You on the Open Road


On the road or at some crevice door by chance, or open’d window,
Pausing, inclining, baring my head, you specially I greet,
To draw and clinch your soul for once inseparably with mine.
Allons! whoever you are come travel with me!
Whoever you are, come forth! or man or woman come forth!
You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the house, though you built it, or though it has been built for you.
Out of the dark confinement! out from behind the screen!
It is useless to protest.

Shoulder your duds dear son, and I will mine, and let us hasten forth;
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovel’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
The stale cadaver blocks up the passage
—the burial waits no longer,
Come, let us lag here no longer, let us be up and away!

Each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll,
My left hand hooking you round the waist,
My right hand pointing to landscapes of continents and the public road—
The endless and beginningless road, which leads to all learning and knowledge and truth and pleasure, up along the sidewalks of eternity.
Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe
—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well—be not detain’d!

Sweet, fresh, and compact, we will go forth in the open sky, under the sun;
Now I wash the gum from your eyes,
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life.

All the pulses of the world,
Falling in they beat for us,
Two blended, parallel, strolling tides,
Companions, travelers, gossiping as they journey,
Up and down the curious roads going, north and south excursions making,

Power enjoying, elbows stretching, fingers clutching,
Arm’d and fearless, eating, drinking, sleeping, loving,
Misers, menials, priests alarming, air breathing, water drinking,
On the turf or the sea-beach dancing,
No law less than ourselves owning.

Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch as we go,
Mighty inland cities yet unsurvey’d and unsuspected,
Or vast and ruin’d desolated cities, the nameless masonries,
Venerable messages of unknown events, heroes, records,
The blocks and fallen architecture more than all the living cities of the globe.

We will interrogate curious silent objects,
Chanting our chant of pleasant exploration,
Fulfilling our foray,
To glide swift in our spirits over all continents and seas,
That we possess ourselves of the great round globe, and lose these little nuisances that we were too long dwelling upon.

O friend, whoe’er you are, at last arriving hither to commence,
Now we start hence, I with the rest, on our journeys,
To gather the minds of men out of their brains as you encounter them,
To gather the love out of their hearts,
We willing learners of all, teachers of all, and lovers of all.

You but arrive at the city to which you were destin’d, you hardly settle yourself to satisfaction, before you are call’d by an irresistible call to depart;
You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mockings of those who remain behind you.
You shall not allow the hold of those who spread their reach’d hands toward you.
What beckonings of love you receive you shall only answer with passionate kisses of parting,
To take your lovers on the road with you, for all that you leave them behind 
you—
We the route for travel clearing,
While the followers there in embryo wait behind.

Allons! we must not stop here,
However sweet these laid-up stores, however convenient this dwelling we cannot remain here,
With me with firm holding, yet haste, haste on,
And thus upon our journey, footing the road, and more than once, and link’d together let us go.
Traveling with me you find what never tires,
I feel sure you will learn a good deal and get experience of the world and people, and of yourself too—
All of which is the wisdom described in scripture as better than riches.

NEXT: THE RISKS AND JOYS OF THE OPEN ROAD