Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Walt Whitman: I Sing the Body Electric, 1855

Walt Whitman's "I Sing the Body Electric" from Leaves of Grass
Verses 7 & 8


A man's body at auction,

(For before the war I often go to the slave-mart and watch the sale,)

I help the auctioneer, the sloven does not half know his business. Gentlemen look on this wonder,

Whatever the bids of the bidders they cannot be high enough for it, For it the globe lay preparing quintillions of years without one

animal or plant, For it the revolving cycles truly and steadily roll'd.

In this head the all-baffling brain,

In it and below it the makings of heroes.

Examine these limbs, red, black, or white, they are cunning in

tendon and nerve, They shall be stript that you may see them.

Exquisite senses, life-lit eyes, pluck, volition,

Flakes of breast-muscle, pliant backbone and neck, flesh not

flabby, good-sized arms and legs, And wonders within there yet.

Within there runs blood,

The same old blood ! the same red-running blood! There swells and jets a heart, there all passions, desires, reachings, aspirations,

(Do you think they are not there because they are not express'd in parlors and lecture-rooms?)

This is not only one man, this the father of those who shall be

fathers in their turns, In him the start of populous states and rich republics, Of him countless immortal lives with countless embodiments and


How do you know who shall come from the offspring of his offspring through the centuries?

(Who might you find you have come from yourself, if you could trace back through the centuries ?)


A woman's body at auction,

She too is not only herself, she is the teeming mother of mothers, She is the bearer of them that shall grow and be mates to the mothers.

Have you ever loved the body of a woman?

Have you ever loved the body of a man ?

Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all in all nations and times all over the earth ?

If any thing is sacred the human body is sacred, And the glory and sweet of a man is the token of manhood untainted,

And in man or woman a clean, strong, firm-fibred body, is more beautiful than the most beautiful face.

Have you seen the fool that corrupted his own live body? or the

fool that corrupted her own live body? For they do not conceal themselves, and cannot conceal themselves.

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