Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions. Use "Verse News Submission" as the subject line. Send a brief bio. No payment. Authors retain all rights after 1st-time appearance here. Scroll down the right sidebar for the fine print.

Sunday, July 03, 2005


by Walt Whitman
from "Song of Myself"
for the Fourth of July

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess
the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun...
there are many millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand...
nor look through the eyes of the dead,
nor feed on the spectres in books.
You shall not look through my eyes either,
nor take things from me.
You shall listen to all sides and filter them for yourself.

I have heard what the talkers were talking.
The talk of the beginning and the end.
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.
There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now;
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.
Out of the dimness opposite equals advance...
Always substance and increase,
Always a knit of identity... always distinction...
always a breed of life.

Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical,
I and this mystery here we stand.

Clear and sweet is my soul...
and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul.
Lack one lacks both...
And the unseen is proved by the seen
Till that becomes unseen and receives proof in its turn.
Showing the best and dividing it from the worst,
age vexes age,
Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of things,
while they discuss I am silent,
and go and bathe and admire myself.

Welcome is every organ and attribute of me,
and of any man hearty and clean.
Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile,
and none shall be less familiar than the rest.

Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,
Stands amused, complacent, compassionating,
idle, unitary,
Looks down, is erect, bends an arm
on an impalpable certain rest,
Looks with its own sidecurved head curious
what will come next,
Both in and out of the game,
And watching and wondering at it.

Backward I see in my own days
where I sweated through fog with linguists
and contenders.
I have no mockings or arguments. I witness and wait.

I believe in you my soul.
The other I am must not abase itself to you.
And you must not be abased to the other.

Loafe with me on the grass.
Loose the stop from your throat.
Not words, not music or rhyme I want.
Not custom or lecture, not even the best.
Only the lull I like. The hum of your valved voice.

I recall how we lay in June,
such a transparent summer morning.
You settled your head athwart my hips
and gently turned over upon me,
And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone,
and plunged your tongue to my barestript heart,
And reached till you felt my beard,
and reached till you held my feet.
Swiftly arose and spread around me
the peace and joy and knowledge that
pass all the art and argument
of the earth;
And I know that the hand of God
is the elderhand of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God
is the eldest brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers,
And the women my sisters and lovers,
And that a product of the creation is love;
And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
And brown ants in little wells beneath them.

Fetching it to me with full hands, a child said, What is the grass?
How can I answer? I do not know what it is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition,
out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners,
that we may see and remark and say Whose?

And now it seems to me
the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

I wish I could translate these hints
about the dead young men and women.
and the hints about old men and mothers,
and the offspring soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of them?

They are alive and well somewhere.
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death.

All goes outward, and nothing collapses.
And to die is different from what any one supposed,
and luckier.

Has anyone supposed it is lucky to be born?
I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die,
and I know it.

I pass death with the dying, and birth
with the new-washed babe
... and am not contained between my hat and boots.
I peruse manifold objects, no two alike,
and every one good.
The earth good, the stars good,
and all their adjuncts good.

But I am not an earth nor and adjunct of an earth.
I am the mate and companion of people,
all just as immortal and fathomless as myself.
They do not know how immortal, but I know.

The press of my foot to the earth
springs a hundred affections.
They scorn the best I can do to relate them.

These are the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands.
They are not original with me.
If they are not yours as much as mine
they are nothing or next to nothing.
If they do not enclose everything they are next to nothing.
If they are not the riddle and the undying of the riddle
they are nothing.
If they are not just as close as they are distant
they are nothing.

This is the grass that grows
wherever the land is and the water is.
This is the common air that bathes the globe.

This is the breath of laws and songs and behavior.
This is the tasteless water of souls.
This is the true sustenance.
It is for the illiterate.
It is for the judges of the supreme court.
It is for the federal capitol and state capitols.
It is for the admirable communities of literary men
and composers and singers and lecturers
and engineers and savans.
It is for the endless races of working people
and farmers and seamen.

This is the trill of a thousand clear cornets and cream of the octave flute and strike of triangles.

I play not a march for victors only.
I play great marches for conquered and slain persons.
Have your heard 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 sound triumphal drums for the dead.
Vivas for those who have failed, whose war vessels
and selves sank in the sea.
To all generals who lost engagements,
and all who overcome heroes.
Every kind for itself and its own...
for mine male and female,
For all that have been boys that love women,
For me the man that is proud and feels
how it stings to be slighted.
For me the sweetheart and the old maid...
for me the mothers and the mothers of mothers
For me the lips that have smiled,
eyes that have shed tears,
For me the children and the begetters of children.

Who need be afraid of the merge?
you are not guilty to me, nor stale nor discarded.
I see through the broadcloth and gingham whether or no,
I can never be shaken away.

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

Today is the 150th anniversary of the first publication of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.