'To Think Of Time' by Walt Whitman

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To think of time--of all that retrospection!
To think of to-day, and the ages continued henceforward!

Have you guess'd you yourself would not continue?
Have you dreaded these earth-beetles?
Have you fear'd the future would be nothing to you?

Is to-day nothing? Is the beginningless past nothing?
If the future is nothing, they are just as surely nothing.

To think that the sun rose in the east! that men and women were
flexible, real, alive! that everything was alive!
To think that you and I did not see, feel, think, nor bear our part!
To think that we are now here, and bear our part!10

Not a day passes--not a minute or second, without an accouchement!
Not a day passes--not a minute or second, without a corpse!

The dull nights go over, and the dull days also,
The soreness of lying so much in bed goes over,
The physician, after long putting off, gives the silent and terrible
look for an answer,
The children come hurried and weeping, and the brothers and sisters
are sent for,
Medicines stand unused on the shelf--(the camphor-smell has long
pervaded the rooms,)
The faithful hand of the living does not desert the hand of the
The twitching lips press lightly on the forehead of the dying,
The breath ceases, and the pulse of the heart ceases,20
The corpse stretches on the bed, and the living look upon it,
It is palpable as the living are palpable.

The living look upon the corpse with their eye-sight,
But without eye-sight lingers a different living, and looks curiously
on the corpse.

To think the thought of Death, merged in the thought of materials!
To think that the rivers will flow, and the snow fall, and fruits
ripen, and act upon others as upon us now--yet not act upon us!
To think of all these wonders of city and country, and others taking
great interest in them--and we taking no interest in them!

To think how eager we are in building our houses!
To think others shall be just as eager, and we quite indifferent!

(I see one building the house that serves him a few years, or seventy
or eighty years at most,30
I see one building the house that serves him longer than that.)

Slow-moving and black lines creep over the whole earth--they never
cease--they are the burial lines,
He that was President was buried, and he that is now President shall
surely be buried.

A reminiscence of the vulgar fate,
A frequent sample of the life and death of workmen,
Each after his kind:
Cold dash of waves at the ferry-wharf--posh and ice in the river,
half-frozen mud in the streets, a gray, discouraged sky
overhead, the short, last daylight of Twelfth-month,
A hearse and stages--other vehicles give place--the funeral of an old
Broadway stage-driver, the cortege mostly drivers.

Steady the trot to the cemetery, duly rattles the death-bell, the
gate is pass'd, the new-dug grave is halted at, the living
alight, the hearse uncloses,
The coffin is pass'd out, lower'd and settled, the whip is laid on
the coffin, the earth is swiftly shovel'd in,40
The mound above is flatted with the spades--silence,
A minute--no one moves or speaks--it is done,
He is decently put away--is there anything more?

He was a good fellow, free-mouth'd, quick-temper'd, not bad-looking,
able to take his own part, witty, sensitive to a slight, ready
with life or death for a friend, fond of women, gambled, ate
hearty, drank hearty, had known what it was to be flush, grew
low-spirited toward the last, sicken'd, was help'd by a
contribution, died, aged forty-one years--and that was his

Thumb extended, finger uplifted, apron, cape, gloves, strap, wet-
weather clothes, whip carefully chosen, boss, spotter, starter,
hostler, somebody loafing on you, you loafing on somebody,
headway, man before and man behind, good day's work, bad day's
work, pet stock, mean stock, first out, last out, turning-in at
To think that these are so much and so nigh to other drivers--and he
there takes no interest in them!

The markets, the government, the working-man's wages--to think what
account they are through our nights and days!
To think that other working-men will make just as great account of
them--yet we make little or no account!

The vulgar and the refined--what you call sin, and what you call
goodness--to think how wide a difference!
To think the difference will still continue to others, yet we lie
beyond the difference.50

To think how much pleasure there is!
Have you pleasure from looking at the sky? have you pleasure from
Do you enjoy yourself in the city? or engaged in business? or
planning a nomination and election? or with your wife and
Or with your mother and sisters? or in womanly housework? or the
beautiful maternal cares?
--These also flow onward to others--you and I flow onward,
But in due time, you and I shall take less interest in them.

Your farm, profits, crops,--to think how engross'd you are!
To think there will still be farms, profits, crops--yet for you, of
what avail?

What will be, will be well--for what is, is well,
To take interest is well, and not to take interest shall be well.60

The sky continues beautiful,
The pleasure of men with women shall never be sated, nor the pleasure
of women with men, nor the pleasure from poems,
The domestic joys, the daily housework or business, the building of
houses--these are not phantasms--they have weight, form,
Farms, profits, crops, markets, wages, government, are none of them
The difference between sin and goodness is no delusion,
The earth is not an echo--man and his life, and all the things of his
life, are well-consider'd.

You are not thrown to the winds--you gather certainly and safely
around yourself;
Yourself! Yourself! Yourself, forever and ever!

It is not to diffuse you that you were born of your mother and
father--it is to identify you;
It is not that you should be undecided, but that you should be
Something long preparing and formless is arrived and form'd in you,
You are henceforth secure, whatever comes or goes.

The threads that were spun are gather'd, the weft crosses the warp,
the pattern is systematic.

The preparations have every one been justified,
The orchestra have sufficiently tuned their instruments--the baton
has given the signal.

The guest that was coming--he waited long, for reasons--he is now
He is one of those who are beautiful and happy--he is one of those
that to look upon and be with is enough.

The law of the past cannot be eluded,
The law of the present and future cannot be eluded,
The law of the living cannot be eluded--it is eternal,80
The law of promotion and transformation cannot be eluded,
The law of heroes and good-doers cannot be eluded,
The law of drunkards, informers, mean persons--not one iota thereof
can be eluded.

Slow moving and black lines go ceaselessly over the earth,
Northerner goes carried, and Southerner goes carried, and they on the
Atlantic side, and they on the Pacific, and they between, and
all through the Mississippi country, and all over the earth.

The great masters and kosmos are well as they go--the heroes and
good-doers are well,
The known leaders and inventors, and the rich owners and pious and
distinguish'd, may be well,
But there is more account than that--there is strict account of all.

The interminable hordes of the ignorant and wicked are not nothing,
The barbarians of Africa and Asia are not nothing,90
The common people of Europe are not nothing--the American aborigines
are not nothing,
The infected in the immigrant hospital are not nothing--the murderer
or mean person is not nothing,
The perpetual successions of shallow people are not nothing as they
The lowest prostitute is not nothing--the mocker of religion is not
nothing as he goes.

Of and in all these things,
I have dream'd that we are not to be changed so much, nor the law of
us changed,
I have dream'd that heroes and good-doers shall be under the present
and past law,
And that murderers, drunkards, liars, shall be under the present and
past law,
For I have dream'd that the law they are under now is enough.

If otherwise, all came but to ashes of dung,100
If maggots and rats ended us, then Alarum! for we are betray'd!
Then indeed suspicion of death.

Do you suspect death? If I were to suspect death, I should die now,
Do you think I could walk pleasantly and well-suited toward

Pleasantly and well-suited I walk,
Whither I walk I cannot define, but I know it is good,
The whole universe indicates that it is good,
The past and the present indicate that it is good.

How beautiful and perfect are the animals!
How perfect the earth, and the minutest thing upon it!110

What is called good is perfect, and what is called bad is just as
The vegetables and minerals are all perfect, and the imponderable
fluids are perfect;
Slowly and surely they have pass'd on to this, and slowly and surely
they yet pass on.

I swear I think now that everything without exception has an eternal Soul!
The trees have, rooted in the ground! the weeds of the sea have! the

I swear I think there is nothing but immortality!
That the exquisite scheme is for it, and the nebulous float is for
it, and the cohering is for it;
And all preparation is for it! and identity is for it! and life and
materials are altogether for it!

Editor 1 Interpretation

To Think of Time: A Timeless Classic of Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman is one of the greatest poets of all time. His works are characterized by their free verse style and the themes of nature, democracy, and individualism. One of his notable works is "To Think of Time", a poem that explores the concept of time and its relationship to life and existence. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will examine the poem and explore its themes, language, and structure.


"To Think of Time" is a poem that explores several themes that are central to Whitman's philosophy. The poem begins with a question, "What is it in me that makes me tremble so at voices?" This question sets the tone for the poem and introduces the theme of mortality. The speaker is questioning the nature of his existence and his mortality. The poem goes on to explore the theme of time and its relationship to life. The speaker reflects on the past, present, and future and how they are interconnected. The poem also explores the theme of nature and its beauty. The speaker describes the natural world and its beauty in vivid detail, showcasing Whitman's appreciation for nature.


Whitman's language in "To Think of Time" is characteristic of his style. The poem is written in free verse, with no rhyme or meter. The language is simple and direct, making the poem accessible to readers. The use of repetition is also notable in the poem. The phrase "to think of time" is repeated throughout the poem, emphasizing its importance. There is also a use of imagery in the poem, particularly in the description of nature. The imagery of the natural world is vivid, and the use of sensory details allows the reader to visualize the beauty of nature.


The structure of "To Think of Time" is unique. The poem is divided into four sections, each exploring a different aspect of time. The first section explores the speaker's relationship to time and mortality. The second section reflects on the past and how it shapes the present. The third section explores the present moment and the beauty of nature. The final section reflects on the future and the speaker's hope for the future. The structure of the poem allows for a natural progression of ideas and themes.


"To Think of Time" is a poem that explores the nature of time and its relationship to life. The poem begins with the speaker questioning his mortality and the nature of his existence. The question "What is it in me that makes me tremble so at voices?" highlights the speaker's fear of death and his awareness of his mortality. The poem goes on to explore the theme of time and how it is connected to life. The speaker reflects on the past, present, and future and how they are all interconnected.

The second section of the poem reflects on the past and how it shapes the present. The speaker reflects on the experiences that have shaped his life, both good and bad. He acknowledges that the past cannot be changed, but it has made him who he is today.

The third section of the poem explores the present moment and the beauty of nature. The speaker describes the natural world in vivid detail, showcasing the beauty and wonder of nature. The use of sensory details allows the reader to visualize the beauty of the natural world.

The final section of the poem reflects on the future and the speaker's hope for the future. The speaker acknowledges that the future is unknown, but he is hopeful for what is to come. He is optimistic about the potential for change and growth.

Overall, "To Think of Time" is a timeless classic that explores the complex relationship between time and life. The poem is characterized by its simple language, vivid imagery, and unique structure. The themes of mortality, time, nature, and hope are central to the poem and showcase Whitman's appreciation for life and the natural world.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry To Think Of Time: An Analysis of Walt Whitman's Classic

Walt Whitman, one of the most celebrated poets of the 19th century, is known for his unique style of writing that captures the essence of American life and culture. His poem, "Poetry To Think Of Time," is a classic example of his work and is considered one of his most profound pieces. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, and literary devices used in this poem.

The poem begins with the line, "Poetry to think of time," which sets the tone for the rest of the piece. The theme of time is prevalent throughout the poem, and Whitman uses it to reflect on the past, present, and future. He starts by acknowledging the importance of time, stating that it is "the anchor of the past and the future." This line suggests that time is a constant force that holds everything together, and without it, we would be lost.

Whitman then goes on to describe the different ways in which time affects us. He talks about how time can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on how we choose to use it. He says that time can "heal all wounds" and "make the heart grow fonder," but it can also "waste away" and "destroy." This contrast between the positive and negative aspects of time highlights the complexity of this theme and shows how it can have different meanings for different people.

The structure of the poem is also worth noting. It consists of six stanzas, each with four lines. The rhyme scheme is AABB, which gives the poem a musical quality and makes it easy to read. The use of repetition is also prevalent throughout the poem, with the phrase "Poetry to think of time" appearing at the beginning of each stanza. This repetition serves to reinforce the central theme of the poem and gives it a sense of unity.

One of the most striking literary devices used in the poem is personification. Whitman personifies time, describing it as a "mighty master" and a "silent, patient spider." This personification gives time a sense of agency and power, making it seem like a force to be reckoned with. It also adds a layer of complexity to the theme of time, suggesting that it is not just a passive force but an active one that can shape our lives.

Another literary device used in the poem is imagery. Whitman uses vivid descriptions to paint a picture of time and its effects. For example, he describes time as a "stream" that "flows on and on" and a "silent, patient spider" that "weaves its web." These images help to bring the theme of time to life and make it more tangible for the reader.

The language used in the poem is also worth noting. Whitman's use of simple, everyday language makes the poem accessible to a wide audience. He avoids using complex metaphors or obscure references, instead opting for straightforward descriptions that anyone can understand. This simplicity is part of what makes Whitman's poetry so timeless and enduring.

In conclusion, "Poetry To Think Of Time" is a classic example of Walt Whitman's unique style of writing. The poem explores the theme of time and its effects on our lives, using repetition, personification, imagery, and simple language to convey its message. Whitman's ability to capture the essence of American life and culture in his poetry has made him one of the most celebrated poets of all time, and this poem is a testament to his talent and skill.

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