Happy Poetry Tuesday! Today we’re hitting up some Walt Whitman, who, if you didn’t already know, is awesome. If nothing else you should recognize the phrase “O CAPTAIN! My captain!” in all it’s profundity (Yep, that came from a Whitman poem). I’m convinced that if I lived in the 19th century he and I would have been best friends and pen pals. He would send me poetry and I would send him drawings and we would understand each other.
In my high school days, not everyone understood my love for Mr. Whitman. We had to read poems in one of my composition classes, and while everyone else chose poets like Shakespeare and Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein (all solid choices), I bust out my copy of Leaves of Grass and showed everyone how long a poem can really be (Not all of his poems are long. I just happened to pick “The Wound Dresser,” which has four parts). Even the teacher was giving me the look that said “are you done yet?” They just didn’t get it.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy Walt Whitman as much as I do, and that you understand sometimes a poem does need to be that long. So find a grassy spot outside where the only thing you hear is the wind and the trees and the birds of early fall (wear a poofy 19th century dress if you will), spend some quality time with Mr. Whitman and have a happy Poetry Tuesday.
Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun
GIVE me the splendid silent sun, with all his beams full-dazzling;
Give me juicy autumnal fruit, ripe and red from the orchard;
Give me a field where the unmow’d grass grows;
Give me an arbor, give me the trellis’d grape;
Give me fresh corn and wheat–give me serene-moving animals, teaching
Give me nights perfectly quiet, as on high plateaus west of the
Mississippi, and I looking up at the stars;
Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers, where I can
Give me for marriage a sweet-breath’d woman, of whom I should never
Give me a perfect child–give me, away, aside from the noise of the
world, a rural, domestic life;
Give me to warble spontaneous songs, reliev’d, recluse by myself, for
my own ears only;
Give me solitude–give me Nature–give me again, O Nature, your
–These, demanding to have them, (tired with ceaseless excitement,
and rack’d by the war-strife;)
These to procure, incessantly asking, rising in cries from my heart,
While yet incessantly asking, still I adhere to my city;
Day upon day, and year upon year, O city, walking your streets,
Where you hold me enchain’d a certain time, refusing to give me up;
Yet giving to make me glutted, enrich’d of soul–you give me forever
(O I see what I sought to escape, confronting, reversing my cries;
I see my own soul trampling down what it ask’d for.)
Keep your splendid, silent sun;
Keep your woods, O Nature, and the quiet places by the woods;
Keep your fields of clover and timothy, and your corn-fields and
Keep the blossoming buckwheat fields, where the Ninth-month bees hum;
Give me faces and streets! give me these phantoms incessant and
endless along the trottoirs!
Give me interminable eyes! give me women! give me comrades and lovers
by the thousand!
Let me see new ones every day! let me hold new ones by the hand every
Give me such shows! give me the streets of Manhattan!
Give me Broadway, with the soldiers marching–give me the sound of
the trumpets and drums!
(The soldiers in companies or regiments–some, starting away, flush’d
Some, their time up, returning, with thinn’d ranks–young, yet very
old, worn, marching, noticing nothing;)
–Give me the shores and the wharves heavy-fringed with the black
O such for me! O an intense life! O full to repletion, and varied!
The life of the theatre, bar-room, huge hotel, for me!
The saloon of the steamer! the crowded excursion for me! the torch-
The dense brigade, bound for the war, with high piled military wagons
People, endless, streaming, with strong voices, passions, pageants;
Manhattan streets, with their powerful throbs, with the beating
drums, as now;
The endless and noisy chorus, the rustle and clank of muskets, (even
the sight of the wounded;)
Manhattan crowds, with their turbulent musical chorus–with varied
chorus, and light of the sparkling eyes;
Manhattan faces and eyes forever for me. – Walt Whitman