The Twenty-ninth Bather is a setting of Walt Whitman’s lines from  Song of Myself in Leaves of Grass  (1855) in which a lonely women spies twenty-eight young male bathers from her large and well-apponted home on the shore.  In her mind, she fantasizes about what it would be like to be among the young men, effectively becoming “The Twenty-ninth Bather.”

Steven Sametz Publications
distributed by NoteNova

4 min.
2009

Commissioned and premiered by The Princeton Singers
Steven Sametz, director

Text

Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore,
Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly;
Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome.

She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank,
She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the window.

Which of the young men does she like the best?
Ah the homeliest of them is beautiful to her.

Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,
You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room.

Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth bather,
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.

The beards of the young men glisten’d with wet, it ran from their long hair,
Little streams pass’d over their bodies.

An unseen hand also pass’d over their bodies,
It descended trembling from their temples and ribs.

The young men float on their backs, their white bellies bulge to the sun, they do not ask who seizes fast to them,
They do not know who puffs and declines with the pendant and bending arch,
They do not think whom they souse with spray.

— Walt Whitman, from

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