Friday, 27 July 2007

'Song of Myself' (excerpt) - Walt Whitman

More poetry tonight, this from Walt Whitman's huge-spirited and ever-changing 'Song of Myself.' This is just a tiny fragment from this muscular autobiographical work.

Song of Myself
Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a kosmos,
Disorderly fleshy and sensual, eating drinking and breeding,
No sentimentalist - no stander above men and women or apart from them - no more modest than immodest.

Unscrew the locks from the doors!
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!

Whoever degrades me degrades another, and whatever is done or said returns at last to me,
And whatever I do or say I also return.

Through me the afflatus surging and surging - through me the current and index.

I speak the password primeval - I give the sign of democracy;
By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms.

Through me many long dumb voices,
Voices of the interminable generations of slaves,
Voices of prostitutes and of deformed persons,
Voices of the diseased and despairing, and of thieves and dwarfs,
Voices of cycles of preparation and accretion,
And of the threads that connect the stars – and of wombs, and of the fatherstuff,
And of the rights of them the other are down upon,
Of the trivial and flat and foolish and despised,
Of fog in the air and beetles rolling balls of dung.

Through me forbidden voices,
Voices of sexes and lusts - voices veiled, and I remove the veil,
Voices indecent by me clarified and transfigured.

I do not press my finger across my mouth,
I keep as delicate around the bowels as around the head and heart,
Copulation is no more rank to me than death is.

Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touched from;
The scent of these arm-pits is aroma finer than prayer,
This head is more than churches or bibles or creeds.


  1. I wonder if Billy Bragg will use this one on his next CD?

  2. My favourite Whitman is "As I Ebb'd With the Ocean of Life". He had gotten over himself by this point - as one does. One actually realises, eventually, that the world can live without one's opinion.

    O baffled, balk'd, bent to the very earth,
    Oppress'd with myself that I have dared to open my mouth,
    Aware now that amid all that blab whose echoes recoil upon me I
    have not once had the least idea who or what I am,
    But that before all my arrogant poems the real Me stands yet
    untouch'd, untold, altogether unreach'd,
    Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congratulatory signs and bows,
    With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word I have written,
    Pointing in silence to these songs, and then to the sand beneath.

  3. Walt Whitman was known for not being full of himself. He was always seen with the working class even after his fame, as a prolific writer. He did not descriminate against race,or sex as he saw everyone as equal partners of the world.


1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say, it's important enough to put a name to.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.