Wednesday

Nov. 13, 2002

Song of Myself (excerpt)

by Walt Whitman

WEDNESDAY, 13 NOVEMBER 2002
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Poem: Lines from "Song of Myself," by Walt Whitman.

11

Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore,
Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly;
Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome.

She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank,
She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the
      window.

Which of the young men does she like the best?
Ah the homeliest of them is beautiful to her.

Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,
You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room.

Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-
      ninth bather,
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.
The beards of the young men glisten'd with wet, it ran from
      their long hair,
Little streams pass'd all over their bodies.

An unseen hand also pass'd over their bodies,
It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs.

The young men float on their backs, their white bellies bulge
      to the sun, they do not ask who seizes fast to them,
They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and
      bending arch,
They do not think whom they souse with spray.

15

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 seizes the king-pin, he heaves down with a strong
      arm,
The mate stands braced in the whale-boat, lance and harpoon
      are ready,
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 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 bed-room;)
The printer with gray head and gaunt jaws works at his
      case,
He turns his quid of tobacco while his eyes blur with the
      manuscript;
The malform'd limbs are tied to the surgeon's table,
What is removed drops horribly in a pail;
The quadroom 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 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-roof'd garret and harks to
      the musical rain,
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 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 rammer, the
      reporter's lead flies swiftly over the note-book, the sign-
      painter is lettering with blue and gold,
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 bride unrumples her white dress, the minute-hand of
      the clock moves slowly,
The President holding a cabinet council is surrounded by the
      great Secretaries,
On the piazza walk three matrons stately and friendly with
      twined arms,
Flatboatmen make fast towards dusk near the cotton-wood
      or pecan-trees,
Patriarchs sit at supper with sons and grandsons and great-
      grandsons around them,
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.




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