From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1891-92)
A SONG FOR OCCUPATIONS
A song for occupations!
In the labor of engines and trades and the labor of fields I find
And find the eternal meanings.
Workmen and Workwomen!
Were all educations practical and ornamental well display’d out
of me, what would it amount to?
Were I as the head teacher, charitable proprietor, wise statesman,
what would it amount to?
Were I to you as the boss employing and paying you, would that
The learn’d, virtuous, benevolent, and the usual terms,
A man like me and never the usual terms.
Neither a servant nor a master I,
I take no sooner a large price than a small price, I will have my
own whoever enjoys me,
I will be even with you and you shall be even with me.
If you stand at work in a shop I stand as nigh as the nighest in
the same shop,
If you bestow gifts on your brother or dearest friend I demand as
good as your brother or dearest friend,
If your lover, husband, wife, is welcome by day or night, I must
be personally as welcome,
If you become degraded, criminal, ill, then I become so for your
If you remember your foolish and outlaw’d deeds, do you think
I cannot remember my own foolish and outlaw’d deeds?
If you carouse at the table I carouse at the opposite side of the
If you meet some stranger in the streets and love him or her, why
I often meet strangers in the street and love them.
Why what have you thought of yourself?
Is it you then that thought yourself less?
Is it you that thought the President greater than you?
Or the rich better off than you? or the educated wiser than you?
(Because you are greasy or pimpled, or were once drunk, or a
Or that you are diseas’d, or rheumatic, or a prostitute,
Or from frivolity or impotence, or that you are no scholar and
never saw your name in print,
Do you give in that you are any less immortal?)
Souls of men and women! it is not you I call unseen, unheard,
untouchable and untouching,
It is not you I go argue pro and con about, and to settle whether
you are alive or no,
I own publicly who you are, if nobody else owns.
Grown, half-grown and babe, of this country and every country, in-
doors and out-doors, one just as much as the other, I see,
And all else behind or through them.
The wife, and she is not one jot less than the husband,
The daughter, and she is just as good as the son,
The mother, and she is every bit as much as the father.
Offspring of ignorant and poor, boys apprenticed to trades,
Young fellows working on farms and old fellows working on farms,
Sailor-men, merchant-men, coasters, immigrants,
… read the full text at the Walt Whitman Archive