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Song of Myself
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
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,
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.
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,
Echoes, ripples, buzz'd whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and vine,
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and
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
Have you practis'd so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions
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 books,
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.
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Always the procreant urge of the world.
Always a knit of identity, always distinction, always a breed of life.
To elaborate is no avail, learn'd and unlearn'd feel that it is so.
Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical,
Till that becomes unseen and receives proof in its turn.
Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of things, while they
discuss I am silent, and go bathe and admire myself.
Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be
As the hugging and loving bed-fellow sleeps at my side through the night,
and withdraws at the peep of the day with stealthy tread,
Leaving me baskets cover'd with white towels swelling the house with
Shall I postpone my acceptation and realization and scream at my eyes,
That they turn from gazing after and down the road,
Exactly the value of one and exactly the value of two, and which is ahead?
People I meet, the effect upon me of my early life or the ward and
The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old and new,
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
Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news,
These come to me days and nights and go from me again,
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.
I have no mockings or arguments, I witness and wait.
Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not
How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn'd over upon me,
And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue
And reach'd till you felt my beard, and reach'd till you held my feet.
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
And that a kelson of the creation is love,
And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
And mossy scabs of the worm fence, heap'd stones, elder, mullein and
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may see
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I
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
And here you are the mothers' laps.
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken
And what do you think has become of the women and children?
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the
And ceas'd the moment life appear'd.
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.
I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.
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 the mate and companion of people, all just as immortal and
(They do not know how immortal, but I know.)
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
For me lips that have smiled, eyes that have shed tears,
I see through the broadcloth and gingham whether or no,
And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless, and cannot be shaken away.
I lift the gauze and look a long time, and silently brush away flies
I witness the corpse with its dabbled hair, I note where the pistol
The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogating thumb, the
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 hospital,
The meeting of enemies, the sudden oath, the blows and fall,
The excited crowd, the policeman with his star quickly working his
The impassive stones that receive and return so many echoes,
What groans of over-fed or half-starv'd who fall sunstruck or in fits,
What exclamations of women taken suddenly who hurry home and
What living and buried speech is always vibrating here, what howls
Arrests of criminals, slights, adulterous offers made, acceptances,
I mind them or the show or resonance of them--I come and I depart.
The dried grass of the harvest-time loads the slow-drawn wagon,
The clear light plays on the brown gray and green intertinged,
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.
In the late afternoon choosing a safe spot to pass the night,
Falling asleep on the gather'd leaves with my dog and gun by my side.
My eyes settle the land, I bend at her prow or shout joyously from the deck.
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.
Her father and his friends sat near cross-legged and dumbly smoking,
they had moccasins to their feet and large thick blankets
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 feet.
I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile,
Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsy and weak,
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 feet,
And gave him a room that enter'd from my own, and gave him some
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 years of womanly life and all so lonesome.
She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the window.
You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room.
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.
It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs.
They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and bending arch,
at the stall in the market,
I loiter enjoying his repartee and his shuffle and break-down.
Each has his main-sledge, they are all out, there is a great heat in
The lithe sheer of their waists plays even with their massive arms,
Overhand the hammers swing, overhand so slow, overhand so sure,
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
The sun falls on his crispy hair and mustache, falls on the black of
I go with the team also.
To niches aside and junior bending, not a person or object missing,
is that you express in your eyes?
It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life.
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 else,
And the in the woods never studied the gamut, yet trills pretty well to me,
And the look of the bay mare shames silliness out of me.
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 litter of the grunting sow as they tug at her teats,
The brood of the turkey-hen and she with her half-spread wings,
They scorn the best I can do to relate them.
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
I can eat and sleep with them week in and week out.
Me going in for my chances, spending for vast returns,
Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that will take me,
Scattering it freely forever.
The carpenter dresses his plank, the tongue of his foreplane
The married and unmarried children ride home to their Thanksgiving dinner,
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 ready,
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
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 manuscript;
What is removed drops horribly in a pail;
The quadroon girl is sold at the auction-stand, the drunkard nods by
The machinist rolls up his sleeves, the policeman travels his beat,
The young fellow drives the express-wagon, (I love him, though I do
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
Out from the crowd steps the marksman, takes his position, levels his piece;
The groups of newly-come immigrants cover the wharf or levee,
As the woolly-pates hoe in the sugar-field, the overseer views them
The bugle calls in the ball-room, the gentlemen run for their
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
The connoisseur peers along the exhibition-gallery with half-shut
As the deck-hands make fast the steamboat the plank is thrown for
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
The clean-hair'd Yankee girl works with her sewing-machine or in the
The paving-man leans on his two-handed rammer, the reporter's lead
flies swiftly over the note-book, the sign-painter is lettering
The canal boy trots on the tow-path, the book-keeper counts at his
The conductor beats time for the band and all the performers follow him,
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
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 arms,
The crew of the fish-smack pack repeated layers of halibut in the hold,
The Missourian crosses the plains toting his wares and his cattle,
As the fare-collector goes through the train he gives notice by the
The floor-men are laying the floor, the tinners are tinning the
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 small arms!)
Seasons pursuing each other the plougher ploughs, the mower mows,
Off on the lakes the pike-fisher watches and waits by the hole in
The stumps stand thick round the clearing, the squatter strikes deep
Flatboatmen make fast towards dusk near the cotton-wood or pecan-trees,
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 Altamahaw,
Patriarchs sit at supper with sons and grandsons and great-grandsons
In walls of adobie, in canvas tents, rest hunters and trappers after
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 his wife;
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.
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
One of the Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the
A Southerner soon as a Northerner, a planter nonchalant and
A Yankee bound my own way ready for trade, my joints the limberest
A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in my deer-skin
A boatman over lakes or bays or along coasts, a Hoosier, Badger, Buckeye;
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 tacking,
At home on the hills of Vermont or in the woods of Maine, or the
Comrade of Californians, comrade of free North-Westerners, (loving
Comrade of raftsmen and coalmen, comrade of all who shake hands
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,
Prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician, priest.
And am not stuck up, and am in my place.
The bright suns I see and the dark suns I cannot see are in their place,
The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place.)
If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or next to nothing,
If they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle they are nothing,
If they are not just as close as they are distant they are nothing.
I play not marches for accepted victors only, I play marches for
I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit
I blow through my embouchures my loudest and gayest for them.
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 known!
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 heavy-lipp'd slave is invited, the venerealee is invited;
There shall be no difference between them and the rest.
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.
Well I have, for the Fourth-month showers have, and the mica on the
Does the daylight astonish? does the early redstart twittering
Do I astonish more than they?
How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat?
That months are vacuums and the ground but wallow and filth.
I wear my hat as I please indoors or out.
I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.
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 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
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood,
(I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.
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.
And I know the amplitude of time.
The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me,
The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate
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 show that size is only development.
It is a trifle, they will more than arrive there every one, and
Night of south winds--night of the large few stars!
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 sake!
Smile, for your lover comes.
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 the land,
Dash me with amorous wet, I can repay you.
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.
Extoller of amies and those that sleep in each others' arms.
(Shall I make my list of things in the house and skip the house that
Evil propels me and reform of evil propels me, I stand indifferent,
I moisten the roots of all that has grown.
Did you guess the celestial laws are yet to be work'd over and rectified?
Thoughts and deeds of the present our rouse and early start.
The wonder is always and always how there can be a mean man or an infidel.
Here or henceforward it is all the same to me, I accept Time absolutely.
Materialism first and last imbuing.
Fetch stonecrop mixt with cedar and branches of lilac,
This is the lexicographer, this the chemist, this made a grammar of
These mariners put the ship through dangerous unknown seas.
This is the geologist, this works with the scalper, and this is a
Your facts are useful, and yet they are not my dwelling,
And more the reminders they of life untold, and of freedom and extrication,
And make short account of neuters and geldings, and favor men and
And beat the gong of revolt, and stop with fugitives and them that
Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking and breeding,
No sentimentalist, no stander above men and women or apart from them,
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!
And whatever is done or said returns at last to me.
By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their
Voices of the interminable generations of prisoners and slaves,
Voices of the diseas'd and despairing and of thieves and dwarfs,
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,
Fog in the air, beetles rolling balls of dung.
Voices of sexes and lusts, voices veil'd and I remove the veil,
I keep as delicate around the bowels as around the head and heart,
Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each part and tag of me
The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer,
This head more than churches, bibles, and all the creeds.
Translucent mould of me it shall be you!
Firm masculine colter 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!
Root of wash'd sweet-flag! timorous pond-snipe! nest of guarded
Mix'd tussled hay of head, beard, brawn, it shall be you!
Trickling sap of maple, fibre of manly wheat, it shall be you!
Vapors lighting and shading my face 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
Hands I have taken, face I have kiss'd, mortal I have ever touch'd,
Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy,
I cannot tell how my ankles bend, nor whence the cause of my faintest wish,
Nor the cause of the friendship I emit, nor the cause of the
A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics
The little light fades the immense and diaphanous shadows,
Scooting obliquely high and low.
The heav'd challenge from the east that moment over my head,
The mocking taunt, See then whether you shall be master!
If I could not now and always send sun-rise out of me.
We found our own O my soul in the calm and cool of the daybreak.
With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds and volumes of worlds.
Walt you contain enough, why don't you let it out then?
Do you not know O speech how the buds beneath you are folded?
The dirt receding before my prophetical screams,
My knowledge my live parts, it keeping tally with the meaning of all things,
Happiness, (which whoever hears me let him or her set out in search
I crowd your sleekest and best by simply looking toward you.
I carry the plenum of proof and every thing else in my face,
With the hush of my lips I wholly confound the skeptic.
To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute toward it.
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 night,
Talkative young ones to those that like them, the loud laugh of
The angry base of disjointed friendship, the faint tones of the sick,
The judge with hands tight to the desk, his pallid lips pronouncing
The heave'e'yo of stevedores unlading ships by the wharves, the
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 and two,
(They go to guard some corpse, the flag-tops are draped with black muslin.)
I hear the key'd cornet, it glides quickly in through my ears,
It shakes mad-sweet pangs through my belly and breast.
The orbic flex of his mouth is pouring and filling me full.
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 waves,
I am cut by bitter and angry hail, I lose my breath,
Steep'd amid honey'd morphine, my windpipe throttled in fakes of death,
At length let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles,
(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 enough.
I have instant conductors all over me whether I pass or stop,
They seize every object and lead it harmlessly through me.
To touch my person to some one else's is about as much as I can stand.
Treacherous tip of me reaching and crowding to help them,
My flesh and blood playing out lightning to strike what is hardly
On all sides prurient provokers stiffening my limbs,
Straining the udder of my heart for its withheld drip,
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 pasture-fields,
They bribed to swap off with touch and go and graze at the edges of me,
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.
They all come to the headland to witness and assist against me.
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.
Did it make you ache so, leaving me?
Rich showering rain, and recompense richer afterward.
Landscapes projected masculine, full-sized and golden.
They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,
They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon,
(What is less or more than a touch?)
Only what nobody denies is so.)
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 other,
And they are to branch boundlessly out of that lesson until it
And until one and all shall delight us, and we them.
And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg
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.
And am stucco'd with quadrupeds and birds all over,
And have distanced what is behind me for good reasons,
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 low,
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.
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.
They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them plainly in their
Did I pass that way huge times ago and negligently drop them?
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 terms.
Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground,
Eyes full of sparkling wickedness, ears finely cut, flexibly moving.
His well-built limbs tremble with pleasure as we race around and return.
Why do I need your paces when I myself out-gallop them?
What I guess'd when I loaf'd on the grass,
And again as I walk'd the beach under the paling stars of the morning.
I am afoot with my vision.
Along the ruts of the turnpike, along the dry gulch and rivulet bed,
Weeding my onion-patch or hosing rows of carrots and parsnips,
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
Where the rattlesnake suns his flabby length on a rock, where the
Where the alligator in his tough pimples sleeps by the bayou,
Where the black bear is searching for roots or honey, where the
Over the growing sugar, over the yellow-flower'd cotton plant, over
Over the sharp-peak'd farm house, with its scallop'd scum and
Over the western persimmon, over the long-leav'd corn, over the
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 breeze;
Scaling mountains, pulling myself cautiously up, holding on by low
Walking the path worn in the grass and beat through the leaves of the brush,
Where the quail is whistling betwixt the woods and the wheat-lot,
Where the bat flies in the Seventh-month eve, where the great
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
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
Where the life-car is drawn on the slip-noose, where the heat
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 below;
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,
At the cider-mill tasting the sweets of the brown mash, sucking the
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
Where the bull advances to do his masculine work, where the stud to
Where the heifers browse, where geese nip their food with short jerks,
Where sun-down shadows lengthen over the limitless and lonesome prairie,
Where herds of buffalo make a crawling spread of the square miles
Where the humming-bird shimmers, where the neck of the long-lived
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
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
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
Pleas'd with the native and pleas'd with the foreign, pleas'd with
Pleas'd with the homely woman as well as the handsome,
Pleas'd with the quakeress as she puts off her bonnet and talks melodiously,
Pleas'd with the tune of the choir of the whitewash'd church,
Pleas'd with the earnest words of the sweating Methodist preacher,
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,
My right and left arms round the sides of two friends, and I in the middle;
Coming home with the silent and dark-cheek'd bush-boy, (behind me
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;
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 long while,
Walking the old hills of Judaea with the beautiful gentle God by my side,
Speeding through space, speeding through heaven and the stars,
Speeding amid the seven satellites and the broad ring, and the
Speeding with tail'd meteors, throwing fire-balls like the rest,
Carrying the crescent child that carries its own full mother in its belly,
Backing and filling, appearing and disappearing,
And look at quintillions ripen'd and look at quintillions green.
No guard can shut me off, no law prevent me.
My messengers continually cruise away or bring their returns to me.
pike-pointed staff, clinging to topples of brittle and blue.
We sail the arctic sea, it is plenty light enough,
Through the clear atmosphere I stretch around on the wonderful beauty,
The enormous masses of ice pass me and I pass them, the scenery is
The white-topt mountains show in the distance, I fling out my
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
Or we are entering by the suburbs some vast and ruin'd city,
The blocks and fallen architecture more than all the living cities
I turn the bridgroom out of bed and stay with the bride myself,
They fetch my man's body up dripping and drown'd.
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
And chalk'd in large letters on a board, Be of good cheer, we will
How he follow'd with them and tack'd with them three days and
How he saved the drifting company at last,
How the lank loose-gown'd women look'd when boated from the
How the silent old-faced infants and the lifted sick, and the
All this I swallow, it tastes good, I like it well, it becomes mine,
The mother of old, condemn'd for a witch, burnt with dry wood, her
The hounded slave that flags in the race, leans by the fence,
The twinges that sting like needles his legs and neck, the murderous
All these I feel or am.
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
I fall on the weeds and stones,
Taunt my dizzy ears and beat me violently over the head with whip-stocks.
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.
Heat and smoke I inspired, I heard the yelling shouts of my comrades,
I heard the distant click of their picks and shovels,
They have clear'd the beams away, they tenderly lift me forth.
Painless after all I lie exhausted but not so unhappy,
White and beautiful are the faces around me, the heads are bared
The kneeling crowd fades with the light of the torches.
They show as the dial or move as the hands of me, I am the clock myself.
Again the attacking cannon, mortars,
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 explosion,
The whizz of limbs, heads, stone, wood, iron, high in the air.
He gasps through the clot Mind not me--mind--the entrenchments.
Not one escaped to tell the fall of Alamo,
'Tis the tale of the murder in cold blood of four hundred and twelve
Nine hundred lives out of the surrounding enemies, nine times their
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.
Large, turbulent, generous, handsome, proud, and affectionate,
Bearded, sunburnt, drest in the free costume of hunters,
massacred, it was beautiful early summer,
The work commenced about five o'clock and was over by eight.
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 there,
These were despatch'd with bayonets or batter'd with the blunts of muskets,
A youth not seventeen years old seiz'd his assassin till two more
The three were all torn and cover'd with the boy's blood.
That is the tale of the murder of the four hundred and twelve young men.
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 me.
His was the surly English pluck, and there is no tougher or truer,
Along the lower'd eve he came horribly raking us.
On our lower-gun-deck two large pieces had burst at the first fire,
Ten o'clock at night, the full moon well up, our leaks on the gain,
The master-at-arms loosing the prisoners confined in the after-hold
They see so many strange faces they do not know whom to trust.
If our colors are struck and the fighting done?
We have not struck, he composedly cries, we have just begun our part
One is directed by the captain himself against the enemy's main-mast,
Two well serv'd with grape and canister silence his musketry and
They hold out bravely during the whole of the action.
The leaks gain fast on the pumps, the fire eats toward the powder-magazine.
He is not hurried, his voice is neither high nor low,
His eyes give more light to us than our battle-lanterns.
Two great hulls motionless on the breast of the darkness,
Our vessel riddled and slowly sinking, preparations to pass to the
The captain on the quarter-deck coldly giving his orders through a
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
Cut of cordage, dangle of rigging, slight shock of the soothe of waves,
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,
These so, these irretrievable.
Embody all presences outlaw'd or suffering,
And feel the dull unintermitted pain.
and walk by his side,
(I am less the jolly one there, and more the silent one with sweat
My face is ash-color'd, my sinews gnarl, away from me people retreat.
Somehow I have been stunn'd. Stand back!
Give me a little time beyond my cuff'd head, slumbers, dreams, gaping,
That I could forget the trickling tears and the blows of the
That I could look with a separate look on my own crucifixion and
The grave of rock multiplies what has been confided to it, or to any graves,
Inland and sea-coast we go, and pass all boundary lines,
Our swift ordinances on their way over the whole earth,
The blossoms we wear in our hats the growth of thousands of years.
Continue your annotations, continue your questionings.
Is he waiting for civilization, or past it and mastering it?
Is he from the Mississippi country? Iowa, Oregon, California?
The mountains? prairie-life, bush-life? or sailor from the sea?
They desire he should like them, touch them, speak to them, stay with them.
Slow-stepping feet, common features, common modes and emanations,
They descend in new forms from the tips of his fingers,
They are wafted with the odor of his body or breath, they fly out of
You light surfaces only, I force surfaces and depths also.
And might tell what it is in me and what it is in you, but cannot,
And might tell that pining I have, that pulse of my nights and days.
Open your scarf'd chops till I blow grit within you,
Spread your palms and lift the flaps of your pockets,
I am not to be denied, I compel, I have stores plenty and to spare,
You can do nothing and be nothing but what I will infold you.
And in my soul I swear I never will deny him.
(This day I am jetting the stuff of far more arrogant republics.)
Let the physician and the priest go home.
By God, you shall not go down! hang your whole weight upon me.
Every room of the house do I fill with an arm'd force,
Not doubt, not decease shall dare to lay finger upon you,
I have embraced you, and henceforth possess you to myself,
And when you rise in the morning you will find what I tell you is so.
And for strong upright men I bring yet more needed help.
It is middling well as far as it goes--but is that all?
Outbidding at the start the old cautious hucksters,
Lithographing Kronos, Zeus his son, and Hercules his grandson,
In my portfolio placing Manito loose, Allah on a leaf, the crucifix
With Odin and the hideous-faced Mexitli and every idol and image,
Taking them all for what they are worth and not a cent more,
Admitting they were alive and did the work of their days,
(They bore mites as for unfledg'd birds who have now to rise and fly
Accepting the rough deific sketches to fill out better in myself,
Discovering as much or more in a framer framing a house,
Putting higher claims for him there with his roll'd-up sleeves
Not objecting to special revelations, considering a curl of smoke or
a hair on the back of my hand just as curious as any revelation,
Lads ahold of fire-engines and hook-and-ladder ropes no less to me
Minding their voices peal through the crash of destruction,
Their brawny limbs passing safe over charr'd laths, their white
By the mechanic's wife with her babe at her nipple interceding for
Three scythes at harvest whizzing in a row from three lusty angels
The snag-tooth'd hostler with red hair redeeming sins past and to come,
Selling all he possesses, traveling on foot to fee lawyers for his
brother and sit by him while he is tried for forgery;
What was strewn in the amplest strewing the square rod about me, and
The bull and the bug never worshipp'd half enough,
The supernatural of no account, myself waiting my time to be one of
The day getting ready for me when I shall do as much good as the
By my life-lumps! becoming already a creator,
Putting myself here and now to the ambush'd womb of the shadows.
Come my boys and girls, my women, household and intimates,
Now the performer launches his nerve, he has pass'd his prelude on
climax and close.
Folks are around me, but they are no household of mine.
Ever the eaters and drinkers, ever the upward and downward sun, ever
Ever myself and my neighbors, refreshing, wicked, real,
Ever the old inexplicable query, ever that thorn'd thumb, that
Ever the vexer's hoot! hoot! till we find where the sly one hides
Ever love, ever the sobbing liquid of life,
Ever the bandage under the chin, ever the trestles of death.
To feed the greed of the belly the brains liberally spooning,
Tickets buying, taking, selling, but in to the feast never once going,
Many sweating, ploughing, thrashing, and then the chaff for payment
A few idly owning, and they the wheat continually claiming.
Whatever interests the rest interests me, politics, wars, markets,
The mayor and councils, banks, tariffs, steamships, factories,
I am aware who they are, (they are positively not worms or fleas,)
I acknowledge the duplicates of myself, the weakest and shallowest
What I do and say the same waits for them,
Every thought that flounders in me the same flounders in them.
Know my omnivorous lines and must not write any less,
And would fetch you whoever you are flush with myself.
But abruptly to question, to leap beyond yet nearer bring;
This printed and bound book--but the printer and the
The well-taken photographs--but your wife or friend close and solid
The black ship mail'd with iron, her mighty guns in her turrets--but
In the houses the dishes and fare and furniture--but the host and
The sky up there--yet here or next door, or across the way?
Sermons, creeds, theology--but the fathomless human brain,
And what is reason? and what is love? and what is life?
My faith is the greatest of faiths and the least of faiths,
Enclosing worship ancient and modern and all between ancient and modern,
Believing I shall come again upon the earth after five thousand years,
Waiting responses from oracles, honoring the gods, saluting the sun,
Making a fetich of the first rock or stump, powowing with sticks in
Helping the llama or brahmin as he trims the lamps of the idols,
Dancing yet through the streets in a phallic procession, rapt and
Drinking mead from the skull-cap, to Shastas and Vedas admirant,
Walking the teokallis, spotted with gore from the stone and knife,
Accepting the Gospels, accepting him that was crucified, knowing
To the mass kneeling or the puritan's prayer rising, or sitting
Ranting and frothing in my insane crisis, or waiting dead-like till
Looking forth on pavement and land, or outside of pavement and land,
Belonging to the winders of the circuit of circuits.
Frivolous, sullen, moping, angry, affected, dishearten'd, atheistical,
I know every one of you, I know the sea of torment, doubt, despair
How they contort rapid as lightning, with spasms and spouts of blood!
The past is the push of you, me, all, precisely the same,
And what is yet untried and afterward is for you, me, all, precisely
But I know it will in its turn prove sufficient, and cannot fail.
Nor the young woman who died and was put by his side,
Nor the little child that peep'd in at the door, and then drew back
Nor the old man who has lived without purpose, and feels it with
Nor him in the poor house tubercled by rum and the bad disorder,
Nor the numberless slaughter'd and wreck'd, nor the brutish koboo
Nor the sacs merely floating with open mouths for food to slip in,
Nor any thing in the earth, or down in the oldest graves of the earth,
Nor any thing in the myriads of spheres, nor the myriads of myriads
Nor the present, nor the least wisp that is known.
I launch all men and women forward with me into the Unknown.
There are trillions ahead, and trillions ahead of them.
And other births will bring us richness and variety.
That which fills its period and place is equal to any.
I am sorry for you, they are not murderous or jealous upon me,
All has been gentle with me, I keep no account with lamentation,
On every step bunches of ages, and larger bunches between the steps,
All below duly travel'd, and still I mount and mount.
Afar down I see the huge first Nothing, I know I was even there,
I waited unseen and always, and slept through the lethargic mist,
And took my time, and took no hurt from the fetid carbon.
For room to me stars kept aside in their own rings,
They sent influences to look after what was to hold me.
My embryo has never been torpid, nothing could overlay it.
Vast vegetables gave it sustenance,
Monstrous sauroids transported it in their mouths and deposited it
O manhood, balanced, florid and full.
Jostling me through streets and public halls, coming naked to me at night,
Crying by day, Ahoy! from the rocks of the river, swinging and
Calling my name from flower-beds, vines, tangled underbrush,
Bussing my body with soft balsamic busses,
Noiselessly passing handfuls out of their hearts and giving them to be mine.
And the dark hush promulges as much as any.
And all I see multiplied as high as I can cipher edge but the rim of
Outward and outward and forever outward.
He joins with his partners a group of superior circuit,
And greater sets follow, making specks of the greatest inside them.
If I, you, and the worlds, and all beneath or upon their surfaces,
were this moment reduced back to a pallid float, it would
We should surely bring up again where we now stand,
And surely go as much farther, and then farther and farther.
They are but parts, any thing is but a part.
Count ever so much, there is limitless time around that.
The Lord will be there and wait till I come on perfect terms,
The great Camerado, the lover true for whom I pine will be there.
My signs are a rain-proof coat, good shoes, and a staff cut from the woods,
I have no chair, no church, no philosophy,
But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll,
My right hand pointing to landscapes of continents and the public road.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know,
Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch as we go.
And in due time you shall repay the same service to me,
And I said to my spirit When we become the enfolders of those orbs,
and the pleasure and knowledge of every thing in them, shall we
And my spirit said No, we but level that lift to pass and continue beyond.
I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself.
Here are biscuits to eat and here is milk to drink,
But as soon as you sleep and renew yourself in sweet clothes, I kiss you
with a good-by kiss and open the gate for your egress hence.
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod to me, shout,
He that by me spreads a wider breast than my own proves the width of my own,
He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher.
Wicked rather than virtuous out of conformity or fear,
Unrequited love or a slight cutting him worse than sharp steel cuts,
First-rate to ride, to fight, to hit the bull's eye, to sail a
Preferring scars and the beard and faces pitted with small-pox over
And those well-tann'd to those that keep out of the sun.
I follow you whoever you are from the present hour,
My words itch at your ears till you understand them.
(It is you talking just as much as myself, I act as the tongue of you,
Tied in your mouth, in mine it begins to be loosen'd.)
And I swear I will never translate myself at all, only to him or her
The nearest gnat is an explanation, and a drop or motion of waves key,
But roughs and little children better than they.
The woodman that takes his axe and jug with him shall take me with
The farm-boy ploughing in the field feels good at the sound of my voice,
In vessels that sail my words sail, I go with fishermen and seamen
On the night ere the pending battle many seek me, and I do not fail them,
On that solemn night (it may be their last) those that know me seek me.
My face rubs to the hunter's face when he lies down alone in his blanket,
The driver thinking of me does not mind the jolt of his wagon,
The girl and the wife rest the needle a moment and forget where they are,
And I have said that the body is not more than the soul,
And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one's self is,
And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own
And I or you pocketless of a dime may purchase the pick of the earth,
And to glance with an eye or show a bean in its pod confounds the
And there is no trade or employment but the young man following it
And there is no object so soft but it makes a hub for the wheel'd universe,
And I say to any man or woman, Let your soul stand cool and composed
For I who am curious about each am not curious about God,
(No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and
Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass,
I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign'd
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe'er I go,
try to alarm me.
I recline by the sills of the exquisite flexible doors,
And mark the outlet, and mark the relief and escape.
I reach to the leafy lips, I reach to the polish'd breasts of melons.
(No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times before.)
O suns--O grass of graves--O perpetual transfers and promotions,
If you do not say any thing how can I say any thing?
Of the moon that descends the steeps of the soughing twilight,
Toss, sparkles of day and dusk--toss on the black stems that decay
I perceive that the ghastly glimmer is noonday sunbeams reflected,
And debouch to the steady and central from the offspring great or small.
It is not in any dictionary, utterance, symbol.
To it the creation is the friend whose embracing awakes me.
It is not chaos or death--it is form, union, plan--it is eternal
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
and my loitering.
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow'd wilds,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
And filter and fibre your blood.
I stop somewhere waiting for you.
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