Verse > Walt Whitman > Leaves of Grass

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

261. The Ox Tamer

IN a faraway northern county, in the placid, pastoral region, 
Lives my farmer friend, the theme of my recitative, a famous Tamer of Oxen: 
There they bring him the three-year-olds and the four-year-olds, to break them; 
He will take the wildest steer in the world, and break him and tame him; 
He will go, fearless, without any whip, where the young bullock chafes up and down the yard;         5
The bullock’s head tosses restless high in the air, with raging eyes; 
Yet, see you! how soon his rage subsides—how soon this Tamer tames him: 
See you! on the farms hereabout, a hundred oxen, young and old—and he is the man who has tamed them; 
They all know him—all are affectionate to him; 
See you! some are such beautiful animals—so lofty looking!  10
Some are buff color’d—some mottled—one has a white line running along his back—some are brindled, 
Some have wide flaring horns (a good sign)—See you! the bright hides; 
See, the two with stars on their foreheads—See, the round bodies and broad backs; 
See, how straight and square they stand on their legs—See, what fine, sagacious eyes; 
See, how they watch their Tamer—they wish him near them—how they turn to look after him!  15
What yearning expression! how uneasy they are when he moves away from them: 
—Now I marvel what it can be he appears to them, (books, politics, poems depart—all else departs;) 
I confess I envy only his fascination—my silent, illiterate friend, 
Whom a hundred oxen love, there in his life on farms, 
In the northern county far, in the placid, pastoral region.  20



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