Song of the Open Road
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road
Healthyfreethe world before me
The long brown path before me leading wher-ever
Henceforth I ask not good-fortuneI myself am
Henceforth I whimper no morepostpone no
Done with indoor complaintslibrariesquerulous
Strong and content I travel the open road.
The earththat is sufficient
I do not want the constellations any nearer
I know they are very well where they are
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.
(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens
I carry themmen and womenI carry them with
me wherever I go
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them
I am fill’d with them; and I will fill them in return.)
You road I enter upon and look aroundI believe
you are not all that is here
I believe that much unseen is also here.
Here the profound lesson of receptionnor prefer-ence
The black with his woolly headthe felonthe dis-eas’d
the illiterate personare not denied;
The birththe hasting after the physicianthe beg-gar’s
trampthe drunkard’s staggerthe laughing
party of mechanics
The escaped youththe rich person’s carriagethe
fopthe eloping couple
The early market-manthe hearsethe moving of
furniture into the townthe return back from
They passI also passany thing passesnone can be
None but are acceptednone but shall be dear to
You air that serves me with breath
You objects that call from diffusion my
meanings and give them shape!
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the
I believe you are latent with/unseen existencesyou
are so dear to me.
You flagg’d walks of the cities! you strong curbs at
You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you
timber-lined sides! you distant ships!
You rows of houses! you window-pierc’d facades!
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron
You windows whose transparent shells might
expose so much!
You doors and ascending steps! you arches!
You gray stones of interminable pavements! you
From all that has touch’d you I believe you have
imparted to yourselvesand now would impart
the same secretly to me
From the living and the dead you have peopled
your impassive surfacesand the spirits thereof
would be evident and amicable with me.
The earth expanding right hand and left hand
The picture aliveevery part in its best light
The music falling in where it is wantedand stop-ping
where it is not wanted
The cheerful voice of the public roadthe gay fresh
sentiment of the road.
O highway I traveldo you say to meDonot
Do you sayVenturenot—if you leave me you
Do you say Iamalready preparedI am wellbeaten
and undeniedadhere to me?
O public roadI say back I am not afraid to leave
youyet I love you
You express me better than I can express myself
You shall be more to me than my poem.
I think heroic deeds were all conceiv’d in the open
airand all free poems also
I think I could stop here myself and do miracles
I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall
likeand whoever beholds me shall like me
I think whoever I see must be happy.
From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and
Going where I listmy own master total and
Listening to othersconsidering well what they say
Gentlybut with undeniable willdivesting myself
of the holds that would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space
The east and the west are mineand the north and
the south are mine.
I am largerbetter than I thought
I did not know I held so much goodness.
All seems beautiful to me
I can repeat over to men and women You have
done such good to me I would do the same to
I will recruit for myself and you as I go
I will scatter myself among men and women as I
I will toss a new gladness and roughness among
Whoever denies me it shall not trouble me
Whoever accepts me he or she shall be blessed and
shall bless me.
Now if a thousand perfect men were to
appear it would not amaze me
Now if a thousand beautiful forms of
women appear’d it would not astonish me.
Now I see the secret of the making of the best per-sons
It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep
with the earth.
Here a great personal deed has room
(Such a deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole
race of men
Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law
and mocks all authority and all argument
Here is the test of wisdom
Wisdom is not finally tested in schools
Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it to
another not having it
Wisdom is of the soulis not susceptible of proofis
its own proof
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities and is
Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of
thingsand the excellence of things;
Something there is in the float of the sight of things
that provokes it out of the soul.
Now I re-examine philosophies and religions
They may prove well in lecture-roomsyet not
prove at all under the spacious clouds and along
the landscape and flowing currents.
Here is a man tallied – he realizes here what he has
The pastthe futuremajestylove – if they are
vacant of youyou are vacant of them.
Only the kernel of every object nourishes;
Where is he who tears off the husks for you and
Where is he that undoes stratagems and envelopes
for you and me?
Here is adhesivenessit is not previously fashion’d
it is apropos;
Do you know what it is as you pass to be loved by
Do you know the talk of those turning eye-balls?
Here is the efflux of the soul
The efflux of the soul comes from within through
embower’d gatesever provoking questions
These yearnings why are they? these thoughts in the
darkness why are they?
Why are there men and women that while they are
nigh me the sunlight expands my blood?
Why when they leave me do my pennants of joy
sink flat and lank?
Why are there trees I never walk under but large
and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
(I think they hang there winter and summer on
those trees and always drop fruit as I pass;)
What is it I interchange so suddenly with strangers?
What with some driver as I ride on the seat by his
What with some fisherman drawing his seine by the
shore as I walk by and pause?
What gives me to be free to a woman’s and man’s
good-will? what gives them to be free to mine?
The efflux of the soul is happinesshere is
I think it pervades the open airwaiting at all times
Now it flows unto uswe are rightly charged.
Here rises the fluid and attaching character
The fluid and attaching character is the freshness
and sweetness of man and woman
(The herbs of the morning sprout no fresher and
sweeter every day out of the roots of themselves
than it sprouts fresh and sweet continually out
Toward the fluid and attaching character exudes the
sweat of the love of young and old
From it falls distill’d the charm that mocks beauty
Toward it heaves the shuddering longing ache of
Allons! whoever you are come
travel with me!
Traveling with me you find what
The earth never tires
The earth is rudesilentincomprehensible at first
Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first
Be not discouragedkeep onthere are divine things
I swear to you there are divine things more beauti-ful
than words can tell.
Allons! we must not stop here
However sweet these laid-up storeshowever conve-nient
this dwelling we cannot remain here
However shelter’d this port and however calm these
waters we must not anchor here
However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us
we are permitted to receive it but a little while.
Allons! the inducements shall be greater
We will sail pathless and wild seas
We will go where winds blowwaves dashand the
Yankee clipper speeds by under full sail.
Allons! with powerlibertythe earththe elements
Allons! from all formules!
From your formulesO bat-eyed and materialistic
The stale cadaver blocks up the passage – the burial
waits no longer.
Allons! yet take warning!
He traveling with me needs the best bloodthews
None may come to the trial till he or she bring
courage and health
Come not here if you have already spent the best of
Only those may come who come in sweet and
No diseas’d personno rum-drinker or venereal
taint is permitted here.
(I and mine do not convince by argumentssimiles
We convince by our presence.)
Listen! I will be honest with you
I do not offer the old smooth prizesbut offer
rough new prizes
These are the days that must happen to you:
You shall not heap up what is call’d riches
You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn
You but arrive at the city to which you were des-tin’d
you hardly settle yourself to satisfaction
before you are call’d by an irresistible call to
You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and
mockings of those who remain behind you
What beckonings of love you receive you shall only
answer with passionate kisses of parting
You shall not allow the hold of those who spread
their reach’d hands toward you.
Allons! after the great Companionsand to belong
They too are on the road – they are
the swift and majestic men –
they are the greatest women
Enjoyers of calms of seas and storms of seas
Sailors of many a shipwalkers of many a mile of
Habitués of many distant countrieshabitués of far-distant
Trusters of men and womenobservers of cities
Pausers and contemplators of tuftsblossomsshells
of the shore
Dancers at wedding-danceskissers of bridesten-der
helpers of childrenbearers of children
Soldiers of revoltsstanders by gaping graveslow-erers-
down of coffins
Journeyers over consecutive seasonsover the years
the curious years each emerging from that
which preceded it
Journeyers as with companionsnamely their own
Forth-steppers from the latent unrealized baby-days
Journeyers gayly with their own youthjourneyers
with their bearded and well-grain’d manhood
Journeyers with their womanhoodampleunsur-pass’d
Journeyers with their own sublime old age of man-hood
Old agecalmexpandedbroad with the haughty
breadth of the universe
Old ageflowing free with the delicious near-by
freedom of death.
Allons! to that which
is endless as it was
To undergo muchtramps of daysrests of nights
aa.Tomerge all in the travel they tend toand the days
and nights they tend to
Again to merge them in the start of superior jour-neys
To see nothing anywhere but what you may reach it
and pass it
To conceive no timehowever distantbut what you
may reach it and pass it
To look up or down no road but it stretches and
waits for youhowever long but it stretches and
waits for you
To see no beingnot God’s or anybut you also go
To see no possession but you may possess itenjoy-ing
all without labor or purchaseabstracting
the feast yet not abstracting one particle of it
To take the best of the farmer’s farm and the rich
man’s elegant villaand the chaste blessings of
the well-married coupleand the fruits of
orchards and flowers of gardens
To take to your use out of the compact cities as you
To carry buildings and streets with you afterward
wherever you go
To gather the minds of men out of their brains as
you encounter themto gather the love out of
To take your lovers on the road with youfor all
that you leave them behind you
To know the universe itself as a roadas many
roadsas roads for traveling souls.
All parts away for the progress of souls
All religionall solid thingsartsgovernments – all
that was or is apparent upon this globe or any
globefalls into niches and corners before the
procession of souls along the grand roads of the
Of the progress of the souls of men and women
along the grand roads of the universeall other
progress is the needed emblem and sustenance.
Forever aliveforever forward
Desperateproudfondsickaccepted by men
rejected by men
They go! they go! I know that they gobut I know
not where they go
But I know that they go toward the best – toward
Whoever you arecome forth! or man or woman
You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the
housethough you built itor though it has been
built for you.
Out of the dark confinement! out from behind the
It is useless to protestI know all and expose it.
Behold through you as bad as the rest
Through the laughterdancingdiningsuppingof
Inside of dresses and ornamentsinside of those
wash’d and trimm’d faces
Behold a secret silent loathing and despair.
No husbandno wifeno friendtrusted to hear the
Another selfa duplicate of every oneskulking and
hiding it goes
Formless and wordless through the streets of the
citiespolite and bland in the parlors
In the cars of railroadsin steamboatsin the public
Home to the houses of men and womenat the
tablein the bedroomeverywhere
Smartly attiredcountenance smilingform upright
death under the breast-boneshell under the
Under the broadcloth and glovesunder the rib-bons
and artificial flowers
Keeping fair with the customsspeaking not a sylla-ble
Speaking of any thing else but never of itself.
Allons! through struggles and wars!
The goal that was named cannot be countermand-ed.
Have the past struggles succeeded?
What has succeeded? yourself? your nation?
Now understand me well – it is provided in the
essence of things that from any fruition of suc-cess
no matter whatshall come forth some-thing
to make a greater struggle necessary.
My call is the call of battleI nourish active rebel-lion
He going with me must go well arm’d
He going with me goes often with spare dietpover-ty
Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe – I have tried it –
my own feet have tried it
well – be not detain’d!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwrittenand
the book on the shelf unopen’d!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the
money remain unearn’d!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer
plead in the courtand the judge expound the
CameradoI give you my hand!
I give you my love more precise than money
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
his digital rendition of Walt Whitman’sSongof the
Open Roadtakeson new significance as our digital
highways converge. Great poems do that. They outlive their
own time and enter the future not as old poemsbut as fresh
metaphors reminding us of how our future is linked to our
past. In this digital edition ofSongof the Open Roadno
doubt accessed by its readers over an electronic network
Walt Whitman speaks to a new breed of readers the same
way he spoke to the travelers of the 19th century…Rejoice
in the pathways of discovery.
Song of the Open Roadisone of dozens of poems in Walt
Whitman’s masterpieceLeavesof Grassavailable in book-stores
across the world in dozens of languages. A book with
a unique pastas well as an unique authorit should be
required reading for anyone wishing access on any road
highwayor any other of life’s journeys.
The following is an excerpt from Whitman’sPrefaceto the
1855 Edition ofLeavesof Grass.
The land and seathe animals fishes and birdsthe sky
of heaven and the orbsthe forests mountains and rivers
are not small themes… but folks expect of the poet to
indicate more than the beauty and dignity which always
attach to dumb real objects… they expect him to indi-cate
the path between reality and their souls. Men and
women perceive the beauty well enough… probably as
well as he. The passionate tenacity of hunterswoodmen
early riserscultivators of gardens and orchards and
fieldsthe love of healthy women for the manly form
seafaring personsdrivers of horsesthe passion for light
and the open airall is an old varied sign of the unfailing
perception of beauty and of a residence of the poetic in
outdoor people. They can never be assisted by poets to
perceive… some may but they never can. The poetic
quality is not marshalled in rhyme or uniformity or
abstract addresses to things nor in melancholy com-plaints
or good preceptsbut is the life of these and
much else and is in the soul. The profit of rhyme is that
it drops seeds of a sweeter and more luxuriant rhyme
and of uniformity that it conveys itself into its own roots
in the ground out of sight. The rhyme and uniformity of
perfect poems show the free growth of metrical laws and
bud from them as unerringly and loosely as lilacs or
roses on a bushand take shapes as compact as the
shapes of chestnuts and oranges and melons and pears
and shed the perfume impalpable to form. The fluency
and ornaments of the finest poems or music or orations
or recitations are not independent but dependent. All
beauty comes from beautiful blood and a beautiful
brain. If the greatnesses are in conjunction in a man or
woman it is enough… the fact will prevail through the
universe… but the gaggery and gilt of a million years
will not prevail. Who troubles himself about his orna-ments
or fluency is lost. This is what you shall do: Love
the earth and sun and the animalsdespise richesgive
alms to every one that asksstand up for the stupid and
crazydevote your income and labor to othershate
tyrantsargue not concerning Godhave patience and
indulgence toward the peopletake off your hat to noth-ing
known or unknown or to any man or number of
mengo freely with powerful uneducated persons and
with the young and with the mothers of familiesread
these leaves in the open air every season of every year of
your lifereexamine all you have been told at school or
church or in any bookdismiss whatever insults your
own souland your very flesh shall be a great poem and
have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the
silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of
your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body…
The poet shall not spend his time in unneeded work. He
shall know that the ground is always ready plowed and
manured… others may not know it but he shall. He
shall go directly to the creation. His trust shall master
the trust of everything he touches… and shall master all
Adobe PressMountain ViewCalifornia
Designed and Edited by Patrick Ames
Digitally mastered in Adobe Acrobat™. Adobe and Acrobat are trade-marks
of Adobe Systems Incorporated which may be registered in certain
The text ofSongof the Road andthe 1855 Preface is public domain. This
digital broadside may be distributed freelyand only freelywithoutpermis-sion
being required from Adobe Systems Incorporated. All other items and
text are copyrighted. © 1994 by Adobe Systems Incorporated. The informa-tion
in this work is furnished for informational use only. Adobe Systems
Incorporated assumes no responsibilities for any errors or inaccuracies that
may appear. The software and typefaces mentioned in this work are fur-nished
under license and may only be used or copied in accordance with
the terms of such license.