We are still reading Book II of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Today I am reading Verse 6 of Starting from Paumanok. If you’re just joining me, start from Verse 1 here.
6 The soul, Forever and forever—longer than soil is brown and solid—longer than water ebbs and flows. I will make the poems of materials, for I think they are to be the most spiritual poems, And I will make the poems of my body and of mortality, For I think I shall then supply myself with the poems of my soul and of immortality. I will make a song for these States that no one State may under any circumstances be subjected to another State, And I will make a song that there shall be comity by day and by night between all the States, and between any two of them, And I will make a song for the ears of the President, full of weapons with menacing points, And behind the weapons countless dissatisfied faces; And a song make I of the One form'd out of all, The fang'd and glittering One whose head is over all, Resolute warlike One including and over all, (However high the head of any else that head is over all.) I will acknowledge contemporary lands, I will trail the whole geography of the globe and salute courteously every city large and small, And employments! I will put in my poems that with you is heroism upon land and sea, And I will report all heroism from an American point of view. I will sing the song of companionship, I will show what alone must finally compact these, I believe these are to found their own ideal of manly love, indicating it in me, I will therefore let flame from me the burning fires that were threatening to consume me, I will lift what has too long kept down those smouldering fires, I will give them complete abandonment, I will write the evangel-poem of comrades and of love, For who but I should understand love with all its sorrow and joy? And who but I should be the poet of comrades?
I like the appearance of “song” here, because (spoiler alert) the next poem in this book is Song of Myself. I like finding the recurring themes that we’ve been seeing so far – first, Whitman writes to a “certain cantatrice“, and then we have heard America singing, and now, finally, Whitman is starting to sing himself. This entire poem so far seems like it has been a long manifesto of all the things that Whitman intends to make happen – I’m looking forward to getting this show on the road!
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!