Nov. 12, 2002
Song of Myself (excerpt)
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Poem: Lines from "Song of Myself," by Walt Whitman.
A child said What is the grass? Fetching it to me with full
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any
more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful
green stuff woven
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we
may see and remark, and say Whose?
And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.
All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and
Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?
I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I
I pass death with the dying and birth with the new-wash'd
babe, and am not contain'd between my hat and boots,
Every kind for itself and its own, for me mine male and
For me those that have been boys and that love women,
For me the man that is proud and feels how it stings to be
For me the sweet-heart and the old maid, for me mothers
and the mothers of mothers,
For me the lips that have smiled, eyes that have shed tears,
For me children and the begetters of children.
Undrape! you are not guilty to me, nor stale nor discarded,
I see through the broadcloth and gingham whether or no,
And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless, and cannot
be shaken away.
The little one sleeps in its cradle,
I life the gauze and look a long time, and silently brush away
flies with my hand.
The youngster and the red-faced girl turn aside up the bushy
I peeringly view them from the top.
The suicide sprawls on the bloody floor of the bedroom,
I witness the corpse with its dabbled hair, I note where the
pistol has fallen.
The blab of the pave, tires of carts, sluff of boot-soles, talk
of the promenaders,
The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogating thumb,
the clank of the shod horses on the granite floor,
The snow-sleighs, clinking, shouted jokes, pelts of snow-balls,
The hurrahs for popular favorites, the fury of rous'd mobs,
The flap of the curtain'd litter, a sick man inside borne to
The meeting of enemies, the sudden oath, the blows and fall,
The excited crowd, the police man with his star quickly
working his passage to the center of the crowd,
The impassive stones that receive and return so many echoes,
What groans of over-fed or half-starv'd who fall sunstruck or
What exclamations of women taken suddenly who hurry
home and give birth to babes,
What living and buried speech is always vibrating here, what
howls restrain'd by decorum,
Arrests of criminals, slights, adulterous offers made,
acceptances, rejections with convex lips,
I mind them or the show and resonance of them-I come
and I depart.
The big doors of the country barn stand open and ready,
The dried grass of the harvest-time loads the slow-drawn
The clear light plays on the brown gray and green intertinged,
The armfuls are pack'd to the sagging mow.
I am there, I help, I came stretch'd atop of the load,
And roll head over heels and tangle my hair full of wisps.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®