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

38. These, I, Singing in Spring

THESE, I, singing in spring, collect for lovers,

(For who but I should understand lovers, and all their sorrow and joy?

And who but I should be the poet of comrades?)

Collecting, I traverse the garden, the world—but soon I pass the gates,

Now along the pond-side—now wading in a little, fearing not the wet,

Now by the post-and-rail fences, where the old stones thrown there, pick’d from the fields, have accumulated,

(Wild-flowers and vines and weeds come up through the stones, and partly cover them—Beyond these I pass,)

Far, far in the forest, before I think where I go,

Solitary, smelling the earthy smell, stopping now and then in the silence,

Alone I had thought—yet soon a troop gathers around me,

Some walk by my side, and some behind, and some embrace my arms or neck,

They, the spirits of dear friends, dead or alive—thicker they come, a great crowd, and I in the middle,

Collecting, dispensing, singing in spring, there I wander with them,

Plucking something for tokens—tossing toward whoever is near me;

Here! lilac, with a branch of pine,

Here, out of my pocket, some moss which I pull’d off a live-oak in Florida, as it hung trailing down,

Here, some pinks and laurel leaves, and a handful of sage,

And here what I now draw from the water, wading in the pondside,

(O here I last saw him that tenderly loves me—and returns again, never to separate from me,

And this, O this shall henceforth be the token of comrades—this Calamus-root shall,

Interchange it, youths, with each other! Let none render it back!)

And twigs of maple, and a bunch of wild orange, and chestnut,

And stems of currants, and plum-blows, and the aromatic cedar:

These, I, compass’d around by a thick cloud of spirits,

Wandering, point to, or touch as I pass, or throw them loosely from me,

Indicating to each one what he shall have—giving something to each;

But what I drew from the water by the pond-side, that I reserve,

I will give of it—but only to them that love, as I myself am capable of loving.