by Walt Whitman
Who has gone farthest? for I would go farther,
And who has been just? for I would be the most just person of the
And who most cautious? for I would be more cautious,
And who has been happiest? O I think it is I–I think no one was ever
happier than I,
And who has lavish’d all? for I lavish constantly the best I have,
And who proudest? for I think I have reason to be the proudest son
alive–for I am the son of the brawny and tall-topt city,
And who has been bold and true? for I would be the boldest and truest
being of the universe,
And who benevolent? for I would show more benevolence than all the
And who has receiv’d the love of the most friends? for I know what it
is to receive the passionate love of many friends,
And who possesses a perfect and enamour’d body? for I do not believe
any one possesses a more perfect or enamour’d body than mine,
And who thinks the amplest thoughts? for I would surround those
And who has made hymns fit for the earth? for I am mad with
About This Poem
Excelsior is a Latin term meaning “ever upward”; it is the official motto of the State of New York. A slightly different version of this poem first appeared as “Poem of the Heart of the Son of Manhattan Island” in the second edition of Leaves of Grass.
Walt Whitman was born in Huntington, New York, on May 31, 1819. He is best known for Leaves of Grass, a prodigious collection of poetry that he continually revised for most of his life. Whitman died in 1892. He is one of America’s most celebrated gay poets.
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