American Poet, Journalist and Essayist
Walt Whitman, fully Walter "Walt" Whitman
American Poet, Journalist and Essayist
The last sunbeam lightly falls from the finished Sabbath, on the pavement here, and there beyond it is looking, down a new-made double grave.
The revolver rules, the revolver is triumphant.
Thee for my recitative, thee in the driving storm even as now, the snow, the winter-day declining, thee in thy panoply, thy measur'd dual throbbing and thy beat convulsive, thy black cylindric body, golden brass and silvery steel.
There's a man in the world who is never turned down, wherever he chances to stray; he gets the glad hand in the populous town, or out where the farmers make hay; he's greeted with pleasure on deserts of sand, and deep in the aisles of the woods; wherever he goes there's a welcoming hand-he's the man who delivers the goods.
Though he would sometimes not touch a book for a week, he generally spent part of each day in reading…if he sat in the library an hour, he would have half a dozen volumes around him, on the table, on chairs and on the floor. He seemed to read a few pages here and a few pages there, and pass from place to place, from volume to volume…sometimes (though very rarely) he would get sufficiently interested in a volume to read it all.
To You, whoever you are, I fear you are walking the walks of dreams, I fear these supposed realities are to melt from under your feet and hands; even now, your features, joys, speech, house, trade, manners, troubles, follies, costume, crimes, dissipate away from you, your true Soul and Body appear before me, they stand forth out of affairs—out of commerce, shops, law, science, work, forms, clothes, the house, medicine, print, buying, selling, eating, drinking, suffering, dying. 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 have understood you, but I understand you; none have done justice to you—you have not done justice to yourself; none but have 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 intrinsically in yourself. Painters have painted their swarming groups, and the centre figure of all; from the head of the centre figure spreading a nimbus of gold-color’d light; but I paint myriads of heads, but paint no head without its nimbus of gold-color’d light; from my hand, from the brain of every man and woman it streams, effulgently flowing forever. 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 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; I pursue you where none else has pursued you; silence, the desk, the flippant expression, the night, the accustom’d routine, if these conceal you from others, or from yourself, they do not conceal you from me; the shaved face, the unsteady eye, the impure complexion, if these balk others, they do not balk me,
We fought the fight in detachments; sallying forth, we fought at several points—but in each the luck was against us; our foe advancing, steadily getting the best of it, push'd us back to the works on this hill; till we turn'd menacing, here, and then he left us.
The crowded line of masons with trowels in their right hands, rapidly laying the long sidewall, 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 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 regular, setting the studs by their tenons in the mortises, according as they were prepared, the blows of the mallets and hammers.
The memory of a particular image is but regret for a particular moment, and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years.
The road to wisdom is paved with excess. The mark of a true writer is their ability to mystify the familiar and familiarize the strange.
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.