Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances.

OF the terrible doubt of appearances,
Of the uncertainty after all—that we may be deluded,
That may-be reliance and hope are but speculations after all,
That may-be identity beyond the grave is a beautiful fable only,
May-be the things I perceive—the animals, plants, men, hills, shining and flowing
The skies of day and night—colors, densities, forms—May-be these are, (as
are,) only apparitions, and the real something has yet to be known;
(How often they dart out of themselves, as if to confound me and mock me!
How often I think neither I know, nor any man knows, aught of them;)
May-be seeming to me what they are, (as doubtless they indeed but seem,) as from my
point of
view—And might prove, (as of course they would,) naught of what they appear, or
any how,
from entirely changed points of view;
—To me, these, and the like of these, are curiously answer’d by my lovers, my
When he whom I love travels with me, or sits a long while holding me by the hand,
When the subtle air, the impalpable, the sense that words and reason hold not, surround us
pervade us,
Then I am charged with untold and untellable wisdom—I am silent—I require

I cannot answer the question of appearances, or that of identity beyond the grave;
But I walk or sit indifferent—I am satisfied,
He ahold of my hand has completely satisfied me.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Walt Whitman's poem Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances.


  1. Carol Billings Rice says:

    all philosophy and zen lead to the question he poses here
    his answer is so much more real than Descartes answer
    ” I exist, therefore I am”
    his answer is: I love and am loved
    this is what really matters.

  2. Kevin Wright says:

    I dont know why there was any ever question of weither whitman was gay or not. he makes it pretty evident at the end of this poem that he is real gay.

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