Walt Whitman: Poems

Leaves of Grass: To One Shortly To Die


From all the rest I single out you, having a message for you:

You are to die--Let others tell you what they please, I cannot prevaricate,

I am exact and merciless, but I love you--There is no escape for you.


Softly I lay my right hand upon you--you just feel it;

I do not argue--I bend my head close, and half envelop it,

I sit quietly by--I remain faithful,

I am more than nurse, more than parent or neighbour,

I absolve you from all except yourself, spiritual, bodily--that is


The corpse you will leave will be but excrementitious.

The sun bursts through in unlooked-for directions!

Strong thoughts fill you, and confidence--you smile!

You forget you are sick, as I forget you are sick,

You do not see the medicines--you do not mind the weeping friends--I am

with you,

I exclude others from you--there is nothing to be commiserated,

I do not commiserate--I congratulate you.