The Poet’s Identity

I celebrate the whole man, with his varied parts, animal, mental, and spiritual,
I swear I dare not shirk any part of myself, good or bad,
Not faith, sin, defiance, nor any disposition or duty of myself—
I resist anything better than my own diversity.

I am not to be known as a piece of something but as a totality,
One, yet of contradictions made,
From many moods, one contradicting another.
Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself,
I am large, I contain multitudes,
Buoyed hither, in the vehement struggle so fierce for unity in one’s self.

Something long preparing and formless is arrived and form’d in me,
I go backward primeval, I descend many steps, I retrace steps oceanic,
The long patience through millions of years—the slow formation,
All which, had it not been, I would not now be here, as I am.
Afar down I see the huge first nothing, I know I was even there,
I waited unseen and always, and slept through the lethargic mist,
And took my time, and took no hurt from the fetid carbon.

Immense have been the preparations for me,
Before I was born out of my mother generations guided me,
Long I was hugg’d close—long and long.
Faithful and friendly the arms that have help’d me,
Cycles ferried my cradle, rowing and rowing like cheerful boatmen,
For room to me stars kept aside in their own rings,
They sent influences to look after what was to hold me.

My embryo has never been torpid, nothing could overlay it,
For it the nebula cohered to an orb, the long slow strata piled to rest it on,
Vast vegetables gave it sustenance,
Monstrous sauroids transported it in their mouths and deposited it with care,
All forces have been steadily employ’d to complete and delight me.

I am an acme of things accomplish’d—and I an encloser of things to be,
My feet strike an apex of the apices of the stairs,
Rise after rise bow the phantoms behind me,
On every step bunches of ages, and larger bunches between the steps,
All below duly travel’d, and still I mount and 
With the soul I defy you quicksand years, slipping from under my feet,
I bide my hour over billions and billions of years,
I never abandon myself nor the sweet of myself, nor the eternity of myself.

Now I stand here, a personality in the universe, perfect and sound,
All things and all other beings as an audience—
I need no assurances.

I will be the bard of personality,
Chant the chant of dilation or pride,
Avowedly chant the great pride of man in himself, bad and good.
I know that ego is divine,
I will effuse egotism, the unquenchable creed, and show it underlying all.

We have had ducking and deprecating about enough—
The full-spread pride of man, the endless pride and outstretching of man, is calming and excellent to the soul;
No man understands any greatness or goodness but his own, or the indication of his own.

I am Walt Whitman!
I rate myself high—I receive no small sums—I must have my full price, whoever enjoys me,
I am eternally equal with the best, I am not subordinate.
O me while I stride ahead, material, visible, imperious as ever,
I know I am august, I am so wonderful!
Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.

Yes Christ was large and Homer was great, and so Columbus and Washington—
Personal ambition, the pride of leadership, seems the means, all through progress and civilization, by which strong men and strong convictions achieve anything definite.
But greatness is the other word for development,
And in my soul I know that I am large and strong as any of them, probably larger,
Because all that they did I feel that I too could do, and more and that multiplied,
And after none of them or their achievements does my stomach say enough and satisfied

What I shall attain to I can never tell,
I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
I think I could stop here myself and do miracles.

Pride, indispensable, is not inconsistent with obedience, humility, deference, and self-questioning.
The soul has that measureless pride which revolts from every lesson but its own,
But it has sympathy as measureless as its pride and the one balances the other, and neither can stretch too far while it stretches in company with the other.

There are two attributes of the soul, and both are illimitable, and they are its north latitude and its south latitude—
One of these is love, the other is dilation or pride.
Dilation or pride is a father of causes,
And a mother of causes is goodness or love,
And they are the parents yet, and witness and register their amours eternally.

Walt Whitman, who has the most simplicity and good nature of any man alive, is also the haughtiest—
I, the most loving and arrogant of men,
no more modest than immodest,
I breathe the air but leave plenty after me,
And am not stuck up, and am in my place.
I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by after all,
areful lest this o’er topples, and falls down from too much pride.

Friend, did you think then you knew me?
As if any man really knew aught of my life,
(As if you, cunning soul, did not keep your secret well!)
All the years of all the beings that have ever lived on the earth, with all the science and genius, were nobly occupied investigating this single minute of my life.

Trippers and askers surround me,
People I meet, or the city I live in or the nation,
The horrors of war, the fever of doubtful news, the fitful events,
My dinner, dress, associates,
Depressions or exaltations, the effect upon me of my early life;
These come to me days and nights and go from me again,
But they are not the me myself.
(Did you think that talking and the laughter of me represented me?)

My final merit I refuse you,
I refuse putting from me what I really am—
Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,
Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary,
Looks down, is erect, or bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest,
Looking with side-curved head curious what will come next,
Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.

NEXT: Your Identity