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This Compost by Walt Whitman | Poets.org
by Walt Whitman
Something startles me where I thought I was safest,
I withdraw from the still woods I loved,
I will not go now on the pastures to walk,
I will not strip the clothes from my body to meet my
lover the sea,
I will not touch my flesh to the earth as to other
flesh to renew me.
O how can it be that the ground itself does not
How can you be alive you growths of spring?
How can you furnish health you blood of herbs,
roots, orchards, grain?
Are they not continually putting distemper'd corpses
Is not every continent work'd over and over with
Where have you disposed of their carcasses?
Those drunkards and gluttons of so many
Where have you drawn off all the foul liquid and
I do not see any of it upon you to-day, or perhaps
I am deceiv'd,
I will run a furrow with my plough, I will press my
spade through the sod and turn it up underneath,
I am sure I shall expose some of the foul meat.
Behold this compost! behold it well!
Perhaps every mite has once form'd part of a sick
The grass of spring covers the prairies,
The bean bursts noiselessly through the mould in
The delicate spear of the onion pierces upward,
The apple-buds cluster together on the
The resurrection of the wheat appears with pale
visage out of its graves,
The tinge awakes over the willow-tree and the
The he-birds carol mornings and evenings while
the she-birds sit on their nests,
The young of poultry break through the
The new-born of animals appear, the calf is dropt
from the cow, the colt from the mare,
Out of its little hill faithfully rise the potato's dark
Out of its hill rises the yellow maize-stalk, the lilacs
bloom in the dooryards,
The summer growth is innocent and disdainful
above all those strata of sour dead.
That the winds are really not infectious,
That this is no cheat, this transparent green-wash
of the sea which is so amorous after me,
That it is safe to allow it to lick my naked body all
over with its tongues,
That it will not endanger me with the fevers that
have deposited themselves in it,
That all is clean forever and forever,
That the cool drink from the well tastes so good,
That blackberries are so flavorous and juicy,
That the fruits of the apple-orchard and the orange-
orchard, that melons, grapes, peaches, plums,
will none of them poison me,
That when I recline on the grass I do not catch
Though probably every spear of grass rises out of
what was once a catching disease.
Now I am terrified at the Earth, it is that calm
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,
It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with
such endless successions of diseas'd corpses,
It distills such exquisite winds out of such
It renews with such unwitting looks its prodigal,
annual, sumptuous crops,It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts
such leavings from them at last.