WALT WHITMAN

from CALAMUS
"In Paths Untrodden"
In paths untrodden,
In the growth by margins of pond-waters,
Escaped from the life that exhibits itself,
From all the standards hiterto publish'd, from the
      pleasures, profits, conformities,
Which too long I was offering to feed my soul,
Clear to me now standards noy yet publish'd, clear to
      me that my soul,
That the soul of the man I speak for rejoices in
      comrades,
Here by myself away from the clank of the world,
Tallying and talk'd to her by tongues aromatic,
No longer abash'd, (for in this secluded spot I can
      respond as I would not dare elsewhere,)
Strong upon me the life that does not exhibit itself, yet
      contains all the rest,
Resolv'd to sing no songs to-day but those of manly
      attachment,
Projecting them along that substantial life,
Bequeathing hence types of athletic love,
Afternoon this delicious Ninth-month in my forty-first
      year,
I proceed for all who are or have been young men,
To tell the secret of my nights and days,
To celebrate the need of comrades.

"When I Heard at the Close of the Day"
...And when I thought how my dear friend my lover
      was on his way coming, O then i was happy,
O then each breath tasted sweeter, and all that day my
      food nourish'd me more, and the beautiful day
      pass'd well,
And the next came with equal joy, and with the next at
     evening came my friend,
And that night while all was still I heard the waters roll
      slowly continually up the shores,
I heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and sands as
      directed to me whispering to congratulate me,
For the one I love most lay sleeping by me under the
      same cover in the cool night,
In the stillness in the autumn moonbeams his face was
      inclined toward me,
And his arm lay lightly around my breast--and that
      night I was happy.

from CHILDREN OF ADAM
"A Woman Waits for Me"
...I will be the robust husband of those women.
They are not one jot less than I am,
They are tann'd in the face by shining suns and blowing
      winds,
Their flesh has the old divine suppleness and strength,
They know how to swim, row, ride, wrestle, shoot,
      run, strike, retreat, advance, resist, defend
      themselves,
They are ultimate in their own right--they are calm,
      clear, well-possess'd of themselves...
Through you I drain the pent-up rivers of myself,
In you I wrap a thousand onward years,
On you I graft the grafts of the best-beloved of me
      and America,
The drops I distil upon you shall grow fierce and
      athletic girls, new artists, musicians, and singers...
I shall demand perfect men and women out of my
      love-spendings...
I shall count on the fruits of the gushing showers of
      them, as I count on the frruits of the gushing
      showers I give now,
I shall look for loving crops from the birth, life, death,
      immortality, I plant so lovingly now.

"I Sing the Body Electric" section 2
...But the expression of a well-made man appears not
      only in his face,
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the
      joints of his hips and wrists,
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his
      waist and knees, dress does not hide him,
The strong sweet quality he has strikes through the
      cotton and broadcloth,
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem,
      perhaps more,
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck
      and shoulder-side.
The sprawl and fulness of babes, the bosoms and
      heads of women, the folds of their dress, their
      style as we pass in the street, the contour of their
      shape downwards.
The swimmer naked in the swimming-bath, seen as he
      swims through the transparent green-shine, or lies
      with his face up and rolls silently to and fro in the
      heave of the water,
The bending forward and backward of rowers in row-
      boats, the horsemen in his saddle,
Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their
      performances,
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their
      open dinner kettles, and their wives waiting,
The female soothing a child, the farmer's daughter in
      the garden or cow-yard,
The young fellow hoeing corn, the sleigh-driver driving
      his six horses through the crowd,
The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite
      grown, lusty, good-natured, native born, out on
      the vacant lot at sundown after work,
The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love
      and resistance,
The upper-hold and under-hold, the hair rumpled over
      and blinding the eyes...
Such-like I love--I loosen myself, pass freely, am at
      the mother's breast with the little child,
Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with the wrestlers,
      march in line with the firemen, and pause, listen,
      count.

 

OSCAR WILDE

from LIBERTATIS SACRA FAMES
Albeit nurtured in democracy,
And liking best that state republican
Where every man is Kinglike and no man
Is crowned above his fellows, yet I see,
Spite of this modern fret for Liberty,
Better the rule of One, whom all obey,
Than to let clamorous demagogues betray
Our freedom with the kiss of anarchy.
Wherefore I love them not whose hands profane

from THE GARDEN OF EROS
And I will cut a reed by yonder spring
And make the wood-gods jealous...

                                           ...and the old
Half-withered reeds that waved in Arcady
Touched by his lips break forth again to fresher harmony.

from THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Like two doomed ships that pass in storm
We had crossed each other's way:
But we made no sign, we said no word,
We had no word to say;
For we did not meet in the holy night,
But in the shameful day.

A prison wall was round us both,
Two outcast men we were:
The world had thrust us from its heart,
And God from out His care:
And the iron gin that waits for Sin
Had caught us in its snare.

from ON THE SALE BY AUCTION OF KEATS' LOVE LETTERS
These are the letters which Endymion wrote
To one he loved in secret, and apart.
And now the brawlers of the auction mart
Bargain and bid for each poor blotted note,
Ay! for each separate pulse of passion quote
The merchant's price. I think they love not art
Who break the crystal of a poet's heart
That small and sickly eyes may glare and gloat.

from FLOWER OF LOVE
...Keats had lifted up his hymeneal curls from out
the poppy-seeded wine,
With ambrosial mouth had kissed my forehead,
clasped the hand of noble love in mine.

And at springtide, when the apple-blossoms
brush the burnished bosom of the dove,
Two young lovers lying in an orchard would
have read the story of our love.

Would have read the legend of my passion,
known the bitter secret of my heart,
Kissed as we have kissed, but never parted as
we two are fated now to part.

RAVENNA
...Byron dwelt here in love and revelry
For two long years--a second Anthony,
Who of the world another Actium made!
Yet suffered not his royal soul to fade,
Or lyre to break, or lance to grow less keen,
'Neath any wiles of an Egyptian queen.

...Byron, thy crowns are ever fresh and green:
Red leaves of rose from Sapphic Mitylene
Shall bind thy brows;

...And so from youth to manhood do we go,
And fall to weary days and locks of snow.
Love only knows no winter; never dies:
Nor cares for frowning storms or leaden skies.
And mine for thee shall never pass away,
Though my weak lips may falter in my lay.

THE BURDEN OF ITYS
... Who is not boy nor girl and yet is both,
Fed by two fires and unsatisfied
Through their excess, each passion being loth
For love's own sake to leave the other's side

ENDYMION
...O rising moon! O Lady moon!
Be you my lover's sentinel,
You cannot choose but know him well,
For he is shod with purple shoon,
You cannot choose but know my love,
For he a shepherd's crook doth bear,
And he is soft as any dove,
And brown and curly is his hair.

...Clomb the high hill, and with swift silent feet
Crept to the fane unnoticed by the crowd
Of busy priests, and from some dark retreat
Watched the young swains his frolic playmates bring
The firstling of their little flock, and the shy shepherd fling

...When from his nook up leapt the venturous lad,
And flinging wide the cedar-carven door
Beheld an awful image saffron-clad
And armed for battle! the gaunt Griffin glared
From the huge helm, and the long lance of wreck and ruin flared
Like a red rod of flame, stony and steeled
The Gorgon's head its leaden eyeballs rolled,

... Ready for death with parted lips he stood,
And well content at such a price to see
That calm wide brow, that terrible maidenhood,
The marvel of that pitiless chastity,
Ah! well content indeed, for never wight
Since Troy's young shepherd prince had seen so wonderful a sight.

...Some woodmen saw him lying by the stream
And marvelled much that any lad so beautiful could seem,

...Nor deemed him born of mortals, and one said,
`It is young Hylas, that false runaway
Who with a Naiad now would make his bed
Forgetting Herakles,' but others, `Nay,
It is Narcissus, his own paramour,
Those are the fond and crimson lips no woman can allure.'

                             ...and from the ocean's marge
Rose the red plume, the huge and hornèd casque,
The seven-cubit spear, the brazen targe!

RICHARD HOWARD

from WILDFLOWERS: CAMDEN, 1882
               In here, Mr. Wilde.
This room is not such a ruin as it seems:
                I find most things I search for
without much trouble—
      found Dr. Bucke's letter with your
name, for instance. Found my red necktie as well.
               Come in, you cast a shadow
where you stand. Come in,
      the chaos is more suspected than real.

I suspect no chaos: I am convinced of
the cosmos in your company, Walt Whitman!
I greet you, sir, as America's great voice.

Well, you've come to be disillusioned, have you?

Disillusioned? Not after Colorado!
Red rocks are a foolish place in which to look
for inspiratiion, but a fine one to forget
you ever had any. Disillusioned,
here?
There is no one in this wide America
of yours whom I love and honour half so much:
I came to see you
without the illusion
of a ground-glass lens between us, Walt Whitman!

               Look your fill, look close enough
and you may even
      see my beard growing: I fear I have
been photographed until the cameras themselves
               are tired of me. The real man
by now is a poor
      replacementyou and a good proofreader
must puzzle me out...

...I was saying, Walt, before vanity came
between us (though I do not wish to appear
to run vanity down), I was saying that
I can conceive of no Bible worthy, save
yours and Baudelaire's, to prepare mankind
for an identical body and soul.
Leaves
of Grass, Flowers of Evil: our sacred botany!

Is that meant to be
      a joke, Oscar—flowers of evil?
What grows out of the ground...It is a mystery,
               and had better remain so.
I am glad to have
      your book: don't apologize for First
Poems. Books are like men, the best of them have flaws.
               Thank God for the flaws—if not
for the flaws, Oscar,
      love would be impossible.

I think it is, Walt, flaws and all, unless
you link the temperament of a vampire
to the discretion of an anemone...

               Is that
the evil flower you speak of—anemones?
           Even sea-anemones?

Les Fleur du Mal—poems by Charles Baudelaire,
Walt: the greatest moralist to sing in France
since Villon was imprisoned.

Do moralists sing?
      I thought they expurgated poems.
French or Hebrew, it is all one to me:
               prophets, moralists, bibles
make me uneasy.
      I want picnics and the freedom to loaf,
a jolly all-round good time, with the parsons
               and police uninvited.
I have always been
      a first-rate aquatic loafer, could
float on my back forever...Indecency
               is always invoked against
floating and growing.

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