Excerpts From Leaves Of Grass Which Prove That I’m Being Chased By Walt Whitman

The collection of poems known as Leaves of Grass were published in various editions between the years 1855 and 1892. Despite the fact that this was all more than a century prior to my own birth I feel reading them as though the man himself has dogged me through life. Many of his poems, if you read closely, are not about the grand themes that readers and critics have attributed to them but about fairly inconsequential events in my own life.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,

These lines from Song of Myself are particularly obvious. Everyone knows that I have looked at grass and on top of that, that I was born of my parents. I’m almost offended that Whitman didn’t even attempt to hide his blatant plagiarism of my life.

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

A little known fact about Whitman’s famous elegy, is that it is actually about my first grade field trip to a gator park (a low tier theme park of sorts, but instead of attractions there are just a lot of alligators) and the boat ride that entailed around the moat of this park. The trip was fearful because a. the moat was filled with alligators and b. the boat broke down halfway through and had to be pushed to shore manually by someone’s father with a pvc pipe, hence the triumph of the return. The death of the captain is a mere dramatization. The captain did at one point fall of of the boat into the water filled, if you recall, with alligators so anxiety about his fate was not unreasonable.

As I wend to the shores I know not,
As I list to the dirge, the voices of men and women wreck’d,
As I inhale the impalpable breezes that set in upon me,
As the ocean so mysterious rolls toward me closer and closer,
I too but signify at the utmost a little wash’d-up drift,
A few sands and dead leaves to gather,
Gather, and merge myself as part of the sands and drift.

I have spent a lot of time walking along the shore of the ocean so this one is difficult to place. There are quite a few conversations between myself and one friend or another to the effect of being a wash’d-up drift, several of which occurred on a shore. While it’s hard to know the specifics of Walt’s clairvoyant knowledge of my life, I wish he would respect my privacy more and not air my personal conversations in poems such as this.

As I lay with my head in your lap, Camerado,
The confession I made I resume-what I said to you in the open air I resume:
I know I am restless, and make others so;
I know my words are weapons, full of danger, full of death;
(Indeed I am myself the real soldier;
It is not he, there, with his bayonet, and not the red-striped artilleryman;)
For I confront peace, security, and all the settled laws, to unsettle them;
I am more resolute because all have denied me, than I could ever have been had all accepted me;
I heed not, and have never heeded, either experience, cautions, majorities, nor ridicule;
And the threat of what is call’d hell is little or nothing to me,
And the lure of what is call’d heaven is little or nothing to me;
. . . Dear camerado! I confess I have urged you onward with me, and still urge you, without the least idea of what is our destination,
Or whether we shall be victorious, or utterly quell’d and defeated

Since I can relate to this part more in spirit than in experience, I will have to yield to my trust of Whitman’s knowledge of my life and assume it’s about some future event that I haven’t experienced yet. Looking forward to it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s