By Blue Ontario’s Shore
12 Are you he who would assume a place to teach or be a poet here in the States? The place is august, the terms obdurate. Who would assume to teach here may well prepare himself body and mind, He may well survey, ponder, arm, fortify, harden, make lithe himself, He shall surely be question'd beforehand by me with many and stern questions. Who are you indeed who would talk or sing to America? Have you studied out the land, its idioms and men? Have you learn'd the physiology, phrenology, politics, geography, pride, freedom, friendship of the land? its substratums and objects? Have you consider'd the organic compact of the first day of the first year of Independence, sign'd by the Commissioners, ratified by the States, and read by Washington at the head of the army? Have you possess'd yourself of the Federal Constitution? Do you see who have left all feudal processes and poems behind them, and assumed the poems and processes of Democracy? Are you faithful to things? do you teach what the land and sea, the bodies of men, womanhood, amativeness, heroic angers, teach? Have you sped through fleeting customs, popularities? Can you hold your hand against all seductions, follies, whirls, fierce contentions? are you very strong? are you really of the whole People? Are you not of some coterie? some school or mere religion? Are you done with reviews and criticisms of life? animating now to life itself? Have you vivified yourself from the maternity of these States? Have you too the old ever-fresh forbearance and impartiality? Do you hold the like love for those hardening to maturity? for the last-born? little and big? and for the errant? What is this you bring my America? Is it uniform with my country? Is it not something that has been better told or done before? Have you not imported this or the spirit of it in some ship? Is it not a mere tale? a rhyme? a prettiness?—Is the good old cause in it? Has it not dangled long at the heels of the poets, politicians, literats, of enemies' lands? Does it not assume that what is notoriously gone is still here? Does it answer universal needs? will it improve manners? Does it sound with trumpet-voice the proud victory of the Union in that secession war? Can your performance face the open fields and the seaside? Will it absorb into me as I absorb food, air, to appear again in my strength, gait, face? Have real employments contributed to it? original makers, not mere amanuenses? Does it meet modern discoveries, calibres, facts, face to face? What does it mean to American persons, progresses, cities? Chicago, Kanada, Arkansas? Does it see behind the apparent custodians the real custodians standing, menacing, silent, the mechanics, Manhattanese, Western men, Southerners, significant alike in their apathy, and in the promptness of their love? Does it see what finally befalls, and has always finally befallen, each temporizer, patcher, outsider, partialist, alarmist, infidel, who has ever ask'd any thing of America? What mocking and scornful negligence? The track strew'd with the dust of skeletons, By the roadside others disdainfully toss'd.
Posted on 18/03/2015, in literature, poetry and tagged 19th Century Poetry, American literature, American poets, Daily Whitman, free verse, Leaves of Grass, literature, poems, poetry, Transcendentalists, Walt Whitman. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.