FROM all the rest I single out you, having a message for you:
You are to die—Let others tell you what they please, I cannot prevaricate,
I am exact and merciless, but I love you—There is no escape for you.

Softly I lay my right hand upon you—you just feel it,
I do not argue—I bend my head close, and half envelope it,
I sit quietly by—I remain faithful,
I am more than nurse, more than parent or neighbor,
I absolve you from all except yourself, spiritual, bodily—that is eternal—you
yourself will surely escape,
The corpse you will leave will be but excrementitious.

The sun bursts through in unlooked-for directions!
Strong thoughts fill you, and confidence—you smile!
You forget you are sick, as I forget you are sick,
You do not see the medicines—you do not mind the weeping friends—I am with you,
I exclude others from you—there is nothing to be commiserated,
I do not commiserate—I congratulate you.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Walt Whitman's poem To One Shortly to Die.


  1. Asterik says:

    Throughout his poetry, the dear Whitman seems to find that Death itself is not a curse, but a blessing. Let us all take that to heart and know that the dead are in a much better position than we. It seems he would know better than us, currently.

  2. Rafael Herrera says:

    I believe he is telling himself in this poem to not be afraid, that he is faithful, and that as soon as he excepts his fate and relieved of his fears, confidence prevails him.

  3. Jeanne M Pierce says:

    I cannot think of a greater affirmation for my own life ,that I find hard to reconcile. Thank you father Whitman. Jeanne M

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Walt Whitman better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.