Walt Whitman: The Complete Poems
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In 1855 Walt Whitman published Leaves of Grass, the work that defined him as one of America's most influential voices and that he added to throughout his life. A collection of astonishing originality and intensity, it spoke of politics, sexual emancipation, and what it meant to be an American. From the joyful "Song of Myself" and "I Sing the Body Electric" to the elegiac "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," Whitman's art fuses oratory, journalism, and song in a vivid celebration of humanity. Containing all Whitman's known poetic work, this edition reprints the final, or "deathbed," edition of Leaves of Grass (1891–92). Earlier versions of many poems are also given, including the 1855 "Song of Myself."
faster – (So long!) O crowding too close upon me, I foresee too much, it means more than I thought, It appears to me I am dying. Hasten throat and sound your last, Salute me – salute the days once more. Peal the old cry once more. Screaming electric, the atmosphere using, At random glancing, each as I notice absorbing, Swiftly on, but a little while alighting, Curious envelop’d messages delivering, (40) Sparkles hot, seed ethereal down in the dirt drooping, Myself unknowing, my
Nay, do not dream, designer dark, Thou hast portray’d or hit thy theme entire; I, hoverer of late by this dark valley, by its confines, having glimpses of it, Here enter lists with thee, claiming my right to make a symbol too. For I have seen many wounded soldiers die, And dread suffering – have seen their lives pass off with smiles; And I have watch’d the death-hours of the old; and seen the infant die; The rich, with all his nurses and his doctors; And then the poor, in meagerness and
the laborer, in stained clothes, sour-smelling, sweaty – and again black persons and criminals; (60) And there the frivolous person – and there a crazy enthusiast – and there a young man lies sick of a fever, and is soon to die; This, again, is a Spanish bull-fight – see, the animal with bent head, fiercely advancing; And here, see you, a picture of a dream of despair, (- is it unsatisfied love?) Phantoms, countless, men and women, after death, wandering; And there are flowers and fruits –
youth, the rich person’s carriage, the fop, the eloping couple, The early market-man, the hearse, the moving of furniture into the town, the return back from the town, They pass, I also pass, any thing passes, none can be interdicted, None but are accepted, none but shall be dear to me. 3 You air that serves me with breath to speak! You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and give them shape! You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers! You paths worn in
noblest joy of all! My children and grand-children, my white hair and beard, My largeness, calmness, majesty, out of the long stretch of my life. O ripen’d joy of womanhood! O happiness at last! (90) I am more than eighty years of age, I am the most venerable mother, How clear is my mind – how all people draw nigh to me! What attractions are these beyond any before? what bloom more than the bloom of youth? What beauty is this that descends upon me and rises out of me? O the orator’s joys!