Starting From Paumanok

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

   STARTING from fish-shape Paumanok, where I was born,
   Well-begotten, and rais'd by a perfect mother;
   After roaming many lands--lover of populous pavements;
   Dweller in Mannahatta, my city--or on
         southern savannas;
   Or a soldier camp'd, or carrying my knapsack and gun--or a miner in
   Or rude in my home in Dakota's woods, my diet meat, my drink from the
   Or withdrawn to muse and meditate in some deep recess,
   Far from the clank of crowds, intervals passing, rapt and happy;
   Aware of the fresh free giver, the flowing Missouri--aware of mighty
   Aware of the buffalo herds, grazing the plains--the hirsute and
         strong-breasted bull;                                        10
   Of earth, rocks, Fifth-month flowers, experienced--stars, rain, snow,
         my amaze;
   Having studied the mocking-bird's tones, and the mountainhawk's,
   And heard at dusk the unrival'd one, the hermit thrush from the
   Solitary, singing in the West, I strike up for a New World.

   Victory, union, faith, identity, time,
   The indissoluble compacts, riches, mystery,
   Eternal progress, the kosmos, and the modern reports.

   This, then, is life;
   Here is what has come to the surface after so many throes and

   How curious! how real!                                             20
   Underfoot the divine soil--overhead the sun.

   See, revolving, the globe;
   The ancestor-continents, away, group'd together;
   The present and future continents, north and south, with the isthmus

   See, vast, trackless spaces;
   As in a dream, they change, they swiftly fill;
   Countless masses debouch upon them;
   They are now cover'd with the foremost people, arts, institutions,

   See, projected, through time,
   For me, an audience interminable.                                  30

   With firm and regular step they wend--they never stop,
   Successions of men, Americanos, a hundred millions;
   One generation playing its part, and passing on;
   Another generation playing its part, and passing on in its turn,
   With faces turn'd sideways or backward towards me, to listen,
   With eyes retrospective towards me,

   Americanos! conquerors! marches humanitarian;
   Foremost! century marches! Libertad! masses!
   For you a programme of chants.

   Chants of the prairies;                                            40
   Chants of the long-running Mississippi, and down to the Mexican sea;
   Chants of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota;
   Chants going forth from the centre, from Kansas, and thence, equi-
   Shooting in pulses of fire, ceaseless, to vivify all.

   In the Year 80 of The States,
   My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil, this air,
   Born here of parents born here, from parents the same, and their
         parents the same,
   I, now thirty-six years old, in perfect health, begin,
   Hoping to cease not till death.

   Creeds and schools in abeyance,                                    50
   (Retiring back a while, sufficed at what they are, but never
   I harbor, for good or bad--I permit to speak, at every hazard,
   Nature now without check, with original energy.

   Take my leaves, America! take them, South, and take them, North!
   Make welcome for them everywhere, for they are your own offspring;
   Surround them, East and West! for they would surround you;
   And you precedents! connect lovingly with them, for they connect
         lovingly with you.

   I conn'd old times;
   I sat studying at the feet of the great masters:
   Now, if eligible, O that the great masters might return and study
         me!                                                          60

   In the name of These States, shall I scorn the antique?
   Why These are the children of the antique, to justify it.

   Dead poets, philosophs, priests,
   Martyrs, artists, inventors, governments long since,
   Language-shapers, on other shores,
   Nations once powerful, now reduced, withdrawn, or desolate,
   I dare not proceed till I respectfully credit what you have left,
         wafted hither:
   I have perused it--own it is admirable,
         (moving awhile among it;)
   Think nothing can ever be greater--nothing can ever deserve more than
         it deserves;
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on April 27, 2023

3:07 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 4,352
Words 612
Stanzas 16
Stanza Lengths 21, 3, 3, 2, 4, 5, 2, 6, 3, 6, 6, 5, 5, 4, 2, 11

Walt Whitman

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

All Walt Whitman poems | Walt Whitman Books

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