Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

“Resist much, obey little.”

“What is that you express in your eyes? It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life.”

“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 nothing 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, re-examine 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.”

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large — I contain multitudes.”

“We were together. I forget the rest.”

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”

“Be curious, not judgmental.”

“Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.”

“I am as bad as the worst, but, thank God, I am as good as the best. ”

“Failing to fetch me at first, keep encouraged. Missing me one place, search another. I stop somewhere waiting for you.”

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.”

“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough”

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.”

“I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I don’t believe I deserved my friends.”

“And your very flesh shall be a great poem.”

“I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.
One world is aware, and by the far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness, I can wait.”

“Do anything, but let it produce joy.”

“The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity.”

“I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake.”

“When I give, I give myself.”

“If you done it, it ain’t bragging.”

“I sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world.”

“Re-examine all you have been told … Dismiss what insults your Soul.”

“Peace is always beautiful.”

“In the faces of men and women, I see God.”

“Battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won.”

“Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you/ that you may be my poem/ I whisper with my lips close to your ear/ I have loved many women and men, but I love none better than you.”

“Be not ashamed women, … You are the gates of the body, and you are the gates of the soul.”

“Argue not concerning God,…re-examine all that you have been told at church or school or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your soul…”

“And as to me, I know nothing else but miracles”

“I think I could turn and live with the animals, they are so placid and self contained;
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition;
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins;
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God;
Not one is dissatisfied-not one is demented with the mania of owning things;
Not one kneels to another, nor his kind that lived thousands of years ago;
Not one is responsible or industrious over the whole earth.”

“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.”

“O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;
Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?


That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.”

“I am satisfied … I see, dance, laugh, sing.”

“Now I see the secret of making the best person: it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”

“The real war will never get in the books.”

“O captain! My Captain!
Our fearful trip is done.
The ship has weather’d every wrack
The prize we sought is won
The port is near, the bells I hear
The people all exulting
While follow eyes, the steady keel
The vessel grim and daring
But Heart! Heart! Heart!
O the bleeding drops of red
Where on the deck my captain lies
Fallen cold and dead.”

“Long enough have you dream’d contemptible dreams,
Now I wash the gum from your eyes,
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light
and of every moment of your life”

“If you want me again look for me under your boot soles.”

“We two boys together clinging,
One the other never leaving,
Up and down the roads going, North and South excursions making,
Power enjoying, elbows stretching, fingers clutching,
Arm’d and fearless, eating, drinking, sleeping, loving.
No law less than ourselves owning, sailing, soldiering, thieving,
Misers, menials, priests alarming, air breathing, water drinking, on
the turf or the sea-beach dancing,
Cities wrenching, ease scorning, statutes mocking, feebleness
Fulfilling our foray.”

“There is no God any more divine than Yourself.”

“I act as the tongue of you, … tied in your mouth . . . . in mine it begins to be loosened.”

“From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines.”

“I cannot be awake, for nothing looks to me as it did before, or else I am awake for the first time, and all before has been a mean sleep.”

“Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.”

“I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least.”

“These are the days that must happen to you.”

“This is thy hour o soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best, night, sleep, death and the stars.”

“Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss what insults your soul.”

“Give me the splendid, silent sun with all his beams full-dazzling.”

“The future is no more uncertain than the present.”

“I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.”

“Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road.
Healthy, free, the world before me.
The long brown path before me leading me wherever I choose.
Henceforth, I ask not good fortune, I myself am good fortune.
Henceforth, I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing.”

“A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.”

“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 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 from yourself.”

“after you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on – have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear – what remains? Nature remains.”

“A writer can do nothing for men more necessary, satisfying, than just simply to reveal to them the infinite possibility of their own souls.”

“it makes such difference where you read”

“I tramp a perpetual journey.”

“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.”

“Love the earth and sun and animals,
Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labor to others…
And your very flesh shall be a great poem.”

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

“The dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book.”

“I have said that the soul is not more than the body,
And I have said that the body is not more than the soul,
And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one’s-self is,”

“I accept Time absolutely.
It alone is without flaw,
It alone rounds and completes all,
That mystic baffling wonder.”

“The question, O me! so sad, recurring –
What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here – that life
exists and identity,
that the powerful play goes on,
and you may contribute a verse.”

“To me, every hour of the day and night is an unspeakably perfect miracle.”

“The road to wisdom is paved with excess.”

“The mark of a true writer is their ability to mystify the familiar and familiarize the strange.”

“Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?”

“To the real artist in humanity, what are called bad manners are often the most picturesque and significant of all.”

“To have great poets, there must be great audiences.”

“And I will show that there is no imperfection in the present, and
can be none in the future,
And I will show that whatever happens to anybody it may be turn’d to
beautiful results,
And I will show that nothing can happen more beautiful than death,
And I will thread a thread through my poems that time and events are
And that all the things of the universe are perfect miracles, each
as profound as any.”

“Be not dishearten’d — Affection shall solve the problems of freedom yet;
Those who love each other shall become invincible.”

“My words itch at your ears till you understand them”

“If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred.”

“The secret of it all, is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood, of the moment – to put things down without deliberation – without worrying about their style – without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote – wrote, wrote…By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught.”

“What is that you express in your eyes? It seems to me more than all the words I have read in my life.”

“The strongest and sweetest songs yet remain to be sung.”

“You must not know too much or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers and watercraft; a certain free-margin , or even vagueness – ignorance, credulity – helps your enjoyment of these things.”

“Oh captain my captain”

“A simple separate person is not contained between his hat and his boots.”

“I meet new Walt Whitmans everyday. There are a dozen of them afloat. I don’t know which Walt Whitman I am.”

“The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.”

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

“Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?”

“My spirit has pass’d in compassion and determination around the whole earth.
I have look’d for equals and lovers an found them ready for me in all lands,
I think some divine rapport has equalized me with them”

“I swear to you, there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell”

“The sum of all known value and respect, I add up in you, whoever you are.”

“The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem.”

“Behold I do not give lectures or a little charity, when I give I give myself.”

“And I will show that nothing can happen more beautiful than death.”

“Freedom: to walk free and own no superior”

“Simplicity is the glory of expression.”

“I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign’d by God’s name….”

“I and this mystery here we stand.”

“I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you when I sit alone or
wake at night alone,
I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.”

“Have you learned lessons only of those who admired you, and were tender with you, and stood aside for you?
Have you not learned the great lessons of those who rejected you, and braced themselves against you? or who treated you with contempt, or disputed the passage with you?
Have you had no practice to receive opponents when they come?”

“Songs of myself
I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul,
The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me,
The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate
into new tongue.

“I sing the Equalities, modern or old,
I sing the endless finales of things;
I say Nature continues—Glory continues;
I praise with electric voice;
For I do not see one imperfection in the universe;
And I do not see one cause or result lamentable at last in the universe.”

“O setting sun! though the time has come,
I still warble under you, if none else does, unmitigated adoration.”

“The words of my book are nothing, the drift of it everything.”

“Why should I pray? Why should I venerate and be ceremonious?”

“They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, or to his kind that lived
thousands of years ago,
Not one respectful or unhappy over the whole earth.”

“O, to be a ruler of life– not a slave, to meet life as a powerful conqueror, No fumes– no ennui– no more complaints or scornful criticisms. O me repellent and ugly, O to these proud laws of the air, the water and the ground, proving my interior soul impregnable, And nothing exterior shall ever take command of me.”

“I swear I begin to see the meaning of these things. It is not the earth, it is not America, who is so great, it is I who am great or to be great…”

“I wear my hat as I please, indoors or out.”

“I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,
Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,
Stuffed with the stuff that is course, and stuffed with the stuff that is fine …”

“Song of myself
Smile O voluptuous cool-breath’d earth!
Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees!
Earth of departed sunset–earth of the mountains misty-topt!
Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon just tinged with blue!
Earth of shine and dark mottling the tide of the river!
Earth of the limpid gray of clouds brighter and clearer for my sake!
Far-swooping elbow’d earth–rich apple-blossom’d earth!
Smile, for your lover comes.”

“Tenderly, be not impatient, (Strong is your hold O mortal flesh, Strong is your hold O love.)”

“Re-examine all that you have been told.”

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