Home  »  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse  »  119. From the ‘Song of the Open Road’

Nicholson & Lee, eds. The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.

Walt Whitman (1819–1892)

119. From the ‘Song of the Open Road’


FROM this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,

Going where I list, my own master, total and absolute,

Listening to others, and considering well what they say,

Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,

Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.

I inhale great draughts of space,

The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.

I am larger, better than I thought,

I did not know I held so much goodness.

All seems beautiful to me;

I can repeat over to men and women, You have done such good to me, I would do the same to you,

I will recruit for myself and you as I go;

I will scatter myself among men and women as I go;

I will toss the new gladness and roughness among them;

Whoever denies me, it shall not trouble me;

Whoever accepts me, he or she shall be blessed, and shall bless me.


Here is the efflux of the Soul;

The efflux of the Soul comes from within, through embower’d gates, ever provoking questions;

These yearnings, why are they? These thoughts in the darkness, why are they?

Why are there men and women that while they are nigh me, the sunlight expands my blood?

Why, when they leave me, do my pennants of joy sink flat and lank?

Why are there trees I never walk under, but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?

(I think they hang there winter and summer on those trees, and always drop fruit as I pass;)

What is it I interchange so suddenly with strangers?

What with some driver, as I ride on the seat by his side?

What with some fisherman, drawing his seine by the shore, as I walk by, and pause?

What gives me to be free to a woman’s or man’s good-will?

What gives them to be free to mine?

The efflux of the Soul is happiness—here is happiness;

I think it pervades the open air, waiting at all times;

Now it flows unto us—we are rightly charged.

Here rises the fluid and attaching character;

The fluid and attaching character is the freshness and sweetness of man and woman;

(The herbs of the morning sprout no fresher and sweeter every day out of the roots of themselves, than it sprouts fresh and sweet continually out of itself.)

Toward the fluid and attaching character exudes the sweat of the love of young and old;

From it falls distill’d the charm that mocks beauty and attainments;

Toward it heaves the shuddering longing ache of contact.

Allons! whoever you are, come travel with me!

Travelling with me, you find what never tires.

The earth never tires;

The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first—Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first;

Be not discouraged—keep on—there are divine things, well envelop’d;

I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.

Allons! we must not stop here!

However sweet these laid-up stores—however convenient this dwelling, we cannot remain here;

However shelter’d this port, and however calm these waters, we must not anchor here;

However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us, we are permitted to receive it but a little while.


All parts away for the progress of souls;

All religion, all solid things, arts, governments—all that was or is apparent upon this globe or any globe, falls into niches and corners before the procession of souls along the grand roads of the universe.

Of the progress of the souls of men and women along the grand roads of the universe, all other progress is the needed emblem and sustenance.