Song of Prudence

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from Leaves of Grass: Book XXIV - by Walt Whitman.

  Manhattan’s streets I saunter’d pondering,
  On Time, Space, Reality—on such as these, and abreast with them Prudence.

  The last explanation always remains to be made about prudence,
  Little and large alike drop quietly aside from the prudence that
      suits immortality.

  The soul is of itself,
  All verges to it, all has reference to what ensues,
  All that a person does, says, thinks, is of consequence,
  Not a move can a man or woman make, that affects him or her in a day,
      month, any part of the direct lifetime, or the hour of death,
  But the same affects him or her onward afterward through the
      indirect lifetime.

  The indirect is just as much as the direct,
  The spirit receives from the body just as much as it gives to the
      body, if not more.

  Not one word or deed, not venereal sore, discoloration, privacy of
      the onanist,
  Putridity of gluttons or rum-drinkers, peculation, cunning,
      betrayal, murder, seduction, prostitution,
  But has results beyond death as really as before death.

  Charity and personal force are the only investments worth any thing.

  No specification is necessary, all that a male or female does, that
      is vigorous, benevolent, clean, is so much profit to him or her,
  In the unshakable order of the universe and through the whole scope
      of it forever.

  Who has been wise receives interest,
  Savage, felon, President, judge, farmer, sailor, mechanic, literat,
      young, old, it is the same,
  The interest will come round—all will come round.

  Singly, wholly, to affect now, affected their time, will forever affect,
      all of the past and all of the present and all of the future,
  All the brave actions of war and peace,
  All help given to relatives, strangers, the poor, old, sorrowful,
      young children, widows, the sick, and to shunn’d persons,
  All self-denial that stood steady and aloof on wrecks, and saw
      others fill the seats of the boats,
  All offering of substance or life for the good old cause, or for a
      friend’s sake, or opinion’s sake,
  All pains of enthusiasts scoff’d at by their neighbors,
  All the limitless sweet love and precious suffering of mothers,
  All honest men baffled in strifes recorded or unrecorded,
  All the grandeur and good of ancient nations whose fragments we inherit,
  All the good of the dozens of ancient nations unknown to us by name,
      date, location,
  All that was ever manfully begun, whether it succeeded or no,
  All suggestions of the divine mind of man or the divinity of his
      mouth, or the shaping of his great hands,
  All that is well thought or said this day on any part of the globe,
      or on any of the wandering stars, or on any of the fix’d stars,
      by those there as we are here,
  All that is henceforth to be thought or done by you whoever you are,
      or by any one,
  These inure, have inured, shall inure, to the identities from which
      they sprang, or shall spring.

  Did you guess any thing lived only its moment?
  The world does not so exist, no parts palpable or impalpable so exist,
  No consummation exists without being from some long previous
      consummation, and that from some other,
  Without the farthest conceivable one coming a bit nearer the
      beginning than any.

  Whatever satisfies souls is true;
  Prudence entirely satisfies the craving and glut of souls,
  Itself only finally satisfies the soul,
  The soul has that measureless pride which revolts from every lesson
      but its own.

  Now I breathe the word of the prudence that walks abreast with time,
      space, reality,
  That answers the pride which refuses every lesson but its own.

  What is prudence is indivisible,
  Declines to separate one part of life from every part,
  Divides not the righteous from the unrighteous or the living from the dead,
  Matches every thought or act by its correlative,
  Knows no possible forgiveness or deputed atonement,
  Knows that the young man who composedly peril’d his life and lost it
      has done exceedingly well for himself without doubt,
  That he who never peril’d his life, but retains it to old age in
      riches and ease, has probably achiev’d nothing for himself worth
  Knows that only that person has really learn’d who has learn’d to
      prefer results,
  Who favors body and soul the same,
  Who perceives the indirect assuredly following the direct,
  Who in his spirit in any emergency whatever neither hurries nor
      avoids death.


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