Whoever you are, holding me now in hand,
Without one thing, all will be useless,
I give you fair warning, before you attempt me further,
I am not what you supposed, but far different.
Who is he that would become my follower?
Who would sign himself a candidate for my affections?
The way is suspicious-the result uncertain, perhaps destructive;
You would have to give up all else-I alone would expect to be your
God, sole and exclusive,
Your novitiate would even then be long and exhausting,
The whole past theory of your life, and all conformity to the lives
around you, would have to be abandon’d;
Therefore release me now, before troubling yourself any further-Let
go your hand from my shoulders,
Put me down, and depart on your way.
Or else, by stealth, in some wood, for trial,
Or back of a rock, in the open air,
(For in any roof’d room of a house I emerge not-nor in company,
And in libraries I lie as one dumb, a gawk, or unborn, or dead,)
But just possibly with you on a high hill-first watching lest any
person, for miles around, approach unawares,
Or possibly with you sailing at sea, or on the beach of the sea, or
some quiet island,
Here to put your lips upon mine I permit you,
With the comrade’s long-dwelling kiss, or the new husband’s kiss,
For I am the new husband, and I am the comrade.
Or, if you will, thrusting me beneath your clothing,
Where I may feel the throbs of your heart, or rest upon your hip,
Carry me when you go forth over land or sea;
For thus, merely touching you, is enough-is best,
And thus, touching you, would I silently sleep and be carried
But these leaves conning, you con at peril,
For these leaves, and me, you will not understand,
They will elude you at first, and still more afterward-I will
certainly elude you,
Even while you should think you had unquestionably caught me,
Already you see I have escaped from you.
For it is not for what I have put into it that I have written this
Nor is it by reading it you will acquire it,
Nor do those know me best who admire me, and vauntingly praise me,
Nor will the candidates for my love, (unless at most a very few,)
Nor will my poems do good only-they will do just as much evil,
For all is useless without that which you may guess at many times and
not hit-that which I hinted at;
Therefore release me, and depart on your way.