'Passage To India' by Walt Whitman

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SINGING my days,
Singing the great achievements of the present,
Singing the strong, light works of engineers,
Our modern wonders, (the antique ponderous Seven outvied,)
In the Old World, the east, the Suez canal,
The New by its mighty railroad spann'd,
The seas inlaid with eloquent, gentle wires,
I sound, to commence, the cry, with thee, O soul,
The Past! the Past! the Past!

The Past! the dark, unfathom'd retrospect!10
The teeming gulf! the sleepers and the shadows!
The past! the infinite greatness of the past!
For what is the present, after all, but a growth out of the past?
(As a projectile, form'd, impell'd, passing a certain line, still
keeps on,
So the present, utterly form'd, impell'd by the past.)

Passage, O soul, to India!
Eclaircise the myths Asiatic--the primitive fables.

Not you alone, proud truths of the world!
Nor you alone, ye facts of modern science!
But myths and fables of eld--Asia's, Africa's fables!20
The far-darting beams of the spirit!--the unloos'd dreams!
The deep diving bibles and legends;
The daring plots of the poets--the elder religions;
--O you temples fairer than lilies, pour'd over by the rising sun!
O you fables, spurning the known, eluding the hold of the known,
mounting to heaven!
You lofty and dazzling towers, pinnacled, red as roses, burnish'd
with gold!
Towers of fables immortal, fashion'd from mortal dreams!
You too I welcome, and fully, the same as the rest;
You too with joy I sing.

Passage to India!30
Lo, soul! seest thou not God's purpose from the first?
The earth to be spann'd, connected by net-work,
The people to become brothers and sisters,
The races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage,
The oceans to be cross'd, the distant brought near,
The lands to be welded together.

(A worship new, I sing;
You captains, voyagers, explorers, yours!
You engineers! you architects, machinists, your!
You, not for trade or transportation only,40
But in God's name, and for thy sake, O soul.)

Passage to India!
Lo, soul, for thee, of tableaus twain,
I see, in one, the Suez canal initiated, open'd,
I see the procession of steamships, the Empress Eugenie's leading the
I mark, from on deck, the strange landscape, the pure sky, the level
sand in the distance;
I pass swiftly the picturesque groups, the workmen gather'd,
The gigantic dredging machines.

In one, again, different, (yet thine, all thine, O soul, the same,)
I see over my own continent the Pacific Railroad, surmounting every
I see continual trains of cars winding along the Platte, carrying
freight and passengers;
I hear the locomotives rushing and roaring, and the shrill steam-
I hear the echoes reverberate through the grandest scenery in the
I cross the Laramie plains--I note the rocks in grotesque shapes--the
I see the plentiful larkspur and wild onions--the barren, colorless,
I see in glimpses afar, or towering immediately above me, the great
mountains--I see the Wind River and the Wahsatch mountains;
I see the Monument mountain and the Eagle's Nest--I pass the
Promontory--I ascend the Nevadas;
I scan the noble Elk mountain, and wind around its base;
I see the Humboldt range--I thread the valley and cross the river,
I see the clear waters of Lake Tahoe--I see forests of majestic
Or, crossing the great desert, the alkaline plains, I behold
enchanting mirages of waters and meadows;
Marking through these, and after all, in duplicate slender lines,
Bridging the three or four thousand miles of land travel,
Tying the Eastern to the Western sea,
The road between Europe and Asia.

(Ah Genoese, thy dream! thy dream!
Centuries after thou art laid in thy grave,
The shore thou foundest verifies thy dream!)

Passage to India!
Struggles of many a captain--tales of many a sailor dead!70
Over my mood, stealing and spreading they come,
Like clouds and cloudlets in the unreach'd sky.

Along all history, down the slopes,
As a rivulet running, sinking now, and now again to the surface
A ceaseless thought, a varied train--Lo, soul! to thee, thy sight,
they rise,
The plans, the voyages again, the expeditions:
Again Vasco de Gama sails forth;
Again the knowledge gain'd, the mariner's compass,
Lands found, and nations born--thou born, America, (a hemisphere
For purpose vast, man's long probation fill'd,80
Thou, rondure of the world, at last accomplish'd.

O, vast Rondure, swimming in space!
Cover'd all over with visible power and beauty!
Alternate light and day, and the teeming, spiritual darkness;
Unspeakable, high processions of sun and moon, and countless stars,
Below, the manifold grass and waters, animals, mountains, trees;
With inscrutable purpose--some hidden, prophetic intention;
Now, first, it seems, my thought begins to span thee.

Down from the gardens of Asia, descending, radiating,
Adam and Eve appear, then their myriad progeny after them,90
Wandering, yearning, curious--with restless explorations,
With questionings, baffled, formless, feverish--with never-happy
With that sad, incessant refrain, Wherefore, unsatisfied Soul? and
Whither, O mocking Life?

Ah, who shall soothe these feverish children?
Who justify these restless explorations?
Who speak the secret of impassive Earth?
Who bind it to us? What is this separate Nature, so unnatural?
What is this Earth, to our affections? (unloving earth, without a
throb to answer ours;
Cold earth, the place of graves.)

Yet, soul, be sure the first intent remains--and shall be carried
(Perhaps even now the time has arrived.)

After the seas are all cross'd, (as they seem already cross'd,)
After the great captains and engineers have accomplish'd their work,
After the noble inventors--after the scientists, the chemist, the
geologist, ethnologist,
Finally shall come the Poet, worthy that name;
The true Son of God shall come, singing his songs.

Then, not your deeds only, O voyagers, O scientists and inventors,
shall be justified,
All these hearts, as of fretted children, shall be sooth'd,
All affection shall be fully responded to--the secret shall be told;
All these separations and gaps shall be taken up, and hook'd and
link'd together;110
The whole Earth--this cold, impassive, voiceless Earth, shall be
completely justified;
Trinitas divine shall be gloriously accomplish'd and compacted by the
the Son of God, the poet,
(He shall indeed pass the straits and conquer the mountains,
He shall double the Cape of Good Hope to some purpose;)
Nature and Man shall be disjoin'd and diffused no more,
The true Son of God shall absolutely fuse them.

Year at whose open'd, wide-flung door I sing!
Year of the purpose accomplish'd!
Year of the marriage of continents, climates and oceans!
(No mere Doge of Venice now, wedding the Adriatic;)120
I see, O year, in you, the vast terraqueous globe, given, and giving
Europe to Asia, Africa join'd, and they to the New World;
The lands, geographies, dancing before you, holding a festival
As brides and bridegrooms hand in hand.

Passage to India!
Cooling airs from Caucasus far, soothing cradle of man,
The river Euphrates flowing, the past lit up again.

Lo, soul, the retrospect, brought forward;
The old, most populous, wealthiest of Earth's lands,
The streams of the Indus and the Ganges, and their many
(I, my shores of America walking to-day, behold, resuming all,)
The tale of Alexander, on his warlike marches, suddenly dying,
On one side China, and on the other side Persia and Arabia,
To the south the great seas, and the Bay of Bengal;
The flowing literatures, tremendous epics, religions, castes,
Old occult Brahma, interminably far back--the tender and junior
Central and southern empires, and all their belongings, possessors,
The wars of Tamerlane, the reign of Aurungzebe,
The traders, rulers, explorers, Moslems, Venetians, Byzantium, the
Arabs, Portuguese,
The first travelers, famous yet, Marco Polo, Batouta the Moor,140
Doubts to be solv'd, the map incognita, blanks to be fill'd,
The foot of man unstay'd, the hands never at rest,
Thyself, O soul, that will not brook a challenge.

The medieval navigators rise before me,
The world of 1492, with its awaken'd enterprise;
Something swelling in humanity now like the sap of the earth in
The sunset splendor of chivalry declining.

And who art thou, sad shade?
Gigantic, visionary, thyself a visionary,
With majestic limbs, and pious, beaming eyes,150
Spreading around, with every look of thine, a golden world,
Enhuing it with gorgeous hues.

As the chief histrion,
Down to the footlights walks, in some great scena,
Dominating the rest, I see the Admiral himself,
(History's type of courage, action, faith;)
Behold him sail from Palos, leading his little fleet;
His voyage behold--his return--his great fame,
His misfortunes, calumniators--behold him a prisoner, chain'd,
Behold his dejection, poverty, death.160

(Curious, in time, I stand, noting the efforts of heroes;
Is the deferment long? bitter the slander, poverty, death?
Lies the seed unreck'd for centuries in the ground? Lo! to God's due
Uprising in the night, it sprouts, blooms,
And fills the earth with use and beauty.)

Passage indeed, O soul, to primal thought!
Not lands and seas alone--thy own clear freshness,
The young maturity of brood and bloom;
To realms of budding bibles.

O soul, repressless, I with thee, and thou with me,170
Thy circumnavigation of the world begin;
Of man, the voyage of his mind's return,
To reason's early paradise,
Back, back to wisdom's birth, to innocent intuitions,
Again with fair Creation.

O we can wait no longer!
We too take ship, O soul!
Joyous, we too launch out on trackless seas!
Fearless, for unknown shores, on waves of extasy to sail,
Amid the wafting winds, (thou pressing me to thee, I thee to me, O
Caroling free--singing our song of God,
Chanting our chant of pleasant exploration.

With laugh, and many a kiss,
(Let others deprecate--let others weep for sin, remorse,
O soul, thou pleasest me--I thee.

Ah, more than any priest, O soul, we too believe in God;
But with the mystery of God we dare not dally.

O soul, thou pleasest me--I thee;
Sailing these seas, or on the hills, or waking in the night,
Thoughts, silent thoughts, of Time, and Space, and Death, like waters
Bear me, indeed, as through the regions infinite,
Whose air I breathe, whose ripples hear--lave me all over;
Bathe me, O God, in thee--mounting to thee,
I and my soul to range in range of thee.

O Thou transcendant!
Nameless--the fibre and the breath!
Light of the light--shedding forth universes--thou centre of them!
Thou mightier centre of the true, the good, the loving!
Thou moral, spiritual fountain! affection's source! thou reservoir!
(O pensive soul of me! O thirst unsatisfied! waitest not there?200
Waitest not haply for us, somewhere there, the Comrade perfect?)
Thou pulse! thou motive of the stars, suns, systems,
That, circling, move in order, safe, harmonious,
Athwart the shapeless vastnesses of space!

How should I think--how breathe a single breath--how speak--if, out
of myself,
I could not launch, to those, superior universes?

Swiftly I shrivel at the thought of God,
At Nature and its wonders, Time and Space and Death,
But that I, turning, call to thee, O soul, thou actual Me,
And lo! thou gently masterest the orbs,210
Thou matest Time, smilest content at Death,
And fillest, swellest full, the vastnesses of Space.

Greater than stars or suns,
Bounding, O soul, thou journeyest forth;
--What love, than thine and ours could wider amplify?
What aspirations, wishes, outvie thine and ours, O soul?
What dreams of the ideal? what plans of purity, perfection, strength?
What cheerful willingness, for others' sake, to give up all?
For others' sake to suffer all?

Reckoning ahead, O soul, when thou, the time achiev'd,220
(The seas all cross'd, weather'd the capes, the voyage done,)
Surrounded, copest, frontest God, yieldest, the aim attain'd,
As, fill'd with friendship, love complete, the Elder Brother found,
The Younger melts in fondness in his arms.

Passage to more than India!
Are thy wings plumed indeed for such far flights?
O Soul, voyagest thou indeed on voyages like these?
Disportest thou on waters such as these?
Soundest below the Sanscrit and the Vedas?
Then have thy bent unleash'd.230

Passage to you, your shores, ye aged fierce enigmas!
Passage to you, to mastership of you, ye strangling problems!
You, strew'd with the wrecks of skeletons, that, living, never
reach'd you.

Passage to more than India!
O secret of the earth and sky!
Of you, O waters of the sea! O winding creeks and rivers!
Of you, O woods and fields! Of you, strong mountains of my land!
Of you, O prairies! Of you, gray rocks!
O morning red! O clouds! O rain and snows!
O day and night, passage to you!240

O sun and moon, and all you stars! Sirius and Jupiter!
Passage to you!

Passage--immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins!
Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers--haul out--shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell'd here long enough, eating and drinking like mere
Have we not darken'd and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;250
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!

Editor 1 Interpretation

Passage To India: A Journey Through Time and Space

Walt Whitman, one of America's greatest poets of the 19th century, wrote extensively about his experiences, emotions, and observations of life. In his epic poem, "Passage To India," Whitman takes us on a voyage through time and space, exploring the vastness and complexity of the human experience.

At its core, "Passage To India" is a celebration of human diversity, and a call for unity and understanding. Whitman begins by describing the physical journey from the Western world to India, but quickly moves beyond the surface details to delve into the spiritual and emotional journey that takes place within the individual.

A Journey of the Senses

Whitman's poetry is known for its vivid sensory descriptions. In "Passage To India," he uses language to transport the reader to exotic lands, filling their senses with the sights, smells, and sounds of India.

He describes the "gorgeous clouds of the sunset" and the "rippling waves of the sea," painting a picture of a landscape that is both beautiful and mysterious. The reader can almost feel the warmth of the sun on their face and the cool breeze blowing through their hair.

Whitman's use of sensory language is not limited to the landscape, however. He also describes the people he encounters in vivid detail, highlighting their unique physical characteristics and mannerisms. He writes of "the lithe, dusky Indian" and "the broad-faced Japanese," showing us the incredible diversity of the human race.

A Journey of the Soul

As the poem progresses, Whitman moves beyond the physical journey to explore the spiritual and emotional journey that takes place within the individual. He writes of "the soul's journey, the body perfectly symbolizing" it, suggesting that the physical journey is a reflection of the internal journey.

Whitman is interested in the concept of self-discovery, and he believes that travel can be a catalyst for this process. He writes of "the joyous, solitary wanderer," suggesting that there is something liberating and transformative about traveling alone.

The journey is not without its challenges, however. Whitman acknowledges that travel can be overwhelming, and that it can lead to feelings of disorientation and confusion. He writes of "the bewildered pilgrim" who is "tossed in the chaos of the world," showing us that the journey is not always easy.

A Call for Unity

Throughout "Passage To India," Whitman celebrates the diversity of the human race, but he also calls for unity and understanding. He writes of "the common grounds whereon all may meet," suggesting that despite our differences, we are all connected by our shared humanity.

Whitman's message is particularly relevant today, as we grapple with issues of racism, xenophobia, and intolerance. He reminds us that our differences should be celebrated, not feared, and that we have much to learn from one another.

The Importance of Connection

At its core, "Passage To India" is a reminder of the importance of connection. Whitman writes of "the soul's connection to identity," suggesting that our sense of self is intimately tied to our connection to others.

He celebrates the connections we make while traveling, writing of "the comradeship of nations," showing us that we are never truly alone on our journeys.


"Passage To India" is a beautiful and complex poem that explores the vastness and complexity of the human experience. Whitman's use of vivid sensory description and his exploration of the spiritual and emotional journey make this poem a joy to read.

More than that, however, "Passage To India" is a call to action. It reminds us of the importance of celebrating our differences, of seeking out connections, and of embracing the transformative power of travel.

As we navigate the challenges of the modern world, we would do well to remember Whitman's words and to embrace the joyous, solitary wanderer within us all.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Passage to India: A Journey of the Soul

Walt Whitman's "Passage to India" is a poem that takes the reader on a journey of the soul. It is a journey that is both physical and spiritual, as the speaker travels from America to India, and from the material world to the world of the spirit. The poem is a celebration of the human spirit, and of the power of the individual to transcend the limitations of the physical world.

The poem begins with the speaker announcing his intention to travel to India. He declares that he is "going to India," and that he is "going to see my brother and to see the land of my birth." This opening sets the tone for the poem, which is one of excitement and anticipation. The speaker is eager to embark on his journey, and he is filled with a sense of wonder and awe at the prospect of seeing India.

As the speaker travels to India, he is struck by the beauty of the natural world. He marvels at the "great sea" and the "mountains grand," and he is filled with a sense of awe at the power and majesty of nature. This appreciation of the natural world is a recurring theme throughout the poem, and it reflects Whitman's belief in the importance of nature as a source of spiritual renewal.

As the speaker arrives in India, he is greeted by a "multitude of people." He is struck by the diversity of the Indian people, and he marvels at their "strange costumes" and "strange tongues." This encounter with the Indian people is a pivotal moment in the poem, as it marks the beginning of the speaker's spiritual journey.

The speaker is drawn to the Indian people, and he is fascinated by their culture and their way of life. He observes their "holy temples" and their "sacred groves," and he is filled with a sense of reverence for their spiritual traditions. This encounter with the Indian people is a transformative experience for the speaker, as it opens his eyes to the power of the spirit.

As the speaker continues his journey, he encounters a "sage" who teaches him the secrets of the universe. This sage is a symbol of the spiritual wisdom that the speaker seeks, and he imparts to the speaker a profound understanding of the nature of the universe. The sage teaches the speaker that the universe is a "great soul," and that all things are connected in a vast web of spiritual energy.

This understanding of the universe is a key theme of the poem, and it reflects Whitman's belief in the interconnectedness of all things. Whitman believed that the universe was a living, breathing entity, and that all things were connected in a vast web of spiritual energy. This belief is reflected in the poem, as the speaker comes to understand the nature of the universe and his place within it.

As the poem draws to a close, the speaker reflects on his journey and the lessons he has learned. He declares that he has "seen the great spiritual world," and that he has "seen the great soul of the universe." He is filled with a sense of wonder and awe at the power of the spirit, and he is grateful for the lessons he has learned.

In conclusion, "Passage to India" is a poem that celebrates the power of the human spirit to transcend the limitations of the physical world. It is a journey of the soul, as the speaker travels from America to India, and from the material world to the world of the spirit. The poem is a celebration of the beauty of the natural world, and of the diversity of human culture. It is a testament to the power of spiritual wisdom, and to the interconnectedness of all things. Above all, it is a celebration of the human spirit, and of the power of the individual to achieve spiritual enlightenment.

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