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                            Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

                                  from Song of Myself


    I know I have the best of time and space, and was never measured and never
              will be measured.

    I tramp a perpetual journey, (come listen all!)
    My signs are a rain-proof coat, good shoes, and a staff cut from the woods,
    No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair,
    I have no chair, no church, no philosophy,
    I lead no man to a dinner-table, library, or exchange,
    But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll,
    My left hand hooks you round the waist,
    My right hand points to landscapes of continents and the public road.

    Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you,
    You must travel it for yourself.

    It is not far, it is within reach,
    Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know,
    Perhaps it is every where on water and on land.

    Shoulder your duds dear son, and I will mine, and let us hasten forth,
    Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch as we go.

    If you tire, give me both burdens, and rest the chuff of your hand on my hip,
    And in due time you shall repay the same service to me,
    For after we start we never lie by again.

    This day before dawn I ascended a hill and look'd at the crowded heaven,
    And I said to my spirit When we become the enfolders of those orbs, and the
              pleasure and knowledge of every thing in them, shall we be fill'd and
              satisfied then?

    And my spirit said No, we but level that lift to pass and continue beyond.

    You are also asking me questions and I hear you,
    I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself.

    Sit a while dear son,
    Here are biscuits to eat and here is milk to drink,
    But as soon as you sleep and renew yourself in sweet clothes I kiss you with
              a good-by kiss and open the gate for your egress hence.

    Long enough have you dream'd contemptible dreams,
    Now I wash the gum from your eyes,
    You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of
              your life.

    Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by the shore,
    Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
    To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod to me, shout, and laughingly
              dash with your hair.


As first released in 1855, Leaves of Grass was mostly in the form of a rambling,
poetic, philosophical exhortation. Almost seventy of the eighty-three non-introductory
pages from the first edition were taken up by what later became Song of Myself,
A Song for Occupations, To Think of Time, The Sleepers, and I Sing the Body
; and many of the poems it is best known for did not appear until the later
editions of 1856, 1860, 1867, 1871, and 1881. In addition to bringing in new poems,
these editions also contained substantial changes ranging from adding titles and
divisions to completely removing some poems.

The above lines are as they occurred in the 1881 edition, presented in:

  • Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass: A Textual Variorum of the Printed Poems,
    Volume I: Poems 1855-1856.
    Sculley Bradley, Harold W. Blodgett, Arthur
    Golden, and William White, eds. New York: New York University Press, 1980.

    The principal difference from the 1855 version is that it was originally addressed to a
    "wayfarer" and not to his "dear son".