I have but one central figure, the general human personality typified in myself.
But my book compels, absolutely necessitates, every reader to transpose him or herself into that central position, and become the living fountain, actor, experiencer himself or herself, of every page, every aspiration, every line.
Do not read it till you have leisure to weigh well what you read,
Some evening let it be, when you are alone, for there is weighty stuff in it—
From this book yourself, before unknown, shall rise up and be revealed.
What is the little I have done, except to arouse you?
All I write I write to arouse in you a great personality;
Thou reader throbbest life and pride and love the same as I.
Listener up there! What have you to confide to me?
Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer,
Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?
You are also asking me questions and I hear you,
I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself,
(There is affinity between many of these pieces, and those blueberries—their stolid and deaf repugnance to answering questions, the nearest, dearest trait affinity of all.)
I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping, turns a casual look upon you and then averts his face,
I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the darkness,
I but write one or two indicative words for the future,
Leaving it to you to prove and define it,
Expecting the main things from you.
Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem,
Indeed, if it were not for you, what would I be?
I only seek to put you in rapport,
Your own brain, heart, evolution, must not only understand the matter, but largely supply it—
Can I beget a child for you?
All I mark as my own you shall offset it with your own truth, and put it in the windows of your brain,
Else it were time lost listening to me.
A great poem is no finish to a man or woman—
Has any one fancied he could sit at last under some due authority and rest satisfied with explanations and realize and be content and full?
To no such terminus does the greatest poet bring,
He brings neither cessation or sheltered fatness and ease,
But rather a beginning.
It is no lesson—it lets down the bars to a good lesson,
And that to another, and every one to another still;
Thenceforward is no rest.
Poems are to arouse the reason, suggest, give freedom, strength, muscle, candor to any person that reads them—and assist that person to see the realities for himself in his own way, with his own individuality and after his own fashion.
Gist of my books: To give others, readers, people, the materials to decide for themselves,
And know, or grow toward knowing, with cleanliness and strength.
The conditions are simple, spiritual, physical, close at hand,
They are long and arduous and require faith,
They exist altogether with the taught, and not with the teaching or teacher.
The words of the true poems give you more than poems,
They give you to form for yourself poems, religions, politics, war, peace, behavior, histories, essays, daily life, and every thing else,
They prepare for death, yet are they not the finish, but rather the outset,
They bring none to his or her terminus or to be content and full.
Whom they take they take into space, to see the space and ineffable sheen that turn the old spots and lights into dead vacuums, to behold the birth of stars, to learn one of the meanings,
To launch off with absolute faith, till the new world fits an orbit for itself and looks unabashed on the lesser orbits of the stars and sweeps through the ceaseless rings and shall never be quiet again.
The pages of the lesson having writ to train myself,
To you I bring them here, and now resign them, with all their blots, to image back the process for your use.
My own feeling about my book is that it makes (tries to make) every fellow see himself, and see that he has got to work out his salvation himself—has got to pull the oars and hold the plow, or swing the axe, himself.
The last word or whisper still remains to be breathed:
The good of you is not in me,
The good of you is altogether in yourself,
I hereby bequeath to you, whoe’er you are, to form and breathe whisperings for yourself.
Have I proved myself strong by provoking strength out of you?
Have you gone aside after listening to me, and created for yourself?
All truth and power are feeble to you except your own,
You must do the work, to really make the poems sing—
Which, if you truly do, I promise you return and satisfaction, earned by yourself, far more than ever book before has given you.