O Magnet South! O glistening, perfumed South! my South!
O quick mettle, rich blood, impulse, and love! good and evil! O all dear to
O dear to me my birth-things--all moving things, and the trees where I was
born, the grains, plants, rivers;
Dear to me my own slow, sluggish rivers, where they flow distant over flats
of silvery sands or through swamps;
Dear to me the Roanoke, the Savannah, the Altamahaw, the Pedee, the
Tombigbee, the Santee, the Coosa, and the Sabine--
O pensive, far away wandering, I return with my soul to haunt their banks
Again in Florida I float on transparent lakes--I float on Okeechobee--I
the hummock land, or through pleasant openings or dense forests.
I see the parrots in the woods, I see the papaw-tree, and the blossoming
Again, sailing in my coaster, on deck, I coast off Georgia, I coast up the
I see where the live-oak is growing--I see where the yellow-pine, the
scented bay-tree, the lemon and orange, the cypress, the graceful
I pass rude sea-headlands, and enter Pamlico Sound through an inlet, and
dart my vision inland;
O the cotton plant! the growing fields of rice, sugar, hemp!
The cactus, guarded with thorns--the laurel-tree, with large white flowers;
The range afar--the richness and barrenness--the old woods charged with
mistletoe and trailing moss,
The piney odour and the gloom--the awful natural stillness, Here in these
dense swamps the freebooter carries his gun, and the fugitive slave
has his concealed hut;
O the strange fascination of these half-known, half-impassable swamps,
infested by reptiles, resounding with the bellow of the alligator,
the sad noises of the night-owl and the wild-cat, and the whirr of
The mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing all the forenoon--singing
through the moon-lit night,
The humming-bird, the wild-turkey, the raccoon, the opossum;
A Tennessee corn-field--the tall, graceful, long-leaved corn--slender,
flapping, bright green, with tassels--with beautiful ears, each
well-sheathed in its husk;
An Arkansas prairie--a sleeping lake, or still bayou.
O my heart! O tender and fierce pangs--I can stand them not--I will depart!
O to be a Virginian, where I grew up! O to be a Carolinian!
O longings irrepressible! O I will go back to old Tennessee, and never
[Footnote 1: These expressions cannot be understood in a literal
sense, for Whitman was born, not in the South, but in the State
of New York. The precise sense to be attached to them may be open
to some difference of opinion.]