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

224. Myself and Mine


MYSELF and mine gymnastic ever, 
To stand the cold or heat—to take good aim with a gun—to sail a boat—to manage horses—to beget superb children, 
To speak readily and clearly—to feel at home among common people, 
And to hold our own in terrible positions, on land and sea. 
  
Not for an embroiderer;         5
(There will always be plenty of embroiderers—I welcome them also;) 
But for the fibre of things, and for inherent men and women. 
  
Not to chisel ornaments, 
But to chisel with free stroke the heads and limbs of plenteous Supreme Gods, that The States may realize them, walking and talking. 
  
Let me have my own way;  10
Let others promulge the laws—I will make no account of the laws; 
Let others praise eminent men and hold up peace—I hold up agitation and conflict; 
I praise no eminent man—I rebuke to his face the one that was thought most worthy. 
  
(Who are you? you mean devil! And what are you secretly guilty of, all your life? 
Will you turn aside all your life? Will you grub and chatter all your life?)  15
  
(And who are you—blabbing by rote, years, pages, languages, reminiscences, 
Unwitting to-day that you do not know how to speak a single word?) 
  
Let others finish specimens—I never finish specimens; 
I shower them by exhaustless laws, as Nature does, fresh and modern continually. 
  
I give nothing as duties;  20
What others give as duties, I give as living impulses; 
(Shall I give the heart’s action as a duty?) 
  
Let others dispose of questions—I dispose of nothing—I arouse unanswerable questions; 
Who are they I see and touch, and what about them? 
What about these likes of myself, that draw me so close by tender directions and indirections?  25
  
I call to the world to distrust the accounts of my friends, but listen to my enemies—as I myself do; 
I charge you, too, forever, reject those who would expound me—for I cannot expound myself; 
I charge that there be no theory or school founded out of me; 
I charge you to leave all free, as I have left all free. 
  
After me, vista!  30
O, I see life is not short, but immeasurably long; 
I henceforth tread the world, chaste, temperate, an early riser, a steady grower, 
Every hour the semen of centuries—and still of centuries. 
  
I will follow up these continual lessons of the air, water, earth; 
I perceive I have no time to lose.  35


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