Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
I tramp a perpetual journey,
Healthy, free, the world before me, with confident step,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose;
My signs are a rain-proof coat, good shoes, and a staff cut from the woods.
Oh! the long, long walks,
The exhiliration of such freedom—being master of yourself and of the road!
No one who is not a walker can begin to know it.
My friends could never understand me, that I would start out, so evidently without design, for nowhere—take a walk just feely, when and as the spirit dictates, allured by a tree, a bush, a stream, a mountain, a sky—and stay long and long.
Oh! a great road is not the stone merely, or the what-not, that goes to make it—but something more—far more! A great road is a great moral agent. Here is realization, here is a man tallied—he realizes here what he has in him.
There come epochs in our lives, when the breaking up, the tearing oneself away from old scenes, is of incalculable benefit; and one finds upon looking back, that the years which were spent in roving were the best, the most important of our life.
Strong and content I travel the open road,
No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair,
I lead no man to a dinner-table,
I find my home wherever there are any homes of men.
What cities the light or warmth penetrates I penetrate those cities myself,
Myself effusing and fluid, a phantom curiously floating, now here absorb’d and arrested.
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go,
I will toss a new gladness and roughness among them.
I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like, and whoever beholds me shall like me,
Whom I have staid with once I have found longing for me ever afterward.
I possess a home only in the sense that a ship possesses one,
I anchor my ship for a little while only, but a little while alighting,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Then on my way go.
Wandering swiftly, I travel, travel on,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
I have distanced what is behind me for good reasons,
But call anything back again when I desire it;
Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,
I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go,
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,
I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.
O highway I travel, do you say to me, Do not leave me?
Do you say, Venture not—if you leave me you are lost?
O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I love you;
Cheerful voice of the public road, gay fresh sentiment of the road,
You express me better than I can express myself—
My judgments, thoughts, I henceforth try by the open air, the road.
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me,
I see the road continued, and the journey ever continued.
The brightest jewel, saith the Persian poet, that glitters on the neck of the young man is the spirit of adventure,
Boldness—to encourage me or anyone continually to strike out alone—
Myself moving forward then and now and forever,
Gathering and showing more always and with velocity,
Thou, soul, unloosen’d—the restlessness after I know not what.
This day before dawn I ascended a hill and look’d at the crowded heaven,
And I said to my spirit, When we become the enfolders of those orbs, and the pleasure and knowledge of everything in them, shall we be fill’d and satisfied then?
And my spirit said, No, we but level that lift to pass and continue beyond,
It is provided in the essence of things that from any fruition of success, no matter what, shall come forth something to make a greater struggle necessary,
Onward! Onward! backing and filling—every step contested—the struggle ever renew’d.
What is life but an experiment?
Always changing, advancing, retreating, enlarging, condensing, widening.
I have got beyond the point where I make the least calculation for the morrow—for any morrow,
The vicissitudes are many, the certainties few,
The best plan is to have no plan,
To keep fluid, to let the influences possess you for what they may,
To go this path or that as the mood dictates—the free way,
Every day something more—something unsuspected.
I do not doubt that there are experiences and growths for me through time, and through the universes, of which I cannot have the slightest inkling—
Always new materialism and things, being wafted to spirituality.
NEXT: YOU ON THE OPEN ROAD