Quotations by Whitman, Walt


I know of nothing grander, better exercise, better digestion, more positive proof of the past, the triumphant result of faith in human kind, than a well-contested American national election.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
“Democratic Vistas” (1871)
Added on 20-Nov-09 | Last updated 20-Nov-09
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We try often, though we fall back often. A brave delight, fit for freedom’s athletes, fills these arenas, and fully satisfies, out of the action in them irrespective of success. Whatever we do not attain, we at any rate attain the experiences of the fight, the hardening of the strong campaign, and throb with currents of attempt at least. Time is ample. Let the victors come after us.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
“Democratic Vistas” (1871)

Full text.

Added on 23-Nov-09 | Last updated 23-Nov-09
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Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
“Passage to India,” part 13 (1871)
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Added on 12-Mar-14 | Last updated 12-Mar-14
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My enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
“Reconciliation” (1865), Leaves of Grass (1855-1892)
Added on 20-Jan-10 | Last updated 20-Jan-10
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Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
“Song of Myself,” Sec. 51 (1855)
Added on 12-Jan-15 | Last updated 12-Jan-15
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I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
“Song of Myself” (31) (1855)
Added on 20-Sep-10 | Last updated 20-Sep-10
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All the things of the universe are perfect miracles, each as profound as any.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
“Starting from Paumanok” (12) (1860), Leaves of Grass (1855-1892)
Added on 3-Oct-11 | Last updated 3-Oct-11
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I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.

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Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
“The Song of Myself” Sec. 33 (1892)
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Added on 12-Oct-16 | Last updated 12-Oct-16
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Damn all expurgated books; the dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
(Attributed)

Paraphrase of a comment by Whitman to Horace Traubel, in Traubel's memoir With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906), entry dated 9 May 1999: "Damn the expurgated books! I say damn 'em! The dirtiest book in all the world is the expurgated book." This was in discussion about William Rossetti, who had published an bowdlerized version of Whitman's Leaves of Grass. See here for more discussion.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 5-Jul-16
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Of all dangers to a nation, as things exist in our day, there can be no greater one than having certain portions of the people set off from the rest by a line drawn — they are not privileged as others, but degraded, humiliated, made of no account.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
Democratic Vistas (1871)
Added on 5-Mar-12 | Last updated 5-Mar-12
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Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself
(I am large, I contain multitudes).

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
Leaves of Grass, “Song of Myself”, Part 51 (1855)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and 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.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
Leaves of Grass, Preface (1855-1892)
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Added on 5-Mar-14 | Last updated 5-Mar-14
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What is life but an experiment? and mortality but an exercise? with reference to results beyond.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
Leaves of Grass, Preface (1872) (1855-1892)
Added on 28-Sep-11 | Last updated 28-Sep-11
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To have great poets, there must be great audiences, too.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
Specimen Days and Collect, “Ventures, on an Old Theme,” closing paragraph (1882)
Added on 22-Apr-15 | Last updated 22-Apr-15
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If we’ve got the stuff in us, if we’re dead in earnest about it, it’ll find its own way of getting out.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
Comment to Horace Traubel

In Walter Teller, ed., Walt Whitman's Camden Conversations (1973)
Added on 10-Jun-13 | Last updated 10-Jun-13
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People who serve you without love get even behind your back.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
Remark to author (18 May 1888), in Horace Traubel, Walt Whitman’s Camden Conversations, ed. W Teller (1973)
Added on 3-Feb-14 | Last updated 3-Feb-14
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I like the scientific spirit — the holding off, the being sure but not too sure, the willingness to surrender ideas when the evidence is against them: this is ultimately fine — it always keeps the way beyond open.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
Remark to the author (4 May 1888), Horace Traubel, Walt Whitman’s Camden Conversations [ed. W. Teller (1973)]
Added on 12-Feb-14 | Last updated 12-Feb-14
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