As I wend to the shores I know not,
As I list to the dirge, the voices of men and women wreck’d,
As I inhale the impalpable breezes that set in upon me,
As the ocean so mysterious rolls toward me closer and
I too but signify at the utmost a little wash’d-up drift,
A few sands and dead leaves to gather,
Gather, and merge myself as part of the sands and drift.
O baffled, balk’d, bent to the very earth,
Oppress’d with myself that I have dared to open my
Aware now that amid all that blab whose echoes recoil
upon me I have not once had the least idea who or
what I am,
But that before all my arrogant poems the real Me stands
yet untouch’d, untold, altogether unreach’d,
Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congratulatory
signs and bows,
With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word I have
Pointing in silence to these songs, and then to the sand
I perceive I have not really understood any thing, not a
single object, and that no man ever can,
Nature here in sight of the sea taking advantage of me to
dart upon me and sting me,
Because I have dared to open my mouth to sing at all.
-Walt Whitman, "As I Ebb'd with the Ocean of Life"