Respondez! Respondez!

Walt Whitman (1819-1892), age 37, frontispiece to Leaves of grass, Fulton St., Brooklyn, N.Y., 1855, steel engraving by Samuel Hollyer from a lost daguerreotype by Gabriel Harrison.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892), age 37, frontispiece to Leaves of grass, Fulton St., Brooklyn, N.Y., 1855, steel engraving by Samuel Hollyer from a lost daguerreotype by Gabriel Harrison.

(The war is completed–the price is paid–the title is settled
beyond recall;)
Let every one answer! let those who sleep be waked!
let none evade!
(How much longer must we go on with our affectations
and sneaking?
Let me bring this to a close—I pronounce openly for
a new distribution of roles;)
Let that which stood in front go behind! and let that
which was behind advance to the front and
Let murderers, thieves, bigots, fools, unclean persons,
offer new propositions!
Let the old propositions be postponed!
Let faces and theories be turn’d inside out! Let
meanings be freely criminal, as well as results!
Let there be no suggestion above the suggestion of
Let none be pointed toward his destination! (Say! do
you know your destination?)
Let trillions of men and women be mock’d with bodies
and mock’d with Souls!
Let the love that waits in them, wait! Let it die, or
pass still-born to other spheres!
Let the sympathy that waits in every man, wait! or let
it also pass, a dwarf, to other spheres!
Let contradictions prevail! Let one thing contradict
another! and let one line of my poems contra-
dict another!
Let the people sprawl with yearning aimless hands!
Let their tongues be broken! Let their eyes be
discouraged! Let none descend into their hearts
with the fresh lusciousness of love!
Let the theory of America be management, caste,
comparison! (Say! what other theory would
Let them that distrust birth and death lead the rest!
(Say! why shall they not lead you?)
Let the crust of hell be near’d and trod on! Let the
days be darker than the nights! Let slumber
bring less slumber than waking-time brings!
Let the world never appear to him or her for whom it
was all made!
Let the heart of the young man exile itself from the
heart of the old man! and let the heart of the
old man be exiled from that of the young man!
Let the sun and moon go! Let scenery take the ap-
plause of the audience! Let there be apathy
under the stars!
Let freedom prove no man’s inalienable right! Every
one who can tyrannize, let him tyrannize to his
Let none but infidels be countenanced!
Let the eminence of meanness, treachery, sarcasm,
hate, greed, indecency, impotence, lust, be taken
for granted above all! Let writers, judges, gov-
ernments, households, religions, philosophies,
take such for granted above all!
Let the worst men beget children out of the worst
Let the priest still play at immortality!
Let death be inaugurated!
Let nothing remain but the ashes of teachers, artists,
moralists, lawyers, and learn’d and polite per-
Let him who is without my poems be assassinated!
Let the cow, the horse, the camel, the garden-bee—Let
the mud-fish, the lobster, the mussel, eel, the
stingfish—Let these,
and the like of these, be put on a perfect equal-
ity with man and woman!
Let churches accommodate serpents, vermin, and the
corpses of those who have died of the most
filthy of diseases!
Let marriage slip down among fools, and be for none
but fools!
Let men among themselves talk and think obscenely
of women! and let women among themselves
talk and think obscenely of men!
Let every man doubt every woman! and let every
woman trick every man!
Let us all, without missing one, be exposed in public,
naked, monthly, at the peril of our lives! Let
our bodies be freely handled and examined by
whoever chooses!
Let nothing but copies be permitted to exist upon the
Let the earth desert God, nor let there never hence-
forth be mention’d the name of God!
Let there be no God!
Let there be money, business, imports, exports, cus-
tom, authority, precedents, pallor, dyspepsia,
smut, ignorance, unbelief!
Let judges and criminals be transposed! Let the
prison-keepers be put in prison! Let those that
were prisoners take the keys! (Say! why might
they not just as well be transposed?)
Let the slaves be masters! Let the masters become
Let the reformers descend from the stands where they
are forever bawling! Let an idiot or insane
person appear on each of the stands!
Let the Asiatic, the African, the European, the Ameri-
can, and the Australian, go armed against the
murderous stealthiness of each other! Let them
sleep armed! Let none believe in good will!
Let there be no unfashionable wisdom! Let such be
scorn’d and derided off from the earth!
Let a floating cloud in the sky—Let a wave of the sea
—Let growing mint, spinach, onions, tomatoes
—Let these be exhibited as shows at a great
price for admission!
Let all the men of These States stand aside for a few
smouchers! Let the few seize on what they
choose! Let the rest gawk, giggle, starve, obey!
Let shadows be furnish’d with genitals! Let substances
be deprived of their genitals!
Let there be wealthy and immense cities—but through
any of them, not a single poet, savior, knower,
Let the infidels of These States laugh all faith away!
If one man be found who has faith, let the rest
set upon him! Let them affright faith! Let
them destroy the power of breeding faith!
Let the she-harlots and the he-harlots be prudent!
Let them dance on, while seeming lasts! (O
seeming! seeming! seeming!)
Let the preachers recite creeds! Let them teach only
what they have been taught!
Let insanity have charge of sanity!
Let books take the place of trees, animals, rivers,
Let the daub’d portraits of heroes supersede heroes!
Let the manhood of man never take steps after itself!
Let it take steps after eunuchs, and after con-
sumptive and genteel persons!
Let the white person tread the black person under his
heel! (Say! which is trodden under heel, after
Let the reflections of the things of the world be studied
in mirrors! Let the things themselves continue
Let a man seek pleasure everywhere except in him-
self! Let a woman seek happiness everywhere
except in herself! (What real happiness have
you had one single time through your whole
Let the limited years of life do nothing for the limit-
less years of death! (What do you suppose
death will do, then?)

-Walt Whitman


That second line,  

(The war is completed–the price is paid–the title is settled
beyond recall;)

appears in my 19734 Random House copy, but not on the Walt Whitman archive. Any theories on that?

One comment on “Respondez!

  1. Check the history of Whitman’s revisions of Leaves of Grass. Possibly Whitman took it out. Also, look for sites with discussions of textual scholarship on Whitman. Try UVa – they have long been a major player in textual scholarship.

Leave us a reply. All replies are moderated according to our Comment Policy (see "About S&R")

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s