Walt Whitman

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; 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.

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