Song of Myself: from Section 24

A passage from Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman
  • Walt Whitman
  • Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son,
  • Turbulent, fleshy, 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 another degrades me,
  • And whatever is done or said returns at last to me.  
  • 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 prisoners and slaves,
  • 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 father-stuff,
  • And of the rights of them the others are down upon,
  • Of the deformed, trivial, flat, foolish, despised,
  • Fog in the air, 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 fingers 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.
  • I believe in the flesh and the appetites,
  • Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each part and tag of me is a miracle.
  •  Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or
  •          am touched from,
  • The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer,
  • This head more than churches, bibles, and all the creeds.

Walt Whitman (1819–1892) published “Song of Myself,” his towering masterpiece, in the first (1855) edition of Leaves of Grass, a book that he published at his own expense. But in the first several editions of that book it remained untitled. For the fourth (1867) edition, the poem was divided into 52 numbered sections and in the final edition of 1881, it was given the title “Song of Myself.” This passage is the first half of section 24 of that poem. In 1882, the district attorney of Boston threatened to ban Leaves of Grass for violating the state’s obscenity laws. Among the poems to which he particularly objected was “Song of Myself.”

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