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Starting from Paumanok


STARTING from fish-shape Paumanok where I was born,
Well-begotten, and rais'd by a perfect mother,
After roaming many lands, lover of populous pavements,
Dweller in Mannahatta my city, or on southern savannas,
Or a soldier camp'd or carrying my knapsack and gun, or a
    miner in California,
Or rude in my home in Dakota's woods, my diet meat, my
    drink from the spring,
Or withdrawn to muse and meditate in some deep recess,
Far from the clank of crowds intervals passing rapt and
Aware of the fresh free giver the flowing Missouri, aware of
    mighty Niagara,
Aware of the buffalo herds grazing the plains, the hirsute and
    strong-breasted bull,
Of earth, rocks, Fifth-month flowers experienced, stars, rain,
    snow, my amaze,
Having studied the mocking-bird's tones and the flight of the
And heard at dawn the unrivall'd one, the hermit thrush
    from the swamp-cedars,
Solitary, singing in the West, I strike up for a New World.


Victory, union, faith, identity, time,
The indissoluble compacts, riches, mystery,
Eternal progress, the kosmos, and the modern reports.

This then is life,
Here is what has come to the surface after so many throes
    and convulsions.
How curious! how real!
Underfoot the divine soil, overhead the sun.

See revolving the globe,
The ancestor-continents away group'd together,
The present and future continents north and south, with the
    isthmus between.

See, vast trackless spaces,
As in a dream they change, they swiftly fill,
Countless masses debouch upon them,
They are now cover'd with the foremost people, arts,
    institutions, known.

See, projected through time,
For me an audience interminable.

With firm and regular step they wend, they never stop,
Successions of men, Americanos, a hundred millions,
One generation playing its part and passing on,
Another generation playing its part and passing on in its turn,
With faces turn'd sideways or backward towards me to listen,
With eyes retrospective towards me.


Americanos! conquerors! marches humanitarian!
Foremost! century marches! Libertad! masses!
For you a programme of chants.

Chants of the prairies,
Chants of the long-running Mississippi, and down to the
    Mexican sea,
Chants of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and
Chants going forth from the centre from Kansas, and thence
Shooting in pulses of fire ceaseless to vivify all.


Take my leaves America, take them South and take them
Make welcome for them everywhere, for they are your own
Surround them East and West, for they would surround you,
And you precedents, connect lovingly with them, for they
    connect lovingly with you.

I conn'd old times,
I sat studying at the feet of the great masters,
Now if eligible O that the great masters might return and
    study me.

In the name of these States shall I scorn the antique?
Why these are the children of the antique to justify it.


Dead poets, philosophs, priests,
Martyrs, artists, inventors, governments long since,
Language-shapers on other shores,
Nations once powerful, now reduced, withdrawn, or desolate,
I dare not proceed till I respectfully credit what you have left
    wafted hither,
I have perused it, own it is admirable, (moving awhile among
Think nothing can ever be greater, nothing can ever deserve
    more than it deserves,
Regarding it all intently a long while, then dismissing it,
I stand in my place with my own day here.

Here lands female and male,
Here the heir-ship and heiress-ship of the world, here the
    flame of materials,
Here spirituality the translatress, the openly-avow'd,
The ever-tending, the finalè of visible forms,
The satisfier, after due long-waiting now advancing,
Yes here comes my mistress the soul.


The soul,
Forever and forever&emdash;longer than soil is brown and solid&emdash;
longer than water ebbs and flows.
I will make the poems of materials, for I think they are to be
    the most spiritual poems,
And I will make the poems of my body and of mortality,
For I think I shall then supply myself with the poems of my
    soul and of immortality.

I will make a song for these States that no one State may
    under any circumstances be subjected to another State,
And I will make a song that there shall be comity by day and
    by night between all the States, and between any two of
And I will make a song for the ears of the President, full of
    weapons with menacing points,
And behind the weapons countless dissatisfied faces;
And a song make I of the One form'd out of all,
The fang'd and glittering One including and over all,
(However high the head of any else that head is over all.)

I will acknowledge contemporary lands,
I will trail the whole geography of the globe and salute
     courteously every city large and small,
And employments! I will put in my poems that with you is
     heroism upon land and sea,
And I will report all heroism from an American point of

I will sing the song of companionship,
I will show what alone must finally compact these,
I believe these are to found their own ideal of manly love,
     indicating it in me,
I will therefore let flame from me the burning fires that were
     threatening to consume me,
I will lift what has too long kept down those smouldering
I will give them complete abandonment,
I will write the evangel-poem of comrades and of love,
For who but I should understand love with all its sorrow and
And who but I should be the poet of comrades?


I am the credulous man of qualities, ages, races,
I advance from the people in their own spirit,
Here is what sings unrestricted faith.

Omnes! omnes! let others ignore what they may,
I make the poem of evil also, I commemorate that part also,
I am myself just as much evil as good, and my nation is&emdash;and
     I say there is in fact no evil,
(Or if there is I say it is just as important to you, to the land
     or to me, as any thing else.)

I too, following many and follow'd by many, inaugurate a
     religion, I descend into the arena,
(It may be I am destin'd to utter the loudest cries there, the
     winner's pealing shouts,
Who knows? they may rise from me yet, and soar above
     every thing.)

Each is not for its own sake,
I say the whole earth and all the stars in the sky are for
     religion's sake.

I say no man has ever yet been half devout enough,
None has ever yet adored or worship'd half enough,
None has begun to think how divine he himself is, and how
     certain the future is.

I say that the real and permanent grandeur of these States
     must be their religion,
Otherwise there is no real and permanent grandeur;
(Nor character nor life worthy the name without religion,
Nor land nor man or woman without religion.)


What are you doing young man?
Are you so earnest, so given up to literature, science, art,
These ostensible realities, politics, points?
Your ambition or business whatever it may be?

It is well&emdash;against such I say not a word, I am their poet also,
But behold! such swiftly subside, burnt up for religion's sake,
For not all matter is fuel to heat, impalpable flame, the
     essential life of the earth,
Any more than such are to religion.


What do you seek so pensive and silent?
What do you need camerado?
Dear son do you think it is love?

Listen dear son&emdash;listen America, daughter or son,
It is a painful thing to love a man or woman to excess, and
     yet it satisfies, it is great,
But there is something else very great, it makes the whole
It, magnificent, beyond materials, with continuous hands
     sweeps and provides for all.


Know you, solely to drop in the earth the germs of a greater
The following chants each for its kind I sing.

My comrade!
For you to share with me two greatnesses, and a third one
     rising inclusive and more resplendent,
The greatness of Love and Democracy, and the greatness of

Melange mine own, the unseen and the seen,
Mysterious ocean where the streams empty,
Prophetic spirit of material shifting and flickering around
Living beings, identities now doubtless near us in the air that
     we know not of,
Contact daily and hourly that will not release me,
These selecting, these in hints demanded of me.

Not he with a daily kiss onward from childhood kissing
Has winded and twisted around me that which holds me to
Any more than I am held to the heavens and all the spiritual
After what they have done to me, suggesting themes.

O such themes&emdash;equalities! O divine average!
Warblings under the sun, usher'd as now, or at noon, or
Strains musical flowing through ages, now reaching hither,
I take to your reckless and composite chords, add to them,
     and cheerfully pass them forward.


As I have walk'd in Alabama my morning walk,
I have seen where the she-bird the mocking-bird sat on her
     nest in the briers hatching her brood.

I have seen the he-bird also,
I have paus'd to hear him near at hand inflating his throat
     and joyfully singing.

And while I paus'd it came to me that what he really sang for
     was not there only,
Nor for his mate nor himself only, nor all sent back by the
But subtle, clandestine, away beyond,
A charge transmitted and gift occult for those being born.


Democracy! near at hand to you a throat is now inflating
     itself and joyfully singing.

Ma femme! for the brood beyond us and of us,
For those who belong here and those to come,
I exultant to be ready for them will now shake out carols
     stronger and haughtier than have ever yet been heard
     upon earth.
I will make the songs of passion to give them their way,
And your songs outlaw'd offenders, for I scan you with
     kindred eyes, and carry you with me the same as any.

I will make the true poem of riches,
To earn for the body and the mind whatever adheres and
     goes forward and is not dropt by death;
I will effuse egotism and show it underlying all, and I will be
     the bard of personality,
And I will show of male and female that either is but the
     equal of the other,
And sexual organs and acts! do you concentrate in me, for I
     am determin'd to tell you with courageous clear voice to
     prove you illustrious,
And I will show that there is no imperfection in the present,
     and can be none in the future,
And I will show that whatever happens to anybody it may be
     turn'd to beautiful results,
And I will show that nothing can happen more beautiful than
And I will thread a thread through my poems that time and
     events are compact,
And that all the things of the universe are perfect miracles,
     each as profound as any.

I will not make poems with reference to parts,
But I will make poems, songs, thoughts, with reference to
And I will not sing with reference to a day, but with reference
     to all days,
And I will not make a poem nor the least part of a poem but
     has reference to the soul,
Because having look'd at the objects of the universe, I find
     there is no one nor any particle of one but has reference
     to the soul.


Was somebody asking to see the soul?
See, your own shape and countenance, persons, substances,
     beasts, the trees, the running rivers, the rocks and sands.

All hold spiritual joys and afterwards loosen them;
How can the real body ever die and be buried?

Of your real body and any man's or woman's real body,
Item for item it will elude the hands of the corpse-cleaners
     and pass to fitting spheres,
Carrying what has accrued to it from the moment of birth to
     the moment of death.

Not the types set up by the printer return their impression,
     the meaning, the main concern,
Any more than a man's substance and life or a woman's
     substance and life return in the body and the soul,
Indifferently before death and after death.

Behold, the body includes and is the meaning, the main
     concern, and includes and is the soul;
Whoever you are, how superb and how divine is your body,
     or any part of it!


Whoever you are, to you endless announcements!

Daughter of the lands did you wait for your poet?
Did you wait for one with a flowing mouth and indicative
Toward the male of the States, and toward the female of the
Exulting words, words to Democracy's lands.

Interlink'd, food-yielding lands!
Land of coal and iron! land of gold! land of cotton, sugar,
Land of wheat, beef, pork! land of wool and hemp! land of
     the apple and the grape!
Land of the pastoral plains, the grass-fields of the world! land
     of those sweet-air'd interminable plateaus!
Land of the herd, the garden, the healthy house of adobie!
Lands where the north-west Columbia winds, and where the
     south-west Colorado winds!
Land of the eastern Chesapeake! land of the Delaware!
Land of Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan!
Land of the Old Thirteen! Massachusetts land! land of
    Vermont and Connecticut!

Land of the ocean shores! land of sierras and peaks!
Land of boatmen and sailors! fishermen's land!
Inextricable lands! the clutch'd together! the passionate
The side by side! the elder and younger brothers! the
The great women's land! the feminine! the experienced sisters
     and the inexperienced sisters!
Far breath'd land! Arctic braced! Mexican breez'd! the
     diverse! the compact!
The Pennsylvanian! the Virginian! the double Carolinian!
O all and each well-loved by me! my intrepid nations! O I at
     any rate include you all with perfect love!
I cannot be discharged from you! not from one any sooner
     than another!
O death! O for all that, I am yet of you unseen this hour with
     irrepressible love,
Walking New England, a friend, a traveler,
Splashing my bare feet in the edge of the summer ripples on
     Paumanok's sands,
Crossing the prairies, dwelling again in Chicago, dwelling in
     every town,
Observing shows, births, improvements, structures, arts,
Listening to orators and oratresses in public halls,
Of and through the States as during life, each man and
     woman my neighbor,
The Louisianian, the Georgian, as near to me, and I as near
     to him and her,
The Mississippian and Arkansian yet with me, and I yet with
     any of them,
Yet upon the plains west of the spinal river, yet in my house
     of adobie,
Yet returning eastward, yet in the Seaside State or in
Yet Kanadian cheerily braving the winter, the snow and ice
     welcome to me,
Yet a true son either of Maine or of the Granite State, or the
     Narragansett Bay State, or the Empire State,
Yet sailing to other shores to annex the same, yet welcoming
     every new brother,

Hereby applying these leaves to the new ones from the hour
     they unite with the old ones,
Coming among the new ones myself to be their companion
     and equal, coming personally to you now,
Enjoining you to acts, characters, spectacles, with me.


With me with firm holding, yet haste, haste on.

For your life adhere to me,
(I may have to be persuaded many times before I consent to
     give myself really to you, but what of that?
Must not Nature be persuaded many times?)

No dainty dolce affettuoso I,
Bearded, sun-burnt, gray-neck'd, forbidding, I have arrived,
To be wrestled with as I pass for the solid prizes of the
For such I afford whoever can persevere to win them.


On my way a moment I pause,
Here for you! and here for America!
Still the present I raise aloft, still the future of the States I
     harbinge glad and sublime,
And for the past I pronounce what the air holds of the red

The red aborigines,
Leaving natural breaths, sounds of rain and winds, calls as of
     birds and animals in the woods, syllabled, to us for
Okonee, Koosa, Ottawa, Monongahela, Sauk, Natchez,
     Chattahoochee, Kaqueta, Oronoco,
Wabash, Miami, Saginaw, Chippewa, Oshkosh,
Leaving such to the States they melt, they depart, charging
     the water and the land with names.


Expanding and swift, henceforth,
Elements, breeds, adjustments, turbulent, quick and
A world primal again, vistas of glory incessant and
A new race dominating previous ones and grander far, with
     new contests,
New politics, new literatures and religions, new inventions
     and arts.

These, my voice announcing &emdash; I will sleep no more but arise,
You oceans that have been calm within me! how I feel you,
    fathomless, stirring, preparing unprecedented waves and


See, steamers steaming through my poems,
See, in my poems immigrants continually coming and
See, in arriere, the wigwam, the trail, the hunter's hut, the
     flatboat, the maize-leaf, the claim, the rude fence, and
     the backwoods village,
See, on the one side the Western Sea and on the other the
     Eastern Sea, how they advance and retreat upon my
     poems as upon their own shores,
See, pastures and forests in my poems &emdash; see, animals wild and
     tame &emdash; see, beyond the Kaw, countless herds of buffalo
     feeding on short curly grass,
See, in my poems, cities, solid, vast, inland, with paved
     streets, with iron and stone edifices, ceaseless vehicles,
     and commerce,
See, the many-cylinder'd steam printing-press &emdash; see, the
     electric telegraph stretching across the continent,
See, through Atlantica's depths pulses American Europe
     reaching, pulses of Europe duly return'd,
See, the strong and quick locomotive as it departs, panting,
     blowing the steam-whistle,
See, ploughmen ploughing farms &emdash; see, miners digging mines
    &emdash; see, the numberless factories,

See, mechanics busy at their benches with tools &emdash; see from
     among them superior judges, philosophs, Presidents,
     emerge, drest in working dresses,
See, lounging through the shops and fields of the States, me
    well-belov'd, close-held by day and night,
Hear the loud echoes of my songs there &emdash; read the hints come
     at last.


O camerado close! O you and me at last, and us two only.
O a word to clear one's path ahead endlessly!
O something ecstatic and undemonstrable! O music wild!
O now I triumph &emdash; and you shall also;
O hand in hand &emdash; O wholesome pleasure &emdash; O one more
     desirer and lover!
O to haste firm holding &emdash; to haste, haste on with me.

1860                                                                  1881

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