BOOK III Song of Myself 1 I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air, Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same, I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin, Hoping to cease not till death.
It is the central urge in every atom, (Often unconscious, often evil, downfallen,) To return to its divine source and origin, however distant, Latent the same in subject and in object, without one exception.
…shore the same, And all between those shores, and my ever running Mississippi with bends and chutes, And my Illinois fields, and my Kansas fields, and my fields of Missouri, The Continent, devoting the whole identity without reserving an atom, Pour in! whelm that which asks, which sings, with all and the yield of all, Fusing and holding, claiming, devouring the whole, No more with tender lip, nor musical labial sound, But out of the night emerging for good, our voice persuasive no…
…the battlefields gazing, (As the last gun ceased, but the scent of the powder-smoke linger’d,) As she call’d to her earth with mournful voice while she stalk’d, Absorb them well O my earth, she cried, I charge you lose not my sons, lose not an atom, And you streams absorb them well, taking their dear blood, And you local spots, and you airs that swim above lightly impalpable, And all you essences of soil and growth, and you my rivers’ depths, And you mountain sides, and the woods where…
…down in your roots to bequeath to all future trees, My dead absorb or South or North—my young men’s bodies absorb, and their precious precious blood, Which holding in trust for me faithfully back again give me many a year hence, In unseen essence and odor of surface and grass, centuries hence, In blowing airs from the fields back again give me my darlings, give my immortal heroes, Exhale me them centuries hence, breathe me their breath, let not an atom be lost, O years and graves!
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The world was forever changed when we learned to split the atom.
By 1942, however, we knew that the Germans were working feverishly to find a way to add atomic energy to all the other engines of war with which they hoped to enslave the world.