Verse > Walt Whitman > Leaves of Grass
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Walt Whitman (1819–1892).  Leaves of Grass.  1900.

10. Starting from Paumanok


1

STARTING from fish-shape Paumanok, where I was born,
 
Well-begotten, and rais’d by a perfect mother; 
After roaming many lands—lover of populous pavements; 
Dweller in Mannahatta, my city—or on southern savannas; 
Or a soldier camp’d, or carrying my knapsack and gun—or a miner in California;         5
Or rude in my home in Dakota’s woods, my diet meat, my drink from the spring; 
Or withdrawn to muse and meditate in some deep recess, 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 Niagara; 
Aware of the buffalo herds, grazing the plains—the hirsute and strong-breasted bull;  10
Of earth, rocks, Fifth-month flowers, experienced—stars, rain, snow, my amaze; 
Having studied the mocking-bird’s tones, and the mountainhawk’s, 
And heard at dusk the unrival’d one, the hermit thrush from the swamp-cedars, 
Solitary, singing in the West, I strike up for a New World. 
  
2

Victory, union, faith, identity, time,
  15
The indissoluble compacts, riches, mystery, 
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!  20
Underfoot the divine soil—overhead the sun. 
  
See, revolving, the globe; 
The ancestor-continents, away, group’d together; 
The present and future continents, north and south, with the isthmus between. 
  
See, vast, trackless spaces;  25
As in a dream, they change, they swiftly fill; 
Countless masses debouch upon them; 
They are now cover’d with the foremost people, arts, institutions, known. 
  
See, projected, through time, 
For me, an audience interminable.  30
  
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 turn’d sideways or backward towards me, to listen,  35
With eyes retrospective towards me, 
  
3

Americanos! conquerors! marches humanitarian;
 
Foremost! century marches! Libertad! masses! 
For you a programme of chants. 
  
Chants of the prairies;  40
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, equi-distant, 
Shooting in pulses of fire, ceaseless, to vivify all. 
  
4

In the Year 80 of The States,
  45
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d 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,  50
(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 now without check, with original energy. 
  
5

Take my leaves, America! take them, South, and take them, North!
 
Make welcome for them everywhere, for they are your own offspring;  55
Surround them, East and West! for they would surround you; 
And you precedents! connect lovingly with them, for they connect lovingly with you. 
  
I conn’d 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!  60
  
In the name of These States, shall I scorn the antique? 
Why These are the children of the antique, to justify it. 
  
6

Dead poets, philosophs, priests,
 
Martyrs, artists, inventors, governments long since, 
Language-shapers, on other shores,  65
Nations once powerful, now reduced, withdrawn, or desolate, 
I dare not proceed till I respectfully credit what you have left, wafted hither: 
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 deserves; 
Regarding it all intently a long while—then dismissing it,  70
I stand in my place, with my own day, here. 
  
Here lands female and male; 
Here the heir-ship and heiress-ship of the world—here the flame of materials; 
Here Spirituality, the translatress, the openly-avow’d, 
The ever-tending, the finale of visible forms;  75
The satisfier, after due long-waiting, now advancing, 
Yes, here comes my mistress, the Soul. 
  
7

The SOUL:
 
Forever and forever—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;  80
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 immortality. 
  
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,  85
And behind the weapons countless dissatisfied faces: 
—And a song make I, of the One form’d out of all; 
The fang’d 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.)  90
  
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. 
  
I will sing the song of companionship;  95
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; 100
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?) 
  
8

I am the credulous man of qualities, ages, races;
 
I advance from the people in their own spirit; 105
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.) 110
  
I too, following many, and follow’d by many, inaugurate a Religion—I descend into the arena; 
(It may be I am destin’d to utter the loudest cries there, the winner’s pealing shouts; 
Who knows? they may rise from me yet, and soar above every thing.) 
  
Each is not for its own sake; 
I say the whole earth, and all the stars in the sky, are for Religion’s sake. 115
  
I say no man has ever yet been half devout enough; 
None has ever yet adored or worship’d 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 Religion; 
Otherwise there is no real and permanent grandeur: 120
(Nor character, nor life worthy the name, without Religion; 
Nor land, nor man or woman, without Religion.) 
  
9

What are you doing, young man?
 
Are you so earnest—so given up to literature, science, art, amours? 
These ostensible realities, politics, points? 125
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. 130
  
10

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; 135
But there is something else very great—it makes the whole coincide; 
It, magnificent, beyond materials, with continuous hands, sweeps and provides for all. 
  
11

Know you! solely to drop in the earth the germs of a greater Religion,
 
The following chants, each for its kind, I sing. 
  
My comrade! 140
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. 
  
Melange mine own! the unseen and the seen; 
Mysterious ocean where the streams empty; 
Prophetic spirit of materials shifting and flickering around me; 145
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, 150
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! 155
O warblings under the sun—usher’d, 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. 
  
12

As I have walk’d in Alabama my morning walk,
 
I have seen where the she-bird, the mocking-bird, sat on her nest in the briers, hatching her brood. 160
  
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, 165
A charge transmitted, and gift occult, for those being born. 
  
13

Democracy!
 
Near at hand to you a throat is now inflating itself and joyfully singing. 
  
Ma femme! 
For the brood beyond us and of us, 170
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, outlaw’d 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, 175
To earn for the body and the mind whatever adheres, and goes forward, and is not dropt 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 other; 
And sexual organs and acts! do you concentrate in me—for I am determin’d to tell you with courageous clear voice, to prove you illustrious; 
And I will show that there is no imperfection in the present—and can be none in the future; 180
And I will show that whatever happens to anybody, it may be turn’d 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 compact, 
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: 185
And I will not sing with reference to a day, but with reference to all days; 
And I will not make a poem, nor the least part of a poem, but has reference to the Soul; 
(Because, having look’d at the objects of the universe, I find there is no one, nor any particle of one, but has reference to the Soul.) 
  
14

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. 190
  
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 death. 195
  
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. 200
  
15

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. 205
  
O the lands! interlink’d, 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 grape! 
Land of the pastoral plains, the grass-fields of the world! Land of those sweet-air’d interminable plateaus! 
Land of the herd, the garden, the healthy house of adobie! 210
Lands where the northwest Columbia winds, and where the southwest 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 Connecticut! 
Land of the ocean shores! Land of sierras and peaks! 215
Land of boatmen and sailors! Fishermen’s land! 
Inextricable lands! the clutch’d together! the passionate ones! 
The side by side! the elder and younger brothers! the bony-limb’d! 
The great women’s land! the feminine! the experienced sisters and the inexperienced sisters! 
Far breath’d land! Arctic braced! Mexican breez’d! the diverse! the compact! 220
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 traveler, 225
Splashing my bare feet in the edge of the summer ripples, on Paumanok’s sands, 
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—each man and woman my neighbor, 230
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 Kanadian, cheerily braving the winter—the snow and ice welcome to me, 235
Yet a true son either of Maine, or of the Granite State, or of the Narragansett Bay State, or of the Empire State; 
Yet sailing to other shores to annex the same—yet welcoming every new brother; 
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. 240
  
16

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 really to you—but what of that? 
Must not Nature be persuaded many times? 245
  
No dainty dolce affettuoso I; 
Bearded, sun-burnt, gray-neck’d, 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. 
  
17

On my way a moment I pause;
 250
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; 255
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. 
  
18

O expanding and swift! O henceforth,
 
Elements, breeds, adjustments, turbulent, quick, and audacious; 260
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. 265
  
19

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 flatboat, 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; 270
See, in my poems, cities, solid, vast, inland, with paved streets, with iron and stone edifices, ceaseless vehicles, and commerce; 
See, the many-cylinder’d 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 return’d; 
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; 275
See, mechanics, busy at their benches, with tools—See from among them, superior judges, philosophs, Presidents, emerge, drest in working dresses; 
See, lounging through the shops and fields of The States, me, well-belov’d, close-held by day and night; 
Hear the loud echoes of my songs there! Read the hints come at last. 
  
20

O Camerado close!
 
O you and me at last—and us two only. 280
  
O a word to clear one’s path ahead endlessly! 
O something extatic 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. 285


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