You laggards there on guard! look to your arms!
In at the conquer’d doors they crowd! I am possess’d!
Embody all presences outlaw’d or suffering,
See myself in prison shaped like another man,
And feel the dull unintermitted pain,
For me the keepers of convicts shoulder their carbines and
It is I let out in the morning and barr’d at night.
Not a mutineer walks handcuff’d to jail but I am handcuff’d
to him and walk by his side,
(I am less the jolly one there, and more the silent one with
sweat on my twitching lips.)
Not a youngster is taken for larceny but I go up too, and am
tried and sentenced.
Not a cholera patient lies at the last gasp but I also lie at the
My face is ash—color’d, my sinews gnarl, away from me
Askers embody themselves in me and I am embodied in
I project my hat, sit shame—faced, and beg.
Enough! enough! enough!
Somehow I have been stunn’d. Stand back!
Give me a little time beyond my cuff’d head, slumbers,
I discover myself on the verse of a usual mistake.
That I could forget the mockers and insults!
That I could forget the trickling tears and the blows of the
bludgeons and hammers!
That I could look with a separate look on my own crucifixion
and bloody crowning!
I remember now,
I resume the overstaid fraction,
The grave of rock multiplies what has been confided to it, or
to any graves,
Corpses rise, gashes heal, fastenings roll from me.
I troop forth replenish’d with supreme power, one of an
average unending procession,
Inland and sea—coast we go, and pass all boundary lines,
Our swift ordinances on their way over the whole earth,
The blossoms we wear in our hats the growth of thousands of
Eleves, I salute you! come forward!
Continue your annotations, continue your questionings.
The friendly and flowing savage, who is he?
Is he waiting for civilization, or past it and mastering it?
Is he some Southwesterner rais’d out—doors? is he Kanadian?
Is he from the Mississippi country? Iowa, Oregon, California?
The mountains? prairie—life, bush—life? or sailor from the sea?
Wherever he goes men and women accept and desire him,
They desire he should like them, touch them, speak to them,
stay with them.
Behavior lawless as snow—flakes, words simple as grass,
uncomb’d head, laughter, and naivetè,
Slow—stepping feet, common features, common modes and
They descend in new forms from the tips of his fingers,
They are wafted with the odor of his body or breath, they fly
out of the glance of his eyes.
Flaunt of the sunshine I need not your bask —lie over!
You light surfaces only, I force surfaces and depths also.
Earth! you seem to look for something at my hands,
Say, old top—knot, what do you want?
Man or woman, I might tell how I like you, but cannot,
And might tell what it is in me and what it is in you, but cannot,
And might tell that pining I have, that pulse of my nights and
Behold, I do not give lectures or a little charity,
When I give I give myself.
You there, impotent, loose in the knees,
Open your scarf’d chops till I blow grit within you,
Spread your palms and life the flaps of your pockets,
I am not to be denied, I compel, I have stores plenty and to
And any thing I have I bestow.
I do not ask who you are, that is not important to me,
You can do nothing and be nothing but what I will infold
To cotton—field drudge or cleaner of privies I lean,
On his right cheek I put the family kiss,
And in my soul I swear I never will deny him.
On women fit for conception I start bigger and nimbler
(This day I am jetting the stuff of far more arrogant
To any one dying, thither I speed and twist the knob of the
Turn the bed—clothes toward the foot of the bed,
Let the physician and the priest go home.
I seize the descending man and raise him with resistless will,
O despairer, here is my neck,
By God, you shall not go down! hang your whole weight
I dilate you with tremendous breath, I buoy you up,
Every room of the house do I fill with an arm’d force,
Lovers of me, bafflers of graves.
Sleep —I and they keep guard all night,
Not doubt, not disease shall dare to lay finger upon you,
I have embraced you, and henceforth possess you to myself,
And when you rise in the morning you will find what I tell
you is so.
I am he bringing help for the sick as they pant on their backs,
And for strong upright men I bring yet more needed help.
I heard what was said of the universe,
Heard it and heard it of several thousand years;
It is middling well as far as it goes —but is that all?
Magnifying and applying come I,
Outbidding at the start the old cautious hucksters,
Taking myself the exact dimensions of Jehovah,
Lithographing Kronos, Zeus his son, and Hercules his grandson,
Buying drafts of Osiris, Isis, Belus, Brahma, Buddha,
In my portfolio placing Manito loose, Allah on a leaf, the
With Odin and the hideous—faced Mexitli and every idol and
Taking them all for what they are worth and not a cent more,
Admitting they were alive and did the work of their days,
(They bore mites as for unfledg’d birds who have now to rise
and fly and sing for themselves,)
Accepting the rough deific sketches to fill out better in myself,
bestowing them freely on each man and woman I see,
Discovering as much or more in a framer framing a house,
Putting higher claims for him there with his roll’d—up sleeves
driving the mallet and chisel,
Not objecting to special revelations, considering a curl of
smoke or a hair on the back of my hand just as curious
as any revelation,
Lads ahold of fire—engines and hook—and—ladder ropes no less
to me than the gods of the antique wars,
Minding their voices peal through the crash of destruction,
Their brawny limbs passing safe over charr’d laths, their
white foreheads whole and unhurt out of the flames;
By the mechanic’s wife with her babe at her nipple
interceding for every person born,
Three scythes at harvest whizzing in a row from three lusty
angels with shirts bagg’d out at their waists,
The snag—tooth’d hostler with red hair redeeming sins past
and to come,
Selling all he possesses, traveling on foot to fee lawyers for
his brother and sit by him while he is tried for forgery;
What was strewn in the amplest strewing the square rod
about me, and not filling the square rod then,
The bull and the bug never worshipp’d half enough,
Dung and dirt more admirable than was dream’d,
The supernatural of no account, myself waiting my time to
be one of the supremes,
The day getting ready for me when I shall do as much good
as the best, and be as prodigious;
By my life—lumps! becoming already a creator,
Putting myself here and now to the ambush’d womb of the
A call in the midst of the crowd,
My own voice, orotund sweeping and final.
Come my children,
Come my boys and girls, my women, household and
Now the performer launches his nerve, he has pass’d his
prelude on the reeds within.
Easily written loose—finger’d chords —I feel the thrum of your
climax and close.
My head slues round on my neck,
Music rolls, but not from the organ,
Folks are around me, but they are no household of mine.
Ever the hard unsunk ground,
Ever the eaters and drinkers, ever the upward and downward
sun, ever the air and the ceaseless tides,
Ever myself and my neighbors, refreshing, wicked, real,
Ever the old inexplicable query, ever that thorn’d thumb,
that breath of itches and thirsts,
Ever the vexer’s hoot! hoot! till we find where the sly one
hides and bring him forth,
Ever love, ever the sobbing liquid of life,
Ever the bandage under the chin, ever the trestles of death.
Here and there with dimes on the eyes walking,
To feed the greed of the belly the brains liberally spooning,
Tickets buying, taking, selling, but in to the feast never once
Many sweating, ploughing, thrashing, and then the chaff for
A few idly owning, and they the wheat continually claiming.
This is the city and I am one of the citizens,
Whatever interests the rest interests me, politics, wars,
markets, newspapers, schools,
The mayor and councils, banks, tariffs, steamships, factories,
stocks, stores, real estate and personal estate.
The little plentiful manikins skipping around in collars and
I am aware who they are, (they are positively not worms or
I acknowledge the duplicates of myself, the weakest and
shallowest is deathless with me,
What I do and say the same waits for them,
Every thought that flounders in me the same flounders in
I know perfectly well my own egotism,
Know my omnivorous lines and must not write any less,
And would fetch you whoever you are flush with myself.
Not words of routine this song of mine,
But abruptly to question, to leap beyond yet nearer bring;
This printed and bound book —but the printer and the
The well—taken photographs —but your wife or friend close
and solid in your arms?
The black ship mail’d with iron, her mighty guns in her
turrets —but the pluck of the captain and engineers?
In the houses the dishes and fare and furniture —but the host
and hostess, and the look out of their eyes?
The sky up there —yet here or next door, or across the way?
The saints and sages in history —but you yourself?
Sermons, creeds, theology —but the fathomless human brain,
And what is reason? and what is love? and what is life?
I do not despise you priests, all time, the world over,
My faith is the greatest of faiths and the least of faiths,
Enclosing worship ancient and modern and all between
ancient and modern,
Believing I shall come again upon the earth after five
Waiting responses from oracles, honoring the gods, saluting
Making a fetich of the first rock or stump, powowing with
sticks in the circle of obis,
Helping the llama or brahmin as he trims the lamps of the idols,
Dancing yet through the streets in a phallic procession, rapt
and austere in the woods a gymnosophist,
Drinking mead from the skull—cup, to Shastas and Vedas
admirant, minding the Koran,
Walking the teokallis, spotted with gore from the stone and
knife, beating the serpent—skin drum,
Accepting the Gospels, accepting him that was crucified,
knowing assuredly that he is divine,
To the mass kneeling or the puritan’s prayer rising, or sitting
patiently in a pew,
Ranting and frothing in my insane crisis, or waiting dead—like
till my spirit arouses me,
Looking forth on pavement and land, or outside of pavement
Belonging to the winders of the circuit of circuits.
One of that centripetal and centrifugal gang I turn and talk
like a man leaving charges before a journey.
Down—hearted doubters dull and excluded,
Frivolous, sullen, moping, angry, affected, dishearten’d,
I know every one of you, I know the sea of torment, doubt,
despair and unbelief.
How the flukes splash!
How they contort rapid as lightning, with spasms and spouts
Be at peace bloody flukes of doubters and sullen mopers,
I take my place among you as much as among any,
The past is the push of you, me, all, precisely the same,
And what is yet untried and afterward is for you, me, all
precisely the same.
I do not know what is untried and afterward,
But I know it will in its turn prove sufficient, and cannot fail.
Each who passes is consider’d, each who stops is consider’d,
not a single one can it fail.
It cannot fail the young man who died and was buried,
Nor the young woman who died and was put by his side,
Nor the little child that peep’d in at the door, and then drew
back and was never seen again,
Nor the old man who has lived without purpose, and feels it
with bitterness worse than gall,
Nor him in the poor house tubercled by rum and the bad disorder,
Nor the numberless slaughter’d and wreck’d, nor the brutish
koboo call’d the ordure of humanity,
Nor the sacs merely floating with open mouths for food to
Nor any thing in the earth, or down in the oldest graves of
Nor any thing in the myriads of spheres, nor the myriads of
myriads that inhabit them,
Nor the present, nor the least wisp that is known.
It is time to explain myself —let us stand up.
What is known I strip away,
I launch all men and women forward with me into the Unknown.
The clock indicates the moment —but what does eternity
We have thus far exhausted trillions of winters and summers,
There are trillions ahead, and trillions ahead of them.
Births have brought us richness and variety,
And other births will bring us richness and variety.
I do not call one greater and one smaller,
That which fills its period and place is equal to any.
Were mankind murderous or jealous upon you, my brother,
I am sorry for you, they are not murderous or jealous upon me,
All has been gentle with me, I keep no account with lamentation,
(What have I to do with lamentation?)
I am an acme of things accomplish’d, and I an encloser of
things to be.
My feet strike an apex of the apices of the stairs,
On every step bunches of ages, and larger bunches between
All below duly travel’d, and still I mount and mount.
Rise after rise bow the phantoms behind me,
Afar down I see the huge first Nothing, I know I was even
I waited unseen and always, and slept through the lethargic
And took my time, and took no hurt from the fetid carbon.
Long I was hugg’d close —long and long.
Immense have been the preparations for me,
Faithful and friendly the arms that have help’d me.
Cycles ferried my cradle, rowing and rowing like cheerful
For room to me stars kept aside in their own rings,
They sent influences to look after what was to hold me.
Before I was born out of my mother generations guided me,
My embryo has never been torpid, nothing could overlay it.
For it the nebula cohered to an orb,
The long slow strata piled to rest it on,
Vast vegetables gave it sustenance,
Monstrous sauroids transported it in their mouths and deposited
it with care.
All forces have been steadily employ’d to complete and delight me,
Now on this spot I stand with my robust soul.
O span of youth! ever—push’d elasticity!
O manhood, balanced, florid and full.
My lovers suffocate me,
Crowding my lips, thick in the pores of my skin,
Jostling me through streets and public halls, coming naked to
me at night,
Crying by day Ahoy! from the rocks of the river, swinging
and chirping over my head,
Calling my name from flower—beds, vines, tangled underbrush,
Lighting on every moment of my life,
Bussing my body with soft balsamic busses,
Noiselessly passing handfuls out of their hearts and giving
them to be mine.
Old age superbly rising! O welcome, ineffable grace of dying
Every condition promulges not only itself, it promulges what
grows after and out of itself,
And the dark hush promulges as much as any.
I open my scuttle at night and see the far—sprinkled systems,
And all I see multiplied as high as I can cipher edge but the
rim of the farther systems.
Wider and wider they spread, expanding, always expanding,
Outward and outward and forever outward.
My sun has his sun and round him obediently wheels,
He joins with his partners a group of superior circuit,
And greater sets follow, making specks of the greatest inside
There is no stoppage and never can be stoppage,
If I, you, and the worlds, and all beneath or upon their surfaces,
were this moment reduced back to a pallid float, it would
not avail in the long run,
We should surely bring up again where we now stand,
And surely go as much farther, and then farther and farther.
A few quadrillions of eras, a few octillions of cubic leagues,
do not hazard the span or make it impatient,
They are but parts, any thing is but a part.
See ever so far, there is limitless space outside of that,
Count ever so much, there is limitless time around that.
My rendezvous is appointed, it is certain,
The Lord will be there and wait till I come on perfect terms,
The great Camerado, the lover true for whom I pine will be
I know I have the best of time and space, and was never
measured and never will be measured.
I tramp a perpetual journey, (come listen all!)
My signs are a rain—proof coat, good shoes, and a staff cut
from the woods,
No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair,
I have no chair, no church, no philosophy,
I lead no man to a dinner—table, library, exchange,
But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll,
My left hand hooking you round the waist,
My right hand pointing to landscapes of continents and the
Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you,
You must travel it for yourself.
It is not far, it is within reach,
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not
Perhaps it is everywhere on water and on land.
Shoulder your duds dear son, and I will mine, and let us
Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch as we go.
If you tire, give me both burdens, and rest the chuff of your
hand on my hip,
And in due time you shall repay the same service to me,
For after we start we never lie by again.
This day before dawn I ascended a hill and look’d at the
And I said to my spirit When we become the enfolders of those
orbs, and the pleasure and knowledge of every thing in
them, shall we be fill’d and satisfied then?
And my spirit said No, we but level that lift to pass and
You are also asking me questions and I hear you,
I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself.
Sit a while dear son,
Here are biscuits to eat and here is milk to drink,
But as soon as you sleep and renew yourself in sweet clothes,
I kiss you with a good—by kiss and open the gate for your
Long enough have you dream’d contemptible dreams,
Now I wash the gum from your eyes,
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of
every moment of your life.
Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by the shore,
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod to me,
shout, and laughingly dash with your hair.
I am the teacher of athletes,
He that by me spreads a wider breast than my own proves
the width of my own,
He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the
The boy I love, the same becomes a man not through derived
power, but in his own right,
Wicked rather than virtuous out of conformity or fear,
Fond of his sweetheart, relishing well his steak,
Unrequited love or a slight cutting him worse than sharp
First—rate to ride, to fight, to hit the bull’s eye, to sail a skiff,
to sing a song or play on the banjo,
Preferring scars and the beard and faces pitted with
small—pox over all latherers,
And those well—tann’d to those that keep out of the sun.
I teach straying from me, yet who can stray from me?
I follow you whoever you are from the present hour,
My words itch at your ears till you understand them.
I do not say these things for a dollar or to fill up the time
while I wait for a boat,
(It is you talking just as much as myself, I act as the tongue of
Tied in your mouth, in mine it begins to be loosen’d.)
I swear I will never again mention love or death inside a
And I swear I will never translate myself at all, only to him or
her who privately stays with me in the open air.
If you would understand me go to the heights or
The nearest gnat is an explanation, and a drop or motion of
waves a key,
The maul, the oar, the hand—saw, second my words.
No shutter’d room or school can commune with me,
But roughs and little children better than they.
The young mechanic is closest to me, he knows me well,
The woodman that takes his axe and jug with him shall take
me with him all day,
The farm—boy ploughing in the field feels good at the sound
of my voice,
In vessels that sail my words sail, I go with fishermen and
seamen and love them.
The soldier camp’d or upon the march is mine,
On the night ere the pending battle many seek me, and I do
not fail them,
On that solemn night (it may be their last) those that know
me seek me.
My face rubs to the hunter’s face when he lies down alone in
The driver thinking of me does not mind the jolt of his wagon,
The young mother and old mother comprehend me,
The girl and the wife rest the needle a moment and forget
where they are,
They and all would resume what I have told them.
I have said that the soul is not more than the body,
And I have said that the body is not more than the soul,
And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one’s self is,
And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his
own funeral drest in his shroud,
And I or you pocketless of a dime may purchase the pick of
And to glance with an eye or show a bean in its pod
confounds the learning of all times,
And there is no trade or employment but the young man
following it may become a hero,
And there is no object so soft but it makes a hub for the
And I say to any man or woman, Let your soul stand cool
and composed before a million universes.
And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God,
For I who am curious about each am not curious about
(No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about
God and about death.)
I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God
not in the least,
Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than
Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
I see something of God each hour of the twenty—four, and
each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own
face in the glass,
I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is
sign’d by God’s name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe’er
Others will punctually come for ever and ever.
And as to you Death, and you bitter hug of mortality, it is
idle to try to alarm me.
To his work without flinching the accoucheur comes,
I see the elder—hand pressing receiving supporting,
I recline by the sills of the exquisite flexible doors,
And mark the outlet, and mark the relief and escape.
And as to you Corpse I think you are good manure, but that
does not offend me,
I smell the white roses sweet—scented and growing,
I reach to the leafy lips, I reach to the polish’d breasts of
And as to you Life I reckon you are the leavings of many
(No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times before.)
I hear you whispering there O stars of heaven,
O suns —O grass of graves —O perpetual transfers and
If you do not say any thing how can I say any thing?
Of the turbid pool that lies in the autumn forest,
Of the moon that descends the steeps of the soughing
Toss, sparkles of day and dusk —toss on the black stems that
decay in the muck,
Toss to the moaning gibberish of the dry limbs.
I ascend from the moon, I ascend from the night,
I perceive that the ghastly glimmer is noonday sunbeams
And debouch to the steady and central from the offspring
great or small.
There is that in me —I do not know what it is —but I know it
is in me.
Wrench’d and sweaty —calm and cool then my body becomes,
I sleep —I sleep long.
I do not know it —it is without name —it is a word unsaid,
It is not in any dictionary, utterance, symbol.
Something it swings on more than the earth I swing on,
To it the creation is the friend whose embracing awakes me.
Perhaps I might tell more. Outlines! I plead for my brothers
Do you see O my brothers and sisters?
It is not chaos or death —it is form, union, plan —it is eternal
life —it is Happiness.
The past and present wilt —I have fill’d them, emptied them,
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, 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? who will soonest be through
with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?
Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too
The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains
of my gab and my loitering.
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
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.