The disdain and calmness of martyrs, The mother of old, condemn'd for a witch, burnt with dry wood, her children gazing on, The hounded slave that flags in the race, leans by the fence, blowing, cover'd with sweat, The twinges that sting like needles his legs and neck, the murderous buckshot and the bullets, All these I feel or am.
I am the hounded slave, I wince at the bite of the dogs, 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 ooze of my skin, I fall on the weeds and stones, The riders spur their unwilling horses, haul close, Taunt my dizzy ears and beat me violently over the head with whip-stocks.
Agonies are one of my changes of garments, I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person, My hurts turn livid upon me as I lean on a cane and observe.
I am the mash'd fireman with breast-bone broken, Tumbling walls buried me in their debris, 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.
I lie in the night air in my red shirt, the pervading hush is for my sake, Painless after all I lie exhausted but not so unhappy, White and beautiful are the faces around me, the heads are bared of their fire-caps, The kneeling crowd fades with the light of the torches.
Distant and dead resuscitate, They show as the dial or move as the hands of me, I am the clock myself.
I am an old artillerist, I tell of my fort's bombardment, I am there again.
Again the long roll of the drummers, Again the attacking cannon, mortars, Again to my listening ears the cannon responsive.
I take part, I see and hear the whole, 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.
Again gurgles the mouth of my dying general, he furiously waves with his hand, He gasps through the clot Mind not me—mind—the entrenchments.
34 Now I tell what I knew in Texas in my early youth, (I tell not the fall of Alamo, Not one escaped to tell the fall of Alamo, The hundred and fifty are dumb yet at Alamo,) 'Tis the tale of the murder in cold blood of four hundred and twelve young men.
Retreating they had form'd in a hollow square with their baggage for breastworks, Nine hundred lives out of the surrounding enemies, nine times their number, was the price they took in advance, 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.
They were the glory of the race of rangers, Matchless with horse, rifle, song, supper, courtship, Large, turbulent, generous, handsome, proud, and affectionate, Bearded, sunburnt, drest in the free costume of hunters, Not a single one over thirty years of age.
The second First-day morning they were brought out in squads and massacred, it was beautiful early summer, The work commenced about five o'clock and was over by eight.
None obey'd the command to kneel, 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 lay together, The maim'd and mangled dug in the dirt, the new-comers saw them there, Some half-kill'd attempted to crawl away, 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 came to release him, The three were all torn and cover'd with the boy's blood.
At eleven o'clock began the burning of the bodies; That is the tale of the murder of the four hundred and twelve young men.
35 Would you hear of an old-time sea-fight? 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.
Our foe was no skulk in his ship I tell you, (said he,) His was the surly English pluck, and there is no tougher or truer, and never was, and never will be; Along the lower'd eve he came horribly raking us.
We closed with him, the yards entangled, the cannon touch'd, My captain lash'd fast with his own hands.
We had receiv'd some eighteen pound shots under the water, On our lower-gun-deck two large pieces had burst at the first fire, killing all around and blowing up overhead.
Fighting at sun-down, fighting at dark, Ten o'clock at night, the full moon well up, our leaks on the gain, and five feet of water reported, The master-at-arms loosing the prisoners confined in the after-hold to give them a chance for themselves.
The transit to and from the magazine is now stopt by the sentinels, They see so many strange faces they do not know whom to trust.
Our frigate takes fire, The other asks if we demand quarter? If our colors are struck and the fighting done?
Now I laugh content, for I hear the voice of my little captain, We have not struck, he composedly cries, we have just begun our part of the fighting.
Only three guns are in use, 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 clear his decks.
The tops alone second the fire of this little battery, especially the main-top, They hold out bravely during the whole of the action.
Not a moment's cease, The leaks gain fast on the pumps, the fire eats toward the powder-magazine.
One of the pumps has been shot away, it is generally thought we are sinking.
Serene stands the little captain, He is not hurried, his voice is neither high nor low, His eyes give more light to us than our battle-lanterns.
Toward twelve there in the beams of the moon they surrender to us.
36 Stretch'd and still lies the midnight, Two great hulls motionless on the breast of the darkness, Our vessel riddled and slowly sinking, preparations to pass to the one we have conquer'd, The captain on the quarter-deck coldly giving his orders through a countenance white as a sheet, 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 curl'd whiskers, 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 upon the masts and spars, 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, dull, tapering groan, These so, these irretrievable.
37 You laggards there on guard! look to your arms! In at the conquer'd doors they crowd! I am possess'd! Embody all presences outlaw'd or suffering, See myself in prison shaped like another man, And feel the dull unintermitted pain.
For me the keepers of convicts shoulder their carbines and keep watch, It is I let out in the morning and barr'd at night.
Not a mutineer walks handcuff'd to jail but I am handcuff'd to him and walk by his side, (I am less the jolly one there, and more the silent one with sweat on my twitching lips.)
Not a youngster is taken for larceny but I go up too, and am tried and sentenced.
Not a cholera patient lies at the last gasp but I also lie at the last gasp, My face is ash-color'd, my sinews gnarl, away from me people retreat.
Askers embody themselves in me and I am embodied in them, I project my hat, sit shame-faced, and beg.
38 Enough! enough! enough! Somehow I have been stunn'd. Stand back! Give me a little time beyond my cuff'd head, slumbers, dreams, gaping, I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake.
That I could forget the mockers and insults! That I could forget the trickling tears and the blows of the bludgeons and hammers! That I could look with a separate look on my own crucifixion and bloody crowning.
I remember now, I resume the overstaid fraction, The grave of rock multiplies what has been confided to it, or to any graves, Corpses rise, gashes heal, fastenings roll from me.
I troop forth replenish'd with supreme power, one of an average unending procession, 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.
Eleves, I salute you! come forward! Continue your annotations, continue your questionings.
39 The friendly and flowing savage, who is he? Is he waiting for civilization, or past it and mastering it?
Is he some Southwesterner rais'd out-doors? is he Kanadian? Is he from the Mississippi country? Iowa, Oregon, California? The mountains? prairie-life, bush-life? or sailor from the sea?
Wherever he goes men and women accept and desire him, They desire he should like them, touch them, speak to them, stay with them.
Behavior lawless as snow-flakes, words simple as grass, uncomb'd head, laughter, and naivete, 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 the glance of his eyes.
40 Flaunt of the sunshine I need not your bask—lie over! You light surfaces only, I force surfaces and depths also.
Earth! you seem to look for something at my hands, Say, old top-knot, what do you want?
Man or woman, I might tell how I like you, but cannot, 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.
Behold, I do not give lectures or a little charity, When I give I give myself.
You there, impotent, loose in the knees, 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, And any thing I have I bestow.
I do not ask who you are, that is not important to me, You can do nothing and be nothing but what I will infold you.
To cotton-field drudge or cleaner of privies I lean, On his right cheek I put the family kiss, And in my soul I swear I never will deny him.
On women fit for conception I start bigger and nimbler babes. (This day I am jetting the stuff of far more arrogant republics.)
To any one dying, thither I speed and twist the knob of the door. Turn the bed-clothes toward the foot of the bed, Let the physician and the priest go home.
I seize the descending man and raise him with resistless will, O despairer, here is my neck, By God, you shall not go down! hang your whole weight upon me.
I dilate you with tremendous breath, I buoy you up, Every room of the house do I fill with an arm'd force, Lovers of me, bafflers of graves.
Sleep—I and they keep guard all night, 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.
41 I am he bringing help for the sick as they pant on their backs, And for strong upright men I bring yet more needed help.
I heard what was said of the universe, Heard it and heard it of several thousand years; It is middling well as far as it goes—but is that all?
Magnifying and applying come I, Outbidding at the start the old cautious hucksters, Taking myself the exact dimensions of Jehovah, Lithographing Kronos, Zeus his son, and Hercules his grandson, Buying drafts of Osiris, Isis, Belus, Brahma, Buddha, In my portfolio placing Manito loose, Allah on a leaf, the crucifix engraved, 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 and sing for themselves,) Accepting the rough deific sketches to fill out better in myself, bestowing them freely on each man and woman I see, Discovering as much or more in a framer framing a house, Putting higher claims for him there with his roll'd-up sleeves driving the mallet and chisel, 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 than the gods of the antique wars, Minding their voices peal through the crash of destruction, Their brawny limbs passing safe over charr'd laths, their white foreheads whole and unhurt out of the flames; By the mechanic's wife with her babe at her nipple interceding for every person born, Three scythes at harvest whizzing in a row from three lusty angels with shirts bagg'd out at their waists, 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 not filling the square rod then, The bull and the bug never worshipp'd half enough, Dung and dirt more admirable than was dream'd, The supernatural of no account, myself waiting my time to be one of the supremes, The day getting ready for me when I shall do as much good as the best, and be as prodigious; By my life-lumps! becoming already a creator, Putting myself here and now to the ambush'd womb of the shadows.
42 A call in the midst of the crowd, My own voice, orotund sweeping and final.
Come my children, Come my boys and girls, my women, household and intimates, Now the performer launches his nerve, he has pass'd his prelude on the reeds within.
Easily written loose-finger'd chords—I feel the thrum of your climax and close.
My head slues round on my neck, Music rolls, but not from the organ, Folks are around me, but they are no household of mine.
Ever the hard unsunk ground, Ever the eaters and drinkers, ever the upward and downward sun, ever the air and the ceaseless tides, Ever myself and my neighbors, refreshing, wicked, real, Ever the old inexplicable query, ever that thorn'd thumb, that breath of itches and thirsts, Ever the vexer's hoot! hoot! till we find where the sly one hides and bring him forth, Ever love, ever the sobbing liquid of life, Ever the bandage under the chin, ever the trestles of death.
Here and there with dimes on the eyes walking, 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 receiving, A few idly owning, and they the wheat continually claiming.
This is the city and I am one of the citizens, Whatever interests the rest interests me, politics, wars, markets, newspapers, schools, The mayor and councils, banks, tariffs, steamships, factories, stocks, stores, real estate and personal estate.
The little plentiful manikins skipping around in collars and tail'd coats I am aware who they are, (they are positively not worms or fleas,) I acknowledge the duplicates of myself, the weakest and shallowest is deathless with me, What I do and say the same waits for them, Every thought that flounders in me the same flounders in them.
I know perfectly well my own egotism, Know my omnivorous lines and must not write any less, And would fetch you whoever you are flush with myself.
Not words of routine this song of mine, But abruptly to question, to leap beyond yet nearer bring; This printed and bound book—but the printer and the printing-office boy? The well-taken photographs—but your wife or friend close and solid in your arms? The black ship mail'd with iron, her mighty guns in her turrets—but the pluck of the captain and engineers? In the houses the dishes and fare and furniture—but the host and hostess, and the look out of their eyes? The sky up there—yet here or next door, or across the way? The saints and sages in history—but you yourself? Sermons, creeds, theology—but the fathomless human brain, And what is reason? and what is love? and what is life?
43 I do not despise you priests, all time, the world over, 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 the circle of obis, Helping the llama or brahmin as he trims the lamps of the idols, Dancing yet through the streets in a phallic procession, rapt and austere in the woods a gymnosophist, Drinking mead from the skull-cap, to Shastas and Vedas admirant, minding the Koran, Walking the teokallis, spotted with gore from the stone and knife, beating the serpent-skin drum, Accepting the Gospels, accepting him that was crucified, knowing assuredly that he is divine, To the mass kneeling or the puritan's prayer rising, or sitting patiently in a pew, Ranting and frothing in my insane crisis, or waiting dead-like till my spirit arouses me, Looking forth on pavement and land, or outside of pavement and land, Belonging to the winders of the circuit of circuits.
One of that centripetal and centrifugal gang I turn and talk like man leaving charges before a journey.
Down-hearted doubters dull and excluded, Frivolous, sullen, moping, angry, affected, dishearten'd, atheistical, I know every one of you, I know the sea of torment, doubt, despair and unbelief.
How the flukes splash! How they contort rapid as lightning, with spasms and spouts of blood!
Be at peace bloody flukes of doubters and sullen mopers, I take my place among you as much as among any, 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 the same.
I do not know what is untried and afterward, But I know it will in its turn prove sufficient, and cannot fail.
Each who passes is consider'd, each who stops is consider'd, not single one can it fall.
It cannot fall the young man who died and was buried, 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 and was never seen again, Nor the old man who has lived without purpose, and feels it with bitterness worse than gall, 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 call'd the ordure of humanity, 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 that inhabit them, Nor the present, nor the least wisp that is known.
44 It is time to explain myself—let us stand up.
What is known I strip away, I launch all men and women forward with me into the Unknown.
The clock indicates the moment—but what does eternity indicate?
We have thus far exhausted trillions of winters and summers, There are trillions ahead, and trillions ahead of them.
Births have brought us richness and variety, And other births will bring us richness and variety.
I do not call one greater and one smaller, That which fills its period and place is equal to any.
Were mankind murderous or jealous upon you, my brother, my sister? 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, (What have I to do with lamentation?)
I am an acme of things accomplish'd, and I an encloser of things to be.
My feet strike an apex of the apices of the stairs, On every step bunches of ages, and larger bunches between the steps, All below duly travel'd, and still I mount and mount.
Rise after rise bow the phantoms behind me, 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.
Long I was hugg'd close—long and long.
Immense have been the preparations for me, Faithful and friendly the arms that have help'd me.
Cycles ferried my cradle, rowing and rowing like cheerful boatmen, For room to me stars kept aside in their own rings, They sent influences to look after what was to hold me.
Before I was born out of my mother generations guided me, My embryo has never been torpid, nothing could overlay it.
For it the nebula cohered to an orb, The long slow strata piled to rest it on, Vast vegetables gave it sustenance, Monstrous sauroids transported it in their mouths and deposited it with care.
All forces have been steadily employ'd to complete and delight me, Now on this spot I stand with my robust soul.
45 O span of youth! ever-push'd elasticity! O manhood, balanced, florid and full.
My lovers suffocate me, Crowding my lips, thick in the pores of my skin, 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 chirping over my head, Calling my name from flower-beds, vines, tangled underbrush, Lighting on every moment of my life, Bussing my body with soft balsamic busses, Noiselessly passing handfuls out of their hearts and giving them to be mine.
Old age superbly rising! O welcome, ineffable grace of dying days!
Every condition promulges not only itself, it promulges what grows after and out of itself, And the dark hush promulges as much as any.
I open my scuttle at night and see the far-sprinkled systems, And all I see multiplied as high as I can cipher edge but the rim of the farther systems.
Wider and wider they spread, expanding, always expanding, Outward and outward and forever outward.
My sun has his sun and round him obediently wheels, He joins with his partners a group of superior circuit, And greater sets follow, making specks of the greatest inside them.
There is no stoppage and never can be stoppage, If I, you, and the worlds, and all beneath or upon their surfaces, were this moment reduced back to a pallid float, it would not avail the long run, We should surely bring up again where we now stand, And surely go as much farther, and then farther and farther.
A few quadrillions of eras, a few octillions of cubic leagues, do not hazard the span or make it impatient, They are but parts, any thing is but a part.
See ever so far, there is limitless space outside of that, Count ever so much, there is limitless time around that.
My rendezvous is appointed, it is certain, 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.
46 I know I have the best of time and space, and was never measured and never will be measured.
I tramp a perpetual journey, (come listen all!) My signs are a rain-proof coat, good shoes, and a staff cut from the woods, No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair, I have no chair, no church, no philosophy, I lead no man to a dinner-table, library, exchange, But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll, My left hand hooking you round the waist, My right hand pointing to landscapes of continents and the public road.
Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you, You must travel it for yourself.
It is not far, it is within reach, Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know, Perhaps it is everywhere on water and on land.
Shoulder your duds dear son, and I will mine, and let us hasten forth, Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch as we go.
If you tire, give me both burdens, and rest the chuff of your hand on my hip, And in due time you shall repay the same service to me, For after we start we never lie by again.
This day before dawn I ascended a hill and look'd at the crowded heaven, 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 be fill'd and satisfied then? And my spirit said No, we but level that lift to pass and continue beyond.
You are also asking me questions and I hear you, I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself.
Sit a while dear son, 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.
Long enough have you dream'd contemptible dreams, Now I wash the gum from your eyes, You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life.
Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by the shore, Now I will you to be a bold swimmer, To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod to me, shout, and laughingly dash with your hair.
47 I am the teacher of athletes, 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.
The boy I love, the same becomes a man not through derived power, but in his own right, Wicked rather than virtuous out of conformity or fear, Fond of his sweetheart, relishing well his steak, 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 skiff, to sing a song or play on the banjo, Preferring scars and the beard and faces pitted with small-pox over all latherers, And those well-tann'd to those that keep out of the sun.
I teach straying from me, yet who can stray from me? I follow you whoever you are from the present hour, My words itch at your ears till you understand them.
I do not say these things for a dollar or to fill up the time while I wait for a boat, (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.)
I swear I will never again mention love or death inside a house, And I swear I will never translate myself at all, only to him or her who privately stays with me in the open air.
If you would understand me go to the heights or water-shore, The nearest gnat is an explanation, and a drop or motion of waves key, The maul, the oar, the hand-saw, second my words.
No shutter'd room or school can commune with me, But roughs and little children better than they.
The young mechanic is closest to me, he knows me well, The woodman that takes his axe and jug with him shall take me with him all day, 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 and love them.
The soldier camp'd or upon the march is mine, 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 young mother and old mother comprehend me, The girl and the wife rest the needle a moment and forget where they are, They and all would resume what I have told them.
48 I have said that the soul is not more than the body, 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 funeral drest in his shroud, 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 learning of all times, And there is no trade or employment but the young man following it may become a hero, 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 before a million universes.
And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God, 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 about death.)
I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least, Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.
Why should I wish to see God better than this day? 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 by God's name, And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe'er I go, Others will punctually come for ever and ever.
49 And as to you Death, and you bitter hug of mortality, it is idle to try to alarm me.
To his work without flinching the accoucheur comes, I see the elder-hand pressing receiving supporting, I recline by the sills of the exquisite flexible doors, And mark the outlet, and mark the relief and escape.
And as to you Corpse I think you are good manure, but that does not offend me, I smell the white roses sweet-scented and growing, I reach to the leafy lips, I reach to the polish'd breasts of melons.
And as to you Life I reckon you are the leavings of many deaths, (No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times before.)
I hear you whispering there O stars of heaven, 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 turbid pool that lies in the autumn forest, Of the moon that descends the steeps of the soughing twilight, Toss, sparkles of day and dusk—toss on the black stems that decay in the muck, Toss to the moaning gibberish of the dry limbs.
I ascend from the moon, I ascend from the night, I perceive that the ghastly glimmer is noonday sunbeams reflected, And debouch to the steady and central from the offspring great or small.
50 There is that in me—I do not know what it is—but I know it is in me.
Wrench'd and sweaty—calm and cool then my body becomes, I sleep—I sleep long.
I do not know it—it is without name—it is a word unsaid, It is not in any dictionary, utterance, symbol.
Something it swings on more than the earth I swing on, To it the creation is the friend whose embracing awakes me.
Perhaps I might tell more. Outlines! I plead for my brothers and sisters.
Do you see O my brothers and sisters? It is not chaos or death—it is form, union, plan—it is eternal life—it is Happiness.
51 The past and present wilt—I have fill'd them, emptied them. And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
Listener up there! what have you to confide to me? 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.)
Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)
I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.
Who has done his day's work? who will soonest be through with his supper? Who wishes to walk with me?
Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?
52 The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab and my loitering.
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
The last scud of day holds back for me, It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow'd wilds, It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.
I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun, I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love, If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean, But I shall be good health to you nevertheless, And filter and fibre your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, Missing me one place search another, I stop somewhere waiting for you.
BOOK IV. CHILDREN OF ADAM
To the Garden the World
To the garden the world anew ascending, Potent mates, daughters, sons, preluding, The love, the life of their bodies, meaning and being, Curious here behold my resurrection after slumber, The revolving cycles in their wide sweep having brought me again, Amorous, mature, all beautiful to me, all wondrous, My limbs and the quivering fire that ever plays through them, for reasons, most wondrous, Existing I peer and penetrate still, Content with the present, content with the past, By my side or back of me Eve following, Or in front, and I following her just the same.
From Pent-Up Aching Rivers
From pent-up aching rivers, From that of myself without which I were nothing, From what I am determin'd to make illustrious, even if I stand sole among men, From my own voice resonant, singing the phallus, Singing the song of procreation, Singing the need of superb children and therein superb grown people, Singing the muscular urge and the blending, Singing the bedfellow's song, (O resistless yearning! O for any and each the body correlative attracting! O for you whoever you are your correlative body! O it, more than all else, you delighting!) From the hungry gnaw that eats me night and day, From native moments, from bashful pains, singing them, Seeking something yet unfound though I have diligently sought it many a long year, Singing the true song of the soul fitful at random, Renascent with grossest Nature or among animals, Of that, of them and what goes with them my poems informing, Of the smell of apples and lemons, of the pairing of birds, Of the wet of woods, of the lapping of waves, Of the mad pushes of waves upon the land, I them chanting, The overture lightly sounding, the strain anticipating, The welcome nearness, the sight of the perfect body, The swimmer swimming naked in the bath, or motionless on his back lying and floating, The female form approaching, I pensive, love-flesh tremulous aching, The divine list for myself or you or for any one making, The face, the limbs, the index from head to foot, and what it arouses, The mystic deliria, the madness amorous, the utter abandonment, (Hark close and still what I now whisper to you, I love you, O you entirely possess me, O that you and I escape from the rest and go utterly off, free and lawless, Two hawks in the air, two fishes swimming in the sea not more lawless than we;) The furious storm through me careering, I passionately trembling. The oath of the inseparableness of two together, of the woman that loves me and whom I love more than my life, that oath swearing, (O I willingly stake all for you, O let me be lost if it must be so! O you and I! what is it to us what the rest do or think? What is all else to us? only that we enjoy each other and exhaust each other if it must be so;) From the master, the pilot I yield the vessel to, The general commanding me, commanding all, from him permission taking, From time the programme hastening, (I have loiter'd too long as it is,) From sex, from the warp and from the woof, From privacy, from frequent repinings alone, From plenty of persons near and yet the right person not near, From the soft sliding of hands over me and thrusting of fingers through my hair and beard, From the long sustain'd kiss upon the mouth or bosom, From the close pressure that makes me or any man drunk, fainting with excess, From what the divine husband knows, from the work of fatherhood, From exultation, victory and relief, from the bedfellow's embrace in the night, From the act-poems of eyes, hands, hips and bosoms, From the cling of the trembling arm, From the bending curve and the clinch, From side by side the pliant coverlet off-throwing, From the one so unwilling to have me leave, and me just as unwilling to leave, (Yet a moment O tender waiter, and I return,) From the hour of shining stars and dropping dews, From the night a moment I emerging flitting out, Celebrate you act divine and you children prepared for, And you stalwart loins.
I Sing the Body Electric
1 I sing the body electric, The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them, They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them, And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.
Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves? And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead? And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul? And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?
2 The love of the body of man or woman balks account, the body itself balks account, That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect.
The expression of the face balks account, But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face, It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of his hips and wrists, It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and knees, dress does not hide him, The strong sweet quality he has strikes through the cotton and broadcloth, To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more, You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-side.
The sprawl and fulness of babes, the bosoms and heads of women, the folds of their dress, their style as we pass in the street, the contour of their shape downwards, The swimmer naked in the swimming-bath, seen as he swims through the transparent green-shine, or lies with his face up and rolls silently to and from the heave of the water, The bending forward and backward of rowers in row-boats, the horse-man in his saddle, Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their performances, The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their open dinner-kettles, and their wives waiting, The female soothing a child, the farmer's daughter in the garden or cow-yard, The young fellow hosing corn, the sleigh-driver driving his six horses through the crowd, The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite grown, lusty, good-natured, native-born, out on the vacant lot at sundown after work, The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love and resistance, The upper-hold and under-hold, the hair rumpled over and blinding the eyes; The march of firemen in their own costumes, the play of masculine muscle through clean-setting trowsers and waist-straps, The slow return from the fire, the pause when the bell strikes suddenly again, and the listening on the alert, The natural, perfect, varied attitudes, the bent head, the curv'd neck and the counting; Such-like I love—I loosen myself, pass freely, am at the mother's breast with the little child, Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers, march in line with the firemen, and pause, listen, count.
3 I knew a man, a common farmer, the father of five sons, And in them the fathers of sons, and in them the fathers of sons.
This man was a wonderful vigor, calmness, beauty of person, The shape of his head, the pale yellow and white of his hair and beard, the immeasurable meaning of his black eyes, the richness and breadth of his manners, These I used to go and visit him to see, he was wise also, He was six feet tall, he was over eighty years old, his sons were massive, clean, bearded, tan-faced, handsome, They and his daughters loved him, all who saw him loved him, They did not love him by allowance, they loved him with personal love, He drank water only, the blood show'd like scarlet through the clear-brown skin of his face, He was a frequent gunner and fisher, he sail'd his boat himself, he had a fine one presented to him by a ship-joiner, he had fowling-pieces presented to him by men that loved him, When he went with his five sons and many grand-sons to hunt or fish, you would pick him out as the most beautiful and vigorous of the gang, You would wish long and long to be with him, you would wish to sit by him in the boat that you and he might touch each other.
4 I have perceiv'd that to be with those I like is enough, To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough, To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough, To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a moment, what is this then? I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea.
There is something in staying close to men and women and looking on them, and in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well, All things please the soul, but these please the soul well.
5 This is the female form, A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot, It attracts with fierce undeniable attraction, I am drawn by its breath as if I were no more than a helpless vapor, all falls aside but myself and it, Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth, and what was expected of heaven or fear'd of hell, are now consumed, Mad filaments, ungovernable shoots play out of it, the response likewise ungovernable, Hair, bosom, hips, bend of legs, negligent falling hands all diffused, mine too diffused, Ebb stung by the flow and flow stung by the ebb, love-flesh swelling and deliciously aching, Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous, quivering jelly of love, white-blow and delirious nice, Bridegroom night of love working surely and softly into the prostrate dawn, Undulating into the willing and yielding day, Lost in the cleave of the clasping and sweet-flesh'd day.
This the nucleus—after the child is born of woman, man is born of woman, This the bath of birth, this the merge of small and large, and the outlet again.
Be not ashamed women, your privilege encloses the rest, and is the exit of the rest, You are the gates of the body, and you are the gates of the soul.
The female contains all qualities and tempers them, She is in her place and moves with perfect balance, She is all things duly veil'd, she is both passive and active, She is to conceive daughters as well as sons, and sons as well as daughters.
As I see my soul reflected in Nature, As I see through a mist, One with inexpressible completeness, sanity, beauty, See the bent head and arms folded over the breast, the Female I see.
6 The male is not less the soul nor more, he too is in his place, He too is all qualities, he is action and power, The flush of the known universe is in him, Scorn becomes him well, and appetite and defiance become him well, The wildest largest passions, bliss that is utmost, sorrow that is utmost become him well, pride is for him, The full-spread pride of man is calming and excellent to the soul, Knowledge becomes him, he likes it always, he brings every thing to the test of himself, Whatever the survey, whatever the sea and the sail he strikes soundings at last only here, (Where else does he strike soundings except here?)
The man's body is sacred and the woman's body is sacred, No matter who it is, it is sacred—is it the meanest one in the laborers' gang? Is it one of the dull-faced immigrants just landed on the wharf? Each belongs here or anywhere just as much as the well-off, just as much as you, Each has his or her place in the procession.
(All is a procession, The universe is a procession with measured and perfect motion.)
Do you know so much yourself that you call the meanest ignorant? Do you suppose you have a right to a good sight, and he or she has no right to a sight? Do you think matter has cohered together from its diffuse float, and the soil is on the surface, and water runs and vegetation sprouts, For you only, and not for him and her?
7 A man's body at auction, (For before the war I often go to the slave-mart and watch the sale,) I help the auctioneer, the sloven does not half know his business.
Gentlemen look on this wonder, Whatever the bids of the bidders they cannot be high enough for it, For it the globe lay preparing quintillions of years without one animal or plant, For it the revolving cycles truly and steadily roll'd.
In this head the all-baffling brain, In it and below it the makings of heroes.
Examine these limbs, red, black, or white, they are cunning in tendon and nerve, They shall be stript that you may see them.
Exquisite senses, life-lit eyes, pluck, volition, Flakes of breast-muscle, pliant backbone and neck, flesh not flabby, good-sized arms and legs, And wonders within there yet.
Within there runs blood, The same old blood! the same red-running blood! There swells and jets a heart, there all passions, desires, reachings, aspirations, (Do you think they are not there because they are not express'd in parlors and lecture-rooms?)
This is not only one man, this the father of those who shall be fathers in their turns, In him the start of populous states and rich republics, Of him countless immortal lives with countless embodiments and enjoyments.
How do you know who shall come from the offspring of his offspring through the centuries? (Who might you find you have come from yourself, if you could trace back through the centuries?)
8 A woman's body at auction, She too is not only herself, she is the teeming mother of mothers, She is the bearer of them that shall grow and be mates to the mothers.
Have you ever loved the body of a woman? Have you ever loved the body of a man? Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all in all nations and times all over the earth?
If any thing is sacred the human body is sacred, And the glory and sweet of a man is the token of manhood untainted, And in man or woman a clean, strong, firm-fibred body, is more beautiful than the most beautiful face.
Have you seen the fool that corrupted his own live body? or the fool that corrupted her own live body? For they do not conceal themselves, and cannot conceal themselves.
9 O my body! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and women, nor the likes of the parts of you, I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with the likes of the soul, (and that they are the soul,) I believe the likes of you shall stand or fall with my poems, and that they are my poems, Man's, woman's, child, youth's, wife's, husband's, mother's, father's, young man's, young woman's poems, Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears, Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eyebrows, and the waking or sleeping of the lids, Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the jaw-hinges, Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition, Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the neck, neck-slue, Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoulders, and the ample side-round of the chest, Upper-arm, armpit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-sinews, arm-bones, Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb, forefinger, finger-joints, finger-nails, Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast, breast-bone, breast-side, Ribs, belly, backbone, joints of the backbone, Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward round, man-balls, man-root, Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk above, Leg-fibres, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under-leg, Ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel; All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of my or your body or of any one's body, male or female, The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean, The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame, Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality, maternity, Womanhood, and all that is a woman, and the man that comes from woman, The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping, love-looks, love-perturbations and risings, The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud, Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming, Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and tightening, The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes, The skin, the sunburnt shade, freckles, hair, The curious sympathy one feels when feeling with the hand the naked meat of the body, The circling rivers the breath, and breathing it in and out, The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward toward the knees, The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the marrow in the bones, The exquisite realization of health; O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul, O I say now these are the soul!
A Woman Waits for Me
A woman waits for me, she contains all, nothing is lacking, Yet all were lacking if sex were lacking, or if the moisture of the right man were lacking.
Sex contains all, bodies, souls, Meanings, proofs, purities, delicacies, results, promulgations, Songs, commands, health, pride, the maternal mystery, the seminal milk, All hopes, benefactions, bestowals, all the passions, loves, beauties, delights of the earth, All the governments, judges, gods, follow'd persons of the earth, These are contain'd in sex as parts of itself and justifications of itself.
Without shame the man I like knows and avows the deliciousness of his sex, Without shame the woman I like knows and avows hers.
Now I will dismiss myself from impassive women, I will go stay with her who waits for me, and with those women that are warm-blooded and sufficient for me, I see that they understand me and do not deny me, I see that they are worthy of me, I will be the robust husband of those women.
They are not one jot less than I am, They are tann'd in the face by shining suns and blowing winds, Their flesh has the old divine suppleness and strength, They know how to swim, row, ride, wrestle, shoot, run, strike, retreat, advance, resist, defend themselves, They are ultimate in their own right—they are calm, clear, well-possess'd of themselves.
I draw you close to me, you women, I cannot let you go, I would do you good, I am for you, and you are for me, not only for our own sake, but for others' sakes, Envelop'd in you sleep greater heroes and bards, They refuse to awake at the touch of any man but me.
It is I, you women, I make my way, I am stern, acrid, large, undissuadable, but I love you, I do not hurt you any more than is necessary for you, I pour the stuff to start sons and daughters fit for these States, I press with slow rude muscle, I brace myself effectually, I listen to no entreaties, I dare not withdraw till I deposit what has so long accumulated within me.
Through you I drain the pent-up rivers of myself, In you I wrap a thousand onward years, On you I graft the grafts of the best-beloved of me and America, The drops I distil upon you shall grow fierce and athletic girls, new artists, musicians, and singers, The babes I beget upon you are to beget babes in their turn, I shall demand perfect men and women out of my love-spendings, I shall expect them to interpenetrate with others, as I and you inter-penetrate now, I shall count on the fruits of the gushing showers of them, as I count on the fruits of the gushing showers I give now, I shall look for loving crops from the birth, life, death, immortality, I plant so lovingly now.
Spontaneous me, Nature, The loving day, the mounting sun, the friend I am happy with, The arm of my friend hanging idly over my shoulder, The hillside whiten'd with blossoms of the mountain ash, The same late in autumn, the hues of red, yellow, drab, purple, and light and dark green, The rich coverlet of the grass, animals and birds, the private untrimm'd bank, the primitive apples, the pebble-stones, Beautiful dripping fragments, the negligent list of one after another as I happen to call them to me or think of them, The real poems, (what we call poems being merely pictures,) The poems of the privacy of the night, and of men like me, This poem drooping shy and unseen that I always carry, and that all men carry, (Know once for all, avow'd on purpose, wherever are men like me, are our lusty lurking masculine poems,) Love-thoughts, love-juice, love-odor, love-yielding, love-climbers, and the climbing sap, Arms and hands of love, lips of love, phallic thumb of love, breasts of love, bellies press'd and glued together with love, Earth of chaste love, life that is only life after love, The body of my love, the body of the woman I love, the body of the man, the body of the earth, Soft forenoon airs that blow from the south-west, The hairy wild-bee that murmurs and hankers up and down, that gripes the full-grown lady-flower, curves upon her with amorous firm legs, takes his will of her, and holds himself tremulous and tight till he is satisfied; The wet of woods through the early hours, Two sleepers at night lying close together as they sleep, one with an arm slanting down across and below the waist of the other, The smell of apples, aromas from crush'd sage-plant, mint, birch-bark, The boy's longings, the glow and pressure as he confides to me what he was dreaming, The dead leaf whirling its spiral whirl and falling still and content to the ground, The no-form'd stings that sights, people, objects, sting me with, The hubb'd sting of myself, stinging me as much as it ever can any one, The sensitive, orbic, underlapp'd brothers, that only privileged feelers may be intimate where they are, The curious roamer the hand roaming all over the body, the bashful withdrawing of flesh where the fingers soothingly pause and edge themselves, The limpid liquid within the young man, The vex'd corrosion so pensive and so painful, The torment, the irritable tide that will not be at rest, The like of the same I feel, the like of the same in others, The young man that flushes and flushes, and the young woman that flushes and flushes, The young man that wakes deep at night, the hot hand seeking to repress what would master him, The mystic amorous night, the strange half-welcome pangs, visions, sweats, The pulse pounding through palms and trembling encircling fingers, the young man all color'd, red, ashamed, angry; The souse upon me of my lover the sea, as I lie willing and naked, The merriment of the twin babes that crawl over the grass in the sun, the mother never turning her vigilant eyes from them, The walnut-trunk, the walnut-husks, and the ripening or ripen'd long-round walnuts, The continence of vegetables, birds, animals, The consequent meanness of me should I skulk or find myself indecent, while birds and animals never once skulk or find themselves indecent, The great chastity of paternity, to match the great chastity of maternity, The oath of procreation I have sworn, my Adamic and fresh daughters, The greed that eats me day and night with hungry gnaw, till I saturate what shall produce boys to fill my place when I am through, The wholesome relief, repose, content, And this bunch pluck'd at random from myself, It has done its work—I toss it carelessly to fall where it may.
One Hour to Madness and Joy
One hour to madness and joy! O furious! O confine me not! (What is this that frees me so in storms? What do my shouts amid lightnings and raging winds mean?) O to drink the mystic deliria deeper than any other man! O savage and tender achings! (I bequeath them to you my children, I tell them to you, for reasons, O bridegroom and bride.)
O to be yielded to you whoever you are, and you to be yielded to me in defiance of the world! O to return to Paradise! O bashful and feminine! O to draw you to me, to plant on you for the first time the lips of a determin'd man.
O the puzzle, the thrice-tied knot, the deep and dark pool, all untied and illumin'd! O to speed where there is space enough and air enough at last! To be absolv'd from previous ties and conventions, I from mine and you from yours! To find a new unthought-of nonchalance with the best of Nature! To have the gag remov'd from one's mouth! To have the feeling to-day or any day I am sufficient as I am.
O something unprov'd! something in a trance! To escape utterly from others' anchors and holds! To drive free! to love free! to dash reckless and dangerous! To court destruction with taunts, with invitations! To ascend, to leap to the heavens of the love indicated to me! To rise thither with my inebriate soul! To be lost if it must be so! To feed the remainder of life with one hour of fulness and freedom! With one brief hour of madness and joy.
Out of the Rolling Ocean the Crowd
Out of the rolling ocean the crowd came a drop gently to me, Whispering I love you, before long I die, I have travel'd a long way merely to look on you to touch you, For I could not die till I once look'd on you, For I fear'd I might afterward lose you.
Now we have met, we have look'd, we are safe, Return in peace to the ocean my love, I too am part of that ocean my love, we are not so much separated, Behold the great rondure, the cohesion of all, how perfect! But as for me, for you, the irresistible sea is to separate us, As for an hour carrying us diverse, yet cannot carry us diverse forever; Be not impatient—a little space—know you I salute the air, the ocean and the land, Every day at sundown for your dear sake my love.
Ages and Ages Returning at Intervals
Ages and ages returning at intervals, Undestroy'd, wandering immortal, Lusty, phallic, with the potent original loins, perfectly sweet, I, chanter of Adamic songs, Through the new garden the West, the great cities calling, Deliriate, thus prelude what is generated, offering these, offering myself, Bathing myself, bathing my songs in Sex, Offspring of my loins.
We Two, How Long We Were Fool'd
We two, how long we were fool'd, Now transmuted, we swiftly escape as Nature escapes, We are Nature, long have we been absent, but now we return, We become plants, trunks, foliage, roots, bark, We are bedded in the ground, we are rocks, We are oaks, we grow in the openings side by side, We browse, we are two among the wild herds spontaneous as any, We are two fishes swimming in the sea together, We are what locust blossoms are, we drop scent around lanes mornings and evenings, We are also the coarse smut of beasts, vegetables, minerals, We are two predatory hawks, we soar above and look down, We are two resplendent suns, we it is who balance ourselves orbic and stellar, we are as two comets, We prowl fang'd and four-footed in the woods, we spring on prey, We are two clouds forenoons and afternoons driving overhead, We are seas mingling, we are two of those cheerful waves rolling over each other and interwetting each other, We are what the atmosphere is, transparent, receptive, pervious, impervious, We are snow, rain, cold, darkness, we are each product and influence of the globe, We have circled and circled till we have arrived home again, we two, We have voided all but freedom and all but our own joy.
O Hymen! O Hymenee!
O hymen! O hymenee! why do you tantalize me thus? O why sting me for a swift moment only? Why can you not continue? O why do you now cease? Is it because if you continued beyond the swift moment you would soon certainly kill me?
I Am He That Aches with Love
I am he that aches with amorous love; Does the earth gravitate? does not all matter, aching, attract all matter? So the body of me to all I meet or know.
Native moments—when you come upon me—ah you are here now, Give me now libidinous joys only, Give me the drench of my passions, give me life coarse and rank, To-day I go consort with Nature's darlings, to-night too, I am for those who believe in loose delights, I share the midnight orgies of young men, I dance with the dancers and drink with the drinkers, The echoes ring with our indecent calls, I pick out some low person for my dearest friend, He shall be lawless, rude, illiterate, he shall be one condemn'd by others for deeds done, I will play a part no longer, why should I exile myself from my companions? O you shunn'd persons, I at least do not shun you, I come forthwith in your midst, I will be your poet, I will be more to you than to any of the rest.
Once I Pass'd Through a Populous City
Once I pass'd through a populous city imprinting my brain for future use with its shows, architecture, customs, traditions, Yet now of all that city I remember only a woman I casually met there who detain'd me for love of me, Day by day and night by night we were together—all else has long been forgotten by me, I remember I say only that woman who passionately clung to me, Again we wander, we love, we separate again, Again she holds me by the hand, I must not go, I see her close beside me with silent lips sad and tremulous.
I Heard You Solemn-Sweet Pipes of the Organ
I heard you solemn-sweet pipes of the organ as last Sunday morn I pass'd the church, Winds of autumn, as I walk'd the woods at dusk I heard your long- stretch'd sighs up above so mournful, I heard the perfect Italian tenor singing at the opera, I heard the soprano in the midst of the quartet singing; Heart of my love! you too I heard murmuring low through one of the wrists around my head, Heard the pulse of you when all was still ringing little bells last night under my ear.
Facing West from California's Shores
Facing west from California's shores, Inquiring, tireless, seeking what is yet unfound, I, a child, very old, over waves, towards the house of maternity, the land of migrations, look afar, Look off the shores of my Western sea, the circle almost circled; For starting westward from Hindustan, from the vales of Kashmere, From Asia, from the north, from the God, the sage, and the hero, From the south, from the flowery peninsulas and the spice islands, Long having wander'd since, round the earth having wander'd, Now I face home again, very pleas'd and joyous, (But where is what I started for so long ago? And why is it yet unfound?)
As Adam Early in the Morning
As Adam early in the morning, Walking forth from the bower refresh'd with sleep, Behold me where I pass, hear my voice, approach, Touch me, touch the palm of your hand to my body as I pass, Be not afraid of my body.
BOOK V. CALAMUS
In Paths Untrodden
In paths untrodden, In the growth 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 my nights and days, To celebrate the need of comrades.
Scented Herbage of My Breast
Scented herbage of my breast, Leaves from you I glean, I write, to be perused best afterwards, 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 me, 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 most,) 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 exhilarating, Give me your tone therefore O death, that I may accord with it, 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 essential, 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.
Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand
Whoever you are holding me now in hand, Without one thing all will be useless, I give you fair warning before you attempt me further, I am not what you supposed, but far different.
Who is he that would become my follower? Who would sign himself a candidate for my affections?
The way is suspicious, the result uncertain, perhaps destructive, You would have to give up all else, I alone would expect to be your sole and exclusive standard, Your novitiate would even then be long and exhausting, The whole past theory of your life and all conformity to the lives around you would have to be abandon'd, Therefore release me now before troubling yourself any further, let go your hand from my shoulders, Put me down and depart on your way.
Or else by stealth in some wood for trial, Or back of a rock in the open air, (For in any roof'd room of a house I emerge not, nor in company, And in libraries I lie as one dumb, a gawk, or unborn, or dead,) But just possibly with you on a high hill, first watching lest any person for miles around approach unawares, Or possibly with you sailing at sea, or on the beach of the sea or some quiet island, Here to put your lips upon mine I permit you, With the comrade's long-dwelling kiss or the new husband's kiss, For I am the new husband and I am the comrade.
Or if you will, thrusting me beneath your clothing, Where I may feel the throbs of your heart or rest upon your hip, Carry me when you go forth over land or sea; For thus merely touching you is enough, is best, And thus touching you would I silently sleep and be carried eternally.
But these leaves conning you con at peril, For these leaves and me you will not understand, They will elude you at first and still more afterward, I will certainly elude you. Even while you should think you had unquestionably caught me, behold! Already you see I have escaped from you.
For it is not for what I have put into it that I have written this book, Nor is it by reading it you will acquire it, Nor do those know me best who admire me and vauntingly praise me, Nor will the candidates for my love (unless at most a very few) prove victorious, Nor will my poems do good only, they will do just as much evil, perhaps more, For all is useless without that which you may guess at many times and not hit, that which I hinted at; Therefore release me and depart on your way.
For You, O Democracy
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 femme! For you, for you I am trilling these songs.
These I Singing in Spring
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 pondside, (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 cedar, 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 reserve, I will give of it, but only to them that love as I myself am capable of loving.
Not Heaving from My Ribb'd Breast Only
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, defiancies, 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 day, Nor in the limbs and senses of my body that take you and dismiss you continually—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.
Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances
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 only, 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.
The Base of All Metaphysics
And now gentlemen, A word I give to remain in your memories and minds, As base and finale 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 Hegel, 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 parents, Of city for city and land for land.
Recorders Ages Hence
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.
When I Heard at the Close of the Day
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 autumn, 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 rise, 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—and that night I was happy.
Are You the New Person Drawn Toward Me?
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 so easy to have me become your lover? Do you think the friendship of me would be unalloy'd satisfaction? Do you think I am trusty and faithful? Do you see no further than this facade, 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, illusion?
Roots and Leaves Themselves Alone
Roots and leaves themselves alone are these, Scents brought to men and women from the wild woods and pond-side, 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 are, 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.
Not Heat Flames Up and Consumes
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, Waited, 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.
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.
City of Orgies
City of orgies, walks and joys, City whom that I have lived and sung in your midst will one day make 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—these repay me, Lovers, continual lovers, only repay me.
Behold This Swarthy Face
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.
I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing
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 of dark green, And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself, 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 in a wide flat space, Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a lover near, I know very well I could not.
To a Stranger
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 me, 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.
This Moment Yearning and Thoughtful
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 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.
I Hear It Was Charged Against Me
I hear it was charged against me that I sought to destroy institutions, 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.
The Prairie-Grass Dividing
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, nutritious, 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 obedient, Those of inland America.
When I Persue the Conquer'd Fame
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 house, 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—I hastily walk away fill'd with the bitterest envy.
We Two Boys Together Clinging
We two boys together clinging, One the other never leaving, Up and down the roads going, North and South excursions making, 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 chasing, Fulfilling our foray.
A Promise to California
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.
Here the Frailest Leaves of Me
Here the frailest leaves of me and yet my strongest lasting, Here I shade and hide my thoughts, I myself do not expose them, And yet they expose me more than all my other poems.
No Labor-Saving Machine
No labor-saving machine, Nor discovery have I made, Nor will I be able to leave behind me any wealthy bequest to found 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.
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.
A Leaf for Hand in Hand
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.
Earth, My Likeness
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 forth, 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.
I Dream'd in a Dream
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.
What Think You I Take My Pen in Hand?
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? —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 arms.
To the East and to the West
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, exalte, previously unknown, Because I perceive it waits, and has been always waiting, latent in all men.
Sometimes with One I Love
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 return'd, Yet out of that I have written these songs.)
To a Western Boy
Many things to absorb I teach to help you become eleve of mine; 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?
Fast Anchor'd Eternal O Love!
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.
Among the Multitude
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—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 you.
O You Whom I Often and Silently Come
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.
That Shadow My Likeness
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 flits, 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.
Full of Life Now
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 me, 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.)
Salut au Monde!
1 O take my hand Walt Whitman! Such gliding wonders! such sights and sounds! Such join'd unended links, each hook'd to the next, Each answering all, each sharing the earth with all.