Leaves of Grass

Page 27 of 72

To You

  Whoever you are, I fear you are walking the walks of dreams,
  I fear these supposed realities are to melt from under your feet and hands,
  Even now your features, joys, speech, house, trade, manners,
      troubles, follies, costume, crimes, dissipate away from you,
  Your true soul and body appear before me.
  They stand forth out of affairs, out of commerce, shops, work,
      farms, clothes, the house, buying, selling, eating, drinking,
      suffering, dying.

  Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem,
  I whisper with my lips close to your ear.
  I have loved many women and men, but I love none better than you.

  O I have been dilatory and dumb,
  I should have made my way straight to you long ago,
  I should have blabb'd nothing but you, I should have chanted nothing
      but you.

  I will leave all and come and make the hymns of you,
  None has understood you, but I understand you,
  None has done justice to you, you have not done justice to yourself,
  None but has found you imperfect, I only find no imperfection in you,
  None but would subordinate you, I only am he who will never consent
      to subordinate you,
  I only am he who places over you no master, owner, better, God,
      beyond what waits intrinsically in yourself.

  Painters have painted their swarming groups and the centre-figure of all,
  From the head of the centre-figure spreading a nimbus of gold-color'd light,
  But I paint myriads of heads, but paint no head without its nimbus
      of gold-color'd light,
  From my hand from the brain of every man and woman it streams,
      effulgently flowing forever.

  O I could sing such grandeurs and glories about you!
  You have not known what you are, you have slumber'd upon yourself
      all your life,
  Your eyelids have been the same as closed most of the time,
  What you have done returns already in mockeries,
  (Your thrift, knowledge, prayers, if they do not return in
      mockeries, what is their return?)

  The mockeries are not you,
  Underneath them and within them I see you lurk,
  I pursue you where none else has pursued you,
  Silence, the desk, the flippant expression, the night, the
      accustom'd routine, if these conceal you from others or from
      yourself, they do not conceal you from me,
  The shaved face, the unsteady eye, the impure complexion, if these
      balk others they do not balk me,
  The pert apparel, the deform'd attitude, drunkenness, greed,
      premature death, all these I part aside.

  There is no endowment in man or woman that is not tallied in you,
  There is no virtue, no beauty in man or woman, but as good is in you,
  No pluck, no endurance in others, but as good is in you,
  No pleasure waiting for others, but an equal pleasure waits for you.

  As for me, I give nothing to any one except I give the like carefully
      to you,
  I sing the songs of the glory of none, not God, sooner than I sing
      the songs of the glory of you.

  Whoever you are! claim your own at any hazard!
  These shows of the East and West are tame compared to you,
  These immense meadows, these interminable rivers, you are immense
      and interminable as they,
  These furies, elements, storms, motions of Nature, throes of apparent
      dissolution, you are he or she who is master or mistress over them,
  Master or mistress in your own right over Nature, elements, pain,
      passion, dissolution.

  The hopples fall from your ankles, you find an unfailing sufficiency,
  Old or young, male or female, rude, low, rejected by the rest,
      whatever you are promulges itself,
  Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are provided, nothing
      is scanted,
  Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui, what you are
      picks its way.

France [the 18th Year of these States

  A great year and place
  A harsh discordant natal scream out-sounding, to touch the mother's
      heart closer than any yet.

  I walk'd the shores of my Eastern sea,
  Heard over the waves the little voice,
  Saw the divine infant where she woke mournfully wailing, amid the
      roar of cannon, curses, shouts, crash of falling buildings,
  Was not so sick from the blood in the gutters running, nor from the single
      corpses, nor those in heaps, nor those borne away in the tumbrils,
  Was not so desperate at the battues of death—was not so shock'd at
      the repeated fusillades of the guns.

  Pale, silent, stern, what could I say to that long-accrued retribution?
  Could I wish humanity different?
  Could I wish the people made of wood and stone?
  Or that there be no justice in destiny or time?

  O Liberty! O mate for me!
  Here too the blaze, the grape-shot and the axe, in reserve, to fetch
      them out in case of need,
  Here too, though long represt, can never be destroy'd,
  Here too could rise at last murdering and ecstatic,
  Here too demanding full arrears of vengeance.

  Hence I sign this salute over the sea,
  And I do not deny that terrible red birth and baptism,
  But remember the little voice that I heard wailing, and wait with
      perfect trust, no matter how long,
  And from to-day sad and cogent I maintain the bequeath'd cause, as
      for all lands,
  And I send these words to Paris with my love,
  And I guess some chansonniers there will understand them,
  For I guess there is latent music yet in France, floods of it,
  O I hear already the bustle of instruments, they will soon be
      drowning all that would interrupt them,
  O I think the east wind brings a triumphal and free march,
  It reaches hither, it swells me to Joyful madness,
  I will run transpose it in words, to justify
  I will yet sing a song for you ma femme.

Myself and Mine

  Myself and mine gymnastic ever,
  To stand the cold or heat, to take good aim with a gun, to sail a
      boat, to manage horses, to beget superb children,
  To speak readily and clearly, to feel at home among common people,
  And to hold our own in terrible positions on land and sea.

  Not for an embroiderer,
  (There will always be plenty of embroiderers, I welcome them also,)
  But for the fibre of things and for inherent men and women.

  Not to chisel ornaments,
  But to chisel with free stroke the heads and limbs of plenteous
      supreme Gods, that the States may realize them walking and talking.

  Let me have my own way,
  Let others promulge the laws, I will make no account of the laws,
  Let others praise eminent men and hold up peace, I hold up agitation
      and conflict,
  I praise no eminent man, I rebuke to his face the one that was
      thought most worthy.

  (Who are you? and what are you secretly guilty of all your life?
  Will you turn aside all your life? will you grub and chatter all
      your life?
  And who are you, blabbing by rote, years, pages, languages, reminiscences,
  Unwitting to-day that you do not know how to speak properly a single word?)

  Let others finish specimens, I never finish specimens,
  I start them by exhaustless laws as Nature does, fresh and modern

  I give nothing as duties,
  What others give as duties I give as living impulses,
  (Shall I give the heart's action as a duty?)

  Let others dispose of questions, I dispose of nothing, I arouse
      unanswerable questions,
  Who are they I see and touch, and what about them?
  What about these likes of myself that draw me so close by tender
      directions and indirections?

  I call to the world to distrust the accounts of my friends, but
      listen to my enemies, as I myself do,
  I charge you forever reject those who would expound me, for I cannot
      expound myself,
  I charge that there be no theory or school founded out of me,
  I charge you to leave all free, as I have left all free.

  After me, vista!
  O I see life is not short, but immeasurably long,
  I henceforth tread the world chaste, temperate, an early riser, a
      steady grower,
  Every hour the semen of centuries, and still of centuries.

  I must follow up these continual lessons of the air, water, earth,
  I perceive I have no time to lose.

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