Song of the Open Road
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.
The earth, that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.
From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will,
divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.
I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness.
All seems beautiful to me,
can repeat over to men and women You have done such good to me
I would do the same to you,
I will recruit for myself and you as I go,
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go,
I will toss a new gladness and roughness among them,
Whoever denies me it shall not trouble me,
Whoever accepts me he or she shall be blessed and shall bless me.
Here a great personal deed has room,
(Such a deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole race of men,
Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law and mocks all
authority and all argument against it.)
Here is the test of wisdom,
Wisdom is not finally tested in schools,
Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it to another not having it,
Wisdom is of the soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its own proof,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities and is content.
Now I re-examine philosophies and religions,
They may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not prove at all under the
spacious clouds and along the landscape and flowing currents.
Here is a man tallied–he realizes here what he has in him,
The past, the future, majesty, love.
Allons! whoever you are come travel with me!
Traveling with me you find what never tires.
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.
Allons! we must not stop here,
However sweet these laid-up stores, however convenient this dwelling
we cannot remain here,
However shelter’d this port and however calm these waters
we must not anchor here,
However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us
we are permitted to receive it but a little while.
I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes.
You shall not heap up what is call’d riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve,
You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mockings of those
who remain behind you.
Allons! after the great Companions, and to belong to them!
They too are on the road– they are the swift and majestic men–
they are the greatest women,
Enjoyers of calms of seas and storms of seas,
Sailors of many a ship, walkers of many a mile of land.
To see no possession but you may possess it,
enjoying all without labor or purchase,
abstracting the feast yet not abstracting one particle of it,
To gather the minds of men out of their brains as you encounter them,
to gather the love out of their hearts,
To know the universe itself as a road, as many roads,
as roads for traveling souls.
All parts away for the progress of souls,
All religion, all solid things, arts, governments-
all that was or is apparent upon this globe or any globe,
falls into niches and corners
before the procession of souls along the grand roads of the universe.
Forever alive, forever forward,
They go toward the best– toward something great.
Whoever you are, come forth!
You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the house,
though you built it, or though it has been built for you.
My call is the call of battle, I nourish active rebellion,
He going with me must go well arm’d,
He going with me goes often with spare diet, poverty,
angry enemies, desertions.
Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe– I have tried it– my own feet have tried it well–
be not detain’d!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten,
and the book on the shelf unopen’d!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! Let the money remain unearn’d!
Let the school stand! Mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! Let the lawyer plead in the
court, and the judge expound the law.
Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
— Walt Whitman