The Poet on the Open Road


Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me, with confident step,
I tramp a perpetual journey,
My signs are a rain-proof coat, good shoes, and a staff cut from the woods.
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me,
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.

Strong and content I travel the open road,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose,
What cities the light or warmth penetrates I penetrate those cities myself,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute
.
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.

Myself effusing and fluid, a phantom curiously floating, now here absorb’d and arrested,
I anchor my ship for a little while only, but a little while alighting,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Then on my way go,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me,
Wandering swiftly, I travel, travel on.

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,
Whom I have staid with once I have found longing for me ever afterward.

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.

I see the road continued, and the journey ever continued,
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.

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—
Every day something more—something unsuspected—
Onward! Onward! backing and filling—every step contested—
The struggle ever renew’d.

Here is realization,
Here is a man tallied—he realizes here what he has in him.
What is life but an experiment,
Always changing, advancing, retreating, enlarging, condensing, widening,
Always new materialism and things, being wafted to spirituality.
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.

NEXT: You on the Open Road