Walt Whitman: Poems

Leaves of Grass: Unnamed Lands


Nations, ten thousand years before these States, and many times ten

thousand years before these States;

Garnered clusters of ages, that men and women like us grew up and travelled

their course, and passed on;

What vast-built cities--what orderly republics--what pastoral tribes and


What histories, rulers, heroes, perhaps transcending all others;

What laws, customs, wealth, arts, traditions;

What sort of marriage--what costumes--what physiology and phrenology;

What of liberty and slavery among them--what they thought of death and the


Who were witty and wise--who beautiful and poetic--who brutish and


Not a mark, not a record remains,--And yet all remains.


O I know that those men and women were not for nothing, any more than we

are for nothing;

I know that they belong to the scheme of the world every bit as much as we

now belong to it, and as all will henceforth belong to it.

Afar they stand--yet near to me they stand,

Some with oval countenances, learned and calm,

Some naked and savage--Some like huge collections of insects,

Some in tents--herdsmen, patriarchs, tribes, horsemen,

Some prowling through woods--Some living peaceably on farms, labouring,

reaping, filling barns,

Some traversing paved avenues, amid temples, palaces, factories, libraries,

shows, courts, theatres, wonderful monuments.

Are those billions of men really gone?

Are those women of the old experience of the earth gone?

Do their lives, cities, arts, rest only with us?

Did they achieve nothing for good, for themselves?


I believe, of all those billions of men and women that filled the unnamed

lands, every one exists this hour, here or elsewhere, invisible to

us, in exact proportion to what he or she grew from in life, and

out of what he or she did, felt, became, loved, sinned, in life.

I believe that was not the end of those nations, or any person of them, any

more than this shall be the end of my nation, or of me;

Of their languages, governments, marriage, literature, products, games,

wars, manners, crimes, prisons, slaves, heroes, poets, I suspect

their results curiously await in the yet unseen world--counterparts

of what accrued to them in the seen world;

I suspect I shall meet them there,

I suspect I shall there find each old particular of those unnamed lands.