The City Dead-House

A poem by Walt Whitman

By the City Dead-House, by the gate,
As idly sauntering, wending my way from the clangor,
I curious pause for lo! an outcast form, a poor dead prostitute brought;
Her corpse they deposit unclaim'd it lies on the damp brick pavement;
The divine woman, her body I see the Body I look on it alone,
That house once full of passion and beauty all else I notice not;
Nor stillness so cold, nor running water from faucet, nor odors morbific impress me;
But the house alone that wondrous house that delicate fair house that ruin!
That immortal house, more than all the rows of dwellings ever built!
Or white-domed Capitol itself, with majestic figure surmounted or all the old high-spired cathedrals;
That little house alone, more than them all poor, desperate house!
Fair, fearful wreck! tenement of a Soul! itself a Soul!
Unclaim'd, avoided house! take one breath from my tremulous lips;
Take one tear, dropt aside as I go, for thought of you,
Dead house of love! house of madness and sin, crumbled! crush'd!
House of life erewhile talking and laughing but ah, poor house! dead, even then;
Months, years, an echoing, garnish'd house but dead, dead, dead.

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