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1 Out from behind this bending rough-cut mask, These lights and shades, this drama of the whole, This common curtain of the face contain'd in me for me, in you for you, in each for each, (Tragedies, sorrows, laughter, tears—0 heaven! The passionate teeming plays this curtain hid!) This glaze of God's serenest purest sky, This film of Satan's seething pit, This heart's geography's map, this limitless small continent, this soundless sea; Out from the convolutions of this globe, This subtler astronomic orb than sun or moon, than Jupiter, Venus, Mars, This condensation of the universe, (nay here the only universe, Here the idea, all in this mystic handful wrapt;) These burin'd eyes, flashing to you to pass to future time, To launch and spin through space revolving sideling, from these to emanate, To you whoe'er you are—a look. 2 A traveler of thoughts and years, of peace and war, Of youth long sped and middle age declining, (As the first volume of a tale perused and laid away, and this the second, Songs, ventures, speculations, presently to close,) Lingering a moment here and now, to you I opposite turn, As on the road or at some crevice door by chance, or open'd window, Pausing, inclining, baring my head, you specially I greet, To draw and clinch your soul for once inseparably with mine, Then travel travel on.
1 Vocalism, measure, concentration, determination, and the divine power to speak words; Are you full-lung'd and limber-lipp'd from long trial? from vigorous practice? from physique? Do you move in these broad lands as broad as they? Come duly to the divine power to speak words? For only at last after many years, after chastity, friendship, procreation, prudence, and nakedness, After treading ground and breasting river and lake, After a loosen'd throat, after absorbing eras, temperaments, races, after knowledge, freedom, crimes, After complete faith, after clarifyings, elevations, and removing obstructions, After these and more, it is just possible there comes to a man, woman, the divine power to speak words; Then toward that man or that woman swiftly hasten all—none refuse, all attend, Armies, ships, antiquities, libraries, paintings, machines, cities, hate, despair, amity, pain, theft, murder, aspiration, form in close ranks, They debouch as they are wanted to march obediently through the mouth of that man or that woman. 2 O what is it in me that makes me tremble so at voices? Surely whoever speaks to me in the right voice, him or her I shall follow, As the water follows the moon, silently, with fluid steps, anywhere around the globe. All waits for the right voices; Where is the practis'd and perfect organ? where is the develop'd soul? For I see every word utter'd thence has deeper, sweeter, new sounds, impossible on less terms. I see brains and lips closed, tympans and temples unstruck, Until that comes which has the quality to strike and to unclose, Until that comes which has the quality to bring forth what lies slumbering forever ready in all words.
My spirit to yours dear brother, Do not mind because many sounding your name do not understand you, I do not sound your name, but I understand you, I specify you with joy O my comrade to salute you, and to salute those who are with you, before and since, and those to come also, That we all labor together transmitting the same charge and succession, We few equals indifferent of lands, indifferent of times, We, enclosers of all continents, all castes, allowers of all theologies, Compassionaters, perceivers, rapport of men, We walk silent among disputes and assertions, but reject not the disputers nor any thing that is asserted, We hear the bawling and din, we are reach'd at by divisions, jealousies, recriminations on every side, They close peremptorily upon us to surround us, my comrade, Yet we walk unheld, free, the whole earth over, journeying up and down till we make our ineffaceable mark upon time and the diverse eras, Till we saturate time and eras, that the men and women of races, ages to come, may prove brethren and lovers as we are.
You felons on trial in courts, You convicts in prison-cells, you sentenced assassins chain'd and handcuff'd with iron, Who am I too that I am not on trial or in prison? Me ruthless and devilish as any, that my wrists are not chain'd with iron, or my ankles with iron? You prostitutes flaunting over the trottoirs or obscene in your rooms, Who am I that I should call you more obscene than myself? O culpable! I acknowledge—I expose! (O admirers, praise not me—compliment not me—you make me wince, I see what you do not—I know what you do not.) Inside these breast-bones I lie smutch'd and choked, Beneath this face that appears so impassive hell's tides continually run, Lusts and wickedness are acceptable to me, I walk with delinquents with passionate love, I feel I am of them—I belong to those convicts and prostitutes myself, And henceforth I will not deny them—for how can I deny myself?
Laws for creations, For strong artists and leaders, for fresh broods of teachers and perfect literats for America, For noble savans and coming musicians. All must have reference to the ensemble of the world, and the compact truth of the world, There shall be no subject too pronounced—all works shall illustrate the divine law of indirections. What do you suppose creation is? What do you suppose will satisfy the soul, except to walk free and own no superior? What do you suppose I would intimate to you in a hundred ways, but that man or woman is as good as God? And that there is no God any more divine than Yourself? And that that is what the oldest and newest myths finally mean? And that you or any one must approach creations through such laws?
Be composed—be at ease with me—I am Walt Whitman, liberal and lusty as Nature, Not till the sun excludes you do I exclude you, Not till the waters refuse to glisten for you and the leaves to rustle for you, do my words refuse to glisten and rustle for you. My girl I appoint with you an appointment, and I charge you that you make preparation to be worthy to meet me, And I charge you that you be patient and perfect till I come. Till then I salute you with a significant look that you do not forget me.
I was looking a long while for Intentions, For a clew to the history of the past for myself, and for these chants—and now I have found it, It is not in those paged fables in the libraries, (them I neither accept nor reject,) It is no more in the legends than in all else, It is in the present—it is this earth to-day, It is in Democracy—(the purport and aim of all the past,) It is the life of one man or one woman to-day—the average man of to-day, It is in languages, social customs, literatures, arts, It is in the broad show of artificial things, ships, machinery, politics, creeds, modern improvements, and the interchange of nations, All for the modern—all for the average man of to-day.