You know the drill by now — week by week, I’m going through another Walt Whitman poem. Even though this is the 14th poem (3.5 months in!), we are only on the 8th page of the book! Phew, at this rate, we really do have another 130 months to go.
This one is called “On Journeys Through the States.” If you recall, the preceding poem was called “To the States” which sparked some debate about whether or not Whitman was racist.
On journeys through the States we start, (Ay through the world, urged by these songs, Sailing henceforth to every land, to every sea,) We willing learners of all, teachers of all, and lovers of all. We have watch'd the seasons dispensing themselves and passing on, And have said, Why should not a man or woman do as much as the seasons, and effuse as much? We dwell a while in every city and town, We pass through Kanada, the North-east, the vast valley of the Mississippi, and the Southern States, We confer on equal terms with each of the States, We make trial of ourselves and invite men and women to hear, We say to ourselves, Remember, fear not, be candid, promulge the body and the soul, Dwell a while and pass on, be copious, temperate, chaste, magnetic, And what you effuse may then return as the seasons return, And may be just as much as the seasons.
Poetry Vocabulary Word of the Day:
Promulge (verb): an archaic variant of promulgate. Promulgate means to promote or make widely known.
So, here we are, still journeying through the States. I don’t have much to say about the poem this week. Whitman is travelling to all corners of the United States spreading the word of.. what? I think he’s spreading the news that the body is as important. He’s still sailing around on his book of a boat, singing these songs that are in Leaves of Grass. I like his advice to “be copious” — what a great turn of phrase! The last two lines of the poem end on such a nice idea of karma returning to us just like the seasons return.
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! I think I’ll start to kick it up a notch with either a few poems a week, or I may start skipping some of the ones that aren’t very exciting to discuss (to me, at least!)