Walt Whitman

(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892 / New York / United States)

The City Dead-House



BY the City Dead-House, by the gate,
As idly sauntering, wending my way from the clangor,
I curious pause--for lo! an outcast form, a poor dead prostitute
brought;
Her corpse they deposit unclaim'd--it lies on the damp brick
pavement;
The divine woman, her body--I see the Body--I look on it alone,
That house once full of passion and beauty--all else I notice not;
Nor stillness so cold, nor running water from faucet, nor odors
morbific impress me;
But the house alone--that wondrous house--that delicate fair house--
that ruin!
That immortal house, more than all the rows of dwellings ever built!
Or white-domed Capitol itself, with majestic figure surmounted--or
all the old high-spired cathedrals; 10
That little house alone, more than them all--poor, desperate house!
Fair, fearful wreck! tenement of a Soul! itself a Soul!
Unclaim'd, avoided house! take one breath from my tremulous lips;
Take one tear, dropt aside as I go, for thought of you,
Dead house of love! house of madness and sin, crumbled! crush'd!
House of life--erewhile talking and laughing--but ah, poor house!
dead, even then;
Months, years, an echoing, garnish'd house--but dead, dead, dead.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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