American Poet, Journalist and Essayist
Walt Whitman, fully Walter "Walt" Whitman
American Poet, Journalist and Essayist
With every leaf a miracle . . . and from this bush in the door-yard, with delicate-colour'd blossoms, and heart-shaped leaves of rich green a sprig with its flower, I break.
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with such applause in the lecture room, how soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick; till rising and gliding out, I wander'd off by myself, in the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.
With music strong I come, with my cornets and my drums, I play not marches for accepted victors only, I play marches for conquer'd and slain persons. Have you heard that it was good to gain the day? I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won. I beat and pound for the dead, I blow through my embouchures my loudest and gayest for them. Vivas to those who have fail'd! And to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea! And to those themselves who sank in the sea! And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome heroes! And the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known!
When lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed and the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night, I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring. Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring, lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west, and thought of him I love.
With the holders holding my hand nearing the call of the bird, comrades mine and I in the midst, and their memory ever to keep, for the dead I loved so well, for the sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and lands—and this for his dear sake, lilac and star and bird twined with the chant of my soul, there in the fragrant pines and the cedars dusk and dim.
When Sherman’s armies, (long after they left Atlanta,) were marching through South and North Carolina—after leaving Savannah, the news of Lee’s capitulation having been receiv’d—the men never mov’d a mile without from some part of the line sending up continued, inspiriting shouts. At intervals all day long sounded out the wild music of those peculiar army cries. They would be commenc’d by one regiment or brigade, immediately taken up by others, and at length whole corps and armies would join in these wild triumphant choruses. It was one of the characteristic expressions of the western troops, and became a habit, serving as a relief and outlet to the men—a vent for their feelings of victory, returning peace, &c. Morning, noon, and afternoon, spontaneous, for occasion or without occasion, these huge, strange cries, differing from any other, echoing through the open air for many a mile, expressing youth, joy, wildness, irrepressible strength, and the ideas of advance and conquest, sounded along the swamps and uplands of the South, floating to the skies. This exuberance continued till the armies arrived at Raleigh. There the news of the President’s murder was receiv’d. Then no more shouts or yells, for a week. All the marching was comparatively muffled. It was very significant—hardly a loud word or laugh in many of the regiments. A hush and silence pervaded all.
Would you hear of an old-time sea-fight? Would you learn who won by the light of the moon and stars? List to the yarn, as my grandmother's father the sailor told it to me.
Where are your combing seas, your blue water, your rollers, your breakers, your whales, or your waterspouts, and your endless motion, in this bit of a forest, child?
Yet let me not be too hasty, long indeed have we lived, slept, filtered, become really blended into one.
Where the katydid works her chromatic reed on the walnut-tree over the well.
You have not known what you are--you have slumber'd upon yourself all your life; your eye-lids have been the same as closed most of the time; what you have done returns already in mockeries; your thrift, knowledge, prayers, if they do not return in mockeries, what is their return? The mockeries are not you; underneath them, and within them, I see you lurk.
While they stand at home at the door he is dead already, the only son is dead. But the mother needs to be better, she with thin form presently drest in black, by day her meals untouch'd, then at night fitfully sleeping, often waking, in the midnight waking, weeping, longing with one deep longing, O that she might withdraw unnoticed, silent from life escape and withdraw, to follow, to seek, to be with her dear dead son.
You have waited, you always wait, you dumb, beautiful ministers, we receive you with free sense at last, and are insatiate hence-forward, not you any more shall be able to foil us, or withhold yourselves from us, we use you, and do not cast you aside—we plant you permanently within us, we fathom you not—we love you—there is perfection in you also, you furnish your parts, toward eternity, great or small, you furnish your parts toward the soul.
Who do you think that was, marching steadily, sternly confronting death? It was the brigade of the youngest men, two thousand strong.
You must not know too much or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers and watercraft; a certain free-margin, and even vagueness - ignorance, credulity - helps your enjoyment of these things.
Whoever is not in his coffin and the dark grave, let him know he has enough.
You my rich blood! you milky stream pale strippings of my life! Breast that presses against other breasts it shall be you! My brain it shall be your occult convolutions! Root of washed sweet flag! timorous pond snipe! next of guarded duplicate eggs! it shall be you!
Whoever you are, motion and reflection are especially for you, the divine ship sails the divine sea for you.
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead,... You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me, You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.
Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you that you may be my poem I whisper with my lips close to your ear I have loved many women and men, but I love none better than you.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean, but I shall be good health to you nevertheless, and filter and fibre your blood. Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, missing me one place search another,I stop somewhere waiting for you.
Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
Your true soul and body appear before me. Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem, I whisper with my lips close to your ear, I have loved many women and men, but I love none better than you. O I have been dilatory and dumb, I should have made my way straight to you long ago, I should have blabb'd nothing but you, I should have chanted nothing but you. I will leave all and come and make the hymns of you, none has understood you, but I understand you, none has done justice to you, you have not done justice to yourself, none but has found you imperfect, I only find no imperfection in you, none but would subordinate you, I only am he who will never consent to subordinate you, I only am he who places over you no master, owner, better, God, beyond what waits instrinsically in yourself. O I could sing such grandeurs and glories about you! You have not known what you are, you have slumber'd upon yourself all your life, your eyelids have been the same as closed most of the time. I pursue you where none else has pursued you. Conceal you from others or from yourself, they do not conceal you from me. I give nothing to anyone except I give the like carefully to you. These immense meadows, these interminable rivers, you are immense and interminable as they, these furies, elements, storms, motions of Nature, throes of apparent dissolution, you are he or she who is master or mistress over them, Master or mistress in your own right over Nature, elements, pain, passion, dissolution.
Why should I pray? Why should I venerate and be ceremonious?
Your very flesh shall be a great poem.