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IN paths untrodden,
In the growths by margins of pond-waters,
Escaped from the life that exhibits itself,
From all the standards hitherto publish'd, from the pleasures,
     profits, conformities,
Which too long I was offering to feed my soul,
Clear to me now standards not yet publish'd, clear to me that
     my soul,
That the soul of the man I speak for rejoices in comrades,
Here by myself away from the clank of the world,
Tallying and talk'd to here by tongues aromatic,
No longer abash'd, (for in this secluded spot I can respond as
     I would not dare elsewhere,)
Strong upon me the life that does not exhibit itself, yet
     contains all the rest,
Resolv'd to sing no songs to-day but those of manly attachment,
Projecting them along that substantial life,
Bequeathing hence types of athletic love,
Afternoon this delicious Ninth-month in my forty-first year,
I proceed for all who are or have been young men,
To tell the secret of my nights and days,
To celebrate the need of comrades.

1860                                                                  1867


SCENTED herbage of my breast,
Leaves from you I glean, I write, to be perused best
Tomb-leaves, body-leaves growing up above me above death.

Perennial roots, tall leaves, O the winter shall not freeze you
     delicate leaves,
Every year shall you bloom again, out from where you retired
     you shall emerge again;
O I do not know whether many passing by will discover you
     or inhale your faint odor, but I believe a few will;
O slender leaves! O blossoms of my blood! I permit you to
     tell in your own way of the heart that is under you,
O I do not know what you mean there underneath yourselves,
     you are not happiness,
You are often more bitter than I can bear, you burn and sting
Yet you are beautiful to me you faint-tinged roots, you make
     me think of death,
Death is beautiful from you, (what indeed is finally beautiful
     except death and love?)
O I think it is not for life I am chanting here my chant of
     lovers, I think it must be for death,
For how calm, how solemn it grows to ascend to the
     atmosphere of lovers,
Death or life I am then indifferent, my soul declines to prefer,
(I am not sure but the high soul of lovers welcomes death
Indeed O death, I think now these leaves mean precisely the
     same as you mean,
Grow up taller sweet leaves that I may see! grow up out of
     my breast!
Spring away from the conceal'd heart there!
Do not fold yourself so in your pink-tinged roots timid leaves!
Do not remain down there so ashamed, herbage of my breast!
Come I am determin'd to unbare this broad breast of mine, I
     have long enough stifled and choked;
Emblematic and capricious blades I leave you, now you serve
     me not,
I will say what I have to say by itself,
I will sound myself and comrades only, I will never again
     utter a call only their call,
I will raise with it immortal reverberations through the States,
I will give an example to lovers to take permanent shape and
     will through the States,

Through me shall the words be said to make death
Give me your tone therefore O death, that I may accord with
Give me yourself, for I see that you belong to me now above
     all, and are folded inseparably together, you love and
     death are,
Nor will I allow you to balk me any more with what I was
     calling life,
For now it is convey'd to me that you are the purports
That you hide in these shifting forms of life, for reasons, and
     that they are mainly for you,
That you beyond them come forth to remain, the real reality,
That behind the mask of materials you patiently wait, no
     matter how long,
That you will one day perhaps take control of all,
That you will perhaps dissipate this entire show of appearance,
That may-be you are what it is all for, but it does not last so
     very long,
But you will last very long.

1860                                                                  1881


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
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
And in libraries I lie as one dumb, a gawk, or unborn, or
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
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
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

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.

1860                                                                  1881


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

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

For you these from me, O Democracy, to serve you ma
For you, for you I am trilling these songs.

1860                                                                  1881


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, or sauntering later in summer, 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, 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
(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
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
I will give of it, but only to them that love as I myself am
     capable of loving.

1860                                                                  1867


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

1860                                                                  1867


OF the terrible doubt of appearances,
Of the uncertainty after all, that we may be deluded,
That may-be reliance and hope are but speculations after all,
That may-be identity beyond the grave is a beautiful fable
May-be the things I perceive, the animals, plants, men, hills,
     shining and flowing waters,
The skies of day and night, colors, densities, forms, may-be
     these are (as doubtless they are) only apparitions, and
     the real something has yet to be known,
(How often they dart out of themselves as if to confound me
     and mock me!

How often I think neither I know, nor any man knows, aught
     of them,)
May-be seeming to me what they are (as doubtless they
     indeed but seem) as from my present point of view, and
     might prove (as of course they would) nought of what
     they appear, or nought anyhow, from entirely changed
     points of view;
To me these and the like of these are curiously answer'd by
     my lovers, my dear friends,
When he whom I love travels with me or sits a long while
     holding me by the hand,
When the subtle air, the impalpable, the sense that words and
     reason hold not, surround us and pervade us,
Then I am charged with untold and untellable wisdom, I am
     silent, I require nothing further,
I cannot answer the question of appearances or that of
     identity beyond the grave,
But I walk or sit indifferent, I am satisfied,
He ahold of my hand has completely satisfied me.

1860                                                                  1867


AND now gentlemen,
A word I give to remain in your memories and minds,
As base and finalè too for all metaphysics.

(So to the students the old professor,
At the close of his crowded course.)

Having studied the new and antique, the Greek and
     Germanic systems,
Kant having studied and stated, Fichte and Schelling and
Stated the lore of Plato, and Socrates greater than Plato,
And greater than Socrates sought and stated, Christ divine
     having studied long,
I see reminiscent to-day those Greek and Germanic systems,
See the philosophies all, Christian churches and tenets see,
Yet underneath Socrates clearly see, and underneath Christ
     the divine I see,

The dear love of man for his comrade, the attraction of
     friend to friend,
Of the well-married husband and wife, of children and
Of city for city and land for land.

1871                                                                  1871


RECORDERS ages hence,
Come, I will take you down underneath this impassive exterior,
     I will tell you what to say of me,
Publish my name and hang up my picture as that of the
     tenderest lover,
The friend the lover's portrait, of whom his friend his lover
     was fondest,
Who was not proud of his songs, but of the measureless
     ocean of love within him, and freely pour'd it forth,
Who often walk'd lonesome walks thinking of his dear
     friends, his lovers,
Who pensive away from one he lov'd often lay sleepless and
     dissatisfied at night,
Who knew too well the sick, sick dread lest the one he lov'd
     might secretly be indifferent to him,
Whose happiest days were far away through fields, in woods,
     on hills, he and another wandering hand in hand, they
     twain apart from other men,
Who oft as he saunter'd the streets curv'd with his arm the
     shoulder of his friend, while the arm of his friend rested
     upon him also.

1860                                                                  1867


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

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
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 toward me,
And his arm lay lightly around my breast&emdash;and that night I
     was happy.

1860                                                                  1867


ARE you the new person drawn toward me?
To begin with take warning, I am surely far different from
     what you suppose;
Do you suppose you will find in me your ideal?
Do you think it is so easy to have me become your lover?
Do you think the friendship of me would be unalloy'd
Do you think I am trusty and faithful?
Do you see no further than this façade, this smooth and
     tolerant manner of me?
Do you suppose yourself advancing on real ground toward a
     real heroic man?
Have you no thought O dreamer that it may be all maya,

1860                                                                  1867


ROOTS and leaves themselves alone are these,
Scents brought to men and women from the wild woods and
Breast-sorrel and pinks of love, fingers that wind around
     tighter than vines,
Gushes from the throats of birds hid in the foliage of trees as
     the sun is risen,
Breezes of land and love set from living shores to you on the
     living sea, to you O sailors!
Frost-mellow'd berries and Third-month twigs offer'd fresh
     to young persons wandering out in the fields when the
     winter breaks up,
Love-buds put before you and within you whoever you
Buds to be unfolded on the old terms,
If you bring the warmth of the sun to them they will open
     and bring form, color, perfume, to you,
If you become the aliment and the wet they will become
     flowers, fruits, tall branches and trees.

1860                                                                  1867


NOT heat flames up and consumes,
Not sea-waves hurry in and out,
Not the air delicious and dry, the air of ripe summer, bears
     lightly along white down-balls of myriads of seeds,
Wafted, sailing gracefully, to drop where they may;
Not these, O none of these more than the flames of me,
     consuming, burning for his love whom I love,
O none more than I hurrying in and out;
Does the tide hurry, seeking something, and never give up?
     O I the same,
O nor down-balls nor perfumes, nor the high rain-emitting
     clouds, are borne through the open air,
Any more than my soul is borne through the open air,
Wafted in all directions O love, for friendship, for you.

1860                                                                  1867


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.

1860                                                                  1867


CITY of orgies, walks and joys,
City whom that I have lived and sung in your midst will one
     day make you illustrious,
Not the pageants of you, not your shifting tableaus, your
     spectacles, repay me,
Not the interminable rows of your houses, nor the ships at
     the wharves,
Nor the processions in the streets, nor the bright windows
     with goods in them,
Nor to converse with learn'd persons, or bear my share in the
     soiree or feast;
Not those, but as I pass O Manhattan, your frequent and
     swift flash of eyes offering me love,
Offering response to my own&emdash;these repay me,
Lovers, continual lovers, only repay me.

1860                                                                  1867


BEHOLD this swarthy face, these gray eyes,
This beard, the white wool unclipt upon my neck,
My brown hands and the silent manner of me without charm;

Yet comes one a Manhattanese and ever at parting kisses me
     lightly on the lips with robust love,
And I on the crossing of the street or on the ship's deck give a
     kiss in return,
We observe that salute of American comrades land and sea,
We are those two natural and nonchalant persons.

1860                                                                  1867


I SAW in Louisiana a live-oak growing,
All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the branches,
Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous leaves
     of dark green,
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of
But I wonder'd how it could utter joyous leaves standing
     alone there without its friend near, for I knew I could not,
And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon
     it, and twined around it a little moss,
And brought it away, and I have placed it in sight, in my room,
It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends,
(For I believe lately I think of little else than of them,)
Yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of
     manly love;
For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in
     Louisiana solitary in a wide flat space,
Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a lover near,
I know very well I could not.

1860                                                                  1867


PASSING stranger! you do not know how longingly I look
    upon you,
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, (it comes
     to me as of a dream,)
I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall'd as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate,
     chaste, matured,

You grew up with me, were a boy with me or a girl with
I ate with you and slept with you, your body has become not
     yours only nor left my body mine only,
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass,
     you take of my beard, breast, hands, in return,
I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you when I sit
     alone or wake at night alone,
I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.

1860                                                                  1867


THIS moment yearning and thoughtful sitting alone,
It seems to me there are other men in other lands yearning
     and thoughtful,
It seems to me I can look over and behold them in Germany,
     Italy, France, Spain,
Or far, far away, in China, or in Russia or Japan, talking
     other dialects,
And it seems to me if I could know those men I should become
     attached to them as I do to men in my own lands,
O I know we should be brethren and lovers,
I know I should be happy with them.

1860                                                                  1867


I HEAR it was charged against me that I sought to destroy
But really I am neither for nor against institutions,
(What indeed have I in common with them? or what with the
     destruction of them?)
Only I will establish in the Mannahatta and in every city of
     these States inland and seaboard,
And in the fields and woods, and above every keel little or
     large that dents the water,
Without edifices or rules or trustees or any argument,
The institution of the dear love of comrades.

1860                                                                  1867


THE prairie-grass dividing, its special odor breathing,
I demand of it the spiritual corresponding,
Demand the most copious and close companionship of men,
Demand the blades to rise of words, acts, beings,
Those of the open atmosphere, coarse, sunlit, fresh,
Those that go their own gait, erect, stepping with freedom
     and command, leading not following,
Those with a never-quell'd audacity, those with sweet and
     lusty flesh clear of taint,
Those that look carelessly in the faces of Presidents and
     governors, as to say Who are you?
Those of earth-born passion, simple, never constrain'd, never
Those of inland America.

1860                                                                  1867


WHEN I peruse the conquer'd fame of heroes and the victories
     of mighty generals, I do not envy the generals,
Nor the President in his Presidency, nor the rich in his great
But when I hear of the brotherhood of lovers, how it was
     with them,
How together through life, through dangers, odium,
     unchanging, long and long,
Through youth and through middle and old age, how
     unfaltering, how affectionate and faithful they were,
Then I am pensive&emdash;I hastily walk away fill'd with the
     bitterest envy.

1860                                                                  1871


WE two boys together clinging,
One the other never leaving,
Up and down the roads going, North and South excursions

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
Fulfilling our foray.

1860                                                                  1867


A PROMISE to California,
Or inland to the great pastoral Plains, and on to Puget sound
     and Oregon;
Sojourning east a while longer, soon I travel toward you, to
     remain, to teach robust American love,
For I know very well that I and robust love belong among
     you, inland, and along the Western sea;
For these States tend inland and toward the Western sea, and
     I will also.

1860                                                                  1867


HERE the frailest leaves of me and yet my strongest lasting,
Here I shade and hide my thoughts, I myself do not expose
And yet they expose me more than all my other poems.

1860                                                                  1871


NO labor-saving machine,
Nor discovery have I made,
Nor will I be able to leave behind me any wealthy bequest to
     found a hospital or library,
Nor reminiscence of any deed of courage for America,
Nor literary success nor intellect, nor book for the book-shelf,
But a few carols vibrating through the air I leave,
For comrades and lovers.

1860                                                                  1881


A GLIMPSE through an interstice caught,
Of a crowd of workmen and drivers in a bar-room around
     the stove late of a winter night, and I unremark'd seated
     in a corner,
Of a youth who loves me and whom I love, silently
     approaching and seating himself near, that he may hold
     me by the hand,
A long while amid the noises of coming and going, of
     drinking and oath and smutty jest,
There we two, content, happy in being together, speaking
     little, perhaps not a word.

1860                                                                  1867


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 Mississippi!
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.

1860                                                                  1867


EARTH, my likeness,
Though you look so impassive, ample and spheric there,
I now suspect that is not all;
I now suspect there is something fierce in you eligible to burst
For an athlete is enamour'd of me, and I of him,
But toward him there is something fierce and terrible in me
     eligible to burst forth,
I dare not tell it in words, not even in these songs.

1860                                                                  1867


I DREAM'D in a dream I saw a city invincible to the attacks of
     the whole of the rest of the earth,
I dream'd that was the new city of Friends,
Nothing was greater there than the quality of robust love, it
     led the rest,
It was seen every hour in the actions of the men of that city,
And in all their looks and words.

1860                                                                  1867


WHAT think you I take my pen in hand to record?
The battle-ship, perfect-model'd, majestic, that I saw pass the
     offing to-day under full sail?
The splendors of the past day? or the splendor of the night
     that envelops me?
Or the vaunted glory and growth of the great city spread
     around me?&emdash;no;
But merely of two simple men I saw to-day on the pier in the
     midst of the crowd, parting the parting of dear friends,
The one to remain hung on the other's neck and passionately
     kiss'd him,
While the one to depart tightly prest the one to remain in his

1860                                                                  1867


TO the East and to the West,
To the man of the Seaside State and of Pennsylvania,
To the Kanadian of the north, to the Southerner I love,
These with perfect trust to depict you as myself, the germs
     are in all men,
I believe the main purport of these States is to found a superb
     friendship, exaltè, previously unknown,
Because I perceive it waits, and has been always waiting,
     latent in all men.

1860                                                                  1867


SOMETIMES with one I love I fill myself with rage for fear I
     effuse unreturn'd love,
But now I think there is no unreturn'd love, the pay is certain
     one way or another,
(I loved a certain person ardently and my love was not
Yet out of that I have written these songs.)

1860                                                                  1867


MANY things to absorb I teach to help you become eleve of
Yet if blood like mine circle not in your veins,
If you be not silently selected by lovers and do not silently
     select lovers,
Of what use is it that you seek to become eleve of mine?

1860                                                                  1881


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.

1860                                                                  1867


AMONG the men and women the multitude,
I perceive one picking me out by secret and divine signs,
Acknowledging none else, not parent, wife, husband,
     brother, child, any nearer than I am,
Some are baffled, but that one is not&emdash;that one knows me.

Ah lover and perfect equal,
I meant that you should discover me so by faint indirections,
And I when I meet you mean to discover you by the like in

1860                                                                  1881


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 you,
Little you know the subtle electric fire that for your sake is
     playing within me.

1860                                                                  1867


THAT shadow my likeness that goes to and fro seeking a
     livelihood, chattering, chaffering,
How often I find myself standing and looking at it where it
How often I question and doubt whether that is really me;
But among my lovers and caroling these songs,
O I never doubt whether that is really me.

(1859?)                                                               1881


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

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

1860                                                                  1871

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