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As I Sat Alone By Blue Ontario's Shores

Walt Whitman 1819 (West Hills) – 1892 (Camden)

  AS I sat alone, by blue Ontario's shore,
  As I mused of these mighty days, and of peace return'd, and the dead
  that return no more,
  A Phantom, gigantic, superb, with stern visage, accosted me;
  Chant me the poem, it said, that comes from the soul of America--
  chant me the carol of victory;
  And strike up the marches of Libertad--marches more powerful yet;
  And sing me before you go, the song of the throes of Democracy.

  (Democracy--the destin'd conqueror--yet treacherous lip-smiles
  And Death and infidelity at every step.)

  A Nation announcing itself,
  I myself make the only growth by which I can be appreciated, 10
  I reject none, accept all, then reproduce all in my own forms.

  A breed whose proof is in time and deeds;
  What we are, we are--nativity is answer enough to objections;
  We wield ourselves as a weapon is wielded,
  We are powerful and tremendous in ourselves,
  We are executive in ourselves--We are sufficient in the variety of
  We are the most beautiful to ourselves, and in ourselves;
  We stand self-pois'd in the middle, branching thence over the world;
  From Missouri, Nebraska, or Kansas, laughing attacks to scorn.

  Nothing is sinful to us outside of ourselves, 20
  Whatever appears, whatever does not appear, we are beautiful or
  sinful in ourselves only.

  (O mother! O sisters dear!
  If we are lost, no victor else has destroy'd us;
  It is by ourselves we go down to eternal night.)

  Have you thought there could be but a single Supreme?
  There can be any number of Supremes--One does not countervail
  another, any more than one eyesight countervails another, or
  one life countervails another.

  All is eligible to all,
  All is for individuals--All is for you,
  No condition is prohibited--not God's, or any.

  All comes by the body--only health puts you rapport with the
  universe. 30

  Produce great persons, the rest follows.

  America isolated I sing;
  I say that works made here in the spirit of other lands, are so much
  poison in The States.

  (How dare such insects as we see assume to write poems for America?
  For our victorious armies, and the offspring following the armies?)

  Piety and conformity to them that like!
  Peace, obesity, allegiance, to them that like!
  I am he who tauntingly compels men, women, nations,
  Crying, Leap from your seats, and contend for your lives!

  I am he who walks the States with a barb'd tongue, questioning every
  one I meet; 40
  Who are you, that wanted only to be told what you knew before?
  Who are you, that wanted only a book to join you in your nonsense?

  (With pangs and cries, as thine own, O bearer of many children!
  These clamors wild, to a race of pride I give.)

  O lands! would you be freer than all that has ever been before?
  If you would be freer than all that has been before, come listen to

  Fear grace--Fear elegance, civilization, delicatesse,
  Fear the mellow sweet, the sucking of honey-juice;
  Beware the advancing mortal ripening of nature,
  Beware what precedes the decay of the ruggedness of states and
  men. 50

  Ages, precedents, have long been accumulating undirected materials,
  America brings builders, and brings its own styles.

  The immortal poets of Asia and Europe have done their work, and
  pass'd to other spheres,
  A work remains, the work of surpassing all they have done.

  America, curious toward foreign characters, stands by its own at all
  Stands removed, spacious, composite, sound--initiates the true use of
  Does not repel them, or the past, or what they have produced under
  their forms,
  Takes the lesson with calmness, perceives the corpse slowly borne
  from the house,
  Perceives that it waits a little while in the door--that it was
  fittest for its days,
  That its life has descended to the stalwart and well-shaped heir who
  approaches, 60
  And that he shall be fittest for his days.

  Any period, one nation must lead,
  One land must be the promise and relian
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:23 min read

Walt Whitman

Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. more…

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