Walt Whitman

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

A Riddle Song

Poem by Walt Whitman

THAT which eludes this verse and any verse,
Unheard by sharpest ear, unform'd in clearest eye or cunningest mind,
Nor lore nor fame, nor happiness nor wealth,
And yet the pulse of every heart and life throughout the world
incessantly,
Which you and I and all pursuing ever ever miss,
Open but still a secret, the real of the real, an illusion,
Costless, vouchsafed to each, yet never man the owner,
Which poets vainly seek to put in rhyme, historians in prose,
Which sculptor never chisel'd yet, nor painter painted,
Which vocalist never sung, nor orator nor actor ever utter'd, 10
Invoking here and now I challenge for my song.

Indifferently, 'mid public, private haunts, in solitude,
Behind the mountain and the wood,
Companion of the city's busiest streets, through the assemblage,
It and its radiations constantly glide.

In looks of fair unconscious babes,
Or strangely in the coffin'd dead,
Or show of breaking dawn or stars by night,
As some dissolving delicate film of dreams,
Hiding yet lingering. 20

Two little breaths of words comprising it.
Two words, yet all from first to last comprised in it.

How ardently for it!
How many ships have sail'd and sunk for it!
How many travelers started from their homes and ne'er return'd!
How much of genius boldly staked and lost for it!
What countless stores of beauty, love, ventur'd for it!
How all superbest deeds since Time began are traceable to it--and
shall be to the end!
How all heroic martyrdoms to it!
How, justified by it, the horrors, evils, battles of the earth! 30
How the bright fascinating lambent flames of it, in every age and
land, have drawn men's eyes,
Rich as a sunset on the Norway coast, the sky, the islands, and the
cliffs,
Or midnight's silent glowing northern lights unreachable.

Haply God's riddle it, so vague and yet so certain,
The soul for it, and all the visible universe for it,
And heaven at last for it.


Comments about A Riddle Song by Walt Whitman

  • Konab GhummanKonab Ghumman (6/30/2019 2:26:00 PM)

    so beautiful and inspiring



    For I know very well that I and robust love belong among you, inland,
    and along the Western Sea;
    For These States tend inland, and toward the Western Sea- and I will
    also.(Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
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  • Ben Oshel (5/23/2018 9:54:00 PM)

    “I AM”(Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
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  • Kumarmani MahakulKumarmani Mahakul (4/15/2018 6:55:00 PM)

    Haply God's riddle it, so vague and yet so certain,
    The soul for it, and all the visible universe for it,
    And heaven at last for it........touching expression with nice theme. Beautiful poem.(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Ramesh T ARamesh T A (4/15/2018 6:38:00 AM)

    A great riddle heaven indeed is that cannot be defined by all great geniuses, poets, leaders and all as Whitman says!(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Bernard F. AsuncionBernard F. Asuncion (4/15/2018 3:57:00 AM)

    Such a great composition by Walt Whitman👍👍👍(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Edward Kofi LouisEdward Kofi Louis (4/15/2018 3:43:00 AM)

    Open! ! But still a secret! !

    Thanks for sharing this poem with us.(Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Shania K. YounceShania K. Younce (5/10/2014 8:32:00 PM)

    This is a beautiful poem. Bien!(Report)Reply

    5 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • Ralph Mason (12/11/2012 8:30:00 AM)

    I totally agree! I just started reading Walt Whitman and this one is my love.(Report)Reply

    8 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • Alain Ilan BraunAlain Ilan Braun (9/19/2011 7:22:00 PM)

    Just a magnificent and deep poem! It appeals to me as if it was freshly written, perhaps yesterday?
    People, poets, please comment this most beautiful song!(Report)Reply

    9 person liked.
    126 person did not like.
Read all 9 comments »



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Read poems about / on: solitude, sunset, happiness, city, song, beauty, heaven, lost, sky, god, world, night, dream, star



Poem Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002



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