awesomeness appreciation: Walt Whitman

A friend’s status on facebook, quoting Walt Whitman, reminded me to go back to my old copy of ‘Leaves of Grass’ and thumb through it. As usual, I ended up reading ‘Song of the Open Road’, which is something of a personal hymn. Who couldn’t be enchanted by a beginning like this?

Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.

And then, later on, my favourite part of that poem:

From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.

So yes, Whitman is a bit wordy. And yes, sometimes that can deter from what he has to say, and sometimes it’s plain annoying. And then, just when I’m about to put down the book, I’m caught by the rhythm of the repetition – I get a shiver down the spine from the honest, straight-forward love of humankind that flows from his writing – I stumble across a single, little gem hidden inside the repetitions and the big words

…..something like:

I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness.


I and mine do not convince by arguments, similes, rhymes,
We convince by our presence.

– and I forgive the repetitions, the overflow of words, and am left only with a sense of grandeur and gratitude. Grandeur in the small things, in small ideas, in small people. Gratitude that there are people like Whitman who was able to see that grandeur, and love it, and express it.


About wordsurfer

writer, ex-teacher, human rights believer & fighter, traveller, adventure-seeker, freedom lover, global citizen. big on daydreams, less so on reality.

Posted on May 20, 2012, in day-to-day and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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