in English  home page in Italiano  pagina iniziale by logo

Song of the Open Road

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown path before me leading wher-ever

I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am


Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no

more, need nothing,

Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous


Strong and content I travel the open road.

The earth, that is sufficient,

I do not want the constellations any nearer,

I know they are very well where they are,

I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,

I carry them, men and women, I carry them with

me wherever I go,

I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,

I am fill’d with them; and I will fill them in return.)

You road I enter upon and look around, I believe

you are not all that is here,

I believe that much unseen is also here.

Here the profound lesson of reception, nor prefer-ence

nor denial,

The black with his woolly head, the felon, the dis-eas’d,

the illiterate person, are not denied;

The birth, the hasting after the physician, the beg-gar’s

tramp, the drunkard’s stagger, the laughing

party of mechanics,

The escaped youth, the rich person’s carriage, the

fop, the eloping couple,

The early market-man, the hearse, the moving of

furniture into the town, the return back from

the town,

They pass, I also pass, any thing passes, none can be


None but are accepted, none but shall be dear to


You air that serves me with breath

to speak!

You objects that call from diffusion my

meanings and give them shape!

You light that wraps me and all things in delicate

equable showers!

You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the


I believe you are latent with/unseen existences, you

are so dear to me.

You flagg’d walks of the cities! you strong curbs at

the edges!

You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you

timber-lined sides! you distant ships!

You rows of houses! you window-pierc’d facades!

you roofs!

You porches and entrances! you copings and iron


You windows whose transparent shells might

expose so much!

You doors and ascending steps! you arches!

You gray stones of interminable pavements! you

trodden crossings!

From all that has touch’d you I believe you have

imparted to yourselves, and now would impart

the same secretly to me,

From the living and the dead you have peopled

your impassive surfaces, and the spirits thereof

would be evident and amicable with me.

The earth expanding right hand and left hand,

The picture alive, every part in its best light,

The music falling in where it is wanted, and stop-ping

where it is not wanted,

The cheerful voice of the public road, the gay fresh

sentiment of the road.

O highway I travel, do you say to me Do not

leave me?

Do you say Venture not—if you leave me you

are lost?

Do you say I am already prepared, I am wellbeaten

and undenied, adhere to me?

O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave

you, yet I love you,

You express me better than I can express myself,

You shall be more to me than my poem.

I think heroic deeds were all conceiv’d in the open

air, and all free poems also,

I think I could stop here myself and do miracles,

I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall

like, and whoever beholds me shall like me,

I think whoever I see must be happy.

From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and

imaginary lines,

Going where I list, my own master total and


Listening to others, considering well what they say,

Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,

Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself

of the holds that would hold me.

I inhale great draughts of space,

The east and the west are mine, and the north and

the south are mine.

I am larger, better than I thought,

I did not know I held so much goodness.

All seems beautiful to me,

I can repeat over to men and women You have

done such good to me I would do the same to


I will recruit for myself and you as I go,

I will scatter myself among men and women as I


I will toss a new gladness and roughness among


Whoever denies me it shall not trouble me,

Whoever accepts me he or she shall be blessed and

shall bless me.

Now if a thousand perfect men were to

appear it would not amaze me,

Now if a thousand beautiful forms of

women appear’d it would not astonish me.

Now I see the secret of the making of the best per-sons,

It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep

with the earth.

Here a great personal deed has room,

(Such a deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole

race of men,

Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law

and mocks all authority and all argument

against it.)

Here is the test of wisdom,

Wisdom is not finally tested in schools,

Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it to

another not having it,

Wisdom is of the soul, is not susceptible of proof, is

its own proof,

Applies to all stages and objects and qualities and is


Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of

things, and the excellence of things;

Something there is in the float of the sight of things

that provokes it out of the soul.

Now I re-examine philosophies and religions,

They may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not

prove at all under the spacious clouds and along

the landscape and flowing currents.





Walt Whitman




Here is a man tallied – he realizes here what he has

in him,

The past, the future, majesty, love – if they are

vacant of you, you are vacant of them.

Only the kernel of every object nourishes;

Where is he who tears off the husks for you and


Where is he that undoes stratagems and envelopes

for you and me?

Here is adhesiveness, it is not previously fashion’d,

it is apropos;

Do you know what it is as you pass to be loved by


Do you know the talk of those turning eye-balls?

Here is the efflux of the soul,

The efflux of the soul comes from within through

embower’d gates, ever provoking questions,

These yearnings why are they? these thoughts in the

darkness why are they?

Why are there men and women that while they are

nigh me the sunlight expands my blood?

Why when they leave me do my pennants of joy

sink flat and lank?

Why are there trees I never walk under but large

and melodious thoughts descend upon me?

(I think they hang there winter and summer on

those trees and always drop fruit as I pass;)

What is it I interchange so suddenly with strangers?

What with some driver as I ride on the seat by his


What with some fisherman drawing his seine by the

shore as I walk by and pause?

What gives me to be free to a woman’s and man’s

good-will? what gives them to be free to mine?

The efflux of the soul is happiness, here is


I think it pervades the open air, waiting at all times,

Now it flows unto us, we are rightly charged.

Here rises the fluid and attaching character,

The fluid and attaching character is the freshness

and sweetness of man and woman,

(The herbs of the morning sprout no fresher and

sweeter every day out of the roots of themselves,

than it sprouts fresh and sweet continually out

of itself.)

Toward the fluid and attaching character exudes the

sweat of the love of young and old,

From it falls distill’d the charm that mocks beauty

and attainments,

Toward it heaves the shuddering longing ache of


Allons! whoever you are come

travel with me!

Traveling with me you find what

never tires.

The earth never tires,

The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first,

Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first,

Be not discouraged, keep on, there are divine things

well envelop’d,

I swear to you there are divine things more beauti-ful

than words can tell.

Allons! we must not stop here,

However sweet these laid-up stores, however conve-nient

this dwelling we cannot remain here,

However shelter’d this port and however calm these

waters we must not anchor here,

However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us

we are permitted to receive it but a little while.

Allons! the inducements shall be greater,

We will sail pathless and wild seas,

We will go where winds blow, waves dash, and the

Yankee clipper speeds by under full sail.

Allons! with power, liberty, the earth, the elements,

Health, defiance, gayety, self-esteem, curiosity;

Allons! from all formules!

From your formules, O bat-eyed and materialistic


The stale cadaver blocks up the passage – the burial

waits no longer.

Allons! yet take warning!

He traveling with me needs the best blood, thews,


None may come to the trial till he or she bring

courage and health,

Come not here if you have already spent the best of


Only those may come who come in sweet and

determin’d bodies,

No diseas’d person, no rum-drinker or venereal

taint is permitted here.

(I and mine do not convince by arguments, similes,


We convince by our presence.)

Listen! I will be honest with you,

I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer

rough new prizes,

These are the days that must happen to you:

You shall not heap up what is call’d riches,

You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn

or achieve,

You but arrive at the city to which you were des-tin’d,

you hardly settle yourself to satisfaction

before you are call’d by an irresistible call to


You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and

mockings of those who remain behind you,

What beckonings of love you receive you shall only

answer with passionate kisses of parting,

You shall not allow the hold of those who spread

their reach’d hands toward you.

Allons! after the great Companions, and to belong

to them!

They too are on the road – they are

the swift and majestic men –

they are the greatest women,

Enjoyers of calms of seas and storms of seas,

Sailors of many a ship, walkers of many a mile of


Habitués of many distant countries, habitués of far-distant


Trusters of men and women, observers of cities,

solitary toilers,

Pausers and contemplators of tufts, blossoms, shells

of the shore,

Dancers at wedding-dances, kissers of brides, ten-der

helpers of children, bearers of children,

Soldiers of revolts, standers by gaping graves, low-erers-

down of coffins,

Journeyers over consecutive seasons, over the years,

the curious years each emerging from that

which preceded it,

Journeyers as with companions, namely their own

diverse phases,

Forth-steppers from the latent unrealized baby-days,

Journeyers gayly with their own youth, journeyers

with their bearded and well-grain’d manhood,

Journeyers with their womanhood, ample, unsur-pass’d,


Journeyers with their own sublime old age of man-hood

or womanhood,

Old age, calm, expanded, broad with the haughty

breadth of the universe,

Old age, flowing free with the delicious near-by

freedom of death.

Allons! to that which

is endless as it was


To undergo much, tramps of days, rests of nights,










aa.To merge all in the travel they tend to, and the days

and nights they tend to,

Again to merge them in the start of superior jour-neys,

To see nothing anywhere but what you may reach it

and pass it,

To conceive no time, however distant, but what you

may reach it and pass it,

To look up or down no road but it stretches and

waits for you, however long but it stretches and

waits for you,

To see no being, not God’s or any, but you also go


To see no possession but you may possess it, enjoy-ing

all without labor or purchase, abstracting

the feast yet not abstracting one particle of it,

To take the best of the farmer’s farm and the rich

man’s elegant villa, and the chaste blessings of

the well-married couple, and the fruits of

orchards and flowers of gardens,

To take to your use out of the compact cities as you

pass through,

To carry buildings and streets with you afterward

wherever you go,

To gather the minds of men out of their brains as

you encounter them, to gather the love out of

their hearts,

To take your lovers on the road with you, for all

that you leave them behind you,

To know the universe itself as a road, as many

roads, as roads for traveling souls.

All parts away for the progress of souls,

All religion, all solid things, arts, governments – all

that was or is apparent upon this globe or any

globe, falls into niches and corners before the

procession of souls along the grand roads of the


Of the progress of the souls of men and women

along the grand roads of the universe, all other

progress is the needed emblem and sustenance.

Forever alive, forever forward,

Stately, solemn, sad, withdrawn, baffled, mad, tur-bulent,

feeble, dissatisfied,

Desperate, proud, fond, sick, accepted by men,

rejected by men,

They go! they go! I know that they go, but I know

not where they go,

But I know that they go toward the best – toward

something great.

Whoever you are, come forth! or man or woman

come forth!

You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the

house, though you built it, or though it has been

built for you.

Out of the dark confinement! out from behind the


It is useless to protest, I know all and expose it.

Behold through you as bad as the rest,

Through the laughter, dancing, dining, supping, of


Inside of dresses and ornaments, inside of those

wash’d and trimm’d faces,

Behold a secret silent loathing and despair.

No husband, no wife, no friend, trusted to hear the


Another self, a duplicate of every one, skulking and

hiding it goes,

Formless and wordless through the streets of the

cities, polite and bland in the parlors,

In the cars of railroads, in steamboats, in the public


Home to the houses of men and women, at the

table, in the bedroom, everywhere,

Smartly attired, countenance smiling, form upright,

death under the breast-bones, hell under the


Under the broadcloth and gloves, under the rib-bons

and artificial flowers,

Keeping fair with the customs, speaking not a sylla-ble

of itself,

Speaking of any thing else but never of itself.

Allons! through struggles and wars!

The goal that was named cannot be countermand-ed.

Have the past struggles succeeded?

What has succeeded? yourself? your nation?


Now understand me well – it is provided in the

essence of things that from any fruition of suc-cess,

no matter what, shall come forth some-thing

to make a greater struggle necessary.

My call is the call of battle, I nourish active rebel-lion,

He going with me must go well arm’d,

He going with me goes often with spare diet, pover-ty,

angry enemies, desertions.

Allons! the road is before us!

It is safe – I have tried it –

my own feet have tried it

well – be not detain’d!

Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and

the book on the shelf unopen’d!

Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the

money remain unearn’d!

Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the


Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer

plead in the court, and the judge expound the


Camerado, I give you my hand!

I give you my love more precise than money,

I give you myself before preaching or law;

Will you give me yourself? will you come travel

with me?

Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?










his digital rendition of Walt Whitman’s Song of the

Open Road takes on new significance as our digital

highways converge. Great poems do that. They outlive their

own time and enter the future not as old poems, but as fresh

metaphors reminding us of how our future is linked to our

past. In this digital edition of Song of the Open Road,no

doubt accessed by its readers over an electronic network,

Walt Whitman speaks to a new breed of readers the same

way he spoke to the travelers of the 19th century…Rejoice

in the pathways of discovery.

Song of the Open Road is one of dozens of poems in Walt

Whitman’s masterpiece Leaves of Grass, available in book-stores

across the world in dozens of languages. A book with

a unique past, as well as an unique author, it should be

required reading for anyone wishing access on any road,

highway, or any other of life’s journeys.

The following is an excerpt from Whitman’s Preface to the

1855 Edition of Leaves of Grass.

The land and sea, the animals fishes and birds, the sky

of heaven and the orbs, the forests mountains and rivers,

are not small themes… but folks expect of the poet to

indicate more than the beauty and dignity which always

attach to dumb real objects… they expect him to indi-cate

the path between reality and their souls. Men and

women perceive the beauty well enough… probably as

well as he. The passionate tenacity of hunters, woodmen,

early risers, cultivators of gardens and orchards and

fields, the love of healthy women for the manly form,

seafaring persons, drivers of horses, the passion for light

and the open air, all is an old varied sign of the unfailing

perception of beauty and of a residence of the poetic in

outdoor people. They can never be assisted by poets to

perceive… some may but they never can. The poetic

quality is not marshalled in rhyme or uniformity or

abstract addresses to things nor in melancholy com-plaints

or good precepts, but is the life of these and

much else and is in the soul. The profit of rhyme is that

it drops seeds of a sweeter and more luxuriant rhyme,

and of uniformity that it conveys itself into its own roots

in the ground out of sight. The rhyme and uniformity of

perfect poems show the free growth of metrical laws and

bud from them as unerringly and loosely as lilacs or

roses on a bush, and take shapes as compact as the

shapes of chestnuts and oranges and melons and pears,

and shed the perfume impalpable to form. The fluency

and ornaments of the finest poems or music or orations

or recitations are not independent but dependent. All

beauty comes from beautiful blood and a beautiful

brain. If the greatnesses are in conjunction in a man or

woman it is enough… the fact will prevail through the

universe… but the gaggery and gilt of a million years

will not prevail. Who troubles himself about his orna-ments

or fluency is lost. This is what you shall do: Love

the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give

alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and

crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate

tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and

indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to noth-ing

known or unknown or to any man or number of

men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and

with the young and with the mothers of families, read

these leaves in the open air every season of every year of

your life, reexamine all you have been told at school or

church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your

own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and

have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the

silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of

your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body…

The poet shall not spend his time in unneeded work. He

shall know that the ground is always ready plowed and

manured… others may not know it but he shall. He

shall go directly to the creation. His trust shall master

the trust of everything he touches… and shall master all


Adobe Press, Mountain View, California

Designed and Edited by Patrick Ames

Digitally mastered in Adobe Acrobat™. Adobe and Acrobat are trade-marks

of Adobe Systems Incorporated which may be registered in certain


The text of Song of the Road and the 1855 Preface is public domain. This

digital broadside may be distributed freely, and only freely, without permis-sion

being required from Adobe Systems Incorporated. All other items and

text are copyrighted. © 1994 by Adobe Systems Incorporated. The informa-tion

in this work is furnished for informational use only. Adobe Systems

Incorporated assumes no responsibilities for any errors or inaccuracies that

may appear. The software and typefaces mentioned in this work are fur-nished

under license and may only be used or copied in accordance with

the terms of such license.