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

92. The City Dead-House

BY the City Dead-House, by the gate,

As idly sauntering, wending my way from the clangor,

I curious pause—for lo! an outcast form, a poor dead prostitute brought;

Her corpse they deposit unclaim’d—it lies on the damp brick pavement;

The divine woman, her body—I see the Body—I look on it alone,

That house once full of passion and beauty—all else I notice not;

Nor stillness so cold, nor running water from faucet, nor odors morbific impress me;

But the house alone—that wondrous house—that delicate fair house—that ruin!

That immortal house, more than all the rows of dwellings ever built!

Or white-domed Capitol itself, with majestic figure surmounted—or all the old high-spired cathedrals;

That little house alone, more than them all—poor, desperate house!

Fair, fearful wreck! tenement of a Soul! itself a Soul!

Unclaim’d, avoided house! take one breath from my tremulous lips;

Take one tear, dropt aside as I go, for thought of you,

Dead house of love! house of madness and sin, crumbled! crush’d!

House of life—erewhile talking and laughing—but ah, poor house! dead, even then;

Months, years, an echoing, garnish’d house—but dead, dead, dead.