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 the ripe summer, bears
lightly along white down-balls of myriads of seeds,
Wafted, sailing gracefully, to drop where they may;
Not these--O none of these, more than the flames of me, consuming,
burning for his love whom I love!
O none, more than I, hurrying in and out:
--Does the tide hurry, seeking something, and never give up? O I the
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. 10
Song Of Myself, XXVI
Now I will do nothing but listen,
To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute toward it.
I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat, gossip of flames, clack of sticks cooking my meals,
I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice,
I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following,
Sounds of the city and sounds out of the city, sounds of the day and night,
Talkative young ones to those that like them, the loud laugh of work-people at their meals,
The angry base of disjointed friendship, the faint tones of the sick,
The judge with hands tight to the desk, his pallid lips pronouncing a death-sentence,
The heave'e'yo of stevedores unlading ships by the wharves, the refrain of the anchor-lifters,
The ring of alarm-bells, the cry of fire, the whirr of swift-streak-
ing engines and hose-carts with premonitory tinkles and color'd lights,
The steam-whistle, the solid roll of the train of approaching cars,
The slow march play'd at the head of the association marching two and two,
(They go to guard some corpse, the flag-tops are draped with black muslin.)
I hear the violoncello, ('tis the young man's heart's complaint,)
I hear the key'd cornet, it glides quickly in through my ears,
It shakes mad-sweet pangs through my belly and breast.
I hear the chorus, it is a grand opera,
Ah this indeed is music—this suits me.
A tenor large and fresh as the creation fills me,
The orbic flex of his mouth is pouring and filling me full.
I hear the train'd soprano (what work with hers is this?)
The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies,
It wrenches such ardors from me I did not know I possess'd them,
It sails me, I dab with bare feet, they are lick'd by the indolent waves,
I am cut by bitter and angry hail, I lose my breath,
Steep'd amid honey'd morphine, my windpipe throttled in fakes of death,
At length let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles,
And that we call Being.
Song Of Myself, XLI
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.
Always our own feuillage!
Always Florida's green peninsula! Always the priceless delta of
Louisiana! Always the cotton-fields of Alabama and Texas!
Always California's golden hills and hollows--and the silver
mountains of New Mexico! Always soft-breath'd Cuba!
Always the vast slope drain'd by the Southern Sea--inseparable with
the slopes drain'd by the Eastern and Western Seas;
The area the eighty-third year of These States--the three and a half
millions of square miles;
The eighteen thousand miles of sea-coast and bay-coast on the main--
the thirty thousand miles of river navigation,
The seven millions of distinct families, and the same number of
dwellings--Always these, and more, branching forth into
Always the free range and diversity! always the continent of
Always the prairies, pastures, forests, vast cities, travelers,
Kanada, the snows; 10
Always these compact lands--lands tied at the hips with the belt
stringing the huge oval lakes;
Always the West, with strong native persons--the increasing density
there--the habitans, friendly, threatening, ironical, scorning
All sights, South, North, East--all deeds, promiscuously done at all
All characters, movements, growths--a few noticed, myriads unnoticed,
Through Mannahatta's streets I walking, these things gathering;
On interior rivers, by night, in the glare of pine knots, steamboats
Sunlight by day on the valley of the Susquehanna, and on the valleys
of the Potomac and Rappahannock, and the valleys of the Roanoke
In their northerly wilds, beasts of prey haunting the Adirondacks,
the hills--or lapping the Saginaw waters to drink;
In a lonesome inlet, a sheldrake, lost from the flock, sitting on the
water, rocking silently;
In farmers' barns, oxen in the stable, their harvest labor done--they
rest standing--they are too tired; 20
Afar on arctic ice, the she-walrus lying drowsily, while her cubs
The hawk sailing where men have not yet sail'd--the farthest polar
sea, ripply, crystalline, open, beyond the floes;
White drift spooning ahead, where the ship in the tempest dashes;
On solid land, what is done in cities, as the bells all strike
In primitive woods, the sounds there also sounding--the howl of the
wolf, the scream of the panther, and the hoarse bellow of the
In winter beneath the hard blue ice of Moosehead Lake--in summer
visible through the clear waters, the great trout swimming;
In lower latitudes, in warmer air, in the Carolinas, the large black
buzzard floating slowly, high beyond the tree tops,
Below, the red cedar, festoon'd with tylandria--the pines and
cypresses, growing out of the white sand that spreads far and
Rude boats descending the big Pedee--climbing plants, parasites, with
color'd flowers and berries, enveloping huge trees,
The waving drapery on the live oak, trailing long and low,
noiselessly waved by the wind; 30
The camp of Georgia wagoners, just after dark--the supper-fires, and
the cooking and eating by whites and negroes,
Thirty or forty great wagons--the mules, cattle, horses, feeding from
The shadows, gleams, up under the leaves of the old sycamore-trees--
the flames--with the black smoke from the pitch-pine, curling
Southern fishermen fishing--the sounds and inlets of North Carolina's
coast--the shad-fishery and the herring-fishery--the large
sweep-seines--the windlasses on shore work'd by horses--the
clearing, curing, and packing-houses;
Deep in the forest, in piney woods, turpentine dropping from the
incisions in the trees--There are the turpentine works,
There are the negroes at work, in good health--the ground in all
directions is cover'd with pine straw:
--In Tennessee and Kentucky, slaves busy in the coalings, at the
forge, by the furnace-blaze, or at the corn-shucking;
In Virginia, the planter's son returning after a long absence,
joyfully welcom'd and kiss'd by the aged mulatto nurse;
On rivers, boatmen safely moor'd at night-fall, in their boats, under
shelter of high banks,
Some of the younger men dance to the sound of the banjo or fiddle--
others sit on the gunwale, smoking and talking; 40
Late in the afternoon, the mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing
in the Great Dismal Swamp--there are the greenish waters, the
resinous odor, the plenteous moss, the cypress tree, and the
--Northward, young men of Mannahatta--the target company from an
excursion returning home at evening--the musket-muzzles all
bear bunches of flowers presented by women;
Children at play--or on his father's lap a young boy fallen asleep,
(how his lips move! how he smiles in his sleep!)
The scout riding on horseback over the plains west of the
Mississippi--he ascends a knoll and sweeps his eye around;
California life--the miner, bearded, dress'd in his rude costume--the
stanch California friendship--the sweet air--the graves one, in
passing, meets, solitary, just aside the horsepath;
Down in Texas, the cotton-field, the negro-cabins--drivers driving
mules or oxen before rude carts--cotton bales piled on banks
Encircling all, vast-darting, up and wide, the American Soul, with
equal hemispheres--one Love, one Dilation or Pride;
--In arriere, the peace-talk with the Iroquois, the aborigines--the
calumet, the pipe of good-will, arbitration, and indorsement,
The sachem blowing the smoke first toward the sun and then toward the
The drama of the scalp-dance enacted with painted faces and guttural
The setting out of the war-party--the long and stealthy march,
The single-file--the swinging hatchets--the surprise and slaughter of
--All the acts, scenes, ways, persons, attitudes of These States--
reminiscences, all institutions,
All These States, compact--Every square mile of These States, without
excepting a particle--you also--me also,
Me pleas'd, rambling in lanes and country fields, Paumanok's fields,
Me, observing the spiral flight of two little yellow butterflies,
shuffling between each other, ascending high in the air;
The darting swallow, the destroyer of insects--the fall traveler
southward, but returning northward early in the spring;
The country boy at the close of the day, driving the herd of cows,
and shouting to them as they loiter to browse by the road-side;
The city wharf--Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, New
Orleans, San Francisco,
The departing ships, when the sailors heave at the capstan; 60
--Evening--me in my room--the setting sun,
The setting summer sun shining in my open window, showing the swarm
of flies, suspended, balancing in the air in the centre of the
room, darting athwart, up and down, casting swift shadows in
specks on the opposite wall, where the shine is;
The athletic American matron speaking in public to crowds of
Males, females, immigrants, combinations--the copiousness--the
individuality of The States, each for itself--the money-makers;
Factories, machinery, the mechanical forces--the windlass, lever,
The certainty of space, increase, freedom, futurity,
In space, the sporades, the scatter'd islands, the stars--on the firm
earth, the lands, my lands;
O lands! all so dear to me--what you are, (whatever it is,) I become
a part of that, whatever it is;
Southward there, I screaming, with wings slowly flapping, with the
myriads of gulls wintering along the coasts of Florida--or in
Louisiana, with pelicans breeding;
Otherways, there, atwixt the banks of the Arkansaw, the Rio Grande,
the Nueces, the Brazos, the Tombigbee, the Red River, the
Saskatchawan, or the Osage, I with the spring waters laughing
and skipping and running; 70
Northward, on the sands, on some shallow bay of Paumanok, I, with
parties of snowy herons wading in the wet to seek worms and
Retreating, triumphantly twittering, the king-bird, from piercing the
crow with its bill, for amusement--And I triumphantly
The migrating flock of wild geese alighting in autumn to refresh
themselves--the body of the flock feed--the sentinels outside
move around with erect heads watching, and are from time to
time reliev'd by other sentinels--And I feeding and taking
turns with the rest;
In Kanadian forests, the moose, large as an ox, corner'd by hunters,
rising desperately on his hind-feet, and plunging with his
fore-feet, the hoofs as sharp as knives--And I, plunging at the
hunters, corner'd and desperate;
In the Mannahatta, streets, piers, shipping, store-houses, and the
countless workmen working in the shops,
And I too of the Mannahatta, singing thereof--and no less in myself
than the whole of the Mannahatta in itself,
Singing the song of These, my ever united lands--my body no more
inevitably united, part to part, and made one identity, any
more than my lands are inevitably united, and made ONE
Nativities, climates, the grass of the great Pastoral Plains;
Cities, labors, death, animals, products, war, good and evil--these
These affording, in all their particulars, endless feuillage to me
and to America, how can I do less than pass the clew of the
union of them, to afford the like to you? 80
Whoever you are! how can I but offer you divine leaves, that you also
be eligible as I am?
How can I but, as here, chanting, invite you for yourself to collect
bouquets of the incomparable feuillage of These States?
Song Of Myself, XXXIII
Space and Time! now I see it is true, what I guess'd at,
What I guess'd when I loaf'd on the grass,
What I guess'd while I lay alone in my bed,
And again as I walk'd the beach under the paling stars of the morning.
My ties and ballasts leave me, my elbows rest in sea-gaps,
I skirt sierras, my palms cover continents,
I am afoot with my vision.
By the city's quadrangular houses—in log huts, camping with lumbermen,
Along the ruts of the turnpike, along the dry gulch and rivulet bed,
Weeding my onion-patch or hoeing rows of carrots and parsnips, crossing savannas, trailing in forests,
Prospecting, gold-digging, girdling the trees of a new purchase,
Scorch'd ankle-deep by the hot sand, hauling my boat down the shallow river,
Where the panther walks to and fro on a limb overhead, where the buck turns furiously at the hunter,
Where the rattlesnake suns his flabby length on a rock, where the otter is feeding on fish,
Where the alligator in his tough pimples sleeps by the bayou,
Where the black bear is searching for roots or honey, where the beaver patsthe mud with his paddle-shaped tail;
Over the growing sugar, over the yellow-flower'd cotton plant, over the rice in its low moist field,
Over the sharp-peak'd farm house, with its scallop'd scum and slender shoots from the gutters,
Over the western persimmon, over the long-leav'd corn, over the delicate blue-flower flax,
Over the white and brown buckwheat, a hummer and buzzer there with the rest,
Over the dusky green of the rye as it ripples and shades in the breeze;
Scaling mountains, pulling myself cautiously up, holding on by low scragged limbs,
Walking the path worn in the grass and beat through the leaves of the brush,
Where the quail is whistling betwixt the woods and the wheat-lot,
Where the bat flies in the Seventh-month eve, where the great gold- bug drops through the dark,
Where the brook puts out of the roots of the old tree and flows to the meadow,
Where cattle stand and shake away flies with the tremulous shud- dering of their hides,
Where the cheese-cloth hangs in the kitchen, where andirons
straddle the hearth-slab, where cobwebs fall in festoons from the rafters;
Where trip-hammers crash, where the press is whirling its cylinders,
Wherever the human heart beats with terrible throes under its ribs,
Where the pear-shaped balloon is floating aloft, (floating in it my- self and looking composedly down,)
Where the life-car is drawn on the slip-noose, where the heat hatches pale-green eggs in the dented sand,
Where the she-whale swims with her calf and never forsakes it,
Where the steam-ship trails hind-ways its long pennant of smoke,
Where the fin of the shark cuts like a black chip out of the water,
Where the half-burn'd brig is riding on unknown currents,
Where shells grow to her slimy deck, where the dead are corrupt- ing below;
Where the dense-starr'd flag is borne at the head of the regiments,
Approaching Manhattan up by the long-stretching island,
Under Niagara, the cataract falling like a veil over my countenance,
Upon a door-step, upon the horse-block of hard wood outside,
Upon the race-course, or enjoying picnics or jigs or a good game of base-ball,
At he-festivals, with blackguard gibes, ironical license, bull-dances, drinking, laughter,
At the cider-mill tasting the sweets of the brown mash, sucking the juice through a straw,
At apple-peelings wanting kisses for all the red fruit I find,
At musters, beach-parties, friendly bees, huskings, house-raisings;
Where the mocking-bird sounds his delicious gurgles, cackles, screams, weeps,
Where the hay-rick stands in the barn-yard, where the dry-stalks are scatter'd, where the brood-cow waits in the hovel,
Where the bull advances to do his masculine work, where the stud to the mare, where the cock is treading the hen,
Where the heifers browse, where geese nip their food with short jerks,
Where sun-down shadows lengthen over the limitless and lonesome prairie,
Where herds of buffalo make a crawling spread of the square miles far and near,
Where the humming-bird shimmers, where the neck of the long- lived swan is curving and winding,
Where the laughing-gull scoots by the shore, where she laughs her near-human laugh,
Where bee-hives range on a gray bench in the garden half hid by the high weeds,
Where band-neck'd partridges roost in a ring on the ground with their heads out,
Where burial coaches enter the arch'd gates of a cemetery,
Where winter wolves bark amid wastes of snow and icicled trees,
Where the yellow-crown'd heron comes to the edge of the marsh at night and feeds upon small crabs,
Where the splash of swimmers and divers cools the warm noon,
Where the katy-did works her chromatic reed on the walnut-tree over the well,
Through patches of citrons and cucumbers with silver-wired leaves,
Through the salt-lick or orange glade, or under conical firs,
Through the gymnasium, through the curtain'd saloon, through the office or public hall;
Pleas'd with the native and pleas'd with the foreign, pleas'd with the new and old,
Pleas'd with the homely woman as well as the handsome,
Pleas'd with the quakeress as she puts off her bonnet and talks melodiously,
Pleas'd with the tune of the choir of the whitewash'd church,
Pleas'd with the earnest words of the sweating Methodist preach- er, impress'd seriously at the camp-meeting;
Looking in at the shop-windows of Broadway the whole forenoon, flatting the flesh of my nose on the thick plate glass,
Wandering the same afternoon with my face turn'd up to the clouds, or down a lane or along the beach,
My right and left arms round the sides of two friends, and I in the middle;
Coming home with the silent and dark-cheek'd bush-boy, (behind me he rides at the drape of the day,)
Far from the settlements studying the print of animals' feet, or the moccasin print,
By the cot in the hospital reaching lemonade to a feverish patient,
Nigh the coffin'd corpse when all is still, examining with a candle;
Voyaging to every port to dicker and adventure,
Hurrying with the modern crowd as eager and fickle as any,
Hot toward one I hate, ready in my madness to knife him,
Solitary at midnight in my back yard, my thoughts gone from me a long while,
Walking the old hills of Judaea with the beautiful gentle God by my side,
Speeding through space, speeding through heaven and the stars,
Speeding amid the seven satellites and the broad ring, and the diameter of eighty thousand miles,
Speeding with tail'd meteors, throwing fire-balls like the rest,
Carrying the crescent child that carries its own full mother in its belly,
Storming, enjoying, planning, loving, cautioning,
Backing and filling, appearing and disappearing,
I tread day and night such roads.
I visit the orchards of spheres and look at the product,
And look at quintillions ripen'd and look at quintillions green.
I fly those flights of a fluid and swallowing soul,
My course runs below the soundings of plummets.
I help myself to material and immaterial,
No guard can shut me off, no law prevent me.
I anchor my ship for a little while only,
My messengers continually cruise away or bring their returns to me.
I go hunting polar furs and the seal, leaping chasms with a pike- pointed staff, clinging to topples of brittle and blue.
I ascend to the foretruck,
I take my place late at night in the crow's-nest,
We sail the arctic sea, it is plenty light enough,
Through the clear atmosphere I stretch around on the wonderful beauty,
The enormous masses of ice pass me and I pass them, the scenery is plain in all directions,
The white-topt mountains show in the distance, I fling out my fancies toward them,
We are approaching some great battle-field in which we are soon to be engaged,
We pass the colossal outposts of the encampment, we pass with still feet and caution,
Or we are entering by the suburbs some vast and ruin'd city,
The blocks and fallen architecture more than all the living cities of the globe.
I am a free companion, I bivouac by invading watchfires,
I turn the bridegroom out of bed and stay with the bride myself,
I tighten her all night to my thighs and lips.
My voice is the wife's voice, the screech by the rail of the stairs,
They fetch my man's body up dripping and drown'd.
I understand the large hearts of heroes,
The courage of present times and all times,
How the skipper saw the crowded and rudderless wreck of the steam-ship, and Death chasing it up and down the storm,
How he knuckled tight and gave not back an inch, and was faith ful of days and faithful of nights,
And chalk'd in large letters on a board, Be of good cheer, we will
not desert you;
How he follow'd with them and tack'd with them three days and would not give it up,
How he saved the drifting company at last,
How the lank loose-gown'd women look'd when boated from the side of their prepared graves,
How the silent old-faced infants and the lifted sick, and the sharp- lipp'd unshaved men;
All this I swallow, it tastes good, I like it well, it becomes mine,
I am the man, I suffer'd, I was there.
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, blow- ing, cover'd with sweat,
The twinges that sting like needles his legs and neck, the mur- derous 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 marks- men,
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 com- rades,
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 explo- sion,
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 entrench-
I Sing The Body Electric
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
Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the
And if the body does not do as much as the Soul?
And if the body were not the Soul, what is the Soul?
The love of the Body of man or woman balks account--the body itself
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect. 10
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, supple quality he has, strikes through the cotton
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-
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 fro in the heave of the water,
The bending forward and backward of rowers in row-boats--the horseman
in his saddle, 20
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
The young fellow hoeing corn--the sleigh-driver guiding 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,
The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love and resistance,
The upper-hold and the under-hold, the hair rumpled over and blinding
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; 30
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, and count.
I know a man, a common farmer--the father of five sons;
And in them were the fathers of sons--and in them were the fathers of
This man was of wonderful vigor, calmness, beauty of person;
The shape of his head, the pale yellow and white of his hair and
beard, and 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
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
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.
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
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; 50
All things please the soul--but these please the soul well.
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, the
atmosphere and the clouds, and what was expected of heaven or
fear'd of hell, are now consumed;
Mad filaments, ungovernable shoots play out of it--the response
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 juice; 60
Bridegroom night of love, working surely and softly into the
Undulating into the willing and yielding day,
Lost in the cleave of the clasping and sweet-flesh'd day.
This is the nucleus--after the child is born of woman, the man is
born of woman;
This is the bath of birth--this is 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
As I see my soul reflected in nature;
As I see through a mist, one with inexpressible completeness and
See the bent head, and arms folded over the breast--the female I see.
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 everything to
the test of himself; 80
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 a slave? Is it one of the dull-faced immigrants just landed on
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 beautiful motion.)
Do you know so much yourself, that you call the slave or the dull-
face ignorant? 90
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
For you only, and not for him and her?
A man's Body at auction;
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; 100
In it and below it, the makings of heroes.
Examine these limbs, red, black, or white--they are so 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 back-bone 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; 110
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 is 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
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?
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
Have you ever loved the Body of a woman? 120
Have you ever loved the Body of a man?
Your father--where is your father?
Your mother--is she living? have you been much with her? and has she
been much with you?
--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 beautiful
as 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.
O my Body! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and women,
nor the likes of the parts of you; 130
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 poems,
Man's, woman's, child's, 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, eye-brows, and the waking or
sleeping of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the jaw-
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, arm-pit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-sinews,
Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb, fore-finger,
finger-balls, finger-joints, finger-nails,
Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast, breast-bone, breast-
Ribs, belly, back-bone, joints of the back-bone,
Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward round, man-balls,
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, 150
Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality, maternity,
Womanhood, and all that is a woman--and the man that comes from
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
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
The skin, the sun-burnt 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, 160
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
O I say now these are the Soul!
Song Of The Broad-Axe
WEAPON, shapely, naked, wan!
Head from the mother's bowels drawn!
Wooded flesh and metal bone! limb only one, and lip only one!
Gray-blue leaf by red-heat grown! helve produced from a little seed
Resting the grass amid and upon,
To be lean'd, and to lean on.
Strong shapes, and attributes of strong shapes--masculine trades,
sights and sounds;
Long varied train of an emblem, dabs of music;
Fingers of the organist skipping staccato over the keys of the great
Welcome are all earth's lands, each for its kind; 10
Welcome are lands of pine and oak;
Welcome are lands of the lemon and fig;
Welcome are lands of gold;
Welcome are lands of wheat and maize--welcome those of the grape;
Welcome are lands of sugar and rice;
Welcome the cotton-lands--welcome those of the white potato and sweet
Welcome are mountains, flats, sands, forests, prairies;
Welcome the rich borders of rivers, table-lands, openings;
Welcome the measureless grazing-lands--welcome the teeming soil of
orchards, flax, honey, hemp;
Welcome just as much the other more hard-faced lands; 20
Lands rich as lands of gold, or wheat and fruit lands;
Lands of mines, lands of the manly and rugged ores;
Lands of coal, copper, lead, tin, zinc;
LANDS OF IRON! lands of the make of the axe!
The log at the wood-pile, the axe supported by it;
The sylvan hut, the vine over the doorway, the space clear'd for a
The irregular tapping of rain down on the leaves, after the storm is
The wailing and moaning at intervals, the thought of the sea,
The thought of ships struck in the storm, and put on their beam ends,
and the cutting away of masts;
The sentiment of the huge timbers of old-fashion'd houses and
The remember'd print or narrative, the voyage at a venture of men,
The disembarkation, the founding of a new city,
The voyage of those who sought a New England and found it--the outset
The settlements of the Arkansas, Colorado, Ottawa, Willamette,
The slow progress, the scant fare, the axe, rifle, saddle-bags;
The beauty of all adventurous and daring persons,
The beauty of wood-boys and wood-men, with their clear untrimm'd
The beauty of independence, departure, actions that rely on
The American contempt for statutes and ceremonies, the boundless
impatience of restraint,
The loose drift of character, the inkling through random types, the
The butcher in the slaughter-house, the hands aboard schooners and
sloops, the raftsman, the pioneer,
Lumbermen in their winter camp, day-break in the woods, stripes of
snow on the limbs of trees, the occasional snapping,
The glad clear sound of one's own voice, the merry song, the natural
life of the woods, the strong day's work,
The blazing fire at night, the sweet taste of supper, the talk, the
bed of hemlock boughs, and the bear-skin;
--The house-builder at work in cities or anywhere,
The preparatory jointing, squaring, sawing, mortising,
The hoist-up of beams, the push of them in their places, laying them
Setting the studs by their tenons in the mortises, according as they
The blows of mallets and hammers, the attitudes of the men, their
Bending, standing, astride the beams, driving in pins, holding on by
posts and braces, 50
The hook'd arm over the plate, the other arm wielding the axe,
The floor-men forcing the planks close, to be nail'd,
Their postures bringing their weapons downward on the bearers,
The echoes resounding through the vacant building;
The huge store-house carried up in the city, well under way,
The six framing-men, two in the middle, and two at each end,
carefully bearing on their shoulders a heavy stick for a cross-
The crowded line of masons with trowels in their right hands, rapidly
laying the long side-wall, two hundred feet from front to rear,
The flexible rise and fall of backs, the continual click of the
trowels striking the bricks,
The bricks, one after another, each laid so workmanlike in its place,
and set with a knock of the trowel-handle,
The piles of materials, the mortar on the mortar-boards, and the
steady replenishing by the hod-men; 60
--Spar-makers in the spar-yard, the swarming row of well-grown
The swing of their axes on the square-hew'd log, shaping it toward
the shape of a mast,
The brisk short crackle of the steel driven slantingly into the pine,
The butter-color'd chips flying off in great flakes and slivers,
The limber motion of brawny young arms and hips in easy costumes;
The constructor of wharves, bridges, piers, bulk-heads, floats, stays
against the sea;
--The city fireman--the fire that suddenly bursts forth in the close-
The arriving engines, the hoarse shouts, the nimble stepping and
The strong command through the fire-trumpets, the falling in line,
the rise and fall of the arms forcing the water,
The slender, spasmic, blue-white jets--the bringing to bear of the
hooks and ladders, and their execution, 70
The crash and cut away of connecting wood-work, or through floors, if
the fire smoulders under them,
The crowd with their lit faces, watching--the glare and dense
--The forger at his forge-furnace, and the user of iron after him,
The maker of the axe large and small, and the welder and temperer,
The chooser breathing his breath on the cold steel, and trying the
edge with his thumb,
The one who clean-shapes the handle, and sets it firmly in the
The shadowy processions of the portraits of the past users also,
The primal patient mechanics, the architects and engineers,
The far-off Assyrian edifice and Mizra edifice,
The Roman lictors preceding the consuls, 80
The antique European warrior with his axe in combat,
The uplifted arm, the clatter of blows on the helmeted head,
The death-howl, the limpsey tumbling body, the rush of friend and foe
The siege of revolted lieges determin'd for liberty,
The summons to surrender, the battering at castle gates, the truce
The sack of an old city in its time,
The bursting in of mercenaries and bigots tumultuously and
Roar, flames, blood, drunkenness, madness,
Goods freely rifled from houses and temples, screams of women in the
gripe of brigands,
Craft and thievery of camp-followers, men running, old persons
The hell of war, the cruelties of creeds,
The list of all executive deeds and words, just or unjust,
The power of personality, just or unjust.
Muscle and pluck forever!
What invigorates life, invigorates death,
And the dead advance as much as the living advance,
And the future is no more uncertain than the present,
And the roughness of the earth and of man encloses as much as the
delicatesse of the earth and of man,
And nothing endures but personal qualities.
What do you think endures? 100
Do you think the great city endures?
Or a teeming manufacturing state? or a prepared constitution? or the
Or hotels of granite and iron? or any chef-d'oeuvres of engineering,
Away! These are not to be cherish'd for themselves;
They fill their hour, the dancers dance, the musicians play for them;
The show passes, all does well enough of course,
All does very well till one flash of defiance.
The great city is that which has the greatest man or woman;
If it be a few ragged huts, it is still the greatest city in the
The place where the great city stands is not the place of stretch'd
wharves, docks, manufactures, deposits of produce, 110
Nor the place of ceaseless salutes of new comers, or the anchor-
lifters of the departing,
Nor the place of the tallest and costliest buildings, or shops
selling goods from the rest of the earth,
Nor the place of the best libraries and schools--nor the place where
money is plentiest,
Nor the place of the most numerous population.
Where the city stands with the brawniest breed of orators and bards;
Where the city stands that is beloved by these, and loves them in
return, and understands them;
Where no monuments exist to heroes, but in the common words and
Where thrift is in its place, and prudence is in its place;
Where the men and women think lightly of the laws;
Where the slave ceases, and the master of slaves ceases; 120
Where the populace rise at once against the never-ending audacity of
Where fierce men and women pour forth, as the sea to the whistle of
death pours its sweeping and unript waves;
Where outside authority enters always after the precedence of inside
Where the citizen is always the head and ideal--and President, Mayor,
Governor, and what not, are agents for pay;
Where children are taught to be laws to themselves, and to depend on
Where equanimity is illustrated in affairs;
Where speculations on the Soul are encouraged;
Where women walk in public processions in the streets, the same as
Where they enter the public assembly and take places the same as the
Where the city of the faithfulest friends stands; 130
Where the city of the cleanliness of the sexes stands;
Where the city of the healthiest fathers stands;
Where the city of the best-bodied mothers stands,
There the great city stands.
How beggarly appear arguments before a defiant deed!
How the floridness of the materials of cities shrivels before a man's
or woman's look!
All waits, or goes by default, till a strong being appears;
A strong being is the proof of the race, and of the ability of the
When he or she appears, materials are overaw'd,
The dispute on the Soul stops, 140
The old customs and phrases are confronted, turn'd back, or laid
What is your money-making now? what can it do now?
What is your respectability now?
What are your theology, tuition, society, traditions, statute-books,
Where are your jibes of being now?
Where are your cavils about the Soul now?
A sterile landscape covers the ore--there is as good as the best, for
all the forbidding appearance;
There is the mine, there are the miners;
The forge-furnace is there, the melt is accomplish'd; the hammers-men
are at hand with their tongs and hammers;
What always served, and always serves, is at hand. 150
Than this, nothing has better served--it has served all:
Served the fluent-tongued and subtle-sensed Greek, and long ere the
Served in building the buildings that last longer than any;
Served the Hebrew, the Persian, the most ancient Hindostanee;
Served the mound-raiser on the Mississippi--served those whose relics
remain in Central America;
Served Albic temples in woods or on plains, with unhewn pillars, and
Served the artificial clefts, vast, high, silent, on the snow-cover'd
hills of Scandinavia;
Served those who, time out of mind, made on the granite walls rough
sketches of the sun, moon, stars, ships, ocean-waves;
Served the paths of the irruptions of the Goths--served the pastoral
tribes and nomads;
Served the long, long distant Kelt--served the hardy pirates of the
Served before any of those, the venerable and harmless men of
Served the making of helms for the galleys of pleasure, and the
making of those for war;
Served all great works on land, and all great works on the sea;
For the mediæval ages, and before the mediæval ages;
Served not the living only, then as now, but served the dead.
I see the European headsman;
He stands mask'd, clothed in red, with huge legs, and strong naked
And leans on a ponderous axe.
(Whom have you slaughter'd lately, European headsman?
Whose is that blood upon you, so wet and sticky?) 170
I see the clear sunsets of the martyrs;
I see from the scaffolds the descending ghosts,
Ghosts of dead lords, uncrown'd ladies, impeach'd ministers, rejected
Rivals, traitors, poisoners, disgraced chieftains, and the rest.
I see those who in any land have died for the good cause;
The seed is spare, nevertheless the crop shall never run out;
(Mind you, O foreign kings, O priests, the crop shall never run out.)
I see the blood wash'd entirely away from the axe;
Both blade and helve are clean;
They spirt no more the blood of European nobles--they clasp no more
the necks of queens. 180
I see the headsman withdraw and become useless;
I see the scaffold untrodden and mouldy--I see no longer any axe upon
I see the mighty and friendly emblem of the power of my own race--the
newest, largest race.
(America! I do not vaunt my love for you;
I have what I have.)
The axe leaps!
The solid forest gives fluid utterances;
They tumble forth, they rise and form,
Hut, tent, landing, survey,
Flail, plough, pick, crowbar, spade, 190
Shingle, rail, prop, wainscot, jamb, lath, panel, gable,
Citadel, ceiling, saloon, academy, organ, exhibition-house, library,
Cornice, trellis, pilaster, balcony, window, shutter, turret, porch,
Hoe, rake, pitch-fork, pencil, wagon, staff, saw, jack-plane, mallet,
Chair, tub, hoop, table, wicket, vane, sash, floor,
Work-box, chest, string'd instrument, boat, frame, and what not,
Capitols of States, and capitol of the nation of States,
Long stately rows in avenues, hospitals for orphans, or for the poor
Manhattan steamboats and clippers, taking the measure of all seas.
The shapes arise! 200
Shapes of the using of axes anyhow, and the users, and all that
Cutters down of wood, and haulers of it to the Penobscot or
Dwellers in cabins among the California mountains, or by the little
lakes, or on the Columbia,
Dwellers south on the banks of the Gila or Rio Grande--friendly
gatherings, the characters and fun,
Dwellers up north in Minnesota and by the Yellowstone river--dwellers
on coasts and off coasts,
Seal-fishers, whalers, arctic seamen breaking passages through the
The shapes arise!
Shapes of factories, arsenals, foundries, markets;
Shapes of the two-threaded tracks of railroads;
Shapes of the sleepers of bridges, vast frameworks, girders,
Shapes of the fleets of barges, towns, lake and canal craft, river
The shapes arise!
Ship-yards and dry-docks along the Eastern and Western Seas, and in
many a bay and by-place,
The live-oak kelsons, the pine planks, the spars, the hackmatack-
roots for knees,
The ships themselves on their ways, the tiers of scaffolds, the
workmen busy outside and inside,
The tools lying around, the great auger and little auger, the adze,
bolt, line, square, gouge, and bead-plane.
The shapes arise!
The shape measur'd, saw'd, jack'd, join'd, stain'd,
The coffin-shape for the dead to lie within in his shroud;
The shape got out in posts, in the bedstead posts, in the posts of
the bride's bed; 220
The shape of the little trough, the shape of the rockers beneath, the
shape of the babe's cradle;
The shape of the floor-planks, the floor-planks for dancers' feet;
The shape of the planks of the family home, the home of the friendly
parents and children,
The shape of the roof of the home of the happy young man and woman--
the roof over the well-married young man and woman,
The roof over the supper joyously cook'd by the chaste wife, and
joyously eaten by the chaste husband, content after his day's
The shapes arise!
The shape of the prisoner's place in the court-room, and of him or
her seated in the place;
The shape of the liquor-bar lean'd against by the young rum-drinker
and the old rum-drinker;
The shape of the shamed and angry stairs, trod by sneaking footsteps;
The shape of the sly settee, and the adulterous unwholesome
The shape of the gambling-board with its devilish winnings and
The shape of the step-ladder for the convicted and sentenced
murderer, the murderer with haggard face and pinion'd arms,
The sheriff at hand with his deputies, the silent and white-lipp'd
crowd, the dangling of the rope.
The shapes arise!
Shapes of doors giving many exits and entrances;
The door passing the dissever'd friend, flush'd and in haste;
The door that admits good news and bad news;
The door whence the son left home, confident and puff'd up;
The door he enter'd again from a long and scandalous absence,
diseas'd, broken down, without innocence, without means.
Her shape arises, 240
She, less guarded than ever, yet more guarded than ever;
The gross and soil'd she moves among do not make her gross and
She knows the thoughts as she passes--nothing is conceal'd from her;
She is none the less considerate or friendly therefor;
She is the best belov'd--it is without exception--she has no reason
to fear, and she does not fear;
Oaths, quarrels, hiccupp'd songs, smutty expressions, are idle to her
as she passes;
She is silent--she is possess'd of herself--they do not offend her;
She receives them as the laws of nature receive them--she is strong,
She too is a law of nature--there is no law stronger than she is.
The main shapes arise! 250
Shapes of Democracy, total--result of centuries;
Shapes, ever projecting other shapes;
Shapes of turbulent manly cities;
Shapes of the friends and home-givers of the whole earth,
Shapes bracing the earth, and braced with the whole earth.
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
Or a soldier camp'd, or carrying my knapsack and gun--or a miner in
Or rude in my home in Dakota's woods, my diet meat, my drink from the
Or withdrawn to muse and meditate in some deep recess,
Far from the clank of crowds, intervals passing, rapt and happy;
Aware of the fresh free giver, the flowing Missouri--aware of mighty
Aware of the buffalo herds, grazing the plains--the hirsute and
strong-breasted bull; 10
Of earth, rocks, Fifth-month flowers, experienced--stars, rain, snow,
Having studied the mocking-bird's tones, and the mountainhawk's,
And heard at dusk the unrival'd one, the hermit thrush from the
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
How curious! how real! 20
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
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,
See, projected, through time,
For me, an audience interminable. 30
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; 40
Chants of the long-running Mississippi, and down to the Mexican sea;
Chants of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota;
Chants going forth from the centre, from Kansas, and thence, equi-
Shooting in pulses of fire, ceaseless, to vivify all.
In the Year 80 of The States,
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here, from parents the same, and their
parents the same,
I, now thirty-six years old, in perfect health, begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
Creeds and schools in abeyance, 50
(Retiring back a while, sufficed at what they are, but never
I harbor, for good or bad--I permit to speak, at every hazard,
Nature now without check, with original energy.
Take my leaves, America! take them, South, and take them, North!
Make welcome for them everywhere, for they are your own offspring;
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
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,
I have perused it--own it is admirable,
(moving awhile among it;)
Think nothing can ever be greater--nothing can ever deserve more than
Regarding it all intently a long while--then dismissing it, 70
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
Here Spirituality, the translatress, the openly-avow'd,
The ever-tending, the finale of visible forms;
The satisfier, after due long-waiting, now advancing,
Yes, here comes my mistress, the Soul.
Forever and forever--longer than soil is brown and solid--longer than
water ebbs and flows.
I will make the poems of materials, for I think they are to be the
most spiritual poems; 80
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
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 them:
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 whose head is over all;
Resolute, warlike One, including and over all;
(However high the head of any else, that head is over all.) 90
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 view.
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 fires;
I will give them complete abandonment; 100
I will write the evangel-poem of comrades, and of love;
(For who but I should understand love, with all its sorrow and joy?
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--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 anything else.) 110
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
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
I say that the real and permanent grandeur of These States must be
Otherwise there is no real and permanent grandeur: 120
(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, amours?
These ostensible realities, politics, points?
Your ambition or business, whatever it may be?
It is well--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. 130
What do you seek, so pensive and silent?
What do you need, Camerado?
Dear son! do you think it is love?
Listen, dear son--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 coincide;
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! 140
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 Religion.
Melange mine own! the unseen and the seen;
Mysterious ocean where the streams empty;
Prophetic spirit of materials shifting and flickering around me;
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 me,
Has winded and twisted around me that which holds me to him, 150
Any more than I am held to the heavens, to the spiritual world,
And to the identities of the Gods, my lovers, faithful and true,
After what they have done to me, suggesting themes.
O such themes! Equalities!
O amazement of things! O divine average!
O warblings under the sun--usher'd, as now, or at noon, or setting!
O strain, musical, flowing through ages--now reaching hither!
I take to your reckless and composite chords--I 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. 160
I have seen the he-bird also;
I have paused to hear him, near at hand, inflating his throat, and
And while I paused, 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 echoes;
But subtle, clandestine, away beyond,
A charge transmitted, and gift occult, for those being born.
Near at hand to you a throat is now inflating itself and joyfully
For the brood beyond us and of us, 170
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
And sexual organs and acts! do you concentrate in me--for I am
determin'd to tell you with courageous clear voice, to prove
And I will show that there is no imperfection in the present--and can
be none in the future; 180
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 death;
And I will thread a thread through my poems that time and events are
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 leaves, poems, poemets, songs, says, thoughts with
reference to ensemble:
And I will not sing with reference to a day, but with reference to
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
Was somebody asking to see the Soul? 190
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; 200
Whoever you are! how superb and how divine is your body, or any part
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 hand?
Toward the male of The States, and toward the female of The States,
Live words--words to the lands.
O the lands! interlink'd, food-yielding lands!
Land of coal and iron! Land of gold! Lands of cotton, sugar, rice!
Land of wheat, beef, pork! Land of wool and hemp! Land of the apple
Land of the pastoral plains, the grass-fields of the world! Land of
those sweet-air'd interminable plateaus! 210
Land of the herd, the garden, the healthy house of adobie!
Lands where the northwest Columbia winds, and where the southwest
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
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 ones!
The side by side! the elder and younger brothers! the bony-limb'd!
The great women's land! the feminine! the experienced sisters and the
inexperienced sisters! 220
Far breath'd land! Arctic braced! Mexican breez'd! the diverse! the
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
O Death! O for all that, I am yet of you, unseen, this hour, with
Walking New England, a friend, a traveler,
Splashing my bare feet in the edge of the summer ripples, on
Crossing the prairies--dwelling again in Chicago--dwelling in every
Observing shows, births, improvements, structures, arts,
Listening to the orators and the oratresses in public halls, 230
Of and through The States, as during life--each man and woman my
The Louisianian, the Georgian, as near to me, and I as near to him
The Mississippian and Arkansian yet with me--and I yet with any of
Yet upon the plains west of the spinal river--yet in my house of
Yet returning eastward--yet in the Sea-Side State, or in Maryland,
Yet Kanadian, cheerily braving the winter--the snow and ice welcome
Yet a true son either of Maine, or of the Granite State, or of the
Narragansett Bay State, or of the Empire State;
Yet sailing to other shores to annex the same--yet welcoming every
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; 240
Enjoining you to acts, characters, spectacles, with me.
With me, with firm holding--yet haste, haste on.
For your life, adhere to me!
Of all the men of the earth, I only can unloose you and toughen you;
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 universe;
For such I afford whoever can persevere to win them. 250
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 names;
Okonee, Koosa, Ottawa, Monongahela, Sauk, Natchez, Chattahoochee,
Wabash, Miami, Saginaw, Chippewa, Oshkosh, Walla-Walla;
Leaving such to The States, they melt, they depart, charging the
water and the land with names.
O expanding and swift! O henceforth, 260
Elements, breeds, adjustments, turbulent, quick, and audacious;
A world primal again--Vistas of glory, incessant and branching;
A new race, dominating previous ones, and grander far--with new
New politics, new literatures and religions, new inventions and arts.
These! my voice announcing--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 storms.
See! steamers steaming through my poems!
See, in my poems immigrants continually coming and landing;
See, in arriere, the wigwam, the trail, the hunter's hut, the
flatboat, the maize-leaf, the claim, the rude fence, and the
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. 270
See, pastures and forests in my poems--See, animals, wild and tame--
See, beyond the Kanzas, 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--See, the electric
telegraph, stretching across the Continent, from the Western
Sea to Manhattan;
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
See, ploughmen, ploughing farms--See, miners, digging mines--See, the
See, mechanics, busy at their benches, with tools--See from among
them, superior judges, philosophs, Presidents, emerge, drest in
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! Read the hints come at last.
O Camerado close! 280
O you and me at last--and us two only.
O a word to clear one's path ahead endlessly!
O something extatic and undemonstrable! O music wild!
O now I triumph--and you shall also;
O hand in hand--O wholesome pleasure--O one more desirer and lover!
O to haste, firm holding--to haste, haste on with me.
As I Sat Alone By Blue Ontario's Shores
AS I sat alone, by blue Ontario's shore,
As I mused of these mighty days, and of peace return'd, and the dead
that return no more,
A Phantom, gigantic, superb, with stern visage, accosted me;
Chant me the poem, it said, that comes from the soul of America--
chant me the carol of victory;
And strike up the marches of Libertad--marches more powerful yet;
And sing me before you go, the song of the throes of Democracy.
(Democracy--the destin'd conqueror--yet treacherous lip-smiles
And Death and infidelity at every step.)
A Nation announcing itself,
I myself make the only growth by which I can be appreciated, 10
I reject none, accept all, then reproduce all in my own forms.
A breed whose proof is in time and deeds;
What we are, we are--nativity is answer enough to objections;
We wield ourselves as a weapon is wielded,
We are powerful and tremendous in ourselves,
We are executive in ourselves--We are sufficient in the variety of
We are the most beautiful to ourselves, and in ourselves;
We stand self-pois'd in the middle, branching thence over the world;
From Missouri, Nebraska, or Kansas, laughing attacks to scorn.
Nothing is sinful to us outside of ourselves, 20
Whatever appears, whatever does not appear, we are beautiful or
sinful in ourselves only.
(O mother! O sisters dear!
If we are lost, no victor else has destroy'd us;
It is by ourselves we go down to eternal night.)
Have you thought there could be but a single Supreme?
There can be any number of Supremes--One does not countervail
another, any more than one eyesight countervails another, or
one life countervails another.
All is eligible to all,
All is for individuals--All is for you,
No condition is prohibited--not God's, or any.
All comes by the body--only health puts you rapport with the
Produce great persons, the rest follows.
America isolated I sing;
I say that works made here in the spirit of other lands, are so much
poison in The States.
(How dare such insects as we see assume to write poems for America?
For our victorious armies, and the offspring following the armies?)
Piety and conformity to them that like!
Peace, obesity, allegiance, to them that like!
I am he who tauntingly compels men, women, nations,
Crying, Leap from your seats, and contend for your lives!
I am he who walks the States with a barb'd tongue, questioning every
one I meet; 40
Who are you, that wanted only to be told what you knew before?
Who are you, that wanted only a book to join you in your nonsense?
(With pangs and cries, as thine own, O bearer of many children!
These clamors wild, to a race of pride I give.)
O lands! would you be freer than all that has ever been before?
If you would be freer than all that has been before, come listen to
Fear grace--Fear elegance, civilization, delicatesse,
Fear the mellow sweet, the sucking of honey-juice;
Beware the advancing mortal ripening of nature,
Beware what precedes the decay of the ruggedness of states and
Ages, precedents, have long been accumulating undirected materials,
America brings builders, and brings its own styles.
The immortal poets of Asia and Europe have done their work, and
pass'd to other spheres,
A work remains, the work of surpassing all they have done.
America, curious toward foreign characters, stands by its own at all
Stands removed, spacious, composite, sound--initiates the true use of
Does not repel them, or the past, or what they have produced under
Takes the lesson with calmness, perceives the corpse slowly borne
from the house,
Perceives that it waits a little while in the door--that it was
fittest for its days,
That its life has descended to the stalwart and well-shaped heir who
And that he shall be fittest for his days.
Any period, one nation must lead,
One land must be the promise and reliance of the future.
These States are the amplest poem,
Here is not merely a nation, but a teeming nation of nations,
Here the doings of men correspond with the broadcast doings of the
day and night,
Here is what moves in magnificent masses, careless of particulars,
Here are the roughs, beards, friendliness, combativeness, the Soul
Here the flowing trains--here the crowds, equality, diversity, the
Land of lands, and bards to corroborate! 70
Of them, standing among them, one lifts to the light his west-bred
To him the hereditary countenance bequeath'd, both mother's and
His first parts substances, earth, water, animals, trees,
Built of the common stock, having room for far and near,
Used to dispense with other lands, incarnating this land,
Attracting it Body and Soul to himself, hanging on its neck with
Plunging his seminal muscle into its merits and demerits,
Making its cities, beginnings, events, diversities, wars, vocal in
Making its rivers, lakes, bays, embouchure in him,
Mississippi with yearly freshets and changing chutes--Columbia,
Niagara, Hudson, spending themselves lovingly in him, 80
If the Atlantic coast stretch, or the Pacific coast stretch, he
stretching with them north or south,
Spanning between them, east and west, and touching whatever is
Growths growing from him to offset the growth of pine, cedar,
hemlock, live-oak, locust, chestnut, hickory, cottonwood,
Tangles as tangled in him as any cane-brake or swamp,
He likening sides and peaks of mountains, forests coated with
northern transparent ice,
Off him pasturage, sweet and natural as savanna, upland, prairie,
Through him flights, whirls, screams, answering those of the fish-
hawk, mocking-bird, night-heron, and eagle;
His spirit surrounding his country's spirit, unclosed to good and
Surrounding the essences of real things, old times and present times,
Surrounding just found shores, islands, tribes of red aborigines, 90
Weather-beaten vessels, landings, settlements, embryo stature and
The haughty defiance of the Year 1--war, peace, the formation of the
The separate States, the simple, elastic scheme, the immigrants,
The Union, always swarming with blatherers, and always sure and
The unsurvey'd interior, log-houses, clearings, wild animals,
Surrounding the multiform agriculture, mines, temperature, the
gestation of new States,
Congress convening every Twelfth-month, the members duly coming up
from the uttermost parts;
Surrounding the noble character of mechanics and farmers, especially
the young men,
Responding their manners, speech, dress, friendships--the gait they
have of persons who never knew how it felt to stand in the
presence of superiors,
The freshness and candor of their physiognomy, the copiousness and
decision of their phrenology, 100
The picturesque looseness of their carriage, their fierceness when
The fluency of their speech, their delight in music, their curiosity,
good temper, and open-handedness--the whole composite make,
The prevailing ardor and enterprise, the large amativeness,
The perfect equality of the female with the male, the fluid movement
of the population,
The superior marine, free commerce, fisheries, whaling, gold-digging,
Wharf-hemm'd cities, railroad and steamboat lines, intersecting all
Factories, mercantile life, labor-saving machinery, the north-east,
Manhattan firemen, the Yankee swap, southern plantation life,
Slavery--the murderous, treacherous conspiracy to raise it upon the
ruins of all the rest;
On and on to the grapple with it--Assassin! then your life or ours be
the stake--and respite no more. 110
(Lo! high toward heaven, this day,
Libertad! from the conqueress' field return'd,
I mark the new aureola around your head;
No more of soft astral, but dazzling and fierce,
With war's flames, and the lambent lightnings playing,
And your port immovable where you stand;
With still the inextinguishable glance, and the clench'd and lifted
And your foot on the neck of the menacing one, the scorner, utterly
crush'd beneath you;
The menacing, arrogant one, that strode and advanced with his
senseless scorn, bearing the murderous knife;
--Lo! the wide swelling one, the braggart, that would yesterday do so
To-day a carrion dead and damn'd, the despised of all the earth!
An offal rank, to the dunghill maggots spurn'd.)
Others take finish, but the Republic is ever constructive, and ever
Others adorn the past--but you, O days of the present, I adorn you!
O days of the future, I believe in you! I isolate myself for your
O America, because you build for mankind, I build for you!
O well-beloved stone-cutters! I lead them who plan with decision and
I lead the present with friendly hand toward the future.
Bravas to all impulses sending sane children to the next age!
But damn that which spends itself, with no thought of the stain,
pains, dismay, feebleness it is bequeathing. 130
I listened to the Phantom by Ontario's shore,
I heard the voice arising, demanding bards;
By them, all native and grand--by them alone can The States be fused
into the compact organism of a Nation.
To hold men together by paper and seal, or by compulsion, is no
That only holds men together which aggregates all in a living
principle, as the hold of the limbs of the body, or the fibres
Of all races and eras, These States, with veins full of poetical
stuff, most need poets, and are to have the greatest, and use
them the greatest;
Their Presidents shall not be their common referee so much as their
(Soul of love, and tongue of fire!
Eye to pierce the deepest deeps, and sweep the world!
--Ah, mother! prolific and full in all besides--yet how long barren,
Of These States, the poet is the equable man,
Not in him, but off from him, things are grotesque, eccentric, fail
of their full returns,
Nothing out of its place is good, nothing in its place is bad,
He bestows on every object or quality its fit proportion, neither
more nor less,
He is the arbiter of the diverse, he is the key,
He is the equalizer of his age and land,
He supplies what wants supplying--he checks what wants checking,
In peace, out of him speaks the spirit of peace, large, rich,
thrifty, building populous towns, encouraging agriculture,
arts, commerce, lighting the study of man, the Soul, health,
In war, he is the best backer of the war--he fetches artillery as
good as the engineer's--he can make every word he speaks draw
The years straying toward infidelity, he withholds by his steady
He is no argurer, he is judgment--(Nature accepts him absolutely;)
He judges not as the judge judges, but as the sun falling round a
As he sees the farthest, he has the most faith,
His thoughts are the hymns of the praise of things,
In the dispute on God and eternity he is silent,
He sees eternity less like a play with a prologue and denouement,
He sees eternity in men and women--he does not see men and women as
dreams or dots.
For the great Idea, the idea of perfect and free individuals,
For that idea the bard walks in advance, leader of leaders,
The attitude of him cheers up slaves and horrifies foreign
Without extinction is Liberty! without retrograde is Equality!
They live in the feelings of young men, and the best women;
Not for nothing have the indomitable heads of the earth been always
ready to fall for Liberty.
For the great Idea!
That, O my brethren--that is the mission of Poets.
Songs of stern defiance, ever ready,
Songs of the rapid arming, and the march,
The flag of peace quick-folded, and instead, the flag we know,
Warlike flag of the great Idea.
(Angry cloth I saw there leaping! 170
I stand again in leaden rain, your flapping folds saluting;
I sing you over all, flying, beckoning through the fight--O the hard-
O the cannons ope their rosy-flashing muzzles! the hurtled balls
The battle-front forms amid the smoke--the volleys pour incessant
from the line;
Hark! the ringing word, Charge!--now the tussle, and the furious
Now the corpses tumble curl'd upon the ground,
Cold, cold in death, for precious life of you,
Angry cloth I saw there leaping.)
Are you he who would assume a place to teach, or be a poet here in
The place is august--the terms obdurate. 180
Who would assume to teach here, may well prepare himself, body and
He may well survey, ponder, arm, fortify, harden, make lithe,
He shall surely be question'd beforehand by me with many and stern
Who are you, indeed, who would talk or sing to America?
Have you studied out the land, its idioms and men?
Have you learn'd the physiology, phrenology, politics, geography,
pride, freedom, friendship, of the land? its substratums and
Have you consider'd the organic compact of the first day of the first
year of Independence, sign'd by the Commissioners, ratified by
The States, and read by Washington at the head of the army?
Have you possess'd yourself of the Federal Constitution?
Do you see who have left all feudal processes and poems behind them,
and assumed the poems and processes of Democracy?
Are you faithful to things? do you teach as the land and sea, the
bodies of men, womanhood, amativeness, angers, teach? 190
Have you sped through fleeting customs, popularities?
Can you hold your hand against all seductions, follies, whirls,
fierce contentions? are you very strong? are you really of the
Are you not of some coterie? some school or mere religion?
Are you done with reviews and criticisms of life? animating now to
Have you vivified yourself from the maternity of These States?
Have you too the old, ever-fresh forbearance and impartiality?
Do you hold the like love for those hardening to maturity; for the
last-born? little and big? and for the errant?
What is this you bring my America?
Is it uniform with my country?
Is it not something that has been better told or done before? 200
Have you not imported this, or the spirit of it, in some ship?
Is it not a mere tale? a rhyme? a prettiness? is the good old cause
Has it not dangled long at the heels of the poets, politicians,
literats, of enemies' lands?
Does it not assume that what is notoriously gone is still here?
Does it answer universal needs? will it improve manners?
Does it sound, with trumpet-voice, the proud victory of the Union, in
that secession war?
Can your performance face the open fields and the seaside?
Will it absorb into me as I absorb food, air--to appear again in my
strength, gait, face?
Have real employments contributed to it? original makers--not mere
Does it meet modern discoveries, calibers, facts face to face? 210
What does it mean to me? to American persons, progresses, cities?
Chicago, Kanada, Arkansas? the planter, Yankee, Georgian,
native, immigrant, sailors, squatters, old States, new States?
Does it encompass all The States, and the unexceptional rights of all
the men and women of the earth? (the genital impulse of These
Does it see behind the apparent custodians, the real custodians,
standing, menacing, silent--the mechanics, Manhattanese,
western men, southerners, significant alike in their apathy,
and in the promptness of their love?
Does it see what finally befalls, and has always finally befallen,
each temporizer, patcher, outsider, partialist, alarmist,
infidel, who has ever ask'd anything of America?
What mocking and scornful negligence?
The track strew'd with the dust of skeletons;
By the roadside others disdainfully toss'd.
Rhymes and rhymers pass away--poems distill'd from foreign poems pass
The swarms of reflectors and the polite pass, and leave ashes;
Admirers, importers, obedient persons, make but the soul of
America justifies itself, give it time--no disguise can deceive it,
or conceal from it--it is impassive enough,
Only toward the likes of itself will it advance to meet them,
If its poets appear, it will in due time advance to meet them--there
is no fear of mistake,
(The proof of a poet shall be sternly deferr'd, till his country
absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorb'd it.)
He masters whose spirit masters--he tastes sweetest who results
sweetest in the long run;
The blood of the brawn beloved of time is unconstraint;
In the need of poems, philosophy, politics, manners, engineering, an
appropriate native grand-opera, shipcraft, any craft, he or she
is greatest who contributes the greatest original practical
Already a nonchalant breed, silently emerging, appears on the
People's lips salute only doers, lovers, satisfiers, positive
knowers; There will shortly be no more priests--I say their
work is done, 230
Death is without emergencies here, but life is perpetual emergencies
Are your body, days, manners, superb? after death you shall be
Justice, health, self-esteem, clear the way with irresistible power;
How dare you place anything before a man?
Fall behind me, States!
A man before all--myself, typical before all.
Give me the pay I have served for!
Give me to sing the song of the great Idea! take all the rest;
I have loved the earth, sun, animals--I have despised riches,
I have given alms to every one that ask'd, stood up for the stupid
and crazy, devoted my income and labor to others, 240
I have hated tyrants, argued not concerning God, had patience and
indulgence toward the people, taken off my hat to nothing known
I have gone freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the
young, and with the mothers of families,
I have read these leaves to myself in the open air--I have tried them
by trees, stars, rivers,
I have dismiss'd whatever insulted my own Soul or defiled my Body,
I have claim'd nothing to myself which I have not carefully claim'd
for others on the same terms,
I have sped to the camps, and comrades found and accepted from every
(In war of you, as well as peace, my suit is good, America--sadly I
Upon this breast has many a dying soldier lean'd, to breathe his
This arm, this hand, this voice, have nourish'd, rais'd, restored,
To life recalling many a prostrate form:) 250
--I am willing to wait to be understood by the growth of the taste of
I reject none, I permit all.
(Say, O mother! have I not to your thought been faithful?
Have I not, through life, kept you and yours before me?)
I swear I begin to see the meaning of these things!
It is not the earth, it is not America, who is so great,
It is I who am great, or to be great--it is you up there, or any one;
It is to walk rapidly through civilizations, governments, theories,
Through poems, pageants, shows, to form great individuals.
Underneath all, individuals! 260
I swear nothing is good to me now that ignores individuals,
The American compact is altogether with individuals,
The only government is that which makes minute of individuals,
The whole theory of the universe is directed to one single
individual--namely, to You.
(Mother! with subtle sense severe--with the naked sword in your hand,
I saw you at last refuse to treat but directly with individuals.)
Underneath all, nativity,
I swear I will stand by my own nativity--pious or impious, so be it;
I swear I am charm'd with nothing except nativity,
Men, women, cities, nations, are only beautiful from nativity. 270
Underneath all is the need of the expression of love for men and
I swear I have seen enough of mean and impotent modes of expressing
love for men and women,
After this day I take my own modes of expressing love for men and
I swear I will have each quality of my race in myself,
(Talk as you like, he only suits These States whose manners favor the
audacity and sublime turbulence of The States.)
Underneath the lessons of things, spirits, Nature, governments,
ownerships, I swear I perceive other lessons,
Underneath all, to me is myself--to you, yourself--(the same
monotonous old song.)
O I see now, flashing, that this America is only you and me,
Its power, weapons, testimony, are you and me,
Its crimes, lies, thefts, defections, slavery, are you and me, 280
Its Congress is you and me--the officers, capitols, armies, ships,
are you and me,
Its endless gestations of new States are you and me,
The war--that war so bloody and grim--the war I will henceforth
forget--was you and me,
Natural and artificial are you and me,
Freedom, language, poems, employments, are you and me,
Past, present, future, are you and me.
I swear I dare not shirk any part of myself,
Not any part of America, good or bad,
Not the promulgation of Liberty--not to cheer up slaves and horrify
Not to build for that which builds for mankind, 290
Not to balance ranks, complexions, creeds, and the sexes,
Not to justify science, nor the march of equality,
Nor to feed the arrogant blood of the brawn beloved of time.
I swear I am for those that have never been master'd!
For men and women whose tempers have never been master'd,
For those whom laws, theories, conventions, can never master.
I swear I am for those who walk abreast with the whole earth!
Who inaugurate one, to inaugurate all.
I swear I will not be outfaced by irrational things!
I will penetrate what it is in them that is sarcastic upon me! 300
I will make cities and civilizations defer to me!
This is what I have learnt from America--it is the amount--and it I
(Democracy! while weapons were everywhere aim'd at your breast,
I saw you serenely give birth to immortal children--saw in dreams
your dilating form;
Saw you with spreading mantle covering the world.)
I will confront these shows of the day and night!
I will know if I am to be less than they!
I will see if I am not as majestic as they!
I will see if I am not as subtle and real as they!
I will see if I am to be less generous than they! 310
I will see if I have no meaning, while the houses and ships have
I will see if the fishes and birds are to be enough for themselves,
and I am not to be enough for myself.
I match my spirit against yours, you orbs, growths, mountains,
Copious as you are, I absorb you all in myself, and become the master
America isolated, yet embodying all, what is it finally except
These States--what are they except myself?
I know now why the earth is gross, tantalizing, wicked--it is for my
I take you to be mine, you beautiful, terrible, rude forms.
(Mother! bend down, bend close to me your face!
I know not what these plots and wars, and deferments are for; 320
I know not fruition's success--but I know that through war and peace
your work goes on, and must yet go on.)
.... Thus, by blue Ontario's shore,
While the winds fann'd me, and the waves came trooping toward me,
I thrill'd with the Power's pulsations--and the charm of my theme was
Till the tissues that held me, parted their ties upon me.
And I saw the free Souls of poets;
The loftiest bards of past ages strode before me,
Strange, large men, long unwaked, undisclosed, were disclosed to me.
O my rapt verse, my call--mock me not!
Not for the bards of the past--not to invoke them have I launch'd you
Not to call even those lofty bards here by Ontario's shores,
Have I sung so capricious and loud, my savage song.
Bards for my own land, only, I invoke;
(For the war, the war is over--the field is clear'd,)
Till they strike up marches henceforth triumphant and onward,
To cheer, O mother, your boundless, expectant soul.
Bards grand as these days so grand!
Bards of the great Idea! Bards of the peaceful inventions! (for the
war, the war is over!)
Yet Bards of the latent armies--a million soldiers waiting, ever-
Bards towering like hills--(no more these dots, these pigmies, these
little piping straws, these gnats, that fill the hour, to pass
for poets;) 340
Bards with songs as from burning coals, or the lightning's fork'd
Ample Ohio's bards--bards for California! inland bards--bards of the
(As a wheel turns on its axle, so I find my chants turning finally on
Bards of pride! Bards tallying the ocean's roar, and the swooping
You, by my charm, I invoke!