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Song of the Open Road

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road

Healthyfreethe world before me

The long brown path before me leading wher-ever

I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortuneI myself am


Henceforth I whimper no morepostpone no

moreneed nothing

Done with indoor complaintslibrariesquerulous


Strong and content I travel the open road.

The earththat 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 themmen and womenI 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 aroundI believe

you are not all that is here

I believe that much unseen is also here.

Here the profound lesson of receptionnor prefer-ence

nor denial

The black with his woolly headthe felonthe dis-eas’d

the illiterate personare not denied;

The birththe hasting after the physicianthe beg-gar’s

trampthe drunkard’s staggerthe laughing

party of mechanics

The escaped youththe rich person’s carriagethe

fopthe eloping couple

The early market-manthe hearsethe moving of

furniture into the townthe return back from

the town

They passI also passany thing passesnone can be


None but are acceptednone 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 existencesyou

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 yourselvesand now would impart

the same secretly to me

From the living and the dead you have peopled

your impassive surfacesand the spirits thereof

would be evident and amicable with me.

The earth expanding right hand and left hand

The picture aliveevery part in its best light

The music falling in where it is wantedand stop-ping

where it is not wanted

The cheerful voice of the public roadthe gay fresh

sentiment of the road.

O highway I traveldo you say to me Donot

leave me?

Do you say Venturenot—if you leave me you

are lost?

Do you say I amalready preparedI am wellbeaten

and undeniedadhere to me?

O public roadI say back I am not afraid to leave

youyet 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

airand 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

likeand 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 listmy own master total and


Listening to othersconsidering well what they say


Gentlybut with undeniable willdivesting myself

of the holds that would hold me.

I inhale great draughts of space

The east and the west are mineand the north and

the south are mine.

I am largerbetter 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 soulis not susceptible of proofis

its own proof

Applies to all stages and objects and qualities and is


Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of

thingsand 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-roomsyet 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 pastthe futuremajestylove – if they are

vacant of youyou 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 adhesivenessit 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 gatesever 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 happinesshere is


I think it pervades the open airwaiting at all times

Now it flows unto uswe 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 rudesilentincomprehensible at first

Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first

Be not discouragedkeep onthere 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 storeshowever 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 blowwaves dashand the

Yankee clipper speeds by under full sail.

Allons! with powerlibertythe earththe elements


Allons! from all formules!

From your formulesO 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 bloodthews


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 personno rum-drinker or venereal

taint is permitted here.

(I and mine do not convince by argumentssimiles


We convince by our presence.)

Listen! I will be honest with you

I do not offer the old smooth prizesbut 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 Companionsand 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 shipwalkers of many a mile of


Habitués of many distant countrieshabitués of far-distant


Trusters of men and womenobservers of cities

solitary toilers

Pausers and contemplators of tuftsblossomsshells

of the shore

Dancers at wedding-danceskissers of bridesten-der

helpers of childrenbearers of children

Soldiers of revoltsstanders by gaping graveslow-erers-

down of coffins

Journeyers over consecutive seasonsover the years

the curious years each emerging from that

which preceded it

Journeyers as with companionsnamely their own

diverse phases

Forth-steppers from the latent unrealized baby-days

Journeyers gayly with their own youthjourneyers

with their bearded and well-grain’d manhood

Journeyers with their womanhoodampleunsur-pass’d


Journeyers with their own sublime old age of man-hood

or womanhood

Old agecalmexpandedbroad with the haughty

breadth of the universe

Old ageflowing free with the delicious near-by

freedom of death.

Allons! to that which

is endless as it was


To undergo muchtramps of daysrests of nights










aa.Tomerge all in the travel they tend toand 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 timehowever distantbut what you

may reach it and pass it

To look up or down no road but it stretches and

waits for youhowever long but it stretches and

waits for you

To see no beingnot God’s or anybut you also go


To see no possession but you may possess itenjoy-ing

all without labor or purchaseabstracting

the feast yet not abstracting one particle of it

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

man’s elegant villaand the chaste blessings of

the well-married coupleand 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 themto gather the love out of

their hearts

To take your lovers on the road with youfor all

that you leave them behind you

To know the universe itself as a roadas many

roadsas roads for traveling souls.

All parts away for the progress of souls

All religionall solid thingsartsgovernments – all

that was or is apparent upon this globe or any

globefalls 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 universeall other

progress is the needed emblem and sustenance.

Forever aliveforever forward



Desperateproudfondsickaccepted by men

rejected by men

They go! they go! I know that they gobut I know

not where they go

But I know that they go toward the best – toward

something great.

Whoever you arecome forth! or man or woman

come forth!

You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the

housethough you built itor though it has been

built for you.

Out of the dark confinement! out from behind the


It is useless to protestI know all and expose it.

Behold through you as bad as the rest

Through the laughterdancingdiningsuppingof


Inside of dresses and ornamentsinside of those

wash’d and trimm’d faces

Behold a secret silent loathing and despair.

No husbandno wifeno friendtrusted to hear the


Another selfa duplicate of every oneskulking and

hiding it goes

Formless and wordless through the streets of the

citiespolite and bland in the parlors

In the cars of railroadsin steamboatsin the public


Home to the houses of men and womenat the

tablein the bedroomeverywhere

Smartly attiredcountenance smilingform upright

death under the breast-boneshell under the


Under the broadcloth and glovesunder the rib-bons

and artificial flowers

Keeping fair with the customsspeaking 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 whatshall come forth some-thing

to make a greater struggle necessary.

My call is the call of battleI nourish active rebel-lion

He going with me must go well arm’d

He going with me goes often with spare dietpover-ty

angry enemiesdesertions.

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 unwrittenand

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 courtand the judge expound the


CameradoI 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 Songof the

Open Road takeson new significance as our digital

highways converge. Great poems do that. They outlive their

own time and enter the future not as old poemsbut as fresh

metaphors reminding us of how our future is linked to our

past. In this digital edition of Songof the Open Roadno

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 isone of dozens of poems in Walt

Whitman’s masterpiece Leavesof Grassavailable in book-stores

across the world in dozens of languages. A book with

a unique pastas well as an unique authorit should be

required reading for anyone wishing access on any road

highwayor any other of life’s journeys.

The following is an excerpt from Whitman’s Prefaceto the

1855 Edition of Leavesof Grass.

The land and seathe animals fishes and birdsthe sky

of heaven and the orbsthe 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 hunterswoodmen

early riserscultivators of gardens and orchards and

fieldsthe love of healthy women for the manly form

seafaring personsdrivers of horsesthe passion for light

and the open airall 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 preceptsbut 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 bushand 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 animalsdespise richesgive

alms to every one that asksstand up for the stupid and

crazydevote your income and labor to othershate

tyrantsargue not concerning Godhave patience and

indulgence toward the peopletake off your hat to noth-ing

known or unknown or to any man or number of

mengo freely with powerful uneducated persons and

with the young and with the mothers of familiesread

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

your lifereexamine all you have been told at school or

church or in any bookdismiss whatever insults your

own souland 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 PressMountain ViewCalifornia

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