Walt Whitman: Song of Myself

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Prodigal, you have given me love--therefore I to you give love! I help myself to material and immaterial, No guard can shut me off, no law prevent me. O unspeakable passionate love.

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I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it. I do not call one greater and one smaller, That which fills its period and place is equal to any. This is the city and I am one of the citizens, Whatever interests the rest interests me, politics, wars, markets, newspapers, schools, The mayor and councils, banks, tariffs, steamships, factories, stocks, stores, real estate and personal estate. I resist any thing better than my own diversity, Breathe the air but leave plenty after me, And am not stuck up, and am in my place. March 17, — 2:

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This is the press of a bashful hand, this the float and odor of hair, This the touch of my lips to yours, this the murmur of yearning, This the far-off depth and height reflecting my own face, This the thoughtful merge of myself, and the outlet again. Do you guess I have some intricate purpose? Well I have, for the Fourth-month showers have, and the mica on the side of a rock has. Do you take it I would astonish? Does the daylight astonish? Do I astonish more than they? This hour I tell things in confidence, I might not tell everybody, but I will tell you.

What is a man anyhow? All I mark as my own you shall offset it with your own, Else it were time lost listening to me. I do not snivel that snivel the world over, That months are vacuums and the ground but wallow and filth. Whimpering and truckling fold with powders for invalids, conformity goes to the fourth-remov'd, I wear my hat as I please indoors or out. Why should I pray? Having pried through the strata, analyzed to a hair, counsel'd with doctors and calculated close, I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.

In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn less, And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them. I know I am solid and sound, To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow, All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means. I know I am deathless, I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter's compass, I know I shall not pass like a child's carlacue cut with a burnt stick at night. I know I am august, I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood, I see that the elementary laws never apologize, I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by, after all.

I exist as I am, that is enough, If no other in the world be aware I sit content, And if each and all be aware I sit content. One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself, And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or ten million years, I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait. My foothold is tenon'd and mortis'd in granite, I laugh at what you call dissolution, And I know the amplitude of time. I am the poet of the woman the same as the man, And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man, And I say there is nothing greater than the mother of men.

I chant the chant of dilation or pride, We have had ducking and deprecating about enough, I show that size is only development. Have you outstript the rest? It is a trifle, they will more than arrive there every one, and still pass on. I am he that walks with the tender and growing night, I call to the earth and sea half-held by the night. Press close bare-bosom'd night--press close magnetic nourishing night!

Night of south winds--night of the large few stars! Still nodding night--mad naked summer night. Smile O voluptuous cool-breath'd earth! Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees! Earth of departed sunset--earth of the mountains misty-topt! Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon just tinged with blue! Earth of shine and dark mottling the tide of the river! Earth of the limpid gray of clouds brighter and clearer for my sake!

Far-swooping elbow'd earth--rich apple-blossom'd earth! Smile, for your lover comes. Prodigal, you have given me love--therefore I to you give love! O unspeakable passionate love. I resign myself to you also--I guess what you mean, I behold from the beach your crooked fingers, I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me, We must have a turn together, I undress, hurry me out of sight of the land, Cushion me soft, rock me in billowy drowse, Dash me with amorous wet, I can repay you.

Sea of stretch'd ground-swells, Sea breathing broad and convulsive breaths, Sea of the brine of life and of unshovell'd yet always-ready graves, Howler and scooper of storms, capricious and dainty sea, I am integral with you, I too am of one phase and of all phases. Partaker of influx and efflux I, extoller of hate and conciliation, Extoller of amies and those that sleep in each others' arms.

I am he attesting sympathy, Shall I make my list of things in the house and skip the house that supports them? I am not the poet of goodness only, I do not decline to be the poet of wickedness also. What blurt is this about virtue and about vice? Evil propels me and reform of evil propels me, I stand indifferent, My gait is no fault-finder's or rejecter's gait, I moisten the roots of all that has grown.

Did you fear some scrofula out of the unflagging pregnancy? Did you guess the celestial laws are yet to be work'd over and rectified? I find one side a balance and the antipedal side a balance, Soft doctrine as steady help as stable doctrine, Thoughts and deeds of the present our rouse and early start. This minute that comes to me over the past decillions, There is no better than it and now. What behaved well in the past or behaves well to-day is not such wonder, The wonder is always and always how there can be a mean man or an infidel.

And mine a word of the modern, the word En-Masse. A word of the faith that never balks, Here or henceforward it is all the same to me, I accept Time absolutely. It alone is without flaw, it alone rounds and completes all, That mystic baffling wonder alone completes all. I accept Reality and dare not question it, Materialism first and last imbuing. Hurrah for positive science! Fetch stonecrop mixt with cedar and branches of lilac, This is the lexicographer, this the chemist, this made a grammar of the old cartouches, These mariners put the ship through dangerous unknown seas.

This is the geologist, this works with the scalper, and this is a mathematician. Gentlemen, to you the first honors always! Your facts are useful, and yet they are not my dwelling, I but enter by them to an area of my dwelling. Less the reminders of properties told my words, And more the reminders they of life untold, and of freedom and extrication, And make short account of neuters and geldings, and favor men and women fully equipt, And beat the gong of revolt, and stop with fugitives and them that plot and conspire.

Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs! Whoever degrades another degrades me, And whatever is done or said returns at last to me. Through me the afflatus surging and surging, through me the current and index. I speak the pass-word primeval, I give the sign of democracy, By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms. Through me many long dumb voices, Voices of the interminable generations of prisoners and slaves, Voices of the diseas'd and despairing and of thieves and dwarfs, Voices of cycles of preparation and accretion, And of the threads that connect the stars, and of wombs and of the father-stuff, And of the rights of them the others are down upon, Of the deform'd, trivial, flat, foolish, despised, Fog in the air, beetles rolling balls of dung.

Through me forbidden voices, Voices of sexes and lusts, voices veil'd and I remove the veil, Voices indecent by me clarified and transfigur'd. I do not press my fingers across my mouth, I keep as delicate around the bowels as around the head and heart, Copulation is no more rank to me than death is. I believe in the flesh and the appetites, Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each part and tag of me is a miracle. Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touch'd from, The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer, This head more than churches, bibles, and all the creeds.

If I worship one thing more than another it shall be the spread of my own body, or any part of it, Translucent mould of me it shall be you!

Shaded ledges and rests it shall be you! Firm masculine colter it shall be you! Whatever goes to the tilth of me it shall be you! You my rich blood! Breast that presses against other breasts it shall be you!

My brain it shall be your occult convolutions! Root of wash'd sweet-flag! Mix'd tussled hay of head, beard, brawn, it shall be you! Trickling sap of maple, fibre of manly wheat, it shall be you! Sun so generous it shall be you! Vapors lighting and shading my face it shall be you! You sweaty brooks and dews it shall be you! Winds whose soft-tickling genitals rub against me it shall be you! Broad muscular fields, branches of live oak, loving lounger in my winding paths, it shall be you!

Hands I have taken, face I have kiss'd, mortal I have ever touch'd, it shall be you. I dote on myself, there is that lot of me and all so luscious, Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy, I cannot tell how my ankles bend, nor whence the cause of my faintest wish, Nor the cause of the friendship I emit, nor the cause of the friendship I take again.

That I walk up my stoop, I pause to consider if it really be, A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books. To behold the day-break! The little light fades the immense and diaphanous shadows, The air tastes good to my palate. Hefts of the moving world at innocent gambols silently rising freshly exuding, Scooting obliquely high and low.

Something I cannot see puts upward libidinous prongs, Seas of bright juice suffuse heaven. The earth by the sky staid with, the daily close of their junction, The heav'd challenge from the east that moment over my head, The mocking taunt, See then whether you shall be master!

We also ascend dazzling and tremendous as the sun, We found our own O my soul in the calm and cool of the daybreak. My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach, With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds and volumes of worlds. Speech is the twin of my vision, it is unequal to measure itself, It provokes me forever, it says sarcastically, Walt you contain enough, why don't you let it out then?

Come now I will not be tantalized, you conceive too much of articulation, Do you not know O speech how the buds beneath you are folded? Waiting in gloom, protected by frost, The dirt receding before my prophetical screams, I underlying causes to balance them at last, My knowledge my live parts, it keeping tally with the meaning of all things, Happiness, which whoever hears me let him or her set out in search of this day. My final merit I refuse you, I refuse putting from me what I really am, Encompass worlds, but never try to encompass me, I crowd your sleekest and best by simply looking toward you.

Writing and talk do not prove me, I carry the plenum of proof and every thing else in my face, With the hush of my lips I wholly confound the skeptic. I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat, gossip of flames, clack of sticks cooking my meals, I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice, I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following, Sounds of the city and sounds out of the city, sounds of the day and night, Talkative young ones to those that like them, the loud laugh of work-people at their meals, The angry base of disjointed friendship, the faint tones of the sick, The judge with hands tight to the desk, his pallid lips pronouncing a death-sentence, The heave'e'yo of stevedores unlading ships by the wharves, the refrain of the anchor-lifters, The ring of alarm-bells, the cry of fire, the whirr of swift-streaking engines and hose-carts with premonitory tinkles and color'd lights, The steam-whistle, the solid roll of the train of approaching cars, The slow march play'd at the head of the association marching two and two, They go to guard some corpse, the flag-tops are draped with black muslin.

I hear the violoncello, 'tis the young man's heart's complaint, I hear the key'd cornet, it glides quickly in through my ears, It shakes mad-sweet pangs through my belly and breast. I hear the chorus, it is a grand opera, Ah this indeed is music--this suits me. A tenor large and fresh as the creation fills me, The orbic flex of his mouth is pouring and filling me full.

I hear the train'd soprano what work with hers is this? The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies, It wrenches such ardors from me I did not know I possess'd them, It sails me, I dab with bare feet, they are lick'd by the indolent waves, I am cut by bitter and angry hail, I lose my breath, Steep'd amid honey'd morphine, my windpipe throttled in fakes of death, At length let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles, And that we call Being.

Round and round we go, all of us, and ever come back thither, If nothing lay more develop'd the quahaug in its callous shell were enough. Mine is no callous shell, I have instant conductors all over me whether I pass or stop, They seize every object and lead it harmlessly through me.

I merely stir, press, feel with my fingers, and am happy, To touch my person to some one else's is about as much as I can stand. The sentries desert every other part of me, They have left me helpless to a red marauder, They all come to the headland to witness and assist against me.

I am given up by traitors, I talk wildly, I have lost my wits, I and nobody else am the greatest traitor, I went myself first to the headland, my own hands carried me there.

Did it make you ache so, leaving me? Parting track'd by arriving, perpetual payment of perpetual loan, Rich showering rain, and recompense richer afterward. Sprouts take and accumulate, stand by the curb prolific and vital, Landscapes projected masculine, full-sized and golden. Logic and sermons never convince, The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul.

Only what proves itself to every man and woman is so, Only what nobody denies is so. A minute and a drop of me settle my brain, I believe the soggy clods shall become lovers and lamps, And a compend of compends is the meat of a man or woman, And a summit and flower there is the feeling they have for each other, And they are to branch boundlessly out of that lesson until it becomes omnific, And until one and all shall delight us, and we them. I find I incorporate gneiss, coal, long-threaded moss, fruits, grains, esculent roots, And am stucco'd with quadrupeds and birds all over, And have distanced what is behind me for good reasons, But call any thing back again when I desire it.

In vain the speeding or shyness, In vain the plutonic rocks send their old heat against my approach, In vain the mastodon retreats beneath its own powder'd bones, In vain objects stand leagues off and assume manifold shapes, In vain the ocean settling in hollows and the great monsters lying low, In vain the buzzard houses herself with the sky, In vain the snake slides through the creepers and logs, In vain the elk takes to the inner passes of the woods, In vain the razor-bill'd auk sails far north to Labrador, I follow quickly, I ascend to the nest in the fissure of the cliff.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition, They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins, They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God, Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things, Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago, Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

So they show their relations to me and I accept them, They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them plainly in their possession. I wonder where they get those tokens, Did I pass that way huge times ago and negligently drop them? Myself moving forward then and now and forever, Gathering and showing more always and with velocity, Infinite and omnigenous, and the like of these among them, Not too exclusive toward the reachers of my remembrancers, Picking out here one that I love, and now go with him on brotherly terms.

A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and responsive to my caresses, Head high in the forehead, wide between the ears, Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground, Eyes full of sparkling wickedness, ears finely cut, flexibly moving.

His nostrils dilate as my heels embrace him, His well-built limbs tremble with pleasure as we race around and return. I but use you a minute, then I resign you, stallion, Why do I need your paces when I myself out-gallop them? Even as I stand or sit passing faster than you. My ties and ballasts leave me, my elbows rest in sea-gaps, I skirt sierras, my palms cover continents, I am afoot with my vision. I visit the orchards of spheres and look at the product, And look at quintillions ripen'd and look at quintillions green.

I fly those flights of a fluid and swallowing soul, My course runs below the soundings of plummets. I help myself to material and immaterial, No guard can shut me off, no law prevent me. I anchor my ship for a little while only, My messengers continually cruise away or bring their returns to me. I go hunting polar furs and the seal, leaping chasms with a pike-pointed staff, clinging to topples of brittle and blue.

I ascend to the foretruck, I take my place late at night in the crow's-nest, We sail the arctic sea, it is plenty light enough, Through the clear atmosphere I stretch around on the wonderful beauty, The enormous masses of ice pass me and I pass them, the scenery is plain in all directions, The white-topt mountains show in the distance, I fling out my fancies toward them, We are approaching some great battle-field in which we are soon to be engaged, We pass the colossal outposts of the encampment, we pass with still feet and caution, Or we are entering by the suburbs some vast and ruin'd city, The blocks and fallen architecture more than all the living cities of the globe.

I am a free companion, I bivouac by invading watchfires, I turn the bridgroom out of bed and stay with the bride myself, I tighten her all night to my thighs and lips. My voice is the wife's voice, the screech by the rail of the stairs, They fetch my man's body up dripping and drown'd.

I understand the large hearts of heroes, The courage of present times and all times, How the skipper saw the crowded and rudderless wreck of the steamship, and Death chasing it up and down the storm, How he knuckled tight and gave not back an inch, and was faithful of days and faithful of nights, And chalk'd in large letters on a board, Be of good cheer, we will not desert you; How he follow'd with them and tack'd with them three days and would not give it up, How he saved the drifting company at last, How the lank loose-gown'd women look'd when boated from the side of their prepared graves, How the silent old-faced infants and the lifted sick, and the sharp-lipp'd unshaved men; All this I swallow, it tastes good, I like it well, it becomes mine, I am the man, I suffer'd, I was there.

The disdain and calmness of martyrs, The mother of old, condemn'd for a witch, burnt with dry wood, her children gazing on, The hounded slave that flags in the race, leans by the fence, blowing, cover'd with sweat, The twinges that sting like needles his legs and neck, the murderous buckshot and the bullets, All these I feel or am.

I am the hounded slave, I wince at the bite of the dogs, Hell and despair are upon me, crack and again crack the marksmen, I clutch the rails of the fence, my gore dribs, thinn'd with the ooze of my skin, I fall on the weeds and stones, The riders spur their unwilling horses, haul close, Taunt my dizzy ears and beat me violently over the head with whip-stocks. Agonies are one of my changes of garments, I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person, My hurts turn livid upon me as I lean on a cane and observe.

I am the mash'd fireman with breast-bone broken, Tumbling walls buried me in their debris, Heat and smoke I inspired, I heard the yelling shouts of my comrades, I heard the distant click of their picks and shovels, They have clear'd the beams away, they tenderly lift me forth. I lie in the night air in my red shirt, the pervading hush is for my sake, Painless after all I lie exhausted but not so unhappy, White and beautiful are the faces around me, the heads are bared of their fire-caps, The kneeling crowd fades with the light of the torches.

Distant and dead resuscitate, They show as the dial or move as the hands of me, I am the clock myself. I am an old artillerist, I tell of my fort's bombardment, I am there again. Again the long roll of the drummers, Again the attacking cannon, mortars, Again to my listening ears the cannon responsive. I take part, I see and hear the whole, The cries, curses, roar, the plaudits for well-aim'd shots, The ambulanza slowly passing trailing its red drip, Workmen searching after damages, making indispensable repairs, The fall of grenades through the rent roof, the fan-shaped explosion, The whizz of limbs, heads, stone, wood, iron, high in the air.

Again gurgles the mouth of my dying general, he furiously waves with his hand, He gasps through the clot Mind not me--mind--the entrenchments. Retreating they had form'd in a hollow square with their baggage for breastworks, Nine hundred lives out of the surrounding enemies, nine times their number, was the price they took in advance, Their colonel was wounded and their ammunition gone, They treated for an honorable capitulation, receiv'd writing and seal, gave up their arms and march'd back prisoners of war.

They were the glory of the race of rangers, Matchless with horse, rifle, song, supper, courtship, Large, turbulent, generous, handsome, proud, and affectionate, Bearded, sunburnt, drest in the free costume of hunters, Not a single one over thirty years of age. The second First-day morning they were brought out in squads and massacred, it was beautiful early summer, The work commenced about five o'clock and was over by eight.

None obey'd the command to kneel, Some made a mad and helpless rush, some stood stark and straight, A few fell at once, shot in the temple or heart, the living and dead lay together, The maim'd and mangled dug in the dirt, the new-comers saw them there, Some half-kill'd attempted to crawl away, These were despatch'd with bayonets or batter'd with the blunts of muskets, A youth not seventeen years old seiz'd his assassin till two more came to release him, The three were all torn and cover'd with the boy's blood.

At eleven o'clock began the burning of the bodies; That is the tale of the murder of the four hundred and twelve young men. Would you learn who won by the light of the moon and stars? List to the yarn, as my grandmother's father the sailor told it to me. Our foe was no sulk in his ship I tell you, said he, His was the surly English pluck, and there is no tougher or truer, and never was, and never will be; Along the lower'd eve he came horribly raking us.

We closed with him, the yards entangled, the cannon touch'd, My captain lash'd fast with his own hands. We had receiv'd some eighteen pound shots under the water, On our lower-gun-deck two large pieces had burst at the first fire, killing all around and blowing up overhead.

Fighting at sun-down, fighting at dark, Ten o'clock at night, the full moon well up, our leaks on the gain, and five feet of water reported, The master-at-arms loosing the prisoners confined in the after-hold to give them a chance for themselves.

The transit to and from the magazine is now stopt by the sentinels, They see so many strange faces they do not know whom to trust. Our frigate takes fire, The other asks if we demand quarter? If our colors are struck and the fighting done? Now I laugh content, for I hear the voice of my little captain, We have not struck, he composedly cries, we have just begun our part of the fighting. Only three guns are in use, One is directed by the captain himself against the enemy's main-mast, Two well serv'd with grape and canister silence his musketry and clear his decks.

The tops alone second the fire of this little battery, especially the main-top, They hold out bravely during the whole of the action. Not a moment's cease, The leaks gain fast on the pumps, the fire eats toward the powder-magazine. One of the pumps has been shot away, it is generally thought we are sinking. Serene stands the little captain, He is not hurried, his voice is neither high nor low, His eyes give more light to us than our battle-lanterns.

Toward twelve there in the beams of the moon they surrender to us. In at the conquer'd doors they crowd! Embody all presences outlaw'd or suffering, See myself in prison shaped like another man, And feel the dull unintermitted pain.

For me the keepers of convicts shoulder their carbines and keep watch, It is I let out in the morning and barr'd at night. Not a mutineer walks handcuff'd to jail but I am handcuff'd to him and walk by his side, I am less the jolly one there, and more the silent one with sweat on my twitching lips. Not a youngster is taken for larceny but I go up too, and am tried and sentenced. Not a cholera patient lies at the last gasp but I also lie at the last gasp, My face is ash-color'd, my sinews gnarl, away from me people retreat.

Askers embody themselves in me and I am embodied in them, I project my hat, sit shame-faced, and beg. Somehow I have been stunn'd. Give me a little time beyond my cuff'd head, slumbers, dreams, gaping, I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake.

That I could forget the mockers and insults! That I could forget the trickling tears and the blows of the bludgeons and hammers! That I could look with a separate look on my own crucifixion and bloody crowning. I remember now, I resume the overstaid fraction, The grave of rock multiplies what has been confided to it, or to any graves, Corpses rise, gashes heal, fastenings roll from me. I troop forth replenish'd with supreme power, one of an average unending procession, Inland and sea-coast we go, and pass all boundary lines, Our swift ordinances on their way over the whole earth, The blossoms we wear in our hats the growth of thousands of years.

Eleves, I salute you! Continue your annotations, continue your questionings. Is he waiting for civilization, or past it and mastering it?

Is he some Southwesterner rais'd out-doors? Is he from the Mississippi country? Wherever he goes men and women accept and desire him, They desire he should like them, touch them, speak to them, stay with them. Behavior lawless as snow-flakes, words simple as grass, uncomb'd head, laughter, and naivete, Slow-stepping feet, common features, common modes and emanations, They descend in new forms from the tips of his fingers, They are wafted with the odor of his body or breath, they fly out of the glance of his eyes.

You light surfaces only, I force surfaces and depths also. Man or woman, I might tell how I like you, but cannot, And might tell what it is in me and what it is in you, but cannot, And might tell that pining I have, that pulse of my nights and days. Behold, I do not give lectures or a little charity, When I give I give myself.

You there, impotent, loose in the knees, Open your scarf'd chops till I blow grit within you, Spread your palms and lift the flaps of your pockets, I am not to be denied, I compel, I have stores plenty and to spare, And any thing I have I bestow.

I do not ask who you are, that is not important to me, You can do nothing and be nothing but what I will infold you. To cotton-field drudge or cleaner of privies I lean, On his right cheek I put the family kiss, And in my soul I swear I never will deny him. On women fit for conception I start bigger and nimbler babes.

This day I am jetting the stuff of far more arrogant republics. To any one dying, thither I speed and twist the knob of the door. Turn the bed-clothes toward the foot of the bed, Let the physician and the priest go home. I seize the descending man and raise him with resistless will, O despairer, here is my neck, By God, you shall not go down!

I dilate you with tremendous breath, I buoy you up, Every room of the house do I fill with an arm'd force, Lovers of me, bafflers of graves. Sleep--I and they keep guard all night, Not doubt, not decease shall dare to lay finger upon you, I have embraced you, and henceforth possess you to myself, And when you rise in the morning you will find what I tell you is so.

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Something I cannot see puts upward libidinous prongs, Seas of bright juice suffuse heaven. In the houses the dishes and fare and furniture--but the host and hostess, and the look out of their eyes? Where are you off to, lady?

Shoulder your duds dear son, and I will mine, and let us hasten forth, Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch as we go. February 23, — I concentrate toward them that are rencontre abitibi couple, I wait on the door-slab. To elaborate is no avail, learn'd and unlearn'd feel that it is so. That I could look with a separate look on my own crucifixion and bloody crowning. Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation.