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SCENTED HERBAGE OF MY BREAST

web | The Sun Is but a Morning Star

Scented herbage of my breast,
Leaves from you I glean, I write, to be perused best afterwards,
Tomb-leaves, body-leaves growing up above me above death,
Perennial roots, tall leaves, O the winter shall not freeze you
         delicate leaves,
Every year shall you bloom again, out from where you retired you
         shall emerge again;
O I do not know whether many passing by will discover you or inhale
         your faint odor, but I believe a few will;
O slender leaves! O blossoms of my blood! I permit you to tell in
         your own way of the heart that is under you,
O I do not know what you mean there underneath yourselves, you are
         not happiness,
You are often more bitter than I can bear, you burn and sting me,
Yet you are beautiful to me you faint tinged roots, you make me
         think of death,
Death is beautiful from you, (what indeed is finally beautiful except
         death and love?)
O I think it is not for life I am chanting here my chant of lovers,
         I think it must be for death,
For how calm, how solemn it grows to ascend to the atmosphere of
         lovers,
Death or life I am then indifferent, my soul declines to prefer,
(I am not sure but the high soul of lovers welcomes death most,)
Indeed O death, I think now these leaves mean precisely the same as
         you mean,
Grow up taller sweet leaves that I may see! grow up out of my breast!
Spring away from the conceal'd heart there!
Do not fold yourself so in your pink-tinged roots timid leaves!
Do not remain down there so ashamed, herbage of my breast!
Come I am determin'd to unbare this broad breast of mine, I have
         long enough stifled and choked;
Emblematic and capricious blades I leave you, now you serve me not,
I will say what I have to say by itself,
I will sound myself and comrades only, I will never again utter a call
         only their call,
I will raise with it immortal reverberations through the States,
I will give an example to lovers to take permanent shape and will
         through the States,
Through me shall the words be said to make death exhilarating,
Give me your tone therefore O death, that I may accord with it,
Give me yourself, for I see that you belong to me now above all, and
         are folded inseparably together, you love and death are,
Nor will I allow you to balk me any more with what I was calling life,
For now it is convey'd to me that you are the purports essential,
That you hide in these shifting forms of life, for reasons, and that
         they are mainly for you,
That you beyond them come forth to remain, the real reality,
That behind the mask of materials you patiently wait, no matter how
         long,
That you will one day perhaps take control of all,
That you will perhaps dissipate this entire show of appearance,
That may-be you are what it is all for, but it does not last so very long,
But you will last very long.

1860

 

 

© Walt Whitman
=============================
© E-publisher LiterNet, 03.05.2009
The Sun Is but a Morning Star. Anthology of American Literature. Edited by Albena Bakratcheva. Varna: LiterNet, 2008-2010