Body and Soul


I am the poet of the body and I am the poet of the soul,
I too, with my soul and body,
We, a curious trio, picking, wandering on our way.

Divine is the body—it is all—it is the soul also,
What soul I am, I owe to my body.
Of the make of my body was not my mortal experience only,
My body makes my immortal experience,
Behold! the body includes and is the meaning, the main concern—and includes and is the soul.

I will make the poems of my body,
For I think I shall then supply myself with the poems of my soul,

My two theses—animal and spiritual—gradually fused in “Leaves of Grass”—runs through all the poems and gives color to the whole.
My life is a miracle and my body which lives is a miracle;
But of what I can nibble at the edges of the limitless and delicious wonder, I know that I cannot separate them, and call one superior and the other inferior, any more than I can say my sight is greater than my eyes.

I guess the soul itself can never be anything but great and pure and immortal;
But it makes itself visible only through matter—
As the shadow concurs with the body and comes not unless of the body, so the soul.
A perfect head, and bowels and bones to match, is the easy gate through which it comes from its embowered garden and looks pleasantly on itself and encloses the world,
It appears more or it appears less, it comes or it lags behind.

I have said that the soul is not more than the body,
And I have said that the body is not more than the soul,
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?
The body and the soul are one, and in the latter the former is immortal.
The spirit receives from the body just as much as it gives to the body, if not more,
I swear to you that body of yours gives proportions to your soul somehow to live in other spheres;
I do not know how, but I know it is so.

I believe in you my soul,
The other I am must not abase itself to you,
And you must not be abased to the other;
Only the person has really learned, who favors body and soul the same.
Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul,
Lack one lacks both, and the unseen is proved by the seen,
Till that becomes unseen and receives proof in its turn.

The body has just as great a work as the soul,
And parts away at last for the journeys of the soul, the real body, not visible.
O my body, done with materials—my sight, done with my material eyes,
O what is proved to me this day, beyond cavil, that it is not my material eyes which finally see,
Nor my material body which finally loves, walks, laughs, shouts, embraces, procreates.
O the real life of my senses and flesh, transcending my senses and flesh,
World of the soul, born by the world of the real alone, led to identity, body, by it alone.

Grand is the seen, the light, to me—grand are the earth, the sky and stars,
And grand their laws, so multiform, puzzling, evolutionary;
But grander far the unseen soul of me,
Thou actual me, comprehending, endowing all those.
What were all those, indeed, without thee, unseen soul?
Those physical or moral emanations whose attributes we call beauty, virtue, pride, and such like possess little or nothing inherently;
Only the soul burns, the other is impotent,
Nothing really enjoys or suffers except the soul.

Quicksand years that whirl me I know not whither,
Your schemes, politics, fail, lines give way,
Substances mock and elude me,
Only the theme I sing, the great and strong-possess’d soul, eludes not.
These to echo the tones of souls and the phrases of souls,
(If they did not echo the phrases of souls what were they then?
If they had not reference to you in especial what were they then?)

More evolutionary, vast, puzzling, O my soul,
The real real, (purport of all these apparitions of the real,)
More multiform far—more lasting, buoyant, indestructible, thou than they.

I loafe and invite my soul,
Singing the true song of the soul fitful at random.
After due long-waiting now advancing,
Yes, here comes my mistress the soul.

Now on this spot I stand with my robust soul,
I cannot understand the mystery,
But I am always conscious of myself as two—as my soul and I;
And I reckon it is the same with all men and women.

Subtle, vast, electric is the soul, that other heaven,
The invisible something contained within, the cosmic intellect.
Things are not dismiss’d from the places they held before,
Facts, religions, improvements, politics, trades, are as real as before,
But the soul is also real, it too is positive and direct,
No reasoning, no proof has establish’d it,
Undeniable growth has establish’d it,
Mocking analysis, mocking even the statement of itself, yet proof, above all science,
higher than all the art of words.
Souls of men and women!
It is not you I go argue pro and con about, and to settle whether you are alive or no,
I own publicly who you are, if nobody else owns.

The soul, forever and forever—longer than soil is brown and solid—longer than water ebbs and flows.
For it has history gather’d like husks around the globe,
For it the entire star-myriads roll through the sky,
For it the partial to the permanent flowing,
For it the mystic evolution,
For it the real to the ideal tends.
The tasteless water of souls is the true sustenance,
In the whole universe I see nothing more divine than human souls.

How perfect is my soul!
The myth of heaven indicates the soul.
O soul thou pleasest me, I thee,
Loose the stop from your throat,
Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valvèd voice.

I mind how once we lay,
How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn’d over
upon me,
And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your
tongue to my bare-stript heart,
And reach’d till you felt my beard, and reach’d till you held my
feet—
O my soul, if I realize you I have satisfaction.

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