Archivi tag: Whitman



Over sea, hither from Niphon,
Courteous, the Princes of Asia, swart-cheeked princes,
First-comers, guests, two-sworded princes,
Lesson-giving princes, leaning back in their open barouches, bare-headed,
This day they ride through Manhattan.

I do not know whether others behold what I behold,
In the procession, along with the Princes of Asia, the errand-bearers,
Bringing up the rear, hovering above, around, or in the ranks marching;
But I will sing you a song of what I behold, Libertad.

When million-footed Manhattan, unpent, descends to its pavements;
When the thunder-cracking guns arouse me with the proud roar I love;
When the round-mouthed guns, out of the smoke and smell I love, spit their
When the fire-flashing guns have fully alerted me—when heaven-clouds
canopy my city with a delicate thin haze;
When, gorgeous, the countless straight stems, the forests at the wharves,
thicken with colours;
When every ship, richly dressed, carries her flag at the peak;
When pennants trail, and street-festoons hang from the windows;
When Broadway is entirely given up to foot-passengers and foot-standers—
when the mass is densest;
When the façades of the houses are alive with people—when eyes gaze,
riveted, tens of thousands at a time;
When the guests from the islands advance—when the pageant moves forward,
When the summons is made—when the answer, that waited thousands of years,
I too, arising, answering, descend to the pavements, merge with the crowd,
and gaze with them.

Superb-faced Manhattan!
Comrade Americanos!—to us, then, at last, the Orient comes.
To us, my city,
Where our tall-topped marble and iron beauties range on opposite sides—to
walk in the space between,
To-day our Antipodes comes.
The Originatress comes,
The land of Paradise—land of the Caucasus—the nest of birth,
The nest of languages, the bequeather of poems, the race of eld,
Florid with blood, pensive, rapt with musings, hot with passion,
Sultry with perfume, with ample and flowing garments,
With sunburnt visage, with intense soul and glittering eyes,
The race of Brahma comes!
See, my cantabile! these, and more, are flashing to us from the procession;
As it moves changing, a kaleidoscope divine it moves changing before us.
Not the errand-bearing princes, nor the tanned Japanee only;
Lithe and silent, the Hindoo appears—the whole Asiatic continent itself
appears—the Past, the dead,
The murky night-morning of wonder and fable, inscrutable,
The enveloped mysteries, the old and unknown hive-bees,
The North—the sweltering South—Assyria—the Hebrews—the Ancient of
Vast desolated cities—the gliding Present—all of these, and more, are in
the pageant-procession.
Geography, the world, is in it;
The Great Sea, the brood of islands, Polynesia, the coast beyond;
The coast you henceforth are facing—you Libertad! from your Western golden
The countries there, with their populations—the millions en masse, are
curiously here;
The swarming market-places—the temples, with idols ranged along the sides,
or at the end—bronze, brahmin, and lama;
The mandarin, farmer, merchant, mechanic, and fisherman;
The singing-girl and the dancing-girl—the ecstatic person—the divine
The secluded Emperors—Confucius himself—the great poets and heroes—the
warriors, the castes, all,
Trooping up, crowding from all directions—from the Altay mountains,
From Thibet—from the four winding and far-flowing rivers
of China,
From the Southern peninsulas, and the demi-continental islands—from
These, and whatever belongs to them, palpable, show forth to me, and are
seized by me,
And I am seized by them, and friendlily held by them,
Till, as here, them all I chant, Libertad! for themselves and for you.

For I too, raising my voice, join the ranks of this pageant;
I am the chanter—I chant aloud over the pageant;
I chant the world on my Western Sea;
I chant, copious, the islands beyond, thick as stars in the sky;
I chant the new empire, grander than any before—As in a vision it comes to
I chant America, the Mistress—I chant a greater supremacy;
I chant, projected, a thousand blooming cities yet, in time, on those
groups of sea-islands;
I chant my sail-ships and steam-ships threading the archipelagoes;
I chant my stars and stripes fluttering in the wind;
I chant commerce opening, the sleep of ages having done its work—races
reborn, refreshed;
Lives, works, resumed—The object I know not—but the old, the Asiatic,
resumed, as it must be,
Commencing from this day, surrounded by the world.
And you, Libertad of the world!
You shall sit in the middle, well-poised, thousands of years;
As to-day, from one side, the Princes of Asia come to you;
As to-morrow, from the other side, the Queen of England sends her eldest
son to you.
The sign is reversing, the orb is enclosed,
The ring is circled, the journey is done;
The box-lid is but perceptibly opened—nevertheless the perfume pours
copiously out of the whole box.

Young Libertad!
With the venerable Asia, the all-mother,
Be considerate with her, now and ever, hot Libertad—for you are all;
Bend your proud neck to the long-off mother, now sending messages over the
archipelagoes to you:
Bend your proud neck for once, young Libertad.

Were the children straying westward so long? so wide the tramping?
Were the precedent dim ages debouching westward from Paradise so long?
Were the centuries steadily footing it that way, all the while unknown, for
you, for reasons?
They are justified—they are accomplished—they shall now be turned the
other way also, to travel toward you thence;
They shall now also march obediently eastward, for your sake, Libertad.

Walt Whitman – Antecedents


With antecedents;
With my fathers and mothers, and the accumulations of past ages:
With all which, had it not been, I would not now be here, as I am;
With Egypt, India, Phoenicia, Greece, and Rome;
With the Kelt, the Scandinavian, the Alb, and the Saxon;
With antique maritime ventures,—with laws, artisanship, wars, and
With the poet, the skald, the saga, the myth, and the oracle;
With the sale of slaves—with enthusiasts—with the troubadour, the
crusader, and the monk;
With those old continents whence we have come to this new continent;
With the fading kingdoms and kings over there;
With the fading religions and priests;
With the small shores we look back to from our own large and present
With countless years drawing themselves onward, and arrived at these years;
You and Me arrived—America arrived, and making this year;
This year! sending itself ahead countless years to come.

O but it is not the years—it is I—it is You;
We touch all laws, and tally all antecedents;
We are the skald, the oracle, the monk, and the knight—we easily include
them, and more;
We stand amid time, beginningless and endless—we stand amid evil and good;
All swings around us—there is as much darkness as light;
The very sun swings itself and its system of planets around us:
Its sun, and its again, all swing around us.

As for me, (torn, stormy, even as I, amid these vehement days;)
I have the idea of all, and am all, and believe in all;
I believe materialism is true, and spiritualism is true—I reject no part.
Have I forgotten any part?
Come to me, whoever and whatever, till I give you recognition.
I respect Assyria, China, Teutonia, and the Hebrews;
I adopt each theory, myth, god, and demi-god;
I see that the old accounts, bibles, genealogies, are true, without
I assert that all past days were what they should have been;
And that they could nohow have been better than they were,
And that to-day is what it should be—and that America is,
And that to-day and America could nohow be better than they are.

In the name of these States, and in your and my name, the Past,
And in the name of these States, and in your and my name, the Present time.
I know that the past was great, and the future will be great,
And I know that both curiously conjoint in the present time,
For the sake of him I typify—for the common average man’s sake—your sake,
if you are he;
And that where I am, or you are, this present day, there is the centre of
all days, all races,
And there is the meaning, to us, of all that has ever come of races and
days, or ever will come.

Walt Whitman – Song of the Broad-Axe


Weapon, shapely, naked, wan;
Head from the mother’s bowels drawn!
Wooded flesh and metal bone! limb only one, and lip only one!
Grey-blue leaf by red-heat grown! helve produced from a little seed sown!
Resting the grass amid and upon,
To be leaned, and to lean on.
Strong shapes, and attributes of strong shapes—masculine trades, sights
and sounds;
Long varied train of an emblem, dabs of music;
Fingers of the organist skipping staccato over the keys of the great organ.

Welcome are all earth’s lands, each for its kind;
Welcome are lands of pine and oak;
Welcome are lands of the lemon and fig;
Welcome are lands of gold;
Welcome are lands of wheat and maize—welcome those of the grape;
Welcome are lands of sugar and rice;
Welcome are cotton-lands—welcome those of the white potato and sweet
Welcome are mountains, flats, sands, forests, prairies;
Welcome the rich borders of rivers, table-lands, openings,
Welcome the measureless grazing-lands—welcome the teeming soil of
orchards, flax, honey, hemp;
Welcome just as much the other more hard-faced lands;
Lands rich as lands of gold, or wheat and fruit lands;
Lands of mines, lands of the manly and rugged ores;
Lands of coal, copper, lead, tin, zinc;
LANDS OF IRON! lands of the make of the axe!

The log at the wood-pile, the axe supported by it;
The sylvan hut, the vine over the doorway, the space cleared for a garden,
The irregular tapping of rain down on the leaves, after the storm is
The wailing and moaning at intervals, the thought of the sea,
The thought of ships struck in the storm, and put on their beam-ends, and
the cutting away of masts;
The sentiment of the huge timbers of old-fashioned houses and barns;
The remembered print or narrative, the voyage at a venture of men,
families, goods,
The disembarkation, the founding of a new city,
The voyage of those who sought a New England and found it—the outset
The settlements of the Arkansas, Colorado, Ottawa, Willamette,
The slow progress, the scant fare, the axe, rifle, saddle-bags;
The beauty of all adventurous and daring persons,
The beauty of wood-boys and wood-men, with their clear untrimmed faces,
The beauty of independence, departure, actions that rely on themselves,
The American contempt for statutes and ceremonies, the boundless impatience
of restraint,
The loose drift of character, the inkling through random types, the
The butcher in the slaughter-house, the hands aboard schooners and sloops,
the raftsman, the pioneer,
Lumbermen in their winter camp, daybreak in the woods, stripes of snow on
the limbs of trees, the occasional snapping,
The glad clear sound of one’s own voice, the merry song, the natural life
of the woods, the strong day’s work,
The blazing fire at night, the sweet taste of supper, the talk, the bed of
hemlock boughs, and the bearskin;
—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 mallets and hammers, the attitudes of the men, their curved
Bending, standing, astride the beams, driving in pins, holding on by posts
and braces,
The hooked arm over the plate, the other arm wielding the axe,
The floor-men forcing the planks close, to be nailed,
Their postures bringing their weapons downward on the bearers,
The echoes resounding through the vacant building;
The huge store-house carried up in the city, well under way,
The six framing men, two in the middle, and two at each end, carefully
bearing on their shoulders a heavy stick for a cross-beam,
The crowded line of masons with trowels in their right hands, rapidly
laying the long side-wall, two hundred feet from front to rear,
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 piles of materials, the mortar on the mortar-boards, and the steady
replenishing by the hod-men;
—Spar-makers in the spar-yard, the swarming row of well-grown apprentices,
The swing of their axes on the square-hewed log, shaping it toward the
shape of a mast,
The brisk short crackle of the steel driven slantingly into the pine,
The butter-coloured chips flying off in great flakes and slivers,
The limber motion of brawny young arms and hips in easy costumes;
The constructor of wharves, bridges, piers, bulk-heads, floats, stays
against the sea;
—The city fireman—the fire that suddenly bursts forth in the close-packed
The arriving engines, the hoarse shouts, the nimble stepping and daring,
The strong command through the fire-trumpets, the falling in line, the rise
and fall of the arms forcing the water,
The slender, spasmic blue-white jets—the bringing to bear of the hooks and
ladders, and their execution,
The crash and cut-away of connecting woodwork, or through floors, if the
fire smoulders under them,
The crowd with their lit faces, watching—the glare and dense shadows;
—The forger at his forge-furnace, and the user of iron after him,
The maker of the axe large and small, and the welder and temperer,
The chooser breathing his breath on the cold steel, and trying the edge
with his thumb,
The one who clean-shapes the handle and sets it firmly in the socket;
The shadowy processions of the portraits of the past users also,
The primal patient mechanics, the architects and engineers,
The far-off Assyrian edifice and Mizra edifice,
The Roman lictors preceding the consuls,
The antique European warrior with his axe in combat,
The uplifted arm, the clatter of blows on the helmeted head,
The death-howl, the limpsey tumbling body, the rush of friend and foe
The siege of revolted lieges determined for liberty,
The summons to surrender, the battering at castle-gates, the truce and
The sack of an old city in its time,
The bursting in of mercenaries and bigots tumultuously and disorderly,
Roar, flames, blood, drunkenness, madness,
Goods freely rifled from houses and temples, screams of women in the gripe
of brigands,
Craft and thievery of camp-followers, men running, old persons despairing,
The hell of war, the cruelties of creeds,
The list of all executive deeds and words, just or unjust,
The power of personality, just or unjust.

Muscle and pluck for ever!
What invigorates life invigorates death,
And the dead advance as much as the living advance,
And the future is no more uncertain than the present,
And the roughness of the earth and of man encloses as
much as the delicatesse of the earth and of man,
And nothing endures but personal qualities.
What do you think endures? Do you think the great city endures? Or a teeming manufacturing state? or a prepared constitution? or the best- built steamships? Or hotels of granite and iron? or any chefs-d’oeuvre of engineering, forts, armaments?

Away! These are not to be cherished for themselves;
They fill their hour, the dancers dance, the musicians play
for them;
The show passes, all does well enough of course,
All does very well till one flash of defiance.
The great city is that which has the greatest man or woman; If it be a few ragged huts, it is still the greatest city in the whole world.


The place where the great city stands is not the place of stretched wharves, docks, manufactures, deposits of produce, Nor the place of ceaseless salutes of new-comers, or the anchor-lifters of the departing, Nor the place of the tallest and costliest buildings, or shops selling goods from the rest of the earth, Nor the place of the best libraries and schools—nor the place where money is plentiest, Nor the place of the most numerous population.

Where the city stands with the brawniest breed of orators and bards;
Where the city stands that is beloved by these, and loves them in return,
and understands them;
Where no monuments exist to heroes but in the common words and deeds;
Where thrift is in its place, and prudence is in its place;
Where the men and women think lightly of the laws;
Where the slave ceases, and the master of slaves ceases;
Where the populace rise at once against the never-ending audacity of
elected persons;
Where fierce men and women pour forth, as the sea to the whistle of death
pours its sweeping and unripped waves;
Where outside authority enters always after the precedence of inside
Where the citizen is always the head and ideal—and President, Mayor,
Governor, and what not, are agents for pay;
Where children are taught to be laws to themselves, and to depend on
Where equanimity is illustrated in affairs;
Where speculations on the Soul are encouraged;
Where women walk in public processions in the streets, the same as the men;
Where they enter the public assembly and take places the same as the men;
Where the city of the faithfullest friends stands;
Where the city of the cleanliness of the sexes stands;
Where the city of the healthiest fathers stands;
Where the city of the best-bodied mothers stands,—
There the great city stands.

How beggarly appear arguments before a defiant deed! How the floridness of the materials of cities shrivels before a man’s or woman’s look!

All waits, or goes by default, till a strong being appears;
A strong being is the proof of the race, and of the ability of the
When he or she appears, materials are overawed,
The dispute on the Soul stops,
The old customs and phrases are confronted, turned back, or laid away.
What is your money-making now? What can it do now?
What is your respectability now?
What are your theology, tuition, society, traditions, statute-books, now?
Where are your jibes of being now?
Where are your cavils about the Soul now?
Was that your best? Were those your vast and solid? Riches, opinions, politics, institutions, to part obediently from the path of one man or woman! The centuries, and all authority, to be trod under the foot-soles of one man or woman!


A sterile landscape covers the ore—there is as good as the best, for all the forbidding appearance; There is the mine, there are the miners; The forge-furnace is there, the melt is accomplished; the hammersmen are at hand with their tongs and hammers; What always served and always serves is at hand.

Than this nothing has better served—it has served all:
Served the fluent-tongued and subtle-sensed Greek, and long ere the Greek;
Served in building the buildings that last longer than any;
Served the Hebrew, the Persian, the most ancient Hindostanee;
Served the mound-raiser on the Mississippi—served those whose relics
remain in Central America;
Served Albic temples in woods or on plains, with unhewn pillars, and the
Served the artificial clefts, vast, high, silent, on the snow-covered hills
of Scandinavia;
Served those who, time out of mind, made on the granite walls rough
sketches of the sun, moon, stars, ships, ocean-waves;
Served the paths of the irruptions of the Goths—served the pastoral tribes
and nomads;
Served the long long distant Kelt—served the hardy pirates of the Baltic;
Served, before any of those, the venerable and harmless men of Ethiopia;
Served the making of helms for the galleys of pleasure, and the making of
those for war;
Served all great works on land, and all great works on the sea;
For the mediaeval ages, and before the mediaeval ages;
Served not the living only, then as now, but served the dead.

I see the European headsman;
He stands masked, clothed in red, with huge legs and strong naked arms,
And leans on a ponderous axe.
Whom have you slaughtered lately, European headsman?
Whose is that blood upon you, so wet and sticky?
I see the clear sunsets of the martyrs;
I see from the scaffolds the descending ghosts,
Ghosts of dead lords, uncrowned ladies, impeached ministers, rejected
Rivals, traitors, poisoners, disgraced chieftains, and the rest.
I see those who in any land have died for the good cause;
The seed is spare, nevertheless the crop shall never run out;
(Mind you, O foreign kings, O priests, the crop shall never run out.)
I see the blood washed entirely away from the axe;
Both blade and helve are clean;
They spirt no more the blood of European nobles—they clasp no more the
necks of queens.
I see the headsman withdraw and become useless;
I see the scaffold untrodden and mouldy—I see no longer any axe upon it;
I see the mighty and friendly emblem of the power of my own race—the
newest, largest race.

America! I do not vaunt my love for you;
I have what I have.
The axe leaps!
The solid forest gives fluid utterances;
They tumble forth, they rise and form,
Hut, tent, landing, survey,
Flail, plough, pick, crowbar, spade,
Shingle, rail, prop, wainscot, jamb, lath, panel, gable,
Citadel, ceiling, saloon, academy, organ, exhibition house, library,
Cornice, trellis, pilaster, balcony, window, shutter, turret, porch,
Hoe, rake, pitchfork, pencil, waggon, staff, saw, jack-plane, mallet,
wedge, rounce,
Chair, tub, hoop, table, wicket, vane, sash, floor,
Work-box, chest, stringed instrument, boat, frame, and what not,
Capitols of States, and capitol of the nation of States,
Long stately rows in avenues, hospitals for orphans, or for the poor or
Manhattan steamboats and clippers, taking the measure of all seas.
The shapes arise! Shapes of the using of axes anyhow, and the users, and all that neighbours them, Cutters-down of wood, and haulers of it to the Penobscot or Kennebec, Dwellers in cabins among the Californian mountains, or by the little lakes, or on the Columbia, Dwellers south on the banks of the Gila or Rio Grande—friendly gatherings, the characters and fun, Dwellers up north in Minnesota and by the Yellowstone river—dwellers on coasts and off coasts, Seal-fishers, whalers, arctic seamen breaking passages through the ice.

The shapes arise!
Shapes of factories, arsenals, foundries, markets;
Shapes of the two-threaded tracks of railroads;
Shapes of the sleepers of bridges, vast frameworks, girders, arches;
Shapes of the fleets of barges, tows, lake craft, river craft.
The shapes arise! Shipyards and dry-docks along the Eastern and Western Seas, and in many a bay and by-place, The live-oak kelsons, the pine-planks, the spars, the hackmatack-roots for knees, The ships themselves on their ways, the tiers of scaffolds, the workmen busy outside and inside, The tools lying around, the great auger and little auger, the adze, bolt, line, square, gouge, and bead-plane.


The shapes arise! The shape measured, sawed, jacked, joined, stained, The coffin-shape for the dead to lie within in his shroud; The shape got out in posts, in the bedstead posts, in the posts of the bride’s bed; The shape of the little trough, the shape of the rockers beneath, the shape of the babe’s cradle; The shape of the floor-planks, the floor-planks for dancers’ feet; The shape of the planks of the family home, the home of the friendly parents and children, The shape of the roof of the home of the happy young man and woman, the roof over the well-married young man and woman, The roof over the supper joyously cooked by the chaste wife, and joyously eaten by the chaste husband, content after his day’s work.

The shapes arise!
The shape of the prisoner’s place in the court-room, and of him or her
seated in the place;
The shape of the liquor-bar leaned against by the young rum-drinker and the
old rum-drinker;
The shape of the shamed and angry stairs, trod, by sneaking footsteps;
The shape of the sly settee, and the adulterous unwholesome couple;
The shape of the gambling-board with its devilish winnings and losings;
The shape of the step-ladder for the convicted and sentenced murderer, the
murderer with haggard face and pinioned arms,
The sheriff at hand with his deputies, the silent and white-lipped crowd,
the sickening dangling of the rope.
The shapes arise!
Shapes of doors giving many exits and entrances;
The door passing the dissevered friend, flushed and in haste;
The door that admits good news and bad news;
The door whence the son left home, confident and puffed up;
The door he entered again from a long and scandalous absence, diseased,
broken down, without innocence, without means.

Her shape arises,
She less guarded than ever, yet more guarded than ever;
The gross and soiled she moves among do not make her gross and soiled;
She knows the thoughts as she passes—nothing is concealed from her;
She is none the less considerate or friendly therefor;
She is the best beloved—it is without exception—she has no reason to
fear, and she does not fear;
Oaths, quarrels, hiccupped songs, smutty expressions, are idle to her as
she passes;
She is silent—she is possessed of herself—they do not offend her;
She receives them as the laws of nature receive them—she is strong,
She too is a law of nature—there is no law stronger than she is.

The main shapes arise!
Shapes of Democracy, total result of centuries;
Shapes, ever projecting other shapes;
Shapes of a hundred Free States, begetting another hundred;
Shapes of turbulent manly cities;
Shapes of the women fit for these States,
Shapes of the friends and home-givers of the whole earth,
Shapes bracing the earth, and braced with the whole earth.

Walt Whitman – Flux

Of these years I sing, How they pass through convulsed pains, as through parturitions; How America illustrates birth, gigantic youth, the promise, the sure fulfilment, despite of people—Illustrates evil as well as good; How many hold despairingly yet to the models departed, caste, myths, obedience, compulsion, and to infidelity; How few see the arrived models, the athletes, the States—or see freedom or spirituality—or hold any faith in results. But I see the athletes—and I see the results glorious and inevitable—and they again leading to other results; How the great cities appear—How the Democratic masses, turbulent, wilful, as I love them, How the whirl, the contest, the wrestle of evil with good, the sounding and resounding, keep on and on; How society waits unformed, and is between things ended and things begun; How America is the continent of glories, and of the triumph of freedom, and of the Democracies, and of the fruits of society, and of all that is begun; And how the States are complete in themselves—And how all triumphs and glories are complete in themselves, to lead onward, And how these of mine, and of the States, will in their turn be convulsed, and serve other parturitions and transitions. And how all people, sights, combinations, the Democratic masses, too, serve—and how every fact serves, And how now, or at any time, each serves the exquisite transition of Death.

Walt Whitman – Years of the Unperformed

Years of the unperformed! your horizon rises—I see it part away for more
august dramas;
I see not America only—I see not only Liberty’s nation but other nations
I see tremendous entrances and exits—I see new combinations—I see the
solidarity of races;
I see that force advancing with irresistible power on the world’s stage;
Have the old forces played their parts? are the acts suitable to them
I see Freedom, completely armed, and victorious, and very haughty, with Law
by her side, both issuing forth against the idea of caste;
—What historic denouements are these we so rapidly approach?
I see men marching and countermarching by swift millions!
I see the frontiers and boundaries of the old aristocracies broken;
I see the landmarks of European kings removed;
I see this day the People beginning their landmarks, all others give way;
Never were such sharp questions asked as this day;
Never was average man, his soul, more energetic, more like a God.
Lo! how he urges and urges, leaving the masses no rest;
His daring foot is on land and sea everywhere—he colonises the Pacific,
the archipelagoes;
With the steam-ship, the electric telegraph, the newspaper, the wholesale
engines of war,
With these, and the world-spreading factories, he interlinks all geography,
all lands;
—What whispers are these, O lands, running ahead of you, passing under the
Are all nations communing? is there going to be but one heart to the globe?
Is humanity forming en masse?—for lo! tyrants tremble, crowns grow dim;
The earth, restive, confronts a new era, perhaps a general divine war;
No one knows what will happen next—such portents fill the days and nights.
Years prophetical! the space ahead as I walk, as I vainly try to pierce it,
is full of phantoms;
Unborn deeds, things soon to be, project their shapes around me;
This incredible rush and heat—this strange ecstatic fever of dreams, O
Your dreams, O years, how they penetrate through me! (I know not whether I
sleep or wake!)
The performed America and Europe grow dim, retiring in shadow behind me,
The unperformed, more gigantic than ever, advance, advance upon me.

Walt Whitman – The Past-Present

I was looking a long while for the history of the past for myself, and for
these chants—and now I have found it.
It is not in those paged fables in the libraries, (them I neither accept
nor reject;)
It is no more in the legends than in all else;
It is in the present—it is this earth to-day;
It is in Democracy—in this America—the Old World also;
It is the life of one man or one woman to-day, the average man of to-day;
It is languages, social customs, literatures, arts;
It is the broad show of artificial things, ships, machinery, politics,
creeds, modern improvements, and the interchange of nations,
All for the average man of to-day.



Starting from fish-shape Paumanok,[1] where I was born,
Well-begotten, and raised by a perfect mother;
After roaming many lands—lover of populous pavements;
Dweller in Mannahatta,[2] city of ships, my city,—or on southern savannas;
Or a soldier camped, or carrying my knapsack and gun—or a miner in
Or rude in my home in Dakotah’s woods, my diet meat, my drink from the
Or withdrawn to muse and meditate in some deep recess,
Far from the clank of crowds, intervals passing, rapt and happy;
Aware of the fresh free giver, the flowing Missouri—aware of mighty
Aware of the buffalo herds, grazing the plains—the hirsute and strong-
breasted bull;
Of earths, rocks, fifth-month flowers, experienced—stars, rain, snow, my
Having studied the mocking-bird’s tones, and the mountain hawk’s,
And heard at dusk the unrivalled one, the hermit thrush, from the
Solitary, singing in the West, I strike up for a New World.

Victory, union, faith, identity, time,
Yourself, the present and future lands, the indissoluble compacts, riches,
Eternal progress, the kosmos, and the modern reports.
This, then, is life;
Here is what has come to the surface after so many throes and convulsions.
How curious! how real!
Under foot the divine soil—over head the sun.
See, revolving, the globe;
The ancestor-continents, away, grouped together;
The present and future continents, north and south, with the isthmus
See, vast trackless spaces;
As in a dream, they change, they swiftly fill;
Countless masses debouch upon them;
They are now covered with the foremost people, arts, institutions, known.
See, projected through time,
For me an audience interminable.
With firm and regular step they wend—they never stop,
Successions of men, Americanos, a hundred millions;
One generation playing its part, and passing on,
Another generation playing its part, and passing on in its turn,
With faces turned sideways or backward towards me, to listen,
With eyes retrospective towards me.

Americanos! conquerors! marches humanitarian;
Foremost! century marches! Libertad! masses!
For you a programme of chants.
Chants of the prairies;
Chants of the long-running Mississippi, and down to the Mexican Sea;
Chants of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota;
Chants going forth from the centre, from Kansas, and thence, equidistant,
Shooting in pulses of fire, ceaseless, to vivify all.

In the Year 80 of the States,[3]
My tongue, every atom of my blood, formed from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here, from parents the same, and their parents
the same,
I, now thirty-six years old, in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
Creeds and schools in abeyance,
(Retiring back a while, sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten.)
I harbour, for good or bad—I permit to speak, at every hazard—
Nature now without check, with original energy.

Take my leaves, America! take them South, and take them North!
Make welcome for them everywhere, for they are your own offspring;
Surround them, East and West! for they would surround you;
And you precedents! connect lovingly with them, for they connect lovingly
with you.
I conned old times;
I sat studying at the feet of the great masters:
Now, if eligible, O that the great masters might return and study me!
In the name of these States, shall I scorn the antique?
Why, these are the children of the antique, to justify it.

Dead poets, philosophs, priests,
Martyrs, artists, inventors, governments long since,
Language-shapers on other shores,
Nations once powerful, now reduced, withdrawn, or desolate,
I dare not proceed till I respectfully credit what you have left, wafted
I have perused it—own it is admirable, (moving awhile among it;)
Think nothing can ever be greater—nothing can ever deserve more than it
Regarding it all intently a long while, then dismissing it,
I stand in my place, with my own day, here.
Here lands female and male;
Here the heirship and heiress-ship of the world—here the flame of
Here spirituality, the translatress, the openly-avowed,
The ever-tending, the finale of visible forms;
The satisfier, after due long-waiting, now advancing,
Yes, here comes my mistress, the Soul.

The SOUL! For ever and for ever—longer than soil is brown and solid—longer than water ebbs and flows.

I will make the poems of materials, for I think they are to be the most
spiritual poems;
And I will make the poems of my body and of mortality,
For I think I shall then supply myself with the poems of my soul, and of
I will make a song for these States, that no one State may under any
circumstances be subjected to another State;
And I will make a song that there shall be comity by day and by night
between all the States, and between any two of them;
And I will make a song for the ears of the President, full of weapons with
menacing points,
And behind the weapons countless dissatisfied faces:
And a song make I, of the One formed out of all;
The fanged and glittering one whose head is over all;
Resolute, warlike one, including and over all;
However high the head of any else, that head is over all.
I will acknowledge contemporary lands;
I will trail the whole geography of the globe, and salute courteously every
city large and small;
And employments! I will put in my poems, that with you is heroism, upon
land and sea—And I will report all heroism from an American point
of view;
And sexual organs and acts! do you concentrate in me—for I am determined
to tell you with courageous clear voice, to prove you illustrious.
I will sing the song of companionship;
I will show what alone must finally compact these;
I believe These are to found their own ideal of manly love, indicating it
in me;
I will therefore let flame from me the burning fires that were threatening
to consume me;
I will lift what has too long kept down those smouldering fires;
I will give them complete abandonment;
I will write the evangel-poem of comrades and of love;
For who but I should understand love, with all its sorrow and joy?
And who but I should be the poet of comrades?

I am the credulous man of qualities, ages, races;
I advance from the people en masse in their own spirit;
Here is what sings unrestricted faith.
Omnes! Omnes! let others ignore what they may;
I make the poem of evil also—I commemorate that part also;
I am myself just as much evil as good, and my nation is—And I say there is
in fact no evil,
Or if there is, I say it is just as important to you, to the land, or to
me, as anything else.
I too, following many, and followed by many, inaugurate a Religion—I too
go to the wars;
It may be I am destined to utter the loudest cries thereof, the winner’s
pealing shouts;
Who knows? they may rise from me yet, and soar above everything.
Each is not for its own sake; I say the whole earth, and all the stars in the sky, are for religion’s sake.

I say no man has ever yet been half devout enough;
None has ever yet adored or worshipped half enough;
None has begun to think how divine he himself is, and how certain the
future is.
I say that the real and permanent grandeur of these States must be their
Otherwise there is no real and permanent grandeur;
Nor character, nor life worthy the name, without religion;
Nor land, nor man or woman, without religion.

What are you doing, young man?
Are you so earnest—so given up to literature, science, art, amours?
These ostensible realities, politics, points?
Your ambition or business, whatever it may be?
It is well—Against such I say not a word—I am their poet also;
But behold! such swiftly subside—burnt up for religion’s sake;
For not all matter is fuel to heat, impalpable flame, the essential life of
the earth,
Any more than such are to religion.

What do you seek, so pensive and silent?
What do you need, Camerado?
Dear son! do you think it is love?
Listen, dear son—listen, America, daughter or son! It is a painful thing to love a man or woman to excess—and yet it satisfies—it is great; But there is something else very great—it makes the whole coincide; It, magnificent, beyond materials, with continuous hands, sweeps and provides for all.


Know you: to drop in the earth the germs of a greater religion,
The following chants, each for its kind, I sing.
My comrade!
For you, to share with me, two greatnesses—and a third one, rising
inclusive and more resplendent,
The greatness of Love and Democracy—and the greatness of Religion.
Mélange mine own! the unseen and the seen;
Mysterious ocean where the streams empty;
Prophetic spirit of materials shifting and flickering around me;
Living beings, identities, now doubtless near us in the air, that we know
not of;
Contact daily and hourly that will not release me;
These selecting—these, in hints, demanded of me.
Not he with a daily kiss onward from childhood kissing me
Has winded and twisted around me that which holds me to him,
Any more than I am held to the heavens, to the spiritual world,
And to the identities of the Gods, my lovers, faithful and true,
After what they have done to me, suggesting themes.
O such themes! Equalities!
O amazement of things! O divine average!
O warblings under the sun—ushered, as now, or at noon, or setting!
O strain, musical, flowing through ages—now reaching hither,
I take to your reckless and composite chords—I add to them, and cheerfully
pass them forward.

As I have walked in Alabama my morning walk, I have seen where the she-bird, the mocking-bird, sat on her nest in the briars, hatching her brood. I have seen the he-bird also; I have paused to hear him, near at hand, inflating his throat, and joyfully singing.

And while I paused, it came to me that what he really sang for was not
there only,
Nor for his mate nor himself only, nor all sent back by the echoes;
But subtle, clandestine, away beyond,
A charge transmitted, and gift occult, for those being born.

Near at hand to you a throat is now inflating itself and joyfully singing.
Ma femme!
For the brood beyond us and of us,
For those who belong here, and those to come,
I, exultant, to be ready for them, will now shake out carols stronger and
haughtier than have ever yet been heard upon earth.
I will make the songs of passion, to give them their way, And your songs, outlawed offenders—for I scan you with kindred eyes, and carry you with me the same as any.

I will make the true poem of riches,— To earn for the body and the mind whatever adheres, and goes forward, and is not dropped by death.

I will effuse egotism, and show it underlying all—and I will be the bard
of personality;
And I will show of male and female that either is but the equal of the
And I will show that there is no imperfection in the present—and can be
none in the future;
And I will show that, whatever happens to anybody, it may be turned to
beautiful results—and I will show that nothing can happen more beautiful
than death;
And I will thread a thread through my poems that time and events are
And that all the things of the universe are perfect miracles, each as
profound as any.
I will not make poems with reference to parts;
But I will make leaves, poems, poemets, songs, says, thoughts, with
reference to ensemble:
And I will not sing with reference to a day, but with reference to all
And I will not make a poem, nor the least part of a poem, but has reference
to the soul;
Because, having looked at the objects of the universe, I find there is no
one, nor any particle of one, but has reference to the soul.

Was somebody asking to see the Soul? See! your own shape and countenance—persons, substances, beasts, the trees, the running rivers, the rocks and sands.

All hold spiritual joys, and afterwards loosen them:
How can the real body ever die, and be buried?
Of your real body, and any man’s or woman’s real body,
Item for item, it will elude the hands of the corpse-cleaners, and pass to
fitting spheres,
Carrying what has accrued to it from the moment of birth to the moment of
Not the types set up by the printer return their impression, the meaning,
the main concern,
Any more than a man’s substance and life, or a woman’s substance and life,
return in the body and the soul,
Indifferently before death and after death.
Behold! the body includes and is the meaning, the main concern—and includes and is the soul; Whoever you are! how superb and how divine is your body, or any part of it.


Whoever you are! to you endless announcements.

Daughter of the lands, did you wait for your poet?
Did you wait for one with a flowing mouth and indicative hand?
Toward the male of the States, and toward the female of the States,
Live words—words to the lands.
O the lands! interlinked, food-yielding lands!
Land of coal and iron! Land of gold! Lands of cotton, sugar, rice!
Land of wheat, beef, pork! Land of wool and hemp! Land of the apple and
Land of the pastoral plains, the grass-fields of the world! Land of those
sweet-aired interminable plateaus!
Land of the herd, the garden, the healthy house of adobie!
Lands where the north-west Columbia winds, and where the south-west
Colorado winds!
Land of the eastern Chesapeake! Land of the Delaware!
Land of Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan!
Land of the Old Thirteen! Massachusetts land! Land of Vermont and
Land of the ocean shores! Land of sierras and peaks!
Land of boatmen and sailors! Fishermen’s land!
Inextricable lands! the clutched together! the passionate ones!
The side by side! the elder and younger brothers! the bony-limbed!
The great women’s land! the feminine! the experienced sisters and the
inexperienced sisters!
Far-breathed land! Arctic-braced! Mexican-breezed! the diverse! the
The Pennsylvanian! the Virginian! the double Carolinian!
O all and each well-loved by me! my intrepid nations! O I at any rate
include you all with perfect love!
I cannot be discharged from you—not from one, any sooner than another!
O Death! O!—for all that, I am yet of you unseen, this hour, with
irrepressible love,
Walking New England, a friend, a traveller,
Splashing my bare feet in the edge of the summer ripples, on Paumanok’s
Crossing the prairies—dwelling again in Chicago—dwelling in every town,
Observing shows, births, improvements, structures, arts,
Listening to the orators and the oratresses in public halls,
Of and through the States, as during life[4]—each man and woman my
The Louisianian, the Georgian, as near to me, and I as near to him and her,
The Mississippian and Arkansian yet with me—and I yet with any of them;
Yet upon the plains west of the spinal river—yet in my house of adobie,
Yet returning eastward—yet in the Sea-Side State, or in Maryland,
Yet Canadian cheerily braving the winter—the snow and ice welcome to me,
or mounting the Northern Pacific, to Sitka, to Aliaska;
Yet a true son either of Maine, or of the Granite State,[5] or of the
Narragansett Bay State, or of the Empire State;[6]
Yet sailing to other shores to annex the same—yet welcoming every new
Hereby applying these leaves to the new ones, from the hour they unite with
the old ones;
Coming among the new ones myself, to be their companion and equal—coming
personally to you now;
Enjoining you to acts, characters, spectacles, with me.

With me, with firm holding—yet haste, haste on.
For your life, adhere to me;
Of all the men of the earth, I only can unloose you and toughen you;
I may have to be persuaded many times before I consent to give myself to
you—but what of that?
Must not Nature be persuaded many times?
No dainty dolce affettuoso I;
Bearded, sunburnt, gray-necked, forbidding, I have arrived,
To be wrestled with as I pass, for the solid prizes of the universe;
For such I afford whoever can persevere to win them.

On my way a moment I pause;
Here for you! and here for America!
Still the Present I raise aloft—still the Future of the States I harbinge,
glad and sublime;
And for the Past, I pronounce what the air holds of the red aborigines.
The red aborigines! Leaving natural breaths, sounds of rain and winds, calls as of birds and animals in the woods, syllabled to us for names; Okonee, Koosa, Ottawa, Monongahela, Sauk, Natchez, Chattahoochee, Kaqueta, Oronoco, Wabash, Miami, Saginaw, Chippewa, Oshkosh, Walla-Walla; Leaving such to the States, they melt, they depart, charging the water and the land with names.


O expanding and swift! O henceforth,
Elements, breeds, adjustments, turbulent, quick, and audacious;
A world primal again—vistas of glory, incessant and branching;
A new race, dominating previous ones, and grander far, with new contests,
New politics, new literatures and religions, new inventions and arts.
These my voice announcing—I will sleep no more, but arise; You oceans that have been calm within me! how I feel you, fathomless, stirring, preparing unprecedented waves and storms.


See! steamers steaming through my poems! See in my poems immigrants continually coming and landing; See in arriere, the wigwam, the trail, the hunter’s hut, the flat-boat, the maize-leaf, the claim, the rude fence, and the backwoods village; See, on the one side the Western Sea, and on the other the Eastern Sea, how they advance and retreat upon my poems, as upon their own shores; See pastures and forests in my poems—See animals, wild and tame—See, beyond the Kanzas, countless herds of buffalo, feeding on short curly grass; See, in my poems, cities, solid, vast, inland, with paved streets, with iron and stone edifices, ceaseless vehicles, and commerce; See the many-cylindered steam printing-press—See the electric telegraph, stretching across the Continent, from the Western Sea to Manhattan; See, through Atlantica’s depths, pulses American, Europe reaching—pulses of Europe, duly returned; See the strong and quick locomotive, as it departs, panting, blowing the steam-whistle; See ploughmen, ploughing farms—See miners, digging mines—See the numberless factories; See mechanics, busy at their benches, with tools—See, from among them, superior judges, philosophs, Presidents, emerge, dressed in working dresses; See, lounging through the shops and fields of the States, me, well-beloved, close-held by day and night; Hear the loud echoes of my songs there! Read the hints come at last.


O Camerado close!
O you and me at last—and us two only.
O a word to clear one’s path ahead endlessly!
O something ecstatic and undemonstrable! O music wild!
O now I triumph—and you shall also;
O hand in hand—O wholesome pleasure—O one more desirer and lover!
O to haste, firm holding—to haste, haste on, with me.
[Footnote 1: Paumanok is the native name of Long Island, State of New York.
It presents a fish-like shape on the map.]
[Footnote 2: Mannahatta, or Manhattan, is (as many readers will know) New
[Footnote 3: 1856.]

[Footnote 4: The poet here contemplates himself as yet living spiritually and in his poems after the death of the body, still a friend and brother to all present and future American lands and persons.]

[Footnote 5: New Hampshire.]

[Footnote 6: New York State.]

Walt Whitman – To Working Men


Come closer to me;
Push close, my lovers, and take the best I possess;
Yield closer and closer, and give me the best you possess.

This is unfinished business with me—How is it with you?
(I was chilled with the cold types, cylinder, wet paper between us.)

Male and Female! I pass so poorly with paper and types, I must pass with the contact of bodies and souls.

American masses! I do not thank you for liking me as I am, and liking the touch of me—I know that it is good for you to do so.


This is the poem of occupations; In the labour of engines and trades, and the labour of fields, I find the developments, And find the eternal meanings. Workmen and Workwomen! Were all educations, practical and ornamental, well displayed out of me, what would it amount to? Were I as the head teacher, charitable proprietor, wise statesman, what would it amount to? Were I to you as the boss employing and paying you, would that satisfy you?

The learned, virtuous, benevolent, and the usual terms;
A man like me, and never the usual terms.

Neither a servant nor a master am I;
I take no sooner a large price than a small price—I will have my own,
whoever enjoys me;
I will be even with you, and you shall be even with me.

If you stand at work in a shop, I stand as nigh as the nighest in the same shop; If you bestow gifts on your brother or dearest friend, I demand as good as your brother or dearest friend; If your lover, husband, wife, is welcome by day or night, I must be personally as welcome; If you become degraded, criminal, ill, then I become so for your sake; If you remember your foolish and outlawed deeds, do you think I cannot remember my own foolish and outlawed deeds? If you carouse at the table, I carouse at the opposite side of the table; If you meet some stranger in the streets, and love him or her—why I often meet strangers in the street, and love them.

Why, what have you thought of yourself?
Is it you then that thought yourself less?
Is it you that thought the President greater than you?
Or the rich better off than you? or the educated wiser than you?

Because you are greasy or pimpled, or that you was once drunk, or a thief,
Or diseased, or rheumatic, or a prostitute, or are so now;
Or from frivolity or impotence, or that you are no scholar, and never saw
your name in print,
Do you give in that you are any less immortal?


Souls of men and women! it is not you I call unseen, unheard, untouchable
and untouching;
It is not you I go argue pro and con about, and to settle whether you are
alive or no;
I own publicly who you are, if nobody else owns.

Grown, half-grown, and babe, of this country and every country, indoors and outdoors, one just as much as the other, I see, And all else behind or through them.

The wife—and she is not one jot less than the husband;
The daughter—and she is just as good as the son;
The mother—and she is every bit as much as the father.

Offspring of ignorant and poor, boys apprenticed to trades,
Young fellows working on farms, and old fellows working on farms,
Sailor-men, merchant-men, coasters, immigrants,
All these I see—but nigher and farther the same I see;
None shall escape me, and none shall wish to escape me.
I bring what you much need, yet always have,
Not money, amours, dress, eating, but as good;
I send no agent or medium, offer no representative of value, but offer the
value itself.

There is something that comes home to one now and perpetually;
It is not what is printed, preached, discussed—it eludes discussion and
It is not to be put in a book—it is not in this book;
It is for you, whoever you are—it is no farther from you than your hearing
and sight are from you;
It is hinted by nearest, commonest, readiest—it is ever provoked by them.

You may read in many languages, yet read nothing about it; You may read the President’s Message, and read nothing about it there; Nothing in the reports from the State department or Treasury department, or in the daily papers or the weekly papers, Or in the census or revenue returns, prices current, or any accounts of stock.


The sun and stars that float in the open air; The apple-shaped earth, and we upon it—surely the drift of them is something grand! I do not know what it is, except that it is grand, and that it is happiness, And that the enclosing purport of us here is not a speculation, or bon-mot, or reconnoissance, And that it is not something which by luck may turn out well for us, and without luck must be a failure for us, And not something which may yet be retracted in a certain contingency.

The light and shade, the curious sense of body and identity, the greed that
with perfect complaisance devours all things, the endless pride and
outstretching of man, unspeakable joys and sorrows,
The wonder every one sees in every one else he sees, and the wonders that
fill each minute of time for ever,
What have you reckoned them for, camerado?
Have you reckoned them for a trade, or farm-work? or for the profits of a
Or to achieve yourself a position? or to fill a gentleman’s leisure, or a
lady’s leisure?

Have you reckoned the landscape took substance and form that it might be painted in a picture? Or men and women that they might be written of, and songs sung? Or the attraction of gravity, and the great laws and harmonious combinations, and the fluids of the air, as subjects for the savans? Or the brown land and the blue sea for maps and charts? Or the stars to be put in constellations and named fancy names? Or that the growth of seeds is for agricultural tables, or agriculture itself?

Old institutions—these arts, libraries, legends, collections, and the practice handed along in manufactures—will we rate them so high? Will we rate our cash and business high?—I have no objection; I rate them as high as the highest—then a child born of a woman and man I rate beyond all rate.

We thought our Union grand, and our Constitution grand;
I do not say they are not grand and good, for they are;
I am this day just as much in love with them as you;
Then I am in love with you, and with all my fellows upon the earth.

We consider Bibles and religions divine—I do not say they are not divine;
I say they have all grown out of you, and may grow out of you still;
It is not they who give the life—it is you who give the life;
Leaves are not more shed from the trees, or trees from the earth, than they
are shed out of you.


When the psalm sings, instead of the singer;
When the script preaches, instead of the preacher;
When the pulpit descends and goes, instead of the carver that carved the
supporting desk;
When I can touch the body of books, by night or by day, and when they touch
my body back again;
When a university course convinces, like a slumbering woman and child
When the minted gold in the vault smiles like the night-watchman’s
When warrantee deeds loafe in chairs opposite, and are my friendly
I intend to reach them my hand, and make as much of them as I do of men and
women like you.
The sum of all known reverence I add up in you, whoever you are;
The President is there in the White House for you—it is not you who are
here for him;
The Secretaries act in their bureaus for you—not you here for them;
The Congress convenes every twelfth month for you;
Laws, courts, the forming of States, the charters of cities, the going and
coming of commerce and mails, are all for you.

List close, my scholars dear!
All doctrines, all politics and civilisation, exsurge from you;
All sculpture and monuments, and anything inscribed anywhere, are tallied
in you;
The gist of histories and statistics, as far back as the records reach, is
in you this hour, and myths and tales the same;
If you were not breathing and walking here, where would they all be?
The most renowned poems would be ashes, orations and plays would be

All architecture is what you do to it when you look upon it; Did you think it was in the white or grey stone? or the lines of the arches and cornices?

All music is what awakes from you, when you are reminded by the
It is not the violins and the cornets—it is not the oboe nor the beating
drums, nor the score of the baritone singer singing his sweet
romanza—nor that of the men’s chorus, nor that of the women’s
It is nearer and farther than they.


Will the whole come back then?
Can each see signs of the best by a look in the looking-glass? is there
nothing greater or more?
Does all sit there with you, with the mystic, unseen soul?

Strange and hard that paradox true I give;
Objects gross and the unseen Soul are one.

House-building, measuring, sawing the boards;
Blacksmithing, glass-blowing, nail-making, coopering, tin-roofing, shingle-
Ship-joining, dock-building, fish-curing, ferrying, flagging of side-walks
by flaggers,
The pump, the pile-driver, the great derrick, the coal-kiln and brick-kiln,
Coal-mines, and all that is down there,—the lamps in the darkness, echoes,
songs, what meditations, what vast native thoughts looking through
smutched faces,
Ironworks, forge-fires in the mountains, or by the river-banks—men around
feeling the melt with huge crowbars—lumps of ore, the due
combining of ore, limestone, coal—the blast-furnace and the
puddling-furnace, the loup-lump at the bottom of the melt at last—
the rolling-mill, the stumpy bars of pig-iron, the strong, clean
shaped T-rail for railroads;
Oilworks, silkworks, white-lead-works, the sugar-house, steam-saws, the
great mills and factories;
Stone-cutting, shapely trimmings for façades, or window or door lintels—
the mallet, the tooth-chisel, the jib to protect the thumb, Oakum,
the oakum-chisel, the caulking-iron—the kettle of boiling vault-
cement, and the fire under the kettle,
The cotton-bale, the stevedore’s hook, the saw and buck of the sawyer, the
mould of the moulder, the working knife of the butcher, the ice-
saw, and all the work with ice,
The implements for daguerreotyping—the tools of the rigger, grappler,
sail-maker, block-maker,
Goods of gutta-percha, papier-mâché, colours, brushes, brush-making,
glaziers’ implements,
The veneer and glue-pot, the confectioner’s ornaments, the decanter and
glasses, the shears and flat-iron,
The awl and knee-strap, the pint measure and quart measure, the counter and
stool, the writing-pen of quill or metal—the making of all sorts
of edged tools,
The brewery, brewing, the malt, the vats, everything that is done by
brewers, also by wine-makers, also vinegar-makers,
Leather-dressing, coach-making, boiler-making, rope-twisting, distilling,
sign-painting, lime-burning, cotton-picking—electro-plating,
electrotyping, stereotyping,
Stave-machines, planing-machines, reaping-machines,
ploughing-machines, thrashing-machines, steam waggons,
The cart of the carman, the omnibus, the ponderous dray;
Pyrotechny, letting off coloured fireworks at night, fancy figures and
Beef on the butcher’s stall, the slaughter-house of the butcher, the
butcher in his killing-clothes,
The pens of live pork, the killing-hammer, the hog-hook, the scalder’s tub,
gutting, the cutter’s cleaver, the packer’s maul, and the plenteous
winter-work of pork-packing,
Flour-works, grinding of wheat, rye, maize, rice—the barrels and the half
and quarter barrels, the loaded barges, the high piles on wharves
and levees,
The men, and the work of the men, on railroads, coasters, fish-boats,
The daily routine of your own or any man’s life—the shop, yard, store, or
These shows all near you by day and night-workmen! whoever you are, your
daily life!
In that and them the heft of the heaviest—in them far more than you
estimated, and far less also;
In them realities for you and me—in them poems for you and me;
In them, not yourself—you and your soul enclose all things, regardless of
In them the development good—in them, all themes and hints.

I do not affirm what you see beyond is futile—I do not advise you to stop;
I do not say leadings you thought great are not great;
But I say that none lead to greater than those lead to.


Will you seek afar off? You surely come back at last,
In things best known to you finding the best, or as good as the best,
In folks nearest to you finding the sweetest, strongest, lovingest;
Happiness, knowledge, not in another place, but this place—not for another
hour, but this hour;
Man in the first you see or touch—always in friend, brother, nighest
neighbour—Woman in mother, sister, wife;
The popular tastes and employments taking precedence in poems or anywhere,
You workwomen and workmen of these States having your own divine and strong
And all else giving place to men and women like you.

Walt Whitman – American Feuillage

AMERICA always!
Always our own feuillage!
Always Florida’s green peninsula! Always the priceless delta of Louisiana!
Always the cotton-fields of Alabama and Texas!
Always California’s golden hills and hollows—and the silver mountains of
New Mexico! Always soft-breathed Cuba!
Always the vast slope drained by the Southern Sea—inseparable with the
slopes drained by the Eastern and Western Seas!
The area the eighty-third year of these States[1]—the three and a half
millions of square miles;
The eighteen thousand miles of sea-coast and bay-coast on the main—the
thirty thousand miles of river navigation,
The seven millions of distinct families, and the same number of dwellings—
Always these, and more, branching forth into numberless branches;
Always the free range and diversity! Always the continent of Democracy!
Always the prairies, pastures, forests, vast cities, travellers, Canada,
the snows;
Always these compact lands—lands tied at the hips with the belt stringing
the huge oval lakes;
Always the West, with strong native persons—the increasing density there—
the habitans, friendly, threatening, ironical, scorning invaders;
All sights, South, North, East—all deeds, promiscuously done at all times,
All characters, movements, growths—a few noticed, myriads unnoticed.
Through Mannahatta’s streets I walking, these things gathering.
On interior rivers, by night, in the glare of pine knots, steamboats
wooding up:
Sunlight by day on the valley of the Susquehanna, and on the valleys of the
Potomac and Rappahannock, and the valleys of the Roanoke and Delaware;
In their northerly wilds beasts of prey haunting the Adirondacks the
hills—or lapping the Saginaw waters to drink;

In a lonesome inlet, a sheldrake, lost from the flock, sitting on the water, rocking silently; In farmers’ barns, oxen in the stable, their harvest labour done—they rest standing—they are too tired; Afar on arctic ice, the she-walrus lying drowsily, while her cubs play around; The hawk sailing where men have not yet sailed—the farthest polar sea, ripply, crystalline, open, beyond the floes; White drift spooning ahead, where the ship in the tempest dashes. On solid land, what is done in cities, as the bells all strike midnight together; In primitive woods, the sounds there also sounding—the howl of the wolf, the scream of the panther, and the hoarse bellow of the elk; In winter beneath the hard blue ice of Moosehead Lake, in summer visible through the clear waters, the great trout swimming; In lower latitudes, in warmer air, in the Carolinas, the large black buzzard floating slowly, high beyond the tree-tops, Below, the red cedar, festooned with tylandria—the pines and cypresses, growing out of the white sand that spreads far and flat; Rude boats descending the big Pedee—climbing plants, parasites, with coloured flowers and berries, enveloping huge trees, The waving drapery on the live oak, trailing long and low, noiselessly waved by the wind; The camp of Georgia waggoners, just after dark—the supper-fires, and the cooking and eating by whites and negroes, Thirty or forty great waggons—the mules, cattle, horses, feeding from troughs, The shadows, gleams, up under the leaves of the old sycamore-trees—the flames—also the black smoke from the pitch-pine, curling and rising; Southern fishermen fishing—the sounds and inlets of North Carolina’s coast—the shad-fishery and the herring-fishery—the large sweep- seines—the windlasses on shore worked by horses—the clearing, curing, and packing houses; Deep in the forest, in piney woods, turpentine dropping from the incisions in the trees—There are the turpentine works, There are the negroes at work, in good health—the ground in all directions is covered with pine straw. —In Tennessee and Kentucky, slaves busy in the coalings, at the forge, by the furnace-blaze, or at the corn-shucking; In Virginia, the planter’s son returning after a long absence, joyfully welcomed and kissed by the aged mulatto nurse. On rivers, boatmen safely moored at nightfall, in their boats, under shelter of high banks, Some of the younger men dance to the sound of the banjo or fiddle—others sit on the gunwale, smoking and talking; Late in the afternoon the mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing in the Great Dismal Swamp-there are the greenish waters, the resinous odour, the plenteous moss, the cypress-tree, and the juniper-tree. —Northward, young men of Mannahatta—the target company from an excursion returning home at evening—the musket-muzzles all bear bunches of flowers presented by women; Children at play—or on his father’s lap a young boy fallen asleep, (how his lips move! how he smiles in his sleep!) The scout riding on horseback over the plains west of the Mississippi—he ascends a knoll and sweeps his eye around. California life—the miner, bearded, dressed in his rude costume—the staunch California friendship—the sweet air—the graves one, in passing, meets, solitary, just aside the horse-path; Down in Texas, the cotton-field, the negro-cabins—drivers driving mules or oxen before rude carts—cotton-bales piled on banks and wharves. Encircling all, vast-darting, up and wide, the American Soul, with equal hemispheres—one Love, one Dilation or Pride. —In arriere, the peace-talk with the Iroquois, the aborigines—the calumet, the pipe of good-will, arbitration, and endorsement, The sachem blowing the smoke first toward the sun and then toward the earth, The drama of the scalp-dance enacted with painted faces and guttural exclamations, The setting-out of the war-party—the long and stealthy march, The single-file—the swinging hatchets—the surprise and slaughter of enemies. —All the acts, scenes, ways, persons, attitudes, of these States— reminiscences, all institutions, All these States, compact—Every square mile of these States, without excepting a particle—you also—me also. Me pleased, rambling in lanes and country fields, Paumanok’s fields, Me, observing the spiral flight of two little yellow butterflies, shuffling between each other, ascending high in the air; The darting swallow, the destroyer of insects—the fall-traveller southward, but returning northward early in the spring; The country boy at the close of the day, driving the herd of cows, and shouting to them as they loiter to browse by the roadside; The city wharf—Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, New Orleans, San Francisco, The departing ships, when the sailors heave at the capstan; Evening—me in my room—the setting sun, The setting summer sun shining in my open window, showing the swarm of flies, suspended, balancing in the air in the centre of the room, darting athwart, up and down, casting swift shadows in specks on the opposite wall, where the shine is. The athletic American matron speaking in public to crowds of listeners; Males, females, immigrants, combinations—the copiousness—the individuality of the States, each for itself—the money-makers; Factories, machinery, the mechanical forces—the windlass, lever, pulley— All certainties, The certainty of space, increase, freedom, futurity; In space, the sporades, the scattered islands, the stars—on the firm earth, the lands, my lands! O lands! O all so dear to me—what you are (whatever it is), I become a part of that, whatever it is. Southward there, I screaming, with wings slow-flapping, with the myriads of gulls wintering along the coasts of Florida—or in Louisiana, with pelicans breeding, Otherways, there, atwixt the banks of the Arkansaw, the Rio Grande, the Nueces, the Brazos, the Tombigbee, the Red River, the Saskatchewan, or the Osage, I with the spring waters laughing and skipping and running; Northward, on the sands, on some shallow bay of Paumanok, I, with parties of snowy herons wading in the wet to seek worms and aquatic plants; Retreating, triumphantly twittering, the king-bird, from piercing the crow with its bill, for amusement—And I triumphantly twittering; The migrating flock of wild geese alighting in autumn to refresh themselves—the body of the flock feed—the sentinels outside move around with erect heads watching, and are from time to time relieved by other sentinels—And I feeding and taking turns with the rest; In Canadian forests, the moose, large as an ox, cornered by hunters, rising desperately on his hind-feet, and plunging with his fore-feet, the hoofs as sharp as knives—And I plunging at the hunters, cornered and desperate; In the Mannahatta, streets, piers, shipping, store-houses, and the countless workmen working in the shops, And I too of the Mannahatta, singing thereof—and no less in myself than the whole of the Mannahatta in itself, Singing the song of These, my ever-united lands—my body no more inevitably united part to part, and made one identity, any more than my lands are inevitably united, and made ONE IDENTITY; Nativities, climates, the grass of the great pastoral plains, Cities, labours, death, animals, products, good and evil—these me,— These affording, in all their particulars, endless feuillage to me and to America, how can I do less than pass the clue of the union of them, to afford the like to you? Whoever you are! how can I but offer you divine leaves, that you also be eligible as I am? How can I but, as here, chanting, invite you for yourself to collect bouquets of the incomparable feuillage of these States?

[Footnote 1: 1858-59.]

Walt Whitman – Beat! Beat! Drums!


Beat! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows—through doors—burst like a force of ruthless men,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation;
Into the school where the scholar is studying:
Leave not the bridegroom quiet—no happiness must he have now with his
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering his
So fierce you whirr and pound, you drums—so shrill you bugles blow.


Beat! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities—over the rumble of wheels in the streets:
Are beds prepared, for sleepers at night in the houses? No sleepers must
sleep in those beds;
No bargainers’ bargains by day—no brokers or speculators—Would they
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier, drums—you bugles wilder blow.


Beat! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley—stop for no expostulation;
Mind not the timid—mind not the weeper or prayer;
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
So strong you thump, O terrible drums—so loud you bugles blow.