My myriad-twining life interweaves with all things,
I dare not shirk the similitude that interlocks me with all identities that exist, or ever have existed.
Air, soil, water—my qualities interpenetrate with theirs,
I too am of one phase and of all phases.
Every atom of my blood form’d from this soil, this air,
Materials that have existed in some way for billions of years,
Now entering into the form of the body.
All these tending fluidly and duly to myself,
And duly and fluidly to reappear again out of myself,
Every atom of my blood to be again this soil, this air,
Myself disintegrated, every one disintegrated,
Yet part of the simple, compact, well-join’d scheme.
What is marvellous? What is unlikely? What is impossible or baseless or vague, after you have once just opened a pair of lids, only the space of peachpits, and given audience to far and near and to the sunset—to the unnamable variety and overwhelming splendor of the whole world—and had all things enter with electric swiftness, without confusion or jostling, keeping each to its distinct isolation?
These and whatever belongs to them palpable show forth to me, and are seiz’d by me,
And I am seiz’d by them, and friendlily held by them—
The creation is the friend whose embracing awakes me.
Locations and times—what is it in me that meets them all, whenever and wherever, and makes me at home?
Forms, colors, densities, odors—what is it in me that corresponds with them?
There is that in me,
Something it swings on more than the earth I swing on.
I do not know what it is—
(The all-basis, the nerve, the great-sympathetic, the plenum within humanity, humanity’s invisible foundations and hold-together, giving stamp to everything, is necessarily invisible—)
But I know it is in me.
In a little house keep I pictures suspended,
It is not a fix’d house,
It is round, it is only a few inches from one side to the other;
Yet behold, it has room for all the shows of the world, all memories,
Hundreds and thousands—all the varieties,
For wherever I have been has afforded me superb pictures,
And whatever I have heard has given me perfect pictures,
Every rod of land or sea affords me, as long as I live, inimitable pictures.
Such transformations, such pictures and poems;
What shall the pictures be that I hang on the walls?
Here the tableaus of life, and here the groupings of death.
I am he attesting sympathy,
(Shall I make my list of things in the house and skip the house that supports them?)
Greater than wires of iron, or treaties, or even strong mutual interest, is sympathy,
That vast elemental sympathy which only the human soul is capable of generating and emitting in steady and limitless floods,
That mysterious sympathy which is the universal bond underlying all mankind,
Which ties me to the woman or man that looks in my face.
Mine is no callous shell,
I have instant conductors all over me whether I pass or stop,
They are thousands, each one with his entry to himself,
They are always watching with their little eyes, from my head to my feet.
They seize every object and lead it harmlessly through me,
I merely stir, press, feel with my fingers, and am happy,
One no more than a point lets in and out of me such bliss and magnitude.
This terrible, irrepressible yearning, (surely more or less down underneath in most human souls,)
This never-satisfied appetite for sympathy, and this boundless offering of sympathy,
How effective at last it all has become upon me.
O the joy of compassionating!
The thousand responses of my heart, never to cease,
The human race is never separated—nor man nor woman escapes—
Whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own funeral drest in his shroud.
NEXT: THE OPEN ROAD