American Poet, Journalist and Essayist
Walt Whitman, fully Walter "Walt" Whitman
American Poet, Journalist and Essayist
This day before dawn I ascended a hill and looked at the crowded heaven.
Thy madly-whistled laughter, echoing, rumbling like an earthquake, rousing all, law of thyself complete, thine own track firmly holding, (No sweetness debonair of tearful harp or glib piano thine,) thy trills of shrieks by rocks and hills return'd, launch'd o'er the prairies wide, across the lakes, to the free skies unpent and glad and strong.
Type of the modern—emblem of motion and power—pulse of the continent.
What am I, after all, but a child, pleas’d with the sound of my own name? repeating it over and over; I stand apart to hear—it never tires me.
The female that loves unrequited sleeps, and the male that loves unrequited sleeps, the head of the money-maker that plotted all day sleeps, and the enraged and treacherous dispositions, all, all sleep.
The past and the present wilt. I have fill’d them, emptied them, and proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death; and if ever there was, it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it, and ceas’d the moment life appear’d. All goes onward and outward—nothing collapses; and to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.
This dust was once the man, gentle, plain, just and resolute, under whose cautious hand, against the foulest crime in history known in any land or age, was saves the Union of these States.
Till at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the dawn appear'd, my comrade I wrapt in his blanket, envelop'd well his form, folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully overhead and arefully under feet, and there and then and bathed by the rising sun, my son in his grave, in his rude-dug grave I deposited, ending my vigil strange with that, vigil of night and battle-field dim, vigil for boy of responding kisses, ( never again on earth responding,) vigil for comrade swiftly slain, vigil I never forget, how as day brighten'd, I rose from the chill ground and folded my soldier well in his blanket, and buried him where he fell.
Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!
What blurt is this about virtue and about vice? Evil propels me and reform of evil propels me, I stand indifferent, my gait is no fault-finder's or rejecter's gait, I moisten the roots of all that has grown.
In the swamp in secluded recesses, a shy and hidden bird is warbling a song. Solitary the thrush, the hermit withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements, sings by himself a song. Song of the bleeding throat, death's outlet song of life, (for well dear brother I know, if thou wast not granted to sing thou would'st surely die.)
Language is not an abstract construction of the learned, or of dictionary-makers, but is something arising out of the work, needs, ties, joys, affections, tastes, of long generations of humanity, and has its bases broad and low, close to the ground.
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man; let not the child's voice be heard, nor the mother's entreaties; make even the trestles to shake the dead, where they lie awaiting the hearses, so strong you thump, O terrible drums—so loud you bugles blow.
Now understand me well. Out of every fruition of success, no matter what, comes forth something to make a new effort necessary.
O the joy of manly self-hood! To be servile to none, to defer to none, not to any tyrant, known our unknown. To walk with erect carriage, a step springy and elastic. To look with calm gaze or with a flashing eye, To speak with a full and sonorous voice out of a broad chest. To confront with your personality all the other personalities of the earth.
Oh, to be alive in such an age, when miracles are everywhere, and every inch of common air throbs a tremendous prophecy, of greater marvels yet to be.
Out of the cradle endlessly rocking, out of the mocking-bird’s throat, the musical shuttle, out of the Ninth-month midnight, over the sterile sands, and the fields beyond, where the child, leaving his bed, wander’d alone, bare-headed, barefoot, down from the shower’d halo, up from the mystic play of shadows, twining and twisting as if they were alive, out from the patches of briers and blackberries, from the memories of the bird that chanted to me, from your memories, sad brother—from the fitful risings and fallings I heard, from under that yellow half-moon, late-risen, and swollen as if with tears, from those beginning notes of sickness and love, there in the transparent mist, from the thousand responses of my heart, never to cease, from the myriad thence-arous’d words, from the word stronger and more delicious than any, from such, as now they start, the scene revisiting, as a flock, twittering, rising, or overhead passing, borne hither—ere all eludes me, hurriedly, a man—yet by these tears a little boy again, throwing myself on the sand, confronting the waves, I, chanter of pains and joys, uniter of here and hereafter, taking all hints to use them—but swiftly leaping beyond them, a reminiscence sing.
Saw I your gait and saw I your sinewy limbs, clothed in blue, bearing weapons, robust year; heard your determin'd voice, launch'd forth again and again; year that suddenly sang by the mouths of the round lipp'd cannon, I repeat you, hurrying, crashing, sad, distracted year.
Somehow I have been stunned. Stand back! Give me a little time beyond my cuffed head and slumbers and dreams and gaping, I discover myself on the verge of the usual mistake.
The American bards shall be marked for generosity and affection and for encouraging competitors… The great poets are also to be known by the absence in them of tricks and by the justification of perfect personal candor… How beautiful is candor! All faults may be forgiven of him who has perfect candor.
In this broad earth of ours, amid the measureless grossness and the slag, enclosed and safe within its central heart, nestles the seed perfection.