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Tomorrow marks the 200th birthday of Walt Whitman, perhaps America’s first world poet. Whitman’s unrhymed compositions mixed transcendentalism with earthiness, and biblical cadences with sexual frankness. When you read him you sense boldness of imagination and voice. With a slight stretch you can hear the voice as President Trump’s – -f Trump were poetic. What follow are selections from “Leaves of Grass,” lightly edited to capture Trump’s boundless self-glorification.
“Leaves of Crass” (with apologies to Mr. Whitman)
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to you as good belongs
I loaf and invite my soul,
I lean and loaf at my ease observing a summer
I, now seventy-two years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till my fourth or fifth term
My homes and rooms are perfumed by me,
I breathe the fragrance of myself and know it
and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me, but I shall not
It is in my mouth forever, I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank of the stream and become
undisguised and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.
What is highest quality yet commonest, nearest, is Me,
Me going in for my chances, spending for vast returns,
Adorning myself to bestow myself,
Scattering Me freely forever.
The machinist rolls up his sleeves, the gate-keeper
marks who pass,
The groups of newly-come immigrants cover the
wharf or levee,
Welcomed on merit and highest Me-like quality;
The reporter’s lead flies swiftly over the unneeded
notebook, unfake and praising of Me,
The prostitute draggles her shawl and catches the
eye of Me,
President Me in cabinet council surrounded by the
great Secretaries and Generals;
And such as it is to be of these I am,
And of these one and all I weave the song of myself.
I am of the old and of the young, of the wise and of the
Of the words and of the better words and of the best
Stuff’d with the coarse and stuff’d with the fine,
A southerner soon as a northerner,
At home in southern mansion and northern mansion,
My joints the limberest joints on earth and the sternest
joints on earth,
Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion
that are the best,
Ever stuck up yet ever in my place.
These are the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands,
If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing,
If they are not as close as they are distant they
This is the grass that grows, the best grass,
This is the common air yet best air that bathes
I wear my hair as I please indoors or out.
Why should I pray? Why venerate and be
I find no sweeter flesh than sticks to my own bones.
I know I am solid and sound,
I know I am deathless, I know this orbit of mine
cannot be swept,
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate or be understood,
I see that the elementary laws never apologize,
I know the amplitude of time.
Evil propels me and the clash with evil propels me,
I stand indifferent,
I find one side a balance and the other a balance,
No doctrine as steady help as stable doctrine.
Donald Trump, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son,
Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating and breeding,
And whatever is done or said returns at last to Me.
Through Me forbidden voices,
Voices of sexes and lusts, voices veil’d and I
remove the veil,
Voices indecent by me clarified and transfigur’d,
I dote on myself, there is that lot of Me and all
My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach,
With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds
and volumes of worlds,
I hear the sound I love, my voice,
I believe a wisp of my hair is no less than the
journey-work of the stars,
And my narrowest finger-hinge puts to scorn all
I am a free companion, I bivouac with the invaders,
I turn the bridegroom out of bed and stay with the
I tighten her all night to my thighs,
I understand the large hearts of heroes.
Believing I shall come again upon the earth after
five thousand years,
I am an acme of things accomplish’d, and I an encloser
of things to be.
My rendezvous is appointed, it is certain,
I tramp a perpetual journey, come listen all!
I understand God not in the least,
Nor understand who there can be more wonderful than
The past and present wilt—I have fill’d them, emptied
And proceed to fill the next fold of the future.
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
I am large, I contain multitudes.
I sound my barbaric Yawp over the roofs of the world.