I sing the Body electric ;
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the
charge of the Soul.
Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own
bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they
who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the Soul?
And if the body were not the Soul, what is the Soul?
The love of the Body of man or woman balks account—
the body itself balks account ;
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is
The expression of the face balks account ;
But the expression of a well-made man appears not
only in his face ;
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the
joints of his hips and wrists ;
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of
his waist and knees—dress does not hide him ;
The strong sweet quality he has strikes
through the cotton and flannel ;
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem,
perhaps more ;
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck
The sprawl and fulness of babes, the bosoms and
heads of women, the folds of their dress, their
style as we pass in the street, the contour of
their shape downwards,
The swimmer naked in the swimming-bath, seen as he
swims through the transparent green-shine, or
lies with his face up and rolls silently to and
fro in the heave of the water,
The bending forward and backward of rowers in row
-boats—the horseman in his saddle,
Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their
open dinner-kettles, and their wives waiting,
The female soothing a child, the farmer’s daughter in
the garden or cow-yard,
The young fellow hoeing corn—the sleigh-driver
guiding his six horses through the crowd,
The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite
grown, lusty, good-natured, native-born, out on
the vacant lot at sun-down, after work,
The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love
The upper-hold and under-hold, the hair rumpled
over and blinding the eyes ;
The march of firemen in their own costumes, the play
of masculine muscle through clean-setting
trowsers and waist-straps,
The slow return from the fire, the pause when the bell
strikes suddenly again, and the listening on the
The natural, perfect, varied attitudes—the bent head,
the curv’d neck and the counting ;
Such-like I love—I loosen myself, pass freely, am at
the mother’s breast with the little child,
Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers, march
in line with the firemen, and pause, listen,
I knew a man, a common farmer—the father of
five sons ;
And in them were the fathers of sons—and in them
were the fathers of sons.
This man was of wonderful vigor, calmness, beauty
of person ;
The shape of his head, the richness and breadth of
his manners, the pale yellow and white of his
hair and beard, the immeasurable meaning
of his black eyes,
These I used to go and visit him to see—he was wise
He was six feet tall, he was over eighty years old—his
sons were massive, clean, bearded, tan-faced,
They and his daughters loved him—all who saw him
loved him ;
They did not love him by allowance—they loved him
with personal love ;
He drank water only—the blood show’d like scarlet
through the clear-brown skin of his face ;
He was a frequent gunner and fisher—he sail’d his
boat himself—he had a fine one presented to
him by a ship-joiner—he had fowling-pieces,
presented to him by men that loved him ;
When he went with his five sons and many grand-sons
to hunt or fish, you would pick him out as the
most beautiful and vigorous of the gang,
You would wish long and long to be with him—you
would wish to sit by him in the boat that you
and he might touch each other.
I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is
To stop in company with the rest at evening is
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing,
laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my
arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a
moment—what is this then?
I do not ask any more delight—I swim in it as in a
There is something in staying close to men and
women, and looking on them, and in the contact
and odor of them, that pleases the soul well ;
All things please the soul—but these please the soul
This is the female form ;
A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot ;
It attracts with fierce undeniable attraction !
I am drawn by its breath as if I were no more than a
helpless vapor—all falls aside but myself and it ;
Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth,
the atmosphere and the clouds, and what was
expected of heaven or fear’d of hell, are now
Mad filaments, ungovernable shoots play out of it, the
response likewise ungovernable !
Hair, bosom, hips, bend of legs, negligent falling
hands all diffused—mine too diffused ;
Ebb stung by the flow and flow stung by the ebb—
love-flesh swelling and deliciously aching ;
Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous,
quivering jelly of love, white-blow and
delirious juice ;
Bridegroom night of love, working surely and softly
into the prostrate dawn ;
Undulating into the willing and yielding day,
Lost in the cleave of the clasping and sweet-flesh’d
This the nucleus—after the child is born of
woman, the man is born of woman ;
This the bath of birth—this the merge of small
and large, and the outlet again.
Be not ashamed women—your privilege encloses
the rest, and is the exit of the rest,
You are the gates of the body, and you are the gates
of the soul.
The female contains all qualities and tempers them
—she is in her place and moves with perfect
She is all things duly veil’d—she is both passive and
She is to conceive daughters as well as sons, and sons
as well as daughters.
As I see my soul reflected in Nature ;
As I see through a mist, One with inexpressible
completeness and beauty,
See the bent head and arms folded over the breast—
the female I see.
The male is not less the soul nor more—he too is
in his place ;
He too is all qualities—he is action and power;
The flush of the known universe is in him ;
Scorn becomes him well, and appetite and defiance
become him well ;
The wildest largest passions, bliss that is utmost,
sorrow that is utmost become him well—pride is
for him ;
The full-spread pride of man is calming and excellent
to the soul ;
Knowledge becomes him—he likes it always—he
brings every thing to the test of himself ;
Whatever the survey, whatever the sea and the sail, he
strikes soundings at last only here ;
Where else does he strike soundings except here?
The man’s body is sacred and the woman’s body is
No matter who it is, it is sacred ;
Is it the meanest one in the laborers’ gang?
Is it one of the dull-faced immigrants
just landed on the wharf?
Each belongs here or anywhere just as much as the
well-off—just as much as you ;
Each has his or her place in the procession.
All is a procession ;
The universe is a procession with measured and
Do you know so much yourself that you call the meanest ignorant?
Do you suppose you have a right to a good sight, and
he or she has no right to a sight?
Do you think matter has cohered together from its
diffuse float—and the soil is on the surface,
and water runs and vegetation sprouts,
For you only, and not for him and her ?
A man’s Body at auction ;
I help the auctioneer—the sloven does not half know
Gentlemen look on this wonder !
Whatever the bids of the bidders they cannot be high
enough for it ;
For it the globe lay preparing quintillions of years,
without one animal or plant ;
For it the revolving cycles truly and steadily roll’d.
In this head the all-baffling brain ;
In it and below it, the makings of heroes.
Examine these limbs, red, black, or white—they are
so cunning in tendon and nerve ;
They shall be stript that you may see them.
Exquisite senses, life-lit eyes, pluck, volition,
Flakes of breast-muscle, pliant backbone and neck,
flesh not flabby, good sized arms and legs,
And wonders within there yet.
Within there runs blood,
The same old blood!
The same red-running blood!
There swells and jets a heart—there all passions,
desires, reachings, aspirations ;
Do you think they are not there because they are not
express’d in parlors and lecture-rooms?
This is not only one man—this the father of those
who shall be fathers in their turns ;
In him the start of populous states and rich republics ;
Of him countless immortal lives, with countless
embodiments and enjoyments.
How do you know who shall come from the
offspring of his offspring through the centuries?
Who might you find you have come from yourself, if
you could trace back through the centuries?
A woman’s Body at auction !
She too is not only herself—she is the teeming
mother of mothers ;
She is the bearer of them that shall grow and be
mates to the mothers.
Have you ever loved the Body of a woman?
Have you ever loved the Body of a man?
Your father—where is your father?
Your mother—is she living? have you been much
with her? and has she been much with you?
Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all,
in all nations and times, all over the earth?
If any thing is sacred, the human body is sacred,
And the glory and sweet of a man, is the token of
manhood untainted ;
And in man or woman, a clean, strong, firm-fibred
body, is more beautiful than the most beautiful face.
Have you seen the fool that corrupted his own live
body? or the fool that corrupted her own live
For they do not conceal themselves, and cannot
O my Body! I dare not desert the likes of you in
other men and women, nor the likes of the
parts of you,
I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with the
likes of the Soul, (and that they are the Soul 😉
I believe the likes of you shall stand or fall with my
poems—and that they are my poems,
Man’s, woman’s, child’s, youth’s, wife’s, husband’s,
mother’s, father’s, young man’s, young woman’s
Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears,
Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eye-brows, and the
waking or sleeping of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws,
and the jaw-hinges,
Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition,
Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the
Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula,
hind-shoulders, and the ample side-round of the chest,
Upper-arm, armpit, elbow-socket, lower-arm,
Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb,
fore-finger, finger-balls, finger-joints,
Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast,
Ribs, belly, backbone, joints of the backbone,
Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward
round, man-balls, man-root,
Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk above,
Leg fibres, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under-leg,
Ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel;
All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of
my or your body or of any one’s body, male or
The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet
The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame,
Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality,
Womanhood, and all that is a woman—and the man
that comes from woman,
The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears,
laughter, weeping, love-looks, love-perturbations and
The voice, articulation, language, whispering,
Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking,
Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing,
arm-curving and tightening,
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and
around the eyes,
The skin, the sunburnt shade, freckles, hair,
The curious sympathy one feels when feeling with the
hand the naked meat of the body,
The circling rivers the breath, and breathing it in
The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and
thence downward toward the knees,
The thin red jellies within you or within me—the
bones and the marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health ;
O I say these are not the parts and poems of the Body
only, but of the Soul,
O I say now these are the Soul !