This is an example of the way you might annotate a poem for yourself. Start by reading the poem through without marking anything. Then think about the poem and read it again. Underline words and phrases that seem significant - either to you or to the poet. Then write briefly about the connections you make with those noticed words.

I tramp a perpetual journey,
My signs are a rain-proof coat and good shoes and a staff cut from the woods;
No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair,
I have no chair, nor church nor philosophy;
I lead no man to a dinner-table or library or exchange,
But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll,
My left hand hooks you round the waist,
My right hand points to landscapes of continents, and a plain public road.

Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you,
You must travel it for yourself.

Walt Whitman

from Leaves
of Grass
,
1855

tramp Used as a verb here, the word also calls to mind the noun. A tramp tramps. A tramp is someone cut free (by choice or circumstance) from the expected routines of life. He is out on the open road, owning nothing but what he can carry, doing whatever the road calls him to do. I wonder if part of our deep love of Charlie Chaplin's silent character (The Little Tramp) doesn't flow from the same well of freedom that WW draws on here.
perpetual journey If the journey goes on forever, then so does the road. WW was no Catholic boy, but for me "perpetual" is an intensely Catholic and spiritual word, summoning up an image of eternal life in our prayer for the souls of the dead: "And let perpetual light shine upon them."
signs I like the idea that we each can have some object that can represent ourselves. What would I choose as a sign for myself? I'm sure it would be different from the sign that others would choose for me. WW's choices mark him as a man of the open air. 
the woods When I think of "the woods" I think of a tame place, which is probably the opposite of WW's meaning - tame, for me, because my earliest memories of "the woods" are of a specially preserved spot in the midst of or just beyond a city. For me, the woods are tame because they are fenced in - just the opposite of WW's sense of utter unboundedness.
no chair Chairs are for rooms and indoor people - soft, half-dead, inactive, mentally and spiritually asleep people. Chairs are death.
church WW sees "church" as a pre-packaged spiritual code or formula or guidebook whose effect (intentionally or otherwise) is to cut short the individual's own most necessary spiritual quest. Church keeps people off the road.
philosophy The same goes for philosophy. It is a post-experiential analysis that people often turn to as a replacement for their own "original relation to the universe" (from Emerson, I think).  It's what WW refers to at the start of "Song of Myself" when he says "creeds and schools in abeyance." He's not going to deny them their place in the whole scheme of things; he just doesn't want them to become substitutes for actual lived experience.
dinner-table or library or exchange More of the same. These three spots are all contained by buildings; they have nothing of the outdoors about them. WW is making room for his positives by establishing his negatives. Nobody will find fine food, traditional culture, or money by walking with WW. If you're looking for those things, seek out another poet. Go hang with Mr. Longfellow.
each man and each woman WW seems to take pains to include women, to bring them to mind whenever possible. Today we might call it "politically correct", but I think WW saw it as a simple mark of justice and truth - that what applies to men applies to women as well: a perfect, totally inclusive, democracy.
of you  Direct address: he's talking to me...just when I was beginning to think he was only talking to you...or to himself.
I lead He doesn't shrink in false modesty from his self-perceived role of leader. He tells us straight out that he is setting the pace, taking first steps. Does this bother you? It doesn't bother me too much, but I'll keep Dylan's warning in mind, "Don't follow leaders; watch the parkin' meters." For me, a leader has to prove his leadership by showing that he knows its limits. He can't do and be everything for the group.
a knoll A knoll is a bit of a hill. His leadership takes this form. He brings us to a higher place from which we can observe what cannot be seen from other places (like "dinner-table, library, or exchange"). I think of Moses on the mountain looking out over the promised land, knowing he'll never get there himself. How many people have had this vision? Some famous ones, for sure. But what about ordinary folks? Have I? 
left hand hooks you The idea and reality of physical contact was central to WW's thought. He wanted this connection with other people and with the natural world of lived experience. In fact, physical contact seems to be for him the only valid evidence that life is being lived. How would you know that you were alive if you could not touch anything or anyone? Many people smirk, "Yeah, I knew he was gay." But this is our sad hang-up, not his. If we are afraid to touch each other, so much the worse for us.
right hand points With one hand he touches us and with the other he points. Isn't this the leader's job? Connect here, meet us where we're at, and direct us to there, farther on.
landscapes of continents Hugeness. WW must have been astonished by the bigness of North America. Before airplanes and satellites, people could only imagine the spaces out there beyond the cities. Here's an odd use of the word "landscape," which is often used not of the actual place but of its representation in a painting. Is he suggesting that this bigness can be known only through an act of imagination such as a painting? In Whitman's day large landscape paintings by Albert Bierstadt or Frederic Edwin Church were quite popular.
a plain public road This is it. This road will take you or me or anyone out there into the continent. It's not a private road. We don't have to be rich, or famous or smart. We are each already beautiful, says WW in many places.
Not I Ah, this leader does know his limits. 
yourself This last line calls to mind the old lyric "You've got to walk that lonesome valley. You've got to walk it by yourself." We've each got one unique, beautiful, and precious life. Sometimes we forget that. Sometimes we want to hand the journey over to somebody else, thinking that maybe this is the best we can do. WW is a good leader because he makes us face that tough reality of individual life. But he also (in other poems, too) makes it clear that it's not a "lonesome valley" but "a plain public road."

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