If you’re just joining us, I introduced Whitman Wednesdays as a way to get myself excited about poetry again, working through Leaves of Grass a poem at a time. I’m no expert on Walt Whitman or parsing poetry, but I hope to get better with practice (and by discussing the poetry with you, dear readers!)
This week’s poem is short and sweet, “For Him I Sing:”
For him I sing, I raise the present on the past, (As some perennial tree out of its roots, the present on the past,) With time and space I him dilate and fuse the immortal laws, To make himself by them the law unto himself.
My initial reaction here was whether the “him” referred to Jesus or God. However, because it isn’t upper-case Him, I don’t think this is a religious reference. I think the “him” being sung to is Whitman’s Modern Man, as we saw in “One’s-Self I Sing.” I think the last two lines are a daydream of a world where the “immortal laws” could fuse together and let the Modern Man become a self-sufficient self-governing person.
What are the immortal laws? Time and space are two of examples that Whitman provides. I think immortal laws would be anything that exists beyond human civilization — not man-made laws, but natural laws. What do you think?
Finally, I think the parenthetical aside is so lovely, the idea of raising the present on the past is much like growing a tree out if its roots. While it’s a pretty simple statement that a tree starts from the roots, it produced a lovely image for me to think about on this dreary Wednesday in New York.
As always, I invite you to join me. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or send me a link to your own #WhitmanWednesday posts and I’ll share them as well! If you’re hesitant, take a peek at the free Leaves of Grass eBook at Project Gutenberg.