Verse > Walt Whitman > Leaves of Grass
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Walt Whitman (1819–1892).  Leaves of Grass.  1900.

18. From Pent-up Aching Rivers


FROM pent-up, aching rivers; 
From that of myself, without which I were nothing; 
From what I am determin’d to make illustrious, even if I stand sole among men; 
From my own voice resonant—singing the phallus, 
Singing the song of procreation,         5
Singing the need of superb children, and therein superb grown people, 
Singing the muscular urge and the blending, 
Singing the bedfellow’s song, (O resistless yearning! 
O for any and each, the body correlative attracting! 
O for you, whoever you are, your correlative body! O it, more than all else, you delighting!)  10
—From the hungry gnaw that eats me night and day; 
From native moments—from bashful pains—singing them; 
Singing something yet unfound, though I have diligently sought it, many a long year; 
Singing the true song of the Soul, fitful, at random; 
Singing what, to the Soul, entirely redeem’d her, the faithful one, even the prostitute, who detain’d me when I went to the city;  15
Singing the song of prostitutes; 
Renascent with grossest Nature, or among animals; 
Of that—of them, and what goes with them, my poems informing; 
Of the smell of apples and lemons—of the pairing of birds, 
Of the wet of woods—of the lapping of waves,  20
Of the mad pushes of waves upon the land—I them chanting; 
The overture lightly sounding—the strain anticipating; 
The welcome nearness—the sight of the perfect body; 
The swimmer swimming naked in the bath, or motionless on his back lying and floating; 
The female form approaching—I, pensive, love-flesh tremulous, aching;  25
The divine list, for myself or you, or for any one, making; 
The face—the limbs—the index from head to foot, and what it arouses; 
The mystic deliria—the madness amorous—the utter abandonment; 
(Hark close, and still, what I now whisper to you, 
I love you—-O you entirely possess me,  30
O I wish that you and I escape from the rest, and go utterly off—O free and lawless, 
Two hawks in the air—two fishes swimming in the sea not more lawless than we;) 
—The furious storm through me careering—I passionately trembling; 
The oath of the inseparableness of two together—of the woman that loves me, and whom I love more than my life—that oath swearing; 
(O I willingly stake all, for you!  35
O let me be lost, if it must be so! 
O you and I—what is it to us what the rest do or think? 
What is all else to us? only that we enjoy each other, and exhaust each other, if it must be so:) 
—From the master—the pilot I yield the vessel to; 
The general commanding me, commanding all—from him permission taking;  40
From time the programme hastening, (I have loiter’d too long, as it is;) 
From sex—From the warp and from the woof; 
(To talk to the perfect girl who understands me, 
To waft to her these from my own lips—to effuse them from my own body;) 
From privacy—from frequent repinings alone;  45
From plenty of persons near, and yet the right person not near; 
From the soft sliding of hands over me, and thrusting of fingers through my hair and beard; 
From the long sustain’d kiss upon the mouth or bosom; 
From the close pressure that makes me or any man drunk, fainting with excess; 
From what the divine husband knows—from the work of fatherhood;  50
From exultation, victory, and relief—from the bedfellow’s embrace in the night; 
From the act-poems of eyes, hands, hips, and bosoms, 
From the cling of the trembling arm, 
From the bending curve and the clinch, 
From side by side, the pliant coverlid off-throwing,  55
From the one so unwilling to have me leave—and me just as unwilling to leave, 
(Yet a moment, O tender waiter, and I return;) 
—From the hour of shining stars and dropping dews, 
From the night, a moment, I, emerging, flitting out, 
Celebrate you, act divine—and you, children prepared for,  60
And you, stalwart loins. 


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