This is a perfect poem for the first week of school. (Can you believe that it’s already time to go back to school?) It is 10pm here, but it’s still Wednesday, so I haven’t missed my self-imposed deadline yet. This week’s poem is called “Beginning My Studies.”
Beginning my studies the first step pleas'd me so much, The mere fact consciousness, these forms, the power of motion, The least insect or animal, the senses, eyesight, love, The first step I say awed me and pleas'd me so much, I have hardly gone and hardly wish'd to go any farther, But stop and loiter all the time to sing it in ecstatic songs.
I’ve just started school this week, so this poem couldn’t have come at a more poignant time. I think Whitman does a lovely job of capturing just how much there is in the world to learn, and “awed” is definitely the right word to describe this. Do you ever get paralyzed when you think about how many books there are out there in the world, and how little time we have to read everything? I often find myself playing a game that starts, even if I read 100 books a year for the rest of my life, at most that is only 6,000 more books in my life! My to-read list is probably already a thousand books, and that isn’t considering all of the books that will be written during my life.
Whoops, there I go, loitering all of my own time daydreaming about all there is to learn. I think Whitman’s small poem is great at explaining how much time you can spend in the minutiae to really learn things: “I have hardly gone and hardly wish’d to go any further…” Like the other poems of his that we’ve read together, this one is rejoicing in the small details, the daily life, instead of focusing on the grander, and perhaps more traditional, themes of war, planetary alignments, etc. Even the “least insect” is worth examining and dreaming about.
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.
What about you? Have you caught the back-to-school bug? How would you describe Whitman’s mode of learning?