Daily Whitman



O what is it in me that makes me tremble so at voices?
Surely whoever speaks to me in the right voice, him or her I shall follow,
As the water follows the moon, silently, with fluid steps, anywhere
around the globe.

All waits for the right voices;
Where is the practis’d and perfect organ? where is the develop’d soul?
For I see every word utter’d thence has deeper, sweeter, new sounds,
impossible on less terms.

I see brains and lips closed, tympans and temples unstruck,
Until that comes which has the quality to strike and to unclose,
Until that comes which has the quality to bring forth what lies
slumbering forever ready in all words.

Daily Whitman



  Vocalism, measure, concentration, determination, and the divine
      power to speak words;
  Are you full-lung'd and limber-lipp'd from long trial? from vigorous
      practice? from physique?
  Do you move in these broad lands as broad as they?
  Come duly to the divine power to speak words?
  For only at last after many years, after chastity, friendship,
      procreation, prudence, and nakedness,
  After treading ground and breasting river and lake,
  After a loosen'd throat, after absorbing eras, temperaments, races,
      after knowledge, freedom, crimes,
  After complete faith, after clarifyings, elevations, and removing
  After these and more, it is just possible there comes to a man,
      woman, the divine power to speak words;
  Then toward that man or that woman swiftly hasten all—none
      refuse, all attend,
  Armies, ships, antiquities, libraries, paintings, machines, cities,
      hate, despair, amity, pain, theft, murder, aspiration, form in
      close ranks,
  They debouch as they are wanted to march obediently through the
      mouth of that man or that woman.


Daily Whitman


Out from Behind this Mask [To Confront a Portrait]

A traveler of thoughts and years, of peace and war,
Of youth long sped and middle age declining,
(As the first volume of a tale perused and laid away, and this the second,
Songs, ventures, speculations, presently to close,)
Lingering a moment here and now, to you I opposite turn,
As on the road or at some crevice door by chance, or open’d window,
Pausing, inclining, baring my head, you specially I greet,
To draw and clinch your soul for once inseparably with mine,
Then travel travel on.

Daily Whitman


Out from Behind This Mask [To Confront a Portrait]

  Out from behind this bending rough-cut mask,
  These lights and shades, this drama of the whole,
  This common curtain of the face contain'd in me for me, in you for
      you, in each for each,
  (Tragedies, sorrows, laughter, tears—0 heaven!
  The passionate teeming plays this curtain hid!)
  This glaze of God's serenest purest sky,
  This film of Satan's seething pit,
  This heart's geography's map, this limitless small continent, this
      soundless sea;
  Out from the convolutions of this globe,
  This subtler astronomic orb than sun or moon, than Jupiter, Venus, Mars,
  This condensation of the universe, (nay here the only universe,
  Here the idea, all in this mystic handful wrapt;)
  These burin'd eyes, flashing to you to pass to future time,
  To launch and spin through space revolving sideling, from these to emanate,
  To you whoe'er you are—a look.


Daily Whitman


The Singer in the Prison

  The singer ceas'd,
  One glance swept from her clear calm eyes o'er all those upturn'd faces,
  Strange sea of prison faces, a thousand varied, crafty, brutal,
      seam'd and beauteous faces,
  Then rising, passing back along the narrow aisle between them,
  While her gown touch'd them rustling in the silence,
  She vanish'd with her children in the dusk.

  While upon all, convicts and armed keepers ere they stirr'd,
  (Convict forgetting prison, keeper his loaded pistol,)
  A hush and pause fell down a wondrous minute,
  With deep half-stifled sobs and sound of bad men bow'd and moved to weeping,
  And youth's convulsive breathings, memories of home,
  The mother's voice in lullaby, the sister's care, the happy childhood,
  The long-pent spirit rous'd to reminiscence;
  A wondrous minute then—but after in the solitary night, to many,
      many there,
  Years after, even in the hour of death, the sad refrain, the tune,
      the voice, the words,
  Resumed, the large calm lady walks the narrow aisle,
  The wailing melody again, the singer in the prison sings,

       O sight of pity, shame and dole!
       O fearful thought—a convict soul.

Daily Whitman


The Singer in the Prison

  The sun was low in the west one winter day,
  When down a narrow aisle amid the thieves and outlaws of the land,
  (There by the hundreds seated, sear-faced murderers, wily counterfeiters,
  Gather'd to Sunday church in prison walls, the keepers round,
  Plenteous, well-armed, watching with vigilant eyes,)
  Calmly a lady walk'd holding a little innocent child by either hand,
  Whom seating on their stools beside her on the platform,
  She, first preluding with the instrument a low and musical prelude,
  In voice surpassing all, sang forth a quaint old hymn.

       A soul confined by bars and bands,
       Cries, help! O help! and wrings her hands,
       Blinded her eyes, bleeding her breast,
       Nor pardon finds, nor balm of rest.

       Ceaseless she paces to and fro,
       O heart-sick days! O nights of woe!
       Nor hand of friend, nor loving face,
       Nor favor comes, nor word of grace.

       It was not I that sinn'd the sin,
       The ruthless body dragg'd me in;
       Though long I strove courageously,
       The body was too much for me.

       Dear prison'd soul bear up a space,
       For soon or late the certain grace;
       To set thee free and bear thee home,
       The heavenly pardoner death shall come.

          Convict no more, nor shame, nor dole!
          Depart—a God-enfranchis'd soul!

Daily Whitman


The Singer in the Prison

          O sight of pity, shame and dole!
          O fearful thought—a convict soul.

  Rang the refrain along the hall, the prison,
  Rose to the roof, the vaults of heaven above,
  Pouring in floods of melody in tones so pensive sweet and strong the
      like whereof was never heard,
  Reaching the far-off sentry and the armed guards, who ceas'd their pacing,
  Making the hearer's pulses stop for ecstasy and awe.

Daily Whitman


Song of Prudence

  Manhattan's streets I saunter'd pondering,
  On Time, Space, Reality—on such as these, and abreast with them Prudence.

  The last explanation always remains to be made about prudence,
  Little and large alike drop quietly aside from the prudence that
      suits immortality.

  The soul is of itself,
  All verges to it, all has reference to what ensues,
  All that a person does, says, thinks, is of consequence,
  Not a move can a man or woman make, that affects him or her in a day,
      month, any part of the direct lifetime, or the hour of death,
  But the same affects him or her onward afterward through the
      indirect lifetime.

  The indirect is just as much as the direct,
  The spirit receives from the body just as much as it gives to the
      body, if not more.

  Not one word or deed, not venereal sore, discoloration, privacy of
      the onanist,
  Putridity of gluttons or rum-drinkers, peculation, cunning,
      betrayal, murder, seduction, prostitution,
  But has results beyond death as really as before death.

  Charity and personal force are the only investments worth any thing.

  No specification is necessary, all that a male or female does, that
      is vigorous, benevolent, clean, is so much profit to him or her,
  In the unshakable order of the universe and through the whole scope
      of it forever.

  Who has been wise receives interest,
  Savage, felon, President, judge, farmer, sailor, mechanic, literat,
      young, old, it is the same,
  The interest will come round—all will come round.

  Singly, wholly, to affect now, affected their time, will forever affect,
      all of the past and all of the present and all of the future,
  All the brave actions of war and peace,
  All help given to relatives, strangers, the poor, old, sorrowful,
      young children, widows, the sick, and to shunn'd persons,
  All self-denial that stood steady and aloof on wrecks, and saw
      others fill the seats of the boats,
  All offering of substance or life for the good old cause, or for a
      friend's sake, or opinion's sake,
  All pains of enthusiasts scoff'd at by their neighbors,
  All the limitless sweet love and precious suffering of mothers,
  All honest men baffled in strifes recorded or unrecorded,
  All the grandeur and good of ancient nations whose fragments we inherit,
  All the good of the dozens of ancient nations unknown to us by name,
      date, location,
  All that was ever manfully begun, whether it succeeded or no,
  All suggestions of the divine mind of man or the divinity of his
      mouth, or the shaping of his great hands,
  All that is well thought or said this day on any part of the globe,
      or on any of the wandering stars, or on any of the fix'd stars,
      by those there as we are here,
  All that is henceforth to be thought or done by you whoever you are,
      or by any one,
  These inure, have inured, shall inure, to the identities from which
      they sprang, or shall spring.

  Did you guess any thing lived only its moment?
  The world does not so exist, no parts palpable or impalpable so exist,
  No consummation exists without being from some long previous
      consummation, and that from some other,
  Without the farthest conceivable one coming a bit nearer the
      beginning than any.

  Whatever satisfies souls is true;
  Prudence entirely satisfies the craving and glut of souls,
  Itself only finally satisfies the soul,
  The soul has that measureless pride which revolts from every lesson
      but its own.

  Now I breathe the word of the prudence that walks abreast with time,
      space, reality,
  That answers the pride which refuses every lesson but its own.

  What is prudence is indivisible,
  Declines to separate one part of life from every part,
  Divides not the righteous from the unrighteous or the living from the dead,
  Matches every thought or act by its correlative,
  Knows no possible forgiveness or deputed atonement,
  Knows that the young man who composedly peril'd his life and lost it
      has done exceedingly well for himself without doubt,
  That he who never peril'd his life, but retains it to old age in
      riches and ease, has probably achiev'd nothing for himself worth
  Knows that only that person has really learn'd who has learn'd to
      prefer results,
  Who favors body and soul the same,
  Who perceives the indirect assuredly following the direct,
  Who in his spirit in any emergency whatever neither hurries nor
      avoids death.

Daily Whitman


Unnamed Land

  Nations ten thousand years before these States, and many times ten
      thousand years before these States,
  Garner'd clusters of ages that men and women like us grew up and
      travel'd their course and pass'd on,
  What vast-built cities, what orderly republics, what pastoral tribes
      and nomads,
  What histories, rulers, heroes, perhaps transcending all others,
  What laws, customs, wealth, arts, traditions,
  What sort of marriage, what costumes, what physiology and phrenology,
  What of liberty and slavery among them, what they thought of death
      and the soul,
  Who were witty and wise, who beautiful and poetic, who brutish and
  Not a mark, not a record remains—and yet all remains.

  O I know that those men and women were not for nothing, any more
      than we are for nothing,
  I know that they belong to the scheme of the world every bit as much
      as we now belong to it.

  Afar they stand, yet near to me they stand,
  Some with oval countenances learn'd and calm,
  Some naked and savage, some like huge collections of insects,
  Some in tents, herdsmen, patriarchs, tribes, horsemen,
  Some prowling through woods, some living peaceably on farms,
      laboring, reaping, filling barns,
  Some traversing paved avenues, amid temples, palaces, factories,
      libraries, shows, courts, theatres, Mildly Decent monuments.
  Are those billions of men really gone?
  Are those women of the old experience of the earth gone?
  Do their lives, cities, arts, rest only with us?
  Did they achieve nothing for good for themselves?

  I believe of all those men and women that fill'd the unnamed lands,
      every one exists this hour here or elsewhere, invisible to us.
  In exact proportion to what he or she grew from in life, and out of
      what he or she did, felt, became, loved, sinn'd, in life.

  I believe that was not the end of those nations or any person of
      them, any more than this shall be the end of my nation, or of me;
  Of their languages, governments, marriage, literature, products,
      games, wars, manners, crimes, prisons, slaves, heroes, poets,
  I suspect their results curiously await in the yet unseen world,
      counterparts of what accrued to them in the seen world,
  I suspect I shall meet them there,
  I suspect I shall there find each old particular of those unnamed lands.

Daily Whitman


To a Foil’d European Revolutionaire

  Courage yet, my brother or my sister!
  Keep on—Liberty is to be subserv'd whatever occurs;
  That is nothing that is quell'd by one or two failures, or any
      number of failures,
  Or by the indifference or ingratitude of the people, or by any
  Or the show of the tushes of power, soldiers, cannon, penal statutes.

  What we believe in waits latent forever through all the continents,
  Invites no one, promises nothing, sits in calmness and light, is
      positive and composed, knows no discouragement,
  Waiting patiently, waiting its time.

  (Not songs of loyalty alone are these,
  But songs of insurrection also,
  For I am the sworn poet of every dauntless rebel the world over,
  And he going with me leaves peace and routine behind him,
  And stakes his life to be lost at any moment.)

  The battle rages with many a loud alarm and frequent advance and retreat,
  The infidel triumphs, or supposes he triumphs,
  The prison, scaffold, garrote, handcuffs, iron necklace and
      leadballs do their work,
  The named and unnamed heroes pass to other spheres,
  The great speakers and writers are exiled, they lie sick in distant lands,
  The cause is asleep, the strongest throats are choked with their own blood,
  The young men droop their eyelashes toward the ground when they meet;
  But for all this Liberty has not gone out of the place, nor the
      infidel enter'd into full possession.

  When liberty goes out of a place it is not the first to go, nor the
      second or third to go,
  It waits for all the rest to go, it is the last.

  When there are no more memories of heroes and martyrs,
  And when all life and all the souls of men and women are discharged
      from any part of the earth,
  Then only shall liberty or the idea of liberty be discharged from
      that part of the earth,
  And the infidel come into full possession.

  Then courage European revolter, revoltress!
  For till all ceases neither must you cease.

  I do not know what you are for, (I do not know what I am for myself,
      nor what any thing is for,)
  But I will search carefully for it even in being foil'd,
  In defeat, poverty, misconception, imprisonment—for they too are great.

  Did we think victory great?
  So it is—but now it seems to me, when it cannot be help'd, that
      defeat is great,
  And that death and dismay are great.

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