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Walt whitman

Walt Whitman


POETS to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!    
Not to-day is to justify me, and answer what I am for;    
But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than before known,    
Arouse! Arouse—for you must justify me—you must answer.    
I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future,
I but advance a moment, only to wheel and hurry back in the darkness.    
I am a man who, sauntering along, without fully stopping, turns a casual look upon you, and then averts his face,    
Leaving it to you to prove and define it,    
Expecting the main things from you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT weeping face is that looking from the window?
   Why does it stream those sorrowful tears?
   Is it for some burial place, vast and dry?
   Is it to wet the soil of graves?

NOT youth pertains to me,
Nor delicatesse—I cannot beguile the time with talk;
Awkward in the parlor, neither a dancer nor elegant;
In the learn’d coterie sitting constrain’d and still—for
         learning inures not to me;
Beauty, knowledge, fortune, inure not to me—yet
         there are two things inure to me;
I have nourish’d the wounded, and sooth’d many a
         dying soldier;
And at intervals I have strung together a few songs,
Fit for war, and the life of the camp.

1  WHAT shall I give? and which are my miracles?

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

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

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

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

GIVE me the splendid silent sun, with all his beams full–
Give me juicy autumnal fruit, ripe and red from the
Give me a field where the unmow’d grass grows;
Give me an arbor, give me the trellis’d grape;
Give me fresh corn and wheat—give me serene-moving
         animals, teaching content;
Give me nights perfectly quiet, as on high plateaus west
         of the Mississippi, and I looking up at the stars;
Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers,
         where I can walk undisturb’d;
Give me for marriage a sweet-breath’d woman, of whom
         I should never tire;
Give me a perfect child—give me, away, aside from the
         noise of the world, a rural domestic life;
Give me to warble spontaneous songs, reliev’d, recluse
         by myself, for my own ears only;
Give me solitude—give me Nature—give me again,
         O Nature, your primal sanities!
—These, demanding to have them, (tired with ceaseless
         excitement, and rack’d by the war-strife;)
These to procure, incessantly asking, rising in cries from
         my heart,
While yet incessantly asking, still I adhere to my city;
Day upon day, and year upon year, O city, walking
         your streets,
Where you hold me enchain’d a certain time, refusing
         to give me up;
Yet giving to make me glutted, enrich’d of soul—you
         give me forever faces;
(O I see what I sought to escape, confronting, reversing
         my cries;
I see my own soul trampling down what it ask’d for.)

Keep your splendid silent sun;
Keep your woods, O Nature, and the quiet places by
         the woods;
Keep your fields of clover and timothy, and your corn–
         fields and orchards;
Keep the blossoming buckwheat fields, where the Ninth–
         month bees hum;
Give me faces and streets! give me these phantoms in–
         cessant and endless along the trottoirs!
Give me interminable eyes! give me women! give me
         comrades and lovers by the thousand!
Let me see new ones every day! let me hold new ones
         by the hand every day!
Give me such shows! give me the streets of Manhattan!
Give me Broadway, with the soldiers marching—give
         me the sound of the trumpets and drums!
(The soldiers in companies or regiments—some, starting
         away, flush’d and reckless;
Some, their time up, returning, with thinn’d ranks—
         young, yet very old, worn, marching, noticing
—Give me the shores and the wharves heavy-fringed
         with the black ships!
O such for me! O an intense life! O full to repletion,
         and varied!
The life of the theatre, bar-room, huge hotel, for me!
The saloon of the steamer! the crowded excursion for
         me! the torch-light procession!
The dense brigade, bound for the war, with high piled
         military wagons following;
People, endless, streaming, with strong voices, passions,
Manhattan streets, with their powerful throbs, with the
         beating drums, as now;
The endless and noisy chorus, the rustle and clank of
         muskets, (even the sight of the wounded;)
Manhattan crowds with their turbulent musical chorus
         —with varied chorus and light of the sparkling
Manhattan faces and eyes forever for me.


1  To think of it!
To think of time—of all that retrospection!
To think of to—day and the ages continued hence—

2  Have you guess’d you yourself would not continue?
Have you dreaded these earth-beetles?
Have you fear’d the future would be nothing to you?

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

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


5  Not a day passes—not a minute or second, without
         an accouchement!
Not a day passes—not a minute or second, without a

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

7  The living look upon the corpse with their eye–
But without eye-sight lingers a different living, and
         looks curiously on the corpse.


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

9  To think how eager we are in building our houses!
To think others shall be just as eager, and we quite

10  I see one building the house that serves him a few
         years, or seventy or eighty years at most,
I see one building the house that serves him longer
         than that.

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


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

13  Steady the trot to the cemetery, duly rattles the
         death-bell, the gate is pass’d, the new-dug grave
         is halted at, the living alight, the hearse un–
The coffin is pass’d out, lower’d and settled, the whip
         is laid on the coffin, the earth is swiftly shovel’d
The mound above is flatted with the spades—silence,
A minute, no one moves or speaks—it is done,
He is decently put away—is there anything more?

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

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


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

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

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

19  Your farm, profits, crops,—to think how engross’d
         you are!
To think there will still be farms, profits, crops—yet
         for you, of what avail?


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

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

22  You are not thrown to the winds—you gather cer–
         tainly and safely around yourself;
Yourself! Yourself! Yourself, forever and ever!


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

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

25  The preparations have everyone been justified,
The orchestra have sufficiently tuned their instru–
         ments—the baton has given the signal.

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

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


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

29  The great masters and kosmos are well as they go
         —the heroes and good-doers are well,
The known leaders and inventors, and the rich own–
         ers and pious and distinguish’d, may be well,
But there is more account than that—there is strict
         account of all.

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


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

32  And I have dream’d that the satisfaction is not so
         much changed, and that there is no life with–
         out satisfaction:
What is the earth? what are Body and Soul, without

33  I shall go with the rest,
We cannot be stopt at a given point—that is no satis–
To show us a good thing, or a few good things, for a
         space of time—that is no satisfaction,
We must have the indestructible breed of the best,
         regardless of time.

34  If otherwise, all these things came but to ashes of
If maggots and rats ended us, then alarum! for we are
Then indeed suspicion of death.

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


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

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

38  My Soul! if I realize you, I have satisfaction,
Animals and vegetables! if I realize you, I have sat–
Laws of the earth and air! if I realize you, I have

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


40  It comes to me now!
I swear I think now that everything without excep–
         tion has an eternal Soul!
The trees have, rooted in the ground! the weeds of
         the sea have! the animals!

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

Trickle drops! my blue veins leaving!
O drops of me! trickle, slow drops,
Candid from me falling, drip, bleeding drops,
From wounds made to free you whence you were prison’d,
From my face, from my forehead and lips,
From my breast, from within where I was conceal’d, press forth red
drops, confession drops,
Stain every page, stain every song I sing, every word I say, bloody drops,
Let them know your scarlet heat, let them glisten,
Saturate them with yourself all ashamed and wet,
Glow upon all I have written or shall write, bleeding drops,
Let it all be seen in your light, blushing drops.

Oh me! Oh 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 may contribute a verse.

   FAST-ANCHOR’D, eternal, O love! O woman I love!
   O bride! O wife! more resistless than I can tell, the thought of you!
  —Then separate, as disembodied, or another born,
   Ethereal, the last athletic reality, my consolation;
   I ascend—I float in the regions of your love, O man,
   O sharer of my roving life.

   O YOU whom I often and silently come where you are, that I may be
         with you;
   As I walk by your side, or sit near, or remain in the same room with
   Little you know the subtle electric fire that for your sake is
         playing within me.

A Leaf for hand in hand!
     You natural persons old and young!
     You on the Mississippi, and on all the branches and bayous of the
     You friendly boatmen and mechanics! You roughs!
     You twain! And all processions moving along the streets!
     I wish to infuse myself among you till I see it common for you to
          walk hand in hand!