"Song of Myself" (1855)
by Walt Whitman
I CELEBRATE myself, and
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease.... observing a spear of summer grass.
Alone far in the wilds and mountains I hunt,
Wandering amazed at my own lightness and glee,
In the late afternoon choosing a safe spot to pass the night,
Kindling a fire and broiling the fresh-kill'd game,
Falling asleep on the gather'd leaves with my dog
and gun by my side.
The Yankee clipper is under her sky-sails....
she cuts the sparkle and scud,
My eyes settle the land, I bend at her prow or shout
joyously from the deck.
The boatmen and clam-diggers arose early and
I tuck'd my trowser-ends in my boots and went and had
a good time;
You should have been with us that day round the chowder-kettle.
I saw the marriage of the trapper in the open
air in the
far-west, the bride was a red girl,
Her father and his friends sat near cross-legged and dumbly
smoking.... they had moccasins to their feet
thick blankets hanging from their shoulders;
On a bank lounged the trapper.... he was dressed mostly in skins....
his luxuriant beard and curls protected his
One hand rested on his rifle... the other hand held
firmly the wrist of the red girl,
She had long eyelashes....her head was bare.... her coarse straight
locks descended upon her voluptuous limbs and
to her feet.
The runaway slave came to my house and stopped
I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile,
Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him
limpsey and weak,
And went where he sat on a log and led him in and
And brought water and filled a tub for his sweated body
and bruis'd feet,
And gave him a room that entered from my own, and gave
him some coarse clean clothes,
And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and
And remember putting plasters on the galls of his neck
He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and
I had him sit next me at table.... my fire-lock lean'd in
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 a new tongue.
I am the poet of the woman the same as the
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
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
I call to the earth and sea half-held by the night.
Press close bare-bosom'd night! Press close
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
O unspeakable passionate love!
Now I will do nothing but listen,
And accrue what I hear into myself.... and let sounds contribute
I hear bravuras of birds.... the bustle of
growing wheat.... gossip of
flames....clack of sticks cooking my meals,
I hear the sound of the human voice.... a sound I love,
I hear all sounds tuned to their uses....
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
tinkles and color'd lights,
The steam-whistle and the solid roll of the train of
The slow-march played at night at the head of the association marching
two and two,
(They go to guard some corpse.... the flag-tops are draped with
I hear the violoncello, or man's heart
And hear the key'd cornet or else the echo of the sunset.
I hear the chorus.... it is a grand opera....Ah
this indeed is music!
Swift wind! Space! My soul! Now I know it is
true what I guess'd at,
What I guessed when I loafed on the grass,
What I guessed while I lay alone in my bed, and again
as I walk'd the beach under the paling stars of the
My ties and ballasts leave me.... I
travel.... my elbows rest in sea-gaps,
I skirt sierras.... my palms cover continents,
I am afoot with my vision.
By the city's quadrangular houses.... in log
huts, or camping
Along the ruts of the turnpike.... along the dry gulch
and rivulet bed,
Weeding my onion-patch and rows of carrots and parsnips....
crossing savannas.... trailing in forests,
Prospecting.... gold-digging..... girdling the trees of a new purchase,
Scorch'd ankle-deep by the hot sand.... hauling my boat down
the shallow river,
Where the panther walks to and fro on a limb overhead....
where the buck turns furiously at the hunter,
Where the rattlesnake suns his flabby length on a rock....
where the otter is feeding on fish,
Where the alligator in his tough pimples sleeps by the bayou,
Where the black bear is searching for roots or honey....
where the beaver pats the mud with his paddle-tail;
Over the growing sugar....over the yellow-flower'd cotton plant....
over the rice in its low moist field;
Over the sharp-peak'd farm house with its scallop'd scum
and slender shoots from the gutters,
Over the western persimmon.... over the long-leav'd corn and
the delicate blue-flower flax,
Over the white and brown buckwheat, a hummer and buzzer
there with the rest,
Over the dusky green of the rye as it ripples and shades in the breeze;
Scaling mountains.... pulling myself cautiously up....
holding on by low scragged limbs,
Walking the path worn in the grass and beat through the
leaves of the brush,
Where the quail is whistling betwixt the woods and the wheatlot,
Where the bat flies in the July eve.... where the great
gold-bug drops through the dark,
Where the brook puts out of the roots of the old tree and
flows to the meadow,
Where cattle stand and shake away flies with the tremulous
shuddering of their hides,
Where the cheese-cloth hangs in the kitchen, and andirons
straddle the hearth-slab, where cobwebs fall in
from the rafters;
Where trip-hammers crash....where the press is whirling its cylinders,
Where the human heart beats with terrible throes out of its ribs,
Where the pear-shaped balloon is floating aloft....
floating in it myself and looking composedly down;
Where the life-car is drawn on the slip-noose.... where the heat
hatches pale-green eggs in the dented sand,
Where the she-whale swims with her calves and never forsakes them,
Where the steam-ship trails hind-ways its long pennant of smoke,
Where the ground-shark's fin cuts like a black ship out of the water,
Where the half-burn'd brig is riding on unknown currents,
Where shells grow to her slimy deck and the dead are
Where the dense-starr'd flag is borne at the head of the regiments,
Approaching Manhattan, up by the long-stretching island,
Under Niagara, the cataract falling like a veil over my countenance,
Upon a door-step.... upon the horse-block of hard wood outside,
Upon the race-course, or enjoying picnics or jigs or a good
game of base-ball,
At he-festivals, with blackguard gibes and ironical license
and bull-dances and drinking and laughter,
At the cider-mill tasting the sweets of the brown sqush....
sucking the juice through a straw,
At apple-peelings, wanting kisses for all the red fruit I find,
At musters and beach-parties and friendly bees and huskings
Where the mocking-bird sounds his delicious gurgles and cackles and
screams and weeps,
Where the hay-rick stands in the barn-yard and the dry-stalks
are scatter'd and the brood-cow waits in the
Where the bull advances to do his masculine work and
the stud to the mare and the cock is treading the
Where the heifers browse and the geese nip their food with
Where sun-down shadows lengthen over the limitless and
Where herds of buffalo make a crawling spread of the square
miles far and near,
Where the humming-bird shimmers.... where the neck of the
long-lived swan is curving and winding,
Where the laughing-gull scoots by the shore, where she laughs
her near-human laugh,
Where bee-hives range on a gray bench in the garden half hid
by the high weeds,
Where band-neck'd partridges roost in a ring on the ground
with their heads out,
Where burial coaches enter the arch'd gates of a cemetery,
Where winter wolves bark amid wastes of snow and icicled trees,
Where the yellow-crown'd heron comes to the edge of the
marsh at night and feeds upon small crabs,
Where the splash of swimmers and divers cools the warm noon,
Where the katy-did works her chromatic reed on the
walnut-tree over the well;
Through patches of citrons and cucumbers with silver-wired leaves,
Through the salt-lick or orange glade....or under conical firs;
Through the gymnasium.... through the curtain'd saloon....
through the office or public hall;
Pleased with the native and pleased with the foreign....
pleased with the new and old,
Pleased with women, the homely woman as well as the handsome,
Pleased with the quakeress as she puts off her bonnet and
Pleased with the primitive tunes of the choir of the whitewash'd church,
Pleased with the earnest words of the sweating Methodist preacher....
or any preacher.... looking seriously at the
Looking in at the shop-windows of Broadway the whole
forenoon.... pressing the flesh of my nose on
the thick plate glass,
Wandering the same afternoon with my face turn'd up to the clouds...
or down a lane or along the beach,
My right and left arms round the sides of two friends and I
in the middle;
Coming home with the bearded and dark-cheek'd bush-boy....
riding behind him at the drape of the day;
Far from the settlements studying the print of animals' feet,
or the moccasin print,
By the cot in the hospital reaching lemonade to a feverish
By the coffined corpse when all is still, examining with a
Voyaging to every port to dicker and adventure,
Hurrying with the modern crowd as eager and fickle as any,
Hot toward one I hate, ready in my madness to knife him,
Solitary at midnight in my back yard, my thoughts gone from
me a long while,
Walking the old hills of Judaea with the beautiful gentle God
by my side,
Speeding through space....speeding through heaven and the stars,
Speeding amid the seven satellites and the broad ring and
the diameter of eighty thousand miles,
Speeding with tailed meteors, throwing fire-balls like the rest,
Carrying the crescent child that carries its own full mother
in its belly,
Storming enjoying planning loving cautioning,
Backing and filling, appearing and disappearing,
I tread day and night such roads.
I understand the large hearts of heroes,
The courage of present times and all times;
How the skipper saw the crowded and rudderless wreck of
the steamship, and death chasing it up and down
How he knuckled tight and gave not back an inch, and was faithful
of days and faithful of nights,
And chalked in large letters on a board, Be of good cheer, We
will not desert you;
How he saved the drifting company at last,
How the lank loose-gowned women looked when boated
from the side of their prepared graves,
How the silent old-faced infants and the lifted sick, and the
sharp-lipped unshaved men;
All this I swallow, it tastes good.... I like it well
and it becomes mine,
I am the man.... I suffered.... I was there.
The past and present wilt.... I have filled
them and emptied them,
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
Listener up there! Hear you.... what have you
to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
Talk honestly, for no one else hears you, and I stay only a
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then.... I contradict myself,
I am large.... I contain multitudes.
I concentrate toward them that are nigh.... I
wait on the door-slab.
Who has done his day's work and will soonest
with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?
Will you speak before I am gone? will you
prove already too late?
The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me....
of my gab and my loitering.
I too am not a bit tamed.... I too am
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.
I depart as air....I shake my white locks at
the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from
the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.
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