Leaves of Grass

Book XXXI: Thou Mother with Thy Equal Brood


Thou Mother with thy equal brood,

Thou varied chain of different States, yet one identity only,

A special song before I go I'd sing o'er all the rest,

For thee, the future.

I'd sow a seed for thee of endless Nationality,

I'd fashion thy ensemble including body and soul,

I'd show away ahead thy real Union, and how it may be accomplish'd.

The paths to the house I seek to make,

But leave to those to come the house itself.

Belief I sing, and preparation;

As Life and Nature are not great with reference to the present only,

But greater still from what is yet to come,

Out of that formula for thee I sing.


As a strong bird on pinions free,

Joyous, the amplest spaces heavenward cleaving,

Such be the thought I'd think of thee America,

Such be the recitative I'd bring for thee.

The conceits of the poets of other lands I'd bring thee not,

Nor the compliments that have served their turn so long,

Nor rhyme, nor the classics, nor perfume of foreign court or indoor


But an odor I'd bring as from forests of pine in Maine, or breath of

an Illinois prairie,

With open airs of Virginia or Georgia or Tennessee, or from Texas

uplands, or Florida's glades,

Or the Saguenay's black stream, or the wide blue spread of Huron,

With presentment of Yellowstone's scenes, or Yosemite,

And murmuring under, pervading all, I'd bring the rustling sea-sound,

That endlessly sounds from the two Great Seas of the world.

And for thy subtler sense subtler refrains dread Mother,

Preludes of intellect tallying these and thee, mind-formulas fitted

for thee, real and sane and large as these and thee,

Thou! mounting higher, diving deeper than we knew, thou

transcendental Union!

By thee fact to be justified, blended with thought,

Thought of man justified, blended with God,

Through thy idea, lo, the immortal reality!

Through thy reality, lo, the immortal idea!


Brain of the New World, what a task is thine,

To formulate the Modern - out of the peerless grandeur of the modern,

Out of thyself, comprising science, to recast poems, churches, art,

(Recast, may-be discard them, end them - maybe their work is done,

who knows?)

By vision, hand, conception, on the background of the mighty past, the dead,

To limn with absolute faith the mighty living present.

And yet thou living present brain, heir of the dead, the Old World brain,

Thou that lay folded like an unborn babe within its folds so long,

Thou carefully prepared by it so long - haply thou but unfoldest it,

only maturest it,

It to eventuate in thee - the essence of the by-gone time contain'd in thee,

Its poems, churches, arts, unwitting to themselves, destined with

reference to thee;

Thou but the apples, long, long, long a-growing,

The fruit of all the Old ripening to-day in thee.


Sail, sail thy best, ship of Democracy,

Of value is thy freight, 'tis not the Present only,

The Past is also stored in thee,

Thou holdest not the venture of thyself alone, not of the Western

continent alone,

Earth's resume entire floats on thy keel O ship, is steadied by thy spars,

With thee Time voyages in trust, the antecedent nations sink or

swim with thee,

With all their ancient struggles, martyrs, heroes, epics, wars, thou

bear'st the other continents,

Theirs, theirs as much as thine, the destination-port triumphant;

Steer then with good strong hand and wary eye O helmsman, thou

carriest great companions,

Venerable priestly Asia sails this day with thee,

And royal feudal Europe sails with thee.


Beautiful world of new superber birth that rises to my eyes,

Like a limitless golden cloud filling the westernr sky,

Emblem of general maternity lifted above all,

Sacred shape of the bearer of daughters and sons,

Out of thy teeming womb thy giant babes in ceaseless procession issuing,

Acceding from such gestation, taking and giving continual strength

and life,

World of the real - world of the twain in one,

World of the soul, born by the world of the real alone, led to

identity, body, by it alone,

Yet in beginning only, incalculable masses of composite precious materials,

By history's cycles forwarded, by every nation, language, hither sent,

Ready, collected here, a freer, vast, electric world, to be

constructed here,

(The true New World, the world of orbic science, morals, literatures

to come,)

Thou wonder world yet undefined, unform'd, neither do I define thee,

How can I pierce the impenetrable blank of the future?

I feel thy ominous greatness evil as well as good,

I watch thee advancing, absorbing the present, transcending the past,

I see thy light lighting, and thy shadow shadowing, as if the entire globe,

But I do not undertake to define thee, hardly to comprehend thee,

I but thee name, thee prophesy, as now,

I merely thee ejaculate!

Thee in thy future,

Thee in thy only permanent life, career, thy own unloosen'd mind,

thy soaring spirit,

Thee as another equally needed sun, radiant, ablaze, swift-moving,

fructifying all,

Thee risen in potent cheerfulness and joy, in endless great hilarity,

Scattering for good the cloud that hung so long, that weigh'd so

long upon the mind of man,

The doubt, suspicion, dread, of gradual, certain decadence of man;

Thee in thy larger, saner brood of female, male - thee in thy

athletes, moral, spiritual, South, North, West, East,

(To thy immortal breasts, Mother of All, thy every daughter, son,

endear'd alike, forever equal,)

Thee in thy own musicians, singers, artists, unborn yet, but certain,

Thee in thy moral wealth and civilization, (until which thy proudest

material civilization must remain in vain,)

Thee in thy all-supplying, all-enclosing worship - thee in no single

bible, saviour, merely,

Thy saviours countless, latent within thyself, thy bibles incessant

within thyself, equal to any, divine as any,

(Thy soaring course thee formulating, not in thy two great wars, nor

in thy century's visible growth,

But far more in these leaves and chants, thy chants, great Mother!)

Thee in an education grown of thee, in teachers, studies, students,

born of thee,

Thee in thy democratic fetes en-masse, thy high original festivals,

operas, lecturers, preachers,

Thee in thy ultimate, (the preparations only now completed, the

edifice on sure foundations tied,)

Thee in thy pinnacles, intellect, thought, thy topmost rational

joys, thy love and godlike aspiration,

In thy resplendent coming literati, thy full-lung'd orators, thy

sacerdotal bards, kosmic savans,

These! these in thee, (certain to come,) to-day I prophesy.


Land tolerating all, accepting all, not for the good alone, all good

for thee,

Land in the realms of God to be a realm unto thyself,

Under the rule of God to be a rule unto thyself.

(Lo, where arise three peerless stars,

To be thy natal stars my country, Ensemble, Evolution, Freedom,

Set in the sky of Law.)

Land of unprecedented faith, God's faith,

Thy soil, thy very subsoil, all upheav'd,

The general inner earth so long so sedulously draped over, now hence

for what it is boldly laid bare,

Open'd by thee to heaven's light for benefit or bale.

Not for success alone,

Not to fair-sail unintermitted always,

The storm shall dash thy face, the murk of war and worse than war

shall cover thee all over,

(Wert capable of war, its tug and trials? be capable of peace, its trials,

For the tug and mortal strain of nations come at last in prosperous

peace, not war;)

In many a smiling mask death shall approach beguiling thee, thou in

disease shalt swelter,

The livid cancer spread its hideous claws, clinging upon thy

breasts, seeking to strike thee deep within,

Consumption of the worst, moral consumption, shall rouge thy face

with hectic,

But thou shalt face thy fortunes, thy diseases, and surmount them all,

Whatever they are to-day and whatever through time they may be,

They each and all shall lift and pass away and cease from thee,

While thou, Time's spirals rounding, out of thyself, thyself still

extricating, fusing,

Equable, natural, mystical Union thou, (the mortal with immortal blent,)

Shalt soar toward the fulfilment of the future, the spirit of the

body and the mind,

The soul, its destinies.

The soul, its destinies, the real real,

(Purport of all these apparitions of the real;)

In thee America, the soul, its destinies,

Thou globe of globes! thou wonder nebulous!

By many a throe of heat and cold convuls'd, (by these thyself solidifying,)

Thou mental, moral orb - thou New, indeed new, Spiritual World!

The Present holds thee not - for such vast growth as thine,

For such unparallel'd flight as thine, such brood as thine,

The FUTURE only holds thee and can hold thee.

A Paumanok Picture

Two boats with nets lying off the sea-beach, quite still,

Ten fishermen waiting - they discover a thick school of mossbonkers

- they drop the join'd seine-ends in the water,

The boats separate and row off, each on its rounding course to the

beach, enclosing the mossbonkers,

The net is drawn in by a windlass by those who stop ashore,

Some of the fishermen lounge in their boats, others stand

ankle-deep in the water, pois'd on strong legs,

The boats partly drawn up, the water slapping against them,

Strew'd on the sand in heaps and windrows, well out from the water,

the green-back'd spotted mossbonkers.