Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Walt Whitman, fully Walter "Walt" Whitman

American Poet, Journalist and Essayist

"[Paraphrase] The commonplace is the grandest of all things; that the exceptional in any line is no finer, better or more beautiful than the usual, and that what is really wanting is not that we should possess something we have not at present, but that our eyes should be opened to see and our hearts to feel what we all have."

"All the things of the universe are perfect miracles, each as profound as any."

"All truths wait in all things, they neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it... I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars."

"Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touched from; the scent of these arm-pits is aroma finer than prayer, this head is more than churches or bibles or creeds. "

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; (I am large. I contain multitudes)."

"Faith is the antiseptic of the soul."

"Grand is the seen, the light, to me - grand are the sky and stars, grand is the earth, and grand are lasting time and space, but grander far the unseen soul of me, comprehending, endowing all those, lighting the slight, the sky and stars, delving the earth, sailing the sea, (what were all those, indeed, without thee, unseen soul? of what amount without thee?) More evolutionary, vast, puzzling, O my soul! More multiform far - more lasting thou than they."

"Have you learn’d lessons only of those who admired you, and were tender with you and stood aside for you? Have you not learn’d great lessons from those who reject you, and brace themselves against you? or who treat you with contempt, or dispute the passage with you?"

"Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune."

"I am an acme of things accomplished, and I am an encloser of things to be."

"I celebrate myself, and sing myself, and what I assume you shall assume, for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. I loafe and invite my soul, I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass… I think I could turn and live with animals, they're so placid and self-contained, I stand and look at them and long. They do not sweat and whine about their condition. They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins. They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God, not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things, not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago, not one is respectable or unhappy over the earth… The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab and loitering. I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world. "

"I do not ask who you are, that is not important to me, you can do nothing and be nothing but what I will infold you."

"I give nothing as duties. What others give as duties I give as living impulses (shall I give the heart’s action as a duty?)"

"I tramp a perpetual journey... Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you, you must travel it for yourself."

"Nothing endures but personal qualities."

"Simplicity is the glory of expression. The whole theory of the universe is directed unerringly to one single individual."

"Some people are so much sunshine to the square inch."

"The melancholy prudence of the abandonment of such a great being as a man is to the toss and pallor of years of money making with all their scorching days and icy nights... is the great fraud upon modern civilization."

"The soul is of itself, all verges to it, all has reference to what ensures, all that a person does, says, thinks, is of consequence, not a move can a man or woman make, that affects him or her in a day, month, any part of the direct lifetime, or the hour of death, but the same affects him or her onward afterward through the indirect lifetime. The indirect is just as much as the direct, the spirit receives from the body just as much as it gives to the body, if not more."

"The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab and my loitering. I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world."

"Then still a purpose enclosing all, and over and beneath all, ever since what might be call’d thought, or the budding of thought, fairly began in my youthful mind, I had had a desire to attempt some worthy record of that entire faith and acceptance to justify the ways of God to man... which is the foundation of moral America... to formulate a poem whose every thought or fact should directly or indirectly be or connive at an implicit belief in the wisdom, health, mystery, beauty of every process, every concrete object, every human or other existence, not only consider’d from the point of view of all, but of each. While I can not understand it or argue it out, I fully believe in a clue and purpose in Nature, entire and several; and that invisible spiritual results, just as real and definite as the visible, eventuate all concrete life and all materialism through Time."

"What do you suppose I would intimate to you in a hundred ways but that man or woman is as good as God? And that there is no God any more divine than yourself."

"Whatever satisfies souls is true; prudence entirely satisfies the craving and glut of souls, itself only finally satisfies the soul, the soul has that measureless pride which revolts from every lesson but its own."

"When I give, I give myself."

"Whoever degrades another degrades me, and whatever is done or said returns at last to me."

"Wisdom is of the soul, it is not susceptible of proof, it 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 flot of the sight of things that provokes it out of the soul."

"Wisdom is of the soul; cannot be passed from one having it to another not having it."

"As soon as histories are properly told there is no more need of romances."

"Behold, I do not give lectures or a little charity, when I give I give myself."

"Bring the muse into the kitchen."

"Camerado, this is no book. Who touches this, touches a man."

"I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars, and the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg of the wren, and the tree-toad is a chef-d’oeuvre for the highest, and the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven, and the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery, and the cow crunching with depress’d head surpasses any statue, and a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels."

"I have said that the soul is not more than the body, and I have said that the body is not more than the soul, and nothing, not God, is greater to one than one's self is, and whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own funeral drest in his shroud, and I or you pocketless of a dime may purchase the pick of the earth, and to glance with an eye or show a bean in its pod confounds the learning of all times, and there is no trade or employment but the young man following it may become a hero, and there is no object so soft but it makes a hub for the wheel'd universe, and I say to any man or woman, Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes. And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God, for I who am curious about each am not curious about God, (No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and about death.) I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least, nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself. 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 dropt in the street, and everyone is sign'd by God's name, and I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe'er I go, others will punctually come for ever and ever. "

"I say there can be no safety for these States without innovators - without free tongues, and ears willing to hear the tongues."

"Did we think victory great? So it is - but now it seems to me, when it cannot be helped, that defeat is great and that death and dismay are great."

"Here is the test of wisdom, 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."

"Did you guess any thing lived only its moment? The world does not so exist, no parts palpable or impalpable so exist, no consummation exists without being from some long previous consummation, and that from some other, without the farthest conceivable one coming a bit nearer the beginning than any."

"Each of us inevitable, each of us limitless - each of us with his or her right upon the earth, each of us allow’d the eternal purports of the earth, each of us here as divinely as any is here."

"Lo, soul, seest thou not God’s purpose from the first? The earth to be spann’d, connected by network, the races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage, the oceans to be cross’d, the distant brought near, the lands to be welded together."

"Not from successful love alone, nor wealth, nor honor’d middle age, nor victories of politics or war; but as life wanes, and all the turbulent passions calm, as gorgeous, vapory, silent hues cover the evening sky, as softness, fulness, rest, suffuse the frame, like fresher, balmier air, as days take on a mellower light, and the apple at last hangs really finish’d and indolent-ripe on the tree, then for the teeming quietest, happiest days of all! The brooding and blissful halcyon days!"

"Nothing can happen more beautiful than death."

"Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost, no birth, identity, form - no object of the world. Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing; appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere confuse thy brain. Ample are time and space - ample the fields of Nature. The body, sluggish, aged, cold - the embers left from earlier fires, the sun now low in the west rises for mornings and for noons continual; to frozen clods ever the spring’s invisible law returns, with grass and flower and fruits and corn."

"If any thing is sacred, the human body is sacred."

"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 wherever I go, others will punctually come for ever and ever"

"It is provided in the essence of things that from any fruition of success, no matter what, shall come forth something to make a greater struggle necessary."

"The art of art, the glory of expression, and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity."

"The clock indicates the moment - but what does eternity indicate?"

"Produce great men, the rest follows."

"Roaming in thought over the Universe, I saw the little that is Good steadily hastening towards immortality. And the vast all that is call'd Evil I saw hastening to merge itself and become lost and dead."

"Of all mankind the great poet is the equable man. Not in him but off from him things are grotesque or eccentric or fail of their sanity."