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

92. The City Dead-House


BY the City Dead-House, by the gate, 
As idly sauntering, wending my way from the clangor, 
I curious pause—for lo! an outcast form, a poor dead prostitute brought; 
Her corpse they deposit unclaim’d—it lies on the damp brick pavement; 
The divine woman, her body—I see the Body—I look on it alone,         5
That house once full of passion and beauty—all else I notice not; 
Nor stillness so cold, nor running water from faucet, nor odors morbific impress me; 
But the house alone—that wondrous house—that delicate fair house—that ruin! 
That immortal house, more than all the rows of dwellings ever built! 
Or white-domed Capitol itself, with majestic figure surmounted—or all the old high-spired cathedrals;  10
That little house alone, more than them all—poor, desperate house! 
Fair, fearful wreck! tenement of a Soul! itself a Soul! 
Unclaim’d, avoided house! take one breath from my tremulous lips; 
Take one tear, dropt aside as I go, for thought of you, 
Dead house of love! house of madness and sin, crumbled! crush’d!  15
House of life—erewhile talking and laughing—but ah, poor house! dead, even then; 
Months, years, an echoing, garnish’d house—but dead, dead, dead. 


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