American Poet, Journalist and Essayist
Walt Whitman, fully Walter "Walt" Whitman
American Poet, Journalist and Essayist
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.
When I clutch'd your hand, it was not with terror; but suddenly, pouring about me here, on every side, and below there where the boys were drilling, and up the slopes they ran, and where tents are pitch'd, and wherever you see, south and south-east and south-west, over hills, across lowlands, and in the skirts of woods, and along the shores, in mire (now fill'd over,) came again, and suddenly raged, as eighty-five years a-gone, no mere parade receiv'd with applause of friends, but a battle, which I took part in myself—aye, long ago as it is, I took part in it, walking then this hill-top, this same ground.
Why should I wish to see God better than this day? I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then, in the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass; I find letters from God dropped in the street, and everyone is signed by God's name, and I leave them where they are, for I know that others will punctually come forever and ever.
Youth, large, lusty, loving -- Youth, full of grace, force, fascination. Do you know that Old Age may come after you with equal grace, force, fascination?
When I heard at the close of the day how my name had been receiv’d with plaudits in the capitol, still it was not a happy night for me that follow’d, and else when I carous’d, or when my plans were accomplish’d, still I was not happy, but the day when I rose at dawn from the bed of perfect health, refresh’d, singing, inhaling the ripe breath of autumn, when I saw the full moon in the west grow pale and disappear in the morning light, when I wander’d alone over the beach, and undressing bathed, laughing with the cool waters, and saw the sun rise, and when I thought how my dear friend my lover was on his way coming, O then I was happy, O then each breath tasted sweeter, and all that day my food nourish’d me more, and the beautiful day pass’d well, and the next came with equal joy, and with the next at evening came my friend, and that night while all was still I heard the waters roll slowly continually up the shores, I heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and sands as directed to me whispering to congratulate me, for the one I love most lay sleeping by me under the same cover in the cool night, in the stillness in the autumn moonbeams his face was inclined toward me, and his arm lay lightly around my breast – and that night I was happy.
Why! who makes much of a miracle? As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles, whether I walk the streets of Manhattan, or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky, or wade with naked feet along the beach, just in the edge of the water, or stand under trees in the woods, or talk by day with any one I love--or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love, or sit at table at dinner with my mother, or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car, or watch honey-bees busy around the hive, of a summer forenoon, or animals feeding in the fields, or birds--or the wonderfulness of insects in the air, or the wonderfulness of the sun-down--or of stars shining so quiet and bright, or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new moon in spring; or whether I go among those I like best, and that like me best--mechanics, boatmen, farmers, or among the savans--or to the soiree--or to the opera, or stand a long while looking at the movements of machinery, or behold children at their sports, or the admirable sight of the perfect old man, or the perfect old woman,or the sick in hospitals, or the dead carried to burial, or my own eyes and figure in the glass; these, with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles, the whole referring--yet each distinct, and in its place. To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle, every cubic inch of space is a miracle, every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same, every foot of the interior swarms with the same; every spear of grass--the frames, limbs, organs, of men and women, and all that concerns them, all these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles. To me the sea is a continual miracle; The fishes that swim--the rocks--the motion of the waves--the ships, with men in them, what stranger miracles are there?
When I heard the learn’d astronomer; when the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me; when I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them; when I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much 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.
Wisdom is not finally tested in schools, Wisdom cannot be pass'd from one having it to another not having it, Wisdom is of the soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its own proof, Applies to all stages and objects and qualities and is content, Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of things, and the excellence of things; Something there is in the float of the sight of things that provokes it out of the soul.
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 someone 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.)
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?