Quotes by Walt Whitman

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Walter Whitman (May 31, 1819 - March 26, 1892) was an American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist. Proclaimed the "greatest of all American poets" by many foreign observers a mere four years after his death, he is viewed as ... more

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I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I don't believe I deserved my friends.

I am as bad as the worst, but, thank God, I am as good as the best.
This is what you shall do: love the earth and sun, and animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence towards the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men; go freely with the powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and mothers, of families: read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life: re-examine all you have been told at school or church, or in any books, and dismiss whatever insults your soul.
I celebrate myself, and sing myself.
When I give I give myself.
Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes).
There is no object so soft but it makes a hub for the wheeled universe.
The city sleeps and the country sleeps, the living sleep for their time, the dead sleep for their time, the old husband sleeps by his wife and the young husband sleeps by his wife; and these tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them, and such as it is to be of these more or less I am, and of these one and all I weave the song of myself.
Have you learned the lessons only of those who admired you, and were tender with you, and stood aside for you? Have you not learned great lessons from those who braced themselves against you, and disputed passage with you?
Nothing can happen more beautiful than death.
Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each part and tag of me is a miracle.
The Past -- the dark unfathomed retrospect! The teeming gulf --the sleepers and the shadows! The past! the infinite greatness of the past! For what is the present after all but a growth out of the past?
Behold I do not give lectures or a little charity, When I give I give myself.
Be curious, not judgmental.
The beauty of independence, departure, actions that rely on themselves.
Camerado, I give you my hand, I give you my love more precious than money, I give you myself before preaching or law; Will you give me yourself?
All faults may be forgiven of him who has perfect candor.
Henceforth I ask not good fortune. I myself am good fortune.
A morning glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.
Produce great men, the rest follows.
There is that indescribable freshness and unconsciousness about an illiterate person that humbles and mocks the power of the noblest expressive genius.
Nothing endures but personal qualities.
The beautiful uncut hair of graves.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition, they do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins, they do not make me sick discussing their duty to God, not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things, not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago.
Their manners, speech, dress, friendships, -- the freshness and candor of their physiognomy -- the picturesque looseness of their carriage -- their deathless attachment to freedom -- their aversion to anything indecorous or soft or mean -- the practical acknowledgment of the citizens of one state by the citizens of all other states -- the fierceness of their roused resentment -- their curiosity and welcome of novelty -- their self-esteem and wonderful sympathy -- their susceptibility to a slight -- the air they have of persons who never knew how it felt to stand in the presence of superiors -- the fluency of their speech -- their delight in music, a sure symptom of manly tenderness and native elegance of soul -- their good temper and open-handedness -- the terrible significance of their elections, the President's taking off his hat to them, not they to him -- these too are unrhymed poetry. It awaits the gigantic and generous treatment worthy of it.
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
Youth, large, lusty, loving -- Youth, full of grace, force, fascination. Do you know that Old Age may come after you with equal grace, force, fascination?
I heard what was said of the universe, heard it and heard it of several thousand years; it is middling well as far as it goes -- but is that all?
There is no week nor day nor hour when tyranny may not enter upon this country, if the people lose their roughness and spirit of defiance.
Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.
O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I love you, you express me better than I can express myself.
Here or henceforward it is all the same to me, I accept Time absolutely.
Have you heard that it was good to gain the day? I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won.
To the real artist in humanity, what are called bad manners are often the most picturesque and significant of all.
Our leading men are not of much account and never have been, but the average of the people is immense, beyond all history. Sometimes I think in all departments, literature and art included, that will be the way our superiority will exhibit itself. We will not have great individuals or great leaders, but a great average bulk, unprecedentedly great.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle. Every cubic inch of space is a miracle.
I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.
After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on -- have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear -- what remains? Nature remains.
Press close bare-bosomed night -- press close magnetic nourishing night! Night of south winds! night of the large few stars! Still nodding night! mad naked summer night.
I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.
Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.
I am for those who believe in loose delights, I share the midnight orgies of young men, I dance with the dancers and drink with the drinkers.
The genius of the United States is not best or most in its executives or legislatures, nor in its ambassadors or authors or colleges, or churches, or parlors, nor even in its newspapers or inventors, but always most in the common people.
What a devil art thou, Poverty! How many desires -- how many aspirations after goodness and truth -- how many noble thoughts, loving wishes toward our fellows, beautiful imaginings thou hast crushed under thy heel, without remorse or pause!
We convince by our presence.
And there is no trade or employment but the young man following it may become a hero.
I accept reality and dare not question it.
I dote on myself, there is that lot of me and all so luscious.
The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity.
Speech is the twin of my vision, it is unequal to measure itself, it provokes me forever, it says sarcastically, Walt you contain enough, why don't you let it out then?
He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher.
And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own funeral drest in his shroud.
The shallow consider liberty a release from all law, from every constraint. The wise man sees in it, on the contrary, the potent Law of Laws.
Viewed freely, the English language is the accretion and growth of every dialect, race, and range of time, and is both the free and compacted composition of all.
O lands! O all so dear to me -- what you are, I become part of that, whatever it is.
The whole theory of the universe is directed unerringly to one single individual.
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass, I find letters from God dropped in the street, and every one is signed by God's name. And I leave them where they are, for I know that wherever I go, others will punctually come for ever and ever.
Freedom -- to walk free and own no superior.
Seasons pursuing each other the indescribable crowd is gathered, it is the fourth of Seventh-month, (what salutes of cannon and small-arms!)
This face is a dog's snout sniffing for garbage, snakes nest in that mouth, I hear the sibilant threat.
To die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.
Oh while I live, to be the ruler of life, not a slave, to meet life as a powerful conqueror, and nothing exterior to me will ever take command of me.
If you done it, it ain't bragging.
Other lands have their vitality in a few, a class, but we have it in the bulk of our people.
A great city is that which has the greatest men and women.
The great city is that which has the greatest man or woman: if it be a few ragged huts, it is still the greatest city in the whole world.
Let that which stood in front go behind, let that which was behind advance to the front, let bigots, fools, unclean persons, offer new propositions, let the old propositions be postponed.
The words of my book nothing, the drift of it everything.
Camerado! This is no book; who touches this touches a man.
To have great poets, there must be great audiences too.
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with such applause in the lecture room, how soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick; Till rising and gliding out, I wandered off by myself, in the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, looked up in perfect silence at the stars.
O the joy of the strong-brawn'd fighter, towering in the arena in perfect condition, conscious of power, thirsting to meet his opponent.
How beggarly appear arguments before a defiant deed!
Old age, calm, expanded, broad with the haughty breadth of the universe, old age flowing free with the delicious near-by freedom of death.
Approaching, nearing, curious, Thou dim, uncertain spectre--bringest thou life or death? Strength, weakness, blindness, more paralysis and heavier? Or placid skies and sun?
I know nothing grander, better exercise, better digestion, more positive proof of the past, the triumphant result of faith in human kind, than a well-contested American national election.
It is only the novice in political economy who thinks it is the duty of government to make its citizens happy. Government has no such office. To protect the weak and the minority from the impositions of the strong and the majorityto prevent any one from positively working to render the people unhappy, to do the labor not of an officious inter-meddler in the affairs of men, but of a prudent watchman who prevents outragethese are rather the proper duties of a government. Under the specious pretext of effecting the happiness of the whole community, nearly all the wrongs and intrusions of government have been carried through. The legislature may, and should, when such things fall in its way, lend its potential weight to the cause of virtue and happinessbut to legislate in direct behalf of those objects is never available, and rarely effects any even temporary benefit.
What is that you express in your eyes? It seems to be more than all the words I have read in my life.