Home  »  Leaves of Grass  »  244. To One Shortly to Die

Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Leaves of Grass. 1900.

244. To One Shortly to Die


FROM all the rest I single out you, having a message for you:

You are to die—Let others tell you what they please, I cannot prevaricate,

I am exact and merciless, but I love you—There is no escape for you.

Softly I lay my right hand upon you—you just feel it,

I do not argue—I bend my head close, and half envelope it,

I sit quietly by—I remain faithful,

I am more than nurse, more than parent or neighbor,

I absolve you from all except yourself, spiritual, bodily—that is eternal—you yourself will surely escape,

The corpse you will leave will be but excrementitious.


The sun bursts through in unlooked-for directions!

Strong thoughts fill you, and confidence—you smile!

You forget you are sick, as I forget you are sick,

You do not see the medicines—you do not mind the weeping friends—I am with you,

I exclude others from you—there is nothing to be commiserated,

I do not commiserate—I congratulate you.