American Poet, Journalist and Essayist
Walt Whitman, fully Walter "Walt" Whitman
American Poet, Journalist and Essayist
Their manners, speech, dress, friendships, -- the freshness and candor of their physiognomy -- the picturesque looseness of their carriage -- their deathless attachment to freedom -- their aversion to anything indecorous or soft or mean -- the practical acknowledgment of the citizens of one state by the citizens of all other states -- the fierceness of their roused resentment -- their curiosity and welcome of novelty -- their self-esteem and wonderful sympathy -- their susceptibility to a slight -- the air they have of persons who never knew how it felt to stand in the presence of superiors -- the fluency of their speech -- their delight in music, a sure symptom of manly tenderness and native elegance of soul -- their good temper and open-handedness -- the terrible significance of their elections, the President's taking off his hat to them, not they to him -- these too are unrhymed poetry. It awaits the gigantic and generous treatment worthy of it.
These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they are not original with me, if they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or next to nothing, if they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle they are nothing, if they are not just as close as they are distant they are nothing. This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is, this the common air that bathes the globe.
Thought of equality- as if it harm'd me, giving others the same chances and rights as myself- as if it were not indispensable to my own rights that others possess the same.
Touch me, touch the palm of your hand to my body as I pass, be not afraid of my body.
We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger, we, the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend, Pioneers! O pioneers!
The culmination and fruit of literary artistic expression, and its final fields of pleasure for the human soul, are in metaphysics, including the mysteries of the spiritual world, the soul itself, and the question of immortal continuation of our identify.
The moon gives you light, and the bugles and the drums give you music, and my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans, my heart gives you love.
The scent of these arm-pits is aroma finer than prayer.
Then dearest child mournest thou only for Jupiter? Considerest thou alone the burial of the stars?
These are the days that must happen to you.
Thought of obedience, faith, adhesiveness; as I stand aloof and look there is to me something profoundly affecting in large masses of men following the lead of those who do not believe in men.
Trippers and askers surround me, people I meet, the effect upon me of my early life or the ward and city I live in, or the nation, the latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old and new, my dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues, the real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love, the sickness of one of my folks or of myself, or ill-doing or loss or lack of money, or depressions or exaltations, battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news, the fitful events; these come to me days and nights and go from me again, but they are not the Me myself. Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am, stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary, looks down, is erect, or bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest, looking with side-curved head curious what will come next, both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it. Backward I see in my own days where I sweated through fog with linguists and contenders, I have no mockings or arguments, I witness and wait.
We two boys together clinging, one the other never leaving, up and down the roads going, North and South excursions making, power enjoying, elbows stretching, fingers clutching, arm'd and fearless, eating, drinking, sleeping, loving. No law less than ourselves owning, sailing, soldiering, thieving, threatening, misers, menials, priests alarming, air breathing, water drinking, on the turf or the sea-beach dancing, cities wrenching, ease scorning, statutes mocking, feebleness chasing, fulfilling our foray.
The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul.
The secret of it all is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood, of the moment – to put things down without deliberation – without worrying about their style – without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote – wrote, wrote…By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught.
Then to the third—a face nor child nor old, very calm, as of beautiful yellow-white ivory, young man I think I know you—I think this face is the face of the Christ himself, dead and divine and brother of all, and here again he lies.
These demanding to have them, (tired with ceaseless excitement, and rack'd by the war-strife,) these to procure incessantly asking, rising in cries from my heart, while yet incessantly asking still I adhere to my city, day upon day and year upon year O city, walking your streets, where you hold me enchain'd a certain time refusing to give me up,
Three forms I see on stretchers lying, brought out there untended lying, over each the blanket spread, ample brownish woolen blanket, gray and heavy blanket, folding, covering all.
Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking and breeding, no sentimentalist, no stander above men and women or apart from them, no more modest than immodest. Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs! Whoever degrades another degrades me, and whatever is done or said returns at last to me. Through me the afflatus surging and surging, through me the current and index.
The dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book.
The new recruits, even boys—the old men show them how to wear their accoutrements—they buckle the straps carefully; outdoors arming—indoors arming—the flash of the musket-barrels; the white tents cluster in camps—the arm'd sentries around—the sunrise cannon, and again at sunset; arm'd regiments arrive every day, pass through the city, and embark from the wharves; (How good they look, as they tramp down to the river, sweaty, with their guns on their shoulders! How I love them! how I could hug them, with their brown faces, and their clothes and knapsacks cover'd with dust!) The blood of the city up—arm'd! arm'd! the cry everywhere; the flags flung out from the steeples of churches, and from all the public buildings and stores; the tearful parting—the mother kisses her son—the son kisses his mother; (Loth is the mother to part—yet not a word does she speak to detain him.)
The shallow consider liberty a release from all law, from every constraint. The wise man sees in it, on the contrary, the potent Law of Laws, namely, the fusion and combination of the conscious will, or partial individual law, with those universal, eternal, unconscious ones which run through all Time, pervade history, prove immortality, give moral purpose to the entire objective world, and the last dignity to human life.