Song of Myself

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, Furby, Eliza, Mr_Friss and Miss_Friss.

Save Point 0.8.1, a Portland, Oregon, exhibit, Aug. 13-Sept. 5, 2004, at Disjecta.

Song of MyselfByWalt Whitman1819-1892

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, formd from this soil, this air,

Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their

I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,

Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,

I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,

Nature without check with original energy.

Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with

I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,

The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the

It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,

I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,

I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

Echoes, ripples, buzzd whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and vine,

My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing

The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and

dark-colord sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,

The sound of the belchd words of my voice loosd to the eddies of

A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms,

The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,

The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields

The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising

Have you reckond a thousand acres much? have you reckond the earth much?

Have you practisd so long to learn to read?

Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of

You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions

You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through

the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,

You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,

You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.

I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the

But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.

There was never any more inception than there is now,

Nor any more youth or age than there is now,

And will never be any more perfection than there is now,

Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Always the procreant urge of the world.

Out of the dimness opposite equals advance, always substance and

Always a knit of identity, always distinction, always a breed of life.

To elaborate is no avail, learnd and unlearnd feel that it is so.

Sure as the most certain sure, plumb in the uprights, well

Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical,

Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul.

Lack one lacks both, and the unseen is proved by the seen,

Till that becomes unseen and receives proof in its turn.

Showing the best and dividing it from the worst age vexes age,

Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of things, while they

discuss I am silent, and go bathe and admire myself.

Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and of any man hearty and clean,

Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be

I am satisfied–I see, dance, laugh, sing;

As the hugging and loving bed-fellow sleeps at my side through the night,

and withdraws at the peep of the day with stealthy tread,

Leaving me baskets coverd with white towels swelling the house with

Shall I postpone my acceptation and realization and scream at my eyes,

That they turn from gazing after and down the road,

And forthwith cipher and show me to a cent,

Exactly the value of one and exactly the value of two, and which is ahead?

People I meet, the effect upon me of my early life or the ward and

The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old and new,

My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues,

The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love,

The sickness of one of my folks or of myself, or ill-doing or loss

or lack of money, or depressions or exaltations,

Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news,

These come to me days and nights and go from me again,

Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,

Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary,

Looks down, is erect, or bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest,

Looking with side-curved head curious what will come next,

Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.

Backward I see in my own days where I sweated through fog with

I have no mockings or arguments, I witness and wait.

I believe in you my soul, the other I am must not abase itself to you,

And you must not be abased to the other.

Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat,

Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not

Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice.

I mind how once we lay such a transparent summer morning,

How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turnd over upon me,

And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue

And reachd till you felt my beard, and reachd till you held my feet.

Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass

And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,

And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,

And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women

And that a kelson of the creation is love,

And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,

And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,

And mossy scabs of the worm fence, heapd stones, elder, mullein and

A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;

How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,

A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,

Bearing the owners name someway in the corners, that we may see

Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,

And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,

Growing among black folks as among white,

Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,

It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,

It may be if I had known them I would have loved them,

It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon out

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,

Darker than the colorless beards of old men,

Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,

And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,

And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken

What do you think has become of the young and old men?

And what do you think has become of the women and children?

The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,

And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,

And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?

I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.

I pass death with the dying and birth with the new-washd babe, and

am not containd between my hat and boots,

And peruse manifold objects, no two alike and every one good,

The earth good and the stars good, and their adjuncts all good.

I am not an earth nor an adjunct of an earth,

I am the mate and companion of people, all just as immortal and

(They do not know how immortal, but I know.)

Every kind for itself and its own, for me mine male and female,

For me those that have been boys and that love women,

For me the man that is proud and feels how it stings to be slighted,

For me the sweet-heart and the old maid, for me mothers and the

For me lips that have smiled, eyes that have shed tears,

For me children and the begetters of children.

Undrape! you are not guilty to me, nor stale nor discarded,

I see through the broadcloth and gingham whether or no,

And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless, and cannot be shaken away.

The little one sleeps in its cradle,

I lift the gauze and look a long time, and silently brush away flies

The youngster and the red-faced girl turn aside up the bushy hill,

The suicide sprawls on the bloody floor of the bedroom,

I witness the corpse with its dabbled hair, I note where the pistol

The blab of the pave, tires of carts, sluff of boot-soles, talk of

The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogating thumb, the

clank of the shod horses on the granite floor,

The snow-sleighs, clinking, shouted jokes, pelts of snow-balls,

The hurrahs for popular favorites, the fury of rousd mobs,

The flap of the curtaind litter, a sick man inside borne to the hospital,

The meeting of enemies, the sudden oath, the blows and fall,

The excited crowd, the policeman with his star quickly working his

The impassive stones that receive and return so many echoes,

What groans of over-fed or half-starvd who fall sunstruck or in fits,

What exclamations of women taken suddenly who hurry home and

What living and buried speech is always vibrating here, what howls

Arrests of criminals, slights, adulterous offers made, acceptances,

I mind them or the show or resonance of them–I come and I depart.

The big doors of the country barn stand open and ready,

The dried grass of the harvest-time loads the slow-drawn wagon,

The clear light plays on the brown gray and green intertinged,

The armfuls are packd to the sagging mow.

I am there, I help, I came stretchd atop of the load,

I felt its soft jolts, one leg reclined on the other,

I jump from the cross-beams and seize the clover and timothy,

And roll head over heels and tangle my hair full of wisps.

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-killd game,

Falling asleep on the gatherd 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 stopt for me,

I tuckd 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,

Her father and his friends sat near cross-legged and dumbly smoking,

they had moccasins to their feet and large thick blankets

On a bank lounged the trapper, he was drest mostly in skins, his luxuriant

beard and curls protected his neck, he held his bride by the hand,

She had long eyelashes, her head was bare, her coarse straight locks

descended upon her voluptuous limbs and reachd to her feet.

The runaway slave came to my house and stopt outside,

I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile,

Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsy and weak,

And went where he sat on a log and led him in and assured him,

And brought water and filld a tub for his sweated body and bruisd feet,

And gave him a room that enterd from my own, and gave him some

And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and his awkwardness,

And remember putting piasters on the galls of his neck and ankles;

He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and passd north,

I had him sit next me at table, my fire-lock leand in the corner.

Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore,

Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly;

Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome.

She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank,

She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the window.

Which of the young men does she like the best?

Ah the homeliest of them is beautiful to her.

Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,

You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room.

Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth bather,

The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.

The beards of the young men glistend with wet, it ran from their long hair,

Little streams passd all over their bodies.

An unseen hand also passd over their bodies,

It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs.

The young men float on their backs, their white bellies bulge to the

sun, they do not ask who seizes fast to them,

They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and bending arch,

They do not think whom they souse with spray.

The butcher-boy puts off his killing-clothes, or sharpens his knife

I loiter enjoying his repartee and his shuffle and break-down.

Blacksmiths with grimed and hairy chests environ the anvil,

Each has his main-sledge, they are all out, there is a great heat in

From the cinder-strewd threshold I follow their movements,

The lithe sheer of their waists plays even with their massive arms,

Overhand the hammers swing, overhand so slow, overhand so sure,

They do not hasten, each man hits in his place.

The negro holds firmly the reins of his four horses, the block swags

The negro that drives the long dray of the stone-yard, steady and

tall he stands poisd on one leg on the string-piece,

His blue shirt exposes his ample neck and breast and loosens over

His glance is calm and commanding, he tosses the slouch of his hat

The sun falls on his crispy hair and mustache, falls on the black of

I behold the picturesque giant and love him, and I do not stop there,

In me the caresser of life wherever moving, backward as well as

To niches aside and junior bending, not a person or object missing,

Absorbing all to myself and for this song.

Oxen that rattle the yoke and chain or halt in the leafy shade, what

It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life.

My tread scares the wood-drake and wood-duck on my distant and

They rise together, they slowly circle around.

And acknowledge red, yellow, white, playing within me,

And consider green and violet and the tufted crown intentional,

And do not call the tortoise unworthy because she is not something else,

And the in the woods never studied the gamut, yet trills pretty well to me,

And the look of the bay mare shames silliness out of me.

The wild gander leads his flock through the cool night,

Ya-honk he says, and sounds it down to me like an invitation,

The pert may suppose it meaningless, but I listening close,

Find its purpose and place up there toward the wintry sky.

The sharp-hoofd moose of the north, the cat on the house-sill, the

The litter of the grunting sow as they tug at her teats,

The brood of the turkey-hen and she with her half-spread wings,

I see in them and myself the same old law.

The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred affections,

They scorn the best I can do to relate them.

Of men that live among cattle or taste of the ocean or woods,

Of the builders and steerers of ships and the wielders of axes and

I can eat and sleep with them week in and week out.

What is commonest, cheapest, nearest, easiest, is Me,

Me going in for my chances, spending for vast returns,

Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that will take me,

Not asking the sky to come down to my good will,

The pure contralto sings in the organ loft,

The carpenter dresses his plank, the tongue of his foreplane

The married and unmarried children ride home to their Thanksgiving dinner,

The pilot seizes the king-pin, he heaves down with a strong arm,

The mate stands braced in the whale-boat, lance and harpoon are ready,

The duck-shooter walks by silent and cautious stretches,

The deacons are ordaind with crossd hands at the altar,

The spinning-girl retreats and advances to the hum of the big wheel,

The farmer stops by the bars as he walks on a First-day loafe and

The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum a confirmd case,

(He will never sleep any more as he did in the cot in his mothers

The jour printer with gray head and gaunt jaws works at his case,

He turns his quid of tobacco while his eyes blurr with the manuscript;

The malformd limbs are tied to the surgeons table,

What is removed drops horribly in a pail;

The quadroon girl is sold at the auction-stand, the drunkard nods by

The machinist rolls up his sleeves, the policeman travels his beat,

The young fellow drives the express-wagon, (I love him, though I do

The half-breed straps on his light boots to compete in the race,

The western turkey-shooting draws old and young, some lean on their

Out from the crowd steps the marksman, takes his position, levels his piece;

The groups of newly-come immigrants cover the wharf or levee,

As the woolly-pates hoe in the sugar-field, the overseer views them

The bugle calls in the ball-room, the gentlemen run for their

partners, the dancers bow to each other,

The youth lies awake in the cedar-roofd garret and harks to the

The Wolverine sets traps on the creek that helps fill the Huron,

The squaw wrapt in her yellow-hemmd cloth is offering moccasins and

The connoisseur peers along the exhibition-gallery with half-shut

As the deck-hands make fast the steamboat the plank is thrown for

The young sister holds out the skein while the elder sister winds it

off in a ball, and stops now and then for the knots,

The one-year wife is recovering and happy having a week ago borne

The clean-haird Yankee girl works with her sewing-machine or in the

The paving-man leans on his two-handed rammer, the reporters lead

flies swiftly over the note-book, the sign-painter is lettering

The canal boy trots on the tow-path, the book-keeper counts at his

desk, the shoemaker waxes his thread,

The conductor beats time for the band and all the performers follow him,

The child is baptized, the convert is making his first professions,

The regatta is spread on the bay, the race is begun, (how the white

The drover watching his drove sings out to them that would stray,

The pedler sweats with his pack on his back, (the purchaser higgling

The bride unrumples her white dress, the minute-hand of the clock

The opium-eater reclines with rigid head and just-opend lips,

The prostitute draggles her shawl, her bonnet bobs on her tipsy and

The crowd laugh at her blackguard oaths, the men jeer and wink to

(Miserable! I do not laugh at your oaths nor jeer you;)

The President holding a cabinet council is surrounded by the great

On the piazza walk three matrons stately and friendly with twined arms,

The crew of the fish-smack pack repeated layers of halibut in the hold,

The Missourian crosses the plains toting his wares and his cattle,

As the fare-collector goes through the train he gives notice by the

The floor-men are laying the floor, the tinners are tinning the

roof, the masons are calling for mortar,

In single file each shouldering his hod pass onward the laborers;

Seasons pursuing each other the indescribable crowd is gatherd, it

is the fourth of Seventh-month, (what salutes of cannon and small arms!)

Seasons pursuing each other the plougher ploughs, the mower mows,

and the winter-grain falls in the ground;

Off on the lakes the pike-fisher watches and waits by the hole in

The stumps stand thick round the clearing, the squatter strikes deep

Flatboatmen make fast towards dusk near the cotton-wood or pecan-trees,

Coon-seekers go through the regions of the Red river or through

those draind by the Tennessee, or through those of the Arkansas,

Torches shine in the dark that hangs on the Chattahooche or Altamahaw,

Patriarchs sit at supper with sons and grandsons and great-grandsons

In walls of adobie, in canvas tents, rest hunters and trappers after

The city sleeps and the country sleeps,

The living sleep for their time, the dead sleep for their time,

The old husband sleeps by his wife and the young husband sleeps by his wife;

And these tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them,

And such as it is to be of these more or less I am,

And of these one and all I weave the song of myself.

I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,

Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,

Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,

Stuffd with the stuff that is coarse and stuffd with the stuff

One of the Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the

A Southerner soon as a Northerner, a planter nonchalant and

hospitable down by the Oconee I live,

A Yankee bound my own way ready for trade, my joints the limberest

joints on earth and the sternest joints on earth,

A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in my deer-skin

leggings, a Louisianian or Georgian,

A boatman over lakes or bays or along coasts, a Hoosier, Badger, Buckeye;

At home on Kanadian snow-shoes or up in the bush, or with fishermen

At home in the fleet of ice-boats, sailing with the rest and tacking,

At home on the hills of Vermont or in the woods of Maine, or the

Comrade of Californians, comrade of free North-Westerners, (loving

Comrade of raftsmen and coalmen, comrade of all who shake hands

A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the thoughtfullest,

A novice beginning yet experient of myriads of seasons,

Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion,

A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor, quaker,

Prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician, priest.

I resist any thing better than my own diversity,

Breathe the air but leave plenty after me,

And am not stuck up, and am in my place.

(The moth and the fish-eggs are in their place,

The bright suns I see and the dark suns I cannot see are in their place,

The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place.)

These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they

If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or next to nothing,

If they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle they are nothing,

If they are not just as close as they are distant they are nothing.

This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is,

This the common air that bathes the globe.

With music strong I come, with my cornets and my drums,

I play not marches for accepted victors only, I play marches for

Have you heard that it was good to gain the day?

I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit

I blow through my embouchures my loudest and gayest for them.

And to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea!

And to those themselves who sank in the sea!

And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome heroes!

And the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known!

This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger,

It is for the wicked just same as the righteous, I make appointments

I will not have a single person slighted or left away,

The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited,

The heavy-lippd slave is invited, the venerealee is invited;

There shall be no difference between them and the rest.

This is the press of a bashful hand, this the float and odor of hair,

This the touch of my lips to yours, this the murmur of yearning,

This the far-off depth and height reflecting my own face,

This the thoughtful merge of myself, and the outlet again.

Do you guess I have some intricate purpose?

Well I have, for the Fourth-month showers have, and the mica on the

Does the daylight astonish? does the early redstart twittering

This hour I tell things in confidence,

I might not tell everybody, but I will tell you.

Who goes there? hankering, gross, mystical, nude;

How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat?

What is a man anyhow? what am I? what are you?

All I mark as my own you shall offset it with your own,

Else it were time lost listening to me.

I do not snivel that snivel the world over,

That months are vacuums and the ground but wallow and filth.

Whimpering and truckling fold with powders for invalids, conformity

I wear my hat as I please indoors or out.

Why should I pray? why should I venerate and be ceremonious?

Having pried through the strata, analyzed to a hair, counseld with

I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.

In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn less,

And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them.

To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow,

All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.

I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenters compass,

I know I shall not pass like a childs carlacue cut with a burnt

I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood,

I see that the elementary laws never apologize,

(I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by,

If no other in the world be aware I sit content,

And if each and all be aware I sit content.

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,

And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or ten

I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.

My foothold is tenond and mortisd in granite,

I laugh at what you call dissolution,

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

I am the poet of the woman the same as the man,

And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man,

And I say there is nothing greater than the mother of men.

I chant the chant of dilation or pride,

We have had ducking and deprecating about enough,

I show that size is only development.

Have you outstript the rest? are you the President?

It is a trifle, they will more than arrive there every one, and

I am he that walks with the tender and growing night,

I call to the earth and sea half-held by the night.