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A Child Said, What Is The Grass? - Poem by Walt Whitman

A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full
hands;
How could I answer the child?. . . .I do not know what it
is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful
green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we
may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .the produced babe
of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow
zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the
same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and
from offspring taken soon out of their mother's laps,
And here you are the mother's laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old
mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men
and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring
taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
What do you think has become of the women and
children?

They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprouts show there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait
at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.

All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and
luckier.

Comments about A Child Said, What Is The Grass? by Walt Whitman

  • Jemima 7/27/2019 4:30:00 PM

    Beautiful poem. Sounds like a bedtime story. Reply

    2 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Randy Johnson 11/6/2018 4:55:00 PM

    This poem really sucks Reply

    2 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • Britte Ninad 6/12/2018 3:32:00 AM

    The great chest and upper of this figure
    this is world
    Benevolent benefactor for its dweller
    green of all its is uniform or ideal dress
    I, the beast or inhuman put off it heinously from its breast
    None is known to its decent limb
    walk i the inhuman awkwardly on its fair body
    devastate I the fiend all green dress
    and make I the beast it nude
    by forgetting its benefactions...
    Reply

    2 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Mahtab Bangalee 5/31/2018 5:08:00 AM

    O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
    And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
    for nothing.
    ......
    They are alive and well somewhere;
    The smallest sprouts show there is really no death,
    And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait
    at the end to arrest it,
    And ceased the moment life appeared.
    Reply

    2 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Pop chany 2/8/2018 6:59:00 PM

    When I see this poem I think this is the world BEST poem Reply

    3 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Tom Allport 1/8/2017 5:56:00 AM

    a poem full of questions and intrigue, brilliento? Reply

    7 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • Richard Lewis 9/18/2016 11:04:00 AM

    A classic from Walt.. Excellente.. Reply

    ur mum (4/25/2019 11:47:00 AM)

    hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! big boi

    5 person liked.
    6 person did not like.
  • Jayne Doe 5/24/2016 9:55:00 PM

    I absolutely love this poem! It makes me think about how we become so accustomed to the world around us and how someone so young and innocent can cause us to see what is before us in a new light, pushing us to view things with a new perspectives and to appreciate the standard as something more. Reply

    13 person liked.
    8 person did not like.
  • Mary Tilley 1/5/2016 7:00:00 AM

    Because Dear Frances...God IS Everything! Without God, there is NO meaning to Life because once the body withers away to dust it came from, the soul must make its journey to where it chose to go while in the body. My prayer for you is that you find GOD in Everything you do because as Solomon once said, "All life is meaningless without God." Blessings Reply

    another jane doe (1/8/2018 9:57:00 AM)

    very much agree-great to see others understand

    12 person liked.
    31 person did not like.
  • * Sunprincess * 6/18/2014 10:14:00 AM

    ..........the curiosity of this child has taken us from what is the grass....to what has happened to the men and women.....love the poet's view of death....very nicely written... Reply

    17 person liked.
    23 person did not like.
Read all 33 comments »
Child Poems
  1. 1. A Child Said, What Is The Grass?
    Walt Whitman
  2. 2. A Sad Child
    Margaret Atwood
  3. 3. A Refusal To Mourn The Death, By Fire, O..
    Dylan Thomas
  4. 4. Child Development
    Billy Collins
  5. 5. Saturday's Child
    Countee Cullen
  6. 6. A Child Asleep
    Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  7. 7. First Child ... Second Child
    Ogden Nash
  8. 8. Child On Top Of A Greenhouse
    Theodore Roethke
  9. 9. The Stolen Child
    William Butler Yeats
  10. 10. Child Moon
    Carl Sandburg
  11. 11. I'D Love To Be A Fairy's Child
    Robert Graves
  12. 12. Spring And Fall: To A Young Child
    Gerard Manley Hopkins
  13. 13. Child, Child
    Sara Teasdale
  14. 14. Child Of Europe
    Czeslaw Milosz
  15. 15. Brown And Agile Child
    Pablo Neruda
  16. 16. Child And Mother
    Eugene Field
  17. 17. The Child-Angel
    Rabindranath Tagore
  18. 18. Gacela Of The Dead Child
    Federico García Lorca
  19. 19. To An Unborn Pauper Child
    Thomas Hardy
  20. 20. I Would I Were A Careless Child
    George Gordon Byron
  21. 21. To A Child Dancing In The Wind
    William Butler Yeats
  22. 22. Child In Red
    Rainer Maria Rilke
  23. 23. Child
    Carl Sandburg
  24. 24. The Child Dying
    Edwin Muir
  25. 25. The Happy Child
    William Henry Davies
  26. 26. A Child Of The Snows
    Gilbert Keith Chesterton
  27. 27. A Child In The Garden
    Henry Van Dyke
  28. 28. Father And Child
    William Butler Yeats
  29. 29. Mother And Child
    Eugene Field
  30. 30. Child Play.
    Bernard Shaw
  31. 31. The Oldest Child
    Charles Simic
  32. 32. To A Child
    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  33. 33. Santorini - The Naked Child
    Giorgos Seferis
  34. 34. The Dying Child
    John Clare
  35. 35. A Mother's Love For Her Child
    Lee Degnan
  36. 36. Is It Well With The Child?
    Christina Georgina Rossetti
  37. 37. Night Thoughts Over A Sick Child
    Philip Levine
  38. 38. To A Young Child
    Gerard Manley Hopkins
  39. 39. Child Of The Romans
    Carl Sandburg
  40. 40. My Child Wafts Peace
    Yehuda Amichai
  41. 41. The Burned Child
    Dorothy Parker
  42. 42. There Was A Child Went Forth
    Walt Whitman
  43. 43. Robin Hood, A Child.
    James Henry Leigh Hunt
  44. 44. 80's Child
    s./j. goldner
  45. 45. Come Hither, Child
    Emily Jane Brontë
  46. 46. Epitaph On The Tombstone Of A Child
    Aphra Behn
  47. 47. Evening Song Of The Thoughtful Child
    Katherine Mansfield
  48. 48. The Child And The Mariner
    William Henry Davies
  49. 49. A Child Of The King
    Luke Easter
  50. 50. Sonnet I: Abused Little Child
    Sandra Osborne

New Child Poems

  1. A Holocaust Memorial, Michael Burch
  2. The Man And The Child, Valentine Ezike
  3. Truly The Child Is Not Dead, Gert Strydom
  4. I Am But A Child, David Oladipupo Olorunshola
  5. Every child, my child, Lebogang Mashile
  6. Children, Love And War, Arun Maji
  7. Twelve Children, Pat Kelbaugh
  8. Parents, Ajay Srivastava
  9. The Child Of The Angel House Is The Chil.., Raymond Sawyer
  10. The Womb - Poems On Mother, Father, Chil.., Nikhil Parekh

Child Poems

  1. A Refusal To Mourn The Death, By Fire, Of A Child In London

    Never until the mankind making Bird beast and flower Fathering and all humbling darkness Tells with silence the last light breaking And the still hour Is come of the sea tumbling in harness And I must enter again the round Zion of the water bead And the synagogue of the ear of corn Shall I let pray the shadow of a sound Or sow my salt seed In the least valley of sackcloth to mourn The majesty and burning of the child's death. I shall not murder The mankind of her going with a grave truth Nor blaspheme down the stations of the breath With any further Elegy of innocence and youth. Deep with the first dead lies London's daughter, Robed in the long friends, The grains beyond age, the dark veins of her mother, Secret by the unmourning water Of the riding Thames. After the first death, there is no other.

  2. Saturday's Child

    Some are teethed on a silver spoon, With the stars strung for a rattle; I cut my teeth as the black racoon-- For implements of battle. Some are swaddled in silk and down, And heralded by a star; They swathed my limbs in a sackcloth gown On a night that was black as tar. For some, godfather and goddame The opulent fairies be; Dame Poverty gave me my name, And Pain godfathered me. For I was born on Saturday-- "Bad time for planting a seed," Was all my father had to say, And, "One mouth more to feed." Death cut the strings that gave me life, And handed me to Sorrow, The only kind of middle wife My folks could beg or borrow.

  3. A Sad Child

    You're sad because you're sad. It's psychic. It's the age. It's chemical. Go see a shrink or take a pill, or hug your sadness like an eyeless doll you need to sleep. Well, all children are sad but some get over it. Count your blessings. Better than that, buy a hat. Buy a coat or pet. Take up dancing to forget. Forget what? Your sadness, your shadow, whatever it was that was done to you the day of the lawn party when you came inside flushed with the sun, your mouth sulky with sugar, in your new dress with the ribbon and the ice-cream smear, and said to yourself in the bathroom, I am not the favorite child. My darling, when it comes right down to it and the light fails and the fog rolls in and you're trapped in your overturned body under a blanket or burning car, and the red flame is seeping out of you and igniting the tarmac beside your head or else the floor, or else the pillow, none of us is; or else we all are.

  4. Child Development

    As sure as prehistoric fish grew legs and sauntered off the beaches into forests working up some irregular verbs for their first conversation, so three-year-old children enter the phase of name-calling. Every day a new one arrives and is added to the repertoire. You Dumb Goopyhead, You Big Sewerface, You Poop-on-the-Floor (a kind of Navaho ring to that one) they yell from knee level, their little mugs flushed with challenge. Nothing Samuel Johnson would bother tossing out in a pub, but then the toddlers are not trying to devastate some fatuous Enlightenment hack. They are just tormenting their fellow squirts or going after the attention of the giants way up there with their cocktails and bad breath talking baritone nonsense to other giants, waiting to call them names after thanking them for the lovely party and hearing the door close. The mature save their hothead invective for things: an errant hammer, tire chains, or receding trains missed by seconds, though they know in their adult hearts, even as they threaten to banish Timmy to bed for his appalling behavior, that their bosses are Big Fatty Stupids, their wives are Dopey Dopeheads and that they themselves are Mr. Sillypants.