PASSING stranger! you do not know how longingly I look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, (it comes to me, as of a dream,)
I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall’d as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured,
You grew up with me, were a boy with me, or a girl with me,
I ate with you, and slept with you-your body has become not yours only, nor left my body
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass-you take of my beard,
hands, in return,
I am not to speak to you-I am to think of you when I sit alone, or wake at night alone,
I am to wait-I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Walt Whitman's poem To a Stranger.


  1. Noor says:

    This is an insignificant poem by whitman.He shows his strong imaginations.Nostalgic he looks when he looks to a stranger

  2. Lou says:

    In Walt Whitman’s “The Leaves of Grass” there is cluster of a series of 45 poems called Calamus, which work to celebrate and promote a theme of love. Out of that cluster, in “To a Stranger” by Walt Whitman, Whitman expresses a general sense of longing directed at the world in general. And Whitman’s nostalgic for past relationships and his conscious of having his feelings of affection reciprocated by everyone he walks past allows him to know that ultimately he will find love. In “To A Stranger”, Whitman not only alludes to the love between a man and a woman but to the beautiful and sane affection between a man and a man. Through the motif of genders, sexual innuendos, the repetition of “I am” and the overall sense of secrecy throughout the poem, reveals Whitman’s inner conflicts with his sexuality and his yearning to want to tell and express his sexuality openly without restrictions imposed by society.

  3. Cadu says:

    I think he’s talking to the world, to everybody.
    Whitman usually talks about this kind of theme, the man as a center of the Earth

  4. Kate says:

    this poem is about loss i think because it says “i am not to speak to you, i am to think of you when i sit alone or wake at night alone” so he’s talking about never forgetting the people you loved that you lose. they’ll always live on in your memories, that kind of thing.

  5. Steven Garcia says:

    seeing as Walt was homosexual, i’m thinking that he is seeing some attractive guy (since he mentions seeing an unknown “he”), but he must hide that attraction due to society’s thoughts on homosexuality during the time period. but hey, i could be wrong.

  6. Dlia says:

    This is poem is exactly how i feel when i see a hottie walking by me. It’s as if you fell inlove with that person by his eyes, his movement, his cologne but like in the last stanza says,” I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you.”

  7. Caroline says:

    I too don’t think he’s talking to the reader. When he says stranger, he means himself. The YOU inside you is a stranger to you, not everyone has to confront him or her at one time. And I think he has “found himself”, and believe me once you found that, you don’t want to lose it!

  8. Jasmine Ray says:

    I dont feel that he’s trying to talk to the reader I think he’s trying to tell his audiance about an inner conflict he battles with. I think that he wants the reader to know that he has a secret that he is embarrassed of but yet never wants it to leave his mind.

  9. kevin says:

    He indentifies you and talks to you. You have
    to confront him as a poet who wants to have a personal relationship. Soon you realize that back in the mid 19th century, he had thought of YOU
    and had waited until you picked up his book and started a relationship with
    him. It gets a bit eerie.

  10. dani says:

    I really enjoyed this poem!!! but I want annotations on it!

    walt whitman.. fantastic writer.

  11. amber says:

    The picture for walts book of the complete poems it really inspired me to go and write my own poetry. In my opinion it felt like he was reaching to the gods for help. Therefore I would like to end this by saying to all the upcoming artists to follow your dreams and to really look at the cover of walts book for inspiration!!

  12. Laurent Dumas says:

    The sense of loss at the inability to hold the youth and dreams only to seek out a future inside of those dreams.

  13. Diane Choi says:

    This is a beautiful poem that perfectly captures the fleeting, yet infinitely tender feeling possible between strangers passing by each other on a busy street. Whitman sheds light on the beauty of our common human-ness, which means that we can love people that we do not conventionally know.

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