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subtle
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Leaves of Grass
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subtle
Used In
Leaves of Grass
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  • What is more subtle than this which ties me to the woman or man that looks in my face?
  • And while I paus’d it came to me that what he really sang for was not there only, Nor for his mate nor himself only, nor all sent back by the echoes, But subtle, clandestine, away beyond, A charge transmitted and gift occult for those being born.

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  • A word then, (for I will conquer it,) The word final, superior to all, Subtle, sent up—what is it?
  • O You Whom I Often and Silently Come O you whom I often and silently come where you are that I may be with you, As I walk by your side or sit near, or remain in the same room with you, Little you know the subtle electric fire that for your sake is playing within me.
  • Lave subtly with your waters every line Potomac!
  • Wonderful how I celebrate you and myself How my thoughts play subtly at the spectacles around!
  • Nor only launch thy subtle dazzle and thy strength for these, Prepare the later afternoon of me myself—prepare my lengthening shadows, Prepare my starry nights.
  • What subtle indirection and significance in you? what clue to all in you? what fluid, vast identity, Holding the universe with all its parts as one—as sailing in a ship?
  • And for thy subtler sense subtler refrains dread Mother, Preludes of intellect tallying these and thee, mind-formulas fitted for thee, real and sane and large as these and thee, Thou! mounting higher, diving deeper than we knew, thou transcendental Union!
  • And for thy subtler sense subtler refrains dread Mother, Preludes of intellect tallying these and thee, mind-formulas fitted for thee, real and sane and large as these and thee, Thou! mounting higher, diving deeper than we knew, thou transcendental Union!

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  • No, while memories subtly play—the past vivid as ever; For but last night I woke, and in that spectral ring saw thee, Thy smile, eyes, face, calm, silent, loving as ever: So let the wreath hang still awhile within my eye-reach, It is not yet dead to me, nor even pallid.
  • …Only Not heaving from my ribb’d breast only, Not in sighs at night in rage dissatisfied with myself, Not in those long-drawn, ill-supprest sighs, Not in many an oath and promise broken, Not in my wilful and savage soul’s volition, Not in the subtle nourishment of the air, Not in this beating and pounding at my temples and wrists, Not in the curious systole and diastole within which will one day cease, Not in many a hungry wish told to the skies only, Not in cries, laughter, defiancies,…
  • The earth does not withhold, it is generous enough, The truths of the earth continually wait, they are not so conceal’d either, They are calm, subtle, untransmissible by print, They are imbued through all things conveying themselves willingly, Conveying a sentiment and invitation, I utter and utter, I speak not, yet if you hear me not of what avail am I to you?
  • …appear, or nought anyhow, from entirely changed points of view; To me these and the like of these are curiously answer’d by my lovers, my dear friends, 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 and pervade us, Then I am charged with untold and untellable wisdom, I am silent, I require nothing further, I cannot answer the question of appearances or that of…
  • But do you reserve especially for yourself and for the soul of man one flag above all the rest, A spiritual woven signal for all nations, emblem of man elate above death, Token of all brave captains and all intrepid sailors and mates, And all that went down doing their duty, Reminiscent of them, twined from all intrepid captains young or old, A pennant universal, subtly waving all time, o’er all brave sailors, All seas, all ships.
  • Than this nothing has better served, it has served all, Served the fluent-tongued and subtle-sensed Greek, and long ere the Greek, Served in building the buildings that last longer than any, Served the Hebrew, the Persian, the most ancient Hindustanee, Served the mound-raiser on the Mississippi, served those whose relics remain in Central America, Served Albic temples in woods or on plains, with unhewn pillars and the druids, Served the artificial clefts, vast, high, silent, on the…
  • …to the bottom, The sperm-whale at the surface blowing air and spray, or disporting with his flukes, The leaden-eyed shark, the walrus, the turtle, the hairy sea-leopard, and the sting-ray, Passions there, wars, pursuits, tribes, sight in those ocean-depths, breathing that thick-breathing air, as so many do, The change thence to the sight here, and to the subtle air breathed by beings like us who walk this sphere, The change onward from ours to that of beings who walk other spheres.
  • …duly his or her triune proportion of realism, spiritualism, and of the aesthetic or intellectual, Who having consider’d the body finds all its organs and parts good, Who, out of the theory of the earth and of his or her body understands by subtle analogies all other theories, The theory of a city, a poem, and of the large politics of these States; Who believes not only in our globe with its sun and moon, but in other globes with their suns and moons, Who, constructing the house of…
  • (Mother! with subtle sense severe, with the naked sword in your hand, I saw you at last refuse to treat but directly with individuals.
  • ) 18 I will confront these shows of the day and night, I will know if I am to be less than they, I will see if I am not as majestic as they, I will see if I am not as subtle and real as they, I will see if I am to be less generous than they, I will see if I have no meaning, while the houses and ships have meaning, I will see if the fishes and birds are to be enough for themselves, and I am not to be enough for myself.
  • ) This glaze of God’s serenest purest sky, This film of Satan’s seething pit, This heart’s geography’s map, this limitless small continent, this soundless sea; Out from the convolutions of this globe, This subtler astronomic orb than sun or moon, than Jupiter, Venus, Mars, This condensation of the universe, (nay here the only universe, Here the idea, all in this mystic handful wrapt;) These burin’d eyes, flashing to you to pass to future time, To launch and spin through space revolving…
  • …the soft evening air enwinding all, Rocks, woods, fort, cannon, pacing sentries, endless wilds, In dulcet streams, in flutes’ and cornets’ notes, Electric, pensive, turbulent, artificial, (Yet strangely fitting even here, meanings unknown before, Subtler than ever, more harmony, as if born here, related here, Not to the city’s fresco’d rooms, not to the audience of the opera house, Sounds, echoes, wandering strains, as really here at home, Sonnambula’s innocent love, trios with Norma’s…

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To see samples from other sources, click a word sense below:
as in: a subtle poison Define
working in an indirect or hidden way
as in: a subtle shade of blue Define
understated so as not to draw attention to itself
as in: a subtle difference or thinker Define
not obvious, but understandable by someone with adequate sensitivity and relevant knowledge (perhaps depending upon fine distinctions) or: capable of understanding things that require sensitivity and relevant knowledge (perhaps understanding fine distinctions)
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