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6. Hezekiah's Petitions for Deliverance and Healing (2 Kings 19:14-19; 20:1-7)

Hezekiah spread the letter before the Lord (2 Kings 19:14). Woodcut by Rudolf Schдfer (1929) in illustrated German Bible. Larger image.

14 And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up into the house of the L ORD , and spread it before the L ORD . 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the L ORD : "O L ORD , God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O L ORD , and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God.

17 "It is true, O L ORD , that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by men's hands. 19 Now, O L ORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O L ORD , are God."

1 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, "This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover."

2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the L ORD , 3 "Remember, O L ORD , how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes." And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

4 Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the L ORD came to him: 5 "Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, 'This is what the L ORD , the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the L ORD . 6 I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.' "

7 Then Isaiah said, "Prepare a poultice of figs." They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered.

Imagine the scene. The Assyrian army, the most powerful military force on earth, is ravaging the countryside a few miles away, threatening weaker cities into submission and destroying the rest, carting away their riches and levying a burdensome annual tax that bleeds the nation even more. Hundreds of thousands of enemy soldiers are within a two or three days march.

You are Hezekiah, king of Judah, caught in the middle. Your capital is the fortress city of Jerusalem, high on the mountain chain that bisects Palestine. Stress is your daily companion. One report follows another of a city breached and burned, another cowed into submission. None is able to stand before the Assyrian army.

Your people quail in fear, many calling for you to submit to Assyrians. "Resistance is hopeless," they cry. "You'll get us all killed." Yet you are a believer in Yahweh, the true God. "He will save us," you tell your people. Times couldn't be more desperate, more bleak, more filled with violence. How do you pray in a time like this? What do you say to God?

Judah was a relatively small country caught between the nutcracker of Assyria (present-day Iraq) and the Egyptians, who encouraged rebellion against Assyria. While the dating and order of events of this time period are confusing, 1 here is the gist of what is going on.

The Assyrians controlled the countries to the north and west of Judah. Previous Assyrian kings had attacked the Northern Kingdom of Samaria -- Tiglath Pileser III (745-727 BC), Shalmanezer V (727-722), and Sargon II (722-705). Samaria finally fell in 722 BC and the Northern Kingdom ceased to exist (2 Kings 17:3-6; 18:9-12). The Assyrian kings also conquered Philistine cities west of Judah and imposed a tribute upon Hezekiah's father.

Hezekiah ascended the throne as King of Judah and began his sole reign at age 25 in 716/15, reigning 29 years until his death in 687. He was one of Judah's only "righteous and just" kings, bringing about a number of reforms during his reign. He was known as one who "trusted in the Lord" (18:5), "held fast" and followed him (18:6), with the result that the Lord was with him (18:7) and gave him victory (18:8). Some of his religious reforms included:

  • Calling a national Passover (2 Chronicles 29:5-11).
  • Reopening the temple, which had been closed by his father, repairing it, and reorganizing its services, priests, and Levites (2 Chronicles 31:11-21).
  • Opposing idol worship (2 Chronicles 30:14), toppling the hilltop "high places" where Baal was worshipped, smashing sacred stones, cutting down Asherah poles, and destroying Moses' bronze snake that had become an object of worship (2 Kings 18:4).

When Sargon II conquered the Philistine city of Ashdod in 711, Hezekiah avoided war. But when Assyrian troops departed, Hezekiah began to assert independence. "He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him" (1 Kings 18:7). He stopped paying tribute and expanded Judah's influence by attacking Philistine cities as far as Gaza that were allies of Assyria (18:8). Hezekiah was one of the chief ringleaders in a rebellion against Assyria.

In 701 BC, another Assyrian king Sennacherib (705-681) led a massive military force into the area to put down the rebels, counteract Egyptian threats, and reassert Assyria's dominance. Anticipating conflict with Assyria, Hezekiah had taken a number of steps:

  • Tunneling a shaft through 1,748 feet of solid rock to supply water to the city in time of siege (2 Kings 20:20).
  • Stopping up springs around Jerusalem that could supply water to an attacking Assyrian army (2 Chronicles 32:1-4).
  • Extending and strengthening the wall of Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 32:5a).
  • Increasing the production of shields and weapons (2 Chronicles 32:5b).
  • Organizing combat forces (2 Chronicles 32:6)

Records of Sennacherib's military campaigns are incised on this 6-sided baked clay prism in tiny cuneiform script. In the Museum of the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago. Larger image.

The Assyrian armies crushed the rebels in Phoenicia and the Philistine coastal cities. Then they turned inland. They couldn't allow Judah's rebellious tendencies to weaken their dominance of the area, which they needed to control as a buffer against their arch-enemy Egypt. Judah's walled cities were conquered and many of its villages given as punishment and political favors to loyal vassals in Philistia. Finally, Jerusalem was besieged and Hezekiah was forced to admit his rebellion and pay a huge tribute to lift the siege. Assyrian records from Sennacherib gloat over the victory:

"As to Hezekiah the Jew, he did not submit to my yoke. I laid siege to 46 of his strong cities, walled forts, and to the countless small villages in their vicinity and conquered them. Himself I made a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage. I surrounded him with earthwork. " 2

The scripture records the humiliating conclusion:

"So Hezekiah king of Judah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: 'I have done wrong. Withdraw from me, and I will pay whatever you demand of me.' The king of Assyria exacted from Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. So Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the temple of the L ORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace. At this time Hezekiah king of Judah stripped off the gold with which he had covered the doors and doorposts of the temple of the L ORD , and gave it to the king of Assyria." (2 Kings 18:14-15).

But the Assyrians felt after this that they had made a tactical error leaving Jerusalem unconquered. Sennacherib, encamped at Lachish a few miles south, sent his field commander ("Rabshakeh," KJV, NRSV) with a large army to Jerusalem again. He threatened and belittled Hezekiah and insulted Yahweh himself:

"Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, 'The L ORD will deliver us.' . Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the L ORD deliver Jerusalem from my hand?" (2 Kings 18:32, 35)

The prophet Isaiah reassured Hezekiah, and the Assyrian army withdrew to fight the Egyptians (2 Kings 19:9). Then a letter came to Hezekiah demanding that he surrender Jerusalem. We'll pause now and consider Hezekiah's prayer in verses 14-19.

Detail of Sennacherib on his throne about 701 BC. From wall relief, "Capitulation of Lachish in Palestine," Southwest Palace of Sennacherib, Nineveh. Larger image.

When Hezekiah receives the letter, he brings it before the Lord and spreads it out for God to read. He reads it to God and observes that the insult is to the living God far more than it is to Hezekiah himself. This is God's insult and demand's God's response.

Earlier, Hezekiah had encouraged the people with his own confidence in the greatness of the power of the unseen God:

"Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the L ORD our God to help us and to fight our battles." (2 Chronicles 32:7b-8a)

It sounds much like Elisha's assurance to his servant at the siege of Dothan, where they are surrounded by the horses and chariots of fire of the Lord's army: "Don't be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them" (2 Kings 6:16). In the New Testament, John writes: "The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." (1 John 4:4)

It is vital to understand that Hezekiah is bringing God's problem to God, rather than trying to solve it himself. The principle is: "The Battle Is the Lord's!" This is not an excuse to do nothing. Hezekiah has made all the military preparations he can, but now is the time to look to the Lord. Consider:

David to Goliath and the Philistines: "All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the L ORD saves; for the battle is the L ORD'S , and he will give all of you into our hands." (1 Samuel 17:47) Jahaziel: "Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the L ORD says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's." (2 Chronicles 20:14) Zechariah: "This is the word of the L ORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the L ORD Almighty." (Zechariah 4:6)

Think of the pressure we take upon ourselves when we try to be the general in God's battles. We get discouraged. We give up. We fold our tents and go home. We can't handle it. But when we actually believe that the battle is the Lord's to fight, then we let him be the general and just follow his orders. Yes, we're under the stress of battle, but not the stress of trying to play God.

Hezekiah brings the letter before the Lord and begins his prayer.

"O L ORD , God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth." (19:15)

This corresponds to the magnificent opening of the Lord's Prayer, "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name." Hezekiah begins his prayer with an awesome vision of who God really is.

"L ORD " is the Hebrew personal, specific name of God, pronounced "YAW-whey." The Jews felt that the name of the Lord was too holy to even pronounce, and substituted for it when reading or speaking the word Adonai, "lord." In most English Bibles when you see L ORD in small caps it indicates Yahweh. Hezekiah calls his God by name.

"God of Israel." Israel is the name God gave to Jacob (Genesis 32:28) and is applied to the nation. In the period of the divided kingdom, Israel was generally used to designate the Northern Kingdom as opposed to Judah, the Southern Kingdom. It is significant that Hezekiah uses this term, shortly after the fall of the Northern Kingdom, to refer to the remaining remnant of God's people.

"Enthroned between the cherubim." "Enthroned" (NIV, NRSV) and "dwellest" (KJV) is the common verb yāshab, "sit, remain, dwell." Cherubim is the plural of k e rûb, "angelic beings who are represented as part human, part animal." 3 The reference here is to the pair of cherubs facing each other whose wings overshadow the cover of the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:20). The ark of the covenant typified the throne of God in the Holy of Holies -- the cover or "mercy seat" as his dwelling place and the cherubim serving as guardians on each side. (For more on this, see my comments and illustrations in "Near Eastern Thrones and the Ark of the Covenant", www.jesuswalk.com/kingdom/thrones.htm). Hezekiah prays to Yahweh whom he sees as enthroned between the cherubim, in a much higher place than any earthly king. His vision of God drives his own faith in Yahweh's power.

"You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth." Hezekiah is a monotheist, a believer in one God. And he asserts that God's reign extends over and encompasses every human kingdom on earth, including the Assyrian empire.

"You have made heaven and earth." Hezekiah sees no limitation to God's power, since he made heaven and earth and can control anything within them. In 1952, J.B. Phillips wrote Your God Is Too Small (Touchstone, reprint 1997, ISBN 0684846969). The title says it all. If our own vision of God is small, we'll never ask of him great things. Hezekiah's prayer springs from his faith in the God of creation.

Look at his prayer one more time:

"O L ORD , God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O L ORD , and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God.

17 "It is true, O L ORD , that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by men's hands. 19 Now, O L ORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O L ORD , are God." (19:15-19)

The actual petition is quite brief: "Deliver us from his hand!" The basis of Hezekiah's appeal is that God be seen by the nations as the only true God.

The answer was not long in coming through Isaiah the prophet:

"This is what the L ORD , the God of Israel, says: I have heard your prayer concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria." (19:20)

After a poetic oracle or prophecy, the narrator recounts:

"That night the angel of the L ORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning -- there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. "One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer cut him down with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king." (19:35-37)

God answered Hezekiah's prayer, but then another crisis loomed.

"In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, 'This is what the L ORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.'" (20:1)

The timing of the illness, "in those days," can't be determined exactly, 4 but it may well have taken place around 701 BC at the time of Sennacharib's campaign. From God's response to Hezekiah's prayer through the Prophet Isaiah (20:6b), it sounds like Sennacharib's presence was still threatening Jerusalem at this time. What a time to fall ill and die! What a difficult time this would have been to leave his country leaderless!

Hezekiah mortal illness involved a boil (20:7), Hebrew shehîn, "boil, enflamed spot." 5 This may have been a furuncle or carbuncle, the latter being "a more extensive inflammation of the skin, usually attended by a lowering of bodily resistance, and it can prove fatal." 6 To us, most infections are easily cured with antibiotics, but in those days, a serious infection could bring death.

You may think it cruel to tell Hezekiah to "Put your house in order," but it was really a kindness. It is likely that he had no clear successor at that point. If this took place in 701, it was before his son Manasseh was born. Hezekiah needed to name a successor so leadership would pass to another at his death without palace intrigues and unnecessary disruption to the kingdom.

The Lord said, "You will die; you will not recover" (20:1b), but that didn't happen. Why? When we considered Moses' intercession in Exodus 32, we discussed the interplay between God's judgment and human response. Without any change in the situation, God's word stands. But with a different human response, the outcome can be different, though all within the boundaries of God's will. Vitringa, an eighteenth century Dutch scholar, put it this way:

"According to natural causes [Hezekiah] would have to die, unless with His aid God should intervene beyond the ordinary. God, however, had decided not to intervene, unless at the supplication of the king and the trials of his faith and hope. Moreover, in cases of this kind (Genesis 20:3) the condition is not expressed, in order that God may call it forth as voluntary." 7

But Hezekiah did respond in prayer and faith, and God changed his mind. Let's examine Hezekiah's short prayer.

The common English translations of the adjective describing Hezekiah's weeping do us a disservice. "Bitterly" (NIV, NRSV) and "sore" (KJV) suggest a wrong attitude on Hezekiah's part where the text doesn't imply any. The adjective is gādōl, "great," indicating "many" in number and other intensified concepts like "loudness" in sound, being old in years," etc. 8 A good translation in this context is "profusely." Hezekiah wept a lot; he wept profusely.

What kind of a baby is Hezekiah? Isn't it interesting how we westerners tend to see tears as a sign of weakness in a man? "Real men don't cry," is the way we train our sons. It's part of the macho exterior that men try to project. But in Hezekiah's culture, men were able to admit and express their emotions openly. It was no shame to cry when under stress.

Was Hezekiah terrified of death? Was he a faithless whiner? Certainly he did not look forward to death with the same longing as Paul, who saw it as "far better" (Philippians 1:23). But it is unfair to judge him by our knowledge this side of the cross. Hezekiah didn't know about eternal life in the presence of God; it was a later revelation.

His tears probably represent more than a fear of death. As mentioned above, it is likely that he had no heir yet, no one to carry on the line of Davidic kings promised centuries before that would culminate in a Messiah (2 Samuel 7:11-16). Hezekiah was a godly man who hoped in God. Young suggests: "Hezekiah could well be facing the same temptation that came to Abraham when he was commanded to offer up his son (Genesis 22:1)" 9 -- that is, the conflict of God's promise concerning his offspring with God's command that seemed to conflict with the promise.

What does it mean, "Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord. "? Is this a childish, petulant response to an unwelcome word from God's prophet? I don't think so.

He is in his own bedroom, probably hovered over by various counselors, officers, and physicians who are concerned at the impending death of this strong and godly king. To be alone with God that he might pray with some privacy and without interruption, he turns to the wall. God has been his help in crisis many times. He turns to God now in earnest and heartfelt prayer. His tears are tears of emotion and struggle. You've been there. You know. Hezekiah is a human, weakened by illness, facing the heavy responsibilities of defending his nation against its enemies. In addition, now he faces death and the burden of succession.

"Prayed" is pālal, "intervene, interpose, pray," the most common Hebrew root for prayer and praying, the verb occurring 84 times in the Old Testament. Though the exact derivation of the root is a matter of conjecture, both the verb and the noun (t e pillâ, 20:5) refer most often to intercessory prayer. 10 Here he petitions God strongly for his own life, but because of his position and responsibility, he also prays for his nation's uncertain future -- under military pressure, leaderless, and without a successor that can inspire national unity and resistance.

His prayer seems short, but he knows God well by this time in his life, and in its shortness and abbreviation of expression much is implied:

"Remember, O L ORD , how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes." (20:3)

You may think it naive of Hezekiah to appeal to God on the basis of his own righteousness. After all, everyone sins. But his righteousness is not only his own judgment, but the judgment of the inspired writer of Kings, who tells us:

"He did what was right in the eyes of the L ORD . " (2 Kings 18:1) "Hezekiah trusted in the L ORD , the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the L ORD and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the L ORD had given Moses. And the L ORD was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook." (2 Kings 18:5-7a)

Why does Hezekiah say what he does? I believe he is appealing to God's promises to David concerning his son Solomon and Solomon's offspring:

"When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever" (2 Samuel 7:14-16).

God promised an unbroken line of David's sons upon the throne. Hezekiah is also appealing to God's promises for offspring and for a long life to those who walk uprightly before him:

"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the L ORD your God is giving you." (Exodus 20:12) "Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the L ORD your God gives you for all time." (Deuteronomy 4:40) "Do not eat [blood], so that it may go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is right in the eyes of the L ORD ." (Deuteronomy 12:25)

Hezekiah, I am sure, had not reached sinless perfection, but he had been careful (unlike his father) to live a godly, righteous, and faithful life before the Lord. He had been zealous for the Lord, in the face of much pressure and criticism from idolaters. He had encouraged the people with confidence and trust in God when threatened by his enemies. Hezekiah not only talked about a righteous life. He lived it! He walked the walk!

Hezekiah appealed to God's promises for an heir and for long life for those who live a righteous life. God heard and answered quickly:

" 4 Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the L ORD came to him: 5 "Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, 'This is what the L ORD , the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer (t e pillâ) and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the L ORD . 6 I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.'" (20:4-6)

Wow! God's answer is both amazing and wonderful. A saint of God prays and immediately God both changes his mind and sends alternate instructions to his prophet. A few minutes after Hezekiah prays, Isaiah returns to his bedroom. Hezekiah is still lying on his side facing the wall. Isaiah says: "Hezekiah, this is what the L ORD , the God of your father David, says. " Hezekiah turns over with wonder and joy on his face.

"Then Isaiah said, 'Prepare a poultice of figs.' They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered." (20:7)

According to Pliny, figs were used for the cure of ulcers. 11 Did the poultice of figs cure Hezekiah? It was probably instrumental, but only because God enabled it. Prior to this, Hezekiah was about to die and no figs would have helped. It is God who turned the situation around! Within three days Hezekiah would be strong enough to get out of bed and to go up to the temple (verse 6d).

I've heard people accuse Hezekiah of selfishness in his prayer for healing. The result of his prayer, this argument contends, is the birth of Manasseh, the worst king Judah had ever seen. If Hezekiah hadn't asked for healing, Manasseh would never have been born. Be careful what you pray for!

  1. The Bible never indicates that requesting prayer for healing is selfish. Where in the Bible do you find such a preposterous suggestion? (James 5:14-15; Matthew 10:7; 12:15; etc.)
  2. Judah had a long history of bad kings before and after Hezekiah. Hezekiah isn't responsible for Manesseh's sins any more than God is.
  3. Without Manasseh, we wouldn't have had Josiah the boy king who brought about great reforms.
  4. Beyond seeking to pray within the boundaries of what we know to be God's will, the dictum of "Be careful what you pray for," is useless. No one can see the future but God. No one could have predicted Manasseh's wickedness except God himself.
  5. We pray to a Father who gives us what is good for us, not what is bad for us (Matthew 7:7-11). We can trust our prayers to a loving Father, who knows better that we do.

God chose to answer Hezekiah's prayer and to bless him during his lifetime. Let's not confuse this by second-guessing.

From God's response through Isaiah we get some hints to the reasons why God seems to have responded to Hezekiah's prayer, though we can't read God's mind:

Hezekiah prayed. If he hadn't asked, God would have continued with the plan announced by Isaiah -- an early death. James says, "You do not have, because you do not ask God. " (James 4:2b). Promises made to David centuries before. The Lord identifies himself as "the God of your father David. " (verse 5b) and says he will defend the city "for the sake of my servant David" (verse 6b). Respect for Hezekiah's leadership role. "Hezekiah, the leader of my people" (verse 5a). Concern for Jerusalem's welfare. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city. " (verse 6). Honor for Hezekiah's upright life. "I have heard your prayer," indicates that he has heard Hezekiah's implied prayer and honored the basis on which he made it, an upright life. Love for Hezekiah. "I have heard your prayer and seen your tears" (verse 5c). Hezekiah loves God and God loves Hezekiah. The Father has seen his child's tears and responded.

You, dear friend, are also loved by God. He has redeemed you by the blood of Jesus, which cannot be valued because it is so costly. He has made promises to you. He has encouraged you to pray to him. You may not be a king, but you have influence important to the kingdom. I encourage you to pray.

I also encourage you to consider personal holiness. Sometimes God answers the prayers of rank sinners and backslidden Christians. But his ear is particularly open to his children who seek to be obedient to him.

Consider your own children's petitions. When your child is being openly rebellious, are you quick to respond to his demands? No, you withhold everything except the necessities so your actions aren't construed as rewarding disobedience. But when your child is compliant and obedient -- and asks for something special -- you think twice about saying no. You want to say yes. And if it won't hurt him, you'll often give it to him.

This doesn't mean you must be sinless to get your prayers answered. Hezekiah wasn't sinless (2 Chronicles 32:26). He had made mistakes, wrong decisions, and had moments that reflect a weakness of faith. But Hezekiah made an honest attempt to follow God in his life and repented when he was convicted of his sin. God honored this with blessing, success, and answered prayer.

In no way do I want to imply that God owes us anything, that salvation is by works rather than grace. This isn't a works-righteousness mentality. It's just good heavenly parenting. All God's gifts are by grace -- his own favor towards us, which is neither earned nor deserved.

But God does honor the prayers of the upright over those of the backslidden. James teaches us: "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16b).

What do I learn from Hezekiah's example of a prayer that God will answer? God's heart is open to the prayer of his child seeking to live a faithful, upright, righteous life. Since God has less need for discipline, he has greater freedom to grant us answers to our prayers without hurting us.

Can you pray Hezekiah's simple prayer? "Remember, O L ORD , how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes." I hope so.

Father, help us to move from being unruly children to the place where you don't need to discipline us so much. Help us to be like your servant Hezekiah, who trusted in you and your promises with all his heart, and wasn't afraid to ask you for what he needed. Help us grow. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

"And Hezekiah prayed to the L ORD : 'O L ORD , God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O L ORD , and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God.'" (2 Kings 19:15-16)

"Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 'Remember, O L ORD , how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.'" (2 Kings 20:2-3)

  1. E.J. Young discusses the various problems of dating and reconciling accounts in a long and detailed appendix (Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah (Eerdmans, 1969), Vol. 2, Appendix 1, pp. 540-555). The period is also discussed in Donald J. Wiseman, 1 & 2 Kings: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; InterVarsity Press, 1993), pp. 271-285; and Samuel J. Schultz, "Hezekiah," ISBE 2:703-705.
  2. Quoted from the Prism of Sennacherib, in James B. Pritchard (ed.), The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures (Princeton University Press/Oxford University Press, 1958), "Sennacherib (704-681 BC): The Siege of Jerusalem," pp. 199-201 (corresponds to ANET 287-288).
  3. R. Laird Harris, k e rûb, TWOT #1036.
  4. Young, Isaiah 2:509.
  5. Elmer A. Martens, shhn, TWOT #2364a.
  6. Alexander Macalister and Roland K. Harrison, "Boil," ISBE 1:532.
  7. Translated and cited by Young, Isaiah 2:509, fn. 3, from Campegius Vitringa, Commentarius in librum propheticum Jesaie (Leeuwarden, 1714-1720), commenting on Isaiah 38.
  8. Elmer B. Smick, gādal, TWOT #315d.
  9. Young, Isaiah 2:510.
  10. Victor P. Hamilton, pālal, TWOT #1776.
  11. Pliny, Hist. Nat. 23.7.122.

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Song of Myself

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their

I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,

Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,

I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,

Nature without check with original energy.

I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,

The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,

I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,

I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

Echoes, ripples, buzz'd whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and vine,

My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing

The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and

dark-color'd sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,

A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms,

The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,

The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields

The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising

Have you practis'd so long to learn to read?

Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions

You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through

the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,

You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,

You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.

But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.

Nor any more youth or age than there is now,

And will never be any more perfection than there is now,

Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Always the procreant urge of the world.

Always a knit of identity, always distinction, always a breed of life.

To elaborate is no avail, learn'd and unlearn'd feel that it is so.

Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical,

Till that becomes unseen and receives proof in its turn.

Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of things, while they

discuss I am silent, and go bathe and admire myself.

Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be

As the hugging and loving bed-fellow sleeps at my side through the night,

and withdraws at the peep of the day with stealthy tread,

Leaving me baskets cover'd with white towels swelling the house with

Shall I postpone my acceptation and realization and scream at my eyes,

That they turn from gazing after and down the road,

And forthwith cipher and show me to a cent,

Exactly the value of one and exactly the value of two, and which is ahead?

People I meet, the effect upon me of my early life or the ward and

The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old and new,

My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues,

The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love,

The sickness of one of my folks or of myself, or ill-doing or loss

or lack of money, or depressions or exaltations,

Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news,

These come to me days and nights and go from me again,

Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary,

Looks down, is erect, or bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest,

Looking with side-curved head curious what will come next,

Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.

I have no mockings or arguments, I witness and wait.

And you must not be abased to the other.

Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not

Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice.

How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn'd over upon me,

And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue

And reach'd till you felt my beard, and reach'd till you held my feet.

And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,

And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,

And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women

And that a kelson of the creation is love,

And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,

And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,

And mossy scabs of the worm fence, heap'd stones, elder, mullein and

How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.

A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,

Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may see

And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,

Growing among black folks as among white,

Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I

It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,

It may be if I had known them I would have loved them,

It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon out

And here you are the mothers' laps.

Darker than the colorless beards of old men,

Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.

And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken

And what do you think has become of the women and children?

The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,

And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the

And ceas'd the moment life appear'd.

And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.

am not contain'd between my hat and boots,

And peruse manifold objects, no two alike and every one good,

The earth good and the stars good, and their adjuncts all good.

I am the mate and companion of people, all just as immortal and

(They do not know how immortal, but I know.)

For me those that have been boys and that love women,

For me the man that is proud and feels how it stings to be slighted,

For me the sweet-heart and the old maid, for me mothers and the

For me lips that have smiled, eyes that have shed tears,

For me children and the begetters of children.

I see through the broadcloth and gingham whether or no,

And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless, and cannot be shaken away.

I lift the gauze and look a long time, and silently brush away flies

I witness the corpse with its dabbled hair, I note where the pistol

The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogating thumb, the

clank of the shod horses on the granite floor,

The snow-sleighs, clinking, shouted jokes, pelts of snow-balls,

The hurrahs for popular favorites, the fury of rous'd mobs,

The flap of the curtain'd litter, a sick man inside borne to the hospital,

The meeting of enemies, the sudden oath, the blows and fall,

The excited crowd, the policeman with his star quickly working his

The impassive stones that receive and return so many echoes,

What groans of over-fed or half-starv'd who fall sunstruck or in fits,

What exclamations of women taken suddenly who hurry home and

What living and buried speech is always vibrating here, what howls

Arrests of criminals, slights, adulterous offers made, acceptances,

I mind them or the show or resonance of them--I come and I depart.

The dried grass of the harvest-time loads the slow-drawn wagon,

The clear light plays on the brown gray and green intertinged,

The armfuls are pack'd to the sagging mow.

I felt its soft jolts, one leg reclined on the other,

I jump from the cross-beams and seize the clover and timothy,

And roll head over heels and tangle my hair full of wisps.

Wandering amazed at my own lightness and glee,

In the late afternoon choosing a safe spot to pass the night,

Kindling a fire and broiling the fresh-kill'd game,

Falling asleep on the gather'd leaves with my dog and gun by my side.

My eyes settle the land, I bend at her prow or shout joyously from the deck.

I tuck'd my trowser-ends in my boots and went and had a good time;

You should have been with us that day round the chowder-kettle.

Her father and his friends sat near cross-legged and dumbly smoking,

they had moccasins to their feet and large thick blankets

On a bank lounged the trapper, he was drest mostly in skins, his luxuriant

beard and curls protected his neck, he held his bride by the hand,

She had long eyelashes, her head was bare, her coarse straight locks

descended upon her voluptuous limbs and reach'd to her feet.

I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile,

Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsy and weak,

And went where he sat on a log and led him in and assured him,

And brought water and fill'd a tub for his sweated body and bruis'd feet,

And gave him a room that enter'd from my own, and gave him some

And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and his awkwardness,

And remember putting piasters on the galls of his neck and ankles;

He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and pass'd north,

I had him sit next me at table, my fire-lock lean'd in the corner.

Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly;

Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome.

She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the window.

Ah the homeliest of them is beautiful to her.

You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room.

The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.

Little streams pass'd all over their bodies.

It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs.

sun, they do not ask who seizes fast to them,

They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and bending arch,

They do not think whom they souse with spray.

I loiter enjoying his repartee and his shuffle and break-down.

Each has his main-sledge, they are all out, there is a great heat in

The lithe sheer of their waists plays even with their massive arms,

Overhand the hammers swing, overhand so slow, overhand so sure,

They do not hasten, each man hits in his place.

The negro that drives the long dray of the stone-yard, steady and

tall he stands pois'd on one leg on the string-piece,

His blue shirt exposes his ample neck and breast and loosens over

His glance is calm and commanding, he tosses the slouch of his hat

The sun falls on his crispy hair and mustache, falls on the black of

I go with the team also.

To niches aside and junior bending, not a person or object missing,

Absorbing all to myself and for this song.

It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life.

They rise together, they slowly circle around.

And acknowledge red, yellow, white, playing within me,

And consider green and violet and the tufted crown intentional,

And do not call the tortoise unworthy because she is not something else,

And the in the woods never studied the gamut, yet trills pretty well to me,

And the look of the bay mare shames silliness out of me.

Ya-honk he says, and sounds it down to me like an invitation,

The pert may suppose it meaningless, but I listening close,

Find its purpose and place up there toward the wintry sky.

The litter of the grunting sow as they tug at her teats,

The brood of the turkey-hen and she with her half-spread wings,

I see in them and myself the same old law.

They scorn the best I can do to relate them.

Of men that live among cattle or taste of the ocean or woods,

Of the builders and steerers of ships and the wielders of axes and

I can eat and sleep with them week in and week out.

Me going in for my chances, spending for vast returns,

Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that will take me,

Not asking the sky to come down to my good will,

The carpenter dresses his plank, the tongue of his foreplane

The married and unmarried children ride home to their Thanksgiving dinner,

The pilot seizes the king-pin, he heaves down with a strong arm,

The mate stands braced in the whale-boat, lance and harpoon are ready,

The duck-shooter walks by silent and cautious stretches,

The deacons are ordain'd with cross'd hands at the altar,

The spinning-girl retreats and advances to the hum of the big wheel,

The farmer stops by the bars as he walks on a First-day loafe and

The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum a confirm'd case,

(He will never sleep any more as he did in the cot in his mother's

The jour printer with gray head and gaunt jaws works at his case,

He turns his quid of tobacco while his eyes blurr with the manuscript;

The malform'd limbs are tied to the surgeon's table,

What is removed drops horribly in a pail;

The quadroon girl is sold at the auction-stand, the drunkard nods by

The machinist rolls up his sleeves, the policeman travels his beat,

The young fellow drives the express-wagon, (I love him, though I do

The half-breed straps on his light boots to compete in the race,

The western turkey-shooting draws old and young, some lean on their

Out from the crowd steps the marksman, takes his position, levels his piece;

The groups of newly-come immigrants cover the wharf or levee,

As the woolly-pates hoe in the sugar-field, the overseer views them

The bugle calls in the ball-room, the gentlemen run for their

partners, the dancers bow to each other,

The youth lies awake in the cedar-roof'd garret and harks to the

The Wolverine sets traps on the creek that helps fill the Huron,

The squaw wrapt in her yellow-hemm'd cloth is offering moccasins and

The connoisseur peers along the exhibition-gallery with half-shut

As the deck-hands make fast the steamboat the plank is thrown for

The young sister holds out the skein while the elder sister winds it

off in a ball, and stops now and then for the knots,

The one-year wife is recovering and happy having a week ago borne

The clean-hair'd Yankee girl works with her sewing-machine or in the

The paving-man leans on his two-handed rammer, the reporter's lead

flies swiftly over the note-book, the sign-painter is lettering

The canal boy trots on the tow-path, the book-keeper counts at his

The conductor beats time for the band and all the performers follow him,

The child is baptized, the convert is making his first professions,

The regatta is spread on the bay, the race is begun, (how the white

The drover watching his drove sings out to them that would stray,

The pedler sweats with his pack on his back, (the purchaser higgling

The bride unrumples her white dress, the minute-hand of the clock

The opium-eater reclines with rigid head and just-open'd lips,

The prostitute draggles her shawl, her bonnet bobs on her tipsy and

The crowd laugh at her blackguard oaths, the men jeer and wink to

(Miserable! I do not laugh at your oaths nor jeer you;)

The President holding a cabinet council is surrounded by the great

On the piazza walk three matrons stately and friendly with twined arms,

The crew of the fish-smack pack repeated layers of halibut in the hold,

The Missourian crosses the plains toting his wares and his cattle,

As the fare-collector goes through the train he gives notice by the

The floor-men are laying the floor, the tinners are tinning the

roof, the masons are calling for mortar,

In single file each shouldering his hod pass onward the laborers;

Seasons pursuing each other the indescribable crowd is gather'd, it

is the fourth of Seventh-month, (what salutes of cannon and small arms!)

Seasons pursuing each other the plougher ploughs, the mower mows,

and the winter-grain falls in the ground;

Off on the lakes the pike-fisher watches and waits by the hole in

The stumps stand thick round the clearing, the squatter strikes deep

Flatboatmen make fast towards dusk near the cotton-wood or pecan-trees,

Coon-seekers go through the regions of the Red river or through

those drain'd by the Tennessee, or through those of the Arkansas,

Torches shine in the dark that hangs on the Chattahooche or Altamahaw,

Patriarchs sit at supper with sons and grandsons and great-grandsons

In walls of adobie, in canvas tents, rest hunters and trappers after

The city sleeps and the country sleeps,

The living sleep for their time, the dead sleep for their time,

The old husband sleeps by his wife and the young husband sleeps by his wife;

And these tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them,

And such as it is to be of these more or less I am,

And of these one and all I weave the song of myself.

Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,

Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,

Stuff'd with the stuff that is coarse and stuff'd with the stuff

One of the Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the

A Southerner soon as a Northerner, a planter nonchalant and

A Yankee bound my own way ready for trade, my joints the limberest

joints on earth and the sternest joints on earth,

A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in my deer-skin

A boatman over lakes or bays or along coasts, a Hoosier, Badger, Buckeye;

At home on Kanadian snow-shoes or up in the bush, or with fishermen

At home in the fleet of ice-boats, sailing with the rest and tacking,

At home on the hills of Vermont or in the woods of Maine, or the

Comrade of Californians, comrade of free North-Westerners, (loving

Comrade of raftsmen and coalmen, comrade of all who shake hands

A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the thoughtfullest,

A novice beginning yet experient of myriads of seasons,

Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion,

A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor, quaker,

Prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician, priest.

Breathe the air but leave plenty after me,

And am not stuck up, and am in my place.

The bright suns I see and the dark suns I cannot see are in their place,

The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place.)

If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or next to nothing,

If they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle they are nothing,

If they are not just as close as they are distant they are nothing.

This the common air that bathes the globe.

I play not marches for accepted victors only, I play marches for

I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit

I blow through my embouchures my loudest and gayest for them.

And to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea!

And to those themselves who sank in the sea!

And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome heroes!

And the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known!

It is for the wicked just same as the righteous, I make appointments

I will not have a single person slighted or left away,

The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited,

The heavy-lipp'd slave is invited, the venerealee is invited;

There shall be no difference between them and the rest.

This the touch of my lips to yours, this the murmur of yearning,

This the far-off depth and height reflecting my own face,

This the thoughtful merge of myself, and the outlet again.

Well I have, for the Fourth-month showers have, and the mica on the

Does the daylight astonish? does the early redstart twittering

Do I astonish more than they?

I might not tell everybody, but I will tell you.

How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat?

Else it were time lost listening to me.

That months are vacuums and the ground but wallow and filth.

I wear my hat as I please indoors or out.

I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.

And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them.

To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow,

All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.

I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter's compass,

I know I shall not pass like a child's carlacue cut with a burnt

I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood,

I see that the elementary laws never apologize,

(I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by,

If no other in the world be aware I sit content,

And if each and all be aware I sit content.

And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or ten

I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.

And I know the amplitude of time.

The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me,

The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate

And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man,

And I say there is nothing greater than the mother of men.

We have had ducking and deprecating about enough,

It is a trifle, they will more than arrive there every one, and

I call to the earth and sea half-held by the night.

Night of south winds--night of the large few stars!

Still nodding night--mad naked summer night.

Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees!

Earth of departed sunset--earth of the mountains misty-topt!

Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon just tinged with blue!

Earth of shine and dark mottling the tide of the river!

Earth of the limpid gray of clouds brighter and clearer for my sake!

Far-swooping elbow'd earth--rich apple-blossom'd earth!

O unspeakable passionate love.

I behold from the beach your crooked fingers,

I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me,

We must have a turn together, I undress, hurry me out of sight of the land,

Cushion me soft, rock me in billowy drowse,

Dash me with amorous wet, I can repay you.

Sea breathing broad and convulsive breaths,

Sea of the brine of life and of unshovell'd yet always-ready graves,

Howler and scooper of storms, capricious and dainty sea,

I am integral with you, I too am of one phase and of all phases.

Extoller of amies and those that sleep in each others' arms.

(Shall I make my list of things in the house and skip the house that

Evil propels me and reform of evil propels me, I stand indifferent,

My gait is no fault-finder's or rejecter's gait,

I moisten the roots of all that has grown.

Did you guess the celestial laws are yet to be work'd over and rectified?

Soft doctrine as steady help as stable doctrine,

Thoughts and deeds of the present our rouse and early start.

The wonder is always and always how there can be a mean man or an infidel.

And mine a word of the modern, the word En-Masse.

Here or henceforward it is all the same to me, I accept Time absolutely.

That mystic baffling wonder alone completes all.

Fetch stonecrop mixt with cedar and branches of lilac,

This is the lexicographer, this the chemist, this made a grammar of

These mariners put the ship through dangerous unknown seas.

This is the geologist, this works with the scalper, and this is a

Your facts are useful, and yet they are not my dwelling,

I but enter by them to an area of my dwelling.

And more the reminders they of life untold, and of freedom and extrication,

And make short account of neuters and geldings, and favor men and

And beat the gong of revolt, and stop with fugitives and them that

Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking and breeding,

No sentimentalist, no stander above men and women or apart from them,

Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!

And whatever is done or said returns at last to me.

By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their

Voices of the interminable generations of prisoners and slaves,

Voices of the diseas'd and despairing and of thieves and dwarfs,

Voices of cycles of preparation and accretion,

And of the threads that connect the stars, and of wombs and of the

And of the rights of them the others are down upon,

Of the deform'd, trivial, flat, foolish, despised,

Fog in the air, beetles rolling balls of dung.

Voices of sexes and lusts, voices veil'd and I remove the veil,

Voices indecent by me clarified and transfigur'd.

I keep as delicate around the bowels as around the head and heart,

Copulation is no more rank to me than death is.

Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each part and tag of me

The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer,

This head more than churches, bibles, and all the creeds.

Translucent mould of me it shall be you!

Shaded ledges and rests it shall be you!

Whatever goes to the tilth of me it shall be you!

You my rich blood! your milky stream pale strippings of my life!

Breast that presses against other breasts it shall be you!

My brain it shall be your occult convolutions!

Root of wash'd sweet-flag! timorous pond-snipe! nest of guarded

Mix'd tussled hay of head, beard, brawn, it shall be you!

Trickling sap of maple, fibre of manly wheat, it shall be you!

Vapors lighting and shading my face it shall be you!

You sweaty brooks and dews it shall be you!

Winds whose soft-tickling genitals rub against me it shall be you!

Broad muscular fields, branches of live oak, loving lounger in my

Hands I have taken, face I have kiss'd, mortal I have ever touch'd,

Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy,

I cannot tell how my ankles bend, nor whence the cause of my faintest wish,

Nor the cause of the friendship I emit, nor the cause of the

A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics

The little light fades the immense and diaphanous shadows,

Scooting obliquely high and low.

The heav'd challenge from the east that moment over my head,

The mocking taunt, See then whether you shall be master!

If I could not now and always send sun-rise out of me.

We found our own O my soul in the calm and cool of the daybreak.

With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds and volumes of worlds.

It provokes me forever, it says sarcastically,

Walt you contain enough, why don't you let it out then?

Do you not know O speech how the buds beneath you are folded?

The dirt receding before my prophetical screams,

I underlying causes to balance them at last,

My knowledge my live parts, it keeping tally with the meaning of all things,

Happiness, (which whoever hears me let him or her set out in search

Encompass worlds, but never try to encompass me,

I crowd your sleekest and best by simply looking toward you.

I carry the plenum of proof and every thing else in my face,

With the hush of my lips I wholly confound the skeptic.

To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute toward it.

I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice,

I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following,

Sounds of the city and sounds out of the city, sounds of the day and night,

Talkative young ones to those that like them, the loud laugh of

The angry base of disjointed friendship, the faint tones of the sick,

The judge with hands tight to the desk, his pallid lips pronouncing

The heave'e'yo of stevedores unlading ships by the wharves, the

The ring of alarm-bells, the cry of fire, the whirr of swift-streaking

engines and hose-carts with premonitory tinkles and color'd lights,

The steam-whistle, the solid roll of the train of approaching cars,

The slow march play'd at the head of the association marching two and two,

(They go to guard some corpse, the flag-tops are draped with black muslin.)

I hear the key'd cornet, it glides quickly in through my ears,

It shakes mad-sweet pangs through my belly and breast.

The orbic flex of his mouth is pouring and filling me full.

The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies,

It wrenches such ardors from me I did not know I possess'd them,

It sails me, I dab with bare feet, they are lick'd by the indolent waves,

I am cut by bitter and angry hail, I lose my breath,

Steep'd amid honey'd morphine, my windpipe throttled in fakes of death,

At length let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles,

(Round and round we go, all of us, and ever come back thither,)

If nothing lay more develop'd the quahaug in its callous shell were enough.

I have instant conductors all over me whether I pass or stop,

They seize every object and lead it harmlessly through me.

To touch my person to some one else's is about as much as I can stand.

Flames and ether making a rush for my veins,

Treacherous tip of me reaching and crowding to help them,

My flesh and blood playing out lightning to strike what is hardly

On all sides prurient provokers stiffening my limbs,

Straining the udder of my heart for its withheld drip,

Behaving licentious toward me, taking no denial,

Depriving me of my best as for a purpose,

Unbuttoning my clothes, holding me by the bare waist,

Deluding my confusion with the calm of the sunlight and pasture-fields,

Immodestly sliding the fellow-senses away,

They bribed to swap off with touch and go and graze at the edges of me,

No consideration, no regard for my draining strength or my anger,

Fetching the rest of the herd around to enjoy them a while,

Then all uniting to stand on a headland and worry me.

They have left me helpless to a red marauder,

They all come to the headland to witness and assist against me.

I talk wildly, I have lost my wits, I and nobody else am the

I went myself first to the headland, my own hands carried me there.

Unclench your floodgates, you are too much for me.

Rich showering rain, and recompense richer afterward.

Landscapes projected masculine, full-sized and golden.

They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,

They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon,

The insignificant is as big to me as any,

The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul.

I believe the soggy clods shall become lovers and lamps,

And a compend of compends is the meat of a man or woman,

And a summit and flower there is the feeling they have for each other,

And they are to branch boundlessly out of that lesson until it

And until one and all shall delight us, and we them.

And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg

And the tree-toad is a chef-d'oeuvre for the highest,

And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven,

And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery,

And the cow crunching with depress'd head surpasses any statue,

And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.

And am stucco'd with quadrupeds and birds all over,

And have distanced what is behind me for good reasons,

But call any thing back again when I desire it.

In vain the plutonic rocks send their old heat against my approach,

In vain the mastodon retreats beneath its own powder'd bones,

In vain objects stand leagues off and assume manifold shapes,

In vain the ocean settling in hollows and the great monsters lying low,

In vain the buzzard houses herself with the sky,

In vain the snake slides through the creepers and logs,

In vain the elk takes to the inner passes of the woods,

In vain the razor-bill'd auk sails far north to Labrador,

I follow quickly, I ascend to the nest in the fissure of the cliff.

I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,

They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,

Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of

Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of

Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them plainly in their

Did I pass that way huge times ago and negligently drop them?

Gathering and showing more always and with velocity,

Infinite and omnigenous, and the like of these among them,

Not too exclusive toward the reachers of my remembrancers,

Picking out here one that I love, and now go with him on brotherly terms.

Head high in the forehead, wide between the ears,

Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground,

Eyes full of sparkling wickedness, ears finely cut, flexibly moving.

His well-built limbs tremble with pleasure as we race around and return.

Why do I need your paces when I myself out-gallop them?

Even as I stand or sit passing faster than you.

What I guess'd when I loaf'd on the grass,

What I guess'd while I lay alone in my bed,

And again as I walk'd the beach under the paling stars of the morning.

I skirt sierras, my palms cover continents,

Along the ruts of the turnpike, along the dry gulch and rivulet bed,

Weeding my onion-patch or hosing rows of carrots and parsnips,

Prospecting, gold-digging, girdling the trees of a new purchase,

Scorch'd ankle-deep by the hot sand, hauling my boat down the

Where the panther walks to and fro on a limb overhead, where the

Where the rattlesnake suns his flabby length on a rock, where the

Where the alligator in his tough pimples sleeps by the bayou,

Where the black bear is searching for roots or honey, where the

beaver pats the mud with his paddle-shaped tall;

Over the growing sugar, over the yellow-flower'd cotton plant, over

Over the sharp-peak'd farm house, with its scallop'd scum and

Over the western persimmon, over the long-leav'd corn, over the

Over the white and brown buckwheat, a hummer and buzzer there with

Over the dusky green of the rye as it ripples and shades in the breeze;

Scaling mountains, pulling myself cautiously up, holding on by low

Walking the path worn in the grass and beat through the leaves of the brush,

Where the quail is whistling betwixt the woods and the wheat-lot,

Where the bat flies in the Seventh-month eve, where the great

Where the brook puts out of the roots of the old tree and flows to

Where cattle stand and shake away flies with the tremulous

Where the cheese-cloth hangs in the kitchen, where andirons straddle

the hearth-slab, where cobwebs fall in festoons from the rafters;

Where trip-hammers crash, where the press is whirling its cylinders,

Wherever the human heart beats with terrible throes under its ribs,

Where the pear-shaped balloon is floating aloft, (floating in it

Where the life-car is drawn on the slip-noose, where the heat

hatches pale-green eggs in the dented sand,

Where the she-whale swims with her calf and never forsakes it,

Where the steam-ship trails hind-ways its long pennant of smoke,

Where the fin of the shark cuts like a black chip out of the water,

Where the half-burn'd brig is riding on unknown currents,

Where shells grow to her slimy deck, where the dead are corrupting below;

Where the dense-starr'd flag is borne at the head of the regiments,

Approaching Manhattan up by the long-stretching island,

Under Niagara, the cataract falling like a veil over my countenance,

Upon a door-step, upon the horse-block of hard wood outside,

Upon the race-course, or enjoying picnics or jigs or a good game of

At he-festivals, with blackguard gibes, ironical license,

At the cider-mill tasting the sweets of the brown mash, sucking the

At apple-peelings wanting kisses for all the red fruit I find,

At musters, beach-parties, friendly bees, huskings, house-raisings;

Where the mocking-bird sounds his delicious gurgles, cackles,

Where the hay-rick stands in the barn-yard, where the dry-stalks are

scatter'd, where the brood-cow waits in the hovel,

Where the bull advances to do his masculine work, where the stud to

the mare, where the cock is treading the hen,

Where the heifers browse, where geese nip their food with short jerks,

Where sun-down shadows lengthen over the limitless and lonesome prairie,

Where herds of buffalo make a crawling spread of the square miles

Where the humming-bird shimmers, where the neck of the long-lived

Where the laughing-gull scoots by the shore, where she laughs her

Where bee-hives range on a gray bench in the garden half hid by the

Where band-neck'd partridges roost in a ring on the ground with

Where burial coaches enter the arch'd gates of a cemetery,

Where winter wolves bark amid wastes of snow and icicled trees,

Where the yellow-crown'd heron comes to the edge of the marsh at

Where the splash of swimmers and divers cools the warm noon,

Where the katy-did works her chromatic reed on the walnut-tree over

Through patches of citrons and cucumbers with silver-wired leaves,

Through the salt-lick or orange glade, or under conical firs,

Through the gymnasium, through the curtain'd saloon, through the

Pleas'd with the native and pleas'd with the foreign, pleas'd with

Pleas'd with the homely woman as well as the handsome,

Pleas'd with the quakeress as she puts off her bonnet and talks melodiously,

Pleas'd with the tune of the choir of the whitewash'd church,

Pleas'd with the earnest words of the sweating Methodist preacher,

Looking in at the shop-windows of Broadway the whole forenoon,

flatting the flesh of my nose on the thick plate glass,

Wandering the same afternoon with my face turn'd up to the clouds,

My right and left arms round the sides of two friends, and I in the middle;

Coming home with the silent and dark-cheek'd bush-boy, (behind me

Far from the settlements studying the print of animals' feet, or the

By the cot in the hospital reaching lemonade to a feverish patient,

Nigh the coffin'd corpse when all is still, examining with a candle;

Voyaging to every port to dicker and adventure,

Hurrying with the modern crowd as eager and fickle as any,

Hot toward one I hate, ready in my madness to knife him,

Solitary at midnight in my back yard, my thoughts gone from me a long while,

Walking the old hills of Judaea with the beautiful gentle God by my side,

Speeding through space, speeding through heaven and the stars,

Speeding amid the seven satellites and the broad ring, and the

Speeding with tail'd meteors, throwing fire-balls like the rest,

Carrying the crescent child that carries its own full mother in its belly,

Storming, enjoying, planning, loving, cautioning,

Backing and filling, appearing and disappearing,

And look at quintillions ripen'd and look at quintillions green.

My course runs below the soundings of plummets.

No guard can shut me off, no law prevent me.

My messengers continually cruise away or bring their returns to me.

pike-pointed staff, clinging to topples of brittle and blue.

I take my place late at night in the crow's-nest,

We sail the arctic sea, it is plenty light enough,

Through the clear atmosphere I stretch around on the wonderful beauty,

The enormous masses of ice pass me and I pass them, the scenery is

The white-topt mountains show in the distance, I fling out my

We are approaching some great battle-field in which we are soon to

We pass the colossal outposts of the encampment, we pass with still

Or we are entering by the suburbs some vast and ruin'd city,

The blocks and fallen architecture more than all the living cities

I turn the bridgroom out of bed and stay with the bride myself,

I tighten her all night to my thighs and lips.

They fetch my man's body up dripping and drown'd.

The courage of present times and all times,

How the skipper saw the crowded and rudderless wreck of the

steamship, and Death chasing it up and down the storm,

How he knuckled tight and gave not back an inch, and was faithful of

And chalk'd in large letters on a board, Be of good cheer, we will

How he follow'd with them and tack'd with them three days and

How he saved the drifting company at last,

How the lank loose-gown'd women look'd when boated from the

How the silent old-faced infants and the lifted sick, and the

All this I swallow, it tastes good, I like it well, it becomes mine,

The mother of old, condemn'd for a witch, burnt with dry wood, her

The hounded slave that flags in the race, leans by the fence,

The twinges that sting like needles his legs and neck, the murderous

All these I feel or am.

Hell and despair are upon me, crack and again crack the marksmen,

I clutch the rails of the fence, my gore dribs, thinn'd with the

I fall on the weeds and stones,

The riders spur their unwilling horses, haul close,

Taunt my dizzy ears and beat me violently over the head with whip-stocks.

I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the

My hurts turn livid upon me as I lean on a cane and observe.

Tumbling walls buried me in their debris,

Heat and smoke I inspired, I heard the yelling shouts of my comrades,

I heard the distant click of their picks and shovels,

They have clear'd the beams away, they tenderly lift me forth.

Painless after all I lie exhausted but not so unhappy,

White and beautiful are the faces around me, the heads are bared

The kneeling crowd fades with the light of the torches.

They show as the dial or move as the hands of me, I am the clock myself.

Again the attacking cannon, mortars,

Again to my listening ears the cannon responsive.

The cries, curses, roar, the plaudits for well-aim'd shots,

The ambulanza slowly passing trailing its red drip,

Workmen searching after damages, making indispensable repairs,

The fall of grenades through the rent roof, the fan-shaped explosion,

The whizz of limbs, heads, stone, wood, iron, high in the air.

He gasps through the clot Mind not me--mind--the entrenchments.

Not one escaped to tell the fall of Alamo,

The hundred and fifty are dumb yet at Alamo,)

'Tis the tale of the murder in cold blood of four hundred and twelve

Nine hundred lives out of the surrounding enemies, nine times their

number, was the price they took in advance,

Their colonel was wounded and their ammunition gone,

They treated for an honorable capitulation, receiv'd writing and

seal, gave up their arms and march'd back prisoners of war.

Matchless with horse, rifle, song, supper, courtship,

Large, turbulent, generous, handsome, proud, and affectionate,

Bearded, sunburnt, drest in the free costume of hunters,

Not a single one over thirty years of age.

massacred, it was beautiful early summer,

The work commenced about five o'clock and was over by eight.

Some made a mad and helpless rush, some stood stark and straight,

A few fell at once, shot in the temple or heart, the living and dead

The maim'd and mangled dug in the dirt, the new-comers saw them there,

Some half-kill'd attempted to crawl away,

These were despatch'd with bayonets or batter'd with the blunts of muskets,

A youth not seventeen years old seiz'd his assassin till two more

The three were all torn and cover'd with the boy's blood.

That is the tale of the murder of the four hundred and twelve young men.

Would you learn who won by the light of the moon and stars?

List to the yarn, as my grandmother's father the sailor told it to me.

His was the surly English pluck, and there is no tougher or truer,

Along the lower'd eve he came horribly raking us.

My captain lash'd fast with his own hands.

On our lower-gun-deck two large pieces had burst at the first fire,

killing all around and blowing up overhead.

Ten o'clock at night, the full moon well up, our leaks on the gain,

The master-at-arms loosing the prisoners confined in the after-hold

They see so many strange faces they do not know whom to trust.

If our colors are struck and the fighting done?

We have not struck, he composedly cries, we have just begun our part

One is directed by the captain himself against the enemy's main-mast,

Two well serv'd with grape and canister silence his musketry and

They hold out bravely during the whole of the action.

The leaks gain fast on the pumps, the fire eats toward the powder-magazine.

He is not hurried, his voice is neither high nor low,

His eyes give more light to us than our battle-lanterns.

Two great hulls motionless on the breast of the darkness,

Our vessel riddled and slowly sinking, preparations to pass to the

The captain on the quarter-deck coldly giving his orders through a

Near by the corpse of the child that serv'd in the cabin,

The dead face of an old salt with long white hair and carefully

The flames spite of all that can be done flickering aloft and below,

The husky voices of the two or three officers yet fit for duty,

Formless stacks of bodies and bodies by themselves, dabs of flesh

Cut of cordage, dangle of rigging, slight shock of the soothe of waves,

Black and impassive guns, litter of powder-parcels, strong scent,

A few large stars overhead, silent and mournful shining,

Delicate sniffs of sea-breeze, smells of sedgy grass and fields by

the shore, death-messages given in charge to survivors,

The hiss of the surgeon's knife, the gnawing teeth of his saw,

Wheeze, cluck, swash of falling blood, short wild scream, and long,

These so, these irretrievable.

In at the conquer'd doors they crowd! I am possess'd!

Embody all presences outlaw'd or suffering,

See myself in prison shaped like another man,

It is I let out in the morning and barr'd at night.

(I am less the jolly one there, and more the silent one with sweat

My face is ash-color'd, my sinews gnarl, away from me people retreat.

I project my hat, sit shame-faced, and beg.

Give me a little time beyond my cuff'd head, slumbers, dreams, gaping,

I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake.

That I could forget the trickling tears and the blows of the

That I could look with a separate look on my own crucifixion and

The grave of rock multiplies what has been confided to it, or to any graves,

Corpses rise, gashes heal, fastenings roll from me.

Inland and sea-coast we go, and pass all boundary lines,

Our swift ordinances on their way over the whole earth,

The blossoms we wear in our hats the growth of thousands of years.

Continue your annotations, continue your questionings.

Is he waiting for civilization, or past it and mastering it?

Is he from the Mississippi country? Iowa, Oregon, California?

The mountains? prairie-life, bush-life? or sailor from the sea?

They desire he should like them, touch them, speak to them, stay with them.

Slow-stepping feet, common features, common modes and emanations,

They descend in new forms from the tips of his fingers,

They are wafted with the odor of his body or breath, they fly out of

You light surfaces only, I force surfaces and depths also.

And might tell what it is in me and what it is in you, but cannot,

And might tell that pining I have, that pulse of my nights and days.

Open your scarf'd chops till I blow grit within you,

Spread your palms and lift the flaps of your pockets,

I am not to be denied, I compel, I have stores plenty and to spare,

You can do nothing and be nothing but what I will infold you.

On his right cheek I put the family kiss,

And in my soul I swear I never will deny him.

(This day I am jetting the stuff of far more arrogant republics.)

Turn the bed-clothes toward the foot of the bed,

Let the physician and the priest go home.

By God, you shall not go down! hang your whole weight upon me.

Every room of the house do I fill with an arm'd force,

Not doubt, not decease shall dare to lay finger upon you,

I have embraced you, and henceforth possess you to myself,

And when you rise in the morning you will find what I tell you is so.

And for strong upright men I bring yet more needed help.

Heard it and heard it of several thousand years;

It is middling well as far as it goes--but is that all?

Outbidding at the start the old cautious hucksters,

Taking myself the exact dimensions of Jehovah,

Lithographing Kronos, Zeus his son, and Hercules his grandson,

Buying drafts of Osiris, Isis, Belus, Brahma, Buddha,

In my portfolio placing Manito loose, Allah on a leaf, the crucifix

With Odin and the hideous-faced Mexitli and every idol and image,

Taking them all for what they are worth and not a cent more,

Admitting they were alive and did the work of their days,

(They bore mites as for unfledg'd birds who have now to rise and fly

Accepting the rough deific sketches to fill out better in myself,

bestowing them freely on each man and woman I see,

Discovering as much or more in a framer framing a house,

Putting higher claims for him there with his roll'd-up sleeves

Not objecting to special revelations, considering a curl of smoke or

a hair on the back of my hand just as curious as any revelation,

Lads ahold of fire-engines and hook-and-ladder ropes no less to me

Minding their voices peal through the crash of destruction,

Their brawny limbs passing safe over charr'd laths, their white

foreheads whole and unhurt out of the flames;

By the mechanic's wife with her babe at her nipple interceding for

Three scythes at harvest whizzing in a row from three lusty angels

The snag-tooth'd hostler with red hair redeeming sins past and to come,

Selling all he possesses, traveling on foot to fee lawyers for his

brother and sit by him while he is tried for forgery;

What was strewn in the amplest strewing the square rod about me, and

The bull and the bug never worshipp'd half enough,

Dung and dirt more admirable than was dream'd,

The supernatural of no account, myself waiting my time to be one of

The day getting ready for me when I shall do as much good as the

By my life-lumps! becoming already a creator,

Putting myself here and now to the ambush'd womb of the shadows.

My own voice, orotund sweeping and final.

Come my boys and girls, my women, household and intimates,

Now the performer launches his nerve, he has pass'd his prelude on

climax and close.

Folks are around me, but they are no household of mine.

Ever the eaters and drinkers, ever the upward and downward sun, ever

Ever myself and my neighbors, refreshing, wicked, real,

Ever the old inexplicable query, ever that thorn'd thumb, that

Ever the vexer's hoot! hoot! till we find where the sly one hides

Ever love, ever the sobbing liquid of life,

Ever the bandage under the chin, ever the trestles of death.

To feed the greed of the belly the brains liberally spooning,

Tickets buying, taking, selling, but in to the feast never once going,

Many sweating, ploughing, thrashing, and then the chaff for payment

A few idly owning, and they the wheat continually claiming.

Whatever interests the rest interests me, politics, wars, markets,

The mayor and councils, banks, tariffs, steamships, factories,

stocks, stores, real estate and personal estate.

I am aware who they are, (they are positively not worms or fleas,)

I acknowledge the duplicates of myself, the weakest and shallowest

What I do and say the same waits for them,

Every thought that flounders in me the same flounders in them.

Know my omnivorous lines and must not write any less,

And would fetch you whoever you are flush with myself.

But abruptly to question, to leap beyond yet nearer bring;

This printed and bound book--but the printer and the

The well-taken photographs--but your wife or friend close and solid

The black ship mail'd with iron, her mighty guns in her turrets--but

the pluck of the captain and engineers?

In the houses the dishes and fare and furniture--but the host and

hostess, and the look out of their eyes?

The sky up there--yet here or next door, or across the way?

The saints and sages in history--but you yourself?

Sermons, creeds, theology--but the fathomless human brain,

And what is reason? and what is love? and what is life?

My faith is the greatest of faiths and the least of faiths,

Enclosing worship ancient and modern and all between ancient and modern,

Believing I shall come again upon the earth after five thousand years,

Waiting responses from oracles, honoring the gods, saluting the sun,

Making a fetich of the first rock or stump, powowing with sticks in

Helping the llama or brahmin as he trims the lamps of the idols,

Dancing yet through the streets in a phallic procession, rapt and

Drinking mead from the skull-cap, to Shastas and Vedas admirant,

Walking the teokallis, spotted with gore from the stone and knife,

Accepting the Gospels, accepting him that was crucified, knowing

To the mass kneeling or the puritan's prayer rising, or sitting

Ranting and frothing in my insane crisis, or waiting dead-like till

Looking forth on pavement and land, or outside of pavement and land,

Belonging to the winders of the circuit of circuits.

Frivolous, sullen, moping, angry, affected, dishearten'd, atheistical,

I know every one of you, I know the sea of torment, doubt, despair

How they contort rapid as lightning, with spasms and spouts of blood!

I take my place among you as much as among any,

The past is the push of you, me, all, precisely the same,

And what is yet untried and afterward is for you, me, all, precisely

But I know it will in its turn prove sufficient, and cannot fail.

Nor the young woman who died and was put by his side,

Nor the little child that peep'd in at the door, and then drew back

Nor the old man who has lived without purpose, and feels it with

Nor him in the poor house tubercled by rum and the bad disorder,

Nor the numberless slaughter'd and wreck'd, nor the brutish koboo

Nor the sacs merely floating with open mouths for food to slip in,

Nor any thing in the earth, or down in the oldest graves of the earth,

Nor any thing in the myriads of spheres, nor the myriads of myriads

Nor the present, nor the least wisp that is known.

I launch all men and women forward with me into the Unknown.

There are trillions ahead, and trillions ahead of them.

And other births will bring us richness and variety.

That which fills its period and place is equal to any.

I am sorry for you, they are not murderous or jealous upon me,

All has been gentle with me, I keep no account with lamentation,

On every step bunches of ages, and larger bunches between the steps,

All below duly travel'd, and still I mount and mount.

Afar down I see the huge first Nothing, I know I was even there,

I waited unseen and always, and slept through the lethargic mist,

And took my time, and took no hurt from the fetid carbon.

Faithful and friendly the arms that have help'd me.

For room to me stars kept aside in their own rings,

They sent influences to look after what was to hold me.

My embryo has never been torpid, nothing could overlay it.

The long slow strata piled to rest it on,

Monstrous sauroids transported it in their mouths and deposited it

Now on this spot I stand with my robust soul.

Crowding my lips, thick in the pores of my skin,

Jostling me through streets and public halls, coming naked to me at night,

Crying by day, Ahoy! from the rocks of the river, swinging and

Calling my name from flower-beds, vines, tangled underbrush,

Bussing my body with soft balsamic busses,

Noiselessly passing handfuls out of their hearts and giving them to be mine.

And the dark hush promulges as much as any.

And all I see multiplied as high as I can cipher edge but the rim of

Outward and outward and forever outward.

He joins with his partners a group of superior circuit,

And greater sets follow, making specks of the greatest inside them.

If I, you, and the worlds, and all beneath or upon their surfaces,

were this moment reduced back to a pallid float, it would

We should surely bring up again where we now stand,

And surely go as much farther, and then farther and farther.

not hazard the span or make it impatient,

They are but parts, any thing is but a part.

Count ever so much, there is limitless time around that.

The Lord will be there and wait till I come on perfect terms,

The great Camerado, the lover true for whom I pine will be there.

My signs are a rain-proof coat, good shoes, and a staff cut from the woods,

No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair,

I have no chair, no church, no philosophy,

I lead no man to a dinner-table, library, exchange,

But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll,

My left hand hooking you round the waist,

My right hand pointing to landscapes of continents and the public road.

Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know,

Perhaps it is everywhere on water and on land.

Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch as we go.

And in due time you shall repay the same service to me,

For after we start we never lie by again.

And I said to my spirit When we become the enfolders of those orbs,

and the pleasure and knowledge of every thing in them, shall we

And my spirit said No, we but level that lift to pass and continue beyond.

I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself.

Here are biscuits to eat and here is milk to drink,

But as soon as you sleep and renew yourself in sweet clothes, I kiss you

with a good-by kiss and open the gate for your egress hence.

You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every

Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,

To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod to me, shout,

He that by me spreads a wider breast than my own proves the width of my own,

He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher.

Wicked rather than virtuous out of conformity or fear,

Fond of his sweetheart, relishing well his steak,

Unrequited love or a slight cutting him worse than sharp steel cuts,

First-rate to ride, to fight, to hit the bull's eye, to sail a

skiff, to sing a song or play on the banjo,

Preferring scars and the beard and faces pitted with small-pox over

And those well-tann'd to those that keep out of the sun.

I follow you whoever you are from the present hour,

My words itch at your ears till you understand them.

(It is you talking just as much as myself, I act as the tongue of you,

Tied in your mouth, in mine it begins to be loosen'd.)

And I swear I will never translate myself at all, only to him or her

who privately stays with me in the open air.

The nearest gnat is an explanation, and a drop or motion of waves key,

The maul, the oar, the hand-saw, second my words.

But roughs and little children better than they.

The woodman that takes his axe and jug with him shall take me with

The farm-boy ploughing in the field feels good at the sound of my voice,

In vessels that sail my words sail, I go with fishermen and seamen

On the night ere the pending battle many seek me, and I do not fail them,

On that solemn night (it may be their last) those that know me seek me.

My face rubs to the hunter's face when he lies down alone in his blanket,

The driver thinking of me does not mind the jolt of his wagon,

The young mother and old mother comprehend me,

The girl and the wife rest the needle a moment and forget where they are,

They and all would resume what I have told them.

And I have said that the body is not more than the soul,

And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one's self is,

And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own

And I or you pocketless of a dime may purchase the pick of the earth,

And to glance with an eye or show a bean in its pod confounds the

And there is no trade or employment but the young man following it

And there is no object so soft but it makes a hub for the wheel'd universe,

And I say to any man or woman, Let your soul stand cool and composed

For I who am curious about each am not curious about God,

(No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and

Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.

I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,

In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass,

I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign'd

And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe'er I go,

Others will punctually come for ever and ever.

I see the elder-hand pressing receiving supporting,

I recline by the sills of the exquisite flexible doors,

And mark the outlet, and mark the relief and escape.

I smell the white roses sweet-scented and growing,

I reach to the leafy lips, I reach to the polish'd breasts of melons.

(No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times before.)

O suns--O grass of graves--O perpetual transfers and promotions,

If you do not say any thing how can I say any thing?

Of the moon that descends the steeps of the soughing twilight,

Toss, sparkles of day and dusk--toss on the black stems that decay

Toss to the moaning gibberish of the dry limbs.

I perceive that the ghastly glimmer is noonday sunbeams reflected,

And debouch to the steady and central from the offspring great or small.

It is not in any dictionary, utterance, symbol.

To it the creation is the friend whose embracing awakes me.

It is not chaos or death--it is form, union, plan--it is eternal

And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.

Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,

(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

and my loitering.

I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow'd wilds,

It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,

Missing me one place search another,

DayPoems Poem No. 1900

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