Trippers and askers surround me;
People I meet—the effect upon me of my early life, or the ward and city I live in, or the nation,
The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old and new,
My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues,
The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love,
The sickness of one of my folks, or of myself, or ill-doing, or loss or lack of money, or depressions or exaltations;
Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news, the fitful events;
These come to me days and nights, and go from me again,
But they are not the Me myself.
Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am;
Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary;
Looks down, is erect, or bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest,
Looking with side-curved head, curious what will come next;
Both in and out of the game, and watching and wondering at it.
Backward I see in my own days where I sweated through fog with linguists and contenders;
I have no mockings or arguments—I witness and wait.
With music strong I come—with my cornets and my drums,
I play not marches for accepted victors only—I play great marches for conquer’d and slain persons.
Have you heard that it was good to gain the day?
I also say it is good to fall—battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won.
I beat and pound for the dead;
I blow through my embouchures my loudest and gayest for them.
Vivas to those who have fail’d!
And to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea!
And to those themselves who sank in the sea!
And to all generals that lost engagements! and all overcome heroes!
And the numberless unknown heroes, equal to the greatest heroes known.
In all people I see myself—none more, and not one a barleycorn less;
And the good or bad I say of myself, I say of them.
I know I am august;
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood;
I exist as I am—that is enough;
If no other in the world be aware, I sit content;
And if each and all be aware, I sit content.
One world is aware, and by far the largest to me, and that is myself;
And whether I come to my own to-day, or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.
– Walt Whitman, On the grass