Nov. 15, 2002
Song of Myself (excerpt)
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Poem: Lines from "Song of Myself," by Walt Whitman.
I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania
of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived
thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.
I understand the large hearts of heroes,
The courage of present times and all times,
How the skipper saw the crowded and rudderless wreck of
the steam-ship, and Death chasing it up and down the
How he knuckled tight and gave not back an inch, and was
faithful of days and faithful of nights,
And chalk'd in large letters on a board, Be of good cheer, we
will not desert you;
How he follow'd with them and tack'd with them three
days and would not give it up,
How he saved the drifting company at last,
How the loose-gown'd women look'd when boated
from the side of their prepared graves,
How silent old-faced infants and the liften sick, and the
sharp-lipp'd unshaven men;
All this I swallow, it tastes good, I like it well, it becomes
I am the man, I suffer'd, I was there.
The disdain and calmness of martyrs,
The mother of old, condemn'd for a witch, burnt with dry
wood, her children gazing on,
The hounded slave that flags in the race, leans by the fence
blowing, cover'd with sweat,
All these I feel or am.
I am the hounded slave, I wince at the bite of the dogs,
Hell and despair are upon me, crack and again crack the
I clutch the rails of the fence, my gore dribs, thinn'd with
the ooze of my skin,
I fall on the weeds and stones,
The riders spur their unwilling horses, haul close,
Taunt my dizzy ears and beat me violently over the head
Agonies are one of my changes of garments,
I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself
become the wounded person,
My hurts turn livid upon me as I lean on a cane and observe.
I am the mash'd fireman with breast-bone broken,
Tumbling walls buried me in their debris,
Heat and smoke I inspired, I heard the yelling shouts of my
I heard the distant click of their picks and shovels,
They have clear'd the beams away, they tenderly lift me forth.
I lie in the night air in my red shirt, the pervading hush is
for my sake,
Painless after all I lie exhausted but not so unhappy,
White and beautiful are the faces around me, the heads are
bared of their fire-caps,
The kneeling crowd fades with the light of the torches.
Distant and dead resuscitate,
They show as the dial or move as the hands of me, I am the
Again the long roll of the drummers,
Again the attacking cannon, mortars,
Again to my listening ears the cannon responsive.
I take part, I see and hear the whole,
The cries, curses, roar, the plaudits for well-aim'd shots,
The ambulance is slowly passing trailing its red drip,
Workmen searching after damages, making indispensable
The fall of grenades through the tent roof, the fan-shaped
The whiz of limbs, heads, stone, wood, iron, high in the air.
Again gurgles the mouth of my dying general, he furiously
waves with his hand,
He gasps through the clot Mind not me-mind-the
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®