Thursday, September 19, 2013

Love Transcending, Walt Whitman

"How beautiful is candor..." Walt Whitman 1855, preface Leaves of Grass

Published in 1855, just prior to the American Civil War, Leaves of Grass was Whitman's work written in a sensuous manner for the more ordinary in society, the common, everyday man of America. While many writers of the period wrote for the elite about the elite and their day to day lives, Whitman determined that for his work, he would not follow in like fashion.
He stated in the preface of the 1855 volume that his desire was to 'united the physical flesh with the spiritual,' to be a poet of the physical, a poet of the soul. He was striven to accept all of life as revealed to him on simple, equal terms. While many of his contemporaries were offended by such overt references, Whitman excluded nothing, accepting all in nature.

Like author D. H. Lawrence who wrote
in the 20th century, Whitman was intent on exploring the mind/spirit/body connections of everyday life. His frankness was shocking to many, and the book was declared obscene immediately upon publication in 1855. This however only added to its cachet. And yet clearly his stated intention is not the intent of those in the 20th and 21st centuries who wish to use him and his words for their and their own devices.

"A woman waits for me, she contains all, nothing is lacking, Yet all were lacking if sex were lacking, or if the moisture of the right man were lacking. Sex contains all, bodies, souls, Meanings, proofs, purities, delicacies, results, promulgations, Songs, commands, health, pride, the maternal mystery, the seminal milk, All hopes, benefactions, bestowals, all the passions, loves, beauties, delights of the earth, All the governments, judges, gods, follow'd persons of the earth, These are contain'd in sex as parts of itself and justifications of itself. Without shame the man I like knows and avows the deliciousness of his sex, Without shame the woman I like knows and avows hers. Now I will dismiss myself from impassive women, I will go stay with her who waits for me, and with those women that are warm-blooded sufficient for me, I see that they understand me and do not deny me, I see that they are worthy of me, I will be the robust husband of those women. 
They are not one jot less than I am, They are tann'd in the face by shining suns and blowing winds, Their flesh has the old divine suppleness and strength, They know how to swim, row, ride, wrestle, shoot, run, strike, retreat, advance, resist, defend themselves, They are ultimate in their own right--they are calm, clear, well-possess'd of themselves. I draw you close to me, you women, I cannot let you go, I would do you good, I am for you, and you are for me, not only for our own sake, but for others' sakes, Envelop'd in you sleep greater heroes and bards, They refuse to awake at the touch of any man but me. It is I, you women, I make my way, I am stern, acrid, large, undissuadable, but I love you, I do not hurt you any more than is necessary for you, I pour the stuff to start sons and daughters fit for these States, I press with slow rude muscle, I brace myself effectually, I listen to no entreaties, I dare not withdraw till I deposit what has so long accumulated within me. Through you I drain the pent-up rivers of myself, In you I wrap a thousand onward years, On you I graft the grafts of the best-beloved of me and America, The drops I distil upon you shall grow fierce and athletic girls, new artists, musicians, and singers, The babes I beget upon you are to beget babes in their turn, I shall demand perfect men and women out of my love- spendings, I shall expect them to interpenetrate with others, as I and you interpenetrate now, I shall count on the fruits of the gushing showers of them, as I count on the fruits of the gushing showers I give now, I shall look for loving crops from the birth, life, death, immortality, I plant so lovingly now."
--A Woman Waits for Me 1856 by Walt Whitman, American Poet

The Transcendentalism of his age is spelled out here, clean within the lines, the poet makes the statement that all is in the world, all joined, simple frankness. And he writes of America as if it were a woman, curiously of sons and daughters fit for these (united) states.What's more, Whitman attributed his 'fire' to the American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, leader of the transcendentalist movement,whom he said brought him to himself, to his fire. In December 1856 Henry David Thoreau paid Whitman a visit. He wrote later that, "he (Whitman) does not celebrate love at all.It is as if the beasts spoke... But even on his side, he has spoken more truth than any American or modern at present." 
 Whitman, through sexual energy, identifies with the generative aspect of nature itself. And he holds a belief in both the seen and the unseen.
As for Emerson, he declared that 'every man should commune with the divinity of the animating soul within himself.'
These thoughts have animated spiritual thinkers for the modern age and beyond.

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