Studying the work of Walt Whitman has been on the periphery of my intentions for many a decade. A fair few months ago I was perusing ‘Breaking Bad’ (BB) because I was mesmerised when watching the series on Netflix. So, when seeking in Google land investigations re: BB… Walt Whitman’s name came up as part of the deeper analysis of the story. I hunted for books. Paperbacks aplenty on Amazon at 1p. Ignored. Needed vintage authenticity. So I bought a 1900 uncut edition of his ‘Leaves of Grass’ masterpiece off eBay. A beautiful book in my hand where the pages ‘slapped’ as you let them collectively tumble against each other. Such a wonderful sound. Real wood pulp. None of your modern flimsy paper.
Having finished my long day shift I needed something to take my mind off the recent work experiences as a nurse. Something to switch my mind from the nagging anxieties. There are now, in reality, expectations that both myself and my amazing fellow nurse and Multi Disciplinary Team colleagues will face an oncoming onslaught in the very near future regarding the current crisis. We can only imagine what we are definitely going to face.
So. Back to Walt. I read the first page. The first poem? ‘One’s self I sing’.
One’s-Self I sing, a simple separate person,
Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse.
Of physiology from top to toe I sing,
Not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy for the Muse, I say the Form
complete is worthier far,
The Female equally with the Male I sing.
Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,
Cheerful, for freest action form’d under the laws divine,
The Modern Man I sing.
One’s-self I sing…….Profound. I have amateurishly analysed in my own mind. Thoughts chasing thoughts. But, in my amateur individuality, I understand his meaning involved in the complexity of linking the ego of myself to the Global mass fragility or strength of others in a Democratic/En Masse gender equality. Physiological weaknesses that burden my nurse’s mind when trying to understand what we are facing. Physiognomy and it’s facial ethnic individuality of recognition which perhaps separates us all…..but in actuality Does Not (we can ALL Die…or…Live) and in fact, no individuality…..we are all, simply, human beings. And immense. Fighting the equally immense? No. A ‘lesser so’ immense. Is there predictability in this existing nightmare? Or do we deny predictability and fight and hope? And whilst fighting we are seeking divine intervention. Our seeking a higher entity, whatever the faith or religion, to help solve this nightmare. But we are ourselves also simply divine.
The second poem, ‘As I Ponder’d in Silence’.
As I ponder’d in silence,
Returning upon my poems, considering, lingering long,
A Phantom arose before me with distrustful aspect,
Terrible in beauty, age, and power,
The genius of poets of old lands,
As to me directing like flame its eyes,
With finger pointing to many immortal songs,
And menacing voice,
What singest thou? it said,
Know’st thou not there is but one theme for ever-enduring
And this is the theme of War, the fortune of battles,
The making of perfect soldiers.
Be it so, then I answer’d,
I too haughty Shade also sing war, and a longer and greater one
Waged in my book with varying fortune, with flight, advance
and retreat, victory deferr’d and wavering,
(Yet methinks certain, or as good as certain, at the last,) the field
For life and death, for the Body and for the eternal Soul.
Lo, I too am come, chanting the chant of battles,
I above all promote brave soldiers.
In the photograph above? My Briton Button (Strong and Durable) bookmark/page finder. For the first time in my life…..I want myself and all others to be the equivalent of a simple Button. With the intention of working in harmony alongside other simple Buttons. Standing in a line, attaching ourselves in many ways to the task of closing our protective clothing. And having locked up our coat fronts are no longer exposed to a bitter wind that bites.
I never really appreciated the beauty of a simple button. The history and thoughts regarding origins. And the love or profound distaste for a simple used everyday object.
Koumpounophobia? ……….an introductory link to a synopsis concerning buttons below.
The 2nd poem? It is simply read and understood…….it is the current primary enemy that has become the pandemic. We are at war………
3 thoughts on “Walt Whitman. Genius.”
We are indeed at war Gray, none more so than you and your colleagues. Thank you to you all.
Being old enough to remember sleeping in a cage in the cellar and seeing houses with their front walls removed to reveal the lives of the residents like a doll’s house, our 12 week confinement to our flat, at least, doesn’t seem too bad.
It’s years since I read ‘Leaves of Grass’; you’ve prompted me to add it to my reading list though sadly it will not be a beautiful old edition like yours.
Stay safe as you can.
I’ve only begun Walt Whitman reading. I knew about his popularity. In my beautiful 1900 edition (won for £10 on eBay Roger) I skim read and dipped here and there. Very insightful. Settled down and…..It was the very first poem that resonated our worldwide predicament. Public platform here on WordPress so can’t go into specifics as to my current nurse role. But. Anxiety every day and PPE availability letting myself and colleagues down. 4 hours update training by Skype yesterday to focus upon airborne aerosol problematics in this scenario. Best keep both yourselves isolated as much as possible. Because in a public environment, you have asymptomatic carrier possibilities. Not everyone who is positive exhibits. Look after yourself my friend. And I will look at your wonderful posts when I can truly settle and read. Friday is the last long day shift of 7 in 10. The weekend then awaits and I will drink copious Jack Daniels and say Thank you for the Saturday/Sunday stay in my scruffy stuff teary meltdown.
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