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  • LEAVES OF GRASS

  • By Walt Whitman

  • Come, said my soul, Such verses for my Body let us write, (for

  • we are one,) That should I after return,

  • Or, long, long hence, in other spheres, There to some group of mates the chants resuming,

  • (Tallying Earth's soil, trees, winds, tumultuous waves,)

  • Ever with pleas'd smile I may keep on, Ever and ever yet the verses owning--as, first,

  • I here and now Signing for Soul and Body, set to them my

  • name,

  • Walt Whitman

  • BOOK I. INSCRIPTIONS

  • One's-Self I Sing

  • One's-self I sing, a simple separate person, Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse.

  • Of physiology from top to toe I sing, Not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy

  • for the Muse, I say the Form complete is worthier far,

  • The Female equally with the Male I sing.

  • Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power, Cheerful, for freest action form'd under the

  • laws divine, The Modern Man I sing.

  • As I Ponder'd in Silence

  • As I ponder'd in silence, Returning upon my poems, considering, lingering

  • long, A Phantom arose before me with distrustful

  • aspect, Terrible in beauty, age, and power,

  • The genius of poets of old lands, As to me directing like flame its eyes,

  • With finger pointing to many immortal songs, And menacing voice, What singest thou? it

  • said, Know'st thou not there is but one theme for

  • ever-enduring bards? And that is the theme of War, the fortune

  • of battles, The making of perfect soldiers.

  • Be it so, then I answer'd, I too haughty Shade also sing war, and a longer

  • and greater one than any, Waged in my book with varying fortune, with

  • flight, advance and retreat, victory deferr'd and wavering,

  • (Yet methinks certain, or as good as certain, at the last,) the

  • field the world, For life and death, for the Body and for the

  • eternal Soul, Lo, I too am come, chanting the chant of battles,

  • I above all promote brave soldiers.

  • In Cabin'd Ships at Sea

  • In cabin'd ships at sea, The boundless blue on every side expanding,

  • With whistling winds and music of the waves, the large imperious waves,

  • Or some lone bark buoy'd on the dense marine, Where joyous full of faith, spreading white

  • sails, She cleaves the ether mid the sparkle and

  • the foam of day, or under many a star at night,

  • By sailors young and old haply will I, a reminiscence of the land, be read,

  • In full rapport at last.

  • Here are our thoughts, voyagers' thoughts, Here not the land, firm land, alone appears,

  • may then by them be said, The sky o'erarches here, we feel the undulating

  • deck beneath our feet, We feel the long pulsation, ebb and flow of

  • endless motion, The tones of unseen mystery, the vague and

  • vast suggestions of the briny world, the liquid-flowing syllables,

  • The perfume, the faint creaking of the cordage, the melancholy rhythm,

  • The boundless vista and the horizon far and dim are all here,

  • And this is ocean's poem.

  • Then falter not O book, fulfil your destiny, You not a reminiscence of the land alone,

  • You too as a lone bark cleaving the ether, purpos'd I know not

  • whither, yet ever full of faith, Consort to every ship that sails, sail you!

  • Bear forth to them folded my love, (dear mariners, for you I fold it

  • here in every leaf;) Speed on my book! spread your white sails

  • my little bark athwart the imperious waves,

  • Chant on, sail on, bear o'er the boundless blue from me to every sea,

  • This song for mariners and all their ships.

  • To Foreign Lands

  • I heard that you ask'd for something to prove this puzzle the New World,

  • And to define America, her athletic Democracy, Therefore I send you my poems that you behold

  • in them what you wanted.

  • To a Historian

  • You who celebrate bygones, Who have explored the outward, the surfaces

  • of the races, the life that has exhibited itself,

  • Who have treated of man as the creature of politics, aggregates,

  • rulers and priests, I, habitan of the Alleghanies, treating of

  • him as he is in himself in his own rights,

  • Pressing the pulse of the life that has seldom exhibited itself,

  • (the great pride of man in himself,) Chanter of Personality, outlining what is

  • yet to be, I project the history of the future.

  • To Thee Old Cause

  • To thee old cause! Thou peerless, passionate, good cause,

  • Thou stern, remorseless, sweet idea, Deathless throughout the ages, races, lands,

  • After a strange sad war, great war for thee, (I think all war through time was really fought,

  • and ever will be really fought, for thee,)

  • These chants for thee, the eternal march of thee.

  • (A war O soldiers not for itself alone, Far, far more stood silently waiting behind,

  • now to advance in this book.)

  • Thou orb of many orbs! Thou seething principle! thou well-kept, latent

  • germ! thou centre! Around the idea of thee the war revolving,

  • With all its angry and vehement play of causes, (With vast results to come for thrice a thousand

  • years,) These recitatives for thee,--my book and the

  • war are one, Merged in its spirit I and mine, as the contest

  • hinged on thee, As a wheel on its axis turns, this book unwitting

  • to itself, Around the idea of thee.

  • Eidolons

  • I met a seer, Passing the hues and objects of the world,

  • The fields of art and learning, pleasure, sense,

  • To glean eidolons.

  • Put in thy chants said he, No more the puzzling hour nor day, nor segments,

  • parts, put in, Put first before the rest as light for all

  • and entrance-song of all, That of eidolons.

  • Ever the dim beginning, Ever the growth, the rounding of the circle,

  • Ever the summit and the merge at last, (to surely start again,)

  • Eidolons! eidolons!

  • Ever the mutable, Ever materials, changing, crumbling, re-cohering,

  • Ever the ateliers, the factories divine, Issuing eidolons.

  • Lo, I or you, Or woman, man, or state, known or unknown,

  • We seeming solid wealth, strength, beauty build,

  • But really build eidolons.

  • The ostent evanescent, The substance of an artist's mood or savan's

  • studies long, Or warrior's, martyr's, hero's toils,

  • To fashion his eidolon.

  • Of every human life, (The units gather'd, posted, not a thought,

  • emotion, deed, left out,) The whole or large or small summ'd, added

  • up, In its eidolon.

  • The old, old urge, Based on the ancient pinnacles, lo, newer,

  • higher pinnacles, From science and the modern still impell'd,

  • The old, old urge, eidolons.

  • The present now and here, America's busy, teeming, intricate whirl,

  • Of aggregate and segregate for only thence releasing,

  • To-day's eidolons.

  • These with the past, Of vanish'd lands, of all the reigns of kings

  • across the sea, Old conquerors, old campaigns, old sailors'

  • voyages, Joining eidolons.

  • Densities, growth, facades, Strata of mountains, soils, rocks, giant trees,

  • Far-born, far-dying, living long, to leave, Eidolons everlasting.

  • Exalte, rapt, ecstatic, The visible but their womb of birth,

  • Of orbic tendencies to shape and shape and shape,

  • The mighty earth-eidolon.

  • All space, all time, (The stars, the terrible perturbations of

  • the suns, Swelling, collapsing, ending, serving their

  • longer, shorter use,) Fill'd with eidolons only.

  • The noiseless myriads, The infinite oceans where the rivers empty,

  • The separate countless free identities, like eyesight,

  • The true realities, eidolons.

  • Not this the world, Nor these the universes, they the universes,

  • Purport and end, ever the permanent life of life,

  • Eidolons, eidolons.

  • Beyond thy lectures learn'd professor, Beyond thy telescope or spectroscope observer

  • keen, beyond all mathematics, Beyond the doctor's surgery, anatomy, beyond

  • the chemist with his chemistry, The entities of entities, eidolons.

  • Unfix'd yet fix'd, Ever shall be, ever have been and are,

  • Sweeping the present to the infinite future, Eidolons, eidolons, eidolons.

  • The prophet and the bard, Shall yet maintain themselves, in higher stages

  • yet, Shall mediate to the Modern, to Democracy,

  • interpret yet to them, God and eidolons.

  • And thee my soul, Joys, ceaseless exercises, exaltations,

  • Thy yearning amply fed at last, prepared to meet,

  • Thy mates, eidolons.

  • Thy body permanent, The body lurking there within thy body,

  • The only purport of the form thou art, the real I myself,

  • An image, an eidolon.

  • Thy very songs not in thy songs, No special strains to sing, none for itself,

  • But from the whole resulting, rising at last and floating,

  • A round full-orb'd eidolon.

  • For Him I Sing

  • For him I sing, I raise the present on the past,

  • (As some perennial tree out of its roots, the present on the past,)

  • With time and space I him dilate and fuse the immortal laws,

  • To make himself by them the law unto himself.

  • When I Read the Book

  • When I read the book, the biography famous, And is this then (said I) what the author

  • calls a man's life? And so will some one when I am dead and gone

  • write my life? (As if any man really knew aught of my life,

  • Why even I myself I often think know little or nothing of my real life,

  • Only a few hints, a few diffused faint clews and indirections

  • I seek for my own use to trace out here.)

  • Beginning My Studies

  • Beginning my studies the first step pleas'd me so much,

  • The mere fact consciousness, these forms, the power of motion,

  • The least insect or animal, the senses, eyesight, love,

  • The first step I say awed me and pleas'd me so much,

  • I have hardly gone and hardly wish'd to go any farther,

  • But stop and loiter all the time to sing it in ecstatic songs.

  • Beginners

  • How they are provided for upon the earth, (appearing at intervals,)

  • How dear and dreadful they are to the earth, How they inure to themselves as much as to

  • any--what a paradox appears their age,

  • How people respond to them, yet know them not,

  • How there is something relentless in their fate all times,

  • How all times mischoose the objects of their adulation and reward,

  • And how the same inexorable price must still be paid for the same

  • great purchase.

  • To the States

  • To the States or any one of them, or any city of the States, Resist

  • much, obey little, Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved,

  • Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city of this earth, ever

  • afterward resumes its liberty.

  • On Journeys Through the States

  • On journeys through the States we start, (Ay through the world, urged by these songs,

  • Sailing henceforth to every land, to every sea,)

  • We willing learners of all, teachers of all, and lovers of all.

  • We have watch'd the seasons dispensing themselves and passing on,

  • And have said, Why should not a man or woman do as much as the

  • seasons, and effuse as much?

  • We dwell a while in every city and town, We pass through Kanada, the North-east, the

  • vast valley of the Mississippi, and the Southern States,

  • We confer on equal terms with each of the States,

  • We make trial of ourselves and invite men and women to hear,

  • We say to ourselves, Remember, fear not, be candid, promulge the

  • body and the soul, Dwell a while and pass on, be copious, temperate,

  • chaste, magnetic, And what you effuse may then return as the

  • seasons return, And may be just as much as the seasons.

  • To a Certain Cantatrice

  • Here, take this gift, I was reserving it for some hero, speaker,

  • or general, One who should serve the good old cause, the

  • great idea, the progress and freedom of the race,

  • Some brave confronter of despots, some daring rebel;

  • But I see that what I was reserving belongs to you just as much as to any.

  • Me Imperturbe

  • Me imperturbe, standing at ease in Nature, Master of all or mistress of all, aplomb in

  • the midst of irrational things, Imbued as they, passive, receptive, silent

  • as they, Finding my occupation, poverty, notoriety,

  • foibles, crimes, less important than I thought,

  • Me toward the Mexican sea, or in the Mannahatta or the Tennessee,

  • or far north or inland, A river man, or a man of the woods or of any

  • farm-life of these States or of the coast, or the lakes or Kanada,

  • Me wherever my life is lived, O to be self-balanced for contingencies,

  • To confront night, storms, hunger, ridicule, accidents, rebuffs, as

  • the trees and animals do.

  • Savantism

  • Thither as I look I see each result and glory retracing itself and

  • nestling close, always obligated, Thither hours, months, years--thither trades,

  • compacts, establishments, even the most minute,

  • Thither every-day life, speech, utensils, politics, persons, estates;

  • Thither we also, I with my leaves and songs, trustful, admirant,

  • As a father to his father going takes his children along with him.

  • The Ship Starting

  • Lo, the unbounded sea, On its breast a ship starting, spreading all

  • sails, carrying even her moonsails.

  • The pennant is flying aloft as she speeds she speeds so stately--

  • below emulous waves press forward, They surround the ship with shining curving

  • motions and foam.

  • I Hear America Singing

  • I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

  • Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,

  • The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,

  • The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,

  • The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand

  • singing on the steamboat deck, The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench,

  • the hatter singing as he stands,

  • The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning,

  • or at noon intermission or at sundown, The delicious singing of the mother, or of

  • the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,

  • Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,

  • The day what belongs to the day--at night the party of young

  • fellows, robust, friendly, Singing with open mouths their strong melodious

  • songs.

  • What Place Is Besieged?

  • What place is besieged, and vainly tries to raise the siege?

  • Lo, I send to that place a commander, swift, brave, immortal,