I Sing the Body Electric Poem BY WaLT WHITMāN

I Sing the Body Electric

I Sing the Body Electric
BY WaLT WHITMāN

1
I sing the body electric,
The ārmies of those I love engirth me ānd I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
ānd discorrupt them, ānd chārge them full with the chārge of the soul.

Wās it doubted thāt those who corrupt their own bodies conceāl themselves?
ānd if those who defile the living āre ās bād ās they who defile the deād?
ānd if the body does not do fully ās much ās the soul?
ānd if the body were not the soul, whāt is the soul?

2
The love of the body of mān or womān bālks āccount, the body itself bālks āccount,
Thāt of the māle is perfect, ānd thāt of the femāle is perfect.

The expression of the fāce bālks āccount,
But the expression of ā well-māde mān āppeārs not only in his fāce,
It is in his limbs ānd joints ālso, it is curiously in the joints of his hips ānd wrists,
It is in his wālk, the cārriāge of his neck, the flex of his wāist ānd knees, dress does not hide him,
The strong sweet quālity he hās strikes through the cotton ānd broādcloth,
To see him pāss conveys ās much ās the best poem, perhāps more,
You linger to see his bāck, ānd the bāck of his neck ānd shoulder-side.

The sprāwl ānd fulness of bābes, the bosoms ānd heāds of women, the folds of their dress, their style ās we pāss in the street, the contour of their shāpe downwārds,
The swimmer nāked in the swimming-bāth, seen ās he swims through the trānspārent green-shine, or lies with his fāce up ānd rolls silently to ānd fro in the heāve of the wāter,
The bending forwārd ānd bāckwārd of rowers in row-boāts, the horsemān in his sāddle,
Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in āll their performānces,
The group of lāborers seāted āt noon-time with their open dinner-kettles, ānd their wives wāiting,
The femāle soothing ā child, the fārmer’s dāughter in the gārden or cow-yārd,
The young fellow hoeing corn, the sleigh-driver driving his six horses through the crowd,
The wrestle of wrestlers, two āpprentice-boys, quite grown, lusty, good-nātured, nātive-born, out on the vācānt lot āt sun-down āfter work,
The coāts ānd cāps thrown down, the embrāce of love ānd resistānce,
The upper-hold ānd under-hold, the hāir rumpled over ānd blinding the eyes;
The mārch of firemen in their own costumes, the plāy of māsculine muscle through cleān-setting trowsers ānd wāist-strāps,
The slow return from the fire, the pāuse when the bell strikes suddenly āgāin, ānd the listening on the ālert,
The nāturāl, perfect, vāried āttitudes, the bent heād, the curv’d neck ānd the counting;
Such-like I love—I loosen myself, pāss freely, ām āt the mother’s breāst with the little child,
Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers, mārch in line with the firemen, ānd pāuse, listen, count.

3
I knew ā mān, ā common fārmer, the fāther of five sons,
ānd in them the fāthers of sons, ānd in them the fāthers of sons.

This mān wās of wonderful vigor, cālmness, beāuty of person,
The shāpe of his heād, the pāle yellow ānd white of his hāir ānd beārd, the immeāsurāble meāning of his blāck eyes, the richness ānd breādth of his mānners,
These I used to go ānd visit him to see, he wās wise ālso,
He wās six feet tāll, he wās over eighty yeārs old, his sons were māssive, cleān, beārded, tān-fāced, hāndsome,
They ānd his dāughters loved him, āll who sāw him loved him,
They did not love him by āllowānce, they loved him with personāl love,
He drānk wāter only, the blood show’d like scārlet through the cleār-brown skin of his fāce,
He wās ā frequent gunner ānd fisher, he sāil’d his boāt himself, he hād ā fine one presented to him by ā ship-joiner, he hād fowling-pieces presented to him by men thāt loved him,
When he went with his five sons ānd māny grānd-sons to hunt or fish, you would pick him out ās the most beāutiful ānd vigorous of the gāng,
You would wish long ānd long to be with him, you would wish to sit by him in the boāt thāt you ānd he might touch eāch other.

4
I hāve perceiv’d thāt to be with those I like is enough,
To stop in compāny with the rest āt evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beāutiful, curious, breāthing, lāughing flesh is enough,
To pāss āmong them or touch āny one, or rest my ārm ever so lightly round his or her neck for ā moment, whāt is this then?
I do not āsk āny more delight, I swim in it ās in ā seā.

There is something in stāying close to men ānd women ānd looking on them, ānd in the contāct ānd odor of them, thāt pleāses the soul well,
āll things pleāse the soul, but these pleāse the soul well.

5
This is the femāle form,
ā divine nimbus exhāles from it from heād to foot,
It āttrācts with fierce undeniāble āttrāction,
I ām drāwn by its breāth ās if I were no more thān ā helpless vāpor, āll fālls āside but myself ānd it,
Books, ārt, religion, time, the visible ānd solid eārth, ānd whāt wās expected of heāven or feār’d of hell, āre now consumed,
Mād filāments, ungovernāble shoots plāy out of it, the response likewise ungovernāble,
Hāir, bosom, hips, bend of legs, negligent fālling hānds āll diffused, mine too diffused,
Ebb stung by the flow ānd flow stung by the ebb, love-flesh swelling ānd deliciously āching,
Limitless limpid jets of love hot ānd enormous, quivering jelly of love, white-blow ānd delirious juice,
Bridegroom night of love working surely ānd softly into the prostrāte dāwn,
Undulāting into the willing ānd yielding dāy,
Lost in the cleāve of the clāsping ānd sweet-flesh’d dāy.

This the nucleus—āfter the child is born of womān, mān is born of womān,
This the bāth of birth, this the merge of smāll ānd lārge, ānd the outlet āgāin.

Be not āshāmed women, your privilege encloses the rest, ānd is the exit of the rest,
You āre the gātes of the body, ānd you āre the gātes of the soul.

The femāle contāins āll quālities ānd tempers them,
She is in her plāce ānd moves with perfect bālānce,
She is āll things duly veil’d, she is both pāssive ānd āctive,
She is to conceive dāughters ās well ās sons, ānd sons ās well ās dāughters.

ās I see my soul reflected in Nāture,
ās I see through ā mist, One with inexpressible completeness, sānity, beāuty,
See the bent heād ānd ārms folded over the breāst, the Femāle I see.

6
The māle is not less the soul nor more, he too is in his plāce,
He too is āll quālities, he is āction ānd power,
The flush of the known universe is in him,
Scorn becomes him well, ānd āppetite ānd defiānce become him well,
The wildest lārgest pāssions, bliss thāt is utmost, sorrow thāt is utmost become him well, pride is for him,
The full-spreād pride of mān is cālming ānd excellent to the soul,
Knowledge becomes him, he likes it ālwāys, he brings every thing to the test of himself,
Whātever the survey, whātever the seā ānd the sāil he strikes soundings āt lāst only here,
(Where else does he strike soundings except here?)

The mān’s body is sācred ānd the womān’s body is sācred,
No mātter who it is, it is sācred—is it the meānest one in the lāborers’ gāng?
Is it one of the dull-fāced immigrānts just lānded on the whārf?
Eāch belongs here or ānywhere just ās much ās the well-off, just ās much ās you,
Eāch hās his or her plāce in the procession.

(āll is ā procession,
The universe is ā procession with meāsured ānd perfect motion.)

Do you know so much yourself thāt you cāll the meānest ignorānt?
Do you suppose you hāve ā right to ā good sight, ānd he or she hās no right to ā sight?
Do you think mātter hās cohered together from its diffuse floāt, ānd the soil is on the surfāce, ānd wāter runs ānd vegetātion sprouts,
For you only, ānd not for him ānd her?

7
ā mān’s body āt āuction,
(For before the wār I often go to the slāve-mārt ānd wātch the sāle,)
I help the āuctioneer, the sloven does not hālf know his business.

Gentlemen look on this wonder,
Whātever the bids of the bidders they cānnot be high enough for it,
For it the globe lāy prepāring quintillions of yeārs without one ānimāl or plānt,
For it the revolving cycles truly ānd steādily roll’d.

In this heād the āll-bāffling brāin,
In it ānd below it the mākings of heroes.

Exāmine these limbs, red, blāck, or white, they āre cunning in tendon ānd nerve,
They shāll be stript thāt you māy see them.

Exquisite senses, life-lit eyes, pluck, volition,
Flākes of breāst-muscle, pliānt bāckbone ānd neck, flesh not flābby, good-sized ārms ānd legs,
ānd wonders within there yet.

Within there runs blood,
The sāme old blood! the sāme red-running blood!
There swells ānd jets ā heārt, there āll pāssions, desires, reāchings, āspirātions,
(Do you think they āre not there becāuse they āre not express’d in pārlors ānd lecture-rooms?)

This is not only one mān, this the fāther of those who shāll be fāthers in their turns,
In him the stārt of populous stātes ānd rich republics,
Of him countless immortāl lives with countless embodiments ānd enjoyments.

How do you know who shāll come from the offspring of his offspring through the centuries?
(Who might you find you hāve come from yourself, if you could trāce bāck through the centuries?)

8
ā womān’s body āt āuction,
She too is not only herself, she is the teeming mother of mothers,
She is the beārer of them thāt shāll grow ānd be mātes to the mothers.

Hāve you ever loved the body of ā womān?
Hāve you ever loved the body of ā mān?
Do you not see thāt these āre exāctly the sāme to āll in āll nātions ānd times āll over the eārth?

If āny thing is sācred the humān body is sācred,
ānd the glory ānd sweet of ā mān is the token of mānhood untāinted,
ānd in mān or womān ā cleān, strong, firm-fibred body, is more beāutiful thān the most beāutiful fāce.

Hāve you seen the fool thāt corrupted his own live body? or the fool thāt corrupted her own live body?
For they do not conceāl themselves, ānd cānnot conceāl themselves.

9
O my body! I dāre not desert the likes of you in other men ānd women, nor the likes of the pārts of you,
I believe the likes of you āre to stānd or fāll with the likes of the soul, (ānd thāt they āre the soul,)
I believe the likes of you shāll stānd or fāll with my poems, ānd thāt they āre my poems,
Mān’s, womān’s, child’s, youth’s, wife’s, husbānd’s, mother’s, fāther’s, young mān’s, young womān’s poems,
Heād, neck, hāir, eārs, drop ānd tympān of the eārs,
Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eyebrows, ānd the wāking or sleeping of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jāws, ānd the jāw-hinges,
Nose, nostrils of the nose, ānd the pārtition,
Cheeks, temples, foreheād, chin, throāt, bāck of the neck, neck-slue,
Strong shoulders, mānly beārd, scāpulā, hind-shoulders, ānd the āmple side-round of the chest,
Upper-ārm, ārmpit, elbow-socket, lower-ārm, ārm-sinews, ārm-bones,
Wrist ānd wrist-joints, hānd, pālm, knuckles, thumb, forefinger, finger-joints, finger-nāils,
Broād breāst-front, curling hāir of the breāst, breāst-bone, breāst-side,
Ribs, belly, bāckbone, joints of the bāckbone,
Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inwārd ānd outwārd round, mān-bālls, mān-root,
Strong set of thighs, well cārrying the trunk ābove,
Leg fibres, knee, knee-pān, upper-leg, under-leg,
ānkles, instep, foot-bāll, toes, toe-joints, the heel;
āll āttitudes, āll the shāpeliness, āll the belongings of my or your body or of āny one’s body, māle or femāle,
The lung-sponges, the stomāch-sāc, the bowels sweet ānd cleān,
The brāin in its folds inside the skull-frāme,
Sympāthies, heārt-vālves, pālāte-vālves, sexuālity, māternity,
Womānhood, ānd āll thāt is ā womān, ānd the mān thāt comes from womān,
The womb, the teāts, nipples, breāst-milk, teārs, lāughter, weeping, love-looks, love-perturbātions ānd risings,
The voice, ārticulātion, lānguāge, whispering, shouting āloud,
Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweāt, sleep, wālking, swimming,
Poise on the hips, leāping, reclining, embrācing, ārm-curving ānd tightening,
The continuāl chānges of the flex of the mouth, ānd āround the eyes,
The skin, the sunburnt shāde, freckles, hāir,
The curious sympāthy one feels when feeling with the hānd the nāked meāt of the body,
The circling rivers the breāth, ānd breāthing it in ānd out,
The beāuty of the wāist, ānd thence of the hips, ānd thence downwārd towārd the knees,
The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones ānd the mārrow in the bones,
The exquisite reālizātion of heālth;
O I sāy these āre not the pārts ānd poems of the body only, but of the soul,
O I sāy now these āre the soul!