Thursday

Nov. 14, 2002

Song of Myself (excerpt)

by Walt Whitman

THURSDAY, 14 NOVEMBER 2002
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Poem
: Lines from "Song of Myself," by Walt Whitman.

18

With music strong I come, with my cornets and my drums,
I play not marches for accepted victors only, I play marches
      for conquer'd and slain persons.

Have you heard that it was good to gain the day?
I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit
      in which they are won.

I beat and pound for the dead,
I blow through my embouchures my loudest and gayest for
      them.

Vivas to those who have fail'd!
And to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea!
And to those themselves who sank in the sea!
And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome
      heroes!
And the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest
      heroes known!

19

This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger,
It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous, I make
      appointments with all,
I will not have a single person slighted or left away,
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited,
The heavy-lipp'd slave is invited, the venerealee is invited;
There shall be no difference between them and the rest.

This is the press of a bashful hand, this the float and odor of
      hair,
This the touch of my lips to yours, this the murmur of
      yearning,
This the far-off depth and height reflecting my own face,
This the thoughtful merge of myself, and the outlet again.

Do you take it I would astonish?
Does the daylight astonish? does the early redstart twittering
      through the woods?
Do I astonish more than they?

This hour I tell things in confidence,
I might not tell everybody, but I will tell you.

20

Who goes there? hankering, gross, mystical, nude;
How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat?

What is a man anyhow? what am I? what are you?

All I mark as my own you shall offset it with your own,
Else it were time lost listening to me.

I do not snivel that snivel the world over,
That months are vacuums and the ground but wallow and
      filth.

Whimpering and trucking fold with powders for invalids,
      conformity goes to the fourth-remov'd,
I wear my hat as I please indoors or out.

Why should I pray? why should I venerate and be
      ceremonious?

Having pried through the strata, analyzed to a hair,
      counsel'd with doctors and calculated close,
I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.

In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-
      corn less,
And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them.

I know I am solid and sound,
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow,
All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.

I know I am deathless,
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter's
      compass,

I know I am august,
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate myself or be understood,
I see that the elementary laws never apologize,

I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is
      myself,
And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand
      or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I
      can wait.




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