Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
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T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
 
I Sing the Body Electric
By Walt Whitman (1819–1892)
 
(From Leaves of Grass, 1860)
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I HAVE perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough,
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a moment, what is this then?
I do not seek any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea.        5
 
There is something in staying close to men and women and looking on them, and in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well,
All things please the soul, but these please the soul well.
 
This is the female form,
A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot,
It attracts with fierce undeniable attraction!        10
I am drawn by its breath as if I were no more than a helpless vapor, all falls aside but myself and it,
Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth, the atmosphere and the clouds, and what was expected of heaven or fear’d of hell, are now consumed,
Mad filaments, ungovernable shoots play out of it, the response likewise ungovernable,
Hair, bosom, hips, bend of legs, negligent falling hands all diffused, mine too diffused,
Ebb stung by the flow and flow, stung by the ebb, love flesh swelling and deliciously aching,        15
Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous, quivering jelly of love, white blow and delirious juice,
Bridegroom night of love working surely and softly into the prostrate dawn;
Undulating into the willing and yielding day,
Lost in the cleave of the clasping and sweet-flesh’d day.
 
This is the nucleus—after the child is born of woman, man is born of woman,        20
This is the bath of birth, this is the merge of small and large, and the outlet again.
 
Be not ashamed women, your privilege encloses the rest, and is the exit of the rest,
You are the gates of the body, and you are the gates of the soul.
 
The female contains all qualities and tempers them, she is in her place and moves with perfect balance,
She is all things duly veil’d, she is both passive and active,        25
She is to conceive daughters as well as sons, and sons as well as daughters.
 
As I see my soul reflected in Nature,
As I see through a mist, One with inexpressible completeness and beauty,
See the bent head and arms folded over the breast, the Female I see.
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