O the old manhood of me, my noblest joy of all!
My children and grand-children, my white hair and beard,
My largeness, calmness, majesty, out of the long stretch of my life.
O ripen’d joy of womanhood! O happiness at last!
I am more than eighty years of age, I am the most venerable mother,
How clear is my mind—how all people draw nigh to me!
What attractions are these beyond any before? what bloom more
than the bloom of youth?
What beauty is this that descends upon me and rises out of me?
O the orator’s joys!
To inflate the chest, to roll the thunder of the voice out from the
ribs and throat,
To make the people rage, weep, hate, desire, with yourself,
To lead America—to quell America with a great tongue.
O the joy of my soul leaning pois’d on itself, receiving identity
through materials and loving them, observing characters
and absorbing them,
My soul vibrated back to me from them, from sight, hearing, touch,
reason, articulation, comparison, memory, and the like,
The real life of my senses and flesh transcending my senses and flesh,
My body done with materials, my sight done with my material eyes,
Proved to me this day beyond cavil that it is not my material eyes
which finally see,
Nor my material body which finally loves, walks, laughs, shouts,
O the farmer’s joys!
Ohioan’s, Illinoisian’s, Wisconsinese’, Kanadian’s, Iowan’s, Kan-
sian’s, Missourian’s, Oregonese’ joys!
To rise at peep of day and pass forth nimbly to work,
To plough land in the fall for winter-sown crops,
To plough land in the spring for maize,
To train orchards, to graft the trees, to gather apples in the fall.
O to bathe in the swimming-bath, or in a good place along shore,
To splash the water! to walk ankle-deep, or race naked along the
O to realize space!
The plenteousness of all, that there are no bounds,
To emerge and be of the sky, of the sun and moon and flying
clouds, as one with them.
O the joy of a manly self-hood!
To be servile to none, to defer to none, not to any tyrant known
To walk with erect carriage, a step springy and elastic,
To look with calm gaze or with a flashing eye,
To speak with a full and sonorous voice out of a broad chest,
To confront with your personality all the other personalities of the
Know’st thou the excellent joys of youth?
Joys of the dear companions and of the merry word and laughing
Joy of the glad light-beaming day, joy of the wide-breath’d games?
Joy of sweet music, joy of the lighted ball-room and the dancers?
Joy of the plenteous dinner, strong carouse and drinking?
Yet O my soul supreme!
Know’st thou the joys of pensive thought?
Joys of the free and lonesome heart, the tender, gloomy heart?
Joys of the solitary walk, the spirit bow’d yet proud, the suffering
and the struggle?
The agonistic throes, the ecstasies, joys of the solemn musings day
Joys of the thought of Death, the great spheres Time and Space?
Prophetic joys of better, loftier love’s ideals, the divine wife, the
sweet, eternal, perfect comrade?
Joys all thine own undying one, joys worthy thee O soul.
O while I live to be the ruler of life, not a slave,
To meet life as a powerful conqueror,
No fumes, no ennui, no more complaints or scornful criticisms,
To these proud laws of the air, the water and the ground, proving
my interior soul impregnable,
And nothing exterior shall ever take command of me.
For not life’s joys alone I sing, repeating—the joy of death!
The beautiful touch of Death, soothing and benumbing a few
moments, for reasons,
Myself discharging my excrementitious body to be burn’d, or
render’d to powder, or buried,
My real body doubtless left to me for other spheres,
My voided body nothing more to me, returning to the purifications,
further offices, eternal uses of the earth.