Walt Whitman: Poems

Walt Whitman: Longings For Home

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,[1] 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 rattlesnake;

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

wander more!

[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.]