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One day an obscure youth, a wanderer,
Known but to few, lay musing with himself
About the chances of his future life.
In that youth's heart, there dwelt the coal Ambition,
Burning and glowing; and he asked himself,
"Shall I, in time to come, be great and famed?"
Now soon an answer wild and mystical
Seemed to sound forth from out the depths of air;
And to the gazer's eye appeared a shape
Like one as of a cloud &emdash; and thus it spoke:
"O, many a panting, noble heart
Cherishes in its deep recess
The hope to win renown o'er earth
From Glory's prized caress.
"And some will win that envied goal,
And have their deeds known far and wide;
And some &emdash; by far the most &emdash; will sink
Down in oblivion's tide.
"But thou, who visions bright dost cull
From the imagination's store,
With dreams, such as the youthful dream
Of grandeur, love, and power,
"Fanciest that thou shalt build a name
And come to have the nations know
What conscious might dwells in the brain
That throbs beneath that brow?
"And see thick countless ranks of men
Fix upon thee their reverent gaze &emdash;
And listen to the plaudits loud
To thee that thousands raise?
"Weak, childish soul! the very place
That pride has made for folly's rest;
What thoughts, with vanity all rife,
Fill up thy heaving breast!
"At night, go view the solemn stars
Those wheeling worlds through time the same &emdash;
How puny seem the widest power,
The proudest mortal name!
"Think too, that all, lowly and rich,
Dull idiot mind and teeming sense,
Alike must sleep the endless sleep,
A hundred seasons hence.
"So, frail one, never more repine,
Though thou livest on obscure, unknown;
Though after death unsought may be
Thy markless resting stone."
And as these accents dropped in the youth's ears,
He felt him sick at heart; for many a month
His fancy had amused and charmed itself
With lofty aspirations, visions fair
Of what he might be. And it pierced him sore
To have his airy castles thus dashed down.
"Guilty of the body and the blood of Christ"
Of olden time, when it came to pass
That the beautiful god, Jesus, should finish his work on earth
Then went Judas, and sold the divine youth,
And took pay for his body.
Curs'd was the deed, even before the sweat of the clutching
hand grew dry;
And darkness frown'd upon the seller of the like of God,
Where, as though earth lifted her breast to throw him from
her, and heaven refused him,
He hung in the air, self-slaughter'd.
The cycles, with their long shadows, have stalk'd silently
Since those ancient days &emdash; many a pouch enwrapping mean
Its fee, like that paid for the son of Mary.
And still goes one, saying,
"What will ye give me, and I will deliver this man unto
And they make the covenant, and pay the pieces of silver.
Look forth, deliverer,
Look forth, first-born of the dead,
Over the tree-tops of Paradise;
See thyself in yet continued bonds,
Toilsome and poor, thou bear'st man's form again,
Thou art reviled, scourged, put into prison,
Hunted from the arrogant equality of the rest;
With staves and swords throng the willing servants of
Again they surround thee, mad with devilish spite;
Toward thee stretch the hands of a multitude, like vultures'
The meanest spit in thy face, they smite thee with their
Bruised, bloody, and pinion'd is thy body,
More sorrowful than death is thy soul.
Witness of anguish, brother of slaves,
Not with thy price closed the price of thine image:
And still Iscariot plies his trade.
Suddenly, out of its stale and drowsy air, the
air of slaves,
Like lightning Europe le'pt forth,
Sombre, superb and terrible,
As Ahimoth, brother of Death.
God, 'twas delicious!
That brief, tight, glorious grip
Upon the throats of kings.
You liars paid to defile the People,
Mark you now:
Not for numberless agonies, murders, lusts,
For court thieving in its manifold mean forms,
Worming from his simplicity the poor man's wages;
For many a promise sworn by royal lips
And broken, and laughed at in the breaking;
Then, in their power, not for all these,
Did a blow fall in personal revenge,
Or a hair draggle in blood:
The People scorned the ferocity of kings.
But the sweetness of mercy brewed bitter destruction,
And frightened rulers come back:
Each comes in state, with his train,
Hangman, priest, and tax-gatherer,
Soldier, lawyer, and sycophant;
As appalling procession of locusts,
And the king struts grandly again.
Yet behind all, lo, a Shape
Vague as the night, draped interminably,
Head, front and form, in scarlet folds,
Whose face and eyes none may see,
Out of its robes only this,
The red robes, lifted by the arm,
One finger pointed high over the top,
Like the head of a snake appears.
Meanwhile, corpses lie in new-made graves,
Bloody corpses of young men;
The rope of the gibbet hangs heavily,
The bullets of tyrants are flying,
The creatures of power laugh aloud:
And all these things bear fruits, and they are good.
Those corpses of young men,
Those martyrs that hang from the gibbets,
Those hearts pierced by the grey lead,
Cold and motionless as they seem,
Live elsewhere with undying vitality;
They live in other young men, O, kings,
They live in brothers, again ready to defy you;
They were purified by death,
They were taught and exalted.
Not a grave of those slaughtered ones,
But is growing its seed of freedom,
In its turn to bear seed,
Which the winds shall carry afar and resow,
And the rain nourish.
Not a disembodied spirit
Can the weapon of tyrants let loose,
But it shall stalk invisibly over the earth,
Whispering, counselling, cautioning.
Liberty, let others despair of thee,
But I will never despair of thee:
Is the house shut? Is the master away?
Nevertheless, be ready, be not weary of watching,
He will surely return; his messengers come anon.
Great are the myths &emdash; I too delight in them;
Great are Adam and Eve &emdash; I too look back and accept them;
Great the risen and fallen nations, and their poets, women,
sages, inventors, rulers, warriors, and priests.
Great is Liberty! great is Equality! I am their follower;
Helmsmen of nations, choose your craft! where you sail, I sail,
I weather it out with you, or sink with you.
Great is Youth &emdash; equally great is Old Age &emdash; great are the Day
Great is Wealth &emdash; great is Poverty &emdash; great is Expression &emdash;
great is Silence.
Youth, large, lusty, loving &emdash; Youth, full of grace, force,
Do you know that Old Age may come after you, with equal
grace, force, fascination?
Day, full-blown and splendid &emdash; Day of the immense sun,
action, ambition, laughter,
The Night follows close, with millions of suns, and sleep, and
Wealth, with the flush hand, fine clothes, hospitality;
But then the Soul's wealth, which is candor, knowledge,
pride, enfolding love;
(Who goes for men and women showing Poverty richer than
Expression of speech! in what is written or said, forget not
that Silence is also expressive,
That anguish as hot as the hottest, and contempt as cold as
the coldest, may be without words.
Great is the Earth, and the way it became what it is;
Do you imagine it has stopt at this? the increase aban
Understand then that it goes as far onward from this, as this
is from the times when it lay in covering waters and
gases, before man had appear'd.
Great is the quality of Truth in man;
The quality of truth in man supports itself through all
It is inevitably in the man &emdash; he and it are in love, and never
leave each other.
The truth in man is no dictum, it is vital as eyesight;
If there be any Soul, there is truth &emdash; if there be man or woman
there is truth &emdash; if there be physical or moral, there is
If there be equilibrium or volition, there is truth &emdash; if there be
things at all upon the earth, there is truth.
O truth of the earth! I am determin'd to press my way
Sound your voice! I scale mountains, or dive in the sea after
Great is Language &emdash; it is the mightiest of the sciences,
It is the fulness, color, form, diversity of the earth, and of
men and women, and of all qualities and processes;
It is greater than wealth &emdash; it is greater than buildings, ships,
religions, paintings, music.
Great is the English speech &emdash; what speech is so great as the
Great is the English brood &emdash; what brood has so vast a
destiny as the English?
It is the mother of the brood that must rule the earth with the
The new rule shall rule as the Soul rules, and as the love,
justice, equality in the Soul rule.
Great is Law &emdash; great are the few old land-marks of the law,
They are the same in all times, and shall not be disturb'd.
Great is Justice!
Justice is not settled by legislators and laws &emdash; it is in the Soul;
It cannot be varied by statutes, any more than love, pride,
the attraction of gravity, can;
It is immutable &emdash; it does not depend on majorities &emdash;
majorities or what not, come at last before the same passionless
and exact tribunal.
For justice are the grand natural lawyers, and perfect judges &emdash;
it is in their Souls;
It is well assorted &emdash; they have not studied for nothing &emdash; the
great includes the less;
They rule on the highest grounds &emdash; they oversee all eras,
The perfect judge fears nothing &emdash; he could go front to front
Before the perfect judge all shall stand back &emdash; life and death
shall stand back &emdash; heaven and hell shall stand back.
Great is Life, real and mystical, wherever and whoever;
Great is Death &emdash; sure as life holds all parts together, Death
holds all parts together.
Has Life much purport? &emdash; Ah, Death has the greatest
You just maturing youth! You male or female!
Remember the organic compact of These States,
Remember the pledge of the Old Thirteen thenceforward to
the rights, life, liberty, equality of man,
Remember what was promulged by the founders, ratified by
The States, signed in black and white by the Commissioners, and read by Washington at the head of the
Remember the purposes of the founders, &emdash; Remember
Remember the copious humanity streaming from every
direction toward America;
Remember the hospitality that belongs to nations and men;
(Cursed be nation, woman, man, without hospitality!)
Remember, government is to subserve individuals,
Not any, not the President, is to have one jot more than you
Not any habitan of America is to have one jot less than you
Anticipate when the thirty or fifty millions, are to become the
hundred or two hundred millions, of equal freemen and
freewomen, amicably joined.
Recall ages &emdash; One age is but a part &emdash; ages are but a part;
Recall the angers, bickerings, delusions, superstitions, of the
idea of caste,
Recall the bloody cruelties and crimes.
Anticipate the best women;
I say an unnumbered new race of hardy and well-defined
women are to spread through all These States,
I say a girl fit for These States must be free, capable,
dauntless, just the same as a boy.
Anticipate your own life &emdash; retract with merciless power,
Shirk nothing &emdash; retract in time &emdash; Do you see those errors,
diseases, weaknesses, lies, thefts?
Do you see that lost character? &emdash; Do you see decay,
consumption, rum-drinking, dropsy, fever, mortal cancer or
Do you see death, and the approach of death?
Think of the Soul;
I swear to you that body of yours gives proportions to your
Soul somehow to live in other spheres;
I do not know how, but I know it is so.
Think of loving and being loved;
I swear to you, whoever you are, you can interfuse yourself
with such things that everybody that sees you shall look
longingly upon you.
Think of the past;
I warn you that in a little while others will find their past in
you and your times.
The race is never separated &emdash; nor man nor woman escapes;
All is inextricable &emdash; things, spirits, Nature, nations, you too &emdash;
from precedents you come.
Recall the ever-welcome defiers, (The mothers precede them;)
Recall the sages, poets, saviors, inventors, lawgivers, of the
Recall Christ, brother of rejected persons &emdash; brother of slaves,
felons, idiots, and of insane and diseas'd persons.
Think of the time when you were not yet born;
Think of times you stood at the side of the dying;
Think of the time when your own body will be dying.
Think of spiritual results,
Sure as the earth swims through the heavens, does every one
of its objects pass into spiritual results.
Think of manhood, and you to be a man;
Do you count manhood, and the sweet of manhood, nothing?
Think of womanhood, and you to be a woman;
The creation is womanhood;
Have I not said that womanhood involves all?
Have I not told how the universe has nothing better than the
(The war is completed &emdash; the price is paid &emdash; the title is settled
Let every one answer! let those who sleep be waked! let none
Must we still go on with our affections and sneaking?
Let me bring this to a close &emdash; I pronounce openly for a new
distribution of roles;
Let that which stood in front go behind! and let that which
was behind advance to the front and speak;
Let murderers, bigots, fools, unclean persons, offer new
Let the old propositions be postponed!
Let faces and theories be turn'd inside out! let meanings be
freely criminal, as well as results!
Let there be no suggestion above the suggestion of
Let none be pointed toward his destination! (Say! do you
know your destination?)
Let men and women be mock'd with bodies and mock'd with
Let the love that waits in them, wait! let it die, or pass still-
born to other spheres!
Let the sympathy that waits in every man, wait! or let it also
pass, a dwarf, to other spheres!
Let contradictions prevail! let one thing contradict another!
and let one line of my poems contradict another!
Let the people sprawl with yearning, aimless hands! let their
tongues be broken! let their eyes be discouraged! let
none descend into their hearts with the fresh
lusciousness of love!
(Stifled, O days! O lands! in every public and private
Smother'd in thievery, impotence, shamelessness, mountain-
Brazen effrontery, scheming, rolling like ocean's waves
around and upon you, O my days! my lands!
For not even those thunderstorms, nor fiercest lightnings of
the war, have purified the atmosphere;)
&emdash; Let the theory of America still be management, caste,
comparison! (Say! what other theory would you?)
Let them that distrust birth and death still lead the rest! (Say!
why shall they not lead you?)
Let the crust of hell be neared and trod on! let the days be
darker than the nights! let slumber bring less slumber
than waking time brings!
Let the world never appear to him or her for whom it was all
Let the heart of the young man still exile itself from the heart
of the old man! and let the heart of the old man be exiled
from that of the young man!
Let the sun and moon go! let scenery take the applause of
the audience! let there be apathy under the stars!
Let freedom prove no man's inalienable right! every one who
can tyrannize, let him tyrannize to his satisfaction!
Let none but infidels be countenanced!
Let the eminence of meanness, treachery, sarcasm, hate,
greed, indecency, impotence, lust, be taken for granted
above all! let writers, judges, governments, households,
religions, philosophies, take such for granted above
Let the worst men beget children out of the worst women!
Let the priest still play at immortality!
Let death be inaugurated!
Let nothing remain but the ashes of teachers, artists,
moralists, lawyers, and learn'd and polite persons!
Let him who is without my poems be assassinated!
Let the cow, the horse, the camel, the garden-bee &emdash; let the
mud-fish, the lobster, the mussel, eel, the sting-ray, and
the grunting pig-fish &emdash; let these, and the like of these, be
put on a perfect equality with man and woman!
Let churches accommodate serpents, vermin, and the corpses
of those who have died of the most filthy of diseases!
Let marriage slip down among fools, and be for none but
Let men among themselves talk and think forever obscenely
of women! and let women among themselves talk and
think obscenely of men!
Let us all, without missing one, be exposed in public, naked,
monthly, at the peril of our lives! let our bodies be freely
handled and examined by whoever chooses!
Let nothing but copies at second hand be permitted to exist
upon the earth!
Let the earth desert God, nor let there ever henceforth be
mention'd the name of God!
Let there be no God!
Let there be money, business, imports, exports, custom,
authority, precedents, pallor, dyspepsia, smut, ignorance,
Let judges and criminals be transposed! let the prison-
keepers be put in prison! let those that were prisoners
take the keys! (Say! why might they not just as well be
Let the slaves be masters! let the masters become slaves!
Let the reformers descend from the stands where they are
forever bawling! let an idiot or insane person appear on
each of the stands!
Let the Asiatic, the African, the European, the American,
and the Australian, go armed against the murderous
stealthiness of each other! let them sleep armed! let none
believe in good will!
Let there be no unfashionable wisdom! let such be scorn'd
and derided off from the earth!
Let a floating cloud in the sky &emdash; let a wave of the sea &emdash; let
growing mint, spinach, onions, tomatoes &emdash; let these be
exhibited as shows, at a great price for admission!
Let all the men of These States stand aside for a few
smouchers! let the few seize on what they choose! let the rest
gawk, giggle, starve, obey!
Let shadows be furnish'd with genitals! let substances be
deprived of their genitals!
Let there be wealthy and immense cities &emdash; but still through
any of them, not a single poet, savior, knower, lover!
Let the infidels of These States laugh all faith away!
If one man be found who has faith, let the rest set upon him!
Let them affright faith! let them destroy the power of breeding
Let the she-harlots and the he-harlots be prudent! let them
dance on, while seeming lasts! (O seeming! seeming!
Let the preachers recite creeds! let them still teach only what
they have been taught!
Let insanity still have charge of sanity!
Let books take the place of trees, animals, rivers, clouds!
Let the daub'd portraits of heroes supersede heroes!
Let the manhood of man never take steps after itself!
Let it take steps after eunuchs, and after consumptive and
Let the white person again tread the black person under his
heel! (Say! which is trodden under heel, after all?)
Let the reflections of the things of the world be studied in
mirrors! let the things themselves still continue
Let a man seek pleasure everywhere except in himself!
Let a woman seek happiness everywhere except in herself!
(What real happiness have you had one single hour through
your whole life?)
Let the limited years of life do nothing for the limitless years
of death! (What do you suppose death will do, then?)
O mater! O fils!
O brood continental!
O flowers of the prairies!
O space boundless! O hum of mighty products!
O you teeming cities! O so invincible, turbulent, proud!
O race of the future! O women!
O fathers! O you men of passion and the storm!
O native power only! O beauty!
O yourself! O God! O divine average!
O you bearded roughs! O bards! O all those slumberers!
O arouse! the dawn-bird's throat sounds shrill! Do you not hear
the cock crowing?
O, as I walk'd the beach, I heard the mournful notes foreboding
a tempest &emdash; the low, oft-repeated shriek of the
diver, the long-lived loon;
O I heard, and yet hear, angry thunder; &emdash; O you sailors! O
ships! make quick preparation!
O from his masterful sweep, the warning cry of the eagle!
(Give way there, all! It is useless! Give up your spoils;)
O sarcasms! Propositions! (O if the whole world should
prove indeed a sham, a sell!)
O I believe there is nothing real but America and freedom!
O to sternly reject all except Democracy!
O imperator! O who dare confront you and me?
O to promulgate our own! O to build for that which build
O feuillage! O North! O the slope drained by the Mexican
O all, all inseparable &emdash; ages, ages, ages!
O a curse on him that would dissever this Union for any
O climate, labors! O good and evil! O death!
O you strong with iron and wood! O Personality!
O the village or place which has the greatest man or woman!
even if it be only a few ragged huts;
O the city where women walk in public processions in the
streets, the same as the men;
O a wan and terrible emblem, by me adopted!
O shapes arising! shapes of the future centuries!
O muscle and pluck forever for me!
O workmen and workwomen forever for me!
O farmers and sailors! O drivers of horses forever for me!
O I will make the new bardic list of trades and tools!
O you coarse and wilful! I love you!
O South! O longings for my dear home! O soft and sunny
O pensive! O I must return where the palm grows and the
mocking bird sings, or else I die!
O equality! O organic compacts! I am come to be your born
O whirl, contest, sounding and resounding! I am your poet,
because I am part of you;
O days by-gone! Enthusiasts! Antecedents!
O vast preparations for These States! O years!
O what is now being sent forward thousands of years to
O mediums! O to teach! to convey the invisible faith!
To promulge real things! to journey through all The States!
O creation! O to-day! O laws! O unmitigated adoration!
O for mightier broods of orators, artists, and singers!
O for native songs! carpenter's, boatman's, ploughman's
songs! shoemaker's songs!
O haughtiest growth of time! O free and extatic!
O what I, here, preparing, warble for!
O you hastening light! O the sun of the world will ascend,
dazzling, and take his height &emdash; and you too will ascend;
O so amazing and so broad! up there resplendent, darting
O prophetic! O vision staggered with weight of light! with
O copious! O hitherto unequalled!
O Libertad! O compact! O union impossible to dissever!
O my Soul! O lips becoming tremulous, powerless!
O centuries, centuries yet ahead!
O voices of greater orators! I pause &emdash; I listen for you!
O you States! Cities! defiant of all outside authority! I
spring at once into your arms! you I most love!
O you grand Presidentiads! I wait for you!
New history! New heroes! I project you!
Visions of poets! only you really last! O sweep on! sweep on!
O Death! O you striding there! O I cannot yet!
O heights! O infinitely too swift and dizzy yet!
O purged lumine! you threaten me more than I can stand!
O present! I return while yet I may to you!
O poets to come, I depend upon you!
O sun of real peace! O hastening light!
O free and extatic! O what I here, preparing, warble for!
O the sun of the world will ascend, dazzling, and take his
height &emdash; and you too, O my Ideal will surely ascend!
O so amazing and broad &emdash; up there resplendent, darting and
O vision prophetic, stagger'd with weight of light! with
O lips of my soul, already becoming powerless!
O ample and grand Presidentiads! Now the war, the war is
New history! new heroes! I project you!
Visions of poets! only you really last! sweep on! sweep on!
O heights too swift and dizzy yet!
O purged and luminous! you threaten me more than I can
(I must not venture &emdash; the ground under my feet menaces me &emdash;
it will not support me:
O future too immense,) &emdash; O present, I return, while yet I may,
So far, and so far, and on toward the end,
Singing what is sung in this book, from the irresistible
impulses of me;
But whether I continue beyond this book, to maturity,
Whether I shall dart forth the true rays, the ones that wait
(Did you think the sun was shining its brightest?
No &emdash; it has not yet fully risen;)
Whether I shall complete what is here started,
Whether I shall attain my own height, to justify these, yet
Whether I shall make the Poem of the New World,
transcending all others &emdash; depends, rich persons, upon you,
Depends, whoever you are now filling the current Presiden
tiad, upon you,
Upon you, Governor, Mayor, Congressman,
And you, contemporary America.
In the new garden, in all the parts,
In cities now, modern, I wander,
Though the second or third result, or still further, primitive
Days, places, indifferent &emdash; though various, the same,
Time, Paradise, the Mannahatta, the prairies, finding me
Death indifferent &emdash; Is it that I lived long since? Was I buried
very long ago?
For all that, I may now be watching you here, this moment;
For the future, with determined will, I seek &emdash; the woman of
You, born years, centuries after me, I seek.
Were you looking to be held together by the lawyers?
By an agreement on a paper? Or by arms?
I arrive, bringing these, beyond all the forces of courts and
These! to hold you together as firmly as the earth itself is
The old breath of life, ever new,
Here! I pass it by contact to you, America.
O mother! have you done much for me?
Behold, there shall from me be much done for you.
There shall from me be a new friendship &emdash; It shall be called
after my name,
It shall circulate through The States, indifferent of place,
It shall twist and intertwist them through and around each
other &emdash; Compact shall they be, showing new signs,
Affection shall solve every one of the problems of freedom,
Those who love each other shall be invincible,
They shall finally make America completely victorious, in
One from Massachusetts shall be a comrade to a Missourian,
One from Maine or Vermont, and a Carolinian and an Ore
gonese, shall be friends triune, more precious to each
other than all the riches of the earth.
To Michigan shall be wafted perfume from Florida,
To the Mannahatta from Cuba or Mexico,
Not the perfume of flowers, but sweeter, and wafted beyond
No danger shall balk Columbia's lovers,
If need be, a thousand shall sternly immolate themselves for
The Kanuck shall be willing to lay down his life for the
Kansian, and the Kansian for the Kanuck, on due need.
It shall be customary in all directions, in the houses and
streets, to see manly affection,
The departing brother or friend shall salute the remaining
brother or friend with a kiss.
There shall be innovations,
There shall be countless linked hands &emdash; namely, the North-
easterner's, and the Northwesterner's, and the South-
westerner's, and those of the interior, and all their
These shall be masters of the world under a new power,
They shall laugh to scorn the attacks of all the remainder of
The most dauntless and rude shall touch face to face lightly,
The dependence of Liberty shall be lovers,
The continuance of Equality shall be comrades.
These shall tie and band stronger than hoops of iron,
I, extatic, O partners! O lands! henceforth with the love of
lovers tie you.
Long I thought that knowledge alone would suffice
me &emdash; O if
I could but obtain knowledge!
Then my lands engrossed me &emdash; Lands of the prairies, Ohio's
land, the southern savannas, engrossed me &emdash; For them I
would live &emdash; I would be their orator;
Then I met the examples of old and new heroes &emdash; I heard of
warriors, sailors, and all dauntless persons &emdash; And it
seemed to me that I too had it in me to be as dauntless
as any &emdash; and would be so;
And then, to enclose all, it came to me to strike up the songs
of the New World&emdash;And then I believed my life must be
spent in singing;
But now take notice, land of the prairies, land of the south
savannas, Ohio's land,
Take notice, you Kanuck woods&emdash;and you Lake Huron&emdash;and
all that with you roll toward Niagara&emdash;and you
And you, Californian mountains&emdash;That you each and all find
somebody else to be your singer of songs,
For I can be your singer of songs no longer&emdash;One who loves
me is jealous of me, and withdraws me from all but love,
With the rest I dispense&emdash;I sever from what I thought would
suffice me, for it does not&emdash;it is now empty and tasteless
I heed knowledge, and the grandeur of The States, and the
example of heroes, no more,
I am indifferent to my own songs&emdash;I will go with him I love,
It is to be enough for us that we are together&emdash;We never
[HOURS CONTINUING LONG, SORE AND HEAVY-HEARTED]
Hours continuing long, sore and heavy-hearted,
Hours of the dusk, when I withdraw to a lonesome and
unfrequented spot, seating myself, leaning my face in my
Hours sleepless, deep in the night, when I go forth, speeding
swiftly the country roads, or through the city streets, or
pacing miles and miles, stifling plaintive cries;
Hours discouraged, distracted&emdash;for the one I cannot content
myself without, soon I saw him content himself without
Hours when I am forgotten, (O weeks and months are
passing, but I believe I am never to forget!)
Sullen and suffering hours! (I am ashamed&emdash;but it is useless&emdash;
I am what I am;)
Hours of my torment&emdash;I wonder if other men ever have the
like, out of the like feelings?
Is there even one other like me&emdash;distracted&emdash;his friend, his
lover, lost to him?
Is he too as I am now? Does he still rise in the morning,
dejected, thinking who is lost to him? and at night,
awaking, think who is lost?
Does he too harbor his friendship silent and endless? harbor
his anguish and passion?
Does some stray reminder, or the casual mention of a name,
bring the fit back upon him, taciturn and deprest?
Does he see himself reflected in me? In these hours, does he
see the face of his hours reflected?
[Who is now reading this?]
Who is now reading this?
May-be one is now reading this who knows some wrongdoing
of my past life,
Or may-be a stranger is reading this who has secretly loved me,
Or may-be one who meets all my grand assumptions and
egotisms with derision,
Or may-be one who is puzzled at me.
As if I were not puzzled at myself!
Or as if I never deride myself! (O conscience-struck! O self-
Or as if I do not secretly love strangers! (O tenderly, a long
time, and never avow it;)
Or as if I did not see, perfectly well, interior in myself, the
stuff of wrong-doing,
Or as if it could cease transpiring from me until it must cease.
Let us twain walk aside from the rest;
Now we are together privately, do you discard ceremony,
Come! vouchsafe to me what has yet been vouchsafed to
none&emdash;Tell me the whole story,
Tell me what you would not tell your brother, wife, husband,
[Of the visages of things]
Of the visages of things&emdash;And of
piercing through to the
accepted hells beneath;
Of ugliness&emdash;To me there is just as much in it as there is in
beauty&emdash;And now the ugliness of human beings is
acceptable to me;
Of detected persons&emdash;To me, detected persons are not, in any
respect, worse than undetected persons&emdash;and are not in
any respect worse than I am myself;
Of criminals&emdash;To me, any judge, or any juror, is equally
criminal&emdash;and any reputable person is also&emdash;and the
President is also.
I say whatever tastes sweet to the most perfect person, that is
I say nourish a great intellect, a great brain;
If I have said anything to the contrary, I hereby retract it.
I say man shall not hold property in man;
I say the least developed person on earth is just as important
and sacred to himself or herself, as the most developed
person is to himself or herself.
I say where liberty draws not the blood out of
slavery, there slavery draws the blood out of liberty,
I say the word of the good old cause in These States, and
resound it hence over the world.
I say the human shape or face is so great, it must never be
I say for ornaments nothing outre can be allowed,
And that anything is most beautiful without ornament,
And that exaggerations will be sternly revenged in your own
physiology, and in other persons' physiology also;
And I say that clean-shaped children can be jetted and
conceived only where natural forms prevail in public, and
the human face and form are never caricatured;
And I say that genius need never more be turned to romances,
(For facts properly told, how mean appear all romances.)
I say the word of lands fearing nothing&emdash;I will have
I say discuss all and expose all&emdash;I am for every topic openly;
I say there can be no salvation for These States without
innovators&emdash;without free tongues, and ears willing to hear
And I announce as a glory of These States, that they
respectfully listen to propositions, reforms, fresh views and
doctrines, from successions of men and women,
Each age with its own growth.
I have said many times that materials and the Soul are great,
and that all depends on physique;
Now I reverse what I said, and affirm that all depends on the
æsthetic or intellectual,
And that criticism is great&emdash;and that refinement is greatest of
And I affirm now that the mind governs&emdash;and that all
depends on the mind.
With one man or woman&emdash;(no matter which
pick out the lowest,)
With him or her I now illustrate the whole law;
I say that every right, in politics or what-not, shall be
eligible to that one man or woman, on the same terms as any.
He is wisest who has the most caution,
He only wins who goes far enough.
Any thing is as good as established, when that is established
that will produce and continue it.
What General has a good army in himself, has a good army;
He happy in himself, or she happy in herself, is happy,
But I tell you you cannot be happy by others, any more than
you can beget or conceive a child by others.
One sweeps by, attended by an immense train,
All emblematic of peace&emdash;not a soldier or menial among
One sweeps by, old, with black eyes, and profuse white hair,
He has the simple magnificence of health and strength,
His face strikes as with flashes of lightning whoever it turns
Three old men slowly pass, followed by three others, and
they by three others,
They are beautiful&emdash;the one in the middle of each group
holds his companions by the hand,
As they walk, they give out perfume wherever they walk.
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?
I will take an egg out of the robin's nest in the orchard,
I will take a branch of gooseberries from the old bush in the
garden, and go and preach to the world;
You shall see I will not meet a single heretic or scorner,
You shall see how I stump clergymen, and confound them,
You shall see me showing a scarlet tomato, and a white
pebble from the beach.
Behavior&emdash;fresh, native, copious, each one for himself
Nature and the Soul expressed&emdash;America and freedom expressed
&emdash;in it the finest art,
In it pride, cleanliness, sympathy, to have their chance,
In it physique, intellect, faith&emdash;in it just as much as to
manage an army or a city, or to write a book&emdash;perhaps more,
The youth, the laboring person, the poor person, rivalling all
the rest&emdash;perhaps outdoing the rest,
The effects of the universe no greater than its;
For there is nothing in the whole universe that can be more
effective than a man's or a woman's daily behavior can
In any position, in any one of These States.
I thought I was not alone, walking here by the shore,
But the one I thought was with me, as now I walk by the
As I lean and look through the glimmering light&emdash;that one
has utterly disappeared,
And those appear that perplex me.
Of what I write from myself&emdash;As if that
were not the resumé
Of Histories&emdash;As if such, however complete, were not less
complete than the preceding poems;
As if those shreds, the records of nations, could possibly be
as lasting as the preceding poems;
As if here were not the amount of all nations, and of all the
lives of heroes.
SOLID, IRONICAL, ROLLING ORB
Solid, ironical, rolling orb!
Master of all, and matter of fact!&emdash;at last I accept your
Bringing to practical, vulgar tests, of all my ideal dreams,
And of me, as lover and hero.
BATHED IN WAR'S PERFUME
Bathed in war's perfume&emdash;delicate flag!
(Should the days needing armies, needing fleets, come again,)
O to hear you call the sailors and the soldiers! flag like a
O to hear the tramp, tramp, of a million answering men! O
the ships they arm with joy!
O to see you leap and beckon from the tall masts of ships!
O to see you peering down on the sailors on the decks!
Flag like the eyes of women.
NOT MY ENEMIES EVER INVADE ME
Nto my enemies ever invade me&emdash;no harm
to my pride from
them I fear;
But the lovers I recklessly love&emdash;lo! how they master me!
Lo! me, ever open and helpless, bereft of my strength!
Utterly abject, grovelling on the ground before them.
THIS DAY, O SOUL
This day, O Soul, I give you a wondrous mirror;
Long in the dark, in tarnish and cloud it lay&emdash;But the cloud
has pass'd, and the tarnish gone;
. . .Behold, O Soul! it is now a clean and bright mirror,
Faithfully showing you all the things of the world.
There are who teach only the sweet lessons of
peace and safety;
But I teach lessons of war and death to those I love,
That they readily meet invasions, when they come.
ONE SONG, AMERICA, BEFORE I GO
One song, America, before I go,
I'd sing, o'er all the rest, with trumpet sound,
For thee&emdash;the Future.
I'd sow a seed for thee of endless Nationality;
I'd fashion thy Ensemble, including Body, and Soul;
I'd show, away ahead, the real Union, and how it may be
(The paths to the House I seek to make,
But leave to those to come, the House itself.)
Belief I sing&emdash;and Preparation;
As Life and Nature are not great with reference to the
But greater still from what is to come,
Out of that formula for Thee I sing.
AFTER AN INTERVAL
(Nov. 22, 1875, midnight&emdash;Saturn and Mars in conjunction)
After an interval, reading, here in the midnight,
With the great stars looking on&emdash;all the stars of Orion looking,
And the silent Pleiades&emdash;and the duo looking of Saturn and
Pondering, reading my own songs, after a long interval,
(sorrow and death familiar now,)
Ere closing the book, what pride! what joy! to find them,
Standing so well the test of death and night!
And the duo of Saturn and Mars!
THE BEAUTY OF THE SHIP
When, staunchly entering port,
After long ventures, hauling up, worn and old,
Battered by sea and wind, torn by many a fight,
With the original sails all gone, replaced, or mended,
I only saw, at last, the beauty of the Ship.
Two Rivulets side by side,
Two blended, parallel, strolling tides,
Companions, travelers, gossiping as they journey.
For the Eternal Ocean bound,
These ripples, passing surges, streams of Death and Life,
Object and Subject hurrying, whirling by,
The Real and Ideal,
Alternate ebb and flow the Days and Nights,
(Strands of a Trio twining, Present, Future, Past.)
In You, whoe'ver you are, my book perusing,
In I myself&emdash;in all the World&emdash;these ripples flow,
All, all, toward the mystic Ocean tending.
(O yearnful waves! the kisses of your lips!
Your breast so broad, with open arms, O firm, expanded shore!)
OR FROM THAT SEA OF TIME
Or, from that Sea of Time,
Spray, blown by the wind&emdash;a double winrow-drift of weeds
(O little shells, so curious-convolute! so limpid-cold and
Yet will you not, to the tympans of temples held,
Murmurs and echoes still bring up&emdash;Eternity's music, faint
Wafted inland, sent from Atlantica's rim&emdash;strains for the
Soul of the Prairies,
Whisper'd reverberations&emdash;chords for the ear of the West,
Your tidings old, yet ever new and untranslatable;)
Infinitesimals out of my life, and many a life,
(For not my life and years alone I give&emdash;all, all I give;)
These thoughts and Songs&emdash;waifs from the deep&emdash;here, cast
high and dry,
Wash'd on America's shores.
Currents of starting a Continent new,
Overtures sent to the solid out of the liquid,
Fusion of ocean and land&emdash;tender and pensive waves,
(Not safe and peaceful only&emdash;waves rous'd and ominous too.
Out of the depths, the storm's abysms&emdash;who knows whence?
Raging over the vast, with many a broken spar and tatter'd
FROM MY LAST YEARS
From my last years, last thoughts I here
Scatter'd and dropt, in seeds, and wafted to the West,
Through moisture of Ohio, prairie soil of Illinois&emdash;through
Colorado, California air,
For Time to germinate fully.
IN FORMER SONGS
In former songs Pride have I sung, and Love, and
But here I twine the strands of Patriotism and Death.
And now, Life, Pride, Love, Patriotism and Death,
To you, O Freedom, purport of all!
(You that elude me most&emdash;refusing to be caught in songs of
I offer all to you.
'Tis not for nothing, Death,
I sound out you, and words of you, with daring tone&emdash;
In my new Democratic chants&emdash;keeping you for a close,
For last impregnable retreat&emdash;a citadel and tower,
For my last stand&emdash;my pealing, final cry.
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