OF the visages of things–And of piercing through to the accepted hells beneath;
Of ugliness–To me there is just as much in it as there is in beauty–And now the ugliness of human
beings is acceptable to me;
Of detected persons–To me, detected persons are not, in any respect, worse than undetected
persons–and are not in any respect worse than I am myself;
Of criminals–To me, any judge, or any juror, is equally criminal–and any reputable person is also–
and the President is also.
OF waters, forests, hills;
Of the earth at large, whispering through medium of me;
Of vista–Suppose some sight in arriere, through the formative chaos, presuming the growth,
fulness, life, now attain’d on the journey;
(But I see the road continued, and the journey ever continued;)
Of what was once lacking on earth, and in due time has become supplied–And of what will yet be
Because all I see and know, I believe to have purport in what will yet be supplied.
OF persons arrived at high positions, ceremonies, wealth, scholarships, and the like;
To me, all that those persons have arrived at, sinks away from them, except as it results to their
Bodies and Souls,
So that often to me they appear gaunt and naked;
And often, to me, each one mocks the others, and mocks himself or herself,
And of each one, the core of life, namely happiness, is full of the rotten excrement of maggots,
And often, to me, those men and women pass unwittingly the true realities of life, and go toward
And often, to me, they are alive after what custom has served them, but nothing more,
And often, to me, they are sad, hasty, unwaked sonnambules, walking the dusk.
OF ownership–As if one fit to own things could not at pleasure enter upon all, and incorporate them
into himself or herself;
Of Equality–As if it harm’d me, giving others the same chances and rights as myself–As if it were
not indispensable to my own rights that others possess the same;
Of Justice–As if Justice could be anything but the same ample law, expounded by natural judges and
As if it might be this thing or that thing, according to decisions.
As I sit with others, at a great feast, suddenly, while the music is playing,
To my mind, (whence it comes I know not,) spectral, in mist, of a wreck at sea,
Of the flower of the marine science of fifty generations, founder’d off the Northeast coast, and going
down–Of the steamship Arctic going down,
Of the veil’d tableau–Women gather’d together on deck, pale, heroic, waiting the moment that draws
so close–O the moment!
O the huge sob–A few bubbles–the white foam spirting up–And then the women gone,
Sinking there, while the passionless wet flows on–And I now pondering, Are those women indeed
Are Souls drown’d and destroy’d so?
Is only matter triumphant?
OF what I write from myself–As if that were not the resumé;
Of Histories–As if such, however complete, were not less complete than my poems;
As if the shreds, the records of nations, could possibly be as lasting as my poems;
As if here were not the amount of all nations, and of all the lives of heroes.
OF obedience, faith, adhesiveness;
As I stand aloof and look, there is to me something profoundly affecting in large masses of men,
following the lead of those who do not believe in men.
Walt Whitman is widely considered one of America’s most important poets. He worked as a printer, teacher, and journalist in the New York City area. Whitman composed and updated his seminal work, Leaves of Grass, throughout his entire adult life.