Thursday, December 7, 2006

Walt Whitman: Preface to "Leaves of Grass"

Below are two excerpts from Walt Whitman's preface to his Leaves of Grass. These were typed (with slight alterations from the below), printed and handed to me (at the start of a seminar on Dogen) by a friend, a poet, with whom I studied in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Of all nations the United States with veins full of poetical stuff most need poets and will doubtless have the greatest and use them the greatest. Their Presidents shall not be their common referee so much as their poets shall.


This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body… . The poet shall not spend his time in unneeded work. He shall know that the ground is always ready ploughed and manured … others may not know it but he shall. He shall go directly to the creation. His trust shall master the trust of everything he touches … and shall master all attachment.

1 comment:

  1. These are nice excerpts. You should check out "Worshiping Walt" a new book by Michael Robertson that includes the description of Whitman's meditation practice that Neil Richardson discovered in one of his notebooks.