Song of Myself

from Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman


I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loaf and invite my soul,
I lean and loaf at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, formed from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and
     their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.


The pure contralto sings in the organ loft,
The carpenter dresses his plank, the tongue of his foreplane
     whistles its wild ascending lisp,
The married and unmarried children ride home to their
     Thanksgiving dinner.
The pilot siezes the king-pin, he heaves down with a strong
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 ordain'd with cross'd 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 looks at the oats and rye,
The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum a confirm'd case,
(He will never sleep any more as he did in the cot in his
     mother's bedroom;)
The jour printer with grey head and gaunt jaws works at his case,
He turns his quid of tobacco while his eyes blur with the
The malform'd limbs are tied to the surgeon's table,
What is removed drops horribly in a pail;
The quadroon girl is sold at the auction-stand, the drunkard
     nods by the bar-room stove, The machinist rolls up his sleeves,
the policeman travels his beat, the gate-keeper marks who pass,
The young fellow drives the express-wagon, (I love him,
     though I do not know him;)
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 rifles, some sit on logs,
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 from his saddle,
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-roofed garret and harks to
     the musical rain,
The Wolverine sets traps on the creek that helps fill the Huron,
The squaw wrapped in her yellow-hemm'd cloth is offering
     mocassins and bead-bags for sale,
The connoisseur peers along the exhibition gallery with half-shut
     eyes bent sideways,
As the deck-hands make fast the steamboat the plank is thrown
     for the shore-going passengers
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 her first child,
The clean-hair'd Yankee girl works with her sewing-machine
     or in the factory or mill,
The paving-man leans on his two-handed hammer, the reporter's
     lead flies swiftly over the note-book, the sign-painter
     is lettering with blue and gold,
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 sails sparkle!)
The drover watching his drove sings out to them that would stray,
The peddler sweats with his pack on his back,(the purchaser
     higgling about the odd cent;)
The bride unrumples her white dress, the minute-hand of the clock
     moves slowly,
The opium-eater reclines with rigid head and just open'd lips,
The prostitute draggles her shawl, her bonnet bobs on her
     tipsy and pimpled neck,
The crowd laugh at her blackguard oaths, the men jeer and wink
     to each other,
(Miserable! I do not laugh at your oaths or jeer you;)
The President holding a cabinet council is surrounded by the
     great Secretaries,
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 jingling of loose change,
The floor-men are layng 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 gather'd,
     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 frozen surface,
The stumps stand thick round the clearing, the squatter
     strikes deep with his axe,
Flatboatmen make fast towards dusk near the cotton-wood or
Coon-seekers go through the regions of the Red River or
     through those drained 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 around them,
In walls of adobie, in canvas tents, rest hunters and trappers
     after their day's sport,
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 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
     the earth,
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
     wheel'd universe,
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 God,
(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
     signed by God's name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe'er
     I go,
Others will punctually come for ever and ever.


And as to you Death, and your bitter hug of mortality, it is
     idle to try to alarm me.

To his work without flinching the obstetrician 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 polished breasts of
And as to you Life I reckon you are the leavings of many deaths,
(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 promotions,
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 twilight,
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 ghostly glimmer is noonday sunbeams reflected,
And debouch to the steady and central from the offspring
     great and small.


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 holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the
     shadow'd wilds,
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.

Walt Whitman1819-1892, was one of America's greatest, best loved and most influential poets - and "the greatest democrat the world has ever seen", Henry Thoreau wrote after reading "Leaves of Grass". He edited several New York newspapers and wrote for popular magazines. He was a hospital nurse during the Civil War.

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