We are about 1/4 of the way through Starting from Paumanok. I read verses 3 + 4 last week and am picking up today with verse 5.
5 Dead poets, philosophs, priests, Martyrs, artists, inventors, governments long since, Language-shapers on other shores, Nations once powerful, now reduced, withdrawn, or desolate, I dare not proceed till I respectfully credit what you have left wafted hither, I have perused it, own it is admirable, (moving awhile among it,) Think nothing can ever be greater, nothing can ever deserve more than it deserves, Regarding it all intently a long while, then dismissing it, I stand in my place with my own day here. Here lands female and male, Here the heir-ship and heiress-ship of the world, here the flame of materials, Here spirituality the translatress, the openly-avow'd, The ever-tending, the finale of visible forms, The satisfier, after due long-waiting now advancing, Yes here comes my mistress the soul.
If you didn’t believe me last week that America had a weird sibling rivalry with Europe’s literary traditions during this time, do you believe me now? The first half of this verse is describing Europe’s artists, inventors, and language-shapers “on other shores.” Whitman has found it admirable, and admits that he was even a fan for a while, but he thinks “here” (which I think is the U.S.) is where the future is – the “due long-waiting now advancing”.
I am not exactly sure what to make of that last line, “yet here comes my mistress the soul.” Is he saying that the future of art and literature is going to be driven by the soul? Or is America his metaphorical soul-mistress? What are your thoughts?
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!