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He was the boot on yeah the well the well fixed collar and tie the top hat and the stick. When he was a newspaperman he went around to the opposite he dressed for opera going well he changed from all that he became in a sense what you might call a beatnik of his day except it was a great difference. He'd never. I think this phrase is he never copped out. He never really dropped out of society. He always accepted his responsibility as a human being and as a member of society and also he was very much addicted to claim limits. Now one final one final. Event that must have contributed to his change. It's one of those mystic experiences that come to let's say saints at some point in their lives. It was St. Francis of Assisi to appall on his way to Damascus to political
social great leaders or great spiritual leaders. That moment of a spiritual revelation that seems to show them the universe in a flash and they seem to have solved all of the riddles of the universe. This is more than intimated in one of the chants of the first poem of Leaves of Grass which wound up after having been called Walt Whitman with the title final title of Song of Myself in the fifth chant or canto. He's addressing his soul throughout in this. I believe in you my soul loaf with me on the grass loose the stop from your throat. Not words not music or rhyme I want not custom or lecture not even the best. Only the LOL I like the home of your valve and voice. I mind how once we lay such a transparent summer morning
how you settled your head athwart my hips in gently turned over upon me and parted the shirt from my bosom bone and plunged your tongue to my bare stripped heart and reached to you felt my beard and reached to you held my feet swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass all the argument of the earth and I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own. And I know that. The Spirit of God is the brother of my own. And that all the men ever born are also my brothers and the women my sisters and lovers and that I carry some of the creation is love that Kelson being a keels and or the
superstructure that strengthens the ship's keel. What I would like to do tonight is to devote the first part of the program to reading a fair amount of my of the Cantos or the chance of Song of Myself that I like with a few odds and ends in the kind of grab bag at the end of the first part. Then there will be an intermission and at the end of that if those of you still exist who have not had an overdose you can come back and get an overdose because the second part will be devoted entirely to the civil war and to Whitman's recollections of Abraham Lincoln. We start with Song of Myself. A child said What is the grass fetching it to me with full hands.
How could I answer the child. I do not know what it is anymore than he. I guess it must be the flag of my disposition out of hopeful green stuff woven. For. I guess it is that chip of the Lord a scented gift and remembrancer designed Hedley dropt bearing the owner's name someway in the corners that we may see and remark and say who. Or I guess the grass is itself a child the produced babe of the vegetation. And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves tenderly will I use you curling grass. It may be you transpire from the breasts of a young man. It may be if I had known them I would have loved them. It may be your from old people and from women and from
Offspring taken soon out of their mother's lap. And here you are the mothers lap this grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers is darker than the colorless beards of old men dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mild. What do you think has become of the young and old man. What do you think has become of the women and children. They're alive and well somewhere the smallest sprout shows there is really no death. And if. Ever there was it led forward life and does not wait at the end the war rested and ceased the moment life appeared. All goes onward in outward nothing collapses and to die is different from what any one supposed and luckier is anyone supposed that lucky to be born.
I hasten to inform him it is just as lucky to die and I know it. 28 young men bathed by the shore 20 a young man an all so friendly. 28 years of womanly life and all so lonesome she owns the fine house by the rise of the bank. She hides handsome and richly dressed after the blinds of the window which of the young men to she like the best. The homeliest of them is beautiful too. Where you off to lady for I see you. You splash in the water there. You stay stock still in your room dancing and laughing along the beach. Came the twenty ninth bather.
The wrist did not see that but she saw them and love them. The beards of the young men glistened with wet it ran from their long hair. Little streams passed all over their bodies an unseen hand also passed over their bodies. It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs. The young men flowed on their backs their white bellies bowed to the sun. They do not ask who sees as fast of them. They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and bending arc. I do not know. They do not think they solves with spray. With Music strong I come with my cornets and my drums. I play not via marches for victories only. I play
great marches for conquered and slain persons. Have you heard that it was good to gain the day. I also say it is good for all battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won. I beat and pound for the dead. I blow through my own Bush sure is my loudest and gayest for them. Really was done those who have failed. And so those whose war vessels sank in the sea. And to those themselves who sank in the sea. And to all generals that lost in Gage mints and all oh overcome heroes. And the number lists on known heroes equal to the greatest heroes know it. I believe a leaf of grass is no less
than the journey work of the staus and the pice Meyer is equally perfect and a grain of satin and the egg of the wren and the tree toad is a shade over for the highest and the running Blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven and the narrow as he knew of my hand puts to scorn all machinery and the car crunching with depressed head surpasses any statue. And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sex tape guns of infidels. I think I could turn and live with animals and it's so placid and self-contained. I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition. They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins. They do not make me sick. Discussing their duty to God. Not one is dissatisfied. No one is demented with the mania of owning things. Not one kneels to another nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago. Not one is respectable or industrious over the whole earth. I tramp a perpetual journey. My signs are all rain proof coat good shoes and a staff cut from the woods. No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair I have no chair no church no philosophy. I lead no man to a dinner table library or exchange. But each man and each woman of you. I lead upon a know my left
hand poking you around the waist. My right hand pointing to landscapes of continents in a plain public road. Not I not anyone else can travel that road for you. You must travel it for yourself. It is not far it is within reach. Perhaps you've been on it since you were born and did not know. Perhaps it is everywhere on water and on land. Show. Your dogs and I will mine and let us hasten forth. Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch as we go. If you're tired give me both burdens and rest the chuff of your hand on my hip. And in due time usual repay the same service to me for after we start we never lie by again. This day before dawn I ascended the hill and looked at the crowd in heaven. And I said to my
spirit when we become the end folders of those orbs and the pleasure and knowledge of everything in them shall we be filled and satisfied then in my spirit said no we but level that lift to pass and continue beyond. You were also asking me questions and I hear you. I answer that I cannot answer. You must find out for yourself long enough have you dreamed contemptible dreams. No I washed the gum from your eyes. You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life long have you timidly waited holding a plank by the shore. NO I WILL YOU to be a bold swimmer to
Jumpoff in the midst of the sea. Rise Again not to me shout and laughingly dash with the air. I teach straying from me yet who can stray from it. I follow you wherever you are from the present hour. My words it's at your ears do you understand them. I do not say these things for a dollar or to fill up the time while I wait for a boat. It is you talking just as much as myself. I act as the tongue of you. It was tied in your mouth and mine. It begins to be loosened. I have said that the soul is not more than the body. And I've said the body is not more than the soul and nothing
not God is greater to one than one's self is. And whoever walks of Furlong without sympathy walks to his own funeral dressed in a shroud and I hear you pocket less of a dime may purchase the pick of the earth and there is no trader employment. But the young man following it may become a hero. And there is no object so soft but it makes our hub for the wheeled universe. And I say to any man or woman. Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes. And I say to mankind be not curious about God or I am curious about each am not curious about God. No array of
terms can say how much I am at peace about God and about death. I hear and behold God in every object yet understand God not in the least. Nor do I understand who there can be even more wonderful than myself. Why should I wish to see God better than this day. I see something of God each hour of the 24 and each moment then in the faces of men and women I see God in my own face in the glass. I find letters from God dropped in the street and every one is signed by God's name and I leave them where they are. For I know that wheresoe'er I go others will punctually come forever and ever.
The usual joke about Walt Whitman is that in a way he was. He seems to be a man who is saying you know something I'm telling you the universe is absolutely perfect and it's getting better every day. But he really wasn't quite the mitigated optimist that some people think he was. He was aware of the darkest side of the world and of life and of his country. And he didn't hold as many thought at the time that there was no evil. He did not deny the existence of evil emu existed but that everything was working toward the good and toward perfection the universe was constantly becoming it was. It was a fluid process not a solidified structure and had to be viewed not from the point of view of the present moment but of eternity. And in
that eternal picture evil was part of a universally perfect design. In other words fundamentally all is well and good all is heading toward the right thing. And some of the things that he wrote. Aside from his rather somber war poetry. Which reflect the darkest side of life I can't read very much of him but I want to read one which is I sit and look out. Published in 1860 in the third edition. It has rather a a puzzling last line. I sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world and upon all oppression and shame I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men at anguish with themselves remorseful after the deeds done I see in low life the mother misused by her children dying
neglected gaunt desperate. I see the wife misused by a husband. I see the treacherous seducer of young women. I mock the wranglings of jealousy undone requited love attempted to be hid. I see the sights on the earth. I see the workings of battle pestilence tyranny. I see martyrs and prisoners. I observe a famine at sea I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be killed to preserve the lives of the rest. I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon the labor of the poor and upon negroes and the like. All these oh the meanness and agony without end. I sitting. Look out upon. See here.
And I am silent. Here and there in women's work and in Leaves of Grass will come upon little two or three line pieces that are just labelled titled thought. Here's one of them. As I stand aloof and look there is to me something profoundly affecting in large masses of men following the lead of those who do not believe in man. In 1871 there was published his long prose piece called democratic vistas in which he looked forward to the future and saw the glorious country that our United States would become. He knew that it was going to grow physically spiritually. The center would prob. the capital would probably move be somewhere around I imagine he thought St. Louis and we would own
Canada and we would have Cuba anyway. But he. Would talk about Castro you know as De Castro in the first moment anyway. But he also saw what the country was. We've been we've been through the Civil War. And he talked about the great upsurge of unionism which he considered such a great feeling the desire to maintain the Union but he also saw that even after the war there were elements in the country there were things going on that were not what they should be. And I want to read one passage of the Democratic vistas which a lot of people think might have been written today. I say we had best look at our times in Lens searchingly in the face like a physician diagnosing some deep disease. Never was there perhaps more hollowness at heart than at present and here in the United States. Genuine belief seems to have left us. With the underlying
principles of the states are not honestly believed in. For all this hectic glow in these melodramatic screaming nor is humanity itself believed in what penetrating II does not everywhere see through the mask. The spectacle is appalling. The depravity of the business classes of our country is not less than has been supposed but infinitely greater. The official Services of America national state and municipal in all their branches and departments except the judiciary are saturated in corruption bribery fers hold maladministration and the judiciary is tainted. In fashionable life flippancy tepid a mover's weak infidel ism small aims for no aims at all merely to pass time to kill time in business.
This all devouring modern word business. The one sole object is by any means peculiar every game. The best class we show is but a mob of fashionably dressed speculators and bald Gary humans. A true indeed behind this fantastic farce and acted on the visible stage of society. Solid things and stupendous labors are to be discovered existing crudely and going on in the background to advance and tell themselves in time yet the truth none the less terrible. I say that our new world democracy however the greatest success in uplifting the masses out of their slewed in materialistic development products and in certain highly deceptive superficial popular intellectuality. It's so far an almost complete failure in its social aspects and in really grand
religious model literary and this that it results in vain do we march with unprecedented strides to empires so colossal. I'll be buying the antique beyond Alexander's beyond the proudest sway of Rome in vain Have we annexed Texas California Alaska and reached North the Canada and south of Cuba. It is as if we were somehow being indulged with a vast and more and more thoroughly appointed body. And then left with little or no soul. One of the joys of reading Whitman and there are many perils I must say. If you open to the wrong page you can be driven away from the life. If some of these little gems went up but peculiarly profound as philosophy or anything but the quite wonderful and I'd like to read a couple of them I will take an egg out of the robin's nest in the orchard. I would take a branch
of gooseberries from the old Bush in the garden and go and preach to the world. Usual see how I stump clergyman and confound them. Usual see me showing a scarlet tomato and a white pebble from the beach. I think a lot of people find this their favorite short poem Whitman. A noiseless patient spider. I marked where on a little prominent theory it stood isolated mocked how to explore the vacant vast surrounding it launched forth filament filament filament out of itself ever around revealing them ever tirelessly speeding them and heal my soul where you stad surrounded
detached in measureless oceans of space ceaselessly musing venturing throwing seeking spheres to connect them till the bridge you will need be formed till the ductile anchor hold til the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere of my soul. Now dearest comrade lift me to your face we must separate awhile. Ere take from my lips this case whether you or I give it especially to you. So long and I hope we shall meet again. Ah you have heard of the actor Alexander score be in readings from the work of Walt Whitman. This was another in a series of lectures and readings recorded at the Library of Congress under the auspices of the Gertrude Clark quit all poetry and literature fund. This is the
national educational radio network.
Library of Congress lectures II
Episode Number
Episode 6 of 9
Producing Organization
WUOM (Radio station : Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Series Description
For series info, see Item 3701. This prog.: Alexander Scourby is heard in a dramatic presentation, "Walt Whitman's America," with particular emphasis on the Lincoln theme.
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Producer: Library of Congress
Producing Organization: WUOM (Radio station : Ann Arbor, Mich.)
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-40-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:27:09
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Chicago: “Library of Congress lectures II; Episode 6 of 9,” 1968-10-14, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 25, 2024,
MLA: “Library of Congress lectures II; Episode 6 of 9.” 1968-10-14. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 25, 2024. <>.
APA: Library of Congress lectures II; Episode 6 of 9. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from