Monday, July 4, 2011

"This is what you shall do"

This is the day 156 years ago that Walt Whitman self-published his first edition of Leaves of Grass.  It began with a preface that would be left out of future editions, which read in part: 

The land and sea, the animals, fishes, and birds, the sky of heaven and the orbs, the forests, mountains, and rivers, are not small themes … but folks expect of the poet to indicate more than [their] beauty and dignity [. . . ] … they expect him to indicate the path between reality and their souls. Men and women perceive the beauty well enough … [. . . ] The passionate tenacity of hunters, woodmen, early risers, cultivators of gardens and orchards and fields, the love of healthy women for the manly form, seafaring persons, drivers of horses, the passion for light and the open air, all is an old varied sign of the unfailing perception of beauty and of a residence of the poetic in outdoor people [. . . ] The poetic quality is not marshalled in rhyme or uniformity or abstract addresses to things nor in melancholy complaints or good precepts, but is the life of these and much else and is in the soul [. . . ] This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one 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, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families . . .

For more, go here.

(H/T: The Writer's Almanac)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pentimento- I love your reflections on aesthetics, in particular, the catholicity you see revealed in everything beautiful. Your sources are different from mine, and the process by which you embraced the faith of the ancient Church is likewise different. Yet we come to the same conclusions about ultimate things. Blessings to you and your own, TQ