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Leaves of Grass

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The wild gander leads his flock through the cool night, Ya-honk he says, and sounds it down to me like an invitation, The pert may suppose it meaningless, but I listening close, Find its purpose and place up there toward the wintry sky. The sharp-hoof'd moose of the north, the cat on the house-sill, the chickadee, the prairie-dog, The litter of the grunting sow as they tug at her teats, The brood of the turkey-hen and she with her half-spread wings, I see in them and myself the same old law. The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred affections, They scorn the best I can do to relate them. I am enamour'd of growing out-doors, Of men that live among cattle or taste of the ocean or woods, Of the builders and steerers of ships and the wielders of axes and mauls, and the drivers of horses, I can eat and sleep with them week in and week out. What is commonest, cheapest, nearest, easiest, is Me, Me going in for my chances, spending for vast returns, Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that will take me, Not asking the sky to come down to my good will, Scattering it freely forever. 15 The pure contralto sings in the organ loft, The carpenter dresses his plank, the tongue of his foreplane whistles its wild ascending lisp, The married and unmarried children ride home to their Thanksgiving dinner, The pilot seizes the king-pin, he heaves down with a strong arm, The mate stands braced in the whale-boat, lance and harpoon are ready, The duck-shooter walks by silent and cautious stretches, The deacons are ordain'd with cross'd hands at the altar, The spinning-girl retreats and advances to the hum of the big wheel, The farmer stops by the bars as he walks on a First-day loafe and looks at the oats and rye, The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum a confirm'd case, (He will never sleep any more as he did in the cot in his mother's bed-room;) The jour printer with gray head and gaunt jaws works at his case, He turns his quid of tobacco while his eyes blurr with the manuscript; The malform'd limbs are tied to the surgeon's table, What is removed drops horribly in a pail; The quadroon girl is sold at the auction-stand, the drunkard nods by the bar-room stove, The machinist rolls up his sleeves, the policeman travels his beat, the gate-keeper marks who pass, The young fellow drives the express-wagon, (I love him, though I do not know him;) The half-breed straps on his light boots to compete in the race, The western turkey-shooting draws old and young, some lean on their rifles, some sit on logs, Out from the crowd steps the marksman, takes his position, levels his piece; The groups of newly-come immigrants cover the wharf or levee, As the woolly-pates hoe in the sugar-field, the overseer views them from his saddle, The bugle calls in the ball-room, the gentlemen run for their partners, the dancers bow to each other, The youth lies awake in the cedar-roof'd garret and harks to the musical rain, The Wolverine sets traps on the creek that helps fill the Huron, The squaw wrapt in her yellow-hemm'd cloth is offering moccasins and bead-bags for sale, The connoisseur peers along the exhibition-gallery with half-shut eyes bent sideways, As the deck-hands make fast the steamboat the plank is thrown for the shore-going passengers, The young sister holds out the skein while the elder sister winds it off in a ball, and stops now and then for the knots, The one-year wife is recovering and happy having a week ago borne her first child, The clean-hair'd Yankee girl works with her sewing-machine or in the factory or mill, The paving-man leans on his two-handed rammer, the reporter's lead flies swiftly over the note-book, the sign-painter is lettering with blue and gold, The canal boy trots on the tow-path, the book-keeper counts at his desk, the shoemaker waxes his thread, The conductor beats time for the band and all the performers follow him, The child is baptized, the convert is making his first professions, The regatta is spread on the bay, the race is begun, (how the white sails sparkle!) The drover watching his drove sings out to them that would stray, The pedler sweats with his pack on his back, (the purchaser higgling about the odd cent;) The bride unrumples her white dress, the minute-hand of the clock moves slowly, The opium-eater reclines with rigid head and just-open'd lips, The prostitute draggles her shawl, her bonnet bobs on her tipsy and pimpled neck, The crowd laugh at her blackguard oaths, the men jeer and wink to each other, (Miserable! I do not laugh at your oaths nor jeer you;) The President holding a cabinet council is surrounded by the great Secretaries, On the piazza walk three matrons stately and friendly with twined arms, The crew of the fish-smack pack repeated layers of halibut in the hold, The Missourian crosses the plains toting his wares and his cattle, As the fare-collector goes through the train he gives notice by the jingling of loose change, The floor-men are laying the floor, the tinners are tinning the roof, the masons are calling for mortar, In single file each shouldering his hod pass onward the laborers; Seasons pursuing each other the indescribable crowd is gather'd, it is the fourth of Seventh-month, (what salutes of cannon and small arms!) Seasons pursuing each other the plougher ploughs, the mower mows, and the winter-grain falls in the ground; Off on the lakes the pike-fisher watches and waits by the hole in the frozen surface, The stumps stand thick round the clearing, the squatter strikes deep with his axe, Flatboatmen make fast towards dusk near the cotton-wood or pecan-trees, Coon-seekers go through the regions of the Red river or through those drain'd by the Tennessee, or through those of the Arkansas, Torches shine in the dark that hangs on the Chattahooche or Altamahaw, Patriarchs sit at supper with sons and grandsons and great-grandsons around them, In walls of adobie, in canvas tents, rest hunters and trappers after their day's sport, The city sleeps and the country sleeps, The living sleep for their time, the dead sleep for their time, The old husband sleeps by his wife and the young husband sleeps by his wife; And these tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them, And such as it is to be of these more or less I am, And of these one and all I weave the song of myself. 16 I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise, Regardless of others, ever regardful of others, Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man, Stuff'd with the stuff that is coarse and stuff'd with the stuff that is fine, One of the Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the largest the same, A Southerner soon as a Northerner, a planter nonchalant and hospitable down by the Oconee I live, A Yankee bound my own way ready for trade, my joints the limberest joints on earth and the sternest joints on earth, A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in my deer-skin leggings, a Louisianian or Georgian, A boatman over lakes or bays or along coasts, a Hoosier, Badger, Buckeye; At home on Kanadian snow-shoes or up in the bush, or with fishermen off Newfoundland, At home in the fleet of ice-boats, sailing with the rest and tacking, At home on the hills of Vermont or in the woods of Maine, or the Texan ranch, Comrade of Californians, comrade of free North-Westerners, (loving their big proportions,) Comrade of raftsmen and coalmen, comrade of all who shake hands and welcome to drink and meat, A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the thoughtfullest, A novice beginning yet experient of myriads of seasons, Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion, A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor, quaker, Prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician, priest. I resist any thing better than my own diversity, Breathe the air but leave plenty after me, And am not stuck up, and am in my place. (The moth and the fish-eggs are in their place, The bright suns I see and the dark suns I cannot see are in their place, The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place.) 17 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. 18 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! 19 This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger, It is for the wicked just same as the righteous, I make appointments with all, I will not have a single person slighted or left away, The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited, The heavy-lipp'd slave is invited, the venerealee is invited; There shall be no difference between them and the rest. This is the press of a bashful hand, this the float and odor of hair, This the touch of my lips to yours, this the murmur of yearning, This the far-off depth and height reflecting my own face, This the thoughtful merge of myself, and the outlet again. Do you guess I have some intricate purpose? Well I have, for the Fourth-month showers have, and the mica on the side of a rock has. Do you take it I would astonish? Does the daylight astonish? does the early redstart twittering through the woods? Do I astonish more than they? This hour I tell things in confidence, I might not tell everybody, but I will tell you. 20 Who goes there? hankering, gross, mystical, nude; How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat? What is a man anyhow? what am I? what are you? All I mark as my own you shall offset it with your own, Else it were time lost listening to me. I do not snivel that snivel the world over, That months are vacuums and the ground but wallow and filth. Whimpering and truckling fold with powders for invalids, conformity goes to the fourth-remov'd, I wear my hat as I please indoors or out. Why should I pray? why should I venerate and be ceremonious? Having pried through the strata, analyzed to a hair, counsel'd with doctors and calculated close, I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones. In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn less, And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them. I know I am solid and sound, To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow, All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means. I know I am deathless, I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter's compass, I know I shall not pass like a child's carlacue cut with a burnt stick at night. I know I am august, I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood, I see that the elementary laws never apologize, (I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by, after all.) I exist as I am, that is enough, If no other in the world be aware I sit content, And if each and all be aware I sit content. One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself, And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or ten million years, I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait. My foothold is tenon'd and mortis'd in granite, I laugh at what you call dissolution, And I know the amplitude of time. 21 I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul, The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me, The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate into new tongue. I am the poet of the woman the same as the man, And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man, And I say there is nothing greater than the mother of men. I chant the chant of dilation or pride, We have had ducking and deprecating about enough, I show that size is only development. Have you outstript the rest? are you the President? It is a trifle, they will more than arrive there every one, and still pass on. I am he that walks with the tender and growing night, I call to the earth and sea half-held by the night. Press close bare-bosom'd night—press close magnetic nourishing night! Night of south winds—night of the large few stars! Still nodding night—mad naked summer night. Smile O voluptuous cool-breath'd earth! Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees! Earth of departed sunset—earth of the mountains misty-topt! Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon just tinged with blue! Earth of shine and dark mottling the tide of the river! Earth of the limpid gray of clouds brighter and clearer for my sake! Far-swooping elbow'd earth—rich apple-blossom'd earth! Smile, for your lover comes. Prodigal, you have given me love—therefore I to you give love! O unspeakable passionate love. 22 You sea! I resign myself to you also—I guess what you mean, I behold from the beach your crooked fingers, I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me, We must have a turn together, I undress, hurry me out of sight of the land, Cushion me soft, rock me in billowy drowse, Dash me with amorous wet, I can repay you. Sea of stretch'd ground-swells, Sea breathing broad and convulsive breaths, Sea of the brine of life and of unshovell'd yet always-ready graves, Howler and scooper of storms, capricious and dainty sea, I am integral with you, I too am of one phase and of all phases. Partaker of influx and efflux I, extoller of hate and conciliation, Extoller of amies and those that sleep in each others' arms. I am he attesting sympathy, (Shall I make my list of things in the house and skip the house that supports them?) I am not the poet of goodness only, I do not decline to be the poet of wickedness also. 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. Did you fear some scrofula out of the unflagging pregnancy? Did you guess the celestial laws are yet to be work'd over and rectified? I find one side a balance and the antipedal side a balance, Soft doctrine as steady help as stable doctrine, Thoughts and deeds of the present our rouse and early start. This minute that comes to me over the past decillions, There is no better than it and now. What behaved well in the past or behaves well to-day is not such wonder, The wonder is always and always how there can be a mean man or an infidel. 23 Endless unfolding of words of ages! And mine a word of the modern, the word En-Masse. A word of the faith that never balks, Here or henceforward it is all the same to me, I accept Time absolutely. It alone is without flaw, it alone rounds and completes all, That mystic baffling wonder alone completes all. I accept Reality and dare not question it, Materialism first and last imbuing. Hurrah for positive science! long live exact demonstration! Fetch stonecrop mixt with cedar and branches of lilac, This is the lexicographer, this the chemist, this made a grammar of the old cartouches, These mariners put the ship through dangerous unknown seas. This is the geologist, this works with the scalper, and this is a mathematician. Gentlemen, to you the first honors always! Your facts are useful, and yet they are not my dwelling, I but enter by them to an area of my dwelling. Less the reminders of properties told my words, And more the reminders they of life untold, and of freedom and extrication, And make short account of neuters and geldings, and favor men and women fully equipt, And beat the gong of revolt, and stop with fugitives and them that plot and conspire. 24 Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son, 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. I speak the pass-word primeval, I give the sign of democracy, By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms. Through me many long dumb voices, Voices of the interminable generations of prisoners and slaves, Voices of the diseas'd and despairing and of thieves and dwarfs, Voices of cycles of preparation and accretion, And of the threads that connect the stars, and of wombs and of the father-stuff, And of the rights of them the others are down upon, Of the deform'd, trivial, flat, foolish, despised, Fog in the air, beetles rolling balls of dung. Through me forbidden voices, Voices of sexes and lusts, voices veil'd and I remove the veil, Voices indecent by me clarified and transfigur'd. I do not press my fingers across my mouth, I keep as delicate around the bowels as around the head and heart, Copulation is no more rank to me than death is. I believe in the flesh and the appetites, Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each part and tag of me is a miracle. Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touch'd from, The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer, This head more than churches, bibles, and all the creeds. If I worship one thing more than another it shall be the spread of my own body, or any part of it, Translucent mould of me it shall be you! Shaded ledges and rests it shall be you! Firm masculine colter it shall be you! Whatever goes to the tilth of me it shall be you! You my rich blood! your 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 wash'd sweet-flag! timorous pond-snipe! nest of guarded duplicate eggs! it shall be you! Mix'd tussled hay of head, beard, brawn, it shall be you! Trickling sap of maple, fibre of manly wheat, it shall be you! Sun so generous it shall be you! Vapors lighting and shading my face it shall be you! You sweaty brooks and dews it shall be you! Winds whose soft-tickling genitals rub against me it shall be you! Broad muscular fields, branches of live oak, loving lounger in my winding paths, it shall be you! Hands I have taken, face I have kiss'd, mortal I have ever touch'd, it shall be you. I dote on myself, there is that lot of me and all so luscious, Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy, I cannot tell how my ankles bend, nor whence the cause of my faintest wish, Nor the cause of the friendship I emit, nor the cause of the friendship I take again. That I walk up my stoop, I pause to consider if it really be, A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books. To behold the day-break! The little light fades the immense and diaphanous shadows, The air tastes good to my palate. Hefts of the moving world at innocent gambols silently rising freshly exuding, Scooting obliquely high and low. Something I cannot see puts upward libidinous prongs, Seas of bright juice suffuse heaven. The earth by the sky staid with, the daily close of their junction, The heav'd challenge from the east that moment over my head, The mocking taunt, See then whether you shall be master! 25 Dazzling and tremendous how quick the sun-rise would kill me, If I could not now and always send sun-rise out of me. We also ascend dazzling and tremendous as the sun, We found our own O my soul in the calm and cool of the daybreak. My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach, With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds and volumes of worlds. Speech is the twin of my vision, it is unequal to measure itself, It provokes me forever, it says sarcastically, Walt you contain enough, why don't you let it out then? Come now I will not be tantalized, you conceive too much of articulation, Do you not know O speech how the buds beneath you are folded? Waiting in gloom, protected by frost, The dirt receding before my prophetical screams, I underlying causes to balance them at last, My knowledge my live parts, it keeping tally with the meaning of all things, Happiness, (which whoever hears me let him or her set out in search of this day.) My final merit I refuse you, I refuse putting from me what I really am, Encompass worlds, but never try to encompass me, I crowd your sleekest and best by simply looking toward you. Writing and talk do not prove me, I carry the plenum of proof and every thing else in my face, With the hush of my lips I wholly confound the skeptic. 26 Now I will do nothing but listen, To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute toward it. I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat, gossip of flames, clack of sticks cooking my meals, I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice, I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following, Sounds of the city and sounds out of the city, sounds of the day and night, Talkative young ones to those that like them, the loud laugh of work-people at their meals, The angry base of disjointed friendship, the faint tones of the sick, The judge with hands tight to the desk, his pallid lips pronouncing a death-sentence, The heave'e'yo of stevedores unlading ships by the wharves, the refrain of the anchor-lifters, The ring of alarm-bells, the cry of fire, the whirr of swift-streaking engines and hose-carts with premonitory tinkles and color'd lights, The steam-whistle, the solid roll of the train of approaching cars, The slow march play'd at the head of the association marching two and two, (They go to guard some corpse, the flag-tops are draped with black muslin.) I hear the violoncello, ('tis the young man's heart's complaint,) I hear the key'd cornet, it glides quickly in through my ears, It shakes mad-sweet pangs through my belly and breast. I hear the chorus, it is a grand opera, Ah this indeed is music—this suits me. A tenor large and fresh as the creation fills me, The orbic flex of his mouth is pouring and filling me full. I hear the train'd soprano (what work with hers is this?) The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies, It wrenches such ardors from me I did not know I possess'd them, It sails me, I dab with bare feet, they are lick'd by the indolent waves, I am cut by bitter and angry hail, I lose my breath, Steep'd amid honey'd morphine, my windpipe throttled in fakes of death, At length let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles, And that we call Being. 27
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