Saturday, June 04, 2005

Walt Whitman's Self-Describ'd Philosophy

(As cull'd from several of his 'songs'):


"I believe in the flesh and the appetities ... Copulation is no more rank to me than death is. ..."
[Song of Myself, 24]

"[I am] turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking and breeding ..."

"Through me forbidden voices,/Voices of sexes and lusts, voices veil'd and I remove the veil,/
Voices indecent by me clarified and transfigured. ..."

"Voices of ... wombs and of the father-stuff. ..."

"O admirers, praise not me--compliment not me--you make me wince,/I see what you do not--I know what you do not./Inside these breast-bones I lie smutch'd and choked,/Beneath this face that appears so impassive hell's tides continually run,/Lusts and wickedness are acceptable to me,/I walk with delinquents with passionate love,/I feel I am of them--I belong to those convicts and prostitutes myself,/And henceforth I will not deny them--for how can I deny myself?"
["You Felons on Trial in Courts," from Autumn Rivulets]

"The soldier camp'd or upon the march is mine,/on the night ere the pending battle many seek me, and I do not fail them, ..."
[Song of Myself, 47, emphasis supplied]

"My lovers ... coming naked to me at night. ..."
[ibid., 45]

"The boy I love, the same becomes a man not through derived/power, but in his own right, ... [He is] wicked rather than virtuous out of conformity or fear. ..."
[ibid., 47]

"I do not envy the generals,/Nor the President in his Presidency, nor the rich in his great house,/But when I hear of the brotherhood of lovers ... How together through life, through dangers, odium, unchanging,/long and long,/Through youth and through middle and old age, how unfaltering, how affectionate and faithful they were,/Then I am pensive--I hastily walk away fill'd with the bitterest envy."
[from Calamus]

"I am he that aches with amorous love;/Does the earth gravitate? does not all matter, aching, attract all matter?/So the body of me to all I meet or know."
["I Am He That Aches With Love," from Children of Adam]

"O you whom I often and silently come where you are that I may be with you,/As I walk by your side or sit near, or remain in the same room with you,/Little you know the subtle electric fire that for your sake is playing within me."
["O You Whom I Often And Silently Come," from Calamus]

"A glimpse through an interstice caught,/Of a crowd of workmen and drivers in a bar-room around the stove/late of a winter night, and I unremark'd seated in a corner,/Of a youth who loves me and whom I love, silently approaching,/and seating himself near, that he may hold me by the hand,/A long while amid the noises of coming and going,/of drinking and oath and smutty jest,/There we two, content, happy in being together, speaking little, perhaps not a word."
["A Glimpse," from Calamus]

"O tan-faced prairie-boy,/Before you came to camp came many a welcome gift,/Praises and presents came and nourishing food, till at last among the recruits,/You came, taciturn, with nothing to give--we but look'd on each other,/When lo! more than all the gifts of the world you gave me."
["O Tan-Faced Prairie-Boy," from Drum-Taps]

"Sometimes with one I love I fill myself with rage for fear I effuse/unreturn'd love,/But now I think there is no unreturn'd love, the pay is certain one way/or another, (I loved a certain person ardently and my love was not return'd,/Yet out of that I have written these songs.)"
["Sometimes With One I Love," from Calamus]

"Recorders ages hence,/Come, I will take you down underneath this impassive exterior,/I will tell you what to say of me,/Publish my name and hang up my picture as that of the tenderest lover, ... Who was not proud of his songs, but of the measureless ocean of love within him, and freely pour'd it forth. ..."
["Recorders Ages Hence," from Calamus; emphasis supplied]

"I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,/I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world. ..."
[Song of Myself, 52]

"I know I am restless, and make others so,/I know my words are weapons full of danger, full of death,/For I confront peace, security, and all the settled laws,/to unsettle them,/I am more resolute because all have denied me than I could/ever have been had all accepted me,/I heed not and have never heeded either experience, cautions, majorities, nor ridicule,/And the threat of what is call'd hell is little or nothing to me,/And the lure of what is call'd heaven is little or nothing to me./Dear camerado! I confess I have urged you onward with me, and still urge you, without the least idea what is our/destination, or whether we shall be victorious, or utterly quell'd and/defeated."
["As I Lay with my Head in Your Lap Camerado," from Drum Taps]

"Nor will my poems do good only, they will do just as much evil, perhaps more. ..."
["Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand," from Calamus]


"Divine am I inside and out .../If I worship one thing more than another it shall be the spread of my/own body, or any part of it. ..."
[Song of Myself, 24]

"My rendezvous is appointed, it is certain,/The Lord will be there and wait till I come on perfect terms,/The great Camerado, the lover true for whom I pine will be there. ..."
[ibid., 45]

"I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms ..."
[ibid., 24]

"Whoever degrades another degrades me,/And whatever is done or said returns at last to me ..."

"the soul is not more than the body, ... And ... the body is not more than the soul. ..."
[ibid., 48]

"And nothing, not [even] God, is greater to me than one's self is. ..."

"And you or I pocketless of a dime may purchase the pick of the earth ..."

"And there is no trade or employment but the young man following it/may become a hero. ..."

"And I say to any man or woman, Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes. ..."

"All forces have been steadily employ'd to complete and delight me. ..."
[ibid., 44]


"No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair,/I have no chair, no church, no philosophy. ..."
[Song of Myself, 46]

"He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher. ..."
[ibid., 47]

"I teach straying from me, yet who can stray from me? ..."

"If you would understand me go to the heights or water-shore,/The nearest gnat is an explanation, and a drop or motion of waves a key,/The maul, the oar, the hand-saw, second my words. ..."

"My signs are a rain-proof coat, good shoes, and a staff cut from the woods, ..."
[ibid., 46]

"The young mechanic is closest to me, he knows me well,/The woodman that takes his axe and jug with him shall take me with/him all day,/The farm-boy ploughing in the field feels good at the sound of my/voice,/In vessels that sail my words sail. I go with fishermen and seamen and/love them, ..."
[ibid., 47]

"I swear I will never again mention love or death inside a house,/And I swear I will never translate myself at all, only to him or her who/privately stays with me in the open air. ..."

"No shutter'd room or school can commune with me,/But roughs and little children better than they. ..."


"Let judges and criminals be transposed--let the prison-keepers be/put in prison--let those that were prisoners take the keys. ..."
["Transpositions," from Autumn Rivulets]

"This is what you should do: love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, ... re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss what insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem."

[Preface, Leaves of Grass, 1855 edition; emphasis supplied]


Editorial comment by T.J. White:

Do you understand what he is saying here? Do you UNDERSTAND WHAT HE IS SAYING HERE????!!!!! If you think you do, the chances are good that you do not.

You should go back and re-read, not just the excerpts I have included here, but his entire corpus, until you can contact me via this web-site, and say to me: "Yes, I finally know. ..."


There is nobody in this life--living or dead--who can teach you more than Whitman can, if you will let him. (Not even Nietzsche, though he, too, comes very close: Nietzsche is simply too obfuscating, though he can be comprehended by one whose mind has been prepared.)

But in order for Whitman to succeed in this teaching endeavour, you must first free your mind of all previous prejudices and opinions; you must be free to follow his mind wherever he goes. And if you do, you will be amazed and astounded where he leads you--through himself and the entire world and the whole universe, indeed--right back to yourself (which is really his own self also; or in other words--"God").

It is a profound mistake to think of Whitman's writings as "just poetry." The person who does so entirely misses the point. Yes, Whitman expresses his thoughts in a most sublime, beautiful, poetic manner, but that is only his means--not his purpose. Whitman was really the first and greatest of our cosmologists--if you can understand the true depth of that term--he was a shuffling, unshaven, disshevelled, wandering man we today would basically call "homeless", and yet a man who somehow had the wisdom of Socrates and the knowledge of the secrets of the Universe.

"He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear. ..."