Walt Whitman

Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works.

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Poems by
Walt Whitman
Drum-Taps

Aroused and angry,

I thought to beat the alarum, and urge relentless war;

But soon my fingers fail’d me, my face droop’d, and I resign’d myself,

To sit by the wounded and soothe them, or silently watch the dead.

The Wound-Dresser

On, on I go, (open doors of time! open hospital doors!)

The crush’d head I dress (poor crazed hand tear not the bandage away),

The neck of the cavalry-man with the bullet through and through I examine,

Hard the breathing rattles, quite glazed already the eye, yet life struggles hard

(Come sweet death! be persuaded O beautiful death! In mercy come quickly).

From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand,

I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off the matter and blood,

Back on his pillow the soldier bends with curv’d neck and side-falling head,

His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on the bloody stump,

And has not yet look’d on it.

I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep,

But a day or two more, for see the frame all wasted and sinking,

And the yellow-blue countenance see.

I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet-wound,

Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so sickening, so offensive,

While the attendant stands behind aside me holding the tray and pail.

I am faithful, I do not give out,

The fractur’d thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdomen,

These and more I dress with impassive hand (yet deep in my breast a fire, a burning flame).

Thus in silence in dreams’ projections,

Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals,

The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,

I sit by the restless all the dark night, some are so young,

Some suffer so much, I recall the experience sweet and sad,

(Many a soldier’s loving arms about this neck have cross’d and rested,

Many a soldier’s kiss dwells on these bearded lips).

All the Sorrows of the World

I Sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all oppression and shame;

I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with themselves, remorseful after deeds done;

I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying, neglected, gaunt, desperate;

I see the wife misused by her husband—I see the treacherous seducer of young women;

I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love, attempted to be hid—I see these sights on the earth;

I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny—I see martyrs and prisoners;

I observe a famine at sea—I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be kill’d, to preserve the lives of the rest;

I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;

All these—All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look out upon,

See, hear, and am silent.

To Any One Dying

Flaunt of the sunshine I need not your bask – lie over!

You light surfaces only, I force surfaces and depths also.

Earth! you seem to look for something at my hands,

Say, old top-knot, what do you want?

Man or woman, I might tell how I like you, but cannot,

And might tell what it is in me and what it is in you, but cannot,

And might tell that pining I have, that pulse of my nights and days.

Behold, I do not give lectures or a little charity,

When I give I give myself.

You there, impotent, loose in the knees,

Open your scarf’d chops till I blow grit within you,

Spread your palms and lift the flaps of your pockets,

I am not to be denied, I compel, I have stores plenty and to spare,

And any thing I have I bestow.

I do not ask who you are, that is not important to me,

You can do nothing and be nothing but what I will infold you.

To cotton-field drudge or cleaner of privies I lean,

On his right cheek I put the family kiss,

And in my soul I swear I never will deny him.

On women fit for conception I start bigger and nimbler babes.

(This day I am jetting the stuff of far more arrogant republics.)

To any one dying, thither I speed and twist the knob of the door.

Turn the bed-clothes toward the foot of the bed,

Let the physician and the priest go home.

I seize the descending man and raise him with resistless will,

O despairer, here is my neck,

By God, you shall not go down! hang your whole weight upon me.

I dilate you with tremendous breath, I buoy you up,

Every room of the house do I fill with an arm’d force,

Lovers of me, bafflers of graves.

Sleep – I and they keep guard all night,

Not doubt, not decease shall dare to lay finger upon you,

I have embraced you, and henceforth possess you to myself,

And when you rise in the morning you will find what I tell you is so.

Prayer of Columbus

My terminus near,

The clouds already closing in upon me,

The voyage balk’d—the course disputed, lost,

I yield my ships to Thee.

Steersman unseen! henceforth the helms are Thine;

Take Thou command—(what to my petty skill Thy navigation?)

My hands, my limbs grow nerveless;

My brain feels rack’d, bewilder’d; Let the old timbers part—I will not part!

I will cling fast to Thee, O God, though the waves buffet me;

Thee, Thee, at least, I know.

Is it the prophet’s thought I speak, or am I raving?

What do I know of life? what of myself?

I know not even my own work, past or present;

Dim, ever-shifting guesses of it spread before me,

Of newer, better worlds, their mighty parturition,

Mocking, perplexing me.

And these things I see suddenly—what mean they?

As if some miracle, some hand divine unseal’d my eyes,

Shadowy, vast shapes, smile through the air and sky,

And on the distant waves sail countless ships,

And anthems in new tongues I hear saluting me.

To a Historian

‍You who celebrate bygones!

Who have explored the outward, the surfaces of the races—the life that has exhibited itself;

Who have treated of man as the creature of politics, aggregates, rulers and priests;

I, habitan of the Alleghanies, treating of him as he is in himself, in his own rights,

Pressing the pulse of the life that has seldom exhibited itself, (the great pride of man in himself;)

Chanter of Personality, outlining what is yet to be,

I project the history of the future.