Home  »  Leaves of Grass  »  261. The Ox Tamer

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

261. The Ox Tamer

IN a faraway northern county, in the placid, pastoral region,

Lives my farmer friend, the theme of my recitative, a famous Tamer of Oxen:

There they bring him the three-year-olds and the four-year-olds, to break them;

He will take the wildest steer in the world, and break him and tame him;

He will go, fearless, without any whip, where the young bullock chafes up and down the yard;

The bullock’s head tosses restless high in the air, with raging eyes;

Yet, see you! how soon his rage subsides—how soon this Tamer tames him:

See you! on the farms hereabout, a hundred oxen, young and old—and he is the man who has tamed them;

They all know him—all are affectionate to him;

See you! some are such beautiful animals—so lofty looking!

Some are buff color’d—some mottled—one has a white line running along his back—some are brindled,

Some have wide flaring horns (a good sign)—See you! the bright hides;

See, the two with stars on their foreheads—See, the round bodies and broad backs;

See, how straight and square they stand on their legs—See, what fine, sagacious eyes;

See, how they watch their Tamer—they wish him near them—how they turn to look after him!

What yearning expression! how uneasy they are when he moves away from them:

—Now I marvel what it can be he appears to them, (books, politics, poems depart—all else departs;)

I confess I envy only his fascination—my silent, illiterate friend,

Whom a hundred oxen love, there in his life on farms,

In the northern county far, in the placid, pastoral region.