12 December 2005


150 Years of Leaves of Grass

The 150th anniversay of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass is being celebrated this year (link via Towleroad).

I think I will do nothing for a long time but listen,
And accrue what I hear into myself....and let sounds
contribute towards me.

I hear the bravuras of birds....the bustle of growing
wheat....gossip of flames....clack of sticks
cooking my meals.

I hear the sound of the human voice....a sound I love,
I hear all sounds as they are tuned to their uses....
sounds of the city and sounds out of the city....
sounds of the day and night;
Talkative young ones to those that like them....the
recitative of fish-pedlars and fruit-pedlars....the
loud laugh of workpeople at their meals,
The angry base of disjointed friendship....the faint
tones of the sick,
The judge with hands tight to the desk, his shaky lips
pronouncing a death-sentence,
The heave'e'yo of stevedores unlading ships by the
wharves....the refrain of the anchor-lifters;
The ring of alarm bells....the cry of fire....the
whirr of swift-streaking engines and hose-carts with
premonitory tinkles and colored lights,
The steam-whistle....the solid roll of the train of
approaching cars;
The slow-march played at night a the head of the
They go to guard some corpse....the flag-tops are
draped with black muslin.

I hear the violincello or man's heart complaint,
And hear the keyed cornet or else the echo of sunset.

I hear the chorus....it is a grand-opera....this indeed
is music!

A tenor large and fresh as the creation fills me,
The orbic flex of his mouth is pouring and filling me full.

I hear the trained soprano....she convulses me like
the climax of my love-grip;
The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies,
It wrenches unnamable ardors from my breast,
It throbs me to gulps of the farthest down horror,
It sails me....I dab with bare feet....they are licked
by the indolent waves,
I am exposed....cut aby bitter and poisoned hail,
Steeped amid honeyed morphine....my windpipe
squeezed in the fakes of death,
Let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles,
And that we call Being.

(Song of Myself, Stanza 26)

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