Walt Whitman: Poems

Leaves of Grass: The City Dead-House

By the City Dead-House, by the gate,

As idly sauntering, wending my way from the clangour,

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

Her corpse they deposit unclaimed, 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 odours morbific

impress me;

But the house alone--that wondrous house--that delicate fair house--that


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!

Unclaimed, avoided house! take one breath from my tremulous lips;

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

Dead house of love! house of madness and sin, crumbled! crushed!

House of life--erewhile talking and laughing--but ah, poor house! dead even


Months, years, an echoing, garnished house-but dead, dead, dead!