the clearing, the squatter strikes deep
with his axe,
Flatboatmen make fast towards dusk near the cotton-wood or
Coon-seekers go through the regions of the Red river or through
those drain’d by the Tennessee, or through those of the Arkansas,
Torches shine in the dark that hangs on the Chattahooche or
Patriarchs sit at supper with sons and grandsons and great-grandsons
In walls of adobie, in canvas tents, rest hunters and trappers after
their day’s sport,
The city sleeps and the country sleeps,
The living sleep for their time, the dead sleep for their time,
The old husband sleeps by his wife and the young husband sleeps by
And these tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them,
And such as it is to be of these more or less I am,
And of these one and all I weave the song of myself.
I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,
Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,
Stuff’d with the stuff that is coarse and stuff’d with the stuff
that is fine,
One of the Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the
largest the same,
A Southerner soon as a Northerner, a planter nonchalant and
hospitable down by the Oconee I live,
A Yankee bound my own way ready for trade, my joints the limberest
joints on earth and the sternest joints on earth,
A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in my deer-skin
leggings, a Louisianian or Georgian,
A boatman over lakes or bays or along coasts, a Hoosier, Badger,
At home on Kanadian snow-shoes or up in the bush, or with fishermen
At home in the fleet of ice-boats, sailing with the rest and
At home on the hills of Vermont or in the woods of Maine, or the
Comrade of Californians, comrade of free North-Westerners, (loving
their big proportions,)
Comrade of raftsmen and coalmen, comrade of all who shake hands
and welcome to drink and meat,
A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the thoughtfullest,
A novice beginning yet experient of myriads of seasons,
Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion,
A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor, quaker,
Prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician, priest.
I resist any thing better than my own diversity,
Breathe the air but leave plenty after me,
And am not stuck up, and am in my place.
(The moth and the fish-eggs are in their place,
The bright suns I see and the dark suns I cannot see are in their
The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place.)
These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they
are not original with me,
If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or next to
If they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle they are
If they are not just as close as they are distant they are nothing.
This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is,
This the common air that bathes the globe.
With music strong I come, with my cornets and my drums,
I play not marches for accepted victors only, I play marches for
conquer’d and slain persons.
Have you heard that it was good to gain the day?
I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit
in which they are won.
I beat and pound for the dead,
I blow through my embouchures my loudest and gayest for them.
Vivas to those who have fail’d!
And to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea!
And to those themselves who sank in the sea!
And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome heroes!
And the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes
This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger,
It is for the wicked just same as the righteous, I make appointments
I will not have a single person slighted or left away,
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited,
The heavy-lipp’d slave is invited, the venerealee is invited;
There shall be no difference between them and the rest.
This is the press of a bashful hand, this the float and odor of
This the touch of my lips to yours, this the murmur of yearning,
This the far-off depth and height reflecting my own face,
This the thoughtful merge of myself, and the outlet again.
Do you guess I have some intricate purpose?
Well I have, for the Fourth-month showers have, and the mica on the
side of a rock has.
Do you take it I would astonish?
Does the daylight astonish? does the early redstart twittering
through the woods?
Do I astonish more than they?
This hour I tell things in confidence,
I might not tell everybody, but I will tell you.
Who goes there? hankering, gross, mystical, nude;
How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat?
What is a man anyhow? what am I? what are you?
All I mark as my own you shall offset it with your own,
Else it were time lost listening to me.
I do not snivel that snivel the world over,
That months are vacuums and the ground but wallow and filth.
Whimpering and truckling fold with powders for invalids, conformity
goes to the fourth-remov’d,
I wear my hat as I please indoors or out.
Why should I pray? why should I venerate and be ceremonious?
Having pried through the strata, analyzed to a hair, counsel’d with
doctors and calculated close,
I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.
In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn
And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them.
I know I am solid and sound,
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow,
All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.
I know I am deathless,
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter’s compass,
I know I shall not pass like a child’s carlacue cut with a burnt
stick at night.
I know I am august,
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood,
I see that the elementary laws never apologize,
(I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by,
I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.
One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or ten
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.
My foothold is tenon’d and mortis’d in granite,
I laugh at what you call dissolution,
And I know the amplitude of time.
I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul,
The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with
The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate
into new tongue.
I am the poet of the woman the same as the man,
And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man,
And I say there is nothing greater than the mother of men.
I chant the chant of dilation or pride,
We have had ducking and deprecating about enough,
I show that size is only development.
Have you outstript the rest? are you the President?
It is a trifle, they will more than arrive there every one, and
still pass on.
I am he that walks with the tender and growing night,
I call to the earth and sea half-held by the night.
Press close bare-bosom’d night - press close magnetic nourishing
Night of south winds - night of the large few stars!
Still nodding night - mad naked summer night.
Smile O voluptuous cool-breath’d earth!
Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees!
Earth of departed sunset - earth of the mountains misty-topt!
Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon just tinged with blue!
Earth of shine and dark mottling the tide of the river!
Earth of the limpid gray of clouds brighter and clearer for my
Far-swooping elbow’d earth - rich apple-blossom’d earth!
Smile, for your lover comes.
Prodigal, you have given me love - therefore I to you give love!
O unspeakable passionate love.
You sea! I resign myself to you also - I guess what you mean,
I behold from the beach your crooked fingers,
I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me,
We must have a turn together, I undress, hurry me out of sight of
Cushion me soft, rock me in billowy drowse,
Dash me with amorous wet, I can repay you.
Sea of stretch’d ground-swells,
Sea breathing broad and convulsive breaths,
Sea of the brine of life and of unshovell’d yet always-ready graves,
Howler and scooper of storms, capricious and dainty sea,
I am integral with you, I too am of one phase and of all phases.
Partaker of influx and efflux I, extoller of hate and conciliation,
Extoller of amies and those that sleep in each others’ arms.
I am he attesting sympathy,
(Shall I make my list of things in the house and skip the house that
I am not the poet of goodness only, I do not decline to be the poet
of wickedness also.
What blurt is this about virtue and about vice?
Evil propels me and reform of evil propels me, I stand indifferent,
My gait is no fault-finder’s or rejecter’s gait,
I moisten the roots of all that has grown.
Did you fear some scrofula out of the unflagging pregnancy?
Did you guess the celestial laws are yet to be work’d over and
I find one side a balance and the antipedal side a balance,
Soft doctrine as steady help as stable doctrine,
Thoughts and deeds of the present our rouse and early start.
This minute that comes to me over the past decillions,
There is no better than it and now.
What behaved well in the past or behaves well to-day is not such
The wonder is always and always how there can be a mean man or an
Endless unfolding of words of ages!
And mine a word of the modern, the word En-Masse.
A word of the faith that never balks,
Here or henceforward it is all the same to me, I accept Time
It alone is without flaw, it alone rounds and completes all,
That mystic baffling wonder alone completes all.
I accept Reality and dare not question it,
Materialism first and last imbuing.
Hurrah for positive science! long live exact demonstration!
Fetch stonecrop mixt with cedar and branches of lilac,
This is the lexicographer, this the chemist, this made a grammar of
the old cartouches,
These mariners put the ship through dangerous unknown seas.
This is the geologist, this works with the scalper, and this is a
Gentlemen, to you the first honors always!
Your facts are useful, and yet they are not my dwelling,
I but enter by them to an area of my dwelling.
Less the reminders of properties told my words,
And more the reminders they of life untold, and of freedom and
And make short account of neuters and geldings, and favor men and
women fully equipt,
And beat the gong of revolt, and stop with fugitives and them that
plot and conspire.
Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son,
Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking and breeding,
No sentimentalist, no stander above men and women or apart from
No more modest than immodest.
Unscrew the locks from the doors!
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!
Whoever degrades another degrades me,
And whatever is done or said returns at last to me.
Through me the afflatus surging and surging, through me the current
I speak the pass-word primeval, I give the sign of democracy,
By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their
counterpart of on the same terms.
Through me many long dumb voices,
Voices of the interminable generations of prisoners and slaves,
Voices of the diseas’d and despairing and of thieves and dwarfs,
Voices of cycles of preparation and accretion,
And of the threads that connect the stars, and of wombs and of the
And of the rights of them the others are down upon,
Of the deform’d, trivial, flat, foolish, despised,
Fog in the air, beetles rolling balls of dung.
Through me forbidden voices,
Voices of sexes and lusts, voices veil’d and I remove the veil,
Voices indecent by me clarified and transfigur’d.
I do not press my fingers across my mouth,
I keep as delicate around the bowels as around the head and
Copulation is no more rank to me than death is.
I believe in the flesh and the appetites,
Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each part and tag of me
is a miracle.
Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am
The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer,
This head more than churches, bibles, and all the creeds.
If I worship one thing more than another it shall be the spread of
my own body, or any part of it,
Translucent mould of me it shall be you!
Shaded ledges and rests it shall be you!
Firm masculine colter it shall be you!
Whatever goes to the tilth of me it shall be you!
You my rich blood! your milky stream pale strippings of my life!
Breast that presses against other breasts it shall be you!
My brain it shall be your occult convolutions!
Root of wash’d sweet-flag! timorous pond-snipe! nest of guarded
duplicate eggs! it shall be you!
Mix’d tussled hay of head, beard, brawn, it shall be you!
Trickling sap of maple, fibre of manly wheat, it shall be you!
Sun so generous it shall be you!
Vapors lighting and shading my face it shall be you!
You sweaty brooks and dews it shall be you!
Winds whose soft-tickling genitals rub against me it shall be you!
Broad muscular fields, branches of live oak, loving lounger in my
winding paths, it shall be you!
Hands I have taken, face I have kiss’d, mortal I have ever touch’d,
it shall be you.
I dote on myself, there is that lot of me and all so luscious,
Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy,
I cannot tell how my ankles bend, nor whence the cause of my
Nor the cause of the friendship I emit, nor the cause of the
friendship I take again.
That I walk up my stoop, I pause to consider if it really be,
A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics
To behold the day-break!
The little light fades the immense and diaphanous shadows,
The air tastes good to my palate.
Hefts of the moving world at innocent gambols silently rising
Scooting obliquely high and low.
Something I cannot see puts upward libidinous prongs,
Seas of bright juice suffuse heaven.
The earth by the sky staid with, the daily close of their junction,
The heav’d challenge from the east that moment over my head,
The mocking taunt, See then whether you shall be master!
Dazzling and tremendous how quick the sun-rise would kill me,
If I could not now and always send sun-rise out of me.
We also ascend dazzling and tremendous as the sun,
We found our own O my soul in the calm and cool of the daybreak.
My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach,
With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds and volumes of
Speech is the twin of my vision, it is unequal to measure itself,
It provokes me forever, it says sarcastically,
Walt you contain enough, why don’t you let it out then?
Come now I will not be tantalized, you conceive too much of
Do you not know O speech how the buds beneath you are folded?
Waiting in gloom, protected by frost,
The dirt receding before my prophetical screams,
I underlying causes to balance them at last,
My knowledge my live parts, it keeping tally with the meaning of all
Happiness, (which whoever hears me let him or her set out in search
of this day.)
My final merit I refuse you, I refuse putting from me what I really
Encompass worlds, but never try to encompass me,
I crowd your sleekest and best by simply looking toward you.
Writing and talk do not prove me,
I carry the plenum of proof and every thing else in my face,
With the hush of my lips I wholly confound the skeptic.
Now I will do nothing but listen,
To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute
I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat, gossip of flames,
clack of sticks cooking my meals,
I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice,
I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following,
Sounds of the city and sounds out of the city, sounds of the day and
Talkative young ones to those that like them, the loud laugh of
work-people at their meals,
The angry base of disjointed friendship, the faint tones of the
The judge with hands tight to the desk, his pallid lips pronouncing
The heave’e'yo of stevedores unlading ships by the wharves, the
refrain of the anchor-lifters,
The ring of alarm-bells, the cry of fire, the whirr of
swift-streaking engines and hose-carts with premonitory tinkles
and color’d lights,
The steam-whistle, the solid roll of the train of approaching cars,
The slow march play’d at the head of the association marching two
(They go to guard some corpse, the flag-tops are draped with black
I hear the violoncello, (’tis the young man’s heart’s complaint,)
I hear the key’d cornet, it glides quickly in through my ears,
It shakes mad-sweet pangs through my belly and breast.
I hear the chorus, it is a grand opera,
Ah this indeed is music - this suits me.
A tenor large and fresh as the creation fills me,
The orbic flex of his mouth is pouring and filling me full.
I hear the train’d soprano (what work with hers is this?)
The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies,
It wrenches such ardors from me I did not know I possess’d them,
It sails me, I dab with bare feet, they are lick’d by the indolent
I am cut by bitter and angry hail, I lose my breath,
Steep’d amid honey’d morphine, my windpipe throttled in fakes of
At length let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles,
And that we call Being.
To be in any form, what is that?
(Round and round we go, all of us, and ever come back thither,)
If nothing lay more develop’d the quahaug in its callous shell were
Mine is no callous shell,
I have instant conductors all over me whether I pass or stop,
They seize every object and lead it harmlessly through me.
I merely stir, press, feel with my fingers, and am happy,
To touch my person to some one else’s is about as much as I can
Is this then a touch? quivering me to a new identity,
Flames and ether making a rush for my veins,
Treacherous tip of me reaching and crowding to help them,
My flesh and blood playing out lightning to strike what is hardly
different from myself,
On all sides prurient provokers stiffening my limbs,
Straining the udder of my heart for its withheld drip,
Behaving licentious toward me, taking no denial,
Depriving me of my best as for a purpose,
Unbuttoning my clothes, holding me by the bare waist,
Deluding my confusion with the calm of the sunlight and
Immodestly sliding the fellow-senses away,
They bribed to swap off with touch and go and graze at the edges of
No consideration, no regard for my draining strength or my anger,
Fetching the rest of the herd around to enjoy them a while,
Then all uniting to stand on a headland and worry me.
The sentries desert every other part of me,
They have left me helpless to a red marauder,
They all come to the headland to witness and assist against me.
I am given up by traitors,
I talk wildly, I have lost my wits, I and nobody else am the
I went myself first to the headland, my own hands carried me there.
You villain touch! what are you doing? my breath is tight in its
Unclench your floodgates, you are too much for me.
Blind loving wrestling touch, sheath’d hooded sharp-tooth’d touch!
Did it make you ache so, leaving me?
Parting track’d by arriving, perpetual payment of perpetual loan,
Rich showering rain, and recompense richer afterward.
Sprouts take and accumulate, stand by the curb prolific and vital,
Landscapes projected masculine, full-sized and golden.
All truths wait in all things,
They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,
They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon,
The insignificant is as big to me as any,
(What is less or more than a touch?)
Logic and sermons never convince,
The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul.
(Only what proves itself to every man and woman is so,
Only what nobody denies is so.)
A minute and a drop of me settle my brain,
I believe the soggy clods shall become lovers and lamps,
And a compend of compends is the meat of a man or woman,
And a summit and flower there is the feeling they have for each
And they are to branch boundlessly out of that lesson until it
And until one and all shall delight us, and we them.
I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the
And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg
of the wren,
And the tree-toad is a chef-d’oeuvre for the highest,
And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven,
And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery,
And the cow crunching with depress’d head surpasses any statue,
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.
I find I incorporate gneiss, coal, long-threaded moss, fruits,
grains, esculent roots,
And am stucco’d with quadrupeds and birds all over,
And have distanced what is behind me for good reasons,
But call any thing back again when I desire it.
In vain the speeding or shyness,
In vain the plutonic rocks send their old heat against my approach,
In vain the mastodon retreats beneath its own powder’d bones,
In vain objects stand leagues off and assume manifold shapes,
In vain the ocean settling in hollows and the great monsters lying
In vain the buzzard houses herself with the sky,
In vain the snake slides through the creepers and logs,
In vain the elk takes to the inner passes of the woods,
In vain the razor-bill’d auk sails far north to Labrador,
I follow quickly, I ascend to the nest in the fissure of the cliff.
I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.
So they show their relations to me and I accept them,
They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them plainly in their
I wonder where they get those tokens,
Did I pass that way huge times ago and negligently drop them?
Myself moving forward then and now and forever,
Gathering and showing more always and with velocity,
Infinite and omnigenous, and the like of these among them,
Not too exclusive toward the reachers of my remembrancers,
Picking out here one that I love, and now go with him on brotherly
A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and responsive to my
Head high in the forehead, wide between the ears,
Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground,
Eyes full of sparkling wickedness, ears finely cut, flexibly moving.
His nostrils dilate as my heels embrace him,
His well-built limbs tremble with pleasure as we race around and
I but use you a minute, then I resign you, stallion,
Why do I need your paces when I myself out-gallop them?
Even as I stand or sit passing faster than you.
Space and Time! now I see it is true, what I guess’d at,
What I guess’d when I loaf’d on the grass,
What I guess’d while I lay alone in my bed,
And again as I walk’d the beach under the paling stars of the
My ties and ballasts leave me, my elbows rest in sea-gaps,
I skirt sierras, my palms cover continents,
I am afoot with my vision.
By the city’s quadrangular houses - in log huts, camping with
Along the ruts of the turnpike, along the dry gulch and rivulet bed,
Weeding my onion-patch or hosing rows of carrots and parsnips,
crossing savannas, trailing in forests,
Prospecting, gold-digging, girdling the trees of a new purchase,
Scorch’d ankle-deep by the hot sand, hauling my boat down the
Where the panther walks to and fro on a limb overhead, where the
buck turns furiously at the hunter,
Where the rattlesnake suns his flabby length on a rock, where the
otter is feeding on fish,
Where the alligator in his tough pimples sleeps by the bayou,
Where the black bear is searching for roots or honey, where the
beaver pats the mud with his paddle-shaped tall;
Over the growing sugar, over the yellow-flower’d cotton plant, over
the rice in its low moist field,
Over the sharp-peak’d farm house, with its scallop’d scum and
slender shoots from the gutters,
Over the western persimmon, over the long-leav’d corn, over the
delicate blue-flower flax,
Over the white and brown buckwheat, a hummer and buzzer there with
Over the dusky green of the rye as it ripples and shades in the
Scaling mountains, pulling myself cautiously up, holding on by low
Walking the path worn in the grass and beat through the leaves of
Where the quail is whistling betwixt the woods and the wheat-lot,
Where the bat flies in the Seventh-month eve, where the great
goldbug drops through the dark,
Where the brook puts out of the roots of the old tree and flows to
Where cattle stand and shake away flies with the tremulous
shuddering of their hides,
Where the cheese-cloth hangs in the kitchen, where andirons straddle
the hearth-slab, where cobwebs fall in festoons from the rafters;
Where trip-hammers crash, where the press is whirling its cylinders,
Wherever the human heart beats with terrible throes under its ribs,
Where the pear-shaped balloon is floating aloft, (floating in it
myself and looking composedly down,)
Where the life-car is drawn on the slip-noose, where the heat
hatches pale-green eggs in the dented sand,
Where the she-whale swims with her calf and never forsakes it,
Where the steam-ship trails hind-ways its long pennant of smoke,
Where the fin of the shark cuts like a black chip out of the water,
Where the half-burn’d brig is riding on unknown currents,
Where shells grow to her slimy deck, where the dead are corrupting
Where the dense-starr’d flag is borne at the head of the regiments,
Approaching Manhattan up by the long-stretching island,
Under Niagara, the cataract falling like a veil over my countenance,
Upon a door-step, upon the horse-block of hard wood outside,
Upon the race-course, or enjoying picnics or jigs or a good game of
At he-festivals, with blackguard gibes, ironical license,
bull-dances, drinking, laughter,
At the cider-mill tasting the sweets of the brown mash, sucking the
juice through a straw,
At apple-peelings wanting kisses for all the red fruit I find,
At musters, beach-parties, friendly bees, huskings, house-raisings;
Where the mocking-bird sounds his delicious gurgles, cackles,
Where the hay-rick stands in the barn-yard, where the dry-stalks are
scatter’d, where the brood-cow waits in the hovel,
Where the bull advances to do his masculine work, where the stud to
the mare, where the cock is treading the hen,
Where the heifers browse, where geese nip their food with short
Where sun-down shadows lengthen over the limitless and lonesome
Where herds of buffalo make a crawling spread of the square miles
far and near,
Where the humming-bird shimmers, where the neck of the long-lived
swan is curving and winding,
Where the laughing-gull scoots by the shore, where she laughs her
Where bee-hives range on a gray bench in the garden half hid by the
Where band-neck’d partridges roost in a ring on the ground with
their heads out,
Where burial coaches enter the arch’d gates of a cemetery,
Where winter wolves bark amid wastes of snow and icicled trees,
Where the yellow-crown’d heron comes to the edge of the marsh at
night and feeds upon small crabs,
Where the splash of swimmers and divers cools the warm noon,
Where the katy-did works her chromatic reed on the walnut-tree over
Through patches of citrons and cucumbers with silver-wired leaves,
Through the salt-lick or orange glade, or under conical firs,
Through the gymnasium, through the curtain’d saloon, through the
office or public hall;
Pleas’d with the native and pleas’d with the foreign, pleas’d with
the new and old,
Pleas’d with the homely woman as well as the handsome,
Pleas’d with the quakeress as she puts off her bonnet and talks
Pleas’d with the tune of the choir of the whitewash’d church,
Pleas’d with the earnest words of the sweating Methodist preacher,
impress’d seriously at the camp-meeting;
Looking in at the shop-windows of Broadway the whole forenoon,
flatting the flesh of my nose on the thick plate glass,
Wandering the same afternoon with my face turn’d up to the clouds,
or down a lane or along the beach,
My right and left arms round the sides of two friends, and I in the
Coming home with the silent and dark-cheek’d bush-boy, (behind me
he rides at the drape of the day,)
Far from the settlements studying the print of animals’ feet, or the
By the cot in the hospital reaching lemonade to a feverish patient,
Nigh the coffin’d corpse when all is still, examining with a candle;
Voyaging to every port to dicker and adventure,
Hurrying with the modern crowd as eager and fickle as any,
Hot toward one I hate, ready in my madness to knife him,
Solitary at midnight in my back yard, my thoughts gone from me a
Walking the old hills of Judaea with the beautiful gentle God by my
Speeding through space, speeding through heaven and the stars,
Speeding amid the seven satellites and the broad ring, and the
diameter of eighty thousand miles,
Speeding with tail’d meteors, throwing fire-balls like the rest,
Carrying the crescent child that carries its own full mother in its
Storming, enjoying, planning, loving, cautioning,
Backing and filling, appearing and disappearing,
I tread day and night such roads.
I visit the orchards of spheres and look at the product,
And look at quintillions ripen’d and look at quintillions green.
I fly those flights of a fluid and swallowing soul,
My course runs below the soundings of plummets.
I help myself to material and immaterial,
No guard can shut me off, no law prevent me.
I anchor my ship for a little while only,
My messengers continually cruise away or bring their returns to me.
I go hunting polar furs and the seal, leaping chasms with a
pike-pointed staff, clinging to topples of brittle and blue.
I ascend to the foretruck,
I take my place late at night in the crow’s-nest,
We sail the arctic sea, it is plenty light enough,
Through the clear atmosphere I stretch around on the wonderful
The enormous masses of ice pass me and I pass them, the scenery is
plain in all directions,
The white-topt mountains show in the distance, I fling out my
fancies toward them,
We are approaching some great battle-field in which we are soon to
We pass the colossal outposts of the encampment, we pass with still
feet and caution,
Or we are entering by the suburbs some vast and ruin’d city,
The blocks and fallen architecture more than all the living cities
of the globe.
I am a free companion, I bivouac by invading watchfires,
I turn the bridgroom out of bed and stay with the bride myself,
I tighten her all night to my thighs and lips.
My voice is the wife’s voice, the screech by the rail of the stairs,
They fetch my man’s body up dripping and drown’d.
I understand the large hearts of heroes,
The courage of present times and all times,
How the skipper saw the crowded and rudderless wreck of the
steamship, and Death chasing it up and down the storm,
How he knuckled tight and gave not back an inch, and was faithful of
days and faithful of nights,
And chalk’d in large letters on a board, Be of good cheer, we will
not desert you;
How he follow’d with them and tack’d with them three days and
would not give it up,
How he saved the drifting company at last,
How the lank loose-gown’d women look’d when boated from the
side of their prepared graves,
How the silent old-faced infants and the lifted sick, and the
sharp-lipp’d unshaved men;
All this I swallow, it tastes good, I like it well, it becomes mine,
I am the man, I suffer’d, I was there.
The disdain and calmness of martyrs,
The mother of old, condemn’d for a witch, burnt with dry wood, her
children gazing on,
The hounded slave that flags in the race, leans by the fence,
blowing, cover’d with sweat,
The twinges that sting like needles his legs and neck, the murderous
buckshot and the bullets,
All these I feel or am.
I am the hounded slave, I wince at the bite of the dogs,
Hell and despair are upon me, crack and again crack the marksmen,
I clutch the rails of the fence, my gore dribs, thinn’d with the
ooze of my skin,
I fall on the weeds and stones,
The riders spur their unwilling horses, haul close,
Taunt my dizzy ears and beat me violently over the head with
Agonies are one of my changes of garments,
I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the
My hurts turn livid upon me as I lean on a cane and observe.
I am the mash’d fireman with breast-bone broken,
Tumbling walls buried me in their debris,
Heat and smoke I inspired, I heard the yelling shouts of my
I heard the distant click of their picks and shovels,
They have clear’d the beams away, they tenderly lift me forth.
I lie in the night air in my red shirt, the pervading hush is for my
Painless after all I lie exhausted but not so unhappy,
White and beautiful are the faces around me, the heads are bared
of their fire-caps,
The kneeling crowd fades with the light of the torches.
Distant and dead resuscitate,
They show as the dial or move as the hands of me, I am the clock
I am an old artillerist, I tell of my fort’s bombardment,
I am there again.
Again the long roll of the drummers,
Again the attacking cannon, mortars,
Again to my listening ears the cannon responsive.
I take part, I see and hear the whole,
The cries, curses, roar, the plaudits for well-aim’d shots,
The ambulanza slowly passing trailing its red drip,
Workmen searching after damages, making indispensable repairs,
The fall of grenades through the rent roof, the fan-shaped
The whizz of limbs, heads, stone, wood, iron, high in the air.
Again gurgles the mouth of my dying general, he furiously waves
with his hand,
He gasps through the clot Mind not me - mind - the entrenchments.
Now I tell what I knew in Texas in my early youth,
(I tell not the fall of Alamo,
Not one escaped to tell the fall of Alamo,
The hundred and fifty are dumb yet at Alamo,)
’Tis the tale of the murder in cold blood of four hundred and twelve
Retreating they had form’d in a hollow square with their baggage for
Nine hundred lives out of the surrounding enemies, nine times their
number, was the price they took in advance,
Their colonel was wounded and their ammunition gone,
They treated for an honorable capitulation, receiv’d writing and
seal, gave up their arms and march’d back prisoners of war.
They were the glory of the race of rangers,
Matchless with horse, rifle, song, supper, courtship,
Large, turbulent, generous, handsome, proud, and affectionate,
Bearded, sunburnt, drest in the free costume of hunters,
Not a single one over thirty years of age.
The second First-day morning they were brought out in squads and
massacred, it was beautiful early summer,
The work commenced about five o’clock and was over by eight.
None obey’d the command to kneel,
Some made a mad and helpless rush, some stood stark and straight,
A few fell at once, shot in the temple or heart, the living and dead
The maim’d and mangled dug in the dirt, the new-comers saw them
Some half-kill’d attempted to crawl away,
These were despatch’d with bayonets or batter’d with the blunts of
A youth not seventeen years old seiz’d his assassin till two more
came to release him,
The three were all torn and cover’d with the boy’s blood.
At eleven o’clock began the burning of the bodies;
That is the tale of the murder of the four hundred and twelve young
Would you hear of an old-time sea-fight?
Would you learn who won by the light of the moon and stars?
List to the yarn, as my grandmother’s father the sailor told it to
Our foe was no sulk in his ship I tell you, (said he,)
His was the surly English pluck, and there is no tougher or truer,
and never was, and never will be;
Along the lower’d eve he came horribly raking us.
We closed with him, the yards entangled, the cannon touch’d,
My captain lash’d fast with his own hands.
We had receiv’d some eighteen pound shots under the water,
On our lower-gun-deck two large pieces had burst at the first fire,
killing all around and blowing up overhead.
Fighting at sun-down, fighting at dark,
Ten o’clock at night, the full moon well up, our leaks on the gain,
and five feet of water reported,
The master-at-arms loosing the prisoners confined in the after-hold
to give them a chance for themselves.
The transit to and from the magazine is now stopt by the sentinels,
They see so many strange faces they do not know whom to trust.
Our frigate takes fire,
The other asks if we demand quarter?
If our colors are struck and the fighting done?
Now I laugh content, for I hear the voice of my little captain,
We have not struck, he composedly cries, we have just begun our part
of the fighting.
Only three guns are in use,
One is directed by the captain himself against the enemy’s
Two well serv’d with grape and canister silence his musketry and
clear his decks.
The tops alone second the fire of this little battery, especially
They hold out bravely during the whole of the action.
Not a moment’s cease,
The leaks gain fast on the pumps, the fire eats toward the
One of the pumps has been shot away, it is generally thought we are
Serene stands the little captain,
He is not hurried, his voice is neither high nor low,
His eyes give more light to us than our battle-lanterns.
Toward twelve there in the beams of the moon they surrender to us.
Stretch’d and still lies the midnight,
Two great hulls motionless on the breast of the darkness,
Our vessel riddled and slowly sinking, preparations to pass to the
one we have conquer’d,
The captain on the quarter-deck coldly giving his orders through a
countenance white as a sheet,
Near by the corpse of the child that serv’d in the cabin,
The dead face of an old salt with long white hair and carefully
The flames spite of all that can be done flickering aloft and below,
The husky voices of the two or three officers yet fit for duty,
Formless stacks of bodies and bodies by themselves, dabs of flesh
upon the masts and spars,
Cut of cordage, dangle of rigging, slight shock of the soothe of
Black and impassive guns, litter of powder-parcels, strong scent,
A few large stars overhead, silent and mournful shining,
Delicate sniffs of sea-breeze, smells of sedgy grass and fields by
the shore, death-messages given in charge to survivors,
The hiss of the surgeon’s knife, the gnawing teeth of his saw,
Wheeze, cluck, swash of falling blood, short wild scream, and long,
dull, tapering groan,
These so, these irretrievable.
You laggards there on guard! look to your arms!
In at the conquer’d doors they crowd! I am possess’d!
Embody all presences outlaw’d or suffering,
See myself in prison shaped like another man,
And feel the dull unintermitted pain.
For me the keepers of convicts shoulder their carbines and keep
It is I let out in the morning and barr’d at night.
Not a mutineer walks handcuff’d to jail but I am handcuff’d to him
and walk by his side,
(I am less the jolly one there, and more the silent one with sweat
on my twitching lips.)
Not a youngster is taken for larceny but I go up too, and am tried
Not a cholera patient lies at the last gasp but I also lie at the
My face is ash-color’d, my sinews gnarl, away from me people
Askers embody themselves in me and I am embodied in them,
I project my hat, sit shame-faced, and beg.
Enough! enough! enough!
Somehow I have been stunn’d. Stand back!
Give me a little time beyond my cuff’d head, slumbers, dreams,
I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake.
That I could forget the mockers and insults!
That I could forget the trickling tears and the blows of the
bludgeons and hammers!
That I could look with a separate look on my own crucifixion and
I remember now,
I resume the overstaid fraction,
The grave of rock multiplies what has been confided to it, or to any
Corpses rise, gashes heal, fastenings roll from me.
I troop forth replenish’d with supreme power, one of an average
Inland and sea-coast we go, and pass all boundary lines,
Our swift ordina
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weathered 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 ribboned wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
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 anchored 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.
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 faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;
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.
I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.
Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul? And if the body
were not the soul, what is the soul?
The love of the body of man or woman balks account, the body itself
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect.
The expression of the face balks account,
But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face,
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of
his hips and wrists,
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist
and knees, dress does not hide him,
The strong sweet quality he has strikes through the cotton and broadcloth,
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more,
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-side.
The sprawl and fulness of babes, the bosoms and heads of women, the
folds of their dress, their style as we pass in the street, the
contour of their shape downwards,
The swimmer naked in the swimming-bath, seen as he swims through
the transparent green-shine, or lies with his face up and rolls
silently to and from the heave of the water,
The bending forward and backward of rowers in row-boats, the
horse-man in his saddle,
Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their performances,
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their open
dinner-kettles, and their wives waiting,
The female soothing a child, the farmer’s daughter in the garden or
The young fellow hosing corn, the sleigh-driver driving his six
horses through the crowd,
The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite grown, lusty,
good-natured, native-born, out on the vacant lot at sundown
The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love and resistance,
The upper-hold and under-hold, the hair rumpled over and blinding the eyes;
The march of firemen in their own costumes, the play of masculine
muscle through clean-setting trowsers and waist-straps,
The slow return from the fire, the pause when the bell strikes
suddenly again, and the listening on the alert,
The natural, perfect, varied attitudes, the bent head, the curv’d
neck and the counting;
Such-like I love—I loosen myself, pass freely, am at the mother’s
breast with the little child,
Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers, march in line with
the firemen, and pause, listen, count.
I knew a man, a common farmer, the father of five sons,
And in them the fathers of sons, and in them the fathers of sons.
This man was a wonderful vigor, calmness, beauty of person,
The shape of his head, the pale yellow and white of his hair and
beard, the immeasurable meaning of his black eyes, the richness
and breadth of his manners,
These I used to go and visit him to see, he was wise also,
He was six feet tall, he was over eighty years old, his sons were
massive, clean, bearded, tan-faced, handsome,
They and his daughters loved him, all who saw him loved him,
They did not love him by allowance, they loved him with personal
He drank water only, the blood show’d like scarlet through the
clear-brown skin of his face,
He was a frequent gunner and fisher, he sail’d his boat himself, he
had a fine one presented to him by a ship-joiner, he had
fowling-pieces presented to him by men that loved him,
When he went with his five sons and many grand-sons to hunt or fish,
you would pick him out as the most beautiful and vigorous of
You would wish long and long to be with him, you would wish to sit
by him in the boat that you and he might touch each other.
I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough,
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round
his or her neck for a moment, what is this then?
I do not ask any more delight, I
swim in it as in a sea.
There is something in staying close to men and women and looking on them,
and in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well,
All things please the soul, but these please the soul well.
This is the female form,
A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot,
It attracts with fierce undeniable attraction,
I am drawn by its breath as if I were no more than a helpless vapor,
all falls aside but myself and it,
Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth, and what
was expected of heaven or fear’d of hell, are now consumed,
Mad filaments, ungovernable shoots play out of it, the response
Hair, bosom, hips, bend of legs, negligent falling hands all
diffused, mine too diffused,
Ebb stung by the flow and flow stung by the ebb, love-flesh swelling
and deliciously aching,
Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous, quivering jelly of
love, white-blow and delirious nice,
Bridegroom night of love working surely and softly into the
Undulating into the willing and yielding day,
Lost in the cleave of the clasping and sweet-flesh’d day.
This the nucleus—after the child is born of woman, man is born
This the bath of birth, this the merge of small and large, and the
Be not ashamed women, your privilege encloses the rest, and is the
exit of the rest,
You are the gates of the body, and you are the gates of the soul.
The female contains all qualities and tempers them,
She is in her place and moves with perfect balance,
She is all things duly veil’d, she is both passive and active,
She is to conceive daughters as well as sons, and sons as well as
As I see my soul reflected in Nature,
As I see through a mist, One with inexpressible completeness,
See the bent head and arms folded over the breast, the Female I see.
The male is not less the soul nor more, he too is in his place,
He too is all qualities, he is action and power,
The flush of the known universe is in him,
Scorn becomes him well, and appetite and defiance become him well,
The wildest largest passions, bliss that is utmost, sorrow that is
utmost become him well, pride is for him,
The full-spread pride of man is calming and excellent to the soul,
Knowledge becomes him, he likes it always, he brings every thing to
the test of himself,
Whatever the survey, whatever the sea and the sail he strikes
soundings at last only here,
(Where else does he strike soundings except here?)
The man’s body is sacred and the woman’s body is sacred,
No matter who it is, it is sacred—is it the meanest one in the
Is it one of the dull-faced immigrants just landed on the wharf?
Each belongs here or anywhere just as much as the well-off, just as
much as you,
Each has his or her place in the procession.
(All is a procession,
The universe is a procession with measured and perfect motion.)
Do you know so much yourself that you call the meanest ignorant?
Do you suppose you have a right to a good sight, and he or she has
no right to a sight?
Do you think matter has cohered together from its diffuse float, and
the soil is on the surface, and water runs and vegetation sprouts,
For you only, and not for him and her?
A man’s body at auction,
(For before the war I often go to the slave-mart and watch the sale,)
I help the auctioneer, the sloven does not half know his business.
Gentlemen look on this wonder,
Whatever the bids of the bidders they cannot be high enough for it,
For it the globe lay preparing quintillions of years without one animal or plant,
For it the revolving cycles truly and steadily roll’d.
In this head the all-baffling brain,
In it and below it the makings of heroes.
Examine these limbs, red, black, or white, they are cunning in tendon and nerve,
They shall be stript that you may see them.
Exquisite senses, life-lit eyes, pluck, volition,
Flakes of breast-muscle, pliant backbone and neck, flesh not flabby, good-sized
arms and legs,
And wonders within there yet.
Within there runs blood,
The same old blood! the same red-running blood!
There swells and jets a heart, there all passions, desires, reachings,
(Do you think they are not there because they are not express’d in
parlors and lecture-rooms?)
This is not only one man, this the father of those who shall be fathers
in their turns,
In him the start of populous states and rich republics,
Of him countless immortal lives with countless embodiments and enjoyments.
How do you know who shall come from the offspring of his offspring
through the centuries?
(Who might you find you have come from yourself, if you could trace
back through the centuries?)
A woman’s body at auction,
She too is not only herself, she is the teeming mother of mothers,
She is the bearer of them that shall grow and be mates to the mothers.
Have you ever loved the body of a woman?
Have you ever loved the body of a man?
Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all in all nations and
times all over the earth?
If any thing is sacred the human body is sacred,
And the glory and sweet of a man is the token of manhood untainted,
And in man or woman a clean, strong, firm-fibred body, is more beautiful
than the most beautiful face.
Have you seen the fool that corrupted his own live body? or the fool
that corrupted her own live body?
For they do not conceal themselves, and cannot conceal themselves.
O my body! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and women,
nor the likes of the parts of you,
I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with the likes of the
soul, (and that they are the soul,)
I believe the likes of you shall stand or fall with my poems, and
that they are my poems,
Man’s, woman’s, child, youth’s, wife’s, husband’s, mother’s,
father’s, young man’s, young woman’s poems,
Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears,
Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eyebrows, and the waking or
sleeping of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the
Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition,
Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the neck, neck-slue,
Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoulders, and the
ample side-round of the chest,
Upper-arm, armpit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-sinews, arm-bones,
Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb, forefinger,
Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast, breast-bone, breast-side,
Ribs, belly, backbone, joints of the backbone,
Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward round, man-balls, man-root,
Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk above,
Leg-fibres, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under-leg,
Ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel;
All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of my or your body
or of any one’s body, male or female,
The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean,
The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame,
Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality, maternity,
Womanhood, and all that is a woman, and the man that comes from woman,
The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping,
love-looks, love-perturbations and risings,
The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud,
Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming,
Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
The skin, the sunburnt shade, freckles, hair,
The curious sympathy one feels when feeling with the hand the naked
meat of the body,
The circling rivers the breath, and breathing it in and out,
The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward
toward the knees,
The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the
marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health;
O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of
O I say now these are the soul!
Be composed—be at ease with me—I am Walt Whitman, liberal and lusty as Nature;
Not till the sun excludes you, do I exclude you;
Not till the waters refuse to glisten for you, and the leaves to rustle for you,
do my words refuse to glisten and rustle for you.
My girl, I appoint with you an appointment—and I charge you that you make
preparation to be worthy to meet me,
And I charge you that you be patient and perfect till I come.
Till then, I salute you with a significant look, that you do not forget me.
I sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all
oppression and shame;
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with
themselves, remorseful after deeds done;
I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying,
neglected, gaunt, desperate;
I see the wife misused by her husband—I see the treacherous seducer
of young women;
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love, attempted to be
hid—I see these sights on the earth;
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny—I see martyrs and
I observe a famine at sea—I observe the sailors casting lots who
shall be kill’d, to preserve the lives of the rest;
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon
laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;
All these—All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look out
See, hear, and am silent.
When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring;
Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.
O powerful, western, fallen star!
O shades of night! O moody, tearful night!
O great star disappear’d! O the black murk that hides the star!
O cruel hands that hold me powerless! O helpless soul of me!
O harsh surrounding cloud, that will not free my soul!
In the door-yard fronting an old farm-house, near the white-wash’d palings,
Stands the lilac bush, tall-growing, with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom, rising, delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle……and from this bush in the door-yard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms, and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig, with its flower, I break.
In the swamp, in secluded recesses,
A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.
Solitary, the thrush,
The hermit, withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements,
Sings by himself a song.
Song of the bleeding throat!
Death’s outlet song of life—(for well, dear brother, I know
If thou wast not gifted to sing, thou would’st surely die.)
Over the breast of the spring, the land, amid cities,
Amid lanes, and through old woods, (where lately the violets peep’d from the ground, spotting the gray debris;)
Amid the grass in the fields each side of the lanes—passing the endless grass;
Passing the yellow-spear’d wheat, every grain from its shroud in the dark-brown fields uprising;
Passing the apple-tree blows of white and pink in the orchards;
Carrying a corpse to where it shall rest in the grave,
Night and day journeys a coffin.
Coffin that passes through lanes and streets,
Through day and night, with the great cloud darkening the land,
With the pomp of the inloop’d flags, with the cities draped in black,
With the show of the States themselves, as of crape-veil’d women, standing,
With processions long and winding, and the flambeaus of the night,
With the countless torches lit—with the silent sea of faces, and the unbared heads,
With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin, and the sombre faces,
With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices rising strong and solemn;
With all the mournful voices of the dirges, pour’d around the coffin,
The dim-lit churches and the shuddering organs—Where amid these you journey,
With the tolling, tolling bells’ perpetual clang;
Here! coffin that slowly passes,
I give you my sprig of lilac.
(Nor for you, for one, alone;
Blossoms and branches green to coffins all I bring:
For fresh as the morning—thus would I carol a song for you, O sane and sacred death.
All over bouquets of roses,
O death! I cover you over with roses and early lilies;
But mostly and now the lilac that blooms the first,
Copious, I break, I break the sprigs from the bushes;
With loaded arms I come, pouring for you,
For you, and the coffins all of you, O death.)
O western orb, sailing the heaven!
Now I know what you must have meant, as a month since we walk’d,
As we walk’d up and down in the dark blue so mystic,
As we walk’d in silence the transparent shadowy night,
As I saw you had something to tell, as you bent to me night after night,
As you droop’d from the sky low down, as if to my side, (while the other stars all look’d on;)
As we wander’d together the solemn night, (for something, I know not what, kept me from sleep;)
As the night advanced, and I saw on the rim of the west, ere you went, how full you were of woe;
As I stood on the rising ground in the breeze, in the cold transparent night,
As I watch’d where you pass’d and was lost in the netherward black of the night,
As my soul, in its trouble, dissatisfied, sank, as where you, sad orb,
Concluded, dropt in the night, and was gone.
Sing on, there in the swamp!
O singer bashful and tender! I hear your notes—I hear your call;
I hear—I come presently—I understand you;
But a moment I linger—for the lustrous star has detain’d me;
The star, my departing comrade, holds and detains me.
O how shall I warble myself for the dead one there I loved?
And how shall I deck my song for the large sweet soul that has gone?
And what shall my perfume be, for the grave of him I love?
Sea-winds, blown from east and west,
Blown from the eastern sea, and blown from the western sea, till there on the prairies meeting:
These, and with these, and the breath of my chant,
I perfume the grave of him I love.
O what shall I hang on the chamber walls?
And what shall the pictures be that I hang on the walls,
To adorn the burial-house of him I love?
Pictures of growing spring, and farms, and homes,
With the Fourth-month eve at sundown, and the gray smoke lucid and bright,
With floods of the yellow gold of the gorgeous, indolent, sinking sun, burning, expanding the air;
With the fresh sweet herbage under foot, and the pale green leaves of the trees prolific;
In the distance the flowing glaze, the breast of the river, with a wind-dapple here and there;
With ranging hills on the banks, with many a line against the sky, and shadows;
And the city at hand, with dwellings so dense, and stacks of chimneys,
And all the scenes of life, and the workshops, and the workmen homeward returning.
Lo! body and soul! this land!
Mighty Manhattan, with spires, and the sparkling and hurrying tides, and the ships;
The varied and ample land—the South and the North in the light—Ohio’s shores, and flashing Missouri,
And ever the far-spreading prairies, cover’d with grass and corn.
Lo! the most excellent sun, so calm and haughty;
The violet and purple morn, with just-felt breezes;
The gentle, soft-born, measureless light;
The miracle, spreading, bathing all—the fulfill’d noon;
The coming eve, delicious—the welcome night, and the stars,
Over my cities shining all, enveloping man and land.
Sing on! sing on, you gray-brown bird!
Sing from the swamps, the recesses—pour your chant from the bushes;
Limitless out of the dusk, out of the cedars and pines.
Sing on, dearest brother—warble your reedy song;
Loud human song, with voice of uttermost woe.
O liquid, and free, and tender!
O wild and loose to my soul! O wondrous singer!
You only I hear……yet the star holds me, (but will soon depart;)
Yet the lilac, with mastering odor, holds me.
Now while I sat in the day, and look’d forth,
In the close of the day, with its light, and the fields of spring, and the farmer preparing his crops,
In the large unconscious scenery of my land, with its lakes and forests,
In the heavenly aerial beauty, (after the perturb’d winds, and the storms;)
Under the arching heavens of the afternoon swift passing, and the voices of children and women,
The many-moving sea-tides,—and I saw the ships how they sail’d,
And the summer approaching with richness, and the fields all busy with labor,
And the infinite separate houses, how they all went on, each with its meals and minutia of daily usages;
And the streets, how their throbbings throbb’d, and the cities pent—lo! then and there,
Falling upon them all, and among them all, enveloping me with the rest,
Appear’d the cloud, appear’d the long black trail;
And I knew Death, its thought, and the sacred knowledge of death.
Then with the knowledge of death as walking one side of me,
And the thought of death close-walking the other side of me,
And I in the middle, as with companions, and as holding the hands of companions,
I fled forth to the hiding receiving night, that talks not,
Down to the shores of the water, the path by the swamp in the dimness,
To the solemn shadowy cedars, and ghostly pines so still.
And the singer so shy to the rest receiv’d me;
The gray-brown bird I know, receiv’d us comrades three;
And he sang what seem’d the carol of death, and a verse for him I love.
From deep secluded recesses,
From the fragrant cedars, and the ghostly pines so still,
Came the carol of the bird.
And the charm of the carol rapt me,
As I held, as if by their hands, my comrades in the night;
And the voice of my spirit tallied the song of the bird.
Come, lovely and soothing Death,
Undulate round the world, serenely arriving, arriving,
In the day, in the night, to all, to each,
Sooner or later, delicate Death.
Prais’d be the fathomless universe,
For life and joy, and for objects and knowledge curious;
And for love, sweet love—But praise! praise! praise!
For the sure-enwinding arms of cool-enfolding Death.
Dark Mother, always gliding near, with soft feet,
Have none chanted for thee a chant of fullest welcome?
Then I chant it for thee—I glorify thee above all;
I bring thee a song that when thou must indeed come, come unfalteringly.
Approach, strong Deliveress!
When it is so—when thou hast taken them, I joyously sing the dead,
Lost in the loving, floating ocean of thee,
Laved in the flood of thy bliss, O Death.
From me to thee glad serenades,
Dances for thee I propose, saluting thee—adornments and feastings for thee;
And the sights of the open landscape, and the high-spread sky, are fitting,
And life and the fields, and the huge and thoughtful night.
The night, in silence, under many a star;
The ocean shore, and the husky whispering wave, whose voice I know;
And the soul turning to thee, O vast and well-veil’d Death,
And the body gratefully nestling close to thee.
Over the tree-tops I float thee a song!
Over the rising and sinking waves—over the myriad fields, and the prairies wide;
Over the dense-pack’d cities all, and the teeming wharves and ways,
I float this carol with joy, with joy to thee, O Death!
To the tally of my soul,
Loud and strong kept up the gray-brown bird,
With pure, deliberate notes, spreading, filling the night.
Loud in the pines and cedars dim,
Clear in the freshness moist, and the swamp-perfume;
And I with my comrades there in the night.
While my sight that was bound in my eyes unclosed,
As to long panoramas of visions.
I saw askant the armies;
And I saw, as in noiseless dreams, hundreds of battle-flags;
Borne through the smoke of the battles, and pierc’d with missiles, I saw them,
And carried hither and yon through the smoke, and torn and bloody;
And at last but a few shreds left on the staffs, (and all in silence,)
And the staffs all splinter’d and broken.
I saw battle-corpses, myriads of them,
And the white skeletons of young men—I saw them;
I saw the debris and debris of all the dead soldiers of the war;
But I saw they were not as was thought;
They themselves were fully at rest—they suffer’d not;
The living remain’d and suffer’d—the mother suffer’d,
And the wife and the child, and the musing comrade suffer’d,
And the armies that remain’d suffer’d.
Passing the visions, passing the night;
Passing, unloosing the hold of my comrades’ hands;
Passing the song of the hermit bird, and the tallying song of my soul,
(Victorious song, death’s outlet song, yet varying, ever-altering song,
As low and wailing, yet clear the notes, rising and falling, flooding the night,
Sadly sinking and fainting, as warning and warning, and yet again bursting with joy,
Covering the earth, and filling the spread of the heaven,
As that powerful psalm in the night I heard from recesses,)
Passing, I leave thee, lilac with heart-shaped leaves;
I leave thee there in the door-yard, blooming, returning with spring,
I cease from my song for thee;
From my gaze on thee in the west, fronting the west, communing with thee,
O comrade lustrous, with silver face in the night.
Yet each I keep, and all, retrievements out of the night;
The song, the wondrous chant of the gray-brown bird,
And the tallying chant, the echo arous’d in my soul,
With the lustrous and drooping star, with the countenance full of woe,
With the lilac tall, and its blossoms of mastering odor;
With the holders holding my hand, nearing the call of the bird,
Comrades mine, and I in the midst, and their memory ever I keep—for the dead I loved so well;
For the sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and lands…and this for his dear sake;
Lilac and star and bird, twined with the chant of my soul,
There in the fragrant pines, and the cedars dusk and dim.
Had I the choice to tally greatest bards,
To limn their portraits, stately, beautiful, and emulate at will,
Homer with all his wars and warriors—Hector, Achilles, Ajax,
Or Shakespeare’s woe-entangled Hamlet, Lear, Othello—Tennyson’s
Meter or wit the best, or choice conceit to wield in perfect rhyme,
delight of singers;
These, these, O sea, all these I’d gladly barter,
Would you the undulation of one wave, its trick to me transfer,
Or breathe one breath of yours upon my verse,
And leave its odor there.
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 you;
I only am he who places over you no master, owner, better, God, beyond
what waits intrinsically in yourself.
Painters have painted their swarming groups, and the centre figure of all;
From the head of the centre figure spreading a nimbus of gold-color’d light;
But I paint myriads of heads, but paint no head without its nimbus of
From my hand, from the brain of every man and woman it streams,
effulgently flowing forever.
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 return?)
The mockeries are not you;
Underneath them, and within them, I see you lurk;
I pursue you where none else has pursued you;
Silence, the desk, the flippant expression, the night, the accustom’d routine,
if these conceal you from others, or from yourself, they do not conceal you
The shaved face, the unsteady eye, the impure complexion, if these balk others,
they do not balk me,
The pert apparel, the deform’d attitude, drunkenness, greed, premature death,
all these I part aside.
There is no endowment in man or woman that is not tallied in you;
There is no virtue, no beauty, in man or woman, but as good is in you;
No pluck, no endurance in others, but as good is in you;
No pleasure waiting for others, but an equal pleasure waits for you.
As for me, I give nothing to any one, except I give the like carefully to you;
I sing the songs of the glory of none, not God, sooner than I sing the songs
of the glory of you.
Whoever you are! claim your own at any hazard!
These shows of the east and west are tame, compared to you;
These immense meadows—these interminable rivers—you are immense
and interminable as they;
These furies, elements, storms, motions of Nature, throes of apparent dissolution—
you are he or she who is master or mistress over them,
Master or mistress in your own right over Nature, elements, pain, passion, 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
Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are provided, nothing is scanted;
Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui, what you are picks its way.
The business man, the acquirer vast,
After assiduous years, surveying results, preparing for departure,
Devises houses and lands to his children—bequeaths stocks, goods—funds for a school or hospital,
Leaves money to certain companions to buy tokens, souvenirs of gems and gold;
Parceling out with care—And then, to prevent all cavil,
His name to his testament formally signs.
But I, my life surveying,
With nothing to show, to devise, from its idle years,
Nor houses, nor lands—nor tokens of gems or gold for my friends,
Only these Souvenirs of Democracy—In them—in all my songs—behind me leaving,
To You, who ever you are, (bathing, leavening this leaf especially with my breath—pressing on it a moment with my own hands;
—Here! feel how the pulse beats in my wrists!—how my heart’s-blood is swelling, contracting!)
I will You, in all, Myself, with promise to never desert you,
To which I sign my name.
We two boys together clinging,
One the other never leaving,
Up and down the roads going—North and South excursions making,
Power enjoying—elbows stretching—fingers clutching,
Arm’d and fearless—eating, drinking, sleeping, loving,
No law less than ourselves owning—sailing, soldiering, thieving, threatening,
Misers, menials, priests alarming—air breathing, water drinking, on the turf or the sea-beach dancing,
Cities wrenching, ease scorning, statutes mocking, feebleness chasing,
Fulfilling our foray.
Who is now reading this?
May-be one is now reading this who knows some wrong-doing of my past life,
Or may-be a stranger is reading this who has secretly loved me,
Or may-be one who meets all my grand assumptions and egotisms with derision,
Or may-be one who is puzzled at me.
As if I were not puzzled at myself!
Or as if I never deride myself! (O conscience-struck! O self-convicted!)
Or as if I do not secretly love strangers! (O tenderly, a long time, and never avow it;)
Or as if I did not see, perfectly well, interior in myself, the stuff of wrong-doing,
Or as if it could cease transpiring from me until it must cease.
Beat! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows—through doors—burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation;
Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet—no happiness must he have now with his bride;
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, plowing his field or gathering his grain;
So fierce you whirr and pound, you drums—so shrill you bugles blow.
Beat! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities—over the rumble of wheels in the streets:
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? No sleepers must sleep in those beds;
No bargainers’ bargains by day—no brokers or speculators—Would they continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums—you bugles wilder blow.
Beat! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley—stop for no expostulation;
Mind not the timid—mind not the weeper or prayer;
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man;
Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties;
Make even the trestles to shake the dead, where they lie awaiting the hearses,
So strong you thump, O terrible drums—so loud you bugles blow.
One’s-Self I sing, a simple separate person,
Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse.
Of physiology from top to toe I sing,
Not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy for the Muse,
I say the Form complete is worthier far,
The Female equally with the Male I sing.
Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,
Cheerful, for freest action form’d under the laws divine,
The Modern Man I sing.
I was asking for something specific and perfect for my city,
Whereupon, lo! upsprang the aboriginal name!
Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid, sane, unruly, musical, self-sufficient;
I see that the word of my city is that word up there,
Because I see that word nested in nests of water-bays, superb, with tall and wonderful spires,
Rich, hemm’d thick all around with sailships and steamships—an island sixteen miles long, solid-founded,
Numberless crowded streets—high growths of iron, slender, strong, light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies;
Tide swift and ample, well-loved by me, toward sundown,
The flowing sea-currents, the little islands, larger adjoining islands, the heights, the villas,
The countless masts, the white shore-steamers, the lighters, the ferry-boats, the black sea-steamers well-model’d;
The down-town streets, the jobbers’ houses of business—the houses of business of the ship-merchants, and money-brokers—the river-streets;
Immigrants arriving, fifteen or twenty thousand in a week;
The carts hauling goods—the manly race of drivers of horses—the brown-faced sailors;
The summer air, the bright sun shining, and the sailing clouds aloft;
The winter snows, the sleigh-bells—the broken ice in the river, passing along, up or down, with the flood tide or ebb-tide;
The mechanics of the city, the masters, well-form’d, beautiful-faced, looking you straight in the eyes;
Trottoirs throng’d—vehicles—Broadway—the women—the shops and shows,
The parades, processions, bugles playing, flags flying, drums beating;
A million people—manners free and superb—open voices—hospitality—the most courageous and friendly young men;
The free city! no slaves! no owners of slaves!
The beautiful city, the city of hurried and sparkling waters! the city of spires and masts!
The city nested in bays! my city!
The city of such women, I am mad to be with them! I will return after death to be with them!
The city of such young men, I swear I cannot live happy, without I often go talk, walk, eat, drink, sleep, with them!
When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
On the beach at night alone,
As the old mother sways her to and fro, singing her 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, asteroids,
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, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages;
All identities that have existed, or may exist, on this globe, or any globe;
All lives and deaths—all of the past, present, future;
This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann’d, and shall forever span them, and compactly hold them, and enclose them.
What ship, puzzled at sea, cons for the true reckoning?
Or, coming in, to avoid the bars, and follow the channel, a perfect pilot needs?
Here, sailor! Here, ship! take aboard the most perfect pilot,
Whom, in a little boat, putting off, and rowing, I, hailing you, offer.
Flood-Tide below me! I see you face to face!
Clouds of the west—sun there half an hour high—I see you also face
Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how curious
you are to me!
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning
home, are more curious to me than you suppose,
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are more
to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.
The impalpable sustenance of me from all things at all hours of the
The simple, compact, well-join’d scheme, myself disintegrated, every
one disintegrated yet part of the scheme,
The similitudes of the past and those of the future,
The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and hearings, on
the walk in the street and the passage over the river,
The current rushing so swiftly and swimming with me far away,
The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them,
The certainty of others, the life, love, sight, hearing of others.
Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore to
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide,
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and the
heights of Brooklyn to the south and east,
Others will see the islands large and small;
Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half
an hour high,
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others
will see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the
falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide.
It avails not, time nor place—distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,
Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the
bright flow, I was refresh’d,
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift
current, I stood yet was hurried,
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the
thick-stemm’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.
I too many and many a time cross’d the river of old,
Watched the Twelfth-month sea-gulls, saw them high in the air
floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies,
Saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their bodies and left
the rest in strong shadow,
Saw the slow-wheeling circles and the gradual edging toward the
Saw the reflection of the summer sky in the water,
Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of beams,
Look’d at the fine centrifugal spokes of light round the shape of my
head in the sunlit water,
Look’d on the haze on the hills southward and south-westward,
Look’d on the vapor as it flew in fleeces tinged with violet,
Look’d toward the lower bay to notice the vessels arriving,
Saw their approach, saw aboard those that were near me,
Saw the white sails of schooners and sloops, saw the ships at
The sailors at work in the rigging or out astride the spars,
The round masts, the swinging motion of the hulls, the slender
The large and small steamers in motion, the pilots in their
The white wake left by the passage, the quick tremulous whirl of the
The flags of all nations, the falling of them at sunset,
The scallop-edged waves in the twilight, the ladled cups, the
frolic-some crests and glistening,
The stretch afar growing dimmer and dimmer, the gray walls of the
granite storehouses by the docks,
On the river the shadowy group, the big steam-tug closely flank’d on
each side by the barges, the hay-boat, the belated lighter,
On the neighboring shore the fires from the foundry chimneys burning
high and glaringly into the night,
Casting their flicker of black contrasted with wild red and yellow
light over the tops of houses, and down into the clefts of
These and all else were to me the same as they are to you,
I loved well those cities, loved well the stately and rapid river,
The men and women I saw were all near to me,
Others the same-others who look back on me because I look’d forward
(The time will come, though I stop here to-day and to-night.)
What is it then between us?
What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between us?
Whatever it is, it avails not—distance avails not, and place avails
I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine,
I too walk’d the streets of Manhattan island, and bathed in the
waters around it,
I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me,
In the day among crowds of people sometimes they came upon me,
In my walks home late at night or as I lay in my bed they came upon
I too had been struck from the float forever held in solution,
I too had receiv’d identity by my body,
That I was I knew was of my body, and what I should be I knew I
should be of my body.
It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall,
The dark threw its patches down upon me also,
The best I had done seem’d to me blank and suspicious,
My great thoughts as I supposed them, were they not in reality
Nor is it you alone who know what it is to be evil,
I am he who knew what it was to be evil,
I too knitted the old knot of contrariety,
Blabb’d, blush’d, resented, lied, stole, grudg’d,
Had guile, anger, lust, hot wishes I dared not speak,
Was wayward, vain, greedy, shallow, sly, cowardly, malignant,
The wolf, the snake, the hog, not wanting in me.
The cheating look, the frivolous word, the adulterous wish, not
Refusals, hates, postponements, meanness, laziness, none of these
Was one with the rest, the days and haps of the rest,
Was call’d by my nighest name by clear loud voices of young men as
they saw me approaching or passing,
Felt their arms on my neck as I stood, or the negligent leaning of
their flesh against me as I sat,
Saw many I loved in the street or ferry-boat or public assembly, yet
never told them a word,
Lived the same life with the rest, the same old laughing, gnawing,
Play’d the part that still looks back on the actor or actress,
The same old role, the role that is what we make it, as great as we
Or as small as we like, or both great and small.
Closer yet I approach you,
What thought you have of me now, I had as much of you—I laid in my
stores in advance,
I consider’d long and seriously of you before you were born.
Who was to know what should come home to me?
Who knows but I am enjoying this?
Who knows, for all the distance, but I am as good as looking at you
now, for all you cannot see me?
Ah, what can ever be more stately and admirable to me than
River and sunset and scallop-edg’d waves of flood-tide?
The sea-gulls oscillating their bodies, the hay-boat in the
twilight, and the belated lighter?
What gods can exceed these that clasp me by the hand, and with
voices I love call me promptly and loudly by my nighest name as
What is more subtle than this which ties me to the woman or man that
looks in my face?
Which fuses me into you now, and pours my meaning into you?
We understand then do we not?
What I promis’d without mentioning it, have you not accepted?
What the study could not teach—what the preaching could not
accomplish is accomplish’d, is it not?
Flow on, river! flow with the flood-tide, and ebb with the ebb-tide!
Frolic on, crested and scallop-edg’d waves!
Gorgeous clouds of the sunset! drench with your splendor me, or the
men and women generations after me!
Cross from shore to shore, countless crowds of passengers!
Stand up, tall masts of Mannahatta! stand up, beautiful hills of
Throb, baffled and curious brain! throw out questions and answers!
Suspend here and everywhere, eternal float of solution!
Gaze, loving and thirsting eyes, in the house or street or public
Sound out, voices of young men! loudly and musically call me by my
Live, old life! play the part that looks back on the actor or
Play the old role, the role that is great or small according as one
Consider, you who peruse me, whether I may not in unknown ways be
looking upon you;
Be firm, rail over the river, to support those who lean idly, yet
haste with the hasting current;
Fly on, sea-birds! fly sideways, or wheel in large circles high in
Receive the summer sky, you water, and faithfully hold it till all
downcast eyes have time to take it from you!
Diverge, fine spokes of light, from the shape of my head, or any
one’s head, in the sunlit water!
Come on, ships from the lower bay! pass up or down, white-sail’d
schooners, sloops, lighters!
Flaunt away, flags of all nations! be duly lower’d at sunset!
Burn high your fires, foundry chimneys! cast black shadows at
nightfall! cast red and yellow light over the tops of the houses!
Appearances, now or henceforth, indicate what you are,
You necessary film, continue to envelop the soul,
About my body for me, and your body for you, be hung our divinest
Thrive, cities—bring your freight, bring your shows, ample and
Expand, being than which none else is perhaps more spiritual,
Keep your places, objects than which none else is more lasting.
You have waited, you always wait, you dumb, beautiful ministers,
We receive you with free sense at last, and are insatiate
Not you any more shall be able to foil us, or withhold yourselves
We use you, and do not cast you aside—we plant you permanently
We fathom you not—we love you—there is perfection in you also,
You furnish your parts toward eternity,
Great or small, you furnish your parts toward the soul.
A noiseless patient spider,
I marked where on a promontory it stood isolated,
Marked how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launched forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be formed, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somwhere, O my soul.
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 western sky!
Illustrious whatever I see, or hear, or touch, to the last.
Good in all,
In the satisfaction and aplomb of animals,
In the annual return of the seasons,
In the hilarity of youth,
In the strength and flush of manhood,
In the grandeur and exquisiteness of old age,
In the superb vistas of Death.
Wonderful to depart;
Wonderful to be here!
The heart, to jet the all-alike and innocent blood!
To breathe the air, how delicious!
To speak! to walk! to seize something by the hand!
To prepare for sleep, for bed—to look on my rose-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.
Come, my tan-faced children,
Follow well in order, get your weapons ready;
Have you your pistols? have you your sharp edged axes? Pioneers! O pioneers!
For we cannot tarry here,
We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger,
We, the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend, Pioneers! O pioneers!
O you youths, western youths,
So impatient, full of action, full of manly pride and friendship,
Plain I see you, western youths, see you tramping with the foremost, Pioneers! O pioneers!
Do they droop and end their lesson, wearied, over there beyond the seas?
We take up the task eternal, and the burden, and the lesson, Pioneers! O pioneers!
All the past we leave behind;
We debouch upon a newer, mightier world, varied world,
Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labor and the march,
We detachments steady throwing,
Down the edges, through the passes, up the mountains steep,
Conquering, holding, daring, venturing, as we go, the unknown ways, Pioneers! O pioneers!
We primeval forests felling,
We the rivers stemming, vexing we, and piercing deep the mines within;
We the surface broad surveying, we the virgin soil upheaving, Pioneers! O pioneers!
Colorado men are we,
From the peaks gigantic, from the great sierras and the high plateaus,
From the mine and from the gully, from the hunting trail we come, Pioneers! O pioneers!
Central inland race are we, from Missouri, with the continental blood intervein’d;
All the hands of comrades clasping, all the Southern, all the Northern, Pioneers! O pioneers!
O resistless, restless race!
O beloved race in all! O my breast aches with tender love for all!
O I mourn and yet exult—I am rapt with love for all,
Raise the mighty mother mistress,
Waving high the delicate mistress, over all the starry mistress, (bend your heads all,)
Raise the fang’d and warlike mistress, stern, impassive, weapon’d mistress, Pioneers! O pioneers!
See, my children, resolute children,
By those swarms upon our rear, we must never yield or falter,
Ages back in ghostly millions, frowning there behind us urging, Pioneers! O pioneers!
On and on, the compact ranks,
With accessions ever waiting, with the places of the dead quickly fill’d,
Through the battle, through defeat, moving yet and never stopping, Pioneers! O pioneers!
Are there some of us to droop and die? has the hour come?
Then upon the march we fittest die, soon and sure the gap is fill’d, Pioneers! O pioneers!
All the pulses of the world,
Falling in, they beat for us, with the western movement beat;
Holding single or together, steady moving, to the front, all for us,
Life’s involv’d and varied pageants,
All the forms and shows, all the workmen at their work,
All the seamen and the landsmen, all the masters with their slaves, Pioneers! O pioneers!
All the hapless silent lovers,
All the prisoners in the prisons, all the righteous and the wicked,
All the joyous, all the sorrowing, all the living, all the dying, Pioneers! O pioneers!
I too with my soul and body,
We, a curious trio, picking, wandering on our way,
Through these shores, amid the shadows, with the apparitions pressing, Pioneers! O pioneers!
Lo! the darting bowling orb!
Lo! the brother orbs around! all the clustering suns and planets,
All the dazzling days, all the mystic nights with dreams, Pioneers! O pioneers!
These are of us, they are with us,
All for primal needed work, while the followers there in embryo wait behind,
We to-day’s procession heading, we the route for travel clearing, Pioneers! O pioneers!
O you daughters of the west!
O you young and elder daughters! O you mothers and you wives!
Never must you be divided, in our ranks you move united, Pioneers! O pioneers!
(Shrouded bards of other lands! you may sleep—you have done your work;)
Soon I hear you coming warbling, soon you rise and tramp amid us, Pioneers! O pioneers!
Not for delectations sweet;
Not the cushion and the slipper, not the peaceful and the studious;
Not the riches safe and palling, not for us the tame enjoyment,
Do the feasters gluttonous feast?
Do the corpulent sleepers sleep? have they lock’d and bolted doors?
Still be ours the diet hard, and the blanket on the ground, Pioneers! O pioneers!
Has the night descended?
Was the road of late so toilsome? did we stop discouraged, nodding on our way?
Yet a passing hour I yield you, in your tracks to pause oblivious, Pioneers! O pioneers!
Till with sound of trumpet,
Far, far off the day-break call—hark! how loud and clear I hear it wind;
Swift! to the head of the army!—swift! spring to your places, Pioneers! O pioneers.
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 the 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 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.
Out of the cradle endlessly rocking,
Out of the mocking-bird’s throat, the musical shuttle,
Out of the Ninth-month midnight,
Over the sterile sands, and the fields beyond, where the child, leaving his bed, wander’d alone, bare-headed, barefoot,
Down from the shower’d halo,
Up from the mystic play of shadows, twining and twisting as if they were alive,
Out from the patches of briers and blackberries,
From the memories of the bird that chanted to me,
From your memories, sad brother—from the fitful risings and fallings I heard,
From under that yellow half-moon, late-risen, and swollen as if with tears,
From those beginning notes of sickness and love, there in the transparent mist,
From the thousand responses of my heart, never to cease,
From the myriad thence-arous’d words,
From the word stronger and more delicious than any,
From such, as now they start, the scene revisiting,
As a flock, twittering, rising, or overhead passing,
Borne hither—ere all eludes me, hurriedly,
A man—yet by these tears a little boy again,
Throwing myself on the sand, confronting the waves,
I, chanter of pains and joys, uniter of here and hereafter,
Taking all hints to use them—but swiftly leaping beyond them,
A reminiscence sing.
When the snows had melted—when the lilac-scent was in the air, and the Fifth-month grass was growing,
Up this sea-shore, in some briers,
Two guests from Alabama—two together,
And their nest, and four light-green eggs, spotted with brown,
And every day the he-bird, to and fro, near at hand,
And every day the she-bird, crouch’d on her nest, silent, with bright eyes,
And every day I, a curious boy, never too close, never disturbing them,
Cautiously peering, absorbing, translating.
Shine! shine! shine!
Pour down your warmth, great Sun!
While we bask—we two together.
Winds blow South, or winds blow North,
Day come white, or night come black,
Home, or rivers and mountains from home,
Singing all time, minding no time,
While we two keep together.
Till of a sudden,
May-be kill’d, unknown to her mate,
One forenoon the she-bird crouch’d not on the nest,
Nor return’d that afternoon, nor the next,
Nor ever appear’d again.
And thenceforward, all summer, in the sound of the sea,
And at night, under the full of the moon, in calmer weather,
Over the hoarse surging of the sea,
Or flitting from brier to brier by day,
I saw, I heard at intervals, the remaining one, the he-bird,
The solitary guest from Alabama.
Blow! blow! blow!
Blow up, sea-winds, along Paumanok’s shore!
I wait and I wait, till you blow my mate to me.
Yes, when the stars glisten’d,
All night long, on the prong of a moss-scallop’d stake,
Down, almost amid the slapping waves,
Sat the lone singer, wonderful, causing tears.
He call’d on his mate;
He pour’d forth the meanings which I, of all men, know.
Yes, my brother, I know;
The rest might not—but I have treasur’d every note;
For once, and more than once, dimly, down to the beach gliding,
Silent, avoiding the moonbeams, blending myself with the shadows,
Recalling now the obscure shapes, the echoes, the sounds and sights after their sorts,
The white arms out in the breakers tirelessly tossing,
I, with bare feet, a child, the wind wafting my hair,
Listen’d long and long.
Listen’d, to keep, to sing—now translating the notes,
Following you, my brother.
Soothe! soothe! soothe!
Close on its wave soothes the wave behind,
And again another behind, embracing and lapping, every one close,
But my love soothes not me, not me.
Low hangs the moon—it rose late;
O it is lagging—O I think it is heavy with love, with love.
O madly the sea pushes, pushes upon the land,
With love—with love.
O night! do I not see my love fluttering out there among the breakers?
What is that little black thing I see there in the white?
Loud! loud! loud!
Loud I call to you, my love!
High and clear I shoot my voice over the waves;
Surely you must know who is here, is here;
You must know who I am, my love.
What is that dusky spot in your brown yellow?
O it is the shape, the shape of my mate!
O moon, do not keep her from me any longer.
Land! land! O land!
Whichever way I turn, O I think you could give me my mate back again, if you only would;
For I am almost sure I see her dimly whichever way I look.
O rising stars!
Perhaps the one I want so much will rise, will rise with some of you.
O throat! O trembling throat!
Sound clearer through the atmosphere!
Pierce the woods, the earth;
Somewhere listening to catch you, must be the one I want.
Shake out, carols!
Solitary here—the night’s carols!
Carols of lonesome love! Death’s carols!
Carols under that lagging, yellow, waning moon!
O, under that moon, where she droops almost down into the sea!
O reckless, despairing carols.
But soft! sink low;
Soft! let me just murmur;
And do you wait a moment, you husky-noised sea;
For somewhere I believe I heard my mate responding to me,
So faint—I must be still, be still to listen;
But not altogether still, for then she might not come immediately to me.
Hither, my love!
Here I am! Here!
With this just-sustain’d note I announce myself to you;
This gentle call is for you, my love, for you.
Do not be decoy’d elsewhere!
That is the whistle of the wind—it is not my voice;
That is the fluttering, the fluttering of the spray;
Those are the shadows of leaves.
O darkness! O in vain!
O I am very sick and sorrowful.
O brown halo in the sky, near the moon, drooping upon the sea!
O troubled reflection in the sea!
O throat! O throbbing heart!
O all—and I singing uselessly, uselessly all the night.
Yet I murmur, murmur on!
O murmurs—you yourselves make me continue to sing, I know not why.
O past! O life! O songs of joy!
In the air—in the woods—over fields;
Loved! loved! loved! loved! loved!
But my love no more, no more with me!
We two together no more.
The aria sinking;
All else continuing—the stars shining,
The winds blowing—the notes of the bird continuous echoing,
With angry moans the fierce old mother incessantly moaning,
On the sands of Paumanok’s shore, gray and rustling;
The yellow half-moon enlarged, sagging down, drooping, the face of the sea almost touching;
The boy extatic—with his bare feet the waves, with his hair the atmosphere dallying,
The love in the heart long pent, now loose, now at last tumultuously bursting,
The aria’s meaning, the ears, the Soul, swiftly depositing,
The strange tears down the cheeks coursing,
The colloquy there—the trio—each uttering,
The undertone—the savage old mother, incessantly crying,
To the boy’s Soul’s questions sullenly timing—some drown’d secret hissing,
To the outsetting bard of love.
Demon or bird! (said the boy’s soul,)
Is it indeed toward your mate you sing? or is it mostly to me?
For I, that was a child, my tongue’s use sleeping,
Now I have heard you,
Now in a moment I know what I am for—I awake,
And already a thousand singers—a thousand songs, clearer, louder and more sorrowful than yours,
A thousand warbling echoes have started to life within me,
Never to die.
O you singer, solitary, singing by yourself—projecting me;
O solitary me, listening—nevermore shall I cease perpetuating you;
Never more shall I escape, never more the reverberations,
Never more the cries of unsatisfied love be absent from me,
Never again leave me to be the peaceful child I was before what there, in the night,
By the sea, under the yellow and sagging moon,
The messenger there arous’d—the fire, the sweet hell within,
The unknown want, the destiny of me.
O give me the clew! (it lurks in the night here somewhere;)
O if I am to have so much, let me have more!
O a word! O what is my destination? (I fear it is henceforth chaos;)
O how joys, dreads, convolutions, human shapes, and all shapes, spring as from graves around me!
O phantoms! you cover all the land and all the sea!
O I cannot see in the dimness whether you smile or frown upon me;
O vapor, a look, a word! O well-beloved!
O you dear women’s and men’s phantoms!
A word then, (for I will conquer it,)
The word final, superior to all,
Subtle, sent up—what is it?—I listen;
Are you whispering it, and have been all the time, you sea-waves?
Is that it from your liquid rims and wet sands?
Whereto answering, the sea,
Delaying not, hurrying not,
Whisper’d me through the night, and very plainly before day-break,
Lisp’d to me the low and delicious word DEATH;
And again Death—ever Death, Death, Death,
Hissing melodious, neither like the bird, nor like my arous’d child’s heart,
But edging near, as privately for me, rustling at my feet,
Creeping thence steadily up to my ears, and laving me softly all over,
Death, Death, Death, Death, Death.
Which I do not forget,
But fuse the song of my dusky demon and brother,
That he sang to me in the moonlight on Paumanok’s gray beach,
With the thousand responsive songs, at random,
My own songs, awaked from that hour;
And with them the key, the word up from the waves,
The word of the sweetest song, and all songs,
That strong and delicious word which, creeping to my feet,
The sea whisper’d me.
Hush’d be the camps to-day;
And, soldiers, let us drape our war-worn weapons;
And each with musing soul retire, to celebrate,
Our dear commander’s death.
No more for him life’s stormy conflicts;
Nor victory, nor defeat—no more time’s dark events,
Charging like ceaseless clouds across the sky.
But sing, poet, in our name;
Sing of the love we bore him—because you, dweller in camps, know it truly.
As they invault the coffin there;
Sing—as they close the doors of earth upon him—one verse,
For the heavy hearts of soldiers.
When I heard at the close of the day how my name
had been receiv’d with plaudits in the capitol, still
it was not a happy night for me that follow’d;
And else, when I carous’d, or when my plans were accomplish’d,
still I was not happy;
But the day when I rose at dawn from the bed of perfect health,
refresh’d, singing, inhaling the ripe breath of autumn,
When I saw the full moon in the west grow pale and disappear
in the morning light,
When I wander’d alone over the beach, and undressing, bathed,
laughing with the cool waters, and saw the sun rise,
And when I thought how my dear friend, my lover, was on his way
coming, O then I was happy;
O then each breath tasted sweeter—and all that day my food
nourish’d me more—and the beautiful day pass’d well,
And the next came with equal joy—and with the next, at evening,
came my friend;
And that night, while all was still, I heard the waters roll slowly
continually up the shores,
I heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and sands, as directed to me,
whispering, to congratulate me,
For the one I love most lay sleeping by me under the same cover
in the cool night,
In the stillness, in the autumn moonbeams, his face was inclined
And his arm lay lightly around my breast—and that night I was happy.
Whispers of heavenly death, murmur’d I hear;
Labial gossip of night—sibilant chorals;
Footsteps gently ascending—mystical breezes, wafted soft and low;
Ripples of unseen rivers—tides of a current, flowing, forever flowing;
(Or is it the plashing of tears? the measureless waters of human tears?)
I see, just see, skyward, great cloud-masses;
Mournfully, slowly they roll, silently swelling and mixing;
With, at times, a half-dimm’d, sadden’d, far-off star,
Appearing and disappearing.
(Some parturition, rather—some solemn, immortal birth:
On the frontiers, to eyes impenetrable,
Some Soul is passing over.)
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 envelope it,
I sit quietly by—I remain faithful,
I am more than nurse, more than parent or neighbor,
I absolve you from all except yourself, spiritual, bodily—that is eternal—you yourself will surely escape,
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.
From pent-up aching rivers,
From that of myself without which I were nothing,
From what I am determin’d to make illustrious, even if I stand sole
From my own voice resonant, singing the phallus,
Singing the song of procreation,
Singing the need of superb children and therein superb grown people,
Singing the muscular urge and the blending,
Singing the bedfellow’s song, (O resistless yearning!
O for any and each the body correlative attracting!
O for you whoever you are your correlative body! O it, more than all
else, you delighting!)
From the hungry gnaw that eats me night and day,
From native moments, from bashful pains, singing them,
Seeking something yet unfound though I have diligently sought it
many a long year,
Singing the true song of the soul fitful at random,
Renascent with grossest Nature or among animals,
Of that, of them and what goes with them my poems informing,
Of the smell of apples and lemons, of the pairing of birds,
Of the wet of woods, of the lapping of waves,
Of the mad pushes of waves upon the land, I them chanting,
The overture lightly sounding, the strain anticipating,
The welcome nearness, the sight of the perfect body,
The swimmer swimming naked in the bath, or motionless on his back
lying and floating,
The female form approaching, I pensive, love-flesh tremulous aching,
The divine list for myself or you or for any one making,
The face, the limbs, the index from head to foot, and what it
The mystic deliria, the madness amorous, the utter abandonment,
(Hark close and still what I now whisper to you,
I love you, O you entirely possess me,
O that you and I escape from the rest and go utterly off, free and
Two hawks in the air, two fishes swimming in the sea not more
lawless than we;)
The furious storm through me careering, I passionately trembling.
The oath of the inseparableness of two together, of the woman that
loves me and whom I love more than my life, that oath swearing,
(O I willingly stake all for you,
O let me be lost if it must be so!
O you and I! what is it to us what the rest do or think?
What is all else to us? only that we enjoy each other and exhaust
each other if it must be so;)
From the master, the pilot I yield the vessel to,
The general commanding me, commanding all, from him permission
From time the programme hastening, (I have loiter’d too long as it
From sex, from the warp and from the woof,
From privacy, from frequent repinings alone,
From plenty of persons near and yet the right person not near,
From the soft sliding of hands over me and thrusting of fingers
through my hair and beard,
From the long sustain’d kiss upon the mouth or bosom,
From the close pressure that makes me or any man drunk, fainting
From what the divine husband knows, from the work of fatherhood,
From exultation, victory and relief, from the bedfellow’s embrace in
From the act-poems of eyes, hands, hips and bosoms,
From the cling of the trembling arm,
From the bending curve and the clinch,
From side by side the pliant coverlet off-throwing,
From the one so unwilling to have me leave, and me just as unwilling
(Yet a moment O tender waiter, and I return,)
From the hour of shining stars and dropping dews,
From the night a moment I emerging flitting out,
Celebrate you act divine and you children prepared for,
And you stalwart loins.
Aroused and angry,
I thought to beat the alarum, and urge relentless war;
But soon my fingers fail’d me, my face droop’d, and I resign’d myself,
To sit by the wounded and soothe them, or silently watch the dead.
First, O songs, for a prelude,
Lightly strike on the stretch’d tympanum, pride and joy in my city,
How she led the rest to arms—how she gave the cue,
How at once with lithe limbs, unwaiting a moment, she sprang;
(O superb! O Manhattan, my own, my peerless!
O strongest you in the hour of danger, in crisis! O truer than steel!)
How you sprang! how you threw off the costumes of peace with indifferent hand;
How your soft opera-music changed, and the drum and fife were heard in their stead;
How you led to the war, (that shall serve for our prelude, songs of soldiers,)
How Manhattan drum-taps led.
Forty years had I in my city seen soldiers parading;
Forty years as a pageant—till unawares, the Lady of this teeming and turbulent city,
Sleepless amid her ships, her houses, her incalculable wealth,
With her million children around her—suddenly,
At dead of night, at news from the south,
Incens’d, struck with clench’d hand the pavement.
A shock electric—the night sustain’d it;
Till with ominous hum, our hive at day-break pour’d out its myriads.
From the houses then, and the workshops, and through all the doorways,
Leapt they tumultuous—and lo! Manhattan arming.
To the drum-taps prompt,
The young men falling in and arming;
The mechanics arming, (the trowel, the jack-plane, the blacksmith’s hammer, tost aside with precipitation;)
The lawyer leaving his office, and arming—the judge leaving the court;
The driver deserting his wagon in the street, jumping down, throwing the reins abruptly down on the horses’ backs;
The salesman leaving the store—the boss, book-keeper, porter, all leaving;
Squads gather everywhere by common consent, and arm;
The new recruits, even boys—the old men show them how to wear their accoutrements—they buckle the straps carefully;
Outdoors arming—indoors arming—the flash of the musket-barrels;
The white tents cluster in camps—the arm’d sentries around—the sunrise cannon, and again at sunset;
Arm’d regiments arrive every day, pass through the city, and embark from the wharves;
(How good they look, as they tramp down to the river, sweaty, with their guns on their shoulders!
How I love them! how I could hug them, with their brown faces, and their clothes and knapsacks cover’d with dust!)
The blood of the city up—arm’d! arm’d! the cry everywhere;
The flags flung out from the steeples of churches, and from all the public buildings and stores;
The tearful parting—the mother kisses her son—the son kisses his mother;
(Loth is the mother to part—yet not a word does she speak to detain him;)
The tumultuous escort—the ranks of policemen preceding, clearing the way;
The unpent enthusiasm—the wild cheers of the crowd for their favorites;
The artillery—the silent cannons, bright as gold, drawn along, rumble lightly over the stones;
(Silent cannons—soon to cease your silence!
Soon, unlimber’d, to begin the red business;)
All the mutter of preparation—all the determin’d arming;
The hospital service—the lint, bandages, and medicines;
The women volunteering for nurses—the work begun for, in earnest—no mere parade now;
War! an arm’d race is advancing!—the welcome for battle—no turning away;
War! be it weeks, months, or years—an arm’d race is advancing to welcome it.
Mannahatta a-march!—and it’s O to sing it well!
It’s O for a manly life in the camp!
And the sturdy artillery!
The guns, bright as gold—the work for giants—to serve well the guns:
Unlimber them! no more, as the past forty years, for salutes for courtesies merely;
Put in something else now besides powder and wadding.
And you, Lady of Ships! you Mannahatta!
Old matron of this proud, friendly, turbulent city!
Often in peace and wealth you were pensive, or covertly frown’d amid all your children;
But now you smile with joy, exulting old Mannahatta!
Skirting the river road, (my forenoon walk, my rest)
Skyward in air a sudden muffled sound, the dalliance of the eagles,
The rushing amorous contact high in space together,
The clinching interlocking claws, a living, fierce, gyrating wheel,
Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling,
In tumbling turning clustering loops, straight downward falling,
’Till o’er the river pois’d, the twain yet one, a moment’s lull,
A motionless still balance in the air, then parting, talons loosing,
Upward again on slow-firm pinions slanting, their separate diverse flight,
She hers, he his, pursuing.
Pensive, on her dead gazing, I heard the Mother of All,
Desperate, on the torn bodies, on the forms covering the battle-fields gazing;
(As the last gun ceased—but the scent of the powder-smoke linger’d;)
As she call’d to her earth with mournful voice while she stalk’d:
Absorb them well, O my earth, she cried—I charge you, lose not my sons! lose not an atom;
And you streams, absorb them well, taking their dear blood;
And you local spots, and you airs that swim above lightly,
And all you essences of soil and growth—and you, my rivers’ depths;
And you, mountain sides—and the woods where my dear children’s blood, trickling, redden’d;
And you trees, down in your roots, to bequeath to all future trees,
My dead absorb—my young men’s beautiful bodies absorb—and their precious, precious, precious blood;
Which holding in trust for me, faithfully back again give me, many a year hence,
In unseen essence and odor of surface and grass, centuries hence;
In blowing airs from the fields, back again give me my darlings—give my immortal heroes;
Exhale me them centuries hence—breathe me their breath—let not an atom be lost;
O years and graves! O air and soil! O my dead, an aroma sweet!
Exhale them perennial, sweet death, years, centuries hence.
At the last, tenderly,
From the walls of the powerful, fortress’d house,
From the clasp of the knitted locks—from the keep of the well-closed doors,
Let me be wafted.
Let me glide noiselessly forth;
With the key of softness unlock the locks—with a whisper
Set ope the doors, O soul!
Tenderly! be not impatient!
(Strong is your hold, O mortal flesh!
Strong is your hold, O love!)
Suddenly, out of its stale and drowsy lair, the lair of slaves,
Like lightning it le’pt forth, half startled at itself,
Its feet upon the ashes and the rags—its hands tight to the throats of kings.
O hope and faith!
O aching close of exiled patriots’ lives!
O many a sicken’d heart!
Turn back unto this day, and make yourselves afresh.
And you, paid to defile the People! you liars, mark!
Not for numberless agonies, murders, lusts,
For court thieving in its manifold mean forms, worming from his simplicity the poor man’s wages,
For many a promise sworn by royal lips, and broken, and laugh’d at in the breaking,
Then in their power, not for all these, did the blows strike revenge, or the heads of the nobles fall;
The People scorn’d the ferocity of kings.
But the sweetness of mercy brew’d bitter destruction, and the frighten’d monarchs come back;
Each comes in state, with his train—hangman, priest, tax-gatherer,
Soldier, lawyer, lord, jailer, and sycophant.
Yet behind all, lowering, stealing—lo, a Shape,
Vague as the night, draped interminably, head, front and form, in scarlet folds,
Whose face and eyes none may see,
Out of its robes only this—the red robes, lifted by the arm,
One finger, crook’d, pointed high over the top, like the head of a snake appears.
Meanwhile, corpses lie in new-made graves—bloody corpses of young men;
The rope of the gibbet hangs heavily, the bullets of princes are flying, the creatures of power laugh aloud,
And all these things bear fruits—and they are good.
Those corpses of young men,
Those martyrs that hang from the gibbets—those hearts pierc’d by the gray lead,
Cold and motionless as they seem, live elsewhere with unslaughter’d vitality.
They live in other young men, O kings!
They live in brothers, again ready to defy you!
They were purified by death—they were taught and exalted.
Not a grave of the murder’d for freedom, but grows seed for freedom, in its turn to bear seed,
Which the winds carry afar and re-sow, and the rains and the snows nourish.
Not a disembodied spirit can the weapons of tyrants let loose,
But it stalks invisibly over the earth, whispering, counseling, cautioning.
Liberty! let others despair of you! I never despair of you.
Is the house shut? Is the master away?
Nevertheless, be ready—be not weary of watching;
He will soon return—his messengers come anon.
A woman waits for me, she contains all, nothing is lacking,
Yet all were lacking if sex were lacking, or if the moisture of the
right man were lacking.
Sex contains all, bodies, souls,
Meanings, proofs, purities, delicacies, results, promulgations,
Songs, commands, health, pride, the maternal mystery, the seminal
All hopes, benefactions, bestowals, all the passions, loves,
beauties, delights of the earth,
All the governments, judges, gods, follow’d persons of the earth,
These are contain’d in sex as parts of itself and justifications of
Without shame the man I like knows and avows the deliciousness of
Without shame the woman I like knows and avows hers.
Now I will dismiss myself from impassive women,
I will go stay with her who waits for me, and with those women that
are warm-blooded and sufficient for me,
I see that they understand me and do not deny me,
I see that they are worthy of me, I will be the robust husband of
They are not one jot less than I am,
They are tann’d in the face by shining suns and blowing winds,
Their flesh has the old divine suppleness and strength,
They know how to swim, row, ride, wrestle, shoot, run, strike,
retreat, advance, resist, defend themselves,
They are ultimate in their own right- they are calm, clear, well-
possess’d of themselves.
I draw you close to me, you women,
I cannot let you go, I would do you good,
I am for you, and you are for me, not only for our own sake, but for
Envelop’d in you sleep greater heroes and bards,
They refuse to awake at the touch of any man but me.
It is I, you women, I make my way,
I am stern, acrid, large, undissuadable, but I love you,
I do not hurt you any more than is necessary for you,
I pour the stuff to start sons and daughters fit for these States, I
press with slow rude muscle,
I brace myself effectually, I listen to no entreaties,
I dare not withdraw till I deposit what has so long accumulated
Through you I drain the pent-up rivers of myself,
In you I wrap a thousand onward years,
On you I graft the grafts of the best-beloved of me and America,
The drops I distil upon you shall grow fierce and athletic girls,
new artists, musicians, and singers,
The babes I beget upon you are to beget babes in their turn,
I shall demand perfect men and women out of my love-spendings,
I shall expect them to interpenetrate with others, as I and you
I shall count on the fruits of the gushing showers of them, as I
count on the fruits of the gushing showers I give now,
I shall look for loving crops from the birth, life, death,
immortality, I plant so lovingly now.
A great year and place;
A harsh, discordant, natal scream out-sounding, to touch the mother’s heart
closer than any yet.
I walk’d the shores of my Eastern Sea,
Heard over the waves the little voice,
Saw the divine infant, where she woke, mournfully wailing, amid the roar
of cannon, curses, shouts, crash of falling buildings;
Was not so sick from the blood in the gutters running—nor from
the single corpses, nor those in heaps, nor those borne away in the
Was not so desperate at the battues of death—was not so shock’d
at the repeated fusillades of the guns.
Pale, silent, stern, what could I say to that long-accrued retribution?
Could I wish humanity different?
Could I wish the people made of wood and stone?
Or that there be no justice in destiny or time?
O Liberty! O mate for me!
Here too the blaze, the grape-shot and the axe, in reserve, to fetch them out
in case of need;
Here too, though long represt, can never be destroy’d;
Here too could rise at last, murdering and extatic;
Here too demanding full arrears of vengeance.
Hence I sign this salute over the sea,
And I do not deny that terrible red birth and baptism,
But remember the little voice that I heard wailing—and wait with perfect trust,
no matter how long;
And from to-day, sad and cogent, I maintain the bequeath’d cause, as for all lands,
And I send these words to Paris with my love,
And I guess some chansonniers there will understand them,
For I guess there is latent music yet in France—floods of it;
O I hear already the bustle of instruments—they will soon be drowning
all that would interrupt them;
O I think the east wind brings a triumphal and free march,
It reaches hither—it swells me to joyful madness,
I will run transpose it in words, to justify it,
I will yet sing a song for you, MA FEMME.
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, pick’d 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 troop gathers around me,
Some walk by my side, and some behind, and some embrace my arms or neck,
They, the spirits of dear 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 pull’d 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 pondside,
(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 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, compass’d 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 loving.