Half of my life is gone, and I have letThe years slip from me and have not fulfilledThe aspiration of my youth, to buildSome tower of song with lofty parapet.Not indolence, nor pleasure, nor the fretOf restless passions that would not be stilled,But sorrow, and a care that almost killed,Kept me from what I may accomplish yet;Though, half-way up the hill, I see the PastLying beneath me with its sounds and sights,—A city in the twilight dim and vast,With smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights,—And hear above me on the autumnal blastThe cataract of Death far thundering from the heights.
I’ve posted this before, back on March 28th, 2014 as part of my “Daily Whitman” series; but it’s a great poem for the Fourth of July, non-jingoistic and speaking of what makes the American project truly great. May we continue to emulate it. Enjoy, and Happy Independence Day.
I Hear America Singing
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong, The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam, The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work, The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck, The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands, The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown, The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing, Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else, The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly, Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
Let nothing disturb thee;
Let nothing dismay thee:
All things pass;
God never changes.
All that it strives for.
He who has God
Finds he lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.
–“Poem IX”, in Complete Works St. Teresa of Avila (1963) edited by E. Allison Peers, Vol. 3, p. 288; courtesy of Wikiquote
Interea dulces pendent circum oscula nati,
Casta pudicitiam servat domus.
His cares are eased with intervals of bliss;
His little children, climbing for a kiss,
Welcome their father’s late return at night;
His faithful bed is crown’d with chaste delight.
–Virgil, Georgics (29 BC), Book II, lines 523-524 (translated by John Dryden); courtesy of Wikiquote
The above may–may–be the only existing sound recording of Walt Whitman himself. The case is complicated, and you can read about it here. Whether or not it is Walt himself, enjoy!
Yesterday I completed publishing the entire Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. It was a follow-up to my series publishing two different translations of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. Back in November of last year I bogged down on blogging and temporarily abandoned daily updates of the blog. I let the Daily Whitman series lapse, as well as the Friday music and the Sunday “Quote for the Week”. Finally, a few weeks ago, I restarted everything. I was closer to the end than I realized, and it seems like saying goodbye to an old friend to have Daily Whitman finally come to an end.
I will keep posting music on Fridays and quotes on Sundays. I have a couple of possible contenders for daily poetry to post, but I haven’t made a decision yet. I think it salutary to take a few days off and decide what I want to do, and then go from there. In the meantime, I hope all of you who may be regular, semi-regular, or sporadic readers have enjoyed the Daily Whitman, and before it, the Rubá’í of the Day series. Keep checking this space for poetry to come!
Good-Bye My Fancy
Good-bye my Fancy! Farewell dear mate, dear love! I'm going away, I know not where, Or to what fortune, or whether I may ever see you again, So Good-bye my Fancy. Now for my last—let me look back a moment; The slower fainter ticking of the clock is in me, Exit, nightfall, and soon the heart-thud stopping. Long have we lived, joy'd, caress'd together; Delightful!—now separation—Good-bye my Fancy. Yet let me not be too hasty, Long indeed have we lived, slept, filter'd, become really blended into one; Then if we die we die together, (yes, we'll remain one,) If we go anywhere we'll go together to meet what happens, May-be we'll be better off and blither, and learn something, May-be it is yourself now really ushering me to the true songs, (who knows?) May-be it is you the mortal knob really undoing, turning—so now finally, Good-bye—and hail! my Fancy.
Unseen buds, infinite, hidden well, Under the snow and ice, under the darkness, in every square or cubic inch, Germinal, exquisite, in delicate lace, microscopic, unborn, Like babes in wombs, latent, folded, compact, sleeping; Billions of billions, and trillions of trillions of them waiting, (On earth and in the sea—the universe—the stars there in the heavens,) Urging slowly, surely forward, forming endless, And waiting ever more, forever more behind.
Grand is the Seen
Grand is the seen, the light, to me—grand are the sky and stars, Grand is the earth, and grand are lasting time and space, And grand their laws, so multiform, puzzling, evolutionary; But grander far the unseen soul of me, comprehending, endowing all those, Lighting the light, the sky and stars, delving the earth, sailing the sea, (What were all those, indeed, without thee, unseen soul? of what amount without thee?) More evolutionary, vast, puzzling, O my soul! More multiform far—more lasting thou than they.
How dare one say it? After the cycles, poems, singers, plays, Vaunted Ionia's, India's—Homer, Shakspere—the long, long times' thick dotted roads, areas, The shining clusters and the Milky Ways of stars—Nature's pulses reap'd, All retrospective passions, heroes, war, love, adoration, All ages' plummets dropt to their utmost depths, All human lives, throats, wishes, brains—all experiences' utterance; After the countless songs, or long or short, all tongues, all lands, Still something not yet told in poesy's voice or print—something lacking, (Who knows? the best yet unexpress'd and lacking.)