Night with Walt Whitman

Beauty of the night and the beauty of language of the heart and soul from

Walt Whitman – 1856

WANDER all night in my vision,

Stepping with light feet, swiftly and noise-

lessly stepping and stopping,

Bending with open eyes over the shut eyes of


Wandering and confused, lost to myself, ill-

assorted, contradictory,

Pausing, gazing, bending, stopping.

How solemn they look there, stretched and still!

How quiet they breathe, the little children in their


The wretched features of ennuyees, the white

features of corpses, the livid faces of drunk-

ards, the sick-gray faces of onanists,

The gashed bodies on battle-fields, the insane in

their strong-doored rooms, the sacred idiots,

The new-born emerging from gates, and the dying

emerging from gates,

The night pervades them and enfolds them.

The married couple sleep calmly in their bed —

he with his palm on the hip of the wife, and

she with her palm on the hip of the husband,

The sisters sleep lovingly side by side in their


The men sleep lovingly side by side in theirs,

And the mother sleeps with her little child care-

fully wrapped.

The blind sleep, and the deaf and dumb sleep,

The prisoner sleeps well in the prison, the run-

away son sleeps,

The murderer that is to be hung next day—how

does he sleep?

And the murdered person—how does he sleep?

The female that loves unrequited sleeps,

And the male that loves unrequited sleeps;

The head of the money-maker that plotted all day


And the enraged and treacherous dispositions


I stand with drooping eyes by the worst-suffering

and restless,

I pass my hands soothingly to and fro a few

inches from them,

The restless sink in their beds—they fitfully


The earth recedes from me into the night,

I saw that it was beautiful, and I see that what is

not the earth is beautiful.

I go from bedside to bedside, I sleep close with

the other sleepers, each in turn,

I dream in my dream all the dreams of the other


And I become the other dreamers.

I am a dance—Play up, there! the fit is whirling

me fast!

I am the ever-laughing—it is new moon and


I see the hiding of douceurs, I see nimble ghosts

whichever way I look,

Cache, and cache again, deep in the ground

and sea, and where it is neither ground

or sea.

Well do they do their jobs, those journeymen


Only from me can they hide nothing, and would

not if they could,

I reckon I am their boss, and they make me a pet


And surround me and lead me, and run ahead

when I walk,

To lift their cunning covers, to signify me with

stretched arms, and resume the way;

Onward we move! a gay gang of blackguards!

with mirth-shouting music and wild-flapping

pennants of joy!

I am the actor, the actress, the voter, the poli-


The emigrant and the exile, the criminal that

stood in the box,

He who has been famous, and he who shall be

famous after today,

The stammerer, the well-formed person, the

wasted or feeble person.

I am she who adorned herself and folded her hair


My truant lover has come, and it is dark.

Double yourself and receive me, darkness!

Receive me and my lover too—he will not let me

go without him.

I roll myself upon you, as upon a bed—I resign

myself to the dusk.

He whom I call answers me and takes the place

of my lover,

He rises with me silently from the bed.

Darkness, you are gentler than my lover! his flesh

was sweaty and panting,

I feel the hot moisture yet that he left me.

My hands are spread forth, I pass them in all


I would sound up the shadowy shore to which you

are journeying.

Be careful, darkness! already, what was it touched


I thought my lover had gone, else darkness and he

are one,

I hear the heart-beat, I follow, I fade away.

O hot-cheeked and blushing! O foolish hectic!

O for pity’s sake, no one must see me now! my

clothes were stolen while I was abed,

Now I am thrust forth, where shall I run?

Pier that I saw dimly last night, when I looked

from the windows!

Pier out from the main, let me catch myself with

you and stay! I will not chafe you,

I feel ashamed to go naked about the world.

I am curious to know where my feet stand—and

what this is flooding me, childhood or man-

hood—and the hunger that crosses the bridge


The cloth laps a first sweet eating and drinking,

Laps life-swelling yolks—laps ear of rose-corn,

milky and just ripened;

The white teeth stay, and the boss-tooth advances

in darkness,

And liquor is spilled on lips and bosoms by touch-

ing glasses, and the best liquor afterward.

I descend my western course, my sinews are


Perfume and youth course through me, and I am

their wake.

It is my face yellow and wrinkled, instead of the

old woman’s,

I sit low in a straw-bottom chair, and carefully darn

my grand-son’s stockings.

It is I too, the sleepless widow looking out on the

winter midnight,

I see the sparkles of starshine on the icy and pallid


A shroud I see, and I am the shroud—I wrap a

body and lie in the coffin,

It is dark here underground, it is not evil or pain

here, it is blank here, for reasons.

It seems to me that everything in the light and air

ought to be happy,

Whoever is not in his coffin and the dark grave,

let him know he has enough.

I see a beautiful gigantic swimmer swimming

naked through the eddies of the sea,

His brown hair lies close and even to his head, he

strikes out with courageous arms, he urges

himself with his legs,

I see his white body, I see his undaunted eyes,

I hate the swift-running eddies that would dash

him head-foremost on the rocks.

What are you doing, you ruffianly red-trickled


Will you kill the courageous giant? Will you kill

him in the prime of his middle age?

Steady and long he struggles,

He is baffled, banged, bruised—he holds out while

his strength holds out,

The slapping eddies are spotted with his blood —

they bear him away, they roll him, swing

him, turn him,

His beautiful body is borne in the circling eddies,

it is continually bruised on rocks,

Swiftly and out of sight is borne the brave corpse.

I turn, but do not extricate myself,

Confused, a past-reading, another, but with dark-

ness yet.

The beach is cut by the razory ice-wind, the

wreck-guns sound,

The tempest lulls—the moon comes floundering

through the drifts.

I look where the ship helplessly heads end on—I

hear the burst as she strikes—I hear the howls

of dismay—they grow fainter and fainter.

I cannot aid with my wringing fingers,

I can but rush to the surf, and let it drench me

and freeze upon me.

I search with the crowd—not one of the company

is washed to us alive;

In the morning I help pick up the dead and lay

them in rows in a barn.

Now of the old war-days, the defeat at Brooklyn,

Washington stands inside the lines, he stands on

the entrenched hills amid a crowd of officers,

His face is cold and damp, he cannot repress the

weeping drops, he lifts the glass perpetually

to his eyes, the color is blanched from his


He sees the slaughter of the southern braves con-

fided to him by their parents.

The same, at last and at last, when peace is


He stands in the room of the old tavern—the

well-beloved soldiers all pass through,

The officers speechless and slow draw near in

their turns,

The chief encircles their necks with his arm, and

kisses them on the cheek,

He kisses lightly the wet cheeks one after another

—he shakes hands, and bids good-bye to the


Now I tell what my mother told me today as we

sat at dinner together,

Of when she was a nearly grown girl living home

with her parents on the old homestead.

A red squaw came one breakfast-time to the old


On her back she carried a bundle of rushes for

rush-bottoming chairs,

Her hair, straight, shiny, coarse, black, profuse,

half-enveloped her face,

Her step was free and elastic, her voice sounded

exquisitely as she spoke.

My mother looked in delight and amazement at

the stranger,

She looked at the beauty of her tall-borne face,

and full and pliant limbs,

The more she looked upon her she loved her,

Never before had she seen such wonderful beauty

and purity,

She made her sit on a bench by the jamb of the

fire-place, she cooked food for her,

She had no work to give her, but she gave her

remembrance and fondness.

The red squaw staid all the forenoon, and toward

the middle of the afternoon she went away,

O my mother was loth to have her go away!

All the week she thought of her—she watched

for her many a month,

She remembered her many a winter and many a


But the red squaw never came, nor was heard of

there again.

Now Lucifer was not dead—or if he was, I am

his sorrowful terrible heir!

I have been wronged—I am oppressed—I hate

him that oppresses me!

I will either destroy him, or he shall release me.

Damn him! how he does defile me!

How he informs against my brother and sister,

and takes pay for their blood!

How he laughs when I look down the bend, after

the steamboat that carries away my woman!

Now the vast dusk bulk that is the whale’s bulk,

it seems mine,

Warily, sportsman! though I lie so sleepy and

sluggish, my tap is death.

A show of the summer softness! a contact of

something unseen! an amour of the light and


I am jealous, and overwhelmed with friendli-


And will go gallivant with the light and air myself,

And have an unseen something to be in contact

with them also.

O love and summer! you are in the dreams, and

in me,

Autumn and winter are in the dreams—the far-

mer goes with his thrift,

The droves and crops increase, the barns are


Elements merge in the night, ships make tacks in

the dreams, the sailor sails, the exile returns


The fugitive returns unharmed, the immigrant is

back beyond months and years,

The poor Irishman lives in the simple house of

his childhood with the well-known neighbors

and faces,

They warmly welcome him, he is bare-foot again,

he forgets he is well-off;

The Dutchman voyages home, and the Scotchman

and Welchman voyage home, and the native

of the Mediterranean voyages home,

To every port of England, France, Spain, enter

well-filled ships,

The Swiss foots it toward his hills, the Prussian

goes his way, the Hungarian his way, the

Pole his way,

The Swede returns, and the Dane and Norwegian


The homeward bound, and the outward bound,

The beautiful lost swimmer, the ennuyee, the

onanist, the female that loves unrequited, the


The actor and actress, those through with their

parts, and those waiting to commence,

The affectionate boy, the husband and wife, the

voter, the nominee that is chosen, and the

nominee that has failed,

The great already known, and the great any-time

after today,

The stammerer, the sick, the perfect-formed, the


The criminal that stood in the box, the judge that

sat and sentenced him, the fluent lawyers, the

jury, the audience,

The laugher and weeper, the dancer, the midnight

widow, the red squaw,

The consumptive, the erysipalite, the idiot, he

that is wronged,

The antipodes, and every one between this and

them in the dark,

I swear they are averaged now—one is no better

than the other,

The night and sleep have likened them and re-

tored them.

I swear they are all beautiful!

Every one that sleeps is beautiful—every thing

in the dim light is beautiful,

The wildest and bloodiest is over, and all is peace.

Peace is always beautiful,

The myth of heaven indicates peace and night.

The myth of heaven indicates the soul;

The soul is always beautiful—it appears more or

it appears less—it comes or it lags behind,

It comes from its embowered garden, and looks

pleasantly on itself, and encloses the world,

Perfect and clean the genitals previously jetting,

and perfect and clean the womb cohering,

The head well-grown, proportioned, plumb, and

the bowels and joints proportioned and


The soul is always beautiful,

The universe is duly in order, every thing is in its


What is arrived is in its place, and what waits is

in its place;

The twisted skull waits, the watery or rotten blood


The child of the glutton or venerealee waits long,

and the child of the drunkard waits long, and

the drunkard himself waits long,

The sleepers that lived and died wait—the

far advanced are to go on in their turns,

and the far behind are to go on in their


The diverse shall be no less diverse, but they shall

flow and unite—they unite now.

The sleepers are very beautiful as they lie


They flow hand in hand over the whole earth

from east to west as they lie unclothed,

The Asiatic and African are hand in hand, the

European and American are hand in hand,

Learned and unlearned are hand in hand, and male

and female are hand in hand,

The bare arm of the girl crosses the bare breast

of her lover, they press close without lust, his

lips press her neck,

The father holds his grown or ungrown son in his

arms with measureless love, and the son holds

the father in his arms with measureless love,

The white hair of the mother shines on the white

wrist of the daughter,

The breath of the boy goes with the breath of the

man, friend is inarmed by friend,

The scholar kisses the teacher, and the teacher

kisses the scholar—the wronged is made


The call of the slave is one with the master’s call,

and the master salutes the slave,

The felon steps forth from the prison, the insane

becomes sane, the suffering of sick persons is


The sweatings and fevers stop, the throat that was

unsound is sound, the lungs of the con-

sumptive are resumed, the poor distressed

head is free,

The joints of the rheumatic move as smoothly as

ever, and smoother than ever,

Stiflings and passages open, the paralysed become


The swelled and convulsed and congested awake

to themselves in condition,

They pass the invigoration of the night and the

chemistry of the night, and awake.

I too pass from the night!

I stay awhile away O night, but I return to you

again, and love you!

Why should I be afraid to trust myself to you?

I am not afraid—I have been well brought forward

by you,

I love the rich running day, but I do not desert

her in whom I lay so long,

I know not how I came of you, and I know not

where I go with you—but I know I came

well, and shall go well.

I will stop only a time with the night, and rise


I will duly pass the day, O my mother, and duly

return to you.


Poetry is a gift to the soul. Poetry is for everyone. Everyone needs poetry, like a vampire needs blood, like a hawk needs to fly, like a fish needs to swim. I know that wasn’t very poetic but you get the point – I hope.

Your assignment today is to READ, SAVOR and SHARE poetry with someone you love.

For poetry posted on this blog ( click on the links below. Enjoy!

~ Juliette

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